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Viewing: Blog Posts from the Writer category, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 16,801 - 16,825 of 234,682
16801. Micro-Level Revision

After you've revised your manuscript over and over again, it's time to look at the individual words and sentences. 


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16802. Five Lesson from Sargent's "Escutcheon"

Let's take a look at the watercolor "Escutcheon of Charles V of Spain" by John Singer Sargent (1856–1925) compared to a photo of the actual thing. Here are a few of my takeaways:

The heraldic insignia or escutcheon of Charles V of Spain,
part of a sixteenth century fountain at the Alhambra in Granada.

1. Take your time on the drawing.
Comparing the painting a photo of the actual subject Sargent was looking at, it's clear he was very careful and patient with his preliminary drawing. Since the shallow raking light must have lasted a very short time, he might have done the drawing on one day, and painted it on another day, or drawn it in the morning, waiting for the light to be perfect to paint it.

2. Flatten the lights, open the shadows
For a feeling of brilliance, unify the areas directly lit by sunlight. Limit the range of modeling and tonal value to keep the light areas very light. Instead, put the variation and chroma in the shadows.

3. Keep cast shadow edge dark, cool, and sharp.
Note the darkness and coolness of the area of cast shadow right as it turns to light, especially in the upper left of the picture. The step from that cast shadow to the adjacent light should be striking enough to be very noticeable. As long as this value relationship is held at the cast shadow edge, the inner areas of shadow can be considerably lightened.

4. Push the warm and cool variations.
Down-facing planes, or planes receiving reflected light from illuminated stonework are warm. Up-facing or open front-facing planes are cool, suggesting that they're receiving mostly blue skylight. The soft blending between warm and cool requires having pools of each color on the palette and work wet into wet. Watercolor is very fast and ideally suited to such rendering.

5. Put the detail only where you want it.
Use the biggest brushes possible but vary the touch. The outer areas are stated very broadly with a big brush. Much smaller touches are used for the details of the coat of arms, and might have been done with a smaller brush.  

I'd love to hear what you take away from looking at the picture.
The painting is called "Escutcheon of Charles V of Spain" by John Singer Sargent (1856–1925)
Date: 1912, Medium: Watercolor and graphite on white wove paper. Dimensions: 12 x 18 in. (30.5 x 45.7 cm) in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum.

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16803. Book Trailers: Big Imaginations and Little Humans

We are making a book trailer for This Is Sadie and are looking for video clips of small girls and boys with big imaginations doing whatever it is that they like to do. What my boy likes to do is make films and so he will be putting this together as a special gift to me.

Head over to This Is Sadie for details and to see a great video by my pal Stephany Aulenback's darling daughter Sylvie.

Video clips can be sent to thisissadiebook@yahoo.com.

And here's a trailer we enjoyed for Little Humans by Brandon Stanton.

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16804. Going Out On A High

I have liked some of M.T. Anderson's Thrilling Tales/Pals in Peril books better than others. (I know I'm nitpicking on this, but the name of the series changed for some reason.) I had to be won over by the first book, Whales on Stilts, but the second one, The Clue of of the Linoleum Lederhosen, was a hit. The third one I read (there are supposed to be six; I seem to have missed a couple), Jasper Dash and the Flame-Pits of Delaware wasn't a favorite. But the final book in the series, He Laughed with His Other Mouths, is an absolute gem.

The basic premise for all these books: A Tom Swift-type character named Jaspar Dash and a spunky girl (younger and spunkier than the 1930's era Nancy Drew) existed in their own book worlds that reflected the eras that created them, the 1920s/30s and the 1980s/90s. And yet, at the same time, they are existing in our own twenty-first century where Jaspar, in particular, is both having adventures but out of place.

In He Laughed with His Other Mouths, Jaspar is now that classic/stereotypical character, the young male in search of his father. Jaspar will go to the ends of the universe in search of dear old dad. He will accept some pretty outlandish behavior from his father figure. However, Jaspar is a young hero, and he recognizes evil when he sees it. Maybe he doesn't recognize it right away and maybe he needs a little push from his spunky girl companions, but he does recognize and behave as a hero should.

All of the books that I've read in this series operate on more than one level. You have the basic contemporary adventure. You have characters from an older book world trying to function in a contemporary one. You have the knowledge that children who are now old, if not dead, read the older books back when they were new and shiny.

With He Laughed with His Other Mouths, Anderson does something quite marvelous with footnotes. Using footnotes for witty asides has become a cliche since Terry Pratchett perfected doing that back in the day. But Anderson uses his clever footnotes not to be witty but to tell another story entirely, this one about a kid during World War II who was a Jaspar Dash fan. This is a complete story, a piece of serious historical fiction embedded in a fantasy satire/comedy.

As with all these books that I've read, I wonder how much of this wonderful stuff child readers will understand. Assuming they enjoy the layer with the contemporary adventure, will they get the jokes that are part of it? Will they get the nostalgic elements?

Kid readers aside, for those of us who do get He Laughed with His Other Mouths, it's pretty damn brilliant.

He Laughed with His Other Mouths is a Cybils nominee in the Elementary/Middle Grade Speculative Fiction category.

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16805. For Those Who Work Behind the Scenes


Today I’m feeling grateful for the people in my life who make the books happen. My agent, who believes in me and is the enthusiastic, in-the-know one who shows my work to others, the one who looks out for me and cheers me on.

