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1001. "About the Heart" by Linda T Snider-Ward, Louisiana artist

Sometimes it's Just About the Heart is another of my whimsical heart pieces, created in watercolor on paper. This one sold to a friend, so I'm happy it has a good home. More of my artwork can be seen on my website and my Etsy shop

If you're a watercolorist or just someone who likes dappling in watercolor, and you would like to join this site and share your work, send me a link to your blog or website in a comment, and I'll add you to the site.

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1002. Top Blogs Every Writer/Author Can Use

I'm always looking for lists that are easily accessible.

Here is a list of lists that every writer can use! Bookmark this page so you can come back for easy access :) Have fun!

Best Writing Blogs

Publishing Industry Blogs

6 Book Marketing Blogs

YA Book Bloggers

Book Blogger List (all genres)

Self-publishing Blogs

Indie Author Tools and Strategies

Indie Book Reviewers

 Middle Grade bloggers

Top Mom Bloggers and Mommy Bloggers

Best Book Reviewers on Twitter

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1003. YALSAblog Tweets of the Week July 24

A short list of tweets from the past week of interest to teens and the library staff that work with them.

Do you have a favorite Tweet from the past week? If so add it in the comments for this post. Or, if you read a Twitter post between July 24 and July 31 that you think is a must for the next Tweets of the Week send a direct or @ message to lbraun2000 on Twitter.

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1004. Check out Boutique du Vampyre (link)

Yes, the Halloween countdown has started!  And check out books with teeth, book signings, and more: http://feelthebite.com/EventsNow.html  

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1005. Harvery Pekar Park dedicated today with fest, installation in Cleveland

Cleveland is getting a park dedicated to its comics laureate, Harvey Pekar, whose long running American Splendor comic captured the quotidian lives of Clevelanders. The celebration will run all afternoon with music and a screening of the film American Splendor (for my money the best comic book movie of all.) The afternoon will see a […]

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1006. Summer Reading -- On the banks of the Columbia!

Summer reading programs with the regional library took me to the banks of the Columbia River this past week -- with visits to Brewster and Bridgeport, WA. I've got several more library HEROES still waiting in the wings for their online debuts, but here is one from Brewster (both in sketch and final form) and then another from a week or two earlier in Entiat. My final visits of the summer take place next week in Wenatchee, Cashmere, Moses Lake and Mattawa, WA -- and then the family and I hit the road for a little non-work vacation time!!! Awesome tree sculptures that line the main drag in Brewster are always a pleasure to see. New entries added to the experience this year and maybe even a work or two still in progress.

And FINALLY, some quick photographic evidence of the "cartoon challenge" that has taken place throughout the summer. The number 9 -- in this case -- deftly turned into a giraffe. Keep up the great work kids!

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1007. Pluto and its underworld minions

Early this week the spacecraft New Horizons began its flyby of Pluto, sending a wealth of information to back to Earth about Pluto and its moons. It’s an exciting time for astronomers and those intrigued by the dark dwarf planet. Pluto has special significance not only because it is the only planet in our solar system to have its status as a planet stripped and downgraded to a dwarf planet, but also because along with its largest satellite Charon, it is our solar system’s only binary planet system

The post Pluto and its underworld minions appeared first on OUPblog.

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1008. Tonight is the opening of the WB Animation show, hosted by Fan...

Tonight is the opening of the WB Animation show, hosted by Fan Alley and @Dennis Salvatier in Anaheim CA. My Dodo piece can been seen there- I’m super excited for this show, and wish I could be there for the opening. If you can make it, the details are here:http://shopfanalley.com/events/2015/6/16/wb-animation-tribute-gallery-artist-signing

There are a bunch of awesome artists, and from what I’ve seen so far, the artists involved have made some beautiful work!

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1009. My tweets

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1010. GJ Book Club Chapter 16: Proportion

On the GJ Book Club, we're looking at Chapter 16: "Rhythm/Proportion" in Harold Speed's 1917 classic The Practice and Science of Drawing. The following numbered paragraphs cite key points in boldface. If you would like to respond to a specific image or point, please precede your comment by the corresponding number.

