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26. Stirring the Plot: Fish Tales and Whoppers

Fish tales are stories a character relates that have a basis in reality but have been embellished to make the tale more entertaining, to make the teller sound better, or to make the object of the tale sound worse, than they really were.

Everyone tells a fish tale at some point, consciously or subconsciously: not to deliberately mislead or harm, but because it is human nature to flesh out stories. A story told often enough becomes a memory, even if it never happened or didn’t happen in quite the way it is related.

Dick might relate a conversation that didn’t actually take place the way he says it did. Characters tend to think of the funny or wounding line they should have said after the conversation is over, or the threat they should have made, or the punch they should have thrown in a heated situation. If a fish tale is told and embellished often enough, the embellishments replace the truth.

A fish tale starts out simply enough. Dick relates the tale of going fishing and turns his three-inch carp catch into a seven-foot catfish. The other diners will laugh. Jane might point out that seven-foot catfish don’t actually live in the pond in question. Sally might point out that a seven-foot catfish is too big for Dick to pull out alone. Ted might just call him on his crap and say he never caught a fish in his life. 


Dick might laughingly admit that he was exaggerating, but it was a catfish and it was big. The gentle ribbing may wick Dick into fury and the evening could turn ugly. If Dick is trying to warn them that giant radioactive catfish are living in the local lake, his friends will regret that they didn’t listen to him. If he is a serial killer, he will choose his next victim from amongst the dinner guests making fun of him. The ribbing can turn into fish tales of their own. Fish tales can make your character uncomfortable at a dinner party or create massive problems for all involved.

Let’s send Dick and Jane to a dinner with friends or family. Dick relates an innocent tale of something rather mundane that happened at home that morning. It can be something Jane did by accident (maybe she dropped a skillet full of food) or something she said about a situation or a person. If Dick embellishes the tale, he can unintentionally (or intentionally) humiliate Jane by exaggerating the outcome of the event or the content of the conversation. If he puts words in Jane’s mouth that come across as insults or puts a negative spin on her actions, he could get her in trouble or place her in danger. Dick was just trying to be funny but in Jane’s mind he made her look bad. The ride home will not be pleasant. Jane may sit and stew and plot a payback. Jane may start a tirade about all the stupid, hurtful things Dick has done. If Dick counter-attacks, the argument can escalate and lead to the demise of their marriage or to a really frosty winter of discontent.

If Dick embellishes a story about his skills or experience, he may be asked to do a harder task at work than he is prepared for. He may be asked to utilize his talents to solve a mystery or stop a crime. Dick’s fish tale can land him in waters way over his head.

The embellishments of Dick’s fish tale could be lethal if they mirror something that actually occurred. His comments may make someone at the dinner party squirm and change the subject. His exaggerations could turn lethal if they get too close to a crime that has been committed or imply that he has seen or heard something he didn’t and should not have.

Siblings sitting around a dinner table listening to a family member relate a story from their past might not remember the situation in quite the same way. This can spark friendly, or not so friendly, arguments. It could spark a mystery that needs to be solved. The same is true at a business lunch or a social get together among friends. When the false story is perceived as truth, you have unlimited potential for conflict.

As a tale gets repeated, and the embellishments become “facts”, the story takes on a life of its own. It becomes an “urban legend.” The time Dick went into the woods and got lost for five seconds becomes the time Dick went into the woods, was missing for a week and found his way home after seeing Big Foot. Family urban legends can reveal a lot about your characters. They can reveal what others think Dick is capable of, guilty of, or ashamed of. The arguments about what did and didn’t happen can be funny or extremely tense and very revealing. If the family urban legends hint at a darker truth (they’re all vampires) in front of a guest, the evening can end abruptly. If Dick takes his new girlfriend to dinner with friends or family and they use the urban legends to embarrass him in front of her, there will be plenty of conflict.

Conversely, fish tales could be used to make Dick look like a true hero. He saved a baby from a burning building when all he really did was put out a small blaze caused by a candle falling over. If Dick is a superhero and really did save a baby from a burning building, that’s an entirely different tale. He may squirm and worry about his family blowing his cover.

You can use the concept of fish tales and urban legends in any genre to develop plot, to reveal character, or to complicate the scene.


For more on how to motivate your characters based on personality type, check out:

Story Building Blocks II: Crafting Believable Conflict in paperback and E-book.

Story Building Blocks: Build A Cast Workbook in paperback and E-book.



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27.

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28. Cynsational News, Giveaways & Summer Hiatus

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Thanks so much for being a Cynsational reader! 

I appreciate your enthusiasm for and interest in the world of books for kids and teens.

Breaking news: Effective immediately, Cynsations is going on summer hiatus until September. 

In the meantime, you can keep up with children's-YA books news on my author facebook page and @CynLeitichSmith on Twitter.

See y'all in the fall!

More News  

Recommended on the We are the People List
We're the People Summer Reading List of 2015 from Facebook. Peek: "Are you looking for books to add to your summer reading list? Ones written or illustrated by Native Americans or people of color? Ones that include characters that are Native? People of color? Disabilities? LGBTQ? Take a look at these!" Note: Download a PDF (list of titles; annotated list) to take with you to the store of library.  See more information about the list from Debbie Reese at American Indians in Children's Literature.

Romanticizing Mental Illness by L. Lee Butler, S. Jae-Jones and Alex Townsend from Disability in Kidlit. Peek: "Ideally there would be plenty of stories within and outside of the perspectives of mental illness. Because lots of outsiders don’t really relate until they hear a story from the outside perspective."

Mary E. Cronin's Workshop on Gay (LGBT) & Questioning Characters in Middle Grade from Lee Wind at I'm Here. I'm Queer. What the Hell Do I Read? Peek: "There may be GLBT people in the character’s family, or they may have no role models or reference points at all. These factors will have a huge impact on a character’s trajectory."

