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Results 16,801 - 16,825 of 219,127
16801. Working out characters

Today I sat in a café, working on some characters. Not the design, but their personalities. I am basically filling a whole sketchbook with their ongoing adventures and discussions.

It was raining hard outside, but I had the nicest armchair in the whole place, I think. - It's very near the library as well, so we popped in there to buy some tattered old books and records.

Now I'm back home. I'll get out the record player, try out the new treasures and do more drawing. It's an Analogue sort of a day...
...except some people are playing video games.

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16802. Strike Three by Joy V. Smith (upcoming)

Strike Three, my science fiction novel due out in 2014, now has a cover!  We're on version four.  Let's see if I can share its progress with you.  Hmm.  I guess not.  Anyway, the first cover was the earth and moon in sepia (one of my suggestions.)  It can by found on Facebook and my writing blog and elsewhere.

Joy's writing blog: http://pagadan.wordpress.com/

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16803. Author Interview – Dan Thompson

1) Do you write books as a career, or are you currently still juggling your author time with a full or part time job?
As much as I hate to admit it, I still have a full time job. Working nights at a supermarket isn’t fun or interesting, but it does pay the bills. Having a five year old daughter who, at the minute, is more like a teenager doesn’t help my cause much either. But still, everyone has to start off somewhere. I’ve been working nights for nearly nine years now, so I guess the routine has become second nature, but you have to give up a lot of luxuries that some people may take for granted. You tend to lose time with family and friends, as more often than not, they have normal, day jobs.
One day, though, I will be able to call myself a ‘real’ author who writes for a living. Well, fingers crossed anyway!

2) Have you always wanted to be an author, or did some time or event in your life set you on the path?
I’m boring I’m afraid. I’m sure my clichéd answer will lose itself in the vaults of unoriginality, but I’ve always wanted to be an author for as long as I can remember. When I was seven, I wrote a collection of children’s stories, which all followed a group of animals. I even did lift up flaps and colourful drawings to go with them! I didn’t have an audience, but I used to read them to my baby sister. She spilled lemonade over the first one, Animals Hide and Seek. Thankfully, it wasn’t ruined and I have all three books stored away in my filing cabinet. I occasionally bring them out, blow away the dust, and chuckle away to myself at how awful they are. Still, children are allowed to dream … and do you know what? Adults are too.

3) Do you always write in the same genre, or do you sometimes like a change of theme? If you haven’t already, is there another genre you would like to write?
If you’d have asked me that question a year ago, then the answer would most certainly have been “yes, I always write in the same genre.” I love writing for teenagers. I think a lot of people turn their noses up at YA (young adult) books, but they are fun and exciting, yet serious and realistic too. In fact, I know a lot of people that turn their noses up at YA.
The very first story I wrote (full length) is a young adult fantasy novel and I’ve been trying to get that published quite recently. But out of nowhere, whilst I was recovering from an operation in early 2013, I started to write something entirely new. It built up and evolved, which later became an adult novella entitled The Caseworker’s Memoirs. I toured libraries and book groups with that book last year. I especially found that the over fifties loved it more.
Also in 2013, I came across a genre I hardly knew anything about. Dystopia, which is exactly what my upcoming novel, Here Lies Love is. Actually it is a NA (new adult) book too, which is an extension of YA. I think it is important to test yourself as a writer. Build up your repertoire and the possibilities are endless.

4) As a writer, what is the best thing that has happened to you, and what is that most exciting thing that could happen to you?
The best thing that has ever happened to me as a writer has ultimately got to be going on my library tour last year. It was exciting, nerve-wracking and scary, but enlightening too. I learned so much more about myself and what I was capable of. I had the opportunity to meet my readers in person, thank them, but also to listen to them. I’ve been on radio twice too, which again was an opportunity most people don’t have the chance to do.
The most exciting thing that could happen to me would be to be published traditionally, with a real publisher. It is something I have always dreamed of, apart from being a writer that is. It is still hard work, tough to get noticed, but everyone deserves an opportunity to fulfil their dreams. I’m hoping that my chance is just around the corner.

5) How do you view the promotion, book signings etc. Is it something you enjoy, or do you prefer the writing stage?
The days of the hermit-like writer, locked away in the study or the shed even, scribbling away, with sticky notes pinned in every free space, old coffee mugs with mould growing inside, are long gone. As an author, you really have to be a saleable commodity. Book signings, school visits, book fairs are all part of the process. Now, I was (and in some case still am) a nervous person, but having to get stuck in and get out there in the public eye was something that was both daunting, but valuable. I honestly believe that I have grown as a person, more confident in my approach. Of course there are times when the talks could have gone better, more involved, but then there are the times where you get a round of applause, people queuing up to have you sign their own copies.
Of course though, we are writers at heart and the writing is the most fun. You have no critics, no expectations. You can boldly go wherever the hell you want, whether it be in some fantastical enchanted forest, the war torn back alleys of occupied France, up the sky, underneath the ground …. The list goes on. Having the opportunity to tell someone’s story, really step into their shoes and decide their fate, is one job I wouldn’t trade for the world.

6) Could you tell us something about your published books, and let us know what they are about?
Well my adult book, The Caseworker’s Memoirs has been described by some reviewers as several stories in one, and although that is true, it is Malcolm’s story that gels everything together. He is recently widowed, having lost his wife only a few weeks before. He is losing touch with the world, locking himself away – even his daughter can’t get through to him. That is until, she gives him a leather bound notebook. As the days drag on, Malcolm starts to have these dreams, rediscovered memories about his former patients from when he was a psychologist. Malcolm had to treat these people with their numerous phobias, whether it be the fear of heights, the fear of time, homophobia, fear of terrorism … but he feels he has failed them.
It is a very enclosed story, one that pulls you in and makes you feel for Malcolm as you progress with him trying to find himself again. Or so I’ve been told anyway.
My upcoming novel, Here Lies Love, will be out in the spring and it follows the story of Abbey as she tries to escape the awful man she was sold to by her father. But as Abbey is quick to discover, the cold and lonely world outside is just as terrifying. She is haunted by the abuse she has suffered and having to survive by herself is asking too much. Only by confronting her father will she be able to move on with her life. I love the tagline for this book: ‘Would death be less painful than life?’

