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Viewing: Blog Posts from the Writer category, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 16,176 - 16,200 of 213,423
16176. My tweets

  • Fri, 19:50: Best overheard quote of the day so far: There is no me. There is only awesome. And flesh. There is flesh
  • Fri, 21:24: Seamus Heaney http://t.co/W5tvucMpVv
  • Fri, 22:40: Best new overheard quote: In Maine versus LA, you are allowed 30 extra pounds and one extra cat. This is the truth

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16177. Still Life in a Diner Booth

Our timing was lucky on Tuesday and we got my favorite booth at the Red Hook Diner, the one with neon sign in the window that says OPEN.

Barbara brought the coffee right away and took our breakfast order. That left me with 22 minutes before the scrambled eggs would come.

I used black and white casein for most of the painting and then brought out the watercolor to give the highlights a warm and cool touch.

I was using Richeson / Shiva casein
1/4 inch flat brush 
Moleskine watercolor notebook
Waterman Phileas red fountain pen 
Lots of info on casein at Richeson's FAQ
Previously: Creamer in Casein

3 Comments on Still Life in a Diner Booth, last added: 9/6/2013
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16178. My tweets

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16179. I Have Been Reading...

This evening I finished reading Josephine Tey's first novel, The Man In The Queue, published in 1929. It's the first Inspector Grant novel. I had been rereading, yet again, The Daughter Of Time, which put me in the mood for Richard III fiction(and I'm still rereading We Speak No Treason). That, in its turn, made me think of Josephine Tey's other books. I wanted to see what Inspector Grant did when he was not confined to a hospital bed researching Richard III. I discovered the title of his first appearance and bought it in iBooks. And while looking up the titles of Tey's other novels, I found one by Nicola Upson, a murder mystery in which Josephine Tey is the sleuth! It was only $2.99, so what-the-heck. I have just started that one. I also, on an impulse, bought and downloaded Percy Jackson And The Lightning Thief, which I have just finished. It was basically a road story with Greek mythology slotted in, quite entertaining, though the author surely must know that Athena is a maiden goddess, unlikely to have children, but chose to ignore it for the purposes of the story. I can see, though, why the series is popular among our kids - not hard reading and the characters meet a fresh challenge in each chapter.

Speaking of road stories, I've finally begun to get stuck into Libba Bray's novel, Going Bovine, which I bought at the Reading Matters conference. It's the story of a boy who has been diagnosed with mad cow disease and is taking a road trip, with a Little Person friend from school, to find a cure which he has been promised by a punk angel. They have several bizarre encounters and I get the feeling it's meant to be a version of Don Quixote... Not sure if it's really YA fiction, though the hero is a teenager. It just has too many references which will go over the heads of many teens. I'll make up my mind when I've finished it; I'm halfway through, having read quite a bit when I woke up at 4.30 this morning and couldn't get back to sleep.

There are some review copies awaiting their turn, so I'd better get going on those!

Any interesting reading going on out there, readers?

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16180. The Five Lives of Our Cat Zook

I loved this book.

Great main character.

The Five Lives of Our Cat Zook by Joanne Rocklin
(Thank you, Kirby Larson, for the recommendation.)

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16181. YA Fiction Pick and Mix 8/31/13 Edition with Giveaway of TWO BOYS KISSING by David Levithan

Wasn't that wonderful news from Clara Kensie last week about her book deal with the new digital imprint of Harlequin Teen? I'm so happy she can finally announce it and start getting you all excited about her book. I don't know about you, but I'm fascinated by the idea that it will be released as a serial in three parts a week apart. I think back to the great books that started as serials and the cliffhangers that came out of the format. The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Christo are among my favorite books of all time, and I adore Sherlock Holmes. There's also Uncle Tom's Cabin, Madame Bovary, and Anna Kerenina. Having read Clara's book, I know it was a thriller to start with. I can't wait to see what happens in the editorial process.

What do you think of serials coming back? Is your opinion different as a reader than as a writer?

I'm in the editing cave for a few weeks, so the pick and mix is going to be shortened this week. I'm posting Clara's winners below this week's AMAZING new release from David Levithan, and I'll see you again next weekend with the regular format.

The good news is that things are happening with my book! The team at Simon Pulse has picked a cover designer, who is already working on a concept I'm thrilled about. I'm hoping to get the go ahead soon to share some of the designer's other work with you. They've also got a new title, which may change, so I'm not going to share yet. Most importantly, my editor has blown my mind with her insight into the story and into Barrie, Eight, Cassie, and the other characters. She's picked up on nuances and history that aren't even in the book. And her line edits are brilliant. In fact, looking at the pattern in her line edits, I came up with this week's writing tip. It's at the end of the post. :)

Have a wonderful week!

This Week's Giveaway

Two Boys Kissing
by David Levithan
Hardcover Giveaway
Knopf Books for Young Readers
Released 8/27/2013

New York Times' bestselling author David Levithan tells the based-on-true-events story of Harry and Craig, two 17-year-olds who are about to take part in a 32-hour marathon of kissing to set a new Guinness World Record--all of which is narrated by a Greek Chorus of the generation of gay men lost to AIDS.

While the two increasingly dehydrated and sleep-deprived boys are locking lips, they become a focal point in the lives of other teen boys dealing with languishing long-term relationships, coming out, navigating gender identity, and falling deeper into the digital rabbit hole of gay hookup sites--all while the kissing former couple tries to figure out their own feelings for each other.

This follow-up to the bestselling Every Day showcases David's trademark sharp-witted, warm-hearted tales of teenage love, and serves as a perfect thematic bookend to David's YA debut and breakthrough, Boy Meets Boy, which celebrates its 10th anniversary in 2013.

Purchase Two Boys Kissing at Amazon
Purchase Two Boys Kissing at IndieBound
View Two Boys Kissing on Goodreads

Clara's Special Giveaway Winners


TIGER’S CURSE by Colleen Houck

Winner: Heather Cranmer


COLD KISS by Amy Garvey (ARC)
THE SUMMONING by Kelley Armstrong
Winner: The Magic Violinist


THIS LULLABY by Sarah Dessen
Winner: Erica Haglund

Reader of the Week: Natalie Aguirre

Natalie is a gift to the online writing community. As a reader, she does fantastic reviews and giveaways of great young adult and middle grade books over at Literary Rambles

She is also a tireless friend to so many in the blogosphere. I don't know how she does what she does, but she's fantastic. Thank you, Natalie, for all you do, and for stopping by here so faithfully and supporting us!

Blogger/Writer of the Week: Carol Baldwin

Carol has been both a reader and a journal writer for more than 30 years. Her book, "Teaching the Story: Fiction Writing in Grades 4-8" (Maupin House, 2007) reflects these twin passions of reading and writing. "If you want to write, read!"

Carol is writing her first young adult novel, and she teaches and speaks as well. Hop on over to her blog to find posts like the following:

Writing Tip of the Week

Do a global search for the word "it" in your manuscript. Replace almost every instance with specific details. Readers use detail to keep them grounded in the story, and the more unique the details are, the better. Replacing that one little word lets me build in additional detail and insights into character. Each generic "it" is a lost opportunity!

Thought for the Week

Via Pinterest

Something Fun Things to Watch

Loading... Read the rest of this post

23 Comments on YA Fiction Pick and Mix 8/31/13 Edition with Giveaway of TWO BOYS KISSING by David Levithan, last added: 9/16/2013
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16182. Book Trailers from Houston Authors

I love book trailers—they’re a fun promotional tool, adding an extra opportunity through images and sound for authors to convey the tone of their books. Several authors with Houston SCBWI have released awesome trailers for their 2013 books. Take a look:

From Dax Varley: SEVERED—A Tale of Sleepy Hollow 

From Kelly Bennett: VAMPIRE BABY

From Mary Lindsey: ASHES ON THE WAVES

From Crystal Allen: THE LAURA LINE


And a beautiful author video from Lynne Kelly for CHAINED

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16183. Handling the To-Do List

If you've read many of my posts on The Muffin, you know that I spend three hours a day teaching Journalism, Speech and Drama.

So, when the last school bell rings in May, I create my summer to-do list and break it into multiple categories, like home improvements, school projects (you see, school NEVER ends for a teacher), and writing projects.

