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1. Learning About Blogging!

We are getting ready to start our blogs at Kidblogs this week. These blogs will be closed to our classroom as students learn the power of blogging and connecting with others through writing.  This week, we'll spend much of our writing workshop time learning about blogging.
 

Learning to Study
One of my goals for the first six weeks of school is learning the power of study and mentor texts as writers. During these first six weeks, I want my students to learn to live their lives as writers, noticing all they can. And I also want them to begin to learn the power of mentors.  Studying quality texts and thinking "I'd like to do that in my writing." will be important throughout the year.  Our conversations this week will build on the bits we've already talked about in the area of study and mentor texts.

At the beginning of the week, we'll take a look at some blogs. We'll talk about the following questions:

What is a blog?
What is a blog post?
What is possible in a blog posts?
What makes an effective blog post?
How is this blogger unique?
What is the focus of this person's blog?
What can we learn from this blogger?

We'll take a look at a variety of blogs and blog posts written by kid bloggers. Some blogs we'll look at will be:
Behind the Scenes of the Cooperstown Bat Factory
DIY Locker Door
5 Interesting Facts about Electric Eels
Sunny Days
Baseball with Matt Blog
Tissue Flower Kit
This Kid Reviews Books

(I've found some of these on Blogs By Kids, which is a great resource for teachers looking for blog posts by kids.)


Paper Blogging
After some study, we'll do some practice.  I didn't buy into practice until I read Lee Kolbert's post on Paper Blogging and Learning to Comment a few years ago. I've followed her thinking for the past few years and it's led to some great blogging. We'll take a few days creating paper blog posts and we'll comment on each with sticky notes. This will take a few days but I've found that after this, kids are ready to blog and anxious to share their writing in a digital space!

Learning to Comment
Before we comment on the paper blogs, we'll watch this video by Mrs. Yolis's 3rd grade class. I have used it for a few years and it is a great conversation starter about good commenting.



Of course, we'll continue to build on this initial conversation but I know that commenting is as important as posting so I want kids to see what's possible in a comment. This video is part of a blog post on Mrs. Yolis's Classroom Blog: How to Compose a Quality Comment.

Moving Forward
We'll continue to study mentor blogs throughout the year as an integrated part of our writing. We'll look at classroom blogs as we work together to tell our classroom story.  We'll look at blog series such as Celebrate This Week, Poetry Friday,  and It's Monday! What Are You Reading?. These will serve as invitations for students who want to focus on their blog writing more seriously.  (I'll show them two series that past students have created--Ben's Book Reviews and Time to Interview.  We'll talk about Blog challenges and blog plans. I might eventually share this blog schedule to start the conversation about the importance of planning as a writer.

I'm anxious to see where this group of students goes with blogging. I am always amazed and surprised by all that kids find to do in the digital world as writers and this first step is always an exciting one.

This post was cross posted to Click Here Next.

0 Comments on Learning About Blogging! as of 9/2/2014 6:02:00 AM
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2. Samuel Johnson Prize longlist

       They've announced the longlist for the Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction -- though, last I checked, they hadn't managed to do that at the official site, because ... well ... who knows ? But The Telegraph has the list of fifteen titles.
       None, I'm afraid, are under review at the complete review -- hey, it's non-fiction; hard to drum interest for that sort of thing hereabouts (though of course there are exceptions).

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3. September online issues

       Among the publications with September issues now available, in part or whole, online are:

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4. Things I Don't Do (But Sometimes Wish I Did)

I've been reading this awesome book called Songwriters on Songwriting by Paul Zollo.

It's a compilation of LOTS of interviews with amazing songwriters, such as Paul Simon, Bob Dylan, Carole King, Randy Newman, Frank Zappa, Carlos Santana, Dave Brubeck, Brian Wilson and on and on and on.

One thing I love about it is reading how different their writing processes are.

Some write every day.

Some don't.

Some write only when inspiration strikes.

Some force the writing.

Some write the whole song at once.

Some write part of it and let it stew for a while.

Some need total quiet.

Some write on tour buses or in hotel rooms.

So, that got me to thinking about writing PROCESS.

And I've come to the conclusion that.....different strokes for different folks.

There should be no RULES, because everybody is different.

So....here are the things I DON'T do, even though I've heard that I should:

1. I don't write every day. Some days I'm not inspired. Some days I'm in a school. Some days I'm watching Judge Judy reruns. But I've written 10 books, so I do, eventually, get the job done.

2. I don't outline. I would LOVE to outline. I'm a super organized person whose favorite possession is a label maker. But they just don't work for me. I develop the story as I'm writing.

3. I don't keep a writer's journal. I want to. So. Bad. I want to write really cool stuff like Linda Urban does. OMG. I LOVE her journals! I love reading how her thoughts and ideas turn into novels.

When I'm in schools, I want to tell students that I keep a writing journal. I want to tell them I carry a little notebook wherever I go. I've considered lying, but I'm a terrible liar. 

And I love journals. I buy lovely leather ones with handmade paper. And then I write stuff like, "Ate too many chips today. Dang it!" or "Got the cutest sweater on sale at Nordstrom! Yay me!" Maybe I'm just shallow like that. *shrugs* But journals just don't WORK for me. I journal in my head. Seriously.

4. I don't use color-coded Post-It Notes on the wall, rearranging them for plot and scenes and characters and all that stuff. I WANT to! Really bad. But that just doesn't work for me.



5. I don't create character sketches. I HATE them. You know the ones: What's your character's favorite vegetable? What does your character's bedroom look like? *Shudders* Before I put pen to paper, I know my characters really, really well. My characters tell my story for me (after a lot of prodding).  

But I know them in the context of the story. I don't give a rip what she has in her backpack or what her favorite ice cream flavor is - unless it has something to do with the story. I know my characters in the context of the story. That's all I need to know.

6. I don't write in airports or cafes or hotel rooms. Trust me. I've tried. I need a quiet, still, private space. Just because. (Although I did write a great deal of Moonpie and Ivy on a train. It's never happened since.)

So what's my point?

My point is that you should do what works for you. 

Try some of the techniques other writers use. They might work for you. They might not.

Write on a train.

Write in a car.

Write in a bed.

Write in a bar.

Outline, journal, post-it, too.

Just do whatever works for you.

[My poem for the day.] 

BUT - there are some things that I do do that help me - coming in a later post.




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5. Guest Post: Tudor Robins, Author of Appaloosa Summer

I’m always excited for new horsey books, so I was happy for the opportunity to chat with Tudor Robins for her blog tour for her latest release Appaloosa Summer.

What are the 5 most important things you learned from working with horses?

As anyone who’s worked with horses knows, there’s always something new to learn about them, so on any given day, I could probably give you five completely different answers to this question. So, let’s start with what I just mentioned:

1) There’s always more to learn. Whether it’s learning about the actual horses, learning any of the sports associated with them, or keeping up with the latest changes and trends in the horse world, there’s something new to know every day. To me, this is a great parallel for life in general – especially my life as an author – where; again, there are always things to learn about the craft and business of writing.

2) Patience. This is a huge one! Lately I’ve worked with quite a few off-the-track thoroughbreds. These horses are sensitive by nature. They’re also young, and they’ve come to a completely new environment where we ask them to leg yield in a dressage ring, and jump over fences. Considering all this, I can’t believe how patient they are. If I ask them something they’re not sure of, they try, then wait for me to ask again, and try again. It’s an amazing experience, and one that reminds me to ask for what I want clearly, and calmly, and to be patient in return.

3) The value of reward / positive reinforcement. As humans we love positive reinforcement. As writers we crave it – we really want you to love our books! Horses have shown me just how important this is. My latest tactic, when riding a horse that has a reputation as a runaway, is to reach down and pat her neck every now and then. Every single time I pat her neck, she slows down, and her whole body relaxes. This has really brought home to me how powerful a kind word, or gesture can be.

4) The importance of having an outlet. It can be hard to find the time to ride. It can be hard to justify the expense. But it’s important. Being a rider is part of who I am. It adds dimension to my personality. It keeps me fit – mentally and physically. It’s the part of the week that’s mine alone. Your outlet may be riding, or it may be something different, but whatever it is, try to hold onto it.

5) The generosity of the horse world. The horse community is an amazing one. If you love horses, you’re in. My books have been supported by competitive hunter-jumpers, eventers, and dressage riders. They’ve been embraced by barrel racers and reiners. People who’ve never been on a horse, but just love looking at them, have read my books. No matter where you are in the world “horse” is a universal passkey.

