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1. The Onion Parodies The Kindle


New Kindle Helps Readers Show Off By Shouting Title Of Book Loudly And Repeatedly

The Onion has created a video report about a fake new Kindle that supposedly shouts out the name of the book that you are reading so that you can brag about your reading list to those around you.

“With one click downloads, you can see a title you want online, press a button and within minutes let everyone around you know that you are reading that big fancy book by Joan Didion,” explains an executive in the video.

We’ve embedded the video above for you to enjoy.

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2. Wednesday Writing Workout: Charactization: Tell It Sideways, Courtesy of Sherry Shahan


Today's Wednesday Writing Workout comes to us courtesy of the talented Sherry Shahan. Sherry and I first met virtually, when she joined the New Year/New Novel (NYNN) Yahoo group I started back in 2009. I love the photo she sent for today's post--it personifies her willingness to do the tough research sometimes required for the stories she writes. As she says on her website, she has:
 "ridden on horseback into Africa’s Maasailand, hiked through a leech-infested rain forest in Australia, shivered inside a dogsled for the first part of the famed 1,049 mile Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Alaska, rode-the-foam on a long-board in Hawaii, and spun around dance floors in Havana, Cuba." 

Her research has led to more than three dozen published books, fiction and nonfiction. To keep from becoming stale, Sherry likes to mix it up—writing picture books, easy readers, middle-grade novels, and YA. She holds an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts and teaches a writing course for UCLA extension.

Her new young adult novel Skin and Bones (A. Whitman) is a quirky story set in an eating disorder unit of a metropolitan hospital. The main character “Bones” is a male teen with anorexia. He falls desperately in love with an aspiring ballerina who becomes his next deadly addiction.

The novel was inspired by a short story Sherry wrote years ago, “Iris and Jim.” It appeared in print eight times worldwide. Her agent kept encouraging her to expand “Iris and Jim” into a novel. Easy for her to say!

                                                               *          *           *

Wednesday Writing Workout 
Tell It Sideways
by Sherry Shahan

During the first draft of Skin and Bones I stumbled over a number of unexpected obstacles. How could I give a character an idiosyncratic tone without sounding flippant? Eating disorders are serious, and in too many instances, life-threatening. 

Sometimes I sprinkled facts into farcical narration. Other times statistics emerged through dialogue between prominent characters—either in an argument or by using humor. Either way, creating quirky characters felt more organic when their traits were slipped in sideways instead of straight on.

There are endless ways to introduce a character, such as telling the reader about personality:
"Mrs. Freeman could never be brought to admit herself wrong on any point." —      Flannery O'Connor, "Good Country People."
Or by detailing a character’s appearance:
"The baker wore a white apron that looked like a smock. Straps cut under his arms, went around in back and then to the front again, where they were secured under his heavy waist ."   —Raymond Carver "A Small, Good Thing"
The art of creating fully realized characters is often a challenge to new writers of fiction. As a longtime teacher I’ve noticed:

1.) Writers who use short cuts, such a clichés, which produce cardboard or stereotypical characters.
2.) Writers who stubbornly pattern the main character after themselves in a way that’s unrealistic.
3.) Writers who are so involved in working out a complicated plot that their characters don’t receive enough attention.

In Skin and Bones I let readers get to know my characters though humorous dialogue. This technique works best when characters have opposing viewpoints. 

Consider the following scene. (Note: Lard is a compulsive over-eater; Bones is anorexic.)

“I’ll never buy food shot up with hormones when I own a restaurant,” Lard said. “Chicken nuggets sound healthy enough, but they have more than three dozen ingredients—not a lot of chicken in a nugget.”

Bones put on rubber gloves in case he’d have to touch something with calories. “Can’t we talk about something else?”

“That’s the wrong attitude, man. Don’t you want to get over this shit?”

“Not at this particular moment, since it’s almost lunch and my jaw still hurts from breakfast.”

Lard shook his head. “I’m glad I don’t live inside your skin.”

“It’d be a little crowded.”

Exercise #1: Choose a scene from a work-in-progress where a new character is introduced. (Or choose one from an existing novel.) Write a paragraph about the character without using physical descriptions. Repeat for a secondary character.

Exercise #2: Give each character a strong opinion about a subject. Do Nice Girls Really Finish Last? Should Fried Food Come With a Warning? Make sure your characters have opposing positions. Next, write a paragraph from each person’s viewpoint.

Exercise #3: Using the differing viewpoints, compose a scene with humorous dialogue. Try not to be funny just for humor’s sake. See if you can weave in a piece 
of factual information (Lard’s stats. about Chicken Nuggets), along with a unique character trait (Bones wearing gloves to keep from absorbing calories through his skin.)

I hope these exercises help you think about characterization in a less conventional way. Thanks for letting me stop by!
Sherry
www.SherryShahan.com

Thank you, Sherry, for this terrific Wednesday Writing Workout! Readers, if you give these exercises a try, do let us know how they work for you.

Happy writing!
Carmela

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3. The pleasures of pagination

There are few pleasures in bookmaking greater than that moment when you're paginating a picture book text, and suddenly it all clicks.

image

I have no idea how others do it, but I make a 40 page Word document (so I can include ends—hence the “[pasted down endsheet]” tag shown above). Then, I dump in the manuscript  and work backward from the key spreads and page turns.

I find the manuscript’s dramatic high points really reveal themselves in this process, especially when you put in the page turns.

And sometimes, like the one I worked on last night, the thing just calls for one of my favorite parts:

image

Now I get six months or so of anticipating what the illustrator will do with this blank space. Delicious.

This is Vaunda Micheaux Nelson picture book, by the way. To be illustrated by the marvelous Elizabeth Zunon and designed by @carkneetoe. It’s becoming very clear in my imagination. You’re going to love it.

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4. The Sonic the Comic Convention is on Kickstarter

Adam Tuff, editor in chief of the Sonic Stadium website, has raised more than £2,200 on Kickstarter. He plans to use the funds to organize the UK’s first Sonic the Comic convention.

This event will celebrate the comics inspired by the “Sonic the Hedgehog” video games. Here’s more from the Kickstarter page:

“Although the comic was discontinued in 2002, the artwork and stories had a resonating effect with many readers, who have continued the comic in an online incarnation as Sonic the Comic – Online. The comic still continues to garner interest to present day, with many stories featured in the comic being cited by fans as some of the best written across all of the many universes of Sonic the Hedgehog.”

(more…)

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5. Teaser Trailer Unveiled For ‘The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies’

New Line Cinema has unveiled a teaser trailer for The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies. The video embedded above offers glimpses of Bilbo Baggins, Gandalf the Wizard, and the Dwarves.

Thus far, the trailer has drawn more than 127,000 “likes” on Facebook. A theatrical release date has been set for December 17, 2014. (via Slate)

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6. How to Sell Your Picture Book

jpegPitching a picture book? Things are looking up. Although the Association of American Publishers reports that book sales in the children’s/young adult segment declined from January to October 2013, many agents observed an uptick in picture book acquisitions throughout 2013 and into 2014. By no means a perfect measure, it’s nonetheless telling that approximately 400 picture book deals were announced in Publishers Marketplace in 2013 compared to approximately 300 in 2012. Still, the market is very competitive, and going head-to-head with the classics as well as new work by high-profile authors can be daunting. It needn’t be. As a literary agent specializing in children’s fiction and nonfiction, I’d like to share some observations about the current picture book market and tips for crafting picture books that sell.