This summer, my writing project list included 11 projects ranging from setting up a new schedule for my blog, querying new markets, completing some photo projects, devoting a specific number of hours to working on the novel, and developing story ideas for the regional publications I write for.

How many projects were crossed off the list?

Can I plead the 5th? Do I have to answer the questions?


Yes, the deuce. Dos. One + one equals two.

The weird thing is, I feel like I got a lot of writing accomplished this summer. I know my bank account appreciated my efforts!

But two? Seriously?

I'm frustrated that I didn't get more done. I've always thought I'm a good organizer and a fast writer.

Only two?

It got me thinking about WHY I didn't get a lot done. Interference from Facebook, Twitter and Words with Friends? Caring for the grandsons while their mom is at work? Wanting a bit of ME time? Too much "Orange is the New Black" or "The Newsroom"?

Sure, some of those factor in, but they aren't the real culprit.

So the day before I returned to school, I sent a HARO query and received a lot of great advice. During September, on my blog dates, I'm going to talk about tackling the to-do list and keeping it manageable. I'll be sharing information from organization experts, a psychologist, and medical experts.

You may be surprised at some of the answers. I was!

Until my next blog post, I'm curious. How do you handle your to-do list? Do you break down each task step-by-step? Do you have an established writing routine that lets you meet your goals?

Share your thoughts with us.

by LuAnn Schindler. Read more of LuAnn's work at her website.

5 Comments on Handling the To-Do List, last added: 9/6/2013
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16184. The Aussie from Down Under Reviews Powder Monkey and Hockey Agony by Donna McDine

Fellow children's author, Margot Finke and I met back in 2007 via Guardian Angel Publishing and various online writing forums and our friendship has remained. It is my hope to meet this heart warming and giving woman in person some day!

Margot's own writing and critique services keep her busy and typically does not complete reviews and I'm honored she made an exception to review my two latest children's books.

Visit Margot at Hook Kids on Reading and check out her reviews of Powder Monkey and Hockey Agony. While there be sure to check out Margot's fabulous books, Skype author visits, critique service, etc. Be prepared to spend a big chunk of time visiting Margot for her resources are outstanding!

Thank you Margot :) !


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

Powder Monkey ~ May 2013 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc.

Hockey Agony ~ January 2013 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc.

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

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16185. Unlocking Your Inner Potential - Rebecca Lisle

Well, is there inner potential, that's the question.  I'm certainly not sure there's any in me. I suspect that my innards are devoid of anything. Everything. I'm trying to write and I can't. My inner muse or well of inspiration or whatever, is now nothing but a clogged up puddle of mud.

I wondered if a self-help guide might help. Although I don't want my own self-help, I want someone else to help. Actually I guess I want someone else to write my 'book words' for me.

The trouble with this book is I am already full of fear and personally I think it's plain dangerous to do something you know for sure is scary. That's why it's scary. To stop you from doing it. Sensible really. Protective.
So this book is no help at all.

Apparently I do have an inner genius, really I do. There's lots about it on the internet. I have to find it, that's all. Unlock it. So I turn to my store of images which I gather as I go about the world, hoping one day they will become something. Anything. Since I always find doors inspiring and interesting here are a few of my favourites. They might give you inspiration. But these doors are . . .


Locked. Maybe for ever.
I've got more photos. I've got these fascinating boxes, surely full of wonderful ideas and exciting plots:

How about this ancient box. What was it used for? Why the huge lock? Surely I can be inspired by its mysterious paintings of birds and spiky plants?  

What are those two chaps hiding in there? Are they smiling? I'm sure they look smug. I have the feeling they know the secret of how to write a good book and they've got it locked up in there and won't tell.

And what's inside this 15th century iron cask? The secret to the Universe? The best plot in the world?

And although I have some extraordinary keys - 

guess what - they don't unlock anything.

So back to the self-help books.  "How to be Happy" Impossible. It'll never happen. "How to write your novel in one year!" That's far too long. I want it done by the end of the week.  "The Easy Way to Write." That's just lies - there isn't one. "Everything I know about Writing." Fine, but you know it, you're successful, stop showing off. I know nothing. I can't write a thing.

Finally I take the plunge and write my very own self-help guide. A must for all would be novelists. It's called "The Only Way To Write"by Rebecca Lisle. Because there is only one me and only one way to write. And the best thing about it is it won't take long to read and it really does work!

There is one page of credits and acknowledgments: 

Firstly, I thank myself for all the hard work I've put into this book, myself for being my constant support and critic, myself for never giving up hope and belief in me and myself for feeding me constant cups of coffee and buns. I will never forget you. 

On the following page the advice begins. And ends. 

Stop faffing around and get on with it. 

Rebecca Lisle  www.rebeccalisle.com

Rebecca's most recent book THE SPIN, published by Hot Key Books has been nominated for the West Sussex Children's Book Award

7 Comments on Unlocking Your Inner Potential - Rebecca Lisle, last added: 9/6/2013
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16186. Light the Empire State Building in Bill Finger's honor

The Empire State Building is only a few years older than Batman, and like Batman, it stands iconically above a city.

Unlike Batman, however, it does not remain in shadow. 

The colors change regularly. In fact, anyone can request a specific lighting scheme.

So, of course, I did.

Here is an excerpt from my application:

I am the author of Bill the Boy Wonder: The Secret Co-Creator of Batman, the first-ever biography of Bill Finger, the uncredited co-creator and original writer of the Dark Knight…who was created in 1939 right there in New York.

Finger is the main mind behind one of the most influential fictional icons in world history yet his onetime partner, cartoonist Bob Kane, took full credit for Batman. Finger designed Batman's costume; wrote the first Batman story and many of the best stories of his first 25 years (including his groundbreaking—and heartbreaking—origin); wrote the first stories of popular supporting characters including Robin and the Joker; named Bruce Wayne, Gotham City, and the Batmobile; and nicknamed Batman "the Dark Knight," which has influenced the titles of two of the highest-grossing movies of all time. Yet while Kane never wrote a Batman story, Finger never saw his name as co-creator in a Batman story.

In 1974, after a career in which most of his beloved work was published anonymously, Finger died alone and poor. No obituary. No funeral. No gravestone.

No kidding.

Finger was largely responsible for one of our greatest fictional champions of justice. It is time for justice for Finger himself. An Empire State Building lighting tribute would poignantly give Finger the honor he deserves in the city where he quietly made pop culture history. It’s just too bad he won’t be there to see it.

Why February 8, 2014? It would have been Finger’s 100th birthday (and 2014 is also the 75th anniversary of Batman, not to mention the 40th anniversary of Finger’s death).

Why the requested colors? They correspond with Batman’s original costume (largely the same as today’s, only at first he had purple gloves). If it’d be possible to somehow incorporate a bat, that would be fantastic.

Thank you for your consideration. I can guarantee you lighting a legacy to Bill Finger would get many people talking in a good way. It’s an American story. It’s a New York story. It’s a noble gesture.

Justice has no expiration date.

They said no.

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16187. Final Week to Enter : Win a Book and a Tip by one of our Expert Children's/YA Authors

This is it! It's the LAST week to enter the "Comments Contest" for your chance to win a book by one of our Expert Authors or Illustrators who gave tips on the blog this summer!

Each Book comes with a writing tip from the author inside!

Linda A is the clear front-runner in the Comments Contest at this point -- GO LINDA!

But there will be 2 winners, so your chances are still good!

How to win? 
Place a relevant comment on any posts that were written on this blog from June through the end of August of this year (2013).   Every time you comment your name will be entered into the jar for the drawing. 
2 lucky winners will each win a book by one of our expert authors, 
with a writing tip from that author inside!

Winners' names will be posted the 2nd Saturday in September!

There have been lots of diverse posts this summer -- comment on any of them!  Each one will enter your name in the jar! The more comments, the more chances to win.

So, to help you, here are links to some of the posts you may have missed this summer:

9.) Live Streaming of Book Expo America Publishing Industry Presentations

And though these last 2 are actually from May, and not June-August, I'll throw them in as a bonus and count comments made on them for the contest as well -- because Don Tate's thoughts are definitely worth reading! :)

10.) Author/Illustrator Don Tate - On Writing Multicultural Picture Books/Biographies

11.) Author/Illustrator Don Tate - On why Multicultural Children's Books are Important.