My editors, who push me to find my best work, whose faith in my writing I can borrow when I’m not believing it myself.

The copyeditors, art directors, book designers, publicists, book sales reps, and marketing department who add their expertise and love.

I’ve got one small role in the process. If what I write is worth reading, its because of the hard work everyone else puts in behind the scenes.

The post For Those Who Work Behind the Scenes appeared first on Caroline Starr Rose.

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16806. The Greatest Story Ever Told by Tess Berry-Hart

“After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world.” - Phillip Pullman

“And what do you do?” asks the polite professional lawyer in the group of polite professional people at my polite professional neighbour’s Christmas party.

“Me?  Oh, I'm a writer,” I answer, equally politely.

“Oh, really?”  A wave of heads turn in my direction, polite smiles become suddenly more interested.  “What kind of writing?  Journalism?  Novels?”

“Well, I write stories for children and young adults,” I begin confidently, but oops, I'm losing them already.  Smiles have taken on a glazed quality and I'm starting to be relegated to the category in their minds that houses lolloping bunnies, plucky hobbits and talking lions.  I follow up quickly with a couple of my adult plays and novels but I can see in their eyes that my status has already been set.  Children’s stories! – how quaint.

“But we all tell stories, don’t we,” I begin jovially, in what my husband would term my instructively-speaking-to-a-three-year-old tone.  “Our reality, our economy, our social structures are all governed by stories, aren’t they?”

Deep nods and a strained kind of silence greet this; though a couple of people look a little as if they’re trying to work out if I'm insulting them in some covert fashion.

“And whether you subscribe to the idea that there’s only seven stories in the world or not, it’s amazing how these stories get replayed over and over in media and advertising isn't it?  The small company who fights back from the edge of extinction.  The underdog who wins through on the X Factor.”

Oh dear, the mention of X Factor – the professional version of Godwin’s Law after which any proponent can lose her credibility.  And I haven’t even watched it in years!

A chorus of agreement, though with no discernible words, follows this, and mercifully our hostess comes to our rescue with a tray of mince pies.  People break up into twos and turn to each other with noticeable relief.  “Have you heard about X?”

I take refuge in a mince pie, and think.  Why should we be afraid of confronting our stories?  We adults absorb stories as voraciously as if we were children.  The middle-aged lawyer creates a story to the judge and jury about why they should believe his client’s version of events.  The saleswoman on my left creates stories that we will look better, feel happier and be more successful if we buy her product.  And don’t even get me started on the advertising director opposite.

Stories are all around us, shaping our world and our outlook – and let’s face it, stories are not all capitalist cynicism.  Good stories are centuries old, and they’re around for a reason.  We NEED the story that we can succeed in whatever we do against insurmountable odds.  We NEED the story that the bad guys will get punished and the good guys triumph.

Stories are acutely important for learning.  They are the models by which children see the world and learn from it.  Telling my son a story to deliver a message is ten times more effective that merely telling him the message.  When I see him playing, I can see that games are stories in action.  He’s already channelling the “rescuing hero” story, the “quest” story and the “overcoming the monster” stories all by himself.

Where does the power of story come from?  As psychologists Melanie C Green and Timothy C. Brock note in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, the mechanism of “transport” – using detail and emotional affect to involve the reader – is essential for a narrative.  Highly transported readers find fewer false notes in a story than less transported readers, they evaluate protagonists favourably and show many other similar story-consistent beliefs.  Interestingly, corresponding beliefs tend to be generally unaffected whether the reader knows a story is fact or fiction.  I can know that a cream will not make me look younger, but I’ll buy it anyway.

And we’re at a Christmas party after all.  Christmas is a great story.  Though I'm an avowed atheist, I love Christmas!  The human story of birth in humble adversity; the strong baddie that searches to kill the saviour of mankind, the call to adventure, the exiled and returning hero, the love that lays itself down for another; the elements are all there.  And beyond the advent of Christianity, I feel the pagan solstice of Yule as instinctively as one born in the Northern Hemisphere can; the affirmation of life in the midst of snow, the fire lit against the cold and darkness, the shadows on the wall of the cave that mystics interpret, making sense of the sun and the stars, winter and summer, life and death.

Along with other wonderful stories passed down from times immemorial –The Flood, the Apocalypse, the Exodus – the story means something to us because in a sense (whether you are a believer or not) stories ARE real.  Stories hold a deep psychological purpose, about our relationship to the universe and to Time. Stories give us hope, they give us meaning.  In my book, the greatest story ever told is that of life; that we exist, and we do.

Around me the conversation has moved on, and now they’re talking about the recovery. (Belief in the market’s one of the best stories around at the moment!)  I don’t have much to add to this so I gather my things together and start to slide unobtrusively towards the exit, when I feel a tap on my shoulder. It’s the polite lawyer.

“I thought it was interesting,” he says breathlessly, “what you said about stories back there. It really made me think.”

My heart warms to him.  “Why thank you,” I say.

“I've got to get my niece a Christmas present, and your book sounds ideal.  Would I be able to get a signed copy?”

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16807. A big thank you!

Mark Myers:

What an honor to be able to spread southern culture to little children who might go their whole lives without knowing the proper use of “howsyermama&them”

Originally posted on Images by T.Dashfield:

Some of you may recall my asking for help with a project for Trey and Makayla (aka Thing One & Thing Two the grands) where I asked you to give your name, location and how you said hello where you come from.  Well, I gave them their projects last month and they were highly impressed.  I had them take turns reading each person’s reply and watched their little faces light up as they came to realize that quite a few of you answered my call for help.

