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1. LOVE 'em with BOOKS



GO ON. . . I DARE YOU!
Love 'em with BOOKS this Holiday Season.


2
BOOKS that make terrific Holiday Gifts.
Now ON SALE @ Amazon


*Trial by Walkabout
is a great Aussie outback adventure--
a multicultural tale of sibling rivalry, aboriginal culture, danger,
and Dreamtime pirits--plus a friendship between two young teens

*Ruthie and the Hippo's Fat Behind--
a rhyming story that tells how sudden BIG changes
can turn a sweet girl into a brat!
(parent teacher guide included)

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

 JUST PUBLISHED (soft cover)


Dreamtime Man
For young and old alike. . .
My rhyming tale, based on Australian history, shows how Aboriginals
survived the arrival of the white man, and eventually created
 a place for themselves and their culture
in the present day.



REVIEW SNIP:

SAMPLE from Book REVIEW on Penny's Reviews and Chat:
http://pennyreviews-chat.blogspot.com/
"I'm a great, and long time fan of Margot Finke’s children’s stories, as you know. I’m completely enthralled with this new one, Dreamtime Man. It is absolutely one of her best. It’s in rhyme and powerfully relates the stories of ancient Australian aboriginal tribes who used to roam the wild, untamed lands of Australia. Her word pictures are perfect jewels."
 
**The illustrations, by Ioana Zdralea, are amazing.

 This SUPER Review is a huge thrill!!

**You can also LISTEN to me read the story HERE

Soft Cover $9.49 on AMAZON
Not on Sale. . . but worth every penny!



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

Books for Kids - Skype Author Visits
Manuscript Critiques


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















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2. Sisters and Brothers at Luna Station

“Sisters and Brothers,” my post in honor of the UN commemoration of the international day to end violence against women is up at Luna Station Quarterly.

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3. Ruff Life Script

Guess what?

It's a Ruff Life is having a book launch and signing in the run up to Christmas.  We're really looking forward to it; there'll be some fun activities and a few freebies. The days of the book launch are 13th , 14th 20th & 21st December.

Don't forget the Goodreads Ruff Christmas FREE book giveaway.

Bella & Max

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4. Comic: Being Thankful

 

I've decided that the girl's name is Keiko.  Haven't come up with a name for the baby yet, though.

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5. My First Author/Illustrator Skype Visit: What I Learned, What I'd Do Differently Next Time

Skyping with 115 first-graders at A. Blair McPherson School in Edmonton, Alberta

Although I've used Skype before, I resisted doing Skype classroom visits until recently because I wasn't confident about the technology working properly. Since I first tried Skype, however, broadband services have improved and more schools are starting to do Skype visits with authors and illustrators.

Other reasons I decided to explore visiting schools via Skype:

- I lack the time and finances to visit schools outside of the Toronto area. I also don't drive, which makes transportation more of a hassle and time-consuming.

- I had so much fun talking to young readers during my NAKED! book tour (thanks, Simon & Schuster!) that I want to do more often than I have in the past, but am limited by the reasons mentioned above.

- Although I know it can't replace in-person visits, virtual school visits enable me to use more props in my presentations, a wider range of art supplies, show students around my home office, be able to pull out musical instruments (I have many) on whim.

- I know some schools can't afford a full school visit, so I decided to offer a 15-20 minute quickie visit. Those who want a longer visit can pay my regular fee. I'm also relatively new to school visits, so this also gives schools an idea of what I'm like in person. When I do my next book tour, whether sponsored by one of my publishers or funded on my own, hopefully some of these schools will be interested in having me visit.

What I did before my first Skype visit:

- I researched a TON, searching online for blog posts by children's book authors and illustrators who have done Skype visits, as well as posts by teachers and librarians about Skype visits. I was especially interested in posts by children's book illustrators, since we have the advantage of being able to do drawing demos. :-)

- I talked to my friend Lee Wardlaw, who was also my first children's book writing mentor. Lee has a huge amount of experience presenting at schools and bookstores in person as well as via Skype. Do check out her Presentations page as well as her Secrets To A Successful Skype Visit for educators.

