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1001. Spotlight and Giveaway: Tempt Me Eternally by Gena Showalter

This morning I have a giveaway for Tempt Me Eternally by Gena Showalter to celebrate this Pocket Star-E release.  Check out the excerpt and enter for a chance to win a digital copy.

SUMMARY:

The huntress becomes the hunted in this sizzling paranormal romance from New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author Gena Showalter, previously published as part of the Deep Kiss of Winter anthology with #1 New York Times bestselling author Kresley Cole, now available as a stand-alone ebook!


With only skin-to-skin contact, Aleaha Love can change her appearance, assuming any identity. As an AIR (Alien Investigation and Removal) agent, her newest mission is to capture a group of otherworldly warriors. So imagine her surprise when the hunter becomes the hunted, and she’s taken captive by dangerously seductive Breean, a golden-skinned, iron-willed commander, who threatens everything Aleaha stands for—and makes her want to be only herself, for the first time in her life.

EXCERPT:

They were coming.

Warriors unlike any other. Monsters of unimaginable power. Otherworlders. Fierce creatures with the ability to look inside your soul, glimpse your greatest fear, and present it to you with an unrepentant smile.

Should’ve stayed home, Aleaha Love thought. ’Cause we’re gonna get spanked. Hard. And not in a good way. Instead, she’d answered her cell and her captain’s call to action, and now found herself crouched in the middle of a gnarled forest, staring into a snow-laden clearing, moonlight shooting bright amber rays in every direction as flakes wafted in the breeze like fairy dust.

Though she wore white from head to toe, had a pyre-gun stretched forward, and was burrowed in a drift as cover, she felt exposed. Vulnerable. And yeah, damn cold.

What in the hell did I get myself into?

“Everyone in position?” a voice whispered from her headset.

A whisper, yeah, but it startled her. She managed to cut off a yelp, but couldn’t stop tremors from sweeping through her. Steady. She’d never hear the end of it if she accidentally fired her weapon before the fight had even begun.

“Premature weapon ejaculation,” they’d say with a chuckle, and she wouldn’t be able to deny it.

One by one, twenty teammates uttered their assent. They had wicked cool nicknames like Hawk Eye and Ghost. Her turn, she said, “Lollipop, in place.”

She rolled her eyes. “Dress her up and watch her play bad alien, delicious cop,” the boys had laughed before giving her the stupid moniker her first day on the job. “Naughty lawbreakers will want to taste her, not outrun her.”

That had been, what? Five weeks ago, she realized with a jolt. Oh, how life had changed since then. From hiding in the shadows, afraid of what she was, to working cases with New Chicago’s elite team of smart-asses, content with her somewhat pampered existence. A pampered existence she didn’t deserve and hadn’t earned, but whatever. No guilt for her. Really.

“Need someone to snuggle against, Lolli?” a quiet, amused male voice asked. Devyn, supposedly a king of some sort and a self-proclaimed collector of women. He wasn’t really a member of Alien Investigation and Removal but was a special contractor, as well as the man who’d once wired her gun to blow bubbles rather than fire at target practice.

Word on the street, he was more powerful than God and deadlier than the devil, though no one would tell her outright what he could do. He was an otherworlder, that much she knew. That, and most of AIR’s flunkies kept their distance from him. They feared him, which only heightened Aleaha’s need to keep her own secrets.

She, too, was different.

She didn’t know whether she was human or alien. Or both. She didn’t know whether there were others like her or not. She didn’t know who her parents were or why they’d abandoned her on the dirty streets of the Southern District—a.k.a Whore’s Corner—of New Chicago, and she didn’t care. Not anymore. All she knew was that she could assume anyone’s identity with only a touch. That person’s face became hers; their height became hers; their body became hers.

For years, she’d lived in fear of being found out, of being hunted and tortured for her unnatural ability, afraid that everyone who looked at her saw the truth and knew she wasn’t who she claimed to be. But she couldn’t drop the mask. As herself, she was wanted for theft, assault against a police officer, and more theft. And then maybe kinda sorta murder. Not that she was culpable. He’d deserved it.

She’d rather lose a limb than spend any more time in jail.

Her fear of discovery was waning, though, and she was settling comfortably into her newest life as Macy Briggs. Maybe one day I’ll even be worthy of it. Again, not that she felt guilty. Really.

But with Christmas only a few weeks away . . . ugh. Worst. Holiday. Ever. Her “friends” would bake Macy’s favorite foods, not Aleaha’s. They would give her gifts meant for Macy, and reminisce fondly about good ole days she knew nothing about, and she would have to smile through every minute of it. And yeah, okay. Fine. Then she would feel guilty.

