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Results 26 - 50 of 222,411
26. antagonist not related to the main plot being too good/bad

Question: So in the story I am writing I have a minor antagonist that has little to no connection with the main plot, who is there to spark emotional conflict

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27. GJ Book Club: Chapter 4: "Line Drawing"

On the GJ Book Club, we're studying Chapter 4, "Line Drawing," of Harold Speed's 1917 classic The Practice and Science of Drawing.

The following numbered paragraphs cite key points in italics, followed by a brief remark of my own. If you would like to respond to a specific point, please precede your comment by the corresponding number.

John White Alexander (American, 1856–1915) Oil on canvas; 52 1/4 x 63 5/8 in.
1. Attention to line can give a work an "innocence and imaginative appeal" that is often lost in work that is concentrating on "the more complete realization of later schools."

Harold Speed will give us a later chapter on the practicalities of line drawing, but for this short chapter he concentrates on the aesthetics of line. He associates line with the sense of touch, but also with more primitive and stylized perception, and that's the core of what he's exploring here. 

He makes reference to Botticelli and other early artists who used line predominantly. In the centuries that followed, chiaroscuro and form modeling came to dominate the thinking and made people forget about the power of line.

Artists in Asia were not as obsessed with chiaroscuro in the photographic / impressionist side of things. I was reading a book about the history of photography (Photography: The Definitive Visual History), and it said that when photographs were first introduced in Japan, people didn't like them because they thought they missed the essential truth of what they saw. Now, with the ubiquity of photos, we tend to regard a photograph as a true and complete representation of our vision, but people in Japan and China didn't think so.

2. The eye only sees what it is on the look-out for.

Speed makes this point only in passing, but it's something that I think about a lot. We see what we want to see. This was the theme of an episode in Dinotopia: The World Beneath (see previous post on Pareidolia and Apophenia).

Detail from Titian's "Three Ages of Man"
3. All through the work of the men who used this light and shade...the outline basis remained. Leonardo, Raphael, Michael Angelo, Titian, and the Venetians were all faithful to it as the means of holding their pictures together; although the Venetians, by fusing the edges of their outline masses, got very near the visual method to be introduced later by Velasquez.

Line and tonal modeling aren't mutually exclusive, nor must one use a hard edge throughout a picture to have a good sense of line. The Titian above combines a fine sense of line with a sophisticated feeling for edges.

4. The accumulation of the details of visual observation in art is liable eventually to obscure the main idea and disturb the larger sense of design. 

The problem, according to Speed, comes not only from losing a sense of the contour, but also adding so many small details and textures that the larger shapes are lost.

Speed's cautions about the late 19th century obsession with naturalism, and he points to a time in the academies when line drawing fell out of fashion. He says the use of the stump for blending charcoal added to the problem. Does someone out there know why Speed was so negative about the stump? He doesn't really explain his reasons for disliking it.

5. Art, like life, is apt to languish if it gets too far away from primitive conditions.

It's notable that the Fauvists and other neo-primitive movements were becoming active in Western art as he was writing this a hundred years ago. European and American artists were also appreciating the currents of art coming from China, Japan, and India.

Speed says that if you're going to study past movements, "to study the early rather than the late work of the different schools, so as to get in touch with the simple conditions of design on which good work is built."

6. No wonder a period of artistic dyspepsia is upon us.

Perhaps even truer now than it was in Speed's day!

Animation model sheet of Disney's Bambi by Milt Kahl
7. Line as contour vs. line of action

One last thought that I had in reading the chapter is that Speed seems to be talking about line mainly as the outer contour, but I think it's equally important to think of the line of action, the central gesture traveling through the center of all the forms. The great animators carried Speed's ideas forward into a whole new art form, and it is probably in the realm of animation that the art of line was most perfectly developed in the 20th century.

I look forward to your thoughts, and I enjoyed the discussion last week.
The Practice and Science of Drawing is available in various formats:
1. Inexpensive softcover edition from Dover, (by far the majority of you are reading it in this format)
2. Fully illustrated and formatted for Kindle.
3. Free online Archive.org edition.
4. Project Gutenberg version
Articles on Harold Speed in the Studio Magazine The Studio, Volume 15, "The Work of Harold Speed" by A. L. Baldry. (XV. No. 69. — December, 1898.) page 151.
and The Windsor Magazine, Volume 25, "The Art of Mr. Harold Speed" by Austin Chester, page 335. (thanks, अर्जुन)
GJ Book Club Facebook page  (Thanks, Keita Hopkinson)
Pinterest (Thanks, Carolyn Kasper)

Original blog post Announcing the GJ Book Club

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28. Confessions of a Former Troll

Troll2At the dawn on the internet, I was kicked off the internet.

I’m guessing it was 1991. I was probably 14. My father was the earliest of early adopters and for years there had been a modem hissing through our phone lines. Email and online forums were new frontiers for us, however. So when we were enticed to give them a try compliments of CompuServe, we jumped at the chance. Oh mighty mighty CompuServe, the only game in town during the George H. W. Bush era. My family signed up for a single account because that’s all we needed. One log-in and email address to access kilobyte-upon-kilobyte of text!

I’m not sure when I found out about the forums, but as a seasoned prank-phone-caller, I immediately saw their appeal. I could chat up strangers. More specifically, I could needle strangers. I could pretend to be someone else, and I didn’t even have to change my voice. I could deceive and outwit people. It was the outwitting that really hooked me. Outwitting was addictive. Because it was a form of winning.

The forums were heavily moderated and had clear policies, even back then. No harassment, no insults, no foul language. In the beginning, I abided by those rules, even while taking on different personas, even though my goal was always to enrage and provoke. To outwit. To win.

I must note: I was a dabbler. Most of my time was still spent on school, the outdoors, TV and video games. I’d only log on when I was hanging out with a friend or my brother, because I viewed this as a spectator sport. Like a prank phone call, it was no fun to perform alone. In fact, doing such things alone seemed more than a little sad. Online anonymity was essential, but at the same time, someone else had to know about my winning.

As far as I recall, nobody used the term “troll” back then. That’s clearly what I was, though. I probably would’ve claimed, “I’m just playing devil’s advocate,” something people still claim with shocking regularity. Of course, playing devil’s advocate in the faceless world of the internet is akin to walking down the street and yelling insults at strangers. Without any context, you can never be some theoretical advocate. You will always be the devil himself.

