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Results 26 - 50 of 219,368
26. My tweets

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27. J.R. Johansson, author of CUT ME FREE, on being inspired by two vastly different concepts

What was your inspiration for writing CUT ME FREE?

My inspiration for CUT ME FREE was a very organic thing. I was in a writing group where they were joking around and challenged me to write something that featured a creepy puppet. While pondering how to do that in a way that hadn't already been done to death, I came across information on child trafficking and child abuse and how easy it is not to see it even when it is right in front of you. The true stories I was reading were absolutely horrifying and I think they changed me in some ways. They really stuck with me and opened my eyes. Anyway, somehow these two vastly different concepts floated around in my brain until one day they ran into each other and the foundation of CUT ME FREE came to life.

What scene was really hard for you to write and why, and is that the one of which you are most proud? Or is there another scene you particularly love?

There were so many difficult scenes to write in CUT ME FREE. It's not an easy book. This is a book that seems pretty polarizing. Some people love it and others can't handle it. I didn't gloss it over or make it seem less awful than it would be. It was important to me that this deal honestly with what the recovery of a victim looks like. It's a daily struggle and I wanted to be true to that. One scene that was very emotionally difficult for me to write was a scene a bit over halfway through where Charlotte/Piper is terrified and she's decided to run again. She is walking down the street in the middle of the night and she looks around herself and finally sees what she is doing. She sees that her life has become a series of times where she flees one situation after another. She sees how it is hurting the people she cares about and she decides that she needs to change things. It's a moment that is both scary and empowering. The emotional strength she required to make that decision was difficult to capture, but now that it's done, I love it and I'm very proud of it.

What are you working on now?

Thanks for asking! I'm currently working on a standalone contemporary thriller that will be released with Macmillan in the fall of 2016. We're doing revisions on it and getting it all shiny, which is my favorite part of the creative process. I'm also starting to prepare the next project which I think might be going back in the direction of a series and introduce fantastical elements of some sort again. More to come on that soon!


Cut Me Free
by J.R. Johansson
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Released 1/27/2015

Seventeen-year-old Charlotte barely escaped from her abusive parents. Her little brother, Sam, wasn't as lucky. Now she's trying to begin the new life she always dreamed of for them, but never thought she'd have to experience alone. She's hired a techie-genius with a knack for forgery to remove the last ties to her old life. But while she can erase her former identity, she can’t rid herself of the memories. And her troubled history won’t let her ignore the little girl she sees one day in the park. The girl with the bruises and burn marks.

That’s when Charlotte begins to receive the messages. Threatening notes left in her apartment--without a trace of entry. And they’re addressed to Piper, her old name. As the messages grow in frequency, she doesn’t just need to uncover who is leaving them; she needs to stop whoever it is before anyone else she loves ends up dead.

Purchase Cut Me Free at Amazon
Purchase Cut Me Free at IndieBound
View Cut Me Free on Goodreads


photo credit: Michelle Davidson ArgyleJ.R. JOHANSSON has a B.S. degree in public relations and a background in marketing. She credits her abnormal psychology minor with inspiring many of her characters. When she's not writing, she loves reading, playing board games, and sitting in her hot tub. Her dream is that someday she can do all three at the same time. She has two young sons and a wonderful husband. In fact, other than her cat, Cleo, she's nearly drowning in testosterone. J.R. lives in a valley between majestic mountains and a beautiful lake where the sun shines over 300 days per year.

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28. Free First Five Pages Workshop with Agent Shelby Sampsel Opens in One Week!

Our February workshop will open for entries at noon EST on Saturday, February 7, 2015. We'll take the first five Middle Grade, Young Adult, or New Adult entries that meet all guidelines and formatting requirements. In addition to our wonderful permanent mentors, we have the very talented Chelsea Pitcher, author of THE LAST CHANGELING.  If that wasn’t enough, in the final week agent Shelby Sampsel will not only review the first five pages, but a query letter too!


Chelsea Pitcher is a native of Portland, OR where she received her BA in English Literature. Fascinated by all things literary, she began gobbling up stories as soon as she could read, and especially enjoys delving into the darker places to see if she can draw out some light.
Chelsea’s paranormal fantasy, THE LAST CHANGELING, is available now!

 A Kingdom at War . . .

Elora, the young princess of the Dark Faeries, plans to overthrow her tyrannical mother, the Dark Queen, and bring equality to faeriekind. All she has to do is convince her mother’s loathed enemy, the Bright Queen, to join her cause. But the Bright Queen demands an offering first: a human boy who is a “young leader of men.” 

A Dark Princess In Disguise . . .

To steal a mortal, Elora must become a mortal—at least, by all appearances. And infiltrating a high school is surprisingly easy. When Elora meets Taylor, the seventeen-year-old who’s plotting to overthrow a ruthless bully, she thinks she’s found her offering . . . until she starts to fall in love.

We are thrilled to announce that Shelby Sampsel of the Vicky Bijur Literary Agency will be our guest agent for February – and Shelby has agreed to review a query letter, too! See below for Shelby’s bio!

Shelby Sampsel joined the Vicky Bijur Literary Agency after graduating from NYU. She comes to the agency with previous internship experience at Thomas Dunne Books, Simon and Schuster, Tor Books, Penguin Group, the Maria Carvainis Agency, and McIntosh and Otis. She is interested in Young Adult and New Adult Fiction as well as memoirs with a strong voice.

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29. Vermeer-related article

“Most rare workmen”: Optical practitioners in early seventeenth-century Delft”
Huib J. Zuidervaart and Marlise Rijks
The British Journal for the History of Science, pp. 1 – 33, (March 2014)

online article can be accessed at:

A special interest in optics among various seventeenth-century painters living in the Dutch city of Delft has intrigued historians, including art historians, for a long time. Equally, the impressive career of the Delft microscopist Antoni van Leeuwenhoek has been studied by many historians of science. However, it has never been investigated who, at that time, had access to the mathematical and optical knowledge necessary for the impressive achievements of these Delft practitioners. We have tried to gain insight into Delft as a ‘node’ of optical knowledge by following the careers of three minor local figures in early seventeenth-century Delft. We argue that through their work, products, discussions in the vernacular and exchange of skills, rather than via learned publications, these practitioners constituted a foundation on which the later scientific and artistic achievements of other Delft citizens were built. Our Delft case demonstrates that these practitioners were not simple and isolated craftsmen; rather they were crucial components in a network of scholars, savants, painters and rich virtuosi. Decades before Vermeer made his masterworks, or Van Leeuwenhoek started his famous microscopic investigations, the intellectual atmosphere and artisanal knowledge in this city centered on optical topics.

Especially of interest is the authors’ tie between three optical practitioners who lived in Delft simultaneously with Vermeer. One of them, Jacob Spoors, was in 1674 the notary of Vermeer and his mother-in-law Maria Thins. Another was an acquaintance of Spoors, the military engineer Johan van der Wyck, who made an optical device in Delft in 1654, most likely a camera obscura. A report about the demonstration in nearby The Hague has been preserved. Van der Wyck also made telescopes and microscopes and an apparatus that probably was a kind of perspective box. As a telescope maker he was preceded by Evert Harmansz Steenwyck, brother-in- law of the Leiden painter David Bailly and father of two Delft still-life painters: Harman and Pieter Steenwyck. The latter was familiar with Vermeer’s father Reynier Jansz Vermeer, at a time when the young Vermeer was still living with his parents. According to the authors, this is the first real archival evidence that such a device existed in Delft during Vermeer’s life.