- I worked with teacher-librarian Arlene Lipkewich and A. Blair McPherson for my very first school Skype visit. I started with a Skype test call with Arlene and another teacher, then a Skype call with Mrs. Brooke's second grade class. Arlene gave me useful feedback which I used to tweak my setup and presentation before I Skyped with five classes (115 students) of first-graders the following week. Thanks you, Arlene and A. Blair McPherson!

- I collected some of the useful resources I've found on my Skype School Visit Page for teachers and librarians as well as children's book authors and illustrators.

What I learned and what I'd do differently next time:

- It's sooooooo much more fun than I expected!

- I strongly recommend doing a Skype test call in advance of each Skype visit as well as just before the visit itself. I found this a great way of identifying potential problems and fixing them.

- Make sure you leave time for a Q&A, and coordinate with the teacher ahead of time so that he/she is able to have students prepare questions in advance.

- Figure out how to make my own screen bigger so I can see what the kids are seeing. Try to place this screen behind the webcam so I'm looking at the camera, not away.

- If I do painting, I will NOT set the paint cups on my desk where it's way too easy for me to knock them over in the middle of the Skype session (fortunately I didn't have much liquid in each)!

- Figure out how to mute the audio on my computer so I just hear it on my headphones. I found the echo a bit confusing, and was also worried about the echo leaking through into my microphone.

Some useful resources:

Please do check out the resource list I've compiled for teachers/librarians and authors/illustrators to my Skype page; I'll be gradually updating it.

Interested in having me do a Skypevisit with your school or library? Please see the info on DebbieOhi.com/skype. Hope to visit with you soon!

 

 

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6. When bad things happen to good characters



Last week I got to visit a school in my neighborhood to talk about my book, The Desperate Adventures of Zeno and Alya. The kids had excellent questions about parrots and muffins and writing. One boy wisely chose to email me. He knew that his question would spoil part of the story for others. And so, if you haven't read the book ...... please be advised.

SPOILER ALERT!    (I've always wanted to say that.)

With his permission, I'm going to share his emails to me and my answer.

Hello, 

My name is Johnny and I'm nine years old. 

I loved your book! I really loved the adventure Zeno was on and how he had to fly over the Atlantic Ocean. I also liked when Alya climbed the six steps. There was so much tension and excitement.

I was hoping Zeno and Bunny would stay friends. I know sometimes characters die in books, so I was just wondering why you chose him to die?

Thank you, 
Johnny C.
Hi Johnny,

I'm glad that you loved my book. But I'm really grateful that you asked me such an important question. I had to think a lot about why I chose to let Bunny die.

First, I wondered did any of the characters really have to die? I think the answer to that is yes. If a book is realistic, then the events that the author describes should have real consequences. I think that Zeno's dangerous journey over the ocean is more exciting because you knew that bad things really might happen. Without real risks and real dangers,  his accomplishment wouldn't mean as much.

Hawks do kill pigeons. They don't do it to be cruel. They do it because they need food. I think you can accept that the hawk would attack a bird. But you want to know why did that bird have to be Bunny?

I could have let the hawk attack a different pigeon. But Zeno is so selfish, he wouldn't have helped anyone except Bunny. All of Zeno's adventures teach him important lessons. First he learns that a friend needs to fight for a friend. But he won't really learn how important that friendship is until he loses Bunny. Zeno has to learn the hard way.

If Zeno hadn't learn those lessons, he wouldn't have been there to help Alya when she needed it. That would have been sad too.

Like you, I hoped that Zeno and Bunny would stay friends. I do know that Zeno remembers everything that Bunny taught him. And, in that way, Bunny lives on.

Thank you again for asking me such a great question.

Sincerely,
Jane Kelley



Hello,

Thank you for writing back to me. What you said made a lot of sense because Bunny was such a good friend and Zeno cared for Bunny and when Bunny died, it changed Zeno and made the story better. It was sad, but I realize why it had to happen.

