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Viewing: Blog Posts from All 1562 Blogs, dated 11/1/2012 [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 164
1. Anna Graceman Interview

Read our interview with 12-year-old Anna Graceman from America's Got Talent.

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2. November 2012 Events

Click on event name for more details

Picture Book Month

American Indian Heritage Month~ USA

National Year of Reading~ Australia

The Children’s Bookshow: Stories From Around The World~ ongoing until Nov 8, United Kingdom

Lee and Low Books’ New Vision Award~ submissions accepted until Nov 14, USA

Telling Tall & Tiny Tales Interactive Book Experience~ ongoing until Nov 24, Dublin, Ireland

The Illustrators’ Journey Art Exhibition Featuring Art by Shaun Tan, Matt Ottley and More!~ ongoing until Dec 31, Fremantle, Australia

Frances Lincoln Diverse Voices Children’s Book Award 2013~ submissions accepted until Dec 31, United Kingdom

2012 South Asia Book Award~ submissions accepted until Dec 31

SingTel Asian Picture Book Award 2013~ submissions accepted until Dec 31, Singapore

Exhibits of Winning Entries from the 2011 Growing Up Asian in America Contest~ ongoing until Feb 2013, USA

Nami Island International Illustration Concours for Picture Book Illustrations~ submissions accepted until Feb 15, 2013, Korea

Tall Tales & Huge Hearts: Raúl Colón~ ongoing until Mar 28, 2013, Abilene, TX, USA

Skipping Stones Youth Honor Awards Celebrating Multicultural Awareness, International Understanding and Nature Appreciation~ submissions accepted until June 25, 2013, USA

 Kaleidoscope Children’s Literature Conference~ Nov 1 – 3, Calgary, AB, Canada

Kuala Lumpur Children’s Book Festival~ Nov 1 – 6, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

YALSA’s 2012 Young Adult Literature Symposium~ Nov 2 – 4, St. Louis, MO, USA

Singapore Writers Festival~ Nov 2 – 11, Singapore

Children’s Laureate Niamh Sharkey’s Gigantic Illustration Workshop~ Nov 3, Dublin, Ireland

Penang International Kids Storytelling Festival (PINKS)~ Nov 3, Penang, Malaysia

Children’s Africana Book Awards Ceremony~ Nov 3, Washington, DC, USA

OKI (Ohio Kentucky Indiana) Children’s Literature Conference~ Nov 3, Crestview Hills, KY, USA

4th Global Conference Bullying and the Abuse of Power~ Nov 4 -  6, Salzburg, Austria

Once Upon a World Children’s Book Award Ceremony~ Nov 4,  Los Angeles, CA, USA

Kyun Kyun Ladki, a Play Based on Writer Mahashweta Devi’s Book, The Why-Why Girl (Tulika Publishers)~ Nov 4 and Nov 15, Mumbai, India

22nd Annual Children’s Illustration Show~ Nov 4 – Jan 15, Northampton, MA, USA

16th Annual Rochester Children’s Book Festival~ Nov 5, Rochester, NY, USA

Reading Association of the Philippines (RAP) National Convention~ Nov 8 – 10, Manila, Philippines

The 19th Annual IBBY UK / NCRCL MA Children’s Literature Conference~ Nov 10, London, United Kingdom

Children’s Literature Council Fall Gala: From a Book to e-Books: The Many Ways to Access Children’s Literature~ Nov 10, Los Angeles, CA, USA

Connecticut Children’s Book Fair~ Nov 10 – 11, Storrs, CT, USA

Children’s Day Celebrations Hosted by Tulika Books~ Nov 11, Pune, India

41st Annual IASL Conference Incorporating the 16th International Forum on Research in School Librarianship. Theme: The Shifting Sands of School Librarianship~ Nov 11 – 15, Doha, Qatar

National Young Readers Week~ Nov 12 – 16, USA

Vancouver Children’s Literature Roundtable Presents: A Night with Authors Susin Nielsen and Susan Juby~ Nov 13, Vancouver, BC, Canada

National Book Awards~ Nov 14, New York, NY, USA

3rd Annual Children’s Poetry Festival~ Nov 14 – 16, San Salvador, El Salvador

National Black Storytelling Festival and Conference~ Nov 14 – 18, Atlanta, GA, USA

Children’s Literature Assembly Events at the National Council of Teachers of English Annual Convention~ Nov 15 – 19, Las Vegas, NV, USA

Bookamania~ Nov 17, Chicago, IL, USA

Kahaani Festival~ Nov 17 – 18, Delhi, India

Istanbul Book Fair / IBBY Turkey Announces Children’s Books of the Year~ Nov 17 – 25, Istanbul, Turkey

SCBWI British Isles Annual Conference~ Nov 23 – 25, Winchester, United Kingdom

Northern Children’s Book Festival~ Nov 24, United Kingdom

Bookaroo in the City~ Nov 24 – 25, Delhi, India

22nd Annual International NAME Conference: Realizing the Power of Movements through Multicultural Education~ Nov 29 – Dec 1, Philadelphia, PA, USA

The Literature Centre (formerly Fremantle Children’s Literature Centre) Exhibits and Programs~ Fremantle, Australia

Dromkeen National Centre for Picture Book Art Exhibits~ Riddells Creek, Australia

Books Illustrated Events and Exhibitions~ Middle Park, Australia

International Youth Library Exhibits~ Munich, Germany

Tulika Book Events~ India

International Library of Children’s Literature Events~ Tokyo, Japan

Newcastle University Programme of Talks on Children’s Books for 2011-2012~ Newcastle, United Kingdom

Seven Stories (the National Home of Children’s Books in Britain) Events~ Newcastle Upon Tyne, United Kingdom

Discover Children’s Story Centre~ London, United Kingdom

Arne Nixon Center’s Children’s Literature Book Clubs for Adults Events~ USA

Events Sponsored by The Center for the Book in the Library of Congress~ USA

The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art~ Amherst, MA, USA

The National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature Exhibits~ Abilene, TX, USA

Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Events


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3. Books Recently Read and Giveaway Winners

BLIND SPOT - Laura Ellen

Roz has a condition called macular degeneration. There are spots in her vision and she has to mainly use her peripheral vision, as well as her memory, to see her surroundings. When Roz awakens after a party she can’t fully remember, she finds out that one of her classmates, Tricia, has disappeared and is later found dead. People are telling her different accounts of what happened that night. Roz trusts the wrong people and gets involved in a crime in her pursuit of the truth.

The characters in this novel are schemers and liars. There’s Dellian, an unkind teacher who picks on Roz. Jonathan is a popular boy who’s charming, but the charm wears off since he’s unsavory. Tricia was an addict with a mottled past. While I read this I would predict who the murderer was, question myself, and then be proven wrong.

I thought the middle sagged a bit, especially when it hit the teen drama part related to Roz’s love life—she’s with Jonathan, then her friend Greg, and then she’s upset at girls who may have taken an interest in them. Despite this, I enjoyed the novel. It’s a suspenseful mystery and I enjoyed how everything unfolded. I don’t come across too many YA mysteries, so I was delighted when I found this. I received the galley from NetGalley, courtesy of the publisher.


