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Viewing: Blog Posts from All 1562 Blogs, dated 11/29/2012 [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 167
1. DESIGNER - karla pruitt

karla pruitt is a surface designer based in athens, GA, who recently created her first licensed wallpaper collection with hygge & west . working main for the home and apparel markets. karla has designed patterns for clients such as ralph lauren, JC penney, kmart, home depot, and target. you can see more of paula's designs online here and she is represented by next day art, and is always 

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2. DESIGNER - joy simpson

joy simpson trained in fine art painting but found she wasreally into printed textiles and stationery and therefore wanted to do some of her own designs. based in york in the uk joy hopes to take on some projects or commissions and would welcome visitors to her online portfolio blog here.

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3. Love and a lost toy

Can you believe it’s the very last day of Picture Book Month 2012?

Holidays is the theme of the day, and in taking that to mean festive celebrations, I’ve chosen to wrap up a wonderful month with a gentle, charming, heart-melting story set at Christmas: Ernest & Celestine by Gabrielle Vincent, translated by Sam Alexander.

Celestine, a mouse, and Ernest, a bear, are perhaps an unlikely pair of friends. But good friends, thoughtful and kind friends is what they are. So when one wintry day out on a walk Celestine loses her favourite toy, Ernest is determined to make things better.

Ernest’s first attempt to make everything all right doesn’t work, but a second attempt puts a smile back on Celestine’s face. Then to spread the goodwill and to ensure that Ernest’s earlier attempts don’t go to waste, friends and neighbours are invited around to celebrate Christmas together.

It’s a terribly simple story, with the drama familiar from other tales (I first thought of that terrible moment in On the Banks of Plum Creek when Laura discovers her beloved Charlotte abandoned by Anna Nelson in a frozen puddle, and more recently there’s Mini Grey’s Lost in Space) but several aspects of this book make it stand out, head and shoulders above other similar books on offer this season.

Vincent’s illustrations
are graceful, full of poise and seemingly effortless. They are soothing and calm. They are what I imagine a lullaby might look like – and certainly this book would make perfect bed time reading. Ernest and Celestine are two characters it is very easy to fall in love with. Their expressions and body language are all about love and care, about that sort of connection you feel when all you want to do is scoop up your child and hug them tight.

The tender illustrations are given centre stage by the minimal text which accompanies them. This book is an example par excellence of where the relationship between image and word is full of breathing space, where scenes and phrases are left lingering in the air to savour. There’s no “He said,” or “She said,”, no “Then this happened,” or “that happened,” but rather the reader and listener need to take their time to sew the threads together, This slower pace adds to the calm, soothing feeling I’m sure will envelop all readers and listeners of this book.

A book full of reassurance, joy, and deep, profound love, sprinkled all over with a dusting of sparkling snow and a Christmas party to boot – I’m not sure there’s a better picture book to be found under your tree this year.

Ernest and Celestine was originally published in French in 1981 under the title Ernest et Célestine ont perdu Siméon. It was a great success, and more than 20 further Ernest and Celestine books were published. Some of these were translated into English in the 1980s by various publishers, but all are now out of print.

Catnip, the publishers of this Ernest and Celestine, will be bringing out The Picnic (Ernest et Célestine vont pique-niquer) in April next year, and plan to publish one to two Ernest and Celestine books a year if they take off in the way they deserve to.

Hopefully the new animated film based on the characters Ernest and Celestine, with a script written by Daniel Pennac, will boost the books’ popularity. You might like to watch a trailer for the film (although I don’t think the animation is as beautiful as the original illustrations):

A busy week means that we haven’t yet played out this book as per the kids’ request – the plan is to spend the weekend making a pram out of cardboard, plumbing pipes and a broom handle (sounds crazy, but the plan IS a good one!). Celestine has a lovely pram which she plays with and that’s what what we’re going to try to make together.

Instead, however, you could “play by the book” by:

  • Making a soft toy based on a drawing by a child – Celestine draws a picture of her lost toy for Ernest, which he then uses as the basis to sew a new one for Celestine. Child’s Own Studio are a business doing exactly this, but you could make a much simpler one like we did here.
  • Going for a stomp in the snow, perhaps taking The Snowy Day by Jack Ezra Keats along with you.
  • Making Duck toys – lots of duck toys peep out from behind boxes and furniture in the illustrations of this book, and this tutorial from About.com is pretty kid friendly.
  • Now one last thing before I wrap up for this month…

    If I could have chosen the theme for today, I would have simply chosen Celebration – because that’s what this month has been – one great big celebration of everything a picture book can be. Huge thanks go to Dianne de Las Casas for all her hard work and enthusiasm throughout the month, and for having the vision to create this month-long party. Well done Dianne! And here’s to Picture Book Month 2013!


    2 Comments on Love and a lost toy, last added: 11/30/2012
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    4. The rise of the 'Wimpy Kid' empire - Fortune Management

    Jeff Kinney Feature

    Good piece from Fortune magazine:

    Diary of a Wimpy Kid author Jeff Kinney is a kids book star. And, in many ways, his success reflects the publishing industry's shifting landscape...

    Recommended Reading

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    5. Unusual Creatures by Michael Hearst — Book Trailer

    Reading level: Ages 8-12

    Add this book to your collection: Unusual Creatures: A Mostly Accurate Account of Some of Earth’s Strangest Animals by Michael Hearst

    Video courtesy of With humor and flair, Michael Hearst introduces the reader to a wealth of extraordinary life-forms. Which animal poops cubes? Which animal can disguise itself as a giant crab? These fascinating facts and hundreds more await curious minds, amateur zoologists, and anyone who has ever laughed at a funny-looking animal.

    To learn more, visit: http://unusualcreatures.com

    Original article: Unusual Creatures by Michael Hearst — Book Trailer

    ©2012 The Childrens Book Review. All Rights Reserved.

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    6. A trained librarian is a powerful search engine with a heart

    ***Free posters for you to print!***

    I've been getting loads of e-mails from librarians asking if they could buy a poster version of the sign I made for the Mass Lobby of Parliament for School Libraries in October. (Thanks to New York and Chicago public libraries and others for the big boost! I lost track after about 8,000 Facebook shares. And thanks to those of you who piped up on their sites to say I'd drawn it!) I looked around at several websites, but they were charging quite a lot of money if you wanted to buy the posters, so I thought I'd just offer them as free downloadable PDF files, if anyone would like to make some copies off your own printer for your library. Please do spread the link to this post if you know anyone you think would like their own poster!

    You can download an A4 version here and an A3 version here or US Letter size here.
    Please do not use these for profit; if you're interested in selling them or putting them on other products, please get in touch with me. If you post it on the internet, please mention my name and link back here to this original blog post.

    Instead of charging you, I'd just love to know where these are all going! If you could leave me any clues in the comments at the bottom of this blog post, I'd really appreciate it. Your name (just first, if you want), your school, and where it is, or anything else you'd like to say to cheer on your fellow librarians!

    I also uploaded the design as t-shirts to Spreadshirt. I haven't actually seen a printed up shirt yet, so if you buy one, I'd be so pleased if you could send me a photo of you wearing it! And let me know what you think of it, if the printing's good, the fabric's okay, that sort of thing. You can buy them here.

    And there's still an online black-and-white version of the poster if you want to print that to colour: Download an A3 version here, an A4 version here or US Letter size here.

    You can buy more campaign-related posters over on Carel Press, and read ongoing updates about the campaign by super-librarian Barbara Band and others over on the Mass Lobby for School Libraries Facebook page. The group's still lobbying hard to give every school the right to have its own library with a trained librarian. Basic stuff, folks!

    Librarians on the march; Candy Gourlay, Philip Ardagh & Chris Priestley in front of the Houses of Parliament; me getting fake arrested

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    7. Golden Age for Writers?

    Stephen Marche writes a column for Esquire entitled A Thousand Words. Marche gives us his somewhat jaundiced but usually insightful take on "American culture" -- e.g., movies, music, television, and this month (December issue), books, writers, and publishing. The columns entertain and inform, which says a lot, seeing as how they appear in a glossy periodical that consciously saturates itself with bling that passes for entertainment. I check out the column each month if for nothing more than to gauge just how far behind I am in keeping up with the latest trends, fads, ideas, and, I admit it, the generation (not mine, for sure) that rules the pop cultural landscape.

    Marche's topic is "The Best of Times: The Golden Age for Writers Is Right Now." If you keep track of these kinds of things you know that the title expresses a concept at odds with the prevailing wisdom. His opening line: "Writers have always been whiners." He continues in the same vein. "For nearly a hundred years, since at least the time of F. Scott Fitzgerald, the death of the novel has been presaged. And now, egged on by BuzzFeed and video games and just general hypercaffeinated, e-mail-all-the-time ADHD, the book is apparently, finally, about to die."

