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1. Crisis and the Universal Story

Beware: Do not succumb to a personal crisis as protagonist reaches darkest moment. Evoke the emotion in your writing

The recent tweet elicited a question by Laura: What do you mean by this? This is intriguing.

Way back in January 2013, in honor of the release of my most recent PW book: The Plot Whisperer Book of Prompts: Easy Exercises to Get You Writing (a Story with Plot from Beginning to End), I began writing a new novel using one or more prompts everyday. I invited you to join me in writing a story with a plot from beginning to end. Weekly, I shared insights into the creation and significance of the prompts.

On a personal level, writing gave me an escape from what was more and more becoming a disastrous living arrangement. Without going into detail, my life was falling apart.

As I approached the 3/4 mark writing my novel, the prompts daily drew me page-by-page nearer to the moment of disaster, crisis, dark night of what was developing into quite a dark story. My emotional state, refusing to accept any more drama, pain, hurt, betrayal, shame, disappointment, resisted. I stopped writing the story.

I couldn't, however, stop the personal crisis that had been growing incident by incident into a full-blown mess, stripping me of all the truths I'd lived my entire life and leaving me alone to sort through tattered illusions, every one of them.

After more than a year and lots of work and thanks in large part to my belief and understanding of the Universal Story, I've found peace. Finally, I'm ready to finish following the prompts to the end of The Plot Whisperer Book of Prompts: Easy Exercises to Get You Writing (a Story with Plot from Beginning to End) and not only write the crisis of my novel, write her triumph while fully embracing my own.

I invite you to join me. Dig out that story you never moved beyond the middle. That story you gave up when the middle muddled, the crisis loomed, the end mocked you, find it and dust it off. I'm taking this weekend to drag out my notes, organize the Plot Planner and my writing cave. I'm not going to read what I've already written. I know what's waiting and am finally ready to face and write the inevitable. Join me.

***Laura, this is just one example of what I mean by not letting a personal crisis strike. I write in depth about how your writing life often parallels your story development in The Plot Whisperer: Secrets of Story Structure Any Writer Can Master.

Today I write!
~~~~~~~~
For plot help:
Read my Plot Whisperer books for writers

Watch Plot Video Workshops Series:
Facebook group ask questions that come up in either series and share your progress.

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2. The Lovesome Book For Little Folk

The lovesome book for little folks

Nid-Nod said the daisies,
Nid-Nod the whispering breeze, Nid-Nod crooned the birdies - Nid-Nod the rustling trees. Nid - Nod winked the little stars in the soft evening light.The whole big world's a Nodding - Nid-Nod Nid-Nod goodnight.



This is a glorious collection of stories, poems, songs and prayers. There are games to play and things to do. Published by The Epworth Press, London, undated but c1953.


The stories include Betty and the dream man by Chris G Temple, The lost thimble by Elizabeth Gould Binks's tail by P. B. Longson, Seeing the world by Dorothy MacNulty, and Two grey kittens by Ruth Ainsworth.



One of four pretty endpapers 

Come on in...

there is lots to see.

Heather and Geoffrey obviously loved The Lovesome Book

they spent a great deal of time colouring in the pictures and completing the dot-to-dots. I think mummy might have helped with the spots on the giraffe. 

Smiling comes easily when looking at this gorgeous book. 

Dandy the circus dog demonstrating one of his tricks. 

More pretty pictures

Songs and prayers


Excellent colouring in


A bedtime story...
Nid-Nod said the daisies, Nid-Nod the whispering breeze, Nid-Nod crooned the birdies - Nid-Nod the rustling trees. Nid - Nod winked the little stars in the soft evening light.The whole big world's a Nodding - Nid-Nod Nid-Nod goodnight.

The Lovesome Book For Little Folk

Thank you for your visit...

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3. An Interview with Meryl Gordon, Author of The Phantom of Fifth Avenue: The Mysterious Life and Death of Heiress, Huguette Clark

Just as the world thought they had seen the last of the great tabloid trials in 2009 when Brooke Astor’s son was found guilty of looting his philanthropist mother’s estate of millions, two years later another equally contentious case made its way into the New York Court System.

—by Sharon Hazard

In the fall of 2011 long-lost relatives of the reclusive heiress, Huguette Clark marched into Manhattan Surrogate’s Court on Chambers Street seeking a share of her millions and for the next two and a half years, author Meryl Gordon was there to witness it all. No stranger to the system, Gordon had covered the Brooke Astor circus and had written a book, Mrs. Astor Regrets: The Hidden Betrayals of a Family Beyond Reproach, based on her astute observations of the famous trial and the cast of characters involved.

Meryl_Gordon_credit_Nina_Subin    gordon.phantomoffifth.hcAccording to Gordon, “When 104- year-old Huguette Clark’s obituary appeared on page one of the New York Times on May 25, 2011, her publisher, Grand Central called. Since my first book, had centered on the final years of another memorable Social Register centenarian, they thought of me for this project, which would come to be titled, The Phantom of Fifth Avenue: The Mysterious Life and Mysterious Death of Heiress Huguette Clark.”

Three years later, after many interviews and a massive amount of research, Gordon had the manuscript ready, or so she thought. The author said, “I actually wrote two entirely different versions of the book.” The first one had the usual suspects, well-meaning relatives, loyal care-givers, a lawyer and accountant under investigation for mismanaging Huguette’s affairs and the star witness, Hadassah Peri, Clark’s long-time caregiver who was primed to inherit the bulk of the Clark Family fortune.

Then came a delectable dilemma that any investigative writer would find hard to pass up. More research became available to her. Seventy-six boxes chock full of archival material removed from Huguette Clark’s Fifth Avenue apartment filled-with tell-tale tidbits of information that would put a new spin on her story.

The litigators presenting the case recognized Gordon as a well-respected journalist and director of Magazine Writing at New York University and knew she would give a balanced account of the proceedings. After four sets of lawyers signed off, Gordon was allowed several days to go through mountains of new information revealing intimate details about the woman who for the last twenty years had chosen to hide from the world in a drab hospital room in New York City while still owning three sprawling apartments on Fifth Avenue, a 23-acre oceanfront compound in Santa Barbara, California, original artwork, rare antique furnishings and jewelry worth millions.