Author of Here Lies Love, The Black Petal & The Caseworker’s Memoirs

Click here to go to Dan’s website & Blog

Click here to go to Dan’s Twitter page

Click here to go to Dan’s Facebook page

Click here to go to Dan’s GoodReads page

Great answers, Dan. Best of luck with your career as a writer!

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16804. Recent Highlights

Happy, happy, joy, joy!

Here is some recently published artwork, as seen in various magazines in the Highlights family!

First up is a Find It feature from the December 2013 issue of Highlights Hello magazine:




This one came in a cute envelope that had a little preview of the feature:


Next is a Look and Look Again feature from January 2014′s issue of Highlights High Five:

HighFive_WhatsCooking_Jan2014_LO(I was really happy o get the chance to do anthropomorphic mice for this one!)

And finally (for now), here’s a rebus feature called “Family Band” that is in the February 2014 issue of Highlights:

Highlights_FamilyBand_Feb2014_LO(I have often done pieces for the younger kids’ magazines, but this is the first time doing a feature page in the “big kids” Highlights.) 

Have I mentioned lately how much I love all the Highlights magazines?

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16805. Gato Gordo na Moeda – 2

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Resilience, trust, & livea meaningful life. http://buff.ly/1b9Zpog BtMz AmSya #bookreview - Winter's Tide by Lisa Williams Kline shines. Zonderkidz

from Google+ RSS http://ift.tt/1eC0iGT

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16807. Don't Quit Writing

Here are a few tips to help keep you on your writer's journey. 


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16808. SEVEN STORIES UP by Laurel Snyder - Guest Post and Giveaway

Laurel Snyder wowed us with BIGGER THAN A BREADBOX. This is her follow-up novel which is also getting rave reviews. Laurel is stopping by to share her thoughts on research and writing and to give away a free copy of SEVEN STORIES UP!

     The big surprise for me, in writing Seven Stories Up, was that I hadn’t entirely realized I was writing a historical novel at all… until I suddenly was. That is to say I’d never written much about history before, and didn’t realize how much research would be required for every single page of text, every visual detail. 

Does that sound dumb? It does now, to me. But it’s the truth.
      Of course, I didn’t want my book to be ABOUT history. I didn’t want it to read like a text book. SEVEN STORIES UP is set in 1937, but it isn’t about the Holocaust, or the Depression. It’s very much a book about two girls. It’s about how a true friend can change a person’s life. About how that is a kind of magic.
      The basic plot is this—a girl (Annie) who has never met her grandmother before encounters the old woman on her deathbed, and finds her to be a lonely harpy. Then Annie falls asleep in her grandmother’s apartment (which is a suite in the old family-run hotel) and when she wakes up, it’s 1937! In this way, she meets her grandmother (Molly) as a lonely sick little girl and alters history.
      Sounds simple enough, right?
Laurel's writing shed.

 When you write about history, every single detail has to be confirmed. Annie fingers a phone cord, and suddenly I need to know what a phone cord looked like in 1937. She dashes out of the way of a trolley car in the street, and I need to figure out which streets the trolley cars ran on in 1937 Baltimore. She runs down a brick alley, and I need to look up information on the introduction of asphalt to the alleys of that particular neighborhood.
      What did toothpaste taste like? 
Did underpants have elastic in them? Did kids eat peanut butter? 
Had pizza been introduced to America? What did bathrooms look like?How big was a movie theater popcorn? Where might one see a photobooth?
 And how much did that cost? 
How was asthma treated? 
What did a candy bar cost? 

In the end, the book took me two years longer than I expected. Partly because of the time-travel element, and partly because the book had to match up to BIGGER THAN A BREAD BOX. But a big part of the slowness of writing was the research. I blew past my deadline, and then I blew past the makeup deadline. I felt awful about it, but in the end, I feel pretty certain there are no glaring errors. So that’s nice.
      It’s a funny way to think about writing. That the goal is to be “error free.” It’s not something I’ve ever thought about before. It’s a little infuriating to do all that work, and then realize that if I’ve done it correctly, nobody will notice at all.
      That, to me, is the goal for historical fiction. That I don’t want to have made any errors, but I also don’t want people to be AWARE of reading my research. I want them to be swept up in the relationships and the adventure, not the history.
      So if I’ve done this right, nobody will ever appreciate how much work I put into it. 


Laurel is kindly giving away one free signed and dedicated copy of SEVEN STORIES UP to one of my lucky commenters. Must live in the continental US to win - enter below!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

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16809. Welcome

Captivating Novels Children's BooksParenting Humor

Read Catherine Burr's blog about writing and books and the world of kindle.

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16810. The Logic Behind Author Newsletters

Author newsletters have always seemed to me like SPAM. Couldn't imagine why anyone would want to receive one.

However Chris Barton makes an excellent case for them in a guest post at Cynsations. What made me take notice was his point about Facebook updates and blog posts being too much for some readers. I think it's very possible that readers are overwhelmed by them, deadened by all the words. So, yeah, maybe a good, professional, occasional newsletter would be more of more benefit to everyone.