    Of course, that's not where Marche ends up. "Literary circles have been so full of pity for so long that they can't accept the optimistic truth: We're living in a golden age for writers and writing." He backs his conclusion with statistics. More on those later, but, FYI, I don't have hard statistics. I do have writer friends. I read books. I try to read many books about many things. I buy books. I attend book events. I write books. I even have a collection of photographs of book stores.


    Now, I admit I can be as self-pitiful as anyone. Woe is me. I'm a writer and so that has to mean I suffer existential guilt and some paranoia and a smidgen of a persecution complex. Not to mention that I'm sixty-four years old, so there goes any chance for a "career" as a writer. I doubt I'll ever be listed as "trending." It's easy to get caught up in the "death-of-the-novel" zeitgeist. Familiar distractions abound. The multitasking, hectic pace of twenty-first century life provides a handy excuse for the attitude that there is little time for the focus and patience required to read a book, much less write one. Plus, and here is the key ingredient for much of my teeth-grinding, jaw-clenching, insomnia-inducing tension, because I am a male Latino writer who indulges a penchant for crime fiction and noir atmospheric capers, my suffering just has to be that much more intense than, say, the suburban barista who, in her "me time," self-publishes a young adult vampire romance that earns her beau coup bucks each month from Amazon. I know, I'm petty.

    We (Latino writers) not only have to deal with the malaise that so many writers have glorified, but don't we also suffer from publisher indifference (some would say racism), reader apathy (some would say Latino illiteracy), and marketing naivete (some would point out the technological divide endemic to Latinos)? However, those thoughts are early-morning wisps that float around the cool house at the tail end of a frigid and depressing November night.  After a cup or two of my famous homemade espresso, I slap myself and realize that, hey, what I have, writing-wise, is a lot more than I ever expected. I am about to publish my eighth novel. I've won awards, been shortlisted for the most prestigious prize in my particular genre, been given a starred review by Publishers Weekly, and have most of my books still in print. I've met and enjoyed the company of numerous writers I admire and respect, established new friendships, traveled to places I never would have visited but for the fact that I published a novel. I've been asked to blurb books that I thought were great (and, of course, some not so great.) I've written stories that people actually want to read. All in all, do I really have a legitimate reason to wallow in the deep pit of writer angst? Well, there is that thing about making real money as a writer - but let's gloss over that for now.

    That's my experience. I may be in my own private golden age. But, assuming Marche is correct, is this also the best of times for Latino writers in general? Where do we (escritores de la gente) fit in with all this?

    Marche points out a few salient facts. As I read these, I asked, Do any of the numbers attach to Latino writers? Are they relevant to our experience?

    1.  "Writers are prospering as never before, on all levels." Two of  Marche's examples:  "J.K. Rowling is a billionaire. Tom Wolfe was paid $7 million for his last novel." He mentions other well-paid writers who have no legitimate claim to whining. Latino examples: Well, we know all about Junot Díaz. The man has published one novel and two collections of short stories but he snatched up a MacArthur "Genius" Fellowship. His sales are off the charts. Sandra Cisneros has published a handful of poetry and short story collections, one major novel, and a classic (masterpiece) novella. Is any writer (Chicana or otherwise) more famous or sought-after as a speaker? But these examples, if anything, may prove to be the exceptions that define the rule. Are these the only superstars of Latino Literature?

    2.  "Small presses have never produced more or had an easier time getting their product into the hands of readers. In 2010 the National Book Award and the Pulitzer for fiction both went to books from small presses." Small presses are the backbone of Latino literature. If anything, Latina/o writers have thrived precisely because of the numerous small or university presses that have been willing and eager to publish our works. And we have a special tradition in this regard. Probably beginning with the legendary small press Quinto Sol, Latinos have not been shy about creating our own presses to showcase our literary product: Arte Público Press, Aztlan Libre Press, Chusma House, Calaca Press -- to name only a few. Not all survive. Publishing is a harsh, unforgiving world. But new small presses continue to open.

    2.  "It's not just the novel, either. The essay -- long or short, literary or plain -- has never been stronger. Practically every week, some truly fantastic piece of long-form nonfiction appears." I have to point out that almost every week La Bloga features at least one excellent opinion piece. La Bloga contributors write about everything from education to politics; from health care issues to recipes. In terms of more formal publication, the signs are encouraging, none more so than the recent release of Sergio Troncoso's essay collection, Crossing Borders, or that the well-known fiction author and poet Lucha Corpi is working on her own book of personal essays.

    3. "With a few notable exceptions, almost every magazine in the world is in its best shape ever, right now." Marche points out that the magazines that have survived the recent economic crises are excellent because of the highly competitive nature of the magazine business. "Good old-fashioned competition -- from the Internet and the expanding marketplace -- has forced [magazines] to improve." Latino magazines tend to come and go. There are some bright lights, however, I think the question is not whether we have any Latino magazines but whether a traditional hard copy magazine makes sense these days.

    Marche's next three points are different ways of saying the same thing -- more people are reading more books.

    4.  "Revenue for adult hardcover books is up 8.3 percent from 2011, and paperback sales are up 5.2 percent. Book sales for young adults and children grew by 12 percent last year. E-books accounted for 30 percent of net publisher sales in the adult fiction category in 2011 -- compared with 13 percent in 2010 -- but there's little evidence that those numbers represent anything other than a shift in format.The e-reader is creating a new market, not destroying an old one."

    5.  On average, adult Americans "read seventeen books in 2011 -- a number that hasn't been higher since Gallup and Pew began tracking the figure in 1990."

    6.  "The percentage of Americans who told the National Endowment for the Arts that they read literature rose in 2008 (their most recent survey) by 3.5 percentage points to more than half the population -- the first gain in twenty-six years."

    The nine regular contributors to La Bloga are a prolific lot. In 2012, new books, poems, or stories were published by Rudy Garcia, Ernest Hogan, René Colato Laínez, Daniel Olivas, Melinda Palacio, and Manuel Ramos (hope I didn't leave anyone out - please correct me if I did.) These were in a wide variety of genres and formats. Everything from a tug-at-the-heartstrings immigration saga to an outrageous speculative fantasy. Lydia Gil continues to write reviews and literary articles for international outlets. Amelia ML Montes continues to teach English and Ethnic Studies and write scholarly articles about, of all things, Latina writers. And, in his own inimitable fashion, Em Sedano contributes mightily to the dissemination and propagation of Latino literature with his untiring work on behalf of new writers, Poets Responding to SB 1070, Flor y Canto, La Bloga, y más. Surely this is a golden age for La Bloga's writers?

    In addition to our regulars, La Bloga has always featured guest contributors. We actively seek out and encourage contributors to write on anything that is remotely relevant to what La Bloga is all about. If this is a golden age for Latino writers, La Bloga, in our own small way, has helped create it.

    Take a quick look around. Latino writers are everywhere, in every genre. Self-published bestsellers. Young adult and children's books (read any of Rene's columns for La Bloga.) Graphic novel trend-setters (the Hernandez Bros continue to amaze but they are only the tip of the illustrated novel iceberg.) Poets by the proverbial truckload - with numerous readings and performances across the country. (Juan Felipe Herrera is the California poet laureate.) And so many younger and new authors continuously publish outstanding short story collections, novels, chapbooks, memoirs. Instead of Paris in the 1920s, we have Tia Chucha's almost daily events, crowded readings at La Casa Azul, Su Teatro's Annual Neruda Poetry Festival and Barrio Slam, and so on, so on.

    I remember when I could carry a list of all the Chicana/o writers in the world who had published a book. I remember when I personally knew all the Chicana/o writers who published crime fiction. I remember when I was the only published Chicano novelist in Denver. Those days, thankfully, are gone forever.

    And yet ... 

    Here comes my whiny self again.  Okay, we have more Latina/o authors writing more books, and publishing in a variety of formats and genres. All good. But, where are the readers? Who buys the books? The few studies I have seen (NEA, Kiser and Associates, Institute for Public Relations, University of North Carolina,) although dated, repeat familiar depressing facts:  excessive high school dropout rates for Latino and immigrant students; lack of reading materials in Latino households, especially low-income Latino households; disproportion between Latino percentages of the population and percentages of Latinos who buy books. Most of us don't need university studies to know that these conditions exist in our communities. The contradictions continue between writers and readers. So many writers, not enough readers, yet. On especially difficult days, we might even say that these are the dark ages for readers.

    And yet ...

    These facts are but one side of the coin. I think the magic word is potential. No one other than an unreformed Tea Party idiot will deny that Latinos significantly influenced the recent U.S. presidential election. We see the changes happening everywhere, in politics, all types of businesses, artistic endeavors, education projects, science, technology - we are living the so-called browning of the U.S. Pick a topic and sooner or later one has to talk about how Latinos are involved, or why they should be, or when they will be the deciding factor. As the TV teaches us, "We are the future, and the future is now."

