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<<August 2014>>
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Results 26 - 50 of 119,911
26. Will Write For Chocolate

Updated my Will Write For Chocolate comic strip (yes, finally).

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27. How to Be Freaking Epic as a Freelance Writer

laptop woman happyI know what you want: To get more freelance writing jobs. And to earn good money doing what you love. And to enjoy the freedom that comes with controlling your own career.

That’s nice — but guess what? Editors don’t care what you want.

All editors care about is that you make their jobs — and their lives — as easy as possible. And for you, that means going beyond turning in great work on time. (Turning in great work on time is the bare minimum requirement.)

If you want to keep raking in the freelance writing gigs, you need to be freaking epic. You need to go waaaaaay beyond what the hordes of other freelance writers are doing.

Here’s how to level it up – and get more work:

Give Without Getting

Everyone loves a surprise freebie. What little extra can you offer your editor clients, without going broke yourself?

How about this: When you come across some news tidbit or research study you think would be perfect for a particular publication, but don’t want to pitch it yourself, send it to the editor anyway. Tell him, “I found this study I thought you’d be interested in. Hope you find it useful for X magazine!”

Or maybe you’re working on an article and come across some information that is important, but doesn’t quite fit in the piece. Write it up as a quick sidebar, and tell the editor, “I had some extra information, so I wrote up a sidebar you can use if you have room. Hope you like it!”

With some creativity, you’ll find many easy, painless ways to offer little extras to your clients. That puts you ahead of all those writers who turn in an article and call it a day.

Get the Best (Not the Easiest!) Interview Sources

Too many writers pick the first expert sources that come to mind: They go for people they already happen to know, like local professionals. “I need to interview a podiatrist? Hey, there’s one on my street!” Or they send out a HARO request and choose from among the people who respond.

When I recently wrote an article for a national health magazine on pet health, I needed to find two expert sources. Of course, I have a local vet who is great. But instead of going the easy route, I called a national veterinary organization and gave the PR rep my exact specifications: I wanted one male and one female vet from different areas of the country — and they needed to have a published book through a traditional publisher or work at a well-known veterinary hospital.

I got exactly what I wanted.

My editor did not ask for these requirements; I just knew these would be the very best sources and would impress the heck out of her.

When you’re on the search for sources for your articles, think of who would be the absolute best person to interview. You may think they’re out of your league, but you won’t know until you ask — and often, you’ll be surprised.

Push Your Style

If you can write in a clear, readable style, that probably puts you in the top 25% of freelance writers out there. But where you really create value and become epic is in bringing an amazing style to everything you write.

When I write an article, in my final edit, I go over every sentence and ask myself, “Is this the best possible way to express this idea? Is there any way I can make it more concise/interesting/entertaining?”

Writing for magazines (and copywriting, by the way) is about more than conveying ideas to readers in grammatically correct sentences. You need to do it in a way that entertains and keeps them interested as well. The perfect turn of phrase, the (truly) humorous aside, the killer lede — these are the things that keep readers — and editors — coming back.

So the next time you write an article, or a query, go over it one last time and make sure every sentence is as tight and compelling as it can be.

Don’t be one of the many writers who say, “I turned in an article on time. My sentences are grammatically correct. The end. Next!” Push yourself to be freaking epic and you’ll be rewarded with epic assignments in turn.

How about you: What do YOU do to level it up in your writing and business? What have editors’ responses been? Let us know in the Comments below!

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28. Worlds End 11oz Ceramic Mugs

A look at our NEW Merchandise

Hi Folks,

I’m pleased to announce today that, at long last, we have launched the full range of new Worlds End 11oz Ceramic Mugs.

So without further ado… you can check out the full range of artwork available here in the Wizards keep News Pages

The full range of six Worlds End Series 01 Mugs are available now to purchase from the Wizards Keep & Worlds End Shops!

They are just the job for enjoying your favourite brew whilst reading Worlds End any time of day, any time of year.

Until next time, have fun!

Tim Perkins…
August18th 2014

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29. South Asian Fiction, Picture Books, & Thriller Novels Get Booked

Here are some literary events to pencil in your calendar this week.

To get your event posted on our calendar, visit our Facebook Your Literary Event page. Please post your event at least one week prior to its date.

Three writers will appear for a night to discuss new South Asian fiction. Join in on Thursday, August 21st at Politics & Prose Bookstore starting 7 p.m. (Washington, D.C.)


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30. George Burroughs: Salem’s perfect witch

On 19 August 1692, George Burroughs stood on the ladder and calmly made a perfect recitation of the Lord’s Prayer. Some in the large crowd of observers were moved to tears, so much so that it seemed the proceedings might come to a halt. But Reverend Burroughs had uttered his last words. He was soon “turned off” the ladder, hanged to death for the high crime of witchcraft. After the execution, Reverend Cotton Mather, who had been watching the proceedings from horseback, acted quickly to calm the restless multitude. He reminded them among other things “that the Devil has often been transformed into an Angel of Light” — that despite his pious words and demeanor, Burroughs had been the leader of Satan’s war against New England. Thus assured, the executions would continue. Five people would die that day, one of most dramatic and important in the course of the Salem witch trials. For the audience on 19 August realized that if a Puritan minister could hang for witchcraft, then no one was safe. Their tears and protests were the beginning of the public opposition that would eventually bring the trials to an end. Unfortunately, by the time that happened, nineteen people had been executed, one pressed to death, and five perished in the wretched squalor of the Salem and Boston jails.

The fact that a Harvard-educated Puritan minister was considered the ringleader of the largest witch hunt in American history is one of the many striking oddities about the Salem trials. Yet, a close look at Burroughs reveals that his character and his background personified virtually all the fears and suspicions that ignited witchcraft accusations in 1692. There was no single cause, no simple explanation to why the Salem crisis happened. Massachusetts Bay faced a confluence of events that produced the fears and doubts that led to the crisis. Likewise, a wide range of people faced charges for having supposedly committed diverse acts of witchcraft against a broad swath of the populace. Yet, there were many reasons people were suspicious of George Burroughs, indeed he was the perfect witch.

In 1680 when Burroughs was hired to be the minister of Salem Village he quickly became a central figure in the on-going controversy over religion, politics, and money that would span more than thirty years and result in the departure of the community’s first four ministers. One of Burroughs’s parishioners wrote to him, complaining that “Brother is against brother and neighbors against neighbors, all quarreling and smiting one another.” After a little over two years in office, the Salem Village Committee stopped paying Burroughs’s salary, so he wisely left town to return to his old job, as minister of Falmouth (now Portland, Maine).