After sifting through each box and reading Clark’s personal diary, love letters, many of which were in French and seeing receipts dating back to the 1930s for jewelry purchased at Cartier’s, Gordon knew she had to begin revising her book about Huguette who hadn’t seen her relatives since 1968 nor stepped outside her hospital room since 1981. Now on the Los Angeles Times Bestseller List, the Phantom of Fifth Avenue is both a biography and the story of the high-stakes fight over Huguette Clark’s $300 million fortune.

About writing the book, Gordon noted, “I was able to talk to virtually all the key players in this legal battle and I have tried to explain how Huguette’s unusual life-choices and complicated relationships led to this public drama.”

Gordon said, “Going into this project I knew very little other than what the tabloids were reporting about this mysterious millionairess, but as I got to know Huguette Clark, the woman born in Paris in 1906 and raised in a 121- room Beaux Arts mansion on Fifth Avenue through her own words, I found her to be a warm and talented person and I had affection for her at the end.”

What began as a courtroom tell-all ended up exposing a very private person as a personality worth far more than the millions left to her by her father, Senator William Andrews Clark. The copper magnate was the second richest man in America when he died in 1925.

Gordon said, “Huguette wanted to make everyone around her happy, even if it cost her a fortune.”

 

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4. On Neighborliness, “Balance,” and the Unpredictable Timing of Creativity: A Note to Myself (and You, Too, If You Need It)

The ideal circumstances in which you can create include ample free time, an absence of worries, and at least one enthusiastic supporter cheering you on. You might experience that lucky combination—or even two of the three components—once in a very long while.

In your actual life, things break, neighbors need help, and work-as-obligation fills up the hours and then the calendar. The concept of “balance” becomes a glittery myth.

You do what you can. You attend to the broken things. You take care of your neighbors (and we are all neighbors). Joyfully (or sometimes begrudgingly), you pay your dues. You wedge your creative spurts into the cracks, and you relish each happy slice.

You learn to recognize those glorious moments when everything falls into place in spite of the circumstances, and then you get busy. You make hay—or poems or paintings or pots—while the sun shines.

You do your best. And you know what, kiddo?

That’s enough.

The quarry road tumbles toward me
out of the early morning darkness,
lustrous with frost, an unrolled bolt
of softly glowing fabric, interwoven
with tiny glass beads on silver thread,
the cloth spilled out and then lovingly
smoothed by my father’s hand
as he stands behind his wooden counter
(dark as these fields) at Tilden’s Store
so many years ago. “Here,” he says smiling,
“you can make something special with this.”
Ted Kooser, Winter Morning Walks: One Hundred Postcards to Jim Harrison

Book Giveaway reminder:
Enter by September 26 for a chance to win an autographed copy of Barbara Krasner’s picture book biography Goldie Takes a Stand!

Today’s Poetry Friday Roundup is at The Poem Farm. Enjoy!

JoAnn Early Macken

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5. FilmNation Entertainment to Adapt ‘The Undertaking of Lily Chen’ Into a Chinese-Language Movie

Lily ChenFilmNation Entertainment has picked up the movie rights to Danica Novgorodoff’s The Undertaking of Lily Chen.

The studio plans to adapt the story into a Chinese-language film. Brendan Deneen, executive editor of the Macmillan Entertainment Group, and Mark Siegel, editorial director of the First Second imprint, will serve as executive producers.

According to Variety, Novgorodoff drew inspiration from an article in The Economist about the Chinese tradition of port-mortem marriage. Follow this link to see pages from the book on Novgorodoff’s website.

New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

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6. Your Sleepy Hollow Season 1 Recap

Stacy Whitman, Publisher of Tu Books, Stacy Whitman photoexplains why she loves Sleepy Hollow and tells us what we need to know to jump into season 2 next week. Spoilers ahead, so beware!

I never really considered myself a fan of the original Washington Irving “Sleepy Hollow” tale. It scared me as a kid, and not in a good way.

So when I started seeing posters advertising the show last year, I shrugged, despite the fact that the show was going to star a woman of color in a lead role.

As I heard people talk about how wonderful the show was, I caught up on the first few episodes and quickly became a Sleepyhead (as we fans call ourselves), spurred on by the storytelling in the show itself and the fun that actor Orlando Jones created for us as he fangirled his own show on the Internet.

If you didn’t quite get the show when it first started, we understand. We’ve been there. But that doesn’t mean that you need to miss out on all the fun this year. Sleepy Hollow is not only one of the most diverse dramas on network TV right now, it’s also one of the most fun. Come over to the dark side and become a Sleepyhead – you won’t regret it!

Note: If you have Hulu Plus and a wide-open weekend, we recommend you stop reading right now and just go binge watch entire first season on Hulu Plus right now (or just the pilot, which is available to everyone). Or, if you need a TL;DR right now (stands for too long, didn’t read) you can just check out this clip from Fox that will catch you up in 60 seconds:

Otherwise, read on for our highlights!

The Characters

Ichabod Crane: British, but fought with the Patriots in the Revolutionary War. During a Revolutionary War battle, Crane sees a masked Redcoat (the Horseman, we discover) coming at him. The Redcoat deals him a lethal blow, but Ichabod is able to cut off the man’s head before he collapses. Several hundred years later (welcome to 2013!), Ichabod wakes up in a cave and digs himself out of his own grave.

Lt. Abbie Mills: Sheriff’s Lieutenant in the quiet town of Sleepy Hollow, Abbie is preparing to leave for Quantico to join the FBI when she witnesses the murder of her Sheriff by the Headless Horseman. Skeptical by nature, a series of strange happenings convinces Abbie that there’s no need to head to Quantico: there is plenty of trouble afoot right in Sleepy Hollow. 

Captain Frank Irving: Abbie’s boss. Captain Irving at first denies that anything supernatural is going down in Sleepy Hollow. He can’t stay in denial forever, though…and may know more than he’s letting on.

 Andy Brooks: Abbie’s coworker Andy (played by the always lovable John Cho) is killed off in the very first episode, but death can’t keep him away. In subsequent episodes Brooks returns, as an agent of the Headless Horseman who, once in a while, is still able to protect Abbie.

Katrina Crane: Ichabod’s dead wife is a witch and trapped in Purgatory. She’s giving him visions from beyond the grave to help him figure out why he was awakened along with the Headless Horseman.

