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<<September 2012>>
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Viewing: Blog Posts from All 1562 Blogs, dated 9/29/2012 [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 87
1. 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #299: Featuring Junyi Wu

(Click to enlarge)

I’m featuring an unpublished illustrator today, and no, it’s not the first Sunday of the month, when I tend to feature students or folks brand-new to the field of children’s book illustration. But Little Willow emailed this week to point out to me the website of someone named Junyi Wu, and I went all gaga over her artwork and contacted her to see if she could visit today. I think her artwork is so beautiful that I could hardly wait. (Can I get seven cheers for Little Willow?)

Lucky for me, Junyi said yes.

Junyi, who lives in Los Angeles, tells me she works mostly in colored pencils and likes to play around with scale and layers. Below are some of her pieces—delicate, ethereal, otherwordly, and breathtaking, I think, in their clarity—and, when you’re done looking, raise your hand if you fell for them hard like I did.

Here are some Junyi links, if you like what you see here and want to see even more: her website; her blog; and her tumblr.

I’m just gonna hush now and let her artwork do the talkin’. Oh, except to say: Notice how I categorized this post under “picture books.” Junyi isn’t published yet, but hey, I can dream. Right? (more…)

32 Comments on 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #299: Featuring Junyi Wu, last added: 10/6/2012
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2. Book Review: Brides of Rollrock Island by Margo Lanagan

Book: The Brides of Rollrock Island
Author: Margo Lanagan
Published: 2012
Source: Review copy from publisher via NetGalley

On Rollrock Island, there are no girls, and the women are beautiful, eerie, sad creatures.There's a good reason for that, as they're not women at all, but selkies, stolen from the sea to be the wives of the Rollrock men.

It wasn't always like this. Once there were human women, and human girls too, on Rollrock. Then the witch Misskaella conjured the first sea-wife from a seal-skin, and gradually all the human women left in protest as their men turned to beautiful,

This book furnishes a lot to think about. Clearly it's saying a lot to a feminist viewpoint. The men pick a seal almost at random, the witch produces a girl from it, and they give her a name, put clothes on her, and take her home. There's no element of choice, and very little acknowledgement that this might be an undesirable situation for anybody. Yet the men know their wives have no real ties to their land-life, because they lock away the seal-skins that would allow the selkies to return to the sea that is their real home. It's easy to demonize them.

On the other hand, they're ensnared by the promise of easy love and the illusion of owning something mysterious and otherworldly. A selkie imprints on the man who takes her from the sea, totally trusting and dependent. As hideous as this is for the women, you can see how beguiling it is for the  men. Human relationships are tricky, thorny things. How many of us would really (now be honest) turn down the promise of a spouse who loves and pledges to you at first sight?

Not to mention, this is a situation that feeds on itself like a snake eating its own tail. Girls born of the sea-wives can't survive on land, so they're given back to the sea (to be seals, not to drown, lest this be an even darker book). With the human women leaving in disgust and protest, this means that there is no option for a wife and family unless you turn to the witch and ask her for one. Within a generation, this becomes the way things are, and that's much harder to change than an individual outrage.

This is a book that doesn't really have one central character. You could rightly argue that the main character is the community of Potshead itself. It produced the scorned and spiteful Misskaella, who knows what she is doing to the community and keeps doing it anyway because it is her power and her revenge. Yet it also produces Daniel Mallett, the half-selkie boy who becomes aware of the monstrosity of the island tradition and vows to do something about it.

Like Lanagan's previous book, Tender Morsels, this book is full of complexities and terrible human emotions, and no easy answers anywhere. It won't be for everyone, but those who do pick it up and stick with it will find much to think about.

1 Comments on Book Review: Brides of Rollrock Island by Margo Lanagan, last added: 9/30/2012
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3. Title Horror: Ruth Symes

Coming up with a title:

Some authors don't write a word until they’ve thought up a title for their work, whilst others spend weeks chewing their pen’s end and pulling tufts of hair out trying to come up with just the right one, only to have their publisher announce that they've thought of something much better.

My first children’s novel to be published (back in 1997) was a gritty urban school based story with an extremely elusive title. Whatever I suggested my publishers, Puffin, didn't like. At one point there was a class of thirty or so 10 year olds being read the manuscript and trying to come up with something suitable but my publisher didn't like any of those either.

The Master of SecretsFinally my then editor, the lovely Lucy Ogden, told me they'd decided my book would be called 'The Master of Secrets' and later I found there was also going to be a picture of my anti-hero, Gabriel Harp, on the cover rather than the story’s real hero, Raj.

Much as I loved working with Lucy I found the publisher’s title to be confusing for readers who assumed, quite naturally, that they were going to be reading a fantasy novel.

Do titles make a difference to book sales?

Yup: When 'Dancing Harriet' was about to be published by Chicken House my editor told me the feedback from Scholastic in the USA was that they would prefer it to be Harriet Dancing.
Dancing Harriet'Of course it's up to you... but the potential for thousands of copies...' she murmured.
Harriet Dancing the book became.

'Chip's Dad' was originally ‘Colin's Dad’ until the publisher asked for it to be changed (I really should have realised it was going to be aimed at the US - which is the only place it sells and asked for a larger royalty than the pittance the educational publisher - who seem to have now gone bankrupt - thought was fair).

