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1. Guest Post & Giveaway: Dana Walrath on Writing from the Marrow

By Dana Walrath
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

My first novel, Like Water on Stone, just came out (Delacorte, Nov. 2014). Of course, I’m smiling. The cover and interior of the book are beautifully produced. I’ve poured my soul into it.

“What’s it about?” people ask me.

When I tell them, “It’s the story of three siblings who survive the Armenian genocide of 1915 with the help of the guardian spirit of an eagle,” I’ve learned that I better get my smile under control.

Genocide and smiles do not go together.

And yet I know that “smile-worthy” hope and the power of the imagination fill this story, even as it minces no words about the violence. The three young siblings not only survive, but they survive intact, because their imaginations protect them. Ardziv, the eagle, embodies imagination. Just as he protects the young ones as they journey, he protects the readers.

Ardziv also protected me as I wrote this story.

Like Water on Stone, grew out of one the very few things my mother told me about her own mother’s life: “After her parents were killed, she and her younger brother and sister hid during the day and ran at night from their home in Palu to the orphanage in Aleppo.”


I was in elementary school when I learned this, and it took me decades to fill in the flesh around those bare bones. I knew this story had to be told, especially in the face of global politics that allow for continued denial of this first genocide of the 20th century. But I knew it had to be told in a way that would pull readers along, instead of punishing them.

The story flowed out in lyrical free verse instead of prose, the abundant white space providing safety for the reader, just as Ardziv does. The crumbling Ottoman Empire, whose leaders orchestrated the genocide, is distant in time, space, and experience for readers. Free verse evokes the feeling of foods, music, dances, and ritual from another land. Because it works through metaphor and magic, free verse also shows all that was physically lost, and how it persists in the imaginations of survivors.

Palu roof
Keeping my Armenian identity hidden, I had traveled to my grandparents’ homeland the summer of 1984. With the hospitality characteristic of the region, I was welcomed into people’s homes and fed foods I had known my whole life. In Palu, I asked locals if they knew of any mills—my great grandfather had been a miller. I was sent across the eastern branch of the Euphrates River on a modern bridge next to a crumbling one built of stone, and into the woods when I found a mill, set along the banks of a stream. On the rooftop the woman of the house served me tea, a half dozen children watching us, mounds of apricots drying in the sun.

Palu Mill Wheel
When I asked about the mill’s history she told me that it had been in her family for sixty years, but before that it had belonged to Armenians. Joy and pain converged as I thought this could perhaps have been my family’s home.

Psychologist Paul Ekman—who has spent a lifetime analyzing the connection between emotion and facial expression— shows us that when we remember the death of a loved one, our faces reflect a blend of strong sadness, moderate anger and moderate joy.

When a book touches me, it passes the “tear test”-- bringing tears to my eyes not because of sadness but because of connection.

We write to connect. We read to connect. Connecting is complicated. Our faces reflect that.

This human capacity for hope, magical thinking, and imagination in the face of the deepest pain, builds a bridge from the dark places to joy. We know this complexity and connection in the marrow of our bones, that place where our bodies make our blood and keep us flowing.

Human connection deserves our widest smiles.

Cynsational Giveaway

Enter to win a signed copy of Like Water on Stone by Dana Walrath (Delacorte, 2014). Author sponsored. U.S. only. a Rafflecopter giveaway

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2. Favorite Holiday Recipes by Margot Justes


In many of my baking recipes you will detect an underlying theme-rum-the wonderful aroma of rum adds a festive touch to the baking process, and Myers’s is an excellent dark rum.

Fudge
½ cup of butter (1 stick)
1 large can of evaporated milk
2 oz bitter chocolate (I only use Ghirardelli chocolate)
12 oz semi sweet or dark chocolate chips (I use dark chocolate 70% or higher)
2 lbs sugar (4 ½ cups)
12 oz dark chocolate
½ lb marshmallows
1 ½ tbsp Vanilla
1 cup of chopped walnuts (I use 2 cups)
1 cup of raisins (I soak mine in dark rum overnight, and mix the rum and the raisins.

Combine butter, canned milk and sugar, stir over medium heat until sugar is dissolved, cook to a boil, about 5 minutes.

Turn off heat and add marshmallows, stir until melted, add the 3 types of chocolate, one at a time, stir until each is dissolved. Add vanilla and nuts, raisins with rum and stir.

Line a cookie sheet with saran wrap, extending the edges; pour the fudge into the cookie pan, spread evenly with knife or spatula.

Let dry for 2 days. Invert the fudge unto your counter, remove saran wrap and let dry for another 2 days. Cut into squares and serve.

This recipe makes quite a bit of fudge, I cut it all up and store in a sealed plastic bag, or tin. My family loves the fudge; usually it doesn’t last very long. Makes a great gift too.
Banana-Nut-Rum Bread
½ cup cooking oil
1 cup sugar
2 eggs-beaten
4 or 5 ripe bananas-mashed
2 cups Flour (I use whole wheat)
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup chopped nuts
1 cup of chocolate chips
1 cup of raisins (I soak mine in rum overnight)

Beat oil and sugar together. Add the beaten eggs and banana pulp and beat well. Add the dry ingredients, milk and vanilla. Mix well and stir in nuts, raisins with rum, and chocolate chips. Pour into greased and floured loaf pan (9 x 5 x 3) I use lasagna pan, cooks more evenly.