“What, ignoring me?” Devyn said with another of those snarky laughs. “Wasn’t like I was going to ask to feel you up or anything. I mean, I was just gonna surprise you with my handsiness.”

God, she was on the job, yet she’d lost track of her thoughts. Mortifying. “Can you take nothing

seriously?”

“Hello, have you met me? I take making out very seriously.”

All the men on the line snorted in their attempts to muffle their laughter. They might be wary of him, but they couldn’t help but enjoy his perverted sense of humor.

“Fuck you, Chuckles,” she said, trying not to reveal her amusement. Irreverent bastard.

“Excellent. We’re on the same page, because that’s exactly what I’m trying to do to you.”

Give herself to Devyn? Not in this lifetime, and not because he wasn’t attractive. If anything, he was too attractive. Hell, he was total screw-like-ananimal perfection. Tall, with dark hair, wide amber eyes, and skin that glittered like a jewel; there was no one else like him. There was a recipe for his smile, though: wicked desire dipped in acid, wrapped in steel and sprinkled with candy. The recipe for his laughter? Well, that was wicked desire tossed in the gutter, wrung out in a whorehouse, and slathered with scented body lotion. Women threw themselves at him constantly, and he ate it up like they were his own personal smorgasbord.

They probably were. Thank God she wasn’t in the market for a boyfriend. Or, rather, a lover, since that’s all someone as fickle as Devyn could ever amount to. Macy—the real Macy—had been dating a piece of scum Aleaha was still trying to lose and she didn’t have the time or patience to throw anyone else into the mix.

“Temper, temper,” Jaxon Tremain chided. He was one of two agents who hung out with the sexy otherworlder, and the resident smoother. There was something unnaturally calming about his presence, as if he could slink inside a person’s psyche and wash away her fears. “Would you kiss me with that mouth?”

“Funny,” she said dryly.

She could hear the others chortling and snorting with more surprised amusement. Someone said,

“Soliciting kisses from women, Jaxon? Mishka will kill you for that.”

“If by kill you mean seduce, then yeah,” Jaxon replied. “You’re right.”

Mishka was Jaxon’s wife and a hired killer who possessed a robotic arm. Aleaha had only seen her once, but that had been enough to scare ten years off her life. Never had she seen eyes so cold or heard a voice so uncaring. Of course, the moment Mishka spied Jaxon, her entire demeanor had changed. So had Jaxon’s, for that matter. Usually he was as con- servative as a priest. One glance at Mishka, though, and he’d morphed into gutter man.

Aleaha had marveled at the change in him, a change she was witnessing once again. Empathetic as he was, perhaps he was veering onto the perverted track now to get her mind off the bloody massacre sure to begin. Apparently, though, she didn’t need help today. She couldn’t concentrate worth a damn. What was wrong with her?

“Well,” Devyn said, drawing the spotlight back to him. As always. “Be a good lollipop and answer the man. Will you kiss him or not?”

“I could give you a list of all the things I’ll never do to you with my mouth,” she muttered. “How ’bout that?”

Devyn laughed, and, yep. It was wicked desire. “She reminds me of Mia when she talks like that. Tell us, Lolli, is that list for everyone or just Jaxon?”

“All right, team,” Mia Snow herself interjected before Aleaha could reply. “Save it. You know I only want you to stun these men. Do not burn them. I repeat, do not burn them. An open wound will bleed and that will spread their infection. And believe me, I will kill every single one of you myself if that happens.”

There was a moment of frightening silence. Infection. What a delightful reminder. Not only were the warriors coming here vicious, there was a possibility that they were bringing the plague with them.

“Good,” Mia continued. “I’ve got your attention. Solar flare approaching in ten.” She was inside a van about a mile away, watching the action on a night- vision monitor with a handful of backup agents. “Nine.”

Aleaha tensed. A few months ago, a big case had busted wide open and AIR had learned that otherworlders were traveling to Earth through interworld wormholes that initiated with solar flares. Then, a few weeks after that, another case had come to light. Members of a race of aliens known as the Schön had descended, their bodies carriers of a virus that passed to humans through their blood and ejaculate. This virus turned men and women into cannibals. Their queen—or living host of this sickness—was on her way here, due to arrive in the near future.

Tonight, ten members of her horde were supposed to utilize one of those wormholes. Their purpose: to smooth the way for her. Which meant, destroying AIR.

“Six.”

Shit. The countdown. Despite the frigid temperatures, sweat beaded on Aleaha’s brow, dripping from the brim of the white cap she wore. Stay calm. You have to stay calm.

“Five.”

