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Last year I read Daniel Jose Older's excellent essay in Slate. Titled "Diversity is Not Enough: Race, Power, Publishing," it was shared widely in my social media networks. I started following him on Twitter, and learned that he had a young adult book in the works. By then I'd already read Salsa Nocturna and loved it. His is the kind of writing that stays in your head and heart.
I've now read his young adult novel, Shadowshaper, and am writing about it here. Older is not Native, and his book is not one that would be categorized as a book about Native peoples. There are, however, significant overlaps in Indigenous peoples. There are parallels in our histories and our current day politics.
Here's the cover:
The girl on that cover is Sierra, the protagonist in Older's riveting story. She paints murals. Here's the synopsis:
Sierra Santiago planned an easy summer of making art and hanging out with her friends. But then a corpse crashes the first party of the season. Her stroke-ridden grandfather starts apologizing over and over. And when the murals in her neighborhood begin to weep real tears... Well, something more sinister than the usual Brooklyn ruckus is going on.
With the help of a fellow artist named Robbie, Sierra discovers shadowshaping, a thrilling magic that infuses ancestral spirits into paintings, music, and stories. But someone is killing the shadowshapers one by one -- and the killer believes Sierra is hiding their greatest secret. Now she must unravel her family's past, take down the killer in the present, and save the future of shadowshaping for generations to come.
That synopsis uses the word "magic." Older uses "spiritual magic" at his site
. I understand the need to use that word (magic) but am also apprehensive about it being used in the context of Indigenous peoples and people of color. Our ways are labeled with words like superstitious or mystical--words that aren't generally used to describe, say, miracles done by those who are canonized as saints. It is the same thing, right? Whether Catholics or Latinas or Native peoples, beliefs deserve the same respect and reverence.
For anyone with beliefs in powers greater than themselves, there are things that happen that are just the norm. They're not mystical or otherworldly. They are just there, part of the fabric of life.
Anyway--that's what I feel as I read Shadowshaper.
The shadowshaping? It blew me away. I love those parts of the book. We could call them magical, but for me, they are that fabric of life that is the norm for Sierra's family and community. When she starts to learn about it, she doesn't freak out. She tries to figure it out.
She does some research that takes her to an archive, which eventually leads her to a guy named Jonathan Wick who wants that shadowshaping power for his own ends.
That archive, that guy, that taking? It points to one of the overlaps I had in mind as I read Shadowshaper.
Native peoples in the U.S. have been dealing with this sort of thing for a long time. Someone is curious about us and starts to pry into our ways, seeking to know things not meant for him, things that he does not understand but is so intoxicated by, that he has to have it for himself. It happened in the 1800s; it happens today.
But let's come back to Sierra. She's Puerto Rican. When she starts her research in the library at Columbia University, she meets a woman named Nydia who wants to start a people's library in Harlem that will be filled with people's stories. Pretty cool, don't you think? Nydia works there, learning all she can to start that people's library. Amongst the things she has is a folder on Wick. She tells Sierra (p. 50):
He was a big anthro dude, specifically the spiritual systems of different cultures, yeah? But people said he got too involved, didn't know how to draw a line between himself and his -- she crooked two fingers in the air and rolled her eyes -- "subjects. But if you ask me, that whole subject-anthropologist dividing line is pretty messed up anyway."
Sierra asks her to elaborate. Nydia says it would take hours to really explain it but in short (p. 51),
"Who gets to study and who gets studied, and why? Who makes the decisions, you know?"
I can't think of a work of fiction in which I read those questions--straight up--in the way that Older gives them to us. Those are the big questions in and out of universities. We ask those questions in children's and young adult literature, and Native Nations have been dealing with them for a very, very long time. I love seeing these questions in Older's book and wonder what teen readers will take away from them? What will teachers do with them? Those questions throw doors wide open. They invite readers to begin that crucial journey of looking critically at power.
Older doesn't shy away from other power dynamics elsewhere in the book. Sierra's brother, Juan, knew about shadowshaping before she did because their abuelo told him about it. When Sierra asks Juan why she wasn't told, too, he says (p. 110):
"I dunno." Juan shrugged. "You know Abuelo was all into his old-school machismo crap."
Power dynamics across generations and gender are tough to deal with, but Older puts it out there for his readers to wrangle with. I like that, and the way he handles Sierra's aunt, Rosa, who doesn't want Sierra to date Robbie because his skin is darker than hers. Sierra says (p. 151):
"I don't wanna hear what you're saying. I don't care about your stupid neighborhood gossip or your damn opinions about everyone around you and how dark they are or how kinky their hair is. You ever look in the mirror, Tia?"
"You ever look at those old family albums Mom keeps around?" Sierra went on. "We ain't white. And you shaming everyone and looking down your nose because you can't even look in the mirror isn't gonna change that. And neither is me marrying someone paler than me. And I'm glad. I love my hair. I love my skin."
I love Sierra's passion, her voice, her love of self, and I think that part of Shadowshaper
is going to resonate a lot with teens who are dealing with family members who carry similar attitudes.
Now, I'll point to the Native content of Shadowshaper.
As I noted earlier, Sierra is Puerto Rican. That island was home to Indigenous people long before Columbus went there, all those hundreds of years ago. At one point in the story, Sierra notices the tattoo on Robbie's arm. He asks her if she wants to see the rest of it. She does, so he pulls his shirt off (p. 125):
It was miraculous work. A sullen-faced man with a bald head and tattoos stood on a mountaintop that curved around Robbie's lower back toward his belly. The man was ripped, and various axes and cudgels dangled off his many belts and sashes.
"Why they always gotta draw Indians lookin' so serious? Don't they smile?"
Did you notice the tense of her last question? She asks, in the present, not the past. There's more (p. 126):
"That's a Taino, Sierra."
"What? But you're Haitian. I thought Tainos were my peeps."
"Nah, Haiti had 'em too. Has 'em. You know..."
"I didn't know."
That exchange is priceless. In the matter-of-fact conversation between Robbie and Sierra, Older guides readers from the broad (Indian) to the specific (Taino) and goes on to give even more information (that Taino's are in Haiti, too).
But there's more (p. 126)!
Across from the Taino, a Zulu warrior-looking guy stood at attention, surrounded by the lights of Brooklyn. He held a massive shield in one hand and a spear in the other. He looked positively ready to kill a man. "I see you got the angry African in there," Sierra said.
"I don't know what tribe my people came from, so it came out kinda generic."
It is good to see a character acknowledge lack of knowing! It invites readers to think about all that we do not know about our ancestry, and what we think we know, too... How we know it, what we do with what we know...
What I've focused on here are the bits that wrap around and through Older's wonderful story. Bits that are the warm, rich, dark, brilliant fabric of life. Mainstream review journals are giving Shadowshaper
starred reviews for the story he gives us. My starred review is for those bits. They matter and they speak directly to people who don't often see our lives reflected in the books we read. I highly recommend Shadowshaper.
Published in 2015 by Arthur A. Levine Books, it is exceptional in a great many ways.
The Associated Press and RosettaBooks have teamed up to publish a new memoir from Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Peter Arnett.
The title, “Saigon Has Fallen,” represents the first in a series of books that the publisher and the news organization plan to put out in a new collaboration on history. The release has been timed to the 40th anniversary of the Fall of Saigon. In the memoir, Arnett will tell the story of covering the controversial Vietnam War for The Associated Press from 1962 to the end of the war, April 30, 1975.
“These recollections of Peter’s time in Vietnam, from the early Kennedy years, to America’s full involvement under Lyndon Johnson, to the fall of Saigon and his emotional return to Vietnam years later are, to me, the indelible, dramatic and inspiring record of a great journalist recording living history,” stated Roger Cooper, Associate Publisher at Large at RosettaBooks.
