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1. Absolutely Almost: Review Haiku

Oh, Albie - let me
rescue you and Calista.
You can live with me.

Absolutely Almost by Lisa Graff. Philomel, 2014, 304 pages.

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2. Our free e-book for August: For the Love of It

0226065863

Wayne C. Booth (1921–2005) was the George M. Pullman Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus in English Language and Literature at the University of Chicago, one of the most renowned literary critics of his generation, and an amateur cellist who came to music later in life.  For the Love of It is a story not only of one intimate struggle between a man and his cello, but also of the larger conflict between a society obsessed with success and individuals who choose challenging hobbies that yield no payoff except the love of it. 

“Will be read with delight by every well-meaning amateur who has ever struggled.… Even general readers will come away with a valuable lesson for living: Never mind the outcome of a possibly vain pursuit; in the passion that is expended lies the glory.”—John von Rhein, Chicago Tribune

“If, in truth, Booth is an amateur player now in his fifth decade of amateuring, he is certainly not an amateur thinker about music and culture. . . . Would that all of us who think and teach and care about music could be so practical and profound at the same time.”—Peter Kountz, New York Times Book Review

“Wayne Booth, the prominent American literary critic, has written the only sustained study of the interior experience of musical amateurism in recent years, For the Love of It. [It] succeeds as a meditation on the tension between the centrality of music in Booth’s life, both inner and social, and its marginality. . . . It causes the reader to acknowledge the heterogeneity of the pleasures involved in making music; the satisfaction in playing well, the pride one takes in learning a difficult piece or passage or technique, the buzz in one’s fingertips and the sense of completeness with the bow when the turn is done just right, the pleasure of playing with others, the comfort of a shared society, the joy of not just hearing, but making, the music, the wonder at the notes lingering in the air.”—Times Literary Supplement
Download your copy here.

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3. Science? It's Sedimentary, My Dear Watson!



Want a sure-fire way to make your summer rock this year? Think geology and food! As the weeks of summer stretch by, one way to keep kids engaged (and learning) is to head to the kitchen and cook up some science! Not only is this a fun way to tap into a child’s curiosity, but it maintains the momentum of learning that often stalagmites—I mean stagnates—during the summer.

Let’s get rocking! Actually, rocks come in three basic "flavors": metamorphic, sedimentary, and igneous. Metamorphic rocks are those that have "morphed" or been changed through heat and pressure. If you visit a museum this summer, you may notice the marble floor and statues. Marble is an example of metamorphic rock.  Sedimentary rock is formed from small pieces of other rocks and minerals fused together. Maybe you will be lucky enough to have a chance to walk on a sandy beach this summer. If you do, think of sandstone--a sedimentary rock formed by particles of sand cemented together. Then there’s igneous rock which is formed from liquid rock beneath the earth’s surface that has cooled and hardened.

Are you still on solid ground with all this science? Think again! Like a piece of delicious summer fruit, the earth has an outer "skin," but the inside is a whole different matter. In thickness, the surface of the earth is like the skin of a peach—only 4- 44 miles (6- 70 km) deep, compared to the rest of the earth which measures nearly 4000 miles (6400 km) to the center. Phew! Travel down to this center of the earth and you’ll find a solid metal core. This is surrounded by a thick layer of liquid metal—mostly iron and nickel. Even though the inner core has a temperature similar to the surface of the sun (9800°F / 5505°C), it is solid because of the enormous pressure pushing in on it. The next layer is called the mantle and the part of the earth that we live on is called the crust. The mantle is where the pockets of magma—molten rock—come from that erupt and form lava.

I don’t know about you, but all this talk about rocks makes me hungry. Head over to the kitchen to make this yummy Sedimentary Pizza Lasagna. Mmmm! 

Sedimentary Pizza Lasagna  
Illustration copyright © 2014 by Leeza Hernandez.

Before You Begin
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 45 minutes
Oven temperature: 375°
Yield: 4-6 servings
Difficulty: medium

Equipment 
Frying pan
Spoon or spatula
Rectangular pan (8 x 10 inches or larger)
Heavy duty aluminum foil
Small bowl

Ingredients
1/2 pound (8 ounces) ground turkey or beef
2 cups pizza sauce
1 egg
1 cup ricotta cheese
Oven-ready lasagna noodles
Sliced pepperoni
1–2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

Method
  1. With an adult’s help, cook the ground meat in a frying pan until it is brown. Drain off any fat. Add the pizza sauce and mix well. 
  2. Spread about 1/2 cup of the meat sauce on the bottom of the rectangular pan. Top with oven-ready lasagna noodles, overlapping slightly to cover the whole pan. Top with more sauce—about 1/2 cup. 
  3. Crack and beat the egg, then mix thoroughly with ricotta cheese. Spread half this mixture over the noodles.
  4. Arrange a layer of pepperoni next, followed by a sprinkling of cheese. Top with a layer of lasagna noodles.
  5. Repeat the layers. Cover the final layer of lasagna noodles with the remaining meat sauce and a generous amount of mozzarella cheese.
  6. Cover the pan with heavy-duty foil. Bake in a 375°F oven for 35 minutes. Uncover and bake for another 10 minutes. Can you still identify the individual ingredients?


----------------------------

Posted by Ann McCallum, author of Eat Your Science Homework.

Remember the old excuse: the dog ate my homework? Did it ever work? Teachers are more savvy than that. But try saying that YOU ate your homework and you’ll put a smile on Teacher’s face. You know why? The kitchen is a laboratory, recipes are experiments, and food is science. Eat Your Science Homework releases August 5, 2014.

Ann McCallum is the author of several books for children including Eat Your Math Homework, Rabbits Rabbits Everywhere, and Beanstalk: The Measure of a Giant. Eat Your Science Homework: Recipes for Inquiring Minds, was recently named a Junior Library Guild selection. Ann lives in Kensington, MD with her family.

Leeza Hernandez has illustrated several children’s books, including Eat Your Math Homework. She is also an author and graphic designer whose art has been featured in books, magazines, and newspapers. She is the recipient of the Tomie dePaola Illustrator Award from the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Leeza lives in central New Jersey. Visit her online at www.leezaworks.com.

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4. El Deafo: Review Haiku

Stick this on your
Diverse Books About Kicka$$ Girls
shelf. (Don't have? MAKE ONE.)

El Deafo by Cece Bell. Amulet/Abrams, 2014, 248 pages.

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5. Disney Stars Read Books

Recommend me!We are always curious/nosy to know what people are reading. You never know where your next favorite book will come from. So we asked a few stars of Disney shows to tell us what they are reading this summer. Here’s what they said . . .Francesca Capaldi

from Dog With a Blog is reading Cupcake Cousins by Kate Hannigan.

Calum Worthy in Austin & AllyCalum Worthy from Austin and AllyMaddy Whitby from Radio Disney’s Morgan & Maddy in the Morning is re-reading the Harry Potter series.

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6. Harry Potter Birthday Cake Bake-Off

Harry Potter StampVote for your favorite Harry Potter birthday cake.Harry Potter Birthday Cake

Which birthday cake do you vote for as the best fan-made Harry Potter birthday cake?! Leave your vote in the Comments.