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30. Michael Jensen and David Powers King, authors of WOVEN, on writing collaboratively

What was your inspiration for writing WOVEN?

WOVEN was inspired by a dream. Michael dreamed he was crushed by a tree and became a ghost. He could fly around and pass though objects. Nobody could see or hear him. Being a ghost was such a fascinating experience, he wanted to write a story where our readers could experience the same thing. It was after he met David that this dream soon became a reality.

What did this book teach you about writing or about yourself?

We could write a book about all the things we learned from writing WOVEN. One thing we both learned about writing is that each character must not speak, move or act without having a clear motivation for doing so. If their motivation is unclear, then they cease to be real people.

What do you hope readers will take away from WOVEN?

It’s clear by the end of that book what we hope our readers will take away from WOVEN, how important it is that love and being yourself is key to becoming whole and “woven.” If our readers walk away from WOVEN with a higher sense of self-worth and purpose, then our job is done.

How long or hard was your road to publication?

Our road to publication was unusual to say the least. After the rights for WOVEN were returned to us, the controversy with our previous publisher ignited a media frenzy that landed us offers of representation with six major literary agencies. All of the Big Five publishing houses requested and read the manuscript. After carefully weighing our options, we selected Meredith Bernstein to represent WOVEN in an action with major publishers. Scholastic made the best offer and they have been an absolute pleasure to work with.

What's your collaborative writing ritual like?

The “Lead Writing” approach has worked exceptionally well for us. That’s when one writer handles the initial draft while the other focusing on editing and adding elements. We always plan our chapters ahead of time. This has helped us streamline the presentation into one that is unique. You could say this would be a very different book if it was written by either of us on our own.

What are you working on now?

We intended WOVEN to be a great book by itself with the potential for more. We are now working on our own projects, another collaborative project, and drafting a companion novel for WOVEN with a different main character. It’s clear by the end of WOVEN who the character is.


by Michael Jensen and David Powers King
Scholastic Press
Released 1/27/2015

Two unlikely allies must journey across a kingdom in the hopes of thwarting death itself.

All his life, Nels has wanted to be a knight of the kingdom of Avërand. Tall and strong, and with a knack for helping those in need, the people of his sleepy little village have even taken to calling him the Knight of Cobblestown.

But that was before Nels died, murdered outside his home by a mysterious figure.

Now the young hero has awoken as a ghost, invisible to all around him save one person—his only hope for understanding what happened to him—the kingdom’s heir, Princess Tyra. At first the spoiled royal wants nothing to do with Nels, but as the mystery of his death unravels, the two find themselves linked by a secret, and an enemy who could be hiding behind any face.

Nels and Tyra have no choice but to abscond from the castle, charting a hidden world of tangled magic and forlorn phantoms. They must seek out an ancient needle with the power to mend what has been torn, and they have to move fast. Because soon Nels will disappear forever.

Purchase Woven at Amazon
Purchase Woven at IndieBound
View Woven on Goodreads


Michael Jensen is a graduate of Brigham Young University’s prestigious music, dance, and theater program. Michael taught voice at BYU before establishing his own vocal instruction studio. In addition to being an imaginative storyteller, Michael is an accomplished composer and vocalist. He lives in Salt Lake City with his husband and their four dogs.

Photo credit: Michael Schoenfeld

David Powers King was born in beautiful downtown Burbank, California where his love for film inspired him to become a writer. An avid fan of science fiction and fantasy, David also has a soft spot for zombies and the paranormal. He now lives in the mountain West with his wife and three children.

Photo credit: Katie Pyne Rasmussen

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31. Vermeer-related film


Girl with a Pearl earring and other Treasures from the Mauritshuis
produced by Exhibition on Screen
in cinemas from 13 January

from Exhibition on Screen’ website:
Girl with a Pearl Earring by Johannes Vermeer is one of the most enduring paintings in the history of art. Even today, its recent world tour garnered huge queues lining up for the briefest glimpse of its majestic beauty – In Japan 1.2 million people saw the exhibition. Yet the painting itself is surrounded in mystery. This beautifully filmed new documentary seeks to investigate the many unanswered questions associated with this extraordinary piece. Who was this girl? Why and how was it painted? Why is it so revered?

After its world tour, the Girl with a Pearl Earring returned to the much-loved Mauritshuis in The Hague, Netherlands, which has just completed extensive renovations. Enjoying unparalleled exclusive access to this historical exhibition, the film takes the audience on a journey as it seeks to answer many of the questions surrounding this enigmatic painting and its mysterious creator, Vermeer. Using the recently completed and highly complex makeover of the museum as its starting point, the film goes on a behind the scenes detective journey to seek out the answers that lie within the other masterpieces housed in the collection.

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32. Gayle Forman I WAS HERE Event Recap, Interview + Giveaway! #IWasHere


When I was introduced to Gayle Forman, I stuck out my hand for a handshake but she gave me a high five instead. In retrospect, that feels like a good way to sum up the entire Nashville leg of her I Was Here Tour, with special guests Ruta Sepetys (Between Shades of Gray, Out of the EasyCourtney C. Stevens (Faking Normal), and David Arnold (Mosquitoland).

Gayle Forman is the international bestselling author of If I Stay, Where She Went, Just One Day, and Just One YearFor her latest novel, I Was Here (read my review here), a story about friendship and loss and healing, Gayle decided to turn her book tour into a Friendship Tour, inviting other authors to join her at each tour stop and use the events to discuss community and the importance of relationships (along with books, of course.) 


The Nashville leg of the tour already promised to be excellent. Courtney, David, and Ruta are all close friends with excellent books (Mosquitoland has not yet hit shelves, but when it does, trust me, it's a keeper), and the Nashville writing community excels at showing up and celebrating book events. So when this tour stop was announced, everyone circling the date on their calendars already knew it would be something special.

But I'm not sure anyone fully anticipated the giant crowd that showed up, packing Parnassus Books from wall to wall. I'm not sure anyone expected the unintentional hilarity of a dramatic live reading of a passage from I Was Here, starring Gayle as the narrator, David as Cody, Ruta as Ben, and Courtney as Stoner Richard. I'm not sure anyone was prepared for the amount of admiration and support and wisdom that came from hearing the four authors speak about community and and inspiration striving for greatness.


The whole night was a handshake that turned into a high five. 

After watching and laughing as Gayle, Ruta, David, and Courtney reenacted a scene from I Was Here, the panel settled in to talk about why they were here, writing books for teens. Gayle believes friendship is a major theme in I Was Here, and also a big benefit of being part of the YA community. Everyone agreed, with David adding that he comes from the music industry, which he described as a "zero sum game," and that the YA community was refreshing as it is more about building each other up.