Thankfully, I wasn’t the devil for long. I was warned by a moderator for pushing the boundaries of their policies, so I pushed them even further by calling someone a “crack baby.” The moderator immediately suspended the account. Now remember, my family had just the one account and CompuServe ran the show. So my actions basically banned us all from the internet.

My parents were not pleased. We had to wait until AOL came onto the scene almost a year later to get back online. By that time, I was either too ashamed or too busy to resume the trolling. Probably the latter.


I finished high school. I went to college. I played devil’s advocate in dark dorm rooms with friends who always knew when I was pushing buttons merely for the sake of pushing buttons. Feelings were rarely hurt and when they were, apologies followed. My online life at that time consisted exclusively of occasional emailing and visits to IMDB. Usenet newsgroups were popular then, but I didn’t bother with them because most of the people I knew didn’t bother with them.

That was about 20 years ago.

These days, I (and most of the people I know) spend an excessive amount of time online. I can excuse some of it as work, but certainly not all of it. Especially the hours I spend in comments sections. Yes, I have read the comments…far too many times. And yes, I have contributed to the comments…and regretted it every time.

Because whenever I comment, I feel myself turning into that 14-year-old boy. Of course, I try not to be a troll. I try to employ logic and compassion. I convince myself that I’m there to pacify the trolls, to reason with them. This is “feeding” them, of course. But it’s also feeding me. That addiction to outwitting–to winning–always surfaces. And it’s all-consuming.

Good ol’ science has proven that if an addiction takes hold of you early in life then it’s harder to beat. I’m lucky. Trolling in my formative years was a brief affair. We can thank that CompuServe moderator who slapped the addictive substance from my hand. And yet, I can’t imagine if I had been born just ten or fifteen years later. I would never have been kicked off the internet. The very notion of that is absolutely laughable now. Odds are, I’d probably be an adult man, lurking online somewhere, fixing to be vile.

Of course, plenty of people can dip in and out of online worlds without consequence. Just like plenty of people can enjoy a glass of wine without downing a bottle or two. But many can’t and like all addictions, trolling can be affected by your environment. If you hang out with smokers, then you are more likely to smoke. If most of your social interactions play out in comment sections and on social media, then you are more likely to troll. No brainer, really.

So what are today’s young trolls-in-making to do? Even for disadvantaged kids, it’s nearly impossible to step away from the online world. They don’t have the luxury that I had.

And yet, they have a perspective I didn’t. They can see the hurt they’ve caused, because people are being more vocal than ever about the hurt. I suspect that many of the trolls are probably ashamed of the hurt. Sure, there are sadists among them who get off on the hurt, but I suspect that most are getting off on the outwitting, on that addiction to winning. The hurt is an unpleasant bi-product, something they try their best to deny.

I don’t know if I hurt someone when I called him/her a “crack baby,” but I realize long ago that I wasn’t particularly witty. I certainly didn’t win anything. So while I’m not going to take sympathy on the trolls out there, particularly the ones who have moved from provocation into the despicable world of harassment, I am going to make a suggestion to the young ones.

Print out some of the very best comments you’ve left anonymously online. Hand them to your parents or to the person you have a crush on. Tell them that these are your trolling masterpieces, the things you are most proud of in your life.

That is, if you are proud of them. If you aren’t, well, then perhaps there are better ways to spend your time.

Comments are, of course, closed.

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29. Celebrate the Small Things Friday

Thinking of things to celebrate this week...

1. Well the A to Z is nearly complete, despite the struggle. 

2. After twenty years wanting my own summerhouse to use as an office,  it has at last been ordered. 

3. Having struggled to start from scratch with a neglected garden - the correct word would be jungle - I might have found a gardener at last. They seem to be as scarce as hens' teeth.

4. Reading a book about the way in which writing forms have changed since the 18th century and it is helping enormously with my own writing themes. 

5. The editing to my sequel, River Dark, is slowly moving ahead. I often despair that I will ever complete it. More on that later....  

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30. For Those Grieving

When mum died in December last year, I thought I would be broken forever. I tore through the house shouting and screaming, howling, begging for her back and making several million deals with the Devil and threatening to kick God in the nuts*. I thought I would never be able to cope with the pain of her loss.

I turned to the internet googling marvellous things like 'mum died' and 'when does grieving end' and found an awful lot of despair. The main theme seemed to be that even a year later the grief was still as strong, that these poor people broke down every day and couldn't cope with their lives. My reaction to reading these posts was that my grief would not lessen, that I would be that desperate forever. Those posts did not help me at all.

I couldn't have lived like that. I wanted to read that people were desperate at the time but that it got easier, not that it stayed the same. No one was telling me that it got better and that's all I wanted to hear.

You will get through this. It will not be this painful forever. Those words would have helped immensely.

At the time, I wanted to climb into my brother's house and not leave. I wanted to be with my family all the time, only I couldn't be. They had their lives. I felt I'd lost mine. My boyfriend was amazing, so understanding, and he spoke so much sense. I don't know if his counselling training helped or if he's just naturally awesome like that. He'll tell you the latter. He told me it would get easier.

He was right.

I still miss her. I still cry at times, but nowhere near as much, and the times that I do are short and I manage to shrug them off, although I don't think shrug is the right word. I cope and I can smile and look forward again. There are moments. Last night I heard of someone who had just lost their mum. It brought it back. The difference was, four months on, I shed a few quiet tears but then I fell asleep and when I woke up, I carried on living my life. I didn't rage at the ceiling and send the neighbours cowering under their beds thinking I was going to tear through the walls.

This new life is different, it's the same, it's a million different things, and I'm okay. My hope for this post is that if someone grieving finds it they might find a tiny bit of hope that they will be okay to.

*and I'm supposed to be agnostic.

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31. Interview: Meet Rachelle Dekker, Author of The Choosing

[Manga Maniac Café] Good morning, Rachelle!  Describe yourself in five words or less.

[Rachelle Dekker] Curious, goofy, free-spirited, and fearful (I hide the last one well, but I’m working on it).

[Manga Maniac Café] Can you tell us a little about The Choosing?