Speed begins by introducing the idea that mathematical proportions may lie behind the design principles of older artists. He says:

1. There appears to be no doubt that the ancient sculptors used some such system.
Speed doesn't mention which system, or which proportions, whether phi, pi, square root of 2, Vitruvian or what? I, for one, am skeptical, and would want to see proof beyond the superimposed diagrams; I'd need to see actual texts from the artists themselves that specifically discuss the question of which system they supposedly used. There's more in my series "Mythbusting the Golden Mean." Speed himself says that art probably shouldn't be reduced to a mathematical formula. Then he asks a key question:

2. The question we are interested to ask here is: are there particular sentiments connected with the different relations of quantities, their proportions, as we found there were in connection with different arrangements of lines and masses? Have abstract proportions any significance in art, as we found abstract line and mass arrangements had?  

Speed answers his question in a simple way that makes sense. In his words: "unity makes for sublimity, while variety makes for the expression of life." Here I don't think he means "sublimity" from the point of view of Edmund Burke's concept of the sublime as apocalyptic or terrifying, but rather more as calmly reverential.

3. Nature seems to abhor equalities, never making two things alike or the same proportion if she can help it. All systems founded on equalities, as are so many modern systems of social reform, are man's work, the products of a machine-made age.

Pepsi headquarters building, 1960

I wonder what Speed would have thought of modern architecture, which made a virtue of even repetition of forms. Speed says, "although you often find repetitions of the same forms equidistant in architecture, it is seldom that equality of proportion is observable in the main distribution of the large masses."

4. Diagrams.

The remainder of the chapter discusses the many diagrams of even spacing (reverential, sublime) versus uneven spacing (life and variety).

Feel free to offer your comments on any of the points mentioned above, or other points I may have missed.


The Practice and Science of Drawing is available in various formats:
1. Inexpensive softcover edition from Dover, (by far the majority of you are reading it in this format)
3. Free online Archive.org edition.
and The Windsor Magazine, Volume 25, "The Art of Mr. Harold Speed" by Austin Chester, page 335. (thanks, अर्जुन)
GJ Book Club on Pinterest (Thanks, Carolyn Kasper)
Original blog post Announcing the GJ Book Club

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1011. Tree alphabet

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1012. Selfies in black abayas

Today, when worlds collide with equal force and consequence as speeding cars on a California highway, can we imagine, escaping the impact of even a single collision? Is the option of being miraculously air-lifted out of the interminable traffic log-jams available for us, even if we are spared physical injury? Just as avoiding California highways is an impossibility (given the systemic destruction of public transportation system), meeting head-on forces of neoliberal globalization with its unique technological, financial, and ideological structures is an inevitability.

The post Selfies in black abayas appeared first on OUPblog.

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1013. Seuss on Saturday #30

The Lorax. Dr. Seuss. 1971. Random House. 72 pages. [Library]

First sentence: At the far end of town where the Grickle-grass grows and the wind smells slow-and-sour when it blows and no birds ever sing excepting old crows...is the Street of the Lifted Lorax. 

Premise/Plot: Readers hear about the Lorax from the Once-ler. It's a story of lessons not learned in time, a story of an environment abused and wasted. It is a heavy tale for a picture book. Perhaps the heaviest of Seuss' picture books.
UNLESS someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not.
 My thoughts: The Lorax is my least favorite Seuss book. I won't lie and say it is the only Seuss novel with a moral or lesson, it's not. Many of Seuss's books have a moral in them. Some are subtle. Some are in-your-face obvious. I prefer the subtler moral. I do.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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1014. Amanda Panitch, author of DAMAGE DONE, on when to let things go

We're delighted Amanda Panitch, whose debut novel is DAMAGE DONE, could join us to chat about writing.

Amanda, what's your writing ritual like? Do you listen to music? Work at home or at a coffee shop or the library, etc?