Greg Heffley has been accused of a crime. Even though his principal has punished him for vandalizing the school, the police still want to see him. When he’s stuck inside his house during a blizzard the police can’t get to him, but he’s enclosed with his brothers, Rodrick and Manny, and his mom…problems and hilarity ensue. The antics of Greg, his family members, and friends were a joy to read about. This is such a cute, fun book.

THE EMOTION THESAURUS - Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi

I’ve learned a lot over the years reading Becca and Angela’s blog, and I’m so glad everything “emotional” of theirs is in book form. This is a fantastic writing resource. I read it recently and I’m sure I’ll be flipping through it again and again.


Charlie, his parents, his grandparents, and Mr. Wonka are traveling through space in a glass elevator. They come across a space hotel when astronauts and the U.S. president mistake them for aliens. But the real aliens are the Vermicious Knids, who are after Charlie and his party as well as the astronauts. After taking care of the space creatures, there’s another problem at the chocolate factory when Charlie’s grandparents grow too young or too old with Wonka-Vites and Vita-Wonks. One of the grandmothers even vanishes to Minusland when she becomes -2 years old. I’ve read several Dahl books and the man was a creative genius, but this book is more unusual than the others I’ve read. Unusual is good, though.

THE PRANK - Ashley Rae Harris

This is a short novel about a group of high school pranksters who are haunted by a ghost. The adults in town seem to know the identity of the ghost, but they don’t want to talk about her. It’s eerie and suspenseful, although I felt I couldn’t completely sink into it because of its brevity. Still, it’s a decent read that’s going into my classroom library.

THE TWITS - Roald Dahl

The Twits are a horrid couple, playing nasty tricks on each other. Not only that, but they are cruel to the children and animals in their neighborhood. When the animals have revenge on their minds, the Twits are really going to get it. THE TWITS is a funny and odd book that doesn't get old, no matter how many times I read it.


My latest giveaway ended last night and I used random.org to pick the winners. Katie won a signed copy of THE EVOLUTION OF MARA DYER and Joanne won a signed copy of A THUNDEROUS WHISPER. Congratulations! We'll be in touch.

25 Comments on Books Recently Read and Giveaway Winners, last added: 11/30/2012
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4. Sorry Guys . . .

The reading roundup is postponed tomorrow, due to extreme tiredness. Hard to type when your face is flat on your desk.

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5. Nanowrimo resources: diversity in your Nano (writing cross-culturally)

Vieja Maquina de Escribir. / Old Writing Machine.

Courtesy Gonzalo Barrientos/Flickr

Are you starting off on your yearly Nanowrimo marathon? If so, perhaps you’re thinking about how to diversify your cast or settings. Preferably both, right? This month I’m working on at least one new diversity post, but I also thought perhaps a list of existing resources in one place would be useful. Most of these links, which I’ve been sharing via Twitter and Facebook as I find them, can also be found on the CBC Diversity Resources page, specifically on the resources for writers page, along with resources directed at other publishing professionals such as editors, sales and marketing, and booksellers. I’ve added a few more recent articles/sites that I’ve recently run into, as well.

This is kind of a hodgepodge of links, but I think it’ll help you have plenty to think about. If I run into anything more in the next couple of days, I’ll likely add it. Most of these links apply to writing cross-culturally, but as I like to remind people, this can mean anyone writing from a perspective not their own. I’ve talked to New York City-based writers who make assumptions about Iowans based on what they’ve seen on TV that I as a Midwesterner find unbelievable at best. I’ve known probably as many writers of color who want to write about different cultures that fascinate them as white writers who would like to write about people of color. In all of these cases, if you aren’t writing “what you know,” then research is involved. You have to know what questions to ask, what assumptions you’re making because of your own worldview that your character wouldn’t make. These resources will help you with that.

Though, beware, there’s a lot of info here. If you’re Nanoing, perhaps you might want to go with one at a time to leave yourself time to write!

Stephen King’s Super-Duper Magical Negroes

Nnedi Okorafor examines Stephen King’s use of the “Magical Negro” trope and discusses how it can be avoided.

Chimamanda Adichie: The danger of a single story

Chimamanda Adichie’s transformative TED talk, The Dangers of a Single Story, shows us what happens when writers focus on only one kind of story, and how a multitude of voices from minority cultures need to be heard for that danger to pass away.

Appropriate Cultural Appropriation

When writing cross-culturally, we need to remember whether we’re acting as an invader, a tourist, or a guest. Nisi Shawl addresses how to watch out for stereotypes, bad dialects, and other problematic portrayals of people of color.

Transracial Writing for the Sincere

Nisi Shawl’s resources for those who want to get it right when they want to write cross-culturally; how to do your research.

Challenge, Counter, Controvert: Subverting Expectations

Uma Krishnaswami on challenging subverting expectations in our writing.


Describing characters of color in writing

N.K. Jemison on how to describe characters of color in your writing without resorting to cliches and stereotypes.

Part 1: http://nkjemisin.com/2009/04/ways-to-describe-characters-of-color/

Part 2: http://magicdistrict.wordpress.com/2009/07/30/describing-characters-of-color-pt-2/

Part 3: http://nkjemisin.com/2010/02/describing-characters-of-color-3-oppoc/

The Microaggressions Project

A Tumblr that seeks to provide a visual representation of the everyday of microaggressions, “brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative racial slights and insults toward people of color.” Each event, observation and experience posted is not necessarily particularly striking in and of themselves. Often, they are never meant to hurt—acts done with little conscious awareness of their meanings and effects. Instead, their slow accumulation during a childhood and over a lifetime is in part what defines a marginalized experience, making explanation and communication with someone who does not share this identity particularly difficult.


Monika Schröder on Saraswati’s Way

Uma Krishnaswami on insider vs. outsider narratives (as she discusses Saraswati’s Way with Monika Schroder).

Don’t put my book in the African American section

N.K. Jemison’s response to the segregation of black writers (and often as a result, readers) in some libraries and bookstores.


Parenthetic Comma Phrases, Anyone?

Uma Krishnaswami on the use of parenthetic comma phrases to explain cultural details to the reader as if the reader were always an outsider to the culture. How else might these details be conveyed without alienating readers who come from that culture?

White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack

Peggy McIntosh provides a classic list of privileges which a white middle class woman enjoys that many of other socioeconomic statuses or races do not. An example for writers seeking to write from a perspective not their own to muse on their own privileges, whether similar or different, so they can see their blind spots.


Things I Don’t Have to Think about Today

In the same vein as the above, science fiction writer John Scalzi talks about “Things I Don’t Have to Think about Today” paired with his post on narrative usurpation, covering why he wrote “Things I Don’t Have to Think about Today.”

“Things I Don’t Have to Think about Today”

Narrative Usurpation


Mitali Perkins on Writing Race

A Checklist for Writers


There’s no such thing as a good stereotype

N.K. Jemison on the “strong female character” stereotype that also connects with racial and cultural issues.