Bake in preheated oven at 350 F for about an hour. Cool well before cutting.

Rum Balls
2 1/2 cups Vanilla Wafers
5 1/2 cups ground walnuts
1 cup of honey
1 cup of rum
1 cup or as needed confectioner’s sugar
Mix all ingredients, form into small balls and roll in sugar. I usually let them sit on foil paper for a day or so and then arrange on platter. You may need to sprinkle them with additional powdered sugar.

Poppy Seed Cake
This one takes time, but if you like poppy seeds, you’ll love this coffee cake.
1 cup of milk
1 package of active dry yeast
1 tsp sugar
1 cup of butter (2 sticks)
1/3 cup of sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs
4 1/4 cups of flour
2 tsp vanilla

Scald milk, cool to a warm temp, add yeast and 1 tsp sugar; stir to dissolve yeast. Let stand for about 10 minutes. Yeast should puff up in the milk.
Cream butter, add 1/2 cup of sugar, beat in eggs and salt. Add flour alternating with yeast mixture. Knead on floured surface. Place in greased bowl and cover. Let rise until doubled.
Cut dough in half and roll it out the length of your cookie sheet, spread the poppy seed filling and form into a log, sealing the ends. Put on cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.  The two rolls should fit on cookie sheet. Repeat with the second batch of dough.

Poppy Seed Filling (double the recipe for the two cakes)
1 can of poppy seed filling (I use Solo)
Rind of 1 lemon
3/4 cup of chopped walnuts
11/2 tsp vanilla
3/4 raisins
Mix all ingredients and spread on rolled out dough.
1 egg slightly beaten and 1 tsp of water; mix egg and water and brush on cakes.
Let the cakes rise for a couple of hours, brush again with egg mixture, and then put in pre-heated oven at 350F and bake for an hour. Cool and enjoy.

Hot Chocolate
This is my version, with extra dark chocolate.
1 8 oz glass of milk, I use skim. (I conserve calories wherever I can...she wrote laughingly)
1 Tablespoon dark unsweetened Ghirardelli cocoa (I like the unsweetened cocoa, the flavor is much stronger)
4 squares Ghirardelli 72% dark or 2 tablespoons Ghirardelli dark chocolate chips
(optional)

Heat milk and cocoa, make sure cocoa and milk are well blended, use a small wisk if necessary. When the milk is hot take 4 squares or 2 tablespoons of Ghirardelli dark chocolate chips (to taste) put it in and mix until completely melted. You can sprinkle a bit of shaved chocolate on top. Sweeten to taste, or add a few small marshmallows on top.  

You can of course use sugar or sweetened cocoa, but it's the good cocoa and dark chocolate that gives it the added richness. It is a delicious treat, and easy to make. 

I love hot cocoa, and use the Bialetti machine to speed the process up a little. It heats up and froths the milk at the same time. I even use it to froth a large quantity of milk for cappuccinos, and lattes.

These are among my favorite recipes during the holiday season that starts with Halloween and ends with the New Year.

I wish you much joy and peace.

Cheers,
Margot  Justes

Blood Art
A Fire Within
A Hotel in Paris
A Hotel in Bath
Hot Crimes Cool Chicks
www.mjustes.com

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3. On the Passing of Norman Bridwell, Creator of Clifford the Big Red Dog

ins_artsbeat1

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I was hired by Scholastic as a junior copywriter back in 1985 for the princely sum of $11,500. To get the initial interview, I mailed in my near-empty resume and a writing sample, which addressed the hot topic of the day, Bernie Goetz, New York’s “subway shooter.”

After the first set of interviews with Willie Ross and Carol Skolnick, I was given a bunch of children’s books and asked to write about them in two voices. First, for young children, and secondly, for teachers. Writing about Curious George to students, I wrote something like, “Yikes! That silly monkey is in trouble again!” For teachers, the idea was to take a different tone, such as, “In this classic tale, award-winning author H.A. Rey conveys the hilarious antics of Curious George, one of the most enduring and beloved characters in all of children’s literature.”

I got the job writing the SeeSaw Book Club.

One of the first assignments I was asked to perform was to write a brief promotional brochure on three authors: Ann McGovern, Johanna Hurwitz, and Norman Bridwell. I was given their phone numbers, told to call them, set up an interview.

“Call them?” I asked.

“Yes.”

“On the phone?” I asked.

“Yes.”

“Um, me?”

“Yes, you.”

I stared at that phone for a few minutes, mustered up my courage, and pushed the numbers.

That’s the first time I spoke with Norman Bridwell. He was then, as he would forever remain, a humble, soft-spoken, generous man. The first Clifford book, published in 1963, came out in two-color, in an inexpensive, horizontal format. It looked cheap, because it was. But in the early 80s somebody at Scholastic had the bright idea of repackaging those books in a mass market, 8″ x 8″ format — and in virbrant full color. The books took off and the Big Red Dog became one of the great success stories in children’s literature. In fact, one can accurately imagine the Scholastic corporation as a great sled with Clifford the Big Red Dog hauling it through the snow. That benign character helped propel a company to greatness.