The panel talked a bit about jealousy of other writers and their work. Gayle doesn't believe it's necessarily a bad thing, saying "Jealousy is the emotion that tells me that someone did something truly wonderful." Courtney wasn't sure that jealousy was the right term, but did agree that her natural competitive nature thrives when she is surrounded by people she considers her betters, because it forces her to raise her game. 



They also discussed their writing processes, which vary from Ruta claiming she is a "bender writer" to Gayle sneaking in work on I Was Here while writing two other books, to Courtney isolating herself to finish a book and David writing in stolen moments at home while being a full time stay-at-home dad to his infant son.

An audience member asked for their best advice for aspiring writers, and the panel gave solid, pracitcal advice. Gayle urged writers to practice, practice, practice. "If you wanted to be a professional ice dancer, you wouldn't just walk onto the ice and assume you could do it. Writing is no different." She also encouraged writers to read widely, which the panel vehemently agreed with.

Ruta's advice was to find people you trust, let them read your work, and learn to take critique. Courtney told us to not be afraid to write it wrong (she admitted she had thrown away 2,000 pages of her upcoming novel, The Lies About Truth) and not to submit to agents or editors until it's the best book you can possibly make it. And David agreed, adding that while you have to take the time to make it right, you must find a sense of urgency in your writing.

Afterward, they discussed favorite childhood books, which ran the gamut from Beverly Cleary to the Chronicles of Narnia to Jackie Collins to Jurassic Park and Catcher in the Rye. Ruta Sepetys wound up passionately summarizing the plot of Ethan Frome, which I'm pretty sure no one saw coming. Then it was time for the signing, where all four authors interacted with excited fans, giving photos and hugs and encouragement for well over an hour. 

It was an amazing night, an uplifting night, and I was so grateful to be there, and to be part of the Nashville writing community. 

Before the event, I was given the opportunity to interview Gayle, and I hope you enjoy her answers as much as I did. There are some very minor spoilers in some of her answers, but nothing that will diminish the experience of reading I Was Here. (You can find my review for the book, which I loved, here.)

LT:  You’ve written that your inspiration for Meg was a real girl named Suzy Gonzales. Did you feel an obligation to Suzy while you were writing I WAS HERE? How did Suzy’s true story influence Meg’s fictional one?

GF:  You know, her true story was the thing that got me thinking about Meg, and Meg was what led me to Cody. It’s Cody’s story, so it really is about the fictional character. In terms of the responsibility I felt, it was a weird thing, because you’re using a character who’s based on a real live person and who’s not around anymore so there’s a huge amount of sympathy for this character. I don’t want people to be like, what a coward, or what a hero.  I want to see her as human. And when it was done and when I went to Suzy’s parents and I said, “I wrote this book, it’s up to you. I can completely disguise it so only a handful of people would ever recognize her and never mention her in connection, but what I would prefer to do is to dedicate the book to her and to talk about the link in the Author’s Note and talk about the work that you’ve done.” It was a little terrifying when they read the book, but they were really happy with it.

LT:  In I WAS HERE, Meg has a lot of people who love her, but they all miss the signs that she needed help. What would you say to the kids out there who feel like Meg?

GF:  The sad thing about Meg is that not everybody did miss the signs. Her parents knew what was going on and they thought that they were helping her and Tree certainly knew what was going on. And Cody just didn’t want to see what was going on right in front of her face, for a variety of reasons. She was too invested in Meg being the Meg that she knew. But what I want the takeaway to be is, if you are feeling these things that Meg is feeling, there is no difference between a mental disorder and a physical disorder. They both have a biochemical cause. There is tons of research about mental illness and the various brain chemistry, the causes of it. They also both create a physical manifestation. A lot of depression symptoms are physical. So this idea that if you came down with one, that of course you go to the doctor and you get treated, but the other one, you don’t and you hide it from people and you’re ashamed of it, that’s the thing. It’s like, you have this thing going on with you because there’s something going wrong with your body through no fault of yours. It’s not a weakness, it’s not a craziness. So anybody in that situation, that is a thing that I want them to see, is like, it’s no different than if you got pneumonia. You would seek help for it and you would take the proper medication that professionals told you to take. And if the first drug didn’t work, you would take another one until something helped. So that’s what I hope people who are suffering take from this.

LT:  One of the things I loved about I WAS HERE was the attention to detail, from the Seattle music scene to Meg’s quirky assortment of housemates to the Final Solution boards. What sort of research did you do to write the book, and what touches do you think are most important in a story to make the world feel authentic?

GF:  I know the Pacific Northwest pretty well. I’ve never set a book in the eastern part of it, but I knew it well enough, and I haven’t spent as much time in Eastern Oregon and Washington, but the time I had spent really kind of imprinted on me because it’s so physically beautiful, but there’s something about a lot of those towns that feel like a dead end. So that just kind of are the small details that I remember and that come out. In terms of the research, I guess it was more creating the [Final Solutions suicide] boards, and creating the world of Cody, too. A lot happened in revision with her interactions with people, like whether it was the guy, Troy, who asks her out and what that means for her, or just her interactions in this kind of confined small town with the girl who’s the daughter of one of the women she cleans for. All of that, it’s very easy once you start thinking about it to really imagine the people. So I think it’s really that kind of thing rather than a physical detail that helps to give you a sense of where she is and why she wants to get out.

LT:  Lots of YA novels tend to shy away from giving parents much time on the page, but family tends to play a significant role in your novels. I WAS HERE is no exception, with the Garcias and then Cody’s mother Tricia. Is it important to you to always include parents and family in your stories, and what role do you feel parents should play in YA storytelling?

GF:  I think that’s up to every writer. Perhaps because I was a parent when I first started writing YA, I’m too narcissistic to take myself out of the story. And also, I think that parents are hugely important in teenagers’ lives. You might hate them or you might have a very conflicted relationship with them, but they’re major forces in your life. So to leave them out, I don’t ever do that. I think that they’re a huge part of the story. And yes, you have to find ways to allow your characters to do things on their own. In JUST ONE DAY, she had a very hovering parent, so it was about putting her in a context where she was away from her parents so she could further pull away, but I just can’t imagine writing books without parents.

LT:  Even though we never meet Meg in I WAS HERE, her friendship with Cody was one of the central relationships of the book. How did you approach writing a relationship that exists entirely in Cody’s memory, and how important do you think the themes of friendship and forgiveness are to I WAS HERE?

GF:  I think those are the themes. When I first wrote a draft of I WAS HERE, I almost thought it was a flaw how everything Cody thought about was Meg. I was like, get a life! But then I kind of realized, that was one of her issues was that, like a lot of really close relationships, they were very codependent. And that kind of gets a bad rap, I think, like, marriages are codependent. It just means you’re very intertwined. And she had seen Meg through such rose-colored glasses, because Meg was spectacular and special, that [Cody had] kind of assumed that anything that was special from her was just by reflected glory, especially when Meg went away and Cody kind of was left with just the flatness of her life. So I realized then that there was a reason I kept referring to this, because the friendship was the most important relationship in her life, and I’m starting to tell people that there is a love story in this book, and it is not Cody and Ben. I mean, they are definitely a love story. But the central love story is kind of under it all – and it makes sense, because for me, the great heartbreaks of my life all involve my female friends who broke my heart.