So, have fun reading and commenting this week!  

Good luck to all who are entering the 
this summer!

2 Comments on Final Week to Enter : Win a Book and a Tip by one of our Expert Children's/YA Authors, last added: 9/8/2013
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16188. Fragment #5

I am anaesthetised. I no longer look at women with envy nor lust. They just pass. I could be walking in a field of barley that my gaze wouldn't be any different. No longer any lump in the throat for I desired them so much or because I was completely crestfallen at being single. No longer any extra beating of the heart. I bored in them and out. Dreams of the only one, gone. There are thousands the like of us. Without being interchangeable on the short and long run, the medium part of our lives together are dragging days of boredom where we annul each other's impact. Before and after that, all hell breaks loose. Life deserves better than this, we ought to focus more. If this means to be alone, then I'll tread this path, occasionally looking back, but wall-clipping onwards, and through.
Too many defeated and crushed expectations to react. Too many seats between the woman I'd like to talk to - and who, perhaps, would like to talk to me. Too many times I have been rejected, I was stopped being spoken to. I can now stare unblinking through blood, and tears, whether of happiness or of pain. I can no longer cry thinking about my late mother. Dying children no longer move my heart. What a waste of sentiments. Stasis of the mind, equipoise of the feelings, for they lie at the abysmal pit of unconcernedness. It's already difficult for me to be concerned with myself. No one is for me, and I am for none but the windy moors of Ireland.
So many times I came close to dying, or to falling in love, succeeding but didn't sometimes I imagine what and who I would be now had all those things happened.
Best option ahead would be to burn my eyes and fingers to the steady whirlwinds of snow of Iceland and Finland. Delve into mythology more than I ever have. Devote my life to self-improvement so that I die a better, more accomplished person, useless to anyone, but better.
So many glances exchanged through the glasses of a metropolitan compartment. Glances which probably meant nothing, some of which were undoubtedly a blank stargaze I happened to cross the trajectory of. So many times I have been invited in someone else's life and later on we happened to dig up the misunderstanding which first brought us together. One does not build hope on those things, but one's idea of caring, interest and, well, some building blocks of self-esteem.
Not that I seem to have a choice or a say in this situation,

We are not meant to be happy. We are meant to hang together, to stick together come what may. To raise kids and give them enough love and values to make a sortie into the world of teeth and claws and start building something beautiful and worthwhile. The life of the worthy is one of toil and strain and tears. And of smiles and hugs and tears. And of hope and grievance. And of moving on and belief in oneself, in man and in whichever gives impetus to life.

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16189. The Keys to Publishing Success -- Pursuit of Happiness

Hi, folks, I'm finishing up my series on the keys to publishing success. This  week I'm going to chat about the pursuit of happiness. It's one thing that many writers overlook. Happiness is important, but we forget to seek it.

We all have challenges, internal and external . Many of us are broken and limping forward anyway. Often times, circumstances are far from fair. We may be trapped by our own failings or the failings of others. Our mental and/or physical health may be failing. How are we supposed to be happy?

Good news. You can cultivate happiness.  Here is a list of happiness habits that may help lead you to happy ground. Put them into practice to find success.

Seek your truest writing self in your stories. Really know what you are about. I'm heartfelt, humorous, and intriguing. Find your own little thematic triptych. Know thyself.

Choose to think about the best possible outcome for your work. Not in a fairytale way, mind you. If you haven't written a book, you can't sell one. But, if you've done your research and sent out the submission or query, why not believe that it is going to work?

Kill the monster. It's time to decide that jealousy is worthless. Let it go. Every time you say you are not good enough because someone else is better than you --  you are jealous. Stop it.

Make the target bigger. If your goal is to be on the New York Times Best Sellers list. Fine. I like your ambition. But if that is your only goal, boo. I want you to add 20 things to your list. Here is the rule. If you don't have a 70 % chance of achieving your goals, you need to keep thinking.

Review your goals every day. Post them on the fridge. Put them on the inside of your car visor. Make them your screen saver on your computer. Remember what you want and work toward it.

Stop saying you'll never be published. You are not lame. You are not the worst writer ever. You are not a failure. Remove yourself from the presence of those who say you are just dreaming, this will never happen, and this is a waste of time. Cut out the noise.

Share your genius. Do what you can to help others in your community find their way. Encourage the community around you. Did you know success breeds success? 

Okay, that is some stuff to think about. If you have some more personal habits that bring happiness to your writing life, share them here! Let's get what we need. Here is a link to a helpful clip about happiness: The Secret to Better Work, Shawn Achor, TedX.

Thanks for dropping by. I will be digging into writer myths next month. Seize the day.

Here is the pic -- "Comet PanStarrs above the Sun."

Here is the quote for your pocket:
Trust your heart if the seas catch fire, live by love though the stars walk backward. E.E. Cummings

27 Comments on The Keys to Publishing Success -- Pursuit of Happiness, last added: 9/9/2013
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16190. Interview: Alison Croggon

A decade ago, Australian author Alison Croggon released The Gift. This fantasy novel, which was called The Naming in the USA, was followed by three more: The Riddle, The Crow, and The Singing. This popular quartet, collectively called The Books of Pellinor, put her squarely on the map for fantasy readers around the world. Now she's released a new YA novel, Black Spring, a fantasy inspired by Wuthering Heights. I conducted an interview with this accomplished novelist, playwright, and poet through the wonders of electronic mail.

How old were you the first time you truly considered a career as a writer?

I never considered anything else. I can’t remember learning how to read – I could read before I went to school and (according to my mother) wrote a little poem on my first day at school. This probably accounted for my primary school teacher writing to me later and telling me that she would buy my books one day! So the desire to write has been there for my whole life. Publication has always been a secondary consideration for me (although of course it's important!) The problem has always been working out how to be a writer and survive at the same time, which led me to journalism in my early 20s, but I've basically been writing full-time for the past 20 years.

You've said that your newest book, Black Spring, was inspired by Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights. When did you first read Wuthering Heights? Have Heathcliff and Cathy haunted you ever since, putting the idea for this story in the back of your mind?

I read Wuthering Heights in my early 20s, I think. I found it a hard book at first (as with some of my favourite books) - it took me a few goes - and then, of course, I couldn't put it down. I read Emily Bronte's poems much earlier, when I was a child, and those were as important in the feel of the book as Wuthering Heights itself. I’ve always wanted to write a tragic Gothic romance, I think. I like that extremity and rawness.

How does Black Spring differ in tone or style from The Books of Pellinor?

It’s a different style of book. The characters are very different, the setting is entirely different, it’s a different kind of story. But it’s still me writing it, so it will have some obsessions in common too. I suppose both The Books of Pellinor and Black Spring are, in essence, meditations on the nature of love – between lovers, of course, but also within families, and as friendship, and as a part of being a human being. Friendship is actually a hugely important theme to me.

To me as well. Congratulations on the international publication of your books! Some of The Books of Pellinor have different titles in different corners of the world. Did you have any say in the book titles?

No! In Germany, Black Spring is translated as LAND OF DEATH, which is certainly Gothic! I have no idea what my books are like in other languages: sometimes the covers are extremely mysterious! But you hope that they are fair versions of what I wrote!

How has social media connected you to your fans?

I have lovely readers, who I often chat with on Twitter and Facebook (I am a bit addicted to social media). Some of them send me updates as they’re reading, which is a fascinating change – once upon a time you had no idea of that immediate response! Someone once sent me a photo of their tattoo, which was a quote from the Pellinor books! Some have set poems from the Pellinor books to music, which is a lovely thing.

What do you think makes fantasy stories have such a universal appeal?

I think it’s lot of things. What attracts me is storytelling, and the enchantments of imagined worlds. I think they allow you to see the world in which we live in new and interesting ways, telling the truth but telling it slant.

We have more in common than our similarly-sounding names: we are both writers in different realms, including musical theatre, songwriting, poetry, fiction, journalism. How do you manage to juggle it all?