    Yin and yang, no?  I'm not ready yet to say that this is the golden age for Latina/o writers. I think that time is coming, and soon. But the present is pretty good. It could be better, it has to improve, there's a lot of work to do, but it's a relief that we can throw away the old cliches about "a sleeping giant" or an "invisible minority." No one -- publishers, editors, readers -- can ignore Latina/o writers anymore.

    It seems to me that the best I can do is to continue to write - it's what I do. Golden Age -- sounds good.


    12 Comments on Golden Age for Writers?, last added: 12/6/2012
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    8. Gift Idea - I See Me Personalized Childrens Books

    For us, it wouldn't be Christmas without a couple of books.  So for the little ones

    Gift Idea - I See Me Personalized Childrens Books

    My kids all love books, so I absolutely love the idea of getting them one that they can hang on to for awhile.  I See Me has a huge selection of books that can be personalized just for them.  Since Bid is learning the alphabet, she would love the ABC What Can I Be Book.  And the Royal Birthday Adventure is perfect for Kik simply because of the unicorn on the cover.

    But my absolute favorite is the Christmas Bear For Me book.

    Synopsis - A Christmas Bear for Me is a beautiful, heart-warming, personalized story about a child's Christmas wish for a special Teddy Bear friend. A Christmas Bear for Me captures the anticipation leading up to Christmas morning and the magic of receiving a special gift from Santa.
    • One child is the "star" of the Christmas book and his or her name is featured throughout story
    • Child's name and the names of loved ones are incorporated into illustrations 
    • Gift set includes a cuddly, mini 6" Gund' plush bear (upgrade available)
    • Also has a letter from Santa in the back of the book
    This book is really cute.  I love the illustrations and the simple Christmas message.  My girls love that even though we ordered the book for their bro, their names are on the Christmas Stockings and on Santa's nice list.  They also like that the bear looks exactly like the bear in the book.  It's super cute and oh so soft.  

    To Buy - The Christmas Bear For Me Book retails for $39.95 and is a great gift for the child in your life.  Besides books, I See Me also has a fun line of personalizable coloring books and placemats. 

    For more info and for special offers/discounts you can find I See Me Books on Facebook and twitter - @ISeeMe_Maia

    I received a product to review from the above company or their PR Agency. Opinions expressed in this post are strictly my own - I was not influenced in any way. I received no monetary compensation for this post. By entering this giveaway you agree to my giveaway/disclosure guidelines

    0 Comments on Gift Idea - I See Me Personalized Childrens Books as of 11/30/2012 6:55:00 PM
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    9. NCTE and my Pink Poets

    As many of you know, I was all set to attend the annual convention of the National Council of Teachers of English in Las Vegas two weeks ago and then had to cancel at the last minute. Such a disappointment after not missing this wonderful conference for nearly 30 years! But my presentation panel forged ahead without me and did a wonderful job! Headed by the amazing and generous, Janet Wong, who videotaped the entire session, along with Amy Ludwig VanDerwater, Laura Purdie Salas, Lesléa Newman, Irene Latham, and Mary Lee Hahn, the audience was treated to each poet talking about her work and creative process in the session entitled, "Theme – Collect – Excite: Where Do Poems Come From?"

    And in case you missed it, they also ALL WORE PINK in my honor-- as a tribute to my fight with breast cancer (which is now done, thank you very much!)-- the sweetest gesture ever. Here's a picture of them (along with Janet Fagal who also helped out). These ladies are rockin' the pink, don't you think?! They were even featured in Publishers' Weekly last week!

    I would also like to share just a teeny clip of each poet from the video that Janet captured of the session. It's always a treat to hear the poet speak and read her work aloud-- I never get tired of that. So, sit back, relax, and enjoy these juicy tidbits.

    Janet Wong

    Amy Ludwig VanDerwater

    Laura Purdie Salas

    Lesléa Newman

    Irene Latham

    Mary Lee Hahn

    Each of these poets has published her own work as well as poems featured in The Poetry Friday Anthology that Janet and I edited and published in September.  What a talented crew, don't you agree?! 

    Janet told me to post this disclaimer too :-)
    "Janet apologizes for the poor visual quality of these videos and asks you just to imagine that it is 1967 and your TV set's antennae just won't work, even with their little balls of tin foil . . . oh, well: please enjoy the show!"

    Now head on over to the Poem Farm hosted by the very same Amy Ludwig VanDerwater (featured above).   See you there!

    And don't forget to enter our poetry e-book giveaway (which ends Dec. 12). Details below.

    18 Comments on NCTE and my Pink Poets, last added: 12/8/2012
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    10. Spain Rodriguez remembered, as he hoped he would be

    Quite a few remembrances of underground pioneer Spain Rodriguez, including this round-up of reactions from his peers at TCJ. Here’s Gary Panter’s imagined history:

    SPAIN looked to be exploring edgy scenes and choosing to do bad things and hang out with violent sociopathic folk in his comics and past at least–people that did BAAAAADD things!!! And also he was some kind of ultra left revolutionary–a bit intimidating. I was trying to be good. SPAIN was marching into bars breaking bottles over bozos. His style was Kirby-like but really only Spain-like. The other guys in ZAP were more anal. SPAIN’s style was anal and precise. Yet the other guy’s were even crazier than SPAIN. They made the motorcycle gang member into ‘the nice one’ with their tight anal approaches to putting it to the man. The other guys finished their stuff right out to the edge or the nth degree, and one got the feeling, true or not, that SPAIN might be hatching knit hose onto a hard calf or a hard center shadow onto a breast when he would drop the pen, get up, go outside, go down to the garage, grab a brew out of the fridge, get on a hawg and fuck the comics blast off down to Berdoo then come back four days later after cracking a few heads and get back to it the shadow. This is a fan’s concoction–babble.


    And a profile by underground historian Patrick Rozenkrantz:

    He was recently honored with a lifetime retrospective art show at Buffalo State College’s Burchfield Penny Art Center, Spain: Rock Roll Rumbles Rebels & Revolution. It was a struggle for him to attend the event since he was weakened by his ongoing battle with cancer but it brought him a lot of satisfaction to see his whole career fully displayed in the place where it all began. It gave him hope that his work would continue to be read and appreciated by future fans.

    “I get satisfaction knowing that stuff is going to be out there. Ramses the Second built these four gigantic statues to himself. One of the faces is still intact. The impulse of art is the impulse of immortality, just like those guys in the caves. At some point it must have occurred to them this stuff is going to be around. Today we have a different strategy. We can’t call upon the resources of the state to tell our tale. You do these highly vulnerable books on this paper that’s prone to rot and you hope that in time some of these will survive. You have these periods in history of outbursts of creativity and people telling the tales that would otherwise not be told. This is a factor. I think as it goes out there, somebody is going to hang onto this stuff. Someone is going to say, this is great.”

    The longing to be remembered in the above quote is particularly poignant. Rozenkrantz recently profiled another underground great, S. Clay Wilson, whose brain injury several years ago has left him an invalid:

    “He’s more tender and sensitive and loving now and more demonstrative than he was before,” she says. “I make sure he knows that I love him. I try to make him laugh. It’s my goal every morning at breakfast to crack him up, or tell him an interesting story about something, or read him poems, postcards or emails people have sent. It’s one of the times of day I try to engage him and make him feel happy and get his brain going, make him feel good.”


    Thinking of the above, I recalled a Big Apple con in November of 2005 where the two had appeared as guests. (Those Big Apple cons often had some amazing guests tucked away in the back!) I snapped some photos of them, Wilson still being a bad boy, Spain being a grandmaster.

    IMG 1632 Spain Rodriguez remembered, as he hoped he would be

    IMG 1634 Spain Rodriguez remembered, as he hoped he would be

    IMG 1635 Spain Rodriguez remembered, as he hoped he would be

    IMG 1636 Spain Rodriguez remembered, as he hoped he would be
    Hold on to the memories.

    1 Comments on Spain Rodriguez remembered, as he hoped he would be, last added: 11/30/2012
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    11. Accomplishments and Gratitude

    For those of you who’ve been following this blog for a little while, you know that I’ve been attending the Vermont College of Fine Arts (VCFA) in order to get my MFA in writing for children and young adults. It’s an intense  program, and for the last two years I’ve been sending in monthly “packets”  which include creative writing, critical writing, and book annotations. It’s been a bit like running a literary marathon for two years.

    It’s included lots of thinking, reading, writing, and diet coke.

    This isn’t me.
    But it’s what I’ve looked like for the past two years!

    My diet coke addiction aside, I reached a big milestone this week. I sent in my 20th (and last) packet of the program!

    I don’t graduate (officially) until January, (after I attend my last VCFA residency and give my graduate reading and lecture). But handing in my final packet is a big deal for me personally!

    So thanks for letting me indulge in this small moment of accomplishment and gratitude.

    Attending VCFA has been exhausting, but it’s also been glorious and invaluable. I’m astonished with how much I’ve been able to learn and achieve in two short years. In fact, I made a list of all the things I did in these two years to remind myself that all the blood, diet coke, lack of social life, and tears, was worth it!