LT:  There’s an expression, “Your perception creates your reality.” How did Cody’s perception of Meg create her reality?

GF:  That’s sort of like my fake it ‘til you make it. Well you know, [Cody] idealized [Meg] in part because Meg was a really good friend to her and somebody who made her feel good about herself and also she saw Meg as doing all this great stuff. I don’t think Meg ever tried to pull Cody down, but she created this larger than life Meg, and then, as we do, it’s too painful sometimes to look at a full, nuanced person, because it challenges too many things. And so she couldn’t see Meg for who she was. She also couldn’t see herself for who she was. She sees Meg as perfect and she has sort of written herself off as this lousy piece of stupid white trash, and she’s anything but.

LT:  How did being inside a story about loss, trauma, and healing manifest (if at all) in your life while writing the story?

GF:  It’s funny because I wrote – I call this book my ‘affair book,’ because I worked on it while I was writing JUST ONE DAY and JUST ONE YEAR. And so it was actually an incredibly satisfying character to write in the midst of writing Allyson and Willem, who are so waffling that I wanted to drown them in a bathtub by the time I was done writing those books. So there was something about her and the immediacy of her anger that even though it’s dark, I found that great. The thing that was hard to write were the Bradford scenes. So for the first couple drafts, I just kind of skipped over that with the barest of interactions, and then slowly I deepened those and deepened those, because he had to have something about him that actually felt real and reasonable. If he was just a kook, you could write him off, but there’s something twisted about him that makes sense. That’s the trick. He’s my first villain!

LT:  What do you believe makes a great story? How did you employ this when you were writing I WAS HERE?

GF:  I don’t know what makes a great story. I just know when I’m writing it, if my fingers are [typing rapidly] or if I’m super – even if it’s not coming out that fast, but if I’m thinking about it and I’m kind of feeling as immersed in a story as I am when I’m reading it, then I’m onto something.

LT:  Will you share a little about your writing process? How much time you invest in revisions, and what the biggest distractions are for you?

GF:  My writing process is sort of different now, because since the [If I Stay] movie, there’s been so many different things going on, but generally when I’m drafting, I do try to – I get my kids off to school, and if I have nothing else going on that day, not going swimming that morning because I’m trying to get in shape or volunteering at my kids’ school – I’ll go straight to work. And then I’ll try to work straight through until 3 or 5. And I tinker as I go, so I always kind of back up and go over things. So by the time I have a complete draft, it’s definitely not raw. And then I revise and revise and revise before I ever show it to somebody. And then I think a lot of the best work always happens in revision, because even if something comes out relatively intact, that just means you can do deeper work and go more nuanced in revision. I mean, it varies. Certain books, IF I STAY and I WAS HERE both, the first drafts came very quickly, though I wrote I WAS HERE in two sections, so I would say like two months while I was working on JUST ONE DAY, two months while I was working on JUST ONE YEAR, and then I’d spend a lot, maybe on and off for a year revising it.

LT:  What are you currently working on?

GF:  I am currently working on three different things, because the affair thing from I WAS HERE, I think it taught me something, that working on different things at the same time can revitalize your energy from one toward the other. So you can get really sucked into one and just charge through it until you’re at the bottom of the barrel, and then you pivot around and you start on something else and you realize that while you were working on the other thing, that barrel has refilled. The spring has fed itself. So I’m working on a middle grade now, and I’m working on an adult, and I’m working on a historical.

LT:  Is there anything that you know now from writing I WAS HERE, or JUST ONE DAY or JUST ONE YEAR, that you would have liked to have known back when you were writing IF I STAY?

GF:  I think one thing that’s interesting is less about the writing and more about the publishing side of it, which is that different books are going to resonate with different fans. So it’s always really nice when a fan comes up to me and says, “JUST ONE DAY is my favorite.” IF I STAY is so overwhelmingly the most popular book in terms of what was sold, but I love when people say, “I didn’t think I wanted to read WHERE SHE WENT, and it’s my favorite.” So you understand that if you’re going to have a long career, there’s going to be different books, and I don’t want to write the same book. So different books are going to touch people differently, and that’s great. They’re not all going to do the same thing. There’s going to be peaks and valleys. But one book is always going to be someone’s favorite book.

LT:  Is there anything I didn’t ask that I should have?

GF:  You can say, “Why are you so fixated on writing about death?” And I can give you my answer, which is, “I’m actually not.” I think it’s pretty common for authors to use – Picasso has a quote that I’m going to mangle, but I love it, and it’s from every act of destruction comes an act of creation. [“Every act of creation is first an act of destruction."] And it’s the same when you’re writing a story. For there to be a big transformation, something huge has to happen. And so a lot of time – not always, but it’s an act of destruction. And for me, writing about characters who don’t think that they can handle something and then finding the strength that they can handle it and rising to the occasion is so incredibly hopeful, as a writer and as a reader. So I’m always – people say things like that, and I know you didn’t, but preempting it – I think, I’m not writing about death; I’m writing about life.

Cody and Meg were inseparable...

Until they weren’t.
When her best friend, Meg, drinks a bottle of industrial-strength cleaner alone in a motel room, Cody is understandably shocked and devastated. She and Meg shared everything—so how was there no warning? But when Cody travels to Meg’s college town to pack up the belongings left behind, she discovers that there’s a lot that Meg never told her. About her old roommates, the sort of people Cody never would have met in her dead-end small town in Washington. About Ben McAllister, the boy with a guitar and a sneer, and some secrets of his own. And about an encrypted computer file that Cody can’t open—until she does, and suddenly everything Cody thought she knew about her best friend’s death gets thrown into question.
"I Was Here is a pitch-perfect blend of mystery, tragedy, and romance. Gayle Forman has given us an unflinchingly honest portrait of the bravery that it takes to live after devastating loss."
Stephen Chbosky, author of the #1 New York Times bestselling The Perks of Being a Wallflower




Create your own I Was Here moment! Head over to http://iwasherebook.com/ to check it out and share with the world. 



Giveaway Details

Gayle's publisher, Viking Penguin, is hosting a giveaway! Fill out the Rafflecopter form below for a chance to win a hardcover edition of I Was Here

Entering is simple, just fill out the entry form below. Winners will be announced on this site and in our monthly newsletter (sign up now!) within 30 days after the giveaway ends. 