I’m sure you have the same problem I have - time! I love working in different areas, as it’s incredibly stimulating, and it keeps me mentally fit. I often work of a few projects at once, because things can sink to the bottom of your mind while you’re working on something else, which can be incredibly useful. They have time to “cook”. Most of the time it’s ok, but sometimes everything happens at once and then it’s a challenge to keep up.

Any upcoming productions? What's the latest news on Night Songs, and Mayakovsky?

As you probably know, a lot of things get written and then not produced. I’ve been fairly lucky that way, but Night Songs is still hanging around looking for a company to put it on. We had a development workshop with Bell Shakespeare, the national Shakespeare company here, which resulted in a wonderful performance, but that might be as far as it gets. The opera Mayakovsky, which I wrote with my long-time collaborator, the composer Michael Smetanin, looks like it might be on in Sydney next year, but that’s in the early stages and I can’t speak about that. My latest opera, The Riders (written with Iain Grandage), will be on in Melbourne next year, but I can’t talk about that yet either!

Break a leg! What's the most exciting part of the collaborative process for you? What have you found to be the most difficult task when collaborating with other creatives?

Collaboration is always about other people, so the trick is to pick your collaborators well! I’ve only had one collaboration go wrong, and even that was with people I love and respect, so there’s no guarantee. As a writer, you mostly work by yourself, so maybe the best bit is not making something by yourself. I just love what happens when other creative minds get to work on your words – it’s never at all what you could have done on your own. When a collaboration works, it’s just so exciting: it makes much more smart than you are, because you have access to all these other minds.

My husband Daniel Keene (he's a playwright) and I co-wrote Night Songs and we enjoyed it so much we want to write a YA series together now. We've got a ripper of an idea, too.

Name some artists - poets, novelists, singers, painters, whatever the case may be - who have influenced your own work.

That is such a hard question! There are so many! I suppose – my absolute favourite poets (but there are so many others) - William Blake, Rainer Maria Rilke. Novelists, everyone from Jane Austen to Ursula Le Guin, Fyodor Dostoevsky to Mikhail Bulgakov to Terry Pratchett. I have been very influenced in all my thinking about writing by theatre, it's taught me a lot about how to make writing alive.

And finally: What are your top ten favorite books?

Another REALLY HARD QUESTION. In no particular order, some enduringly favourite novels:

The Railway Children, E Nesbit
Crime and Punishment, Fyodor Dostoevsky
Persuasion, Jane Austen
The Gormenghast Trilogy, Mervyn Peake
The Wizard of Earthsea quintet, Ursula Le Guin
An Imaginary Life, David Malouf
The Turn of the Screw, Henry James
The Last of the Just, André Schwarz-Bart
The Little Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Orlando, Virginia Woolf

Learn more about Alison Croggon at her official website.

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16192. You Shall Not Pass!!!

My hubbie is an avid motorcyclist. He's never run into a problem like this, but it has special significance. For the rest of us, it's just freaking hilarious!!!! Keep watching!!!

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16193. Kuranda by Margot Justes

Another perfect getaway from Cairns is Kuranda. There are a couple of wonderful ways to get there, one is to take the combined Skyrail, and the Scenic Rail. Tours are available where you can do both. That is what I did, hindsight being perfect, I would have just gotten the tickets and taken the rail both ways. It was a sublime 45 minute ride and the scenery was incredible, huge gorges, waterfalls and lush vegetation.

Splurge for a first class ticket, and you will be wined and dined in delicious comfort on a train that dates back to the 1890’s, and along the way pass through some amazing scenery as the old train chugs along.  

The return trip was on the Skyrail, as it seemed to float over the top of the rainforest. You catch a tiny glimpse of the vastness of the formidable rain forest. I found the scenery was far more spectacular from the train, and I enjoyed it more.

Kuranda Village is delightful, it’s fun just to stroll down the street and visit the shops. The Heritage Markets operate 7 days a week, along the way there were a few galleries,  restaurants, many arts and crafts boutiques, it is a place to relax and simply enjoy. I even bought a contemporary abstract that was being sold off and discounted, really discounted. I picked it up for a ridiculous price, and lugged it home.

It is a charming, touristy place, the locals are friendly, and willing to go out of their way to be helpful, and there is the Australian Butterfly Sanctuary, and Kuranda Koala Gardens. To see everything at leisure, the best bet is to get a round trip train ticket and not worry about catching the last Skyrail.  I would love to go back and do just that.

Kuranda is not to be missed, and the way to get there is incomparable.

Margot  Justes
A Hotel in Paris
A Hotel in Bath
Hearts & Daggers
Hot Crimes Cool Chicks
coming end of September Blood Art

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16194. Illustrator Saturday – Michael Garland

garlandpiccroppedAward winning author and illustrator Michael Garland has been out on the New York Times Best Seller list four times.

Some recent Michael Garland books from are; Oh, What A Christmas! Scholastic, Miss Smith Under the Ocean, Dutton Publishers, and Grandpa’s Tractor, Boyds Mills

Michael Garland’s greatest success has been for writing and illustrating children’s picture books. Garland’s Miss Smith’s Incredible Storybook recently won the California and Delaware State Reading Awards. He is currently working on his thirtieth book as author and illustrator.

Michael Garland has illustrated for celebrity authors like James Patterson and Gloria Estefan. His illustrations for Patterson’s SantaKid were the inspiration for Sak’s Fifth’s Avenue’s Christmas holiday window display in New York City. Garland’s Christmas Magic has become a season classic and is currently being developed for a for a TV special.

His work has won many honors and is frequently included in the Society of Illustrators and the Original Art of Children’s book show as well annuals from Print, Graphis and Communications Arts magazines. Recently, Michael Garland was included on the list of the top one hundred Irish Americans by Irish American Magazine. Michael Garland is frequently asked to speak at schools, literary conferences and festivals across the country.

Check back. I will add Michael’s process steps and text details as soon as I receive it.

How long have you been illustrating?

Thirty nine years.


I see you got a BFA from Pratt Institute. How did that opportunity come about?

Pratt was a well-regarded art school, but it also provided the opportunity to get a BFA. A degree I never really needed until I recently, when I became an adjunct professor at Marist and Mount Saint Mary Colleges.


Can you tell us a little bit about your time at Pratt?

Pratt provided a high quality, diverse foundation in the visual arts. I had some very encouraging teachers.


What type of classes were your favorites?

Because I came from a non-artistic educational background, almost all my classes were a revelation.


What classes influenced your work the most?

Ultimately my illustration classes held the most interest for me. I could really understand how you could make a living from an applied art.


Did the school help you find work?

The skills I learned at Pratt started me down the path to finding work. The actual school had a small ineffectual job placement program that generated almost nothing in the way of employment. I had to find my way in the world of professional illustration on my own.


Have you always lived in NYC?

I was born in Manhattan’s French Hospital. I grew up on Staten Island. I went to school in Brooklyn. I met my wife in Brooklyn and lived there when were newly-weds. Then we moved to Westchester County than further north to Putnam County, where we currently reside.


When did you get your first illustration job?

A few months after graduating, I was driving a taxi in NYC, when True Confessions Magazine purchased my first illustration directly from my portfolio. It was a gothic paperback sample of a pretty girl running away from a haunted house. Gradually, I was able to build a portfolio of printed samples that helped to establishes credibility among potential art buyers.



How did you get your first big break?

I never did get a “big break”. I earned every opportunity that ever presented itself. One small success was built on the back of another. It was a slow and steady progression of small accomplishments.


How long was it before you started thinking about writing & illustrating your own books?

It was midway through my career. I had been considering it for a long time before I actually did it.


How many books have you written & illustrated?

I’ve written and illustrated over thirty published books.


How many picture books have you illustrated for other authors?

I have probably illustrated over seventy books for other authors. I’ve lost count.



Do publishers still ask you to illustrate books for other authors? Do you ever accept?

Yes. Publishers regularly ask me to illustrate other author’s books. I love doing it. By the time the text gets to me, all the minor issues have been resolved and I go ahead an start making the pictures. It’s pure enjoyment from then on. I did one last year for Regenery publishers and one this year for Holiday House.



What was the title of the first book you wrote and illustrated? Who was it with? How did you get that contract?