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16811. Guardian Angel Kids Magazine - February 2014 issue - Soar on Eagle's Wings

Check ou the February 2014 issue of 
Guardian Angels Kids eZine
Soar on Eagle’s Wings

Special Features
The Eagles Have Landed   Reported by GAK, our very own Angel Gecko
Michael and the Elf  by Kathryn Sullivan

The Guardian by Robert Niven

Flying on a Dream by Felicity Nisbet

The Bald Eagle: America’s Symbol by Sherry Alexander
Hey, do I need a toupee? by Shari L. Klase

What Do You Know About Eagles?
Quiz your EAGLE-EYE! by Barbara Cairns

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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16812. Wonderland/Stacey D'Erasmo: Reflections

Stacey D'Erasmo: She did me in. She wrote A Seahorse Year, and I loved it. She wrote a new novel called Wonderland that I've been aching to read ever since Stacey and I talked—privately and then publicly—in Decatur, GA. I was already a huge fan, as readers of this blog know. I became a forever fan in Decatur. There are just some people who know more, see deeper, write better. Stacey, who teaches at Columbia, is one of them, and she brings no arrogance to the aura of her appreciable talent.

But Wonderland—oh, what a book this is, a book richly steeped in the twin geographies of movable time and malleable possibility. It's the story of a rock star of sorts—of a singer named Anna who had once made it quasi big, whose second album bombed, whose chance at doing it all again is now or never. She chooses now. She chooses life on the road, strangers in her bed, the elusive high of a song sung right, an audience discovered. She is the idiosyncratically trained daughter of a sculptor of some renown, and she has been married and she has loved and she has lost, and she's only getting older; she will be forty-five when we see her last. She dyes her red hair now. She loses lines. She sleeps with the wrong guys, or maybe they are the right guys—it can be hard for her to tell. She remembers what she was, others remember who she became, but also, always (beautifully, tragically), she imagines what and who she might have been had she made different choices. When we meet her in Wonderland, she is running out of choices.

I read this book in exile from a storm that had darkened my corner of the world. I read it rivered through with that joy I feel when I've encountered art—real and actual. D'Erasmo doesn't just write gorgeous sentence after gorgeous sentence. She takes an enormous number of structural risks—forges a novel out of wildly imagined fragments without ever losing an ounce of coherency (do you know how hard that is?). Readers of this book get not just a vivid character, Anna, but a full-fledged story and a brilliant meditation on second chances, second-tier careers, secondary love affairs, and fame (borrowed, tenuous, earned?):
And why was I famous, anyway? Fact: I wasn't famous to everyone. I was famous only among certain people. The smart people, the people who pride themselves on being smart. Part of it—let's be honest—was the glamour of my pedigree, and the history to which that pedigree alluded. Everyone knew who my father was. Or maybe it would be more accurate to say that everyone who loved my music also loved who my father was. You can't separate the dancer from the dance, and anyway, I never tried. 
The other day, in class, I showed two portraits to my students, asked them to write a single sentence about each that told me what they saw. Capturing the physicality of another is hard stuff; we'd already determined that. Going beyond the obvious, tripping away from cliches, digging in. We want language to be equally alerting and clear. Wonderland is so alerting, so original, so improbable, so spring-water clear. I envy the readers who look forward to reading the novel for the first time. I envy the writers who will study it to shake loose new truths about structure, sentence, form.

And my students? I'm excerpting this, below, for them. Look at how physicality gets done. Look at how much room there still is, if we are patient enough, to render another fully see-able.
Ezra, chatting, laughs his famously peculiar laugh, a kind of Aussie Woody Woodpecker sound. I can't see the stroke on him, the overdose. He looks to me so unmarked, or, more accurately, he is already so marked that I doubt I could tell the recent marks from the older ones. He is not a handsome man, never has been. His face, in the half-light, has an ursine, lumpy quality. What can be seen of his hairline plunges, Ben Franklin style, nearly to his ears; his fringe of hair is wispy, of indeterminate color, and coarse. His face is pitted with acne scars. His eyes are small, tend toward the red. His magic emanates in part from that, from his unregenerate ugliness. He looks like a creature of the night who can hold his own with creatures of the night.
Stacey D'Erasmo, congratulations. This image, taken in Berlin of a young metal-working artist, is for you.

Wonderland will be released from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on May 6. I received this galley at the ALA Midwinter event. Begged for it, basically.

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16813. While I was gone: a misbegotten fireplace fire, and kindness

Winter hit hard in these parts—as snow became rain became ice, trees keeled and broke, and hundreds of thousands lost power. The world was dark, dystopian, empty-seeming. We lasted for two days here, until a carefully tended fire in our own fireplace smoked out the house, thanks to an invisible, inoperative damper. Staying close to the burnt hearth was not an option.

And so we slipped away. I read three incredible books over those two days and am eager to share my thoughts with you here. (And will soon.) For now, I want to thank a few people who buoyed me through the storm.

First, Beth Hoffman (of Saving CeeCee Honeycutt and Looking for Me), for so generously sharing her thoughts about my memoir Nest. Flight. Sky. with her legions of fans. This unforeseen generosity was such a huge surprise and so very welcome in the life of this mini-memoir. It was a gift.

Also, all thanks to Serena Agusto-Cox, who reviewed Nest. Flight. Sky. so kindly. Serena bought this $2.99 Shebook at once, read at once, and stopped to share her thoughts. That makes a huge difference, and I'm so appreciative. (I'm also so appreciative to Susan Tekulve, who was the very first to read and to write to me of this.)

Deep thanks as well to Ed Goldberg, who received an early copy of Going Over and wrote so beautifully about it in a review that touches on my work over time—all those themes that have held me in their grip. Ed, your shared faith in the intelligence of readers and their willingness to go deep means so much to me. You posted your review at just the right time.