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33. Jewelry Boxes, first gifts, and stories

Downsizing isn't easy, but it must be done if we are to become more mobile for this move to Scotland. I'm realizing that a photo of a precious item can sometimes be enough to keep - that I often don't need the actual item. What I do need is the trigger for that memory. Because I plan to use these memories in my writing. Strong writing comes from being able to relate experiences that feel true and I have a lifetime to draw upon.
     One item I let go of was the first gift I ever received from a boy...
     My 5th birthday was looming and somehow Danny came into my life. He lived in a neighborhood that backed up to ours in Maryland. I don't recall how we met, but I do remember standing on the back stoop to our house. If I stepped off or tried to open the door to go inside, Danny would run forward to tickle me. He made me laugh - I like him!
     When I finally did make it inside, I asked my mother if Danny could come to my birthday party. He did! And he gave me a lovely jewelry box as a gift - a music box. It used to have a little ballerina that spun around with the music, but that disappeared long ago. It remained one of my most precious possessions for many years...until I realized it was the memory I cherished. The photo is enough to trigger the memory, and that is what I hold dear and what I will use - that first feeling of a heart in play. The jewelry box hasn't shown up in any of my stories yet, but I imagine it's just a matter of time. Meanwhile, maybe some other little girl is enjoying it.

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34. Just thinking

When I went to Office Works the other day, it was a trip I enjoyed, with my car window down and the perfume of damp earth, Eucalyptus trees and other bush vegetation wafting through. I wanted to jump out of the car and go strolling through the scrub like I used to do when I lived in the outback and then in the farming region. City living is a necessity when one gets old, living close to hospitals, chemists, specialists, doctors and of course shopping precincts. But nostalgia calls all the time to return. It seems I must content myself perhaps to little trips, scribbling my bush poetry taken from my memories and keep busy so I don't get blasted homesick all the time! I would love to be in the Murchison, particularly in the winter and spring, not necessarily the summer thank you when the sun beats down on one's head fare to push me through the baked ground! But to see the willy willy's spring up, swirling around filled with twigs and dirt and anything else it picks up, kangaroos umping away from my intrusion, the leaps causing puffs of dust or an inquisitive emu treading warily towards my stationary person. Until I moved! Here where I live I often get the smell of the jarrah trees wafting down from the hills, and the familiar itch occurs and I have the desire to wander through the Darling Ranges, checking out the plants and dark-trunked jarrah trees, granite rocks and such. Have you ever been bush reader? You don't know what you are missing. I feel for the kids of the city today, who do not have the freedom I have had when growing up and in my married years, where I roamed freely wherever I wished to go. Youngsters today cannot do that, unless it is a controlled visit to the bush. Perhaps I am not making myself easily understood, but as kids we took off into the scrub wherever the fancy took us, never worrying about getting lost or of 'absolute rotters' who may be hiding. Such things never entered our heads. We would roam anywhere and mostly barefoot. I do not recall getting feet full of prickles! Quite often I roamed on my own, amongst the granite rocks up in the Darling Ranges seeking the elusive and precious orchids, donkey, spider, pink lady, blue enamel. They were never picked, but enjoyed. It is wonderful walking through the bush and smelling the rich aroma of the blackboy. In my younger years, damaged blackboy trees were used for lighting fires, within reason of course, as the gum clogged up the chimneys. A delight though, when having picnic or camping out for the aroma of burning blackboy was delightful! Dangling from their writhing positions from shrubs and trees hang the fringed lily to enhance one's view. Underfoot were the yellow bellybuttons, amongst them the mulla mulla's, or pussytails another name for them, the common name.

Cotton bush on Three Rivers station in the Murchison

Blackboys, Gooseberry Hill, Darling Ranges

White everlastings, Moorarie Station, Murchison

Kangaroo Paws and smoke bush, Kings Park, Perth

Royal Mulla Mulla or Pussytails, Murchison

Donkey Orchids in a park near me, Kelmscott

Pink enamel orchid, Darling Ranges

Smoke bush and a friends hand Toodyay

Blue Leschenaultia Toodyay

A little blue unkown creeper

Sturt Desert pea, DeGrey region Pilbara.

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35. Vermeer-related publication


The Eye of the Beholder: Johannes Vermeer, Antoni van Leuwenhoek, and the Reinvention of Seeing
Mar 16, 2015
by Laura J. Snyder

from the publisher’s website:
In Eye of the Beholder, Laura J. Snyder transports us to the streets, inns, and guildhalls of seventeenth-century Holland, where artists and scientists gathered, and to their studios and laboratories, where they mixed paints and prepared canvases, ground and polished lenses, examined and dissected insects and other animals, and invented the modern notion of seeing. With charm and narrative flair Snyder brings Vermeer and Van Leeuwenhoek—and the men and women around them—vividly to life. The story of these two geniuses and the transformation they engendered shows us why we see the world—and our place within it—as we do today.

“Laura Snyder is both a masterly scholar and a powerful storyteller. In Eye of the Beholder, she transports us to the wonder-age of seventeenth-century Holland, as new discoveries in optics were shaping the two great geniuses of Delft—Vermeer and van Leeuwenhoek—and changing the course of art and science forever. A fabulous book.”
— Oliver Sacks

Eye of the Beholder is a thoughtful elaboration of the modern notion of seeing. Laura J. Snyder delves into the seventeenth century fascination with the tools of art and science, and shows how they came together to help us make sense of what is right in front of our eyes.”
— Russell Shorto, author of Amsterdam: A History of the World’s Most Liberal City

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36. Talents and Skills Entry: Enhanced Taste Buds

As writers, we want to make our characters as unique and interesting as possible. One way to do this is to give your character a special skill or talent that sets him apart from other people. This might be something small, like having a green thumb or being good with animals, to a larger and more competitive talent like stock car racing or being an award-winning film producer. 

When choosing a talent or skill, think about the personality of your character, his range of experiences and who his role models might have been. Some talents might be genetically imparted while others are created through exposure (such as a character talented at fixing watches from growing up in his father’s watch shop) or grow out of interest (archery, wakeboarding, or magic). Don’t be afraid to be creative and make sure the skill or talent is something that works with the scope of the story. 

Enhanced Taste Buds

eatingDescription: the ability to taste even the most subtle of flavors, and distinctly tell the difference between bitter, sweet, salty, sour and umami.

Beneficial Strengths or Abilities: Enhanced taste buds have a genetic component, but anyone can learn to improve their range of taste. Having a love of food, a keen interest in nutrition, the desire to experiment and try new things are all qualities that will help a person develop their sense of taste.

Character Traits Suited for this Skill or Talent: focused, curious, attentive, unbiased, patient, open-minded, self-controlled

Required Resources and Training: People with a heightened sense of taste need to protect their taste buds through healthy choices. As smell affects taste, avoiding environments that have lots of scents and not wearing body sprays, perfume or aftershave will help keep one’s palette neutral. Avoiding bad habits like smoking, and foods that are overly salty or spicy will keep a character from scarring their palett. Attending a culinary school or apprenticing for a chef will help expose them to new tastes and textures, widening their experience and knowledge. Travel can also provide excellent opportunities to try different types of food and spices, not to mention learnings unique cooking methods if one’s goal is to become a chef.

Associated Stereotypes and Perceptions:

  • that people with sensitive taste buds are picky eaters
  • that people with this talent avoid processed food, fast food and do not eat junk food because they are “snooty” about what they eat

Scenarios Where this Skill Might be Useful:

  • excelling in the culinary industry (chef)
  • the ability to pick up on flavors that should not be present (drugs, poison, etc.)
  • being able to blend flavors and re-imagine food, inventing something new and earning fame

You can brainstorm other possible Skills and Talents your characters might have by checking out our FULL LIST of this Thesaurus Collection. And for more descriptive help for Setting, Symbolism, Character Traits, Physical Attributes, Emotions, Weather and more, check out our Thesaurus Collections page.