The Mystery of the Hardy Boys and the Invisible Authors by Daniel A. Gross from The Atlantic. Peek: "If writing seems like a lonely profession, try ghostwriting children's books."

How to Secure a Traditional Book Deal by Self-Publishing by Jane Friedman from Writer Unboxed. Peek: "By far, the No. 1 consulting request I receive is the author who has self-published and wants to switch to traditional publishing. Usually it’s because they’re disappointed with their sales or exposure; other times, that was their plan all along."

What Makes a Picture Book a Mega Hit? by Elizabeth Bird from School Library Journal. Peek: "With that in mind, today I’m going to talk about some of the top picture book blockbusters to come out in the last ten years. Please note that I’m avoiding picture books with TV or other media tie-ins. These are the folks who got where they are on their own merits."

Interview: Jackie Morse Kessler on the Riders of the Apocalypse Series by Katherine Locke and Alex Townsend from Disability in Kid Lit. Peek: "I’m a former bulimic, and I still have self-image issues. The protagonist Lisabeth is inspired by someone I knew when I was younger; she’d been a very close friend, and she was the one who introduced me to bulimia." Note: This series is highly recommended.

The Connection Between Emotional Wounds and Basic Needs by Becca Puglisi from Writers Helping Writers. Peek: "...she still feels the pain associated with the loss of her esteem and will subconsciously take steps to meet that need or make sure that it isn’t threatened again. Maybe she’ll throw herself into education, sports, or the arts as a means of gaining recognition for herself, since she feels unable to compete physically."

Emotional Wounds Thesaurus: A Parent's Abandonment by Becca Puglisi from Writers Helping Writers. Peek: "This negative experience from the past is so intense that a character will go to great lengths to avoid experiencing that kind of pain and negative emotion again. As a result, certain behaviors, beliefs, and character traits will emerge."

One Tweet Reminds Us Why Judy Blume Was the Sexual Revolutionary We Needed by Kate Hakala from Connections.Mic. Peek: "The children and teens of Blume's books didn't only normalize sexuality for so many young kids, they illuminated the more embarrassing, secret parts of sex — the blood, the touching — that many readers were too afraid to bring up in school or to their parents."

Industry Q&A with Charlesbridge Editor Alyssa Mito Pusey from CBC Diversity. Peek: "When I was recently looking up Asian and Asian American biographies, I was shocked all over again at how little there is out there—Lee & Low seems to be the only publisher consistently putting out these books."

Children's Book Council to Receive BookExpo America's Industry Ambassador Award by Yolanda Scott from CBC Diversity. Peek: "While this is the first year that the award is being bestowed on an organization in place of an individual, BEA show organizers note that the Children’s Book Council’s work is both personal and special for its dedication to fostering literacy, diversity and education, making it eminently qualified to receive the award."

Case Cracked: The Process of Editing Mystery Novels by Stacy Whitman from Lee & Low. Peek: "...we discussed how the inciting incident—the moment that gets Claire to veer her course to investigating whether her father and her stepdad ever knew each other—might be complicated and how those complications would have a ripple effect that would improve multiple other plot points, and increase the pacing." See also: Wouldn’t You Like to Know . . . Valynne E. Maetani by Stacey Hayman from VOYA.

The Godzilla Effect: How Climaxes, Twists, and Turning Points Work (and How They Don’t) by Harrison Demchick from Project Mayhem. Peek: "The climax, then, is the inevitable result—eventually, the effect—of that incident two hundred or three hundred or however many pages ago. It needs to be an organic development of the story."

Six Tips from Six Years of School Visits by Chris Barton from Bartography. Peek: "If you’ve got multiple books, don’t assume that your host wants you to focus on your newest one. Your host might not know much about it, and in fact may have led their students to expect something else."

Breaking Barriers: Alvina Ling, Editor-in-Chief of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers from TaiwaneseAmerican.org. Peek: "...ideally we have a nice balance between books that may have award potential, and books that are more commercial and have bestseller potential (although books that are both are even more ideal!). We also don’t want to have all fantasy books or all historical fiction, for example, so I help guide our acquisitions process and identify needs and gaps to our editors to keep in mind as they are reading submissions and acquiring."

Cynsational Awards

2015 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award Winners from School Library Journal. Peek:

"The Farmer and the Clown by Marla Frazee (Simon & Schuster) has won the 2015 Boston Globe–Horn Book Award for best picture book, while Katherine Rundell’s Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms (Simon & Schuster) took best fiction title and Candace Fleming’s The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion and the Fall of Russia (Schwartz & Wade) was named best nonfiction book." See honor books and more information.

2015 South Asian Book Awards:

See honor books and more information.

Cynsational Giveaways
The winner of a set of signed books by Claire Legrand was Christina in Kentucky.

See also a giveaway of an author- and illustrator-signed copy of The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch by Chris Barton, illustrated by Don Tate (Eerdmans, 2015) from Fat Girl Reading.

This Week at Cynsations


More Personally

My Memorial Day view of Highway One; hang in there, Texas & Oklahoma!
At "Pretty in Pink" with authors Cory Putnam Oakes, P.J. Hoover & Mari Mancusi at the Alamo Drafthouse Ritz.
Happy Summer! Congratulations to spring 2015 graduates!

As all y'all can tell from my events listed below, I'm going to be coming and going for the next few months. I hope to see many of you on the road or here in Austin, and online you can catch up with me at my author facebook page and @CynLeitichSmith on Twitter.

So embrace the summer. Read, write, illustrate, champion books for young readers, and with each new day, remember to be the heroes of your own life stories.

Thanks again for being Cynsational readers! 

Link of the Week: How Insane Amount of Rain in Texas Could Turn Rhode Island Into a Lake by Christopher Ingraham from The Washington Post.