Marisa, STACKS Intern

Birthday cake image credits: Daniel Drexler, woodleywonderworks, Two Kings Confections, TipsyCake Chicago

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7. Ask an Editor: Hooking the Reader Early

In this series, Tu Books Publisher Stacy Whitman shares advice for aspiring authors, especially those considering submitting to our New Visions Award

Last week on the blog, I talked about the importance of following submission guidelines and basic manuscript format. This week, I wanted to go into more detail about why a reader might stop reading if they’re not hooked right away. Here are some comments I’ve heard our readers make about manuscripts that didn’t hook them:

  • Story does not captivate in first few chapters
  • Boring
  • Writing not strong, or not strong enough to hold a young reader’s (or teen’s) interest
  • Parts of the writing are very strange (not in a good way)
  • Sounded too artificial
  • Reminds me too much of something that’s really popular
  • Too Tolkienesque or reliant upon Western European fantasy tropes
  • Concept cliche

How do you get your writing to have that “zing” that captivates from the very beginning? This is a little tougher than just following the directions—this is much more personal to each reader and each writer.

Is your writing boring readers?

There are a couple different issues in the list above. Some readers lost interest simply because they were bored. If you find yourself telling readers of your book, “Don’t worry! It gets really good in chapter five!” consider whether you’re starting your book at the right moment in time. The phrase “late in, early out” is one to remember—perhaps you don’t need all the information that leads to the “really good” part. Or perhaps you need to revise to make that information more interesting and faster paced.

I don’t recommend simply dumping this information into a prologue. Many young readers skip prologues entirely, and many more readers will lose interest if your prologue is long and boring—it’s the same principle as saying “just wait till chapter five!”

If the information in your first few chapters are crucial, yet readers are getting bored by it, consider spooling that information out little by little over the course of the book. You need to find the balance between giving enough information for the reader to be intrigued and wanting to know more, without overburdening the reader with so much information that they become overwhelmed or bored.

been there done thatFor example, take the first few pages of Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone. On page 1, Taylor sets up the scene: it’s an ordinary day in Prague (interesting point number one: how many books are set in Prague?) and Karou is walking down the street toward school, minding her own business. It’s an active scene—something is happening—but it’s more about Karou’s internal mundane thoughts. However, it doesn’t stay mundane for long. By page 2, she’s been attacked.

But it’s not your average “you have to have an action scene in the first scene!” attack. The author plays with expectations, intriguing the reader and making you want to know what happens next. We get some ex-boyfriend banter (also against expectations) and the promise of interesting, embarrassing things to come by the end of the chapter.

It helps that the book is well written. But it’s more than good prose that hooks the reader here—she spools out just enough to let you know that this is a unique book, and that you want to know more. The next two chapters do the same thing, and bit by bit, the reader comes to know Karou’s intriguing magical background.

What she doesn’t do is infodump in a prologue or the first few chapters about Karou’s history, the history of the world, and the history of the strange beings who raised her. Save those details for when they matter.

Look at your favorite books and read like a writer. For hooking a reader, look in particular at excellent examples of the first five pages of a wide variety of books. There are many ways to effectively open a book, and you need to find the way that works for your story. Reading other books like a writer will help you to zoom in on ways to perfect your craft.read like a writer

Another great resource for writers trying to figure out how to hook readers is editor Cheryl Klein’s essay “The Rules of Engagement” in her book Second Sight. It’s no longer available online (and I don’t believe the book is in e-book form), but it’s worth the price of the book for her discussion of various ways to hook readers via character, insight, action, and other methods. (Bonus: you also then get access to all her other thoughts on writing and revision.)

Over-reliance on common tropes

Several readers commented that several books relied too much upon Western European fantasy tropes (elves, fairies, etc.). There are ways of hooking readers with familiar story elements, but often most high fantasy tales boil down to “my elves are better than yours.”

The Coldest Girl in ColdtownLook for new inspiration. (We’ll cover worldbuilding more in full in a few weeks.) But especially in the first few chapters of your book, avoid leading with ideas that have been-there-done that.

If your story concept relies on tried-and-true tropes, it’s not the end of the world. Take a look at books coming out now that are successfully changing the mold—books like The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black, who has revamped (haha) the vampire genre, for example. The Coldest Girl in Coldtown updates the genre, makes vampires scary again. In what ways can you update and revamp the concepts in your book to hook readers?

The solution to your writing being “not strong enough”: practice 

The number one complaint as to why a reader wasn’t hooked was that the writing wasn’t good. Once you get past obvious grammar and punctuation mistakes, this comes down to a greater need to practice your craft. Write regularly—it doesn’t have to be every day, but do it consistently. If your problem is time, you might find useful this advice from New Voices Award winner Pamela Tuck on how to carve out time to write on a regular basis. She has ELEVEN children, who require a lot of time and attention, especially because she home-schools them.

The more you practice, the better you’ll get. And next week, we’ll begin to drill down on elements that you can work on in the whole book, such as voice.

Stacy Whitman photoStacy Whitman is Editorial Director and Publisher of Tu Books, an imprint of LEE & LOW BOOKS that publishes diverse science fiction and fantasy for middle grade and young adult readers. 


Filed under: Awards, New Voices/New Visions Award, Publishing 101, Tu Books, Writer Resources Tagged: ask an editor, how to, Laini Taylor, New Visions Award, Science Fiction/Fantasy, stacy whitman, Tu Books, writing advice

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8. The pleasures of pagination

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

image

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

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

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

image

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

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

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9. July Books of the Month

Recommend me!It’s time for Books of the Month!I asked you all what books you were reading

. Then I made a word cloud to show which titles are most popular. As he has been for some time now, Percy Jackson leads the pack in popularity, but some other titles have been steadily rising in rank over the months. (Percy had better watch his back! Dork Diaries is sneaking up there!) See for yourself:July books of the monthHarry Potter Readathon

!!!

Let’s keep this going. What books are you reading now? What books do you absolutely, positively love and think everyone in the whole wide world should read? Leave the title (or titles!) in the Comments below. I can’t wait to see what new books you recommend!

See ya,

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

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10. Never Be Lost for Words

How likely are you to talk to a stranger? Of course, it may be determined by the time of day, where you are, and how relaxed you are. But for some people it’s just not natural for them to be chatty, especially with strangers. The good news is that those who are shy talkers can overcome their fear of speaking. It’s a matter of increasing one’s confidence in the fine art of communicating one-to-one.

Gaining confidence

Gaining confidence is the key to being in one’s comfort zone while sharing verbal thoughts with another person. You should strive to act as natural as possible. You don’t want to memorize what you’re going to say. That would be too artificial. Talking about the weather is always a good icebreaker. Be sure to take an interest in the person who you are talking to, and really listen to what they have to say. Good listeners are as important as good talkers.

Practice Small Talk

You can practice making “small talk” in the mirror until it starts to feel more natural. People enjoy genuine compliments about what they are wear. (So be observant and kind when in the presence of friends or strangers.) We all want to be appreciated. When I was teaching, I used to cut through the library to get to my classroom faster. Invariable I would cross paths with the librarian. She was a very pleasant lady. Periodically I used to compliment her on her smile, new outfit or on having good hair day. When she retired, she said that she always enjoyed running into me because my compliments “made her day.”

Be Yourself 

Be authentic. Be real, and people will like you wherever you go. Look people in the eye when you talk to them. Your eyes speak volumes when you are talking. Be sure to have smiling eyes. It will make everyone feel comfortable and interested in your presence among them. Laugh, if something is truly funny. Just be yourself, and others will want to hear what you have to say, even if it doesn’t spill out as smooth as honey.

Be a Risk-Taker

When I was in college taking my first speech class, I was nervous as heck about giving my first speech. It was an introductory speech, and you had to write your full name on the board. I wondered how I was going to relax my audience, and get them thinking positively about me. I knew that humor is like a gust of fresh air in a stale room. So I went up to the board, and I spelled out my last name in twenty wrong versions. By the time I turned around most students in the class were laughing hysterically, and they did pay keen attention to my speech.