George Burroughs spent most of his career in Falmouth, a town on the edge of the frontier. He was fortunate to escape the bloody destruction of the settlement by Native Americans in 1676 (during King Philip’s War) and 1690 (during King William’s War). The latter conflict brought a string of disastrous defeats to Massachusetts, and as many historians have noted, the ensuing war panic helped trigger the witch trials. The war was a spiritual defeat for the Puritan colony as they were losing to French Catholics allied with people they considered to be “heathen” Indians. It seemed Satan’s minions would end the Puritans’ New England experiment. Burroughs was one of many refugees from Maine who were either afflicted by or accused of witchcraft. In addition, most of the judges were military officers as well as speculators in Maine lands that the war had made worthless. Some of the afflicted refugees were suffering what today would be considered post-traumatic shock. Used to the manual labor of the frontier, Burroughs was so incredibly strong that several would testify in 1692 to his feats of supernatural strength. The minister’s seemingly miraculous escapes from Falmouth in 1676 and 1690 also brought him under suspicion. Perhaps he had done so with the help of the devil, or the Indians.

Bench in memory of George Burroughs at the Salem Witch Trials Memorial, Salem, Massachusetts. Photo by Emerson W. Baker.
Bench in memory of George Burroughs at the Salem Witch Trials Memorial, Salem, Massachusetts. Photo by Emerson W. Baker.

Tainted by his frontier ties, the twice-widowed Burroughs’s personal life and perceived religious views amplified fears of the minister. At his trial, several testified to his secretive ways, his seemingly preternatural knowledge, and his strict rule over his wives. He forbid his wives to speak about him to others, and even censored their letters to family. Meanwhile the afflicted said they saw the specters of Burroughs’s late wives, who claimed he murdered them. The charges were groundless. However, his controlling ways and the spectacular testimony against him at least raised the question of domestic abuse. Such perceived abuse of authority — at the family, community or colony-wide level — is a common thread linking many of Salem’s accused.

Some observers believed Burroughs was secretive because they suspected he was a Baptist. This Protestant sect had legal toleration but like the Quakers, was considered dangerous by most Massachusetts Puritans because of their belief in adult baptism and adult-only membership in the church. Burroughs admitted to the Salem judges that he had not recently received Puritan communion and had not baptized his younger children (both signs that he might be a Baptist). His excuse was that he was never ordained and hence could not lead the communion service, nor could he baptize children. However, since Burroughs left his post in Maine, he admitted he had visited Boston and Charlestown and had failed to take advantage of these rights there.

Even if he was not a Baptist, as a Puritan minister he was at risk. Burroughs was just one of five ministers cried out upon in 1692. Fully, 30 percent of the people accused were ministers, their immediate family members, or extended kin. In many ways, the witch trials were a critique of the religious and political policies of the colony. But that is another story.

Header image taken by Emerson W. Baker.

The post George Burroughs: Salem’s perfect witch appeared first on OUPblog.

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31. Back to School: Locked, Stocked, and Two Sharpened Pencils: or, Starting Your School Year

It’s almost that time again. Time for all of us school librarians and teachers to pack away the short-shorts, scrape off the beach sand, and start going to bed at a reasonable hour once more. Time for lesson plans, and inventory orders, and new September signage. It’s time for school, ladies and gentlemen, and the start of the next year of academic awesomeness.

Are you ready? Is your bag packed and stocked with notebooks, clean writing pens, and fresh, sharp crayons wrapped in perfect paper? New cardigans folded and washed? Back to school as a grown up can be a huge undertaking; supplies can get expensive, and the gear shift from summer to school can leave you feeling dizzy and suddenly stressed out.

If I had but two mottos in life to cling to, they would be:

  1. Don’t sweat the small stuff.
  2. Paying retail is for suckers.

So here are a few back to school necessities that won’t break your budget (or your brain), while still being fabulous.


Discounts Are Your Friend

They really, really are. And many stores offer teacher discounts to educators all year long (click for a handy dandy list.) Your ID can earn you a discount on everything from clothing to supplies to technology to magazines. My favorites include the Container Store (they also give a mean birthday discount) and Aerosoles. Awesome supplies AND comfortable shoes! What’s better than that?

Think Outside Your Box Store

Some of the best bulletin board and art supplies I’ve gotten have been snagged at the dollar store, and most of them aren’t paper. Anything from a shower curtain to a shoe tree can be made useful and awesome with a little imagination and some time.

No dollar stores near you? Try a closeout store like Lot Less or Big Lots for everything from a new backpack to cheap iPad/micro-USB chargers to folders. Even the clearance section of a TJ Maxx has some cool stuff to use/repurpose, if you don’t mind poking through.

Refresh Your Curriculum

Maybe you’re looking for a new way to teach a lesson, or use your iPad, or work with a smartboard. There are hundreds of online resources for educators seeking new ideas. Looking for an app to shine with? YALSA blog has you covered. Need a bit of inspiration for your bulletin board space? Pinterest makes it possible. Walk to talk to other educators from other schools to hear about best practices, classroom methods, research needs, or the best brand of binders to use? Reddit to the rescue.

Do Your Homework

Remember that anime series your kids were raving about all of last year? Or that game they couldn’t stop playing? Or that tv show they all watched? Yeah. Give it a try. Sit down and watch a few episodes of Attack on Titan, or play Minecraft for an afternoon. Your advisory or reading group will love that you gave it a shot, and even if you have no interest in continuing, just trying will count for a lot.

Establish a Goal

Your students and their parents are coming in this year with goals and hopes of their own, whether it’s to do better in math or to find someone to sit with at lunch. Make a goal of your own. Maybe it’s professional (“I want to improve my understanding of ___ in order to_____ so that I can _____ my library/teaching.”) Maybe it’s social (“I’m going to go out with people after work, and talk to that teacher in the foreign language department.”) Maybe it’s personal (“I’m not going to get crazy over _____.”) Pick something that you want out of this year, and try and remind yourself of it as you go.
“Idina” That Noise: Let It Go

Last year is last year. Whatever drama, angst, worries, nerves, tension, anger, frustration, or ennui that you felt as last year wound down, leave them there. This is a new year and a new day, and you can start as fresh as you want to. And just like fresh, clean sheets are always the best, be it bedding or loose-leaf, so is a new school year. Like my students tell me: “Just Idina that stuff. Let It Gooooooooooo!”

Rage, Rage Against the Dying of the Light

Adulthood is childhood with no curfew. Until the school year starts up, and then you absolutely have a curfew if you don’t want to fall asleep at your desk. The summer exists for you to refresh yourself, rejuvenate your mind and body, and go back with a positive attitude and satisfyingly sunkissed. Plan something over your last few days of freedom and enjoy yourself while doing it. This is your summer, too, and you’ll be much happier come the slush and cold of February if you squeeze the last bit of August out of the tube now.

Veteran school librarians and newbies, alike: what are some of your favorite/absolute-musts for starting back with your right foot forward after a summer break?