    In the last two years I read:

    • 263 picture books
    • 85 young adult novels
    • 24 middle grade novels
    • 11 adult novels
    • 15 craft books
    • 7 graphic novels
    • 6 early reader books
    • 30 critical thesis essays
    • 96 essays and articles
    • 21 non-fiction books
    • 3 short stories
    • 2 plays

    In the last two years I wrote:

    • 330 pages of Novel #1 (with 91 pages revised and polished).
    • 100 pages of Novel #2 (with 40 pages revised and polished).
    • 17 pages of Novel #3.
    • 10 picture book manuscripts (revised 4 of them, and created partial picture-book dummies for 2 of them).
    • 1 critical thesis (40 pages)
    • 3 long essays (10-15 pages each)
    • 12 short essays (5-8 pages each)
    • 1 craft lecture script (20 pages, as well as a power point and handout).
    • 1 outline for a non-fiction book
    • Various word-plays, exercises, structure maps, collages, and book annotations (far too many to count).

    Needless to say, I’m ready for that long winter’s nap!

    I look forward to a slightly restful holiday season, and getting my diploma in January. (I also hope this means I’ll have more time to stay current with this blog.)

    We just had Thanksgiving, and I hope we all took time to be thankful, but I want to encourage you all to take a moment to look around and see all that you’ve have already accomplished. Sometimes it feels like we’re all running to catch up, hoping to get published, to finish our 50,000 words, to get where we’re going. But take a moment to stop and look at everything you’ve already done.

    I bet it’s pretty amazing.

    0 Comments on Accomplishments and Gratitude as of 11/30/2012 6:43:00 PM
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    12. Accomplishments and Gratitude

    For those of you who’ve been following this blog for a little while, you know that I’ve been attending the Vermont College of Fine Arts (VCFA) in order to get my MFA in writing for children and young adults. It’s an intense  program, and for the last two years I’ve been sending in monthly “packets”  which include creative writing, critical writing, and book annotations. It’s been a bit like running a literary marathon for two years.

    It’s included lots of thinking, reading, writing, and diet coke.

    This isn’t me.
    But it’s what I’ve looked like for the past two years!

    My diet coke addiction aside, I reached a big milestone this week. I sent in my 20th (and last) packet of the program!

    I don’t graduate (officially) until January, (after I attend my last VCFA residency and give my graduate reading and lecture). But handing in my final packet is a big deal for me personally!

    So thanks for letting me indulge in this small moment of accomplishment and gratitude.

    Attending VCFA has been exhausting, but it’s also been glorious and invaluable. I’m astonished with how much I’ve been able to learn and achieve in two short years. In fact, I made a list of all the things I did in these two years to remind myself that all the blood, diet coke, lack of social life, and tears, was worth it!

    In the last two years I read:

    • 263 picture books
    • 85 young adult novels
    • 24 middle grade novels
    • 11 adult novels
    • 15 craft books
    • 7 graphic novels
    • 6 early reader books
    • 30 critical thesis essays
    • 96 essays and articles
    • 21 non-fiction books
    • 3 short stories
    • 2 plays

    In the last two years I wrote:

    • 330 pages of Novel #1 (with 91 pages revised and polished).
    • 100 pages of Novel #2 (with 40 pages revised and polished).
    • 17 pages of Novel #3.
    • 10 picture book manuscripts (revised 4 of them, and created partial picture-book dummies for 2 of them).
    • 1 critical thesis (40 pages)
    • 3 long essays (10-15 pages each)
    • 12 short essays (5-8 pages each)
    • 1 craft lecture script (20 pages, as well as a power point and handout).
    • 1 outline for a non-fiction book
    • Various word-plays, exercises, structure maps, collages, and book annotations (far too many to count).

    Needless to say, I’m ready for that long winter’s nap!

    I look forward to a slightly restful holiday season, and getting my diploma in January. (I also hope this means I’ll have more time to stay current with this blog.)

    We just had Thanksgiving, and I hope we all took time to be thankful, but I want to encourage you all to take a moment to look around and see all that you’ve have already accomplished. Sometimes it feels like we’re all running to catch up, hoping to get published, to finish our 50,000 words, to get where we’re going. But take a moment to stop and look at everything you’ve already done.

    I bet it’s pretty amazing.

    9 Comments on Accomplishments and Gratitude, last added: 12/12/2012
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    13. The Secret Room by Antonia Michaelis translated by Mollie Hosmer-Dillard

    5 Stars The Secret Room Antonia Michaelis Brigit Brandt Sky Pony Press 195 Pages     Ages: 8 to 12 ………………………….. Inside Jacket: Achim is eleven years old when he moves from the orphanage to the house by the sea with Paul and Ines. Everything is strange and new. But one day Achim discovers an unusual door [...]

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    14. Free Fall Friday – Karen Chaplin – Critiques

    Here are the four winning first page submissions sent in for Editor Karen Chaplin’s review.  If you want to read Karen’s bio and likes and dislikes, you can use this link: http://wp.me/pss2W-5JV

    First winner is Janet Wellington:

    THE LOOPERS CLUB/Janet Wellington/Middle Grade series

    While Dad writes down his carefully numbered goodbye-list on the notepad next to the phone, I pick up Aunt Jess’ latest postcard off the kitchen counter. On the front is a picture of Stonehenge at sunset, and on the back she’s written: Count your blessings not your troubles. Right.

    “You can’t leave.” I add Aunt Jess’s postcard to the others on the refrigerator door while Dad finishes his note. He likes to leave detailed lists of instructions when he goes on his secret Navy spy gigs. I stare at him with a particular glare I’m perfecting. I figure it’s something useful to have in your intimidation tool box, handy when things aren’t exactly going the way you want them to. Which, for me, is about every other minute.

    “How long are you going for this time?” I ask. Length of deployment is usually the main topic when he leaves. That, and Mom.

    “I wrote down your Aunt Jess’ new cell number. She’s in L.A. for a while, so, she’s pretty close, only a couple hours away.”

    Just in case. He never says it out loud, though.

    “But we just got here.” Which is true. Every wall in our cozy beach cottage glimmers white and there’s that new paint smell no matter where I am in the house.

    “Everything’s going to be fine,” he says. “You’ll be fine. Besides, aren’t you happy to be in San Diego?”

    Right. He thinks I can handle everything. Which I mostly do. But that’s not the point. And, actually, I’ve already concluded being here is just my regular life with better weather.

    “Her meds are working…” He looks at me, then looks away.

    I nod even though he’s doesn’t see me. I have to agree with that point. Mom does seem, well, almost normal. Still, much too soon to know if it’s going to last. Besides, truthfully, normal isn’t an option for her. Much as I’d like it to be. Much as I dream it should be.

    Here’s Karen:

    THE LOOPERS CLUB/Janet Wellington/Middle Grade series

    This is a strong first page, filled with wonderful little details and phrases (like “Count your blessings not your troubles” and “Just in case”) that really come together to form a complete picture. We know that the main character’s father is going on some sort of mission, and the main character is being left along with a mentally unstable mom. I love the line of dialogue “Her meds are working…” because up until that point, we don’t know that the mom is in the picture, let along unstable. With this one short line of dialogue, we get so much information! And I’m very curious to read more, because we also get the sense that there is a history of the mom causing problems for the dad and the main character.

    One concern I have is the tone of the story—that is, this has more of a YA feel than middle-grade. I don’t know if it’s because the topic of a mentally unstable mom lends itself more to a YA story, or if the main character just sounds a bit older. And this could resolve itself on the second page/going forward. But I’d watch out for tone throughout. Also, we don’t know if the main character is a boy or a girl. Perhaps add in a name (“Everything’s going to be fine, INSERT NAME HERE,”) to clarify. And I’m curious to see how this will become a series.

    All in all, this is a strong start!


    Darlene Beck Jacobson      CRAZY                           YA novel

    “Necessity never made a good bargain.”  Benjamin Franklin – Poor Richard’s Almanac 1733

                What did I want?  I wanted to be left alone.

    I once saw this documentary on PBS about a guy who lived all alone in the wilderness of Alaska for thirty years doing everything himself, right down to building his house and fireplace, growing his food and hunting and fishing for the rest.  He’d get a bush plane visit twice a year for basic provisions and mail, but other than that, he was on his own.  He made the film of his life in the wilderness.

    I couldn’t even begin to imagine what that might be like.  Alone.  No parents breathing down my neck about grades, chores, getting a summer job or asking too many personal questions.  No kid sister and her goofy friends following me around and sending me annoying text messages.  No girlfriend to cut my heart open with a dull knife and walk away laughing with the captain of the lacrosse team.  What would I give to live by myself, with no one to hassle me?

    I’d give up video games for a year.  No cell phone for a month.  No computer for a…week?   Okay, two weeks.  No green food forever.  That last one was actually not a hardship since I hated the sight – and taste – of green vegetables. Anyway, I think I could tough it out for a few weeks even if it meant sacrificing a few conveniences.