Jenny Mills: Abbie’s sister. Jenny was put into a mental institution years ago after she admitted to seeing a strange demon as a teenager. She may be the only one in Sleepy Hollow who’s not a little bit crazy, though.

Sleepy Hollow 1

What You Need to Know

 The answers are found in Washington’s Bible. This one keeps coming up, so take note.

The Headless Horseman is Death, the first Horseman of the Apocalypse. His goal is to bring about the end of the world, with as much misery and mischief along the way as possible. Ichabod and Abbie are the two witnesses spoken of in the Book of Revelation, and their job is to see the signs of and hopefully be able to prevent the return of the Four Horsemen who wish to usher in the Apocalypse.

The demon Abbie and Jenny saw as teens was the start. This event turns out to be the beginning of the end—the start of this round of machinations to end the world. Only Jenny admitted to seeing the demon (landing herself in a mental institution) and she becomes an important link between Abbie, Ichabod, and Moloch, the demon putting everything into motion.

Ichabod and the Horseman are linked. This I tell ya, brother/ Can’t kill one without the other…

The Horseman is actually…Arthur. Who’s Arthur? Some chump who used to be Ichabod’s best friend and Katrina’s former fiancé, back in the day. Katrina left him and later fell in love with Ichabod. Arthur, in his fury, agreed to become Death. The world would have ended back then had it not been for Ichabod killing him in battle. Talk about a bad end to a love triangle.

Katrina had a son by Ichabod. He didn’t know it at the time of his (not permanent) death, though. That son was whisked away by Abbie’s ancestors, only to end up buried alive. His name is Sleepy Hollow 2Jeremy.

There is a way to unlink Ichabod and the Horseman. A person called a Sin Eater has the ability to literally eat someone’s sin, and I honestly have no idea how this unlinks Ichabod from him, but it does.

The Sin Eater in question is Henry Parrish, who all along has seemed to be an ally in the fight against Moloch, but in the very last episode, we come to find out he’s … not such a nice guy. In fact, he’s Jeremy, Katrina and Ichabod’s son, with a lot of power and a lot of parental resentment. He helps Ichabod and Abbie enter Purgatory to rescue Katrina, but it all goes wrong, and as Ichabod and Katrina leave Purgatory—leaving Abbie behind there—Jeremy reveals his true nature as the Horseman of War. He whisks his mother off to Moloch and buries Ichabod alive…

And now you’re where we all are, two Horsemen down, and waiting for next Monday with bated breath! Join us as we live-tweet our reactions to the season 2 premiere on Monday on @leeandlow and @tubooks!


Filed under: Educator Resources Tagged: diverse television, pop culture, Sleepy Hollow, tv

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7. Lee & Low at the Brooklyn Book Festival on Sunday, 9/21

For those who are in the New York City Area, we’ve got lots of great things happening this weekend!

On Saturday, September 20 at 10:30 am, Katheryn Russell-Brown, author of Little Melba and Her Big Trombone, will be doing a reading at the Bank Street Bookstore in New York City. More info here.

Little Melba and Her Big Trombone

LEE & LOW BOOKS will also be at the Brooklyn Book Festival this Sunday, September 21! We’re looking forward to a fun-filled day with our authors, and if you’re in the New York City area we hope you’ll stop by! We’ll be at booth #604, right next to the Columbus Statue Garden.

brooklyn book festival

Artwork from HIROMI’S HANDS, written and illustrated by Lynne Barasch

The festival is located at Brooklyn Borough Hall and Plaza, 209 Joralemon Street, Brooklyn, NY 11201.

BROOKLYN BOOK FESTIVAL SIGNINGS

monica brown10-10:45am at booth #604; 3-3:30pm at the Brooklyn Book Festival Children’s Area

Monica Brown is the author of Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match and Marisol McDonald and the Clash Bash

 

christiane kromer 11-11:45am at booth #604

Christiane Krömer is the illustrator of King For a Day

 

mark greenwoodfrane lessac12-12:30pm at the Brooklyn Book Festival Children’s Area; 1-1:45pm at booth #604

Mark Greenwood and Frané Lessac are the author and illustrator of Drummer Boy of John John

Hope to see you there!


Filed under: Activities and Events Tagged: author signings, book festival, Brooklyn, Brooklyn Book Festival

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8. Children’s Writing Workshop at Fairway Park a Big Success!

Today I conducted a simple writing workshop at Fairway Park in Miramar, FL. This was my fifth visit to the park’s after care program as a teaching artist. With the first group of 30 kids, ages 5-8, the children wrote 1-3 sentence stories entitled, “My Best Day Ever” and drew pictures to go along with their stories. Then they read them out loud to their peers. There were lots of spelling questions, and one impressive six-year-old boy seemed to know how to spell just about every word. Stories included themes about Disney trips, Christmas day presents, birthdays, family outings and getting good grades at school.

Kindergarten through second graders

This adorable five-year-old’s handwriting was perfect, as was his grammar and spelling for his birthday party Best Day Ever story.

 Sharing his artwork of a bus with superpowers with the group

Time to show off their hard work!

With the older group of 35 children, ages 9-13, the assignment was to write a letter to someone they know who has had a positive influence on them. First I read to the group a personal letter of thanks I wrote to my late grandfather as an example and so they were not the only ones pouring their hearts out.

I am happy to report that overwhelmingly the children wrote thank you letters to their parents and a few to teachers,- a few with impressive detail. Some were so incredibly thoughtful, I’m sure it will bring tears to the recipients’ eyes. It takes courage to stand up and read a personal letter to a large group of peers – especially at this age – and I’m proud of all who did!

Concentration!

Some lucky people will be receiving this kind, thoughtful letters!

A letter from a nine-year-old boy to his dad

What I learned today is that children want to be good writers. Some decided not to read their work out loud, and some others wanted me to read for them. All the children listened to the stories being read by their peers with respect. What surprised me most is that the children were excited to write by hand, although all printed and none used cursive.

The message I left with the children is, “Reading is the number one factor in determining your financial success in the future. The only way to become a good writer is to read a lot and practice writing a lot. Any worthwhile writing requires numerous revisions. No matter what career you choose down the road you’ll be a lot more successful if you are a good writer. Read what others have written and decide what you like – or don’t like – about it Then get inspired to write something amazing yourself.”