I spoke with Thing One last night (Trey) and asked him how did the project go over.  His classmates were impressed and his teacher really liked it.  They used the project to find on the map where each of the states were from those who responded from the United States.  And while they liked each and every reply there was one that got…

View original 134 more words

Filed under: It Made Me Laugh

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16808. Connecticut Children's Lit Calendar Update

Nancy Tafuri will appear at the Hickory Stick Bookshop in Washington this Saturday, December 20th at 2:30 PM.

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16809. Christmas Eavesdropping


PB&J: Picture Books and All That Jazz: A Highlights Foundation Workshop

Join Leslie Helakoski and Darcy Pattison in Honesdale PA for a spring workshop, April 23-26, 2015. It's a great Christmas present to yourself or a writer friend! Full info here.
  • "This conference was great! A perfect mix of learning and practicing our craft."Peggy Campbell-Rush, 2014 attendee, Washington, NJ
  • "Darcy and Leslie were extremely accessible for advice, critique and casual conversation."Perri Hogan, 2014 attendee, Syracuse,NY

Notes from the Field

During the holidays, it’s hard to concentrate on a story. But it’s not hard to BE a writer. As you go to gatherings of friends and families, one thing you can do is EAVESDROP!

In your story, you want dialogue to sound natural. One way to study dialogue is to just listen and record. At holiday gatherings, you may hear undercurrents of sibling rivalry, jealousy, reconciliation, or love. Usually, these things aren’t said on the surface, so much as in the subtext, or what is understood beneath the surface.

Try this: Take a pad of paper and a pencil/pen with you. Sit off to a side or in a corner, and furiously write everything you hear said in a specific conversation for ten minutes. Later when there’s time, look it over and see what you’ve learned about dialogue. OR, if your family is generous and agrees, find an app to record an hour of conversation! Thanks, fam!

So, here are my notes from the field for a couple hours, recording exactly what I said–just my side of a conversation. Notice how MUCH you can tell about the events and what others are saying just by the snippets of dialogue. (Names and phone numbers XXX-out to protect the innocent.)

Getting daughter out of bed

Photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/dani_vazquez/10479425133

Photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/dani_vazquez/10479425133

I don’t have time to be gentle.
That helps.
No, you can’t consistently count on it. It’s not your car.

Before and During Breakfast

He’s not up yet.

I’ve been in there once or twice.

I need to eat.
I’ve messed around too long.
Could you clean up the kitchen, do the things you haven/t done in two days.
Where? What?
It would be easier with a comb.
Too late now.
We gotta remember to take the trash out.
Oh, man!
Both of you stop.
It’s not just her. It’s you, too.
Stop! XXX, don’t take that in your room, please!
No. No. It’s a mess.
Whose spoon is this?
Just ‘sec.
Tell MMM she has e-mail.
What is it, oh, a Pokemon?
ZZZ, work on that kitchen now.
It used to be a road.
Wow. How much?
$15 isn?t bad at all. Who’s sponsoring it?
Cool. It’s not bad.
I’m gonna shower.
I’m gonna shower.
Huh? I’m totally lost.
Oh, OK.
OH, well.
Gimme kiss.
Yes. To school?
No. Gimme kiss.
Lots more than that. I’ll be in the library today. At noon. XXX has to stay ?’til 4. So we?ll just stay.
You might as well read.
Have a good day.

Taking truck to shop

Last night, we lost 3rd and 4th gears. You can put it in gear but you have to hold the stick. 1st, 2nd & 5th are OK.
Oh, and he said to change the oil and a nut on the valve cover is missing.
Pattison. I-s-o-n. Not e-r.
We also have a Sienna van so we should be in the computer.
Let me give you his number. XXX-XXXX.
A second number XXX-XXXX. But I’ll be gone a lot, so try him first.
And give us an estimate. Just give us an idea of how long would help.
He’s coming to get me, so I?ll just go in the waiting room.
Don’t change the oil first. Let us know how much on the transmission first.
Is that all you need?

Driving to work with DH

She said she’d call you with an estimate. It’ll probably take over night.
Where’s my glasses?
My headache is coming back.
No, on the other side.
Uh huh.
Uh huh.
So, which do you like?
What is all that?
Yep. That’s the one you said I could have? I could put it on my business cards?
That’s weird.
Strange. I gotta call XXXXXX. About YYY.
Where’s the check book? I need one for this doctor’s visit.
Bad time for a vacation with all the other guys messed up.
Wow. Must be nice.
Yeah. He’s the best marketer.
Which one?
That’s good.
By who?
I should be able to make it to the doctor by nine. I was hoping I could go be the house and eat, though. I need to go by and see XXX and then–I need to buy crickets. (Note: to feed the lizards.) And I?ll bring you the car just before 12.
Okay. I know.
Kinda misty on the river today.

Yeah, I know.
It was weird yesterday.
Yeah. Like what?
I haven’t heard of him.
What are they building over there?
Boy, that looks terrible. It’s big. Well–it’s just big. Wow. That’s amazing.
I have my keys. I need a check.
Was it on the table?
That’s right. Love you.