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32. Eckhart Tolle Launches New Imprint at New World Library

World-renowned writer Eckhart Tolle (pictured, via) will launch the Eckhart Tolle Editions imprint at New World Library.

The executives behind this imprint have been working on two books: Susan Stiffelman’s Parenting with Presence and Steve Taylor’s The Calm Center: Spiritual Reflections and Meditations. Both titles are slated for a Spring 2015 release.

Here’s more from the press release: “Tolle will work to identify and develop titles for the line, most of them written by other teachers and authors he has encountered over his past two decades of teaching. He will write a foreword for each title in the imprint and use his formidable social media presence — 1.2 million Facebook fans, 345,000 Twitter followers, and 120,000 YouTube subscribers — to promote them. Eckhart Tolle Editions aims to reach a broad audience of spiritual seekers.”

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33. Blast from the Past: Last Year's KidLitCon

That's right--it's time for our weekly plug for this year's KidLitCon! (Are you going? Are you going? Are you going??? We are!!) This time, though, I thought I'd entice you by re-posting my recap of last year's conference in Austin, which was, as... Read the rest of this post

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34. Maureen Johnson Posts Part 1 of a ‘Shades of London’ Prequel on Wattpad

Young adult writer Maureen Johnson has penned a short story, a prequel to the Shades of London series, called “The Boy in the Smoke.”

Readers will be able to access it for free on the social storytelling website, Wattpad. So far, a section of it has been posted online. Three more parts will be unleashed throughout the rest of the month.

Here’s more from the press release: “‘The Boy in The Smoke’ takes place before The Name of The Star, the first of the Shades of London series, and details the events that led to Stephen Dene developing the ‘sight’ that brought him to his unusual occupation as de facto leader of the Shades, London’s secret ghost-fighting police. A section of the short story will release every Monday for a month, beginning on August, 18th, till the story is published in its entirety.”

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35. Roanoke Colony.

"Bear Song" historical fiction about the Roanoke Colony.

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36. ‘Biology’ Joins iBooks Bestsellers List

Biology by Joseph S. Levine & Kenneth R. Miller has joined Apple’s Top Paid iBooks in the U.S. this week at No. 6.

Apple has released its top selling books list for paid books from iBooks in the U.S. for week ending 8/18/14. If I Stay by Gayle Forman continues to lead the list.

We’ve included Apple’s entire list after the jump. (more…)

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37. Marvel versus DC Comics -- Thoughts on Writing Characters Post Guardians of the Galaxy

We went to see Guardians of the Galaxy on opening night. I was skeptical, I admit it. A talking raccoon with a gun? Not usually my cup of Earl Gray, what can I tell you.


It was actually irreverent, charming, engrossing, funny, and unexpectedly warm. In short, it was better than great.

Trying to explain the reason for that greatness to someone who hadn't seen the film left me a little bit perplexed though. Because if Marvel can make a film starring a talking, gun-toting raccoon, surely someone can make a decent film with a woman lead? (Cough, Wonder Woman, cough. I'm looking at you D.C.)

Which brings me to another point. As good as this movie was -- and it is going to be shown at my house frequently, trust me -- what I loved most about it was that the female character actually got to drive the bus. This isn't Gamora's movie, don't get me wrong. Zoe Saldana plays just one piece in an ensemble cast, but that piece is the one who proves the motivation and the heart for the team to do what it must (see how non-spoilerly I made that?) to overcome the bad guy. And frankly, without her, the team's involvement with the bad guy would basically have been summed up in a few words: get the thing bad-guy wants, then run like hell.

What else did I love about Gamora? She's sexy, sure, but despite a couple of almost-moments with Star-Lord (as played by Chris Pratt), she doesn't succumb to insta-love. The tension is building and you can see it coming, maybe, but Marvel didn't cheese up the script by including a gratuitous romantic sub-plot that was just too fast to work. Instead, they focused on pulling together a bunch of loners and making them into a team.

That's warm. That's human--even if only one of the characters involved was actually homo-sapiens. (Or half, anyway.)

And that brings me to my topic of the day. It seems to me that there are two schools of approach emerging vis a vis comic book adaptations.

Marvel has a repertoire of films that stars characters who seem to think all is more-or-less okay in their world, and then get dragged into something that's clearly not okay. How they deal with their changed situation forms the underpinnings of the story and creates the extra layer of warmth that connects us to them.

Recent Marvel Films include:

  • Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
  • X-Men, Days of Future Past (2014)
  • The Amazing Spider Man 2 (2014)
  • Captain America - Winter Soldier (2014)
  • Thor: The Dark World (2013)
  • The Wolverine (2013)
  • Iron Man 3 (2013)

DC on the other hand includes:

  • Man of Steel (2013)
  • The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
  • The Green Lantern (2011)
  • Jonah Hex (2010)
I keep trying to put my finger on what's missing in the DC films for me. I think it comes down to humor. There's a certain amount of wallowing in darkness that the DC films dive into that Marvel leavens with just enough humor to keep the characters from getting broody.

Don't get me wrong: I write dark. My characters (duh, they're cursed, right?) have some pretty crappy lots in life. But even if they feel sorry for themselves, they don't like feeling sorry for themselves. And from now on, I'm going to refer to that as a Marvelous way to handle character.

So what do you think? Do you see a difference in how the two studios portray character? Handle characters ARCs? Bring human into their scripts?

And now for some winners : ) 

The winner of the Pick 3 Arcs #1 is:

Patricia Lopez

She can pick three of the following: BZRK, The Walled City, Sinner, Ghost House, of Scars and Stardust, Lament, I'll Give You the Sun, Unmarked, Lux, White Hot Kiss, Falling into Place, Scintillate.

The winner of the Pick 3 Arcs or Books #2 is:

Rebecca Greer

Pick Any Three: Unmade, Perfected, Beauty of the Broken, Til Death, Unravel Me, Compulsion, Shatter Me, The Raven Boys, Diamond Boy, Allies and Assassins, The Walled City, Black Ice

The winners of the two ECHOES OF US ARCs  by Kat Zhang are:

Anne VanLoon

Heather Ratlin

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38. 2015 Poet’s Market: What It Is and How to Buy It

When I started writing poetry more than 20 years ago, I didn’t have ambitions of publication or poetic greatness, but I did have a target audience: originally, a girl to impress. Later on, I became my own target audience. Eventually, I yearned to share my words with others and had no idea how to do it. Plus, I had no comprehension of what contemporary poets and poetry meant.

2015 Poet's Market

2015 Poet’s Market

Trying to demystify and enlighten the poetic process has been one of my goals with this blog, but it’s also a driving force behind my editorial strategy with the Poet’s Market. While the book lists hundreds of poetry publishing opportunities, the 2015 Poet’s Market is more than a straight directory; it’s a guidebook to the poetry universe as it stands today.