[Rachelle Dekker] The Choosing is a story about identity. Carrington Hale is a girl that lives in a society where worth is based on your ability to be picked as a bride. We find Carrington at the beginning of the story having failed to be picked and the turmoil that follows. Is a person’s worth based on the titles and roles society places on them, or can they discover their true worth, given to them by their Father. That is the journey Carrington will go on.

[Manga Maniac Café] Can you share your favorite scene?

[Rachelle Dekker] There is a scene between Aaron and Carrington that comes towards the end of the novel that I love. They talk about being a bird, being able to fly. It’s a dream sequence that’s half nightmare, half hopeful and I identify because I’m a dreamer myself. I think dreams give us incredible insight and can show us things about ourselves we may have forgotten. It was a fun scene to write.

[Manga Maniac Café] What did you enjoy most about writing this book?

[Rachelle Dekker] The lessons learned. I write to discover, to explore an idea that I think is intriguing or terrifying, or both. I have told my husband several times, if nothing ever came from writing this novel other than the physical words on paper it would still have been worth it because of the personal journey it took me on.

[Manga Maniac Café] What’s one thing you won’t leave home without?

[Rachelle Dekker] My cell phone, it’s sad but how will I play Trivia Crack, or FarmVille without it?

[Manga Maniac Café] Name three things on your desk right now.

[Rachelle Dekker] Harry Potter pen, pickle duct tape, and the outline for my next project

[Manga Maniac Café] What’s your favorite snack when you’re working on a deadline?

[Rachelle Dekker] Apples and peanut butter, or Cheez-It’s.

[Manga Maniac Café] If you could trade places with anyone for just one day, who would you be?

[Rachelle Dekker] Anna Kendrick: she’s beautiful, can sing, quirky, funny, and she got to be in Pitch Perfect, Into The Woods, and ParaNorman

[Manga Maniac Café] You have been granted the use of one superpower for one week. Which power would you choose, and what would you do with it?

[Rachelle Dekker] I feel like the ability to fly would be pretty awesome, but I wonder if after a couple of days I would get board. I’m also not a huge fan of heights, so maybe Telepathy would be better. Then I could go into random coffee shops and freak everybody out by moving things with my mind. Clearly I’m really mature.

[Manga Maniac Café] What are some books that you enjoyed recently?

[Rachelle Dekker] Looking for Alaska – John Green, Shadow and Bone – Leigh Bardugo, And The Mountains Echo – Khaled Hosseini, and Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children – Ransom Riggs… I would recommend them all!

[Manga Maniac Café] How can readers connect with you?

[Rachelle Dekker] My Website: www.rachelledeker.com

Twitter: www.twitter.com/rachelledekker

FaceBook: www.facebook.com/rachelledekkerauthor

Instagram: www.instagram.com/rachelle_dekker

Like all citizens since the Ruining, Carrington Hale knows the importance of this day. But she never expected the moment she’d spent a lifetime preparing for—her Choosing ceremony—to end in disaster. Ripped from her family, she’ll spend her days serving as a Lint, the lowest level of society. She knows it’s her duty to follow the true way of the Authority.

But as Carrington begins this nightmare, rumors of rebellion rattle her beliefs. Though the whispers contradict everything she’s been told, they resonate deep within.

Then Carrington is offered an unprecedented chance at the life she’s always dreamed of, yet she can’t shake the feeling that it may be an illusion. With a killer targeting Lints and corruption threatening the highest levels of the Authority, Carrington must uncover the truth before it destroys her.

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32. Poetry Friday: Bone Gap by Laura Ruby

Compose a haiku in honor of a person you admire.
You are spiky spring, humming summer, wings that beat
back ghosts of winter.

This appears on page 310 of the novel Bone Gap by Laura Ruby.

View all posts tagged as Poetry Friday at Bildungsroman.

View the roundup schedule at A Year of Reading.

Learn more about Poetry Friday.

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33. Character Files: LEO THE SENTRY

NAME: Leo The Sentry

HOME: Mont Petit Pierre (Unfortunately for him)Leo

BACKGROUND: Leo the Sentry has a problem. He can’t stand his job. His dream is to travel and see the world — not stand outside the town’s fortress wall for 12 hours a day keeping watch. Can you imagine a more boring job? But Leo is about to learn to be careful what you wish for because sometimes dreams come true. Frighteningly true!

SPECIAL POWERS: Leo has the power to stand still for 12 hours keeping watch without ever going to the bathroom, eating, or napping. While he doesn’t like to do this, he is quite good at it.


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34. PrIncess KIM- Announcing NJ Show!

 Mile Square Theatre and Hoboken Children's Theater Presents
Princess K.I.M The Musical  
(TYA 1 hour Storybook Version)
Saturdays  May 16 thru June 27  10:00AM and 1:00PM
14th and Clinton St.  Hoboken, NJ  07030
(Online tickets to be posted soon.)
See Information on BOTH SPRING SHOWS 
New Jersey and California

by clicking the SHOWS LINK above.

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35. Ditherers and Despots: How Decision Making Creates Conflict

There are several different methods characters rely on to make decisions when it is crunch time.

The way a character processes decisions can resolve an obstacle or create one. Let's look at ways temperament affects decision-making.

1) The Ponderer

If Dick prefers to think long and hard, he will examine the information in a detached way. He will choose the direction that makes the most sense logically, even if he encounters resistance. He will make a rational decision and follow the rules, regardless of the cost to others. He will reach a decision by evaluating all of the facts and by understanding how the pieces form the whole. This is his comfort zone. He wants facts to back up his decision.

His method creates a new set of conflicts if he is relying on information that is outdated or isn’t accurate or if he does not have time to think it through. It creates conflict when Dick is forced to do something that isn’t logical or goes against the rules.

2) The Feeler

Jane prefers an emotional approach. She will try to put herself in the other person’s shoes, testing the information to see if it “feels” right. She will make decisions that maintain harmony. She will look for consensus from others. She wants people to back up her decisions. She will consider the needs of the people involved regardless of whether it is logical or follows the rules.

Her method causes problems when she relies on people who aren’t accurate or people who don't deserve the consideration. It can cause problems when the decision violates rules.