Saying Hi to Neighbor

Good morning.
Pretty good.
Already in a rush.

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16810. buttart: animals-riding-animals: wombat riding turtle the...



wombat riding turtle

the animal kingdom is a strange and beautiful place

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16811. Childrens Books by David Chuka in 2015

I’ve been staring into my crystal ball and trying to foresee what 2015 holds. I keep staring and staring but I can’t seem to see anything. A good clean job might do the job…ehm…nothing. I don’t think this is working.


If you know me, then you know the above scenario and a crystal ball would be the last thing I’d be staring at. I think sometimes, we want people to predict our future and lay it on a plate for us. The sad reality is that (like the saying goes) if it’s to be, then it’s up to me. With that in mind, I’ve been thinking of what I want to achieve in the coming year, especially with regards to my role as a children’s book author. I would like to write four books next year. Below are the David Chuka titles hopefully coming to your book shelf sometime in 2015.

Kojo the Sea Dragon Meets a Stranger – After the overwhelming success of Kojo the Sea Dragon Gets Lost, I just knew I had to write more stories with Kojo and his friends from the Zakari River.Sea Life Books Below is a review from a reader:

Such a vivid and colorful tale for such a simple, yet important lesson; listen to your parents. The illustrations are vibrant and imaginative as are the characters. Kojo the Sea Dragon Gets Lost is a very fun read!

In this episode, Kojo and his friends plus everyone in the Zakari River is looking forward to the BOOM BOOM festival. It’s a time of fun, dancing, singing with lots of food. Everyone in the Zakari River gathers in the town center and there are performances by different groups. Kojo is looking forward to doing a special dance with his friends. The day finally arrives and Kojo is having so much fun with his friends and is enjoying the sights and sounds. Then something happens with some yummy cake and an evil eel that makes Kojo learn something new about his world and talking to strangers. This will most likely be the first book I publish in the coming year, so watch this space.

Non-Fiction Book on Writing and Publishing Children’s Books – I get asked a lot of questions by people looking to write and publish children’s books and I think it’s time I crystallise all my experience into a book that get that can help other aspiring and established children’s book authors. Some of the topics I’ll be touching in this book will include working with an illustrator, doing research, getting reviews, social media, marketing etc. I’m excited about the challenge of writing this book and currently putting ideas together.

Billy and Monster Meet the President – Like my most recent book – Billy and Monster’s Golden Christmas – I had finished writing this book in 2013 but due to challenges in finding the right illustrator, its release was delayed. I am quietly confident that I’ll be able to get this published in May and just in time for the Independence Day celebrations.

A Book about Thanksgiving – I’m not really sure what the story or characters will be but I do know that it’ll something based around Thanksgiving.David Chuka Banner I could either place Billy or Kojo in a situation where they learn something valuable about Thanksgiving. On the other hand, I could create new characters and tell the Thanksgiving story through them. Will provide more details later.

I’ll be visiting more schools in 2015 and looking to share my stories with more of my target audience. Thanks for all your support and do have a Merry Christmas and a Prosperous 2015.

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16812. Monday Review: UNMADE (THE LYNBURN LEGACY #3) by Sara Rees Brennan

Cool font, spooky silhouettes...me like.Summary: Okay, so, I have read books 1 and 2 of The Lynburn Legacy and failed to write about those, so this is really a review of the entire trilogy. I know, I know; I really MEANT to write about them... Read the rest of this post

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16813. Advice to a new novelist: be hardcore

Good morning! I got an email from a friend asking for advice on behalf of his niece, who has written a novel but can't find an agent. As I get these sorts of questions a lot I thought I'd answer here and get my Monday post done! Two birds! One stone!

The niece has sent her ms to various agents and heard the same reply: they admire the writing but the market is saturated with dystopian literature so they pass.

First, niece my friend, this happens ALL THE TIME. Perhaps that's a comfort to you? To hear that you're not alone? Example: Harry Potter came out, was a huge success, all the publishers were like, wait a minute, we need more middle grade fantasy series! They published a bunch of them. Most of them weren't hits. Publishers lost money.

Meanwhile, lots of people read Harry Potter and the subsequent fantasy series that were coming out and were inspired to write their own. Only they'd missed the swell. Publishers just weren't looking for them anymore. My own book THE GOOSE GIRL missed the swell. I'd been working on it for years, had no idea about any market and such, but by the time it was done and we were submitting it, the publishers were weary of all the fantasy series they were getting and all the major publishers rejected it.

This happened again with TWILIGHT. It hit big. Publishers began to gobble up vampire stories and then just all paranormal romance. Agents who happened to have YA paranormal romance at the time found it easy to sell them. An entire section of Barnes & Noble was renamed Paranormal Romance. Nathan Hale joked B&N was renaming themselves "Paranormal Romance 'N Things." And then, the inevitable happened. Readers grew weary of paranormal romance. Publishers lost money. They were no longer looking for it. All those writers who had been reading paranormal romance and were inspired to write it found they couldn't sell their manuscripts.

And then, again. HUNGER GAMES. DIVERGENT. MAZE RUNNER. etc. There's a bubble, the bubble pops.

When that bubble pops, it's not the end of the world. I've heard from agents and editors that they will take up any book that really, really sings to them, even if in the current marketplace it's far from a sure thing. THE GOOSE GIRL eventually found a home, for example. The key, the challenge, is finding just the right person who falls in love with your writing, even if dystopian is past its prime.