 

 

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11. Where’s the Diversity, Hollywood? Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blockbusters Overwhelmingly White, Male

Summer blockbuster season is in full swing. For many moviegoers, that means escaping to a galaxy far, far away—or perhaps just a different version of our own planet Earth—through science fiction and fantasy movies. As fans clamor for the latest cinematic thrills, we decided to focus our next Diversity Gap study on the level of racial and gender representation in these ever-popular genres that consistently rake in the big bucks for movie studios. We reviewed the top 100 domestic grossing sci-fi and fantasy films as reported by Box Office Mojo. The results were staggeringly disappointing, if not surprising in light of our past Diversity Gap studies of the Tony Awards, the Emmy Awards, the children’s book industry, The New York Times Top 10 Bestseller List, US politics, and the Academy Awards, where we analyzed multi-year samplings and found a disturbingly consistent lack of diversity.

Infographic: the Diversity Gap in Sci-Fi and Fantasy Films

The Diversity Gap in Sci-Fi & Fantasy Films infographic (click for larger image)

Among the top 100 domestic grossing films through 2014:

• only 8% of films star a protagonist of color
• of the 8 protagonists of color, all are men; 6 are played by Will Smith and 1 is a cartoon character (Aladdin)
• 0% of protagonists are women of color
• 0% of protagonists are LGBTQ
• 1% of protagonists are people with a disability

The following interviews with two prominent entertainment equality advocacy groups shed more light on the subject.

Marissa Lee
Marissa Lee is co-founder of Racebending.com, an international grassroots organization of media consumers who support entertainment equality. Racebending.com advocates for underrepresented groups in entertainment media and is dedicated to furthering equal opportunities in Hollywood and beyond.

Imran Siddiquee


Imran Siddiquee
is Director of Communications at the Representation Project, which is a movement that uses film and media content to expose injustices created by gender stereotypes and to shift people’s consciousness toward change. The Representation project was the follow-up to the critically acclaimed documentary Miss Representation.

 

Jason Low: Do these statistics surprise you? Why or why not?

Marissa Lee: The statistics are certainly striking, especially since sci-fi and fantasy belong to a genre that prides itself on creativity and imagination. These statistics aren’t necessarily surprising, since lack of diversity in Hollywood films is a well-known problem. There have been enough studies and articles, and any moviegoer can pause to notice there is a disparity. . . . Hollywood can’t go on pretending that this isn’t a problem.Hollywood can't go on pretending like this isn't a problem.

JL: Do you think the American movie-going audience would support a big, blockbuster sci-fi/fantasy movie with a diverse protagonist if a studio made it?

Imran Siddiquee: Yes, definitely. But I think an important thing to understand about Hollywood blockbusters is that they are almost never flukes; they are preordained. Sure, we have the occasional surprise indie hit, but you need a lot of money and marketing behind you to become a blockbuster. Just look at the top ten films in each of the last five years: nearly every single one had a budget of more than $100 million (a lot of them were also sci-fi/fantasy films).

Meanwhile, there hasn’t been a single film released this year starring a person of color with a budget of more than $50 million, let alone a sci-fi film, which is naturally going to be more expensive. The same goes for most of the last decade. So for anyone who might say “people just don’t watch sci-fi movies starring people of color,” or “there’s no evidence that this would work,” the truth is that we have no evidence that it wouldn’t work.

Studios take a couple of massively expensive chances every year on mostly unknown actors or directors—aka giving the Spider-Man franchise to Marc Webb and Andrew Garfield in 2012—but they just don’t take those kinds of chances on people of color. In other words, if Hollywood wanted to make a blockbuster sci-fi/fantasy film starring a woman of color, they definitely could.

ML: I think American audiences would support a film with a diverse protagonist, because we already have. One pullout statistic from your infographic is that Will Smith leads six of the top 100 big sci-fi/fantasy films. His race wasn’t a huge impediment to box office success and may have, in fact, been part of what made him all-American and relatable. That was back in the late 1990s, but since then, Hollywood hasn’t tried to find a new Will Smith. This is kind of ironic, given that Hollywood likes to stick to formulas and sequels! They could push forward another actor—or actress—of color with Smith’s charisma. They haven’t.

The American movie audience supports any movie that Hollywood successfully markets well, especially—but not always—if the film is well produced. Hollywood has managed to market some weird stuff, like a tentpole movie about talking teenage turtle martial artists, or cars that change into space robots, and so on. I don’t buy that when it comes to marketing diverse leads, suddenly this giant industry can’t do it.

So for anyone who might say “people just don’t watch sci-fi movies starring people of color,” . . . the truth is that we have no evidence that it wouldn’t work.I’d be interested in seeing how many of these top 100 grossing sci-fi and fantasy films star non-human leads. I wonder if there are more films with non-human leads than minority human leads on the list!

(Side note: Does the infographic count Keanu Reeves as white or as a person of color? I think he has more than one movie on this list given The Matrix trilogy…)

Editorial note: Yes, Keanu Reeves is counted as a PoC and did make the list for The Matrix. The second Matrix film, The Matrix Reloaded was the only installment of the trilogy to make the top 100 list.

JL: What challenges have you faced or seen peers facing as a woman/person of color, etc.?

ML: There are films with built-in audiences that Hollywood still insists on whitewashing, which has a very adverse effect on actors of color. Let’s be honest, audiences would have still flocked to see The Hunger Games or Twilight if characters like Katniss or Jacob had been cast with people of color as they were written in the books. An actor with a disability could have played the protagonist in Avatar—if we have the technology and imagination to animate a fanciful world populated by blue cat people, we could have cast an actor with a disability similar to the lead character’s in that role. As a result of these casting decisions, up and coming actors from underrepresented groups were deprived of career exposure from being a part of these established franchises, making it harder for Hollywood ever to try and launch a new franchise with an actor from an underrepresented group.

Every single Marvel Studios movie has centered around a presumably straight, white, male protagonist, even if white women (mostly love interests) and men of color (support roles) have played roles in the film. The franchise is a box office juggernaut and has a ton of movies on this list, but we’ve gotten two to three movies about each of the men on the Avengers and there’s yet to be a film about Black Widow. Both of Marvel’s ensemble films—The Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy—trimmed down the superhero teams for their film adaptations, and the women characters, save for one, were the first to be cut. Most moviegoers will never know that women of color and LGBTQ characters were cut from Guardians of the Galaxy, but audiences will get to relate to the talking raccoon and the talking tree.

More recently, the Divergent franchise cast Naomi Watts to play a character who was a woman of color in the books. It’s a supporting role for an already established franchise, and for whatever reason the production still couldn’t bring themselves to cast an actor of color.

Trends that fans have noted in the media include that in big blockbuster sci-fi and fantasy films, the presence of a straight, white, able-bodied, cis male in some central role in the story is almost guaranteed, while the presence of characters with “minority” identities (e.g. LGBTQ folks, people of color, people with disabilities, women, etc.) is not. Even when a character who isn’t a straight, white cis male is centered in a story, there’s probably a straight, white, cis male character playing second, if not lead, billing. For example, while we can reasonably assume that the next few Star Trek and Star Wars movies will have some diverse characters, we can guarantee that at least one of the leads will be a straight, white man. If The Hunger Games or Twilight had cast actors of color for Katniss or Jacob, there would still have been plenty of lead roles filled by white actors. DC is including Wonder Woman in an upcoming movie, but the film will also feature Batman and Superman.

This means that someone with a lot of intersecting privileged identities (especially straight, white men) will always be able to walk into a multiplex and find a sci-fi/fantasy movie starring someone who shares those identities. If you have a lot of marginalized identities, then representation is a sometimes thing, never a solid guarantee. There is a very small but vocal minority of people who want to maintain this status quo, and Hollywood seems to cater toward them due to institutionalized racism, fear, and habits. But there are just as many, if not more, people who are willing to support, vociferously, films with diverse leads. I wish our money was as good as theirs.There is a very small but vocal minority of people who want to maintain this status quo, and Hollywood seems to cater toward them due to institutionalized racism, fear, and habits.

