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Viewing: Blog Posts from All 1562 Blogs, dated 10/2012 [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 4,227
1. Blogs to see and love...

James Woods
Ma Chao
Tyler Stott
Mathieu Reynès
Daniel Araya
Greg Tocchini
Mickael Brunet
Todd Harris
doodle dance
Simon Rodgers
Thor Hauge
Benoit Therriault
Josh Parpan
Elle Michalka
Pierre Zenzius
Nathan Fowkes
Eric Canete
Josh Kao
Colin Jack
Ami Thompson
Tobias Kwan
Ivan Aguirre
Kenneth Anderson
Steven's Sketching Gallerium
Mindy Doodles
Gang Peng
Thomas Perkins
Uli Meyer!
Neil Ross
Tuna Bora
Bobby Pontillas
Marco Bucci
Marshall Alexander
Rob Laro

7 Comments on Blogs to see and love..., last added: 11/30/2012
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2. literature live !

       Tata literature live ! - The Mumbai LitFest runs through 4 November, with a pretty solid list of authors in attendance.
       In The Indian Express Vidya Prabhu previews the event, in Meet the Wordsmiths -- and they also have a report from the V.S.Naipaul event, where the Nobel laureate apparently said (yet again) No more writing, have written enough: Naipaul.

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3. Measuring the World movie

       So they've made a movie out of the mega-bestselling German novel, Measuring the World by Daniel Kehlmann, which came out in Germany last week.
       It's in 3D, for some reason, and looks ... lush (see the official trailer); reviews have been mixed; no word on a US release (much less release date ...).

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4. The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of his Window and Disappeared review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Jonas Jonasson's The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of his Window and Disappeared.
       I usually find fiction that uses real people and historical events at least intriguing -- see the Real People in Works of Fiction-under-review index -- but this is one of the most feeble efforts in that regard I've come across in a while.
       I was a bit surprised that this bestselling novel took so long to find US and UK publishers -- and especially that Hesperus was able to land rights in the UK (see Dalya Alberge's piece in The Guardian, Swedish bestseller has the last laugh), but the fact that they didn't go for it actually speaks for the majors (well ... in the US it did land at HarperCollins imprint Hyperion -- albeit only as a paperback original).

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5. Halloween Night - Wicked!

 Tonight some friends and I got to go into Seattle to watch Wicked.

 It's showing in the lovely, ornate, historic Paramount Theater.

 (isn't it pretty?)

 It was a great performance, but what made it even more fun, was the preponderence of witches hats (as well as other costumes...)!

(these lovely ladies agreed to pose for me - but there were so many more!)

Fun night. I think this should be a Halloween tradition. :-)

Happy Halloween!

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6. New from Book Island

Sammy and the Skyscraper Sandwich by Lorraine Francis & Pieter Gaudesaboos

Sammy was very hungry.
"I'm so hungry I could eat the biggest sandwich in the world," he said.
So he went to the cupboard and he got some crusty bread with poppy seeds on top,
a big tub of chocolate spread and a little pot of mustard,
a box of sprinkles
and a bag of raisins,
three jars of jam
some crunchy peanut butter
and a comb of runny honey.
"But I'm not finished yet," he said.

Sammy then gathers more food to make a humungous sandwich that goes out the attic window and is as tall as a skyscraper.  Will it wobble? Is Sammy still hungry afterwards? Read to find out what happens.

The book is very tall too and made with heavy card.  It will be useful for reading in the classroom and kindergarten.  Children can learn new words, as pictures show the food alongside. It can also be used to show numbers, big/bigger/biggest concept, and could be used in a classroom discussion about what would happen if you built a sandwich that big.  Some boys will probably want to test it out. (They'll run out of food and it'll topple long before it gets to their arm length let alone being taller than a house.)  Recommended for the classroom and kindy.  Nice and hardy too.

Lorraine Francis is an Irish writer of picture books. She works as a children’s librarian. Lorraine has written numerous books for Irish publishing houses. Her career took a turn when she met the young Belgian illustrator, designer and author Pieter Gaudesaboos. His great love of the formalism of 1950s illustrations, his digital drawing technique and his childlike imagination fit together perfectly, and they are an ideal match for this simple but charming story.

Published by Book Island, ISBN:  978-0-9876696-0-5,  RRP  $24.99

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7. Hunger Writing Prompt

Hunger Writing Prompt Thanksgiving is a few short weeks away. It's a time to think about how lucky we are if we have good food to eat every day. Not everyone has that, so remember to be grateful and share what you have! Today's Write On Writing Prompt is about food, and it comes to us from AutoreDiEssere who asks: What is the color of hunger? For me hunger has different colors. . . Pink = Mildly hungry. You could eat a piece of fruit and be fine. Green = Randomly snacking on everything you see because you haven't eaten... Read the rest of this post

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8. Picture books are for everyone - sharing and celebrating with all readers

Picture books have a wonderful way of drawing children into their stories. Children of all ages love listening to stories read aloud, looking at pictures, reading picture books themselves or with their parents. Some parents might think that kids grow out of picture books, but I really see 13 and 14 year olds loving picture books as much as 6 and 7 year olds.

“Picture books are the connective tissue between a parent and a child. …you stop everything, snuggle up on the couch or the floor and share a story.” – John Rocco, 2012 Caldecott Honor Winner, from his Picture Book Month essay

This month marks the 2nd annual Picture Book Month. Cosponsored by many national literacy organizations, this celebration has caught the imagination of schools, libraries, booksellers, and book lovers across the globe as they come together to celebrate the print picture book. Read more about how librarians across the country are celebrating in this School Library Journal article.