A few things you can do to help that happen:

1. make sure your book is amazing. No problem there, right? Easy peasy.

2. keep submitting until you find that one agent who just can't resist your voice, your characters, your style, what you've done to make sure your book is unique among all the others. Which means not giving up, querying everybody, attending conferences where you can meet an agent in person and hope that you click somehow with this one. To just keep trying.

3. write a new book

Because chances are, your first book will never sell. Even if it isn't dystopian. Most first books don't sell. Ask most published writers and you'll hear war stories of all the books we wrote that will never see the light of day.

Your goal as a writer isn't to get a book published. It's to make yourself a writer. Sometimes writers must write a lot of books as practice before our brains are good enough to write something new, original, exciting, interesting, unputtdownable. Sometimes you have to chalk this one up to a rehearsal and get moving on the next thing.


The second question the niece had was, should I just self-publish it?

My answer: maybe. I don't know. I've never self-published anything so I'm far from an expert. Indie publishing is a great resource for books that don't find a home in traditional publishing. I guess it depends on what your goal is here. To share your work? To make a living? I'd recommend seeking out blogs and sites about self-publishing for more answers. Note that self-publishing is not as simple as uploading your manuscript to Amazon. In order to have success, you'll have to educate yourself on the business, put in time and money. I've read that most first novels that are self-published never get into the black--at least the ones who hire professional editors, cover designers, etc., in order to do it all professionally. In other words, in order to self-publish, you must be hardcore. So it really depends on your skill set, personality, and desire. Do you want to learn about this business? Invest your resources in it? Put in the time?

So, niece, what kind of hardcore are you?

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16814. Santa Express


We had our first Christmas Stall experience. It was at an historic Victorian Railway Station - in my language that means old.  I noticed 6  'bellasomish' Christmas trees 4 were down the stairs that led to the station.

My favourite place was the ladies waiting room, it was great, Max wasn't allowed anywhere near it.  There was a real coal fire in the room, wooden benches and a carpet. It felt like it was a sitting room from someone's house rather than a public waiting room. I went in there quite a lot.

Max was interested in the steam trains, the engines were massive black heavy iron constructions and the carriages were complete with highly polished wooden doors. Each engine had a proper name: One of the engines that left from platform 1 was Oliver Cromwell.

I was surprised I had to work so hard to get people to notice me, it doesn't normally happen.  I suppose though the fact that Santa was riding on the train had something to do with it.  You'd think by now that Santa would know how important Bella of Beckingham is. Maybe by next year he will get the message and stop planning events on the same day as me.

It was a great couple of days. But I was embarrassed by how the Ruff Life crew dressed. You'd think being around my fantastic style in fashion they could have turned out more stylish than looking like rejects from the abominable snowman, there's no helping some people sometime.

Well I must go


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16815. Holiday Kidlit: DASHING THROUGH THE SNOW by Helaine Becker & Werner Zimmerman (Scholastic Canada)

Looking for some Canadian holiday kidlit cheer? Try DASHING THROUGH THE SNOW: A CANADIAN JINGLE BELLS, a new book written by my friend Helaine Becker, illustrated by Werner Zimmermann, companion to their #1 national bestseller, A PORCUPINE IN A PINE TREE. More info about DASHING on the Scholastic Canada site.

More about Helaine: http://www.helainebecker.com/

More about Werner: http://wernerzimmermann.ca/


Also see my other #BookADay posts.

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16816. You're B.A.C.K. (Blessed by an Act of Christian Kindness) Cards

 by Sally Matheny

God's greatest act of kindness was sending Jesus

      Last week, I shared with you an activity for surprising others with acts of kindness. Below is a copy of the card to leave behind for the recepient. Feel free to copy and use it as you wish.
     Thanks to all of you who are sending me messages of how this activity has blessed you while you were blessing others!


(Blessed by an Act of Christian Kindness)

You've been blessed by an act of Christian kindness.
You’ve heard of people doing
random acts of kindness, right?
Good news!
The best acts of kindness
are from God.
But his deeds are never random.
Because he loves us so much,
he intentionally sent his only Son,
Jesus Christ to save us.
Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
When life ends here on earth,
whoever believes in him
will live forever
in heaven.

We hope you enjoy God’s blessings.

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16817. Comic Caption Challenge (there will be PRIZES)

Any caption ideas for this comic? You can post your answer below, on Twitter (please tag with #inkycaption hashtag) or on FB.

There will be PRIZES.

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16818. I'm thinking on writing an animal fantasy novel or story.

Question: Ever since I've seen the Lego show:Legend of Chima I wanted to write an animal fantasy like Chima but better. For example there would be gorilla

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16819. Conscious vs. Unconscious Action

Much like with my post on “the blurt,” I invite you today to consider that characters actively making conscious decisions and taking conscious actions has more power than them acting impulsively, especially in important moments. Don’t get me wrong, it’s perfectly fine to have a character surprise him or herself with an action, like falling offstage during a monologue or tripping. Calamity happens.

For the more consequential actions, like slapping one’s best friend or driving past one’s house and ending up in, I don’t know, Argentina, though, I would prefer that some more thought goes into it. Here’s why: I fully believe that building anticipation is important to nurturing that connection with the reader. I’m going to get so much more out of the scene if I sort of know what’s coming.

