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1. SPONSORED POST Star Banks Adventure

T-Rowe-PriceSponsored Post Star Banks Adventure

Mysterious planets, an alien mentor, and a robot shopkeeper—sounds like the ingredients to an amazing sci-fi story, right? It’s also the foundation for a new swipe-and-match game called Star Banks Adventure!

Check out the game trailer.

Like all great games, Star Banks Adventure is packed with choices for you to make. But every choice has a consequence, so be careful! You’ll need to partner with Odal, an alien guide, to stop Overlord Zek, the evil mastermind bent on causing financial chaos. Use different Star Banks to collect coins and build space devices to save the galaxy from financial chaos. I can’t wait to see what comes next! Click here to check it out.

Accompanied by spacey music and a story line that unfolds as you go, Star Banks Adventure is a blast!

This free game was created by T. Rowe Price as part of their Money Confident Kids Program, which focuses on helping kids better understand money. It can be played online or on mobile devices through iTunes, Google Play, and Amazon.

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2. Poetry Friday: Song in My Heart

April is National Poetry Month! All month long we’ll be celebrating by posting some of our favorite poems for Poetry Friday. For our third Poetry Friday post, we chose Song in my Heart by Tony Medina, illustrated by Jesse Joshua Jackson from I and I Bob Marley.

i and i

Song in My Heart

I am the boy

From Nine Miles

The one sing

Like three little birds

In a reggae style

The one blessed

By Jah

To travel miles

Across the world

With my island girl

Guitar in hand

And my dreads

A twirl

With music

In my belly

And songs

In my heart

Healing the world

With my reggae art

Keeping you always

Like a song

In my heart

 Let us know what poems you’re reading in the comments section!

0 Comments on Poetry Friday: Song in My Heart as of 4/17/2015 11:51:00 AM
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3. Moonpenny Island: Review Haiku

More than your garden-variety
quirky middle-grade.
Trilobites!

Moonpenny Island by Tricia Springstubb. Balzer + Bray. 2015, 304 pages.

0 Comments on Moonpenny Island: Review Haiku as of 4/17/2015 6:19:00 AM
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4. Revolution Movie

Earth from space photoJoin the Revolution to Save Planet Earth!

Revolution is a new movie that shows the devastating environmental effects of ocean acidification, tar sands, deforestation, over-population, pollution and food scarcity. Filmed over 4 years in 15 countries in some of the most remote and breathtaking locations, Revolution is an inspiring call to action about the man-made catastrophe facing our world. Uncovering the cause of the mass extinctions of the past, this film shows the revolution needed to save our planet now.

RevolutionIn the movie, you can see that the global conservation movement depends on the passion of young people. There are kids featured throughout the movie, including 13-year-old Felix Finkbeiner of Germany. In his hometown, he leads an environmental group called Plant for the Planet, which has so far planted 194 trees — one tree for every country that met at the United Nations Planet Conference. Joining a rally of protesters outside the conference, he invited all the ministers and heads of state to come outside to plant the trees of their country. His goal is to plant one million trees in each country of the world. 

So inspiring! Kids CAN make a difference, so tell us in the Comments what you will do to help save the earth!

Sonja, STACKS Staffer

 

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5. Meet Our New Visions Award Finalists: Part III

Last month we announced the six finalists for our 2015 New Visions Award. The Award recognizes a middle grade or young adult novel in the sci-fi, fantasy, or mystery genres by an unpublished author of color (our first New Visions Award winner, Ink and Ashes, will be released this June!).

As our award committee gets to know the finalists through their novels, we wanted to give our blog readers a chance to get to know these talented writers as well. We asked each finalist some questions. In previous posts, we interviewed finalists Grace Rowe and Andrea Wang, and finalists Shilpa Kamat and Rishonda Anthony.

Below authors Yamile Saied Méndez and Axie Oh answser:

Yamile Mendez thumbnailYamile Saied Méndez, “On These Magic Shores”

Tell us a little about the main character in your novel.

 My main character is twelve-year old Minerva Soledad Madrid and she can’t wait to grow up. The oldest of three girls, she’s a Latina who speaks Spanish and who’s proud of her cultural heritage. Her parents are of Argentine descent, and her mom (who’s raising the girls by herself) teaches the girls the Argentine traditions she grew up with. She sings the lullabies of her childhood, and most importantly, she passes on her belief in the Peques (short for Pequeñitos, the Little Ones), the Argentine fairies, who follow their families as they move around the world. Because the family doesn’t have a support system, Minerva had to step up and be a second mother for her sisters while their mother works two jobs to make ends meet. Minerva wants to be the first Latina president of the United States. She’s determined and focused. She doesn’t believe in magic, but she wants to, oh how she wants to believe the fairies take care of her and her sisters while their mom is away! In the story, Minerva learns how to be a child again (kind of like a reverse Peter Pan) because magic is really all around us!

What advice would you give your younger self about writing?   Don’t pay attention to the inner editor!

If I could send my younger self a message, it would be: follow you heart, write what you want to write, and trust your voice. I wrote my first story in the first grade, and looking for validation, I showed it to my uncle. Instead of the praise I expected, he told me a few things that didn’t work in his expert opinion. After that, I started writing with my inner editor reading over my shoulder, until I got to a point in which I wasn’t sure anyone would ever be interested in what I wanted to say. Don’t pay attention to the inner editor! Get the story out of your heart! There’s a lot of time to fix things during revision. Revision is your friend.

I also would say a big THANK YOU. My younger self was a little like Minerva: determined and persistent. I taught myself English at a young age, and I’m forever grateful to little Yamile for all the hard work. It’s paying off!

What is your writing process? What techniques do you use to get past writer’s block?

I wrote my first full novel during NaNoWriMo back in 2008. My goal was to win NaNo by writing 50,000 words in 24 days (I found out about National Novel Writing Month on November 6th, but I still reached my goal). Since then, I’ve learned to pour out my first draft on the page and then go back and revise. This has resulted in a lot of drafts that will never see the light of day, but it has also produced some powerful writing that came straight from my heart (like the NaNo in 2013, a few days after my mother passed away). I write every day, or at least, most days. Sometimes my ideas are born of a single word, or a person I see who makes me wonder about their lives. Sometimes the ideas simmer in my head and my heart for years, until I feel I ready to tell them. Right now I’m working on a story that was born about twelve years ago when I lived in Puerto Rico. I’ve learned that even if something I write isn’t ready for me to share with my critique group, it’s still an important piece of writing because it taught me what doesn’t work or what needs more depth. I love to do writing exercises from craft books like Writing Fiction by Janet Burroway et al, Steering the Craft, by Ursula Le Guin, and The Plot Whisperer, by Martha Alderson. Even if not all of these exercises end up in my manuscript, I often find wonderful information about my characters (or myself) that helps me tell the story better.

Recently, there’s been quite a lot of debate over the idea of readers who choose to take a break from books written by a certain group, such as white male authors. What’s your take on this?

First of all, I feel that people should read whatever they want to read without fear of mocking or teasing of any kind. I naturally gravitate toward books by authors of color because they tell stories that mirror my experience as a person of color too. As a child, I never remembered who wrote what. I loved Little Women and Heidi because I identified with Jo March and Heidi who lived with her grandpa. But as an adult and a writer, I want to learn from the masters how to tell the stories that inhabit my mind and my heart, and there’s no better way than to read their stories to know how to tell mine.

What are your favorite books or writers in the same genre as your manuscript? 

I have hundreds of favorite books, but in middle grade I love everything by Katherine Paterson (Bridge to Terabithia is my favorite), Gary D. Schmidt (Okay for Now), Shannon Hale (Princess Academy), Kelly Barnhill (The Witch’s Boy. Wow!), and Erin Bow (Pain Kate). I also love everything by Meg Medina (especially The Girl Who Could Silence the Wind) and Julia Alvarez (the Tia Lola books are the best!), and of course Pam Muñoz Ryan (Esperanza Rising). But my favorite stories ever are fairy tales, from all over the world, and of course Peter Pan has a special place in my heart.

Axie Oh thumbnailAxie Oh, “The Amaterasu Project”

Tell us a little about the main character in your novel.

His name is Lee Jaewon (Koreans put their surnames before their given names). He’s 18-years-old. He’s a quiet, keep under the radar type of person, with a strong sense of loyalty and a distrust of hope. At the start of the book, he lives alone in a dingy apartment in Old Seoul (my future Korea is split between Old and Neo Seoul). He hasn’t spoken to his best friend in three years. He’s rejecting these mysterious envelopes full of cash, sent from his mother who he hasn’t seen since he was eight. I see him as a character with a very tired soul who longs to forgive everyone who’s hurt him in his life, yet doesn’t know how to begin, or even if it matters.

 Physically, he looks like Lee Jong Suk. If you don’t know who that is, well, you’re in for a treat: Google him! (He’s a South Korean actor).

What advice would you give your younger self about writing?

You are fabulous! Keep on doing what you’re doing! Okay, maybe that’s not advice. More like ego-boosting. But every teenager needs a good ego-boost now and then, especially when writing, which is literally pouring your soul onto a page.

What is your writing process? What techniques do you use to get past writer’s block?

My writing process is pretty linear. I outline heavily, with scene-setting and dialogue for some significant scenes that will appear in the novel. I do character and worldbuilding charts. I compile pictures/illustrations of places and people who inhabit the spirit of my characters. Then I go through the whole book, from the first chapter to the last, with heavy editing in between. Then of course more revisions. The last two steps are printing the whole book out and attacking it with a bunch of colorful pens. The more colors the better! And then reading the whole book out loud while recording it. THEN I send it to my beta readers and critique partners – this is the point where I can’t make it any better by myself. As for writer’s block, when I come up

As for writer’s block, when I come up against that particular wall, I always start with the spark that made me want to write the book in the first place. The characters. I go back to the sketches I wrote of the characters and add onto them, delving deeper into their backgrounds and psyches. And/or I’ll re-read scenes I’ve already written that contain the “voice” of the characters, which makes me fall in love with the characters all over again. It’s all about making myself believe in the characters so that I want to finish their story.

Recently, there’s been quite a lot of debate over the idea of readers who choose to take a break from books written by a certain group, such as white male authors. What’s your take on this?

The idea behind this, I believe – at least for avoiding white, male authors specifically – is that by avoiding this group, you will therefore seek out stories written by women, people of color or LGBT writers, enriching your perspective of the world, which is always a viable and recommended thing to do.

As a reader, I seek out stories with strong coming-of-age themes and themes of love, in all its shapes and forms. When I read, it’s about seeking these types of books in an inclusive setting.

What are your favorite books or writers in the same genre as your manuscript, and why?

Tough one because I haven’t read enough YA Sci-Fi to have particular favorites. I watch a lot of Sci-Fi dramas and anime (which heavily influenced my novel), but I don’t particularly have favorite books that are in the YA Sci-Fi genre. For example, one of my favorite anime/manga franchises is the Gundam franchise, which deals with futuristic societies, technological advancements and very human themes of love, hate, honor and betrayal.

Recently, I read the first two books in Brandon Sanderson’s Reckoners series, which were pretty awesome – jam-packed with action and strong themes of what it means to be a hero.

On the opposite end of Sci-Fi, focusing more on character, I really love the quiet strength of Diana Peterfreund’s For Darkness Shows the Stars, a dystopic re-telling of Jane Austen’s Persuasion, taking place on a futuristic Pacific Islands.