Through it all, Norman remained the same kind, gentle man. No one ever spoke badly of him. No one, not ever.

He was always courteous, generous, kind. Even grateful, I think. Norman always seemed to consider himself lucky. And the truth is, he was fortunate. I don’t think anyone makes it really big in this business without a little luck shining down on you. Norman understood that.

NETFLIX, INC. SCHOLASTIC INC. CLIFFORD THE BIG RED DOG

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He deserved his success, for he had created something pure and genuine that touched hearts, and through it all he remained faithful to the essential core of what those books were all about. The love between a child and her dog, with a bunch of jokes and gags thrown in to get you to that final hug.

One other quick story about Clifford. It was sometime later, let’s call it the early 1990s, and I was in Ed Monagle’s office, chatting away. At that time, I’d moved upstate, gone freelance, and was trying to survive as a writer. (True story: I’m still trying to survive as a writer.) Ed was a terrific guy, but also a numbers guy. A financial analyst, chief bean counter at Scholastic. Ed cared about the books, and believed in the central mission of the company, but he was also impressed by profit-and-loss statements. He admired Clifford’s sales numbers, and respected the size of Norman’s royalty checks.

So on this day, Ed gave me some friendly advice. He said, “Jimmy, this is what you’ve got to do. You’ve got to invent a character that everyone loves. Look at Clifford the Big Red Dog. Do you have any idea how many of those books we sell? You could do that!” he continued. “I mean, think about Clifford. He’s a dog. He’s big. He’s red. How hard could it be?!

That’s the thing with magic, I guess. It never looks difficult.

Ed was right, of course, the idea was laughably simple. He was also completely wrong. Clifford the Big Red Dog was an exceptional idea, marvelous in its simplicity, executed to perfection.

Not so easy after all.

Norman Bridwell passed away this week. And I’m here to say, very quietly, that he was a really good guy. I’m sorry to see him go.

 

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4. Author Interview with Krysten Lindsay Hager

It’s Author Interview Thursday and I’m happy and sad. I’m sad because today will be our last interview for the year but I’m super happy because we have a full roaster of inspiring authors lined up for the new year.Krysten Lindsay Hager Some of the authors lined up for 2015, have been admired by yours truly from afar and I’m so glad we both get a chance to learn something new and inspiring. On the hot seat today is a lady from the beautiful state of Ohio. She is an international bestselling author and her book ‘True Colors’ has gained a fanbase on several continents. She writes in different genres and loves making authors look good. I’m so glad she’s with us today and please have her name etched somewhere on your medulla oblongata as I believe you’ll be hearing more of it in the days to come. She has a lot to share with us today, so please join me in welcoming Krysten Lindsay Hager.

 

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and the first time someone complemented you on something you had written?

I’m a writer who used to work in journalism. The first time I got attention for something I wrote was when I won a writing contest in the first grade. I won a little clown doll (a cute one, not one of those scary ceramic clowns that can give a kid nightmares) for a school-wide essay contest.

 

What can a reader expect when they pick up a book written by Krysten Lindsay Hager?

I always write with humor because even the most difficult times in life are easier to take with a little humor.

 

What role would you say social media plays in building an author’s platform and have you found it helpful in marketing your books? True Colors Book Cover

I think it helps people know who you are as a person and a bit of what they can expect from your work. A lot of people who knew me before reading the book have said, “Oh, I can hear you in the novel.” Some people have said when Landry and her mom argue in the book about Landry modelling that you can hear me with my adult view of modelling versus my view of it at Landry’s age.

 

You write in multiple genres like Young Adult, Middle Grade and Adult Fiction. Has this created any unique challenges and how have you overcome them?

The only difference is some of the themes you touch on. I wouldn’t use anything political in a middle grade/YA book, but I can do that in an adult piece. And obviously any dating situation is different. But a lot of the emotions stay the same no matter what the age.

 

What were some of your favourite books as a child? 

I love Judy Blume’s Just as Long as We’re Together, My Mother was Never a Kid by Francine Pascal, The Great Mom Swap by Betsy Haynes, and Goodbye, Glamour Girl by Erika Tamar. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve re-read those books.

 

What book or film has the best dialogue that inspires you to be a better writer and why?

F. Scott Fitzgerald has such a way with dialogue. The Great Gatsby is a favourite. I’ll never understand why they assign it in middle school though. I didn’t appreciate it until later in life.

 

How do you reward yourself once your book is published? talk show set

I may have bought myself a bracelet and a necklace, but I can justify them both since the bracelet is similar to the one Landry wears in the True Colors (with a heart charm) and the butterfly necklace will appear in the sequel, Best Friends...Forever?

 

Toy Story or Shrek?

Toy Story all the way.

 

What three things should a first time visitor to Ohio do?

Well, I’m a book lover so I’m going to say check out Joseph-Beth Booksellers and Books & Co—both gorgeous bookstores. There’s an Air Force museum here and I personally love the train museum with all the little miniature displays of houses and towns. I have to say though that it throws me not living near the Great Lakes though. I’m from Michigan and I miss the lakes so I try to get home when I can.