JL: How can consumers encourage more diversity in movies? 

IS: Avoid buying tickets to films which clearly rely on stereotypes or demeaning portrayals of people based on gender, race, class, age, sexual orientation, ability, or circumstance. And anytime you do watch a film, give it The Representation Test afterward. The test grades films on their inclusiveness pertaining to all those above categories. When a movie scores really low on the test, use #NotBuyingIt on Twitter to let the filmmakers and all your friends know how you feel. Since so much of this industry is based on money, this is one way we can express our discontent and get the attention of the studios.

ML: Media literacy is a huge start. As media consumers, we should feel empowered to critique the media we consume, and to decide what media we choose to consume. Beyond helpful steps like going to see movies that feature diverse leads, it’s just as important to start conversations in our own communities and with our friends and family (the people we consume media with!) to raise awareness about diversity and representation. Even if we don’t go to see movies that whitewash or exclude or present discriminatory content, people we know will. One way we can help change things is by continuing to start conversations. We need to create an environment where it is safe to criticize popular franchises for lacking diversity. We also need to keep drowning out the malcontents who cannot even handle actors of diverse backgrounds in supporting roles. Social media has really knocked down barriers when it comes to communicating our opinions with Hollywood brass. It’s also given us several spaces where we can discuss the media we consume with our friends and family. In addition, the internet has really changed how we access and consume media. There are Kickstarters and indie channels and online comics and other outlets so we don’t have to be reliant on big production studios or publishers as our only sources of entertainment.

JL: How close or far do you think we are from getting these statistics to change?

IS: When you’re talking about representation that is this low, it’s hard to go anywhere but up. For instance, 0% for women of color in top sci-fi films means I’m being honest when I say things will certainly improve soon, but that’s not saying much. I think we are pretty far away from true equality, or a cinema that reflects and includes the broad diversity of human experiences in the real world.

When you’re talking about representation that is this low, it’s hard to go anywhere but up.Too many wealthy, white men still run Hollywood, and their decisions still have too much power. As I mentioned earlier, these kinds of movies are very expensive, and so it’s hard for independent or upstart filmmakers to break through or compete.

That being said, the slight increase in success for white women in blockbuster sci-fi movies, such as Gravity, The Hunger Games, and Divergent, means change is possible. And it’s hard to overstate the importance of the Oscar wins for 12 Years a Slave last year, because while it wasn’t a blockbuster, it is a film that everyone in the industry now knows about and has probably seen. And the whole reason we’re even talking about representation in movies right now is because we know how much seeing different experiences on screen can impact people’s real world thoughts and attitudes. So films like 12 Years a Slave are part of the gradual shifting of consciousness that has to happen in Hollywood to get to a point where studios are consistently greenlighting big-budget films starring people of color.

ML: As budgets for tentpole science fiction and fantasy movies have soared, studios have been more reluctant to take a chance on actors or characters that they perceive as risks. Because people of color and women are also already more likely to consume movies than white people and men, maybe they don’t feel an incentive to change what they are doing because, from their perspective, minorities are perfectly willing to watch films starring white guys. Hollywood is pretty stubborn, especially when it comes to tentpole movies. We are seeing more diversity in television, particularly in children’s television, as well as in online content. The establishment will change when someone influential in Hollywood decides to take the risk and make an effort to diversify their film offerings. The stats in this infographic are focused on profit, not art. For things to change, Hollywood needs to believe that diversity can be profitable.

***

This is not an isolated incident, but a wide reaching societal problem.
Read more Diversity Gap studies on:

The Academy Awards
The Tony Awards
The Emmy Awards
The children’s book industry
The New York Times Top 10 Bestseller List
US politics

Further resources on how to teach content and visual literacy using Lee & Low Books’ infographics series on the Diversity Gap:

Using Infographics In The Classroom To Teach Visual Literacy

CONTACT: For more information or to request permission to reprint, please email hehrlich[at]leeandlow[dot]com


Filed under: Diversity, Race, and Representation, Guest Blogger Post, The Diversity Gap Tagged: African/African American Interest, Asian/Asian American, diversity, Latino/Hispanic/Mexican, LGBT, Middle Eastern, Multiracial, Native American, Race issues, Science Fiction/Fantasy, whitewashing

1 Comments on Where’s the Diversity, Hollywood? Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blockbusters Overwhelmingly White, Male, last added: 7/29/2014
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12. Harry Potter Personality Quiz

Harry Potter illustration  by Mary GrandPre

Personality Quiz: Which Harry Potter character are you?

Have you ever wished you could go to Hogwarts after reading one of J. K. Rowling’s books?! OK. Stupid question. OF COURSE YOU HAVE! Whether you’ve read the series or watched the movies, all the characters are so relatable that there always seems to be that one character you have a lot in common with.

Which Harry Potter character are you most like? Take this quiz and find out!

  1. While working on a group project you . . .  A) tend to get wrapped up in your own work and are quick to correct others. B) are very well organized and take your responsibilities very seriously. C) are the natural leader but take everyone’s thoughts and ideas into consideration. D) hate doing the work if it doesn’t involve you totally being in charge.
  2. Your favorite subject at school is . . .  A) Arithmancy (Mathematics). B) History of Magic (History). C) Defense Against the Dark Arts (English). D) Charms and Potions (Science).
  3. You notice that someone has left a bag in the corridor so you . . . A) give it to a professor. B) bring it to the main office hoping the person who lost it will look there first. C) try to figure out whose bag it is and return it. D) take it back to your room and rummage through it.
  4. You spend your time after school . . . A) reading and studying in the library. B) supervising  a group activity or club. C) playing on your school’s Quidditch (sports) team. D) challenging your friends to duels in the schoolyard.
  5. You usually come across to others as . . . A) intelligent and goal-oriented. B) responsible and reliable. C) brave and loyal. D) overly confident.
  6. Your tragic flaw is . . . A) sometimes acting like a know-it-all. B) judging others too harshly. C) getting too absorbed in your own personal pursuits. D) being conceited.

Ready for the moment of truth? Count up your answers and find out which Harry Potter character you are!

If you answered mostly A’s:  You are Hermione Granger!

Like Hermione, you are a smart, natural born thinker. You love problem solving and learning, and you tend to get caught up in your own studies.

If you answered mostly B’s: You are Minerva McGonagall!
Like Professor McGonagall, you are very well organized and always get the job done. People come to you to help solve their problems or give them advice. You have a very strong set of morals and always try to do the right thing.

If you answered mostly C’s: You are Harry Potter!
Like Harry, you are very easy to get along with. You are a loyal friend and are very independent. People look up to you and trust you to lead the way. You learn best by doing and taking things apart to figure them out.

If you answered mostly D’s: You are Draco Malfoy!

Like Malfoy, you are quick-thinking and adaptable. You are sometimes pessimistic, but you are also strategic and usually predict how things will play out. You are intuitive and very confident in yourself and your abilities.

PS. You are invited to celebrate Harry’s birthday with us at a live readathon

on July 31. Happy birthday, Harry!