At our school, we are taking time to focus on reading picture books with our older readers in 3rd, 4th and 5th grade. So often by the time kids become proficient readers around 3rd grade, they feel that they've moved beyond picture books. But there are powerful, moving picture books just right for these older students.

We are reading the California Young Reader Medal nominees for picture books for older readers with our 3rd graders They are having fun participating in an election where their vote counts. So far, they have loved reading Marissa Moss's Nurse, Soldier, Spy: The Story of Sarah Edmonds, a Civil War Hero and Brian Dennis's Nubs: The True Story of a Mutt, a Marine & a Miracle. We're talking about what makes a good picture book for older readers - not just illustrations, but how the illustrations and book design add to the story, creating movement, emotion and interest. We've talked about character development and story tension - all elements they're looking for in good stories, no matter the length.

We are focusing on Jacqueline Woodson's amazing picture books with our 4th and 5th graders. My students are completely drawn into her stories, appreciating the language, character development and emotions. I'm also really appreciating how many elements of the Common Core State Standards can be incorporated into these discussions.

For example, when we read Visiting Day, students were able to practice referring to specific details in the text and illustrations as they inferred that Maya's father was in prison (a fact the text does not explicitly state). Because of their spare language, picture books often require readers to infer meaning. We practice these skills with a meaningful picture book as a group, and then we can talk about them in reading workshop conferences one on one with students as they apply these skills to longer books they're reading.

What picture books do you like to read with your children? Do you find that your older children still enjoy reading picture books? How has their taste changed as they have gotten older?

I'm looking forward to visiting the Picture Book Month website throughout the month of November. Each day will feature a new essay by a range of amazing authors, illustrators and librarians. As founder Dianne de Las Casas said, “Not only are picture books alive and well, they are thriving. Picture books are not just an early childhood step to literacy, they are little pieces of emotion and childhood wrapped in a beautiful, page-turning package. November is Picture Book Month. Read * Share * Celebrate!”

The books shared here are from our school library. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support.

©2012 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

1 Comments on Picture books are for everyone - sharing and celebrating with all readers, last added: 11/30/2012
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9. PiBoIdMo Day 1: Amy Dixon Goes the Distance

I have always been competitive. Maybe it’s because I have 4 sisters and 2 brothers, which meant we did things like thumb-wrestle to see who would get the last bowl of Sunday Cereal…or battle it out in Easter Day relay races that required rolling eggs across the carpet with our noses. Or maybe it’s because my parents fell in love on the basketball court, where everyone said that if Patty really liked Harold, she would let him win. Well, she really did like him. Forty-years-together-and-counting-kind-of-liked-him. But she didn’t let him win. So I guess you could say it’s in my blood.

Is it any wonder then that I jumped at the chance to be a part of PiBoIdMo when I first heard about it in 2010? A challenge, you say? 30 ideas in 30 days, you say? Sounds hard. I’m in!

Know what else sounds hard? Marathons. Lucky for me, November is a month chock-full of ‘em, and I’ve got a husband who likes to run ‘em. (I’ve run a half-marathon, and that was hard enough for me, thank you very much!) So when November 5, 2010 rolled around, this is the idea I wrote down:

Marathon Mouse. Story of a mouse who lives in NYC right under the start line and decides that it is his life’s dream to participate in the NYC marathon.

What I quickly figured out about PiBoIdMo was that it wasn’t necessarily coming up with the ideas that was the hard part. But the sifting and sorting of ideas to figure out which were studs and which were duds??? That was the tough part. Once the challenge was over, I tried writing a couple of other stories first…ones that I deemed more commercial, more worthy of an agent’s or editor’s attention. But I soon realized that the story I really wanted to write was the one about the marathon. In the 2 years since my husband had taken up distance running, I had been in search of a picture book about the sport that I could share with my children. I was looking for something that reflected the early mornings, the intense training, and the roadside cheering that was now a part of our family culture. And I couldn’t find one, because one didn’t exist.

So I wrote it.

And I liked it.

It travelled with me to my critique group, as well as to our regional SCBWI conference. And it was there that I first heard the objection that followed this manuscript around for quite some time: “…but kids don’t run marathons!” Okay, fair point. Kids don’t run marathons.


Anyone who has ever been to a marathon knows that you will find yourself absolutely, without exception, knee-deep in kids…walking the course, holding cherished homemade signs, and searching the crowds of runners, hoping to catch a glimpse of their mom or dad, aunt or grandpa, teacher or friend. Kids may not run marathons, but they are an ever-present part of the running community. And that was the reason that I persevered through 26.2 miles of discouragement, and believed in my story.

Mercifully, there was an editor out there from Sky Pony Press who believed in my story too. And now I have had the wonderful privilege of experiencing my children’s delight as they turn the pages of Marathon Mouse…because, although they have never actually run a marathon, it is in those pages that they see their experiences reflected. And they love it.

Write the stories that you want to write. As the ideas fly off your fingertips and onto that spreadsheet this November, make note of the ones that spark something in your heart. They may not always be the obvious choices. They may not always scream commercial appeal. But one of them just might be the story you were meant to write.