Little RexAnd ‘Little Rex’ started off as a crocodile with another name not just a title but a whole species change (I think – although crocs and dinosaurs must be related....)

Adult BooksAnd finally my 2010 memoir written under the pseudonym of Megan Rix was originally 'The Puppy Mum' (my title) then ‘Puppies from Heaven’ (my agent’s title) before becoming ‘The Puppy that Came for Christmas’ (publisher’s choice). I liked this one – although with it’s pink cover the book does very often get mistaken for a children’s book rather than an adult one.

What title horror stories / experiences have you had?

Poster for ScareFEST 3And speaking of HORROR I wanted to let you know that I am going to be onstage around a cauldron talking about my Bella Donna books at SCAREFEST 3 on Saturday the 6th October at The Civic, Crosby from 1pm. Please come along if you can. It should be WILD. Tommy Donbavand, the writer of Scream Street, is hosting an interactive game show. There’s a budding author's workshop from 10-30-12, an exclusive staging of the 'Spook's Apprentice' and the 'Doom Rider' show from 4-5.30, and a 'Spook-Tacular Extra-GORE-Vanza' in the evening.

More info from the wonderful Tony Higginson at www.formbybooks.co.uk

PS Have just spent all weekend re-vamping my website so if you have time to click by it’d be nice to see you at www.ruthsymes.com

7 Comments on Title Horror: Ruth Symes, last added: 10/1/2012
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4. Please prove that you are not a robot!

I was recently trying to enter a comment on one of the blogs when I got the message “Please prove that you are not a robot. Enter the words shown below”. We have these captcha codes that are mandatory to be entered if you want your comment to be entered. I couldn’t help smiling when I read the sentence “Please prove that you are not a robot”. As if entering the captcha code proves that. Well, in

0 Comments on Please prove that you are not a robot! as of 9/30/2012 1:40:00 AM
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5. How Many Challenged or Banned Books Have You Read and Why?

Does ALA (American Library Association) ban books? No. The ALA's Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) receives reports from libraries, schools, and the media on attempts to ban books in communities across the country. We compile lists of challenged books in order to inform the public about censorship efforts that affect libraries and schools. The ALA condemns censorship and works to ensure free access to information. For more information on ALA's efforts to raise awareness of censorship and promote the freedom to read, please explore Banned Books Week. What's the difference between a challenge and a banning? A challenge is an attempt to remove or restrict materials, based upon the objections of a person or group. A banning is the removal of those materials. Challenges do not simply involve a person expressing a point of view; rather, they are an attempt to remove material from the curriculum or library, thereby restricting the access of others. Due to the commitment of librarians, teachers, parents, students and other concerned citizens, most challenges are unsuccessful and most materials are retained in the school curriculum or library collection. Continue reading

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6. 7 Things I’ve Learned So Far, by Emily Hainsworth, Author of THROUGH TO YOU

This is a recurring column I’m calling “7 Things I’ve Learned So Far,” where writers at any stage of their career can talk about seven things they’ve learned along their writing journey that they wish they knew at the beginning. This installment is from writer Emily Hainsworth.





Emily Hainsworth is the author of THROUGH TO YOU (Oct. 2012,
Balzar + Bray). She was raised in upstate New York and currently
resides in Denver with her husband, cat, and standard poodle.
THROUGH TO YOU is her first novel. You can visit her online
at www.emilyhainsworth.com.



1. Allow yourself to dream. Before I had a book deal or even an agent, I used to spend a significant amount of time daydreaming about becoming an author. What it might be like, how it might change my life. At the time, this felt silly and self-indulgent, but the daydreams kept me going, thirsting for a taste of true success. If I’d given them up, I might’ve given up hope, and I never would have seen those dreams finally coming true.

2. Surround yourself with people who have similar goals. As in many aspects of life, it helps to have friends working toward similar goals. I didn’t know anyone else who even wrote YA when I started out, but I quickly found supportive friends beginning their publication journeys, just like me. Almost every one of the people I met back then now either has an agent or a book deal. You can boost each other up the rungs of the ladder—you don’t need someone at the top to pull you up.

3. You’ll never understand constructive criticism until it’s been given AND received. I never appreciated the feedback people offered when critiquing my manuscripts until I was put in a position to offer the same people insight into their own work. Deconstructing flaws in someone else’s story will help you identify similar issues in your own writing. It’s amazing how perfect words can seem until you’ve had a two-way feedback exchange.

4. Writing is important, but so if your personal life! Sometimes I get fixated on my goals and it’s difficult to see anything but the brass ring I’m reaching for. Being driven is a gift, don’t get me wrong, but don’t lose sight of your support system along the way. If your spouse/family/friends are giving you space to work endless hours on that manuscript, take time to show them how much you appreciate their confidence in you. Many sacrifices are made on the road to publication, but your loved ones should not be among them.

5. Don’t let success grind your productivity to a halt. After THROUGH TO YOU sold, I became consumed by ‘what happens next.’ But the thing is, not a lot does happen immediately after your first book sale. You should simply keep writing. I spent so much time worrying about what the editing process would be like and what my next book should be that by the time I started making progress on the second book, I was very behind and wished I hadn’t let myself get side-tracked.