Interview Wednesday: Stacy Whitman of Tu Books, a Lee and Low Imprint

Uma Krishnaswami interviews Stacy Whitman about using cultural experts to read cross-cultural writing or to check details of a controversial or historical subject (even when the writer is of that culture).


Is my character ‘black enough’?

From my own blog (be sure to read the comments section).


My SCBWI Winter Conference 2012 talk on writing multicultural books

Notes from my SCBWI Winter Conference talk in which I quote from the book below (questions to ask to knowing what questions to ask)

A Beginner’s Guide to the Deep Culture Experience: Beneath the Surface

This book by Joseph Shaules is directed to potential US expats living abroad helping them to think about cultural differences and ways to adapt to their new countries and enjoy the journey. But when read from the perspective of a writer, the questions Shaules raises can be applied to world building and culture building in writing.


Beyond Orcs and Elves

My talk on the need for diversity in fantasy and science fiction (includes a resources for writers section in part 3).


The Language of the Night
This book is unavailable electronically and also out of print, but if you can find Ursula K. Le Guin’s collection used or at your library, published by HarperCollins in 1978 and 1989, two excellent essays for writers on diversity are “American SF and the Other” and “Why Are Americans Afraid of Dragons?”

Originally published at Stacy Whitman's Grimoire. You can comment here or there.

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6. A Roger Hall Play for Kids

The Three Little Pigs by Roger Hall, illustrated by Errol McLeary (Scholastic)

The Three Little Pigs is a story and play in one book.  Roger Hall takes a well-known fairytale and modernises it for today's kids.  The three little pigs are lazy little sods.  They expect their mother to do everything for them. However, mum is fed-up - she threatens them if they don't help she'll turf them out. They laugh. But the next day when they go to turn on the TV they find it gone - they sob their hearts out. Their mother then kicks them out.  Of course, you can guess who is laying in wait for them and the huffing and puffing scenario that plays out, with a little twist.

Once you've read the story, kids can then act it out.  Teachers will love this resource. Kids can understand the text first by reading the story, then perform it as a play.  I imagine many school assemblies will be featuring The Three Little Pigs. Kids will also enjoy it, as the humour and language is aimed right at their age level.  The cartoon artwork enhances it further.

Roger Hall is one of New Zealand's most successful playwrights. He has also written scripts for radio and television, and for children. His plays have toured widely and have been performed at international venues and won awards.  This is his second book for Scholastic (My Aunt Mary Went Shopping).

New Zealand born illustrator Errol McLeary now lives on the Gold Coast where his zany sense of humour continues to bring his illustrations to life.

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7. Poetry Text Sets (Ages 13 and up)

Here's the final installment in my series on poetry "text sets." This one is for young adults (ages 13 and up). Once again, each mini set includes 3 or more poetry books authored by one poet, focused on a single topic or theme, and formatted to be very similar in design and appearance which helps promote discussion, comparison, and analysis. This list is drawn from my recent book, The Poetry Teacher's Book of Lists available here.

FOR YOUNG ADULTS (Ages 13 and up)

Global poetry
Nye, Naomi Shihab. Ed. 1992. This Same Sky: A Collection of Poems from Around the World. New York: Four Winds Press.
Nye, Naomi Shihab. Ed. 1995. The Tree is Older than You Are: A Bilingual Gathering of Poems and Stories from Mexico with Paintings by Mexican Artists. New York: Simon & Schuster.
Nye, Naomi Shihab. Ed. 1998. The Space Between Our Footsteps:  Poems and Paintings From the Middle East. New York: Simon & Schuster.

African American History
Nelson, Marilyn. 2001. Carver: A Life in Poems. Asheville, NC: Front Street.
Nelson, Marilyn. 2004. Fortune's Bones: The Manumission Requiem. Asheville, NC: Front Street.
Nelson, Marilyn. 2005. A Wreath for Emmett Till. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
Nelson, Marilyn. 2008. The Freedom Business. Asheville, NC: Front Street.

Poetry paradoxes
Vecchione, Patrice. Ed. 2001. Truth and Lies. New York: Henry Holt.
Vecchione, Patrice. Ed. 2004. Revenge and Forgiveness. New York: Henry Holt.
Vecchione, Patrice. Ed. 2007. Faith and Doubt. New York: Henry Holt.

Poetry anthologies
Rosenberg, Liz. Ed. 1996. The Invisible Ladder. New York: Henry Holt.
Rosenberg, Liz. Ed. 1998. Earth-shattering Poems. New York: Henry Holt.
Rosenberg, Liz. Ed. 2000. Light-gathering Poems. New York: Henry Holt.
Rosenberg, Liz. Ed. 2001. Roots & Flowers: Poets and Poems on Family. New York: Henry Holt.

Poetry, people & history
Philip, Neil. Ed. 1995. Singing America. New York: Viking.
Philip, Neil. Ed. 1996. Earth Always Endures: Native American Poems. New York: Viking.
Philip, Neil. Ed. 1998. War and the Pity of War. New York: Clarion.
Philip, Neil. Ed. 2000. It’s a Woman’s World: A Century of Women’s Voices in Poetry. New York: Dutton.

Poetry by teens
Franco, Betsy. Ed. 2001. Things I Have to Tell You: Poems And Writing by Teenage Girls. Somerville, MA: Candlewick.
Franco, Betsy. Ed. 2001. You Hear Me? Poems and Writing by Teenage Boys. Somerville, MA: Candlewick.
Franco, Betsy. 2008. Ed. Falling Hard: 100 Love Poems by Teenagers. Somerville, MA: Candlewick.

Novel in verse trilogies
Wolff, Virginia Euwer. 1993. Make Lemonade. New York: Scholastic.
Wolff, Virginia Euwer. 2001. True Believer. New York: Atheneum.
Wolff, Virginia Euwer. 2009. This Full House. New York: Harper Teen/The Bowen Press.

Hopkins, Ellen. 2004. Crank. New York: McElderry.
Hopkins, Ellen. 2007. Glass. New York: McElderry.
Hopkins, Ellen. 2012. Fallout. New York: McElderry.

Please let me know if you have any additional text sets to recommend for the secondary level.

And be sure to swing by Mainely Write for the Poetry Friday gathering. See you there!

Posting by Sylvia M. Vardell © 2012. All rights reserved.

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8. PiBoIdMo Day 2: Robert Weinstock’s Terminal Condition: Beginning

For me, it all starts with accepting the sad truth that I have no idea what I’m doing. I’ve published a handful of books over an armload of years and I still haven’t a clue how to write or draw anything approximating a viable picture book. None. When you’re as lost as me, a step in any direction is a total stab in the dark.

The second thing I try to remember after accepting being completely lost is that, much to my eternal chagrin, I will never write or draw like William Steig or Arnold Lobel or Esphyr Slobodkina or Rosemary Wells or Leo Lionni or Tove Jansson or Roger Duvoisin or Lane Smith or Ellen Raskin or you or my six-year-old daughter or anyone. Trying to write or draw like someone else makes me feel not only lost, but hopelessly lost. Hopelessly lost is the worst kind of lost.