What a rewarding and fun day we all had. A big thank to Site Supervisor Randy Kaiser for inviting me back to visit today and to the dedicated teachers there who keep the children focused and learning. I look forward to another visit with Fairway kids!

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9. Can Writing Lies Expose Truth?

Author Mac Barnett gave a TED talk on “why a good book is a secret door.” Barnett revealed that his occupation is to “lie to children” otherwise known as writing children’s books. He claims that with his work, he tells “honest lies.”

Barnett shared stories about how he established his career and his insights on the power of fiction. We’ve embedded a video showcasing the entire presentation above. Share your opinion—can writing lies expose truth?

New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

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10. Interviewing Poets: Why and How

Please welcome Glenda Council Beall to the blog. She was inspired to write a guest post after reading Jeannine Hall Gailey’s post on poetry book reviews last month.

I really enjoy the guest posts on this blog, but they can only happen with your participation. If you have an idea, send it my way at robert.brewer@fwcommunity.com, and we’ll work to flesh it out. No idea is too big, too small, or too “out there.” Okay, maybe some are, but I won’t judge–and I’ll help you get it under control.

******

I enjoyed the recent post by Jeannine Hall Gailey about reviewing poetry books. Instead of reviewing poetry books, I like to interview the poet by e-mail. I write up the interview for our NCWN West blog or my own personal blog.

Readers get a more personal view of the poet, and I’ve found that today’s readers like to feel they know a writer or poet–know more than just what the blurbs on the book tell them. With social media, readers follow their favorite authors and become friends online.

Requesting an Interview

Karen Paul Holmes’ poetry book, Untying the Knot, reads almost like a memoir about the breakup of a thirty-year marriage. The honesty in the poems lends such depth that I wanted to know more and knew my readers would enjoy knowing more about this writer who openly conveyed her pain, her grief and sadness over the loss of her husband, loss of a family, and loss of three decades of what had seemed to be a good marriage.

I asked Karen for an e-mail interview and she was pleased to answer my questions. I believe that good writers must be willing to bleed on the page and that is why I was intrigued with this poet’s story. She held nothing back in her book and I knew she would do the same in an interview.

Conducting the Interview

I like to send the questions to the writer and let her answer when she has had time to think carefully about what she wants to say. If she chooses not to answer a question, that is fine. I am not an investigative reporter. My purpose is to recommend a book and an author to my readers, the same thing I would do if I were to write a review.

I post the interview with my questions and direct quotes from the poet. That way there is very little editing involved. It is raw and innocent of speculation as to what the writer wants us to know.

Here is an example of a candid response from my interview with Karen Holmes:

I didn’t set out to write those poems, nor most of the ones in Untying the Knot; they just happened. One of my friends said, “Oh now that you’ve had a tragedy, your poetry will get better.” I wince at that, but it’s probably true. My poems definitely got deeper emotionally and darker in tone. However, I also believe in trying to stay positive, so many poems have a positive spin. Some are even funny. Like I said, poetry was therapy.

In her own words, Holmes tells us more about her book and why we should read it than I could tell in a review. How can we find humor in this sad theme? The poet did use irony in a few poems, and, like the comedic actor in a drama, it helps move us along without breaking the spell created in this book.

Gracious Poets

For the past eight years, I’ve done e-mail interviews with a number of writers and poets, and I found them to be gracious and appreciative. Only one writer, Ron Rash, told me he would rather have a telephone interview than an e-mail interview and that was because he had trouble with his hands and limited his use of the keyboard.

You can read some of my interviews online. http://netwestwriters.blogspot.com/2010/01/writers-on-radio-with-joan-hetzler-host.html

http://netwestwriters.blogspot.com/2013/03/glenda-c-beall-interviews-robert-s-king.html

http://netwestwriters.blogspot.com/2013/09/author-interview-by-glenda-beall.html

 

*****

glenda_council_beallGlenda Council Beall lives in Hayesville, NC. She is owner/director of Writers Circle Around the Table. She teaches writing in the community enrichment department at Tri-County Community College and began publishing poetry in 1996. Her poems have appeared in numerous print and online journals including Wild Goose Poetry Review, Appalachian Heritage, Main Street Rag, Journal of Kentucky Studies, Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, and plenty of other fine publications. Now Might as Well be Then, her poetry chapbook from Finishing Line Press is available on Amazon.com and from City Lights Books in Sylva, NC.

Find her online at www.profilesandpedigrees.blogspot.com and www.glendacouncilbeall.blogspot.com.

Read some of her interviews here:

*****

Find more poetic goodies here:

 

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11. Cynsational News

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

2014 Longlist for the National Book Award for Young People's Literature from the National Book Foundation:

See also Gail Giles on Writing Across Mental Abilities.

More News

Asking an Editor: Hooking a Reader Early by Stacy Whitman from Lee & Low. Peek: "How do you get your writing to have that “zing” that captivates from the very beginning?" See also Stacy on Nailing the Story.

Intersectionality and Disability by Corrine Duyvis from Disability in Kid Lit. Peek: "Why is it that diversity in young adult, middle grade, and children’s literature is often represented as an either/or, without intersectionality? Characters can either be autistic or gay, for example, or a wheelchair user or Black, but rarely both."

No Name by Tim Tingle (Seventh Generation, 2014): a recommendation by Debbie Reese from American Indians in Children's Literature. Peek: "Choose your framework for sharing it: It is a basketball story; it is a realistic story of alcoholism; it is a story about the Choctaw people."

When It Comes to Creativity, Are Two Heads Better Than One? from NPR Books. Peek: "'We think of Martin Luther King and Sigmund Freud and Warren Buffett and Steve Jobs as these great solo creators, but in fact, if you look into the details of their life, they are enmeshed in relationships all the way through.'"

Not Enough Willpower to Meet Your Goals? Make Mini-Habits. By Kristi Holl from Writer's First Aid. Peek: "For me, feeling overwhelmed and getting started has always been the hardest part. Having mini goals in order to create habits is so easy."

Writers--Be Careful How You Sit from Elizabeth Spann Craig. Peek: "We thought we had the kinds of jobs where injuries might be limited to paper cuts or possibly dropping a laptop on our foot."

What Nobody Tells You About Publishing Deadlines by Cavan Scott from An Awfully Big Blog Adventure. Peek: "...deadlines can shift when you least expect it, which can have a house of cards effect."