********************************************************************************************************************************
This guest post is by Lara Perkins, an associate agent and digital manager at Andrea Brown Literary Agency. She represents all categories of children’s literature, from picture books through young adult. 
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Know the market.

Picture books typically hit the shelves two to five years after acquisition, so predicting current acquisition trends from new releases is difficult—as is trying to capitalize on a perceived hot trend. Yet successful new releases can suggest the larger strengths and reader appeal that publishers are seeking. For example, the success of Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site by Sherri Duskey Rinker and Tom Lichtenheld suggests stories that infuse a lulling, dreamy bedtime sweetness into active (building, traveling) daytime play are finding an audience.

The current market also reveals strong interest in character-driven stories that have series potential (Clark the Shark by Bruce Hale and Guy Francis, new classics like Ian Falconer’s Olivia) and capture a universally relatable “kid experience” in a funny, larger-than-life way (Crankenstein by Samantha Berger and Dan Santat, The Dark by Lemony Snicket and Jon Klassen, No Fits, Nilson! by Zachariah OHora). We’re also seeing interest in off-the-wall, kid-friendly humor (Dragons Love Tacos by Adam Rubin and Daniel Salmieri, The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers); stories that cleverly turn familiar relationships upside down (Nugget and Fang by Tammi Sauer and Michael Slack, Children Make Terrible Pets by Peter Brown, How to Babysit a Grandpa by Jean Reagan and Lee Wildish); and books that are seasonal but work year-round (Creepy Carrots! by Aaron Reynolds and Peter Brown, Bear Has a Story to Tell by Philip C. Stead and Erin Stead).

There’s significant interest in beautiful nonfiction picture books, biographies and others (On a Beam of Light: A Story of Albert Einstein by Jennifer Berne and Vladimir Radunsky and Nelson Mandela by Kadir Nelson).

Lovely, lyrical picture books with a hook for parents as well as kids are sought after (Once Upon a Memory by Nina Laden and Renata Liwska)—particularly for the younger set—as are innovative storytelling formats that take witty, fun narrative risks (Battle Bunny by Jon Scieszka, Mac Barnett and Matthew Myers). Many of these titles could fit more than one description as well.

Ideally, a new manuscript should share some proven strengths with recent successful picture books, while giving readers something new and fresh.

Begin with a strong idea.

Every picture book needs a plot and story structure. Even young picture books like Hervé Tullet’s Press Here, concept books, and picture books with cumulative structures like Oliver Jeffers’ Stuck or unusual formats like Battle Bunny must have tension, rising and falling action, and a satisfying final resolution.

Any story for young readers must tap into a universal childhood experience, no matter how wacky the premise. With Dragons Love Tacos, for example, hosting taco parties for dragons may not be a universal experience of childhood, but avoiding certain foods and attending parties where shenanigans ensue are. Similarly, John Rocco’s Blackout transforms a commonplace neighborhood blackout into something magical and resonant. This universality is key to winning the hearts of parents, librarians and teachers—the gatekeepers who will share your book with kids.

Childhood experiences like bedtime rituals or the first day of school are evergreen, but a fresh angle with strong kid appeal is a must. For example, many picture books deal with fear of the dark, but The Dark takes an inventive approach, personifying the dark and following the relationship arc between housemates Laszlo and the dark.

To give your story that all-important kid appeal, tell it from a child’s-eye point of view, even if your main character is a shark or President Obama. This is true even for the youngest picture books and nonfiction picture books. For example, Susan B. Katz’s and Alicia Padrón’s board book ABC Baby Me! brings readers directly into the perspective of a baby, and On a Beam of Light focuses on imagination, wonder and curiosity to bring Albert Einstein and his work to life for kids. Your main character or characters must be relatable and approach the world in a way that is recognizable to your audience.

If you’re tackling a more serious subject such as loss or grief, be honest in your treatment of the subject but keep the mood positive and reassuring for this age group. For example, the final phrase in Once Upon a Memory, “Will you remember you once were a child?” is a beautiful nod to the passage of time and inevitable end of childhood, but framed in a gentle and child-friendly way.

Keep in mind that beloved picture books are read again and again by parents and kids. For that reason, successful picture books are filled with pitch-perfect character details that readers can continue to enjoy on the 10th or 20th or 100th reading. For example, every time I read Oliver Jeffers’ This Moose Belongs to Me, I’m newly charmed by another hilarious character detail.

Craft stories that sell.

How you choose to tell your story is as important as the story you tell. Picture book texts must be lean and mean, with exceptionally tight pacing. Although word counts can soar up to 1,200–1,300 words, most picture book texts for ages 3–8 are around 250–600 words. Infant/toddler board books will be even shorter, often with just a few words per page. With no words to spare, picture books must begin in media res, with the central tension and stakes of the story or the central concept clearly evident from the opening page. For example, the first line of This Moose Belongs to Me is “Wilfred owned a moose,” which immediately establishes the central conflict and misunderstanding that drives the story.

Rhyme is understandably a hot-button issue in the picture book world, as it’s no secret that rhyming texts can be a more difficult sell in today’s market. However, skilled, creative rhyme can still sell very well (see Rinker and Lichtenheld’s Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site or Steam Train, Dream Train), and even editors and agents who are hesitant about rhyme may often be swayed by terrific, well-executed stanzas coupled with a strong story and characters.

Unfortunately, rhyme all too often masks larger issues with story, character or voice. If you write in rhyme, I re-commend also composing in prose to make sure the story and characters are compelling and fully drawn independent of the rhyming structure.

Whether you write in prose or rhyme, be thoughtful about rhythm and cadence, the musicality of language and the resulting effect on mood and tone. Picture books are meant to be read aloud, and Once Upon a Memory is just one example of how rhythm and cadence can enhance the mood of a story.

Similarly, because kids have an experimental, whole-hearted way of interacting with the world, having a child’s-eye-view approach to storytelling means employing a creative and playful use of language. For example, in Mostly Monsterly by Tammi Sauer and Scott Magoon, Sauer has fun using the most “monsterly” words possible: lurched, growled and especially the neologism monsterly!

Nothing is more fun for kids than getting the joke and being part of the story, so repeating jokes and phrases makes young readers feel like “insiders” in the best way. The key however is repetition with a difference, so the story remains surprising and forward moving. For example, in The Day the Crayons Quit, each crayon’s letter of complaint follows a similar format but has a different voice and delightfully surprising variations that keep readers hooked and the joke fresh.

Finally, picture books are like jazz collaborations. If the author does her best work and invites the illustrator to do the same, then the whole will be stronger, more surprising and more satisfying than the sum of its parts. For example, in The Dark, the dark gives Laszlo a gift that is never specified in the text, but the glowing illustration says it all. Making a dummy of your work can help you judge the illustration potential and visual rhythm of your story as a whole.

Know the competition—then submit.

If you’ve followed the advice above and done your best to craft a story that sells, look once again at successful new releases. Make sure you (and your beta readers) can articulate both why your picture book is likely to find an audience based on successful recent picture books and how you’re doing something new and different that still has major kid appeal. If you can, then chances are you’ve written a picture book that can sell in today’s upward-moving market.

V9306

Want to write and publish a picture book? 
Check out Writing Picture-Perfect Picture Books,
a bundle of the best resources on writing and
publishing picture books. Order from our shop now
at a heavily discounted price.

 Thanks for visiting The Writer’s Dig blog. For more great writing advice, click here.