I can write pretty much anywhere at any time: I regularly write in all sorts of different places, from my apartment to other people's houses to trains to Riverside Park. I thank my upbringing as one of five kids in a relatively small house, where there was always noise and you had to learn how to focus no matter what was going on around you! I do have trouble, however, writing on anything besides my trusty laptop - I get used to the feeling of the keys and having all of my documents and notes there with me. It took me ages to adjust when I had to replace my laptop a few years ago and I'm dreading having to eventually do it again.

What advice would you most like to pass along to other writers?

It's okay to admit that something isn't working and move on. I see a lot of writers spending years and years revising their first book and pitching it over and over - I'm guilty of this myself with my first book, a Harry Potter clone that wasn't going to be commercially viable no matter how much I edited it. I'm not saying you shouldn't be persistent or that you should give up on things easily, but sometimes you need to let things go so that you can take the lessons you learned working on that first book and use them to craft something far stronger in the next.

What did this book teach you about writing or about yourself?

How to multitask! I've always been the type of writer who would stick with one project at a time, writing it then editing it until it was "done" before turning my attention to something new. Now, because of publishing and editing schedules, I can't do that anymore - I might be doing final edits on one project while doing structural edits on another project while drafting yet a third. I've had to learn how to shift gears quickly between books and characters' heads.

You can buy signed/personalized copies of DAMAGE DONE at:


Damage Doneby Amanda Panitch
Random House Books for Young Readers
Released 7/21/2015

22 minutes separate Julia Vann’s before and after.

Before: Julia had a twin brother, a boyfriend, and a best friend.

After: She has a new identity, a new hometown, and memories of those twenty-two minutes that refuse to come into focus. At least, that’s what she tells the police.

Now that she’s Lucy Black, she's able to begin again. She's even getting used to the empty bedroom where her brother should be. And her fresh start has attracted the attention of one of the hottest guys in school, a boy who will do anything to protect her. But when someone much more dangerous also takes notice, Lucy's forced to confront the dark secrets she thought were safely left behind.

One thing is clear: The damage done can never be erased. It’s only just beginning. . . .

Purchase Damage Done at Amazon
Purchase Damage Done at IndieBound
View Damage Done on Goodreads


7577269Amanda Panitch grew up next to an amusement park in New Jersey and went to college next to the White House in Washington, DC. Amanda now resides in New York City where she works in book publishing by day, writes by night, and lives under constant threat of being crushed beneath giant stacks of books. You can follow her on Twitter @AmandaPanitch, and visit her online at www.amandapanitch.com

Have you had a chance to read DAMAGE DONE yet? Are you able to write anywhere like Amanda or do you have specific requirements? How are you at multitasking?

Happy reading,

Jocelyn, Shelly, Martina, Erin, Lisa, Susan, Jen, Sam, Lindsey, Sandra, Kristin, and Anisaa

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1015. Bartography Express for July 2015, featuring Lindsey Lane’s Evidence of Things Not Seen

This month, one subscriber to my Bartography Express newsletter will win a copy of Evidence of Things Not Seen (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) by Lindsey Lane. If you’re not already receiving Bartography Express, click the image below for a look. If you like what you see, click “Join” in the bottom right corner, and you’ll […]

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1016. Avery Hastings, author of TORN, on writing while snuggling with a dog

TORN is the second novel in the Feuds series, and we're excited to have Avery Hastings here tell us more about it.

Avery, what scene was really hard for you to write and why, and is that the one of which you are most proud? Or is there another scene you particularly love?

When Davis finally encounters her mother, it’s a very tense and emotional moment. She’s longed for her mother for years—and when she sees her, it’s a horrible disappointment, but it also offers closure. It was really tough to write that scene given that Davis had to cycle through shock, horror, crushing disappointment, and sadness. But I also love that scene because it brings Davis to a stronger, clearer place. She never felt like she measured up to her mother’s legacy as a ballerina—but seeing her mother for who she is allows her to appreciate the parts of her that are nothing like her mother. She can move out from under her mother’s shadow, and stop reaching for something unattainable.