And now if you’ll excuse me, it’s day one of PiBoIdMo, and I’ve got an idea for a story about a girl named Patty…and a boy named Harold…and the jump shot that launched an unending love…

Amy Dixon grew up as one of seven siblings, so the only peace and quiet she ever got was inside a book. Once she had her own kids, she rediscovered her love for picture books at the public library. It was the one place she knew all four of her kids would be happy . . . and quiet. She writes from her home, where she lives with her four little inspirations and her marathon-running husband, Rob. Check her out at amydixonbooks.com.

10 Comments on PiBoIdMo Day 1: Amy Dixon Goes the Distance, last added: 11/1/2012
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10. NaNo Starts Today!

I'm doing NaNo this year. I know. Crazy idea. I will be sleep deprived. I will be haunting Starbucks. But I'm determined to get most, if not nearly all, of this writing project I'm working on finished.

Any of you doing NaNo? If you are, sending luck your way!

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11. Aftermath of Hurricane Sandy

Like Dark Striker ((Nidhogg), the dragon who was an enormous force of evil in Norse mythology, Hurricane Sandy has left a broad swath of destruction and darkness in her path. Large areas of New York and New Jersey are swamped and disconnected to an extent never seen before. The fires that reduced acres of homes [...]

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12. in re books, wrap-up

My thoughts are with the folks struggling with power outages and Sandy’s destruction. I left NYC on Sunday morning after attending the In Re Books conference given by New York Law School. I was on the Libraries panel. I learned a great deal about the current state of digital content and the legal structure supporting and/or inhibiting it and got to listen to a lot of very bright people speak. I was honored to be on a panel with author Caleb Crain, Doron Weber from the Sloan Foundation, and Jonathan Band who does technology law and policy work, all well-moderated by June Besek. I did what I always dread other people would do: prepared too much information for a twelve-minute slot. Fortunately I went last and managed to make it work okay but decided to put the full essay here. Here is my short piece which was intended as a cautionary side note to the idea of a digital public library, an idea I am generally in favor of. Title, swiped from a Cory Doctorow article on boingboing “You are a mere tenant farmer of your books


My name is Jessamyn West I live in Randolph VT. I am the director of operations for MetaFilter.com and I work in a rural library and a vocational high school teaching people how to use their computers. Last year I wrote a book called Without a Net, Librarians Bridging the Digital Divide, talking about how public libraries in the US are becoming the de facto social safety net for technology access and instruction at a time when technology skills and access are becoming a necessary part of being an American citizen, an unfunded mandate if you will.

Some of the stuff I’ll be talking about may be known quantities to many of you. I’ll be discussing not just what some of the data is but also why I feel that it matters.


The digital divide is a catchall phrase that people use to roughly refer to the haves and have-nots. It used to refer to who had computers and who didn’t. Then it shifted to refer more to who had online access versus who didn’t, then broadband access, then mobile access. The general gist is that people who lack access don’t just lack a computer, or broadband, or a smart phone, they lack access to a culture that is swiftly beginning to define a large swath of economic and social opportunities (and economic and social power) in a place that is all but invisible to them. And that this lack of options is self-reinforcing, similar to how poverty is not just a lack of money though it is partly that.

When we start talking about significantly ramping up public access to digital content, particularly cultural content and referring to a digital public library (and idea I am in favor of, by the way) we need to understand the challenges in creating and making available digital content for ALL people, not just those who can afford it and not just those who already know how to access it. Twitter could, for example, have terrible tech support because their business model doesn’t depend on it being usable by or even relevant to tech illiterate users, disabled user, easily confused users, etc.

If our digital public library is truly public, it is for everyone even those who are hardest to serve.


Keep in mind that 20-ish% of adults in America have no internet at home at all. Even the demographics with the most smart phone penetration (jerks like me 25-44) are still in the 60-70% range, max. And while people are continuing to increasingly get smartphones (with caveats like: bandwidth caps, lack of net neutrality, expensive plans and the fact that they are NOT computers…) home broadband adoption is plateauing. And this lack of access isn’t evenly distributed: it’s disproportionately full of older people, poor people, people with less education or English-speaking capacity, people with disabilities, often people with some combination of these challenges. And the people who don’t have broadband are often some of the library’s biggest customers.

We know *why* people don’t get/use broadband… the IRS and other big government organizations who stand to save a lot of money as people get online more study the heck out of this. People don’t use the internet because they’re afraid (steal your identity, steal your kids), because they don’t see its value or relevance to them, because they can’t afford it, and because they can’t get it where they live. About one in five say that they do know enough about technology to start using the internet on their own, three out of five of them report that they would need help in order to get online. Most telling, only one in ten said that they were interested in using the internet or email in the future. Ever?

So the divides are multiple: 1. economic 2. usability 3. empowerment. (Jakob Nielsen)

Attempts to serve everyone with digital content must address all three of these divides.


In public libraries we can address some of these issues but not all of them. We are the only place to get reliable free internet access AND computer access in America. Historically we’re not selling anything but literacy and intellectual freedom. Things get dicey when we have to pick among platforms and file formats (Kindle? Nook? Ibook? PDF? epub?) even though 73% of libraries in the US offer some type of ebooks as if right now. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in many ways was the best and worst thing to happen to libraries at the end of the last century. Now almost all libraries have public access computers. However, most of them in rural communities did not choose their platform. Important? Maybe.