6. Don’t be afraid: authors, agents, editors, even filmmakers are people too. The first time I spoke on the phone with many of these people, I was petrified. I don’t even remember some of the conversations because I was so sick to my stomach with worry I’d say the wrong thing. In retrospect, I probably would’ve made a better impression if I’d remembered each of these people had to get started somewhere, just like me…and they didn’t somehow become super-human in the process.

7. If you did it once, you can do it again. This goes for everything from completing a second manuscript to selling a second book… and beyond. The first book I wrote didn’t get me an agent and will never be published. When I realized I needed to abandon it and start from scratch, I wasn’t sure I had it in me. Starting a novel is the hardest part for me, but I did it a second time, and it got me an agent and a book deal. I just repeated the process with my next published book, and will go for it again with the one after that. It doesn’t get easier, but it is possible to start from the blank page all over again.



This guest column is a supplement to the
“Breaking In” (debut authors) feature of Natalie
in Writer’s Digest magazine. Are you a subscriber
yet? If not, get a discounted one-year sub here.





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7. Babysitting SugarPaw by V.S. Grenier

4 Stars
Babysitting SugarPaw
V.S. Grenier
Kevin Scott Collier
(SP) Halo Publishing

In Babysitting SugarPaw, SugarPaw is a young bear who will be spending the evening with a babysitter, but is not happy about the situation.

“I don’t want a babysitter!”

Papa Bear assures SugarPaw everything will be okay, but SugarPaw is going to make sure that’s not true. First, he runs down and changes the rules chart.


……….No TV after 7 P.M.

……….No TV after 10 P.M.

……….No playing with paints

……….Play with paints.


Every rule on SugarPaw’s rules chart now has a counter rule designed to get the babysitter in trouble.

The babysitter is indeed the best around. Bonnie Whiskers knows just how to handle sneaky little bears who think they are too old for a babysitter. She lets SugarPaw get away with his rules, cleans up after the messes he deliberately makes, and does it all kindly. SugarPaw starts to feel guilty.

This is a cute book appropriate for any child who thinks they are too old for a sitter, getting a new babysitter, or who usually acts up for the babysitter. Kids will love the characters and the mischief SugarPaw tries to create. The story can be an icebreaker for parents with a child adamantly against a babysitter, regardless of age.

The illustrations by Kevin Scott Collier of adorable, funny, and bright-eyed characters enhance the story and increase the laugh factor of SugarPaw’s antics. Such as the  one of SugarPaw sitting in an over-flowing bathtub, with the biggest smile on his face and looking like he is having the best time, while Bunny Whiskers looks on with a mop in her hand.

Babysitting SugarPaw is also a good bedtime story. It is a fast read, kids will love hearing the story night after night, and parents will not mind reading it repeatedly. I do wonder why Bunny Whiskers reads the rules chart—the correct rules chart—and then allows her charge to do a switch-a-roo on her. Maybe she felt SugarPaw needed some control over the situation, something kids usually do not have. Whatever the reason, the babysitter takes it all in stride giving us a wonderful time and a beautiful ending.

SugarPaw’s creator, V.S. Grenier, visited Kid Lit Reviews yesterday and sat down for a chat. To read more about SugarPaw and the author, click HERE!

Babysitting SugarPaw

Author: V.S. Grenier   website   for kids
Illustrator: Kevin Scott Collier   website
Publisher: (SP) Halo Publishing   website
Release Date: June 30, 2009
Number of Pages: 32
Ages: 3 to 9

Filed under: 4stars, Children's Books, Debut Author, Library Donated Books Tagged: babysitter not wanted, babysitting, bears, bedtime story, bunny, children's books, finger painting, mischief, picture book, pranks

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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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9. Narcissa Whitman Pioneer of Oregon

I'm taking a printmaking class at my local technical college, so I've been looking at books with engravings, woodcuts and linocuts. I pulled out this book, Narcissa Whitman, Pioneer of Oregon by Jeanette Eaton that I bought at a book sale a few years ago. The wood engravings were done by Woodi Ishmael, who I am not familiar with, so if you aren't either we can both learn something new!

First off, Narcissa Whitman was a real person. She was one of the first white women to cross the Rocky Mountains on the trip to Washington State in 1936. She and her husband, Dr. Marcus Whitman, founded a protestant mission there
with the goal of converting the Native American Indians.

An outbreak of measles in which the Indians had little immunity to caused them to be distrustful, thinking that Marcus was only curing white people while letting Indian children die. Unfortunately this culminated in a massacre, in which both Narcissa and Marcus were killed. Narcissa was only 47 years old.

Woodi Ishmael (1914-1995), was born in Lewis County, Kentucky. He served as an official artist for the United States Air Force and did several paintings of Air Force Chiefs of Staff. Of interest, he was the only courtroom artist at the Jack Ruby Trial. (Information via Bulldog Studio)

If you are interested in viewing some of Ismael's work, you can go to this site,
The Air Force Historical Research Agency. To view other work that he did, such as advertising, here is the google link.