I can't wait to read your other books.

Sincerely,
Johnny C.





I am grateful to Johnny for letting me share his thoughts on my blog. I'm lucky to have a reader who is willing to journey with my characters, over the Atlantic Ocean or up the six steps to a Brooklyn brownstone. And willing to think about why those journeys are important.

I'm humbled to be reminded that my characters matter to my readers. Writing novels for kids is a privilege––and a responsibility. Sometimes bad things have to happen to good characters––but there better be a very, very, very good reason.

(Thank you, Eliza Wheeler, for your amazing drawing of Zeno and Alya.) 

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7. Makes Great Gifts, Hint Hint

deckAD


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8. …continuing ramblings about muses and inspiration and finding stories, I give you: Erato, the muse of love poetry (warning: this page is fairly messy and filled to bursting with words)

muse-five


Filed under: journeys, love, poetry, songs

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9. LAX, Gate 35

We arrived at LAX an hour and a half before my flight yesterday, so I painted this study of the aircraft at the gate. It's about 5x8 inches in a Pentalic watercolor journal.

I used just four colors: white, black, cadmium yellow deep, and ultramarine. Although I couldn't paint the red graphics of the Virgin America, those colors gave me a complementary gamut.

Halfway through the painting, the aircraft pushed back, but I got lucky. Another identical airplane arrived to take its place, so I could finish the study.

To see a detailed step by step, with all the stages of this painting, check out my Facebook page.

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10. NCTE

I had a terrific time at NCTE. It was the third of four trips for me this November. First was DC for the Children’s Africana Book Awards followed by FILIJ in Mexico. The final one starts tonight when I head to Rome, Italy for Thanksgiving. (Unlike the others, this is for pure personal pleasure.) But back to NCTE. I arrived Friday evening in time to take a quick jaunt around the exhibits before heading off to a dinner. The National Harbor Gaylord Resort had the requisite light show, but it didn’t seem quite as over-the-top as those at the Opryland Hotel where I spent several unforgettable NCTEs (unforgettable not in a good way, mind you). Well..except for its nightclub, the Pose Ultra Lounge and Nightclub where I felt I’d wandered into something from the 60s, maybe a James Bond movie? There were a few people at the glittery bar, a few more moving about singularly alone on the dance floor, and some absolutely blasting music. I’m afraid I didn’t last long.

I was up bright on Saturday starting for the ALAN breakfast where I was thrilled with Andrew Smith‘s speech. This was followed by a signing of Africa is My Home at the Candlewick booth. I always assume no one will come so it was wonderful when quite a few did show up. I then wandered the exhibits some more meeting many friends as I did so. Lunch was with a Dalton colleague and then the afternoon involved more networking until my session with Susannah Richards and Peter Sis. A small, but enthusiastic audience made it a very agreeable experience. After another lovely dinner with various publisher and book creator friends, I was abed at a reasonable hour and home by midday Sunday. A pleasant, if brief NCTE for me this time around.

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Signing my book for last year’s Caldecott winner, Brian Floca.

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With my fellow presenters Peter Sis and Susannah Richards.

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Looking at art for Laurel Snyder’s forthcoming book with John Schumacher.


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11. Free ebooks Review: Ring on Her Finger by Lisa Swinton



Disclaimer: I received no compensation from the author or publisher for this honest review.


About the Book

What happened in Vegas should stay there, not follow Amanda home, newly wedded to the man who broke her heart.

After celebrating college graduation with her friends in Las Vegas, Amanda St. Claire wakes up with a terrible hangover and a ring on her finger. Her day gets worse when she finds out she's married to rich playboy Blake Worthington—the guy she has loathed the past four years. Amanda convinces Blake to legally terminate the marriage and they both return home like nothing ever happened. That is, until Blake shows up on her doorstep and Amanda has to come clean with her family.