Read more »

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1017. Jennifer Anderson presentation!

The Chair of the Art Department at Hollins University and an Associate Professor of Art, Jennifer D. Anderson recently talked to our students about her gorgeous cut paper work.

These amazing pieces take her upwards of 60 to 80 hours to create. I can believe it! But the results are so worth it - they are simply stunning. Even more so when their hung in such a way to create shadows on the walls behind them.
Our illustrative world is focused on creating books, so it was a nice break to hear the perspective of creating art for art's sake from this seasoned pro!

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1018. Elephant Sketches and New Projects

I've been hugely busy, and at the moment my life has been turned upside-down while I explore new horizons that lie before me, but I'm also slowly getting back into my work routine ... with exciting projects coming up that I'm already in love with.

I'll elaborate on those projects (that will be incorporated into my coursework for next year as well) a bit later on, but here's a hint:




I'll just add that it's something I've wanted to do for years but never quite had the confidence to tackle before ... It's going to be a lot of fun!

With that in mind, I enrolled in a couple of online classes as refreshers and also to learn something about the practical side of illustrating children's books. I've just started on the first one, Picture Book Illustration: Animal Characters by Eric Johnson, on Craftsy, and have been sketching elephants for the first class. Still need to do more drawings and still need to learn a lot more about them, but here's a bit of a start:




I'm also being reminded of how grounding and therapeutic just having a pen, pencil, or brush in my hand is. I've missed it these last few weeks. As it is, I shall be moving house very soon so things will get slightly chaotic once more, but I'm sticking to my art therapy - I need it.


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1019. Notes on the Aesthetics of New American Stories

Ben Marcus's 2004 anthology The Anchor Book of New American Short Stories is a wonderfully rich collection for a book of its type. I remember first reading it with all the excitement of discovery — even the stories I didn't like seemed somehow invigorating in the way they made me dislike them. I've used the book with a couple of classes I've taught, and I've recommended it to many people.

I was overjoyed, then, when I heard that Marcus was doing a follow up, and I got it as soon as I could: New American Stories. I started reading immediately.

Expectations can kill us. The primary emotion I felt while reading New American Stories was disappointment. It's not that the stories are bad — they aren't — but that the book as a whole felt a bit narrow, a bit repetitive. I skipped around from story to story, dashing in search of surprise, but it was rare. I tried to isolate the source of my disappointment, of my lack of surprise: Was it the subject matter? No, this isn't quite Best American Rich White People. Was it the structure of the stories? Maybe a little bit, generally, as even the handful of structurally adventurous stories here feel perfectly in line with the structurally adventurous stories of 50 years ago, and somewhat tame in comparison to the structurally adventurous stories of 80-100 years ago. But that wasn't really what was bothering me.

And then I realized: It was the style, the rhythm. The paragraphs and, especially, the sentences. It wasn't that each story had the same style as the one I'd just read, but that most (not all) of the stories felt like stylistic family members.

And then I thought: What this book really demonstrates is the deep, abiding, and highly dispersed influence of Gordon Lish. Lish's shadow stretches across the majority of tales in Marcus's book, as it did the previous book, and understandably so: not only is Lish a good candidate for the title of the most influential editor of "literary" short fiction in the US in the second half of the twentieth century ... but Marcus was nurtured by him, with Lish publishing quite a bit of his early work in The Quarterly and then publishing Marcus's first book, The Age of Wire and String. (The title of both the Anchor Book and New American Stories is a bit of a give-away, too: the subtitle of Lish's The Quarterly was "The Magazine of New American Writing".) The effect feels more repetitious in the new book, perhaps because I'm now a decade older and have all those more years of reading short stories behind me (including readings tons for the Best American Fantasy anthologies); but also, I expect, because the new book is more than 200 pages longer, and so the opportunity for repetition is greater.