When I’ve dispensed with the formalities of pretending to know what I’m doing or that I will ever successfully pull off being anyone other than me, I take out my pencils and a current favorite pad and let the only brain I will ever have tell me what it’s thinking. It has been chewing over bottles for years. And people in bottles. And mulling over hairdos of late. And mustaches. And mermaids with mustaches and hairdos. And seaweed. And tubeworms. And coral. And deep-sea hydrothermal vents. I have no idea how to draw deep-sea hydrothermal vents. And sunken treasure chests. And gumball machines. And balloon vendors. And people with no arms who don’t seem to care that they have no arms because they are stuck in bottles. And that we never have enough cookies in the house. Or enough batteries. Cookies and batteries and toilet paper should just regenerate themselves before you’ve had the misfortune to realize you’re out of them….but they never do, do they?

It’s generally easier to see when someone else is lost. Or when someone else is trying to write or draw like someone other than themselves. Or when someone else is having fun. It is harder to see yourself having fun because the very act of seeing yourself do so takes you out of the experience of having the fun you were having before you went ahead and ruined it by having a meta moment about what you were doing. Which is no longer having fun. It is thinking about having fun. Which is not as fun…no matter what you think. It just isn’t.

For me, the key to embracing my lostness, in the not-hopeless fun-having way I try to embrace being lost, is by trying to be present. What does that mean? I’m not entirely sure. It think it feels like not worrying about which direction I’m going because there is nowhere else but here. Where the skin ends and the scales start or a tail now curves or shells start gathering on the sea floor. It feels like not worrying about being as funny or wise or poetic or brave or dexterous as anyone else. It means not realizing that the last Oreo disappearing in my greedy maw at this very moment is the very last delicious thing in the ENTIRE HOUSE.

It doesn’t matter. I’m drawing scalloped-shell mermaid brassieres. Or merrily tracing chest hair. Or bottling the moon. Or realizing I can also draw with the green fountain pen I’ve previously been afraid to use. Even the red one. Yes…THE RED ONE! There is no one telling me I can’t use the green or red pens other than me, is there? They’re my pens for god’s sake. When was a “Pencils Only Rule” ever voted in as a Constitutional Amendment? There is no federal mandate forcing me to draw my characters in profile either (wait…there isn’t?). And congress has yet to make me learn foreshortening. Or write about things I don’t want to draw in profile…or foreshorten.

Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Front-View Happiness! Woo hoo. Look at me. No hands. No clue where I’m going. I’ve got all of later today and tomorrow and the rest of my life to work up a healthy froth over not knowing how the heck I’m going to turn anyof this flotsam into a book or that the flashlight in the “emergency drawer” doesn’t work. Right now not even Theodore Geisel could be having more fun than me.

Fun…and regenerative toilet paper…and C batteries… and fresh Oreos… and mermaid bras… and chest hair… that’s just what the doctor ordered!

There are much more potent prescriptions out there. I’ve read them here on PiBoIdMo. It’s sick how smart and generous and talented you people are. And by sick I mean inspiring. I may be incurably lost, but I know enough to leave the dispensing of real medical advice to those of you who actually know what you’re doing. I’m a fruit-flavored chewable guy. If it tastes too bitter going down, I can’t ask you to swallow it either.

Learn more about the inexplicably incomparable (Tara’s description) Robert Weinstock and his books (like I’M NOT and FOOD HATES YOU, TOO!) at his website, CallMeBob.com.

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9. The Perfect Christmas Book by Emma Barnes

Forgive me, those who don’t like to think about Christmas in November. But this is my last post this year and I’m going to use it to think about what makes the perfect Christmas book. 

A shiny cover is not enough. Nor is a Christmas theme necessarily what you want, although some subjects do crop up time and again – Nativity plays for example, have inspired some great stories. And sometimes a lack of Christmas cheer is somehow more Christmassy (who can forget the present-less start to Little Women? Or Laura Ingalls Wilder and her beloved, homely, home-made rag doll?)  And where Christmas does feature it can be the downright ghastliness of it all that produces the best read (that’s the case with several of my choices below). 

But beyond that, what’s really wanted is atmosphere. I’ve only written one book myself, Wolfie, that I consider truly “Christmassy”, and it’s less because the action culminates in the Christmas holidays, and an exchange of presents, than because it contains deep woods, snow, church clocks chiming midnight and wolves – all of these elements associated in my mind with timeless winter, and therefore Christmas. 

So here are my top Christmas reads for all ages – full of snowy woods, Nativity plays and festive ghastliness. But I’m well aware they reflect my own prejudices, and my own childhood favourites. Which ones have I missed? Which would you recommend? 

Father Christmas - by Raymond Briggs. 


 Brigg’s Father Christmas is definitely of the “Christmas is ghastly” school of thought. Grumpy and curmudgeonly, he mutters “Blooming Christmas! Blooming reindeer!” as he struggles through the snow. With the minimum of words, Briggs has produced something both funny and beautiful that all ages can enjoy.

 The Killer Cat’s Christmas – by Anne Fine.

Anne Fine is good at disastrous families, and her anti-hero, Tuffy the Cat, is a wonderful invention. So a book about Tuffy’s Christmas, centring as it does on one of the most ghastly aspects of Christmas for many people – visiting relations – is bound to be hilarious. Bad Cat Tuffy relates his own story, and the succession of disasters that led to him spending Christmas locked in the garage. Aimed at newly independent readers, it’s a read that will be enjoyed by almost anyone. 

Lucy and Tom’s Christmas by Shirley Hughes

 Here it's the pictures that evoke a truly marvellous atmosphere, especially when the over-excited Tom goes for a calming walk with Grandpa.

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson

This is an absolute humdinger of a book – a comic classic in the US, where is spawned a film, but hardly known in the UK. The Herdmann children are every kind of ghastly and when they take over the annual Christmas Pageant at the Presebyterian Church disaster is sure to follow. But despite all the mishaps, the result is a truly moving triumph – and the book goes to the core of Christmas, I feel, but in the least sloppy, yet most heartfelt way.

 End of Term by Antonia Forest

This book is out of print, and also a school story – with a fair amount of the action concerned with netball and other non-Christmas matters. But bear with me - it contains the most beautifully written account of a Nativity Play I have ever read. Antonia Forest never won the acclaim in her life-time that she deserved, but her superb writing is well worth savouring at any age – if you can afford the price of the book, that is, for those in the know are prepared to pay high prices for her. 

The Hobbit – by JRR Tolkien. 

OK, so with the movie out in December, it’s not just me who is going to think this classic tale of Bilbo Baggin’s adventures the perfect Christmas read. But it is. Christmas plays no part in Tolkien’s mythology of MiddleEarth (unlike C.S.Lewis’s Narnia – see below) but it’s got the right atmosphere, in spades. Who could question that this tale of lost treasure, wolves, winter, and dragons makes for a perfect fireside story, while nibbling on some Christmas cake? 