Things get dicier when the only choices of platforms we have are ones that abridge our patrons’ rights or abilities to interact with their content. As much as it’s a pain buying Large Print copies of books we already have in regular print (a problem technology can solve!just make the cont bigger!), it’s less bad than buying an ebook that has the text to speech option disabled. These sorts of limitations are currently things we push against, said to be a necessary evil aspect of lending ebooks because of how the market operates. However there is no natural law that says this has to be this way. Digital rights management is a market creation.

I have an undergrad degree in linguistics, from before I went to library school. We have a saying that explains a larger principle “The morning star is the evening star” Let me bore you briefly by explaining what this means… Both the morning star and the evening star are Venus (which yes, is a planet) but they’re seen at different times. So the one thing has two names that explain different senses of the thing. So the morning star is the evening star but it also is not.

Ebooks and books are two real world things that refer to one “sense” of a thing. We’ve been living with printed books for so long we have a general social agreement about what they are. At the point at which you are talking about digital content to anyone who is not tech literate, you employ metaphors to explain what is bookish about an ebook and what is not. For people who are digitally divided this is more challenging than for others.

When I’m not working at the small public library in my town (pop. 4500) or teaching computer classes at my local vocational high school I am director of operations for a giant online community called MetaFilter (free accounts for librarians, call me). I work from home. The community I manage is virtual. For the bulk of the people in my town the idea that I could have a real job working “online” is a difficult thing to conceptualize. These people are not ignorant, they just literally have no real world experience with the idea of online being a place. A store, sure, but a hangout? And the library is not, should not be, a store. So starting with that and moving to the idea of (free) books and movies and music being in this place, we have to get a little abstract. What is a book? What is an ebook? What is a digital file? What is digital rights management? And most importantly, why don’t people agree on these things?

Understanding these things is necessary to understanding a digital library. We must decide if it’s appropriate for our understanding to stand in for our patrons’ understanding.


But back to books, our stock in trade. Many people who are more plugged into this than me will be outlining the ebook/book divide. In my dream librarian world, a patron could choose from among many digital or non-digital format containers, how they would like their content served and we could deliver it with no loss of service level or quality of content. However we are not there yet.

books vs. ebooks right now

Legally – the right of first sale is under attack and basically doesn’t refer to digital content in the first place. This is a current tug of war between publishers concerned about their business model and libraries/readers concerned about maintaining the values of their institutions in the face of this. The “lending” of digital content is currently not something libraries can do in disintermediated fashion [i.e. there are third party logins and EULAs and privacy policies to contend with] This is suboptimal. It affects not just our quality of service but also our brand and people’s sense of place when they interact with the library.

Socially – social reading-sharing books, annotating books, buying second hand books, seeing when a book was checked out. This is actually a culture that CAN shift very effectively into a digital environment (GoodReads, Library Thing) but we tend to not see that happening with ebooks and lendable ebooks specifically. Why is that?

And there’s the money thing. For the most part, you do not buy an ebook, you license it. The money leaves town and doesn’t come back in the form of second-hand book sales, money to the local book store, heck even employing people in tech services or book repair. These are picky points admittedly, but as someone from a place where Shop/Farm/Buy Local is a rallying cry, we do the math. For every $100 spent locally, $68 returns to the community through taxes, payroll and other expenditures. If you spend that in a national chain, only $43 stays here. Spend it online and nothing comes home at all. All of our libraries’ operating expenses come from grants and taxes of the people who live in the town; it’s fiscally prudent to try to hang on to it.

We need to be mindful about how to make digital content economies valuable to all the people they are by and for.


There are many people doing innovative thinking along these lines from within the library sphere. I am assuming you know about larger players like Hathi Trust and The Google Books Project and you may even be up to date on the Internet Archive’s work with Open Library. One of the things that all of these ground breaking projects have in common is that, unlike the way most of us operate, they started with an idea and got working and then hammered out the legal issues after the fact. This is a good and bad thing, and deeply concerning to people who are litigation averse. Here are a few other projects pointing in the right direction.

- LibraryBox – Jason Griffey thinks that libraries will do better with digital content distribution if they’re running their own servers on their own networks
- UMich Orphans Project
- BPLs copyright shot over the bow
- Cornell Public Domain
- Flickr Commons
- ORI – owner’s rights initiative – “the fundamental premise that if you bought it, you own it” diverse group including ALA
- Random House “you own it!”

We need to be experimenting with systems that allow us to maximize sharing and minimize hassle for whatever digital content strategies we employ.


One of the things that has always hamstrung libraries’ ability to share content has been our local funding versus the increasingly global accessibility of our content. Two public libraries five miles away from each other may have totally different collections and facilities because of their funding base. One library may have access to a specialized database that’s for patrons only while patrons down the street lack this access. And techies know that the reasoning behind that is largely market-driven, that being able to re-sell the same digital content to people over and over is part of the revenue model of these companies even though it’s usually just a password that allows one group in and keeps another out.

It’s easy to define your userbase as the people who are using your things, this is how a great deal of business operates. Don’t like our movie, don’t watch it. Don’t like our soda, don’t drink it. At the same time, this leads to historically underserved people continuing to be underserved.

The big thing about public libraries, why they are so unsexy and why they are so challenging as well as so well loved, is that they are for, literally, everyone. And serving everyone is difficult both in a technological sense which we may have sorted or at least be able to sort, but also in a social sense which we definitely do NOT. So, circling it back to “what should a digital public library of america look like” my response if that it’s truly public it has to be available to and real-world accessible by everyone, the entire public including all the dial-up using, spam-concerned, marginally literate, technologically timid among us all.