Finally, Jessica Keener and Jamie Krug, big thanks to you—for sharing word of Handling the Truth with those you feel might learn something about confession and language, search and story in those pages. Books like mine survive through word of mouth. You keep giving Handling wings.

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16814. i'm taking part in 24-hour comic day!

I'm excited to announce that I'm going to be taking part in the 24-Hour Comics Marathon up in the Lakes District this October! It's part of the Lakes International Comics Festival, in Kendal, and loads of people who went last year said the festival was brilliant. Basically, a bunch of us will be drawing comics for 24 hours straight, including Dan Berry, Kristyna Baczynski, Fumio Obata, Jack Teagle, me... and there's a competition for ONE MORE PERSON! It's pretty cushy, they'll put you up for three nights in Kendal, they'll pay for food and travel... find out more here! The application deadline is 14 Feb.

I know it's a hardcore way of working, and I've visited 24-Comic Days, but never actually done the whole thing myself. But it's a great way of getting a whole comic finished in one focused attempt, with the encouragement of lots of other people all doing it together. I'm not banking on my comic being super-amazing, but sometimes they turn out very well. Check out this 24-comic Viviane Schwarz made, called Rabbit Stew.

Another cool thing is that Scott McCloud, the guy who came up with the 24-Hour Comic and 24-Hour Comics Day (and these excellent comics handbooks) is going to be at the festival!

17-19 Oct, mark your diaries; I hear it's worth a long trip to get there. You can follow the festival on Twitter at @comicartfest.

And one more bit of news: Today the postman brought me a copy of Oliver and the Seawigs in Japanese!!! It looks so fabulous! I couldn't stop touching it and looking at it.

Oh man, if we ever get to tour Japan, I want to get a dress made up in the colours of that slipcase.

It's published by Rironsha, and if you can't get it in a bookshop, it's available on Amazon.jp here.

Oh, and check out these cartoons a guy superimposes on fellow commuters' heads; it's pretty funny. (Link via Bridget Strevens-Marzo.)

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16815. Lightning Sketch Artists, Part 2

Winsor McCay (c. 1867-1934) was famous for his contributions to comics (Little Nemo) and animation (Gertie the Dinosaur), but those achievements were related to his other career as a lightning sketch artist on the vaudeville stage.

According to Wikipedia:

"Impresario F. F. Proctor approached McCay in April 1906 to perform chalk talks for the vaudeville circuit. For $500 per week he was to draw twenty-five sketches in fifteen minutes before live audiences, as a pit band played a piece called "Dream of the Rarebit Fiend". In his "The Seven Ages of Man" routine, he drew two faces and progressively aged them. His first performance was on June 11, 1906, in a show that also featured entertainer W. C. Fields. It was a success, and McCay toured with the show throughout 1907, while managing to complete his comic strip and illustration work on time, often working in hotel rooms or backstage."

In 1911, McCay animated his Little Nemo characters, in the context of a lightning sketch artist's show (Video link). After making a wager with the guys in the smoking club that he can make drawings move, he proceeds to draw his characters on a big pad, just as he would have done on stage, before he switches to smaller drawings for the animation. You can skip ahead to 8:24 to see the start of the animation.

When he presented his famous animated film of Gertie the Dinosaur, (shown here in its shorter version) McCay stood beside the screen and talked to the animated dinosaur, who seemed to respond to his commands and his scolding. Seeing a lightning sketch artist interact with a drawing which moved and even emoted at his command must have been astounding. Here's the longer version of the film, with the full setup intact.

Lightning Sketch Artists, Part 1

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16816. Gato Gorda na Moeda – 1

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16817. Golden Advice: John Donne and Meditation 17

Hi, folks! I'm continuing my series on Golden Advice. I like to spend the month of February digging into the wisdom that has come my way and that guides my art, my craft and my life. I find having some wise stuff in the soul helps me write stories with purpose.

This week I'm turning to poet and cleric John Donne who was a contemporary of William Shakespeare. Meditation #17 whispers inside me. It wakes me up. It pulls my head out of the sand.  It's all about this: for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.
So let me talk about what I take away from this meditation. When someone dies from a drug over-dose, or from abuse, or from neglect, from persecution, whatever, that wasn't just somebody else's problem, somebody else's loss, not my problem. Mankind is authoring a story. I cannot divorce myself from that story. We are writing one book. I can't tear out the pages I don't like. We are all connected, intimately, irrevocably. 
So what am I supposed to do about the pages I don't like?
Take those pages and write a better story. I am to take the wisdom of  my years and fight for a better tomorrow. I must translate everything into something better. My cancer? Yes, that must be used to strengthen others. The terrible war. Yes, I must share in the grief  and do what I can to help.  A chance to stand up for justice? Dear Lord, I better hop up.
No one is a star freewheeling its way through space. We are all part of a vast galaxy. If one star goes out, hey, the galaxy is less. If your mama dies, or your papa dies, you are less, but listen to this: any person's death makes you less because you are part of mankind. You are involved in mankind, friend. Don't point your finger at those people you despise politically, religiously, those foreigners, those bigots, those zealots, whatever. Don't take a hammer to a sore foot. Cutting it off, cripples you. It needs to be healed.
Above all, never say you have enough of your own trouble to be picking up the troubles of your neighbors. You don't have enough trouble  Extra trouble will mature you, make you better. The more you take on, the richer you will be. By taking on the troubles of others, you'll learn how to deal with your own mess. You can try to stabilize your life with stuff -- money, fame, success -- but the thing that is going to really stabilize you is to reach out to as many people as you can in  the days that you have.
When you write your stories, paint your pictures, sing your songs, do your best work. Why? So that it helps the most.  Meditate on those connections. 
I will be back next week with more Golden Advice.
Here is the doodle: "Bluestars"
Here is the quote for your pocket.
More than kisses, letters mingle souls. John Donne 

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16818. Many Miles

A trip that’s many, many miles
Is worth it if it garners smiles
When you’ve arrived at long, long last
Despite the hours that have passed.