Narcissa Whitman
By Jeanette Eaton
Illustrated by Woodi Ishmael
Harcourt, Brace and Co., 1941

5 Comments on Narcissa Whitman Pioneer of Oregon, last added: 10/12/2012
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10. Cartoon Network’s 20th Anniversary Video

This mind-blowing video greeting card commemorating the 20th anniversary of Cartoon Network features what seem to be every character the Network owns the rights to. Let us know if you spot any missing. CN made its debut at 12 noon on October 1st, 1992; This video will be premiere on Monday night at 6:58pm. For reference, Variety posted a list of Cartoon Network milestones.

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11. "Wonderful print from 60s legend Alain Grée"

0 Comments on "Wonderful print from 60s legend Alain Grée" as of 9/30/2012 12:22:00 AM
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Anorak Magazine 

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13. A Cautionary Tale for Readers and Authors: When Book Signings Go Bad!

Remember my video about the nightmare book signing?

Well, bad signings make frequent appearances in author circles.

Recently a friend set up a table at a “free” outdoor event for parents and toddlers. She thought it would be a good opportunity to showcase her picture book and sell some copies.

No one approached her all morning. She was getting very discouraged.

Finally, a woman who had been manning another table came up to her. “I’d like one for my son,” she said. “His name is [very unusual name].”

My friend picked up her pen, personalized the book to the woman’s son, wrote a special note, and autographed it. “That will be $15, please.”

The woman stared. “Oh, I thought it was free.”

My friend was taken aback. “Free? This is a picture book from [Big 6 Publisher].”

“But everyone here is giving away free stuff,” the woman said.

My friend then felt bad. SHE FELT BAD?! “Well, since you didn’t know, I will let you have it at cost. I paid $10 for it.”

“Never mind,” the woman said. “I don’t want it.” And she walked back to her table.

My friend was near tears. She hadn’t sold a single book and now she was stuck with one signed to “Jakellen.” What were the odds that another “Jakellen” would come to a future book signing? About a Jakellen-to-one!

This serves as a cautionary tale for both readers and authors.

Authors do not get their own books for free.

They are offered a very limited quantity upon publication, usually somewhere between 5 and 15 copies. The rest they have to pay for themselves, typically at 30-40% off the retail price. Sometimes they do better purchasing from Amazon and not the publisher-direct! Free books are very rare.

And remember, that author has worked years to publish that book. And authors do not get paid while they are writing it. A lot has been sacrificed to get that book onto shelves. So please don’t expect a book for free. And don’t walk away from a book that has already been personalized. That author has now lost whatever they paid for the book, and the royalty they earned doesn’t even cover 10% of it.

While tempting, it may not be the best idea to do signings at advertised “free” events. People arrive with the expectation that they’ll never have to dip into their wallets. (And considering the economy, that’s the kind of feeling they want to experience often!) They are not in the mood to buy, and therefore may avoid you, even if what you’re selling looks good. They have not arrived with the mindset (or the money) to make a purchase.

And finally, it may be proper to let the reader know the price before you sign a book. Or else you might get stuck with a lot of “Jakellen” copies. And frankly, “Jakellen” isn’t even on the Social Security Administration’s List of Top 1000 Names. FOR ANY YEAR.

But who knows, maybe like “Splash” I’ve inadvertently begun a Madison-like name craze?!

My friend may be Jakellen-sellin’ after all!


Book and pen photo courtesy of Flickr user Jain Basil Aliyah.

10 Comments on A Cautionary Tale for Readers and Authors: When Book Signings Go Bad!, last added: 9/30/2012
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14. jillthompson: gabis2r: Totoro Cookies by =Demi-Plum Recipes...



Totoro Cookies by =Demi-Plum

Recipes for these gorgeous cookies are on the page. 

There is also a link to a cookie cutter shaping tutorial which enables you to make any design cookies you like!

I need to make these!

Totoro as a sugar cookie.

0 Comments on jillthompson: gabis2r: Totoro Cookies by =Demi-Plum Recipes... as of 9/30/2012 4:06:00 AM
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15. Benoit Cesari

click here

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16. June Foray and Johnny Carson

Everyone has to start somewhere. Johnny Carson started in 1951 with a painfully unfunny sketch comedy show called Carson’s Cellar. That, in itself, is hardly Brew-worthy, but this episode posted on Archive.org will delight cartoon fans. The woman who appears at the 4:30 mark is none other than the legendary June Foray, who just celebrated her 95th birthday.

(Thanks, @SquidyUK)