People often look at online communities (newspaper comment sections, Reddit, YouTube) and wonder why discussions go so toxic so quickly. And my response being someone with nearly ten years in the trenches of online community management and twice that doing the offline equivalent in libraries and schools is that there’s no incentive for them NOT to be. The public librarian in my town doesn’t just leave the door unlocked, turn on the computers and go back home. She sticks around, setting the tone and enforcing the rules at the same time as shes purchasing books, running programming and caring for the building. It’s the humans that make a library a library and not a room full of books and computers.

If there is going to be something like a digital public library of America, much less ONE digital public library of America, we’ve got to make sure it’s for the entire public. And if there is going to be ONE digital public library of America, a project of which I am in favor, I think it needs librarians.

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Artie’s poem Ceiling to the Stars was published by Families Online Magazine on October 3rd. To read the poem, please click on the illustration below. This poem was illustrated by the talented young artist Chung Oh. To learn more about Chung, visit her online at www.chungoh-illustration.com.

Artie’s children’s story The Hummingbird Who Chewed Bubblegum is being published in a book collection by the Oxford University Press in India. More to come.

Artie’s new story The Race for Space was published in the September issue of the Teachers.net Gazette. To read the story please click on the image below. (This story is dedicated to the memory of Neil Armstrong, whose courage and heroism will live on forever)

Artie’s children’s book Living Green: A Turtle’s Quest for a Cleaner Planet is now available as a free video for kids through StoryCub. A shortlist finalist for the national 2012 Green Earth Book Award, Thurman the turtle is tired of seeing the land he loves cluttered with trash and decides to take action.

To watch the Living Green video on Youtube, please click on the cover below. StoryCub videos are one of the most watched programs on Apple’s iTunes Kids & Family section.


Use of any of the content on this website without permission is prohibited by federal law

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14. Picture Book Peek Week #16 is Part of KidLit Cares!

Hi All -

I was just getting ready to post a November Picture Book Peek Week on my blog when Sandy struck. So instead, my critique this time around will be part of an auction to help the victims of Sandy.

KidLit Cares is organized by the awesome kidlit author Kate Messner. There you'll find my picture book critique as well as loads of other kidlit treasures.

Here's the link: http://www.katemessner.com/kidlitcares-picture-book-critique-with-author-jean-reidy/

So please stop by. Bid high. Bid often. And help those whose lives were devastated by this storm.

While my Peek Week  for November was to have a gratitude theme, I am forever grateful for all of you and for this caring and generous kidllit community that always steps up in times of trouble.

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15. Best Books of October 2012

October 2012: 31 books and scripts read

This month was a mix of new titles, re-reads of favorite stories, and continuing series.

Recommended For Adults and Teens
In the House of the Wicked by Thomas E. Sniegoski, the newest Remy Chandler novel
The Nimble Man by Christopher Golden and Thomas E. Sniegoski, the first book in The Menagerie series
Father Gaetano's Puppet Catechism by Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden
Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (and Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling - non-fiction alert!

For Ages 14 and up
Intentions by Deborah Heiligman
Death of a Kleptomaniac by Kristen Tracy

For Ages 8 and up
A Tangle of Knots by Lisa Graff (coming out in February)

Classics (and Classics Retold)
Arsenic & Old Lace by Joseph Kesselring (I've read this play and seen the film multiple times!)
Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm: A New English Version by Philip Pullman

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Sunny and hot-but occasional cool breezes.

This cartoon attempts to highlight the misdirected priorities of our current administration.  Unseating a successful and popular (and honest) delegate in the US House of Representatives seems to be far more important than the task of governing or addressing the serious problems of crime, crumbling economy, and ruined infrastructure. While daily reports confirm that government spending is out of control, budgeting is based on magical thinking, crimes go unsolved and the people suffer, huge ads supporting Acha Demapan in Republican red and letters to the editor in her support take precedence.

The little guys comment that casinos still seem to be a priority-and they are as yet another attempt to ramrod casinos down the throats of Saipan voters has been recently raised. We'll see a lot more of that after the election (unless the people vote more intelligently than they have in the past--and there's little reason to think they will).

The people are not the priority of the administration.  Nor are they the priority of the voters--who vote their individual fortunes and pockets, not for hte public good.

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17. Interview with Sarah Billington

I met Sarah Billington in 2010 at a Mad Men themed Christmas party thrown by my speakers' agency. (How glamorous does that sound? I am obviously super sophisticated.) Sarah is very lovely and is a freelance editor as well as being a writer. She writes contemporary YA fiction and some spookier stuff under the pen name Edwina Ray. (I haven't read her novel The Kiss Off but Shirley Marr has a quote on the cover, so obviously it is good. There's currently a giveaway for it on Goodreads, too.)

Did you know that there's a professor at Stanford University with the same name as you? Do you actually have a double life, flying between Australia and the US, secretly being a professor of engineering in your free time? 
I did know that! There is also a fifteen year old British singer called Sarah Billington who is constantly having her performances uploaded to Youtube. I haven't seen any yet but I'm getting the impression she is very good. I feel a bit inadequate next to a Stanford professor and singing sensation. If I was in fact ALSO the Stanford professor as well as the young adult fiction writer, clearly I have discovered a time machine or some way to make a daily cross-the-world commute. I write on the trip, obviously.