Together for better or worse while the legalities are cleared, Amanda reluctantly plays along, but then the unthinkable happens---she finds herself falling in love with Blake.

Can they overcome the past? Or will it end their future before it even starts?

Buy the Book


Here's what I'm giving it:

Rating: 4 stars

Here's why:

There were a couple of things that kept this book from being a 5-star for me. First, I want to start off with the things I liked.

Amanda's and Blake's past played a huge role in their present interactions and also brought new meaning to the "put your past behind you" adage. The contrast between their families was well done and made me grateful for the family I do have.

What I didn't like was how long Amanda held on to her grudge/stubbornness. Granted, I do know/have known people who are "stubborn as a mule" before, but I think it was just a little bit overdone and got to be very irritating.

The other thing was how Amanda was in denial or reality even after getting a good slap of it. That also annoyed me.

Would I recommend this book? Yes, especially for those who are looking for "clean" romances.

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12. A Few of My Favorite Things

There is nothing I love more than finding a new author who blows my socks off and keeps me up reading well past my bedtime.

With Christmas on the way, I'll tempt you with a list of my favorite finds from 2014:

1. Susan Kaye Quinn: Third Daughter, Second Daughter, and First Daughter.

A bollywood steampunk trilogy, how is that for a combination? I enjoyed the world-building, interesting plot lines, and delicious descriptions.


I enjoyed Quinn's other series: The Mindjack Trilogy, a dystopian YA set in Chicago. In a world where everyone can read minds, how do you fight back?





And the Debt Collector serial: Time is a commodity, have you earned yours or is it time to collect?



A second Debt Collector series will be completed December 15.


http://www.amazon.com/Susan-Kaye-Quinn/e/B003TTJRXU/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1412965562&sr=8-2-ent

2. Brenna Yovanoff: The Replacement, The Space Between, Paper Valentine, and Fiendish. Her stories are modern-day fables reminiscent of the Brothers Grimm. The plots are slight, but her glorious use of language and description makes up for them. Paper Valentine was my least favorite. The other three I could not put down.



http://www.amazon.com/Brenna-Yovanoff/e/B003VKZBT6/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1412965242&sr=8-2-ent

3. A. R. Kahler: The Immortal Circus Trilogy

This circus performer has terrific world-building and delightful wordsmithery. Queen Mab runs a circus and it is a hell of a show. This is a trilogy I will never forget.



He is working on a new series: The Hunted.

http://www.amazon.com/A.-R.-Kahler/e/B006N8JB12/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1412965992&sr=8-2-ent

I can't wait to see what 2015 will serve up. More yummies please! If you've discovered an exciting new voice, let me know in the comments (no blantant self-promo please - this is a time to pay forward).


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13. Step-by-step Guide to Assigning Free ISBNs for ebooks through CISS

CISS is the Canadian ISBN Service System that’s f […]

The post Step-by-step Guide to Assigning Free ISBNs for ebooks through CISS appeared first on aksomitis.com.

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14. Short Stories

Short stories are alive and well in the young adult market.

http://www.allvoices.com/article/100001976

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15. The Pros and Cons of Self-Publishing for Children's Book Authors




 
It's difficult for any writer to get published by a traditional publisher, whether you write for adults or for children. That's why more writers than ever are turning to self-publishing. But before you jump on the bandwagon, especially if you write for children, it's helpful to find out more about self-publishing.
Check out the recent post by guest blogger Sangeeta Mehta on publishing expert Jane Friedman's blog. Mehta, a former acquiring editor of children's books at Little, Brown and Simon & Schuster who runs her own editorial services company, interviewed agents Kate McKean and Kevan Lyon for answers to key questions on self-publishing children's books.
Here are some highlights:
Kate McKean: “The anecdotal evidence I’ve seen, however, is that the more titles a self-published author has up, the more visibility they can possibly garner.”
Kevan Lyon: “I do believe that YA writers probably have an edge over middle grade writers in the indie publishing world.”
Kate McKean: “For picture book writers, the cost of producing the book is one hurdle, and distributing it is another bigger hurdle.”
Kevan Lyon: “Self-publishing a full-color print picture book can be very expensive with little room for a profit margin, especially without distribution.”
Click here to visit Jane Friedman's blog for the complete post.
What do you think about the pros and cons of self-publishing? Please share your experiences.
Hope you enjoyed this post! To be notified of future updates, use the subscription options on the right side bar.