Appaloosa Summer by Tudor Robins

ISBN: 978-0993683701

Genre: Young Adult Contemporary / Coming-Of Age / Romance / Horse-Themed

Format: Paperback and eBook

Sixteen-year-old Meg Traherne has never known loss. Until the beautiful, talented horse she trained herself, drops dead underneath her in the show ring. Jared Strickland has been living with loss ever since his father died in a tragic farming accident. Meg escapes from her grief by changing everything about her life; moving away from home to spend her summer living on an island in the St. Lawrence River, scrubbing toilets and waiting on guests at a B&B. Once there, she meets Jared; doing his best to keep anything else in his life from changing. When Jared offers Meg a scruffy appaloosa mare out of a friend’s back field, it’s the beginning of a journey that will change both of them by summer’s end. 

Appaloosa Summer can be compared to Heartland TV show – http://www.cbc.ca/heartland/

Book Excerpt: 

Chapter One

I’m staring down a line of jumps that should scare my brand-new show breeches right off me.

But it doesn’t. Major and I know our jobs here. His is to read the combination, determine the perfect take-off spot, and adjust his stride accordingly. Mine is to stay out of his way, and let him jump.

We hit the first jump just right. He clears it with an effortless arc, and all I have to do is go through my mental checklist. Heels down. Back straight. Follow his mouth.

“Good boy, Major.” One ear flicks halfway back to acknowledge my comment, but not enough to make him lose focus. A strong, easy stride to jump two, and he’s up, working for both of us, holding me perfectly balanced as we fly through the air.

He lands with extra momentum; normal at the end of a long, straight line. He self-corrects, shifting his weight back over his hocks. Next will come the surge from his muscled hind end; powering us both up, and over, the final tall vertical.

It doesn’t come, though. How can it not? “Come on!” I cluck, scuff my heels along his side. No response from my rock solid jumper.

The rails are right in front of us, but I have no horsepower – nothing – under me. By the time I think of going for my stick, it’s too late. We slam into several closely spaced rails topping a solid gate. Oh God. Oh no. Be ready, be ready, be ready. But how? There’s no good way. There are poles everywhere, and leather tangling, and dirt. In my eyes, in my nose, in my mouth.

There’s no sound from my horse. Is he as winded as me? I can’t speak, or yell, or scream. Major? Is that him on my leg? Is that why it’s numb? People come, kneel around me. I can’t see past them. I can’t sit up. My ears rush and my head spins. I’m going to throw up. “I’m going to …”

**********

I flush the toilet. Swish out my mouth. Avoid looking in the mirror. Light hurts, my reflection hurts, everything hurts at this point in the afternoon, when the headache builds to its peak.

Why me?

I’ve never lost anybody close to me. My grandpa died before I was born, and my widowed grandma’s still going strong at ninety-four. She has an eighty-nine-year-old boyfriend. They go to the racetrack; play the slots.

If I had to predict who would die first in my life, I would never, in a million years, have guessed it would be my fit, strong, seven-year-old thoroughbred.

Never.

But he did.

Thinking about it just sharpens the headache, so I press a towel against my face, blink into the soft fluffiness.

“Are you OK?” Slate’s voice comes through the door. With my mom and dad at work, Slate’s been the one to spend the last three days distracting me when I’m awake, and waking me up whenever I get into a sound sleep. Or that’s what it feels like.

“Fine.” I push the bathroom door open.

“Puke?”

I nod. Stupid move. It hurts. Whisper instead. “Yes.”

“Well, that’s a big improvement. Just the once today.”

She follows me back to my room. She’s not a pillow-plumper or quilt-smoother – I have to struggle into my rumpled bed – but it’s nice to have her around. “I’m glad you’re here, Slatey.” I sniffle, and taste salt in the back of my throat.

I’m close to tears all the time these days. “Normal,” the doctor said. Apparently tears aren’t unreasonable after suffering a knock to the head hard enough to split my helmet in two, with my horse dropping stone cold dead underneath me in the show ring. I’m still sick of crying, though. And puking, too.

“Don’t be stupid, Meg; being here is heaven. My mom and Agate are going completely over the top organizing Aggie’s sweet sixteen. There are party planning boards everywhere, and her dance friends are always over giggling about it too.”

“Just as long as it’s not about me. I don’t want to owe you.”

“’Course not; you’re not that great of a best friend.”

Purchase The Book:

Amazon – US: http://www.amazon.com/Appaloosa-Summer-Island-Trilogy-Book-ebook/dp/B00L047CXI/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1408843285&sr=1-1&keywords=appaloosa+summer

Amazon – Canada: http://www.amazon.ca/Appaloosa-Summer-Island-Trilogy-Book-ebook/dp/B00L047CXI/

Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/appaloosa-summer-tudor-robins/1119821268?ean=9780993683701&itm=1&usri=appaloosa+summer

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22619628-appaloosa-summer?ac=1

About the Author

Tudor Robins is an Ottawa-based young adult author whose first novel, Objects in Mirror, was named a Best Book for Kids and Teens by the Canadian Children’s Book Centre.

She gathered publishing-related experience in her roles as a magazine editor and publishing sales representative, as well as working in offset and digital printing. Tudor currently teaches writing workshops for adults and children, as well as developing writing contests and programming to motivate young writers.

Tudor loves reading, writing, and horseback riding, and spending time with her husband and two sons.

Receiving messages from readers is one of Tudor’s favourite things, so please feel free to visit her website and connect with her on Facebook.

Connect with Tudor Robins:

Website: www.tudorrobins.ca

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Tudor-Robins-Author/420760904639930

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6459232.Tudor_Robins

Discuss this book in our PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads by clicking HERE

Appaloosa Summer Event Page

http://www.pumpupyourbook.com/2014/06/17/pump-up-your-book-tours-presents-appaloosa-summer-virtual-book-tour/

The post Guest Post: Tudor Robins, Author of Appaloosa Summer appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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6. Spotlight and Giveaway: Texas Twist by Cynthia D’Alba

 
Enter to Win
TONS of TEXAS TWIST Goodies
Gift Card, Mugs, T-Shirts, Etc


 
Real bad boys can grow up to be real good men.

Hit hard by the death of her parents, Paige Ryan needs to figure out what to do with her life. She moves to Whispering Springs, Texas, to be near her step-brother. But just as she starts to get her life on track, the last man she ever wanted to see again sends it right back off the rails.

Cash Montgomery was on the cusp of having it all. Three bull riding titles, fame, fortune and respect from his family. Until a bad bull leaves him injured, angry and searching for comfort at the bottom of a bottle. With nowhere to go, he moves into his sister-in-law’s old ranch house in Whispering Springs—which he’s surprised to find already occupied.

As Cash rebuilds the dilapidated home and Paige starts out on her medical career, their old friendship begins to reemerge and sparks are ignited. Paige knows that Cash is nothing but a heartache waiting to happen. But maybe this bad boy has grown up to be a real good man?

Warning: Watch out for falling lumber, falling in holes, and falling for the wrong guy…again. You can leave your hard hat on.


 

 
a Rafflecopter giveaway


 

 
 
Award winning author Cynthia D’Alba was born and raised in Arkansas. After being gone for seventeen years, she’s thrilled to be back home living on the banks of an eight-thousand acre lake. When she’s not reading, writing or plotting, she’s doorman for her two dogs, cook, housekeeper and chief bottle washer for her husband and slave to a noisy, messy parrot. She loves to chat online with friends and fans





The post Spotlight and Giveaway: Texas Twist by Cynthia D’Alba appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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7. Tower


0 Comments on Tower as of 9/2/2014 6:08:00 AM
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8. jampires book launch!


Photo by James Petrie

Hee hee, it's great fun to stand in the middle of a field wearing sparkly red platform heels when everyone else is walking around in wellies. This weekend my co-author David O'Connell and I launched our new picture book, Jampires, at The Big Feastival in Oxfordshire.


Photo by James Petrie

I couldn't believe it, I forgot to pack my Bakewell Tart hat! Nooooo!


Photo by Dave Warren

But never mind, our book was well and truly launched with a dramatic reading by David and me. (Dave's very good at doing the voices.) And I can rock a converted poodle skirt. (Thanks to my mum for helping me sew on all the Jampires.)