—Amanda, STACKS Intern

Harry Potter illustration by Mary GrandPré

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13. Harry Potter Name Meanings

Harry Potter illustration by Mary GrandPreHarry Potter Name MeaningsHarry’s birthday on July 31

, we’ve compiled a list of Harry Potter name meanings! Whether you’re a seasoned Harry Potter fan and honorary member of Dumbledore’s Army, or you’re just starting your first year at Hogwarts, you’ve probably noticed J. K. Rowling’s characters have some quirky names. From Hermione to Bellatrix, it turns out their names might signify more than you realize. Check out the following Harry Potter name meanings to see just how much thought went into naming our magical friends of the wizarding world.
  • Harry means “army leader.” Fitting, yes?Hermione means “well born” (Take that, Malfoy!) and “stone,” which is also appropriate considering her run-in with a certain serpent in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.Ronald means “mighty counselor.” Now that sounds like a reliable friend!Albus means “white” in Latin. Wait, what color is the headmaster’s hair?Sirius means “dog star.” You can say that again!Argus means “bright.” Perhaps she was being sarcastic here? But then again, as Hogwarts’ caretaker, Filch is always walking the halls with a lantern at night!Tom means “twin.” Ponder this one when you get to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows! We might also consider the relationship between Harry and Tom Riddle’s wands . . . Bellatrix means “warlike.” No surprise there!Cedric means “kind and loved.” He does try to stop the other fourth-years from wearing the buttons that make fun of Harry in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire!Draco means “dragon.” He does, after all, use words like he’s spitting fire . . . Cho means “beautiful.” Plenty of Hogwarts fourth-years would agree!Alastor (a.k.a. Mad-Eye Moody) means “man’s defender.” This one, too, will be clear if you’ve read the very beginning of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows!Dolores means “sorrow.” That’s definitely what I felt when Umbridge arrived at Hogwarts!Severus means “stern” or “severe.” Okay, fair enough – the meaning of Professor Snape’s name was probably the most obvious!Sybill means “prophetess.” There couldn’t possibly be a more perfect name for the Hogwarts professor of Divination!Arthur means “strong as a bear.” That’s the head of the Weasley clan, thank you very much!Minerva means “goddess of wisdom” or “wise” – as any Gryffindor head of house should be! Add a Comment
14. War’s Waste: Rehabilitation in World War I America

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On the one-hundredth anniversary of World War I, it might be especially opportune to consider one of the unspoken inheritances of global warfare: soldiers who return home physically and/or psychologically wounded from battle. With that in mind, this excerpt from War’s Waste: Rehabilitation in World War I America contextualizes the relationship between rehabilitation—as the proper social and cultural response to those injured in battle—and the progressive reformers who pushed for it as a means to “rebuild” the disabled and regenerate the American medical industry.

***

Rehabilitation was thus a way to restore social order after the chaos of war by (re)making men into producers of capital. Since wage earning often defined manhood, rehabilitation was, in essence, a process of making a man manly. Or, as the World War I “Creed of the Disabled Man” put it, the point of rehabilitation was for each disabled veteran to become “a MAN among MEN in spite of his physical handicap.” Relying on the breadwinner ideal of manhood, those in favor of pension reform began to define disability not by a man’s missing limbs or by any other physical incapacity (as the Civil War pension system had done), but rather by his will (or lack thereof) to work. Seen this way, economic dependency—often linked overtly and metaphorically to womanliness—came to be understood as the real handicap that thwarted the full physical recovery of the veteran and the fiscal strength of the nation.

Much of what Progressive reformers knew about rehabilitation they learned from Europe. This was a time, as historian Daniel T. Rodgers tells us, when “American politics was peculiarly open to foreign models and imported ideas. Germany, France, and Great Britain first introduced rehabilitation as a way to cope, economically, morally, and militarily, with the face that millions of men had been lost to the war. Both the Allied and Central Powers instituted rehabilitation programs so that injured soldiers could be reused on the front lines and in munitions in order to meet the military and industrial demands of a totalizing war. Eventually other belligerent nations—Australia, Canada, India, and the United States—adopted programs in rehabilitation, too, in order to help their own war injured recover. Although these countries engaged in a transnational exchange of knowledge, each nation brought its own particular prewar history and culture to bear on the meaning and construction of rehabilitation. Going into the Great War, the United States was known to have the most generous veterans pension system worldwide. This fact alone makes the story of the rise of rehabilitation in the United States unique.

To make rehabilitation a reality, Woodrow Wilson appointed two internationally known and informed Progressive reformers, Judge Julian Mack and Julia Lathrop, to draw up the necessary legislation. Both Chicagoans, Mack and Lathrop moved in the same social and professional circles, networks dictated by the effort to bring about reform at the state and federal level. In July 1917, Wilson tapped Mack to help “work out a new program for compensation and aid  . . . to soldiers,” one that would be “an improvement upon the traditional [Civil War] pension system.” With the help of Lathrop and Samuel Gompers, Mack drafted a complex piece of legislation that replaced the veteran pension system with government life insurance and a provision for the “rehabilitation and re-education of all disabled soldiers.” The War Risk Insurance Act, as it became known, passed Congress on October 6, 1917, without a dissenting vote.

Although rehabilitation had become law, the practicalities of how, where, and by whom it should be administered remained in question. Who should take control of the endeavor? Civilian or military leaders? Moreover, what kind of professionals should be in charge? Educators, social workers, or medical professionals? Neither Mack nor Lathrop considered the hospital to be the obvious choice. The Veterans Administration did not exist in 1917. Nor did its system of hospitals. Even in the civilian sector at the time, very few hospitals engaged in rehabilitative medicine as we have come to know it today. Put simply, the infrastructure and personnel to rehabilitate an army of injured soldiers did not exist at the time that America entered the First World War. Before the Great War, caring for maimed soldiers was largely a private matter, a community matter, a family matter, handled mostly by sisters, mothers, wives, and private charity groups.

The Army Medical Department stepped in quickly to fill the legislative requirements for rehabilitation. Within months of Wilson’s declaration of war, Army Surgeon General William C. Gorgas created the Division of Special Hospitals and Physical Reconstruction, putting a group of Boston-area orthopedic surgeons in charge. Gorgas turned to orthopedic surgeons for two reasons. First, a few of them had already begun experimenting with work and rehabilitation therapy in a handful of the nation’s children’s hospitals. Second, and more important, several orthopedists had already been involved in the rehabilitation effort abroad, assisting their colleagues in Great Britain long before the United States officially became involved in the war.

Dramatic changes took place in the Army Medical Department to accommodate the demand for rehabilitation. Because virtually every type of war wound had become defined as a disability, the Medical Department expanded to include a wide array of medical specialties. Psychiatrists, neurologists, and psychologists oversaw the rehabilitation of soldiers with neurasthenia and the newly designated diagnosis of shell shock. Ophthalmologists took charge of controlling the spread of trachoma and of providing rehabilitative care to soldiers blinded by mortar shells and poison gas. Tuberculosis specialists supervised the reconstruction of men who had acquired the tubercle bacillus during the war. And orthopedists managed fractures, amputations, and all other musculoskeletal injuries.

Rehabilitation legislation also led to the formation of entirely new, female-dominated medical subspecialties, such as occupational and physical therapy. The driving assumption behind rehabilitation was that disabled men needed to be toughened up, lest they become dependent of the state, their communities, and their families. The newly minted physical therapists engaged in this hardening process with zeal, convincing their male commanding officers that women caregivers could be forceful enough to manage, rehabilitate, and make an army of ostensibly emasculated men manly again. To that end, wartime physical therapists directed their amputee patients in “stump pounding” drills, having men with newly amputated legs walk on, thump, and pound their residual limbs. When not acting as drill sergeants, the physical therapists engaged in the arduous task of stretching and massaging limbs and backs, but only if such manual treatment elicited a degree of pain. These women adhered strictly to the “no pain, no gain” philosophy of physical training. To administer a light touch, “feel good” massage would have endangered their professional reputation (they might have been mistaken for prostitutes) while also undermining the process of remasculinization. Male rehabilitation proponents constantly reminded female physical therapists that they needed to deny their innate mothering and nurturing tendencies, for disabled soldiers required a heavy hand, not coddling.