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16. Four white women talk about race

About thirteen years ago, I was on a work trip with several colleagues when we heard the news of police shooting an unarmed Black man (one of many such incidents in this country's history). The four of us (all white women) talked about this. Three of us felt sick by it and confused too, which I think is a sign of our privilege. Feeling confused and surprised by evidence of racism is the luxury of those who don't have to deal with it every day. The fourth woman, who I liked and admired generally, said something I haven't been able to forget: "Well, maybe the police had learned through experience that men who look like him usually have guns."

We all stopped walking and looked at her. She couldn't be saying what we thought she was saying, could she?

She went to clarify. She didn't hold the police officers at fault. After all, if in their experience Black men carried guns, then naturally they would assume this one had a gun, and so shooting him was in self defense.

"But he didn't have a gun," I said, in case she'd missed that part somehow. "He was afraid and running away from police, afraid they would shoot him, which they did. Even though he didn't have a gun."

"But he might have," she insisted. "They didn't know. Plus he shouldn't have been running. He should have just surrendered."

By her own logic, I wanted to add, perhaps then he had reason to be afraid the police would shoot an unarmed Black man, even if he surrendered. Perhaps his experience had taught him that that was likely.

We tried to point out to her that this is what the problem is with stereotypes. Even in the extremely unlikely scenario that every single Black man these white police officers had ever met had been carrying a gun and intended to use it to kill cops, this one wasn't. He should have been treated as an individual, as a human being, not by what others who looked like him had done in the past. He was killed for the color of his skin, not for his actions. That is the danger of stereotypes. That's what racism is.

She could not understand. She couldn't grasp what we were trying to explain. She could only see the situation from a single point-of-view. I don't want to paint the other three of us as heroes. I'm sure we are all spectacularly ignorant about a great number of things. But in this one instance, for whatever reason, we could see something that this other woman simply could not.

I wonder about this woman. I wonder if she only ever had friends who looked like her. I wonder if she'd ever read a book with a Black protagonist and learned to identify with him or her. I wonder if learning to recognize the pervasive racism in this country would have so upset the way she understood the world that she just couldn't manage it. If it was scary for her. If ignorance was a security blanket that she, as a white person, could afford to cling to.

I'm reminded of her a lot this week. People are reacting to the news from Ferguson in vastly different ways. One of those ways is, "It's not about race. Why do people have to make everything about race?" If someone were to say, "It's obvious that racism is a real and huge issue, but in this case, carefully examining the evidence, I don't think it applies here," I could respect that. I'd disagree with you, but I'd respect that. But to claim "there is no racism" is alarmingly blind and willfully ignorant.

Until we all choose to see and try to understand the racism around us and in us, nothing is going to change. And we so desperately need change. So desperately the need aches. It stings. And for some, it kills.

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17. Doctor Leonard McCoy and Star Trek (link)

Star Trek needs the Doctor!  (I didn't realize they'd been ignoring him.)  Check out this interesting article from Tor.com: Please Pay Attention to Doctor McCoy Now

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18. I'm On Tour! Enter To Win A Copy Of My Book!




Book Tour

Hi everyone:

Good News! The day is finally here. My book tour begins today. Please complete a raffle through BK book tour and win a chance to get a free e-book of Ignition: AN Educator's Journey. Good luck everyone!