Though her résumé claimed she’d worked as a cop for more than two years, this was actually Aleaha’s first mission.

What seemed forever ago but had only been a few months, she’d stumbled upon the body of a woman who’d been raped and killed in a back alley—a woman she’d recognized as Miss New Chicago’s Finest in Uniform calendar girl, Macy Briggs.

She’d almost walked away. The higher the public profile, the more scrutiny she received. But . . .

Already tired of the adult-toy-store clerk identity she’d previously stolen, Aleaha had seized the chance to better herself, hiding the body and shifting so that she was an exact match to Macy’s appearance, thereby claiming the woman’s life as her own.

Only later had she learned that Macy had applied to AIR and been accepted. To back out would have looked suspicious and changing identities yet again hadn’t appealed. So she’d done it. She’d attended that first day, then the next. And the next. They’d watched her suspiciously, as if they knew the truth, but they had never accused her and she’d realized she was probably paranoid. Soon they’d even relaxed, accepting her as one of their own. Now, here she was, done with trials and on mission one.

“—was actually your warm-up,” Mia said, cutting into her thoughts. “Ten. Nine.”

Shit. She’d missed the end of the first countdown? She was practically begging to be killed tonight.

“Seven. Six.”

Oh, God. What if she did, in fact, die out here? What if she lost everything she’d worked so hard to gain? Her gun hand shook. You have to stay calm, damn it.

With bouts of extreme emotion, she shifted from one identity to another without any control. “Four. Remember, guns set to stun and only stun.”

Her pyre-gun was already dialed to the proper setting, so she curled her index finger around the trigger and swallowed the hard lump in her throat. Breathe in, breathe out. You do know how to fire a weapon, at least. A skill she’d learned from her only true friend, Bride McKells. A vampire, and her champion. They’d been separated more than a decade ago, chased apart by cops who’d caught them breaking into homes for food, and Aleaha hadn’t been able to find her since. She’d never stop looking, though.

“One.”

Hop over to  XOXO After Dark to read more! 

http://xoxoafterdark.com/2014/08/12/pocket-star-e-nights-tempt-eternally-gena-showalter/?mcd=z_140825_ShowalterTemptMe_PSEN

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The post Spotlight and Giveaway: Tempt Me Eternally by Gena Showalter appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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1002. A Woman’s Iliad?

Browsing my parents’ bookshelves recently, in the dog days that followed sending Anna Karenina off to press, I found myself staring at a row of small hardback volumes all the same size. One in particular, with the words Romola and George Eliot embossed in gold on the dark green spine, caught my attention. It was an Oxford World’s Classics pocket edition – a present to my grandmother from her younger sister, who wrote an affectionate inscription in curling black ink (“with Best Love to Dellie on her 20th birthday from Mabel, July 3rd 1917”), and forgot to rub out the price of 1 shilling and 3 pence pencilled inside the front cover. Inside the back cover, meanwhile, towards the bottom of a long list of World’s Classics titles, my heart missed a beat when I espied “Tolstoy, Anna Karenina: in preparation”: Louise and Aylmer Maude’s translation was first published only in 1918.

As I drove homethat night with Romola in my bag, I thought about my grandmother reading Eliot’s novel (unusually set in Florence during the Renaissance, rather than in 19th-century England), and I also thought about the seismic changes taking place in Russia at the time of her birthday in 1917. I wondered whether she was given the new Oxford World’s Classics edition of Anna Karenina for her 21st birthday, and was disappointed on a later visit to my parents to be presented with her copy of Nathan Haskell Dole’s pioneering but wholly inadequate translation, reprinted in the inexpensive Nelson Classics series. I pictured my grandmother struggling with sentences such as those describing Anna’s hostile engagement with her husband. After Karenin has begun upbraiding Anna for consorting too openly with Vronsky at the beginning of the novel (Part 2, chapter 9), we read, for example: ‘“Nu-s! I hear you,” she said, in a calm tone of banter’. The Maudes later translated this sentence into English (“Well, I’m listening! What next?” said she quietly and mockingly”), but they also changed Tolstoy’s punctuation, and the sarcastically deferential tone of Anna’s voice (Nu-s, ya slushayu, chto budet, – progovorila ona spokoino i nasmeshlivo – “Well, I’m ready to hear what is next,” she said coolly and derisively”).