Blasting the Canon: Teach Stories that Speak to Young Readers by Randy Ribay from The Horn Book. Peek: "Great books are published every year, whether or not they end up on some school’s curriculum or a bestseller list."

Four Tools for the Writing Parent by Joanna Roddy from Project Mayhem. Peek: "Here are four tools that have helped to ground me and other writers I know in the midst of a life that sometimes feels like it's been reduced to tantrums, skipped naps, and bleary-eyed late night feedings."

Giving Up The Giver to Hollywood: A Q&A Interview with Lois Lowry by Jessica Gross from The New York Times. Peek: "...in the book she’s 12, and in the movie she’s 16. I advised them that some of the costumes were too sexy. And so the hem was dropped a little bit."

Middle Grade & YA: Where to Draw the Line? by Judith Rosen from Publishers Weekly. Peek: "We ask booksellers across the country to weigh in."

Five Important Ways to Use Symbolism in Your Stories by Becca Puglisi from Writers Helping Writers. Peek: "How do we come up with the right symbols in the first place? What should they be symbolic of? And how do we incorporate them into our stories without making them so obvious we lose all their symbolic value?"

Marketing Tips for Authors and Agents by Elisabeth Weed from Writer Unboxed. Peek: "I’ve come to peace with the fact that there are many facets of the business which I can not control but that there’s power and autonomy in focusing on the things that we can."

On Giving Feedback by Peter Biello from Burlington Writer's Workshop. Peek: "I want to focus our attention today on one of the thorniest circumstances, and of course the one with which I have a great deal of experience, and that’s the process of giving feedback to a writer who is working on an early or late draft of an unpublished piece."

Evil, Insane, Envious and Ethical: The Four Types of Villain by K.M. Weiland from Fiction Notes. Peek: "They’re not simple black-and-white caricatures trying to lure puppies to the dark side by promising cookies. They’re real people. They might be our neighbors. Gasp! They might even be us!"

How to Hook a Literary Agent: 16 Agents Share What Gets Them Reading by Jan Lewis from Adventures in YA Publishing. Peek: "Want to get a literary agent? Tired of getting rejected?"

Soho Teen, June 2015
Diversity 101: Gay in YA by Adam Silvera from CBC Diversity. Peek: "...if you’re not gay but want to write characters who are, don’t simply turn to current gay culture to craft your character. Common mistakes include gay guys being automatically interested in fashion and Lady Gaga, and lesbian girls competing in sports or fighting all the time."

How to Publicize Your Children's Book by Paula Yoo from Lee & Low. Peek: "To my shock, this “out of the box” creative publicity idea not only worked… but it went viral."

Rejection Stamina: How Much Can You Take? by Kristi Holl from Writer's First Aid. Peek: "She (Meg Cabot) points to her own experience with rejection, and I challenge you to read this without fainting..."

The Surprising Importance of Doing Nothing by Robin LaFevers from Writer Unboxed. Peek: "...in a world where output, production, and speed are the gold standard, it’s important to remind ourselves that fast doesn’t always mean better. For some people, speed gets in the way of producing their richest, deepest, most creative work."

Picture Book Month Promotion Kit -- get ready for November!

Courage and Confidence by Kristi Holl from Writer's First Aid. Peek: "Sometimes I think we spend too much time analyzing our fears as a way to bolster our courage. Maybe–just maybe–the problem would take care of itself if we planted our seats in our seats and worked harder."

Tales of Reconciliation Rooted in Judaism by Janni Lee Simner from Arizona Jewish Post.

(Scholastic, 2014)
Join author Sharon G. Flake in Telling the World #IAMUNSTOPPABLE from The Brown Bookshelf. Peek: "On Sept. 30, my new novel, Unstoppable Octobia May, will hit bookstores nationwide. On that day I would love you and/or the young people you influence to join me in shouting out to the world that they too are unstoppable by holding up the following sign, words, image: I AM UNSTOPPABLE #UNSTOPPABLEOCTOBIAMAY.

Why Does the Opening of John Green's The Fault In Our Stars Work? by Deborah Halverson from Dear Editor. Peek: "It’s the right time to enter her life even though the action isn’t bold. John Green then startles readers with first lines that defy expectations..."

Transparency is Paramount: Consider the Source by Tanya Lee Stone from School Library Journal. Peek: "...the problem arises when I feel duped or manipulated into thinking I am reading nonfiction and discovering I am not—or worse, not being able to determine whether anything was made up, save writing to the author."

A Conversation with Norwegian Author-Illustrator Stien Hole by Julie Danielson from Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast. Peek: "I am a collector of bits and pieces that I move around and try to put together. That is what I do for a living. Like in a theater, I have a huge prop stock." Note: click the link if only to be mesmerized by Hole's art work--gorgeous and fascinating.

Cynsational Screening Room




This Week at Cynsations


More Personally

Lunch with Sarah Enni of YA Highway and First Draft at Tacos & Tequila.
My most heartfelt and enthusiastic congratulations to my former Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers advanced novel workshop student Yamile Saied Mendez on her admission to the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA in Writing for Children & Young Adults program!

Congratulations to Greg Leitich Smith and my many other friends who were selected as 2014 Featured Authors at the Texas Book Festival! Kudos also to Greg on his characters from Little Green Men at the Mercury Inn (Roaring Brook, 2014) making the 2013-2014 Yearbook Superlatives from The Horn Book. Guys Lit Wire says of the novel, "This is a cool book about friendship, about overcoming obstacles and about being open to different possibilities. The laid back first person viewpoint makes it accessible to a wide variety of readers."

Check out the cover for Things I'll Never Say: Stories of Our Secret Selves, edited by Ann Angel (Candlewick/Brilliance, 2015), which will include my short story, "Cupid's Beaux," which is set in the Tantalize-Feral universe and told from the point of view of the guardian angel Joshua.

From the promotional copy:

Fifteen top young-adult authors let us in on provocative secrets in a fascinating collection that will have readers talking.

A baby no one knows about. A dangerous hidden identity. Off-limits hookups. A parent whose problems your friends won’t understand. Everyone keeps secrets—from themselves, from their families, from their friends—and secrets have a habit of shaping the lives around them. 