If you want to really torture your characters, force Dick and Jane to work in tandem 

3) The Ditherer

Fuzzy Sally is incapable of making a decision. She worries about making the right one, so she hems and haws and avoids making one. She tries to force someone else to make the decision to avoid blame. She can make Dick or Jane crazy if they need her to decide something quickly. A more aggressive character might make the decision for her and create a bigger conflict. Sally might simply be a procrastinator. She might argue that if you procrastinate long enough, action becomes unnecessary. This tactic might work, or her delay can cause a small problem to grow large.

4)  The Pacifer

Dick might prefer to make a decision that is “good enough” just to get it over with. He either doesn’t know or doesn’t care what the best option is. He flips a coin and is willing to accept the outcome. All characters have to make judgment calls from time to time. Sometimes they don’t have time for in-depth analysis and are forced into swift judgment calls which can create further conflict.

5) The Obstructionist

If Jane is passive-aggressive, she will use the decision to not make a decision as a weapon. She holds the other person hostage until the decision is taken out of her hands. This can force the opposite party to make a rash decision that they end up regretting, which is exactly what the passive aggressive Jane wanted all along. Then if things go wrong, Jane can say, “Well, it wasn’t my decision.” If things go right, Jane usually changes her tune and says, “Well I would have done that if…”

6) The Despot

Some characters are born to lead, or push, shove, and bully everyone else. Sally has no doubt that she is right and everyone else is wrong. She will not tolerate being questioned. Her beliefs are often based on vague assumptions with no backup or foundation whatsoever. It won't matter. She will take charge and steamroll the passive-aggressive, the ditherer, and the pacifier. She will fight to the death with the obstructionist and the ponderer.

Pair opposites in decision making and you have conflict. Put them in the cauldron of a marriage, a friendship, a workplace, or a family, and their opposing ways of making decisions make solving the overall story problem harder. Each will strongly defend their rationale for making or not making a decision.

Characters forced to make painful or life altering decisions can serve as an overall story problem or complicate it as part of their personal dilemma.

Small, difficult decisions can drive the story at scene level. If a decision appears easy, it can have unforeseen consequences. If a decision appears difficult, the repercussions might not be as bad as the character feared.

If you cut the green wire, does the bomb go off? If he chooses the wrong bachelorette, he can be in for a nasty surprise. If he pushes the button will the train kill one person or five?

Employing difficult decisions as conflict increases the emotional stakes in the story.

For more on how to motivate your characters based on personality type, check out:

Story Building Blocks II: Crafting Believable Conflict in paperback and e-book.

Story Building Blocks: Build A Cast Workbook in paperback and e-book.

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36. Failure + Yoda + Me

Erin DionneNext up on our tour of failure is Erin Dionne, another “niner” and excellent writer of middle grade novels.

“Do or do not, there is no try.” – Yoda

“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”- Samuel Beckett

I fail every day. Multiple times, actually. My life consists of parenting two small kids, teaching full time at a small college, and writing.

And always, every day, failure.

Teaching that night class? Missing bedtime. Papers to grade? The writing time gets ditched. Invited to write a blog post about failure? Blew the deadline. Taking the kids out on a Saturday afternoon? Well, no failure there—but I fight “I should be working” guilt, nonetheless.

People talk about finding “balance,” or “managing the writing life”. I have looked for the elusive balance—it doesn’t exist (at least, not when your kids are three and six). I’ve put systems in place to manage my life (implementing a bullet journal, being really careful about how I spend my time), and something always comes up to smash my carefully constructed house of cards.

But I still go for it.

YodaYoda’s quote has been my mantra for years. Cheesy, I know, but the distance between “trying” and “doing” is important to me.

Merriam-Webster defines “try” as “to make an effort to do something: to attempt to accomplish or complete something,” and “do” as “to bring to pass.”

Attempting to do something doesn’t cut it for me. I need to bring that book to pass. I need to complete what I start (which is why, when I took up knitting, I wanted to finish that sweater/scarf/hat in one sitting. It was a terrible hobby for me.). But “bringing something to pass” isn’t always pretty, especially the first time around. Pinterest fails are proof of that.

This is also why I’m not all over Pinterest.

Like all writers, I put a lot of effort into my work. I struggle over drafts, agonize over revisions, and stress about reviews, sales, and what comes next. Over and over, I remind myself that as long as I keep doing something, I’m doing something—even if all I’m doing is moving forward in small steps. I eke out those hours—or minutes—to work on my novel. I set aside time to grade those papers. I play with my kids.

Most of the time, I feel like I am failing at all of it: the writing is crappy, I can’t ever get to the bottom of the grading pile, my kids watch too much TV. That’s when Beckett comes in:

“No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”

I first saw his quote on poet January Gill O’Neil’s blog. As much as Yoda encourages me to keep going and keep doing, Beckett gives me the permission to do so badly. I don’t have to succeed every single time I do, I just have to suck a little less next time. For someone like me, who holds herself to unreasonable standards and sleeps very little, this is freeing.

This manuscript stinks? I can make it better with revision.

This class discussion bombed? Next time I’ll approach the topic differently.

Fed the kids leftover mac n cheese and pizza for dinner? Tomorrow we’ll have veggies.

Have I made my peace with failure? Not exactly; because once you do make peace with failure, you slip into the realm of “trying.” Yet accepting the tenets of Beckett’s failure allows me to follow Yoda’s advice. As long as I keep failing better, I keep doing. And that’s success.

Tomorrow, I’ll fail again. Without trying.


Filed under: Miscellaneous Tagged: erin dionne, failure, there is no try, yoda

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37. Estela of Small Damages arrives in the mail, in the form of an antique bookmark

I write YA books; that is true. But I never write strictly and only of teens. I care about the sweep of generations. I think generations are relevant. Some of my very favorite characters are women even older (believe it!) than me. My Mud Angel and physician Katherine of One Thing Stolen. Stefan's East Berlin grandmother in Going Over. Old Carmen, the rugged beachcomber, of This Is the Story of You (due out next spring). And, of course, my Estela, the old Spanish cook in Small Damages—a character I lived with for a decade before she found herself inside that gorgeous cover.