For if that traveling has brought
You to a place where joy is wrought,
Then that resulting fellowship
Proves how worthwhile was your trip.

So many people never roam,
Preferring just to stay at home;
But when you let your boundaries grow,
You’ll reap rewards, more than you know.

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16819. The Watermelon Seed

This year's winner of the Theodor Seuss Geisel Award for the most distinguished beginning reader is Greg Pizzoli's The Watermelon Seed. The book is Pizzoli's first and an impressive debut it is. A small crocodile whose favorite food is watermelon accidentally swallows a seed. This causes him undue anxiety as he imagines the seed growing inside him. He worries: "It's growing in my guts! Soon vines will come out of my ears!" Any child who's downed a wad of bubblegum or buzzing insect (it happens!) will relate to the little reptile's fears.

The book's brightly colored palette of pinks and greens reinforces the watermelon theme. Readers are sure to chuckle at the amusing ways Pizzoli portrays the crocodile's distress. My favorite illustration is the one where he imagines himself a watermelon morsel in a fruit salad. The text is simplicity itself, with just one or two simple sentences on most spreads. The story whizzes by to a hilarious conclusion that solves the crocodile's problem--though not for long. A definite win for the six and under set.

The Watermelon Seed
By Greg Pizzoli
Disney Hyperion Books
Published: 2013

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16820. Interview: Holly Schindler

Holly Schindler's road to publication wasn't smooth. It took seven and a half years to sell her first book. She wrote the first draft of her first middle grade novel, THE JUNCTION OF LUCKY AND SUNSHINE, in 2005, after she hit what she calls "kind of a rough patch" in her pursuit of publication. "I had to ask myself what I was doing - if I was really going to keep at it," she told me.

Readers are glad that she did. Her first published work, the YA novel A Blue So Dark, was released in 2010. Then came another YA release, Playing Hurt. Holly describes her latest release, The Junction of Lucky and Sunshine, as a young girl’s journey toward becoming a folk artist: "Throughout the book, she has to stand up for her art. In some ways, I think the book is me making my own stand for my art, saying I wasn't going to back down from snagging a writing career."

She goes on to say: "And what words better describe a full-time writing gig than 'Lucky' and 'Sunshine?'"

In honor of her new book, which has been described as Beasts of the Southern Wild meets Because of Winn Dixie, Holly has set out on a blog tour. Lucky for me, she's stopping here at Bildungsroman today. Join us as we talk about writing, happiness, and - as Pam Beesly-Halpert of The Office would say - the beauty in ordinary things.

Little Willow: Just the title of the book makes me grin. What are some of your favorite words, words that make you smile when you hear them or say them?

Holly Schindler: Some of my favorite aspects of THE JUNCTION OF SUNSHINE AND LUCKY are the “Auggie-isms,” or turns of phrases that run throughout the book. Auggie has a unique, poetic view of the world, and that becomes clear in her language. I talk about it in this vlog.

The main characters of your book are Auggie and her Grampa Gus. How did you pick their names? Is it easy or difficult for you to name your characters?

There's actually a connection between Auggie's and Gus's names - I'd hate to spoil it for readers by saying exactly what it is. It's an aspect of the book that made me chuckle every time I reread it. I don't labor over my characters' names [now] quite as much as I did in the beginning of my career. I think that early on in their careers, many authors try to honor their completely unique main character with a unique-sounding name. Really, though, it’s not the name that makes a reader connect with a character - it's who that character is. But that’s how it is in real life, too, when you make a new friend!

Have you ever made a sculpture out of recycled materials, like Auggie and Gus do?

No sculptures, but I’ve been going to auctions since I was a little girl - first with my folks, and these days, with my brother, an antiques dealer. I've always loved the one-of-a-kind items that can be found in farm auctions -- stools made out of Coke crates, dresser boxes made out of barn wood, feedsack dresses. But as an antiques dealer, my brother often has to reinvent items he buys at auction that turn out to be less than he hoped, in order to turn a profit. Together, we've restrung broken jewelry, used yellowed book pages to create a door wreath, even turned a broken mandolin into wall art. I also love going to flea markets to find out how shop owners have reinvented broken items. One of my favorite recent finds is a necklace made out of an old salt shaker. I love the creativity it takes to reinvent old items.

I know you enjoy music, as I do, but do you like wind chimes?

Of course! Just as long as they're not near me when I'm trying to sleep. Music revs me rather than relaxes me, so I sometimes find it hard to sleep to the radio - I think wind chimes have the same effect!

You've written both drama and comedy, for kids and teens, stories about youth in very different situations. What, if anything, do you feel is the connective tissue or common thread(s) between your books?

I'd have to say realism. Whether it's a tragedy, a light moment, a love story, or a mystery, all my books are realistic fiction. That's not to say I don't love to read a good fantasy - or that I would never delve into that genre. But so far, they've all been realistic.

What can you tell me about your next novel, Feral?

Feral, my third YA novel, will be released by HarperCollins later this year. This will be my first psychological thriller. (Note: Holly invites anyone who wants to be a part of her next blog tour to email her at writehollyschindler (at) yahoo (dot) com)

Who or what helps you the most during revisions?

My mom's always been my first reader - and she reads along with me during mad-dash rewrite deadlines, which really keeps the whole process on track.

When you were little, you liked to write comments in the books you read. If you were to pick up a reader's well-worn copy of a book you wrote, what would you hope to find scribbled in the margins?

