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Here’s more from Bustle: “Stine’s Fear Street series was the YA equivalent to his middle grade series Goosebumps. It was ‘sleep with the lights on’ spooky, and occasionally just skewed the right amount toward silly. (Can I direct your attention to Cat?) The series was a commercial smash, and now it has acquired a cult following from twenty- and thirtysomethings across the country.”
Reminder: New literary agents (with this spotlight featuring Valerie Noble of Donaghy Literary Group) are golden opportunities for new writers because each one is a literary agent who is likely building his or her client list.
About Valerie: Valerie Noble is an Associate Agent at Donaghy Literary Group. While studying chemistry at California State University, Long Beach, Valerie mastered the art of doing proper research, particularly for technical writing. Her love of science and reading merged when she began penning her first novel in the midst of her studies. In true scientific fashion, Valerie researched all there was to know about publishing. She connected with agents, editors, and other writers, and interned for Jessica Sinsheimer of Sarah Jane Freymann Literary Agency.
An education is never finished and Valerie continues to cultivate relationships and hopes to use her knowledge and skills in finding fresh new voices for Donaghy Literary Group.
She is seeking: Valerie is seeking Young Adult, and New Adult — in the following areas:
• Science Fiction YA/NA
• Fantasy YA/NA
• Historical Fantasy YA/NA
• Historical Fiction YA/NA
Valerie loves YA/NA science fiction and fantasy (think Kristin Cashore and Suzanne Collins) but reads everything under the sun. For her, it’s more about the writing and less about the genre. In saying that, Valerie is generally not interested in romance or paranormal.
Submission Instructions: Electronic Submissions only. Send the query letter, 1-2 page synopsis and the first 10 pages of manuscript — all in body of email, no attachments. Send to query(at)donaghyliterary(dot)com.
A new survey from the Games and Learning Publishing Council sheds light on just how commonplace games have become in today’s classrooms. Among the findings:
Among K-8 teachers surveyed who use digital games in teaching, 55% have students play games at least weekly
72% typically use a desktop or laptop computer for gaming
Nearly half believe that low-performing students benefit the most from digital games
Word of mouth is the biggest influence when selecting games
So what can librarians take away from this data?
First, it’s important to think about what’s not in the report. The survey only included K-8 teachers, but gaming is a huge part of many teens’ lives. As the YALSABlog reported in 2008, a Pew Research Internet Project report found that fully 97% of teens ages 12-17 play digital games. Those teens were using computers, but nearly half were also using a mobile device.
As schools relax restrictions on mobile devices in classrooms and laptops and tablets become as common as calculators and pencils, how can librarians support the gaming needs of teachers and students? Whether we’re in school libraries or programming for teens at public libraries, where does gaming fit into library services?
The Games and Learning report reveals that many teachers let their own gaming experiences and preferences guide them when it comes to using digital games with students. I can certainly attest to that; when I first introduced gaming nights at my high school, I brought my own consoles and games, then joined forces with another teacher to expand our selections. If you’re new to gaming with teens, you may be more comfortable starting with a familiar game or selection of games.
Erin Daly, Youth Services Coordinator at Chicopee Public Library, puts it this way: “We probably need to spend some time playing games ourselves and thinking about how to incorporate games into our classrooms and libraries. We really don’t know what works until we play.”
Many teachers cite time as a major obstacle when it comes to using games in the classroom. Just as teachers rely on librarians for readers’ advisory when matching books to teens, they need our help with games. And they’re listening! 48% of teachers surveyed cite other teachers’ opinions about a game as a factor in their decision-making process. Here’s Daly again:
“Gaming, like everything, requires curation: we need to pick the best, most interesting things to share. Good thing that’s pretty much what librarians do best. (Gamers’ advisory, if you will). In a classroom, ‘the best’ includes the way in which the game is relevant to the curriculum standards. In the public library ‘the best’ is the game that engages the player’s interest and makes them think.”
What does gaming look like in your library? Are your teens addicted to apps or playing Halo on consoles? Have you used Minecraft or Scratch to explore programming and designing?
Over the weekend, dozens of authors and illustrators appeared at the Library of Congress’ 14th annual National Book Festival. Children’s books creator Bob Staake designed this year’s official poster. We’ve collected three writing tips that some of the writers shared during their panels.
Joey Pigza book series author Jack Gantos suggests that one “stay as organized as possible.” He thinks that one should keep several notebooks. This helps to categorize different thoughts because one idea might be a good fit for the beginning a story and another could work for the middle.
Japanese author Haruki Murakami has a new novella in the works which will be published by Knopf on December 2nd.
The Strange Library, a 96-page story,is about a young man’s strange trip to the library. Check it out:
On his way home from school, the young narrator of The Strange Library finds himself wondering how taxes were collected in the Ottoman Empire. He pops into the local library to see if it has a book on the subject. Once there, he is led to a special ‘reading room’ by a strange old man. The boy is imprisoned at the library and forced to memorize massive volumes of books. What will the boy do when he realizes that his captor intends to absorb his knowledge by eating his brain? With the help of a mysterious girl and a man dressed as a sheep, he hatches a plan to escape.
Murakami is on a roll. The novelist released a new novel, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, last month.