My Cousin Katie. I was illustrating reissued, young adult backlist titles for Harper Collins. The new covers were a big success and they offered me the opportunity to illustrate a picture book, but the advance was so low, I literally could not afford to take the time to do it. I had been considering writing a story of my own and I countered with the text for My Cousin Katie. The book was a labor of love because I was able to combine my landscape painting with my illustration and our daughter Katie was the model for the character.
My Cousin Katie did well but also created a dilemma for me. Since we have two other children, I felt a self-imposed pressure to create two additional books for the. Our other daughter Alice was the model for Circus Girl and our son was the model for Dinner at Magritte’s.


When did you write and illustrate your first Mrs. Smith book?

I wrote Miss Smith and the Incredible Storybook in 2004. It won the California State Young Readers and the Delaware State Reading Award. The first Miss Smith book inspired the next two, Miss Smith Reads Again and Miss Smith Under the Ocean.


I see it was with Dutton. How did that contract come about?

I had a long running relationship with Dutton, doing young adult book jackets. The art director at the time, Riki Levinson kindly acted as my advocate for my early picture book proposals.





Have you done any work for children’s magazines?

I’ve worked for my many Scholastic magazines and Highlights as well.


Are you represented by an artist rep.? If not, why have you chosen not to have one.

For most of career, I’ve represented myself. For general illustration, I have occasionally tried a rep but problems can arise when you are one small part of a large stable of artists. I’ve always represented myself when it comes to picture books because I like dealing directly with art directors, editors and publishers. Going it alone can be difficult because now there are publishers who won’t even consider a proposal if it doesn’t come from a rep. It is an open question if a rep can gain you greater access and maybe get a better deal.
I currently have a rep that gets me general illustration work outside picture book publishing.


I have read that you were one of the first illustrators to jump on the digital painting technology. Did you pick it up quickly?

I saw early on that paperback illustration was going in the digital direction. At the time, I was still doing a lot of paperback work. I took a gamble and made huge investment in equipment (everything is cheaper and more powerful now). Then I took an evening Photoshop course at a local community college. I didn’t know if any of my clients would accept digital illustration. I would have to guarantee if they weren’t satisfied, I would do the work over with traditional materials. My first digital picture book was The Mouse before Christmas for Dutton. Riki Levinson, who was the end of her long career, had the vision and insight to embrace the new technology when many others were stubbornly reluctant. The book turned out to be the biggest seller of my career and I was on my way.


garlandmouse2_largeI notice that you have a good relationship with Boyds Mills Press. How did you develop that?

I have an enduring relationship with Boyds Mills Press. It started when my wife and I were living in Bay Ridge Brooklyn. Our landlord asked me if I would look at his daughter’s portfolio. She was getting ready to graduate from art school. Throughout my professional life I have continued to advise anyone who would ask me. The young student was Rosanne Guararra. She later went on to become the art director of Highlights magazine. She introduced me to everyone at Highlights and Boyds Mills Press. I still continue to publish books with them. Last year’s Grandpa’s Tractor was selected for the Original Art Show at the Society of Illustrators and well as the Nebraska Children’s Agricultural Book of the Year.



How long does it take you to illustrate a picture book?

It varies, depending on the style and complexity of the illustrations. It could range from six weeks to six months, sometimes longer.


garlandtractor197371_444990185537362_2146299709_nWhat book was the hardest to illustrate?

I’ve never thought of any of them as hard, just opportunities to try new things.



Do you have a favorite illustration? Besides the ones with my children, my favorite is always the one I’m working on at the moment. Every time I start an illustration, I think to myself, this is going to be great! I’m the eternal optimist.


Have you done anything for educational publishing houses?

Oh yes. I’ve done lots and lots of educational work. It may not be the most exciting and creative but it can pay the bills.




How did you get the deal to do The Magically Mysterious Adventures of Noelle the Bulldog Gloria Estefan? Did you have any interaction with Gloria?

Gloria chose me from an array of illustrators that the Harper Collins people presented to her. She was very nice. We talked over the phone while I was preparing to illustrate the book. She had never gone through the process of publishing a picture book, but she was a pleasure to work with.


garlandgloriaWhat is the story behind get the job to illustrate James Patterson, SantaKid at Little, Brown?

James Patterson also chose me from a selection of illustrators presented to him by the people at Little Brown. He was very impressive. He is a whole industry unto himself. James Patterson can make things happen and it was really fun to see my illustrations transformed into the Christmas window display at Saks Fifth Avenue in New York.


What is your favorite medium to use?

My favorite traditional medium is oil paint. You can see my gallery paintings at my website http://www.michaelgarlandfineart.com Most of my illustration is done digitally in Photoshop, for the flexibility and editing capability it allows.


garlandamericaDo you take pictures or do any research before you start a project?

Depending on the project, I may shoot photos as well as gather reference on the Internet. I assemble reference sheets and then I print them out. I use the reference as information but I draw freehand in a general independent way.


What is the one thing in your studio you could not live without?

Light and space.


Do you try to spend a certain amount of hours every day working on your art?

It depends on deadlines. I still regularly put in fifty plus hour weeks. I’m nothing, if not productive, either working on current projects or writing new ones.


Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

Yes, because people has access to my books and my website to contact me for schools visits and learn about my new books.

 Have you ever made an app or a book trailer?

I’ve partnered with a startup developer to make two e-book/apps, Icarus Swinebuckle and An Elf for Christmas. The challenge is marketing them. It’s difficult to make anything stand out on the “infinite bookshelf” of digital publishing. I’ve never done a book trailer, but I intend to.


What types of software do you use with your illustrations?

I use Photoshop. In the past, Corel Painter.

Do you own or have you ever tried a graphic Drawing Tablet?

You can see I have a Wacom Tablet. I’ve never tried a Cintque tablet.

Do you think your style has changed over the years? Have your material changed?

My style is constantly changing. I find it enjoyable and creatively stimulating to change looks. Sometimes I will revisit something I’ve done in the past, what ever works best for the particular book.


Do you still have to market yourself and what types of things do you do or used to do?

Marketing is more of a challenge than ever. It’s difficult to find something that consistently works and that is cost effective.


Do you have any career dreams that you still want to fulfill?

Yes. Right now I am in the process of writing a Young Adult novel. It’s something I’ve wanted to do. I’m about three-quarters finished.


What are you working on now?

Besides writing my YA. I’m putting the finishing touches on the illustrations for a Holiday House, fact-based picture book by Michelle Lord called Animal School, What Class Are You? I also doing some educational work and a large commissioned oil painting about tuna fishing in California in the 1930s’.



Do you have any material type tips you can share with us? Example: Paint or paper that you love – the best place to buy – a new product that you’ve tried – A how to tip, etc.

When I’m working digitally, I use Photoshop. When I want to print a digital image, I have an Epson printer. I use Epson pare and ink. I make prints to show the publisher or to make a book proposal. When I’m working traditionally I use Winsor-Newton oil paint. Everything else is pretty much, standard artists grade.




Any words of wisdom on how to become a successful illustrator?

The way to become a successful illustrator is to work very hard, be flexible, open-minded, and adaptable. Also, try and develop a very thick skin. You’re going to need it.

Just had to share the other side of Michael Garland and let you see a few of his fine art oil paintings. He seems like he does it all.


Thank you Michael for sharing your illustrations and journey with us. We look forward to receiving your process pictures and details on how you create your wonderful art.

If you would like to drop by Michaels website it is: www.garlandpicturebooks.com Hope you will take a minute to leave a comment.

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: authors and illustrators, Illustrator's Saturday, inspiration, Interview, picture books Tagged: MIchael Garland, Miss Smith Under the Ocean, Pratt Institute, Super Snow Day, The night Santa Got Lost

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Book signing event on the Fylde Coast!

Book signing event on the Fylde Coast. Sat 14th September at Look into Books, Cleveleys, 1-4pm!

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16196. Quote of the Week: Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury Quote

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16197. Timeless Stories


               ConnorClioBeachDuneFenceaprilUSA-2013 234

There are well known classics in children's literature and film.

There are thousands of new books every year. Their qualities are mostly unknown. The question is...which stories and ideas should a parent, teacher, or librarian look for to enhance the lives of children.

This blog is dedicated to these issues and related matters. And to the amazing role of dogs in enhancing our lives.