First, I'd just love the fact that the book was well-worn. But I'd also love to find passages that were marked just because the reader liked them. That's one of my favorite things to do on Goodreads - check out the passages and quotes that readers pulled from my books as favorite lines.

Holly also wanted to share this with readers:

I recently created a site specifically for young readers: Holly Schindler's Middles. I'm especially excited about this site. I adored getting to interact with the YA readership online - usually through Twitter or Facebook, but I had to create a site where I could interact with the MG readership. I'm devoting a page on the site to reviews from young readers themselves!

You can also visit Holly at hollyschindler.com


The next stop on the tour will be My Favorite Pastime tomorrow, Sunday, February 9th.

I first interviewed Holly Schindler in 2010. The interview was included in the back of her book A Blue So Dark as a bonus feature. Click here to read the full-length interview!

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16821. “Wait here.”

duchess of bloomsbury streetThe other day, reading Mental Multivitamin, I discovered there is a sequel of sorts to 84, Charing Cross Road, which is one of my favorite books. On certain days, it is my favorite book, and certainly it is one I return to ever more frequently, as time goes on.

Now, why it hadn’t occurred to me—obsessive googler and binge-reader that I am—to hunt up the rest of Helene Hanff’s books, given my really almost aching love for 84, Apple of My Eye, and Letter from New York (a book that shaped New York City for me before I met it in person)—why this uncharacteristic lack of ferreting-out on my part, I cannot say. Except perhaps that sometimes a kind of obliviousness is my brain’s way of making good things last…I’m far too prone toward immediate gratification when it comes to books, especially older ones by deceased authors, books I can blithely justify snapping up for a penny + $3.99 shipping on Amazon Prime, and clutch in my greedy hands two days later.

(I have this deal with myself: used books only if the author is no longer living. My way of supporting my comrades in the trenches, and also of keeping my floors from collapsing under the weight of all the books I would spend the grocery money on if I didn’t make up rules for myself.)

Anyway, there it was at MM: The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street, a string of quotes (I love how Ms. M-mv does that), Helene Hanff’s diary account of her long-dreamed-of trip to London, two years after Frank Doel’s death. 48 hours later, it was mine, formerly the property of Salt Lake County Library System, Whitmore Library. Seems to be a first edition, published in 1973.

I love Helene Hanff. Not just her writing, but her, the person, the crackling, opinionated, piercingly observant New Yorker who toiled over Ellery Queen scripts and her own never-to-be-produced plays, and who, for twenty years, fired off missives exploding with personality to a mild-tempered, unfailingly polite bookstore employee who died before she could get to England to meet him. It’s Frank’s wife, Nora, and daughter, Sheila, who meet Helene at the airport in the beginning of Duchess. They, too, had come to know and love her over those twenty years.

I love her like an aunt; perhaps I project a little of my beloved Aunt Genia onto her, hear certain tart remarks in Genia’s voice. Their lives were nothing alike, and Aunt Genia never lived in New York, but they share an unabashedness of opinion and a vast generosity of spirit. My aunt died in 1995, Miss Hanff in 1997, and I miss them both. But Helene I get to revisit endlessly. WHAT KIND OF A PEPYS’ DIARY DO YOU CALL THIS? pops into my head at unexpected intervals, and I laugh out loud, sometimes while standing in line at the post office or pushing a cart through Target.

84, Charing Cross Road, about which I’ve written before, was her first really successful published work, and its success was a tremendous surprise to her. People wrote and called her from all over the world; when she was hospitalized shortly before her London trip, strangers sent flowers and presents. In London at last, she was continually receiving invitations from perfect strangers who’d read and loved her book, and were so happy she was visiting their city. I keep crying, living these days with her, and then she’ll say something acid and I’m howling. Oh, I love her.

Something else I didn’t know about her until this week (when my google reflex did kick in at last, and I read all her obituaries) was that she considered herself uneducated. She uses that very word in Duchess. It’s astonishing she should have felt that way. She ran out of money after a year of college, that’s why; but there can’t have been many of her generation who were better read than she; she devoured and re-devoured books, the entire canon practically (except fiction; she far preferred essays and history) and knew chunks of them by heart, and all through her books she cross-references like crazy. She was a walking Wikipedia.

Now, reading Duchess of Bloomsbury Street, I find that’s exactly how her education happened: like a long, looping chain of links.

But Oxford I have to see. There’s one suite of freshman’s rooms at Trinity College which John Donne, John Henry Newman, and Arther Quiller-Couch all lived in, in various long-gone eras. Whatever I know about writing English those three men taught me, and before I die I want to stand in their freshman’s rooms and call their names blessed.

Q (Quiller-Couch) was all by himself my college education. I went down to the public library one day when I was 17 looking for books on the art of writing, and found five books of lectures which Q had delivered to his students of writing at Cambridge.

“Just what I need!” I congratulated myself. I hurried home with the first volume and started reading got to page 3 and hit a snag:

Q was lecturing to young men educated at Eton and Harrow. He therefore assumed that his students—including me—had read Paradise Lost as a matter of course and would understand his analysis of the “Invocation to Light” in book 9. So I said, “Wait here,” and went down to the library and got Paradise Lost and took it home and started reading it and got to page 3 when I hit a snag:

Milton assumed I’d read the Christian version of Isaiah and the New Testament and had learned all about Lucifer and the War in Heaven, and since I’d been reared in Judaism I hadn’t. So I said, “Wait here,” and borrowed a Christian Bible and read about Lucifer and so forth, and then went back to Milton and read Paradise Lost, and then finally got back to Q, page 3. On page 4 or 5, I discovered that the point of the sentence at the top of the page was in Latin and the long quotation at the bottom of the page was in Greek. So I advertised in the Saturday Review for somebody to teach me Latin and Greek, and went back to Q meanwhile, and discovered he assumed I not only knew all the plays of Shakespeare, and Boswell’s Johnson, but also the Second Book of Esdras, which is not in the Old Testament and is not in the New Testament, it’s in the Apocrypha, which is a set of books nobody had ever thought to tell me existed.