My latest video essay is now available at Press Play. It's the first in a new series by various hands on cinematic terminology. My term was "composition", and so I made an essay creatively titled, "What Is Composition?"Add a Comment
I was just starting grad school when the bright, thick, door-stopper of a book, BORN CONFUSED came out. I read it in between cramming other studies in, and found its sharply delineated cross-cultural content unlike much of the homogenized young... Read the rest of this post
Poet Forrest Gander has created a poetry remix piece called “Bey The Light.” The words were sourced from an interview that diva Beyoncé gave to Dominic Teja Sidhu and Christopher Bartley.
The piece is featured in the recently released issue of CR Fashion Book alongside a photo spread. Beyoncé (pictured, via) did not know that her interview responses would be constructed into a poem. Follow this link to read the full poem.
At the end of July, I asked you all what books you were reading. You responded with some great recommendations! I made a word cloud to show which titles were most popular. Once again, Percy Jackson is stealing the spotlight, but the competition is definitely heating up. Heroes of Olympus and Harry Potter are putting up a valiant fight! Take a look:
I know, I know, I know–it’s back-to-school time, so that means less time for reading for fun. But I know you guys are finding time to read wherever and whenever you can, and that’s awesome! Let’s keep this going. What books are you reading now? What books do you absolutely, positively love and think everyone in the whole wide world should read? Leave the title (or titles) in the Comments below. I can’t wait to see what new books you recommend!
The Loft asked me for a blog post about diversity in kidlit:
“It’s so easy as an adult to fall into rigid and boring habits of mind about what young people “need” from us—as if all we had to offer was medicine—but a great thing about teaching a class for teens about fisticuffs and fornication is that conventional notions of what young people today “need” are pretty much out the window from the start. This was a class about wanting…”
Pain shoots up from the bottom of her foot, enough so she limps and is forced to wear heavy boots with firm arch supports. Hearing the pain started about a month into writing a memoir and that she hasn't moved very far into her story even after more than seven months of writing scenes long-hand, I suspect that her foot pain and writing pain were linked.
Often problems with the feet indicate difficulty moving forward. I ask her what the problem is with moving forward with her story.
"I don't know where to begin," she mutters.
The struggle in determining the exact right beginning point to start your story is not isolated to memoir writers. Yes, when faced with scenes from your entire life, deciding what to put in and what to leave out can confuse a writer about where best to begin her memoir. The same can be said for novelists and screenwriters as well as memoir writers
With some intense theme explorations, both listing themes that fire up the most energy in her to write about and developing a thematic significance statement for what meaning overall she wishes to convey lead her to the perfect place to begin.
Is that the place the memoir will ultimately begin in the final, final draft? Not necessarily. At this point the most important action this writer can take is to start there and write an entire draft all the way to the end one time. Then she can go back and determine if, in fact, that is the place to begin or take the test I share in my upcoming Writers Store webinar: Where To Start: How To Write the Exact Right Beginning of Your Storyand finally pinpoint the exact right place. (Oh, and I can almost guarantee that by the time she writes into the exotic world of the middle, her foot pain miraculously vanishes…)
Today I write! ~~~~~~~~ For more about how to develop THEMES and a THEMATIC SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT for your novel, memoir, screenplay: Read myPlot WhispererandBlockbuster Plots books for writers. ~~~~
Need more help with your story?
Looking for tips to prop up your middle with excitement?
Wish you understood how to show don't tell what your character is feeling?
Are even you sometimes bored with your own story?
Long to form your concept into words?
We can help you with all of that and so much more! View your story in an entirely new light. Recharge your energy and enthusiasm for your writing.
Like most first conversations and bad first drafts, my (WD’s Managing Editor Adrienne Crezo) interview with Ransom Riggs begins with a discussion about the weather. And not just any weather, either, but peculiar versions of standard precipitation: dust storms, cloudbursts, thundersnow and tornadoes. Of course, Riggs is experiencing none of those phenomena as he sits in the warmth of the never-ending summer of Los Angeles. “I hate to tell you what it’s like here right now,” he says. “No, I don’t. It’s gorgeous. Just perfect.”
That kind of easygoing humor is familiar to Riggs’ fans. Readers of his New York Times bestselling young adult novel Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children and its sequel, Hollow City, convene on Twitter (@ransomriggs) and Instagram (instagram.com/ransomriggs) to follow the seemingly unshakable optimism of a guy who really enjoys what he does. Life is uncomplicated for Riggs, as is his approach to work and writing. “[I never] set out to be a writer,” he tells me. “I took a fiction class [in college], but … I just thought, That’d be a fun thing to do for a semester, not, This is my future.”
Whatever dreams Riggs may have had about his future, he couldn’t have predicted the wild success of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, a tale of time travel and magic set against the eerie backdrop of unnerving black-and-white photos of levitating girls and creepy twin clowns. Before Peculiar Children’s release in 2011, the film rights had already been snapped up by 20th Century Fox, and the movie, directed by none other than Tim Burton, is slated for release in summer 2015. Hollow City, second of the three planned Peculiar Children books, was released in January 2014. And in the midst of all this, Riggs also released Talking Pictures, a coffee-table book of found photographs, in 2012.
It’s easy to see why Riggs is enjoying the ride, but what appears to have happened overnight actually evolved over many years. It started with a love of film and photography, which led him to collecting old secondhand photographs. In 2009, Riggs was encouraged by an editor at Quirk Books to use the found pictures as the basis of a novel. At the time, Riggs was writing daily for mentalfloss.com, a popular general-interest trivia website, editing and filming short documentaries, and shooting photo essays as he traveled. He laughs to himself as he recalls his initial reaction to the conversation: “OK, Quirk. No one’s going to read that. Let me go back to blogging.”