Where do you get your ideas' is a ridiculous question. But I still want to ask it! What are your inspirations? (If I word it differently, is it excusable?) When you get stuck in a story, or are trying to generate new ideas, are there any specific things you turn to? Other books, newspaper articles, films, music, blogs?
I get inspiration from everything. A thing a person said, a street sign, an interesting relationship dynamic in a TV show, a song lyric, just the way a person behaves, a place I go or see...
When I get stuck in a story, I try and think out possibilities of what could happen, because there is never ONE way a situation could play out. Who will the protagonist choose? The best friend or the bad boy? Making that choice is not the only way the scene could play out. If a girl ran into the room and announced the best friend is her baby daddy, that's a bit different. Or if a stranger appeared in the middle of the scene to mug them and murdered the bad boy, that's...well it's a different direction you could go as well.
Sometimes I get stuck in a genre. I mostly write comedy and that's actually really hard to do when you're not in a good mood or not even remotely feeling funny. Sometimes I need to write something a bit more serious, work on another project and it helps me get it out of my system and find my funny bone again. I've just had that experience today, as a matter of fact.  

Do you have any specific writing tools or special set up? i.e. playlists, computer programs, special writing hat?
Nah. I write on my netbook in bed or on the couch, or on my desktop computer in my office. In Microsoft Word. I tried Scrivener (writing software), and it's really good for plotting out scenes but I'm not such a fan of actually writing the whole book in it as it felt very disjointed and I wasn't writing complete chapters in it. Other writers may know a more effective way of using it, but I haven't figured it out as yet.

I find it hard to write with music playing, as I start concentrating on the story behind the lyrics. That said, it doesn't mean I can't do it. I have a weekly writing date with a friend, lunch at a pub in which we eat and talk books and writing and then we get down to writing for a couple of hours. They have a 90-00s mix that plays constantly. Our lunch date is not complete if they haven't played some John Mayer. Seriously. They always play John.

Do you think you'll ever grow out of writing YA? What in particular draws you to the genre/age group?
I honestly don't think I'll grow out of writing YA. Because I honestly don't think I'll grow up. I'm 28 now and I don't feel like a grown up. I have grown up-type problems, sure, but I can totally relate to the heightened angst of being a teenager. I think all adults still can. Have you ever seen your grandma go out with the girls? Yeah. You heard me. The GIRLS. Not the women or ladies, she's out with her girlfriends. Just like your dad or your grandpa goes out with his boys. They may have grown older in years but inside they're no older than you are. 

Ebooks vs. physical books: can they peacefully coexist?
I hope they can peacefully coexist. It's funny that there are two camps when it comes to digital books and physical books, don't you think? Like we've romanticised paper. This didn't happen with tape vs CD, or CD vs digital music, did it? Or VHS tape vs DVD, and DVD vs Bluray. Are there people out there who are all "you can go stick your digital music where the sun don't shine! I'm keeping my CDs and you can't make me change!"

Personally, my CD collection was just as big as my book collection (okay, that's a TOTAL lie, but it was big) and I gotta love the SPACE I save with digital music. I love that about ebooks, too. And they're super-light when traveling.

All that said, I do prefer the reading experience of a physical book. But I move house a lot. And paper books are heavy.

What advice would you give to authors (particularly YA writers) when promoting themselves online?
It's great to be active and approachable online, but don't be TOO active. You can look like a spammer, or like you NEVER work. There is something to be said for the mysterious, enigmatic writer only really known for their books.

The most important advice I have is: Stop, take a second, and think before replying to something online. Tone doesn't come across the internet very well (which is why the neurotics amongst us can be a bit obsessive with smiley faces  [guilty]) so you have to be aware that what you're saying in a light-hearted way can come across as defensive, hostile or combative. Or even if your comments ARE defensive - you need to stop before you say that defensive thing. Think about it. Maybe the person who made you defensive has a point. Or maybe they have every right to say what they did because they're in THEIR space, on their blog etc. Or maybe they are just a troll TRYING to make you mad. Don't play with trolls.
Just stop, take a second, and think. 

Why did you decide to pursue indie publishing? Do you think traditional publishing is being made redundant?
I had written a book I was really proud of, but my agent didn't think it would sell. I was disheartened by that, and at the same time, I was hearing more and more success stories in the self-publishing field, AND my major assignment for a class at University was to focus on an area of digital publishing. I decided to see what this ebook fuss was about and I've found I'm quite successful at it (I also got a High Distinction for my assignment. Woohoo!). It all happened at the same time and was kind of fate-like.

I certainly don't think traditional publishing will be redundant, more often than not you can trust that the book you buy will have some redeeming qualities, when it really is a gamble with purchasing self published work.
But like indie music, there is now another way to go than with a big backer. Some indie bands aren't very good, just like some indie books aren't very good. Some big label bands also aren't very good, and ditto for some traditionally published books. Being indie or trad doesn't automatically mean really good or really bad.