So what with one thing and another and an average of three “Wait here’s” a week, it took me eleven years to get through Q’s five books of lectures.

The original rabbit-trailer. My hero. Q’s “five books of lectures” can be had for nothing, nowadays, along with probably all of the works he references. If I start now, I’ll be as educated as Helene by 2025.

(Oh heavens. That number just gave me the vapors. That’s officially the future, man.)

Helene Hanff eventually wrote a book about her autodidacticism called Q’s Legacy. Needless to say, it’ll be here by Tuesday.

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16822. Character Interview: White One, from Nezumi's Children by T.L. Bodine (What's it like to be a rat?)

Purchase the novel here
Sometimes I bend my body to obey the Rules. Today's protagonist is white, fluffy, naked-tail'd, and about the size of my human fist, so to interview her--

Well, I'm disguised as a rat.

It's tough for me to coordinate four limbs in a scamper, but I've got crawling down. The main thing that gets me is the swap between vision and smell--wow the smells! It's like I've been blind all my life, and now I see a painting, a broad palette of scents all speaking to me about--

About how I smell really human. Crap. Totally overlooked this in my transmogrification--just like a human would. I lick myself, but it doesn't help. Now I smell like a human covered in spit.

Well, the show must go on.

I creep to one corner of the plexiglass, wire-mesh, 36'' by 8'' cage on the floor of the pet shop and whisper to the nearest rat inside. "Hello?"

Her nose wrinkles; she slips closer to me, staring at me through the mesh.

"Hey, I have some questions for you!" I say.

"Never mind me," she says. "I have some questions for you! What are you?"

"I'm the Traveller. What's your name?"

"They call me White One. It's not a proper name, but it's what they call me for now, and I can't deny it's practical. Among all of the others, I am the white one."

Oh, good! I've got the right rat.

"How old are you?" I ask.

"I'm five months old," she says. That's just the age where rats reach social maturity and work out their rank within the colony. So she's like--a college kid. A college kid with a curious nose twitching and sniffing up and down without pausing, like a little motor. "What's going on?" she asks me.

"What do you mean?"

"There's something happening outside. No one seems to know what it is, but it's making us all on edge. The prophet is calling it a 'storm.' That might be true. What I know: The air smells damp, and I feel a tingling in my whiskers like something big is about to happen. I wish I could get outside to get a proper look at it."

Her eyes seem to sharpen, or glimmer at me with meaning. I grimace; my tail stiffens. "I get the hint. But I can't help you get out, and I can't tell you what's going on--and I actually mean can't, not may not, or don't want to. I wish I could, but my freedom to travel comes with some handicaps."

She digests that for a moment; I don't know how long I've got before her story begins, but my whiskers are tingling too and I don't want to die, so I jump right in with the biggest questions.

"What's your biggest fear?"

She's still hung up on the whole "outside"-thing. "None of us know what happens when we leave this place.  If you ask Nezumi, the Beyond is like a paradise. If you ask Monster, it's just another cage, a trap loaded with danger. I think they're both right, but probably both wrong as well, and I can't be satisfied with not knowing for sure." She flicks her tail and looks away from me, beyond me. "I'm afraid of never finding out what actually rests outside. But I'm more afraid that I'll get outside and discover that there was really nothing to discover in the first place. Does that make sense? I've tried telling the others that, but they look at me like I've gone mad."

"Well, they're just more easily satisfied than you are," I say. "I understand you--but you probably understand them a little, too, right? You like some things about where you are. Food, for example--what's your favorite food?"

"Every so often, the Great Ones give us a mix of seeds with our kibble, and there's peanuts in them, still in the shell. A lot of them have gone sour with age, but when they're fresh they're the very best. Sometimes we fight over them. Usually it's Cookie who gets hold of them first, but she'll drop them when Bitey challenges her, and I can just sneak in and get them while they tussle. No one ever notices. I think it makes them taste better."

I like the glimmer in her eye, and the way she gnashes her teeth when she says that. I feel my rat-tummy getting grumbly--I distract myself. "And sounds," I say. "What's your favorite sound?"

"Footsteps approaching.  When the sky opens, food comes, and I can get a little glimpse of outside -- and the sky always opens after footsteps sound outside."

"You really want out, don't you." I'm smiling or smirking--I think. I don't know how rats smile. "It's like your personal dream or something."

She twitches her ears 'yes.' "Once, I ran free in the Beyond," she says. "It was a brief moment -- just a few minutes before they caught me and dropped me back in the cage -- but it was amazing. The smells! There was so much out there to explore. I ache to see it again."

"Well--I'm sure you will. Am I allowed to say that?" I glance around as if the Rules might get me. I whisper. "White One, you've got big things ahead of you. Be--careful."

I look around again. That tingling she mentioned--it's tickling my whole face now, and I think I hear an ominous rumble in the distance. I need to get out of here before everything goes to rat-poop--but--

Just a few more questions. I don't know when I'll get an opportunity like this again.

"Hey, could you tell me a little more about--what's it like, being a rat?"

She tilts her head. "What's it like being something else?"

That's easy. "Like you've lost your sense of smell, and your eyes fill up with details and colors you've never imagined--you can't see ultraviolet anymore, though, so no signatures in pee--but far away things look clear, and you're very big and clumsy on your hind-paws but really, really precise with your front-paws."