I don’t need to know how it’s going to be executed or what the outcome will be–that’s the fun part where you build your suspense and where the unexpected happens. But I want to have some vague idea of where things might be headed so that I can start getting invested.

Let’s say that Julie has beef with her best friend Chris. They’ve been inseparable since kindergarten but, lately, Chris has been saying really mean things about Julie (often within earshot) to get in with some people who he thinks are cool. That’s part of the picture, but it’s just the situation that these two characters are in. Imagine, now, that Julie goes to see Chris and all we have to work with is the following. I see this sort of thing in a lot of manuscripts:

Julie sat down across from Chris and watched him carefully. “You don’t have anything to say to me?”
“Not really.” He chewed his granola bar like he was thinking about it for a minute. “Yeah, no.”
“That’s it, then?”
“What’s it?”
Before Julie could think, her hand flew up and connected with his cheek. She’d never been more hurt in her life. “I can’t believe you!” she hissed. Before she even knew where she was going, she was running out of the cafeteria. Julie had no intention of letting it go that far, but she hadn’t been able to stop herself. Great, now Chris and his stupid new friends could have something new to laugh about. All she wanted was some reassurance from her supposed best friend that they were still on track. But he apparently couldn’t see anything wrong with his behavior. Well, if he had no time to be nice to her, she wouldn’t waste hers on him, either!

Why did she slap him? I have no idea, unless the writer had gone through the trouble of establishing context for the action first. And it’s not as gratifying to have her unpack the event after it happens and worry about it, as you can see here. Without that work on objective before the scene, this seems like she’s just flailing around, acting on raw feelings that I don’t have access to. Getting her motivations later just isn’t nearly as satisfying.

Now let’s add some context. Let’s say Julie’s getting peeved that he’d rather sell out their friendship to impress some douchebags rather than maintain something that used to be important to both of them. Not only is he not sticking up for her when the bullies start to crowd around, he’s being outright mean and a bully himself.

So Julie goes over to Chris’s house to clear the air or to get some answers, she doesn’t know which. All she knows is that if he doesn’t apologize, she’s going to break up with him as a friend, even if it’s just for a little while. She’s clear that something needs to change, because she’s really, really hurt.

This is a lot of context and I know what Julie is going into the scene with, objective-wise. She wants clarity on a relationship. And she has thought through some bottom lines, boundaries, and possible outcomes. From all of this, I can tell that this confrontation with Chris means a lot to her, and that she’s really taking it seriously. As a reader, I begin to take it seriously as well.

Once all of these pieces are in place, if Chris continues to be a butt and Julie ends up slapping him in the heat of the moment, I am totally fine with it! It’s an impulsive, unconscious action when it comes down to it, but a whole lot of consciousness went into getting her to that scene.

Let’s try this scene again with some interiority to motivate the slap in the moment, instead of letting it all catch up to her after the fact:

Julie sat down across from Chris in the middle of the busy lunch room. She searched his eyes for a trace of the old Chris, her old best friend. Nothing. If only she could get him to really see her, to remember the old times, then maybe he wouldn’t treat her like crap. “Hi.”
He didn’t really react, not at all like the kid she used to know.
“You don’t have anything to say to me?”
“Hmm, let me think about it.” His voice was mocking. He chewed his granola bar. “Yeah, no.”
Julie’s hand tensed into a fist. Twelve years was a long time to be friends, and he was throwing it all away. Well, she wasn’t going to take it. If he wanted a punching bag, he’d have to find someone else! “That’s it, then?” she asked. She pleaded with him, deep down, to just snap out of it.
“That’s it.”
Nothing. The rejection stung all over again. Before Julie knew what crossed her mind, she reached across the table and slapped his smug face.

These are quick examples, dashed off for illustrative purposes, but I want to try and convey here that unmotivated sudden action isn’t nearly as satisfying as something with backstory, sudden or not. Interiority, what the character experiences during the event, is a huge part of this, too. The more we know about what they want and what they’re going through, the more we can follow their conscious and unconscious movements through the story.

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16820. Let’s go to Costco with an anxiety disorder!


When my husband asks me to go to Costco, I feel like I’m being punished for doing something terrible. Not terrible as in I shrunk his favorite shirt in the washer. Terrible as in, “Wench, you burnt my chest hair with a blowtorch! Now, get ye to Costco!”

I was hellbent against joining the place, despite several of our friends’ insistence that Costco is “The Happiest Place on Earth” (which is actually Disneyland, but I’ve never had the heart to tell them). Jake talked me into it, but even walking in to get our membership cards, I remember thinking, “Oh, so this is what evil looks like.”

See, there’s this famous story in my family about my mom at Christmas time at Meijer, a superstore in my hometown. She was overstimulated by the lights and the crowds and she couldn’t find my dad, so they had to call his name over the loudspeaker: “Dave Dobie, paging Dave Dobie; please come collect your crazy wife in produce.”

The lesson learned? Stay away from superstores, especially if, like me, you suffer from an anxiety disorder.

Costco wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t for EVERYTHING ABOUT IT. I headed there today, post-workout, so I felt all limber and jovial until I reached obstacle one: The Parking Lot of Death. I don’t know if my fellow consumers are literally trying to kill me or if their cell phones are so far up their asses that they’re uncomfortable and can’t reach the brakes because they’re too busy screaming, “Please, get this cell phone out of my ass.”