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17. The Good Provider

I clean the cream from my whiskers with my paw. I sit watching the delicious little birds hop from seed to seed on the dying thistles in the garden outside the window. This window seat is made for these lazy autumn afternoons. Red’ll be home soon. I love to watch his change of expression when he approaches the house to greet his latest wife. She’s Lola this year. It was Linda back in those days, Bennie’s sister. It’s getting harder to remember that I used to live with Bennie. The boys came up with the idea, in a poker game, at Bennie’s. There was Mutt, Jeff, Bennie and Slocum. I watched from the back of the couch, cleaning my paws with my tongue. There were clouds of smoke and interesting smells emanating from the table that night. The boys were flying high. Bennie figured his ship had finally come in. The next morning, as we drove to work, Bennie talked about the score. He talked to me, but he was really talking to himself. He was a good provider though, so I went along with it. Bennie was my owner, a cat worshipper, who also owned Brutus, a watchdog. Bennie took me to work with him most days. I was an excuse for Bennie to talk to himself, a warm body to have around. Bennie was the only employee left in Red Smith’s auto parts warehouse. Red didn’t make much wholesaling used auto parts, but he had a famous safe which made him a tidy profit. He held payrolls for a lot of companies which didn’t have the facilities to handle large amounts of cash. They couldn’t fit into bank schedules. The safe also held such items as receipts, estates and some money from questionable sources which Red labelled, ‘Other’. On the way to work the next morning, Bennnie dreamed along with the sports show on the radio. “With my cut, I could buy an island, like Brando. Down in Tahiti. So what if he’s fat? Women still love him. I’d have a party for the boys, but not for a couple of years. This is Slocum’s chance too. He can escape from his old lady, finally. The guy’s not well. She’s a bad influence. Don’t you think he’s shrunk and turned grey since he’s been with her?” I sat in the back seat watching some dogs on the sidewalk. Gross. Brutus ran out when Bennie opened the front door of the warehouse. There are dogs and there are dirty dogs. Brutus was dirty and aggressive with everyone except Bennie and me. Bennie had trained him, I had shown him my claws when we first met. He almost lost an eye that time, always respected me since. I wouldn’t turn my back on him, though. Brutus is big. He’s a big, dirty watchdog who would tear anything apart just for fun. Unless someone killed Brutus or otherwise incapacitated him, they’d never be able to steal from this warehouse. Unless they had an in and knew how the safe worked, that is. Bennie was counting on this as part of his plan. He could control Brutus and retirement was approaching. If he ripped the place off, he could sit tight for a few years and let things cool down. If everyone kept their mouths shut and they paid a lawyer Mutt knew, they would all end up rich. Even Red had some kind of insurance for a robbery, Bennie figured, but it wasn’t an urgent consideration. Red could afford it, no doubt. There would be questions. There would be all kinds of cops. They would insist on a lie detector test, but he didn’t have to take it, they couldn’t use it in court. Brando never backed down from a role. This was one for which Bennie had been preparing all of his life. That was the way Bennie saw it, anyway. I always thought he was a little crazy, but who could have known? The safe only opened once a day. If robbers did get past Brutus and the other alarms, unless they came at exactly the right time, they would have to blow the door off of it. It would take a big explosion to blow the door, neighbouring alarms would go off all over the place. There wasn’t much paper around, but there might be a fire. The other thing, which only Red knew about the safe, but no one else knew, was that it expelled all of the oxygen, slowly, after the door closed. Red got it from an art museum when the government closed it down. One of the perks of having a foolproof safe was that big companies were advised, by word of mouth, to use Red’s, in emergencies. Red made a pretty penny helping out big companies. When the boys thought up the plan at the poker game, it was after Bennie had told them all about the “special job” Red was doing that weekend. A big company was moving millions of dollars from city to city. They were leaving it in Red’s safe overnight on the weekend. Bennie and the boys planned to rip it off. I stretched and tasted the fresh cat food Bennie had left in my dish by the office door. I settled in the comfortable window, watched Bennie strike poses in front of the mirror. Every time I cleaned the outside of my ears, I remembered the ticks. Getting rid of them was a painful process. Bennie thought he looked like Brando when he practised a sneer. I thought he looked like an overweight Elvis impersonator. There was an inventory to keep, some paperwork to do, but Bennie mostly listened to a redneck on the radio and talked to me during his work day. When we were at the warehouse, Bennie kept Brutus in his run outside in the back. Red dropped in on Friday afternoon for a few minutes. He ruffled my fur, scratched my ears. Red was just getting to like me in those days. He went over the delivery of the money on Saturday morning, told Bennie that he had Sunday off, that he, Red, would be there to make sure of the pick up on Sunday morning. Red sat in Bennie’s chair, feet up, smoking a cigar, called Linda. He put Bennie on with his sister, enjoyed their fraternal banter. Red glowed with love for Linda. His face changed when he talked to her on the phone. When he spoke about her with Bennie, the latter thought he was kidding. Bennie looked at Red, quizzically, behind his back, after these conversations about his older sister. The boys planned to pull into the warehouse as soon as the delivery was made on Saturday morning. They would load the money and take it away. They would leave Bennie in the safe to be released by Red the next day. The story would be that the robbers showed up right after the security company delivered the cash, pushed Bennie into the safe, left with the loot and the security film. The key to getting away with it was for everyone to behave normally. These guys thought they could pull it off. It sounded good, that night, when the boys met for poker at our place. Mutt had all the papers and powers of attorney for them to sign. It would give their lawyer, who wasn’t above a bit of graft himself, the right to move their money around. No one could quit their jobs or do anything out of the ordinary for at least two years. They were all thinking about retirement. The boys were closer to old than young. The delivery Saturday morning went smoothly, the security company guards moved the cash into the safe. They had just pulled out of the parking lot when Mutt, Jeff and Slocum pulled up, at the front door, in Slocum’s black van. Bennie had already taken the film out of all the security cameras when they walked into the office. They wore gloves, but no masks or disguises. Bennie showed them the millions of dollars they were stealing by opening a package. They got lost in a delirious minute of congratulations while they admired the bills. After a short debate, they figured that I should keep Bennie company in the safe. There was nothing soft and warm inside the safe. I never did like it. They threw me in with Bennie after they put my dish and some water inside the door. I circled the safe quickly, ran out, just as they slammed the door shut. They left him some chocolate bars and water, but they couldn’t do anything about the light. There was no light, but Bennie planned to sleep and rehearse his shock and anger until Red arrived. They didn’t even notice me until it was too late. No one had time to worry about me, so they left. The three of them giggled as they got into Slocum’s van. In a few years, they would be on easy street. Margaritas all around at Bennie’s place in Tahiti, one island over from Brando’s. All they had to do now was to drop off the money at the lawyer’s. At the time, I didn’t know, nobody did, except Red, about the slow leak of oxygen from the safe. Bennie must have realized that something was wrong because he made a lot of noise in the safe around the same time that Red arrived, the next morning. Red’s Cadillac pulled up beside Bennie’s Celebrity in the empty parking lot. I watched from the front window as Red got out of his car and walked toward the building. He looked back once at Bennie’s car. He was about half way between his parking space and the warehouse when his cell phone went off. He dug it out of his jacket pocket and answered it. I could tell that he was talking to a woman he loved by the change of expression on his face. It lit up. He stopped, looked at the sky as he talked. He had a big smile on his face when he turned back to the car. He listened to the phone, smiled at his shoes. Red got back into his Caddy, talking on the phone, his eyes on Bennie’s Celebrity. He was talking to Lola that day. He thought Bennie had his days off mixed up, so that he was taking care of the pick up. He was partially right, Bennie was there, but he was in the safe. The noises from the safe got fewer and further between, quieter, then stopped all together. Brutus started howling and whining from the back of the warehouse. Brando’s death scene in The Godfather always was one of Bennie’s favourites, but I think he would rather have played it in a tomato patch. When the security guys from the pick up company arrived, there was no one around. They called Red and told him that they could see the cat in the office window and that Bennie’s car was there, but no Bennie. By this time I was hungry, the litter box was filling up. I knew, from Brutus’s mournful howl, that Bennie had somehow died in the safe. Red drove over from Lola’s the next morning. He took a long time calling long distance, pushing digital codes to open the safe before its special time. Red’s reputation was on the line. The reputation of his service to the big companies. The security company had to have the money. Red breathed through his nose a lot, walked around the office with a serious expression followed by the security guards talking into their cell phones. If they had arrived earlier, if Red hadn’t taken so long to open the safe, they could have seen Bennie gasping for his last breath. The police were called as soon as Red opened the door and found Bennie dead in the safe, the money gone. Red seemed surprised and a little hurt by the discovery of Bennie’s body. When he saw the cat dishes of water and food inside the safe door he adopted me on the spot. He took me home to his very comfortable estate. It was as if he was protecting me. He switched from Linda to Lola just after Bennie’s funeral. Linda accused him of holding out on her, but Red paid her off. It wasn’t the payment she wanted but she had to settle for it. The police questioned all of Bennie’s friends. Nobody talked and no one was caught for the theft. Lola’s a real cat lover so I’m pampered and lazy here. There are no poker games with smoke and interesting smells, but the food is great. Yesterday she got some cat treats and served them to me on a pillow. It gets harder and harder to remember life at Bennie’s. Red suffered his loss manfully, in public. Bennie’s death was so shocking that Red’s compensation from the insurance company went unnoticed. Red doesn’t know Mutt or Jeff or Slocum. They don’t move in the same circles. They were all there at Bennie’s funeral which was also attended by a large number of undercover cops. I watched from the passenger seat of Red’s Caddy. When it was over they filed past the Cadillac on their way to the cars. Red argued with Linda over Bennie’s grave. Slocum looked me right in the eye and winked as he passed the windshield. He knew that I had seen it all and that Red was a good provider.