She parses that for a second. I'm sure by now she's figured from the smell I share my species with the things that feed her--and sure enough, she says,

"Well, imagine that you are very small, very cunning, but ultimately weaker than nearly everything else around you. Even when you're completely safe from predators, you know in your bones that the safety won't last. You have to be ready to run at any minute. You have to stick with the others. You have to keep your eyes and ears and whiskers looking for danger at every second, because you could be food for something else at any moment.  You know this, and you've always known this, but you can't let it consume you. It's just a part of who you are. That's what being a rat means."

My turn to pause. "You know, maybe that ever-present danger is what being alive means. Maybe huma--uh, my species--just tries to spend a lifetime forgetting it."

She begins to answer--

A scream from another rat in the cage! It's Nezumi, the prophetic mother rat--she tears at the glass, hurls her sickly form at it--"Get out, get out!" she cries. "Before it comes!"

Every hair on my body stands on end like a soldier snapping to attention. Her wild eyes--

Whatever my philosophy on human mortality, the fact remains--a rat can die in a rainstorm, a rat will die in this rainstorm, and I need out. Now.

I always hate this part.

I gaze past White One over the cage. All her friends, such unique and strange and beautiful creatures--to think that within a week they'll--and I can't do anything--

Sometimes I hate my job.

But rats don't cry. I touch my nose to the side of the cage; White One salutes me back, her round liquid ruby eyes brimming with questions. I give her one last nod--"You can do this"--and I'm gone.

You can buy the book White One's from, and find out what the big scary happening is, at these places!
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00EWTMONG
B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/nezumis-children-tl-bodine/1116813472
Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/350275

And of course, if you want to learn more about White One's author: http://tlbodine.blogspot.com

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16823. A Day at Sea by Margot Justes Redux

It has been a harsh winter this year, and I’m ready for a bit of warmth and sun. Cruising at this stage in my life is a perfect get away. I get to see new places every day, and I don’t have to worry about anything else. It is a stress free vacation.

As the time nears for my cruise, I check daily to see if the prices change to my benefit. So far, it's going in the other direction.  However, it reminds me why at this stage in my life why I really love cruising.
Surrounded by water on all sides, the giant ship glides along the waves, the water lapping steadily as the ship moves forward. Mesmerizing. Relaxing. Blissful. All cares are swept away.

If the first day of the cruise is spent at sea, is a perfect time to relax and take that deep cleansing breath, as your cares glide away . The early morning is best, before the multitudes wake. That first cup of coffee and that first gaze at the ocean.  There is nothing better than the gentle breeze and sometimes not so gentle, and that fresh waft of the ocean air. Fresh and invigorating.

The coffee itch is always satisfied. I'm addicted to the brew, and fortunately it's served piping hot early every morning. It's not the best coffee by far, but considering how many people are on board and that it's continuously flowing, the ambiance makes it more than palatable. By the way, good coffee is available later in the day for an extra charge.

If your wishes tend toward walking there is a path on the highest deck, where it's just you, water and the sky. Early in the early morning twilight is just perfection, and there are fewer people. That is not a bad way to begin a vacation.

The delightful part of being at sea, is that you can do as much or as little as you want. There are plenty of planned activities, from belly dancing, belly flops and I'm sure other belly things, there is ballroom dancing, and...well, you get the drift. You can be as busy or as relaxed as you like. It's all up to you.  

The staff always on hand to bring fresh coffee, milk, whatever you need; they are continuously working. By the end of the first day, the steward will know your name, what you like, if you want coffee delivered to your cabin, and at what time. It's all part of the training to make each guest feel at home and welcome. You know what, it works.

The elevators have a plaque on the floor, changed daily to make sure you know the days of the week; a gentle reminder that you're on vacation.

Margot Justes
A Hotel in Paris
A Hotel in Bath
Blood Art
A Fire Within

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Very excited for next weekend! Here's where you'll find me presenting (updated) --->

3-3:45: Presentation - "Getting Lucky: Finding Success Publishing for Kids, Teens, and Adults"

9-9:45: Children's 1st page critiques with Liz Szabla, moderated by Andrea Brown
3-3:45: Panel - "Six of One: Adult Vs. YA Literature" with Tanya Egan Gibson and Joan Steinau Lester
6:30-7:30: Booksigning
9-11:00: Fiction 1st page critiques with Sorche Fairbank, Donna Levin, and Ken Sherman

9-9:45: Presentation - "Plan, Plot, and Pitch the Perfect Picture Book"
11-11:45: Presentation - "Word Up: Writing Dialogue that Soars"

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A few weeks ago, I was invited to write a guest post on the website Books4YourKids about my favorite book of 2013: Hokey Pokey by Jerry Spinelli. 

Many might disagree, but I would argue that this is perhaps one of the most important children’s books written in my lifetime. Here’s an excerpt in which I discuss how this book interacts with Peter Pan

It has been observed that I am somewhat obsessive about JM Barrie’s Peter Pan. More than once, people have asked me what I think about Pan adaptations and sequels written by contemporary writers. My usual response is that I think those writers could better use their time creating their own characters to discuss similar themes. Spinelli has done just that. The fugitive shadow of Peter Pan skitters all throughout Hokey Pokey without ever once needing to be mentioned. To every person hoping to write an “updated” version of Oz, or Wonderland, or Grimm’s Fairy Tales, I would direct them to this book. 

The best response to this post came from Tom Angleberger who objected that he didn’t actually think this was a book for kids (Betsy Bird wondered as much in her excellent review … which is what prompted me to pick up the book in the first place). It’s an interesting question, and one that I suspect I’ll be chewing on for a long time. 

You can click here to read my full review … better yet, just read Spinelli’s book. Because it’s AWESOME. 


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