Acclaimed author Ann Angel brings together some of today’s most gifted YA authors to explore, in a variety of genres, the nature of secrets: Do they make you stronger or weaker? Do they alter your world when revealed? Do they divide your life into what you'll tell and what you won't? The one thing these diverse stories share is a glimpse into the secret self we all keep hidden.

With stories by Ann Angel; Kerry Cohen; Louise Hawes; Varian Johnson; erica l. kaufman; Ron Koertge; E. M. Kokie; Chris Lynch; Kekla Magoon; Zoë Marriott; Katy Moran; J. L. Powers; Mary Ann Rodman; Cynthia Leitich Smith; and Ellen Wittlinger.

My fun link of the week: Kidlit Mashups (AKA Merged Children's Book Sequels).

The smartest one: Why You Don't Need to Rush Your Writing by Meg Rosoff from Writer Unboxed.

And the one that makes me dream: 20 Writing Residency You Should Apply for This Year.

Personal Links

Marsha Riti, Bethany Hegedus, C.S.Jennings & Amy Farrier at Austin SCBWI
Cynsational Events

P.J. Hoover will speak and sign Tut: The Story of My Immortal Life at 2 p.m. Sept. 20 at The Book Spot.

Divya Srinivasan will speak and sign Little Owl's Day at 3 p.m. Sept. 20 at BookPeople in Austin.

Lindsey Lane will speak and sign Evidence of Things Not Seen at 2 p.m. Sept. 21 at BookPeople in Austin.

Greg Leitich Smith will speak and sign at Tweens Read Sept. 27 at South Houston High School in Pasadena, Texas.

Cynthia Leitich Smith will speak on a panel "Where Are the Heroes of Color in Fantasy & Sci Fi Lit?" from 1:30 p.m. to 3 p.m. Nov. 15 at YALSA's YA Literature Symposium in Austin.

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12. Pick of the Week for MONEY and This Week’s Topic

money

Happy Friday!

After a rough week or so where Illustration Friday was partially broken, we’re thrilled to announce that we’re back and fully operational. Thanks very much for all the positive feedback and support as we worked to keep Illustration Friday alive. You are all awesome.

We’re also excited to announce this week’s topic, but first please enjoy the illustration above by Cannady Chapman, our Pick of the Week for last week’s topic of ‘MONEY’. You can also see a gallery of all the other inspiring entries here.

And of course, you can now participate in this week’s topic:

NOVELTY

Here’s how:

Step 1: Illustrate your interpretation of the current week’s topic (always viewable on the homepage).

Step 2: Post your image onto your blog / flickr / facebook, etc.

Step 3: Come back to Illustration Friday and submit your illustration (see big “Submit your illustration” button on the homepage).

Step 4: Your illustration will then be added to the participant gallery where it will be viewable along with everyone else’s from the IF community!

Also be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter and subscribe to our weekly email newsletter to keep up with our exciting community updates!

HAPPY ILLUSTRATING!

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13. Thursday Review: GIRL ON A WIRE by Gwenda Bond

Right--in the interests of full disclosure, Gwenda and I have the same agent, and we've been blog buds for a number of years, so be aware that any viewpoints herein may or may not be free of personal bias. :) I received a review copy of this book... Read the rest of this post

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14. Millennial​s: Libraries Brightest Hope?

1101130520_600Millennials tend to get a bum rap. Remember that Time magazine cover that painted them as “lazy, entitled narcissists who still live with their parents?”

They’re the ME ME ME generation, the cover reads, but then boldly proclaims “why they’ll save us all.”

Yes the cover girl may have been pictured with an iPhone in her hand, but chances are she had a library card in her back pocket.

Could libraries be among the first of the Millennials heroic conquests?

According to a new report from the Pew Research Center Internet Project the answer is a hopeful perhaps. (more…)

New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

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15. Craft of Writing: From Pantser To Planner: How I Changed My Writing Style by Victoria Strauss


We are incredibly pleased and tickled pink to have Victoria Strauss on the blog today discussing some amazing writing techniques. Victoria is the widely acclaimed author of many young adult and adult novels and her advice is something to watch out for.

From Pantser To Planner: How I Changed My Writing Style by Victoria Strauss


I'm the original pantser. I hate planning and preparing. I'd rather just dive into whatever it is and learn as I go. This has gotten me into some messes, as you can imagine. Deciding to refinish a table and realizing halfway through that you really ought to know how to work with furniture stripper is not a recipe for a happy outcome.

Once upon a time, that was also how I wrote.

Nearly all my books require some degree of preliminary research. But after investing that initial effort, I just want to get on with the actual creation. When I first began writing, I'd start out with a premise, a setting, a compelling image for the beginning, and a definite plan for the end. The rest was a blank canvas that I couldn't wait to fill, discovering the bones of the story as I wrote it.

The problem was that the story never fell organically into place. I'd get interesting ideas for characters and scenes and plot points that sometimes worked, but often took me down irrelevant byways or banged me up against dead ends. Somewhere around the middle of the book (which never turned out to match any of the hazy ideas I might have had at the outset), I would realize that I’d gotten to a place that didn't fit either my planned ending or my already-written beginning, and be faced with the choice of throwing out a lot of material or making major changes to my basic concept. You'd think, since my concept was so nebulous, I wouldn't have a problem tossing it; but those strong beginning and ending images were (and still are) the essence of the book for me, what made me want to write it in the first place. I could never bring myself to abandon them.

In the end I always managed to pull it together. But it was exhausting and frustrating to do so much backtracking and re-writing, and with each book the process seemed to become messier. By my third novel, I felt that I was doing more fixing than creating--and if you do too much fixing, the seams start to show. Writing by the seat of my pants clearly wasn't working for me. I realized that if I wanted to continue with my writing career, something had to change.

So I decided to turn myself into a planner. No more pantsing. No more blank canvas. I'd discipline myself to craft my plot in advance, creating a road map to guide me all the way from A to Z.

But how to plan, exactly? Books on how to write offer a plethora of methods. Index cards. Whiteboards. Timelines. Checklists. Worksheets. Character questionnaires. Three-act structure. The Snowflake Method. Yikes.

Outlining (the kind of conventional I.A.1.a. outlining I learned in school) seemed most familiar. So for my fourth novel, that's what I decided to try. It totally did not work for me. It was too terse, too cold, too structured. Too boring.