Photo by Neill Cameron

And I taught everyone how to draw a Jampire! 'But what is a Jampire?' you may ask. Well, if you've ever bitten into a jam doughnut and found it disappointingly dry and jamless, they are the culprits. These little critters suck out them jam. They LOVE jam. Our book is basically a hymn to jam.


Photo by James Petrie

And you can learn how to draw a Jampire, too! David and I have put all sorts of goodies on our new website, so do have fun exploring it: jampires.com


View as a PDF

We have masks, too! Check out the website! :)


Photo by James Petrie


Since the Jampires are obsessed with jam, we had actual jam on site...


Photo by James Petrie

...and an actual jam maker, who has joined our Jampires team! Meet Emma Preston-Dunlop, jam maker extraordinaire, who gave us a little lesson on how to make jam, and treated us to samples of her tasty concoctions.


Photo by James Petrie

Emma runs a jam company called The Butch Institute and while raspberry jam is always my favourite, she gives it a real run for its money with her Cherry Bakewell with amaretto syrup and almonds.


Photo by James Petrie

Since The Big Feastival's all about food, we explored, and went straight for the PIE. Gotta love a pie. Emma taught me how to eat it from a carton without getting gravy all over my skirt.


Photo by James Petrie

And our lovely publisher, David Fickling, cycled all the way over from Oxford - a two-hour journey across many hills - to be there for our launch. Hurrah! (He didn't cycle in his signature bowtie, but he put it on as soon as he arrived.)


Photo by James Petrie

JAM. Who doesn't dream about The Great Jam Pot in the Sky? *wistful sigh*



Dave and I couldn't be there both days, so actor Devon Black stepped in and led her own Jampires session on the Sunday, which looked brilliant. She made a costume, a whole new show, and I hear she did a brilliant job! Thank you SO MUCH, Devon!!


Photo tweeted by Philippa Perry

Feastival had some rival vampiric creatures, not all as small and cuddly as our Jampire.


Photo by James Petrie

After a little scare, he got a cuddle from Neill Cameron, and everything was all right.



So Neill was mostly busy drawing comic characters over in The Phoenix Comic area. He's the amazing creator of stories such as Pirates of Pangaea, Mega Robo Bros and has a new book out, How to Make Awesome Comics. Here's a Cyborg Mode Jamie Oliver (the chef who hosts the festival, along with Blur bassist-turned-cheesemaking-farmer Alex James):



The drive to Feastival was quite a long one, and our friend James Petrie was a hero and gave us all a lift in his car. As you can see, Dave and I were terrible back-seat drivers.



Lovely Dave. It's not just his genius talent, you see; I mostly work with him because he has such beautiful flowing tresses.



Big group selfie! Huge thanks to David Fickling for publishing us, Emma for being such a great Jam Master, Devon for Sunday's awesomeness, Feastival for hosting us, fab publicist Philippa Perry for organising the day, James for driving and photos, and Ann Lam for our knitted Jampire. Jammy times!



Head over to the David Fickling Books website to see their blog about Jampires, and jampires.com for all your jammy needs.

Jammy Twitter links: @davidoconnell, @DFB_Storyhouse, @ButchInstitue, #JAMPIRES

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9. More Murakami !

       Yes, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage just came out in English, but we're in for a Christmas-season treat as well, as Alexandra Alter reports in The New York Times that New 96-Page Murakami Work Coming in December, and Lindesay Irvine reports in The Guardian that UK readers can also look forward to it, as Haruki Murakami to publish new book in English in December.
       Knopf will be publishing The Strange Library in the US, and Harvill Secker will in the UK; neither publisher appears to have a publicity page up yet, but you can already pre-order the book at Amazon.com. (And you can see (parts of) the two covers in the aforementioned newspaper articles.)
       Among the points of interest: the short volume is being translated by Ted Goossen -- not entirely new to translating Murakami, but the first stand-alone he's handled. A new name to add to the Murakami regulars (Jay Rubin, Alfred Birnbaum, Philip Gabriel) ?
       Apparently also:

Knopf is fleshing out The Strange Library with full-color art throughout in a lavish volume designed by Chip Kidd, Knopf's associate art director. Mr. Kidd said he drew on his own collection of vintage Japanese graphics as inspiration for the design.
       I'm always suspicious of 'lavish' and wish the focus were more on the words; kind of sad that Alter sees fit to make big mention of this -- and none at all of who translated the work ..... Read the rest of this post

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10. facebook page

I made a new facebook page, you can visit it here:


I included some old works that i haven't posted here and the idea is to continue to post here and there.



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11. Premio FIL de Literatura en Lenguas Romances

       They've announced that this year's FIL Literary Award in Romance Languages will go to Blindly-author Claudio Magris; he will get his US$150,000 and the prize on 29 November, at the opening ceremonies of the Guadalajara International Book Fair.
       This prize has a solid list of previous winners, but Magris is certainly a worthy winner -- and good to see the prize look beyond Spanish again (not many Italian-writing winners so far ...).

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12. One Breathtaking Quest Before Breakfast:A Visit with Author-Illustrator Aaron Becker


(Click to enlarge)

Pictured here is Aaron Becker’s sketch of the rhino that is embossed on the cover of Quest (Candlewick, August 2014), the second picture book in what Aaron calls the Journey trilogy. The trilogy began with last year’s Journey, which was awarded a Caldecott Honor.

I’ve told this story before, but my own journey with Journey began back in 2012 when Aaron left a comment here at 7-Imp, I clicked on his hyperlinked name, and I visited his website. I believe I muttered “whoa” a lot here at my desk at 7-Imp Central. (It was, most likely, more like “whoa, DUDE,” but that makes me sound way less professional, doesn’t it?) I asked him if he’d like to visit the blog, which resulted in this post a year before Journey came out (oh, and then this fun breakfast interview in 2013). Then, when it finally was released, I ended up blurbing it, which is something I don’t do on a regular basis, but I loved the book. When the book got a Caldecott Honor, I cheered loudly down here in Tennessee. And now … well, to see Quest finally on shelves is a bit thrilling if you’re a Journey fan.

Quest brings back to readers the boy and the girl of the previous tale, who embark one rainy day on a journey to save a king who has been captured. He surprises the children in the park, handing them a map and swearing them to secrecy, while setting them to the task of finding six magic crayons that will eventually free his kingdom from darker forces now in control. The Kirkus review notes that Becker’s storytelling here in the world he created with last year’s book is even more ambitious. I’ve read the book multiple times and see some new detail in each read, and I also love the bits of humor. (For one, during a glorious underwater scene, the purple bird from Journey can be seen with his own scuba tank. Becker is never one to miss details.)

It’s another wonderful (in the truest sense of the word) wordless tale. It’s breathtaking, thrilling, and epic all at once. At this Candlewick Q&A, Aaron goes into detail about how he creates his art; it involves computer 3D models of each element of the world he’s created. Today here at 7-Imp, he chats with me a bit and shares some preliminary images (dummy images, early cover art, etc.) And I thank him for visiting.

p.s. Don’t miss Matthew Winner’s August podcast conversation with Becker.

* * * * * * *


Original pitch image for Quest
(Click to enlarge)

Jules: You’ve probably already discussed elsewhere what it was like to get the Caldecott call, so I apologize if this is redundant, but hey, what was it like to get the Caldecott call?

Aaron: I’ve had people tell me not to read anything on the internet about one’s book, but because I’m so new to this, I just can’t help myself. It’s exciting! So, I had read all of these blogs leading up to the Caldecott announcements saying how Journey was a major contender. So when the call came, I saw that it was from Philadelphia, and I had a pretty good idea who might be on the other end. That said, it was still a total thrill, and I think the more time that passes, the better I understand just how amazingly fortunate I’ve been.


Early cover sketch for Quest
(Click to enlarge)


Original cover concept
(Click to enlarge)


Color cover sketch
(Click to enlarge)


Final cover

Jules: How’d you deal with the pressure of creating both a sequel and a sophomore picture book when the success of your debut was so huge? This is assuming you felt stress. Perhaps you did not.

Aaron: Because the artwork for Journey was completed a full year and a half before it published, I had plenty of time to work on a follow-up before I had any idea that Journey was going to be so well-received. Well, I had your blurb, but you know … I didn’t want to just rest on my laurels, so I went ahead and developed the idea for an entire trilogy. The artwork for Quest was finished in early June of 2013, a few months before Journey published!

That said, I did feel some pressure when working on the series’ finale (Return, due Fall 2016) — not so much because of the success of its predecessor, but because I knew it had to do justice to the character arcs I had been developing. Like Quest, it had to have its own beginning, middle, and end, but unlike the second book, it also had to finish the entire tale. I spent probably nine or ten months on the story alone and am just now starting to finish the artwork for it.