The thing I like about indie publishing is that books that wouldn't have found a publisher, because they cater to a niche market, are able to find their readers. Short stories and poetry have found a place again, as very little of either get published traditionally. Interestingly, for a couple of years I was consistently hearing that New Adult fiction (18-25ish. College age) doesn't sell. Publishers weren't publishing it because when they did, readers didn't buy it.
New Adult contemporary fiction is currently becoming a really popular genre due to self publishing authors (e.g. Abbi Glines, Tammara Webber and stacks more) finding massive success. New Adult DOES sell, it turns out, but BEFORE self publishing (both have gone on to sell the rights to their books to be published by traditional publishing houses), regardless of how good their books, they may not have been published and readers may not have found these excellent books because "new adult doesn't sell". I find it really interesting and love the diversity and breadth of fiction that self publishing allows for.
Imagining you could travel back in time and meet yourself without tearing the fabric of the universe, what advice would you give your younger self (say, as a teenager) about writing and life? 
Just be you. Don't think that just because you're an adult you need to write serious work of literary merit. You're not a serious person, Sarah, you tend to see the funny side of pretty much everything, so just. Be. You.
Also, one I'm still working on is that what other people think of me is NONE of my business. It just matters what I think of me. I'm a big people pleaser, and unfortunately, I just can't please everyone. Learn it and live it, Sarah! 

For more about Sarah and her novels, check out her website and blog.

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18. It’s no TRICK… the Mini Interviews are almost here!

Now that's what I call a TREAT!

Starting next Wednesday, and every Wednesday in November, I'll be hosting a mini interview right here with one of my favorite illustrators!

So, I am here to give you a sneak peek as to who I'll be chatting with- folks who are so talented it's SCARY...

Lynne Avril
Adam Gustavson
Jeremy Holmes
Kelly Light

See- now you're excited too right?!

Be sure to check in on Juana, Mikela and Laura's blogs this week to see who they'll be hosting!

I guarantee that the lineup is as SWEET as haul of Halloween candy!

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19. Timewaster.

This M&Ms Halloween game?

I got 22 out of 50 semi-quickly, but it's not remotely easy!

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20. Saturday Morning Cartoons

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21. Storytime!

And now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for:  the results of the progressive Halloween story game!   . . . . . . . . Voldemort, Sauron, and Frankenstein’s Monster walk into a bar.  The bartender glances up and without even so much as a blink or double-take turns to the glassware shelves.  The [...]

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22. Review of the Day: Goblin Secrets by William Alexander

Goblin Secrets
By William Alexander
Margaret K. McElderry Books (an imprint of Simon & Schuster)
ISBN: 978-1-442434523
Ages 9-12
On shelves now

I think it is time to declare the birth of the clockwork children’s novel. If you have been watching the literary trends over the last decade or so, you will note that amongst adults there has been a real rise in interest in a form of pop culture labeled “Steampunk”. The general understanding is that as the 21st century grows increasingly reliant on electronics, there is a newfound interest in books/movies/video games/costumes (etc.) that incorporate steam, gears, and other accoutrements of the visual mechanical past. This is, I should note, almost exclusively an adult fascination. I have never encountered a single child who walked up to a reference desk and asked, “Do you have any more Steampunk?” That said, there’s no reason it shouldn’t work as a genre. The trouble comes when an author tries to shoehorn a Steampunk story into a fantasy mold. The best writers know that if you’re going to incorporate odd mechanical details, the best thing to do is to set up your own odd mechanical internal logic. I think that’s probably what I like best about William Alexander’s “Goblin Secrets”. It’s not the first story I’ve read about a boy joining a troupe of traveling performers. And it’s not the first middle grade Steampunk adventure I’ve come across. Yet there’s something definitely one-of-a-kind going on in this book. An originality that you only find once in a pure blue moon. And that’s worth reading, you betcha.

Rownie’s life hasn’t been worth much since the disappearance of his older brother Rowan. Living with “grandmother”, an old witch named Graba who holds a Fagan-like power over the orphans in her sway, Rownie runs various errands until one day he finds that goblins have come to his city of Zombay. They are conducting theatrical performances, an act forbidden to humans, so it’s as much a surprise to Rownie as to anyone when he joins their little troupe. Rownie is also still determined to track Rowan down, but that may mean using extraordinary means to escape from Graba’s all-knowing, all-seeing ways.

It’s little wonder that the book was nominated for a National Book Award when you take into account the writing. In terms of description, the book has a wonderful and well-developed sense of place. At one point this is what you read, “All roads to the docks ran downhill. They wound and switchbacked across a steep ravine wall, with Southside above and the River below. Some of these streets were so steep narrow that they had to be climbed rather than walked on. Stairs had been cut into the stone or built with driftwood logs lashed together over the precarious slope.” With a minimal amount of words you get a clear sense of the location, its look, its feel, its dangers, and perhaps its beauties as well.

The details found within this strange Steampunk world are delicious, and that is in the book’s favor. You hear about “small and cunning devices that did useless things beautifully.” From gears in mechanical glass eyes to the fact that a river is something that can be bargained with, there’s an internal logic at work here that is consistent, even if Alexander is going to leave the learning of these rules up to the reader with minimal help. For example, there is the small matter of hearts and their removal. To take out a heart is not a death sentence for a person, but it can leave them somewhat zombiefied (the city’s name “Zombay” could just be a coincidence or could not, depending on how you want to look at it). And goblins aren’t born but are changed humans. Why are they changed and for what reason? That’s a story for another day, but you’re willing to wait for an answer (if answer there ever is).