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S.Lewis

Supposedly Tolkien didn’t approve of his friend C.S. Lewis introducing Father Christmas into a book which already contained such diverse elements as fauns and centaurs straight out of the Greek myths, and talking beasts. It may lack consistency, but it works beautifully: the woods, the wolf secret police, the lamplight shining on the snow, the mothball-smelling fur coats, and the sardines for tea. And then there comes the sledge-ride, and the arrival of Spring... 

And finally, unbeatable I reckon for a Christmas atmosphere - 

The Dark Is Rising by Susan Cooper 

A fantasy story, in which young Will discovers that he is one of the “Old Ones” who must battle the Dark, it takes place in rural Berkshire, close by Windsor, and despite the fact that Cooper’s mythology is inspired by a rather Celtic version of King Arthur, is full of the rituals of a traditional Christmas season. There is a wonderful carol service in a tiny rural church, a carol-singing expedition, but best of all is when the snow begins to descend, deeper and ever-deeper, and the village takes refuge in the ancient Greythorne Manor on Christmas day... 

Cooper wrote this book after emigrating to the US, and I can’t help feeling that it is shot through with nostalgia for a place and a childhood world she had left far behind. I also can’t help finding echoes of another great Christmassy classic, The Box of Delights by John Masefield.

So, which Christmas read have I forgotten?  Which is your favourite? 

Emma Barnes's latest book is Wolfie
Sometimes A Girl's Best Friend Is ...A Wolf.
Book of the Week in Books for Keeps"
"A delightful book" the Bookbag

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10. Jersey Strong

What a week! Right up front, I must admit it’s been hard to concentrate on work with the world crumbling around me. By extension that means it’s been a challenge to write this blog post. I live in Northern New Jersey, and Hurricane Sandy has left a devastating path of destruction all around me. (I’m sorry, but I can’t help but think of Olivia Newton John—Sandy in Grease—every time someone talks about Sandy. What a ridiculous name for a hurricane.) My family was relatively lucky. My folks lost heat and electricity, but for some reason still have hot water. I lost heat, electricity, and hot water, but my condo complex has a generator that keeps the heat on for part of each day. My brother came through amazingly unscathed. I’m wondering what he did to deserve that. Perhaps it’s because he’s a vegetarian.

Thanks to my L.L. Bean Mini Solar Emergency Radio, I’ve kept up with reports of the heartbreaking tragedy that this storm has brought to folks on the Jersey shore, in lower Manhattan, Queens, Staten Island, and so many other places. But it wasn’t till I used my guest privileges at a gym an hour away (in search of a place to work out, but also to get a hot shower and use a hair dryer!) that I actually saw footage of the damage. Seeing so many familiar places flooded or broken apart is sobering. A map of the Jersey shore—my Jersey shore, not the ridiculous version that gave name to the TV show I refuse to watch—could be overlaid with a timeline of my youth. That family trip to Ventnor and Atlantic City when I was five; the weekend at the Long Beach Island home of my friend from camp when I was 16; the overnight trip to Seaside Heights after my high school senior prom; the drive to Asbury Park at the beginning of a college romance.

When I took a photography course in New York City after 9-11, I fulfilled our landscape photography assignment by driving down to Asbury Park to take pictures of the decaying boardwalk. I returned toward the end of my class to restage photographs captured on postcards from the early 20thcentury. It was somehow comforting to revisit the boardwalk, despite the sad condition of the once glorious casino, which was designed by the same architects who created Grand Central Station. That was 10 years ago, and I haven’t been there since. But I recall hearing that a refurbishment had taken place. This week, Asbury Park took quite a hit, along with Atlantic City and many other shoreline communities.

I dug through my collection of archival postcards to bring you some views of better days—way before my youthful adventures—from the Jersey shore. Let’s hope there will be more “colorful beach scenes” in the not-too-distant future.

To send aid to those who were affected by Hurricane Sandy, go to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief page. And a shout-out to Staples in Englewood, NJ, for scanning the postcards and letting me borrow their WiFi for a little while.

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11. Geronimo Stilton #11: We’ll Always Have Paris by Geronimo Stilton

5 Stars Geronimo Stilton #11: We'll Always Have Paris Lewis Trondheim Nanette McGuinness Papercutz 56 Pages    Ages: 7 and up .......................... .................................... Back Cover:  Geronimo Stilton is the editor of the Rodent’s Gazette, the most famous paper on Mouse Island. In his free time he loves to tell fun, happy stories. In this adventure, Geronimo [...]

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12. Happy Day of the Dead -

-or Dia de los Muertos. Delta Rae has a new music video out that is lovely and so appropos:
(aren't they awesome?)

I was hoping to be able to finish this piece (Dis de los Inocentes) by now, but alas, you just get to see it in sketch form.

Hope you were able to think some good thoughts about some of your no-longer-with-you family members today. :-)

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13. Cover Reveal: Extracted by Sherry Ficklin and Tyler Jolley

I have another great cover reveal for you today! Check out Extracted by Sherry Ficklin and Tyler Jolley:

Extracted: The Lost Imperials (Book One)

Welcome to the war.
The Tesla Institute is a premier academy that trains young time travelers called Rifters. Created by Nicola Tesla, the Institute seeks special individuals who can help preserve the time stream against those who try to alter it.
The Hollows is a rogue band of Rifters who tear through time with little care for the consequences. Armed with their own group of lost teens--their only desire to find Tesla and put an end to his corruption of the time stream.
Torn between them are Lex and Ember, two Rifters with no memories of their life before joining the time war.
When Lex’s girlfriend dies during a mission, the only way he can save her is to retrieve the Dox, a piece of tech which allows Rifters to re-enter their own timeline without collapsing the time stream. But the Dox is hidden deep within the Telsa Institute, which means Lex must go into the enemy camp. It’s there he meets Ember, and the past that was stolen from them both comes flooding back.
Now armed with the truth of who they are, Lex and Ember must work together to save the future before the battle for time destroys them both…again.

Title: Extracted: The Lost Imperials (Book One)
Authors: Sherry D. Ficklin & Tyler H. Jolley
Publisher: Spencer Hill Press (www.spencerhillpress.comPlease feel free to use any images, text, links, etc. from our website.
ISBN: 978-1-937053-68-0
Release Date: 11/12/13 (cool date for a time-travel book, eh?)
Formats: Paper, e-book

What do you think?

And congratulations to Doris Gray for winning my first Touch of Death ARC giveaway!

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14. Blog the Vote - Why Every Citizen Matters

When I was visiting my mother a few weeks ago she told me that the "seniors" she knew weren't going to vote this year. She asked, "What's the point?" Since then I've heard many people suggest that their votes don't count, their voices aren't heard, and that they just don't matter. You know what? THEY'RE ALL WRONG. Before I explain why, here's a bit of a history lesson. Forgive me please, I'm a teacher.