Mosaic sketch

Jules: Ah, I see. I had planned on asking if work on the third book in the trilogy has already begun.

Aaron: After much wrangling, the story is DONE. But the artwork awaits. My family and I are headed to Spain for the school year, and Candlewick has agreed to ship me all of my supplies to finish the artwork right on the Mediterranean. How cool is that?!

Jules: I’d have to say severely cool.

Do you want to talk a bit about working with the designers and such at Candlewick? (I know from experience how wonderful they are.) How much input do you have on the book’s overall design?





Dummy sketches
(Click each to enlarge)

Aaron: Maryellen Hanley is the designer that I work with at Candlewick. At this point, I defer to her on major design decisions around the book design, because I’ve learned she’s far more talented than I am. And smarter. Because there’s no text to flow into the images, most of the other design decisions come down to compositional issues that I deal with during the editing process. Sometimes she has ideas for where to go on a particular spread, but I find that I’m much more picky about those types of things. Usually, if I give it a few weeks, I realize that she’s right, but on some occasions, if I still feel strongly about whatever it is I’m trying to communicate, I stick to my original idea.


Watercolor prep — 3D and final sketch
(Click to enlarge)


Final — 3D and watercolor
(Click to enlarge)

Jules: Are there specific experiences that formed the essential bases, the fundamental building blocks, of your artistic vision? Books, movies, artists, events, images, anything else, etc….? (I love to pull out this question for my favorite artists, but if you think it’s too broad of a query, feel free to say so or skip.)

Aaron: I think from a story perspective the Journey series is quite autobiographical, especially if you think in terms of metaphors. I always used drawing as a means of escape and a tool with which to figure out life. I also think there’s going to be a bit of Star Wars in anything I do, just because I was summarily brainwashed by that film when I was three. “Trilogy,” anyone?

Jules: What do you, as an artist, find most challenging and satisfying in the creative processes you employ?

[Ed. Note: Pictured left is a painting from Anders Zorn, which served as a reference piece for Aaron on this book.]

Aaron Easily, by far, the most challenging thing is to find emotional resonance in a story. Crafting the logic of a story takes work, but there’s something completely subjective and amorphous about locating the heart of a tale. The problem is, if you rely on formulas to generate sympathy for your characters, the story becomes, well … formulaic. So the only way I’ve found is to work and work and work, and then when you’re done, keep working. So when you do finally “get it,” yes, it’s very, very satisfying. I still remember when, after about nine months of wrangling, I called my editor, Mary Lee Donovan, with the final draft for Journey’s closing chapter (Return), and we read through the sketches over phone/email — and the sense of it having landed was almost tangible. At the very least, it certainly was audible!

Jules: Okay, I’ve gotten lately to where I simply love to ask people: What are you reading now?

Aaron Spanish language books. I have a lot to learn, and it’s funny, because my brain has become so wired to focus only on book-making, that it’s almost like a jolt of caffeine to use it for something else like learning a new language. Well, new to me anyway! I’m working with a tutor this week, and at some point during the lesson she asked me to say my phone number in Spanish, and while I could remember how to say the numbers, I couldn’t remember my ACTUAL PHONE NUMBER. That was how much my brain was exploding.




Reference materials for Quest:
A Central Park underpass, a temple, and Copenhagen’s Little Mermaid statue
(Click each to enlarge)

Jules: On that note, what picture books have you loved lately? Or whose work have you seen that you think deserves some love and attention?

Aaron I am still talking about Quentin Blake’s work on the late Russell Hoban’s Rosie’s Magic Horse. There’s something just utterly delightful and freeing about his penmanship and the story itself. I’m also very impressed by Benjamin Chaud’s The Bear’s Song and Aleksandra Mizielińska’s Mamoko series. And on a trip to L.A. recently, I met Drew Daywalt for the first time and realized that there’s a good reason why The Day the Crayons Quit is so popular — the author is an incredibly wonderful and sharp-witted guy. I think we’re going to see a lot more from him.

Jules: Oh yes, my daughters are deeply in love with those Mamoko books by Mizielińska and Daniel Mizieliński. They even turned the word “Mamoko” into its own song, and those books go everywhere in the car with them. And the Maps book from last year? It’s exquisite. I hated that in 2013 I didn’t write about that book, but at least we’re giving it some attention now. (Better late than never.)


Last question, since you have a big journey ahead of you (no pun intended): Do you know enough about the future to know what will be post-trilogy, as in any plans/ideas already in the works that you can talk about?

Aaron: I have several ideas in the works, but I have the feeling I’ll find something in Spain that will plant a seed or two. In particular, Southern Spain, where we’ll be living, is known for its Moorish influences, so I’m pretty sure I’ll be in my version of architectural heaven.

* * * * * * *

QUEST. Copyright © 2014 by Aaron Becker. Published by Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

All artwork and images are used with permission of Aaron Becker.

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13. Here’s Why Your Cool Article Ideas Aren’t Selling

idealightbulbYou come up with a mind-blowingly awesome article idea: You’ve discovered some really cool thing, and you want to write about it.

For example, you’ve found out something fascinating about how train schedules are developed, or how makeup is made, or a unique museum, or a new business that’s just opened its doors.

So you have this amazing idea — why is everyone rejecting it?

This kind of idea is what I like to call an “Isn’t This Cool?” idea. You’ve found something neat, and you want to share it with the world.

But sadly, most publications don’t want to just share random interesting things with their readers. Each magazine has its own slant, and the product, fact, business or person you found needs to fit in with their mission.

For example, let’s take the idea of some weird aspect of how makeup is made. You want to send it to a women’s magazine, of course. What woman wouldn’t be interested in finding out this cool fact about how her mascara is made?

But women’s magazines are service publications, meaning most of their articles offer some kind of advice. So the editors wouldn’t be interested in this fact about makeup unless their readers can actually do something with it.

So if you have an idea where you think, “Isn’t this cool?” — ask yourself, “So what?” Why would readers care? How can you make them care? What can they do with it, or how can they apply the knowledge right now? For most publications, your ideas need to be useful and actionable.

For example, maybe women need to avoid makeup products that are made with this method, and you can round up the types of products this applies to so readers know which ones to look out for. That’s an idea you could pitch to a health magazine.

Or, let’s take the article you want to pitch on the Burnt Food Museum, and yes, this is real. (“Hey, this museum exists. Isn’t it cool?”) Rare is the magazine that would want you to just write about what a weird museum you found. It would do better as, say, a round-up of weird museums in New England readers can visit, complete with info on location, price, and hours. Now, readers can do something with that information.

Some magazines do run “Isn’t This Cool?” articles. For example, magazines for hobbyists love to run interesting facts about their hobby — how it developed, who’s doing interesting things with it, and why some aspects of the hobby are the way they are. Maybe a magazine for train enthusiasts would want to run an interesting fact on how train schedules are developed. And I once wrote an article about the world’s largest marble collection for a collectors’ magazine.

But for most markets, you’ll want to go beyond a cool fact. Dig until you figure out what makes this fact relevant to the readers of the pubs you want to pitch.

Sometimes, this means the idea you pitch will barely resemble the one you first thought of. And that’s okay! That’s how the idea process works. You get what I call the “seed” of an idea, and when you nurture it, it grows into something useful and beautiful that doesn’t look anything like the original seed.

How about you…do you have an “Isn’t That Cool?” idea you’ve tried to pitch? How do you think you can reslant it to be more salable? Let us know in the Comments below!

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14. Artist of the Day: Gaëlle Hersent

Today we look at the work of Gaëlle Hersent, Cartoon Brew's Artist of the Day!

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15. Review: Irresistible Force by D D Ayres

May Contain Spoilers

Review:

I don’t usually read romantic suspense because the heroine is usually put into a dire, life-threatening situation, and sometimes that just stresses me out.  I ventured outside of my comfort zone because Irresistible Force features a K-9 dog.  I wasn’t sure how big a part the dog would play in the story, but anything with the word “dog” pretty  much gets my attention.  I’m so glad I picked this up!  While there are several uncomfortable scenes for our heroine, Shay, she thinks well under pressure and refuses to allow herself to be a victim.  It helped that James, her police officer love interest, is brave, kind, and understanding, and oh, yeah, Bogart the dog puts all of his training to the test to save Shay from danger.  Thank goodness!