Luckily, Riggs decided to take the editor’s advice. He compiled his found photos and wound a weird, twisting tale around them—and, in return, an eager YA audience turned the Peculiar Children series into an unlikely hit. Here, Riggs talks about his writing and social media habits, why he doesn’t follow rules, and why it’s important to take time off.
Your photo collection plays a huge role in the Peculiar Children books. Can you tell us how you started collecting people’s castoff snapshots?
I was at this swap meet in Pasadena [in 2009] called the Rose Bowl. I knew people sold old photographs, sort of in the corner of my mind, but I was never very interested in them … because they all looked like junk. But then I found a booth at this particular swap meet that was operated by a fellow named Leonard, who had clearly gone through many, many, many bins of photos and chosen his favorite 200 and put them in little plastic sleeves. I started looking at them and I [thought], Wow, there’s something really special here. This guy has the eye of a curator, and every [photo] is like a little piece of lost, orphaned folk art. That’s really cool! As someone who grew up loving photography in every way I could, I would have loved to have had a photo collection of my own, but I couldn’t afford to buy prints. … So I thought, Here is a way I could start my own little museum of photographs.You get to be your own curator; you’re rescuing them from the trash and saying, “I decide this is art, and I’m going to keep it.”
It occurred to me, as I collected more and more, that my taste in these photos ran in very specific directions. One was a sort of Edward Gorey-esque Victorian creepiness, and the other was photos with writing on them. I always felt like these were completely anonymous photos. … If they’ve written a little bit on the picture, especially if it’s more than just a label, if it’s a thought or a feeling or something revelatory, there’s a window into this lost world that suddenly has context where it did not before. That’s interesting.
Do you collect photos now solely for book material, or is it still a thing you just enjoy doing?
It’s still partly just a hobby. Maybe one day they’ll find their way into something I do, but maybe not. I just like owning them.
I started without anything in particular in mind to do with [the photos]; I just sort of wanted to have them. … And they’re not all creepy. There are so many I have that I love that are just sort of evocative in some simple way—the look on someone’s face, or a cool angle or interesting subject or something. I have a lot that I don’t even necessarily know that I’ll use—they don’t fit in the Peculiar Children books and they don’t fit in [Talking Pictures]. I just like them.
In Peculiar Children and its sequel, Hollow City, your protagonist, Jacob, has some pretty interesting magical powers, but he’s also a teenager with all the typical teenager woes. You’ve called Jacob your “fantasy self.” How much of you is in Jacob, really?
You’d have to be a literary critic or a psychiatrist to pick the writer out of his work. Every fictional story goes through this sort of blender process where you take some real experience … you know what’s real or true when you put it into the blender with fiction, and then it gets all mixed up with something that didn’t really happen, but there’s still a little of you in there. I think the writer is in there no matter what you do. You can’t really remove yourself from it.
Did you set out to be a novelist or did you have other plans?
No, I wanted to make movies. When I was a kid I wanted to be a novelist … but then around the eighth grade I discovered movies and I became completely obsessed and lost myself in this dream of making movies. My friends and I had a video camera, and we would make movies all the time.
I knew I wanted to go to film school, but I also knew I wanted to learn things first. I wanted to learn about the important ideas and read the great books, so I went to Kenyon [College], but always with the understanding that I would go to film school afterward.
[I] was chasing the white pony of having a film career [and] doing whatever I could do: making short films and editing things and freelance writing. The writing thing came about completely by accident. … I never really wanted [it], or looked for it. I feel like the opposite might be true, instead, where if I’d tried really hard to be a writer, maybe someone would’ve [asked], “Do you want to be a filmmaker instead?” And I would’ve [said], “OK”—the theory of inverse effort.
I think [filmmaking] was a way for me to get into novel writing, which is not something I might have done on my own. Now that I’m doing it, I find that with each Peculiar Children book I have to work harder to include photos. The story has all this momentum of its own now.
Will that momentum carry the Peculiar Children series beyond the three books you have planned?
This story that I’m telling now will conclude in book three, but I think I’ll leave the door open to that world. I’m going to do something else next, but I will probably come back and write more [books for the series] one day.
Do you follow any specific writing rules?
I always distrust overly specific writing advice. I don’t agree with it, necessarily. When you’re thinking about what to write or how to write something, it’s too easy to make a lot of arbitrary rules for yourself. I think the difficult thing with learning how to write is not learning the style or rules, but figuring out what story you want to tell.
I spent a lot of time telling the wrong stories, especially when … I was in college or when I was a kid trying to imitate C.S. Lewis or Stephen King. I never understood why my writing didn’t take off. I would think, Well, the sentences are correct, and the characters are talking and everything looks right, and it seems like a story. I did exactly what [they] told me to do, but there’s no blood in it and I don’t know why. It’s something you have to learn, how to tell the right stories for you, and it’s this completely ineffable thing.
What about schedules? Do you wake up some days and think, I’m not going to write; I’m not going to edit. Do you take days off?
Oh, all the time! Sometimes I say, “Today, I’m going to clean my house and go to the movies.” Or, “Today, [my wife] Tahereh and I are going to ride our bikes and go and eat too much Persian food.” That happens a lot. That’s a lot of our days, actually.