 

With Christmas around the corner, can you tell us the most memorable gift you received growing up?  On a TV Show

I know I should say something like the gift of family togetherness, but let’s be honest, what can beat a Barbie Dream House? Kudos to my dad who spent ALL day putting that thing together…and was an awesome Ken…even if he spoke in a falsetto voice whenever he was Ken.

 

What can we expect from Krysten Lindsay Hager in the next 12 months?

I have a sequel to True Colors called, Best Friends…Forever? (Book 2: Landry’s True Colors series) coming out in 2015. I’m also working on another MG book, two YA ones and an adult humor novel. And I’m working on the third Landry book in the Landry’s True Colors series.

 

Where can readers and fans connect with you?

My website: http://www.krystenlindsay.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KrystenLindsayHagerAuthor

Twitter: https://twitter.com/KrystenLindsay

Instagram: http://instagram.com/krystenlindsay

Amazon author page: http://www.amazon.com/Krysten-Lindsay-Hager/e/B00L2JC9P2/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1

 

Any advice for authors out there who are either just starting out or getting frustrated with the industry? TrueColorsbannerwebsite

If a writer is just starting out then I’d suggest taking a literature class to learn from the best—the classics. I’d also say to take as many classes on writing, literature as you can as well as going to conferences and workshops. You can never learn enough. If you’re getting frustrated then I’d say to write the story you want to read and not worry about whether or not it gets published. Take all that pressure off yourself and enjoy the whole writing process. The work will be a lot better that way and that will increase your chances of publication. Even if it doesn’t get published, the focus should be on the journey, not the destination.

 

Awesome! Thanks for not holding back and sharing so much from your journey. I think as authors we sometimes get frustrated and it’s because we take our eyes off of the ‘main thing’ – our calling to write. Please connect with Krysten at one of the links she provided. Check out Krysten’s books and grab a copy for yourself or a loved one. Also remember to share this interview using the social buttons below and leave a comment. Merry Christmas!

1 Comments on Author Interview with Krysten Lindsay Hager, last added: 12/18/2014
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5. Colum McCann, on the readerly reaction that would complete us

In this week's New Yorker, in a piece called "The Word Shed," Colum McCann writes of his father, a features editor and author, typing away in a shed. McCann, at the time, was a kid. Wanted to play soccer. Didn't pay his father's two-fingered typing much mind.

Until a book his Dad wrote appeared, written for kids, called "Goals for Glory," the story of a boy without much money who dreamed of soccer triumphs.  McCann read the story by flashlight, he says. One year later, when the book was published, he took it to school, where his teacher read one chapter per week to McCann and his classmates.

I pick up McCann's telling of this perfect story here:
I will never forget Christopher Howlett, my red-headed desk mate, jumping around like a prayer in an air raid as Mr. Kells reached the final page. Georgie scored the winning goal. The classroom erupted. The kid from my father's shed—that tangle of hair that had somehow sprung up from behind a typewriter ribbon—was carried with us outside the school gates, down Mart Lane, through the swamp, and into the field at the back of Dunnes Stores, where, with a soggy leather ball at our feet, we all became Georgie, at least for a minute or two.
Two days ago, I wrote here of why I write, of how it calms me, of how it releases me, for a spell, from the world. I'd like to amend that post to say this as well:

I write for that one reader (there need be only one) who may "jump around like a prayer in an air raid" while reading toward or listening for the story's end.

Do we love Colum McCann? Oh, yes we do. Do we love his dad? That, too.

(Oh how I came to own three copies of Transatlantic, and other McCann love.)




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6. 21-Days to Goal: How to Be Your Best at the Start of the New Year Starting Today!

The trick to starting off the new year on more solid-footting, begin now.

1) Think about how you'd like 2015 to be for yourself personally (I appreciate how difficult the task to separate yourself out from your family and friends and community at large. For this exercise, try). If the entire year feels too daunting, visualize simply the very best January you can imagine.

2) Write a long-term - 21day -- goal of the skill(s), belief(s), ability(s), habit(s) you wish to take into the new year that best serves your vision. Write the 21-day goal in the present-tense.

3) List specific steps you plan to take, starting today, to position yourself in the direct light of your vision for 2015.

4) Schedule and mark the next 21-days on your calendar the specific steps on your list:
  • daily writing
  • sitting at your computer for 5-minutes
  • unplugging 3 times a day from negative emotions to positive affirmations
  • 21 days with a Plot Planner and 10 minutes daily questioning your characters, twisting the action and mining the meaning
  • making a Plot Planner for your life with your goal at the highest point (see the Plot Tips banner) and working backwards for what to do daily to move one step nearer to your glory in 21-days.
5) Everyday, check off another success on your calendar. Turn to 2015. On January 4th, greet the new year changed and better aligned with your vision of the future.

0 Comments on 21-Days to Goal: How to Be Your Best at the Start of the New Year Starting Today! as of 12/17/2014 1:30:00 PM
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7. (Re)Evaluating a Year

The year is coming to a close.

When 2014 first opened up, there were shiny new ideas, bursts of energy, and an overall hopeful outlook of a clean slate. It was a chance to get things right, get things done, and end the year with a feeling of accomplishment.