It's not that either the Anchor Book or New American Stories is an anthology of stuff from the School of Lish (as Sven Birkerts called it back in the '80s). Some of Lish's students are, indeed, in these books — in the new one, I know that Sam Lipsyte, Joy Williams, Christine Schutt, and Deb Olin Unferth all studied and/or were edited by him, and Don DeLillo is a good friend and admirer of him. Plenty of the writers in the book may never have even heard of Gordon Lish. The influence is easily picked up from the writers Lish not only guided or influenced directly, but venerated by publishing them or saying good things about them to the world. Lish didn't just teach people to write in a particular way; he taught them to value particular moves in texts.

The writers in New American Stories are all different in their approaches and backgrounds, certainly, and at least a few of them are writers whose work Lish would not himself value, but there's a bit of an echo between them, the echo of the Lishian sentence (the best analysis of which is probably that of Jason Lucarelli in "The Consecution of Gordon Lish"). These are stories that (overall) value straightforward diction, relatively simple sentence constructions, and conversational tones and syntax. They prefer the concrete and the active. Many are built with odd repetitions and quirky juxtapositions.

You can feel it in the first lines — Lish famously calls first sentences the "attack sentence" and reportedly tells students, "Your attack sentence is a provoking sentence. You follow it with a series of provoking sentences."

Here are some opening sentences from New American Stories (I'll identify the writers later):
1.) Davis called, told me he was dying.
2.) "What you got there, then?"
3.) "Just let me out of here, man," said Cora Booth. "I'm sick. I'm dying."
4.) Four of them were on one side of a dim room.
5.) Like in the old days, I came out of the dry creek behind the house and did my little tap on the kitchen window.
6.) "What are you doing?" a guy asked her.
7.) It was the day before his cousin's funeral and Del ended up at the Suds washing his black jeans at midnight.
8.) Once, for about a month or two, I decided I was going to be a different kind of guy.
9.) "I don't know why I committed us to any of those things," Otto said.
10.) The day I got my period, my mother and father took me to pick my madman.
11.) I know when people will die.
12.) Root canal is one fifty, give or take, depending on who's doing it to you.
The first six of those are the entire first paragraph of the story. All of the sentences are pretty short, with the longest being #5 at 24 words. (And #3 is actually 3 sentences.) The diction is simple, with most of the words being one or two syllables, and none more than three syllables. Four of the openings are direct dialogue, with implied dialogue in others (e.g. #1). All of the openings are about people. The word guy appears more than once.

I chose these openings pretty much randomly by flipping through the book, and I only organized them to put the ones that are a paragraph unto themselves together. The 20 other stories that I have not sampled here would generally seem similar. From those 20 other stories, here are the opening sentences that, to my eyes and ears, seem most different from those above:
A.) Father comes home after many years of forgetting us, of not sending us money, of not loving us, not visiting us, not anything us, and parks in the shack, unable to move, unable to talk properly, unable to anything, vomiting and vomiting, Jesus, just vomiting and defecating on himself, and it smelling like something dead in there, dead and rotting, his body a black, terrible stick; I come in from playing Find bin Laden and he is there.

B.) Though alien to the world's ancient past, young blood runs similar circles.

C.) After they shot the body several times, they cut its throat with a scaling knife; after that, they pinched its nostrils and funneled sulfuric acid into its mouth; while some set to yanking the body's toenails out with a set of pliers, others fashioned a noose from a utility cord they had found in the trunk of their car.
A and C are longer than 1-12 (behold: semi-colons!), and B is not quite about a human being. Interestingly, they're all about bodies, bodily fluid, and, in the case of A and C, pain, death, suffering. A is notable for its lyricism, B for its weirdness, C for having the only 4-syllable word that I've noticed among any of these opening sentences ("utility"). These are, then, the most extreme and radical opening sentences in the book.

Most of the writers of all of these sentences, whether 1-12 or A-C, likely do not know Gordon Lish's commandments for writing attack sentences. But I suspect we see the influence of Lish in two ways here: first, in how Lish has influenced Marcus's taste, since the one thing we can say about all of these stories is that Ben Marcus valued them; second, in how Lish's protégés have gone on themselves to influence the perception of what is "good writing" in the lit world.