The expansion of new medical personnel devoted to the long-term care of disabled soldiers created an unprecedented demand for hospital space. Soon after the rehabilitation legislation passed in Congress, the US Army Corps of Engineers erected hundreds of patient wards as well as entirely novel treatment areas such as massage rooms, hydrotherapy units, and electrotherapy quarters. Orthopedic appliance shops and “limb laboratories,” where physicians and staff mechanics engineered and repaired prosthetic limbs, also became a regular part of the new rehabilitation hospitals. Less than a year into the war, Walter Reed Hospital, in Washington, DC, emerged as the leading US medical facility for rehabilitation and prosthetic limb innovation, a reputation the facility still enjoys today.

The most awe-inspiring spaces of the new military rehabilitation hospitals were the “curative workshops,” wards that looked more like industrial workplaces than medical clinics. In these hospital workshops, disabled soldiers repaired automobiles, painted signs, operated telegraphs, and engaged in woodworking, all under the oversight of medical professionals who insisted that rehabilitation was at once industrial training and therapeutic agent. Although built in a time of war, a majority of these hospital facilities and personnel became a permanent part of veteran care in both army general hospitals and in the eventual Veterans Administration hospitals for the remainder of the twentieth century. Taking its cue from the military, the post–World War I civilian hospital began to construct and incorporate rehabilitation units into its system of care as well. Rehabilitation was born as a Progressive Era ideal, took shape as a military medical specialty, and eventually became a societal norm in the civilian sector.

To read more about War’s Waste, click here.

 

 

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15. In case you missed the frosting and sprinkles.

Questions were asked; answers were given. A good time was had by all.

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16. Favorite Scenes from Harry Potter

Harry Potter illustration by Mary GrandPreCelebrate Harry Potter’s birthday with us all week long!live readathon/ virtual birthday party

on Thursday, July 31. Please come if you can and bring a friend. You’re TOTALLY invited!

Let’s start the week with this Writing Prompt from Skyelark Moon

on the Harry Potter Message Boards who is obviously a fan of the Harry Potter series, as you can tell from this question . . .

**Spoilers from ALL

 the books follow!**

Which scenes are your favorites from each of the Harry Potter books? Here are my answers.Skyelark Moon STACKS Profile

  1. The Philosopher’s Stone (a.k.a. The Sorcerer’s Stone)
: I have always loved the scene in Diagon Ally especially when Harry is in Ollivanders. Something about it is so . . . magical. :DThe Chamber of Secrets: The moment when Harry and Ron are figuring out the secret to the Chamber of Secrets has always been one of my favorite parts. I love mysteries, so this was a great part to me. :DThe Prisoner of Azkaban: I love the chapter “Cat, Rat, and Dog.” The Marauders are some of my favorite characters, and seeing them interact with each other is fantastic.
  • The Goblet of Fire:
  • I have always liked the section in between the first and second tasks: namely the scene where Harry opens the egg in the water. ;)The Order of the Phoenix: The Room of Requirement is one of my favorite places in Hogwarts, so naturally all of the Dumbledore’s Army parts are my favorite. :DThe Half-Blood Prince: I really like the part when Harry first uses the Half-Blood Prince’s book to brew the Draught of Living Death. :PThe Deathly Hallows: I love the ending of The Deathly Hallows, especially when they seem to be figuring out where all the Horcruxes are. As I mentioned previously, I really love mysteries, so this part was great, in my opinion. :Dreadathon on Thursday

    !

    Harry Potter illustration by Mary GrandPré

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    17. Harry Potter Theme Parks

    Harry Potter StampDiagon Alley in Florida, and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in JapanHarry Potter movies,

    complete with all the shops and spots like the Leaky Cauldron, Gringotts, Weasley’s Wizarding Wheezes, Wiseacre’s Wizarding Equipment, Madam Malkin’s Robes for All Occasions, Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlor, and more. Guests can get their fill of Nosebleed Nougats, butterbeer ice cream, and other Diagon Alley specialties. The main attraction, of course, is the Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts ride. The other attraction is . . . THE HOGWARTS EXPRESS!

    The Hogwarts Express is actually a shuttle between 2 different theme parks inside of Universal Studios. You need a “Park-to-Park” ticket to ride the Hogwarts Express which costs $136. For $96, you can see either Diagon Alley or Hogsmeade (but not both).

    This Diagon Alley is the first of its kind in the (Muggle) world, but the first Wizarding World of Harry Potter to open outside of the U.S. is now in Osaka, Japan. It opened on July 14th and it is almost identical to the original one in Florida. Tom Felton

    (who played Draco Malfoy in the movies) and Evanna Lynch (who played Luna Lovegood in the movies) greeted fans on opening night and led lucky visitors into the new park the following morning!
    Wiseacre's Wizarding Equipment shop

    Universal Studios Japan

    Another Wizarding World is set to open at Universal Studios Hollywood in California in 2016.

    So much Harry Potter

    coming to life! It’s so exciting . . . and also kind of overwhelming. What do YOU think? Would you go to Diagon Alley? What other parts of Harry Potter’s world would you like to see made real for us Muggles? (Well, to be honest, Harry Potter has always felt very real to me!) Share your thoughts in the Comments below!

    En-Szu, STACKS Staffer

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    18. At the Breast Clinic

    Picture


                                                   At the Breast Clinic

    The Breast Clinic is a brick and glass structure designed with women

     in mind, from fancy murals of Italy to free herbal teas in the lobby.

    As you pass through the revolving doors there’s no need to wonder

    which way to turn or where to ask for directions to your doctor’s suite.

    The receptionist’s desk juts out and your questions about doctors,

    appointments, procedures and payments can be answered quickly.

    “Will my wife, Marilyn, get a clean bill of health?” takes longer.

     

    When we travel together I sometime pretend that I am “Charles,” her chauffer,

    since she comes from a long line of glitz, glamour and royalty. I don’t mind

    being her driver and court jester, but we will be at the medical institute waiting

    up to three hours for x-rays to hear good news. I didn’t sleep well last night

    worrying about the Queen of my life for 41 years. There were omens in the air.

    She has been called back before after a routine screening, but this is different.

     

    The receptionist insisted on a speedy return and told her that a doctor

    would be present in the office. The receptionist didn’t reduce fears saying,

    “Oh, we just want to take a few more pictures. We do this all the time.”

    With words unspoken Marilyn let me know that these were sinister omens.

    She needed me to hold her hand and scare away any menacing thoughts.

    That’s why I was with her with a room full of women waiting for exams.

     

    I kept thinking: It has to be very good news. It has to be very good news.

    It had to be good news because she had a run of bad luck, a series of medical

    problems all piling up—a  fall, broken bones, arm, ribs, a sleep disorder, TMJ,

    COPD, heart problems, arthritis, and two knee operations—all in one year.

    I knew she couldn’t take much more of  new doctors, medicines, blood tests,

     and appointments. Marilyn was centimeters away from breaking.

     

    I prayed for her and bargained with God to spare her this time from pain,

    medical intervention and frequent thoughts about her own mortality. 

    She deserves better. That’s what I thought again and again, as I waited

    for the verdict via x-rays and a doctor. It didn’t seem fair that she had

    to deal with more doctors and examinations. Yes, I know that life isn’t

    fair and when things get tough, the tough get going, but there’s a limit.

     

    Ninety minutes later she popped out from behind door number one

    with a sparkling smile and waving thumbs up. I hugged and hugged

    my queen, while others waited to see how their story would unfold.