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19. Return to Rome by Margot Justes









It was a packed one day in Rome and my first transatlantic cruise,  time just didn’t allow for more. On this cruise we would stop in  Livorno, Italy-Cartagena  and 3 of the 7 Canary Islands in Spain, and Agadir, Morocco in Africa,  the final destination was Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

For the longest time I wanted to see the Borghese Galleries in Rome. Usually you have to book months in advance, but I was lucky. I walked through the beautiful gardens up to the Villa Borghese, and was told they were sold out. I must have really looked dejected, and the woman took pity on me and sent me downstairs to the ticket counter.  She told me sometimes they have returned tickets.

I did as I was told, and they had a couple of extra tickets if I was willing to wait three hours. Waiting was not a problem, first and foremost, the gardens are positively stunning and vast, there is a museum shop on the lower floor, along with a cafeteria that offered excellent coffee, and delicious paninis, I chose ham and cheese and it was yummy. 

The Borghese family arrived in Rome in the late 16th century, and the villa dates back to the early 17th Century.  There are two floors and twenty rooms filled to capacity, the collections is vast, it is one of those places that is so packed you don’t know where to look first, and it is overwhelming. I prefer galleries that aren’t quite so crowded. You will find works of Bernini, Correggio, Raphael, Rubens, Titian and Caravaggio to name just a few masterpieces exhibited.

The amazing collection is not to be missed, the self guided tours lasts 2 hours, and there is an audio option. The tours are staggered, and they only allow 350 visitors per tour; time and number of people are strictly controlled.

I came away inspired by the works of Bernini-he of the fountains of Rome fame-along with the magical fountains, he was a magnificent sculptor. The collection is massive and in reality for me, the two hours were enough.  There is just so much crammed into the available space, and the collection is so massive that I was on overload. I walked back to the hotel in the rain, and that wet breath of fresh air felt good.

I did make the most with my time in Rome. I walked through the Borghese Gardens and Galleries, I saw the finished renovation of the Bernini Fountain below the Spanish Steps, and had a delicious dinner-homemade pasta cooked al dente with porcini mushrooms and Parmesan Reggiano. It was a packed day and by the end I was exhausted, and slept like the proverbial baby.

The next morning the hotel provided a scrumptious buffet breakfast filled with various breads, sweet rolls, cakes, cheeses, hams, eggs and all the espressos and cappuccinos I could drink. My kind of breakfast.

There was an unexpected adventure I hadn’t anticipated. The driver picked me up from the hotel and off I went to the Civitavecchia Terminal, the Port of Rome. The driver stopped at the security gate at the terminal and had a lengthy conversation. I should have known something was wrong; the discussion at the security gate and the fact that I couldn’t see the ship should have given me a clue that not all was well. I didn’t even think twice about the rough waters lapping against the wall as we neared the port. I thought maybe we’ll have to be tendered because the ship was docked elsewhere.

The ship was indeed docked elsewhere, in a different location, and in fact in a totally different port in another city altogether. As the driver informed me-the seas were too rough and Civitavecchia is very rocky; the ships already there couldn’t get out, and new arrivals couldn’t get in. My ship was stuck in Naples.

There were buses lined up along the terminal, the passengers and the luggage were loaded on said buses and off we went on a three hour ride to Naples to board our ship.  Celebrity Cruises handled it really well, they provided water and snacks-heaven forbid you should be on a cruise and not have food.

Once we arrived in Naples, the check-in was relatively painless, and we were on our way, the first stop the next day was Livorno, Italy-the port for Pisa and Florence. I had high hopes of finally seeing Michelangelo’s David.


Cheers,
Margot  Justes
A Hotel in Paris
A Hotel in Bath
Blood Art
A Fire Within
www.mjustes.com


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20. Garden notes, Thanksgiving week 2014

photo (48)

Faded: the sunflowers. They’re drooping in sad-Charlie-Brown fashion all along the side wall. They amuse me.

In bloom: yellow daisies, masses of them. Pink geraniums, always. Orange zinnias, still going strong. Sweet alyssum and snapdragons, recently added. (The summer alyssum crop, grown from seed, carpeted a corner of the yard all summer, then went brown and weedy. We missed them and put in a few nursery plants to tide us over until the next batch of seeds comes up.) Bougainvillea, small but promising. Lavender, keeping the bees busy. Basil, because I forgot to pinch it off.