********************************************************************************************************************************

brian-klems-2013Brian A. Klems is the online editor of Writer’s Digest and author of the popular gift book Oh Boy, You’re Having a Girl: A Dad’s Survival Guide to Raising Daughters.

Follow Brian on Twitter: @BrianKlems
Sign up for Brian’s free Writer’s Digest eNewsletter: WD Newsletter

 

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7. Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 273

There are only a few constants in my life: One of them is that I know I’ll share a prompt and poem on Wednesdays. I hope everyone is ready to let loose this week.

For this week’s prompt, write an outside poem. And I encourage people to actually (physically) get outside if at all possible. Now, the poem itself can be about the great outdoors, but it can also be about other iterations of the outside concept. There’s, of course, thinking outside the box, but maybe just getting outside the cubicle or outside the bedroom, hospital room, depression, addiction, and our own heads. So like I said, I hope everyone’s ready to let loose and get outside their comfort zones. Let’s poem!

2015 Poet's Market

2015 Poet’s Market

*****

Pre-order the Latest Poet’s Market!

The 2015 Poet’s Market is now available for pre-order at a discounted price. Get the most up-to-date information for publishing your poetry, including listings for book and chapbook publishers, magazines and journals, contests and awards, and more!

Plus, this edition includes information on poetic forms, poet interviews, articles on the craft and business of poetry, and so much more!

Click to continue.

******

Here’s my attempt at an Outside Poem:

“box”

everything i do must fit inside a box
whether it’s the pictures i download
words i write including my status updates

& then at the store i know the box
records my every movement to make sure
i’m not taking what i haven’t purchased yet

i feel my house wants to be a box
now that i’ve unpacked so many within
its walls releasing books dvds & paper

my poems don’t work well in a box
i tend to write them in notebooks & scribble
new stanzas line breaks & draw arrows

because it’s hard to move in a box

*****

roberttwitterimageRobert Lee Brewer is Senior Content Editor of the Writer’s Digest Writing Community and author of Solving the World’s Problems (Press 53). He loves reading poetry, writing poetry, and studying poetry–but he especially loves sharing poetry and is happy that Poetic Asides is a place that accommodates just that.

Robert thinks Wednesdays, of course, rock, because they help him write at least one poem each week. Everything above and beyond that is gravy, icing, or whatever else floats your boat.

Robert is married to the poet Tammy Foster Brewer, who helps him keep track of their five little poets (four boys and one princess). Follow him on Twitter @robertleebrewer.

*****

Find more poetic goodness here:

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8. ‘Sweet Addiction’ Stays on Top of the Self-Published Bestsellers List

Sweet Addiction by J. Daniels leads the Self-published Bestsellers List this week for the third week in a row.

To help GalleyCat readers discover self-published authors, we compile weekly lists of the top eBooks in three major marketplaces for self-published digital books: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords. You can read all the lists below, complete with links to each book.

If you want more resources as an author, try our Free Sites to Promote Your eBook post, How To Sell Your Self-Published Book in Bookstores post and our How to Pitch Your Book to Online Outlets post.

If you are an independent author looking for support, check out our free directory of people looking for writers groups. (more…)

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9. A cautionary comic for aspiring authors and illustrators

Originally published in Writer Unboxed.

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10. ‘Humans of New York’ Blogger Photographs Malcolm Gladwell

Humans of New York blogger Brandon Stanton has photographed David & Goliath author Malcolm Gladwell (pictured, via). Follow this link to see Gladwell’s picture.

Stanton posted the photo on Facebook and it has received more than 131,000 “likes.” When Stanton asked if Gladwell could share a piece of advice, he replied: “Change your mind about something significant every day.”

Some of Stanton’s past subjects from the literary community include editor Yaniv Soha, literary agent Brian DeFiore, and PostSecret book series author Frank Warren. What do you think?

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11. Humanitarian protection for unaccompanied children from Central America

By Jennifer Moore


We are approaching World Humanitarian Day, an occasion to honor the talents, struggles, and sacrifices of tens of thousands of humanitarian workers serving around the world in situations of armed conflict, political repression, and natural disaster. The nineteenth of August is also a day to recognize the tens of millions of human beings living and dying in situations of violence and displacement in West Africa, the Middle East, Central America, and every corner of the globe.

The notion of humanitarianism is linked to humanitarian law, the law of armed conflict or jus in bello, which strives to lessen the brutality of war, guided by the customary principles of distinction, necessity, proportionality, and humanity. But humanitarian workers animate these humanitarian principles on the ground in situations of human catastrophe that span the continuum of human and natural causation and overwhelm our capacity to categorize human suffering.

Today, humanitarian workers are active in every country in the world: from International Committee of the Red Cross workers in Nigeria helping displaced persons from communities attacked by Boko Haram insurgents; to UN High Commissioner for Refugees staff in Jordan and Lebanon assisting refugees from the civil war in Syria and Iraq; to Catholic Charities volunteers and staff in Las Cruces, New Mexico, United States sheltering women and children fleeing gang violence, human trafficking, and entrenched poverty in Central America.

US/Mexico border fence near Campo, California, USA. © PatrickPoendl via iStockphoto.

US/Mexico border fence near Campo, California, USA. © PatrickPoendl via iStockphoto.

Humanitarian emergencies, whether defined in military, political, economic or environmental terms, have certain basic commonalities: life and livelihood are threatened; communities and families are fractured; farms and food stores are destroyed; and people are forced to move — from village to village, from rural to urban area, from city to countryside, or from one country or continent to another.

Humanitarian workers who engage with communities in crisis are not limited to one legal toolkit. Rather, they stand on a common ground shared by humanitarian law, human rights law, and refugee law. Their life-affirming interventions remind us that all these frameworks are animated by the same fundamental concern for people in trouble. Whether we look to the 1949 Geneva Conventions and the principle of protecting the civilian population; to the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights and its norms of family unity and child welfare; to the 1951 Refugee Convention and its prohibition against the forced return or refoulement of individuals to threatened persecution; or to the enhanced protections accorded unaccompanied children in the United States under the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008, the essential rules are remarkably similar. Victims and survivors of war, repression, and other forms of violence are worthy of legal and social protection. It is humanitarian workers who strive to ensure that survivors of violence enjoy the safety, shelter, legal status, and economic opportunities that they require and deserve.

For the unaccompanied children from Central America seeking refuge in the United States, humanitarian protection signifies that they should have the opportunity to integrate into US communities, to have access to social services, to reunify with their families, and to be represented by legal counsel as they pursue valid claims to asylum and other humanitarian forms of relief from deportation. When the US Congress passed the Refugee Act in 1980, it was in recognition of our humanitarian obligations under international refugee law. As a signatory to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, the United States pledged not to penalize refugees for their lack of legal status, but rather to protect them from deportation to threatened persecution. These humanitarian obligations preexist, animate, and complement specific provisions of federal law, including those that facilitate the granting of T visas to trafficking victims, humanitarian parole to individuals in emergency situations, and asylum to refugees. When new emergencies arise, our Congress, our executive, and our courts fashion the appropriate remedies, not out of grace, but to ensure that as a nation we fulfill our obligations to people in peril.