The 2015 Poet’s Market includes more than 20 articles, including “The Habits of Highly Productive Poets,” by Scott Owens; “Six Ways to Promote Your New Book,” by Jeannine Hall Gailey; “The Usefulness of Silence,” by Susan Laughter Meyers; “Writing Poems From Prompts,” by Amorak Huey; and more!

The 2015 Poet’s Market includes a description of poetic forms, interviews with poets, and new poems by contemporary poets.

The 2015 Poet’s Market includes listings for magazines and journals, book and chapbook publishers, contests and awards, grants, conferences and workshops, and organizations.

The 2015 Poet’s Market includes a webinar on how to build an audience for your poetry.

The 2015 Poet’s Market includes an activation code good for a one-year subscription to the poetry slice of WritersMarket.com.

The 2015 Poet’s Market is essentially what I could’ve really used 20 years ago when I was still trying to stumble my way into connecting with other poets and readers of poetry. And it’s made to be a practical resource for today’s poets who want to feel connected to the world of poetry and get their own poetry published and be part of the poetry world themselves.

Click here to order your copy of the 2015 Poet’s Market today!

-Robert Lee Brewer, editor of Poet’s Market

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39. The Benefits of Virtual Committees

Over the last few years many ALA divisions, including ALSC, have transitioned to having more committees, tasks forces and other groups operate primarily if not wholly via virtual methods. While ALSC continues to acknowledge the need for several committees to conduct much of their work face to face, several committees have successfully transitioned to entirely virtual, and all committees are encouraged to make use of ALA Connect and other tools to conduct some of their work.

The change toward more virtual work provides numerous benefits to individual members as well the organization and profession as a whole.

• Recruiting a wider pool of members and talent – Many current and potential members do not have the luxury of travelling to conferences regularly. This may be due to cost, family commitments, health restrictions, job restrictions or other possible reasons. Previously some members did not seek appointment or turned down opportunities due to conference attendance requirements. The opportunity to participate regardless of these obstacles provides many members a greater sense of involvement and allows more of ALSC’s many talented members to participate and contribute.

• Recruitment and retention of members – The ability to contribute also encourages more members of the profession to initiate or continue membership.

• Increased productivity – Committees designated as virtual conduct few if any meetings face-to-face but tend to meet frequently – at least once per month. The ability to meet virtually, usually via ALA Connect’s chat feature, enables committees to have brief meetings often as opposed to waiting until conference to meet. Many face-to-face committees take advantage of the ability to meet virtually between conferences as well. The frequent meetings keep projects moving forward and allow committees to accomplish more.

• Better attendance at conference sessions – Members of virtual committees who are able to attend conference will have greater flexibility to attend and present sessions rather than being tied to committee meetings. It also enables members greater flexibility to serve on multiple committees either within ALSC or across divisions by freeing up conference meeting time.

Many virtual chairs and members of committees have had positive experiences serving on virtual committees:

“As co-chair of the Great Websites for Kids Committee (2012-2014), my mission is to work with a committee of nine members in maintaining the ALSC Great Websites site. Working virtually, committee members are able to accomplish a rigorous amount of work while keeping strict deadlines. At the same time we have established an online rapport and have had the luxury of occasionally meeting each other in person at midwinter or annual conferences. Committee members have often remarked how they feel that this committee is particularly unique in that we have been able to accomplish so much each year.” Kimberly Grad, Brooklyn (NY) Public Library

Virtual committees have some unique challenges. One of the biggest concerns virtual committee members mention is the challenge of achieving the rapport and personal connection with each other that people develop during face-to-face interaction. The META team is always seeking advice and tips for virtual committees and maintains a Best Practices resource on the ALSC wiki. If you have a suggestion or success story about developing the connections between virtual teams to share, please send to Jill Bickford at bickford@wblib.org.

– JIll Bickford for the Metamorphosis Team Task Force

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40. A Look at YALSA’s Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults Committee

Each year after the Midwinter conference, YALSA releases a list of 25-30 Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults. The list is the result of hundreds of hours of listening, discussion and debate by the nine-member Amazing Audiobooks committee. The committee also names the top 10 best titles of the year. Committee members generally serve two year terms. We are librarians, professors, and retirees. We work for public libraries, universities, schools, and community colleges. In addition to the nine committee members, we have one extraordinarily hard-working administrative assistant who does not cast votes, but does receive titles and can listen as much as she chooses.

In February, the committee begins gathering possible titles for the next year’s list. We get audiobooks in a number of different ways. First, we make suggestions. Any audiobook published in the last two years with relevance for teens is eligible for the list, so we seek out recent titles. We love to get suggestions from other librarians! If you’d like to nominate a title for Amazing Audiobooks, the form is here. We also receive boxes (and boxes and boxes) of submissions directly from publishers.

Each title, regardless of how it comes to the committee, is first assigned to a single committee member. That member listens to the book and casts a vote: yes, no, or maybe. A no vote means that the title is dropped from consideration. If the first listener votes ‘maybe,’ the book is assigned to a second listener. The two listeners then discuss the title, and either of them can cast a nominating ‘yes’ vote. A yes vote is considered an official nomination. Titles that receive an initial ‘yes’ are then assigned to 5 more members. Every nominated title is listened to by at least six members of the committee.

When the committee meets, first at Annual and then at Midwinter, we discuss all of the nominated titles and narrow our nominations down to the 25 to 30 that make up the final list.

Our evaluation criteria

Unlike some of the other selection committees, Amazing Audiobooks is not concerned with the literary quality of the titles on our list. In fact, aside from the consideration of teen appeal, we don’t care about story, plot, or character at all. Instead, we focus on the quality of the audiobook production. Production quality includes technical aspects of the recording but also factors like the success of the translation to audio from print, the match (or mismatch) of the performer and the text, and the use of voices, music, and sound effects.

When and where do you listen?

Each committee member listens a little differently. Many of us listen while commuting to work. Others listen on their computers at home. Because we listen so much (on average about 2 hours a day!), we tend to do other things at the same time. Sarah says, “I listen while cooking, cleaning, or gardening; I listen on the way to work, and then I listen at work before the branch is open.” Other committee members play computer games, work out, walk the dog, or even grocery shop while listening.

What tools do you use?

Some of our tools are listening tools, including different devices, headphones, and speakers.We often listen on our home computers, since it’s easier to take notes at home. Many of our members also listen while commuting, using the stereo or a portable device like an iPhone or MP3 player, paired with Bluetooth speakers. Most members use regular headphones or earbuds, but some of us have branched out and are using noise-isolating or noise-cancelling headphones.