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6. Excerpt: Portrait of a Man Known as Il Condottiere

9780226054254

An excerpt from Portrait of a Man Known as Il Condottiere by Georges Perec

***

Madera was heavy. I grabbed him by the armpits and went backwards down the stairs to the laboratory. His feet bounced from tread to tread in a staccato rhythm that matched my own unsteady descent, thumping and banging around the narrow stairwell. Our shadows danced on the walls. Blood was still flowing, all sticky, seeping from the soaking wet towel, rapidly forming drips on the silk lapels, then disappearing into the folds of the jacket, like trails of slightly glinting snot side-tracked by the slightest roughness in the fabric, sometimes accumulating into drops that fell to the floor and exploded into star-shaped stains. I let him slump at the bottom of the stairs, right next to the laboratory door, and then went back up to fetch the razor and to mop up the bloodstains before Otto returned. But Otto came in by the other door at almost the same time as I did. He looked at me uncomprehendingly. I beat a retreat, ran down the stairs, and shut myself in the laboratory. I padlocked the door and jammed the wardrobe up against it. He came down a few minutes later, tried to force the door open, to no avail, then went back upstairs, dragging Madera behind him. I reinforced the door with the easel. He called out to me. He fired at the door twice with his revolver.

You see, maybe you told yourself it would be easy. Nobody in the house, no-one round and about. If Otto hadn’t come back so soon, where would you be? You don’t know, you’re here. In the same laboratory as ever, and nothing’s changed, or almost nothing. Madera is dead. So what? You are still in the same underground studio, it’s just a bit less tidy and bit less clean. The same light of day seeps through the basement window. The Condottiere, crucified on his easel . . .

He had looked all around. It was the same office—the same glass table-top, the same telephone, the same calendar on its chrome-plated steel base. It still had the stark orderliness and uncluttered iciness of an intentionally cold style, with strictly matching colours—dark green carpet, mauve leather armchairs, light brown wall covering—giving a sense of discreet impersonality with its large metal filing cabinets . . . But all of a sudden the flabby mass of Madera’s body seemed grotesque, like a wrong note, something incoherent, anachronistic . . . He’d slipped off his chair and was lying on his back with his eyes half-closed and his slightly parted lips stuck in an expression of idiotic stupor enhanced by the dull gleam of a gold tooth. Blood streamed from his cut throat in thick spurts and trickled onto the floor, gradually soaking into the carpet, making an ill-defined, blackish stain that grew ever larger around his head, around his face whose whiteness had long seemed rather fishy, a warm, living, animal stain slowly taking possession of the room, as if the walls were already soaked through with it, as if the orderliness and strictness had already been overturned, abolished, pillaged, as if nothing more existed beyond the radiating stain and the obscene and ridiculous heap on the floor, the corpse, fulfilled, multiplied, made infinite . . .

Why? Why had he said that sentence: “I don’t think that’ll be a problem”? He tries to recall the precise tone of Madera’s voice, the timbre that had taken him by surprise the first time he’d heard it, that slight lisp, its faintly hesitant intonation, the almost imperceptible limp in his words, as if he were stumbling— almost tripping—as if he were permanently afraid of making a mistake. I don’t think. What nationality? Spanish? South American? Accent? Put on? Tricky. No. Simpler than that: he rolled his rs in the back of his throat. Or perhaps he was just a bit hoarse? He can see him coming towards him with outstretched hand: “Gaspard—that’s what I should call you, isn’t it?—I’m truly delighted to make your acquaintance.” So what? It didn’t mean much to him. What was he doing here? What did the man want of him? Rufus hadn’t warned him . . .

People always make mistakes. They think things will work out, will go on as per normal. But you never can tell. It’s so easy to delude yourself. What do you want, then? An oil painting? You want a top-of-the-range Renaissance piece? Can do. Why not aPortrait of a Young Man, for instance . . .

A flabby, slightly over-handsome face. His tie. “Rufus has told me a lot about you.” So what? Big deal! You should have paid attention, you should have been wary . . . A man you didn’t know from Adam or Eve . . . But you rushed headlong to accept the opportunity. It was too easy. And now. Well, now . . .

This is where it had got him. He did the sums in his head: all that had been spent setting up the laboratory, including the cost of materials and reproductions—photographs, enlargements, X-ray images, images seen through Wood’s lamp and with sideillumination—and the spotlights, the tour of European art galleries, upkeep . . . a fantastic outlay for a farcical conclusion . . . But what was comical about his idiotic incarceration? He was at his desk as if nothing had happened . . . That was yesterday . . . But upstairs there was Madera’s corpse in a puddle of blood . . . and Otto’s heavy footsteps as he paced up and down keeping guard. All that to get to this! Where would he be now if . . . He thinks of the sunny Balearic Islands—it would have taken just a wave of his hand a year and half before—Geneviève would be at his side . . . the beach, the setting sun . . . a picture postcard scene . . . Is this where it all comes to a full stop?

Now he recalled every move he’d made. He’d just lit a cigarette, he was standing with one hand on the table, with his weight on one hip. He was looking at the Portrait of a Man. Then he’d stubbed out his cigarette quickly and his left hand had swept over the table, stopped, gripped a piece of cloth, and crumpled it tight—an old handkerchief used as a brush-rag. Everything was hazy. He was putting ever more of his weight onto the table without letting the Condottiere out of his sight. Days and days of useless effort? It was as if his weariness had given way to the anger rising in him, step by certain step. He was crushing the fabric in his hand and his nails had scored the wooden table-top. He had pulled himself up, gone to his work bench, rummaged among his tools . . .

A black sheath made of hardened leather. An ebony handle. A shining blade. He had raised it to the light and checked the cutting edge. What had he been thinking of? He’d felt as if there was nothing in the world apart from that anger and that weariness . . . He’d flopped into the armchair, put his head in his hands, with the razor scarcely a few inches from his eyes, set off clearly and sharply by the dangerously smooth surface of the Condottiere’s doublet. A single movement and then curtains . . . One thrust would be enough . . . His arm raised, the glint of the blade . . . a single movement . . . he would approach slowly and the carpet would muffle the sound of his steps, he would steal up on Madera from behind . . .

A quarter of an hour had gone by, maybe. Why did he have an impression of distant gestures? Had he forgotten? Where was he? He’d been upstairs. He’d come back down. Madera was dead. Otto was keeping guard. What now? Otto was going to phone Rufus, Rufus would come. And then? What if Otto couldn’t get hold of Rufus? Where was Rufus? That’s what it all hung on. On this stupid what-if. If Rufus came, he would die, and if Otto didn’t get hold of Rufus, he would live. How much longer? Otto had a weapon. The skylight was too high and too small. Would Otto fall asleep? Does a man on guard need to sleep? . . .

He was going to die. The thought of it comforted him like a promise. He was alive, he was going to be dead. Then what?

Leonardo is dead, Antonello is dead, and I’m not feeling too well myself. A stupid death. A victim of circumstance. Struck down by bad luck, a wrong move, a mistake. Convicted in absentia. By unanimous decision with one abstention—which one?—he was sentenced to die like a rat in a cellar, under a dozen unfeeling eyes—the side lights and X-ray lamps purchased at outrageous prices from the laboratory at the Louvre—sentenced to death for murder by virtue of that good old moral legend of the eye, the tooth and the turn of the wheel—Achilles’ wheel—death is the beginning of the life of the mind—sentenced to die because of a combination of circumstances, an incoherent conjunction of trivial events . . . Across the globe there were wires and submarine cables . . . Hello, Paris, this is Dreux, hold the line, we’re connecting to Dampierre. Hello, Dampierre, Paris calling. You can talk now. Who could have imagined those peaceable operators with their earpieces becoming implacable executioners . . . Hello, Monsieur Koenig, Otto speaking, Madera has just died . . .

In the dark of night the Porsche will leap forward with its headlights spitting fire like dragons. There will be no accident. In the middle of the night they will come and get him . . .

And then? What the hell does it matter to you? They’ll come and get you. Next? Slump into an armchair and stare long and hard until death overtakes into the eyes of the tall joker with the shiv, the ineffable Condottiere. Responsible or not responsible? Guilty or not guilty? I’m not guilty, you’ll scream when they drag you up to the guillotine. We’ll soon see about that, says the executioner. And down the blade comes with a clunk. Curtains. Self-evident justice. Isn’t that obvious? Isn’t it normal? Why should there be any other way out?

To read more about Portrait of a Man Known as Il Condottiere, click here.

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7. Reverse Global Warming

Earth from space photoSolar Energy Can Solve the Biggest Problem in the World Today

I think that one of the biggest problems today is the usage of power. Solar energy is the solution.  We all know the sun’s rays give off heat, right? Well, did you know that the energy from the sun can be collected and concentrated to produce usable power? When I’m finished, you’ll be more informed and surely switch to solar energy. Let’s get started!

The first advantage of solar energy is that no matter how much humans use the sun for its power, it won’t ever run out. Another advantage is that solar energy reduces the cost of electricity bills. Actually, it doesn’t just reduce the cost; solar energy takes the cost away entirely! My last advantage is it’s a clean source of power because it takes away use of fossil fuels that pollute the atmosphere.

There are many advantages, but you must take into account the disadvantages of using solar energy. One disadvantage is that solar energy is more expensive than other power sources because you have to pay for getting the panels installed. Another disadvantage is, depending on the area you live in, there will have to be a certain number of solar panels needed, which can also affect the placing of the solar panels. The last disadvantage is that only 40% of the sun’s energy is used by the solar panels, which means 60% is wasted.

Solar energy is a clean, renewable source that helps protect the environment. It may be more expensive, but it’s worth it over time. If more people switch to solar energy, then less pollution may reverse the effects of global warming!

What do YOU think about solar energy? Join the conversation on the Save the Planet Message Board.

Rowan, Scholastic Kids Council

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8. Meet Alix Reid! [Part 1]

We'd like to introduce the new Carolrhoda Books and Carolrhoda Lab editorial director, Alix Reid! She officially started last week and was kind enough to agree to answer some questions for us. We're posting part 1 (about her editing experience and background) today; part two (about her favorite books, hobbies, and life in Chicago) will go up next week.


1.      First, give us a bio!

From the moment I could read, I always had my head in a book, and imagined I would be the next E. B. White or E. L. Konigsburg. But after earning an undergraduate degree in English Literature from Williams College, I started working as a children’s book editor at Harper & Row (now HarperCollins) and realized this was my true calling. I began my career as an editorial assistant, and during fourteen years at Harper worked my way up to become editorial director and vice president. I’ve also earned graduate degrees from Michigan and Harvard, and worked as a freelance children’s book editor while raising my daughter in Chicago.

2.      How did you get into editing?

After I graduated, I opened up the newspaper to look for a job in editing. There were dozens of jobs but my eye immediately gravitated to the editorial assistant job at Harper. Through my late teens and twenties, my secret passion was to read middle grade and young adult novels, and I couldn’t believe there was actually a job where I could edit these books! I thought I bombed the interview—I was so nervous I had to take the typing test twice—but I must have done something right, since I was offered the job the next day. I started working first for the legendary Marilyn Kriney, and then for Kate Morgan Jackson, who has been the editor-in-chief for over a decade.

3.      Name some notable books that you’ve edited.

My very first acquisition was Gail Carson Levine’s Ella Enchanted. I loved the novel from the first, and remember running into Kate’s office saying we had to acquire the book right away. It went on to win the Newbery Honor and remains one of my favorite books of all time. I also edited Louise Rennison’s hilarious Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging series about the irrepressible Georgia Nicolson; the first book in the series won a Michael Printz Honor Award. That said, there are so many books I worked on that hold a special place in my heart: Julianna Baggott’s The Anybodies (written under the name N. E. Bode), Cynthia Rylant’s God Went to Beauty School, and A. M. Jenkins’s Out of Order and Damage. What I love about all the books I’ve edited is not only that they’re wonderfully written, but that they feel fresh and different, and have something important to say to their audience.