    After the crazy school year I had working my ass off to make the Honor Roll, looking for part time work, and trying to keep Ellie Jaspers happy, I just wanted to be left alone.

    Ellie and I met last summer at the pool club and hit it off right away.  We’d spent last summer swimming, flirting and hanging out nearly every day at poolside.  Her family had just moved to town and she didn’t have many friends yet, so it was a no brainer for us to be together.

    Here’s Karen:

    Darlene Beck Jacobson      CRAZY                              YA novel

    The first thing I noticed about this page is that it seems to start three times. That is, you have the first line, a quote from Ben Franklin. Then you have a question/answer line. So we know right off the bat that the main character wants to be alone. And then you have this great description of a PBS documentary. I really love this; it draws the reader right in and makes us want to immediately understand how this documentary relates to the main character. And since this is the strongest start, I’m thinking this may be the best way to begin. The other two lines seem almost like false starts.

    I would also scale back a bit on some of the exposition about being alone. Paragraph three, “I’d give up video games…” seems a little unnecessary. And I wonder if paragraph two—the fact that he has a sister that annoys him, he’s an honor roll student, and had a girlfriend that broke up with him, etc., could be conveyed in a different way. Maybe try to continue the documentary lead-in in some way. Explain how that spoke to him, how he envisioned himself living alone in the wilderness—not so much in the way that he would live without all the things (like computers and phones) but what he would get out of it, why it would make him happy (maybe even why it would help him to forget about Ellie?).

    I definitely want to continue reading, to find out why the reader so desperately wants to be alone, what happened to him that was so traumatic that he wants to be by himself, what this girl did to him that ruined his life. Overall, this is a nice start!


    BETTER LIVES by Eric Steinberg  Genre: YA sci fi

    When Gil and Lew came to my dorm room with the idea of stealing the physics final, I normally wouldn’t have considered such a dumbass move. It wasn’t that I had any moral objections to cheating or stealing. An “A” in one class, even Jeffrey Taylor’s, just wasn’t worth the risk of being kicked out of prep school. But these were special circumstances. I had opportunity, thanks to Gil and Lew. I had motive, thanks to a shitty semester with Mr. Taylor. And I had an ace-in-the-hole, thanks to hooking up with pretty, but already-getting-on-my-nerves, fifteen year-old Heather in Mr. Taylor’s classroom.
    By the time I reached our physics teacher’s small Cape Cod, the no-longer-falling snow had become a problem. Not only was I leaving footprints in the fresh powder, but the annoying white stuff also clung to the branches. Sweetening the already cloying charm of Maple Street’s tidy cottages, it made me want to puke.

    After stealing the broom from next door’s porch, I slipped to the back of Mr. Taylor’s house. Gil was waiting for me.
    “Door’s locked.” His breath was visible in the cold.
    “I’ll open it,” I said.

    Gil gave me a classic Gilbert and Lewis dull look. The two of them might as well have been brothers, both with Nordic good looks, several inches over six feet…and not too bright.
    “I’ll open it,” I repeated, handing him the broom. I took out my tension wrench and wide-tipped pick.
    Gil’s jaw went slack. “I’ve seen this shit on TV, Marc. You’re going to pick it?”
    “Yeah, if you shut up and let me concentrate for a minute.”
    The doorknob turned loosely in my hand. Broken, so, I’d only the deadbolt to deal with.

    Here’s Karen:

    BETTER LIVES by Eric Steinberg  Genre: YA sci fi

    This is really fundamentally an action-filled first scene, so I’d want this to open with dialogue rather than three paragraphs of exposition. Let’s jump right into the scene, see what the main character, Marc, is doing, follow him along.

    You have some very nice description—of the snow, of how cold it is, of how Marc is going to pick a broken lock. You’re painting a strong picture. But I’d also want to see a little more about Marc’s motive for breaking into the teacher’s home. For example, why would hooking up with Heather lead to him stealing a test? I’m not quite making the connection there.  Also, it’s mentioned (above) that this is YA sci-fi, and I’m curious about that, since I’m not getting a sense of a sci-fi element from the first page. (Perhaps that comes in after they break in the house?)

    I think, with tweaking this to start with the dialogue, this is a strong first page.


    Genre: Contemporary Middle Grade Novel – Wendy Greenly

    The rest of the world is asleep.

    I know some doctors and police and other people work at night, and they’re out there somewhere, but sitting on my bed, holding my flashlight, I feel like no one else is awake. This is my favorite time of day. Night.

    I rule the night, as much as any ten-year old boy can without fangs or claws or any other cool creature-of-the-night superpowers.  As long as I’m quiet, I have the house to myself. Sometimes I watch TV, sometimes I play computer games, but either way I have to turn the volume down so low I can’t really enjoy the crashes and explosions.

    When I need to be quiet, I read books and a bunch of stuff online. So far this year I’ve taught myself Klingon and Esperanto, so I’ll be ready in case earth is invaded by space aliens.

    Some nights the best entertainment comes from real-life silent movies I watch from my bedroom window. Like tonight, the lady next door is bathing her cat in the kitchen sink. Or trying to. Every time the lady pries one of the cat’s legs off the faucet and puts it in the water, the cat pulls back and wedges itself between the faucet and the wall. Just as I get really into it, betting which will give up first, the cat leaps over the lady’s head and disappears into the darkness. The lights click off. Show’s over.

    I get up to stretch my legs. On my way down the hall I stick my head in my brother Webster’s room. He’s asleep, curled up next to his favorite stuffed toy, a long squishy python he named Skeezer. Webster is only five-years-old and he still sleeps four or five hours a night. I can barely remember what that was like.

    I zigzag my way downstairs, dodging the squeaky floorboards by memory, heading toward the kitchen. It’ll be breakfast in a couple hours but I’m hungry. Now.

    Here’s Karen:

    Genre: Contemporary Middle Grade Novel – Wendy Greenly

    Nice first sentence! It really elicits a question for the reader—if everyone is asleep, then what is the narrator doing awake? Going on to the next few paragraphs, though, I get a bit lost and don’t quite know where this is going. While you have some strong images here (I particularly like the “real-life silent movies” and “dodging the squeaky floorboards by memory”), I’m wondering if these next few paragraphs are necessary. Do readers need to know everything he does at night? Perhaps condense this information in favor of moving more quickly to the mention of the brother.

    I love this introduction of Webster. What strikes me is that he’s “only” five and he “still” sleeps “four to five hours a night.” This is intriguing and gives the reader something to really think about. Something is definitely “off” with these brothers, and I do want to find out what that is! Why doesn’t the main character sleep? And why is his brother able to? And why, at the very end, does the main character need to eat…”Now.” The way this is phrased seems like it is very important, and perhaps it ties in with his lack of sleeping.

    All in all, I would definitely read on to find out just what, exactly, is going on.


    Thanks Karen for taking the time to share your expertise with us.  It is really appreciated. I hope it helps the writers out there and helps you receive better submissions.

    Talk tomorrow,


    Filed under: Advice, demystify, revisions, Writing Tips Tagged: Editor Karen Chaplin, First Page Critiques, HarperCollins

    4 Comments on Free Fall Friday – Karen Chaplin – Critiques, last added: 12/1/2012
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    15. PiBoIdMo Day 30: Peter Brown Makes His Own Guide

    We’d all like to have a step-by-step guide to creating super-fantastic blockbuster children’s books. I’d buy that guide in a nanosecond. But I’m beginning to think that no such guide exists. I’m beginning to think we all have to figure things out for ourselves. In fact, I’m beginning to think it’s most important that we each learn to understand our own creative process, and when we understand our own unique ways of working we can each make our own unique “guide” to creating our own unique children’s books. Here’s what I’ve done to understand my creativity, and to devise my own “guide” to making children’s books—

    Many of us have strong reactions to particular works of art. We’ll walk around a museum and say “Oh I love that painting SO MUCH” but we don’t always explore WHY we like it. So every now and then I make color copies, and tear out magazine pages, and print pictures from the internet, and I plaster my favorite images onto boards that I can move around my studio. I might dedicate one image board to my favorite color palettes, and another to my favorite compositions, and another to my favorite drawing styles. I surround myself with my favorite artwork.

    I always notice patterns in my tastes. I seem to love Folk Art and Indian court paintings. I love Lizbeth Zwerger and Kay Nielsen’s work, among others. I ask myself what it is, exactly, that I love about each of my favorite pieces of art. Slowly but surely, I develop a list of qualities that I love in other people’s art. The list of qualities is constantly changing, but it usually looks something like this…


    • Naïve drawing (from Folk Art)

    • Flat Perspective and Muted colors (from Indian Court Paintings)

    • Compositions with areas of openness vs. areas of detail (from Lizbeth Zwerger)

    • Repeated patterns (from Kay Nielsen)

    With my list of aesthetic qualities I love most, I then try to make art that incorporates those qualities. As I’m sketching a book dummy, creating final art, or simply doodling in my notebook, I keep that list in mind. If I stay focused, those aesthetic qualities will begin to appear in my work. Sure, I’m borrowing artistic styles, but by blending those qualities in different ways an entirely new art style emerges: MY style. My tastes are always changing, and so my style is always changing. I imagine someday I’ll settle into a consistent style, like most of my artistic heroes, but for now I’m quite happy making art that represents my current tastes and interests…however fleeting they may be.