In addition to listening tools, we use tools to record our notes. Most of our members use a checklist in order to keep track of evaluation criteria. We keep detailed notes as we listen. As Emily notes, “I try to be as specific as possible, writing down disc and track numbers for particularly great narration or production errors, mispronunciations or missed text cues.” Sometimes, when we’re listening while out and about, we use electronic note-taking methods. Kim uses Siri and Note on her iPhone, whereas Emily prefers to use Google Keep, which she can access on multiple devices. Sarah uses the voice recorder on her phone and transfers the notes to her computer when she gets home.

What do you listen for?

Evaluating audiobooks is complicated process. In order to stay focused, many of us have developed lists of what we listen for. Emily notes that she focuses first on evaluating the listening experience as a whole. She asks questions like, “Is the narrator a good fit for the text? Does she sound too young or too old? Does his interpretation of the characters match the author’s characterization? Does the narration highlight humor that might fall flat on the page?”

It is also important for us to evaluate production quality. In Emily’s words, “I listen for audible breaths, distractingly long pauses, abrupt changes in volume, and hisses or pops that indicate poor recording quality.” Linda adds that she looks out for changes in volume or sound quality, and sticky mouth sounds as well as missed text cues. As Linda comments, “If the character says something ‘in a weepy voice,’ I need to hear weeping in the narrator’s voice.” Some of these errors are more difficult to spot than others. Sarah notes, “Wet mouth sounds and the elusive p-pop are challenging, and I have to constantly remind myself to keep an eye out for them.” Production errors don’t necessarily knock a book out of the running, but we do want to make sure that flaws don’t prevent the reader from becoming truly immersed in the story.
Serving on YALSA’s Amazing Audiobooks committee is a real commitment, but it is also an incredibly rewarding experience. It is a privilege to work on behalf of teens and introduce them to some spectacular titles. If you have any questions about our committee, please don’t hesitate to contact our Committee Chair, Colleen Seisser.

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41. Law careers from restorative justice, to legal ombudsman, to media

What range of career options are out there for those attending law school? In this series of podcasts, Martin Partington talks to influential figures in the law about topics ranging from restorative justice to legal journalism.

Restorative Justice: An interview with Lizzie Nelson

The Restorative Justice Council is a small charitable organisation that exists to promote the use of restorative justice, not just in the court (criminal justice) context, but in other situations of conflict as well (e.g. schools). In this podcast Martin talks to Lizzie Nelson, Director of the Restorative Justice Council.


Handling complaints against lawyers: An interview with Adam Sampson

In this podcast, Martin talks to Adam Sampson, Chief Legal Ombudsman. They discuss the work of the Legal Ombudsman, how it operates, the kinds of issue it deals with, and some of the limitations the office has to deal with matters raised by dissatisfied clients.


Reporting the law: An interview with Joshua Rozenberg

Joshua Rozenberg is one of a very small number of specialist journalists who cover legal issues in a serious and thoughtful way. He has worked in a wide variety of media, including the BBC, The Daily Telegraph, and The Guardian. In this interview, he describes how he decided to become a journalist rather than a practising lawyer and comments on the challenges of devising ways to enable legal issues to be raised in mass media.


Headline image credit: Law student and lecturer or academic. © Palto via iStockphoto.

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42. Research Before You Send a Query Letter

Let me first begin by saying I love working as a literary agent. Since opening Greyhaus Literary Agency in 2003, I have had the chance to work with a lot of great writers, agents and publishers. Let’s face it – there are very few jobs out there where we get to do something many consider simply a hobby. However, with all of the great things about the job, the one thing I hate the most (and I know many other agents and editors feel the same way) is the part about writing rejection letters to authors. This is simply not a fun activity.

Now, there are really two different types of rejection letters. The first one I don’t have a big problem with. These are the letters for projects that might not be quite right for what I am looking for, or for stories that might not be ready for publishing yet. With stories like this, we can often take the time to provide a few suggestions for improvement, or to discuss why the story is not right for us. Yes, writing the letters takes time, but when I hit “send” I feel as if this author might be one step closer to publishing.

(How NOT to start your story. Read advice from agents.)


index~~element5Column by Scott Eagan, owner and agent of the Greyhaus Literary Agency.
Scott has made sales to publishers including: Harper Collins, Pocket, New
American Library, Source Books and Harlequin. Scott is currently acquiring
authors in most areas of romance and women’s fiction, but, as the article
states, take the time to visit the website first to make sure that sub-genre
you write is what he is looking for! Authors can also visit scott at
www.scotteagan.blogspot.com, on Twitter @greyhausagency.



It is, however, the second letter of rejection that really gets frustrating to write. These are for authors submitting projects that the agency does not represent. Over the years, the number of these rejection letters has increased significantly. In fact, on one recent day in March, as I was answering submissions, I requested 2 partials, passed on 2-3 because the premise just didn’t work for me, and rejected 30 projects simply because these were not projects Greyhaus Literary Agency represented. What added to the frustration was the number of those submissions that were sent directly from my website.

If receiving rejection letters is as equally as frustrating as what I feel writing the letters, there are some very easy steps authors should take to remedy the situation.

Begin your research with general guides. Books such as Chuck Sambuchino’s Guide to Literary Agents are great starting points. Add in websites such as Query Tracker and you have a good list to build your research from.

Go to the source! No matter what resources you use to build your list of potential agents, make sure you visit the websites of the editors and agents. Review their website submission guidelines. Please note this is the most accurate information. Along the same lines, do not send something that is not on their list. Agents and editors will not acquire something that they don’t represent just because they think it might be a great read. Authors need to understand that agents and editors specialize in areas they are knowledgeable in and have the resources available to really help you as an author.

Going to the source is also crucial since many agents and editors will shift what they want, or even close for submissions, depending on the needs of the market or their own work load. Publishing is a constantly shifting market and authors need to take the time to stay up to speed!

(What writing credentials will impress an agent or editor?)

Know your genre. This is a small one but very important. Know what genre you are really writing in. For example, just because you have a romantic relationship in your story does not mean it is a romance. Just because your heroine is the protagonist does not mean it is women’s fiction.

Stalk the editors and agents. Next, if you think you have narrowed your search down to a list of specific editors and agents, start following them on social media. Listen to what they “chat” about. Pay attention to the books they like, the books they hate and the books they acquire. This will guide you in determining if your story is still a right fit.

E-mail and ask first. And finally, if you are still confused. You have read their submission guidelines and when they say, “I do not acquire young adult romance” and you don’t understand what they mean by that, then email and ask. Do not send it as a submission letter; just ask the question – “Hi Mr. Eagan. I am just inquiring if you accept young adult romances? I have reviewed your website submission guidelines and there is not mention that you do or don’t.” A simple word of warning though – Make sure you did read the submission guidelines. It makes you look like an idiot if you ask a question that is clearly stated on the submission guidelines.

I always say that researching the editors is not that hard. It does take time though but in this business, you need to have patience. Taking that time will certainly increase your chances of having an editor or agent read your submission. Getting them to publish it? Well, that depends on the quality of the work.