Poems of apology ... well, we must begin with the poem that started it all.
This Is Just To Say
by William Carlos Williams
I have eaten
that were in
you were probably
they were delicious
and so cold
Poem ©William Carlos Williams. All rights reserved.
There are some who call this "the dreaded plum poem." I happen to like "This is Just to Say". Was the speaker truly remorseful? It's hard to say. Would I have forgiven the writer? Eventually, but I would have been really aggravated to find and read that note. I can just imagine it today, scribbled on a Post-It note stuck to the refrigerator.
The books that follow contain poems in the style of Williams, and are written as apologies.
- Table of Contents
- Introduction written by Anthony K., a "student" in Mrs. Merz's class
- This Is Just to Say, by William Carlos Williams
- Part 1: Apologies
- Part 2: Responses
This book is a direct result of Sidman's work as a writer-in-residence at schools, where she uses the poem as a model. There is a wealth of material here, with seventeen apology and seventeen response poems. Here's a sample pair of poems.
The Black Spot
(written by Alyssa for her sister Carrie)
That black spot on your palm.
It never goes away.
So long ago
I can hardly remember,
I stabbed you with a pencil.
Part of the lead, there,
still inside you.
And inside me, too,
something small and black.
I don't know what to call it,
the nugget of darkness,
that made me stab you.
It never goes away.
Both marks, still there.
reminders.Roses Are Red
(written by Carrie in response to Alyssa)
Roses are red,
violets are blue.
I’m still really
pissed off at you.
Poems ©Joyce Sidman. All rights reserved.
The topics and emotions related in these poems are those that any child today might deal with. There are apologies for making fun of the dress a teacher is wearing, breaking a mother's precious glass deer, not winning a spelling bee, hitting a friend too hard with a dodge ball, and more. Some of the poems reveal the writer to be truly remorseful, while others are only slightly apologetic.
To learn more you should check out the particularly useful reader's guide
at Sidman's web site. You may also want to take a moment to watch and listen
to her read from the book.
This next book
Since it borrows
I had to include it.
Please read on
and chastise me
Forgive Me, I Meant To Do It: False Apology Poems
, written by Gail Carson Levine and illustrated by Matthew Cordell, is a collection of poems connected with nursery rhyme or fairy tale themes and characters that borrow Williams' form but include apologies that are conditional or utterly insincere. Some of these poems are dark, but they're all entertaining and some are downright funny. Here's one of my favorites.
This Is Just to Say
I have shortened
with your saw
is so much fun
I don't care
a real boy
Poem ©Gail Carson Levine. All rights reserved.
If you are interested in writing poems of apology with your students, check out some of these resources.
That's it for poems of apology. Join me this weekend for interviews with Joyce Sidman and Joan Bransfield Graham.
I've read two adventures lately which I can only describe as "cinematic." There's so much chaotic action, I can easily imagine the novel translating itself to film - and the book trailer at the bottom goes right along with that -- this would make a... Read the rest of this post
by Laura Liddell Nolen
Release Date: March 26, 2015
Before we get to the chapter, here's a note from Laura:
Hi, YABC! I’m fired up about sharing my first chapter with you today. The Ark is about a young convict trapped in prison on the last day of earth. If she wants to survive the meteor strike and reconcile with her upstanding family, she’ll have to break out of prison and stow away on the last spaceship leaving earth. If you like daring escapades and gritty space adventures, this is the book for you!
~ Laura Liddell Nolen (THE ARK, HarperCollins/HarperVoyager)
About the Book
It’s the final days of earth, and sixteen-year-old Char is right where she belongs: in prison. With her criminal record, she doesn’t qualify for a place on an Ark, one of the five massive bioships designed to protect earth’s survivors during the meteor strike that looks set to destroy the planet. Only a select few will be saved – like her mom, dad, and brother – all of whom have long since turned their backs on Char.
If she ever wants to redeem herself, Char must use all the tricks of the trade to swindle her way into outer space, where she hopes to reunite with her family, regardless of whether they actually ever want to see her again, or not . . .
To learn more about this book and see our review, go HERE.
Are you ready to start reading?!
On the last day of Earth, I couldn’t find my hairbrush. That probably seems like a silly thing to worry about, what with the imminent destruction of, well, everything, but my mom was always after me about my usual ratty ponytail. Normally, I’d ignore her. Or, if I were having a really bad day, I’d tell her what she could do with her hairbrush. But like I said, it was the last day of Earth. And I figured, since it was the last time she’d ever see me, I wanted it to go smoothly. I wanted her to remember me, if not fondly, then at least without anger.
A girl can dream.
I slipped out of my cell as soon as the door swung open. I’d done the same every day for the past month, and my family had yet to show up. Their OPT—Off-Planet Transport—took off in eighteen hours, so they still had time. Barely. I couldn’t blame them if they didn’t come. It wasn’t hard to imagine that they’d rather escape to the stars without so much as a backward glance at me, their big disappointment. Even my father’s influence couldn’t persuade the government to give me a spot on an OPT.
Turns out, when humankind is deciding which of its children to save, the last place it looks is in prison.
But I was pretty sure they’d come. West had said as much in his last transmission. The thought of my younger brother actually halted me mid-step, like one of those punches in the gut where you can’t breathe for a few seconds.
“Looking for something?” The lazy drawl floated out of the nearest cell.
Against my better instincts, I turned to see Cassa lying on her bunk, her arm draped across Kip. My Kip. Or at least, my ex-Kip. Whatever. In twenty-two hours, I wouldn’t have to think about him anymore.
See? Silver lining. And they called me a perpetual pessimist at my last psych workup.
They barely fit next to each other on the flimsy mattress, but that wasn’t the weird part. The guys’ ward was separated by a substantial metal wall. We were kept apart during evening hours, for obvious reasons. Not that anyone cared anymore. The med staff had been the first to go, followed by the cleaning crew, followed by the kitchen crew. To show you where girls like me fell on the government’s list of priorities, there was still a skeleton crew of guards lurking around, despite the fact that I hadn’t had a real meal for going on a week. The guards would be gone soon, too, and then there’d be no one in here but us chickens.
I figured either Kip had a key, or the guards had left already. A key could be useful. My curiosity got the best of me. “How’d he get in here before the first bell?”
He cocked an eyebrow. “I got some tricks you ain’t seen, babe. Why don’t you join us? End of the world and all.”
The guards were gone, then. I felt a small trill of anxiety deep in my chest. If the guards were gone, my family was even less likely to show. But it was never smart to show fear. “The Pinball could be headed straight for this building, and I still wouldn’t be desperate enough to touch you. Oh, wait. Guess you don’t have to take my word for it.”
I turned to leave, but he continued. “Now is that any way to treat your dear ole partners? Be nice or I won’t give you back your stuff.”
“Ugh, you were in my room?” I flexed my shoulder blades, making sure my gun was still tightly secured between them.
“Don’t worry, Char. I didn’t handle the merchandise. Didn’t want to wake you up. Just lifted me a few keepsakes.” He pronounced my name the way I like: Char, as in charred. Something that got burned.
I wasn’t sure what Kip and Cassa were planning, but I knew I wouldn’t like it. They were thieves and liars. I would know. I used to be one of them. That was before the last job, when Cassa had attacked an elderly man in the home we were robbing. She’d kicked him until he stopped fighting back. Kip had called her off after a few licks, but I just stood there, staring. The old man looked at me, like right at me, while we made our getaway, and my stomach twisted into a knot so tight that I tasted bile. That was the moment I knew I wanted out.