AliceinWonderlandCoverWonderland Forever

“I'm not strange, weird, off, nor crazy, my reality is just different from yours.” 
―Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventure's In Wonderlad

 Charles Dodgson aka Lewis Carroll...was a precocious youth, a brilliant mathematician, an exceptional writer, an accomplished photographer and lifetime scholar at Christ Church College, Oxford. He was also the writer of timeless children's books, and an innovator who was primarily responsible for the establishment and acceptance of what has been labled "nonsense" writing.

 He lived in an culture of great writers, from Dickens and Ruskin to Darwin and Trollope. 

In Victorian England cathartic social and economic change were continuous, pushed forward by the industrial revolution and the expanded empire wher "the sun never set"'

In a world of tradition and conservative gentry, new wealth and  a burgeoning middle class existed side by side with industrial slums and horrific child labor.

In the midst of all this he found beauty, grace, and curiousity in three sisters, the PhotoAlicedaughters of his friend, Henry Liddell, Dean of Christ Church College. They inspired him. The book he wrote, Alice's Adventure's In Wonderland, became a classic and marked a turning point in children's literature.

"Dodgson was the first author of children's books fiercely invested in developing stories that would induce children -- with all their desires for mobility and play -- to sit still and listen.Rather than writing what he thought appropriate for the child, he probed the child's mind as he "perfected" the stories. It was as a professor of the mind and childhood...that he made his discoveries about what girls want to read." Maria Tatar, Enchanted Hunters

Over the years Wonderland has fascinated children and adults in many forms and interpretations. Trans lated into 97 languages, Wonderland lives on today....


AliceWhite Rabbit_John_Tenniel_02 "The fairy tale is in a perpetual state of becoming and alteration. To keep one version or one translation alone is to put a robin redbreast in a cage...you (dear reader) have a positive duty to make the story your own. A fairy tale is not a text."...         Philip Pullman, Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm

Books, movies, TV, theater and music are all a reflection of the time and culture in which they were produced. Often, the governing force is a commercial one. Occassionally, there is a truly creative person or group of people responsible.

Movies of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland -- in a perpetual state of becoming and alteration --have been produced since the earliest day of theatrical films.  

Alice_in_wonderland_very_tallHere are a few samples: 

Link to the first film of Alice's adventures made in 1903. This is a restored version of the only remaining copy.

Link to the 42 minute 1915 movie of Alice In Wonderland

Link to the 1985 musical version, a two part  TV production , of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass.                     

 “Who in the world am I? Ah, that's the great puzzle.” 

                                    Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

The black and white illustrations are by John Tenniel who illustrated the original           Alice's Adnenture's in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass.


Walt Disney, the titan of sweetened film versions of classic fairy tales, after a long period of preparation, produced his own version of Alice in Wonderland in 1951. The film received a highly critical reception both in the USA and England, especially from Lewis Carroll enthusiasts.

According to Wikipedia, "Disney was not surprised by the critical reception to Alice in Wonderland – his version of Alice was intended for large family audiences, not literary critics
DisneyAlice– but despite all the long years of thought and effort, the film met with a lukewarm response at the box office and was a sharp disappointment in its initial release, earning an estimated $2.4 million at the US box..Walt Disney himself felt that the film failed because Alice the character had no "heart... in 1974, the Disney company gave Alice in Wonderland its first theatrical re-release ever, and the company even promoted it as a film in tune with the'psychedelic" times (mostly from the hit song 'White Rabbit' performed by Jefferson Airplane). This re-release was successful enough to warrant a subsequent re-release in 1981. Its first UK re-release was on July 26, 1979."

 “Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?"
"That depends a good deal on where you want to get to."
"I don't much care where –"
"Then it doesn't matter which way you go.” 

― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland


The newest (2010) Disney Studios version of Alice in Wonderland by Tim Burton was a $200 million, highly imaginative, 3D extravaganza. It grossed over 334 million and received decidedly mixed reviews. Here are excerpts from Peter Rainer's informed review in the Christian Science Monitor...

Alice_in_wonderland_poster_2_1_original1" The betting line on the new Disney 3D 'Alice in Wonderland' was that it would be marvelous because the imaginings of its director, Tim Burton, are pronouncedly in sync with Lewis Carrol's. But are they really? The movie is a decidedly mixed bag, in part, because of the equally pronounced disparities between Burton and Carroll – and between Burton and Disney, for that matter...I wouldn’t have minded if Burton used Carroll as the merest of jumping-off points for his own nightmarish visions. What we have instead is a hybrid: Carroll’s hallucinatory wit crossed with Burton’s rank unseemliness rolled into Disney “wholesomeness...” 

Click here to read all of this excellent and insightful review: Peter Rainer


Door: “Why it's simply impassible!
Alice: Why, don't you mean impossible?
Door: No, I do mean impassible. (chuckles) Nothing's impossible!” 
Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland 


                            Download (1)

In February 1967, Jefferson Airplane, a San Francisco rock band with folk roots, released their record, Surrealistic Pillow. It became an instant succes, selling over a GraceSlickWhiteRabbitWoodstk69million copies in the first year. White Rabbit, a featured song with lyrics written by singer Grace Slick, was clearly inspired by Alice In Wonderland. Their fame spread to a crossover audience, appearing on the Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson, the Ed Sullivan Show, and the counter culture Smothers Brothers.

                                   Here are the opening lines of the White Rabbit lyrics:

AliceGrownBigTenniel"One pill makes you larger,                                                                                    
And one pill makes you small.

And the ones your mother gives you,                                                                       Don't do anything at all.

Go ask Alice,                                                                                                     When she's ten feet tall..."

And here is a link to Grace Slick singing White Rabbit at Woodstock in 1969.


ThenSheFellAliceWonderlanddownload Adventures in Another Wonderland... Then She Fell is inspired by the writings of Lewis Carroll...

“This show occupies a dreamscape where the judgments and classifications of the waking mind are inoperative, and where the single self keeps splitting and blurring.” – Ben Brantley, The New York Times

The following description is excerpted from the Then She Fell Website

An immersive theater experience combining a hospital ward,
the writings of Lewis Carroll, and just 15 audience members per show.

Then She Fell is a fully immersive, multi-sensory experience in which only 15 audience members per performance explore a dreamscape where every alcove, corner, and corridor has been ThenSheFellAlicandAlicetransformed into lushly designed world. Inspired by the life and writings of Lewis Carroll, it offers an Alice-like experience for audience members as they explore the rooms, often by themselves, in order to discover hidden scenes; encounter performers one-on-one; unearth clues that illuminate a shrouded history; use skeleton keys to gain access to guarded secrets; and imbibe elixirs custom designed by one of NYC’s foremost mixologists.

Here is a YouTube video link to a 41/2 minute Then She Fell Preview

Two fascinating and enthusiastic Reviews/Articles about Then She Fell appeared in the New York Times regarding this production. To read about Siobahn Burke's  recent visit to the theater, click this  Link: Sinister WonderlandTo read Ben Brantley's review of Novenber 2012, click this link: Brantley...........


“But I don’t want to go among mad people," Alice remarked.
"Oh, you can’t help that," said the Cat: "we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad."
"How do you know I’m mad?" said Alice.
"You must be," said the Cat, "Or you wouldn’t have come here.”  

Wonderland Forever...


Palvolunteers2People Animals Love (PAL)is a wonderful full service therapy dog oranization based in Washington DC...PAL brings healing help and hope to young and old. Visit their excellent PAL website and learn more...

  NewVideo82013Here is a link to PAL's new therapy dog video...a documentary with many dogs bringing good moments to many people..The human canine bond in action. 




Why Third Grade Is So Important: The ‘Matthew Effect’...a fascinating article on  children reading by Annie Murphy Paul

Children who have made the leap to fluent reading will learn exponentially, while those who haven't will slump

Take a guess: What is the single most important year of an individual’s academic career?
POD00000001The answer isn’t junior year of high school, or senior year of college. It’s third grade.

What makes success in third grade so significant? It’s the year that students move from learning to read — decoding words using their knowledge of the alphabet — to reading to
learn. The books children are expected to master are no longer simple primers but fact-filled texts on the solar system, Native Americans, the Civil War. Children who haven’t made the leap to fast, fluent reading begin at this moment to fall behind, and for most of them the gap will continue to grow. So third grade constitutes a critical transition — a “pivot point,” in the words of Donald J. Hernandez, a professor of sociology at CUNY–Hunter College. A study Hernandez conducted, released last year by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, found that third-graders who lack proficiency in reading are four times more likely to become high school dropouts.