As an American looking forward to World Humanitarian Day, I am thinking about the nearly 70,000 unaccompanied children from Central America apprehended by the US Customs and Border Protection agency over the past 10 months; the 200 Honduran, Salvadoran and Guatemalan women and children who have stayed at the Project Oak Tree shelter in the border city of Las Cruces, New Mexico this month; and the over 400 children and families detained within the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in the small town of Artesia, New Mexico this very week. These kids and their families are survivors of poverty, targets of human trafficking, victims of gang brutality, and refugees from persecution. They have much in common with the displaced children of Northern Nigeria, Syria, and Iraq. Like their counterparts working with refugees and displaced persons throughout the world, the shelter volunteers, community residents, county social workers, immigration attorneys, and federal Homeland Security personnel who help unaccompanied children from Central America in the United States are all humanitarian workers. But so are our elected officials and legislators. And so are we. How will we honor World Humanitarian Day?

Jennifer Moore is on the faculty of the University of New Mexico School of Law. She is the author of Humanitarian Law in Action within Africa (Oxford University Press 2012). Read her previous blog posts.

Oxford University Press is a leading publisher in international law, including the Max Planck Encyclopedia of Public International Law, latest titles from thought leaders in the field, and a wide range of law journals and online products. We publish original works across key areas of study, from humanitarian to international economic to environmental law, developing outstanding resources to support students, scholars, and practitioners worldwide. For the latest news, commentary, and insights follow the International Law team on Twitter @OUPIntLaw.

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12. Jump-Start Your Next Story with Two Truths and a Lie

Macbook Writing" by Håkan Dahlström Photography (Creative Commons)

The only way to be a writer is to write, right? This is the advice we give at WD, online and in the magazine. If you want to write, you must write. But sometimes getting started is difficult. Perhaps you have a fully-formed character but no idea what to do with him. Maybe your idea is a great plot, but you don’t know who the woman who must live it will be. I would argue that getting started—the actual act of sitting down and beginning something new—is the most difficult part of writing. (Your mileage may vary, of course, but for me, this is the hard part.)

Imagine my excitement this morning when I encountered the following paragraph as I read That Would Make a Good Novel by Lily King on The New York Times:

When I teach fiction I often start a workshop with one of my favorite exercises called Two Truths and a Lie. I tell my students to write the first paragraph of a short story. The first sentence of the paragraph must be true (My sister has brown hair.), the second sentence must be true (Her name is Lisa.), but the third sentence must be a lie (Yesterday she went to prison.). … The lie is the steering wheel, the gearshift and the engine. The lie takes your two true sentences and makes a left turn off road and straight into the woods. It slams the story into fifth gear and guns it.

Although this extremely useful exercise is not at all the point of King’s article, I think it deserves its own post here for those of you who, like me, have trouble with beginnings. So let’s do an exercise! This one is three-pronged:

1. Write the beginning of a story—three full sentences—using the Two Truths and a Lie method. The first two sentences must be true, and the third sentence must be a lie.

2. Carry that story out to at least 500 words. Write more if you’d like. Go wherever your lie takes you. Be ridiculous or be introspective. Whatever suits you.

3. Post your story on your blog, and leave a link here (with a title and your first three sentences to avoid being trapped in our spam filters) so that the rest of us can read it. 

BONUS: Tweet a link to your story, too! Use the hashtag #WD2Truths1Lie so we can all see your efforts.


headshotWDAdrienne Crezo is the managing editor of Writer’s Digest magazine. Follow her on Twitter at @a_crezo.

 

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13. The month that changed the world: Thursday, 30 July 1914

July 1914 was the month that changed the world. On 28 June 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated, and just five weeks later the Great Powers of Europe were at war. But how did it all happen? Historian Gordon Martel, author of The Month That Changed The World: July 1914, is blogging regularly for us over the next few weeks, giving us a week-by-week and day-by-day account of the events that led up to the First World War.

By Gordon Martel


As the day began a diplomatic solution to the crisis appeared to be within sight at last. The German chancellor had insisted that Austria agree to negotiate directly with Russia. While Germany was prepared to fulfill the obligations of its alliance with Austria, it would decline ‘to be drawn wantonly into a world conflagration by Vienna’. Bethmann Hollweg was also promising to support Sir Edward Grey’s proposed conference to mediate the dispute. He told the Austrians that their political prestige and military honour could be satisfied by an occupation of Belgrade. They could enhance their status in the Balkans while strengthening themselves against the Russians through the humiliation of Serbia.

But a third initiative, the direct line of communication between the Kaiser and the Tsar, was running aground. Attempting to reassure Wilhelm, Nicholas explained that the military measures now being undertaken had been decided upon five days ago – and only as a defence against Austria’s preparations. ‘I hope from all my heart that these measures won’t in any way interfere with your part as mediator which I greatly value.’

Theobald von Bethmann Hollweg, Chancellor of the German Empire, 1909-1917. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Theobald von Bethmann Hollweg, Chancellor of the German Empire, 1909-1917. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Wilhelm erupted. He was shocked to discover first thing on Thursday morning that the ‘military measures which have now come into force were decided five days ago’. He would no longer put any pressure on Austria: ‘I cannot agree to any more mediation’; the Tsar, while requesting mediation, ‘has at the same time secretly mobilized behind my back’.

The German ambassador in Vienna presented Bethmann’s directive to a ‘pale and silent’ Berchtold over breakfast. Austria, with guarantees of Serbia’s good behaviour in the future as part of the mediation proposal, could attain its aims ‘without unleashing a world war’. To refuse mediation completely ‘was out of the question’.

Berchtold did as he was told. He explained to the Russians that his apparent rejection of mediation talks was an unfortunate misunderstanding and that he was now prepared to discuss ‘amicably and confidentially’ all questions directly affecting their relations. He warned, however, that he would not yield on any of points in the note to Serbia.

At noon, Russia announced that it was initiating a partial mobilization. But the Austrian ambassador assured Vienna that this was a bluff: Sazonov dreaded war ‘as much as his Imperial Master’ and was attempting ‘to deprive us of the fruits of our Serbian campaign without going to Serbia’s aid if possible’.

In Berlin, the chief of the German general staff began to panic. A few hours after the Russian announcement he pleaded with the Austrians to mobilize fully against Russia and to announce this in a public proclamation. The only way to preserve Austria-Hungary was to endure a European war. ‘Germany is with you unconditionally’. Moltke promised that a German mobilization would immediately follow Austria’s.

In St. Petersburg the war minister and the chief of the general staff tried to persuade Nicholas over the telephone that partial mobilization was a mistake. The Tsar refused to budge. When Sazonov met with the Tsar at Peterhof at 3 p.m. he argued that general mobilization was essential; war was almost inevitable because the Germans were resolved to bring it about. They could easily have made the Austrians see reason if they had desired peace. The Tsar gave way. At 5 p.m. the official decree announcing general mobilization was issued.

In Paris the French cabinet was also deciding to take military steps. They agreed that – for the sake of public opinion – they must take care that ‘the Germans put themselves in the wrong’. They would try to avoid the appearance of mobilizing while consenting to at least some of the requests being made by the army. Covering troops could take up their positions along the German frontier from Luxembourg to the Vosges mountains, but were not to approach closer than 10 kilometres. No train transport was to be used, no reservists were to be called up, no horses or vehicles were to be requisitioned. Joffre, the chief of the general staff, was displeased. These measures would make it difficult to execute the offensive thrust of his war plan. Nevertheless, the orders went out at 4.55 p.m.