Central Texans! Summer Road Trip Release Party: Join Margo Rabb (Kissing in America) and Liz Garton Scanlon (Great Good Summer) at 2 p.m. May 30 at BookPeople in Austin.

Personal Links

Now Available!

Cynsational Events

Join Cynthia at 11 a.m. May 30 in conjunction with the YA Book Club at Cedar Park Public Library in Cedar Park, Texas.

Cynthia will serve as the master class faculty member from June 19 to June 21 at the VCFA Alumni Mini-Residency in Montpelier, Vermont.

Cynthia will speak from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. June 28 on an Association of Library Service to Children (ALSC) program--"We Need Diverse Books: How to Move from Talk to Action Panel"--at the 2015 Annual Conference of the American Library Association in San Francisco.
Learn more!
Cynthia will teach on the faculty of the MFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults at Vermont College of Fine Arts from July 8 to July 19.

Join Cynthia from July 30 to Aug. 2 at GeekyCon in Orlando, Florida. See more information.

Cynthia Leitich Smith will lead a YA Writing Retreat for A Room of Her Own Foundation from Aug. 10 to Aug. 16 at Ghost Ranch in Abiquiu, New Mexico.

Cynthia will lead a breakout session on "Diversity in Children's and YA Literature" Aug. 22 at East Texas Book Fest at the Harvey Hall Convention Center in Tyler, Texas.

Cynthia will speak Sept. 19 at the Mansfield, Texas Book Festival.

Cynthia will speak Sept. 29 at Richardson Public Library in Richardson, Texas.

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29. FOODFIC: Please Welcome Lorna Dounaeva, Author of May Queen Killers

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/24899255-may-queen-killers


My new novel, May Queen Killers, reads almost like a cosy mystery, but there is a psychological element and a pinch of humour at the heart of the story.

Mystery writer Jock Skone arrives in Fleckford, a small village on the English/Welsh border, where he instantly falls for tea-shop owner Sapphire Butterworth. Not long after they meet, Sapphire is presiding over the village’s May Day celebrations when she suddenly jumps down from her float and flees through the crowd.  Jock runs after her, but is unable to keep up.  Eventually, he trudges back to her tea-shop and a few minutes later, someone throws a brick through the window.

The mystery of the missing May Queen deepens as it is revealed that Sapphire was not the first May Queen to go missing. Jock and his new friend Dylan set out to solve the mystery over endless cups of Yorkshire tea and slices of Battenberg cake.  If you’re not familiar with Battenberg, it’s a light sponge cake made up of chequered pink and yellow squares, cemented with apricot jam and covered with marzipan. 

Sapphire’s tea-shop is 1950s themed, with tea cosies, fancy china and frilly table cloths.  By contrast, just over the road, is the Dragon pub, where Jock is staying. Its landlord, Neil would rather sit and eat a packet of salt and vinegar crisps, than serve his customers. And the only foods on his menu are microwaved shepherd’s pies and chips. I know where I’d rather eat…

 
Thanks for stopping by to share your food for thought, Lorna!



You can find Lorna here:

 


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30. James Patterson Launches Children’s Book Imprint

Bestselling author James Patterson is launching a children’s book imprint at Little, Brown & Company called jimmy patters.

The imprint will publish books by Patterson, as well as by other authors. Profits from the imprint will used for scholarships for teachers as well as to support school libraries and local book stores. The goal of the imprint is to foster a lifetime love of reading among kids. Here is more from the press release:

The defining mission of jimmy patterson will reflect Patterson’s most heartfelt goals: to inspire kids to become willing, self-propelled readers; to help teachers, booksellers, and librarians get the tools, opportunities, and skills they need to accomplish this important duty; and to identify the right books for each child by celebrating a compelling diversity of human voices and experiences.

“James Patterson is a man on a mission: to save lives by making great books available to all kids,” stated Michael Pietsch, Chief Executive Officer of Hachette Book Group. “This new imprint is an exciting way of combining his force as the world’s best-selling author with his inspiring message about getting kids reading.  I can’t think of anyone better equipped with tools and experiences to revolutionize children’s book publishing. With his deep commitment to reading and his let’s-solve-this-problem approach, he is the ideal founder for an imprint that aligns with Hachette Book Group’s tradition of fostering creativity and encouraging risk-taking and innovation.”

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31. Friday Linky List - May 29, 2015

From School Library Journal's Fuse #8 - Betsy Bird shares: What Are the Great Children's Literature Writing Retreats?

From The Picture Book Den: The Fifties - Didn't we have them once already? by Jonathan Allen

From ThriveWire: First, Call Yourself An Artist: Career Advice From Artist Lisa Congdon

At Bookshelf: Follow the link to listen to Julian Barnes talk about the new book IMPROBABLE LIBRARIES

I want one of these - a book bed:

Click here to see more strange beds, although this was the only book-related one.

From The New York Times: Works in Progress: A very small sampling of the female artists now in their 80s and 90s we should have known about decades ago.

From tesconnect: 'Adults read books. Children devour them'

At the V&A (Victoria and Albert Museum, UK): Beatrix Potter: The Tale of Peter Rabbit

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32. GJ Book Club: Speed on Mass Drawing

On the GJ Book Club, we're studying Chapter 9: Mass Drawing: Practical," from Harold Speed's 1917 classic The Practice and Science of Drawing.

The following numbered paragraphs cite key points in italics, followed by a brief remark of my own. If you would like to respond to a specific point, please precede your comment by the corresponding number. There's a lot of content here, so let's dive in!

1. Painting is drawing.
In this chapter, Harold Speed demonstrates his conception of monochrome painting as a form of drawing. He calls it "mass drawing," and unlike line drawing, there's a greater attention to shape, value, and edges.