4.      What have been some of your favorite projects?

During my tenure at HarperCollins, I took on the role of director of foreign acquisitions. This meant I got to read the wonderful books being published in the UK (and elsewhere, but mostly the UK) and introduce them to a US audience. It was so exciting to meet my UK counterparts and I’m particularly proud of having acquired the Molly Moon series by Georgia Byng and The Chronicles of Ancient Darkness series by Michelle Paver.

5.      What else would you like Carolrhoda Books and Carolrhoda Lab readers to know?

One of the things I’m so excited about in joining the Carolrhoda team is their commitment to publishing only the best books. They keep their list small and no book is considered “mid-list.” Each author is nurtured not only by his or her editor, but also by the design team, the publicity and marketing team, our foreign rights director—essentially, the whole company helps publish each book. In addition, Carolrhoda Books and Carolrhoda Lab have embraced working with new authors and publishing books that break boundaries—no topic is off limits. This philosophy speaks deeply to me, and I look forward to growing the list and staying true to its mission.

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9. J. K. Rowling News

rowling130More Proof That J. K. Rowling ROCKS!

Part 1 of a 2-part interview with Harry Potter author J. K. Rowling appeared on the Today Show this morning. There is good news and bad news. The bad news for Harry Potter fans is that she said she is definitely not working on another Harry Potter book. “Harry Potter 8, as in what happened next to Harry, Ron and Hermione — I don’t think that’s going to happen.” Oh well . . .

But the good news is pretty amazing! J. K. Rowling has started a charity called Lumos. (Awesome name, right?) According to the Lumos website, the goal is to eliminate all orphanages and replace them with “community based services that provide children with access to health, education and social care tailored to their individual needs.”

As you probably know, Lumos is the spell to make light, so this name has a special meaning. This charity will help bring the problem of orphanages to light, and hopefully inspire people to change that system. And it will also be a light of hope to the children living in them and can hopefully make their lives much better.

In the Today Show interview, J. K. Rowling said, “I definitely will write for children again, ’cause I love writing for kids. So that will definitely happen, and that will sit comfortably alongside this work [Lumos]. And maybe I’ll get to read that new work to some of these children.”

Did you even need more proof that J. K. Rowling is a goddess? Well, there it is! Do you love her even more now? Leave your reactions in the Comments!

Sonja, STACKS Staffer

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10. The Candymakers

Recommend me!The Candymakers (for ages 9 and up) by Wendy Mass

Today’s book recommendation comes from HotelPurple42 on the Reading Buzz Board.

The CandymakersThe Candymakers is about the candy factory called “Life is Sweet” and it is having a competition for kids to create a one-of-a-kind candy. The winning candy will be sold everywhere. All the kids who want to enter have to write an essay on why they want to make candy. Out of all those entries, 4 children are chosen: Logan (a Life Is Sweet employee’s son), Daisy (who can lift a 50-pound roll of taffy), Miles (who is allergic to rowboats, the color pink, pancakes, jazz music, and merry-go-rounds) and Phillip (who is always wearing a suit and tie and is scribbling in a secret notebook). This is all I can give you. It’s a really great book.

Have you read this book? What do you think? Leave a Comment and go to the Reading Buzz Board to join the book discussion!

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11. Happy blogiversary to me!

Will she ever run
out of books? No way. Out of
energy? Maybe.

0 Comments on Happy blogiversary to me! as of 4/14/2015 6:42:00 AM
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12. Music Personality Quiz

question marksWhat’s your Music Personality Style?

Are you a rebellious rocker? A classy classical kid? A peppy popster? Take the quiz to find out!

  1. It’s Spirit Week at school! You’re most looking forward to . . . A) Professional Day. You love wearing your fanciest clothes to school once in a while. B) Pajama Day. Chillin’ in your pjs all day sounds pretty awesome! C) Crazy Day. It’s finally a day when you can go wild with your own style! D) School Colors Day. You’ve got the PERFECT pair of sneakers to match your letter jacket. E) Superhero Day. It took you forever to decide between Thor and Spider-Man, but it looks like you’ve finally made the best choice!
  2. Summer vacation is so close you can taste it! You can’t wait to . . . A) take that awesome summer writing course you signed up for! B) hang out at the skate park with your best friends. C) explore museums and hone your sketching skills. D) throw the most epic pool parties in the neighborhood. E) cruise the mall and chill at the beach.
  3. Your favorite sport is . . . A) tennis. B) snowboarding. C) figure skating. D) basketball (because BALL IS LIFE). E) football.
  4. It’s your turn to pick a movie for family movie night. Your obvious choice is . . . A) a really thoughtful documentary about the environment. B) something scary or action-packed. Nothing boring and slow for you! C) a really cool anime movie. D) a musical. You love it when the characters sing and dance! E) a comedy. Who doesn’t love a good laugh?
  5. Your favorite candy is . . .  A) fruit. It’s nature’s candy! B) gummy bears! C) chocolate. ALL the chocolate! D) the latest, trendiest craze in confections! E) lollipops!
  6. Your bag style of choice is . . . A) something sophisticated and grown-up like a well-structured leather bag. B) Uh . . . my pockets? C) a really fantastic printed tote you bought at a flea market. D) a bright and funky backpack. E) the trendiest new it-bag. 
  7. When you’re older, you think it would be really cool to live in . . .  A) Rome, Italy. B) Berlin, Germany. C) Bangkok, Thailand. D) New York City. E) Los Angeles, California.
  8. You most pride yourself in your . . . A) maturity and responsibility. B) sense of humor. C) creativity. D) coolness. E) sunny spirit.

If you answered mostly A’s, you are Classical Music. You believe in high-quality things that never go out of style. You’re always dressed tastefully, remember which piece of flatware to use at fancy dinners, never have a bad hair day (or are really good at hiding it when you do), and parents basically adore you because you are so mature. Your friends love you, too, because even if you like to play by the rules the majority of the time, you’re a very loyal, responsible, and high-quality friend.

If you answered mostly B’s, you are Rock Music. You are kind of a rebel. You like to live life loud, and you are really good at finding a way to have a great time no matter what. You love a great prank, but you’ve also got a great heart. Even if you’re a bit loud, you’re a really good listener and your friends appreciate that you are genuinely interested in being there for them. Plus, you’re always thinking of excellent ways to cheer them up on bad days!

If you answered mostly C’s, you are Jazz Music. You are a free-spirited, ultra-creative soul who is just too innovative for these times. You may be labeled “quirky” or even “strange,” but you’re definitely just ahead of your time. You have the unique ability to appreciate a wide range of things, and you seem to always be discovering some unusual and cool film, book, or song to share with your friends.

If you answered mostly D’s, you are Hip Hop Music. You are the hippest person you know. You’ve got spirit AND style! The crowd is always looking to you for direction. Guaranteed: the day after you debut a new look, at least ONE other person will be rocking that style, too. You basically drip coolness 24/7, but what people love about you most is how easygoing and fun you are, too.

If you scored mostly E’s, you are Pop Music. You are the sunniest, happiest, peppiest person for a thousand miles in every direction. Has anyone ever even seen you not smiling? You live for warm weather, laughter, sugary sweets, and friends. But just because you like the best things in life doesn’t mean that you can’t be deep, too. You wear your heart on your sleeve, and sometimes it can hurt, but you always bounce back. That’s why everyone loves you!

En-Szu, STACKS Writer

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13. Excerpt: That’s the Way It Is

9780226472454

An excerpt from That’s the Way It Is: A History of Television News in America 
by Charles L. Ponce de Leon

***

“Beginnings”

Few technologies have stirred the utopian imagination like television. Virtually from the moment that research produced the first breakthroughs that made it more than a science fiction fantasy, its promoters began gushing about how it would change the world. Perhaps the most effusive was David Sarnoff. Like the hero of a dime novel, Sarnoff had come to America as a nearly penniless immigrant child, and had risen from lowly office boy to the presidency of RCA, a leading manufacturer of radio receivers and the parent company of the nation’s biggest radio network, NBC. More than anyone else, it was Sarnoff who had recognized the potential of “wireless” as a form of broadcasting—a way of transmitting from a single source to a geographically dispersed audience. Sarnoff had built NBC into a juggernaut, the network with the largest number of affiliates and the most popular programs. He had also become the industry’s loudest cheerleader, touting its contributions to “progress” and the “American Way of Life.” Having blessed the world with the miracle of radio, he promised Americans an even more astounding marvel, a device that would bring them sound and pictures over the air, using the same invisible frequencies.

In countless speeches heralding television’s imminent arrival, Sarnoff rhapsodized about how it would transform American life and encourage global communication and “international solidarity.” “Television will be a mighty window, through which people in all walks of life, rich and poor alike, will be able to see for themselves, not only the small world around us but the larger world of which we are a part,” he proclaimed in 1945, as the Second World War was nearing an end and Sarnoff and RCA eagerly anticipated an increase in public demand for the new technology.

Sarnoff predicted that television would become the American people’s “principal source of entertainment, education and news,” bringing them a wealth of program options. It would increase the public’s appreciation for “high culture” and, when supplemented by universal schooling, enable Americans to attain “the highest general cultural level of any people in the history of the world.” Among the new medium’s “outstanding contributions,” he argued, would be “its ability to bring news and sporting events to the listener while they are occurring,” and build on the news programs that NBC and the other networks had already developed for radio. He saw no conflicts or potential problems. Action-adventure programs, mysteries, soap operas, situation comedies, and variety shows would coexist harmoniously with high-toned drama, ballet, opera, classical music performances, and news and public affairs programs. And they would all be supported by advertising, making it unnecessary for the United States to move to a system of “government control,” as in Europe and the UK. Television in the US would remain “free.”

Yet Sarnoff ’s booster rhetoric overlooked some thorny issues. Radio in the US wasn’t really free. It was thoroughly commercialized, and this had a powerful influence on the range of programs available to listeners. To pay for program development, the networks and individual stations “sold” airtime to advertisers. Advertisers, in turn, produced programs—or selected ones created by independent producers—that they hoped would attract listeners. The whole point of “sponsorship” was to reach the public and make them aware of your products, most often through recurrent advertisements. Though owners of radios didn’t have to pay an annual fee for the privilege of listening, as did citizens in other countries, they were forced to endure the commercials that accompanied the majority of programs.

This had significant consequences. As the development of radio made clear, some kinds of programs were more popular than others, and advertisers were naturally more interested in sponsoring ones that were likely to attract large numbers of listeners. These were nearly always entertainment programs, especially shows that drew on formulas that had proven successful in other fields—music and variety shows, comedy, and serial fiction. More off-beat and esoteric programs were sometimes able to find sponsors who backed them for the sake of prestige; from 1937 to 1954, for example, General Motors sponsored live performances by NBC’s acclaimed “Symphony of the Air.” But most cultural, news, and public affairs programs were unsponsored, making them unprofitable for the networks and individual stations. Thus in the bountiful mix envisioned by Sarnoff, certain kinds of broadcasts were more valuable than others. If high culture and news and public affairs programs were to thrive, their presence on network schedules would have to be justified by something other than their contribution to the bottom line.