But by then, no one believed me. Or, if they did, no one cared. Except for Kip and Cassa, of course. They’d taken the news pretty hard, to put it lightly.
If I lunged for the box, I could probably grab my hairbrush and get out of there. I wouldn’t have time for more than that. Then again, I’d be doing exactly what they expected, and I didn’t have time for delays. My family could be in the commissary any second now.
“Ahem. Seeing as it’s your last day of life, I might let you have one thing back,” said Kip.
“In exchange for what?”
“I’m hurt. All our time together, and you still don’t believe in my inherent generosity. But now that you mention it, I’ve got a hankering for some peanut butter crackers.”
“Sorry, Kip. I’m fresh out of food. Kinda like everyone else.”
“Nice try, Charrr.” He drew my name out, as though tasting it. “I saw them yesterday. Figured you were hiding them under your pillow when I couldn’t find them last night.”
“You figured wrong.”
All I could think about was my brother’s face. And how I had this one last chance to apologize to my parents, for everything. I shrugged and turned to leave.
That was probably a mistake.
About five steps past Cassa’s cell, an enormous weight tackled me from behind. My chest and face hit the dirty concrete. My anxiety over my parents leveled up into near-panic territory. I could not afford to deal with this right now. I flipped onto my back and jerked my knee upward, and Kip let out a groan.
But Cassa was already there, standing over us. She kicked my head, and my arms and legs quit obeying me. I was vaguely aware of the dispassionate stares coming from other cells as Kip and Cassa dragged me back to their room.
“Now, now, love,” Kip murmured. “That was no way to treat your old friends.”
“She’s gone soft. Must have been distracted.” Cassa wasn’t British, but she had the intensely annoying habit of using a fake accent. Not all the time, either. Just with certain words or phrases. In my opinion, that made it even worse. It was probably an attempt to impress Kip. Or to prove to everyone she spent a lot of time with him.
They propped me up against the wall, and Kip began tying my wrists with a twisted black cord he pulled out of nowhere.
“Is that any way for a lady to talk?” he said cheerfully, slipping his hand up my shirt. His fingers were like ice, and I winced. “Aha—found them.” He removed a packet of crackers and waggled them in front of my face. Those were going to be my last meal. I bit back a curse. Wouldn’t have made much difference in the end, anyway.
I didn’t fully panic until they tied the ends of the cord to the exposed pipe of the sink.
“Wait, no. My family’s going to be here. I have to get downstairs.”
“No one’s coming for you. And even if they were, do you really think they want to see you?”
Cassa grinned down at me. “But me and Kip, that’s a different story. We’re busting out of here.”
“Figured we’d do a bit of traveling in our twilight years. I mean, hours. See the world, that sort of thing. So we need all the supplies we can get. And no one has supplies like you,” said Kip.
Cassa spat. “And if you hadn’t rolled on us, we might be bringing you along. Think about that while you wait for the Pinball. Alone.”
I kicked at them, once, and Cassa responded by plopping down on top of my legs. Normally I’d have been able to deal with that, but nothing about today was normal, and I had to settle for growling at her. Somehow, that made me feel even more helpless. My face was abruptly hot, and I gave myself temporary permission to hold my breath. If I cried, I’d never get over it.
I didn’t breathe until I had to. Gradually, my head cleared. “Don’t tell me you’re going hunting for the Remnant. They don’t exist.”
Cassa paused, just for an instant, and Kip gave me a hard look. “She couldn’t possibly know that.”
“She’s friends with the Mole.”
Kip rolled his eyes. “He couldn’t possibly know that. He doesn’t know everything, Cass.”
“You sure about that?” I said. “He knows the way out. He wouldn’t still be here if they exist. If there were even a chance.”
Cassa bit her lip, but Kip ignored me and continued his search. He was a bit rougher than before. “Ah, what have we here? Little blade-stick-doohickey?” He pulled a makeshift knife from the leg of my pants and twisted it in his fingers. “Fair enough. Not your best work though, if I’m honest.”
“Hello, what’s this?” Cassa yanked me forward and pulled my shirt up in the back. There was a tearing pain as she ripped the duct tape off my shoulder blades. “Bingo. Char, you never disappoint.”
Kip held the gun up to my face and grinned while peeling the remainder of the tape from the barrel. It had been my finest moment. The guard I stole it from never saw it coming. I consoled myself with the thought that, in a few short hours, I would never need a gun again. The thought was a lot more comforting than it should have been. It was probably the only silver lining I would cling to, in the end. No more guns, no more eternally disappointed family members. No more pitying glances from judges or lawyers or parole boards. Or West.
“I believe our work here is done,” Cassa said. She couldn’t get away from me soon enough. “Time to make our way in the world.”
“Good luck with that,” I muttered.
They stood to leave, but Kip stopped at the door. “Here,” he said, pulling my shoebox off the bed and tossing it to the ground in front of me. “For old times’ sake.”
And then they were gone.
About the Author
Laura Liddell Nolen grew up in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, where she spent lots of time making up adventure stories with her two younger brothers. The Ark is the direct result of those stories and a steady diet of space- and superhero-themed books and television sagas. She lives in Texas with her husband and children and on Twitter @Laurallnolen. The Ark is her first novel.
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One winner will receive a Kindle copy of THE ARK.
Entering is simple, just fill out the entry form below. Winners will be announced in our monthly newsletter (sign up now!) within 30-60 days after the giveaway ends.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
During each giveaway, we ask entrants a question pertaining to the book. Here is the question you'll be answering in the comments below for extra entries: What food item does Kip want Char to give him in exchange for her box of keepsakes? Find the answer here by reading the first chapter excerpt!
is not "officially" out until next week, but I've started seeing it in stores already sooo... I don't mind bragging about it!
This is a contemporary YA about cyber-bullying from multiple points of view - it's timely and so important.BACKLASH by Sarah Darer Littman
He says: You’re an awful person.
He says: What makes you think I’d ever ask you out?
He says: The world would be a better place without you in it.
Lara just got told off on Facebook.
She thought that Christian liked her, that he was finally going to ask her to his school’s homecoming dance. They’ve been talking online for weeks, so what’s with the sudden change? And where does he get off saying horrible things on her wall? Even worse — are they true?
It’s been a long time since Lara’s felt this bad, this depressed, this ugly. She’s worked really hard to become pretty and happy — and make new friends after what happened in middle school.
Bree used to be best friends with overweight, depressed Lara, but constantly listening to Lara’s issues got to be too much. Secretly, Bree’s glad that Christian called Lara out. Lara’s not nearly as amazing as people think.
But no one realized just how far Christian’s harsh comments would push Lara. Not even Bree.
As online life collides with real life, things spiral out of control, and not just for Lara. Because when the truth starts to come together, the backlash is even more devastating than anyone could have ever imagined.
What happens online doesn't always stay online . . .Buy BACKLASH from Your Local Independent Bookstore, Oblong, Book Depository, Barnes and Noble or Amazon, or wherever fine books are sold. (Or, request it from your library!)
By: Betsy Bird
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On the Shoulder of a Giant: An Inuit Folktale
By Neil Christopher
Illustrated by Jim Nelson
On shelves now
My daughter is afraid of giants. She’s three so this isn’t exactly out of the norm. However, it does cut out a portion of her potential reading material. Not all giants fall under this stricture, mind you. She doesn’t seem to have any problem with the guys in Giant Dance Party and “nice” giants in general get a pass. Still, we’ve had to put the kibosh on stories like Jack and the Beanstalk and anything else where getting devoured is a serious threat. Finding books about good giants is therefore an imperative and it walks hand in hand with my perpetual search for amazing folktales. Every year I scour the publishers for anything resembling a folktale. In the old days they were plentiful and you could have your pick of the offerings. These days, the big publishers hardly want to touch the stuff, so it’s up to the smaller guys to fill in the gaps. And no one stands as a better folktale gap filler than the Inuit owned company Inhabit Media. Producing consistently high quality books for kids, one of their latest titles is the drop dead gorgeous On the Shoulder of a Giant. Funny, attractive, and a straight up accurate folktale, this is children’s book publishing at its best. And as for the giant himself, my daughter has never run into a guy like him before.