But now look at the silver wing near the right upper edge of that cover. That is Estela herself, who came to me this afternoon by way of my husband's cousin, Myra. Estela in real life was my husband's father's mother—a loved, buoyant, life-affirming General Counsel in the United States who had also served as the Philippine ambassador to Portugal. I wear her ring as my engagement ring. I hear stories. And today I received this bookmark, which once clipped the pages of the books Estela read.

Myra's words (in impeccable handwriting):
This is an antique silver bookmark from El Salvador my grandmother Estela picked up—probably 50 years ago.... I decided it was time to send you this now. I always thought this should go to you—since you are the writer in the family and it came from William's home country.
 I am so in love with this gift. This piece of then. A bookmark shaped like a coffee bean that might as easily mark my third memoir about my marriage to this Salvadoran man, Still Love in Strange Places.

I thank you, Myra.

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38. Three Questions with Heidi Stemple: Advice For Young Readers, Owls and YOU NEST HERE WITH ME

For Part 2 of the YOU NEST HERE WITH ME series, please see Three Questions With Jane Yolen.

Heidi Stemple didn’t want to be a writer when she grew up. In fact, after she graduated from college, she became a probation officer in Florida. It wasn’t until she was 28 years old that she gave in and joined the family business, publishing her first short story in a book called Famous Writers and Their Kids Write Spooky Stories. The famous writer was her mom, author Jane Yolen. Since then, she has published twenty books and numerous short stories and poems, mostly for children.

I had a chance to hang out with Heidi at the SCBWI Summer Conference last year. She's smart, she's funny and she's so supportive of others in the industry. Then partway through a group conversation, I also discovered that her mom is Jane Yolen (!!). 

Heidi and Jane run a Picture Book Boot Camp (next one is Sept. 10-13, 2015), which is a Master Class in Jane's home:

Where to find out more about Heidi:

Heidi's website - Twitter - Heidi's Author Page on FacebookFacebook page about the yearly owl count

Synopsis of You Nest Here With Me (Boyds Mill Press, 2015):

This rhyming bedtime book is part lullaby and part introductory field guide for the smallest ornithologists. But, at its heart, it reminds baby birds and children alike that home is wherever you are safely tucked in with your family. If you look in the back of You Nest Here With Me , you'll see that part of the dedication is to The Cornell Lab of Ornithology. If you want to know more about birds--including listening to owl calls, visit them at: http://www.birds.cornell.edu/Page.aspx?pid=1478.

Heidi's office. (The cat is named Romeo)

Q. Could you please take a photo of something in your office and tell us the story behind it?

I love birds. All birds. But, especially owls.

"Think I'm kidding about the owls? I even have owl nesting dolls."

I have about a hundred owls in my house. Actually, I’ve never counted them, but there are a lot.

Heidi's living room. "See the owl in the rafters? His name is Wilbur and he watches out over the house." My mother, author Jane Yolen, wrote a book you might know called Owl Moon. It’s about a little girl who goes out owling with her dad. What you may not know is that the little girl is me and Pa is my father, David Stemple, who was a great owler. He was the one who taught me to call owls and now, once a year, I lead a team of owlers for the Audubon Christmas Bird Count. On our best year (so far) we called down 67 owls from midnight to 7am.

These (pictured above) are probably my favorite owls—they make up a bookend that my dad had in his office. Now they sit on the bookshelf right next to my desk and remind me of him.

Q. What advice do you have for young writers?

When you live in a family of writers (my mother and both my brothers work in children’s books) you know that inspiration comes from everywhere. You never know when and from where an idea for a story will pop up. Keep your eyes, ears, and mind open at all times for those ideas. And, write them down because ideas are slippery little buggers.

Prep for the Owl Count

 Every writer has all sorts of notes jotted all over the place with ideas for stories or poems or essays or speeches. I even have the beginning of a story on my iphone—you can’t really understand it because I dictated it with voice-to-text and it got most of the words wrong. But, it’s good enough for me to figure it out later when I am ready to write that story.

Q. What are you excited about right now?

I am always excited about my newest book and the book (or usually books) I am working on. So, besides the projects I am writing and researching right now (which involve pirates, the civil war, the Christmas Bird Count, cookies, the moon, monsters, and soup—yes soup) I am probably MOST excited about my brand new book You Nest Here With Me (co-authored by Jane Yolen and illustrated by Melissa Sweet). This is a book that took 12 years to get published. We sold it twice—to the same editor at 2 different publishing companies—and then waited 3 years for the illustrations. I am glad we were patient because we are so happy with the way it turned out.

For more interviews, see my Inkygirl Interview Archive.

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39. Interesting blog posts about writing – w/e April 24th 2015

Here’s my selection of interesting (and sometimes amusing) posts about writing from the last weekabout writing from the last week:

Deciding What to Put in Your Query Letter (Janice Hardy)

Wake Up and Stop Writing Dream Sequences (Max Booth III)

Be a More Productive Writer While Also Achieving Balance (Jordan Rosenfeld)

Check, Recheck, and Then Check Again (Mary Keeley)

10 Tips For Agents (Rachelle Gardner)

When It Feels Like Everyone Is Getting What You Want (Natalie Whipple)

Taking Care of Business: The Author Biography (Ash Krafton)

Confessions of a Serial Non-finisher (Jan O'Hara)

Pathetic Level of Optimism (Laurie Boyle Crompton)

That Awkward Moment When… (Erika Mitchell)

If you found these useful, you may also like my personal selection of the most interesting blog posts from 2014, and last week’s list.

If you have a particular favorite among these, please let the author know (and me too, if you have time).  Also, if you've a link to a great post that isn't here, feel free to share.

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40. लेख… लाईव खुदकुशी

लाईव खुदकुशी …

वो तो मीडिया के पास कोई और खबर नही है इसलिए एक ही खबर जंतर मंतर और आम आदमी पार्टी कसूरवार  से चिपके हुए हैं कोई दूसरी खबर आते ही उस पर टूट पडेगी …  फिर तू कौन मैं खामखाह… कौन सा किसान और किसकी आत्महत्या.. !!!