Back in 1917, Oxford Word’s Classics “pocket editions” featured a line-drawn portrait of the author, but no other illustration. These days, nearly every edition of Anna Karenina has a picture of a woman on the cover, even if Tolstoy’s bearded face is absent opposite the title page. More often than not it will be a Russian woman, painted by a Russian artist, and while we know this is not Anna, it is as if the limits of our imagination are somehow curbed before we even start reading. The dust-jacket for the new hardback Oxford World’s Classics edition of Anna Karenina reproduces Sir John Everett Millais’ portrait of Louise Jopling. The fact that this is an English painting of an English woman already mitigates against identifying her too closely with Anna, but this particular portrait is an inspired choice for other reasons, as I began to understand when I researched its history. To begin with, it was painted in 1879, just one year after Anna Karenina was first published as a complete novel. And the meticulous notes compiled by Vladimir Nabokov which anchor the events of the narrative between 1872 and 1876 also enable us to infer that the fictional Anna Karenina was about the same age as the real-life Louise Jopling, who was 36 when she sat for Millais. Their very different life paths, meanwhile, throw an interesting light on the theme at the centre of Tolstoy’s novel: the predicament of women.

Louise Jane Jopling (née Goode, later Rowe), by Sir John Everett Millais. National Portrait Gallery, London: NPG 6612. Wikimedia Commons
Louise Jane Jopling (née Goode, later Rowe), by Sir John Everett Millais. National Portrait Gallery, London: NPG 6612. Wikimedia Commons

Louise Jopling was one of the nine children born into the family of a railway contractor in Manchester in 1843. After getting married for the first time in 1861 at the age of 17 to Frank Romer, who was secretary to Baron Nathaniel de Rothschild, she studied painting in Paris, but returned to London at the end of the decade when her husband was fired. By 1874, her first husband (a compulsive gambler) and two of her three children were dead, she had married for the second time, to the watercolour painter Joseph Jopling, exhibited at the Royal Academy, and become a fixture in London’s artistic life. To enjoy any kind of success as a female painter at that time in Victorian Britain was an achievement, but even more remarkable was Louise Jopling’s lifelong campaign to improve women’s rights. She founded a professional art school for women in 1887, was a vigorous supporter of women’s suffrage, won voting rights for women at the Royal Society of Portrait Painters after being elected, fought for women to be able to paint from nude models, and became the first woman member of the Royal Society of British Artists in 1902. None of these doors were open to Anna Karenina as a member of St. Petersburg high society, although we learn in the course of the novel that she has a keen artistic sense, is a discerning reader, writes children’s fiction, and has a serious interest in education. Tolstoy’s wife Sofya similarly was never given the opportunity to fulfil her potential as a writer, photographer, and painter.

Louise Jopling was a beautiful woman, as is immediately apparent from Millais’ portrait. In her memoirs she describes posing for him in a carefully chosen embroidered black gown made in Paris, and consciously donning a charming and typically feminine expression to match. On the third day she came to sit for Millais, however, the two friends chanced to talk about something which made her feel indignant, and she forgot to wear her “designedly beautiful expression”. What was finally fixed in the portrait was a defiant and “rather hard” look, which, as she acknowledges, ultimately endowed her face with greater character. This peculiar combination of beauty and defiance is perhaps what most recalls the character of Anna Karenina, who in Part 5 of the novel confronts social prejudice and hypocrisy head-on by daring to attend the Imperial Opera in the full glare of the high society grandes dames who have rejected her.

Louise Jopling’s concern with how she is represented in her portrait, as a professional artist in her own right, as a painter’s model, and as a woman, also speaks to Tolstoy’s detailed exploration of the commodification and objectification of women in society and in art (as discussed by Amy Mandelker in her important study Framing Anna Karenina). It is for this reason that we encounter women in a variety of different situations (ranging from the unhappily married Anna, to the betrayed and careworn housewife Dolly, the young bride Kitty, the unmarried companion Varenka, and the former prostitute Marya), and three separate portraits of the heroine, seen from different points of view. Ernest Rhys interestingly compares Anna Karenina to “a woman’s Iliad” in his introduction to the 1914 Everyman’s Library edition of the novel. Another kind of woman’s Iliad could also be woven from the differing stories of some of Tolstoy’s intrepid early translators, amongst them Clara Bell, Isabel Hapgood, Rochelle S. Townsend, Constance Garnett, Louise Maude, Rosemary Edmonds, and Ann Dunnigan, to whom we owe a debt for paving the way.

The post A Woman’s Iliad? appeared first on OUPblog.

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1003. The 22nd Fall SCBWI Carolinas Conference – Part 3 and Charlie the Intern

Hey Readers,

Two things I wanted to cover this week. First was to introduce my new intern Charlie and the second was to talk a little more about my continuing plans for the SCBWI fall conference. Charlie is joining me from the AOIT (Academy of Information Technology) program at Apex High School. He will be helping me with the day to day tasks here at the studio as well as doing a little illustration work with me. Charlie is no stranger to Bob Ostrom Studio and has helped with several illustration jobs in the past. He is a very talented young artist who is excellent with Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator as well as having great technical skills. You may have noticed a few changes to this website and also to BobTeachesArt.com thanks to Charlies and his behind the scenes modifications.