“…if there is only one Arctic giant story you take the time to learn about, this is the one to remember.” Which giant? Why Inukpak, of course! Large (even for a giant) our story recounts Inukpak’s various deeds. He could stride across wide rivers, and fish full whales out of the sea. In his travels, there was one day when Inukpak ran across a little human hunter. Misunderstanding the man to be a small child, the giant promptly adopted him. And since the man was no fool he understood that when a giant claims you, you have little recourse but to accept. He went along with it. The giant fished their dinner and when a polar bear threatened the hunter Inukpak flicked it away like it was no more than a baby fox or lemming. In time the two became good friends and had many adventures together. Backmatter called “More About Arctic Giants” explains at length about their size, their fights, their relationship to the giant polar bears, and how they may still be around – maybe right under your feet!
I’ve read a lot of giant fare in my day and I have never encountered a tale quite like this. Not that the story really goes much of anywhere. The only true question you find yourself asking as you read the tale is whether or not the hunter will ever confess to the giant that he isn’t actually a child. But as I read and reread the tale, I came to love the humor of the tale. Combined with the art, it’s a lighthearted story. In fact, one of the problems is also a point in its favor. When you get to the end of the tale and are told that Inukpak and the hunter had many adventures, you want to read those immediately. One can only hope that Mr. Christopher and Mr. Nelson will join forces yet again someday to bring us more of this unique and delightful duo.
I’m no expert on Inuit culture so it doesn’t hurt that in the creation of “On the Shoulder of a Giant” author Neil Christopher has the distinction of having spent the last sixteen years of his life recording and preserving traditional Inuit stories. Having seen a fair number of books of Native American folktales where the selection of the tales is offhanded at best, the care with which Christopher chooses to imbue his book with life and vitality is notable. The book reads aloud beautifully, and would serve a librarian well if they were told to read aloud a folktale to a group. Likewise, the pictures are visible from long distances. This story begs for a big audience.
I’ve seen a lot of small presses in my day. Quality can vary considerably from place to place. Often I’ll see a small publisher bring to life a folktale but then skimp on the artist chosen to bring the story to life. It’s a sad but common occurrence. So common, in fact, that when it doesn’t happen I’m shocked out of my gourd. Inhabit Media is one of those rare few that take illustration very seriously. Each of their books looks good. Looks not just professional but like something you’d want to take home for yourself. On the Shoulder of a Giant is no exception. This time the artist tapped was freelance illustrator Jim Nelson. He’s based out of Chicago and his art has included stuff like Magic the Gathering cards and the like. He is not, at first glance, the kind of artist you’d tap for a book of this sort. After all, he works with a digital palette creating images that would seemingly be more at home in a comic book than a classic Inuit folktale. Yet what are folktales but proto-superhero stories? What are superhero comics but just modern myths? Inukpak is larger than life and, as such, he demands an artist who can bring his physicality to bear upon the narrative. When he’s fishing for whales I wanna see that sucker fighting back. When he strides across great plains I wanna be there beside him. Nelson feeds that need.
Since Nelson isn’t Inuit himself, the question of how authentic his art may be arises. I am willing to believe, however, that any book published by a company operating with the sole intent to “preserve and promote the stories, knowledge and talent of Inuit and northern Canada” is going to have put the book through a strict vetting process. It would not be ridiculous to think that Nelson’s editor informed him of where to research classic Inuit clothing and landscapes. I loved every inch of Nelson’s art on this story but it was the backmatter that really did it for me. There’s a section that is able to show the difference in size between a inukpasugjuit (“great giant”), a inugaruligasugjuk (“lesser giant”), and a regular human that does a brilliant job of showing scale. That goes for the nanurluit (giant polar bear) in one of the pictures, relentlessly tracking two tiny hunters in their boats. But it is the final shot of a sleeping giant under the mountains as people walk on to of him, oblivious that will really pique young imaginations.
I’m not saying that On the Shoulder of a Giant has the ability to single-handedly rid my daughter of her fear of giants as a whole. It does, however, stand out as a singularly fun and interesting take on the whole giant genre. There’s nothing on my library shelves that sounds or feels or looks quite like this book. It could well be the poster child for the ways in which small publishers should examine and publish classic folktales. Beautiful and strange with a flavor all its own, this is one little book that yields big rewards. Fantastico.
On shelves now.
Source: Final copy sent from publisher for review.
Like This? Then Try:
Warner Bros. has picked up the film rights to Kiera Cass’ young adult book, The Selection.
Katie Lovejoy has been hired to serve as the screenwriter. Denise DiNovi, Alison Greenspan, and Pouya Shahbazian have signed on to serve as producers.
Here’s more from Deadline: “Described as The Hunger Games without the bloodshed, it follows 35 underprivileged girls who are chosen to compete to live in a life of luxury. The protagonist, America Singer, is sweet on a young man from her district, but when she’s exposed to the opulence of a royal life, she’s conflicted, even though a rebel uprising threatens the pampered.”
In the past, the CW had held the TV rights to The Selection and even shot two pilots for it. Ultimately, the studio decided not to move forward with a full season.
Originally, Cass had intended her Selection novels to be a trilogy. Last year, she announced her plans to expand it into a five-part series with two additional installments and a collection of novellas.
Today is Day 24 of the 2015 Progressive Poem created and nurtured by the lovely Irene Latham
. This project is a community writing experience where a poem travels daily from blog to blog, with each host adding a line. It began on April 1st and is nearing its end. I am happy to be participating for the very first time this year, though am bit intimidated by the form and subject. I'm really not a narrative poem kind of girl, or a free verse girl (not often anyway), so adding a line was a daunting task for me.
As the poem has moved from one poet to another, it has occasionally been reformatted. To date, no one has done the kind of work that my predecessor did, however! Tamera Wissinger's transformation of the line breaks is a thing of beauty. I've kept Tamera's version for those who want to see it carried on in this fashion. For those who need to see it in its "original" couplet form, I've got that too.
So, without further ado, here are both forms of the poem (same words, different breaks), with my line added to the end of each.
She lives without a net,
walking along the alluvium of the delta.
Shoes swing over her shoulder,
on her bare feet stick
jeweled flecks of dark mica.
Hands faster than fish swing
at the ends of bare brown arms.
Her hair flows,
in wild wind
as she digs
in the indigo varnished handbag,
pulls out her grandmother’s oval
strokes the turquoise stones, and steps
through the curved doorway.
She glides past glossy water
hyacinth to shimmer
with a school of shad,
listens to the ibises
roosting in the trees
of the cypress swamp
of Grandmother’s words, still fresh
in her windswept memory;
“Born from the oyster,
expect the pearl.
Reach for the rainbow
reflection on the smallest dewdrop.”
The surface glistens, a shadow
above her head, a paddle
she reaches, seizes. She’s electric energy
and turquoise eyes.
Lifted high, she gulps strange air – stares
Green pirogue, crawfish trap, startled
fisherman with turquoise eyes, twins
of her own, riveted on her wrist–
She’s swifter than a dolphin,
leaving him only
of his own
“Watch for her.
You’ll have but one chance
to decide. Garner wisdom from the water
and from the pearl
of the past.”