The most compelling reason was provided by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Established after Congress passed the Federal Communications Act in 1934, the FCC was responsible for overseeing the broadcasting industry and the nation’s airwaves, which, at least in theory, belonged to the public. Rather than selling frequencies, which would have violated this principle, the FCC granted individual parties station licenses. These allowed licensees sole possession of a frequency to broadcast to listeners in their community or region. This system allocated a scarce resource—the nation’s limited number of frequencies—and made possession of a license a lucrative asset for businessmen eager to exploit broadcasting’s commercial potential. Licenses granted by the FCC were temporary, and all licensees were required to go through a periodic renewal process. As part of this process, they had to demonstrate to the FCC that at least some of the programs they aired were in the “public interest.” Inspired by a deep suspicion of commercialization, which had spread widely among the public during the early 1900s, the FCC’s public-interest requirement was conceived as a countervailing force that would prevent broadcasting from falling entirely under the sway of market forces. Its champions hoped that it might protect programming that did not pay and ensure that the nation’s airwaves weren’t dominated by the cheap, sensational fare that, reformers feared, would proliferate if broadcasting was unregulated

In practice, however, the FCC’s oversight of broadcasting proved to be relatively lax. More concerned about NBC’s enormous market power—it controlled two networks of affiliates, NBC Red and NBC Blue—FCC commissioners in the 1930s were unusually sympathetic to the businessmen who owned individual stations and possessed broadcast licenses and made it quite easy for them to renew their licenses. They were allowed to air a bare minimum of public-affairs programming and fill their schedules with the entertainment programs that appealed to listeners and sponsors alike. By interpreting the public-interest requirement so broadly, the FCC encouraged the commercialization of broadcasting and unwittingly tilted the playing field against any programs—including news and public affairs—that could not compete with the entertainment shows that were coming to dominate the medium.

Nevertheless, news and public-affairs programs were able to find a niche on commercial radio. But until the outbreak of the Second World War, it wasn’t a very large or comfortable one, and it was more a result of economic competition than the dictates of the FCC. Occasional news bulletins and regular election returns were broadcast by individual stations and the fledgling networks in the 1920s. They became more frequent in the 1930s, when the networks, chafing at the restrictions placed on them by the newspaper industry, established their own news divisions to supplement the reports they acquired through the newspaper-dominated wire services.

By the mid-1930s, the most impressive radio news division belonged not to Sarnoff ’s NBC but its main rival, CBS. Owned by William S. Paley, the wealthy son of a cigar magnate, CBS was struggling to keep up with NBC, and Paley came to see news as an area where his young network might be able to gain an advantage. A brilliant, visionary businessman, Paley was fascinated by broadcasting and would soon steer CBS ahead of NBC, in part by luring away its biggest stars. His bold initiative to beef up its news division was equally important, giving CBS an identity that clearly distinguished it from its rivals. Under Paley, CBS would become the “Tiffany network,” the home of “quality” as well as crowd-pleasers, a brand that made it irresistible to advertisers.

Paley hired two print journalists, Ed Klauber and Paul White, to run CBS’s news unit. Under their watch, the network increased the frequency of its news reports and launched news-and-commentary programs hosted by Lowell Thomas, H. V. Kaltenborn, and Robert Trout. In 1938, with Europe drifting toward war, CBS expanded these programs and began broadcasting its highly praised World News Roundup; its signature feature was live reports from correspondents stationed in London, Paris, Berlin, and other European capitals. These programs were well received and popular with listeners, prompting NBC and the other networks to follow Paley’s lead.

The outbreak of war sparked a massive increase in news programming on all the networks. It comprised an astonishing 20 percent of the networks’ schedules by 1944. Heightened public interest in news, particularly news about the war, was especially beneficial to CBS, where Klauber and White had built a talented stable of reporters. Led by Edward R. Murrow, they specialized in vivid on-the-spot reporting and developed an appealing style of broadcast journalism, affirming CBS’s leadership in news. By the end of the war, surveys conducted by the Office of Radio Research revealed that radio had become the main source of news for large numbers of Americans, and Murrow and other radio journalists were widely respected by the public. And though network news people knew that their audience and airtime would decrease now that the war was over, they were optimistic about the future and not very keen to jump into the new field of television.

This is ironic, since it was television that was uppermost in the minds of network leaders like Sarnoff and Paley. The television industry had been poised for takeoff as early as 1939, when NBC, CBS, and DuMont, a growing network owned by an ambitious television manufacturer, established experimental stations in New York City and began limited broadcasting to the few thousand households that had purchased the first sets for consumer use. After Pearl Harbor, CBS’s experimental station even developed a pathbreaking news program that used maps and charts to explain the war’s progress to viewers. This experiment came to an abrupt end in 1942, when the enormous shift of public and private resources to military production forced the networks to curtail and eventually shut down their television units, delaying television’s launch for several years.

Meanwhile, other events were shaking up the industry. In 1943, in response to an FCC decree, RCA was forced to sell one of its radio networks—NBC Blue—to the industrialist Edward J. Noble. The sale included all the programs and personalities that were contractually bound to the network, and in 1945 it was rechristened the American Broadcasting Company (ABC). The birth of ABC created another competitor not just in radio, where the Blue network had a loyal following, but in the burgeoning television industry as well. ABC joined NBC, CBS, and DuMont in their effort to persuade local broadcasters—often owners of radio stations who were moving into the new field of television—to become affiliates.

In 1944, the New York City stations owned by NBC, CBS, and Du-Mont resumed broadcasting, and NBC and CBS in particular launched aggressive campaigns to sign up affiliates in other cities. ABC and DuMont, hamstrung by financial and legal problems, quickly fell behind as most station owners chose NBC or CBS, largely because of their proven track record in radio. But even for the “ big two,” building television networks was costly and difficult. Unlike radio programming, which could be fed through ordinary phone lines to affiliates, who then broadcast them over the air in their communities, linking television stations into a network required a more advanced technology, a coaxial cable especially designed for the medium that AT&T, the private, government-regulated telephone monopoly, would have to lay throughout the country. At the end of the war, at the government’s and television industry’s behest, AT&T began work on this project. By the end of the 1940s, most of the East Coast had been linked, and the connection extended to Chicago and much of the Midwest. But it was slow going, and at the dawn of the 1950s, no more than 30 percent of the nation’s population was within reach of network programming. Until a city was linked to the coaxial cable, there was no reason for station owners to sign up with a network; instead, they relied on local talent to produce programs. As a result, the television networks grew more slowly than executives might have wished, and the audience for network programs was restricted by geography until the mid-1950s. An important breakthrough occurred in 1951, when the coaxial cable was extended to the West Coast and made transcontinental broadcasting possible. But until microwave relay stations were built to reach large swaths of rural America, many viewers lacked access to the networks.

Access wasn’t the only problem. The first television sets that rolled off the assembly lines were expensive. RCA’s basic model, the one that Sarnoff envisioned as its “Model T,” cost $385, while top-of-the-line models were more than $2,000. With the average annual salary in the mid-1940s just over $3,000, this was a lot of money, even if consumers were able to buy sets through department-store installment plans. And though the price of TVs would steadily decline, throughout the 1940s the audience for television was restricted by income. Most early adopters were from well-to-do families—or tavern owners who hoped that their investment in television would attract patrons.

Still, the industry expanded dramatically. In 1946, there were approximately 20,000 television sets in the US; by 1948, there were 350,000; and by 1952, there were 15.3 million. Less than 1 percent of American homes had TVs in 1948; a whopping 32 percent did by 1952. The number of stations also multiplied, despite an FCC freeze in the issuing of station licenses from 1948 to 1952. In 1946, there were six stations in only four cities; by 1952, there were 108 stations in sixty-five cities, most of them recipients of licenses issued right before the freeze. When the freeze was lifted and new licenses began to be issued again, there was a mad rush to establish new stations and get on the air. By 1955, almost 500 television stations were operating in the US.

The FCC freeze greatly benefited NBC and CBS. Eighty percent of the markets with TV at the start of the freeze in 1948 had only one or two licensees, and it made sense for them to contract with one or both of the big networks for national programming to supplement locally produced material. Shut out of these markets, ABC and DuMont were forced to secure affiliates in the small number of markets—usually large cities—where stations were more plentiful. By the time the FCC starting issuing licenses again, NBC and CBS had established reputations for popular, high-quality programs, and when new markets were opened, it became easier for them to sign up stations with the most desirable frequencies, usually the lowest “channels” on the dial. Meanwhile, ABC languished for much of the 1950s, with the fewest and poorest affiliates, and the struggling DuMont network ceased operations altogether in 1955.

News programs were among the first kinds of broadcasts that aired in the waning years of the war, and virtually everyone in the industry expected them to be part of the program mix as the networks increased programming to fill the broadcast day. News was “an invaluable builder of prestige,” noted Sig Mickelson, who joined CBS as an executive in 1949 and served as head of its news division throughout the 1950s. “It helped create an image that was useful in attracting audiences and stimulating commercial sales, not to mention maintaining favorable government relations. . . . News met the test of ‘public service.’ ” As usual, CBS led the way, inaugurating a fifteen-minute evening news program in 1944. It was broadcast on Thursdays and Fridays at 8:00 PM, the two nights of the week the network was on the air. NBC launched its own short Sunday evening newscast in 1945 as the lead-in to its ninety minutes of programming. Both programs resembled the newsreels that were regularly shown in movie theaters, a mélange of filmed stories with voice-over narration by off-screen announcers.

Considering the limited technology available, this was not surprising. Newsreels offered television news producers the most readily applicable model for a visual presentation of news, and the first people the networks hired to produce news programs were often newsreel veterans. But newsreels relied on 35mm film and were expensive and time-consuming to produce, and they had never been employed for breaking news. Aside from during the war, when they were filled with military stories that employed footage provided by the government, they specialized in fluff, events that were staged and would make the biggest impression on the screen: celebrity weddings, movie premiers, beauty contests, ship launches. In the mid-1940s, recognizing this shortcoming, producers at WCBW, CBS’s wholly owned subsidiary in New York, developed a number of innovative techniques for “visualizing” stories for which they had no film and established the precedent of sending a reporter to cover local stories.

These conventions were well established when the networks, in response to booming sales of television sets, expanded their evening schedules to seven days a week and launched regular weeknight newscasts. NBC’s premiered first, in February 1948. Sponsored by R. J. Reynolds, the makers of Camel cigarettes, it was produced for the network by the Fox Movietone newsreel company and had no on-screen news-readers. CBS soon followed suit, with the CBS Evening News, in April 1948. Relying on film provided by another newsreel outfit, Telenews, it featured a rotating cast of announcers, including Douglas Edwards, who had only reluctantly agreed to work in television after failing to break into the top tier of the network’s radio correspondents. In the late summer, after CBS president Frank Stanton convinced Edwards of television’s potential, Edwards was installed as the program’s regular on-screen newsreader, its recognizable “face.” DuMont created an evening newscast as well. But its News from Washington, which reached only the handful of stations that were owned by or affiliated with the network, was canceled in less than a year, and DuMont’s subsequent attempt, Camera Headlines, suffered the same fate and was off the air by 1950. ABC’s experience with news was similarly frustrating. Its first newscast, News and Views, began airing in August 1948 and was soon canceled. It didn’t try to broadcast another one until 1952, when it launched an ambitious prime-time news program called ABC All Star News, which combined filmed news reports with man-on-the street interviews, a technique popularized by local stations. By this time, however, the prime-time schedules of all the networks were full of popular entertainment programs, and All Star News, which failed to attract viewers, was pulled from the air after less than three months.