2. Most objects can be reduced broadly into three tone masses, the lights (including the high lights, the half tones, and the shadows.
Speed's demonstration follows a process where he maps out the shapes in charcoal (sealed with shellac), then scrubs a thin layer of tone overall equal to the halftone.
a. Blocking out shapes, b. middle tone 'scrumbled' over the whole
Then the lights are painted into the wet halftone later. "Gradations are got by thinner paint, which is mixed with the wet middle tone of the ground."

c. Addition of the darks, d. finished work
Note the swatches of paint used at lower left. He's using raw umber and white. "Don't use much medium," he advises. This method is also discussed by Norman Rockwell in "Norman Rockwell Illustrator," where he calls it "painting into the soup."

3. The use of charcoal to the neglect of line drawing often gets the student into a sloppy manner of work, and is not so good a training to the eye and hand in a clear, definite statement.
I found this statement interesting. He seems to be suggesting that the monochrome painting leads to better results in students than the classic tonal charcoal study. But he admits that this particular method of painting into the halftone value isn't always useful for full-color painting because it can pollute the shadows. He'll get into color painting in later chapters (and in his next book), but basically he advises mixing up separate middle tone values for lights and shadows.

4. Try always to do as much as possible with one stroke of the brush.
This important statement leads off a discussion of the variable strokes and edges provided by various kinds of brushes. The brush adds the ability to place a definite shape, but also to feather the edges on the sides of the stroke. In addition, because of the amount of paint on the brush, it can leave a lighter (or darker) stroke relative to the value of the wet halftone layer.

5. Brush shapes.
Speed's chart shows rounds, flats, and filberts at the bottom, but the one in the third row he calls "Class C" seems to be a flat with rounded corners. Does anyone know whether that type of brush is still being made these days? From left to right are definite thick-paint strokes to feathery thin strokes.

6. How to fix errors, how to check accuracy.
He advises something like sight-size, namely setting the work next to the subject and comparing. He also suggests a "black glass," which is a "Lorraine mirror" mentioned in an earlier post of GurneyJourney. He discusses why the setting-out drawing must be accurately measured, but also urges students to be willing to "lose the drawing" under the paint. "It is often necessary when a painting is nearly right to destroy the whole thing in order to accomplish the apparently little that still divides it from what you conceive it to be."

7. Nothing is so characteristic of bad modelling as "gross roundness." 
"The surface of a sphere is the surface with the least character," he says. This is an extension of the earlier discussion about the aesthetic importance of retaining some straight lines and planes, the sense of the partially carved block.

8. Study from Life:

Blocking out the spaces occupied by masses.
Note: This is not a 'line drawing' but rather a map of masses.

Middle tone applied overall and lights placed.
Shadows added.

Completed head.
9. Importance of anatomy and cautions about overstating it.
Speed ends with a discussion of the importance of anatomical knowledge, but cautions against "overstepping the modesty of nature." He says, "Never let anatomical knowledge tempt you into exaggerated statements of internal structure, unless such exaggeration helps the particular thing you wish to express." When I worked with Frank Frazetta on Fire and Ice, he was always making this point, complaining about figure work that was overly musclebound.

10. Painting across vs. along the form.
Here he continues the point made in the previous chapter, but specifically talking about the brush.

11. Keep the lights separate from the shadows, let the half tone paper always come as a buffer state between them.
This is an essential point, extremely important in outdoor work under the full sun. In figure work indoors, mass drawing can also be done with red and white chalk on a tone paper where the paper equals the halftone value of the form.
---
The Practice and Science of Drawing is available in various formats:
1. Inexpensive softcover edition from Dover, (by far the majority of you are reading it in this format)
3. Free online Archive.org edition.
and The Windsor Magazine, Volume 25, "The Art of Mr. Harold Speed" by Austin Chester, page 335. (thanks, अर्जुन)
GJ Book Club on Pinterest (Thanks, Carolyn Kasper)

Original blog post Announcing the GJ Book Club

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33.


Relax,relate,release.

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34. Three Questions With Russ Cox: Advice For Young Writers and Illustrators, Tigers and debut author/illustrator picture book FARAWAY FRIENDS

 

I first met Russ Cox through our mutual friend Hazel Mitchell, when we were both members of Pixel Shavings. I've been grateful to Russ for his encouragement and support, especially his tips re: Photoshop and Painter. He's one of the nicest people you could hope to meet. Plus check out the WONDERFUL and uncannily accurate drawing he sent me after I admired it online (and said it looked like me in younger days):

Russ lives in Maine with his wife and 4 furry art directors. When not creating children’s books, he enjoys playing the banjo, moose juggling, and debating Einstein’s theory that the speed of light is constant (only one of those is true). You can find Russ at his website, TwitterFacebook, Flickr, Google+ and Tumblr.

Synopsis of FARAWAY FRIENDS:

Faraway Friends is about Sheldon, a would be astronaut, and his sidekick Jet, who are looking for a lost friend through a space adventure only to find a weird alien creature and its furry friend.

1. Could you please take a photo of something in your office and tell us the story behind it?

I have lots of knicknacks in my studio that I like to look at but this little tiger might be the best thing I have in it. It was made for me by the super talented Jennifer Carson as a surprise gift. She made it from a doodle I posted:

I was stunned when she handed it to me at a NESCBWI conference a few years ago. I smile every time I see it. I think I will call him Otis.

2. What advice do you have for young writers and illustrators?

Being an illustrator for a very long time, I am rather new to the writing end of the book world. The few things I have learned are:

Don’t be afraid to put words to paper. Okay, this is one that I am still working on but I’m getting more comfortable with each attempt I make. I come from an illustration background so writing is outside my comfort zone. It was you, Debbie, who started me on this path after telling me to write a story from a doodle I shared. That nudge and doodle turned into Faraway Friends.

Share your stories with a few people or join a critique group. The fresh eyes and ears can help you find problem areas in your writing, and act as a great support network when the self doubt and fear start creeping in.