In London Grey bluntly rejected Bethmann’s neutrality proposal of the day before: ‘that we should bind ourselves to neutrality on such terms cannot for a moment be entertained’. Germany was asking Britain to stand by while French colonies were taken and France was beaten in exchange for Germany’s promise to refrain from taking French territory in Europe. Such a proposal was unacceptable ‘for France could be so crushed as to lose her position as a Great Power, and become subordinate to German policy’. On the other hand, if the current crisis passed and the peace of Europe preserved, Grey promised to endeavour to promote an arrangement by which Germany could be assured ‘that no hostile or aggressive policy would be pursued against her or her allies by France, Russia, and ourselves, jointly or separately’.

Shortly before midnight a telegram from King George arrived at Potsdam. Responding to an earlier telegram from the Kaiser’s brother, the King assured him that the British government was doing its utmost to persuade Russia and France to suspend further military preparations. This seemed possible ‘if Austria will consent to be satisfied with [the] occupation of Belgrade and neighbouring Servian territory as a hostage for [the] satisfactory settlement of her demands’. He urged the Kaiser to use his great influence at Vienna to induce Austria to accept this proposal and prove that Germany and Britain were working together to prevent a catastrophe.

The Kaiser ordered his brother to drive into Berlin immediately to inform Bethmann Hollweg of the news. Heinrich delivered the message to the chancellor at 1.15 a.m. and had returned to Potsdam by 2.20. Wilhelm planned to answer the King on Friday morning. The Kaiser noted, happily, that the suggestions made by the King were the same as those he had proposed to Vienna that evening.

Surely a peaceful resolution was at hand?

Gordon Martel is a leading authority on war, empire, and diplomacy in the modern age. His numerous publications include studies of the origins of the first and second world wars, modern imperialism, and the nature of diplomacy. A founding editor of The International History Review, he has taught at a number of Canadian universities, and has been a visiting professor or fellow in England, Ireland and Australia. Editor-in-chief of the five-volume Encyclopedia of War, he is also joint editor of the longstanding Seminar Studies in History series. His new book is The Month That Changed The World: July 1914.

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14. McSweeney’s Unveils Inaugural Student Short Story Contest

McSweeney’s is running its first Student Short Story Contest which encourages undergraduate and graduate students to enter their short stories for a $500 prize and the chance to be published in the August 2015 issue of McSweeney’s 51.

The contest will be judged by an author, who has yet to be revealed. Writers must be enrolled students. Stories must be under 7,500 words. Submissions are being accepted from July 30 – August 31, 2014. The entry fee costs $55 which comes with a one year subscription to the McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern.

Here is more from the McSweeney’s website: “Along with your submission, please include a brief cover letter that mentions your hometown, the college or university you attend, and your year in school. Please also include your contact information. To enter the contest online, please go here.”

 

 

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15. Education and crime over the life cycle

By Giulio Fella and Giovanni Gallipoli


Crime is a hot issue on the policy agenda in the United States. Despite a significant fall in crime levels during the 1990s, the costs to taxpayers have soared together with the prison population. The US prison population has doubled since the early 1980s and currently stands at over 2 million inmates. According to the latest World Prison Population List (ICPS, 2013), the prison population rate in 2012 stood at 716 inmates per 100,000 inhabitants, against about 480 in the United Kingdom and the Russian Federation – the two OECD countries with the next highest rates – and against a European average of 154. The rise in the prison population is not just a phenomenon in the United States. Over the last twenty years, prison population rates have grown by over 20% in almost all countries in the European Union and by at least 40% in one half of them. The pattern appears remarkably similar in other regions, with a growth of 50% in Australia, 38% in New Zealand and about 6% worldwide.

In many countries – such as the United States and Canada – this fast-paced growth has occurred against a backdrop of stable or decreasing crime rates and is mostly due to mandatory and longer prison sentencing for non-violent offenders. But how much does prison actually cost? And who goes to jail?

The average annual cost per prison inmate in the United States was close to 30,000 dollars in 2008. Costs are even higher in countries like the United Kingdom and Canada. Punishment is an expensive business. These figures have prompted a shift of interest, among both academics and policymakers, from tougher sentencing to other forms of intervention. Prison populations overwhelmingly consist of individuals with poor education and even poorer job prospects. Over 70% of US inmates in 1997 did not have a high school degree. In an influential paper, Lochner and Moretti (2004) establish a sizable negative effect of education, in particular of high school graduation, on crime. There is also a growing body of evidence on the positive effect of education subsidies on school completion rates. In light of this evidence, and given the monetary and human costs of crime, it is crucial to quantify the relative benefits of policies promoting incarceration vis-à-vis alternatives such as boosting educational attainment, and in particular high school graduation.

When it comes to reducing crime, prevention may be more efficient than punishment. Resources devoted to running jails could profitably be employed in productive activities if the same crime reduction could be achieved through prevention.

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Establishing which policies are more efficient requires a framework that accounts for individuals’ responses to alternative policies and can compare their costs and benefits. In other words, one needs a model of education and crime choices that allows for realistic heterogeneity in individuals’ labor market opportunities and propensity to engage in property crime. Crucially, this analysis must be empirically relevant and account for several features of the data, in particular for the crime response to changes in enrollment rates and the enrollment response to graduation subsidies.

The findings from this type of exercise are fairly clear and robust. For the same crime reduction, subsidizing high school graduation entails large output and efficiency gains that are absent in the case of tougher sentences. By improving the education composition of the labor force, education subsidies increase the differential between labor market and illegal returns for the average worker and reduce crime rates. The increase in average productivity is also reflected in higher aggregate output. The responses in crime rate and output are large. A subsidy equivalent to about 9% of average labor earnings during each of the last two years of high school induces almost a 10% drop in the property crime rate and a significant increase in aggregate output. The associated welfare gain for the average worker is even larger, as education subsidies weaken the link between family background and lifetime outcomes. In fact, one can show that the welfare gains are twice as large as the output gains. This compares to negligible output and welfare gains in the case of increased punishment. These results survive a variety of robustness checks and alternative assumptions about individual differences in crime propensity and labor market opportunities.

To sum up, the main message is that, although interventions which improve lifetime outcomes may take time to deliver results, given enough time they appear to be a superior way to reduce crime. We hope this research will advance the debate on the relative benefits of alternative policies.

Giulio Fella is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Economics and Finance at Queen Mary University, United Kingdom. Giovanni Gallipoli is an Associate Professor at the Vancouver School of Economics (University of British Columbia) in Canada. They are the co-authors of the paper ‘Education and Crime over the Life Cycle‘ in the Review of Economic Studies.

Review of Economic Studies aims to encourage research in theoretical and applied economics, especially by young economists. It is widely recognised as one of the core top-five economics journal, with a reputation for publishing path-breaking papers, and is essential reading for economists.

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Image credit: Prison, © rook76, via iStock Photo.

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16. Editorial Submission :: Ji Hyun Yu

Post by James

Editorial Submission :: Ji Hyun Yu

Editorial Submission :: Ji Hyun Yu

Editorial Submission :: Ji Hyun Yu

Editorial Submission :: Ji Hyun Yu

Seoul, South Korea-native Ji Hyun Yu is an illustrator currently based in Germany. She graduated from the University of Applied Sciences in Mainz, Germany with a B.A. in Communication Design and since has worked as a freelance illustrator and member of an illustration collective called “Parallel Universe”. Ji draws her inspiration from people, fashion, nature, other illustrators, designers, and creative people. She describes her work as simple, humorous, and quirky.

You can see more of Ji’s work here.

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17. Comic: So a zombie and a vampire walked into a bar...