Shay is need of a serious break.  Her whole life has been one traumatic misunderstanding after another.  After an abusive experience when she was a young girl, she has lived with whispers, taunts, and outright bullying at one school after another.  Now an IT professional, she’s changed her name and buried her past behind her.  Or so she thinks.  When her ex, a powerful, wealthy banker, just can’t take “no” for an answer, all of her fears from her childhood catch up with her.  Fearful of Eric, who is stalking her, she rescues a shepherd from the animal shelter where she works as a volunteer.  A woman brought the dog in to be destroyed, claiming that he was aggressive and had attacked a child.  When he turned out to be anything but, Shay renamed the animal Prince and took her home, thankful to have such a trustworthy guardian at her side.

Police officer James Cannon is desperately searching for his canine partner, Bogart.  He gets a tip that the dog is at a cabin in the woods, and he confronts Shay, accusing her of dognapping his partner.  By the time they work out the misunderstanding, Shay can’t help but act on her attraction to the gorgeous cop.  She wants to be in charge for a change, and after another frightening encounter with Eric earlier in the day, she throws her inhibitions out the window.  Her no-strings encounter backfires because James is a great guy and wants more than what she’s originally willing to offer, but Shay’s demons won’t let her trust him.

Shay is a tragic character, and I couldn’t help liking her.  I wanted her to finally have a happy ending, because up until the start of this book, life has done nothing but crap on her.  Eric is a first-class bastard, and once Shay finds the courage to call it quits with him, he refuses to let her go.  His ego won’t let her call the shots, and his need to be in control puts her in an unenviable situation.  With the power that comes with his position at the bank, he arranges for Shay’s placement company to have her temped to bank.  Then he does everything he can to make her regret ever having met him.

Normally I would think the heroine was an idiot for not just going to the authorities when someone is harassing them, but Shay’s previous run-ins with the law makes it perfectly logical that she would avoid trying to get help from anyone.  She has always had one person to rely on, and that has always been herself.  The whole world seemed like it was out to get her when she was younger, so her reluctance to trust was believable.  James is still kind of an unknown, too.  She’s just met him, they got off on the wrong foot, and she can’t bring herself to confide in him, especially when he isn’t exactly upfront with her.  I loved the push and pull between them, and wondered how they would ever come to an understanding that allowed them to be open and trusting with each other.

If you like romantic suspense, you will love Irresistible Force. The hero is everything that Shay needs, Bogart has a starring role, and Shay learns to open her heart and finally learn to trust.  If you are like me and on the fence about romantic suspense, you have to give this book a try.  I couldn’t put it down, and even though I was squirming near the end during Shay’s life and death ordeal, I knew that James and Bogart would eventually race to her rescue – but only after Shay found the strength to save herself from the danger confronting her.  I can hardly wait to meet the protagonists from Force of Attraction, the next book in the series.

Grade:  B+

Review copy provided by publisher

From Amazon:

“Incredible! You’ll be on the edge of your seat to see if the heroine can make it out alive.”—Catherine Coulter, New York Times bestselling author

When adrenaline runs high, so does the force of desire…

For Shay Appleton, it’s love at first sight when a gorgeous stray dog is brought into the animal shelter where she works. She just knows he’ll make a terrific watch dog—and with an abusive ex who won’t let go, she needs all the protection she can get. But Shay never suspected that her new pet is actually a trained police K-9 named Bogart—until Bogart’s even more gorgeous, human partner shows up on her doorstep.

IRRESISTIBLE FORCE by D.D. Ayres

Officer James Cannon is one tall, strong alpha male who’s convinced that Shay stole his dog. But once he gets closer to the suspect, he realizes that this stubborn, independent woman not only needs a guard dog, she needs James as well. It seems that someone from her past is stalking her, and threatening her life. When danger meets desire, will James risk his career and his best friend…to protect the woman who’s stolen his heart?

The post Review: Irresistible Force by D D Ayres appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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16. Guest Post and Giveaway: Claire McEwen, Author of More Than a Rancher

Please welcome special guest Claire McEwen back to the virtual offices.  She has a guest post to share, and then you can enter for a chance to win an Amazon GF and a signed copy of More Than a Rancher!

Thank you so much for having me here today on Manga Maniac Café! I am so happy to be here celebrating the release of my new book, More Than a Rancher.

I love the topic for this post, because Sandro, the hero in More Than a Rancher, is a brilliant chef and a bit of a food snob. Not a snob in the sense that he only eats at the best restaurants – he still appreciates the rustic cooking he grew up with. But he’s a snob in the sense that he only wants to use the purest flavors, and the freshest ingredients. And he would prefer that those ingredients are organic and locally grown!

So here are some things that our hero would never allow through the door of his kitchen.

1) Store bought Pasta Sauce:

No Ragu, or even the organic, charity-supporting Newman’s Own would be allowed in Sandro’s cupboards. He wouldn’t be able to face the added sugars and all those herbs cooked down into nothingness. Instead he’d pick up a big bag of tomatoes at the farmers market and throw them in a pot with garlic, olive oil and a handful of fresh herbs. If he wanted to sweeten things up, some caramelized onions and carrots would do the trick, sugar free.

2) Margarine:

Oh no… never ever. Sandro is all about the real butter. And if he wants some oil for cooking or baking? He’d probably choose extra virgin olive oil, or maybe coconut oil if he wanted a more exotic flavor. He’s a purist – to him margarine is just a bunch of processed oils, blended together into an unholy substance that does not belong in the food that he makes!

3) Cheeze Whiz:

Cheese from a can? An abomination, according to Sandro. In his kitchen, cheese is always farm-fresh and pungent, its taste crackling sharply across the tongue. If it’s a mild cheese then it’s creamy, silken, and spread on a piece of baguette. Goat cheese, sheep cheese, Manchego, Pecorino, Port Salut. For Sandro, cheese is poetry, meant to be sampled and savored, and best in small doses.

4) Grocery store pastries:

Sorry, Pillsbury Dough Boy – you are not welcome in Sandro’s kitchen! No Pop Tarts, Hostess Ho Hos, or prepackaged cinnamon rolls allowed. Sandro believes that if you’re going to eat pastries, eat the good ones. In San Francisco there are dozens of amazing bakeries to choose from. For his Italian treats, Sandro might stop by the Stella Pastry & Cafe in the North Beach neighborhood and join the line that often spills out the door for their cannoli. For amazing scones, brioche and Danish he would probably head to Arizmendi Bakery, Panaderia and Pizzeria on Valencia Street. Their food is addicting! And when he’s out in Benson? He’ll make his own pastries, of course. Unless he can talk Betty, a local rancher and amazing baker, into making him some of her famous blueberry muffins.

5) Artificial Flavors:

You won’t find those little brown bottles of extract in Sandro’s baking supplies. But you would find real extract, the kind with the vanilla beans floating in it! Peppermint grows like a weed, so Sandro would plant it in his garden, or in a pot on the windowsill. Looking for maple? They sell pure maple syrup at the store – and Sandro would seek out a bottle labled Grade B – it’s even more divine. Sandro would tell you this: Artificial flavors are just a missed opportunity to take your cooking from good to absolutely unforgettable!

Hungry now? Me too! What do you kick out of your kitchen? What are the ingredients you must have around?

More Than A Rancher by: Claire McEwen

Releasing September 2nd, 2014

Harlequin: Superromance

Does he dare follow her lead?

Ballroom dancer Jenna Stevens is done with all things romance. It’s so much more satisfying to focus on her career. That is, until she meets Sandro Salazar – a handsome, brooding small-town chef and sometimes rancher. Jenna is drawn to him immediately, but there’s no way Sandro could fit into her fast-paced, urban life.

Still, as she gets to know this reformed bad boy, she begins to wonder if maybe their two worlds can merge. One thing’s for certain – Jenna will have to take the lead if she has any hope of Sandro seeing what’s possible for the two of them… together.

Link to Follow Tour: http://www.tastybooktours.com/2014/07/more-than-rancher-by-claire-mcewen_25.html

Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/21489545-more-than-a-rancher?from_search=true

Buy Links

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/More-Than-Rancher-Harlequin-Superromance/dp/0373608713

B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/more-than-a-rancher-claire-mcewen/1118936783?ean=9781460339190

Kobo: http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/more-than-a-rancher

iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/more-than-a-rancher/id863396380?mt=11

Publisher: http://www.harlequin.com/storeitem.html?iid=53465

Author Info

Claire McEwen lives by the ocean in Northern California with her husband, son and a scruffy, mischievous terrier. When not dreaming up new stories, she can be found digging in her garden with a lot of enthusiasm but, unfortunately, no green thumb. She loves discovering flea-market treasures, walking on the beach, dancing, traveling and reading, of course!