Embrace rejection. It is okay to hear “no thank you”. It helps light that creative fire and you learn from it. Faraway Friends received a bunch of rejections before finding a home. Not everyone is going to love your story.

Turn off the modern world and go outside. There are stories outside your house and studio waiting to be heard and told.

3. What are you excited about right now?

I am really excited about doing some promotional events for Faraway Friends. I am in the midst of scheduling signings, festivals, and school visits for the summer and fall.

The projects on my drawing table at the moment are a book series for Penguin Random House called Puppy Pirates (written by Erin Soderbergh Downing) that I am illustrating . This has been a ton of fun to do. The first two books will be released this summer and the other two in the fall. I am also writing some new picture book stories and have begun putting together a graphic novel. That reminds me, time to turn off the computer and head outside.

------
For more interviews, see my Inkygirl Interview Archive.

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35. My basic working method is simple...


Basically my working method is simple - I sketch & draw & draw & sketch until the tabletop is covered with sketches. Then the sketches are scanned into Photoshop... and when the pile of papers on my desk looks like it's becoming a fire hazard I tidy all the sketches into a corner by the cupboard, and keep on drawing. It's actually quite effective. Bridge keeps track of everything else.

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36. Mentoring the next generation of oral historians

Ask anyone who has been to an Oral History Association annual meeting and they’ll tell you that one of the best parts of the conference is the people. The conference offers the chance to meet and learn from oral history veterans, as well as those just getting started in the field. This week on the blog, we’re highlighting the OHA mentorship program, which aims to help newcomers at the meeting to get the most out of the experience by partnering them with mentors. The program paired 47 mentors and newcomers at the 2014 conference, and hopes to connect even more people going forward.

The post Mentoring the next generation of oral historians appeared first on OUPblog.

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37. Transitions

It's not enough to just leave an extra blank line or have a chapter break to transition between scenes.

http://scotteagan.blogspot.com/2015/04/transitions-between-chapters-not-just.html

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38. June is for Life and Living

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I’m taking my blog sabbath a month earlier than I usually do. This is a practice I started four years ago, and it’s something that refreshes and resets me in more ways than I know how to explain. In addition to the blog, I will also be off social media.

I’ve chosen June over July this year for a couple of reasons. First, I’m on deadline this summer. These early weeks, when I’m finding my way back into my manuscript, feel especially important. I don’t need any other computer time vying for my attention.

Second, we have a lot of family things going on next month. My boys are home from school. My parents are moving back to town. My husband and I are going on a cruise to celebrate our twentieth anniversary. This is a perfect time to step away.

Finally, I have a book coming out in July, and I want to be here to share its story.

I’ve scheduled some posts to re-run — a “new” one each week — that I hope will interest you. Enjoy your summer, friends! I’ll see you again soon.

The post June is for Life and Living appeared first on Caroline Starr Rose.

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39. Steven D. Levitt & Stephen J. Dubner Debut on the Indie Bestseller List

When to Rob a Bank Cover (GalleyCat)We’ve collected the books debuting on Indiebound’s Indie Bestseller List for the week ending May 24, 2015–a sneak peek at the books everybody will be talking about next month.

(Debuted at #3 in Hardcover Fiction) Seveneves by Neal Stephenson: “A catastrophic event renders the earth a ticking time bomb. In a feverish race against the inevitable, nations around the globe band together to devise an ambitious plan to ensure the survival of humanity far beyond our atmosphere, in outer space. But the complexities and unpredictability of human nature coupled with unforeseen challenges and dangers threaten the intrepid pioneers, until only a handful of survivors remain.” (May 2015)

(Debuted at #12 in Hardcover Nonfiction) When to Rob a Bank by Steven D. Levitt & Stephen J. Dubner: “When Freakonomics was first published, the authors started a blog—and they’ve kept it up. The writing is more casual, more personal, even more outlandish than in their books. In When to Rob a Bank, they ask a host of typically off-center questions: Why don’t flight attendants get tipped? If you were a terrorist, how would you attack? And why does KFC always run out of fried chicken?” (May 2015)

(Debuted at #14 in Hardcover Nonfiction) The Quartet by Joseph J. Ellis: “The Quartet is the story of this second American founding and of the men most responsible—George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison. These men, with the help of Robert Morris and Gouverneur Morris, shaped the contours of American history by diagnosing the systemic dysfunctions created by the Articles of Confederation, manipulating the political process to force the calling of the Constitutional Convention, conspiring to set the agenda in Philadelphia, orchestrating the debate in the state ratifying conventions, and, finally, drafting the Bill of Rights to assure state compliance with the constitutional settlement.” (May 2015)

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40. Case Cracked: The Process of Editing Mystery Novels

trixie belden book cover
Trixie Belden

I’ve long been a fan of mysteries. Trixie Belden was my BFF as a third and fourth grader. Nancy Drew was another favorite. Veronica Mars updated the teen sleuth idea, bringing the storytelling form to a new generation.

When I got the chance to work on Valynne Maetani’s Ink and Ashes, our new YA mystery which comes out in June, all of those mysteries and more were going through my mind. Claire, the main character, has the spunk and curiosity of Veronica Mars and all of her predecessors, but she’s also a little different. And to honor those differences in the editing process, I needed to refresh myself on what’s out there right now in the teen mystery/suspense genre, and the mystery genre in general.

As I was editing Ink and Ashes over the course of about a year and a half (which spans two developmental edits and a line edit), between edits I was reading mystery after mystery. I stocked up on Agatha Christie, I rewatched Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries and read the first book of the series it’s based on (Cocaine Blues by Kerry Greenwood), I read multiple YA suspense, spy, and murder mysteries.