In February 1949, NBC, eager to make up ground lost to CBS, transformed its weeknight evening newscast into the Camel News Caravan, with John Cameron Swayze, a veteran of NBC’s radio division, as sole on-camera newsreader. Film for the program was acquired from a variety of sources, including foreign and domestic newsreel agencies and freelance stringers. But Swayze’s narration and on-screen presence distinguished the broadcast from its earlier incarnation. He sat at a desk that prominently displayed the Camel logo and presented an overview of the day’s major headlines, sometimes accompanied by film and still photos, but sometimes in the form of a “tell-story”— Swayze on camera reading from a script. In between, he would plug Camels and even occasionally light up, much to his sponsor’s delight. One of the show’s highlights was a whirlwind review of stories for which producers had no visuals, which Swayze would introduce by announcing, “Now let’s go hopscotching the news for headlines!” Swayze was popular with viewers and hosted the broadcast for seven years. He became well known to the public, especially for this nightly sign off, “That’s the story, folks. Glad we could get together.”

The Camel News Caravan was superficial, and Swayze’s tone undeniably glib, as critics at the time noted. But the assumption that guided its production did not set particularly high standards. As Reuven Frank, who joined the show as its main writer in 1950 and soon became its producer, recalled, “We assumed that almost everyone who watched us had read a newspaper . . . that our contribution . . . would be pictures. The people at home, knowing what the news was, could see it happen.” Yet over the next few years, especially after William McAndrew became head of NBC’s news division and Frank was installed as the program’s producer, the News Caravansteadily improved. Making good use of the largesse provided by R. J. Reynolds, which more than covered the news department’s rapidly expanding budget, the show increased its use of filmed reports, acquired from foreign sources like the BBC and other European news agencies, the US government and military, and the network’s growing corps of inhouse cameramen and technicians. It also came to rely more and more on the network’s staff of reporters, including a young North Carolinian named David Brinkley, and reporters at NBC’s “O-and-Os,” the five television stations that the network owned and operated. In the days before network bureaus, journalists at network O-and-Os were responsible for combing their cities for stories of potential national interest. NBC also employed stringers on whom it relied for material from cities or regions where it had no O-and-Os. Airing at 7:45 PM, right before the network’s lineup of prime-time entertainment programs, the News Caravan became the first widely viewed news program of the television age. Its success gave McAndrew and his staff greater leverage in their efforts to command network resources and put added pressure on their main rival.

The CBS Evening News, broadcast at 7:30, was also very much a work-in-progress. Influenced by the experiments in “visualizing” news that CBS producers had conducted at the network’s flagship New York City O-and-O in the mid-1940s, it was produced by a mix of radio people like Edwards and newcomers from other fields. Most of the radio people, however, were second-stringers. The network’s leading radio personnel, including Murrow and his comrades, had little interest in moving to television. Though this disturbed Paley and his second-in-command, CBS president Frank Stanton, it allowed CBS’s fledgling television news unit to escape from the long shadow of the network’s radio news operation, and it increased the influence of staff committed to the tradition of “visualizing.” With few radio people willing to work on the program, the network was forced to hire new staff from outside the network. These newcomers from the wire services, photojournalism, and news and photographic syndicates brought a lively spirit of innovation to CBS’s nascent television news division. They were impressed by the notion of “visualizing,” and they resolved that TV news ought to be different from radio news, “an amalgam of existing news media, with a substantial infusion of showmanship from the stage and motion pictures.”

The most important new hire was Don Hewitt, an ambitious, energetic twenty-five-year-old who joined the small staff of the CBS Evening News in 1948 and soon become its producer. Despite his age, Hewitt was already an experienced print journalist, and his resume included a stint at ACME News Pictures, a syndicate that provided newspapers with photographs. He was well aware of the power of pictures, and when he joined CBS, he brought a new sensibility and willingness to experiment. Under Hewitt, the Edwards program made rapid strides. Eager to find ways of compensating for television’s technical limitations, Hewitt made extensive use of still photos and created a graphic arts department to produce charts, maps, and captions to illustrate tell-stories. To make Edwards’s delivery more natural and smooth, he introduced a new machine called a TelePrompTer, which replaced the heavy cue cards on which his script had been written. Expanding on the experiments of CBS’s early “visualizers,” Hewitt devised a number of clever devices to provide visuals for stories—for example, using toy soldiers to illustrate battles during the Korean War. He was the principal figure behind the shift to 16mm film, which was easier and less expensive to produce, and the network’s decision to establish its own in-house camera crews. His most significant innovation, however, was the double-projector system that he developed to mix narration and film. This technique, which was copied throughout the industry, made possible a new kind of filmed report that would become the archetypal television news package: a reporter on camera, often at the scene of a story, beginning with a “stand-upper” that introduces the story; then film of other scenes, while the reporter’s words, recorded separately, serve as voice-over narration; finally, at the end, a “wrap-up,” where the reporter appears on camera again. By the early 1950s, the CBS newscast, now titled Douglas Edwards with the News, was adding viewers and winning plaudits from critics. And it had gained the respect of many of the network’s radio journalists, who now agreed to contribute to the program and other television news shows.

During the 1950s, Don Hewitt (left) was perhaps the most influential producer of television news. He was responsible not only for CBS’s successful evening newscast, but also worked on See It Now and other network programs. Douglas Edwards (right) anchored the broadcast from the late 1940s to 1962, when he was replaced by Walter Cronkite. Photo courtesy of CBS/Photofest.

The big networks were not the only innovators. In the late 1940s, with network growth limited and many stations still independent, local stations developed many different kinds of programs, including news shows. WPIX, a New York City station owned by theDaily News, the city’s most popular tabloid, established a daily news program in June 1948. The Telepix Newsreel aired twice a day, at 7:30 PM and 11:00 PM, and specialized in coverage of big local events like fires and plane crashes. Its staff went to great lengths to acquire film of these stories, which it hyped with what would become a standard teaser, “film at eleven.” Like its print cousin, it also featured lots of human-interest stories and man-on-the-street interviews. A Chicago station, WGN, developed a similar program, the Chicagoland Newsreel, which was also successful. The real pioneer was KTLA in Los Angeles. Run by Klaus Landsberg, a brilliant engineer, KTLA established the most technologically sophisticated news program of the era. Employing relatively small, portable cameras and mobile live transmitters, its reporters excelled in covering breaking news stories, and it would remain a trailblazer in the delivery of breaking news throughout the 1950s and 1960s. It was Landsberg, for example, who first conceived of putting a TV camera in a helicopter.

But such programs were the exception. Most local stations offered little more than brief summaries of wire-service headlines, and the expense of film technology led most to emphasize live entertainment programs instead of news. Believing that viewers got their news from local papers and radio stations, television stations saw no need to duplicate their efforts. Not until the 1960s, when new, inexpensive video and microwave technology made local newsgathering economically feasible, did local stations, including network affiliates, expand their news programming.

The television news industry’s first big opportunity to display its potential occurred in 1948, when the networks descended on Philadelphia for the political conventions. The major parties had selected Philadelphia with an eye on the emerging medium of television. Sales were booming, and Philadelphia was on the coaxial cable, which was reaching more and more cities as the weeks and months passed. By the time the Republicans convened in July, it extended from Boston to Richmond, Virginia, with the potential for reaching millions of viewers. Radio journalists had been covering the conventions for two decades, but with lucrative entertainment programs on network schedules, it hadn’t paid to produce “gavel-to-gavel” coverage—just bulletins, wrap-ups, and the acceptance speeches of the nominees. In 1948, however, television was a wide-open field, and with much of the broadcast day open—or devoted to unsponsored programming that cost nothing to preempt—the conventions were a great showcase. In cities where they were broadcast, friends and neighbors gathered in the homes of early adopters, in bars and taverns, even in front of department store display windows, where store managers had carefully arranged TVs to draw the attention of passers-by. Crowds on the sidewalk sometimes overflowed into the street, blocking traffic. “No more effective way could have been found to stimulate receiver sales than these impromptu TV set demonstrations,” suggested Sig Mickelson.

Because of the enormous technical difficulties and a lack of experience, the networks collaborated extensively. All four networks used the same pictures, provided by a common pool of cameras set up to focus on the podium and surrounding area. NBC’s coverage was produced by Life magazine and featured journalists from Henry Luce’s media empire as well as Swayze and network radio stars H. V. Kaltenborn and Richard Harkness. CBS’s starred Murrow, Quincy Howe, and Douglas Edwards, newly installed on the Evening News and soon to be its sole newsreader. ABC relied on the gossip columnist and radio personality Walter Winchell. Lacking its own news staff, DuMont hired the Washington-based political columnist Drew Pearson to provide commentary. Many of these announcers did double duty, providing radio bulletins, too. With cameras still heavy and bulky, there were no roving floor reporters conducting interviews with delegates and candidates; instead, interviews occurred in makeshift studios set up in adjacent rooms off the main convention floor. Accordingly, there was little coverage of anything other than events occurring on the podium, and it was print journalists who provided Americans with the behindthe-scenes drama, particularly at the Democrats’ convention, where Southern delegates, angered by the party’s growing commitment to civil rights, walked out in protest and chose Strom Thurmond to run as the nominee of the hastily organized “Dixiecrats.” The conventions were a hit with viewers. Though there were only about 300,000 sets in the entire US, industry research suggested that as many as 10 million Americans saw at least some convention coverage thanks to group viewing and department store advertising and special events.

Four years later, when the Republicans and Democrats again gathered for their conventions, this time in Chicago, the networks were better prepared. Besides experience, they brought more nimble and sophisticated equipment. And, thanks to the spread of the coaxial cable, there were in a position to reach a nationwide audience. Excited by the geometric increase in receiver sales, and inspired by access to new markets that seemed to make it possible to double or even triple the number of television households, major manufacturers signed up as sponsors, and advertisements in newspapers urged consumers to buy sets to “see the conventions.” Coverage was much wider and more complete than in 1948. Several main pool cameras with improved zoom capabilities focused on the podium, while each network deployed between twenty and twenty-five cameras on the periphery and at downtown hotels and in mobile units. “Never before,” noted Mickelson, the CBS executive responsible for the event, “had so many television cameras been massed at one event.”

Meanwhile, announcers from each of the networks explained what was occurring and provided analysis and commentary. NBC’s main announcer was Bill Henry, a Los Angeles print journalist. He was assisted by Kaltenborn and Harkness. Henry sat in a tiny studio and watched the proceedings through monitors, and did not appear on camera. CBS’s coverage differed and established a new precedent. Its main announcer, Walter Cronkite, provided essentially the same narration, explanation, and commentary as Henry. But his face appeared on-screen, in a tiny window in the corner of the screen; when there was a lull on the convention floor, the window expanded to fill the entire screen. Cronkite, an experienced wire service correspondent, had just joined CBS after a successful stint at WTOP, its Washington affiliate. Mickelson had been impressed with his ability to explain and ad lib, and he insisted that CBS use Cronkite rather than the far more experienced and well-known Robert Trout. Mickelson conceded that, from his years of radio work, Trout excelled at “creating word pictures.” But, with television, this was a superfluous gift. The cameras delivered the pictures. “What we needed was interpretation of the pictures on the screen. That was Cronkite’s forte.”

When print journalists asked Mickelson on the eve of the conventions what exact role Cronkite would play, he responded by suggesting that his new hire would be the “anchorman,” a term that soon came to refer to newsreaders like Swayze and Edwards as well. Yet in coining this term, Mickelson was referring to the complex process that Don Hewitt had conceived to provide more detailed and up-to-the-minute coverage of the convention. Recognizing that the action was on the floor, and that if TV journalists were to match the efforts of print reporters they needed to be able to report from there as quickly as possible, Hewitt mounted a second camera that could pan the floor and zoom in on floor reporters armed with walkie-talkies and flashlights, which they used to inform Hewitt when they had an interview or report ready to deliver. It worked like clockwork: “They combed through the delegations, talked to both leaders and members, queried them on motivations and prospective actions, and kept relaying information to the editorial desk.” It was then filtered and collated and passed on to Cronkite, who served as the “anchor” of the relay, delivering the latest news and ad-libbing with the poise and self-assurance that he would display at subsequent conventions and during live coverage of space flights and major breaking news. Cronkite’s seemingly effortless ability to provide viewers with useful and interesting information about the proceedings won praise from television critics and boosted CBS’s reputation with viewers.