Image: Artistlike @ pixabay

The post Talents and Skills Entry: Enhanced Taste Buds appeared first on WRITERS HELPING WRITERS™.

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37. Daffodils


Sometimes beauty is its own reason. These daffodils (any daffodils really) bring me joy.  Building these vector flowers was every bit a love affair. As with every project, I get to practice what I know and stretch into areas unknown. For those of you that know Illustrator, the leaves are brushes with the twist built in. The flowers themselves are blends, and radial and linear gradients (no gradient mesh).

Whenever a sign of spring is needed, this little beauty is there to remind me.

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38. Sarah Cross, author of TEAR YOU APART, on not rejecting yourself

What was your inspiration for writing TEAR YOU APART?

I wanted to do another book set in Beau Rivage (a city where people are cursed to live out fairy tales), and "Snow White" is one of the fairy tales I was most surprised by when I first read the Grimms' version, because it's so disturbing and the "happily ever after" is not romantic at all. I really wanted to play with that story, and write about a girl who was anticipating that twisted fate.

What scene was really hard for you to write and why, and is that the one of which you are most proud? Or is there another scene you particularly love?

The hardest scenes to write, for me, are the emotionally intense scenes. I tend to rework those the most, going over and over them until I feel like the intensity I want is there. I don't know that there's a scene I'm most proud of; at this point in the process, it's hard for me to break it down like that. I'm really proud of the book as a whole.

What book or books would most resonate with readers who love your book--or visa versa?

Anyone who likes dark reimaginings of fairy tales should check out Angela Carter's The Bloody Chamber, Tanith Lee's Red as Blood: Tales from the Sisters Grimmer, and Emma Donoghue's Kissing the Witch.

What advice would you most like to pass along to other writers?

Don't give up. Seriously. That is the most important thing. The most devastating rejection is the one you give yourself. It's the only "no" that's final, the only one that can really stop you.


Tear You Apart
by Sarah Cross
Released 1/27/2015

If you want to live happily ever after, first you have to stay alive.

Viv knows there’s no escaping her fairy-tale curse. One day her beautiful stepmother will feed her a poison apple or convince her on-again-off-again boyfriend, Henley, to hunt her down and cut out her heart before she breaks his. In the city of Beau Rivage, some princesses are destined to be prey.

But then Viv receives an invitation to the exclusive club where the Twelve Dancing Princesses twirl away their nights. There she meets Jasper, an underworld prince who seems to have everything—but what he really wants is her. He vows to save her from her dark fate if she’ll join him and be his queen.

All Viv has to do is tear herself away from the huntsman boy who still holds her heart. Then she might live to see if happily ever after is a promise the prince can keep. But is life as an underworld queen worth sacrificing the true love that might kill her?

Purchase Tear You Apart at Amazon
Purchase Tear You Apart at IndieBound
View Tear You Apart on Goodreads


Sarah Cross is the author of the fairy tale novels Kill Me Softly and Tear You Apart (coming January 2015), the superhero novel Dull Boy, and the Wolverine comic "The Adamantium Diaries." She loves fairy tales, lowbrow art, secret identities and silence. Visit her website here

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39. Peter Turchi on the value of sideways drafts, in A MUSE AND A MAZE

Last Friday evening, at an intimate salon, I had the privilege of hearing Peter Turchi, author of Maps of the Imagination, tease us toward his gorgeously crafted new book, A Muse and a Maze.

(Read that title fast, and you'll get the point.)

Like the best of books, this one won't be easily classified. Puzzles and magic abound. Commentary on obsessions. Quotes on sentence rhythms. Forays into slow time. A slice from Bruce Springsteen (yes, my friends, that Bruce Springsteen). A few helpful definitions illuminating genres, puzzles, and mysteries. I'm not finished reading yet. It's not the sort of book one rushes. But an hour or so ago I came across Turchi's reflections on the real purpose of multiple drafts, and I knew that I could be accused of gross selfishness if I did not stop and share. I live for the next draft with my own work. I've gone horizontal-vertical-down-out-up, and if one were to apply aesthetic measures to my draft sequences one would shake one's head in pity. One Thing Stolen, my new novel, is the perfect example of a book that took more than a little swish and swirl (and more than a few tears, but I did not drown) before it found itself. But that is a story for another day.

With no further ado, then, Peter Turchi:
To learn to dwell in our work is to use drafts to explore, with the understanding that our movement toward the final draft of a story or poem or novel is likely to include not only lateral movement but backward movement, and circular movement, and movement we can't confidently describe. Because to insist to ourselves that each draft carry a story toward closure is, necessarily, to limit the possibilities. Every choice must then at least seem to be an improvement on what's currently on the page, part of a straight-line progression, rather than an alternative to what's on the page, movement within a larger plane. We need to allow ourselves to pursue hunches, to discover, in the words of Robert Sternberg, nonobvious pieces of information and, even more important, nonobvious relationships between new information and information already in our memory.

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40. Zeroes

My next book comes out September 29, 2015. Eight months from now!

It’s called Zeroes. Like heroes, by not. It’s about six kids with superpowers that kind of suck. It’s the first of a trilogy.

I wrote it with Margo Lanagan and Deb Biancotti, two Australian writers who are close friends of mine. We were all keen to make our writing a more social process, so we started meeting at a pub every Thursday, where we talked about superpowers and how to make them fresh and interesting. For us anyway.

Two years later, Zeroes is the result.

Collaborating on a novel with other writers was a new thing for me. I’ve worked with illustrators, of course, and with another writer to produce the Uglies graphic novels. But this was different and fascinating, and I think I learned a lot. I’ll leave it to others to judge the results.

Here’s an article on Tor.com about the book.

We won’t have a final cover yet, but it’s coming along. It will appear here and elsewhere in a couple of months. It’s pretty cool so far.

Zeroes will be published simultaneously in the US, UK, Canada, and Australia. (By Allen and Unwin in Australia and S&S in the other territories.) Rights have been sold in several foreign markets as well.

Okay, that’s all I got. Do you guys have any (non-spoilery) questions?

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41. I left my heart on a park bench and a pigeon used it as a nest…

feathered heart

Filed under: children's illustration, flying, moon, pigeons, songs

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42. J.J. Howard, author of TRACERS, on using music to write

What scene was really hard for you to write and why, and is that the one of which you are most proud? Or is there another scene you particularly love?

Cam meets Nikki when she crashes into him—literally—and this complex action scene was a fun challenge to write. I started, as always, with a playlist. I imagined what Cam might listen to in his headphones as he zooms in and out of traffic as a bike messenger.

My favorite scenes to write were the ones that had Cam and Nikki arguing back and forth—I love to write dialogue—and then, of, course, they always make up!

What book or books would most resonate with readers who love your book--or visa versa?