Author Links

Website: http://www.clairemcewen.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CMcEwen.writer
Twitter: https://twitter.com/ClaireMcEwen1
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7226137.Claire_McEwen

Rafflecopter Giveaway ( Tour Wide Giveaway for a $10 Amazon Gift Card and 3 Signed copies of MORE THAN A RANCHER)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The post Guest Post and Giveaway: Claire McEwen, Author of More Than a Rancher appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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17. Reading Roundup: August 2014

By the Numbers
Teen: 11
Tween: 5
Children: 3

Sources
Review Copies: 11
Purchased: 2
Library: 3

Standouts
Teen: The Girl from the Well by Rin Chupeco
It starts with a murderous ghost who's not even the villain, and ends . . . well, no, I can't tell you that. In between, it crawls through Japanese ghost stories and gives you the creepies to no end.
Tween: The League of Seven by Alan Gratz
While I thoroughly enjoyed the old-fashioned adventure story feel of this (with a soupcon of steampunk!), my favorite part lay in the construction of a world where Europeans, mysteriously cut off from Europe, get absorbed into the pre-existing Native American society of the New World.
Children: Rose by Holly Webb
Rose has a bedrock of good common sense, which is why it's so interesting to see her go head-to-head with magical goings-on and discover her own magical power.

Because I Want To Awards
For the Whovians in the Crowd: Jackaby by William Ritter
This fast-paced murder mystery, careering through Victorian New England, with a supernatural detective who has a Really Bad Habit of not imparting all the facts to his long-suffering assistant (and our narrator), was definitely built on the Dr. Who/Sherlock Holmes model model.
For an Author Who's Done So Many Teen Girls, This was a Spot-On Tween Boy: Life on Mars by Jennifer Brown
As legions of older sisters and younger brothers will tell you, there's a world of difference between the two. But Brown nailed it, first try.
Tissue-Paper Premise, Slam-Dunk Execution: Finding Ruby Starling by Karen Rivers
Twins who didn't know it find each other over the internet in a story told solely through text communication of one kind or another. Oh, yeah, it's a tough sell, but Rivers' spot-on tween girl voices do the trick.

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18. Recently Received

 

This is the World - Miroslav Sasek

 

Here’s the latest round of books and goods to hit our shelves. This week’s entries include items from Nobrow, Chronicle Books, Universe, Korero Press, Ryan Gillett and Mid Century Magazine.

 

This is the World - Miroslav Sasek

This is the World - Miroslav Sasek

This is the World - Miroslav Sasek

This is the World - Miroslav Sasek

 This is the World: A Global Treasury
By Miroslav Sasek / Published by Universe
 234 Pages / 9.1″x12.6″

A compilation of abridged versions of M. Sasek’s most popular children’s travel books. From London to Hong Kong, Sydney to San Francisco, readers will delight in this charming journey through the world’s great cities. With deft strokes of his paintbrush and a witty voice to match, master illustrator and storyteller M. Sasek captured the essence of the world’s major capitals and brought them to life for an entire generation of young readers. Now, more than fifty years later, those same readers are passing these stories down to their children and their children’s children, and Sasek’s This is series has officially reached iconic status. Collected here for the first time in one affordable volume are some of Sasek’s most beloved adventures.

Pre-order at Amazon, Rizzoli and your local book shop.

 

Paul Rand - Thoughts on Design

Thoughts on Design
By Paul Rand / Foreword by Michael Beirut / Published by Chronicle Books
96 Pages /  6 7/20 x 7 3/4 in

One of the seminal texts of graphic design, Paul Rand’s Thoughts on Design is now back in print for the first time since the 1970s. Writing at the height of his career, Rand articulated in his slender volume the pioneering vision that all design should seamlessly integrate form and function. This facsimile edition preserves Rand’s original 1947 essay with the adjustments he made to its text and imagery for a revised printing in 1970, and adds only an informative and inspiring new foreword by design luminary Michael Bierut. As relevant today as it was when first published, this classic treatise is an indispensable addition to the library of every designer.

Available at Amazon, Chronicle Books and your local book shop.

 

Moonhead by Andrew Rae

Moonhead by Andrew Rae

Moonhead by Andrew Rae

Moonhead and the Music Machine
By Andrew Rae / Published by Nobrow
176 Pages / Hardcover

Meet Joey Moonhead. A normal kid in every way.  Except one… He has a moon for a head.

Life is a peach when you have a moon for a head. Your head can wander out of the atmosphere into galactic reveries, drift blissfully across star specked plains, roll lazily into jungles with undiscovered artefacts or soar closer than Icarus to the sun’s seething glare. Snap! Back to reality – the world of a teenage boy is a much crueler place, the taunt “crater-face” is a very literal insult and the cool kids have an unremitting supply of abuse. And so, as the law of divine providence state, when the school talent contest takes its yearly turn, it is the role of the outcast to take part. Thus, Joey Moonhead begins a stellar mission to create a music machine that rivals all those in existence.

Available at Nobrow, Amazon and your local book shop.

 

Mid Century Magazine

Mid Century Magazine

Mid Century Magazine

MidCentury Magazine
Issue 07 – Summer / Autumn 2014
148 Pages

Features articles on Pioneers of architectural photography, Orla Kiely on creating a home, a buyers guide to Peter Hvidt and much more.

Available at Midcenturymagazine.com

 

 

Ryan Gillette

How Pleasant Postcard Test
By Ryan Gillett

 

Art inc

Art inc. - The Essential Guide for Building Your Career as an Artist
By Lisa Congdon, Edited by Meg Mateo Ilasco, Foreword by Jonathan Fields
184 Pages / 5 1/2 x 8 in / Published by Chronicle Books

Artists who dream of turning their passion into a career need only the expert guidance in Art, Inc. Lisa Congdon unveils the multiplicity of ways to make a living from art—including illustration, licensing, fine art sales, print sales, and teaching— and offers practical advice on cultivating a business mindset, selling and promoting work, and more. Trade secrets from art world pros including such luminaries as Paula Scher, Nikki McClure, and Mark Hearld makeArt, Inc. the ultimate resource for aspiring artists ready for success.

Available at Chronicle Books, Amazon and your local book shop.

Kiddie Cocktails by Stuart Sandler

Kiddie Cocktails by Stuart Sandler

Kiddie Cocktails

Kiddie Cocktails
By Stuart Sandler / Illustrations by Derek Yaniger / Published by Korero
112 Pages / Hardcover

Calling all junior mixologists ! Check out the coolest-ever collection of fabulous drink recipes in every flavor and style under the sun – sharp and tangy, smooth and sweet, fizzy but never flat, crisp and fruity, or rich and creamy – all minus the hooch ! Surprise your friends with a Kosmic Kooler, get the party started with a Dream Punch, or cruise to Hawaii with a Little Pink Pearl. You’ll also find tips on setting up your own kiddie cocktail bar – with advice on choosing everything you’ll need to make your cocktails look as amazing as they taste ! The entire book is lavishly illustrated by the internationally renowned artist Derek Yaniger.

Available at Korero Press and Amazon

 

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Helmo
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Tom haugomat

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19. The Joy of Story - 5 Quick Ways to Rediscover Why You Love Your WIP

It sneaks up on you in the darkling hours of the night, or in the steamy shower, or in the mindless drone of commuting or chauffeuring a carload of kids kicking the back of your seat.

The idea. The brilliantly shiny idea that won't stop poking you and saying 'Write Me.'

You fall hard in lust. You can't sleep. You can't eat. You can't stop thinking about it.

But then.

It grinds to a screeching halt . . . Somewhere, you stall, and writing becomes a chore that makes your brain hurt. (Yes, that's actually a thing. You can overstrain your brain.)

How do you get to the point where you remember the pure, sheer joy you felt when you started on that idea?

Turn things upside down and approach your manuscript from a different direction. Here are five ways you can do just that.

1. Reconnect with Your Characters via Writing Prompts.

Some of my favorites include picking a particular character and continuing from the following beginning, with the added condition that whatever your character writes has to relate to another character.

I love when . . .
I hate when . . .
My greatest fear at this moment is . . .
My greatest hope at this moment is . . .
I would be humiliated if . . .
I could achieve my goal if . . .