    From my upcoming book MR. TIGER GOES WILD, coming out in Fall 2013.

    I use the same process with writing. It’s a little different, because image boards don’t really work with writings, but I can still analyze what writing I love and why. I make lists of the writing qualities I love most, and I try to incorporate those qualities into a new, unique writing style.

    My process for determining HOW I want to write and illustrate is hugely helpful in determining WHAT I want to write and illustrate. If I know I want to combine spare, funny, dry language with flat, graphic, colorful illustrations, I can eliminate all of my picture book ideas that would involve muted colors, syrupy sweet morals, and complicated plots. My style helps me filter my ideas. I can focus on developing the two or three story ideas that will be complemented by my art and writing styles.

    Of course, none of this matters if I have zero story ideas. But ideas are everywhere. So I always keep a little notepad with me, to jot down ideas when they pop into my mind. Sometimes the ideas come quickly. Sometimes I go months without having a single idea. But the ideas accumulate over the years, and whenever it’s time to begin a new project, I have my own little “guide” to determine HOW and WHAT to make my next book.

    So get to know your own style and tastes. And when you have a better understanding of your creativity you can begin to make your own unique “guide” to creating your own unique children’s books.

    P.S. If you’re a writer but not an artist, consider exploring what art styles would complement your writings. You might even want to modify your writing style to better match the style of art you’d like in your books.

    P.P.S. If you’re an artist but not a writer, consider exploring what writing styles would complement your art. You might even want to modify your art style to better match the style of writing you’d like in your books.


    Peter Brown writes and illustrates books for young whippersnappers. He grew up in Hopewell, New Jersey, where he spent his time imagining and drawing silly characters. He studied Life Lessons at the School of Hard Knocks, and then got his B.F.A. in Illustration from Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California.

    After college Peter moved to Brooklyn and spent several years painting backgrounds for animated TV shows. And then in 2003 he got a book deal to write and illustrate his first picture book FLIGHT OF THE DODO, which is a story that involves bird poop…in case you’re into that kind of thing. Since then he’s written and illustrated three more picture books, and illustrated several other books for young whippersnappers. His books have been adapted into plays and animated short films, they have been translated into a dozen languages, and they include the 2010 E.B. White award winner, Children’s Choice Award winner, and New York Times bestselling book THE CURIOUS GARDEN.

    His books CHILDREN MAKE TERRIBLE PETS, YOU WILL BE MY FRIEND! and his latest book, CREEPY CARROTS! are also New York Times bestsellers and award winners.

    You can find out more about Peter and his books at PeterBrownStudio.com.

    10 Comments on PiBoIdMo Day 30: Peter Brown Makes His Own Guide, last added: 12/1/2012
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    16. Touch of Death Playlist

    So I've been keeping this quiet for a while now, only leaking a song here and there on the Touch of Death Facebook page. But that's all over. Here's the complete Touch of Death playlist, and I even put them in order so they follow the story from start to finish. 

    Before I show it to you, let me say I chose the songs after I wrote the book, and because I did it that, the songs fit the story really well. I can't listen to any of these without picturing Jodi and the other Ophi.

    Okay, here it is!

    1. What I’ve Done—Linkin Park 
    2. Poison—Alice Cooper    

    3. Monster—Meg & Dia  
    4. Warrior—Evans Blue  
    5. Through Hell—We Are the Fallen  
    6. Live to Die—Evans Blue 
    7. Zombie—The Pretty Reckless  
    8. Dance With the Devil—Breaking Benjamin 
    9. Get Out Alive—Three Days Grave 
    10. This is Gonna Hurt SixxAM 
    11. Burn It Down—Linkin Park
    12. Hero—Skillet 
    13. Today Belongs to the Light—Roger Cline & The Peacemakers

    There you have it. 13 songs for the necromancers born under the 13th sign of the zodiac. 

    Here's one of my favorites from the playlist:

    And one more of my favs:

    What song best fits your current WIP?

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    Artie’s poem Ceiling to the Stars was published in the November print edition of California Kids! To read the poem online, please click on the illustration below.

    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.


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

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    18. Comment on Book List: Cameos by Laura

    Holly Black also put Cassie Clares Jace into her Curseworkers series. He appears a few time at Cassels school where he comes across as a bit of a stoner. He spends a while watching a carrot rotate in a microwave in one of the books. I love these little nods to other books you can pick up!

    0 Comments on Comment on Book List: Cameos by Laura as of 1/1/1900
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    19. On the anniversary of our last full nights sleep: a short illustrated trip to the movies

    The same phrase describes my marriage and my breasts: Before the kids, they used to be such a cute couple ~ Amy Krouse Rosenthal
    Seven years ago tonight, Jim Dear and I did not go to the movies. We went to eat at Tin Angel, I remember being shocked that at 9 months pregnant I could still eat a whole steak. Little did we know some few hours later as Small Fry entered our lives, how much our tiny marriage would be pushed and pulled and remodeled into a family.

    Although we did not go to the movies that night, trips to the theater figure very prominently into our family's history. Most of our friends know how Jim Dear proposed on the stage of the Belcourt Theater. As newlyweds we went to the theater 2 and 3 times a week, sometimes dashing out at midnight. Then after kids, these became less frequent - and much earlier - treasured nights to ourselves. I vividly remember our first date night after baby to see Chronicles of Narnia, as it turns out watching an opening scene where the mother puts her kids on the train during a war is not the best idea for a new mom's fragile hormonal emotional state.

    We eagerly anticipated taking Small Fry and Baby Sprout to their first movies. What fun to watch them in the darkness as their saucer eyes followed the screen! The glow of Buzz and Lightening McQueen and Princess Tiana on screen is barely a match for the movie magic glow in their eyes afterwards.

    Somedays I muse about years into the future in which Jim Dear and I might once again be able to go to the movies on a moment's notice, with no babysitter or booster seat involved.

    So tonight while the birthday presents for Small Fry wait downstairs to be wrapped, I'm posting this short history of our life at the movies - so far. Happy Birthday to Small Fry and happy anniversary to us.

    0 Comments on On the anniversary of our last full nights sleep: a short illustrated trip to the movies as of 11/30/2012 6:48:00 PM
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    20. Forgot His Helmet

    0 Comments on Forgot His Helmet as of 11/30/2012 6:55:00 PM
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    21. Andy Jones Christmas show at The Rocket Room

    From [link] :

    Sunday, December 2 � Join ANDY JONES for a special Christmas
    performance of THE QUEEN OF PARADISE�S GARDEN (the much loved
    puppet show!) and readings of JACK AND THE MANGER and JACK
    AND MARY IN THE LAND OF THIEVES.�� All ages are welcome.

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    22. BookBlast $100 Giveaway - Poseidon and the Sea of Fury by Suzanne Williams & Joan Holub

    Poseidon and the Sea of Fury 

    A young Poseidon must triumph over aquatic terrors in this Heroes in Training adventure. The merciless Cronus and his Titan buddies are in hot pursuit of Zeus, Hera, and Poseidon, who plan to travel across the treacherous boiling sea in order to save a fellow Olympian. They have a boat, but they also have a problem: Poseidon can’t swim and is terrified of the water (well, really of the creatures that lurk in its depths). The group faces danger after danger as they battle singing sirens, a fishy and ferocious Titan named Oceanus, and people-eating monsters sent by Cronus himself. Can Poseidon overcome his fears and help his fellow heroes escape Cronus and his cronies?


    Heroes in Training by Joan Holub & Suzanne Williams
    Authors Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams deliver fun, adventures, and a few surprises as ten-year-old Olympians go on a journey of a lifetime to discover their true identities and defeat their Titan enemies.

    Praise for Heroes in Training
    "Readers will gobble this down and look for more, make no mythtake."
    ~ Kirkus

    “This is a fun read, casting Zeus in the role of relatable kid, and there is a nice balance between his primary goal of survival and his sense of destiny and adventure. . . Share this title, and likely more to come, with those still too young for Percy Jackson’s adventures.”
    ~ School Library Journal

    The Series

    #1 Zeus and the Thunderbolt of Doom
    #2 Poseidon and the Sea of Fury
    #3 Hades and the Helm of Darkness
    #4 Hyperion and the Great Balls of Fire

    Aladdin Paperbacks (ages 6-9)

    Zeus and the Thunderbolt of Doom (Book 1)

    After pulling a magical thunderbolt from a stone, ten-year-old Zeus goes on the adventure of a lifetime in this thrilling start to a brand-new series! The terrible Titans--merciless giants who enjoy snacking on humans--have dominated the earth and put the world into chaos. But their rule is about to be put to the test as a group of young Olympians discover their powers and prepare to righteously rule the universe....
         Ten-year-old Zeus is mystified (and super-annoyed) by the fact that he keeps getting hit by lightening. Every. Single. Year. He also longs for adventure, as he has never been far from the cave where he grew up.