Miss Fisher ABC
Miss Fisher from the TV show “Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries”

That reading reminded me that a great mystery read requires the same elements as any good read: well-paced plotting, characters the reader cares about enough to want to know what happens next; even world-building, though that’s a term we generally associate with speculative fiction, is tremendously important in setting the stage in a mystery. But my rereading of classic and contemporary mysteries also showed me that more than in any other genre, a sense of suspense and danger must permeate the mystery book, must drive the reader to breathlessly wonder what will happen next.

Ask probing questions

One of the biggest challenges in this edit—with any edit, really, especially with an author you’ve never worked with before—was discovering how to bring the author’s vision of the characters fully to life. An editor’s job is often to just ask questions: Why is this happening right now? Why would that character decide to do this? What is the goal here?

In that way, figuring out the goal allows the editor to ask further probing questions on what the solution might be—figuring out how current plot points and character decisions hamper the desired effect.

“The plot thickens” turns out to be trueink and ashes cover

The biggest thing I learned while editing Ink and Ashes and reading all these mysteries is the importance of plot escalation. In the original draft, clues did of course build up into a frenzied final few pages of conflict that were very enjoyable—that’s one of the reasons the book won our New Visions Award. But comparing the early manuscript to mysteries I enjoyed the most, I realized that there were so many ways that the narrative could be complicated. (Valynne was on the same page. As she waited for the results of the contest, she was also already thinking of ways to improve the manuscript. That kind of editor-writer synergy makes a huge difference in any book project like this.)

We looked at the end goal, and discussed the plot points that got Claire and her friends to that point. In particular, we discussed how the inciting incident—the moment that gets Claire to veer her course to investigating whether her father and her stepdad ever knew each other—might be complicated and how those complications would have a ripple effect that would improve multiple other plot points, and increase the pacing.

In other words, escalation. If the reader didn’t feel the suspense at every page turn, we had work to do.

Valynne worked very hard on making that happen, and I’m very happy with the results! In answer to all my probing questions, Valynne improved on an already-well written manuscript to bring what was an interesting read to the level of an exciting page-turner that’s getting readers hooked. That’s the end goal for any editor and author: Creating a final book that readers can’t put down. I’m happy to say, we succeeded with Ink and Ashes.

stacy whitmanStacy Whitman is Editorial Director and Publisher of Tu Books, an imprint of LEE & LOW BOOKS that publishes diverse science fiction and fantasy for middle grade and young adult readers.

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41. Supergirl - First Look

"Why haven't you posted or mentioned Supergirl?"  Well, I assumed everyone had seen this by now -am I wrong?



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42. Poetry Friday - Lures

Hello friends! I've been absent with the start of summer school and wrapping up the academic year here. It's good to be back. Be sure to visit on Monday when I'll be back with some new poetry stretches.

Today I'm sharing a poem that reminds me of summer growing up, home, and old friends.

Lures
by Adam Vines

For Scott Harris

Last summer’s fishing failures dangled from trees:
a Rapala and Jitterbug a stand
of privet paid for, half-ounce jigs with rubber skirts
and jelly worms with wide-gap hooks on ten-pound test
we tithed with overzealous casts at bass.
Then off we’d go (our stringers bare) to find
a yard to cut, a truck to wash, so we could fill
the tackle box we shared again. Today
is 12/12/12, the Mayan end, and I,
a country boy in Brooklyn for the week,
will hail a cab for the first time and think
of cows unnerved by fish we missed
and shouts of “shit” that followed, and dawns to dusks
and always back with you, my childhood friend.

Read the poem in its entirety.


I do hope you'll take some time to check out all the wonderful poetic things being shared and collected today by Margaret at Reflections on the Teche. Happy poetry Friday friends!

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43. FIFA and the internationalisation of criminal justice

The factual backdrop to this affair is well-known. FIFA, world football’s governing body has, for a number of years, been the subject of allegations of corruption. Then, after a series of dawn raids on 27 May 2015, seven FIFA officials, of various nationalities, the most famous being Jack Warner, the Trinidadian former vice president of FIFA, were arrested in a luxury hotel in Zurich where they were staying prior to the FIFA Congress.

The post FIFA and the internationalisation of criminal justice appeared first on OUPblog.

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44. IDW to Publish Print Edition of Strange Nation

Strange Nation CoverWriter Paul Allor and artist Juan Romera have landed a deal with IDW Publishing.

IDW will release the print edition of Strange Nation in August 2015. The first issue was digitally published by Monkeybrain Comics back in October 2013. Altogether, Allor and Romera created eight installments for this comics series.

According to the press release, the story follows a character named Norma Park who “uncovered the terrifying truth about a dangerous conspiracy involving aliens, Sasquatch and doomsday cults! Now Norma finds herself fired from her prestigious newspaper and working at the supermarket tabloid Strange Nation. But nothing will keep Norma from sharing her terrible knowledge with the world!”

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45. Artists and their tools







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46. Sophie's Animal Parade - a bookwrap







Unwrapping...








Written by Amy Dixon and Illustrated by Katia Wish.   Ages 3-7




Unwrapping the illustrations...





















"Everything Sophie drew came to life.  Mama called it Sophie's imagination. Sophie called it magic."  

     Thus begins the charming tale of Sophie, the little girl with the magic pencils who creates scrumptious foods, cozy places to rest and snuggly apparel to don when she feels cold.  

     Then she takes her wizardly ways to a whole new level and starts creating animal friends to keep her company when she is feeling lonely.  She thinks it would be fun to host a tea party and of course all her animals are invited.  

     First she conjures up a cute baby polar bear who is way too hot in her room,  then a duck who isn't interested in playing hide-and-seek but just wants to swim, a giraffe who gets a pain in his neck because the room is way too short for his tallness.... and on and on and on.....  