0 Comments on Comic: So a zombie and a vampire walked into a bar... as of 7/30/2014 8:04:00 AM
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18. Comics Illustrator of the Week :: Toni Fejzula

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Serbian born artist Toni Fejzula has worked on many comics, and illustration projects in, and around his current residence of Spain. The new Dark Horse Comics series, Veil, has finally brought him to the attention of American comics fans. His artwork, with it’s unique coloring style, perfectly fits the moody atmosphere of Greg Rucka’s story.

Fejzula has contributed covers to Cthulhu, created the science-fiction album ‘Central Zéro’ at Soleil Productions, and co-created the series ‘Nephilim’ at Delcourt.

Toni Fejzula news, new project updates, and more of his awesome art can be found on his on his facebook page.

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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19. How to Write Scary by Gretchen McNeil

Here's the thing about writing horror: it's all about the set up.

We're all scared of different things.

For some people, the idea of a giant spider lurking under the bed, is enough to paralyze them with fear. For others, it's the idea of being buried alive in a close, black coffin, utterly sightless in the dark. Still others fear the darkness. Or heights. Or being abandoned in the middle of nowhere.

So many different kinds of scary. The things we fear most come in a variety of shapes and sizes, from the physical – like spiders and sharks – to the esoteric – like claustrophobia and paranoia – to the otherworldly – like demons and vampires and witches (oh my!). What scares one person might be unicorns and rainbows to someone else. But set up properly, even unicorns and rainbows can scare the crap out of you.

To me, conveying fear isn't just about describing a situation, object, or person that someone might find scary, but giving a blow-by-blow of the event and actually detailing the fear reaction in the characters.

We all know exactly what it feels like to be scared. First you have the anticipation: What's behind that closed door? What's making that scratching noise in the attic? What's lurking in the deep, dark waters? It's the tensing of muscles like you're expecting a blow, that stretching of all your senses, trying to see/feel/hear/smell danger before it pounces on you. The higher the tension is pitched, the bigger the wallop.

Next, the reveal. The door opens to expose a dead body that spills out on top of our poor heroine the moment she turns the doorknob. The scratching noise in the attic inexplicably moves through the ceiling, down the stairs and manifests in a dark, demonic entity. The dorsal fin of a great white shark breaks the surface of the water in which you're swimming. The terror has been revealed in one jarring, scream-inducing moment!

But that's not scary enough, not for the expectant reader. You need the next step in the process – experiencing the fear through the eyes of the main character. We need to feel their bodies tremble as they break out into a cold sweat. We need to hear the blood-curdling scream that explodes from their mouths. We need to internalize the sick, sinking feeling in their stomachs as death closes in around them.

And lastly, the action. Our heroine's panicked flee from the house, our hero's desperate attempt to out maneuver a man-eating shark. Will they survive? Will they escape? Hearts pound in anticipation with every turn of the page!!!!

Broken down, none of these steps in the process seems particularly scream-worthy, but strung together with pacing and tension? WHAM. Horror show.

* * *

About the Author




Gretchen McNeil's YA horror POSSESS about a teen exorcist debuted with Balzer + Bray for HarperCollins in 2011. Her follow up TEN – YA horror/suspense about ten teens trapped on a remote island with a serial killer – was a 2013 YALSA Top Ten Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers, a Romantic Times Top Pick, a Booklist Top Ten Horror Fiction for Youth, and was nominated for "Best Young Adult Contemporary Novel of 2012" by Romantic Times. Gretchen's 2013 release is 3:59, a sci-fi doppelganger horror about two girls who are the same girl in parallel dimensions who decide to switch places.

In 2014, Gretchen debuts her first series, Don't Get Mad (pitched as "John Hughes with a body count") about four very different girls who form a secret society where they get revenge on bullies and mean girls at their elite prep school. The Don't Get Mad series begins Fall 2014 with GET EVEN, followed by the sequel GET DIRTY in 2015, also with Balzer + Bray. Gretchen also contributed an essay to the Dear Teen Me anthology from Zest Books.

Gretchen is a former coloratura soprano, the voice of Mary on G4's Code Monkeys and she sings with the LA-based circus troupe Cirque Berzerk. In her spare time, she blogs with The Enchanted Inkpot and she was a founding member of the vlog group the YARebels.

Gretchen is repped by the incomparable Ginger Clark of Curtis Brown, Ltd.

Website | Twitter | Facebook


About the Book


Follows the secretive exploits of four high school juniors - Kitty, Olivia, Margot and Bree - at an exclusive Catholic prep school.

To all outward appearances, the girls barely know each other. At best, they don't move in the same social circles; at worst, they're overtly hostile.

Margot Mejia – academically ranked number two in her class, Margot is a focused overachiever bound for the Ivy League.

Kitty Wei – captain of the California state and national champion varsity girls' volleyball team, she's been recruited by a dozen colleges and has dreams of winning an Olympic gold medal.

Olivia Hayes – popular star of the drama program, she's been voted "most eligible bachelorette" two years running in the high school yearbook and has an almost lethal combination of beauty and charm.

Bree Deringer – outcast, misfit and the kind of girl you don't want to meet in a dark alley, the stop sign red-haired punk is a constant thorn in the side of teachers and school administrators alike.

Different goals, different friends, different lives, but the girls share a secret no one would ever guess. They are members of Don't Get Mad, a society specializing in seeking revenge for fellow students who have been silently victimized by their peers. Each girl has her own reason for joining the group, her own set of demons to assuage by evening the score for someone else. And though school administration is desperate to find out who is behind the DGM "events", the girls have managed to keep their secret well hidden.

That is until one of their targets – a douchebag senior who took advantage of a drunk underclassman during a house party, videotaped it on his phone, and posted it on YouTube – turns up dead, and DGM is implicated in the murder.

Now the girls don't know who to trust, and as their tenuous alliance begins to crumble, the secrets they've hidden for so long might be their ultimate undoing.

Preorder Get Even on Amazon
Find Get Even on Goodreads

** Please note: This is an updated repost. AYAP is on limited hiatus until August, with a mixture of old favorites, new posts, and new giveaways.

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20. Evernote Now Lets Users Create eBooks

The popular note taking app Evernote has a new feature that lets users produce an eBook or PDF directly from the app.

The new tool comes as part of an integration with self-publishing platform FastPencil. Users can publish a group of notes from Evernote or their entire notebook by importing the pages into FastPencil’s self-publishing platform from within the Evernote app. There is an option to edit, collate, format and create a table of contents. Once the files are ready, a writer can publish them on the web or in print through FastPencil’s partnership with Gung-Ho.

Users can also use FastPencil’s distribution network which includes Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kindle, iPad, Sony eReaders and Ingram to self-publish their titles.

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21. OverDrive Adds EPUB3 Support, Making It Easier to Read Highly Illustrated Files

OverDrive, the largest digital eBook distribution platform for libraries, is now supporting EPUB3 fixed-layout files.

This means that the platform will now be able to properly display highly-illustrated eBooks including such titles as Ancient Rome and Star Wars Jedi Battles, as well as the children’s titles Corduroy and Armadilly Chili.

“OverDrive further extends our leadership with open industry standards utilizing HTML5 along with EPUB3 to open the door to a new world of content for our library and school partners,” stated Alexis Petric-Black, Manager of Publisher Account Services at OverDrive. “The materials and solutions OverDrive partners invest in have long-term compatibility due to this use of open industry standards.”