In a quicksilver flash,
an arc of resolution, he
into the shimmering water
where hidden sentries restrain
any pursuit and the bitter taste
of impulse rushes
into his lungs.
Her flipper flutters his weathered toes
– Pearl’s signal –Stop struggling.The Sentinels will escort youHe stills, closes his eyes,takes an uncharacteristic breath of ...water!Released, he swims
Version 2(Couplet Version)
She lives without a net, walking along the alluvium of the delta.
Shoes swing over her shoulder, on her bare feet stick jeweled flecks of dark mica.
Hands faster than fish swing at the ends of bare brown arms. Her hair flows,
snows in wild wind as she digs in the indigo varnished handbag,
pulls out her grandmother’s oval cuffed bracelet,
strokes the turquoise stones, and steps through the curved doorway.
Tripping on her tail she slips hair first down the slide… splash!
She glides past glossy water hyacinth to shimmer with a school of shad,
listens to the ibises roosting in the trees of the cypress swamp
an echo of Grandmother’s words, still fresh in her windswept memory.Born from the oyster, expect the pearl.Reach for the rainbow reflection on the smallest dewdrop.
The surface glistens, a shadow slips above her head, a paddle dips
she reaches, seizes. She’s electric energy and turquoise eyes.
Lifted high, she gulps strange air – stares clearly into
Green pirogue, crawfish trap, startled fisherman
with turquoise eyes, twins of her own, riveted on her wrist–
She’s swifter than a dolphin, slipping away, leaving him only a handful of
memories of his own grandmother’s counsel: Watch for her. You’ll have but one chance to
determine—to decide. Garner wisdom from the water and from the pearl of the past.
In a quicksilver flash, an arc of resolution, he leaps into the shimmering water
Where hidden sentries restrain any pursuit and the bitter taste of impulse rushes into his lungs
Her flipper flutters his weathered toes –Pearl’s signal–Stop struggling. The Sentinels will escort you
He stills, closes his eyes, takes an uncharacteristic breath of ... water! Released, he swims
Tabatha Yeatts is up next. I can't wait to see where she'll take us (and them!)
If you want to see how this poem has come together, you may want to begin at Day 1 and follow its evolution. Here is list of this year's participants with links to their posts.
2015 Kidlitosphere Progressive Poem
1 Jone at Check it Out
2 Joy at Poetry for Kids Joy
3 Heidi at My Juicy Little Universe
4 Laura at Writing the World for Kids
5 Charles at Poetry Time Blog
6 Ramona at Pleasures from the Page
7 Catherine at Catherine Johnson
8 Irene at Live Your Poem
9 Mary Lee at Poetrepository
10 Michelle at Today’s Little Ditty
11 Kim at Flukeprints
12 Margaret at Reflections on the Teche
13 Doraine at DoriReads
14 Renee at No Water River
15 Robyn at Life on the Deckle Edge
16 Ruth at There is No Such Thing as a Godforsaken Town
17 Buffy at Buffy’s Blog
18 Sheila at Sheila Renfro
19 Linda at Teacher Dance
20 Penny at A Penny and her Jots
21 Tara at A Teaching Life
22 Pat at Writer on a Horse
23 Tamera at The Writer’s Whimsy
24 Tricia at The Miss Rumphius Effect
25 Tabatha at The Opposite of Indifference
26 Brian at Walk the Walk
27 Jan at Bookseedstudio
28 Amy at The Poem Farm
29 Donna at Mainely Write
30 Matt at Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme
Thanks to Irene
for organizing this event and for including me.
I do hope you'll take some time to check out all the wonderful poetic things being shared and collected today by Renee LaTulippe at No Water River
. Happy poetry Friday friends!
By: Andy Yates,
Blog: Illustration Friday Blog
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, pen/brush and ink
, weekly topics
, Adventure Time
, comics illustrator of the week
, comics tavern
, comics tavern cover of the week
, George Bletsis
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George Bletsis provided this week’s stunning Adventure Time cover, so he gets Comics Illustrator of the Week honors! Bletsis brings his carefully constructed drawings to life with rich, bold colors and seems to have a real knack for field of depth & space in his work. Working and living in Southern England as a freelance illustrator for print media and as an artist for the film/video game industry, Bletsis has collected quite an impressive list of clients thus far including Jamie Oliver, BBC, Penguin, and The Royal Academy of Dance, to name a few.
You can find more art by George Bletsis, including some pages of his own comic strip, on his blog here.
For more comics related art, you can follow me on my website comicstavern.com - Andy Yates
Amazon’s net sales increased 15 percent to $22.72 billion in the first quarter of 2015, as compared first quarter sales in 2014.
In addition, the company revealed that its operating income increased 74 percent to $255 million in the first quarter, over the same quarter last year.
During the quarter, Amazon marked a number of milestones, some of which were book related. For instance, during the quarter, Amazon officially launched Write On by Kindle, an online community for readers and writers to collaborate. In addition, German author Poppy J. Anderson bold more than one million Kindle books using Kindle Direct Publishing.
How do we motivate today’s children to become tomorrow’s movers and shakers in the world of innovation? The answer might be simpler than it sounds. Children have a huge advantage over adults in the creativity department. Children are not predisposed to conclusions that something is impossible, or that there is only one way of doing it. To a child, superheroes are real, and so are their powers. And this is the time to open their minds to the world of new innovations through invention.
I have three young children of my own, and they are always coming up with new ideas. Some of those ideas might not be feasible – at least not today (“Dad, I want to invent a car that flies over this traffic”). But imagine if yesterday’s inventors had been told that “it can’t be done.”
When most of us were growing up, our parents would have laughed at the idea that someday nearly everyone would be carrying around a pocket-size device, not only for making phone calls, but capable of performing complex computer operations that even some desktop computers could not perform at the time. Never mind that this “futuristic device” would be giving us step-by-step directions to the nearest coffee shop, taking high-definition photographs, recording video on-the-go, and the list goes on. Today’s reality would have seemed like nothing more than a child’s fantasy.
Innovation is often born of a curious mind. And children have some of the most curious minds around.
So what can you do as a librarian or someone involved with your local children’s library to help spread the word? Let me introduce USPTO KIDS!
The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) recently revamped their entire kid’s section to bring it into the 21st century. The new website features a section for kids, complete with coloring pages and even pamphlets that explain how to make and launch a model paper rocket, along with directions for making other inventions. The section for kids introduces elementary school age children to the world of inventions through characters such as Ms. Pat Pending and her robot cat Gears, and to the world of trademarks through characters such as Mark Trademan and his friend T.Markey.
The new website also features a section for teens, including biographies of teenagers who have recently received their very own patents. Teens can watch videos and play interactive games to “spot the invention.”
For librarians, the new website includes a variety of educational resources to help guide parents and teachers. Hands-on materials help link the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) education curriculum to real-life innovations. These resources are categorized for elementary school, middle school, and high school age students.
Of course, if you are searching for more ideas, the USPTO KIDS site also includes links to other sites, including many free government resources that are geared toward introducing children to the exciting world of invention.
It is important to encourage children of all ages to explore new ideas. Today’s children are the inventors of tomorrow. Visit USPTO KIDS for ideas on how to bring the world of innovation to a library near you. And if you need another reason, remember that May is National Inventor’s Month!
Our guest blogger today Mark Trenner. Mark lives in Colorado with his wife and their three children, who regularly visit the local libraries to read about new things. He is an intellectual property (IP) law attorney, and works with leading edge inventors at his Denver-area patent law firm. For more information, view educational videos about patents and invention on his YouTube channel.
Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.