     So much chaos ensues that Sophie's only alternative is to take her brood outdoors where she encounters a strange boy and they hit it off immediately.  Together they bring order out of the bedlam and became fast friends to boot.  Now Sophie imagines in two's.  How sweet!



About the author...






Growing up as one of seven siblings, the only peace and quiet I ever got was inside a book. Once I had my own kids, I rediscovered my love for picture books at the public library. It was the one place I knew all four of my kids would be happy . . . and quiet. I write from my home, where I live with my four little inspirations and my marathon-running husband, Rob.








About the illustrator...







Katia Wish is a children’s book writer and illustrator based in Boston, MA. She is currently working on illustrating two children’s books from Sky Pony Press and Boys Town Press, both to be released in Spring 2015. She is the winner of the 2011 Tomie DePaola Award from the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.
In addition to working on children’s books and magazines, Katia teaches illustration at the Massachusetts College of Art & Design. Katia’s work has been exhibited in galleries throughout New England.
Katia is originally from Belarus, where she grew up. The influences and sensibilities of both her home country and her experiences in the United States contribute to Katia's work.




Read on and read always!

It's a wrap.




Contact me at storywrapsblog@gmail.com


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47. Sun Trap? Oh, It WAS Supposed To Be A Comedy? Now Let Me Tell You...


 


Back in the late 1980s-1990s, I wrote scripts and series proposals for TV.  Back then you had BBC, ITV (before de-regulation did everything all the top boys were saying it would not), Channel 4 and later Chennal 5 (the station hardly anyone used to be able to watch thanks to total screw up technical issues).

My most famous failure, that actually got a mention by a BBC TV producer whose name I cannot recall in some Guardian article, was A Cabinet Of Curiosities which was written at the same time as the horror-sci-fi The Diaries Of Fred Purvey -the BBC man told me "We'll go with your idea for the two main characters!" which would have been Roy Hudd as Fred Purvey and June Whitfield as "Mystic Marge".

I wrote all the scripts for each series (seven for each), put together creature and production illustrations and handed them in -the offer of the BBC footing the huge photocopying bill seemed a good one (all the scripts were typed, kids -no computers.....who is that keeps fainting at the back??).

Nothing.  Then more nothing.  So a couple of calls and eventually I hear "Oh. Didn't anyone contact you? There's this new TV series from the US -it's already made so no production costs."  And my kill fee? Ever tried to get money out of the BBC?  Bureaucracy and "we have no idea what you are talking about" followed by "Who was the producer?  Oh, he's left. We can't enter into discussion on this."

So I cursed this stupid, no name, crap US TV show and prayed for it to be a massive flop.

It was called "The X-Files" -no, I never heard of it either.

Anyway, I continued with my quiz/challenge show projects, documentaries and even comedy.  Yes. I wrote comedy.  Sad Lad's Pad was described by someone at the BBC as "a very surrealistic version of Bottom but with three characters rather than two."  I guess he must have read the script!  

I think the first episode was titled "Barbara Windsor" and if memory serves me right the second involved the Sad Lads ending up in a Moroccan style British prison.  Hookahs, fez's the works.

The guy in charge loved it. "I'm glad you came to us rather than radio first!"  I never even thought of radio. Anyhow, the six scripts (I think I only have the rough first two episode scripts now) were read and the producer loved them.  And then came the inevitable silence.  Then a letter from a new producer stating "sadly these scripts are not as funny as you seem to think they are" -which was feckin' weird.  I never laid any claims and I had never said in writing or over the phone that my scripts were great because I never would. Also, WTF was this new man?

A quick call and I found out that the old producer had left for a higher paid job at an independent company.  The assistant, who I had talked to a great deal before then told me that it was "traditional" for a new producer to throw out any ideas approved by a predecessor -if it bombed HE got the blame.  If it was a success then the previous man got the credit for commissioning the series.  So in the bin it went.

I asked about what for the BBC was a very -very- rude letter?  "Oh, he's straight out of university and never worked in TV before so he's rather rude to the point of insulting even established scripters."  I wish I remembered his name (it's in a file) because one day.....

Let me tell you, this approving, going through discussing, sorting out cast or presenters and producers then leaving and everything being dumped covers all BBC departments including Wildlife -three times I was asked by the BBC Wildlife unit in Bristol (over the phone once and twice in person) "Do you know where that piece of footage is?"  To which I responded: "It's BBC footage.  Wildlife footage.  Surely you know?"  but it seems "the BBC is a big place as is the wildlife unit and those pieces of footage could be anywhere here!"

Now, the BBC seems to have lost its reputation for TV comedy.   "Mr Khan" appears to be a 1970s, not very good ITV comedy...for children.  Bottom and  The Mighty Boosh seem to have been the final stabs at comedy before obscenity filled 25 minute crap took over.  Not funny but unless there is an obscenity every other word it cannot be funny, right?  Oddly, I did actually enjoy Uncle for some reason.

But the other night I watched the latest late night comedy, Sun Trap.  Bradley Walsh has proven himself a good actor and funny so I thought "why not?"  I sat there, my sister also watching the TV, not a single laugh.

WHY was this on at 22:45hrs?  Kayvan Novak from this performance, should never work again. Bradley Walsh was only really a cameo but this really dented his reputation.  Novak had a Scottish (??) accent that covered being a gay Frenchman(?), a.....no.  Basically it covered every accent you need. If ever a show needed canned laughter it was this.  It had no life.  No humour and it, again, seemed to be a failed CITV (Childrens ITV) programme from the 1980s.

I may be a little hard on Novak because he had a senseless -and I DO mean senseless- script that had no gags or humour.  The characters were sheets of blank paper.  

I got quite angry.  I thought my age.  Then I got angrier as I thought through it that night.  My scripts back in the early 1990s were  "sadly these scripts are not as funny as you seem to think they are" but in 2015 the scripts for Sun Trap were funny? 