I spent the last three months plotting book three [of the Peculiar Children series]. So just in the last couple of days I’ve transitioned into writing actual sentences on pages of the book, and now that I have that momentum, I do want to write every day—at least a little, just to keep the thread. A lot, preferably, but between books I’ll go months and months without writing. It’s exhausting. I’m just like, “I can’t.”
That’s a long break between projects! It’s a wonder that you fall back into the groove at all. Is writer’s block ever a problem for you?
I don’t really believe in that whole “wait for the muse to strike” thing. I’m more of a “sit your ass in a chair and start typing” guy. … People treat writer’s block like it’s this kind of mythical, mystical ailment. It’s actually a very specific problem, and that is that something is wrong with your story, or wrong with your scene, and you’re trying to do something that is not motivated by your characters. If your writer’s block is so complete that you don’t even know where to start, it’s probably that you’re not spending enough time at the keyboard. It’s all part of the process.
I also think that writer’s block comes from judging yourself too much, and [thinking], I only wrote one sentence today! I’m terrible!
How do you keep yourself in a chair and working when you’re so active on social media?
I find myself retreating from social media when I need to work. I realize that I’m becoming too dependent on talking to everyone on Twitter. It’s too distracting. I’m constantly reaching for it, like a drug or something.
You can spend a whole day clicking and scrolling and feeling like you’ve gotten something done—Oh man, that was a really funny tweet—but then at the end of the day you’re like, I did nothing. All day, I’ve done nothing at all. I have nothing to show for it. Except that funny tweet, of course.
So you live in Los Angeles with your wife, bestselling YA author Tahereh Mafi. And you two work together. Do you share a desk?
Yes. It’s a very long desk, very wide. So there’s space enough for our things and our laptops and all our books, and we put on our noise-canceling headphones and [work]. That’s the thing about being married to another writer—we know all of the ways in which the other person is weird and quirky, because all writers are a little weird and quirky. So we [know we] need our quiet, broody time, but then we need to run around and go have fun when writing time is over—when work is over—because we’ve been kind of cooped up inside of our own brains all day. It works. Somehow it works.
You share a lot of your social media time with Tahereh, too, which your fans seem to love. But it seems as if it could become overwhelming at a certain point. Do you ever try to hold back?
I think we’re pretty knee-deep in it all, we read a lot of it. And it’s largely positive, which I think is pretty rare. I’ve been waiting for negative weirdness to start to surface, but it hasn’t yet.
I wouldn’t keep posting pictures of Tahereh on Instagram if people didn’t keep going, “Yay! Give us more,” you know? I feel like we both have been waiting for the Internet to collectively be like, “OK, gag me, it’s enough already!” But, bafflingly, it hasn’t happened yet, so we just keep going.
How about some parting advice for writers?
Just unclench, live your life and spend less time berating yourself. Anxiety and stress are the enemies of creativity.
*********************************************************************************************************************** Adrienne Crezo is the managing editor of WD. She lives, works and writes in Ohio. Follow her on Twitter @a_crezo.
Indiana seven-year-old Terry Miles is writing a book about gun violence and with help from his teacher Ball State University student Brittany Cain. The work will be self-published published as an eBook.
The Shot Heard Around the Town: A Story About How One Boy Can Change the World stems from a letter that Miles wrote to the mayor of Muncie telling about gun violence in his neighborhood. He wrote: “Dear Mayor, I have a problem. I have been hearing gunshots in my neighborhood. Can you make them stop?” which ran in The Star Press. You can watch a news report about Miles here.
As part of a class project, Cain wants to help Miles publish the eBook through Kids at Heart Publishing company, a self-publishing services company that helps self-published authors publish and promote their books for a fee. Miles is currently seeking donations to help fund the project. Huffer Memorial Children’s Center is accepting donations on his behalf. (Via The Star Press).
Everyone knows about Saint Patrick — the man who drove the snakes out of Ireland, defeated fierce Druids in contests of magic, and used the shamrock to explain the Christian Trinity to the pagan Irish. It’s a great story, but none of it is true. The shamrock legend came along centuries after Patrick’s death, as did the miraculous battles against the Druids. Forget about the snakes — Ireland never had any to begin with. No snakes, no shamrocks, and he wasn’t even Irish.
The real story of St. Patrick is much more interesting than the myths. What we know of Patrick’s life comes only through the chance survival of two remarkable letters which he wrote in Latin in his old age. In them, Patrick tells the story of his tumultuous life and allows us to look intimately inside the mind and soul of a man who lived over fifteen hundred years ago. We may know more biographical details about Julius Caesar or Alexander the Great, but nothing else from ancient times opens the door into the heart of a man more than Patrick’s letters. They tell the story of an amazing life of pain and suffering, self-doubt and struggle, but ultimately of faith and hope in a world which was falling apart around him.
The historical Patrick was not Irish at all, but a spoiled and rebellious young Roman citizen living a life of luxury in fifth-century Britain when he was suddenly kidnapped from his family’s estate as a teenager and sold into slavery across the sea in Ireland. For six years he endured brutal conditions as he watched over his master’s sheep on a lonely mountain in a strange land. He went to Ireland an atheist, but there heard what he believed was the voice of God. One day he escaped and risked his life to make a perilous journey across Ireland, finding passage back to Britain on a ship of reluctant pirates. His family welcomed back their long-lost son and assumed he would take up his life of privilege, but Patrick heard a different call. He returned to Ireland to bring a new way of life to a people who had once enslaved him. He constantly faced opposition, threats of violence, kidnapping, and even criticism from jealous church officials, while his Irish followers faced abuse, murder, and enslavement themselves by mercenary raiders. But through all the difficulties Patrick maintained his faith and persevered in his Irish mission.