         Zeus gets his wish--and a lot more than he bargained for--when he is kidnapped by dangerous, giant Titans! In self-defense, he grabs the first thing he sees--an actual thunderbolt he pulls from a stone that is covered in mysterious markings. Zeus is the only one who can decipher the markings, and sets off on a quest to rescue his youthful fellow Olympians from the evil Cronus. Armed with his trusty thunderbolt (named Bolt, of course), Zeus is on an adventure of a lifetime--and a journey to fulfill his destiny as King of the Gods.

    Hades and the Helm of Darkness (Book 3 coming April 2013)

    The Heroes in Training are entering the Underworld—if Hades can conquer his canine fears, that is.

    The Underworld usually isn’t really meant to be a fun place—but tell that to Hades! He loves the dark and the stinky smell of sulfur. However, there is one thing that Hades is not a fan of: dogs. And when Zeus and his fellow Olympians encounter Cerberus—a snarling, three-headed dog—Hades must conquer his fears and tame the hound so everyone can continue into the Underworld and deposit their Titan prisoner, Oceanus, back where he belongs!

    But with magical water that causes forgetfulness, hot beds of lava, and another epic battle with two more Titans standing in their way, will Zeus and his heroes make it out of the Underworld with everyone intact?

    Author Suzanne Williams

    Suzanne Williams is the award-winning author of nearly 40 books for children, from picture books and easy readers to chapter books and middle grade fiction series. A former elementary school librarian, she lives near Seattle. Her picture book Library Lil (illustrated by Steven Kellogg) won the New Mexico children's choice award in 2000 and was on several other state award lists. She is co-author (with Joan Holub) of the popular Goddess Girls series(for ages 8 - 12) and Heroes in Training (ages 6 - 11). Other series include Fairy Blossoms and Princess Power.

    Author Joan Holub

    I graduated from college in Texas with a fine arts degree, and then freelanced as an art director at a graphic design firm for eight years. I dreamed of working in children's books, so I moved to New York City and became associate art director in Scholastic trade books, where I designed books for children and worked with editors and illustrators. It was a great job.

    I illustrated my first published children's book in 1992 and soon began illustrating full time. I began completing manuscripts and mailing them out to publishers in the early 1990s. In 1996, I sold my first two manuscripts -- Boo Who? A Spooky Lift-the-Flap Book (Scholastic) and Pen Pals (Grosset & Dunlap). Yippee!

    Now I write full time and have written and/or illustrated over 130 children's books. Creating books that entertain, inform, and interest children (and me) is a fabulous job that I truly love.

    Book Blast Giveaway
    $100 Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash
    Ends 12/9/12

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    0 Comments on BookBlast $100 Giveaway - Poseidon and the Sea of Fury by Suzanne Williams & Joan Holub as of 12/1/2012 10:13:00 AM
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    23. Alchemists Academy Blog Tour Kick Off - Interview & Giveaway

    Tour Schedule

    The Alchemists Academy Book 1: Stones to Ashes by Kailin Gow

    What do you learn here...at the Academy? Wirt asks. Magic? The responsibility to use your powers responsibly? Uh...something like that, his roommate Spencer said. More like how to rule worlds. Wirt, is used to being shuffled from foster home to foster home, adopting a devil-may-care attitude toward the world along the way. Now he s in a school he can t escape, learning to develop his latent magical abilities, for what use, he doesn't know...to save his world or to destroy it...


    The Alchemists Academy Book 2: Elemental Explosions by Kailin Gow

    A new student has entered The Alchemists Academy, and he brings with him an explosive power that threatens the Academy and the legend of Merlin. Wirt thought he was the only bad boy at the Academy, but he was wrong. Not only is Roland Black worse than Wirt, but a new teacher had replaced one of their beloved teachers, and she has more planned for Wirt and his friends than just lesson plans. Alana, his crush has grown prettier, and now he is rivals for her attention with not only his best friend Spencer, but newcomer Roland, as well. On top of that, it is their second year, and the year where all the students must pass a test to move on to the Elite Class at the Academy. The Elite Class is the only class in the third year at the Academy, and the students who fail will be sent home, others will face something even deadlier.


    Author Kailin Gow

    Kailin Gow is the award-winning, international bestselling author of over 80 distinct books.

    Kailin Gow is also the President of a media company, a media personality, and has been writing full-time since she was first published. Holding a Masters in communications management and leadership positions in Fortune 500 corporations, she puts her leadership abilities, her experience, and desire to help others into her fiction books. As a result, she has written the forthcoming, Finding the Heroine in You book which is also a national tour. She is a mother and spends whatever spare time she has volunteering at the Red Cross, Battered Women's Shelters, and other organizations.

    Currently her Frost Series is in development for a major international MMO Game, and she has over 14,000 and growing Frosters on her facebook fan page.



    Please tell us in one sentence only, why we should read your book.  
    Everyone should read my books because they're not only entertaining, sexy, and sometimes different on purpose, but they also contain situations that may help someone actually learn to deal with things.

    Any other books in the works? Goals for future projects? 
    Yes, I have many books in the works.  Blood Curse for PULSE #8, Angel Mark for Beautiful Beings #4, Frenzy for Desire Series #4, Ethereal Devices (Steampunk Scarlett #3), Quantum Games (Alchemists Academy #3), Year of the Elite (Alchemists Academy #4), Never Ending (Never Knights #3), and some new series such as Beyond Deep Blue (Danny Blue #1) and a few more.

    What inspired you to want to become a writer? 
    My mother inspired me when I was a little girl when she told me women can be anything they want to be, including Senators, Writers, Scientists, Teachers, Mothers, Doctors, Musicians, and whatever they have a passion for.  I didn't take writing as a career seriously until 9/11.

    Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published. 
    Finding out how my books and my experience as an author has helped inspired girls of color and other under-represented groups in literature, and even stay-at-home moms to become authors.

    What was your favorite book when you were a child/teen?  
    Fairy Tales from Around the World

    What's one piece of advice you would give aspiring authors? 
    None. Just kidding, but this world of publishing changes all the time, and the thing to do is to stick with it, despite what any naysayers or critics tell you. If you are writing to go out there to change the world or to make a difference in someone's life, then do it, despite the controversy that will follow because you choose to rock the boat than play it safe.  Steve Jobs didn't build Apple to where it is today by playing it safe.

    In many of my books, I have strong women characters rather than damsels in distress because, to me, that's real. I don't see women and girls as ever being damsels in distress because it's in our genetic make-up to be strong. Women give birth to eight to ten pound humans, work several jobs, take care of the family, and still manage to look good.  We love a good alpha male of course not because we want to be dominated by one, but because we are seeking our best equal.  How's that for empowering women and men?

    If you could be one of the Greek Gods, which would it be and why? 
    Aphrodite because she's smart, sensual, and loves to spread some love around.

    When you were little, what did you want to be when you "grew up"? 
    An author and a producer.

    If a movie was made about your life, who would you want to play the lead role and why?  
    Lucy Liu because it would be fun to see her turn my life into a Quentin Tarentino film.

    How did you know you should become an author?
    When the dream and passion of it wouldn't go away, and when you end up writing stories, chapters, and novels at a young age rather than go out to play with Barbie dolls.

    Who are your favorite authors of all time? 
    C.S. Lewis, Stephen King, Hemingway, Steinbeck, Tom Stoppard the playwright, Anne Rice, and now John Green.

    Can you see yourself in any of your characters? 
    Yes, definitely since all characters emerge from somewhere deep within.

    What's the craziest writing idea you've had? 
    I've had many, and sometimes people get it, sometimes they do, but it's funny that some of my most craziest ideas are the ones that actually do well (commercially).  Which is this lesson learned:  You have to make a flying leap sometimes to find that craziness which can make your book something more than it could have been.

    What's the best advice anyone has ever given you? 
    Many times I've heard this from some of the most successful people I've met:  Do your thing and forget what others have to say about it.

    Hidden talent? 
    I have the hidden talent of devouring a pint of ice cream in a few minutes.  Good talent to have, right?

    Favorite Food? 
    A healthy and flavorful turkey meatloaf

    Favorite Candy? 
    Sugarfree chewing gum.  Honestly, I love chocolate and everything, but this year I was diagnosed as having diabetes with complications, which made me re-think food.  In fact, my form of diabetes at the time placed me at a critical life and death stage (anyone reading my fiction book series, Loving Summer, would get a sense of what complicated diabetes is about), which led me to re-vamp my entire diet and lifestyle.  I'm happy to say, after months of a complete lifestyle change, I was re-diagnosed with numbers that fell into being normal.  By the grace of God and by extreme discipline, I was able to reverse my diabetic conditions.