If you’d like to write a guest post for the ALSC Blog, please contact Mary Voors, ALSC Blog manager, at email@example.com.
The post Opening the Eyes of Children to a World of Innovation – Where Anything Is Possible appeared first on ALSC Blog.
Blog: The Open Book
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, Dear Readers
, Diversity, Race, and Representation
, Holidays and Celebrations
, Lee & Low Likes
, New Releases
, African/African American Interest
, Ira Aldridge
, multicultural books
, Race issues
, William Shakespeare
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Today is what historians speculate is William Shakespeare’s birthday. Shakespeare was born in Stratford-on-Avon, England in 1564. Shakespeare is arguably the most well-known playwright of all time, and his works have been produced and acted in for the past 400 years!
Ira’s Shakespeare Dream, written by Glenda Armand and illustrated by Floyd Cooper, follows the life of Ira Aldridge, who was known as one of the greatest Shakespearean actors of the 19th century.
As a young boy in 19th century New York City, Ira Aldridge greatly admired the works of Shakespeare. He wanted nothing more than to act in Shakespeare’s plays against his father’s wishes.
Ira later set sale for England, where he ran small errands for theaters. He was also hired as an understudy. Ira got his big break acting when a fellow could not perform. However, he was not well received. He had little training and critics felt that he should not take roles from white actors.
Through his determination and perseverance, Ira Aldridge went on to become one of the most well known Shakespearean actors of his time, especially for his role as Othello. Ira Aldridge’s name is inscribed on a bronze plaque in the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre, in Stratford-on-Avon, Shakespeare’s birthplace. He is the only African American among the thirty-three actors to have achieved this recognition.
Ira’s Shakespeare Dream will be out this June.
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 April 24 and 30 that you think is a must for the next Tweets of the Week send a direct or @ message to lbraun2000 on Twitter.
By: ALSC Intellectual Freedom committee,
Blog: ALSC Blog
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It might seem a bit like cheating, but I want to tag on to this terrific post by Chelsea Couillard-Smith regarding intellectual freedom training for all library staff. She makes excellent points regarding the sensitivity with regard to children, and staff’s own response to certain materials with which they may not be comfortable.
It is important for all staff to understand the intellectual freedom basis upon which libraries operate, to have the opportunity to receive training and to be able to ask all of those, “But what if…”questions that they may have. It is important even if that person never has to deal with a member of the public on the issue because it is an integral part of library culture and values.
Many years ago, my library director at the time, decided that everyone in that library system would be required to receive such training. She charged the management group with developing a training session, and then teamed us up and scheduled us to do multiple presentations over the course of several weeks. All staff, including custodial, were required to attend one of the sessions. Each session included an introduction to the ALA Bill of Rights and Freedom to Read statement as core values with regard to all library users, including children and teens, and how those impacted library policies. It introduced some of those “What if…” scenarios, for staff to work through and provided an opportunity to respond to additional questions and concerns raised by those in attendance.
Am I going to claim that everyone was happy once they understood how our commitment to intellectual freedom impacted what people, especially young people, could access? No. It was actually fascinating to see how many ways some people could try to re-frame one of those “What if…” situations to try for a different answer. However, no one could claim that they did not understand that this was a core value of service and I believe that this created a system-wide base for communication with staff and therefore the public.
Member, ALSC Intellectual Freedom Committee
The post But What If…? appeared first on ALSC Blog.
Welcome to our monthly Ask a Pub Pro feature where a publishing professional answers readers and writers' questions regarding the stories they love or their work in progress. This month, Helene Dunbar, author of These Gentle Wounds and the soon-to-be-released What Remains joins us to answer questions on humor in dark scenes, unsympathetic characters, present tense, and multiple POVs.
We'd love to have you send in your questions for next month's column. Please send questions to AYAPLit AT gmail.com and put "Ask a Pub Pro Question" in the subject line. If your question is chosen, you'll get to include a link to your social media and a one to two sentence (think Tweet size) blurb of your WIP.
Come on! Get those questions in!
Author Helene Dunbar Answers Questions on Ask A Pub Pro
1) My question is regarding humor in dark moment scenes. I have a character who's a smart mouth. If he says something funny (dry) in a very dark scene, will that lesson the tension? (asked by Sylvia in NJ)
There’s always a lot of trial and error in drafting. If your character is sarcastic throughout the manuscript and it would be in character for him to say something snarky in a very dark scene, by all means go for it. I’m a strong advocate for letting your character dictate the scene, so only if this would be breaking character would I recommend against it.
This is also where crit partners or beta readers are great resources because they’ll be the first to tell you if a scene is being marred by a character’s response. But I’ve often found that a tense scene can be made tenser by someone saying the unexpected thing that maybe cuts deeper than the expected comment would.
2) I tend to write protagonists that are not perfect....I mean really not perfect, as in more anti-hero than hero...and have had a lot of complaints about sympathy. But to me, the greater character arc comes from someone who has a longer way to go. Is this kind of character just not marketable? Or how do I make them so? (asked by Anonymous)
I agree with you that sometimes the most interesting character arcs are those in which the character has a great distance to go. However…just because a character starts out immensely flawed, doesn’t mean that the reader can’t sympathize with them. For instance, your character might be a total self-serving narcissist who irritates everyone he/she meets except…they have a soft spot for their little sister and take her to the park at 1pm every Saturday regardless of what else they’re asked to do. I think that showing the softer side of a hard character can go very far in rounding out the character and might give you some extra ammunition in ramping up their arc.
That IS a very common criticism though, so make sure that your character is human enough or believable enough or fleshed out enough so that regardless how flawed they are, there is something to make the reader root for him/her.
3) My WIP is currently in first person present tense. I know there may be marketing challenges to using this tense, but am wondering if there are any guidelines craft-wise for writing in present tense. (asked by Anonymous)
My first book, These Gentle Wounds
, was first person present and I can’t think of a single agent or editor who ever told me that this would cause a marketing challenge. I actually wrestle with tense all the time and by that I mean that every single manuscript I’ve written has started out being in a tense different from the one it eventually ended up in. For me, while it’s fine to “decide” what tense I’m going to write in, the story and characters end up taking over and it becomes completely clear what tense the story demands.
As for guidelines, there are some awesome posts on Mary Kohl’s blog: kidlit.com. But I think the most important craft element to writing in first is to remember that you’re in the character’s head, you aren’t listening to a story. So, for instance, make sure that you go back and look for characters saying things that are unnecessary.
Example 1: I saw the kite floating high in the sky and it looked to me as if it might sail on forever.
Example 2: The kite floats high in the sky, looking like it might sail on forever.
You simply don’t need to say, “I saw” and “it looked to me as if” because you’re in the character’s head and most people, when they’re thinking to themselves simply register what they’re seeing or doing.
When I write in first person present I always do a revision draft to look for this. It will help keep your word-count down, help avoid starting every sentence with “I”, and will allow the reader to more closely relate to your character.
4) How many POVs is too many POVs? If I want to work with an ensemble cast, can I do 3 POVs switching off between them each scene, one per scene? (asked by Aaron in WA)
Ha! If you only knew how relevant this question was for me at the moment. Anyhow….how many is too much? It’s too much when you can’t keep the voices of the characters clear enough for the reader to identify without chapter headings that use the character’s name. (I’m making the assumption that you mean “chapters” and not “scenes” because changing characters a couple of times within each chapter is going to be challenging to say the least.)
Here’s my number one rule of writing craft: There are no rules so long as you can do it well. Seriously. Rules are for “what usually works.” But if you can pull of something brilliant that doesn’t follow anyone else’s rules, than by all means, do so.