Then, in order to enter the members-only champagne room (there isn’t really champagne; there should be champagne), you have to show your members-only card, which I’m sure makes other people feel really special but just makes me feel like I’m about to enter Auschwitz.

You have to get a cart, because everything at Costco is in bulk, because Jake and I obviously require 30 ROLLS OF TOILET PAPER AT ALL TIMES. The shoppers at Costco move like sea turtles following city lights. They’re slow, vacant, and probably, someday, a huge bird will swoop down and bite their heads off. (I bet Costco owns huge birds! They probably stock the huge palates of 30-roll TP!) It’s impossible to be efficient, because everyone moves around the floor-to-ceiling aisles, mystified by the free food samples that probably cause cancer.



Now, picture me: medium height, skinny, post-workout bandana, haunted look, and sallow cheeks. Picture me curling into a smaller and smaller ball on the top of my cart. I chew my lips. I stutter-step and try to breathe, but they apparently suck all the air out of Costco, and I CAN’T BREATHE! I have to hurry because if I don’t hurry I’ll die of asphyxiation, but I can’t hurry because the lady in size 20 jeans in front of me won’t decide if she wants fifty or one hundred pounds worth of hot dogs.

If you’re lucky enough to make it to the register, everything is almost all right. You pay, you smile, you run like hell for the door with all your toilet paper, but then, you have to pass the exit test where nice-looking ladies (who are probably vengeful dragons) check your tab and make sure you aren’t stealing anything. And then to The Parking Lot of Death!

By the time I’m back in my driver’s seat, my head is spinning and I’m thinking, “Why don’t I keep bourbon in my purse? I should totally keep bourbon in my purse.”

Costco is like hell with fluorescent lights and the smell of microwaveable food where the majority of its inhabitants are chubby and slow-moving. Maybe, just maybe, some of the customers never leave. They circle the aisles on auto-pilot. They forget their families, their names. They stay forever. They become Costco employees.

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16821. Mary's Journey

If only Joseph had listened when she told him
one of those three kings, she couldn’t tell which, 
was a harbinger of trouble. But Joseph, being Joseph

couldn’t turn away strangers lest they be angels
from God and welcomed them. The Magi showered
gifts on the newborn, but when they left, 

Mary discovered they had given the child
more than gold, frankincense, or myrrh.
Now she had to trudge through the village, 

to find this old woman, who everyone called
a witch because she knew herbs that could cure
or kill, and beg for a remedy to heal her son

of a sickness she had never seen before. 
The old woman peeled away the swaddling
cloths, wrapped around the child as if to staunch

a wound, went to the back of her hut, 
and pounded leaves into a poultice. 
“Rub this over his chest and he will get better.” 

“A man who is born for the cross can’t drown.” 
Mary nodded. She didn’t understand a word-- 
only what she needed to do to save her son’s life.

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16822. One Central Hub for All Your Content

Last week, we announced a few updates to the WordPress.com interface, including faster stats and enhanced site management on both desktop and mobile devices.

Our push to make all WordPress.com sites faster and easier to access and manage continues. This week, we’re thrilled to unveil a few brand-new features that allow bloggers, publishers, and business owners to run their sites and manage their content from one central hub, no matter what device they’re using.

From new blog post and page management tools to Jetpack site integrations, we hope you enjoy the latest additions as much as we do!

Centralized post management

You can now access all your posts from one convenient location, whether you write one personal blog or publish on multiple sites. Quickly sort through published, scheduled, drafted, or even trashed posts for one or all of your sites at once!


A visual preview of each blog post lets you scan your content to edit, view, publish, or trash from a single list. Another new functionality we’re excited to introduce today: while “Blog Posts” is selected, you can hop to another blog’s post list using the site selector in the sidebar.

Easy access to pages

For many site administrators, managing pages is just as — if not more — important than post management, so we’ve extended to pages the same functionality that lets you review all your posts from one place.

You can look up any of your pages, and then publish, un-publish, or trash them, all directly from your WordPress.com dashboard. Editing pages is also just one click away, regardless of the number of sites you run.

One WordPress dashboard for all your sites

Screenshot of the All My Sites button

We also have great news for those of you who have both self-hosted WordPress sites and WordPress.com sites. The new WordPress dashboard gives you access to all your Jetpack-connected sites as well as to sites hosted here on WordPress.com, and allows you to manage your posts, pages, and plugins from the same central hub.

Tell us what you think!

For some, individual-site management in the classic WP Admin dashboard will continue to be the go-to. That said, today’s updates include some entirely new features that are only accessible in the new dashboard. To tap into multi-site posts and pages lists and manage all your WordPress sites under one hood, we encourage you to try out the new interface.

We want to thank all of you who’ve shared constructive feedback with us — it helps us immensely in our effort to make the experience even smoother. Whichever dashboard you fancy, we hope you’ll take the updates for a spin and continue to share your thoughts with us!

Filed under: Dashboard, Features, Jetpack, New Features, WordPress.com

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16823. The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender delivers eye-opening writing (and fits no categories — yay!)

Ellen Klein, who stands behind Alexandria, VA's fabulous independent children's bookstore, Hooray for Books, (and who introduced me to Debbie Levy, a friendship I'll always cherish), sent a somewhat cryptic note not long ago.