….किसी के रोने पर टीआरपी, आपतिजनक बयानों को बार बार दिखाने पर टीआरपी .. पूरी तरह से संवेदनहीन है मीडिया.. तस्वीर का एक ही रुख दिखाता है जबकि अगर वो खुद ही जज और  वकील बन कर जनता के सामने खडा  हैं तो तस्वीर के दोनों रुख पेश करने चाहिए  और जहां तक राजनीति की बात है मीडिया मे किस कदर राजनीति हावी है हम सब जानते है…. वाकई ये वो मीडिया नही है अफसोस !!! मिर्च, मसाला , छौक, तडका… कुछ ज्यादा ही हो रहा है … कम डालो ,नपा तुला डालो और ढंग से परोसो भई अन्यथा …

The post लेख… लाईव खुदकुशी appeared first on Monica Gupta.

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41. Book Birthday! FALLING FOR ALICE


FALLING FOR ALICEHappy birthday to


A YA Anthology celebrating 150 years
of Alice in Wonderland
by authors

Shari Green
Denise Jaden
Dawn Dalton
Kitty Keswick
Cady Vance

From ​the modern Alice dumped in the Aquarian ​Age of the late sixties, to the ​present day Alice, tormented by body image and emotional issues, to the Alice of the future, launched forward through time and space, FALLING FOR ALICE offers five fresh takes on ​Lewis​ Carroll’s classic tale.


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42. Cynsational News & Giveaways

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

The Winner of the 2015 Children's Africana Book Award is The Red Pencil by Andrea Davis Pinkney, illustrated by Shane W. Evans (Little, Brown, 2014).

Character Talents & Skills: Strong Breath Control by Angela Ackerman from Writers Helping Writers. Peek: "A practitioner skilled in this area must also be able to find their center of calm quickly, neutralizing fears and anxieties when they appear as a result of environmental changes, circumventing fight-or-flight responses tied to survival instinct."

Context Matters: On Labels and Responsibility by Jacqueline Koyanagi from Disability in Kidlit. Peek: "The difference between 'generic eccentricity' and a formal diagnosis is just that–formal diagnosis. It seems absurd that it bears stating, but a person on the autism spectrum is on the spectrum even before they are diagnosed. Similarly, bullying is bullying regardless of when diagnosis/identification occurs–and, yes, even if it never occurs."

Constructing an Image System from a Verse Novel by Cordelia Jensen from E. Kristin Anderson at Write All the Words! Peek: "Image systems are about showing the reader a new way to look at the world, but they can also add a layer of depth to your writing by helping you convey to your reader a character’s growth and evolution."

WNDB Tells AWP 15: Write Diverse Books That Sell by Claire Kirch from Publishers Weekly. Peek: "Referring to a backlash to the growing momentum of the calls for the publishing industry to publish more multicultural books, Leung pointed out that diversity in literature is the wave of the future. 'Writing about diversity is as much of a fad as writing about human characters is a fad.'"

Learn more!
The Letting Go from Marion Dane Bauer. Peek: "...I can see that the times I gave up on a major project were usually a mistake. But right now I’m talking about the moment when I release something I’m working on so that it can come back to me fresh."

Top Twenty Picture Book Agents, compiled by Darcy Pattison from Fiction Notes. Note: Not all agents report their sales to Publishers Marketplace.

There Are No Secondary Characters by Jill Hill from Project Mayhem. Peek: "You see, the secondary character that I’m dealing with hasn’t been in the story for a couple of hundred pages, and I kind of forget what was driving him. That’s a problem."

Spellbind Your Readers With Realistic Magic by Tal Valante from Writers Helping Writers. Peek: "...obviously magic needs some limitations, otherwise it all becomes too easy. But what kind of limitations? The trick answer is this: the more interesting (and intuitive!) your limitations, the more interesting your story would be."

Combine Babies & Bylines by Kristi Holl from Writer's First Aid. Peek: "So between now and Mother’s Day, I want to blog about practical ways to combine writing and parenting throughout these stages. Just as beneficial, I hope I can show you some ways that your kids can be your best source of material." See also Kristi on Combining Writing and School-Age Kids.

The Children's Book Council Partners with the Unprison Project to Provide Prison-Nursery Libraries from CBC Diversity. Peek: "In honor of Mother’s Day on Sunday, May 10, the last day of Children’s Book Week 2015, the Children’s Book Council (CBC) is partnering with The unPrison Project — a 501©3 nonprofit dedicated to empowering and mentoring women in prison, while raising awareness of their families’ needs — to create brand-new libraries of books for incarcerated mothers to read with their babies at prison nurseries in 10 states: California, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Nebraska, New York, South Dakota, Washington, West Virginia, and Wyoming."

Cynsational Giveaways

This Week at Cynsations

More Personally

Thanks again to the Texas Library Association, Texas SCBWI chapters and Candlewick Press for your hospitality and support at last week's TLA annual conference in Austin. It was a joy to see y'all and visit about connecting great books to kids!

TLA Author Goodies! Thank you!

Keep scrolling to check out a very sneaky peek at Greg Leitich Smith's new cover for Chronal Engine II (Clarion, fall 2015).

Personal Links

Cynsational Events

Borrowed Time by Greg Leitich Smith (Clarion, Nov. 2015)
Join Cynthia from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. May 2 at Saratoga Springs Public Library for a celebration in conjunction with Saratoga Reads! at Saratoga Springs, New York. Note: Cynthia will be presenting Jingle Dancer (2000), Rain Is Not My Indian Name (2001) and Indian Shoes (2002)(all published by HarperColllins).

Join Cynthia at 11 a.m. May 30 in conjunction with the YA Book Club at Cedar Park Public Library in Cedar Park, Texas.

Cynthia will serve as the master class faculty member from June 19 to June 21 May 2 at the VCFA Alumni Mini-Residency in Montpelier, Vermont.

Cynthia will speak from June 25 to June 30 on a We Need Diverse Books panel at the 2015 Annual Conference of the American Library Association in San Francisco.

Cynthia will lead a breakout session on "Diversity in Children's and YA Literature" Aug. 22 at East Texas Book Fest at the Harvey Hall Convention Center in Tyler, Texas.

Cynthia will appear Sept. 19 at the Mansfield, Texas Book Festival.

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43. Friday Fun: Reviews of STRANGE SKIES and Giveaway!

STRANGE SKIES is out in a few days!!