In fruit: Tomatoes! Hurrah! I moved them to the front yard this year and voila, they are producing abundantly.

But overshadowing all of these by a mile: the renegade pumpkins. Last year (Halloween 2013) we had one jack-o-lantern and two smaller uncarved pumpkins. These got left alone when we tossed the melting jack-o-lantern. (That’s what carved pumpkins do in Southern California. They dissolve on the stoop.)

The two little pumpkins became a quiet science experiment during the course of the year. One was partly under a bush and retained its integrity for months. The other, in full sun, decomposed rapidly. All of us enjoyed comparing their progress during our comings and goings from driveway to front door.

By July, the shaded pumpkin had joined its mate in the circle of life: its skin crisped and cracked like old, brittle paper. Seeds spilled out everywhere. Did I pay them any mind? I did not.

In August, we noticed sprouts. Not only at the site of the departed pumpkins, but also along the side wall near the sidewalk.

photo (49)

By October, we had vines. Big sprawling vines with huge leaves, trailing all across the lawn and beyond. We had to keep kicking them off the sidewalk back onto the grass lest they trip up passersby.

And now, two days before the final pumpkin holiday of the year, we have (at last count) a crop of six young pumpkins of modest size in various shades of green and yellow. Not orange. No, not quite orange yet.

pumpkin

I figure they’ll be ripe in time for Christmas.

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21. Announcing the Winner of the Creative Writing Curriculum!

Rafflecopter randomly selected the winner of the "Ocean Adventures in Writing" curriculum:

Tracy Teague of N.C.

Congratulations, Tracy! The author of the curriculum, Jan May, will be emailing you soon about your prize!

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22. January Magazine Seventeen Years Young


You know how LinkedIn sends you those nets asking you to congratulate someone on a work anniversary? It can be pretty silly, because it will include anything on your résumé. Even if you say you're a freelance writer, for example, it will ask people to congratulate you on the anniversary of the day you posted. It's not done by a human being and computer programs can't tell the difference.

But this week I was asked to congratulate Linda Richards on 17 years running January Magazine and I really must. It is a fabulous review web site, which also has articles and  news about books and writers. You can follow it by email.


Some years ago, I was writing my first online reviews for a publication called Festivale Online. It was a good publication while it was going, but suddenly, without warning, it disappeared and the editor was out of contact with her contributors,not replying to emails.

Well, I liked my free books and being published. I had been receiving stuff from publishers.  My sister was receiving January Magazine by email, so I contacted Linda, asking if I could review for her. She sad yes, but that she couldn't supply the books. She lives in Canada andI live in Australia. I said that was fine; as long as I had somewhere to publish my reviews I had access to publishers.

So began a long, happy relationship that continues to the present. I don't send as many reviews these days as I used to, because most of them appear here, though I do share my reviews between our two web sites. And I still send her a "best of" post each year as she asks for one.

It has been a lot of fun and I've had some great experiences. Who can forget the morning I visited Allen and Unwin to collect the final Harry Potter book, then read all day to meet Linda's deadline? Because she is in the northern hemisphere I could email her early Sunday morning to say I'd be a couple more hours and she could reply that this was fine, she'd check her email again after dinner(it was still Saturday night there).  And then there was the time I reviewed a book about the Hildebrandt Tolkien calendars for JM. I had a lovely email from one of the artists thanking me for having given his nephew such a nice review. Not only that, but Caspar Reiff of the Tolkien Ensemble, which does wonderful albums setting Tolkien's songs and poems to music, offering me a review copy of the latest, which I had been wanting but unable to find in the shops here!