Question - What does the Constitution say about voting rights?
Answer - Actually, there is no right to vote in the United States Constitution. However, a number of amendments to the Constitution have made provision for this right in circumstances where it had been denied.
Fifteenth Amendment (Ratified on February 3, 1870) - The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.
Even though the 15th amendment was ratified in 1870, it took passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 before the majority of African Americans in the South were actually registered to vote. For years states in the south used literacy tests, poll taxes, and other means to prohibit and disenfranchise large numbers of African American voters.

Nineteenth Amendment (Ratified on August 18, 1920) - The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.
It took decades in which suffragettes marched, wrote, picketed, lobbied, spoke, and protested before they were granted the right to vote. At the time, many in America considered this amendment to be a radical change to the Constitution.

Twenty-fourth Amendment (Ratified on January 23, 1964) - The right of citizens of the United States to vote in any primary or other election for President or Vice President, for electors for President or Vice President, or for Senator or Representative in Congress, shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State by reason of failure to pay any poll tax or other tax.
Should your financial circumstances determine your eligibility to vote? At the time this amendment was passed the states of Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, Texas, and Virginia were still using poll taxes as a means to exclude African American voters and extend the practice of segregation.

Twenty-sixth Amendment
 (Ratified on July 1, 1971) - The right of citizens of the United States, who are eighteen years of age or older, to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of age.
Imagine you live in a world where you can be drafted to fight for your country, yet aren't afforded the opportunity to vote. That's the position young people found themselves in during the Vietnam War when the voting age was 21. This amendment has the distinction of being ratified in the shortest period of time, only 107 days after its proposal.

It took people from all walks of life many long years of fighting for what was right to ensure that all Americans are entitled to vote. I cannot and will not take for granted the privilege their hard work won for me. The law of this land can only take us so far. If we wish for our "government of the people, by the people, for the people" to serve us well, we MUST exercise this right and see it for the solemn responsibility it is.

It is easy to become complacent and believe that one vote, one voice doesn't matter. But when those missed votes and voices are added up, important and diverse groups in our society are left out. For many, many years voting was a right afforded to privileged white men. We have a come a long way since those days, but we still have a long way to go. Every voice, every opinion matters. We cannot move this country forward without the thoughtful participation of ALL our citizens, young and old, male and female, partisan and non-partisan.

On November 6th I will fulfill my civic responsibility. I will wait in line, no matter how long, and cast my ballot. I will wear my "I Voted" sticker to work. At the end of the day I will come home and spend the evening watching history unfold. No matter the outcome, I will be proud that I participated.  Won't you join me?

You can read what others have to say about the importance of voting at Blog the Vote 2012.

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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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16. Greg Clarke

Such witty work by Greg Clarke...

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17. Hot Air Balloons...and Elephants

I have been super pumped to draw and paint lately.  I attribute it to finally being pleased with the outcome of some of the things I'm doing.  It's amazing how much more you want to create when your not constantly frustrated.

Anyway, here is an elephant strapped to a balloon.

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18. A Momentary Miscellany

I still don't have time to write a substantive post about much of anything, but there are a bunch of things I'd like to note before I forget them, so here's a rather fragmentary and scattered post about things mostly unrelated to each other...

I've been doing quite a bit of writing, but none of it is stuff that's currently for online venues. (For instance, I wrote an introduction to an upcoming art book from Hideaki Miyamura, about which I'm sure I will say much more later, once it's available.) Also, I sold a story to Steve Berman for an upcoming anthology of queer Poe stories, which is very exciting for me because I've hardly written any fiction in the last 2 years, and whenever I finally get around to writing a story, I always wonder, "Do I still remember how?" Apparently, yes. I'm also thrilled because I've had a chance to read a couple other stories that will be in the book and they're really excellent — honestly, even if you're indifferent to Poe and you think you only like your stories 100% hetero in their inclinations, you should get this book. (And not just because 100% hetero is so dull you should never talk about it in mixed company. But I'm not judging you. Actually, I am. Unless you read this book when it comes out next year...)

Speaking of coming out soon, we're almost ready to release a new issue of The Revelator. For a preview of what's to come, check out our Facebook page. It's even possible that we will manage to get two whole issues out within the next 12 months, doubling our current rate! A lot depends on our Copy Editor, but we've got faith.

Some movies.
I saw The Master and admired it but didn't really like it much. Everything about it is well done, and I didn't care at all. I wasn't bored, just indifferent. It seemed to me emotionally vacant, and so I was surprised to see some reviewers and viewers claiming it was a powerful experience for them. Not having access to that experience mystified me. I tend to like films lots of people find cold and unemotional, so I was quite shocked to find myself thinking, "Wow, now I know how people who don't like Kubrick or Michael Haneke feel." But it only further reveals, to me at least, how our emotional and intellectual connection to a work of art is dependent on all sorts of different elements — narrative, stylistic, random — some of which are probably invisible to us, and personal to us, and difficult to overcome.

I thought of this again when I watched Moonrise Kingdom for the second time. I saw it in the theatre this summer and was overwhelmed by it. Watching it on blu-ray at home, I was even more overwhelmed. Everything about it works for me — so much so that I cannot actually imagine how anyone could dislike the film. Granted, I don't dislike any of Wes Anderson's movies, and am a fervent defender of even his most maligned works, but still. It is difficult to discuss any work of art that we absolutely love or absolutely loathe, but absolute feelings are so deep that they warp any caveats and criticisms into gibberish. I could not have a conversation about Moonrise Kingdom with someone who hated it. We speak different languages; we feel our way through life differently.

The Master, though, I could happily discuss with fervent fans and determined detractors. Because it didn't reach me deeply in one way or another, I don't feel like I have a stake in it or, more importantly, it has a stake in me. I could, in fact, with more thought and more viewings, be swayed. Perhaps. We'll see.

More quickly about some other viewing experiences, before moving on to books — Cracker is now on Netflix Instant, so I started watching it. Series 1 was okay, but I wasn't sure I would continue. I began Series 2, though, just to see, and ... it's some of the best television I've ever seen. Harrowing and eviscerating. (I also realized something about myself: the only series I really love are crime shows. I don't like series narratives generally, whether books or movies or comics or, especially, tv shows. But crime shows I can do. The only tv shows I have categorized in my brain as "great" are The Wire, the first few seasons and then some specific episodes of Homicide, the first few seasons of the Granada Sherlock Holmes, and to some extent the new BBC Sherlock. Then the shows I watch out of pure gumball addiction: White Collar, Burn Notice, sometimes NCIS. Well, and the first couple seasons of The West Wing, which I have all sorts of objections to and yet find it pushes so many pleasure buttons that I forget them. And Louie, because the writing is brilliant, but I can only take it in small doses.)

Also on Netflix Instant: the Norwegian film Headhunters, which is especially effective if you don't analyze its plausibility. The first half hour or so is good, but mostly set-up for a very powerful and sometimes revolting middle, then a good but not astounding end. What's impressive is just how much happens in the movie. Read its Wikipedia summary and you'll be likely to think, "Wait, how can that all be one 100-minute movie?" But it is, and quite well paced. It was a big hit in Norway and is now apparently being remade in a U.S. version. See it now before they probably ruin it. (Not always the case. I preferred David Fincher's Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. But I love Fincher, so I would.)