The Ireland that Patrick lived and worked in was utterly unlike the Roman province of Britain in which he was born and raised. Dozens of petty Irish kings ruled the countryside with the help of head-hunting warriors while Druids guided their followers in a religion filled with countless gods and perhaps an occasional human sacrifice. Irish women were nothing like those Patrick knew at home. Early Ireland was not a world of perfect equality by any means, but an Irish wife could at least control her own property and divorce her husband for any number of reasons, including if he became too fat for sexual intercourse. But Irish women who were slaves faced a cruel life. Again and again in his letters, Patrick writes of his concern for the many enslaved women of Ireland who faced beatings and abuse on a daily basis.
Patrick wasn’t the first Christian to reach Ireland; he wasn’t even the first bishop. What made Patrick successful was his dogged determination and the courage to face whatever dangers lay ahead, as well as the compassion and forgiveness to work among a people who had brought nothing but pain to his life. None of this came naturally to him, however. He was a man of great insecurities who constantly wondered if he was really cut out for the task he had been given. He had missed years of education while he was enslaved in Ireland and carried a tremendous chip on his shoulder when anyone sneered, as they frequently did, at his simple, schoolboy Latin. He was also given to fits of depression, self-pity, and violent anger. Patrick was not a storybook saint, meek and mild, who wandered Ireland with a beatific smile and a life free from petty faults. He was very much a human being who constantly made mistakes and frequently failed to live up to his own Christian ideals, but he was honest enough to recognize his shortcomings and never allow defeat to rule his life.
You don’t have to be Irish to admire Patrick. His is a story of inspiration for anyone struggling through hard times public or private in a world with unknown terrors lurking around the corner. So raise a glass to the patron saint of Ireland, but remember the man behind the myth.
Headline image credit: Oxalis acetosella. Photo by Erik Fitzpatrick. CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.
I’m excited to start a new year of school author visits, returning to some I’ve visited before and many new schools and aftercare programs. In anticipation of this season, I’ve spent a great deal of time updating my author visit materials and presentation. I’ve got a pile of new posters I’ve hand-painted too. Check them out!
“The Vanilla Fudge Room” is a chapter that was edited out of the book from an early draft. The Guardian has published the chapter. Check it out:
They went into another cavernous room, and here again a really splendid sight met their eyes.
In the centre of the room there was an actual mountain, a colossal jagged mountain as high as a five-storey building, and the whole thing was made of pale-brown, creamy, vanilla fudge. All the way up the sides of the mountain, hundreds of men were working away with picks and drills, hacking great hunks of fudge out of the mountainside; and some of them, those that were high up in dangerous places, were roped together for safety.
Great Tips for Reducing the Stress of Going Back to School
Grown-ups begin a new year on January 1st, but for kids the new year begins on the first day of school. Although kids love to "hate" school, many are truly eager to learn, to get back to their school, its social scene, and its reassuring routine. New kids in town, oldest children, kids transitioning from elementary to middle school or from middle school to high school, or kids with learning or behavioral challenges, may feel a little anxious when the new school year rolls around.
Our job as parents is to raise our children to be independent. One of parenting's greatest challenges is learning to distinguish when and how much we should help our children and when we should encourage them to solve problems themselves. The best way to help your children or teens prepare for school this year is to teach them by example and by posing questions that will help them think through their own problems and arrive at workable solutions.
Some Helpful Tips:
Use the two weeks prior to school starting to let your child readjust to their new bedtime. Set their alarm each night and make sure your little one is up and at em' the next morning.
Take time to go over your child's car pool or bus schedule as well. This way they will be aware of what time they need to be ready when the big day arrives. In addition, you may want to go over routes and how long the ride to school will take. Most importantly, talk to your child about car/bus safety!
If your child is new to town, the oldest, or transitioning from one school to another, make sure he or she has the opportunity to tour the school a few days before school begins. Encourage your child to ask questions of you and anyone he or she meets at the school. Be aware that younger children, preteens, and teens will all have different fears and concerns. And, older kids may be too insecure to ask questions for fear of appearing stupid or un-cool. For example: young children may worry about paying for lunch the first time and where the lavatories are located in relationship to their classroom. Preteens and teens may be more worried about their lockers, lock combinations, and what they're going to wear the first day of school.
Before any "back to school" clothing is purchased, make sure you and your child or teen know the school dress code. That knowledge will ease family tension and save you a great deal of time and trouble.
From kindergarten on, encourage your children to dress in a way that is compatible with his or her personality. Let them know that being true to themselves is "way" better than being trendy; in fact, the kids who create trends never copy anyone else. Peer pressure builds as kids get older and celebrating individuality through clothing style is a great way to show your kids that they do not need the approval of popular kids to survive, and thrive, in school.
School textbooks are getting heavier and heavier. Make sure you child or preteen has a sturdy backpack that distributes the weight of books equally. You may want to invest in a roller backpack that has a luggage handle so that your child can pull his or her backpack instead of carrying it.