Exposition. It can be a death knoll in a book for kids. Done well it sucks the reader into an alternate world the like of which they may never have seen before. Done poorly they fall asleep three pages in and you’ve lost them forever. And done not at all? That’s a risk but done right it pays off in fine dividends. “Goblin Secrets” takes place in Zombay, a fact you find out five pages in. It’s a city that contains magic, a fact you find out on page three. There are goblins in this world (page twelve) but they didn’t start out as goblins (page . . . um . . .). Facts are doled out at a deliberate but unexpected pace in this book. There are no long paragraphs of explanation that tell you where you are and what to expect. It’s only by reading the story thoroughly that you learn that theater is forbidden, Rownie’s brother is missing, Graba is relentless (but not the only villain in the story), and masks are the book’s overriding theme. In the interest of brevity Alexander manages to avoid exposition with something resembling long years of practice. Little wonder that he’s published in multiple magazines and anthologies on the adult fantasy (not that kind) side of things. Many is the adult writer who switches to writing for children that dumbs down the narrative, giving too little respect to the young audience. I think Mr. Alexander’s gift here is that he respects his younger readers enough to grant them enough intelligence to follow along.

Alexander makes his own rules with this book, and not rules I’ve necessarily seen before. With that in mind, with as weird a setting as you have here, it can be a relief to run across characters you like and identify with. They act as little touchstones in a mad, crazy world. Rownie is particularly sympathetic right from the get-go. He has a missed beloved older brother, an independence that’s appealing, but he’s not a jerk or anything. Nor is he a walking blank slate that more interesting characters can use to their own ends. Rather, Rownie is the kind of character who keeps trying to talk himself into bravery. He does it when performing and he does it on his own (“Rownie tried to summon up the feeling that he was haunting the Southside Rail Station and that other sorts of haunting things should be afraid of him…”). That’s why Alexander’s use of masks and theater is so effective. If you have a protagonist who just needs a little push to reach his potential, what better way than through performance? On the flipside, the bad guys are nice, if perhaps a little two-dimensional. Graba is nothing so much as a clockwork Baba Yaga, mechanical chicken legs and all. By extension the Mayor is a good power hungry villain, if stock and staid. There is no big bad in this book quite worthy of the good folks they face down. Graba comes close, but she’s just your typical witch when all is said and done. A little gearish. A little creaky. But typically witchy, through and through.

By turns beautiful and original, it’s a testament to Alexander’s skills that the book clocks in at a mere 200-some odd pages. Usually worlds of this sort end up in books with five hundred or six hundred pages. The end result is that when a kid is looking for a good fantasy in a new world, they are inclined to be scared off by the thick tomes gathering dust on library shelves and instead will find friends in old classics like The Black Cauldron or The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Add to that list William Alexander’s latest then. A smart piece of writing that conjures up a new world using a new method.

On shelves now.

Source: Galley sent from publisher for review.

Like This? Then Try:

Last Line: “His fingers twitched and his mouth watered, but he waited for his supper to cool.”

Notes on the Cover: The unfortunate hardcover will happily be replaced with a far more kid-friendly paperback.  As you can see, the previous incarnation showed a Frankenstein’s monster-esque goblin juggling.  Alas the shot made it look as if the lit torch in hand was impaling him.  It was a bit of odd CGI.  The new cover is a traditional illustration and show Rownie hiding from his possessed former bunkmates.  If I were to go with a good cover seen I might go with fighting the possessed masks, but I suspect they wanted to avoid the goblins entirely with this particular jacket.

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  • Good news for fans.  The sequel, Ghoulish Song, is already scheduled to be released next year.  Happiness all around.

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23. Happy Halloween

I love, love handmade costumes. Here are a few from Pinterest...

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24. Saturday Morning Cartoons

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25. The Story that Wrote Itself

Some stories just write themselves.

 It's rainy...almost snowy...here in Ohio.  A crummy night for trick-or-treat indeed.  I really didn't expect many trick-or-treaters, but to my surprise they showed up in droves.  I live in a closed neighborhood so traffic is really slow here.  Parents can walk on the sidewalk while the kids stroll from door-to-door.

At any rate, it's Halloween night and I'm home alone except for my 150-pound Newfoundland, Sam and my little half-dachshund-half terrier, Annabelle.

I have a front door with no screen...just the door.  Every time the doorbell rang the dogs bounded to the door with me.  They were enjoying every minute of the holiday spirit. You would have thought it was Christmas!

Since Sam is so big, I was holding him with my left hand (so he wouldn't accidentally kiss anyone to death) and passing out candy with my right.  All was going well...really well.

Then it happened.

 Annabelle spied a cute little Spiderman holding a pumpkin that was filled to the brim.  She saw her moment and took it.  Annabelle zipped out the front door.  She knocked Spiederman's pumpkin onto the porch and used her hunting instinct to its maximum.  She sniffed out the biggest peanut butter cup known to mankind and bolted back into the house.

While Spiderman was deciding whether or not to cry Sam and Annabelle got into a wrestling match right there in front of all the little ghosts and goblins.  I'm not sure if it was Spiderman or not, but one of the kids said, "OH SH --!" 

If I could have I would have slammed the front door.  There were too many tails, legs, hands, feet, and pumpkins in the mix.  What did I do? 

I can wrestle with the best of them.  I GOT THAT PEANUT BUTTER CUP.  That magnificent piece of candy was mine!  I took it from my little thugs without killing myself during my slip and slide maneuvers on the floor. 

Then I stood up slowly and carefully and tried to look dignified.

 All the onlookers finally decided the entertainment was over and moved on to the next house.  Instead of passing out candy I should have charged admission.

You just never know when a story is going to write itself. 

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