    I wished them well in my heart of hearts, and escorted my fair lady

    out the door as fast as I could beyond false omens. At the Princess Diner

    my beloved Queen and I ate a celebratory lunch and thanked the heavens.

    ~Joe Sottile

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    19. An Interview with Toby Ball

    Toby Ball is the critically acclaimed author of THE VAULTS and SCORCH CITY. INVISIBLE STREETS, available July 24, is the third in the thriller series. This is your third novel, and it follows some of the same characters as the first two. Was it challenging to write a book that stood alone from The Vaults and Scorch City but would also please fans of the first two books? Spacing the

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    20. How to Find Time to Write When You Have 11 Children

    Pamela TuckPamela M. Tuck is the author of As Fast As Words Could Fly, winner of our New Voices Award and named to the International Reading Association’s Teacher’s Choices list. Tuck lives in Boyerstown, Pennsylvania with her husband and their 11 children. In this post, we asked her to share advice on how to find time to write. 

    One common question people ask me is, “How do you find time to write?” I simply answer, “I don’t find time, I steal it, and play catch-up later.” In other words, I MAKE time.

    Growing up as an only child, writing served as a source of entertainment for me. I found that expressing my inner thoughts on paper became therapeutic and helped me cope with stressful situations. So, as a mother of 11 children, writing, quite naturally, became a safe haven.

    I don’t have a daily writing routine like some writers: waking up at 5 am, going for their morning run, eating a cup of yogurt topped with homemade As Fast As Words Could Flygranola, then sitting at their desk, with the picturesque mountainous view, and writing several pages of their next best-selling novel for 5 hours. Instead, my day begins with waking 11 excessively sleepy children, facing mountainous heaps of laundry, in between cleaning, cooking, homeschooling, and potty training. You get the point. So here’s how I steal prioritize my time for writing.

    When I homeschooled my children, I incorporated timed journal writing assignments for everyone (including me). I had my children think of random words, and then I’d write the words on cut pieces of paper, fold them, and place them in a basket. We all picked one word from the basket. I set the timer for either three or five minutes, and we wrote anything we wanted about the word we picked. Some words prompted poetry, non-fiction pieces, nonsense pieces, and creative story starters that could be developed into longer works. That’s just one way I kept my inner writing flame lit.

    I usually find inspiration to write from reading articles, seeing interesting photos, hearing conversations, or from life experiences. If I stumble across a story idea, I simply allot time, either during the day or in the evening, to write. These one or two hour time allotments serve as refreshing rewards during my busy days. Fortunately for me, my husband encourages my writing projects and he, along with my children, comply with my writing antics of having complete silence and/or isolation while I write. I use the time allotments to do research, if necessary, and to read other books similar to the type of story I’m writing. My family serves as a huge inspiration for my writing. They are my “sounding boards” as I bounce ideas around, my audience, as I piece those ideas together, and my cheerleaders when those ideas find a home.

    So, going from one end of the spectrum (as an only child, with plenty of quiet time for writing) to the other (as a mother of a large family, with hardly anyYou are a writer. You don’t have to write on someone else’s schedule. Write on your OWN schedule. quiet time at all), I would like to share a little piece of advice that was given to me by my husband. After attending my first writing conference with the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators in June 2007, and hearing all the wonderful writing regimens of different authors, I thought my lifestyle would hinder my dream of becoming an author. My husband told me, “You are a writer. You don’t have to write on someone else’s schedule. Write on your OWN schedule.”

    My husband found out about Lee & Low Books offering a New Voices Award and encouraged me to write my dad’s story of desegregating the public school system in 1960s Greenville, NC. My dad’s experiences of determination and courage inspired me to take my husband’s advice. I submitted my story to Lee & Low Books in September 2007. In December 2007, I received a call announcing me as the winner of the 2007 New Voices Award! Now, my dad’s family story has transformed into a picture book, As Fast As Words Could Fly, that can be shared with many families across generations. So, regardless of your lifestyle, your limitations, your oppositions…grab those ideas that are close to your heart, and write the story that only YOU can write. Unleash your dreams, and let them fly!

    New Voices Award sealMore information:

    The New Voices Award is given each year to an unpublished author of color for a picture book manuscript. Find more information on how to submit here.


    Filed under: New Voices/New Visions Award, Writer Resources Tagged: As Fast As Words Could Fly, New Voices Award, writing advice

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    21. The Fault in Our Stars Readalikes

    Recommend me!When You’re Not Old Enough for The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

    Are you 8 or older?

    Wonder by R.J. Palacio. Auggie Pullman has a facial deformity that has kept him homeschooled until now: the fifth grade. Wonder is Auggie’s story of navigating a new school, making new friends, and learning new rules. Like TFIOS, this realistic fiction novel will bring on the waterworks, but with this book, they’ll be tears of joy.

    Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu. Hazel and Jack were best friends – before a freak accident caused Jack to mysteriously disappear into the woods with a woman made of ice. Breadcrumbs reminds me of TFIOS because both books are about the things we leave behind when we enter the unknown.

    Rules by Cynthia Lord. Catherine just wants to be a regular 12-year-old, but having a brother with autism and a family that revolves around his disability always keeps her from a normal life. Rules asks one of the very same questions as TFIOS: What is normal?

    Are you 9 or older?

    Gossamer by Lois Lowry. Why do we dream the way we do? Where do our dreams come from? This novel walks the line between imagination and reality. After this read, you’ll definitely have your thinking hat on for when you’re old enough to read TFIOS!

    Radiance by Alyson Noel. Riley has moved on to the afterlife, but finds that paradise isn’t all fun and games. She’s assigned a job as Soul Catcher and must help a certain soul cross the bridge – a soul four other people have not been able to bring to the afterlife. What happens after people die is a big question in TFIOS. Radiance gives us a peak at one possibility!

    Are you 10 or older?

    The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman. Nobody ‘Bod’ Owens is just a toddler when he stumbles into the graveyard after his family is murdered. It’s there that Bod starts his life, under the protection of the graveyard’s many ghosts. I know what you’re thinking: What on Earth does this have in common with TFIOS? But this book, too, examines life, death, and what comes after – so there you have it.

    Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt. Ten-year-old Winnie Foster stumbles upon members of the Tuck family who have been given eternal life after drinking from a magic spring. The Tucks explain to Winnie that they are both blessed and doomed to stay the same age forever. Like TFIOS, Tuck Everlasting examines life and death.

    Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper. Melody is a brilliant and talented fifth grader with a photographic memory. But cerebral palsy leaves her unable to communicate with others, and she often feels like a goldfish stuck in a bowl, only able to observe the outside world from inside her head.  Melody feels trapped by her condition, much like the main character of TFIOS also does. What does it take to rise above the thing you have no control over?

    Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine. As an 11-year-old with Asperger’s syndrome, Caitlin doesn’t know how to deal with her brother’s death. Caitlin decides she and her father need “closure” after she reads its definition in the dictionary. Mockingbird’s theme of closure will certainly translate to the end of TFIOS when you get there!

    Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan. Willow is a 12-year-old child genius whose greatest comfort is counting by 7s. When her parents die in a tragic accident, Willow must decide to push through her grief. Also like TFIOS, Counting by 7s will give you a snapshot of grief – and most importantly, what it takes to get through it.

    So there you have it! We hope these fantastic, realistic fiction recommendations will tide you over until you’re old enough to take on The Fault in Our Stars!

    Marisa, STACKS Intern

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    22. Leo Howard Interview

    Leo Howard

     If you love Leo Howard from Kickin’ It, keep reading.

    If any television actor has undergone an on-screen transformation, it’s Kickin’ It‘s Leo Howard. Remember what he was like when the show first started? But even if Leo–and his character Jack–has changed a bit on the outside, he’s still the super-chill guy we interviewed a little while back.