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22. On the 95th anniversary of the Chicago Race Riots

By Elaine Lewinnek


On 27 July 1919, a black boy swam across an invisible line in the water. “By common consent and custom,” an imaginary line extending out across Lake Michigan from Chicago’s 29th Street separated the area where blacks were permitted to swim from where whites swam. Seventeen-year-old Eugene Williams crossed that line. He may have strayed across it by accident or may have challenged it on purpose. We do not know his motives because the whites on the beach reacted by throwing stones and Eugene Williams drowned. Police at the beach arrested black bystanders, infuriating other blacks so much that one black man shot at the police, who returned fire, shooting into the crowd of blacks. The violence spread from there. Over the next week, in the middle of that hot summer of 1919, 38 people died, 537 were hospitalized, and approximately 1,000 were left homeless. White and black Chicagoans fought over access to beaches, parks, streetcars, and especially residential space. The burning of houses, during this riot, inflamed passions almost as much as the killing of people. It took a rainstorm and the state militia to end the violence in July 1919, which nevertheless simmered just below the surface, erupting in smaller clashes between blacks and whites throughout the next four decades, especially every May, during Chicago’s traditional moving season.

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Family leaving damaged home after 1919 Chicago race riot by Chicago Commission on Race Relations. Negro in Chicago: The Negro in Chicago; a study of race relations and a race riot (1922). Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

The 1910s were the first decade of the Great Migration, a decade when 70,000 blacks had moved to Chicago, more than doubling the existing black population. This was also a decade when the lines of Chicago’s residential apartheid were hardening. Historically, Chicago’s blacks found homes in industrial suburbs such as Maywood and Chicago Heights, domestic service hubs such as Evanston and Glencoe, rustic owner-built suburbs such as Robbins and Dixmoor, and some recently-annexed suburban space such as Morgan Park and Lilydale. Increasingly, though, blacks were confined to a narrow four-block strip around State Street on Chicago’s South Side known as the Black Belt. Half of Chicago’s blacks lived there in 1900, while 90% of Chicago’s blacks lived there by 1930.

The Black Belt was a crowded space where two or three families often squeezed into one-room apartments, landlords neglected to repair rotting floors or hinge-less doors, schools eventually ran on shifts so that each child was educated for only half a day, and the police tolerated gamblers and brothels. It was so unhealthy that Richard Wright called it “our death sentence without a trial.” Blacks who tried to move beyond the Black Belt were met with vandalism, arson, and bomb-throwers, including 24 bombs thrown in the first half of 1919 alone.

Earlier, some Chicago neighborhoods had welcomed black homeowners, but after the First World War there was an increasingly widespread belief that blacks hurt property values. Chicago realtor L. M. Smith and his Kenwood and Hyde Park Property Owners Association spread the notion that any black moving into a neighborhood was akin to a thief, robbing that street of its property values. By the 1920s, Chicago Realtors prohibited members from introducing any new racial group into a neighborhood and encouraged the spread of restrictive covenants, legally barring blacks while also consolidating ideas of whiteness. As late as 1945, two Chicago sociologists reported that, while “English, German, Scotch, Irish, and Scandinavian have little adverse effect on property values[,] Northern Italians are considered less desirable, followed by Bohemians and Czechs, Poles, Lithuanians, Greeks, and Russian Jews of the Lower class. Southern Italians, along with Negroes and Mexicans, are at the bottom of the scale.” As historians of race recognize, many European immigrants were considered not quite white before 1950. Those immigrants eventually joined the alliance of groups considered white partly because realtors, mortgage lenders, and housing economists established a bright line between the property values of “whites” and those of blacks.

The lines established in 1919 have lingered. As late as 1990, among Chicago’s suburban blacks, almost half of them lived in the same fourteen suburbs that blacks had lived in before 1920: they had not gained access to newer spaces. It was black neighborhoods that suffered disproportionately from urban renewal and the construction of tall-tower public housing in the twentieth century, further reinforcing the overlaps between race and space in Chicago. Many whites inherit property whose value has increased because of the racist real-estate policies founded after the violence of 1919. Recently, Ta-Nehisi Coates has recently used the history of Chicago’s property market to publicize “The Case for Reparations,” after generations of denying blacks access to homeowner equity.

It is worth remembering the events of 95 years ago, when Eugene Williams and 37 other people died, as Chicagoans clashed in the streets over emerging ideas of racialized property values.

Elaine Lewinnek is a professor of American Studies at California State University, Fullerton and the author of The Working Man’s Reward: Chicago’s Early Suburbs and the Roots of American Sprawl.

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23. Publishing Jobs: HarperCollins, Little Bee Books, Psychology Press

This week, HarperCollins is hiring a website and email marketing manager, while Little Bee Books needs a marketing and publicity manager. Psychology Press is seeking an associate editor, and Harvard Common Press is on the hunt for an office manager. Get the scoop on these openings and more below, and find additional just-posted gigs on Mediabistro.

Find more great publishing jobs on the GalleyCat job board. Looking to hire? Tap into our network of talented GalleyCat pros and post a risk-free job listing. For real-time openings and employment news, follow @MBJobPost.

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24. App of the Week: Leafsnap

Screen Shot 2014-07-28 at 9.39.43 AM
Name: Leafsnap
Platform: iOS
Cost: Free

Leafsnap has languished for years on my phone. The app represents the sort of big audacious online project that we as librarians need to know about. Merging geographic location with image recognition, it combines reports from the field to produce an interactive electronic guide.

For the end user, Leafsnap is designed to make a “best guess” about the species of a plant, based on an image of a leaf you upload or input through the camera. I hadn’t been able to use it before last week. It’s limitation? Spearheaded by the Columbia University, the University of Maryland, and the Smithsonian Institution, Leafsnap is crowd-sourced, and a caveat warns that the database best reflects the northeasten U.S. for the time being (though there is a U.K. version, too). When I heard someone speculating about the name of a specific tree while I was in Massachusetts, I was happy to put the tool to work.

One word on technique: I had better success when I photographed and cropped around a leaf beforehand, and you will need a “true white” background — the reverse side of an index card works fine. The app converts your image into an “x ray” of the leaf, queries the database and returns with a series of options, all of which contain Leafsnaps as well as more holistic images of matching plants.

photo (1)

Using the apps involves creating an account in Leafsnap’s user-driven botanical database to track your scanning and positive identifications. Inside the app, you’re creating your own log book, marking each species with a swipe, with a geographic distribution as well.

photo 1 (2)

The process of collecting and marking specimens can be addictive; even your most tender-hearted teen will respect the do-no-harm approach to nature the app represents. Within the database, the specimens link to the Encyclopedia of Life, another ambitious, crowd-sourced online project, and there’s an integrated program designed to improve your recognition skills.

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It only occurred to me after the fact that leafsnap enables a twenty-first century manifestation of the very nineteenth century impulse for classification among amateur botanists. For contrast, you can see a digitized version of Emily Dickinson’s old school herbarium here.

Leafsnap offers a fun, mobile way to involve the natural world in your summer STEM programming. And while the geographic scope of the database might seem to limit its utility, I’ve found that it works just fine beyond the specified region.

Have a suggestion for App of the Week? Let us know. And find more great Apps in the YALSA Blog’s App of the Week Archive.

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25. Monthly etymology gleanings for July 2014

By Anatoly Liberman


Since I’ll be out of town at the end of July, I was not sure I would be able to write these “gleanings.” But the questions have been many, and I could answer some of them ahead of time.