If you plan on packing them a lunch ask them what they would like to eat on the first day of school. If you aren't fixing their lunch, be sure to give them lunch money and have them put it in a safe place.
If your children will be participating in any extracurricular sports, they will need a physical. Schedule it as soon as possible, even before school starts.
If your kids had required reading over the summer, you may want to have an informal discussion with them about their reading right before school starts. Ask them to remind you what books they read and why they liked or disliked them. Don't be satisfied with simplistic explanations; ask for details about characters, place, and plot. Ask them if and why they would recommend the book to other kids. Your informal book chat will jog their memories and help them if they are assigned a report on their summer reading.
Share your own feelings and memories about your first day of school experiences: being the new kid in town; the first one in the family to ride a bus to school; or the forgetting your locker combination running between classes in middle school. When your kids share their worries or concerns, don't dismiss or trivialize them. Validate their concerns. Ask them if they have ideas on what they can do to alleviate their apprehensions. If they do not have ideas, brainstorm with them to come up with viable solutions and actions.
In this era of "kidnap fears" it is hard not to be too overprotective of your children, but try. In most of America, kids can walk to school safely. They can ride the bus safely, too. Human skin is waterproof, and dressed for the occasion, kids can walk in the rain and snow unharmed. The classroom is not the only place where learning occurs. The journey to and from school provides your kids with another situation in which to learn. If your area is "traffic safe," adequately prepare your kids with safety tips and, at an age appropriate time, stop driving them to school door and let them explore. Their self-esteem will swell with their responsible independence.
Make sure your child has a library card, knows his or her way around the library, and knows how to find the books he or she will need to complete assignments and read for pleasure during the school year.
Get into the habit of going to the library once a week or once every two weeks, regardless of whether or not your child's school assignments require it. The best way you can help your children achieve in school is to encourage them to read and become life-long readers. The best place to get free books, magazines, computer access, entertaining stories, and important information is your neighborhood library.
No matter how old or young your children, read through the school student handbook with them at the beginning of every year. You both need to know the school's goals, expectations, opportunities, and rules.
Fill out any medical and emergency forms and return them to the school immediately. If your child has any special health or physical needs make sure you put those needs in writing and that the principal, your child's teacher, and the school nurse all have copies.
Establish a safe place in the house where all school forms and notices can be deposited every day. Get your kids in the habit of taking all forms and notices out of their backpacks and putting them in that safe place as soon as they walk through your door. They need to learn from kindergarten on that they are responsible for making sure you receive all communications from their school. It may help to give each of your children, including your teens, a sturdy plastic folder that they can keep in their backpack to carry notices home safely.
Rusty Browder, the librarian at Amos A. Lawrence School in Brookline, Mass., recommends that kids of all ages acquire great "backpack habits." She suggest that kids go through their backpacks everyday, organize papers and notebooks, give parents important notices and work, and throw out garbage of any kind! Older kids who have locker breaks between classes may want to organize their heavy textbooks in groups of morning and afternoon classes so that one group of books can be left in their lockers until needed.
Read aloud to your children from their favorite books, every night if possible, if only for ten or fifteen minutes. And don't assume that once your child has become an independent reader that he or she no longer wants, or needs, to be read aloud to. Kids of all ages, and adults, love to hear a great story. And reading aloud increases your children's vocabulary, makes them laugh, expands their universe, and helps them to learn about human understanding and compassion. Besides- it's great fun!
Try to find a special time each day to talk with your children about their day at school. Sometimes that moment takes place in the car driving between after-school activities. Sometimes it takes place on the phone from home to your work place. Sometimes it takes place at the table over dinner. Wherever and whenever it takes place, don't ask the question, "How was school today?" –– it is a certainty that you will get a one word answer. Ask: what was served in the cafeteria; did you have gym outside; how did your history presentation go? –– anything to initiate a conversation. Never underestimate your impact or importance to your kids. Your taking the time to take an interest in them and their day is not only important to their education, it is something they will remember and cherish the rest of their lives.
Send them off with big kisses and a bunch of well wishes!
Art students Mimi Cabell and Jason Huff, wanted to explore how Google’s ad scanning technology would react to a series of email exchanges depicting violence and racism.
So they emailed each other the original text of Brett Easton Ellis’ novel American Psycho, page by page, to see what kinds of products would be marketed to them. They have turned the project into a book that includes Ellis’ original chapter titles along with the ads that ran next to each email and their own footnotes. The text essentially retells American Psycho via relational Google Ads.
What kinds of ads would run next to graphic depictions of rape and murder sent through a Gmail conversation? Cabell explains on her website: “In one scene, where first a dog and then a man are brutally murdered with a knife, Google supplied ample ads regarding knives and knife sharpeners. In another scene the ads disappeared altogether when the narrator makes a racial slur. Google’s choice and use of standard ads unrelated to the content next to which they appeared offered an alternate window into how Google ads function — the ad for Crest Whitestrips Coupons appeared the highest number of times, next to both the most graphic and the most mundane sections of the book, leaving no clear logic as to how it was selected to appear. This “misreading” ultimately echoes the hollowness at the center of advertising and consumer culture, a theme explored in excess in American Psycho.” (Via Electric Literature).
Signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson on 3 September 1964, the Wilderness Act defined wilderness “as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.” It not only put 1.9 million acres under federal protection, it created an entire preservation system that today includes nearly 110 million acres across forty-four states and Puerto Rico—some 5% of the land in the United States. These public lands include wildlife refuges and national forests and parks where people are welcome as visitors, but may not take up permanent residence.
The definition of what constitutes “wilderness” is not without controversy, and some critics question whether preservation is the best use of specific areas. Nevertheless, most Americans celebrate the guarantee that there will always be special places in the United States where nature can thrive in its unfettered state, without human intervention or control. Campers, hikers, birdwatchers, scientists and other outdoor enthusiasts owe much to Howard Zahniser, the act’s primary author.
In recent decades, environmental awareness and protection are values just about as all-American as Mom and apple pie. Despite the ill-fated “Drill, Baby, Drill,” slogan of the 2008 campaign, virtually all political candidates, whatever their party, profess concern about the environment and a commitment to its protection. As a professor, I have a hard time persuading my students, who were born more than two decades after the first Earth Day (in 1970), that environmental protection was once commonly considered downright traitorous.
For generations, many Americans were convinced that it was the exploitation of natural resources that made America great. The early pioneers survived because they wrested a living from the wilderness, and their children and grandchildren thrived because they turned natural resources into profit. Only slowly did the realization come that people had been so intent on pursuing vast commercial enterprises they failed to consider their environmental impact. When, according to the 1890 census, the frontier was closed, the nation was no longer a land of ever-expanding boundaries and unlimited resources. Birds like the passenger pigeon and the Carolina Parakeet were hunted into extinction; practices like strip-mining left ugly scars on the land, and clear-cutting made forest sustainability impossible.
At the turn of the last century members of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs called for the preservation of wilderness, especially through the creation of regional and national parks. They enjoyed the generous cooperation of the Forest Service during the Theodore Roosevelt administration, but found that overall, “it is difficult to get anyone to work for the public with the zeal with which men work for their own pockets.”
Not surprisingly, Theodore Roosevelt framed his support for conservation in terms of benefiting people rather than (non-human) nature. In 1907 he addressed both houses of Congress to gain support for his administration’s effort to “get our people to look ahead and to substitute a planned and orderly development of our resources in place of a haphazard striving for immediate profit.” It is a testament to Roosevelt’s persona that he could sow the seeds of conservationism within a male population deeply suspicious of any argument even remotely tinged with what was derided as “female sentimentality.” Writer George L. Knapp, for example, termed the call for conservation “unadulterated humbug” and the dire prophecies of further extinction “baseless vaporings.” He preferred to celebrate the fruits of men’s unregulated resource consumption: “The pine woods of Michigan have vanished to make the homes of Kansas; the coal and iron which we have failed—thank Heaven!—to ‘conserve’ have carried meat and wheat to the hungry hives of men and gladdened life with an abundance which no previous age could know.” According to Knapp, men should be praised, not chastened, for turning “forests into villages, mines into ships and skyscrapers, scenery into work.”
The press reinforced the belief that the use of natural resources equaled progress. The Houston Post, for example, declared, “Smoke stacks are a splendid sign of a city’s prosperity,” and the Chicago Record Herald reported that the Creator who made coal “knew that smoke would be a good thing for the world.” Pittsburgh city leaders equated smoke with manly virtue and derided the “sentimentality and frivolity” of those who sought to limit industry out of baseless fear of the by-products it released into the air.
Pioneering educator and psychologist G. Stanley Hall confirmed that “caring for nature was female sentiment, not sound science.” Gifford Pinchot, made first chief of the Forestry Service in 1905, was a self-avowed conservationist. He escaped charges of effeminacy by making it clear that he measured nature’s value by its service to humanity. He dedicated his agency to “the art of producing from the forest whatever it can yield for the service of man.” “Trees are a crop, just like corn,” he famously proclaimed, “Wilderness is waste.”
Looking back at the last fifty years, the Wilderness Act of 1964 is an important achievement. But it becomes truly remarkable when viewed in the context of the long history that preceded it.
Headline image credit: Cook Lake, Bridger-Teton National Forest, Wyoming. Photos by the Pinedale Ranger District of the Bridger-Teton National Forest. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.
Actor/rapper Nick Cannon is working on a book of children’s poems which is due out from Scholastic in March 2015.
The illustrated poetry book is called Neon Aliens Ate My Homework and Other Poems. The title was written for kids age 7 with poems about silly, disgusting and even serious matters. It will feature black-and-white illustrations by a number of street artists including: Art Mobb, Califawnia, Captain Kris, Morf,Queen Andrea, MAST and Mike P.
“Writing is at the center of everything I do as an artist. Doing creative writing—especially writing poetry—is when I felt the calmest and freest. As a kid, it was my escape from the inner-city pitfalls,” explains Cannon in a statement. “The first important writer in my life was Shel Silverstein—he made me fall in love with writing and seeing his whimsical sketches got me interested in art. When I was eight years old, I got a spiral notebook and wrote my first poem/rap. I filled that notebook with poems, rhymes, jokes, and witty stories. I still keep one to this day. I hope that poems in Neon Aliens will help inspire kids to want to get out a pen and paper to write or draw their own thoughts, rhymes, and stories.”
You come up with a mind-blowingly awesome article idea: You’ve discovered some really cool thing, and you want to write about it.
For example, you’ve found out something fascinating about how train schedules are developed, or how makeup is made, or a unique museum, or a new business that’s just opened its doors.