    So it was great to catch up with him again and see what he’s been reading, what his favorite school subject is, and more! Check it out.

    Q: What are you reading now?

    Leo: I just finished reading Night by Elie Wiesel (for ages 12 and up). It was awesome. It made me cry many times. It’s about a Jewish kid that went through Auschwitz. Unbelievable.

    Q: What’s your favorite school subject and why?

    Leo: I like history because I like learning about things that happened in the past.

    Q: Do you have any study tips?

    Leo: Not really. Yes, actually I do. [Laughs] Stay diligent. Procrastination is your worst enemy when it comes to studying!

    Leo Howard in Kickin' It

    Q: What do you feel is the most important issue for kids your age today?
    Leo Howard?

    Do you watch Kickin’ It? If you could meet him in real life, what questions would YOU ask? Tell us in the Comments below!

    En-Szu, STACKS Staffer

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    23. Adventure Books Readathon

    Adventure Books BlastAugust is the Month for Adventure!I Survived the Shark Attacks of 1916,

    then you understand my terror of sharks. Guys, an actual shark attacked actual people swimming at the actual Jersey shore. I ask you, what is scarier than that?

    August 13: Choose Your Own Adventure Part 2
    En-Szu’s story continues with a new twist!

    August 20: Choose Your Own Adventure Part 3

    August 26: National Dog Day
    Well, this might not have anything to do with adventure books, but how awesome is a whole day when we get to celebrate dogs?

    August 27: Which Adventure Hero Are You? Find out!

    August 28: Readathon 12-4 p.m. ET
    Join us on the STACKS for a live 4-hour readathon!

    I hope you can join us for 1 or all of these STACKS events this August!

    Sonja, STACKS Staffer

     

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    24. New Visions Award: What Not to Do

    Stacy Whitman photoStacy Whitman is Editorial Director and Publisher of Tu Books, an imprint of LEE & LOW BOOKS that publishes diverse science fiction and fantasy for middle grade and young adult readers. In this blog post, she discusses what she is—and is not—looking for from New Visions Award contest submissions.

    This year is the second year we’ve held our New Visions Award, a writing contest seeking new writers of color for middle grade and young adult science fiction, fantasy, and mystery. Tu Books is a relatively new imprint, and so is our award, which is modeled after the New Voices Award, now in its 15th year of seeking submissions.

    Much like the editors who are in charge of the New Voices Award for picture books, for the New Visions Award, I love seeing submissions that follow the submissions guidelines and stories that stand out from a crowd. I look for science fiction, fantasy, and mystery stories that understand the age group they’re targeted at, with strong characters, strong worldbuilding, and if there is a romance, I hope that it avoids cliches.

    During the first New Visions Award, our readers made notes on the manuscripts explaining what they enjoyed and what made them stop reading, particularly the things that made them not want to read further than the sample chapters in the initial phase of the contest. For the next few weeks, I’ll delve a little further into those things that made readers stop reading, and then we’ll talk about making your writing have the zing that makes an editor want to read more.

    Today, let’s cover the most obvious reasons a New Visions Award reader might stop reading immediately.

    • Main character isn’t a person of color
    • Unclear if main character is a person of color (& not made clear in any supporting materials)
    • Basic formatting rules ignored: single-spaced, no tabs, no paragraph breaks, rules of punctuation ignored to the point it was impossible to read the text
    • Chapters at times seemed to be combined to ensure more text would be read, which made them super long and terribly paced
    • Duplicate submission from the author (stopped reading the duplicate—of course we read the original!)
    • Already read as a regular submission and didn’t see any significant changes
    • Author not eligible (published previously in YA or MG, not a person of color, not based in the US)
    • Book was a picture book (this would be a New Voices submission, not a New Visions submission) or a short story (not long enough to be a novel)

    The obvious solution to making sure your submission is right for this contest is to make sure to read the contest submission guidelines before sending your submission. If you are not a writer of color, or if you live in a country outside the US, we do want to read your manuscript, but not for this contest. Watch our regular submission guidelines for when we’ll open again to unsolicited submissions.

    Make sure you format your manuscript in a way that it can be read. If you’re new to writing, be sure to have someone check it over for typos, correct grammar and spelling, correct punctuation, etc. We won’t reject your manuscript for a typo or two, but there is a point at which the story is no longer being communicated because the reader gets tripped up by the errors. Make sure your manuscript is as clean as you can make it.

    Next time, we’ll talk about hooking the reader with your story. Happy writing!


    Filed under: New Voices/New Visions Award, Publishing 101, Tu Books, Writer Resources Tagged: formatting manuscripts, weneeddiversebooks, writing award, writing contest, writing tips

    0 Comments on New Visions Award: What Not to Do as of 7/25/2014 12:22:00 PM
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    25. Talking to Kids about Current Events and Conflicts

    block quote for jill (1)Breaking stories, developing crises, and unexpected catastrophes often involve more than one country, community, and culture. As our children listen in to the radio while stuck in traffic or the evening news program over dinner, it can be easy to think that if we don’t explicitly bring up the news story, then our children don’t know it’s happening.

    In fact, children are incredibly perceptive when their parents and adults close to them are distracted by news or alarming events. Many children also pick up information from their peers.

    While we don’t want to overwhelm or scare our children, it is important to discuss what is going on. Children need honest portrayals of a community at its best during a time we might be seeing it at its worst.

    How do we talk to children about these events and use these moments as opportunities to have respectful, honest (albeit age-appropriate) discussions?

    Picture books are invaluable conversation starters. Conflicts and disasters have complex origins and multiple players. Issues of race, class, religion, and gender are often entangled in the events or portrayal of the events. Children’s books dealing with conflict or natural disasters can frame the event in contexts and meanings suitable to their developmental stage. Stories with children as the main characters allow children to identify with the characters over universal themes.

    When a “newsworthy” event happens, this may be the first time the child learns of this country, group of people, or culture. By the same token, the conflict or event may involve the child’s own heritage or culture. Using picture books to talk about a current event or conflict can be an opportunity to learn about a new region and help children see the culture and people beyond this event.

    Instead of allowing the media to define the group of people involved, we should seek out and read a book showcasing and reinforcing the positive aspects and pride of the featured group of people and region. In doing so, we present a broader perspective of the community, culture, or people that media coverage is portraying in a negative, humiliating, or victimized light.

    In selecting the right book to foster respect and provide an honest portrait of a community in the news, consider:

    Books that champion human dignity:

    Books that exhibit the strength, courage, and resilience of children:

    Books that depict a community’s capacity to endure, love, and give:

    “Age-appropriate” can mean truthful, thoughtful conversations. When talking to children, let them guide the discussion. Opening conversation starters include:Going Home, Coming Home

    • What questions do you have? What have you heard?
    • What do you know about the situation or group of people/foreign country involved?
    • Who are the countries or communities involved?
    • How are different communities and countries coming together over this issue?
    • What would you like to do to help?

    For further reading:

    Jill_EisenbergJill Eisenberg, our Resident Literacy Expert, began her career teaching English as a Foreign Language to second through sixth graders in Yilan, Taiwan as a Fulbright Fellow. She went on to become a literacy teacher for third grade in San Jose, CA as a Teach for America corps member. She is certified in Project Glad instruction to promote English language acquisition and academic achievement. In her column she offers teaching and literacy tips for educators. 

     


    Filed under: Diversity, Race, and Representation, Educator Resources Tagged: children's books, diversity, Educators, Multiracial, Race issues, Reading Aloud, reading comprehension

    1 Comments on Talking to Kids about Current Events and Conflicts, last added: 7/28/2014
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