Let's look at who the writers are:
1.) Sam Lipsyte
2.) Zadie Smith
3.) Wells Tower
4.) Jesse Ball
5.) George Saunders
6.) Maureen McHugh
7.) Donald Ray Pollock
8.) Kelly Link
9.) Deborah Eisenberg
10.) Lucy Corin
11.) Deb Olin Unferth
12.) Charles Yu
A.) NoViolet Bulawayo
B.) Rachel B. Glaser
C.) Kyle Coma-Thompson
(It's amusing to note that the two writers whose opening sentences include the word "guy" are Maureen McHugh and Kelly Link — writers who admire each other, and Kelly Link's own Small Beer Press published McHugh's [excellent] story collections. There's nothing to say about this coincidence except that Ben Marcus apparently likes opening sentences that include the word guy.)

The only Lish students I know of among those writers are Lipsyte and Unferth. But sentences 1-12 seem to me more similar than different in their approach. To know how much of this is just Marcus's own taste selecting stories that have such sentences and how much is stylistic similarity between the writers generally, we would have to examine collections of each writers' stories and see if they tend to begin their stories in the same way. That work is more than I can do right now, but it would be an interesting research project.

Compared to most of the writers in New American Stories, the writers of A-C have fewer books published by major publishers and fewer awards (though NoViolet Bulawayo won the Caine Prize and her book, from which the story "Shhhh" is taken, has done very well — still, until recently she was not part of the big lit machine), and I think this matters. One of my disappointments with New American Stories is how much it reprints writers who have been published by major publishers and won major prizes. I had had hopes that the book would be more eclectic and surprising than this. For all his attempts at variety, what Marcus has given us overall is a bunch of stories that are valued by the kinds of people who give out major literary awards. And they are good stories — I don't mean anything I say here to reflect badly on any of the individual stories, many of which are extraordinary and all of which are in some way or another interesting. But the range of stories in the book is more narrow than I had hoped for.

Coming back to Lish, what's interesting is how his taste has so defined what I think of as the establishment avant-garde. We should put "avant-garde" in quotes, though, because it's not really out in front, and it's not particularly innovative anymore — indeed, it's the establishment because its structures and rhythms are passed down through writing workshops, editorial decisions, and awards committees. You can see this in the case of somebody like Gary Lutz, a Lishian who may not be well known to the general public, but who has had a significant influence on a lot of contemporary short story writers in the lit world, as well as on creative writing teachers, particularly through his essay/lecture "The Sentence Is a Lonely Place" (which I've myself recommended to some advanced writing students because it demonstrates to an overwhelming degree the depth with which one can think about sentences).

The effect of all this is to create a relatively narrow range for what is recognizable as "quality" in a short story. The familiar replicates itself. What a discourse community can perceive as good and bad, effective and ineffective, quality and kitsch depends very much on what it has previously seen as good, bad, effective, ineffective, quality, kitsch. Sometimes, that can be liberatory — Charles Yu, Maureen McHugh, and Kelly Link might be dismissed as writers of genre fiction if their tone and style was not close enough to that of the other writers in the anthology to sound familiar and thus be recognizable as part of the family of quality. I love that they're part of this book, but to understand why they fit so well in it, we don't have to speculate about the growing acceptance of genre content in the lit world, but simply note the similarity of tone, syntax, and diction to what is also here.

There's a long history to the particular qualities celebrated by Marcus and most of the writers he likes, and it's a history that predates Lish — if these stories feel like they have a lot of family resemblances, then it may be because they are the stylistic grandchildren of Gertrude Stein and Ernest Hemingway. (Or, to make a different comparison, the music they seem to favor is that of chamber concerts and small indie rock bands, not jazz clubs. Indeed, the echoes I couldn't hear at all in these stories are the echoes of jazzier writers like Ralph Ellison and James Baldwin. Maybe I'm tone deaf.)