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18. “A Hitch in Time” By Chuck Jones

A Hitch in Time is a new one for me: a 1955 propaganda short directed by Chuck Jones that encouraged U. S. Air Force personnel to re-enlist. The cartoon appeared last year on the first volume of the Looney Tunes Platinum Collection.

What impresses most about this short are the production values. Layout artist Ernie Nordli and background painter Philip De Guard give a masterclass in composition and color.

There is absolutely no reason a didactic re-enlistment film like this needs to look so good except that the artists who made it didn’t know how to do it anyway else. They were craftsmen at the top of their game, and they managed to turn the most mundane material into something entertaining and beautiful.

Chuck Jones is at his peak as an artist, and his character layouts of the two main characters are lots of fun. The animation is equally expert. Although the movement plays second fiddle to Jones’s overpowering poses, it’s no mean feat to give life to designs as organic and complex as these.

The film is no classic, but it’s a must-see for any fan of Chuck Jones and Golden Age Hollywood animation.

(via Cartoon Retro)

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19. Apple Picking by Margot Justes

In the fall we always go apple picking, something I've done with my daughters since they were little, very little. The tradition continues now with my grandchildren. Fall is upon us and of course it's apple picking time.

We tried to go apple picking today, tried was the operative word, no apples to pick at this particular orchard in Woodstock, Illinois. All the apples packed in tiny little bags with huge price tags were kept in the cooler.
The top two or three apples in the tiny bags were nice enough, the bottom few not so much, they were bruised and soft. I do understand the drought, the lack of apples, and the necessity for the orchard to support itself, but I don't have to pay a premium for at best mediocre quality.