I had seen and enjoyed some of the Dardenne brothers' films before I saw Rosetta, but none has affected me as deeply. Perhaps it was the political season. It seemed to me the perfect antidote to the cruelty of politicians who assume that all poverty is the product of laziness. Indeed, it shows that an obsessive focus on finding and keeping a "real" job can be pathological and destructive. It's an extraordinary character study, but also an extraordinary social study. Additionally, it's a film where its form is a central part of its meaning. A wrenching masterpiece, and unforgettable.

Some books and bookish things.
In my previous miscellany, I mentioned Karin Tidbeck's story collection Jagganath, which is now generally available and getting excellent reviews, as it should. It's the best debut collection I've read in a long time.

Speaking of collections, I just got hold of Kij Johnson's At the Mouth of the River of Bees, which I expect to be wonderful, because the couple of Johnson's stories I've read have, indeed, been so. Additionally, M. John Harrison said nice things about it and it's published by Small Beer Press, so it had to be owned. Additionally, just this evening I received notice that my long-ago pre-ordered copies of Ursula K. Le Guin's 2-volume selected stories has been shipped from Small Beer Central. I've read nearly every story in these collections already, some of them many, many times. To have them in matching hardcovers seems to me a delight beyond delight.

Small Beer is probably my favorite publisher on the planet, at least judging by the percentage of their books that I own. But I'm also very fond of Tachyon, especially for their anthologies, and I haven't had a chance to catch up with them for a while. Most recently, I've been reading around in Ann VanderMeer's Steampunk III: Steampunk Rebellion, which is probably my favorite of the three Steampunk anthologies, mostly because this time it's got lots of politics and revolution in it, and I'm a sucker for such things. There's no single story quite as gonzo brilliant, in my eyes (so far!), as the Stepan Chapman from volume one, but that's no criticism — Chapman at his best is unique. But there's plenty of wonderful work, including one of my favorites of Karin Tidbeck's stories ("Beatrice"), my favorite recent Chris Barzak story ("Smoke City"), and Nick Mamatas's tale of Friedrich Engels, "Arbeitskraft", which you just have to read to believe. I'm very much looking forward to reading the stories I haven't yet had a chance to look at, including a new one by Vandana Singh, one of the most consistently excellent story writers at work today.

I've also been reading around in two Kessel/Kelly (or vice versa) anthologies from Tachyon, Kafkaesque and Digital Rapture. Both are well worth reading, but it's the latter that's been more of a revelation for me. In some ways, Kafkaesque is a little too limited in its range — it's all good and often great stuff, but somehow not entirely satisfying as a book. Better sampled than read all at once, at least to me. (But I'm picky. Kafka's my favorite writer of the first half of the 20th century.) Digital Rapture, though, is much more interesting than I ever expected it to be, because I am utterly and completely tired of the whole singularity idea. I had to read the book, because the editors are both great guys and I read everything they write and edit, but ... singularity? Really?

Low expectations can be good to have. I haven't read every story in the book yet, but every one I have read was a real pleasure. I hadn't read Asimov's "The Last Question" in probably 20 years, and it was fun to revisit it (though Asimov's work is not nearly as good as it was when I was a teenager). Frederick Pohl's "Day Million" is an old favorite of mine, a story I've read at least 10 times, used in classes, and always enjoy returning to. "Hive Mind Man" by Rudy Rucker and Eileen Gunn is minor, but fun, while Vernor Vinge's "Cookie Monster" made me yearn for a sequel, and Robert Reed's "Coelecanths" and Justina Robson's "Cracklegrackle" both seemed to do exactly what I hope for when I read science fiction — not sense of wonder (that ended after adolescence) but rather a sense of a rich universe between the lines of the story. The worst insult I can level at a science fiction story is for it to feel thin, and one of the reasons I was wary about this anthology is that many of the singularity or far-future SF stories I've read over the last decade have, indeed, felt thin. (What I wrote about the anthology One Million AD in 2006 could apply to many, many more such stories. In retrospect, that anthology isn't especially bad, just typically mediocre.)

I'm still having trouble reading novels. Partly, this is a continuing effect of gorging on books during my work as a juror for the Shirley Jackson awards, but right now it's as much a matter of being really busy and not having quite enough energy or attention to devote to novels. I did manage to read David Goodis's Dark Passage in the new Library of America collection of 5 of his novels, and was blown away. I can only take Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler in very small doses — the hardboiled mannerisms grate on my mind's ear — but Goodis isn't really hardboiled exactly. Robert Polito, who edited the book, makes the right distinction in an interview at the LOA blog: "...neither in those early pulp stories nor in his classic novels would I style him a hard-boiled writer. Melancholy and yearning were his notes, not toughness and violence." He also says, pretty accurately, I think, about a paragraph from Dark Passage: "Those little repeated phrases are the bars of the psychic prison Parry lives inside, and the only other writer I know who sounds this way is Gertrude Stein in The Making of Americans."

Now, comparing Goodis to Gertrude Stein is a bit of a stretch, but not an entirely hyperbolic one. He really does things with rhythm and language that are (if not exactly unique) distinctive, particularly for the genre. I'd seen the Bogart/Bacall film of Dark Passage, which is quite faithful to the novel, and itself distinctive for being one of the only really successful uses of a first-person camera, but the novel is more compelling because it's really not the plot or characters that enrapture so much as the rhythms and diction of the sentences and paragraphs. (True as well for many writers, including Hammett and Chandler. I just prefer Goodis's rhythms and diction.) Those sentences and paragraphs accumulate and impart an extraordinarily rich sense of mood — the melancholy and yearning that Polito mentions, as well as a sense of doomed obsessiveness. There are, indeed, certain passages in The Making of Americans that do just that, as well.

Meanwhile, there have been controversies out there in litland. Arthur Krystal wrote a dunderheaded piece for The New Yorker's blog that seemed to be trolling for an audience. But it's provided Hal Duncan with fodder for many blog posts of his own, so for that we should at least thank Mr. Krystal. Eric Rosenfield has been reading Samuel Delany. Arthur Krystal should do the same. Personally, I really don't care anymore about anybody's anxieties and illusions about genre this or Literature that or whatever. I'm with Colson Whitehead: I'd rather shoot myself in the face. There are countless more meaningful things to worry about in the world. Some of this stuff, for instance. Or, heck, just go read a book. Or write one. Or watch a movie. Or make one. Or go outside. Or donate money to the Red Cross or Oxfam or the small but vital domestic violence crisis center that I'm on the board of, or your own local crisis center, where people's lives are saved. Stop wasting time and brain cells on drivel like Arthur Krystal's blog posts. Do something. As a great writer once said: The life you save may be your own.

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19. SkADaMo 2012

Won’t you join me and my talented friend Linda Silvestri, for her second year of the Sketch a Day/ Post a Day or SKADAMO challenge.