So perhaps it is best to think of New American Stories as a kind of family portrait, a reunion of the offspring (whether they know it or not) of Grandma Gertrude and Grandpapa Ernie by way of Daddy Gordon (and maybe Mama Amy Hempel), along with a couple of kids who seem to have wandered in from the neighbor's house and who are nice to have around because they liven things up.  New American Stories is a good anthology, well worth reading, full of interesting stuff. It is not, though, a broad representation of what short stories can do or be, and for all its writers' concern with tone, resonance, and rhythm, the songs they play sound more alike than not.

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1020. Illustrator Challenge #10

Choose a favorite image and draw a small copy of it (about 3"x5") in black and white using all the values in the value scale you created last week.

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1021. The Importance of a Great Second Sentence

You want your manuscript, your novel, your short story, your poem, or your essay to have a great opening line--I'm sure you've heard that before. There are numerous lists and FB posts about great first lines--lines that grab the reader and say YES YOU WANT TO READ ME. Well, picking up a fantastic short story collection earlier today, Shannon Cain's Drue Heinz Prize winning The Necessity of Certain Behaviors (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2011), reminded me of just how important second lines are as well. I can promise you there have been novels and stories that absolutely Cain - the necessity of certain behaviorssucked me in with grand slam opening lines that saw me quit reading when the promise of that start was horribly deflated by a second line so uninspired, so uninteresting, that it made me feel the author has played a trick on me with their opening line. They knew they'd written something so fantastic that anybody that looked at it would certainly keep reading--they had you and apparently figured that was all they needed to do.

To me, if the promise of that first sentence/line isn't followed at least pretty closely by the second, I start to have great fear that maybe the author only had one great sentence in them. That what I was about to spend what I consider precious time invested in the reading of, was simply not going to be able to be justified. However, when that second sentence is just as promising, if not even a little moreso, than the first--well, then I'm much more confident that I'm spending my time wisely.

In the story "The Steam Room," Cain starts the story with a pretty simple, yet informative, sentence:

"Helen was unhappily married to the mayor of their midsized American city."

It's not a wowser, but it's clean, it's informative and I'd keep reading. However, the second sentence:

"Sometimes she masturbated in the steam room of the downtown YMCA."

I'm in and not even necessarily for the perv factor so much as for the fact that I'm pretty sure at this point that Cain has created a very interesting character--one with a bit of darkness and something going on in her head. I want to read more.

Later in the collection, in "The Queer Zoo," Cain starts with:

"There's no actual policy at the Queer Zoo against hiring straight people: that would be illegal."

A sentence I would say that pulled me in a bit stronger than the opener of "The Steam Room." However, again, it's the following this up with another strong sentence that has me believing enough in the author to want to devote more time to the work, in this case:

"Sam is alert to rumors about the existence of other hetero employees, but so far none have turned out to be true."

It's a pattern for Cain in this very fine collection (more on that with a review soon) as really only one of the second sentences isn't pretty great even standing alone--and the one that isn't is exactly what it needed to be to move the story forward, which is exactly what I want each sentence I read to do.

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1022. Convention Center Scorecard: Kansas City, Los Angeles, Boston

It’s not just San Diego which is having problems funding convention center growth. Many other cities, citing city pride and tourism dollars, are trying to attract a finite (if not shrinking) market of trade show business. If tourism boards are smart, they will start to mentor local promoters to stage annual consumer shows, which will […]

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1023. Travel apps for kids - enjoy!

Summer is that time of the year when we pack up our kids and take off to the cottage, off on a well-deserved vacation at home or abroad, or simply take a day trip around your city.  Our kids are buckled in for their safety (and it is the law by the way) and they get bored very easily sitting still in one place inside the car, plane or whatever mode of transportation you are using.  Here are some apps that just might make your trip a bit more pleasant by keeping your kids entertained as you zoom around the countryside.  If you do not have a iPad or iPhone another thing is to pack a backpack full of their favourite books to browse through and savour.  Books are portable, engaging, educational, and always in fashion.  

Unwrapping some travel humour...

"App"arently these apps are amazing...

Bogga Vacation App


Pack your things and fly off to a tropical island, build sand castles, make your own juice and go treasure hunting!