There were the things we thought we would manage: distractions, obligations, responsibilities.

But then there were the things we never saw coming: illness, social injustices, death of loved ones.

The year may have worn us all down. It could have been small cuts. Or devastating blows. Or deep wounds that are still quite not healed.

Either way, you’re standing on the cusp of a new year and you may not feel that you’ve done what you wanted. Now at the end, you may be left with the feeling that another year has slipped by. One more chance has been wasted. The initial evaluation of the year looks like another wash-up. No real successes. Another failure.

Maybe not.

Maybe it wasn’t at all bad. Let go of evaluating the disappointments, lost battles, and setbacks. Maybe instead concentrate on all the good things that happened to you in 2014. Focus instead on the intangible successes and give gratitude for your blessings — no matter how small. Make a list.

For me, here are some things from my list:

  • Being recognized and valued for my skills at my job
  • Selling my house and moving to the city
  • Developing a morning writing routine
  • Creating a total of 45K new words
  • Keeping the promise to travel for quarterly vacations
  • Making beautiful memories with my father
  • Listening to my heart and giving it a voice

I’m sure you can make your own list as well. Write it out. Glow in its truth and then get ready to face 2015 not as broken and bitter but as open and optimistic.

0 Comments on (Re)Evaluating a Year as of 12/17/2014 9:10:00 AM
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8. Last Sale of the Year

I didn’t want to join the Spammy crowd of emails we get this time of year of prolonged Cyber Sales, but I did want to cut a break for my readers and students. So, I give you the

Last Sale of the Year

Sale on my Healing Fairy Alphabet Deck, which is receiving rave reviews. Get your deck for yourself or a fab-u-lous gift for a friend HERE, who will totally dig it. Thank you for those rave reviews, by the way. (I’ve also been developing curriculum to go with the deck for Nature Education purposes.) If you have a deck, consider signing up for the Healing Fairy Alphabet Deck course over here to learn tips and the dress cards’ secrets.

deck5

Early Bird Rates especially for new class, Wild Worlds Within, that start in January. Reserve your space now with cool lower rates. Head over to the catalog to peruse. Sale is only until end of Thursday, the 17th!

 


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9. Sorry To See You Go

My technophobic wife has taken an increasing shine to internet shopping.

Point, click, receive, wrap… Point, click, receive, wrap…

At this point, you might be thinking this is another husband-rant about all of the clicking activity and the bill that will come due in January. Well, that may be a subject for another post (I hope the title changes), but right now I’m trying to wrap my mind around the amount of email spam that her clicking has brought us. You see, we share an email account. Mistake? Maybe… but it has worked thus far.

Here is the problem, cleaning my inbox is the one thing I’m OCD about. I need it to be current or I lose focus. At work, I churn through emails faster than a Gopher on balsa-wood. If I can answer it immediately, it is gone. If it makes me mad, gone. If it is ambiguous and may not pertain to me, whoops, I hit delete. My inbox is squeaky-clean. The one at work, that is.

The shared inbox at home gets bogged down in December with order confirmations, shipping information, and advertisements. Oh the advertisements. Did I mention my wife is a technophobe? So, while she has mastered the checkout function of two hundred seventy-four websites, I can’t convince her that they won’t think any less of her if she unchecks the little box that says, “Would you like us to send you an ungodly amount of emails that are irrelevant, obnoxious, and likely to cause enmity between husband and wife?”

I should be working a second job to prepare for the aforementioned bill, but I spend my December trying to unsubscribe from every mailing list known to mankind. Only they lie to you when they allow you to hold the illusion that leaving them is an option. It’s a web of deceit – an impossibility. You cannot be removed from mailing lists. “You have been removed from our mailing list. We are sorry to see you go” is a lie from the bowels of the earth.

unsubscribe

What the little button should say is, “Thank you for verifying your existence, I will now torture you every fifteen minutes with a blinking email reminder of your incompetence.”

After trying unsuccessfully to remove our email address from yet another list, I marched to the den, bowed out my chest, and sternly gave my wife an ultimatum!

“Either you learn to uncheck the subscribe button, or we are changing our email address!”

 

Women don’t like ultimatums.

 

Of course, our email address remains the same and though wounded and alone, I am off to fight a MailChimp.


Filed under: It Made Me Laugh

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10. #BookADay: ALONG A LONG ROAD by Frank Viva (Little, Brown Books For Young Readers)

#bookaday: ALONG A LONG ROAD by fellow Canadian Frank Viva (Little, Brown). Love the simple palette and gorgeous retro-style art as well as the glossy yellow road (you can't help but want to touch the pages) that runs throughout.

More about Frank Viva on his website and you can also find him on Twitter at @VIVAandCO.

More info about ALONG A LONG ROAD on the Little, Brown Books for Young Readers website.

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Find out more about Donalyn Miller's Book-A-Day Challenge on the Nerdy Book Club site, and you can read archives of my #BookADay posts.