In a way, JM is the reason for this blog. Linda does it all herself from somewhere rural in Canada(she once told me there was a bushfire raging in her area). Sometimes my reviews hadn't been published after weeks and weeks. So I thought it best to publish things here when I hadn't heard; the publishers supplying me would want to know the review was up. Of course, The Great Raven has become a lot more than a review zine, as you know, though it is handy that I can be more flexible, since JM only publishes reviews of new books and I sometimes review classics or things that have been around for a bit longer than JM's one year limit.

But if it weren't for Linda Richards and January Magazine, The Great Raven might not exist. So here's to you, Linda! Long may January Magazine run!

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23. Impending

The highway signs flashed “High Alert!
Tomorrow, don’t be driving.”
The day before Thanksgiving,
There’s a winter storm arriving.

So traffic crawled and inched along
Much slower than just slow
‘Cause everyone was on the road
To beat the coming snow.

You’d think that Martians had attacked
Or that the world was ending
When all that fuss is for some weather –
Lousy, but impending…

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24. Baring it all - Haiku



At the break of dawn

lotus unfold its petals

my cheeks are blushing



Text and Image ©Copyright 2014 By Sannel Larson.

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25. What Comes Next and How to Like It: A Memoir/Abigail Thomas: Reflections

You know how it is—the winding and wending through book booths. The writers signing, the multiples of the new fresh things in stacks; it's hard to take it in, at least for me. I never return home from The Events with a bag full of randoms. I return home with the books sought out or placed in my trust. A handful.

But there I was, Friday, at the National Conference for Teachers of English at the National Harbor Convention Center. I'd be doing my own signing in fifteen minutes, but I had time. And so I walked, my eyes cast down, and there it was, a pile of books, the cover whitish and thin, two streaks of color, a title, a name. Abigail Thomas, I read. Kept walking. Stopped. Backtracked.

Abigail Thomas? At NCTE?

"Um," I said, to the Scribner person.

"Yes?"

"Are you giving these ARCs away? By chance?"

"You want one?"

"Desperately."

"So go ahead."

It was mine! The new Abigail Thomas memoir, coming in March 2015, but I don't have to wait that long. Not me, who loves Abigail Thomas, who sang her praises in Handling the Truth, who reads her words out loud to my Penn students. Not me. I have What Comes Next and How to Like It. I read it when I was supposed to be writing, which is to say I read it today. All day and now I'm done, I'm finished, and I'm sad about that, because books this good don't come around too often. Books this good need Abigail Thomas to write them.

"Abigail Thomas is the Emily Dickinson of memoirists," Stephen King has said. UmmHmmm.

Where to start, or have I said enough? A book about friendship and motherhood, about painting and words, about comfort and soup, about sleeping all day, about waking ourselves up, about love, an "elastic" word, Thomas tells us. Proves it. Thomas could blare, in her bio, about a lot of writerly things, but what she says first is this: "Abigail Thomas is the mother of four children and the grandmother of twelve." Yes. That's how Thomas describes herself because that, with infinite beauty, is who she is first. Who she will be. What makes her the powerhouse writer she is. (Though to that description one must add a pile of dogs.) Thomas writes, in this new memoir, about how we hold on knowing that one day we won't. How we outlast ourselves, or live with the fact that outlasting doesn't last.

I loved every torn page. The arrangement of the pages. Thomas's smart abhorrence of chronology. How many times, in class, to students, to writers, have I said: Don't tell me the story in a straight line. Break the grid. Steer your way toward wisdom by scrambling the sequence of facts.

Now I'm just going to read Thomas:
I hate chronological order. Not only do I have zero memory for what happened when in what year, but it's so boring. This comes out of me with the kind of vehemence that requires a closer look, so I scribble on the back of a napkin while waiting for friends to show up at Cucina and it doesn't take long to figure it out. The thought of this happened and then this happened and then this and this and this, the relentless march of events and emotion tied together simply because day follows day and turns into week following week becoming months and years reinforces the fact that the only logical ending from chronological order is death.

Yes. And that, by the way, is a single chapter in a book built (miraculously) of brevities. A book in which the page by page sequencing is as shattering as the pages themselves.

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