● Listed as "Favourite Road Trip App 2015" by BestAppsForKids.com.

Bogga Vacation is packed with super fun activities that stimulates creativity and logic. Enjoy a summer trip whenever you feel like it!

"From the soothing sounds of the ocean as kids build sand castles to the fly buzzing around as kids pack their suitcase, the graphics and sounds make Bogga Vacation a high-quality app."
- BestAppsForKids.com

"Fun, engaging and great learning app for the young ones, with a well designed intuitive interface."
- FunEducationalApps.com

"The app is very well-suited for the youngest users."
- SmartAppsForKids.com

"The Bogga Vacation app greatly brings tropical fun onto the iPad and iPhone for kids, with nice educational concepts."
- RealKidsApps.com

"This sweet, summery app walks kids through each step of the trip."
- CommonSenseMedia.org

* A suitcase with things you need for the trip
* Tickets and passport
* A cute airplane
* Tools for castle making
* A camera for taking snapshots of your designed castle
* Various fruits for juice making
* Map and binocular for treasure hunting
* No stress, just play and the joy of discovering
* Original colorful design
* No third-party advertising
* No in-app purchases

Crayola Color, Draw and Sing

Crayola Color, Draw and Sing is a fun creativity app that combines the best of both art and music! Adding to the colors in your picture actually completes your song! A new instrument track is unlocked with each artistic choice. Learn the names of instruments and how they combine to create a song. Fun for the whole family!

Mom Maps

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1024. Mental Health Day

Over the past ten days, I have written three stories and sent them out into the world, completed the first drafts of a further two, and am in the process of writing the first draft of a further story. Getting back to what I love doing after a very dry period has meant that his week I have felt happier and more confident (an acceptance from Black Static may also have helped) than I have in some time. I really thought I couldn't do this any more.

In the good old days, when I wrote all of the things, I rarely gave myself any time off and if I did slack, I admonished myself. In theory, I could have closeted myself away today and written until I felt so tired that I couldn't think, and at one point I was very tempted to do that. Instead, this is how today went, and it was excellent therapy for my poor, often broken, head. 

First, I slipped off the rocky route of my diet when we went to lunch at the frankly amazing Sawasdee Thai Restaurant in Birkenhead - if you're in the area and I know you, we have to eat there. I allowed myself this slip as it was a healthy lets have a lovely lunch together rather than my usual, lets hide under my desk and consume all of the chocolate. 

Then we went to Bidston Hill, which is a five minute and then a ten minute bus ride from our new home on the Wirral. My Bestwick had told me of the windmill on top of a hill, and I, despite living in the Merseyside area for my entire life didn't know of it. He is a get on a bus and see what you can find person. He's turning me into one of those people too. We climbed over rocks and up the not-very-steep hill and sat on a bench that overlooked my magnificent city...

... having temporarily run out of books to read for the British Fantasy Awards (I'm one of the Horror Novel judges) and waiting for more to be delivered, I picked up Stephen Volk's Leytonstone on the way out and the magnificent prose drew me from this awesome view. I've been very lax with reading lately and my to read pile is overflowing and my to buy pile is dragging at my heart. I'm going to break soon and buy all of the things.

We got lost on the way back because this is us and ended up walking through a very nice housing estate that we will never move to because it is very much in the middle of nowhere. Eventually we found our way to a main road and a bus route, which was five minutes walk from the exit, but we managed to turn it into a half-hour walk - we  need the exercise. 

We're having a barbecue tonight because obviously when you slip from a diet you have to do it in style. It's the first barbecue either of us have done so if you're in the area expect fire engines, scorched plants and soot-faced writers. 

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1025. Preparing for IVR 2015

The XXVII World Congress of the International Association for the Philosophy of Law and Social Philosophy (IVR) will take place 27-31 July 2015 at Georgetown Law Center in Washington, DC. This year’s theme -- “Law, Reason, and Emotion” -- focuses on the nature and function of law.

The post Preparing for IVR 2015 appeared first on OUPblog.

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