Too often the story unfolds this way: struggles in third grade lead to the “fourth-grade slump,” as the reading-to-learn model comes to dominate instruction. While their more CastleInTheMist2
skilled classmates are amassing knowledge and learning new words from context, poor readers may begin to avoid reading out of frustration. A vicious cycle sets in: school assignments increasingly require background knowledge and familiarity with “book words” (literary, abstract and technical terms)— competencies that are themselves acquired through reading. Meanwhile, classes in science, social studies, history and even math come to rely more and more on textual analysis, so that struggling readers begin to fall behind in these subjects as well"...To read all of this informative article and to learn the orgins of the term, "The Matthew Effect", click this link to TimeIdeas

Annie Murphy Paul is a book author, magazine journalist, consultant and speaker who helps people understand how we learn and how we can do it better. A contributing writer for Time magazine, she writes a weekly column and...

The photos are from teacher Julie Hauck's very successful Pages for Preston therapy dog reading program at the Longfellow School in Sheboygan, WI.



"Can Do Canines is dedicated to enhancing the quality of life for people with disabilities CaDoCanineMobility_picby creating mutually beneficial partnerships with specially trained dogs".

There is no charge to the recipent...33% of the dogs are rescued from shelters."

 Based in Minnesota. their services extend to Wisconsin, Iowa, North Dakota and South Dakota, and with a few placements in Missouri and Illinois.

Can Do Canines has provided assistance dogs to more than 400 people with seizure disorders, mobility disorders, children with autism, people with diabetes complicated by hypoglycemia unawareness, and people who are deaf and hard-of-hearing ."

On their website, Can Do Canines provides information on the many disabilities where their service dogs make a life changing, 24 hours a day, difference. Here is an example dealing with childhood autism. 

Autism Assist Dogs

"Our Autism Assist Dogs are trained as assistance dogs with full public access rights. We train CanDoCaninesAutism_picthe dogs to provide safety, a calming influence and peace of mind for these children and their families. When in public, children are tethered to their dog for safety. If the child bolts away suddenly, the dog will lay down and hold position, keeping the child secure and close by. We are currently accepting pre-applications from families who have a child with autism between two and seven years old and live in Minnesota. The expected wait for placement of a dog is more than two years."... There is a link on the Can Do Website that expands greatly on what an Autism Assist Dog does. They do the same for all the disorders serviced by their dogs.

VIDEO: You tube has many brief videos on the help these Can Do service dogs provide. Their 2011 documentary presentation is both informative and touching...the variety of life affirming and life saving roles these dogs perform is amazing. I recommend it for its heartfelt testimonials. 

Can Do Canines


Vidolittle-dog-uses-river-to-play-fetch-by-himself-imageVideo Fun for Dog Lovers...one dog, one ball, flowing water, and fun.





                    “Well, I never heard it before, but it sounds uncommon nonsense.” 

―                                  Lewis Carroll Alice In Wonderland  

                                       The Jumblies by Edward Lear (1812-1888)

EdmundLearcoverThe Jumblies

They went to sea in a Sieve, they did,
  In a Sieve they went to sea:
In spite of all their friends could say,
On a winter's morn, on a stormy day,
  In a Sieve they went to sea!
And when the Sieve turned round and round,
And every one cried, 'You'll all be drowned!'
They called aloud, 'Our Sieve ain't big,
But we don't care a button! we don't care a fig!
  In a Sieve we'll go to sea!'



                    Friends of Atticus

                       The Lorax


 Zach MacDonald wrote a fascinating personal review based on his lifetime Seuss_TheLoraxrelationship with the Lorax book by Dr Seuss. It includes an analysis of how the movie, taken from the book, failed the original. 

This is an excellent example of how importantant children's literature can be, and how much it can continue to be an important part of adult life..."UNLES someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not."                  

 The excerpts that follows relate to the Lorax movie. A link to the rest of this very interesting personal memoir/article follows these excerpts.  

"I popped it into my laptop and watched. As would be expected the movie was a Hollywood-fried, song-filled, rumble and tumble adventure, with boatloads of stuff that
were never in the book.  But beyond all the, ahem, artistic liberties taken with the source Lorax2material, and I’m talking about an unending parade of them, the Lorax (voiced by Danny DeVito), the Truffula trees, the Once-ler and his Thneeds were all there, along with the story of environmental destruction run amok in the name of unchecked greed.

One major diversion from the original story is that at the end of the movie (spoiler alert) the Lorax comes back, along with the forest, the animals and clear blue skies, for a happy reunion with the Once-ler. In the book none of this happens and nothing in the future Loraxis for certain: it all lies with the decision and resolve of the child, and by extension any child reading the story. The movie takes that responsibility out of the viewer’s hands, the happy ending provided for them already. I’m saddened to think that there are plenty of children out there who may never read the book, content with the movie alone, or of parents who will now never read it to them, satisfied instead to put the DVD in the player for the umpteenth time and leave their kids sitting in front of it." Here is the link; Lorax; Here is the link to his personal blog: MacDonald


The Planet Of The Dogs book series is available through your favorite bookstore or via Barnes&Noble. Amazon, Powell's...

POD-Miss Merrie-blog sizeLibrarians, teachers, bookstores...Order Planet OfThe Dogs, Castle in the Mist, and Snow Valley Heroes, A Christmas Tale, through Ingram with a full professional discount.

Therapy reading dog owners, librarians and teachers with therapy reading dog programs -- you can write us at barkingplanet@aol.com and we will send you free reader copies from the Planet of the Dogs Series.

Read Dog Books to Dogs....Ask any therapy reading dog: "Do you like it when the the kids read dog books to you?"

Read Sample Chapters:Planet Of The Dogs series



  NYPLlogoThe Children's Literary Salon...a message from Elizabeth Bird, Children's Librarian, NYPL 

"The summer is waning and that can only mean that our regular Children's Literary Salon series is gearing up once more!  Please join us for the following event:

Saturday, September 7th at 2:00 

Maud and Miska Petersham: Pioneers in a Golden Age
 In the course of their lives, Maud and Miska Petersham authored/illustrated over 100 books. Today they may be best known for winning the Caldecott in 1946 for The Rooster Crows. Now their story is told for the first time by Lawrence Webster, a librarian and non-
Underthe NorthLightprofit consultant, who knew the Petershams when she was a child growing up in Woodstock, NY. Under the North Light has received rave reviews and made Books and Culture’s Favorite Books of 2012 list. According to their review it is “loaded with ravishing illustrations, the book is a labor of love, recounting the life and work of Maud and Miska Petersham. If you love children’s books, and the art of illustration, order a copy without delay.” 
Join author Lawrence Webster as she discusses the book and the Petersham’s life and work in the South Court Auditorium.
This event is free and open to all. Reservations are not necessary.  For any questions and inquiries please contact Elizabeth Bird at elizabethbird@bookops.org.
Nancy Houser's Way Cool Dogs continues as a great resource for dog lovers...

Sick Pets-Knowing When to Call the Veterinarian

When we are faced with recognizing and treating sick pets, knowing when to call the veterinarian can be vital. There are certain pet conditions we can care for at home, and there are CITM-Dogs at night-blog size
medical conditions that require veterinarian care.

Different pet illnesses and their treatments depend on the type of medical care required and how much the owner knows of basic vet care. Diseases in sick pets can spread quickly within their bodies, requiring a more qualified vet diagnosis to discern what type of disease is involved and what is involved in the treatment.

Many times, pet owners attempt to treat the disease of their sick pets single-handedly at home …to read all click WCD

The dogs in the illustration are healthy...they are from Castle In The Mist.
Animal Wise is a Magical Journey into Animal Behavior

'Animal Wise: The Thoughts and Emotions of Our Fellow Creatures' by Virginia Morell

These excerpts are from a compelling review in the Examiner by C.A.Wulff: 

"There aren’t enough words in the English language to do justice to ‘Animal Wise: the Thoughts and AnimalWiseBookCoverEmotions of Our Fellow Creatures’. This remarkable book by Virginia Morell is transcendent. Morell takes on the question of whether or not animals think and feel by visiting with various scientists around the world who have devoted their studies to a widely disparate sampling of nature’s creatures from ants to elephants.