I chose to vote with my pocketbook and not buy any of their apples, instead I went to a fresh fruit market and bought the delicious honey crisp apples for a fraction of the cost and I still supported the local growers.
The day was fun, we were together and the drive down was gorgeous. Fall arrived early and the trees were in their glory-the colors were magnificent. We stopped at Papa G's, for a late lunch. A delightful diner in Huntley, where the food was good and my meatloaf (love meatloaf) delicious. I tend to judge diners on their meatloaf.

Margot Justes
A Hotel in Paris
Hearts & Daggers
Cool Crimes Hot Chicks

5 Comments on Apple Picking by Margot Justes, last added: 10/6/2012
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20. My Mailbox

Here are a few of the great books I received in the mail recently.

The 13th Day of Christmas by Jason Wright

Marva Ferguson has a very personal Christmas tradition that happens every December 26. As an aging widow, the tradition means more to her now than it ever has. Her newest neighbor, nine-year-old Charlee, loves Christmas too. But her family has fallen on hard times and things get worse when Charlee becomes critically ill. Then, on December 12, Charlee makes a wonderful discovery. A mysterious note is delivered that promises twelve days of gifts and stories that will reveal the truth behind the beloved Christmas carol The Twelve Days of Christmas. As the days go by, the gifts hint at a possible lost lyric. Was there once a 13th day of Christmas? And if so, could its magic change or save a life? If Marva knows something about the letters from the Elves, she s not telling. However, you don t live as long as Marva Ferguson and not have a secret or two including a whole lot of faith in your apron pocket. Filled with laughter, tenderness, and hope, The 13th Day of Christmas invites us to see how an old Christmas favorite can turn into a true Christmas miracle.

Running Into the Wild: Bronco Mendenhall by Paul Gustavson & Alyson Von Feldt

There is no other collegiate football program in the world like the one found at Brigham Young University. None. Certainly that has much to do with the fact that the school is the largest religious university in the United States, owned and operated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. But perhaps there is an even more unique differentiator - a head football coach who is unwavering in his unorthodox style of mentoring, strengthening, teaching, and even recuiting his players. Bronco Mendenhall's coaching style is considered jaw-dropping by many and ludicrous to some. However, no one can overlook the success the Cougars have had. How does his team consistently win ten or more games year after year? What philosophy and practices did Bronco implement to create this sustained success? One thing we know is that Bronco's system goes against the grain. He believes that running into the wind is an opportunity and is key to ultimately creating a sustained competitive advantage. The first section, On the Field, discusses the challenges Bronco has faced as the head coach, the principles and practices he learned to face those challenges, and the on-field applications and results. The second section, In the Football Offices, looks deeper into Broncos system and the business principles and tools of the five smooth stones that Bronco was taught by Paul Gustavson. Whether you are a coach or a leader, the organization strategies and models that Paul taught Bronco can be applied to any business or team. Simple, this section is where the coach of the coach will coach you, too.

Starters by Lissa Price

“Readers who have been waiting for a worthy successor to Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games will find it here. Dystopian sci-fi at its best, Starters is a terrific series kickoff with a didn't-see-that-coming conclusion that will leave readers on the edges of their seats . . .” raves the Los Angeles Times. In the future, teens rent their bodies to seniors who want to be young again. One girl discovers her renter plans to do more than party--her body will commit murder, if her mind can't stop it. Sixteen-year-old Callie lost her parents when the genocide spore wiped out everyone except those who were vaccinated first--the very young and very old. With no grandparents to claim Callie and her little brother, they go on the run, living as squatters, and fighting off unclaimed renegades who would kill for a cookie. Hope comes via Prime Destinations, run by a mysterious figure known only as The Old Man. He hires teens to rent their bodies to seniors, known as enders, who get to be young again. Callie's neurochip malfunctions and she wakes up in the life of her rich renter, living in her mansion, driving her cars, even dating Blake, the grandson of a senator. It's a fairy-tale new life . . . until she uncovers the Body Bank's horrible plan. . . .

Epic Tales of a Misfit Hero by Matt Peterson

From passing the sacrament with his fly down to failing miserably at capture the flag, Andrew knows he'll never be able to fulfill his duties as a deacon. But when tragedy strikes on his Boy Scout backpacking trip, Andrew's whole troop must become stronger than they ever imagined. This hilarious coming-of-age story is bound to have you rooting for a misfit hero!

The Diviners by Libba Bray

Evie O'Neill has been exiled from her boring old hometown and shipped off to the bustling streets of New York City--and she is pos-i-toot-ly thrilled. New York is the city of speakeasies, shopping, and movie palaces! Soon enough, Evie is running with glamorous Ziegfield girls and rakish pickpockets. The only catch is Evie has to live with her Uncle Will, curator of The Museum of American Folklore, Superstition, and the Occult--also known as "The Museum of the Creepy Crawlies."

When a rash of occult-based murders comes to light, Evie and her uncle are right in the thick of the investigation. And through it all, Evie has a secret: a mysterious power that could help catch the killer--if he doesn't catch her first.