NBC was not so successful. In keeping with the network’s—and RCA’s—infatuation with technology, it sought to cover events on the convention floor with a new gadget, a small, hand-held, live-television camera that could transmit pictures and needn’t be connected by wire. As Frank recalled, “It could roam the floor . . . showing delegates reacting to speakers and even join a wireless microphone for interviews.” But it regularly malfunctioned and contributed little to NBC’s coverage. More effective and popular were a series of programs that Bill McAndrew developed to provide background. Convention Call was broadcast twice a day during the conventions, before sessions and when they adjourned for breaks. Its hosts encouraged viewers to call in and ask NBC reporters to explain what was occurring, especially rules of procedure. The show sparked a flood of calls that overwhelmed telephone company switchboards and forced NBC to switch to telegrams instead.

Ratings for network coverage of the conventions exceeded expectations. Approximately 60 million viewers saw at least some of the conventions on television, with an estimated audience of 55 million tuning in at their peak. And the conventions inspired viewers to begin watching the evening newscasts and contributed to an increase in their popularity. Television critics praised the networks for their contributions to civic enlightenment. Jack Gould of the New York Times suggested that television had “won its spurs” and was “a welcome addition to the Fourth Estate.”

Conventions, planned in advance at locations well-suited for television’s limited technology, were ideal events for the networks to cover. These were the days before front-loaded primaries made them little more than coronations of nominees determined months beforehand, and the parties were undergoing important changes that were often revealed in angry debates and frantic back-room deliberations. And while print journalists remained the most complete source for such information, television allowed viewers to see it in real time, and its stable of experienced reporters and analysts proved remarkably adept at conveying the drama and explaining the stakes.

To read more about That’s the Way It Is, click here.

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14. Interpreting César Chávez’s Legacy with Students

Guest BloggerIn this guest post, Sara Burnett, education associate at the American Immigration Council, presents strategies and resources to enrich the classroom with the legacy of César Chávez. This blog post was originally posted at the American Immigration Council’s Teach Immigration blog.

“When the man who feeds the world by toiling in the field is himself deprived of the basic rights of feeding and caring for his own family, the whole community of man is sick.”   — César Chávez

César Chávez was a Mexican-American labor activist and civil rightsWhen the man who feeds the world by leader who fought tirelessly throughout his life to improve the working conditions of migrant farm workers. A man of great courage, he championed nonviolent protest, using boycotts, strikes, and fasting as a way to create sweeping social change. Importantly, his work led him to found the United Farm Workers union (UFW).

His remarkable achievements towards social justice and human rights serve as an excellent example to young people of how vital their voices are in bringing about change and championing causes that are as relevant today as they were in his day.

One group of middle school students in Fellsmere, FL has done just that by writing and producing a short news broadcast “The Hands That Feed Us: A Migrant Farm Workers Service Project,” highlighting the unfair labor practices and strenuous conditions of migrant farmworkers who pick oranges in their community. Their teachers are winners of the American Immigration Council’s 2014 community grants program which helped to fund this service-learning opportunity. Their project culminates with a school-wide donation drive for materials sorely needed for migrant farmworkers.

Inspired to enrich your classroom with the legacy of César Chávez? 

Start with a lesson

Interpreting the Impact of César Chávez’s Early Years

In this immigration lesson plan, students will understand how César Chávez’s adolescence as a migrant farm worker influenced his later achievements.  First, students will analyze how an artist and biographer have interpreted Chávez’s legacy.  Then by reading excerpts from Chávez’s autobiography, students will draw connections between how his early years shaped his later beliefs and achievements around organized labor, social justice, and humane treatment of individuals. Once students have read and critically thought about these connections, they will write a response supported with evidence from the text to answer the investigative question on the impact of Chávez’s early years and development.  This Common-Core aligned lesson includes extensions and adaptations for ELL students and readers at multiple levels.

Use visuals and picture booksCESAR

Appropriate for younger students, but inspirational for all ages, picture books have a unique capacity to captivate and educate. The following books all have linked teacher’s guides.

Poems to Dream Together/Poemas para Soñar Juntos by Francisco Alarcón pays tribute to those who toil in the fields, and to César Chávez. This is an excellent bilingual book to use in your celebration of National Poetry Month in April.

Amelia’s Road by Linda Jacobs Altman explores the daily life of migrant farm working in California’s Central Valley from a child’s perspective. According to the publisher, Lee and Low Books, “it is an inspirational tale about the importance of home.”

First Day in Grapes by L. King Perez follows Chico and his family traveling farm to farm across California where every September they pick grapes and Chico enters a different school. But third grade year is different and Chico begins to find his own voice against the bullies at his school

Calling the Doves / El Canto de las Palomas by Juan Herrera is the poet’s account of his own childhood as a migrant farmworker.  Beautifully illustrated and composed in Spanish and English, Herrera describes the simple joys he misses from his native Mexico as well as detailing his personal journey in becoming a writer.

A brief video Mini-Bio: César Chávez sets the foundation for older students to learn about the major achievements of Chávez’s life.

Initiate a community service project

Chávez was explicit about the need to serve one’s community. As a class, identify a need in your community and then brainstorm ways that students can make a difference from running a donation drive to decorating school walls in order to welcome all students and families.  Take inspiration from the students in Fellsmere, FL for a more intensive project and let us know about it and apply for our community grants.

Extend learning into the present state of migrant farm workers

Read How Inaction on Immigration Impacts the Agricultural Economy (American Immigration Council) and What happens when more than half of migrant workers are undocumented? (Michigan Radio)  Ask students: What is the status of migrant labor today in the U.S.?  How much has changed and stayed the same since Chávez’s early childhood?

Read Interview with a Crab Picker (Public Welfare Foundation) and explore what it is like to apply for U.S. jobs while residing in the home country.  Pair this reading with the short film about a Public Welfare Foundation grantee: Centro De Los Derechos Del Migrante, Inc. available on their website. Ask students:  How do these recent interviews and stories compare and contrast with the conditions facing Chávez and his family? How are some individuals in home countries benefitting from sending migrant workers to the U.S.?

Have more ideas on teaching César Chávez and his legacy with students?  We’d love to hear them.  Email us at teacher@immcouncil.org and follow us on twitter @ThnkImmigration.

Sara SelfSara Burnett is the education associate at the American Immigration Council, a non-partisan non-profit dedicated to honoring our nation’s immigrant past and shaping our immigrant future. She was a former public high school English teacher in Washington D.C. and Vermont. She holds a MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Maryland, College Park, where she taught a service-learning and creative writing with undergraduates and recently immigrated high school students. Additionally, she holds a MA in English Literature from the University of Vermont, and a BA in English and Economics from Boston College. 

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15. Crazed Dog Create a Caption

Create a captionCreate a Caption for Rowan’s Crazy Dog!

Oh my goodness! Does Rowan’s dog look insane or what? Tell us in the Comments what you think this lunatic is saying!

Rowan's crazy dog

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16. Happy birthday, giant person.


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17. Poetry Friday: Family Garden

April is National Poetry Month! All month long we’ll be celebrating by posting some of our favorite poems for Poetry Friday. For our second Poetry Friday post, we chose Family Garden by Francisco Alarcón, illustrated by Paula Barragán from Poems to Dream Together/Poemas para soñar juntos.

poems to dream together

Family Garden

in the backyard/of our home/there is a garden

all in our family/do our part/in maintaining

Mamá loves/to plant and nip/flowery rosebushes

Abuelita keeps/her mint herbs/in a small pot

Papá really likes/to come out hose/in hand and water

the lemon tree/the squashes/and the tomatoes

that my sisters/would grow/every spring

my brothers and I/in turn weed out/and mow the lawn

all in our family/take time to tend/each other’s dreams

even our puppy/knows how/to grow bones

in this garden/the sun shines/green smiles

What poems is everyone else reading? Feel free to share in the comments section!

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18. The Terrible Two: Review Haiku

This avowed prank-hater
still found these guys kinda
charming. (But trouble.)

The Terrible Two by Jory John and Mac Barnett, illustrated by Kevin Cornell. Abrams, 2015, 224 pages.


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19. Things Not Seen

Recommend me!Things Not Seen (for ages 10 and up) by Andrew Clements

Today’s book recommendation comes from MidnightMystery146 on the Reading Buzz Board.

Author: Andrew Clements (author of Frindle and No Talking)Things Not Seen book cover
Book: Things Not Seen
Rating: 6 out of 5!!! (Yeah, it’s a wonderful novel!)
Basic Character List: Bobby wakes up invisible one day, but you can touch and hear him. His father is a “science freak” and his mother is a literature professor at his school. He meets this blind girl, Alicia, whom he becomes friends with.

When my friend recommended this book, I thought, “Why not?” but I didn’t realize at the time it was going to be one of my all-time favorites right next to the Harry Potter series. The book just takes you on an almost too impossible story adventure. And one last thing: never buy a faulty electric blanket at Sears, or at least not on a night when Earth is experiencing a high energy solar eruption.:)

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20. Lucky Strike: Review Haiku

A sturdy middle-grade
with wacky characters
and some light magic.

Lucky Strike by Bobbie Pyron. Levine/Scholastic, 2015, 272 pages.

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21. Can We Race Together? An Autopsy

Berrey_Enigma_9780226246239_cvr_IFt

“Can We Race Together? An Autopsy”*

by Ellen Berrey

***

Corporate diversity dialogues are ripe for backlash, the research shows,
even without coffee counter gimmicks.

Corporate executives and university presidents are, yet again, calling for public discussion on race and racial inequality. Revelations about the tech industry’s diversity problem have company officials convening panels on workplace barriers, and, at the University of Oklahoma spokespeople and students are organizing town-hall sessions in response to a fraternity’s racist chant.

The most provocative of the efforts was Starbucks’ failed Race Together program. In March, the company announced that it would ask baristas to initiate dialogues with customers about America’s most vexing dilemma. Although public outcry shut down those conversations before they even got to “Hello,” Starbucks said it would nonetheless carry on Race Together with forums and special USA Today discussion guides. As someone who has done sociological research on diversity initiatives for the past 15 years, I was intrigued.

 For a moment, let’s take this seriously

What would conversations about race have looked like if they played out as Starbucks imagined, given the social science of race? Can companies, in Starbucks’ CEO Howard Schultz’s words, “create a more empathetic and inclusive society—one conversation at a time”? A data-driven autopsy of Starbucks’ ambitions is in order.

Surprisingly, Starbucks turned its sights on the provocative issue of racial inequality—not just feel-good cultural differences (or, thank goodness, the sort of “respectability politics” that, under well-intentioned cover, focus on the moral flaws of black people). Most Americans, especially those of us who are white, are ill-informed on the topic of inequality. We generally do not recognize our personal prejudice. We routinely, and incorrectly, insist that we are colorblind and that racism is a thing of the past, as sociologist Eduardo Bonilla-Silva has documented. When we do try to talk about race, we usually resort to what sociologists Joyce Bell and Doug Hartmann call the “happy talk” of diversity, without a language for discussing who comes out ahead and who gets pushed behind.