If you have ever wondered if animals think and feel, wonder no more. If you have ever questioned whether animals have social relationships, question no more. ‘Animal Wise’ provides those answers and deep fascinating insights in its examination of what makes different species tick..."




Lewis Carroll, the Use of Language...Sense and Nonsense

Seth Lerer, in Children's Literature, A Reader's History from Aesop to ChildrensLiteratureSethLererHarry Potter, while discussing Lewis Carrolll's use of language has a wonderful quote by Carroll:"No word has a meaning attached to it; a word means what the speaker intends by it, and what the hearer understands by it, and that is all."

Earlier, Lerer writes of Nonsense writing,,,"Nonsense, then, offers more than play or foolishness. It bridges the discourses of adult and children's literature, and it crystallizes our social and aesthetic attitudes towards words and their relationship to worldly things, human intention, and the pictorial imagination."

Seth Lerer is Dean of Arts and Humanities and Distinguished Professor of Literature at the University of California at San Diego.  




Here are excerpts from Ann Staub's review on Pawsitively Pets of How to Change the World in 30 Seconds: A Web Warrior's Guide to Animal Advocacy Online by C.A. Wulff...

"This book is a terrific guide that can help those wanting to help animals in need from their
Arielchange world3edcomputer. It's geared towards dogs, but I think it can be valuable no matter what type of pet you're advocating. While I was already aware of some of the things the book talks about, I really did learn a lot from it and it gave me a lot of new ideas... 

If you've ever shared a picture of a homeless pet, I'm sure you may have wondered if it even does any good? How can sharing a photo really change the world? Wulff explains this perfectly in How to Change the World in 30 Seconds. Helping find homes for pets definitely helps the pet, and maybe even the family that adopts them...
The book is categorized into chapters that contain very helpful advice on social media, petitions, letters to legislators, using online tools for fundraising, reporting animal abuse and so much more. There are even sample letters and flyers in the back of the book that you can use..." 

 We salute the Planet Dog  Foundation

The Planet Dog Store sells top quaility dog products. They give 2% of every sale to the Planet Dog Foundation (PDF). They, in turn, award support money to non-profit service and therapy dog organizations as well as search and rescue organizations. Can Do Canines, posted above, was on of this year's recipients.

This year PDF gave $71,500 dollars to 16 organizations across the USA. I know of nothing comparable. Suppose Purina or Petco did something comparable...

What follows here was copied directly from their PDF website...Home for Life is one of their 16 award winners this year.

Home for Life 
Stillwater, MN

Home for Life Renaissance Program pairs teenage boys who have been adjudicated to residential juvenile detention homes for felony level offenses with dogs from the Home for Life Animal Sanctuary. They choose younger dogs with disabilities or behavior issues who have been rejected from shelters and rescue programs. The boys participate in a 10 week program to train the dogs so they become certified therapy dogs. It is a win-win-win program - at risk dogs trained by at risk kids to help at risk people of all ages. PDF funds support overall program operations.




Sunbearsquad-logoWhat should you do,  what can you do, if you see an injured dog or one in distress?

For answers, examples, true stories and more, visit Sunbear Squad...Let the experience of compassionate dog lovers guide you...free Wallet Cards & Pocket  Posters,  Informative and practical guidance...Visit SunBear Squad


“A dog reflects the family life. Whoever saw a frisky dog in a gloomy family, or a sad dog in a happy one? Snarling people have snarling dogs, dangerous people have dangerous ones.” 
― Arthur Conan Doyle, The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes










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16198. Quote of the Week: Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury Quote

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16199. How Writing Fiction Is Like Martial Arts

Martial Arts of Writing

I believe a lot of elements of writing can be taught. An inexperienced writer who finds the right teacher, right for him or her I mean, can learn much about things like characterization, plot, setting, novel landscape, pacing, even to a certain extent paragraphing and sentences. Putting it all together in a unique and powerful way, though, is something the writer has to find himself. And so the reason writing programs give a lot of people MFAs who never publish or who publish very little. I got an MFA after teaching myself writing by reading (to me the most the single most important thing besides writing itself a writer can do to improve) and writing. Did the MFA help my writing? Yes. Is getting an MFA for everybody? No. Some it won’t help. Some don’t need it. But for me it helped me focus on my weaknesses and helped me know myself as a writer better.

When I was learning the martial art Taekwondo I realized the importance of breaking down moves. We’d work on part of a kick and then another part and then another part. It would take a long time to put it all together and be able to do that kick right and then even longer to be able to use the kick in combination with other movements. It would take still longer to be effective sparring with the move. Some people never could get there. They knew what they should do but they couldn’t make their bodies do it. Or they couldn’t let their bodies do it. Some people could do it fairly well. Only a few were really good.

Writing is more difficult. Still, I think writing’s moves can be analyzed in ways and by isolating each aspect of writing that aspect can be improved. Whether the writer does this herself or in a program or with other writers doesn’t really matter. Whatever works.

But are there some parts of writing that can’t be taught? Sure. The writer’s unique way of looking at the world. The writer’s style, too, can’t really be taught though it can be developed. The writer’s particular feel for language is, I think, like personality. And there’s that one very magical part to writing (like with Taekwondo); everything has to work together without the writer consciously forcing it to do so (of course when rewriting the writer will be very conscious about his choices). The writer has to find that unconscious place where he becomes the story. Everything slips away. The room. His fingers moving on the keyboard. Words like setting, plot, language, characters mean nothing to him. He is what he’s writing.

And here’s a blog from LitStack by Lauren Alwan about Robert Olen Butler’s book FROM WHERE YOU DREAM and his method of writing from inside the character…which I think has some similarities to my ideas about martial arts and writing fiction.

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16200. Fragment #5

I am anaesthetised. I no longer look at women with envy nor lust. They just pass. I could be walking in a field of barley that my gaze wouldn't be any different. No longer any lump in the throat for I desired them so much or because I was completely crestfallen at being single. No longer any extra beating of the heart. I bored in them and out. Dreams of the only one, gone. There are thousands the like of us. Without being interchangeable on the short and long run, the medium part of our lives together are dragging days of boredom where we annul each other's impact. Before and after that, all hell breaks loose. Life deserves better than this, we ought to focus more. If this means to be alone, then I'll tread this path, occasionally looking back, but wall-clipping onwards, and through.
Too many defeated and crushed expectations to react. Too many seats between the woman I'd like to talk to - and who, perhaps, would like to talk to me. Too many times I have been rejected, I was stopped being spoken to. I can now stare unblinking through blood, and tears, whether of happiness or of pain. I can no longer cry thinking about my late mother. Dying children no longer move my heart. What a waste of sentiments. Stasis of the mind, equipoise of the feelings, for they lie at the abysmal pit of unconcernedness. It's already difficult for me to be concerned with myself. No one is for me, and I am for none but the windy moors of Ireland.
So many times I came close to dying, or to falling in love, succeeding but didn't sometimes I imagine what and who I would be now had all those things happened.
Best option ahead would be to burn my eyes and fingers to the steady whirlwinds of snow of Iceland and Finland. Delve into mythology more than I ever have. Devote my life to self-improvement so that I die a better, more accomplished person, useless to anyone, but better.
So many glances exchanged through the glasses of a metropolitan compartment. Glances which probably meant nothing, some of which were undoubtedly a blank stargaze I happened to cross the trajectory of. So many times I have been invited in someone else's life and later on we happened to dig up the misunderstanding which first brought us together. One does not build hope on those things, but one's idea of caring, interest and, well, some building blocks of self-esteem.
Not that I seem to have a choice or a say in this situation,

We are not meant to be happy. We are meant to hang together, to stick together come what may. To raise kids and give them enough love and values to make a sortie into the world of teeth and claws and start building something beautiful and worthwhile. The life of the worthy is one of toil and strain and tears. And of smiles and hugs and tears. And of hope and grievance. And of moving on and belief in oneself, in man and in whichever gives impetus to life.

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