    How do you react to a bad review? 
    I'm only human -  of course, I much prefer a good review, but fairness is what I ask.

    What do you do in your free time?
    I take my daughter out to the park and get ice cream.

    If someone wrote a book about your life, what would the title be?  
    No Regrets

    Tour $25 Giveaway Details
    $25 Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash
    Ends 1/31/12

    Open to anyone who can legally enter, receive and use an Amazon.com Gift Code or Paypal Cash. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent's permission. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.

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    Alchemists Academy Tour Schedule
    (links will be updated to go directly to tour posts)

    November 30th
    I Am A Reader, Not A Writer - Tour Kick Off
    Peace From Pieces - Author Interview

    December 1st
    Spotlight & Excerpts - Cuzinlogic * icefairy's Treasure Chest * The Mod Podge Bookshelf *A Dream With In A Dream * Manga Maniac Cafe * Bibliophilia Please * The Secret Writer * Tribute Books

    December 2nd
    Oh the Books You'll Read - Stones to Ashes Review
    In This World Of Books - Review of Both Books

    December 3rd
    Book Worm Brandy - review of both books

    December 4th
    Pieces of Whimsy - Stones to Ashes review

    December 5th
    Savings in Seconds - review of both books

    December 6th
    Oh the Books You'll Read - Elemental Explosions Review
    Lovey Dovey Books - Stones to Ashes Review

    December 7th
    Pieces of Whimsy - Elemental Explosions review

    December 8th
    Parsimonious Posh - Stones to Ashes Review

    December 9th
    Magical Manuscripts - Stone to Ashes Review

    December 10th
    Multiple Blogs - Book Blast

    December 11th
    Lovey Dovey Books - Elemental Explosions Review

    December 12th
    Read My Mind - Stones to Ashes Review

    December 13th
    Parsimonious Posh - Elemental Explosions Review

    December 14th
    The Write Path - Stones to Ashes Review

    December 15th
    Escaping... One Book @ a Time - Stones to Ashes Review
    Getting Your Read On - Review of Both Books

    December 16th
    Magical Manscripts - Elemental Explosions Review

    December 17th
    Read My Mind - Elemental Explosions Review

    December 18th
    Book Briefs - Stones to Ashes Review
    Literary Time Out - Review of Both Books

    December 19th
    Publishing the Paranormal - Stones to Ashes Review

    December 20th
    Bookhounds YA - Stones to Ashes Review

    December 21st
    My Escape - Review of Both Books

    December 22nd
    Escaping... One Book @ a Time - Elemental Explosions Review

    December 23rd
    Bookworm Lisa - Stones to Ashes Review
    Reviewing Shelf - Stones to Ashes Review

    December 26th
    Book Briefs - Elemental Explosions Review

    December 27th
    The Book Mark Blog - Review of Both Books
    Reviewing Shelf - Elemental Explosions Review
    Head Stuck in a Book - Review of both books

    December 28th
    Publishing the Paranormal - Elemental Explosions Review
    Bookworm Lisa - Elemental Explosions Review

    December 29th
    Debbie's Inkspectations - Review of Stones to Ashes

    December 30th
    Libby's Library - Stones to Ashes Review
    Rachel Cotterill Book Reviews - Review of Stones to Ashes

    December 31st
    Val Muller - Stones to Ashes Review
    Four Sisters and a Book - Review of both books
    Why Not? Because I Said So - Review of both books

    January 2nd
    The Write Path - Elemental Explosions Review

    January 3rd
    Storeybook Reveiws - Review of Stones to Ashes

    January 4th
    Libby's Library - Elemental Explosions Review

    January 5th
    Storeybook Reviews - Review of Elemental Explosions
    Sher A Hart: My Written Art - Review of Stones to Ashes

    January 7th
    Val Muller - Elemental Explosions Review

    January 8th
    Debbie's Inkspectations - Review of Elemental Explosions

    0 Comments on Alchemists Academy Blog Tour Kick Off - Interview & Giveaway as of 12/1/2012 10:15:00 AM
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    24. To Finish Or Not To Finish? - That Is My Question - The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa

    The Immortal Rules by Juli Kagawa

    "In a future world, vampires reign. Humans are blood cattle. And one girl will search for the key to save humanity."Allison Sekemoto survives in the Fringe, the outermost circle of a vampire city. By day, she and her crew scavenge for food. By night, any one of them could be eaten.

    Some days, all that drives Allie is her hatred of "them." The vampires who keep humans as blood cattle. Until the night Allie herself is attacked--and given the ultimate choice. Die...or become one of the monsters.

    Faced with her own mortality, Allie becomes what she despises most. To survive, she must learn the rules of being immortal, including the most important: go long enough without human blood, and you will go mad.

    Then Allie is forced to flee into the unknown, outside her city walls. There she joins a ragged band of humans who are seeking a legend--a possible cure to the disease that killed off most of humankind and created the rabids, the mindless creatures who threaten humans and vampires alike.

    But it isn't easy to pass for human. Especially not around Zeke, who might see past the monster inside her. And Allie soon must decide what--and who--is worth dying for.

    Who has read it?

    I've made it 50 pages and love Julie's writing but...

    So far there is a little too much violence and language for my liking and I'm really not a blood sucking vampire fan... but I LOVED the Iron Fey Series!

    Is this going to be for me? 

    Continue or Quit - What should I do?

    22 Comments on To Finish Or Not To Finish? - That Is My Question - The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa, last added: 12/3/2012
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    25. finding the character's virtual reality

    "We all live in a virtual reality, and the brain is the final arbiter."

    The Thinker
    The quote, taken from a newspaper interview (NYTimes, 11/26) with Dr. M. Samuels, a neurologist at a Harvard, hospital teaching affiliate, was a cautious response to a colleague's best-selling book on a near-death experience and its accompanying visions ("Proof of Heaven," by Dr. Eben Alexander III).

    The quote set me to thinking about an essay I'd just read, by Pablo Medina, titled "Lunacy and Longing: Don Quixote and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Writer's Chronicle, v.45, 2012).  Medina discusses related scenes and connections between the two fiction classics, which were interesting to think about in relation to our introductory quote on virtual reality (VR).

    For example, there is the scene where Tom Sawyer persuades his friend Huck to accompany him on the ambush of a company of Arabs camped nearby with an entourage of elephants, camels, mules, and a rich treasure trove.  After the raid, Huck points out that it was just a Sunday-school picnic that they broke up.  Tom retorts that if Huck weren't so ignorant he'd have read Don Quixote, and would have known that the company of Arabs had been turned into the Sunday-school kids by their enemies, the magicians.  We observe that Tom is indeed acting out a borrowed VR, based on his reading of Don Quixote's adventures, while Huck's VR mirrors the down-to-earth, simple life realism of Sancho Panza.

    Medina  suggests other parallels between the two books, some dealing with class distinctions and social mores of the two eras, but the idea of the brain interpreting the same scene as different realities for different characters is intriguing (and poses problems for a well-ordered society.)  Nonetheless, it has always been a classical, philosophical challenge to define any reality as 'truth.'  If you deviate too far from a contemporary norm, however, and do not have the mental capacity to grasp the difference, you could be in for difficulties.

    The author of a fictional work, though he may strive to narrate his story in a third-person, omniscient, strictly objective point-of-view, will usually introduce some sort of VR for each of his characters, scenes and actions in the story.  And if his protagonist's VR is very unusual, like Don Quixote's, it may be well to have one or two characters with a more grounded VR, like Pancho's or Huck's.   Recognizing at least one character with a VR not too different from a norm might give a reader a little more confidence in staying around to see where the story is going.

    To explore these ideas further, we could consider "Moby Dick," by Herman Melville.  Ahab's interpretation of a VR from his own experience is that it is possible for a brute force of nature, the great white whale, Moby Dick, to embody supernatural forces of evil.  He is outraged that this evil force has violated him by ripping his leg away in a past encounter, and so he has vowed to find and destroy Moby Dick.  Indeed, if God were to insult him, he would strike God, himself.  Such is Ahab's VR that he perceives himself to be an equal to God.

    Ahab is intriguing, but his VR is so different from most reader's VR that it becomes difficult to find ways to sympathize with his character.  Fortunately Melville gives us a more grounded character, Starbuck, a brave and admirable ship's officer, who has a more down-to-earth VR, and gives the reader opportunities to examine the mind and character of Ahab during their shipboard discussions.  Starbuck is the Sancho Panza of the story, who sees Ahab's misfortune as simply another accident in a dangerous trade, and it is time to drop this Moby Dick obsession and get on with the business of hunting any and all whales, and filling the ship's holds with whale oil.

    Well, the topic is certainly not exhausted in the foregoing, but probably worth revisiting in a future blog.

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