The biggest literary agent database anywhere
is the Guide to Literary Agents. Pick up the
most recent updated edition online at a discount.


Other writing/publishing articles & links for you:


Want to build your visibility and sell more books?
Create Your Writer Platform shows you how to
promote yourself and your books through social
media, public speaking, article writing, branding,
and more.
Order the book from WD at a discount.

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43. Editorial Submission :: Bett Norris

Post by Natalie




Bett Norris is an illustrator living in the lively city of Bristol, UK. She earned a degree in illustration from the University of the West of England and since then has worked on a variety of projects including editorial work, social media campaigns, exhibitions and most recently an animation for The School of Life. She finds inspiration in packaging, travel posters and classic design. Experimenting with shape, color and line she fuses traditional drawing techniques with digital technology to produce bespoke illustration, pattern design, portraiture and typography.

See more of Bett’s work here.

The post Editorial Submission :: Bett Norris appeared first on Illustration Friday.

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44. Announcing… our Ninja Agents for 2014!

We’re so excited to be bringing you our NINJA AGENT program again this year!

This program will take place in the forums–so you must be registered and using the forums to participate. If you haven’t already done that, go HERE.

Here’s what you’ll do:
1. Post your absolute best, polished query letter or writing sample in the appropriate critique threads in the forums. (Please look carefully and ask questions if you’re unsure about where to post, and make sure you follow all our forum guidelines)
2. Don your thick dragon skin, cross your fingers, and keep checking your forum posts, because our Ninja Agents will be sneaking around, leaving feedback on whatever strikes their fancy–which could very well be YOUR QUERY.
3. Pray you’ve perfected your work enough to generate a request. Some agents may be requesting from the posts they read.
4. Remember your manners. Please don’t engage in hurtful behavior toward an industry professional because of feedback they might leave on your query. Remember, publishing is SO SUBJECTIVE.

That’s it. That’s all there is to it. All you have to do is use our forums the same way you should be using them anyway (because they’re AWESOME) and you could have a super-cool Ninja-Agent critique your work. And even if they don’t comment on your work (they promise they will try to comment/critique on as many as they can) you can learn SO much from the comments they leave for others. Because really, the best part about the forum is that you can go read the feedback whenever your schedule allows.

What the Ninjas will do:
1. Each Ninja Agent will be in the forum during the conference. You won’t know who, and you won’t know when…that’s the beauty of a ninja. They strike when you’re least expecting it.
2. Ninja Agents have been encouraged to leave feedback—as detailed or as vague as they want—on as many queries as they can. They can also request from the queries they read.

We are announcing who the Ninja Agents are, but not when they’ll be Ninja-ing or who’s who. So Ninja Agent Blue could be any of the following….

Our Ninjafied Nunchuckatorians are:

  • Pete Knapp, Park Literary
  • Victoria Marini, Gelfman Schneider Literary
  • Kathleen Zakhar,  Harold Ober Associates, Inc.
  • Katie Grimm, Don Congdon Associates, Inc.
  • Janine Hauber, Sheldon Fogelman Agency
  • Danielle Smith, Red Fox Literary
  • Jaida Temperly, New Leaf Literary
  • Danielle Barthel, New Leaf Literary
  • Jess Ballow, New Leaf Literary
  • Amy Sterm, Sheldon Fogelman Agency
  • Carlie Webber, CK Webber Associates
  • Renee Nyen, KT Literary
  • Laurie McLean, Foreword Literary
  • Laura Cummings, Foreword Literary
  • Brian Farrey-Latz, Flux
  • Alycia Tornetta, Entangled Publishing
  • Nicole Steinhaus, Entangled Publishing
  • Katie Reed, Andrea Hurst & Associates Literary Management
  • Jackie Lindert, New Leaf Literary
  • Alex Slater, Trident Media Literary
  • Annie Berger, Harper Collins
  • Rena Rossner, Deborah Harris Agency
  • Patricia Riley, Spencer Hill Press

The Ninja-Agent Program is open for business starting on Tuesday, August 26, though some of our ninjas may make an appearance before that!

We hope this program will benefit everyone, from those who post their query to those reading the comments/opinions from some of the top literary agents in the publishing world.

Questions? Ask them here!

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45. Salamone Rossi, Jewish musician in Renaissance Mantua

Grove Music Online presents this multi-part series by Don Harrán, Artur Rubinstein Professor Emeritus of Musicology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, on the life of Jewish musician Salamone Rossi on the anniversary of his birth in 1570. Professor Harrán considers three major questions: Salamone Rossi as a Jew among Jews; Rossi as a Jew among Christians; and the conclusions to be drawn from both.

Salamone Rossi as a Jew among Jews

What do we know of Salamone Rossi’s family? His father was named Bonaiuto Azaria de’ Rossi (d. 1578): he composed Me’or einayim (Light of the Eyes). Rossi had a brother, Emanuele (Menaḥem), and a sister, Europe, who, like him, was a musician. She is known to have performed as a singer in the play Il ratto di Europa (“The Rape of Europa”) in 1608. The court chronicler Federico Follino raved over her performance, describing it as that of “a woman understanding music to perfection” and “singing, to the listeners’ great delight and their greater wonder, in a most delicate and sweet-sounding voice.”

Salamone Rossi appears to have used his connections at court to improve his family’s situation, as in 1602 when Rossi wrote to Duke Vincenzo on behalf of his brother Emanuele:

Letter that Salamone Rossi wrote on behalf of his brother Emanuele (21 February 1606); fair copy, with the close and signature in Rossi’s own hand. Archivio Storico, Archivio Storico, Mantua.
Letter that Salamone Rossi wrote on behalf of his brother Emanuele (21 February 1606); fair copy, with the close and signature in Rossi’s own hand. Archivio Storico, Archivio Storico, Mantua.

The duke granted the request in order to “to show Salamone Rossi ebreo some sign of gratitude for services that he, with utmost diligence, rendered and continues to render over many years. We have resolved to confer the duties of collecting the fees on the person of Emanuele, Salamone’s brother, in whose faith and diligence we place our confidence.”

Until now, it has been thought that Rossi earned his livelihood from his salary at the Mantuan court, and since the salary was—by comparison with that of other musicians at the court—very small, Rossi tried to supplement it by earning money on the side by investments. From 1622 on he was earning 1,200 lire, a large sum of money for a musician whose annual wages at the court were only 156 lire. Rossi needed the money to cover the cost of his publications and to support his family.

Rossi’s situation within the community can only be conjectured. By “community,” we are talking about some 2,325 Jews living in the city of Mantua out of a total population of 50,000. True, Rossi was its most distinguished “musician” and his service for the court would have brought honor on the Jewish community. But because of his non-Jewish connections, he enjoyed privileges denied his coreligionists. In 1606, for example, he was exempted from wearing a badge. The badge was shameful to Jews who, in their activities, were in close touch with Christians, as were Rossi and other Jews who performed before them as musicians or actors or who engaged in loan banking.