Starbucks pulls back the veil on our unconscious

How to take this on? Starbucks opted to tackle the thorny issue of unacknowledged prejudice—the cognitive biases that predispose a person against racial minorities and in favor of white people. The company intended to offer “insight into the divisive role unconscious bias plays in our society and the role empathy can play to bridge those divides.” The conversation guide it distributed the first week described a bias experiment in which lawyers were asked to assess an error-ridden memo. When told that the (fictional) author was white, the lawyers commented “has potential.” When told he was black, they remarked “can’t believe he went to NYU.”

Perhaps this was a promising starting point. Americans prefer psychological explanations; we like to think that terrorism, poverty, obesity, and other social ills are rooted in the individual’s psyche.

 A comforting thought: I’m not racist

We also do not want to see ourselves as complicit in the segregation of our communities, workplaces, or friendships. We definitely don’t want the stigma of being “racist.” Even white supremacists resist that label. So if it’s true that we can’t see our own bias, as Starbucks told us, we can take comfort in our innocence.

Starbucks’ description of the bias experiment actually took the conversation where it never seems to venture: to the advantages that white people enjoy. White people get help, forgiveness, and the inside track far more often than do people of color. But Starbucks stopped before pointing the finger at who gives white people these advantages.

The rest of Race Together veered off in a confused direction, mostly bent on educated enlightenment. The conversation guide was a mishmash of racial utopianism (the millennials have it figured out!), demography as destiny (immigration changes everything!), triumph over a troublesome past (progress!), testimonies by people of color (the one white guy is clueless!), statistics, inspired introspection, and social network tallies (“I have ____ friends of a different race”!).

Not your daddy’s diversity training

Companies have been trying to positively address race for decades. Typically, they do so through diversity management within their own workforce. Their stated purpose is to increase the numbers of people of color in the top ranks or improve the corporate culture. Most diversity management strategies, however, are far from effective (unless they make someone responsible for results), as shown by as sociologists Alexandra Kalev, Frank Dobbin, and Erin Kelly. Corporate aggrandizement and the façade of legal compliance seem as much the goals as actual change.

Race Together most closely resembled diversity training, which tries to undo managerial stereotyping through educational exchange, but this time the exchange was between capitalists and consumers. And it bucked the typical managerial spin. Usually, the kicker is the business case for diversity: this will boost productivity and profits. Instead, Starbucks made the diversity case for business. Consumption, supposedly, would create inclusion and equity. That would be its own reward. There was no clear connection to its specific business goals, beyond (disgruntled) buzz about the brand.

What were you thinking, Howard Schultz?

Briefly, let’s revisit what made Starbucks’ over-the-counter conversations so offensive. Starbucks was asking low-wage, young, disproportionately minority workers to prompt meaningful exchanges about race with uncaffeinated, mostly white and affluent customers. Even under the best of circumstances, diversity dialogues tend to put the burden of explaining racism on people of color. Here, baristas were supposed to walk the third rail during the morning rush hour without specialized training, much less extra compensation. One sociological term for this is Arlie Hochschild‘s “emotional labor.” The employee was required to tactfully manage customers’ feelings. The most likely reaction from coffee drinkers? Microaggressions of avoidance, denial, and eye-rolling.

The alternative, for Starbucks so-called “partners,” was disgruntled defiance. At my local Starbucks, when I asked about these conversations, the manager emphatically said, “We’re not participating.” The barista next to her was blunt: “We think it’s bullshit.”

Swiftly, the company came out with public statements that had the air of faux intention and cover-up, as if to say, “We’re not retreating; we’re merely advancing in the other direction.” Starbucks had promised a year of Race Together, but the collapse of the café stunt made an all-out retreat more likely: one more forum, one more ad, then silence.

 This doesn’t work…

Race Together trod treacherous ground. The research shows that diversity training backfires when it attempts to ferret out prejudice. It puts white people on the defensive and creates a backlash against people of color. For committed consumers, Starbucks was messing with the equivocally best part about capitalism: that you can give someone money and they give you a thing. For activists, this all smelled wrong (i.e., not how you want your latté). Like co-opted social justice.

… Does anyone in HQ ever ask what works?

Starbucks was wise to shift closer to the traditional role of a coffee house—the so-called Third Place between work and home that Schultz has long exalted. Hopefully, the company looks to proven models for productive conversations on race. Organizations such as the Center for Racial Justice Innovation push forward discussions that recognize racism as systemic, not as isolated individual attitudes and bad behaviors. This helps to avoid what people hate most about diversity trainings: forced discourse about superficial differences (“are you a daytime or nighttime person?”) and the wretched hunt for guilty bad guys.

According to social psychologists, unconscious bias can be minimized when people have positive incentives for interpersonal, cross-racial relationships. Wearing a sports jersey for the same team is impressively effective for getting white people to cooperate with African Americans, as shown in a study led by psychologist Jason Nier. The idea is to not provoke white people’s fear and avoidance of doing wrong. It is to motivate people to try to do what’s right by establishing a shared identity

Starbucks also needs to wrestle with its goal of “together.” That’s not always the outcome of conversations about race. Political scientist Katherine Cramer Walsh found that participants in civic dialogues on race commonly walk away with a heightened awareness of their differences, not with the unity that meeting organizers hope to foster.

 Is it better to abandon ship?

Despite its missteps, Starbucks, in fact, alit on hopeful insights. Individuals can ignite change, and empathy and listening are starting points. The company deserves some applause for taking the risk and for its deliberate focus on inequality. Undoubtedly, working-class, minority millennials could teach the rest of the country something about race (and executives something about company policy).

The truth hurts

But let’s be clear about what Race Together was not. It was not about addressing institutional discrimination. In that scenario, Starbucks would have issued a press release about eliminating patterns of unfair hiring and firing. It would have overhauled a corporate division of labor that channels racial minorities into lower-tier, nonunionized jobs. It might very well have closed stores in gentrifying neighborhoods.

Those solutions start with incisive diagnosis, not personal reflection. (The U.S. Department of Justice did just that when it scrutinized racial profiling in traffic stops and court fines in Ferguson, Missouri.) Those solutions require change in corporate policy.

To make Race Together honest, Starbucks needed to recognize an ugly truth: America’s race problem is not an inability to talk. It is a failure to rectify the unfair disadvantages hoisted on people of color and the unearned privileges that white people enjoy. Corporations, in their internal operations, are complicit in these very dynamics. So, too, are long-standing government policies, such as tax deductions of home mortgage interest (white folks are far more likely to own their homes). And white Americans may not want to hear it, but racial inequality is, in large measure, rooted in our collective choices: where we’ll pay property taxes, who we’ll tell about a job lead, what we’ll deem criminal, and even when we’ll smile or scowl. Howard Schultz, are you listening?

*This piece was originally published at the Society Pages, http://www.thesocietypages.org

***

Ellen Berrey teaches in the Department of Sociology at the University of Buffalo, SUNY, and is an affiliated scholar of the American Bar Foundation. Her book The Enigma of Diversity: The Language of Race and the Limits of Racial Justice will publish in April 2015.

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22. Book Marketing 101: What to Put On Your Author Website

This post is part of an ongoing series at The Open Book answering questions about book marketing and publicity.

In our last Marketing 101 post, I discussed what to do while waiting for your book to release. One of those recommendations was to refine your online presence. Today I’ll drill down into more detail on that point, focusing on the place where your online presence starts:
your website.

These days, it is absolutely essential for any published author or illustrator to maintain a personal website. I repeat: it is essential!Book Marketing 101: What to Include on Your Author WebsiteUsing your publisher’s website as your online home base is not a good solution for a couple reasons:

1) You may have many different publishers over the course of your career, and there won’t be one place where people can see all your books.
2) Publishers won’t have room for all the information you’ll want to include.
3) You need to be able to update your website as often as you need to, without going through a third party.

Some authors choose to create their own sites, while some choose to hire a company to design sites for them (I would advise against having a personal friend build your website unless they are able to teach you to manage and update it yourself). This blog post has some great suggestions for how to build a site yourself. Of the DIY options, WordPress is probably the most popular free option, while  Squarespace is a good paid option that provides some additional functionalities like e-commerce. The most important thing to consider when choosing where/how to build your site is sustainability: will you be able to maintain and update the website easily on your own once it is built?

Websites can range from the very basic to the very complicated, but all author websites should include a few key pages:

  • Bio and author photo. Every website should have an “About” section where people can learn who you are, where you’re from, and what inspires you. Offer more than what people can glean from flap copy alone. Some authors choose to offer both a short bio and a longer bio. We recommend also offering a link to a hi-resolution author photo that people can download for use in event promotions, reviews, etc.  If you’ve done any interviews, you should also post links to them here. Not only does this offer additional ways to learn more about you, but it’s a nice way of showing off some of the media coverage you’ve accrued.
  • Books. No author website is complete without an UPDATED list of all your books. At the bare minimum, you should include the title, cover,  and a brief description of each book. For upcoming books, include a release date – and don’t forget to change the book to available once it is released. If you have space, you should also include some of the book’s positive reviews and any awards that the book has won. Finally, always include links for people to purchase the book directly: we recommend linking to Indiebound, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and the Author’s Website.
  • Events and Appearances. What kinds of visits do you do? What ages do you work with? If you have an education background or any special skills that make you especially good as a presenter, include them here. You may also want to ask contacts from past school visits if they are willing to write testimonials that you can share here.  You may even want to include a few photos or video from one of your visits. You don’t need to include honorarium information, but you do need to include a contact where people can learn more. If you don’t want to be your own contact, use a contact from one of your publishers for visit inquiries.
  • Social Media and Contact Information. Links to any social media channels you use should be front and center on your page, so people can find you easily. Only link to social media channels you keep updated—if you only posted on Twitter once, two years ago, it’s best not to direct people there until you begin using the platform regularly. Also include a way for people to reach you: this could be through a general email address, a direct email address, or even through snail mail sent to your publisher at your attention. You can choose to be as reachable as you want, as long as you offer some way for readers to get in touch.

Those are the four absolute must-haves for any author website. Beyond that, there are a few other elements that I’d recommend including if you are able:

  • Schedule/Upcoming Events. This is not a necessity, but some authors like to keep an updated list of the events they will be attending on their websites. It’s a great way to promote events you’ll be at and encourage fans to come out to support you, and it can also help generate additional event invitations. There’s one caveat: only add this page if you are going to keep it updated. There’s nothing worse than an author website that lists “Upcoming Events” that actually took place years ago.
  • Resources. Some authors create additional resources to go with their books, but even if you don’t create your own, it is likely that someone else will. Your website is a great place to compile these so readers can find them. You can link to these resources on your book page, or create a separate page for them. Either way, making these resources available through your website will help educators who want to use your books with students.
  • Email Collection. From the release of your first book (and even before that), you should work to build up your base of contacts. An easy way to do this is to create a place on your website to capture emails, where people can subscribe to receive updates on your work. Most website building platforms should have an easy way to do this. Building an email list can go a long way in helping you promote new titles when they are released.

Beyond these elements, the sky is the limit. Your website should reflect you, so feel free to include other pieces of information that you think readers would like. Whatever you do, your first priority should always be to keep your website UPDATED with your newest book information (even between books), so it doesn’t become obsolete.

Here are a few great posts with more information:
11 Author Website Must Have Elements (Your Writer Platform)
How to Build the Ultimate Author Website (In 1 Hour) (Tim Grahl)

And here are a few of my favorite author websites:
Pat Mora
Jennifer Torres
Paula Yoo
Monica Brown
Don Tate

Did I miss anything? Let me know in the comments!

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23. Stop the Trash Vortex

Make a difference!Act Now to Stop Trash Pollution!

Do you ever think about what happens to trash you see on the ground, or at the beach, or if you throw it out the window?  What really happens to it?