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11. My tweets

  • Tue, 17:14: Whenever anyone commits crimes against children, they commit crimes against humanity. Politically-motivated crimes against kids? Always evil
  • Tue, 17:16: You can check out UNICEF's page for what you can do to stop violence against children. http://t.co/xQcRKgGFPc #taliban

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12.

dowpostcard holiday feast kathy


Filed under: Uncategorized

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13. What Makes Your Sidekick Interesting?

Recently, I've posted about how to make your protagonist and antagonist interesting. Today I'm going to write about a character who never gets as much attention as those two, the sidekick.

First of all, your story might have multiple sidekicks. Both the antagonist and the protagonist might have a sidekick, and they might even have a different sidekick in different scenes. I'm going to focus on the hero's sidekick, his bestie, but what I say applies just as much to other sidekicks.

Have you ever read a story where the sidekick is just an extension of the hero, a helper character who sees the world in much the same way as the protagonist? Of course you have. It happens a lot. But to write a sidekick that way is to rob a ton of potential from the story.

A sidekick, like the protagonist and the antagonist, is her own person. Like all people, she has her own objectives and perspectives. She might be helping the protagonist win the day, but she's doing it for her own reasons. Sure, a big part of it might be loyalty to her best friend, but that loyalty only goes so far. As a person with her own views and needs and wants, she does everything to further her own agenda. Remember, every character has an agenda, and those agendas create conflict.

Just because two characters are best friends and are helping each other doesn't mean they always agree. The best sidekicks are an additional source of conflict. Think of Frodo and Sam, two characters whose affection for each other is almost sickening. They both want to get to Mt. Doom at all costs. And yet, there's conflict between them. As Frodo sinks into ring-induced paranoia, he no longer trusts Sam, and this causes trouble and, more importantly, enhances the plot.

The same is true of Luke and Leia, Harriet and Sport, and many other characters. In fact, the sidekick often seems much like another antagonist.

The sidekick provides help and shows the protagonist other ways of thinking, but at the same time, the relationship is often strained by conflicting goals and differing views. In many stories, the protagonist and sidekick aren't even friends. They might not even like each other. They might be reluctantly traveling the same road.

Remember, stories depend on conflict. There shouldn't be anything in the story, including your hero's sidekick, that does not add more conflict and peril. There is probably no other character who gives you more opportunity to add emotion and heartbreak as the sidekick.

As the hero's life goes out of control, she needs to be steadied by her sidekick. But the sidekick has his own ideas, and is sometimes unable to offer the support. He might even oppose the hero's goals and actions. Best friends, siblings, and spouses all oppose each other sometimes.

One of the most important things to remember as you write is that every character is a person, and every person has his or her own story. That the stories intersect in the one you are telling doesn't mean their individual paths are any less distinct. This is true whether characters appear to ultimately be on the same side or not.

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14. Parallelogram 4 Update!

Parallelogram 4

Parallelogram 4 will be available for pre-order in January. Stay tuned for the exact date.

I AM SO EXCITED FOR YOU ALL TO READ THIS I CAN BARELY STOP TALKING IN CAPS.

But seriously. Even I kept saying as I wrote it, “What?? That happened?” about every other page.

Stay tuned. It’s happening.

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15. Gratitude Sets the Tone for a Positive Day


Last week I chatted about living a life of gratitude and journal writing. I hope you have taken the time out to do such each and every day! The positive benefits on your life are immense!

Today, I'd like to touch a bit on what I'm grateful for...

My husband... Tom - we've been together 29 years and of course we have hit our bumps in the road, but we always manage to circle back around and be there for each other.

My daughters... Nicole and Hayley - my girls fill me with pride and awe every day of their lives. Whether it be their steadfast focus on their individual goals or overcoming adversity in their lives they inspire me daily!

My family... no matter what obstacles have been thrown my way, my family... immediate and extended are always my loudest cheerleaders.

My girlfriends.... My mantra to my daughters is to hold on tight to your girlfriends for they are the ones who will always be there at a drop of a hat in your good and bad times, no questions asked. A great big shout out to (in alpha order)... Cynthia, Dawn, Lynn, Mary, Maureen, Michelle, Theresa and last but not least... of course my twin sister, Debbie!

Crittin' Chicks Critique Group... I big shout out goes to Karin and Marilyn.... without their expert and thorough critiques of my works-in-progress I would not be where I am today! Ladies enjoy the holiday season festivities and see you January 2015 as we recommence our critique sessions!

Wishing you all a daily life of gratitude.

I'll be offline through the new year enjoying the magic of the season and being present in each and every moment.

Cheers!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Best wishes,
Donna M. McDine
Multi Award-winning Children's Author

Ignite curiosity in your child through reading!