As other “privileged” Jews, Rossi occupied a difficult situation: his Christian employers considered him a Jew, yet the Jews probably considered him an outsider. He could choose from two alternatives: convert to Christianity to improve his situation with the Christians; or solidify his position within the Jewish community, which he probably did whenever he could by representing its interests before the authorities and by providing compositions for Jewish weddings, circumcisions, the inauguration of Torah scrolls, and for Purim festivities. All this is speculative, for we know nothing about these activities. We are better informed about Rossi’s role in the Jewish theater, whose actors were required to prepare each year one or two plays with musical intermedi. Since the Jews were expected to act, sing, and play instruments, their leading musician Salamone Rossi probably contributed to the theater by writing vocal and instrumental works, rehearsing them and, together with others, playing or even singing them.

Salamone Rossi, Ha-shirim asher li-Shelomoh (“Songs by Solomon”), 1623, no. 8. See Salamone Rossi, Complete Works, ed. Don Harrán (Corpus Mensurabilis Musicae 100), vols. 1–12 (Neuhausen-Stuttgart: Hänssler-Verlag for the American Institute of Musicology), vols. 13a and 13b (Madison WI: American Institute of Musicology, 1995), 13b: 24–26.
Salamone Rossi, Ha-shirim asher li-Shelomoh (“Songs by Solomon”), 1623, no. 8. See Salamone Rossi, Complete Works, ed. Don Harrán (Corpus Mensurabilis Musicae 100), vols. 1–12 (Neuhausen-Stuttgart: Hänssler-Verlag for the American Institute of Musicology), vols. 13a and 13b (Madison WI: American Institute of Musicology, 1995), 13b: 24–26.

It was in his Hebrew collection, however, that Rossi demonstrated his connections with his people. His intentions were good: after having published collections of Italian vocal music and instrumental works, Rossi decided, around 1612, to write Hebrew songs. He describes these songs as “new songs [zemirot] that I devised through ‘counterpoint’ [seder].” True, attempts were made to introduce art music into the synagogue in the early seventeenth century. But none of these early works survive. Rossi’s thirty-three “Songs by Solomon” (Ha-shirim asher li-Shelomoh) are the first Hebrew polyphonic “songs” to be printed. Here is an example from the opening of the collection, “Elohim, hashivenu”.

Good intentions are one thing; the status of art music in the synagogue is another. The prayer services made no accommodation for art music. Rossi’s aim, to quote him, was to write works “for thanking God and singing [le-zammer] to His exalted name on all sacred occasions” to be performed in prayer services, particularly on Sabbaths and festivals.

Headline image credit: Opening of Salomone de Rossi’s Madrigaletti, Venice, 1628. Photo of Exhibit at the Diaspora Museum, Tel Aviv. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

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46. The Best American Comics Series 2014 Issue Drops in October

The 2014 edition of The Best American Comics comes out this October, a collection of the best comics and webcomics of the year.

The collection features pieces from Allie Brosh, Raina Telgemeier, Nina Bujevac, Charles Burns, R. Crumb and Aline Kominsky-Crumb, Jamie Hernandez, Gilbert Hernandez, Adrian Tomine and Chris Ware, among others.

Comics expert Scott McCloud edited the volume. The book goes on sale on October 7th. You can read more at this link.




New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

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47. Books to Films – Coming Soon so Be Prepared!

The advantage of having a bookstore in the library is when it has a tendency towards brilliance.  Take this recent list the employees of the Schwarzman Building of NYPL came up with.  I can take no credit for this.  It’s just smart stuff (and very useful for my ordering as well).  With mild tweaks on my part:


READ the book: Alexander and the No Good Horrible Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst

AlexanderTerrible1 Books to Films   Coming Soon so Be Prepared!

BEFORE YOU SEE the movie, opening in October

AlexanderPoster Books to Films   Coming Soon so Be Prepared!

READ the book: Here Be Monsters! by Adam Snow

HereBeMonsters Books to Films   Coming Soon so Be Prepared!

BEFORE YOU SEE the movie, called The Boxtrolls, opening in September

Boxtrolls Books to Films   Coming Soon so Be Prepared!

READ the book: A Bear Called Paddington by Michael Bond

paddington Books to Films   Coming Soon so Be Prepared!

BEFORE YOU SEE the movie, called Paddington, opening in December)

paddington bear ver3 xlg Books to Films   Coming Soon so Be Prepared!

READ the book: The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex

truemeaningsmekday Books to Films   Coming Soon so Be Prepared!

BEFORE YOU SEE the movie, called Home, opening in November

 Home 500x281 Books to Films   Coming Soon so Be Prepared!

Plus, read How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell before the DVD of How to Train Your Dragon 2 hits the shelves in November.

how to train your dragon two ver7 xlg Books to Films   Coming Soon so Be Prepared!



READ the book: Dracula by Bram Stoker

Dracula Books to Films   Coming Soon so Be Prepared!

BEFORE YOU SEE the movie, called Dracula Untold, opening in October

dracula untold poster 610x965 Books to Films   Coming Soon so Be Prepared!

READ the book: The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

Hobbit12 Books to Films   Coming Soon so Be Prepared!

BEFORE YOU SEE the movie, called The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, opening in December

the hobbit the battle of the five armies poster Books to Films   Coming Soon so Be Prepared!

READ the book: The Maze Runner by James Dashner

The Maze Runner cover Books to Films   Coming Soon so Be Prepared!

BEFORE YOU SEE the movie, opening in September

TheMazeRunnerDaily Books to Films   Coming Soon so Be Prepared!

READ the book: Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

Mockingjay Books to Films   Coming Soon so Be Prepared!

BEFORE YOU SEE the movie, opening in November

mockingjay poster Books to Films   Coming Soon so Be Prepared!

Plus, pick up John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, then make plans to catch the DVD when it’s released in mid-September

FaultStarsMovie Books to Films   Coming Soon so Be Prepared!

share save 171 16 Books to Films   Coming Soon so Be Prepared!

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48. Ice Cream Personality Quiz

Ice creamWhat Ice Cream Flavor Are You?