Ellen had read One Thing Stolen, she said. And therefore I was read The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender, a book she has called as "rare and beautiful as Mona Lisa's smile." The author is Leslye Walton. It is a debut. It has turned many heads and now, when I think back on it, I remember dear Kelsey Coons (my cousin's daughter, a beautiful soul, a smart cookie, a holder of a master's degree in publishing, a design talent currently completing a fellowship at Chronicle, and a rising star in publishing) urging me toward the title, too.

I was to read the book, Ellen said, but only if I bought it at an independent. (My preference anyway, though my determination to buy Brown Girl Dreaming and I'll Give You the Sun from an independent has been thwarted by sold-out shelves everywhere I turn. Still, I'm holding on.)

In any case, it's been a hectic time. But I found Ava at the Doylestown Bookshop and last night read the first 50 pages. Ava is clearly a no-categories book, a concept I embrace from head to foot. It is also astonishingly beautifully written, and while I have not finished (I will!), I stop in my enthusiasm to quote you this, below. It doesn't matter what the story is about (not yet, not to me, anyway). I'm just in love with the vivacious prose:

The day Emilienne met Satin Lush she was wearing her cloche hat, newly painted with red poppies. Her hair was curled and peeked lightly out from under the hat to cup the curve of her chin. There was a rip in her stocking. It was May and heavy wet lines of spring rain streamed down the windows of the cafe where Emilienne had just spent her day serving black coffee and sticky buns to dreamless Irishmen. The smell of glazed sugar and folded pride still lingered on her clothes. As she waited for the rain to let up, the bells of Saint Peter's chimed five times and the water fell only harder upon the awning over her head.

She was thinking of the loveliness of such moments, admiring the rain and the graying sky the way one might admire the painting of an up-and-coming artist, one whose celebrity seems presaged by the swirls of his brush marks. It was while she was in the midst of such thoughts that Satin Lush walked out of the cafe, the clink of his legs disturbing the rhythm of the rain against the awning.
Aren't you in love, too?

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16824. Wrapping Paper

My husband doesn’t get the point
Of wrapping up a gift.
His reasons aren’t mainly ones
That have to do with thrift.

He thinks it’s just a bother.
First, the paper must be bought;
Then measured, cut and folded if
A winning outcome’s sought.

It’s time consuming and, of course,
It doesn’t last too long,
For daintily removing wrapping paper
Just seems wrong.

Yet the wrapping on a present
Gives the heart a little lift
And the fun of ripping paper off
Is equal to the gift.

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16825. New Voice: Matt Phelan on Druthers

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Matt Phelan is the first-time author of Druthers (Candlewick, 2014). From the promotional copy:

With warmth and humor, award-winning author-illustrator Matt Phelan follows a child as she leads her daddy on some rainy-day flights of fancy.

It’s raining and raining and raining, and Penelope is bored. "What would you do if you had your druthers?" asks her daddy. 

Well, if Penelope had her druthers, she’d go to the zoo. Or be a cowgirl. Or a pirate captain who sails to the island of dinosaurs, or flies away on a rocket to the moon. 

If Penelope had her druthers, she’d go off on amazing adventures — but then again, being stuck inside may not be so bad if your daddy is along for the ride!

Note: Druthers is Matt's first picture book as the author and illustrator.

As a picture book writer, how did you learn your craft? What were your natural strengths? Greatest challenges?

The best thing you can do to learn the craft is to read as many picture books as you can. Try to identify what works and what doesn’t.

Read them Out Loud. If you have a kid on your lap all the better, but it isn’t necessary.

But do read them out loud anyway. It will help you understand the rhythm and page turn.

Having illustrated ten picture books before writing my own, I had a unique opportunity to study the craft of writing a picture book. I learned so much from the great writers I’ve collaborated with over the years.

My greatest strength I suppose is that, as an illustrator, I know intuitively when I can let the pictures tell the story. The great challenge is to also work in the words so they do what they need to do to make the book a success. It’s a delicate balance and I’m honestly not sure if it is easier doing both parts or not.

As an author-illustrator, you come to children's books with a double barrel of talent. Could you describe your apprenticeship in each area, and how well (or not) your inner writer and artist play together? What advice do you have for other interested in succeeding on this front?

I think my inner artist and inner writer get along swimmingly. I tend to see my stories first as images, but I write before I really start drawing.

In the case of my graphic novels, that medium allows me to tell much of my story through the images. But before I drew those images, I had written a detailed manuscript describing everything you see. I always write first for my graphic novels. I write in images and then the illustrator side makes those images.

Although I drew my whole life, I worked professionally as a copywriter and screenwriter before my first illustration job. I then concentrated on being an illustrator for five or six years.

During that time I was also playing around with the stories that would become The Storm in the Barn (Candlewick, 2009) and Druthers, so I think I always knew I would eventually write books as well as illustrate them.

As far as advice for author/illustrators, I would say that you must always remember that a picture book (or graphic novel for that matter) is a combination of words and images. You might have a wordless book, but there will still be a Story that you can tell with words. Find the balance, pay attention to the rhythm, and throw yourself into it.

Also (and this goes for anyone), don’t chase trends. If the book you want to write is a “quiet” book, don’t be discouraged because people say the market only wants “edgy” books.

Nobody in publishing knows what they want until they see it, really. You have to write or draw the book that you feel deep in your heart, gut, and soul. It’s the only chance for it to be good.

Outside Matt's Studio
Inside Matt's Studio

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