Get those creative juices flowing… fill a sketchbook with great ideas and story starters… and have a lot of fun doing it!

To read more about it and see more of her fantastic artwork head over to her blog, Sketched Out.



….. and yes it is Fried Oyster Day!  who knew…..

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21. Ensuring the "Dearly" in Your Own Dearly Departed-ness

Not the most inspiring of epitaphs, is it?* Yet that, or something worse, may be exactly the type of thing you get if you leave the writing of your gravestone epitaph up to whomever gets pressed into doing the job upon your untimely demise. (Because all demises are untimely, aren't they?)

Sometimes, your epitaph writer has your back. The mother of the outlaw Jesse James (1847 – 1882) did. She had this put on his tombstone:

In Loving Memory of my Beloved Son,
Murdered by a Traitor and a Coward Whose
Name is not Worthy to Appear Here

Ellen Shannon's epitaph writer did as well, putting this inscription on her tombstone:

Ellen Shannon
Who was fatally burned
March 21, 1870
by the explosion of a lamp
filled with "R.E. Danforth's
Non-Explosive Burning Fluid."

And sometimes, your epitaph writer cares very much for you, as Sylvia Plath Hughes' husband seems to have done for her. He had this inscribed on her tombstone:

Even amidst fierce flames
the golden lotus can be planted.

But it's hard to know for certain that the words chosen to grace your grave will be as flattering as you'd like. How, then, to ensure the "dearly" in "dearly departed" for the stone that marks your eternal resting place? 

Lance Hardie knows just what you should do: write your own epitaph, and plan it well before the Grim Reaper pays you a visit. In fact, he found a way to turn the planning process into an official holiday (Mr. Hardie, that is; not the Grim Reaper). He persuaded the folks at Chase's Calendar of Events to accept Plan Your Epitaph Daycelebrated annually on November 2nd, into their listing of holidays. Why November 2nd? Because it appropriately coincides with the more well-known, but equally important holiday, the Day of the Dead.

So: write your own epitaph. Pompously presumptuous? Or seriously strategic? Let's examine this further, shall we?

Here are a few things you may want to consider before you decide to just leave the whole thing up to chance:

Your epitaph may be written by folks who didn't like you much, as seems to have happened to this poor soul:

In memory of Beza Wood
Departed this life Nov. 2 1937 – Age 45 yrs.

Here lies one Wood
Enclosed in Wood;
One Wood
Within another.
The outer wood
Is very good:
We cannot praise
The other.

You may not have been the model spouse you believe yourself to be. Here's what poet H.J. Daniel wrote for his own wife's tombstone:

To follow you I'm not content.
How do I know which way you went?

Your epitaph writer may choose to simply record for eternity your cause of death, as was the case with the unfortunate Mr. Smith:

Harry Edsel Smith
Born 1903 – Died 1942
Looked up the elevator shaft
to see if the car
was on the way down.
It was.

Maybe mere damage control isn't enough motivation for you to get that epitaph written, pre-demise. In that case, perhaps these points will sway you:

Writing your own epitaph gives you the very satisfying opportunity to get in the final word, a last laugh, or an unrebuttable parting shot, as these folks did:

Winston Churchill:
I am ready to meet my Maker. Whether my Maker is prepared for the great ordeal of meeting me is another matter.

Rodney Dangerfield:
There goes the neighborhood.

Eric W., Jr. Mar 13, 1922 – June 15, 1982
I made a lot of deals in my life
but I went in the hole on this one.

Or, writing your own epitaph can send just enough of a shiver down the grave visitor's spine to ensure that your eternal resting place remains undisturbed, as William Shakespeare did:

*translated into Modern English:

Good friend for Jesus' sake forbear,
To dig the dust enclosed here.
Blessed be the man that spares these stones,
And cursed be he that moves my bones.

After all that, if you're still intent on leaving your epitaph up to chance, perhaps you'll get lucky, having done so many things in life that brought so much joy to so many, that your epitaph writer has no trouble finding the perfect words to memorialize your life:

Source: Wikipedia File (Photo), Robert A. Estremo

*Ok, so I'm the one who composed that pitiful epitaph up there in that illustration at the top. To my family and friends: For the love of Pete, do not put that on my gravestone. I'm sure I can come up with something better. Eventually.


MTWorld.com: Funny Grave Epitaphs
Write Your Epitaph - More than just R.I.P. (Rest in Peace), by Chris Raymond

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22. Haven't I seen you someplace before: dueling covers of girls in masks



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23. Crushing Turtles

November is National Novel Writing Month! 

Since I will save all that time not shaving (Noshavember), I'll be working on my manuscript titled "Crushing Turtles". 

So what is National Novel Writing Month? Well, basically you write a 50,000 word novel in a month.. or more likely, you pledge to yourself to write a 50,000 word novel in a month. To be honest, most people don't succeed. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't try! 

Now in my situation, my manuscript, Crushing Turtles isn't going to be anywhere near 50,000 words. So my goal is much simpler. I want to finish the ten chapters I have left to write. And, if i write 1/2 a chapter a day, regardless of word count, i will finish with time to spare! Wish me luck! 

For more info on NaNoWritMo check out the website http://www.nanowrimo.org

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24. Bird Song

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25. CLOUD HORSE by Jill Pinkwater

I'm so excited to tell you that Jill Pinkwater's classic CLOUD HORSE, out of print for years, is now back in shiny e-book form!  Huzzah!  It is the story of two girls, one a Viking maiden, the other a modern American -- separated by a thousand years, but brought together by their love of horses.

Best part: To celebrate the book release, for the next couple of days, it is FREE. FREE. ZERO DOLLARS AND ZERO CENTS. Only through midnight tomorrow, then it goes up (to a whopping $2.99).

"Wait a minute, is this a CHILDREN'S BOOK???" -- Nah. Well, OK, kinda. But I think it is suitable for all ages. There's a little romance, a little magic, a witch, a pinch of time travel, plenty of wild ponies... what's not to like?

"Is this a trick? What's the gag? Why are you giving the book away? Grrr!" -- Relax! Consider it a gift. Or... well, I would love to request a favor.  If you feel like it, press "like" on the book page. This doesn't go to Facebook or anything, it just makes things rise higher in Amazon's own search algorithm. And if you enjoy the read and are so moved, please do write a review of the book on the Amazon site.

No pressure! Just these simple things help enormously when it comes to helping other readers discover books. All the pony magic in the world does not help as much as a great review. :-)

"But I don't have an e-reader!" -- Welp, the good news is, you can download and read the book "in the cloud" online, straight off the Amazon website. Or download a free Kindle app to your phone, iPad or other device.

"But I hate shopping on A**zon!" -- Hey, I feel you, friend. The book will be available in other formats soon. Meanwhile, this is your chance to download it for FREE, which is almost the same as STEALING from them. Stick it to the man! 

"Will there be OTHER Pinkwater books in e-book format?" -- We're working on it. We'll be rolling out a few more Jill P. books in the next few months. And after that, who knows. If you have particular hard-to-find favorites, let me know. :-)

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