The Rock Star Book Tour continues, so check out these links for a chance to win both BURN OUT & STRANGE SKIES! Beth at Curling Up With A Good Book said, “Strange Skies has everything that I love in a sequel…the introduction of new characters, continuing breath-taking romance, and unimaginable secrets that are revealed in the perfect moment.” Read the whole review and enter to win here. Over at Such a Novel Idea, I answer what I’d pack if I were leaving Earth for good (hint: you know chocolate is involved)!

Alicia at Addicted Readers says that STRANGE SKIES is “…action-packed sequel that kept me on my toes and flipping the pages faster then I could read them.”  Another review came in this week from someone who isn’t on the official tour and I have to include it here because the entire review made me smile. Brittany’s Book Rambles called STRANGE SKIES: “An action-packed and sexy sequel to Burn Out. It keeps the same fast-pace that started Tora’s journey and it seems that these characters can never catch a break. Tora continues to be a badass and I love her so much. This book is officially released in 7 days and I’m already dying for the third book.” Brittany asked me to do a Q & A over on her blog and I will do another giveaway there so stay tuned.

Over on my Facebook author page, I’m counting down to the release of STRANGE SKIES with one fun fact per day: some facts so far involve how a Matt Damon movie caused me to have to change my planet name and the song that inspired the series, so check it out for more fun facts and a giveaway next week! And don’t forget to sign up for my newsletter on the right for special giveaways and news on what I’m up to next! HAPPY FRIDAY!

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Welcome rgz Diva Melissa Walker

 Melissa's here to tell us some Series Secrets about Dust to Dust 

 ~Dust to Dust is the mysterious, thoughtful, and poignant sequel to Melissa Walker's haunting and heartbreaking novel Ashes to Ashes.~

-Did you run up against any roadblocks as you wrote Dust to Dust? Anything you wished you set up differently in Ashes to Ashes?

No roadblocks really, but there’s a new character who appears in Dust to Dust and I really enjoyed him, so when he came along, I wished he had been part of the duology from the beginning, just because he was such fun!

 -What did you enjoy most about writing book two?

The contemporary setting of book two, as opposed to the otherworldly feel of book one, is much more my comfort zone. Having the characters in school, driving around, at home and in Charleston was easier for me than having them in the Prism, which was a world somewhere between Earth and Heaven. So I enjoyed that ease.

-What would you like readers to take away from this book?

Dust to Dust deals a lot with holding onto pain, and how important it is to be able to let go and enjoy the present moment rather than grappling with past slights or sadnesses. I always hope that readers who've grown to like the characters feel that everyone’s in the right place at the end. I never tie things up perfectly, but I do try to have everyone in a place where we’re okay saying goodbye to them by the last pages.

About the book: When Callie McPhee miraculously recovers from a tragic accident that should have taken her life, she thought her connection to the ghost world would be severed forever. And that she would never see Thatcher—the ghost she fell in love with in the hereafter—again. But when she receives unexpected signs from Thatcher, she's led down a dark road toward the angry souls who once tried to steal her soul's energy for another chance at life. Now Callie must prevent the real world and the spirit world from colliding, and that could mean saying good-bye to people she'd never imagined she'd lose.

More about Melissa Walker here

Dust to Dust, Katherine Tegen Books. out May 5th! Get the book here

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45. Friday Linky List - April 24, 2015

From CreativeLive: 5 Drawing Exercises That Will Turn Anyone Into An Artist

From Bustle (via Shelf Awareness): On National Bookmobile Day, 12 Amazing Bookmobiles That Show the Power of Books and Reading

National Bookmobile Day (who knew!?) was April 15th - Read more about it at the ALA website

From AlterMinds: Just Look at the Stunning gDetail in These Mini Paintings and Try to Not Be Impressed

From Stumble: Ho! I've just finished reading ______ by ______. What should I read next?

From The Atlantic: Inside the Podcast Brain: Why Do Audio Stories Captivate

From BuzzFeed (via PW): 17 Stories That Will Make You Want to Hug Your Librarian - in honor of National Library Week.

From PW: Children's Print Book Sales Buck the Trend

From The Guardian (via PW): Personalized picture book becomes runaway bestseller

At Cynsations: Guest Post: Joy Preble on Being a Mid-Career, Mid-List Author

The Penguin Random House website is now live!

Darcy Pattison shares the 2015 Top 20 Picture Book Agents - I'm proud to say that my agency holds the 4th and 5th spots!

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46. Advice For Young Writers, Tea, Books and Office Owls: Three Questions With Jane Yolen and Heidi Stemple


Today, I'm delighted to have Jane Yolen and Heidi Stemple visiting Inkygirl. Jane and Heidi are not only a mother-daughter writing team but also co-authors of YOU NEST HERE WITH ME, a new picture book that recently came out from Boyds Mill Press, illustrated by Melissa Sweet. I've also been a longtime fan of Jane's work, especially her fairy tale retellings.

I asked both Jane and Heidi to answer Three Questions for me, and here are their answers:

Three Questions With Jane Yolen

Three Questions With Heidi Stemple


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47. Heart-warming ANZAC Picture Books

ROLY the Anzac Donkey, by Glyn Harper illustrated by Jenny Cooper (Puffin)

If you've read 'Simpson and his Donkey' you'll know about an Australian soldier's work rescuing the wounded with the aid of his donkey in Gallipoli.  It's a gorgeous tale and now considered a classic. There have been several versions - the latest being Mark Greenwood's book published by Walker Books in 2009. Over the years I had heard that New Zealand stretcher bearers used donkeys too.  Military Historian Glyn Harper has uncovered one of those stories and we now have a true New Zealand story about a soldier and his donkey.

Glyn tells the story in Roly, the donkey's voice.  On the opening page we're introduced to Roly and he tells us he hasn't always worked on a farm (shown in the background illustrations), he once worked in Gallipoli helping rescue soldiers who had been hurt in battle.  Glyn most likely started the story this way to reassure young children - the donkey makes it.  This will help sensitive children not feel anxious for the donkey while they're listening to the story being read to them. It's a gentle opening for the story. It's needed because the following pages jump into a hard time for the donkey.

Through words and pictures we find out that Roly grew up on a Greek farm until English soldiers captured and loaded him onto a ship destined for Gallipoli. Unfortunately for Roly his first driver was cruel. He made Rory work long hours carrying heavy loads, gave him little food and water, and beat him. One day Roly escaped but returns when he's hungry and misses the other donkeys. On his journey back he meets a man who changes his life for the better.