I would say that all of my characters share a certain dry sense of humor and they’re all outsiders, or feel they are, in one way or another. My writing professor in grad school called an early draft of my first book That Time I Joined the Circus “sort of The Catcher in the Rye with a girl”—and that’s still the best note I’ve ever gotten (or probably will ever get!)

How long did you work on TRACERS?

This book happened very quickly—the entire process from first pages to final copyedits all happened in 2014. The book came out just a few days in to 2015 on January 8.

What did this book teach you about writing or about yourself?

I learned that I really enjoy writing action scenes!

What do you hope readers will take away from TRACERS?

Cam is a really different character for me. For one, he’s not a snarky teenage girl with the vocabulary of a much older girl ;) But seriously, he’s really damaged by what’s happened to him in his life, but he hasn’t actually given up hope yet. He acts as though he has, that he doesn’t care, but when you read his interior monologue in the book you find out that in spite of everything he still believes in love—and, more importantly—he still believes in himself.

How long or hard was your road to publication? How many books did you write before this one, and how many never got published?

My debut novel was published in 2013. I’d been writing for over ten years by that point, so it was a long road. I write really fast, so I have several projects that I hope to see make their ways to bookstore shelves at some point.

Was there an AHA! moment along your road to publication where something suddenly sank in and you felt you had the key to writing a novel? What was it?

I’ve wanted to write for a long time. My AHA moment: that I could (and should) write a novel, well that happened a long time ago. It was 1996 and I was walking through the social sciences section of Borders bookstore (RIP) where I worked. It really was one of those light-bulb moments. I remember it vividly. And ever since then, I’ve never been bored. Because when you have a novel going, you’re never, ever bored!

What's your writing ritual like? Do you listen to music? Work at home or at a coffee shop or the library, etc?

Music is absolutely essential! I figure out the characters and the feel of the novel through the music. I make a playlist for every project, and refine it as the writing goes along. I work best at home, with my dog Willow snuggled beside me. I get the guilt eye when I pack up my laptop to head to a coffee shop. ;)

What advice would you most like to pass along to other writers?

I wrote a short piece for Writer’s Digest online in which I compared a writing career to a theme park—and I still really stand by all of those observations. You will spend a lot of time in line, it is a lot of fun (with a lot of ups and downs) and, as with most aspects of life, I’d suggest wearing a pair of comfortable shoes.

What are you working on now?

I am writing my first middle grade for Scholastic! I’m excited to branch out into this age level! And there are also a few other works in progress there on the back burner. I can’t wait for summer so that I can write, write, write!


by J.J. Howard
Putnam Juvenile
Released 1/8/2015

An action-packed romance—now a major motion picture starring Taylor Lautner.

Cam is a New York City bike messenger with no family and some dangerous debts. While on his route one day, he runs into a beautiful stranger named Nikki—but she quickly disappears. When he sees her again around town, he realizes that she lives within the intense world of parkour: an underground group of teens who have turned New York City into their own personal playground—running, jumping, seemingly flying through the city like an urban obstacle course.

Cam becomes fascinated with Nikki and falls in with the group, who offer him the chance to make some extra money. But Nikki is dating their brazen leader, and when the stakes become life-or-death, Cam is torn between following his heart and sacrificing everything to pay off his debts.

In the vein of great box-office blockbusters, the high-stakes romance here sizzles within this page-turning thriller that will leave readers feeling like they are flying through the streets of New York.

Purchase Tracers at Amazon
Purchase Tracers at IndieBound
View Tracers on Goodreads


J.J. HowardJ.J. Howard is wearing headphones right now, most likely. She grew up in York, Pennsylvania, obsessed with music, movies, television, and pop culture. You can call her if you ever need to phone a friend for trivia on any of the above topics, but don’t ask about sports, because she is hopeless at those (along with math). J.J. graduated from Dickinson College with a BA in English and Tiffin University with an MH in Humanities. She has been some of her students’ favorite English teacher for a quite a few years (she even has a mug somewhere to prove it). THAT TIME I JOINED THE CIRCUS is her first young adult novel. J.J. would love to hear from her readers and is always ready to trade playlists. Visit at jjhowardbooks.com.


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43. hourly comic day: how it works

The first of February is annual Hourly Comics Day! That's tomorrow (Sunday)! If you've ever wanted to try your hand at comics but not known where to start, this is a great way to do it with lots of other people.

How to do it:

1. Draw a comic for every hour you're awake.

2. Load it onto your blog.

3. If you have access to Twitter, tweet it using the #HourlyComicDay hash tag.

4. Browse around and see what other people have done! Leave comments, they'll love it.

You can also submit it to the tencentticker website (here's last year's forum you can browse). Some people even print it up later and sell copies at comics festivals, but don't let that pressure you into trying to make it too perfect; you can do it very roughly, just for fun.

It was first started in 2006 by John Campbell and most people make it about what they're actually doing in their day, so it's a slice of life, but you don't have to do it that way. It's very informal, no one really runs it, but it's great fun seeing the other contributions. It feels more social doing it on the actual day than any other day because you can see people chatting about it on Twitter, but a few of us aren't able to do it on Sunday - a work day's easier for me - so we're going to do it on Monday. Some people tweet each hour as they go and other people save it all up to scan and post the next morning.

Keep an eye on the hashtag if you want to see conversation about it! (You don't even have to be on Twitter to watch.) Here are a couple of mine from previous years.

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44. Vermeer-inspired memoir


Travels in Vermeer: A Memoir
by Michael White

from the publisher’s webpage:
In the midst of a bad divorce, the poet Michael White unexpectedly discovers the consoling power of Johannes Vermeer’s radiant vision. Over the course of a year, he travels to Amsterdam, The Hague, Delft, Washington D.C., New York, and London to view twenty-four paintings, including nearly all of Vermeer’s major work.

“A certain chain of events has left me open, on a startlingly deep level, to Vermeer’s gaze, to his meditation on our place on earth,” White writes.

Part travelogue, part soul-searching investigation into romantic love and intimate discourse on art, this erudite and lyrical memoir encompasses the author’s past–his difficult youth, stint in the Navy, alcoholism, and the early death of his first wife–and ends with his finding grace and transformation through deeply affecting encounters with the paintings of Vermeer, an artist obsessed with romance and the inner life, who has captivated millions, from the seventeenth century until now.