So you have this amazing idea — why is everyone rejecting it?
This kind of idea is what I like to call an “Isn’t This Cool?” idea. You’ve found something neat, and you want to share it with the world.
But sadly, most publications don’t want to just share random interesting things with their readers. Each magazine has its own slant, and the product, fact, business or person you found needs to fit in with their mission.
For example, let’s take the idea of some weird aspect of how makeup is made. You want to send it to a women’s magazine, of course. What woman wouldn’t be interested in finding out this cool fact about how her mascara is made?
But women’s magazines are service publications, meaning most of their articles offer some kind of advice. So the editors wouldn’t be interested in this fact about makeup unless their readers can actually do something with it.
So if you have an idea where you think, “Isn’t this cool?” — ask yourself, “So what?” Why would readers care? How can you make them care? What can they do with it, or how can they apply the knowledge right now? For most publications, your ideas need to be useful and actionable.
For example, maybe women need to avoid makeup products that are made with this method, and you can round up the types of products this applies to so readers know which ones to look out for. That’s an idea you could pitch to a health magazine.
Or, let’s take the article you want to pitch on the Burnt Food Museum, and yes, this is real. (“Hey, this museum exists. Isn’t it cool?”) Rare is the magazine that would want you to just write about what a weird museum you found. It would do better as, say, a round-up of weird museums in New England readers can visit, complete with info on location, price, and hours. Now, readers can do something with that information.
Some magazines do run “Isn’t This Cool?” articles. For example, magazines for hobbyists love to run interesting facts about their hobby — how it developed, who’s doing interesting things with it, and why some aspects of the hobby are the way they are. Maybe a magazine for train enthusiasts would want to run an interesting fact on how train schedules are developed. And I once wrote an article about the world’s largest marble collection for a collectors’ magazine.
But for most markets, you’ll want to go beyond a cool fact. Dig until you figure out what makes this fact relevant to the readers of the pubs you want to pitch.
Sometimes, this means the idea you pitch will barely resemble the one you first thought of. And that’s okay! That’s how the idea process works. You get what I call the “seed” of an idea, and when you nurture it, it grows into something useful and beautiful that doesn’t look anything like the original seed.
How about you…do you have an “Isn’t That Cool?” idea you’ve tried to pitch? How do you think you can reslant it to be more salable? Let us know in the Comments below!
Photo by US Army, Cpl. Hwang Joon-hyun, Yongsan Public Affairs
Why do you offer storytime at your library?
Is it just for entertainment? Is it to give kids and parents something to do? Is it to get them to step inside the library? Is it just because you’ve always offered storytime? Is it because storytime is what libraries have?
I really try to remain nonjudgmental about everyone’s library offerings for youth. Every community is different and libraries need to be doing what’s right for their community. It means that not every library will or should offer the same programs and services.
But the purposefulness of storytime is where I draw the line.
Every community with young children needs programs to help them succeed in school. And that’s exactly what storytime brings to the table.
I cringe when I hear a librarian say that his or her storytimes are for entertainment.
Yes, storytimes are entertaining. Yes, they give kids and parents something to do. Yes, they are generally something public libraries are expected to offer. But storytimes are so much more. And we need to be saying that at every opportunity to everyone who asks.
As I have educated myself and my staff about early literacy and child development, it’s become imperative that every early childhood program we’re offering at the library is based on developing early literacy and school readiness skills. Every activity we include is there for a reason and if a parent asked why we chose that activity, we could tell him or her what skill we’re learning or practicing.
We are professionals. You are a professional. Don’t sell yourself short.
And the best thing? The very best thing?? You’re already providing these skill-building activities in your storytimes. I guarantee it.
Singing? You’re developing phonological awareness – helping children hear that words are made up of smaller sounds. Teaching rhythm helps children learn to think spatially (math skills!).
Reading stories? You’re encouraging print motivation – getting kids excited to read by sharing fun stories with them. You’re demonstrating how a book works: how you open it, how you turn the pages.
Doing a craft? You’re helping young children practice fine motor skills that they will use when they learn to write. Maybe they’re practicing following directions. Maybe they’re unleashing their creativity.
Bringing out some toys for play time? Play is a wonderful learning activity for children. Playing with children encourages oral communication, which leads to children hearing and learning more and more words.
You’re already doing all these beneficial activities naturally in your early childhood programs. But many people (parents, community stakeholders, maybe your director, maybe your trustees) don’t know that having fun in storytime is actually an essential learning experience. It’s our job to tell them that. And that’s how we get to keep our jobs.
“Entertainment” can easily be found elsewhere. But free programs that build early literacy and school readiness skills don’t grow on trees.
We know we have the most fun in the library. But we’re not doing storytime just for the fun of it.
Not sure how to explain the cognitive benefits of your storytime program? Check out some of the following resources to get started:
Ah, back home and time to relax. Long weeks are brutal. Is that the television you hear? Well you haven’t been home all day so you decide to check it out, thinking you left it on. As you enter the room you see the television is indeed on. And you’re already sitting there watching it. What’s going on here?
Apple has released its top selling books list for paid books from iBooks in the U.S. for week ending 9/1/14. If I Stay by Gayle Formancontinues to lead the list, followed by Mean Streak by Sandra Brown.
We’ve included Apple’s entire list after the jump. (more…)