Connect with

A Sandy Grave ~ January 2014 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc. ~ 2014 Purple Dragonfly 1st Place Picture Books 6+, Story Monster Approved, Beach Book Festival Honorable Mention 2014, Reader's Favorite Five Star Review

Powder Monkey ~ May 2013 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc. ~ Story Monster Approved and Reader's Favorite Five Star Review

Hockey Agony ~ January 2013 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc. ~ Story Monster Approved and Reader's Favorite Five Star Review

The Golden Pathway ~ August 2010 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc. ~ Literary Classics Silver Award and Seal of Approval, Readers Favorite 2012 International Book Awards Honorable Mention and Dan Poynter's Global e-Book Awards Finalist

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16. Haven't I seen you someplace before? Dueling covers of scary woods

These are all so similiar I almost wonder if they all came from the same stock photo shoot:
UnknownUnknown Unknown
Unknown-19780062257390Unknown

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17. Classroom Connections: SKIES LIKE THESE by Tess Hilmo

age range: 7-12
setting: Wyoming
Tess Hilmo’s website

“Drawing on rich Western lore and creating characters as gritty as the earth itself, Hilmo paints a picture of a town where everyone is connected . . . A heartening, comforting story with enough tension to keep readers hooked.” – Kirkus Reviews

“A robust cast of well-developed characters and a delightful, swiftly moving plot will leave readers wishing for Jade to extend her stay in Wyoming.” – School Library Journal

Please tell us about your book.

Skies Like These is a fun, friendship-filled novel with a cowboy twist! It’s intended for the middle grade audience (ages 7-12).

What inspired you to write this story?

My husband and I celebrated our 40th birthday (which are just a couple of weeks apart) by taking our friends on a bus ride up the canyon by our home for a chuck wagon dinner party. At that party, a fun story about Butch Cassidy was told and I sat there under a breathtaking star filled sky thinking, “Wouldn’t it be fun to write a modern-day twist on a Butch Cassidy story?” And I did! Skies Like These was inspired by that fun night with friends – by the Western skies I am privileged to live under – and by the crazy tales of heroes gone by and heroes longing to be. I also think of it as a nod to The Great Brain series I loved so much growing up. It’s full of hijinx and outrageous fun!

Could you share with readers how you conducted your research or share a few interesting tidbits you learned while researching?

Wyoming is a beautiful state, and I got to visit the original Butch Cassidy hide outs and follow his outlaw trail. What fun! One interesting thing I learned is that Butch Cassidy is considered the Robin Hood of the West. His fight was against the big cattle barons and rail road companies that were squeezing the life out of local ranchers. He often supported the less fortunate and he was a man of his word. There is one story where he was in camp and a member of his Wild Bunch gang brought in a stolen horse. When Butch learned the horse was stolen from a young boy in town, Butch made his co-cowboy take the horse back and apologize. He then made him walk many miles back to their hideout on foot as a punishment. He wasn’t just an outlaw cowboy, he was a NICE outlaw cowboy with a cause!

What are some special challenges associated with writing SKIES LIKE THESE?

The challenge for this novel was to write about a historical figure in a modern-day setting….to blend the two worlds of long ago and today and make it feel fresh, fun and interesting.

What topics does your book touch upon that would make it a perfect fit for the classroom?

There are so many! Here are a few great discussion topics:

1. What makes us who we are? Is it our heritage – where we come from and who our family is? Or is it what we do with each day we are given?

2. Roy says a line in the book, “I know you’re hurting and you have a choice. You can cowboy up and climb this tree or you can just lay there and bleed.” What are determining moments in our lives? How can we overcome our hurts and fears and show courage?

3. Is it better to take a risk or avoid all risks? How do we determine which risks are okay and which are too much? Have you ever felt like Jade and thought the perfect summer would be stretching out on the couch and watching old TV re-runs all day?

4. What would be your perfect summer vacation?

The post Classroom Connections: SKIES LIKE THESE by Tess Hilmo appeared first on Caroline Starr Rose.

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18. Harts Pass No. 231

There is, of course, a biological argument to be made for hibernation, but winter IS pretty great. Wolverines don't worry about this at all, but a quick question, do south American animals hibernate on the same seasonal cycle? I suspect that they do, but I'm going find out for sure. And as my daughter reminds me each recent morning, "only single digit days 'til Christmas!"


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19. Moonbeam Gold Medal - literally!


I am not even believing what arrived in the mail Monday! An actual MEDAL - my Gold Moonbeam Children's Book Award MEDAL. It was forwarded to me along with a lovely free-trade bracelet, stickers to put on my books, and a note from fellow pickle, Audrey Litner – the one who came up with the great tag line for A BIRD ON WATER STREET: "When the birds return to Water Street, will anyone be left to hear them sing?"
     Never at a loss for words, she also included the lovely quote:

"La reconnaissance set la memoirs du coeur." by Jean Baptiste Massieu
     I think it translates into "Recognition is the heart of memories" or some such. Does anybody have a clearer translation? Audrey?
Answer! Marcy says it means "Gratitude is the memory of the heart!
     At any rate, as if I wasn't feeing special enough!
     Having never won a medal before, I had to wear it around the house. Let me tell you, that sucker is heavy and it kept hitting my tummy. ("Heavy medal" - Ha!) I don't know how the important people do it!! It certainly won't let you forget it's there. Wowsa - what a hoot!
     THANK YOU to my fellow pickles at Little Pickle Press!!!

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20. Origami, Paper Sculpture, and More

Violet and Victor Write the Best-Ever Bookworm Book was released earlier this month, and in its honor, I made a video about creating the images. Prior to V&V, I used pen and ink and watercolor on paper for my illustrations—a style that I adore, but one that also comes with many limitations. V&V used a wide range of traditional and not-so-traditional media, all combined in Photoshop. With this new style, I had almost no limitations. It was both exhilarating and panic inducing, but mostly, it taught me to trust in the process; I spent months working on the individual bits and pieces that would eventually come together to make the images.