Autumn: its etymology

Our correspondent wonders whether the Latin word from which English, via French, has autumn, could be identified with the name of the Egyptian god Autun. The Romans derived the word autumnus, which was both an adjective (“autumnal”) and a noun (“autumn”), from augere “to increase.” This verb’s perfect participle is auctus “rich (“autumn as a rich season”). The Roman derivation, though not implausible, looks like a tribute to folk etymology. A more serious conjecture allies autumn to the Germanic root aud-, as in Gothic aud-ags “blessed” (in the related languages, also “rich”). But, more probably, Latin autumnus goes back to Etruscan. The main argument for the Etruscan origin is the resemblance of autumnus to Vertumnus, the name of a seasonal deity (or so it seems), about whom little is known besides the tale of his seduction, in the shape of an old woman, of Pomona, as told by Ovid. Vertumnus, or Vortumnus, may be a Latinized form of an Etruscan name. A definite conclusion about autumnus is hardly possible, even though some sources, while tracing this word to Etruscan, add “without doubt.” The Egyptian Autun was a creation god and the god of the setting sun, so that his connection with autumn is remote at best. Nor do we have any evidence that Autun had a cult in Ancient Rome. Everything is so uncertain here that the origin of autumnus must needs remain unknown. In my opinion, the Egyptian hypothesis holds out little promise.

Vertumnus seducing Pomona in the shape of an old woman. (Pomona by Frans de Vriendt "Floris" (Konstnär, 1518-1570) Antwerpen, Belgien, Hallwyl Museum, Photo by Jens Mohr, via Wikimedia Commons)

Vertumnus seducing Pomona in the shape of an old woman. (Pomona by Frans de Vriendt “Floris” (Konstnär, 1518-1570) Antwerpen, Belgien, Hallwyl Museum, Photo by Jens Mohr, via Wikimedia Commons)

The origin of so long

I received an interesting letter from Mr. Paul Nance. He writes about so long:

“It seems the kind of expression that should have derived from some fuller social nicety, such as I regret that it will be so long before we meet again or the like, but no one has proposed a clear antecedent. An oddity is its sudden appearance in the early nineteenth century; there are only a handful of sightings before Walt Whitman’s use of it in a poem (including the title) in the 1860-1861 edition of Leaves of Grass. I can, by the way, offer an antedating to the OED citations: so, good bye, so long in the story ‘Cruise of a Guinean Man’. Knickerbocker: New York (Monthly Magazine 5, February 1835, p. 105; available on Google Books). Given the lack of a fuller antecedent, suggestions as to its origin all propose a borrowing from another language. Does this seem reasonable to you?”

Mr. Nance was kind enough to append two articles (by Alan S. Kaye and Joachim Grzega) on so long, both of which I had in my folders but have not reread since 2004 and 2005, when I found and copied them. Grzega’s contribution is especially detailed. My database contains only one more tiny comment on so long by Frank Penny: “About twenty years ago I was informed that it [the expression so long] is allied to Samuel Pepys’s expression so home, and should be written so along or so ’long, meaning that the person using the expression must go his way” (Notes and Queries, Series 12, vol. IX, 1921, p. 419). The group so home does turn up in the Diary more than once, but no citation I could find looks like a formula. Perhaps Stephen Goranson will ferret it out. In any case, so long looks like an Americanism, and it is unlikely that such a popular phrase should have remained dormant in texts for almost two centuries.

Be that as it may, I agree with Mr. Nance that a formula of this type probably arose in civil conversation. The numerous attempts to find a foreign source for it carry little conviction. Norwegian does have an almost identical phrase, but, since its antecedents are unknown, it may have been borrowed from English. I suspect (a favorite turn of speech by old etymologists) that so long is indeed a curtailed version of a once more comprehensible parting formula, unless it belongs with the likes of for auld lang sine. It may have been brought to the New World from England or Scotland and later abbreviated and reinterpreted.

“Heavy rain” in languages other than English

Once I wrote a post titled “When it rains, it does not necessarily pour.” There I mentioned many German and Swedish idioms like it is raining cats and dogs, and, rather than recycling that text, will refer our old correspondent Mr. John Larsson to it.

Ukraine and Baltic place names

The comment on this matter was welcome. In my response, I preferred not to talk about the things alien to me, but I wondered whether the Latvian place name could be of Slavic origin. That is why I said cautiously: “If this is a native Latvian word…” The question, as I understand, remains unanswered, but the suggestion is tempting. And yes, of course, Serb/Croat Krajna is an exact counterpart of Ukraina, only without a prefix. In Russian, stress falls on i; in Ukrainian, I think, the first a is stressed. The same holds for the derived adjectives: ukrainskii ~ ukrainskii. Pushkin said ukrainskaia (feminine).

Slough, sloo, and the rest

Many thanks to those who informed me about their pronunciation of slough “mire.” It was new to me that the surname Slough is pronounced differently in England and the United States. I also received a question about the history of slew. The past tense of slay (Old Engl. slahan) was sloh (with a long vowel), and this form developed like scoh “shoe,” though the verb vacillated between the 6th and the 7th class. The fact that slew and shoe have such dissimilar written forms is due to the vagaries of English spelling. One can think of too, who, you, group, fruit, cruise, rheum, truth, and true, which have the same vowel as slew. In addition, consider Bruin and ruin, which look deceptively like fruit, and add manoeuver for good measure. A mild spelling reform looks like a good idea, doesn’t it?

The pronunciation of February

In one of the letters I received, the writer expresses her indignation that some people insist on sounding the first r in February. Everybody, she asserts, says Febyooary. In such matters, everybody is a dangerous word (as we will also see from the next item). All of us tend to think that what we say is the only correct norm. Words with the succession r…r tend to lose one of them. Yet library is more often pronounced with both, and Drury, brewery, and prurient have withstood the tendency. February has changed its form many times. Thus, long ago feverer (from Old French) became feverel (possibly under the influence of averel “April”). In the older language of New England, January and February turned into Janry and Febry. However powerful the phonetic forces may have been in affecting the pronunciation of February, of great importance was also the fact that the names of the months often occur in enumeration. Without the first r, January and February rhyme. A similar situation is well-known from the etymology of some numerals. Although the pronunciation Febyooary is equally common on both sides of the Atlantic and is recognized as standard throughout the English-speaking world, not “everybody” has accepted it. The consonant b in February is due to the Latinization of the French etymon (late Latin februarius).

Who versus whom

Discussion of these pronouns lost all interest long ago, because the confusion of who and whom and the defeat of whom in American English go back to old days. Yet I am not sure that what I said about the educated norm is “nonsense.” Who will marry our son? Whom will our son marry? Is it “nonsense” to distinguish them, and should (or only can) it be who in both cases? Despite the rebuke, I believe that even in Modern American English the woman who we visited won’t suffer if who is replaced with whom. But, unlike my opponent, I admit that tastes differ.

Wrap

Another question I received was about the origin of the verb wrap. This is a rather long story, and I decided to devote a special post to it in the foreseeable future.

PS. I notice that of the two questions asked by our correspondent last month only copacetic attracted some attention (read Stephen Goranson’s response). But what about hubba hubba?

Anatoly Liberman is the author of Word Origins And How We Know Them as well as An Analytic Dictionary of English Etymology: An Introduction. His column on word origins, The Oxford Etymologist, appears on the OUPblog each Wednesday. Send your etymology question to him care of blog@oup.com; he’ll do his best to avoid responding with “origin unknown.” Subscribe to Anatoly Liberman’s weekly etymology articles via email or RSS.

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