Two authors that pull of multiple POVs extremely well are Melissa Marr (I believe that the final book of the Wicked Lovely Series had 15 POVs or something absurd and it was handled perfectly) and Maggie Steifvater (The Raven Boys series to me, is a masterclass in writing 3rd person, multiple POVs and still feeling like you’re in the head and heart of every single character. I honestly have no idea how she does it, but I’m determined to find out.)
About the Book:In less than a second
... two of the things Cal Ryan cares most about--a promising baseball career and Lizzie, one of his best friends--are gone forever.In the hours that follow
...Cal's damaged heart is replaced. But his life will never be the same.
Everyone expects him to pick up the pieces and move on.
But Lizzie is gone, and all that remains for Cal is an overwhelming sense that her death was his fault. And a voice in his head that just...won't...stop.
Cal thought he and his friends could overcome any obstacle. But grief might be the one exception.And that might take a lifetime to accept
About the Author:
Helene Dunbar is the author of THESE GENTLE WOUNDS (Flux, 2014) and WHAT REMAINS
(Flux, 2015). Over the years, she's worked as a drama critic, journalist, and marketing manager, and has written on topics as diverse as Irish music, court cases, theater, and Native American Indian tribes. She lives in Nashville with her husband and daughter, and exists on a steady diet of readers' tears.Website
-- posted by Susan Sipal, @HP4Writers
An eight-year-old Canadian girl has been asked to stop reading books on the school bus, after the driver told her that it could be harmful to other kids.
How is reading harmful? The bus driver claims that other students might want to see what she is reading and stand up or that she might get hurt herself if the corner of the book pokes her in the eye.
Her father complained. CBC News Montreal has the scoop:
The no-reading rule is not sitting well with her father, Daniel Abel. Abel says he’s proud of his daughter for loving to read, and wants to encourage her to do so as often as possible.
The board responded to the complaint, admitting that reading is not dangerous. However, they said that school bus rules are up to the driver.
The last few posts from my fellow TeachingAuthors have been on poetry. Each of them has written eloquently on the topic. But trust me when I tell you that I have nothing worthwhile to contribute to the topic of poetry. So, I’ll share a topic with you that I do know about: research.
I enjoy sharing how to do research with students and teachers. I offer a variety of program options including several different types of sessions on brainstorming, research, and writing. I love to be invited into a school for a live author visit. But that isn’t always possible. In the last couple of years, I’ve done lots of Interactive Video Conferences as part of the Authors on Call group of inkthinktank.com.
During these video conferences, I’ve come up with ways to teach students from third grade through high school how to approach a research project. One method I use is to give them an easy way to remember the steps to plan their research using A, B, C, and D:
ALWAYS CHOOSE A TOPIC THAT INTERESTS YOU.
BRAINSTORM FOR IDEAS THAT WILL MAKE YOUR PAPER DIFFERENT FROM EVERY OTHER PAPER.
CHOOSE AN ANGLE FOR YOUR PAPER AND WRITE A ONE SENTENCE PLAN THAT BEGINS:
MY PAPER IS ABOUT . . .
DECIDE WHERE TO FIND THE RESEARCH INFORMATION THAT FITS THE ANGLE OF YOUR PAPER.
The earlier students learn good research skills, the better. Learning some tips and tricks like my ABCD plan will help. I hope it makes the whole process less daunting.
Carla Killough McClafferty
To find out more about booking an Interactive Video Conference with students or teachers:Contact Carla Killough McClaffertyiNK THINK TANK Center for Interactive Learning and Collaboration (search for mcclafferty or inkthinktank)
Today is World Book Day, an annual event put on by UNESCO to promote reading around the globe.
April 23 has special significance in the literary world. UNESCO’s site explains:
It is on this date in 1616 that Cervantes, Shakespeare and Inca Garcilaso de la Vega all died. It is also the date of birth or death of other prominent authors, such as Maurice Druon, Haldor K.Laxness, Vladimir Nabokov, Josep Pla and Manuel Mejía Vallejo.
In Barcelona, readers are celebrating St. George’s Day (La Diada de Sant Jordi in Catalan), a holiday for lovers and readers. Like Valentine’s Day in the U.S., the holiday is meant to be spent with your special someone. According to Catalan tradition, loved ones exchange books and roses.
What are you reading to celebrate this global day of reading?
by Contributing Editor, Maurene J. Hinds
One of the best ways to enliven nonfiction is by “borrowing” techniques used in fiction. This includes, when appropriate, opening with a high-action scene, building suspense, using plenty of “showing” description, and including dialogue to break-up the narrative. The only caveat is that actions and dialogue must be “true,” in that it accurately (word for word in the case of direct quotes) portrays events or people. What if you are not writing a biography or historical piece? You can still use these techniques by interviewing professionals, showing people in action, and determining an interesting point of view from which to write about your subject.
Kids love to learn about topics that interest them. For writers, this is good news, because it can often be “easier” to sell nonfiction than fiction–easier in the sense that many editors are looking for quality nonfiction. However, this also means that it is a competitive market, and only the best nonfiction writing will sell. You can make your nonfiction stand out by incorporating the techniques mentioned above, among other things (choosing and focusing on a specific, interesting topic also helps!).
Just as you need some type of “hook,” in fiction, so too should you use one in nonfiction. Even if your topic follows some type of chronology, consider opening with a significant event, fascinating fact, high-action event, or unique dialogue. Bring the reader in and then fill-in the details. What is an exception to this approach? Younger readers require more structure than older readers, in which case beginning in the middle of your story might not work. Straight chronologies work better for younger readers.
Fiction techniques can enhance your nonfiction
Use the idea of beginnings, middles, and ends as you craft your nonfiction piece. Just as fiction builds to the climax of the story, so too can you arrange your information in a way that builds to an interesting ending. Are you writing about a real-life mystery? Consider dropping clues along the way so your reader can try to solve the problem.
What if you are not sure of the best structure for your work? In many ways, you have more flexibility with nonfiction in that you can structure your piece in a way that best fits your material. Perhaps including the most exciting information first, rather than last, works best for your topic. Maybe the middle of your piece is full of action, which you then lead the reader out of to explain the significance. No matter how you structure your piece, remember that it needs to have some type of logical order (remember that bit about young readers?). As always, keep your reader in mind.
Dialogue is a great way to add interest to nonfiction while also breaking up longer sections of text. If you are writing a historical event or biography, search for actual words said by the people involved. If you cannot find this, you might be able to quote a newspaper article or some other source from the same period. If no quotes are available, or if you are writing a different type of piece, consider including excerpts from interviews. Experts add authenticity to your work, and some interesting quotes from experts can add that special, human touch.
As you develop your piece, look for ways to make the writing as interesting and “alive” as possible. Kids do not like to wade through dry, stale facts any more than (many) adults do. Think of ways to put those facts into context. Show the significance of the information, and present it in forms that kids can relate to. If you use the many ways to add sparkle to your nonfiction, you will help increase your chances of publication while providing fun, fascinating reads for your audience.
Looking for some way to overcome writer’s block? Take some inspiration from the author of Les Misérables.
Journl, an app startup company, has created an infographic called “The Life and Habits of Victor Hugo,” which explores the exciting life of the madman. Check it out:
Victor Hugo was a creative genius. He could lay claim to being the most famous living writer in the world in the mid-19th century and his works, such as Les Misérables and The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, continue to be hugely popular to this day. Hugo was also a man of many unusual habits, including using nudity as a way of combating procrastination.
We’ve got the full graphic for you after the jump.