To learn more, please check out the (3-minute) video. As usual, I am indebted to my brother for his music.


Artist's statement from the book
"The illustrations in this book began with graphite pencil sketches on paper. Because this story is, in many ways, an homage to the printed page, we wanted to include a variety of books and library materials in the images. I've always loved a good scavenger hunt, and this one proved to be quite gratifying as I hunted down the building blocks for each spread—books with embossed covers, antique maps, and well-worn library cards to name a few. I learned origami, I painted over old book covers, and I made cut paper sculptures. I took photos of the three dimensional elements. I even wrangled my six year old daughter into doing some of the lettering. All of these ingredients were assembled in Adobe Photoshop to create the final illustrations." 

Finally, I leave you with the following news that made me (born in Canada) smile this week—V&V on the Canadian Indies Bestseller list. Happy Holidays!




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21. The Long Way Home by Louise Penny

Peter Morrow hadn't returned after the year he and Clara had agreed upon for his return so the search for Peter began. Of course, Armand Gamache was asked to be involved even though he had retired from the police force.

THE LONG WAY HOME has the well-known, well-loved residents of Three Pines we all are familiar with and the residents that make Louise Penny's books ones I enjoy reading.

THE LONG WAY HOME was a bit different from her other books.  Instead of solving a murder, the Three Pines residents were working together to find Peter.


This book was different because of the way the investigation took place.  Gamache actually was not in charge; Clara was.  It discussed muses and different art terms.  It was more about artists than the solving of a regular murder mystery, but the characters as always worked beautifully together.

​I can't say I didn't like THE LONG WAY HOME, but it is quite different from her other books and took a bit of getting used to.  Regardless of the style and plot, though, THE LONG WAY HOME still had the pull all of her books have on you. ​

​Ms. Penny's books usually involve emotions. THE LONG WAY HOME was specifically about happiness, sadness, and finding oneself.​  4/5


This book was given to me free of charge and without compensation by the publisher in return for an honest review.

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22. Writing in multiple points of view

Question: I never know if I should write in first or third person. I always want to do first but I'm not always sure if it would work especially when there's

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23. PiBoIdMo Announcement and 2015 Sneak Peeks

Thank you for your patience with the PiBoIdMo winner announcements. I intend to get to them prior to year’s end, so I hope you’ll stick around just a while longer. Here, have a cookie. If you can catch him, that is.

gingy

All grand prize winners plus Pre-PiBo and Post-PiBo winners have been notified via email. If you were a winner and did not receive an email, please contact me.

In the meantime, let me leave you with a gentle reminder (which you don’t really need, do you?) to give a book as a gift this holiday! Garrison Keillor said it best…

bookgift

And since it’s almost 2015, here are sneak peeks from my upcoming titles to be released in August, September and October (talk about bada-bing, bada-boom-boom-BOOM!). Funny how these books were each signed within one year of each other, but they’re being released within one month of each other!

I THOUGHT THIS WAS A BEAR BOOK (Aladdin/S&S, August 2015)
illustrated by Benji Davies

bearyellowstone

NORMAL NORMAN (Sterling, September 2015)
illustrated by S.Britt

normandunebuggy

LITTLE RED GLIDING HOOD (Random House, October 2015)
illustrated by Troy Cummings

wolf (1)

Once again, thanks for your patience with the PiBoIdMo winner announcements.

And may you and your family have a joyful holiday season!

(I hope you receive some really cool writerly gift!)


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24. Dinotopia Episode 6

Today we continue with Episode Six of the serialized podcast of Dinotopia: A Land Apart from Time. To listen, click the orange play button below, or follow the link to the Soundcloud file.


Are there meateaters in Dinotopia? You bet! And in this episode we see what happens when you encounter them.

Arthur learns about the sabertooth cats that once lived in Waterfall City.

They outfit a convoy for a journey across the Rainy Basin, where tyrannosaurs present a constant threat.

And we witness Bix bravely face off against a T. rex.

The Podcast Series
This acoustic adventure was produced by Tom Lopez, mastermind of the ZBS Foundation, with an original music track by composer Tim Clark.

Episode 7 arrives in a week. Each short episode will only be live online for one week, and then it will disappear.

If you'd like to purchase the full two-hour Dinotopia podcast right now and hear all twelve episodes back to back in a feature-length production, check out Dinotopia at ZBS Foundation website for the MP3 download.
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You can also order the original book from my web store and I'll sign it for you. It's the ultimate holiday gift for the imaginative person in your life. (Ships via Media Mail within 24 hours of your order, so it may or may not arrive in time for Christmas. US orders only for the book, please). The Dinotopia book is also available from Amazon.
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There will be an exhibit of Dinotopia originals at the Stamford Museum and Nature Center in Connecticut from February 14 - May 25, 2015. I'll be giving an illustrated lecture there on Sunday, February 22.

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25. New Agency

Newly formed Rising Bear Literary Agency will represent picture book through young adult authors.

http://risingbear.com/about-us/

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