We're All Different But We're All Kitty Cats by Peter J. Goodman

''My name is Carlos and I have no fur,'' the kitty cat says to his classmates on the first day of school.

A kitty cat with no fur? How strange thought the other cats, laughing and giggling at Carlos. Hurt and embarrassed in front of the class, he sits down at this desk and begins to cry.

On his way home from school, Carlos runs into Vinny, a mean kitty cat twice his size. From a distance, Flo and Marla witness what's about to happen. Do they come to his rescue or does Carlos find his own escape?

This rollercoaster of a story introduces the cool cast of kitty cats Carlos, Dylan, Flo, Marla, Allie, Vinny and Sammy. It reveals how each kitty has a gift something that makes them special. And sometimes it takes a difficult experience to discover this. All children have unique talents, and in this story...Carlos finds his.

7 Comments on My Mailbox, last added: 9/30/2012
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Roald Dahl's Revolting Rhymes
Roald Dahl ~ Quentin Blake ~ Jonathan Cape, 1982

Gotta love any book that begins...

I guess you think you know this story. 
You don't. The real one's much more gory.
And so starts the fractured fairy tale of Dahl's Cinderella, the first in six silly stories that make up a world of demonic, devilish fun. In Cinderella, we see our heroine become so disgusted when the prince lops off the heads of her sisters that she decides to shun the monarchy and instead settles down with a simple jam-maker. And lives happily ever after, I might add.
Next up, we peek in to see the giant at the top of the beanstalk eat Jack's mother; the seven dwarves as ex horse race jockeys with a betting streak; Baby Bear getting a taste of predigested porridge (still inside Goldilocks, wink wink); Little Red Riding Hood in a cloak of self-skinned wolf-coat, and finally, Little Red appearing again, crashing the story of The Three Little Pigs as a paid hit-man, slaying the wolf and ending with a twist...
Ah, Piglet, you must never trust
Young ladies from the upper crust.
For now, Miss Riding Hood, one notes,
Not only has two wolfskin coats,
But when she goes from place to place,

This one (along with its companion piece, Dirty Beasts) is so full of ridiculously raunchy fun, that it makes a great short-form introduction into the darker parts of Dahl. I love the juxtaposition below of the front and back covers. Simply sinister!

Also by:
Dirty Beasts
The Giraffe and the Pelly and Me
Fantastic Mr. Fox
The Magic Finger
Danny Champion of the World
James and the Giant Peach ~ Michel Simeon version
James and the Giant Peach ~ Burkert version
Mouse Trouble


Read along on Instagram, Facebook, tumblr, Twitter and Etsy.

5 Comments on , last added: 10/13/2012
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22. The Depth Of Writing Talent

Okay, another thought on my afternoon at Crafting a Public Identity: A Workshop for Creative Artists, Writers and Performers on Navigating the Arts Business Maze, which I was talking about just yesterday:

Actor Jeffrey Raab talked about the depth of talent in acting. Today there are large numbers of actors who are not just talented but also trained through undergraduate and graduate programs. They have studied and developed skills. Many people are qualified to play almost any part.

In the literary world, there has been lots of talk over the last few years about self-publishing. Some reviewers believe that self-publishing means the slush pile is being offered up to the reading public. Anyone can become a published writer, whether talented and knowledgeable about writing or not.

At the same time this is going on, though, we could be talking about the depth of talent in writing. Just as with actors, there are large numbers of writers who are not just talented but also trained, particularly through graduate programs. They have studied and developed skills. Many people are qualified to write traditionally published books.

I'm at a loss as to how to sum this up. How weird is that? comes to mind. As does, What does it all mean?

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23. An Interview with Katherine at Read, Write, Reflect

Katherine at Read, Write, Reflect asked me to do an interview after reading my new book THE JOY OF PLANNING.  I agreed, of course!  The interview is posted on her amazing blog if you are interested. And if you aren't interested, add the blog to your list of blogs to read regularly--spend some time there.  Amazing learning opportunity--she shares so many great reflections about reading, writing and teaching!

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24. Banned Books Week - What's a Challenge?

Banned Books Week 2011 logoIt's Banned Books Week. Do you know what a challenge is? Whether you are interested in getting a book banned or censored OR you are interested in preventing it from being banned or censored, you need to know what a challenge is. Read What does a challenge have to do with kids' books, banned books, censorship? to learn more. Then, let me know your feelings about the subject by responding to the question, "Would you ever challenge a children's book? Why or why not?" at Readers Respond. Finally, read about how other parents feel about book challenges. For more about Banned Books Week, censorship, the latest report on banned books and more, see All About Book Banning of Books for Kids and Teens.

(Artwork courtesy of the American Library Association)

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Banned Books Week - What's a Challenge? originally appeared on About.com Children's Books on Sunday, September 30th, 2012 at 00:01:55.

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25. Poetry Book Launch in CT

Please join me for the launch of What's Wrong with Ordinary? Poems to Celebrate Life. After unemployment and cancer, this book celebrates the "ordinary" events that make up our lives — relationships and raising children, joys and frustrations, midlife and milestones. Hope to see you there!

Date: Sunday, October 14, 2012
Time: 2:00 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Place: Hickory Stick Bookshop
Address: 2 Green Hill Rd., Washington Depot, CT

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