The First Five Pages April Workshop has come to an end. The participants did a great job with their revisions and it showed! A big thanks to our guest mentor, Becca Puglisi and our guest agent mentor (and my lovely agent!) Amaryah Orenstein, both of whom provided great comments and suggestions, and of course to all of our fabulous permanent mentors! And I want to welcome our newest permanent mentor, Holly Bodger, the author of the forthcoming YA novel 5 to 1 (Knopf, May 2015). I can’t wait to read it! Our May workshop will open for entries at noon, EST, on Saturday May 2, 2015. We'll take the first five Middle Grade, Young Adult, or New Adult entries that meet all guidelines and formatting requirements. Click here to get the rules. I will post when it opens and closes on Adventures in YA Publishing and on twitter (@etcashman), with the hashtag #1st5pages. In addition to our talented permanent mentors, we have my dear friend and critique partner, author Diana Renn. Diana is the author of three fabulous international YA mysteries, TOKYO HEIST, LATITUDE ZERO, and BLUE VOYAGE which will be available October 13, 2015. And we have Georgia McBride as our guest editor. In addition to being an author, Georgia is the founder of Georgia McBride Media Group, home of Month9Books, Swoon Romance, and Tantrum Books. So get those pages ready! May Guest Mentor – Diana Renn Diana writes contemporary novels for young adults featuring globetrotting teens, international intrigue, and more than a dash of mystery. TOKYO HEIST, LATITUDE ZERO, and BLUE VOYAGE are all published by Viking Children’s Books / Penguin Young Readers Group. She’s also the Fiction Editor at YARN (Young Adult Review Network), an award-winning online magazine featuring short-form writing for teens.
An intricately crafted mystery set in the contemporary Middle East.
Zan is a politician’s daughter and an adrenaline junkie. Whether she’s rock climbing or shoplifting, she loves to live on the edge. But she gets more of a rush than she bargained for on a forced mother–daughter bonding trip to Turkey, where she finds herself in the crosshairs of an antiquities smuggling ring. These criminals believe that Zan can lead them to an ancient treasure that’s both priceless and cursed. Until she does so, she and her family are in grave danger. Zan’s quest to save the treasure—and the lives of people she cares about—leads her from the sparkling Mediterranean, to the bustle of Istanbul's Grand Bazaar, to the eerie and crumbling caves of Cappadocia. But it seems that nowhere is safe, and there’s only so high she can climb before everything comes tumbling down. May Guest Editor – Georgia McBride Georgia McBride is founder of Georgia McBride Media Group, home of Month9Books, Swoon Romance, and Tantrum Books. She develops content for film and TV, and is also a speculative fiction writer. Georgia founded the #YAlitchat hashtag and weekly chat on Twitter in 2009. Georgia is one of Publishers Marketplace’s most prolific publishers and has spent most of 2014 atop the editors lists in Young Adult, Digital New Adult and Digital deals. She’s completed over 120 publishing deals on behalf of three imprints in the past 24 months.
Note: Today’s post is for the letter “T” as part of the Blogging A to Z Challenge.
If you’re a grandparent, chances are your darling grandchildren have inspired you to write many cute little stories related to some of the wonderful times you’ve had together. And, at some point, you’ll probably consider turning these stories into published books and you’ll hope to sell them to a children’s book publisher.
That’s a wonderful idea! But there are a few common mistakes to avoid if you’re a grandparent who hasn’t taken classes for children’s writers, yet you hope to publish your stories for kids. You probably aren’t familiar with some of the “tricks of the trade” – the elements children’s publishers look for in the manuscripts they tend to purchase.
Here are some tips to help you have the best chance of finding a publisher for your stories:
1. Although your story may include you, the grandparent, be sure the story is told from your grandchild’s point of view.
2. Give your grandchild a problem right at the start of the story. But beware – do NOT have your grandchild simply ask you (or any other well-meaning person in the story) what to do to solve this problem. Your grandchild needs to figure out what to do himself and then go try to do it.
3. Beware of featuring too many adults in your story. If you – the grandparent – play a major role in the story, don’t include many other adults in your tale, too. Avoid the tendency to also have mom or dad show up in the story to offer even more well-meaning advice to your grandchild.
Follow these 3 tips and the delightful story you write, based on your real live grandchildren, will have a much better chance of being accepted by a traditional children’s publisher and turned into a charming picture book you can proudly present to your grandchildren and also see in bookstores across the country.
For more writing tips, get your free subscription to The Morning Nudge now at www.morningnudge.com.
It’s Game Time: Bella and the Bulldogs Would You Rather!
Based on overwhelming responses to our recent interview with Brec Bassinger, we know her new Nickelodeon show Bella and the Bulldogs scored a touchdown with you guys! She’s the bubbly cheerleader who suddenly finds herself fulfilling her dream of becoming the quarterback of the school football team! If you’re a fan, check out our Bella and the Bulldogs Would You Rather.
Would You Rather . . .
- Be the star quarterback OR the head cheerleader?
- Go to an NFL game OR an NBA game?
- Go shopping at Justice OR Sports Authority?
- Live on a ranch in Texas OR a mansion in California?
- Get a sports scholarship to college OR an academic scholarship?
- Lift weights OR learn a dance routine?
- Have to sleep in a football helmet OR a ski mask?
- Have to take a math test OR play fantasy football?
- Wear a dress to a formal dance OR a tuxedo?
- Be the only boy/girl on a team OR be on an all same-sex team (all-girls or all-boys)?
Let us know your answers in the Comments below, and tell us what YOUR call is on Bella and the Bulldogs!
-Ratha, STACKS Writer
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Artists, illustrators, and graphic designers at some point will have to make one very important decision regarding how they want to earn a living! Preferably this decision is made early in their career so as to guide them in making the most of their natural talent and hard work.
The 2 choices available are:
1. To either to work within a highly targeted and profitable niche and cash-in on the successful projects that they are able to land.
2. To create a constant, but small, cash flow of revenues from royalties and other commission based sources.
Both will require dedication and the right direction to make a decent living, much like any career in the fine arts.
For the first options, in the early career of an illustrator luck may be an influential factor, however building a reputable portfolio, having the right connections, as well as working with well known brands/agents will be vital for a successful career. In general, this is seen as a risky option as illustrators are forced to survive from pay-check to pay-check before landing a full-time job and a earning steady income.
The second option has seen tremendous growth and support within the past few years, from which some of the most talented illustrators have created a name for themselves, such as Olipop (Spain) known for his iconic designs of TV series and Movies or Patrol (France) with his original caricatures of famous personalities with a hilarious twist.
By simply showcasing their designs on a number of stock illustrations, print on demand sites, such as Tostadora, and other similar sites, suchlike artists have not only reached millions every year but also have the advantage of international exposure through these international marketplaces. The most popular factor in this second option is the fact that even when the designers are asleep, working on their next big project, or having a Mojito at the beach, their designs are constantly selling! 24 hours, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
Simply having the designs on these print on demand sites, designers are earning a constant revenue stream and rewarded for each new design created and made available for purchase.
With up to 5 designers a week being showcased weekly across Tostadora’s international platform, you can already start earning by setting up a store for free with Tostadora.
Tostadora is an online platform for designers and illustrations to showcase their designs and illustrations, through which they will receive the exposure and royalties they deserve. By actively supporting and promoting their artists, designers with Tostadora are able to increase visibility of their designs and have an international platform to showcase their designs
With several incentives already in place, such as their Designer of the week, where up to 5 designers have the opportunity to reach a specific and dedicated target audience, along with active social promotions and competitions, Tostadora receives a huge amount of visitors month by month across their 5 websites without designers having to worry about promoting their artwork themselves or about logistics.
Tostadora aims to be THE international marketplace for designers looking for international exposure. Artists are encouraged to promote their work on the site, but receive a significant boost to their reach through the platform’s own social reach.