Glyn does not try to romanticise Rory's work in Gallipoli. He carries soldiers whose blood sometimes trickles down his back, and they have to run for it when there is fire charging back and forth. It's important children grow up realising war is not one big adventure and shooting guns is fun. But juxtaposed with this realistic story are the warm illustrations that show the love between animal and human. If you've owned a dog you'd recognise the look that Rory shows for Richard - it's utter adoration, and Jenny Cooper has captured it so expertly.

Rory and Richard's heart warming tale, Glyn's excellent storytelling abilities, and Jenny's stunning illustrations make this a winner for children (and adults). It's a story that won't just come out during ANZAC celebrations, it will be read all year round. Highly recommended for home, school and public libraries.

ISBN: 9780143506638 RRP $19.99

Other Glyn Harper ANZAC stories illustrated by Jenny Cooper you will also want to read are:

Le Quesnoy: The Story of the Town New Zealand Saved (Puffin)

Jim's Letters (Puffin)

Other ANZAC stories:

The ANZAC Puppy by Peter Millett, illustrated by Trish Bowles (Scholastic)

The Red Poppy by David Hill, illustrated by Fifi Colston (Scholastic)

Caesar the ANZAC Dog by Patricia Stroud, illustrated by Bruce Potter (Scholastic)

ANZAC Day - The New Zealand Story by Philippa Werry (New Holland)

Best Mates by Philippa Werry, illustrated by Bob Kerr (New Holland)

The Last ANZAC by Gordon Winch, illustrated by Harriet Bailey

Meet the ANZACs by Claire Saxby, illustrated by Max Berry (Random House)

Meet Werry Dunlop by Claire Saxby, illustrated by Jeremy Lord (Random House)

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48. Three Questions With Jane Yolen: Advice For Young Writers, Books, Tea and YOU NEST HERE WITH ME

For Part 1 of my YOU NEST HERE WITH ME series, please see Three Questions With Heidi Stemple.

Photo: Jason Stemple.

I was thrilled to meet Jane Yolen at a recent SCBWI conference, and even more excited when Jane read my f&g of Where Are My Books? and liked it (see photo at the very end of this interview). Jane Yolen is the renowned author of many children's books, fantasy, and science fiction, including Owl Moon, The Devil's Arithmetic, and How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight? Her books, poems and stories have won many awards, including the Caldecott Medal.

You can find Jane at her website, JaneYolen.com, on Facebook and on Twitter. She and her daughter Heidi Stemple run a Picture Book Boot Camp (next one is Sept. 10-13, 2015), which is a Master Class in her home:

Her newest book is YOU NEST HERE WITH ME, a picture book co-written with Heidi Stemple (see Heidi's Three Questions interview in Inkygirl.com earlier today) and illustrated by Melissa Sweet, published by Boyds Mill Press in March 2015.


This lyrical bedtime book is an ode to baby birds everywhere and to sleepy children, home safe in their own beds. As a mother describes how different species of birds nest, secure and cozy with their mama birds, she tucks her own child into bed with the soothing refrain, “you nest here with me”—easing her little one and readers alike to slumber. Perfect for a young audience, this poetic text begs to be read aloud, and is accompanied by Melissa Sweet’s incredibly warm and original art.

Q. Could you please take a photo of something in your office and tell us the story behind it?

Photo: Heidi Stemple.

Like most writers, I have an enormous research library in my home and when I am working on a particular project, those books get scattered around my writing room.

As I am currently working on two very different manuscripts--one set in the Holocaust (the first section in the Lodz Ghetto) and the other a graphic novel trilogy set in 1930s Edinburgh, I chose to pick out a book from each of those piles to feature in the photograph. At the top is a day-by-day catalog of what happened during the ghetto years in Lodz, and in the second materials about Scotland through the ages. Fiction has to take the real and massage it into a story that nay (or may not) have actually happened. We recreate (hi)story and bring our readers along.

Photo: Heidi Stemple.

From Jane, about the photo above: "I can't seem to write without a cup of tea (British decaf with demarara sugar and a splash of Lactaid milk.) I keep making cuppas coming all day long."

Q. What advice do you have for young writers?

Read, read, read.

Write something every day.

Never take no for an answer.

Don't believe your reviews--either good or bad.

Heart on the page.

Know that books are not just written, but rewritten.

(Above: Listen as Jane reads and critiques her very first poem)


Q. What are you excited about right now?

Two of my old books recently splashed out big: HOW DO DINOSAURS GET WELL SOON (Scholastic) won the Colorado One Book Award, and BAD GIRLS (Charlesbridge)--written with daughter Heidi Stemple--won the Magnolia Award, Mississippi's Children's Book Award for the middle grades. Plus the latest book Heidi and I just published--YOU NEST HERE WITH ME (Boyds Mills) with amazing illustrations by Melissa Sweet--has recently had a tremendous start and after only a month is getting a second printing.

But honestly, I am always most excited about the manuscript I am working on now. That's where my heart is, where my soul is. That is where my tomorrow is.


For more interviews, see my Inkygirl Interview Archive.

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49. कार्टून – दर्द किसान का

cartoon-farmer-field-monicaअफसोस .. जिस तरह से मीडिया कवरेज के दौरान चाहे भाजपा हो, आप पार्टी हो या कांग्रेस … सभी एक दूसरे पर दोषारोपण कर रहे है कोई किसानों के दुख दर्द को जानना नही चाहता … ऐसे मैं हमेशा तंग करने वाली चिडिया उनके दुख को जान कर इस बार बची खुची फसल को बनाए रखेगी … नुकसान नही होने देगी …

The post कार्टून – दर्द किसान का appeared first on Monica Gupta.

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50. Celebrate Poetry All Year Long

Ideally, National Poetry Month encourages readers to incorporate poetry into their everyday lives. The Poetry Friday Anthology for Celebrations gives young readers a poetic glimpse into holidays big and small throughout the calendar year. Consider adding a copy to your classroom, library, or personal collection!

Here’s my contribution to the anthology.

caroline starr rose december solstice

The post Celebrate Poetry All Year Long appeared first on Caroline Starr Rose.

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