Next I attempted a chapter-by-chapter synopsis. But that felt too arbitrary--how could I lock myself into a chapter structure before I knew the rhythm of the narrative?--and too choppy. I didn't want to jump from chapter to chapter like hopping across a series of rocks. I wanted the story to be all of a piece: to simply flow.

So I decided just to tell the story from start to finish, imagining myself speaking to a rapt audience in the warm glow of a blazing campfire, with darkness pressing all around. This approach fit me much better. It felt creative; it had flow. I still took wrong turns and stumbled down blind alleys--but it's a lot easier to fix those in a synopsis than in a manuscript. And when I was done, I had a clear path from my blazing beginning image to the ending I was dying to write.

For reasons that had nothing to do with planning, I never did finish that fourth novel. But I've used this basic method ever since. First I figure out the core of the book: premise, setting, opening and conclusion. Then I build a bare-bones road map in my head, establishing the story arc and the main characters, making sure I can travel all the way to the end without getting lost in the middle. Then I write a synopsis, fleshing out the story bones and adding detail to plot and characters, but not drilling down to the level of individual scenes (unless an image really grabs me). For a 100,000-word book, my synopses generally run about 10-12 single-spaced pages. I also do brief character sketches as I go along.*

Once I'm done with all this preparation, I file it away and never look at it again. This may seem like a waste of effort. But writing from memory, without paying slavish attention to a plan, gives my pantser's soul the flexibility it needs, allowing room for change and inspiration, for those "aha" moments that, for me, are the most exciting part of writing. Because I do have a plan, however--because I've fallen into most of the holes and backtracked out of most of the dead ends in advance--I don't veer off track the way I used to; and where I do diverge, it's productive rather than destructive. My finished books nearly always differ in significant ways from my initial road map. But the important plot turns don't change.

This melding of planning and improvisation is the best balance I've found between the creative license I crave and the structure I need.

Changing my approach to writing has also taught me something important about writing itself: there is no "correct" or "best" way of doing things--only what's best for you. I can't count the number of times I've heard that planning destroys inspiration, or that only hack writers plan, or that real creativity is letting the story find you, not the other way around. Conversely, most of the highly-recommended planning techniques I tried felt too constraining or too boring.

Trial and error is the key. Don't be afraid to experiment. If something isn't working for you, don't be afraid to abandon it and try something new. It took me a long time, and many mistakes, to figure out my ideal method. But eventually I found my way.

You will too.

* If worldbuilding is needed, as with my fantasy novels, I work that out in between the in-my-head planning and the written synopsis (I've written about my worldbuilding method here: http://www.victoriastrauss.com/advice/world-building/).

About The Author


Victoria is the author of nine novels for adults and young adults, including the Stone fantasy duology (The Arm of the Stone and The Garden of the Stone) and Passion Blue and Color Song, a pair of historical novels for teens. In addition, she has written a handful of short stories, hundreds of book reviews, and a number of articles on writing and publishing that have appeared in Writer’s Digest, among others. In 2006, Victoria served as a judge for the World Fantasy Awards.

Victoria is the co-founder, with Ann Crispin, of Writer Beware, a publishing industry watchdog group that provides information and warnings about the many scams and schemes that threaten writers. She received the Service to SFWA Award in 2009 for my work with Writer Beware.

Victoria lives in Amherst, Massachusetts.

Website | Twitter | Goodreads

ABOUT THE BOOK


Color Song
by Victoria Strauss
Hardcover
Skyscape
Released 9/16/2014

By the author of the acclaimed "Passion Blue," a "Kirkus Reviews" Best Teen Book of 2012 and "a rare, rewarding, sumptuous exploration of artistic passion," comes a fascinating companion novel.

Artistically brilliant, Giulia is blessed?or cursed?with a spirit's gift: she can hear the mysterious singing of the colors as she creates them in the convent workshop of Maestra Humilit?. It's here that Giulia, forced into the convent against her will, has found unexpected happiness and rekindled her passion to become a painter?an impossible dream for any woman in 15th century Italy.

But when a dying Humilit? bequeaths Giulia her most prized possession?the secret formula for the luminously beautiful paint called Passion blue?Giulia realizes she's in danger from those who have long coveted the famous color. Faced with the prospect of a life in the convent barred from painting as punishment for keeping Humilit s secret, Giulia is struck by a desperate idea: What if she disguises herself as a boy? Could she make her way to Venice and find work as an artist's apprentice?

Along with the truth of who she is, Giulia carries more dangerous secrets: the exquisite voices of her paint colors and the formula for Humilit s Passion blue. And Venice, she discovers, with its gilded palazzos and masked balls, has secrets of its own. Trapped in her false identity in this dream-like place where reality and reflection are easily confused, and where art and ambition, love and deception hover like dense fog, can Giulia find her way?

This stunning, compelling novel explores timeless themes of love and illusion, gender and identity as it asks the question: what does it mean to risk everything to pursue your passion?

Purchase Color Song at Amazon
Purchase Color Song at IndieBound
View Color Song on Goodreads


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16. VIDEO: Neil Patrick Harris Demonstrates How His Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Book Works

Tony Award-winning actor Neil Patrick Harris stars in a trailer for his forthcoming imaginative nonfiction book, Choose Your Own Autobiography.

In the video embedded above, Harris sings his Hedwig & The Angry Inch show warm-up routine, sinks into quicksand, and performs several other outlandish acts—what do you think?

Crown Archetype, an imprint at Penguin Random House, will release this unconventional memoir on October 14, 2014.

New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

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17. When 3rd Place is Good. Empowering Students in the Library.

One reason I love my high school  library job is that I don’t have to tell people what to do all day.  Sure, I’m always checking passes, giving instructions and directions, or pointing the way to obtain the desired outcome.  But, when a teen walks through the doors of our school library the decision about what to do next is totally up to them.  It is so unlike walking into a classroom where the next 90 minutes are highly structured and choices are circumscribed.  The ability to provide an intellectually stimulating environment where teens get to make the choice of what to do next is empowering for our young people and deserves to be protected.

The high school library is one of the few places where students are given decision-making power.  Sure, it is the decision-making power over their own actions, but, that is where empowerment starts.  When they walk through that library door, decisions await.  Where to sit, computer or table?  Do they need to work, or socialize a bit?  Should they listen to music while they work independently, or work with a group of classmates? Do they want to work with a group of our coders on the 3D printer or lounge in a comfy chair and read a magazine?  Perhaps they stayed up late studying last night and just need to take a nap. The library is one of the few places on the high school campus where students can be self-directed.