  1. You like to eat your ice cream . . . A) atop a warm piece of apple pie. B) from a waffle cone. C) in a giant sundae. D) from a cup.
  2. Your favorite topping is . . .  A) whipped cream and a cherry. You’re so classic! B) rainbow sprinkles! You love some extra color and crunch.  C) hot fudge. Extra chocolate, please! D) chocolate crunchies. Yummy and sophisticated!
  3. If an avalanche of ice cream were coming right at you, you would . . . A) drizzle chocolate sauce onto it from an airplane. B) sculpt it into beautiful shapes. C) dive right in and eat your way out of the ice cream rubble.  D) practice snowboarding tricks off the chocolate chunk cliffs!
  4. Choose a vacation destination.  A) London. B) New York. C) Florida D) California.
  5. If you drove an ice cream truck, the song it would play is . . .  A) “Classic” by MKTO. B) “What Makes You Beautiful” by One Direction
. C) “Happy” by Pharrell Williams. D)”“Really Don’t Care” by Demi Lovato.
  • Your favorite summer footwear is . . . A) tennis shoes. B) barefoot. C) flip-flops. D) fancy sandals.
  • Choose a dessert besides ice cream.  A) Sugar cookies. Simple but delicious! B) Cupcakes. Do we have funfetti sprinkles? C) Brownies. Bring on the chocolate! D) Thin Mints. Can I have a glass of milk, please?
  • The word that describes you best is . . . A) kind. B) curious. C) cheerful. D) edgy.
  • Ready to find out what ice cream flavor you are? Count up your answers to find out!

    If you answered mostly A’s: You are vanilla bean!
    Cool, traditional, and always one of the most popular – that’s you! There’s no drama when it comes to you, which makes you an incredible friend to have! You are a warm and comforting friend, and you get along with everyone.

    If you answered mostly B’s: You are rainbow sherbet!
    You’re adventurous and curious about everything, and you’ve got a great head on your shoulders! You’ve got an exotic flair, and people are always interested in learning more about you. You always know how to keep friends entertained, and you have a brilliant creative spark!

    If you answered mostly C’s: You are chocolate fudge brownie!
    You are totally decadent – hanging out with you is like living in the lap of luxury. You live life to the fullest, and you know that chocolate is the best way to cheer up anyone who’s down. Nobody can resist your generous and cheerful personality!

    If you answered mostly D’s: You are mint chocolate chip!
    You’re a little different, and most importantly, you are super-refreshing. You are calm, refined, and always keep your cool. Don’t forget the chocolate chips – you’ve got a bit of an edgy side as well, and it’s part of what makes you so interesting!

    —Marisa, STACKS Intern

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    49. TURNING PAGES: CHARM & STRANGE by Stephanie Kuehn

    Got a long stretch of quiet time available? This isn't a read-at-the-crowded-airport-layover novel, necessarily, but I found it absolutely arresting over the one-sitting course of a quiet morning. I grabbed this book because this author's debut... Read the rest of this post

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    50. Why referendum campaigns are crucial

    As we enter the potentially crucial phase of the Scottish independence referendum campaign, it is worth remembering more broadly that political campaigns always matter, but they often matter most at referendums.

    Referendums are often classified as low information elections. Research demonstrates that it can be difficult to engage voters on the specific information and arguments involved (Lupia 1994, McDermott 1997) and consequently they can be decided on issues other than the matter at hand. Referendums also vary from traditional political contests, in that they are usually focused on a single issue; the dynamics of political party interaction can diverge from national and local elections; non-political actors may often have a prominent role in the campaign; and voters may or may not have strong, clear views on the issue being decided. Furthermore, there is great variation in the information environment at referendums. As a result the campaign itself can be vital.

    We can understand campaigns through the lens of LeDuc’s framework which seeks to capture some of the underlying elements which can lead to stability or volatility in voter behaviour at referendums. The essential proposition of this model is that referendums ask different types of questions of voters, and that the type of question posed conditions the behaviour of voters. Referendums that ask questions related to the core fundamental values and attitudes held by voters should be stable. Voters’ opinions that draw on cleavages, ideology, and central beliefs are unlikely to change in the course of a campaign. Consequently, opinion polls should show very little movement over the campaign. At the other end of the spectrum, volatile referendums are those which ask questions on which voters do not have pre-conceived fixed views or opinions. The referendum may ask questions on new areas of policy, previously un-discussed items, or items of generally low salience such as political architecture or institutions.

    Another essential component determining the importance of the campaign are undecided voters. When voter political knowledge emanates from a low base, the campaign contributes greatly to increasing political knowledge. This point is particularly clear from Farrell and Schmitt-Beck (2002) where they demonstrated that voter ignorance is widespread and levels of political knowledge among voters are often overestimated. As Ian McAllister argues, partisan de-alignment has created a more volatile electoral environment and the number of voters who make their decisions during campaigns has risen. In particular, there has been a sharp rise in the number of voters who decide quite late in a campaign. In this case, the campaign learning is vital and the campaign may change voters’ initial disposition. Opinions may only form during the campaign when voters acquire information and these opinions may be changeable, leading to volatility.

    The experience of referendums in Ireland is worth examining as Ireland is one of a small but growing number of countries which makes frequent use of referendums. It is also worth noting that Ireland has a highly regulated campaign environment. In the Oireachtas Inquiries Referendum 2011, Irish voters were asked to decide on a parliamentary reform proposal (Oireachtas Inquiries – OI) in October 2011. The issue was of limited interest to voters and co-scheduled with a second referendum on reducing the pay of members of the judiciary along with a lively presidential election.

    The OI referendum was defeated by a narrow margin and the campaign period witnessed a sharp fall in support for the proposal. Only a small number of polls were taken but the sharp decline is clear from the figure below.

    Figure One – The Campaign Matters (OI Referendum)
    The Campaign Matters (OI Referendum)

    Few voters had any existing opinion on the proposal and the post-referendum research indicated that voters relied significantly on heuristics or shortcuts emanating from the campaign and to a lesser extent on either media campaigns or rational knowledge. The evidence showed that just a few weeks after the referendum, many voters were unable to recall the reasons for their voting decision. An interesting result was that while there was underlying support for the reform with 74% of all voters in support of Oireachtas Inquiries in principle, it failed to pass. There was a very high level of ignorance of the issues where some 44% of voters could not give cogent reasons for why they voted ‘no’, underlining the common practice of ‘if you don’t know, vote no’.

    So are there any lessons we can draw for Scottish Independence campaign? Scottish independence would likely be placed on the stable end of the Le Duc spectrum in that some voters could be expected to have an ideological predisposition on this question. Campaigns matter less at these types of referendums. However, they are by no means a foregone conclusion. We would expect that the number of undecided voters will be key and these voters may use shortcuts to make their decision. In other words the positions of the parties, of celebrities of unions and businesses and others will likely matter. In addition, the extent to which voters feel fully informed on the issues will also possibly be a determining factor. It may be instructive to look at another Irish referendum, on the introduction of divorce in the 1980s, during which voters’ opinions moved sharply during the campaign, even though the referendum question drew largely from the deep rooted conservative-liberal cleavage in Irish politics (Darcy and Laver 1990). The Scottish campaign might thus still conceivably see some shifts in opinion.

    Headline image: Scottish Parliament Building via iStockphoto.

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