2. Write the Jacket Copy

Write a kickass jacket description for the book, and if you find yourself tempted to fudge something to make it clearer, or sexier, or more exciting? Go back and write THAT story instead. Chances are, your subconscious is already fixing your story for you and all you have to do is listen.

3. Do the Meet and Greet Mashup

Picture yourself in a room with a bunch of twenty-something film execs. How do they describe your book to each other? Compulsion has been described as everything from Beautiful Creatures meets The Body Finder and Gone with the Wind meets Romeo and Juliet to In the Midnight Garden of Good and Evil meets The Sixth Sense. Thinking about what makes someone describe it that way, and thinking how else I could describe it, is not just a hoot, it's a little bit of instant brainstorming that takes my head in whole new directions.

4. Write the 1 Star Review of Your Book

Pretend you're one of the notorious Goodreads slasher/bullies. Don't think. Don't censor yourself. What things could you say that are so horrible they are funny? And once you've written them, how would you go about not just eliminating the potential for someone to say that, how would you turn that criticism into a strength?

5. Write the 5 Star Review of Your Book

Imagine you are the most enthusiastic fan on the planet. What would you write about your book? The gushiest of gushes, the ravest of raves. Give yourself ALL the pats on the back. Are you feeling the love yet? Now go write a scene that involves the thing you love most.


Figuring Out What Your Subconscious Is Trying To Tell You

The bottom line is that when you lose the joy in your manuscript, it's not usually because there's something wrong with you. Nor is there something irreparable going on with your manuscript. Untangling what's going on is usually something like finding the end of a skein of yarn. Once you find the end of the thread, its relatively easy to unwind it smoothly. But if you pull on it from the wrong spot, you just end up with a distorted mess.

A Happy Brain is a Creative Brain

I don't know about you, but my brain is happiest when creating. That's when I'm energized and I can't stop gushing about what I'm working on.

When I've lost the passion for a project, staring at the computer or going back over pages I've already written is rarely the best solution. I need a fresh perspective.

What about You?

Do you have techniques that have gotten you back on track when you feel like you're ready to shove that project in a drawer?

September Giveaways!

The count-down is starting. Compulsion is less than two months away, so I've got a huge giveaway planned for next month, and you can already get in on the action by going to CompulsionToRead.com.

But in the meantime . . .  : )

I've got a signed set of Veronica Rossi's complete, and completely gorgeous, Under the Never Sky trilogy, plus an ARC of Compulsion plus a Tiffany-style key necklace like Barrie wears.

Also. there are four Pick Any YA Giveaways, complete with assorted interviews, excerpts, tidbits, and one of my favorite reviews EVER.

You can find those here:
Stop by each of those blogs to enter--you'll get an extra entry for the Grand Prize giveaway below for each location you enter, too!

Good luck! : )

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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20. Best Selling Picture Books | September 2014

Our best selling picture book for the past month is Herve Tullet's completely awesome Press Here (Chronicle Books, 2011). As per usual, we've shared our hand selected list of the most popular picture books from the nationwide best selling picture books, as listed by The New York Times

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21. Back to School

Great Tips for Reducing the Stress
of Going Back to School

Grown-ups begin a new year on January 1st, but for kids the new year begins on the first day of school. Although kids love to "hate" school, many are truly eager to learn, to get back to their school, its social scene, and its reassuring routine. New kids in town, oldest children, kids transitioning from elementary to middle school or from middle school to high school, or kids with learning or behavioral challenges, may feel a little anxious when the new school year rolls around.

Our job as parents is to raise our children to be independent. One of parenting's greatest challenges is learning to distinguish when and how much we should help our children and when we should encourage them to solve problems themselves. The best way to help your children or teens prepare for school this year is to teach them by example and by posing questions that will help them think through their own problems and arrive at workable solutions.

Some Helpful Tips:
  • Use the two weeks prior to school starting to let your child readjust to their new bedtime. Set their alarm each night and make sure your little one is up and at em' the next morning.
  • Take time to go over your child's car pool or bus schedule as well. This way they will be aware of what time they need to be ready when the big day arrives.  In addition, you may want to go over routes and how long the ride to school will take.  Most importantly, talk to your child about car/bus safety!
  • If your child is new to town, the oldest, or transitioning from one school to another, make sure he or she has the opportunity to tour the school a few days before school begins. Encourage your child to ask questions of you and anyone he or she meets at the school. Be aware that younger children, preteens, and teens will all have different fears and concerns. And, older kids may be too insecure to ask questions for fear of appearing stupid or un-cool. For example: young children may worry about paying for lunch the first time and where the lavatories are located in relationship to their classroom. Preteens and teens may be more worried about their lockers, lock combinations, and what they're going to wear the first day of school.
  • Before any "back to school" clothing is purchased, make sure you and your child or teen know the school dress code. That knowledge will ease family tension and save you a great deal of time and trouble.
  • From kindergarten on, encourage your children to dress in a way that is compatible with his or her personality. Let them know that being true to themselves is "way" better than being trendy; in fact, the kids who create trends never copy anyone else. Peer pressure builds as kids get older and celebrating individuality through clothing style is a great way to show your kids that they do not need the approval of popular kids to survive, and thrive, in school.
  • The night before school have your child pick out a first day outfit. This will avoid adding unnecessary chaos to an already hectic event. Have them pack their backpack as well. Click here for tips on backpack safety: http://www.kidshealth.org/parent/positive/learning/backpack.html
  • School textbooks are getting heavier and heavier. Make sure you child or preteen has a sturdy backpack that distributes the weight of books equally. You may want to invest in a roller backpack that has a luggage handle so that your child can pull his or her backpack instead of carrying it.
  • If you plan on packing them a lunch ask them what they would like to eat on the first day of school. If you aren't fixing their lunch, be sure to give them lunch money and have them put it in a safe place.
  • If your children will be participating in any extracurricular sports, they will need a physical. Schedule it as soon as possible, even before school starts.
  • If your kids had required reading over the summer, you may want to have an informal discussion with them about their reading right before school starts. Ask them to remind you what books they read and why they liked or disliked them. Don't be satisfied with simplistic explanations; ask for details about characters, place, and plot. Ask them if and why they would recommend the book to other kids. Your informal book chat will jog their memories and help them if they are assigned a report on their summer reading.
  • Share your own feelings and memories about your first day of school experiences: being the new kid in town; the first one in the family to ride a bus to school; or the forgetting your locker combination running between classes in middle school. When your kids share their worries or concerns, don't dismiss or trivialize them. Validate their concerns. Ask them if they have ideas on what they can do to alleviate their apprehensions. If they do not have ideas, brainstorm with them to come up with viable solutions and actions.
  • In this era of "kidnap fears" it is hard not to be too overprotective of your children, but try. In most of America, kids can walk to school safely. They can ride the bus safely, too. Human skin is waterproof, and dressed for the occasion, kids can walk in the rain and snow unharmed. The classroom is not the only place where learning occurs. The journey to and from school provides your kids with another situation in which to learn. If your area is "traffic safe," adequately prepare your kids with safety tips and, at an age appropriate time, stop driving them to school door and let them explore. Their self-esteem will swell with their responsible independence.
  • Make sure your child has a library card, knows his or her way around the library, and knows how to find the books he or she will need to complete assignments and read for pleasure during the school year.
  • Get into the habit of going to the library once a week or once every two weeks, regardless of whether or not your child's school assignments require it. The best way you can help your children achieve in school is to encourage them to read and become life-long readers. The best place to get free books, magazines, computer access, entertaining stories, and important information is your neighborhood library.
  • No matter how old or young your children, read through the school student handbook with them at the beginning of every year. You both need to know the school's goals, expectations, opportunities, and rules.
  • Fill out any medical and emergency forms and return them to the school immediately. If your child has any special health or physical needs make sure you put those needs in writing and that the principal, your child's teacher, and the school nurse all have copies.
  • Establish a safe place in the house where all school forms and notices can be deposited every day. Get your kids in the habit of taking all forms and notices out of their backpacks and putting them in that safe place as soon as they walk through your door. They need to learn from kindergarten on that they are responsible for making sure you receive all communications from their school. It may help to give each of your children, including your teens, a sturdy plastic folder that they can keep in their backpack to carry notices home safely.
  • Rusty Browder, the librarian at Amos A. Lawrence School in Brookline, Mass., recommends that kids of all ages acquire great "backpack habits." She suggest that kids go through their backpacks everyday, organize papers and notebooks, give parents important notices and work, and throw out garbage of any kind! Older kids who have locker breaks between classes may want to organize their heavy textbooks in groups of morning and afternoon classes so that one group of books can be left in their lockers until needed.
  • Read aloud to your children from their favorite books, every night if possible, if only for ten or fifteen minutes. And don't assume that once your child has become an independent reader that he or she no longer wants, or needs, to be read aloud to. Kids of all ages, and adults, love to hear a great story. And reading aloud increases your children's vocabulary, makes them laugh, expands their universe, and helps them to learn about human understanding and compassion. Besides- it's great fun!
  • Try to find a special time each day to talk with your children about their day at school. Sometimes that moment takes place in the car driving between after-school activities. Sometimes it takes place on the phone from home to your work place. Sometimes it takes place at the table over dinner. Wherever and whenever it takes place, don't ask the question, "How was school today?" –– it is a certainty that you will get a one word answer. Ask: what was served in the cafeteria; did you have gym outside; how did your history presentation go? –– anything to initiate a conversation. Never underestimate your impact or importance to your kids. Your taking the time to take an interest in them and their day is not only important to their education, it is something they will remember and cherish the rest of their lives.
  • Send them off with big kisses and a bunch of well wishes!
Happy School Year!!