The library is the third place for our teens.  Described by Ray Oldenburg as neither work (classroom) or home the third place is where community building and a sense of place are fostered and nourished.  I say it is also a place where youth empowerment occurs.  In our library, where teens have choices and can create their own culture we have helped to foster this third place.  It is the place where the 3C’s of the 21st Century learning paradigm come together: communication, collaboration and creativity.

In a time when school and district administrators, as well as city government, want to defund  libraries, eliminate staff and cut hours it is time for librarians to show that keeping libraries open and accessible is valuable. Just because many of our students research online and are collections are more digital than ever, school libraries remain that third place where students can become creators rather than just consumers.  School libraries and teen libraries are that place where kids can meet, create, and communicate.  In fact, it is one of the few places left for students to be able to do this and we owe it to them to keep our libraries open and staffed.

 

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18. GalleyCat Editor Takes Maternity Leave

gclogosmall.jpgThis GalleyCat editor is about to have a new baby. I’ll be taking for a couple of months to adjust to life with a newborn and a toddler.

During this break, the site will be in the capable hands of GalleyCat contributors Maryann Yin and Claire Davis. Email them with any story ideas or releases.

I will return later this fall, just as things get exciting with holiday book releases and The National Book Awards!

New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

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19. Cameron Boyce, Take Two

cameron_boyce_iconCameron Boyce, a.k.a. Luke from Jessie!KARAN BRAR, CAMERON BOYCE

photo courtesy Disney Channel

Q: So how is it working with everyone, including the lizard?

Cameron: The lizard’s name is Frank, and he is a dude. He’s pretty slow and he is not very intimidating. You think that he can run after you and eat you, but he’s really slow. He’s a big boy!

Q: What kind of stuff do you get from the fans?

Cameron: I get a lot of funny letters. The cutest ones I get are from really little girls, because they are full of misspelled words and words are backwards. They all pretty much say, “You’re cute . . . I like you a lot!” I also get a lot of things in the mail . . . like bracelets. I get a lot of bracelets. I got a stuffed Koala from Georgia.

Did you read our earlier interview with Cameron

? Be sure to check that out, and also don’t miss our interview with his castmate Karan Brar (and take our Jessie Would You Rather quiz)! Are you excited to see what happens with Luke next? Are you a Jessie fan? What kind of fan mail would YOU send Cameron? Share your thoughts in the Comments below!

See y’all around,

image from kids.scholastic.com — En-Szu, STACKS Staffer

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20. Poetry Friday - Saved From the Discard Pile

I've frequented some library sales and second hand bookstores recently and have added some lovely titles to my poetry collection. Today I'm sharing two poems from the book Sweet Corn: Poems by James Stevenson.

Screen Door

When fog blurs the morning,
Porches glisten, shingles drip.
Droplets gather on the green screen door.
"Look," they say to one another.
"Look how dry it is inside."


Ladder

The ladder leaning against the barn
Is like the man who used to use it:
Strong at the beginning,
Okay in the middle,
A few rungs missing at the end.


Poem ©James Stevenson. All rights reserved.


I do hope you'll take some time to check out all the wonderful poetic things being shared and collected today by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater at The Poem Farm. Happy poetry Friday friends!

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21. TURNING PAGES: THE SCANDALOUS SISTERHOOD OF PRICKWILLOW PLACE, by Julie Berrey

My poppets, gather round, do! There's a simply scandalous novel you must sit down and read, right away! It's a school story - boarding school. It's set in the Victorian era. There are stern spinsters, callow boys, naughty dogs, and ...dead bodies... Read the rest of this post

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22. Audible.com Picks Out a Boyfriend For You

shutterstock_94460545Need a boyfriend this fall? You can forget Cragislist. If you can’t find the man of your dreams, he might just be out there somewhere—in the pages of a book. Or in this case, between your ear buds. Courtesy of Audible.com, we bring you five bachelors to choose from:

1. Will Blakelee in The Last Song, by Nicholas Sparks

Will’s loyalty to Ronnie Miller remains strong in the end of this novel from classic chick lit author Nicholas Sparks. Connecting over family tragedy, Will is there for Ronnie in the end when she most needs him to be by sacrificing his own opportunities. (more…)

New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

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23. Comics Illustrator of the Week :: Michael Del Mundo

 

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Michael Del Mundo is an artist who’s responsible for so many great comic book covers of late, but I didn’t realize, until recently, who he was. The new Marvel Now Elektra series features both cover art, and interiors by Del Mundo, and it’s received a ton of well deserved critical acclaim. In fact, he, and writer William H. Blackman have impressed Marvel so much with their work that they’ve been promised another project once Elektra ends.

Del Mundo has brought the same unconventional, and dynamic style to his interior artwork, that has made his covers so memorable. I’m looking forward to see what comes next for this exciting, young artist!

Michael Del Mundo is from the Philippines, and currently lives in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. You can follow his blog here.

For more comics related art, you can follow me on my website comicstavern.com - Andy Yates

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24. YALSAblog Tweets of the Week – September 19, 2014

A short list of tweets from the past week of interest to teens and the library staff that work with them.

Do you have a favorite Tweet from the past week? If so add it in the comments for this post. Or, if you read a Twitter post between September 19 – September 15 that you think is a must for the next Tweets of the Week send a direct or @ message to lbraun2000 on Twitter.

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25. Matt Smith Cast in ‘Pride & Prejudice & Zombies’ Adaptation

ppzActor Matt Smith has been cast in the Pride & Prejudice & Zombies film adaptation. Smith is best known for playing the Eleventh Doctor on the Dr. Who TV series.

The book was originally envisioned by author Seth Grahame-Smith who transformed Jane Austen’s beloved novel into a mash-up story. Quirk Books released the book back in January 2008.

Here’s more from The Hollywood Reporter: “The long-in-the-works, on-and-off again project is finally going before cameras Sept. 24 with a cast that includes Lily James, Sam Riley, Jack Huston, Bella Heathcote, and Douglas Booth. Burr Steers is behind the camera.”

New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

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