“All the sorrow of love is compressed into White’s memoir. But so, too, is all the consolation of art. Nothing I’ve read…suggests so eloquently what [Vermeer’s paintings] hold for a contemporary viewer…Figures it took a poet to get it this beautifully, thrillingly right.”
— Peter Trachtenberg

“[Travels in Vermeer] touches on the mysteries of seduction, loss, and the artistic impulse. It shows how time can be interrupted.”
—Clyde Edgerton

“This book is a treasure and a guide. It is a type of healing for the intellect and the heart.”
—Rebecca Lee

about the author:
Michael White is the author of four collections of poetry and a memoir, Travels in Vermeer (Persea 2015), and has published widely in respected periodicals, including The Paris Review, The New Republic, The Kenyon Review, Ploughshares, Western Humanities Review, and the Best American Poetry. White teaches poetry and is presently chair of the Creative Writing department at the University of North Carolina, Wilmington.

publisher’s webpage:

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45. Strike Three review (link)

Here's a recent review of Strike Three: http://www.longandshortreviews.com/book-reviews/strike-three-by-joy-v-smith/


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46. Vermeer-inspired poetry


Vermeer in Hell
by Michael White

from publisher’s website:
Through the paintings of Vermeer, Michael White explores new landscapes and transforms familiar ones in this extraordinary new collection of poems. This captivating masterwork transports us across eras and continents, from Confederate lynchings to the bombing of Dresden, through its lyrical inhabitations of some of Vermeer’s most revered paintings, each one magically described and renewed. More than mere ekphrasis, Michael White explores the transformative possibilities of great art in his fourth collection.

“Vermeer in Hell is Michael White’s museum of ghosts and shades, of narratives woven masterfully out of the personal and historical alike—out of the lived, the envisioned, the loved, and the terrible. Rarely have I felt the ekphrastic to be as dramatic as in White’s tour through the portraits of Vermeer, with its history of fiery damages, wars and afflictions, but also its own depiction of ‘love’s face as it is.’ Out of Michael White’s vision, each poem achieves for us the delicacy and durability of Vermeer’s own art.”
—David Baker

“Nearly every one of Michael White’s new poems is the equivalent of a quiet stroll through a blazing fire, igniting the reader’s imagination. His insights are frightening and comforting at the same time, his craft allowing for the most surprising and thrilling of associations. Vermeer in Hell is a collection that belongs in the room with all of the traditions of our language’s poetry, but it brings something completely original to us, too. It is not an overstatement to call this poetry Genius.”
—Laura Kasischke

“In these elegant, powerful poems, Michael White pays homage to a great painter while engaging social realities that affect us all. They are brave, beautiful poems linked by authentic vision and a sensitive, educated ear.”
—Sam Hamill

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47. Give Books NOT Roses Giveaway - January 31 - February 14

  Books For Your Valentine!!

One Lucky Valentine will receive TWO books and chocolate!!

Best of Luck!!  

USA Entries Only

Enter HERE

Dear  Reader:

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner! The crisp, cool air feels a little

sweeter and stores are filling their shelves with greeting cards and

candies. But instead of sharing the usual gifts, the way to someone’s

heart can be through a story (and maybe a little bit of chocolate).

Hachette Book Group is offering a “Give Books, Not Roses” Valentine’s

Day giveaway for those of you who want to express your admiration for

friends, family, and loved ones.

Love Gently Falling written by Melody Carlson is a romantic novella

about the power of Valentine’s Day and how one woman discovers love

while at the same time saving her family’s business. Successful

hairstylist to the stars Rita Jensen returns to her hometown in Chicago

after receiving news that her mother has suffered a stroke. Though Rita

must come up with a plan to save her mother’s salon, the oncoming

holiday and her undeniable feelings for an old classmate become quite a


Keys of Heaven is the second book in Adina Senft’s Healing Grace trilogy.

Amish widow Sarah Yoder helps her community by creating teas and

tinctures from the herbs she grows. She struggles to find love with an

Amish man, and she doesn’t know what to do about her attraction to her

friend Henry Byler, who has turned away from her beliefs. Sarah’s story

will show anyone that romantic love is not the only love that matters.

Valentine’s Day is an internationally celebrated day of romance, dating

back to the 5th Century. But today, love touches our lives in so many

different ways. Whether you are dedicating the day to your good friends

or your life partner, treat them to these wonderful stories of courage,

kindness, and love.


Christina Boys



Rita Jansen is living her dream in Hollywood when her father calls with news that her mother is sick. When she gets home to Chicago, Rita finds her mother is facing a long recovery and could lose the family-owned salon. As Rita takes her mother's place at work, she also finds herself renewing a friendship with her classmate Johnny and is surprised by how far he will go to help her.

Sarah Yoder is learning to help the people in her Amish community as a Dokterfraa, creating teas and tinctures from the herbs she grows. But her latest patient seems to have a problem that can't be resolved. Meanwhile, Sarah's relatives attempt a little matchmaking between her and a new visitor. This is the second book in the Healing Grace series (the first, Herb of Grace, received a 4 stars from RT Book Reviews!).

You can buy either book at the sites below:

Books-A-Million:  http://bit.ly/1xu5YKK
Barnes & Noble: http://bit.ly/1xX5cWD
ChristianBook.com: http://bit.ly/1yuAhiW




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48. The Action Art of Mort Kunstler

On Thursday we visited the exhibition "Mort Kunstler: The Art of Adventure" at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.  
Mort Kunstler, "Buried Alive for Four Months," Stag Magazine, 1965.

The exhibit spans his entire career, celebrating his well-known Civil War paintings, but I'd like to focus here on his earlier work for the men's action magazines, which doesn't get exhibited as often. 

When Mort Kunstler started doing illustrations in the early 1950s, he said that the field of mainstream magazine story illustration was already beginning to die away. "Color photography and television was coming in," he says, and advertising money was going to television. Dramas were broadcast on TV instead of being published in magazines.

But there were over 130 separate titles of men's adventure magazines still going strong, catering to veterans of World War II. The magazines had names like Adventure, Real, True, Saga, Stag, Swank and For Men Only

The illustrations were often printed in limited color palettes, such as red and black, and they required tight deadlines. Kunstler produced a vast output of complex images, usually staged with maximum drama and sex appeal. Most of these early paintings were executed in gouache on board.

Still at the easel in his 80s, Mort has remained busy for all these decades, with one assignment or painting idea following another. He has done it all: movie posters, plastic model box covers, commercial advertisements, and limited edition art prints.

He painted this spoof on Jaws for Mad magazine. He wasn't sure if it would alienate his fans, so he signed it "Mutz," just one of his pseudonyms.

In the 1970s, after the era of men's magazines was over, he painted paperback covers, such as "The Kansan," above. He switched to oil paint, and found his main calling painting scenes from American history, particularly documenting epic moments from the Civil War. 

All these aspects of his career are well represented in the three large rooms of the exhibition, along with examples of his preliminary sketches, comprehensive drawings, and tearsheets that show his process.

The exhibition "Mort Kunstler: The Art of Adventure" will be on view at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts through March 8. 


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49. Teaching the Teachers FLOW as part of the William Penn Foundation funded education program

Last year I shared the extraordinary news that my river autobiography, Flow: The Life and Times of Philadelphia's Schuylkill River, was selected as a core element in a William Penn Foundation-funded program designed "to improve environmental education in Philadelphia middle schools."

The first sweep of teachers is now meeting every Saturday morning at the Water Works (pictured above) to build the sweeping curriculum that will change the way children learn in my city. This morning, I'm joining my dear friend Adam Levine there on site to contribute to this program. Adam will be sharing his huge knowledge of secret city water ways and streams that have become sewers. I'll be teaching the teachers how to teach Flow, giving them writing exercises and critiquing ideas.

And so into the frosty cold we go....

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50. My tweets

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