Kids, look for independent companies or produce your own shows or films or audio podcasts -anything but go through what many, many others have over the years. Learn.  You will always get ripped off, messed about, insulted and hardly ever paid!

Below: Bradley Walsh: "We took the money. Sorry."
 

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48. Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh to Host the Very Eric Carle Exhibit

Very Eric Carle (GalleyCat)The Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh will host the “Very Eric Carle” exhibit. The curators drew inspiration from five Eric Carle picture books for this program: The Very Hungry Caterpillar, The Very Quiet Cricket, The Very Lonely Firefly, The Very Clumsy Click Beetle, and The Very Busy Spider.

The opening date has been scheduled for June 13th. The exhibition will run at this institution until September 20th.

Carle had this statement in the press release: “I am delighted that the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh is creating an interactive, discovery exhibit inspired by my quintet of ‘Very’ books. I hope young visitors will enjoy moving and exploring throughout the exhibition like the small creatures crawl and move in my books and that the exhibition will be enjoyed by visitors of all ages!”

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49. Sadie Reviews & Interviews


A few new shiny things to share. I did an interview with the wonder that is Mr. Schu for Watch. Connect. Read.   

And Julie Morstad and I rode our tandem bike over to Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast to talk to the fantastic Julie Danielson. 

Julie shared some early sketches from This is Sadie



I'm having a hard time keeping up with all the kind words from bloggers and over on Instagram so if I miss anything, do please let me know. Here are a few responses from the past week.
Author Sara O’Leary takes a remarkably common premise –kids have wild imaginations, and can do wondrous things with nothing more than an empty box– and weaves something incredible. Her text harkens back to a day of unforced simplicity in children’s literature, when easy ideas were delivered with just a pinch of poetry to make them go down even easier. Kinderlit Canada
I don’t know if it was seeing Sadie in a box, on a boat, hammering, wearing a fox mask, sleeping in a blanket fort or looking for her wings that felt most like a connection to my younger self. I do know that reading the lines – “A perfect day is spent with friends. Some of them live on her street, and some of them live in the pages of a book” – made me want to give a copy to every family I know. The Book Jam
‘This is Sadie’ by the formidable picture book pairing of Sara O’Leary and Julie Morstad is a celebration of creatively quirky characters and positive affirmation of a wild and wonderful imagination. Pictures Book Blogger
In "This Is Sadie" the little girl with a big imagination sees the ordinary as extraordinary. The Waterloo Record
In this story Sara O'Leary has given readers a character to cherish.  Through Sara's words we see a girl who looks at her world, making it larger with her making, doing and being. Librarian's Quest
Sadie's imagination is so huge she can go anywhere, be anything, without leaving her room. With soft, whimsical illustrations and spare, lyrical text, This Is Sadie takes us on a sweet adventure and reminds us of how far and wide our own imaginations can go.Staff recommendation, Powell's 
Strap on your imaginations and take a trip with Sadie (I think you are going to fall in love with her). This gentle ode to creativity will make a nice addition to storytime. Don’t miss this little Canadian gem, beautifully illustrated by Julie Morstad. Valley Storytime
Earlier reviews and interviews can be found here.

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50. The Criterion: When a Theater Reopens

It is a space for stories.
            At its grand reopening Thursday night, the 1932 Criterion Theatre hosted a slew of Bar Harbor locals as well as visitors who drifted through the art deco halls, ducked into the 88-seat balcony, stood on the stage, descended into the basement and made this grand theater their home.
            Again.

           Since 1932, the Criterion has been a part of this seaside community; its stage hosted bands, dancers, and shows. Its theater screen became a pilgrimage for local people who all had stories to share during the reopening.
            “The last movie I saw here was the First Harry Potter.”
            “Mine was Jurassic Park.”
            “Do you remember…?”
            “Do you remember…?”
            “Do you remember…?”
            People talked about the restoration, gobbled down the appetizers, spoke about the beauty of the place, but it was the stories that they kept coming back to.
            “It used to be that if you couldn’t see in the ticket booth, the woman who owned the theater would call your mom and make sure you were really the age you said you were,” said one local taxi driver.
            That woman was BH (Betty) Morison and she also would hold out her hand and make you spit your gum into your palm before she’d let you into the theater.  Maybe that’s part of why the restoration of it has been such a success. This place tucked amid the retail shops of Cottage Street where cruise ship passengers buy t-shirts and stuffed animal lobsters, has always been loved.  People have gathered here for decades. Kids saw their first movies here. People kissed their first kiss. Sang their first sing-a-long. Made memories.
A few days earlier while speaking to the Rotary Club of Bar Harbor Maine, Abbe Museum Director Cinnamon Legutko said, “I am a passionate advocate for community, intrigued by what makes community.”
            What makes community is a place like the Criterion. It is a gathering spot, a memory-making spot, a place where kids and adults can be exposed and re-exposed to the arts, all of the arts. It is a place to tell stories.
           “The one time I got pulled over my the police was after I was here,” a woman says, “it was in 2001 or 2002, I think. I’d gone to a concert, had a hard apple cider at six before it started and got stopped at a road block when I was driving back home to Ellsworth. It was after midnight. I was cold. They sheriff deputy asked me if I had drank anything tonight and I told him. I shouldn’t have told him. I was obviously fine to drive. It had been six hours.”
            Her story is especially fitting since the Criterion began in 1932 because of  George McKay, a bootlegger who decided to go ‘straight.’ He built the theatre as part of that venture, creating a 1,000-seat venue full of art deco details and glamour.  After extensive restoration thanks to a two million dollar anonymous gift as well as Board Chairman Michael Boland’s passionate advocacy and vision, the theater is open again, already hosting a Saturday children’s program and blockbuster movies. It continues to live. And it continues to inspire more stories like any good theater should.

*All these photos are from the Criterion's website.

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