Have you ever heard of the trash vortex? Well, that’s where some of it goes. The trash vortex is a giant floating pile of trash in the middle of Pacific Ocean. This island of trash is twice the size of Texas and growing, and it is trapping sea animals in plastic wrappers and other plastic stuff we throw away. The sea animals are also eating the plastic which is killing them from the inside out. Seals’ necks are getting trapped in the plastic ring packages of soda cans when they are young.

A way to stop this trash vortex form growing is to recycle and reuse. But that’s not all. We need to educate others on the topic. You can join a beach clean-up organization to reduce the waste that goes into the ocean. Anyone can act. ACT NOW!

What are YOUR ideas for how to stop pollution and clean up the trash vortex? Join the conversation on the Save the Planet Message Board.

Michael, Scholastic Kids Council

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24. Meet Our New Visions Award Finalists: Part II

Last month we announced the six finalists for our 2015 New Visions Award. The Award recognizes a middle grade or young adult novel in the sci-fi, fantasy, or mystery genres by an unpublished author of color (our first New Visions Award winner, Ink and Ashes, will be released this June!).

As our award committee gets to know the finalists through their novels, we wanted to give our blog readers a chance to get to know these talented writers as well. We asked each finalist some questions. Here are answers from our first two finalists, Grace Rowe and Andrea Wang.

Below, authors Shipla Kamat and Rishonda Anthony answer:

Shilpa Kamat thumbnailShilpa Kamat, “Fallen Branches”

Tell us a little about the main character in your novel.

My novel is narrated by a teen named Shloka. Her voice jumped out at me one day when I was free writing during a spare moment in a parked car, and I knew she would have to keep talking until her story was told.

Shloka’s name means “song,” but she’s shy about singing. One of her mothers is of South Asian descent and the other traces her history to early immigrants who came to the town in Northern California where her family lives. When someone is killed in their seemingly peaceful neighborhood, Shloka finds herself working in secret with her friend Dilly to solve the mystery of what happened–something she’s sure is not quite what everyone else believes…

What advice would you give your younger self about writing?

Trust yourself and finish your projects. They don’t have to perfectly match your vision. In fact, they probably won’t. You don’t have to limit yourself to just one project at a time, but follow through. Take risks.

You’re already your harshest critic; learn to be an ally to your art as well. Choose to bring your writing to life rather than stifling it under the weight of your fears and expectations.

No matter how fantastical, ground your writing in real emotions and the interpersonal dynamics you witness or experience. Represent a broad range of people and centralize the communities and experiences you understand best. Be vulnerable. Let your characters have faults and forgive them, whether the other characters forgive them or not.

Rather than limiting yourself to the consciousness of current times, write with a sense of possibility. Take for granted that the seeds of positive social change will take root and come to fruition and write beyond that.

What is your writing process? What techniques do you use to get past writer’s block?

Although some aspects of my creative writing process are pre-meditated, I don’t always know what turn a story will take or what its characters will say.

This, to me, is what differentiates creative from analytical writing. Analytical writing is relentlessly driven by a point; creative writing is inspired and emergent. While a poem or a novel may be tempered by the frontal lobes, its source lies elsewhere. It may wind up dancing aside from an initial course and taking another. I see it as my job to respect this process and allow space for it while occasionally pruning or uprooting and replanting paragraphs.

To keep myself motivated while working on one major projects, I kept a daily log of my word count and tracked the amount written. With another project, I abandoned this method entirely, occasionally checking progress on the number of pages but no longer needing a sense of production to drive me. I have no tolerance for outlines, but I am comfortable artistically representing goals or documenting completed projects–drawing the petals of a flower to write in, for instance. To successfully keep myself organized, there need to be wild elements and vibrant colors.

As for writers’ block, in my experience, it manifests as either anxiety or forcing. Whether caused by an impending deadline or a desire to plow through a portion of writing so that I can build a bridge to another, forcing kills the dynamism necessary for artistic expression. If I recognize that I am forcing, I step outside or hum or dance or stand on my head–whatever it takes to make myself relaxed and present.

Similar approaches can help to alleviate anxiety, but when I am anxious, I may distract myself endlessly or find other chores to busy myself with. On my most difficult days, I can’t manage to write until I am so tired I’m ready to sleep. Then I relax enough to channel another chapter or two.

Writing demands the cracking of idealized image, and that can be as disquieting as it is enlivening. It requires a deep intimacy with oneself, a revelation of one’s mind to others, that may be deeply uncomfortable. The cure for my writers’ block is to sit with this discomfort and work my way into it, whether in a direct or roundabout way, until the truth emerges.

Recently, there’s been quite a lot of debate over the idea of readers who choose to take a break from books written by a certain group, such as white male authors. What’s your take on this?

When I was in middle school, my Social Studies teacher announced that we were predominantly studying white men because they were the ones who shaped the course of history. My Language Arts teacher vehemently declared that “man” can be used not merely to describe a man but all of humankind.

The teachers were preempting challenges to those conventions, but no one can out-shout the truth: people are hungry for narratives that have been repressed throughout history. During the past two decades, the social histories of slaves, women, low-income people, indigenous communities, immigrants, and others who were not part of the elite have been increasingly sought after and have even entered courses of study in some mainstream schools.

In college, I recognized that unless I was told otherwise, if I had to imagine a character in a book, I would imagine a white person. This flattening of imagination is detrimental to everyone; when mythical imagination is constrained to the worldviews of only a fragment of humanity, literature fails to realize its potential for developing empathy for a broad range of others and an awareness of human experience.

If there are people who choose to focus on works by a specific group of authors for a period of time, I imagine that they are struggling to broaden their imaginations to include, centralize, and normalize the experiences of those who are rarely represented. For instance, if people decide to read only foreign novels for a year, they may broaden an insular lens into a more global one. As long as no group is being permanently written off, no author permanently clumped into a single category, I see no harm.

What are your favorite books or writers in the same genre as your manuscript, and why?

When I was a young adult myself, I enjoyed Cynthia Voigt’s work; A Solitary Blue, for instance, explored painful family relationships while rooting the characters in the natural world. I also enjoyed a number of other novels, primarily in the science fiction and fantasy genre, but I have not revisited most of them as an adult.

As for the mystery genre, a novel I remember liking as a child was The Westing Game, and a novel I enjoyed as an adult was The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. The latter left me with a lovely image of someone’s sitting at the bottom of a dry well to think.

Rishonda Anthony thumbnailRishonda Anthony, “Seraphim”

Tell us a little about the main character in your novel.

Cassandra Rose is a former child prodigy who won dozens of trivia contests, spelling bees, and brain bowls as a girl. After having a psychotic breakdown at the age of 12, she spent the next 5 years being home schooled in solitude. Now at 17, Cassandra is socially starved and desperate to fit in. But when she enrolls in a small private college, her past comes back to haunt her.

There are some autobiographical aspects in Cassandra’s character, which I believe is probably true for every author’s first book. In the case of Cassandra, I took them to the extreme. I was not a child prodigy who had a nervous breakdown, merely a gifted kid with anxiety issues. When I enrolled in a school rather similar to Cassandra’s college (in terms of size and atmosphere), I spent my entire first semester either alone in my room or going home on the weekend. This is where I formed the idea of a girl who is not an outcast due to social awkwardness, but because of a dark secret.

What advice would you give your younger self about writing?

First, don’t major in English. I’ve always loved books and have wanted to be a writer ever since I was a little girl (cliché, I know). But then I spent two college semesters analyzing deeper meanings and themes in genius level books. It gave me a complex, because I thought that if I couldn’t write anything as good as To Kill a Mockingbird or The Grapes of Wrath then there was no point in writing at all. Reading stopped being fun, and then writing became a chore rather than an escape. Even after I switched majors, it took a couple of years for me rediscover my love of writing.

Secondly, find a writing group! I’m the kind of writer who works well with a deadline, and when I’m writing a draft, my critique partners expect 10 pages a week, every week, from me. If I was writing for myself, I would procrastinate for years (see the third piece of advice). In addition, as part of the millennial generation, I crave instant gratification. Having someone review my work and give me feedback goes a long way towards motivating me to finish a project. All budding writers should check their local meetup.com and see if there is a writer’s group in their area. If not, consider creating one.

Third, keep at it! I started writing Seraphim when I was roughly Cassandra’s age. The story hasn’t changed much, but years of losing both faith and motivation quickly turned into more than a decade with nothing but a few vague chapters to show for it. I didn’t start seriously writing the story until I was in my late twenties, and only then when I found a writing group to support me.

What is your writing process? What techniques do you use to get past writer’s block?

I’m a huge fan of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). Both Seraphim and my latest novel started out as NaNoWriMo “Brain dumps” that got poured into a word document at a rate of about 2000 words a day. The 50,000 word result is always a mess, but at least it’s on paper. After that, I spend the next six months editing that work into a proper draft.

The best technique to get past writers block is to stop reading. I’m a big reader (I know the location of every library in my city and have subscriptions with Audible, Amazon Prime, and Forgotten Books) and I believe that no one can be a serious writer unless they are also a serious reader. But when I can’t write, usually it’s because the books (yes, plural) I’m reading are hurting the process. For example, the author’s style might rub off on me, and I’ll unknowingly change a character or my voice. Then I’ll start to struggle, because the book doesn’t sound quite right, and I’m not sure why. Or I might come across an idea that I really like, and then decide to put something similar in my book. Suddenly I’m trying to add an alien into a book about witchcraft, or trying to create an entire fantasy realm for a story that really doesn’t need it. That’s a recipe for instant writer’s block. Forcing myself to step away from other people’s work and focus on my own (usually for no more than a week or two) gets me out of most ruts.

Recently, there’s been quite a lot of debate over the idea of readers who choose to take a break from books written by a certain group, such as white male authors. What’s your take on this?

In doing research to answer this question, actually had to face the uncomfortable fact that that there are very few authors of color sitting on my bookshelf (as you will see in the next question). This was not intentional, as I certainly want to read more diverse authors, but considering that publishing is still a very white business (white authors are more likely to get published and more likely to get coverage for their books), these stories don’t just fall into my lap.

However, I do believe in the power of the free market, and I think that if more people buy books by diverse authors, publishers will start putting out more books by diverse authors. For me, it involves deliberately seeking out books written by authors of color and including those books in my usual reading rotation. Despite this, I don’t think I would go so far as to cut out all white male authors. Ninety percent of the books are read are adult Urban Fantasy, Epic Fantasy, and Horror and there aren’t many authors of color who write in those genres. But one day, I’d like to count my name among those authors.

What are your favorite books or writers in the same genre as your manuscript, and why?  

In Young Adult, I’m a fan of Susan’s Ee’s Penryn & the End of Days series and The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare. As for fantasy, I love Jim Butcher’s The Dresden Files and George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones. When it comes to the pinch of horror I like to put in every story, I have to recognize Joe Hill, and his father Stephen King, who I grew up reading and who wrote the first 1000 plus page book I ever read (It, age 15).

 Meet Our New Visions Finalists: Part I

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25. Henry Danger

HENRY DANGER Henry Danger follows the adventures of Henry Hart (played by Jace Norman from The Thundermans) who gets selected by superhero Captain Man to be his apprentice. After promising to keep his new identity a secret, Henry must navigate a double life balancing the challenges of eighth grade with the crazy adventures of a crime-fighting superhero sidekick.

Jace Norman, Cooper Barnes

Photo: Lisa Rose/Nickelodeon. ©2014 Viacom International, Inc.

What do you think of Henry Danger?  Are you a fan? Tell us in the Comments!

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