© 2013 Mary Brigid Barrett

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22. ‘Sticky Ends, Chapter 2 : Like Rabbits’ by Osman Cerfon

The man with the head of fish pursues his melancholic stroll in a carnival, distributing at random his bubbles of misfortune.

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23. FRAGILE REIGN (Mortal Enchantment #2) by Stacey O'Neale {Cover Reveal & Giveaway)

We're thrilled to help reveal the cover for FRAGILE REIGN (Mortal Enchantment #2) by Stacey O'Neale! Check out the cover below, and let us know what you think in the comments. Then be sure to enter the giveaway for a chance to win a $100 Amazon or B&N gift card!   Details about the cover, from author Stacey O'Neale: In case you're curious about the cover, the model represents Marcus.

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24. Pancake Art Tips: Cleaning Squirt Bottles


 Condiment squirt bottles are super important tools for creating art pancakes but they can be challenging to clean! So I thought I would share with you today my cleaning process for them. 

I used to put the bottles in the dishwasher but I noticed that they would end up discolored (not the lids for some reason, just the squirt bottles). This could just be my dishwasher but anyhow, now I always clean the bottles by hand.

Here's my process:

Step One: Discard the leftover batter in the trash

Step Two: Soak the bottles in water for a few minutes. 

Step Three: Put the palm of your hand over the squirt bottle and shake the water around a few times.

Step Four: Use a baby bottle brush to clean your squirt bottle. Let them dry upside down on a towel.

Step Five: Put the lids in the dishwasher in a basket on the top rack

All done!

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25. Review: Wildlife

Wildlife by Fiona Wood. Poppy, an imprint of Little, Brown. 2014. Reviewed from ARC.

The Plot: It's time for the "dreaded term" that is an "outdoor education camp." Nine weeks away from home, in the middle of nowhere, just you and some classmates and teachers.

Sib -- Sybilla Queen, 16 -- will be going. It's both dreaded and looked forward to, and she'll be going with friends and teens she's known her whole life. And all that time away from home! Things aren't quite what she expects, though, when she starts a romance with popular Ben Capaldi and her best friend Holly veers between jealous and supporting.

Lou, also 16, is new to the school and the group. She stands out, not just for being new, but for also not caring if she makes friends or enemies. Instead she sits back and observes. But if she's not willing to let people into her life, can she really tell others about how they're living theirs?

The Good: Wildlife - first, for the record, every year there is one book whose name I just repeatedly get wrong. This year, whenever I say Wildfire, know I mean Wildlife.

Wildlilfe alternates between two stories: Sib and Lou. Sib's story is about the girl who before school starts gets her braces off and has her acne clear up -- you get the idea. The cosmetic changes are even more amped up, because she posed for her aunt's advertising campaign. A glammed up version of Sib is what introduces her classmates to the "new" Sib -- except it's still the same old Sib, inside.

The New Sib now has a new boyfriend, Ben, and she is both flattered and scared by that. Yes, she likes him, but it's her first real boyfriend and she's just not sure what she wants or how she wants to be. Her best friend, Holly, is there, always being supportive and telling Sib the way she should be treating Ben.

Here is Sib describing Holly: "Maybe I need to explain that Holly's mean is not really meant to be mean -- it's just Holly! And you get used to it!." The reader doesn't need Lou seeing the Sib/Holly friendship to realize the relationship is toxic, and unhealthy, and Sib has no idea that Holly is that mean.

Lou's boyfriend died. It's probably best to get it out there, up front. She is still grieving and isolated, keeping the world at arm's length. Her moms think that the "outdoor education campus", nine weeks in the "wilderness," will somehow help. (While Lou hasn't attended the school before, one of her mothers went as a teen.) Lou's story is one of grief and loss and recovery, and putting together ones life. She's slowly drawn into the world she finds herself in, not through the other girls in her cabin -- Holly has marked her as an enemy, an outsider -- but through Michael, Sib's other best friend.

This is not a book where Lou and Michael fall in love, or where Lou finds new love. No, it respects Lou's loss and the time, the long amount of time, it takes when a loved one dies. What Michael and Lou offer each other is more important: friendship and acceptance. Lou needs that, even if she won't admit it, and Michael needs it, because he has to go through the pain of seeing the person he loves -- Sib -- happy with someone else.

This isn't a book about Sib and Ben falling in love. Sib and Ben's relationship is important, and I loved how Sib sorted out all her own complicated feelings about Ben. She's attracted to him, she wants a relationship, but she's also not quite sure about him or herself. Ben's a decent enough guy, but he's a teenaged boy. He doesn't pursue Sib until after she's glammed up. He and Sib are put together in a heightened time and place, the intensity and isolation of the wilderness experience. Out in the real world, would they have anything in common? And does that matter? One thing I love about Sib is that, when it comes to Ben, part of Sib realizes all this. But part of her is also young and new to relationships so she is unsure just what she wants from Ben and how to proceed, both emotionally and physically. So Wildlife is about their relationship, yes, but Wildlife is about a more important relationship.

Wildlife is a book about the friendship between Holly and Sib. Sib is in some ways a passive girl. It's not the type of passive of someone who doesn't know what they want; it's the passive of someone who is content with what they have. So content that it's not that she lacks strong feelings about things, but that she doesn't care so let Holly take the lead. It's like the old deciding where to go for dinner: it's not that the person who says "I don't care" doesn't care, it's that they have no real strong urge for Italian or pizza or hamburgers or Indian, they just want food, and if you care, find.

It's the type of passive that allows Holly to be the leader, and for Sib to go along with it. It's what some people call "too nice." But here's the thing about that type of "nice." It is genuine. Sib truly loves, and forgives, Holly.

Holly is a wounded girl: from the start, Sib explains that part of her tolerance for what Holly does is that she, Sib, knows the "real" Holly. What the reader (and Lou) sees is a girl who has gone from acting mean to being mean. A girl whose own insecurities and need for popularity and acceptance means that she's not afraid to push others around, and push other's buttons, to get what she wants. Holly is the type of girl you don't want your child to be friends with: not because she's dangerous, but because you know at some point, she's finally going to go too far and hurt your child emotionally. And much as I grew to hate Holly, I have to confess: given her own emotional wounds, I wonder if Holly at some point will "grow up" and stop hurting others to make herself feel better. I wonder if she will ever become self aware. Still, that is just wondering --in the meanwhile, I want those who Holly hurts to stay away from her because they can't fix Holly. Only Holly can.

Wildlife is about Sib and Holly's friendship slowly, messily ending. Just as the boarding situation helps Sib and Ben's relationship progress, it also helps Sib and Holly's friendship implode.

Oh, the reason I put "wilderness" in quotes earlier is that this isn't tents and camping. There are cabins, and meals, and toilets, and showers, and classrooms. It is in the middle of a wilderness area, with opportunities for tents and camping and no toilets or showers. Like many experiences, it's a very controlled "wilderness." It's also a great time for all the teens to practice being grown up and older with a safety net. They are away from home, yes; but there are still rules and teachers and chaperones around.

This is one of my Favorite Reads of 2014, because of the character growth and the dynamics between people.




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© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

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