Last week I had put together a little check list of items I wanted to get done for the fall SCBWI conference this year.  It seems the conference date is creeping up quickly and things are starting to pick up at Bob Ostrom Studio with fall right around the corner. I’ve been making steady progress with my list but it looks like I’m going to need to pick up the pace a little since I plan to add a few additional tasks this week.

  • Make new business cards… the real kind, not the cheap-out inkjet card stock kind
  • Get shirts printed
  • Begin printing out new pieces for the portfolio 
  • Design a rocking new postcard
  • Think of super cool affordable giveaway item
  • Take a nap
  • Continue working with my co-hosts on the business of art presentation

This weeks mission is to reach out to some of the other presenters and introduce myself. I’ve found it’s always helpful before an event if you can make a few connections ahead of time. That way when you get down there you can always find a few friendly faces and say hello in person. My plan is to see if I can find a few of the other faculty members I don’t know yet and introduce myself on LinkedIn.

So as many of you know I don’t do a lot of traveling for the business and speaking at this conference is a little bit a stretch for me. The way I see it though is if you never stretch you never grow and it’s time to do a little growing. What are you guys doing to stretch yourselves? Do you have any events planned this year to get you out and meeting people? I hope any of you who prefer to hibernate, like I do,  are pushing just a little bit harder to step outside your comfort zones and do a little growing. Well that’s all I have time for today. Lots of deadlines looming and lots of extra work to do for the conference. I feel like I’m in pretty good shape wit the check list and with the help of my new intern Charlie I’ve got things well in hand. 

 

 

 

The post The 22nd Fall SCBWI Carolinas Conference – Part 3 and Charlie the Intern appeared first on Bob Ostrom Studio - 919-809-6178.

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1004. Highlights from the 2014 SCBWI Summer Conference

Guest post by Lianna McSwain

Hi All! SCBWI-LA was a massive event. There were over 1,200 attendees and close to 100 professionals from the field. The conference took place over three days and included so much information I filled a notebook almost completely with notes, which I am happy to share with you. These notes cover only those events I was able to go to. It’s like a cupful of information that I collected from the fire hose.

I wish I could have been everywhere!

2014-Summer-banner-2

Friday

Meg Rosoff:

Meg Rosoff

After Lin Oliver and Stephen Mooser kicked off the conference by charming everyone with their wit and loveliness, we sat back and had our minds blown by Meg Rosoff.

Her talk dissected several academic complaints that fairy tales are harmful because they give children unrealistic perceptions of the world. The academics charged that stories such as Goldilocks and the Three Bears are dangerous because they fail to teach that bears live in dens not cottages, that they eat ant pupae not porridge and that they are more inclined to disembowel and eat small children than they are to be suitable playmates for them.

Meg Rosoff responded that fairy tales are dangerous, but not in the ways the academics say. She reminded us that fairy tales are subversive. They upend cultural norms and allow us access to our most repressed thoughts and fears.

Fairy Tales take the dark matter of our unconscious minds and put them into our hands.

She assigned us the task of going out into the world and writing those stories we’ve been told we can’t or shouldn’t write. She asked us to write subversive.


Editor’s Panel:

Lin Oliver

There were seven editors on the Friday morning editor’s panel: Alessandra Balzer (Balzer+Bray), Mary Lee Donovan (Candlewick), Allyn Johnston (Beach Lane Books), Wendy Loggia (Delacorte), Lucia Monfried (Dial), Dinah Stevenson (Clarion), and Julie Strauss-Gabel (Dutton).

Lin Oliver moderated the panel and asked the editors to begin by naming things they’d like to see more of.

Nearly everyone called for more work with voice.

The editors also called for work that was authentic, original and that surprised them.

Julie Strauss-Gabel asked that the writers take the time to get to know the editors, so that when submitting a work, the writer would know whether the work would be a good fit for that editor. Julie stated that she only publishes 9 or 10 works per year, and she needs to fall in love with them.

The other editors agreed that they too were hoping for works that the writers or agents saw as being a good fit for them. Wendy Loggia said that when an agent says to her, “you’re the best editor for this book” she feels a need to put that manuscript on the top of the pile.

Lin Oliver jumped in and recommended that writers consult the fabulous SCBWI resource called “Edited By.” This is a list of current editors and the ten books that they believe best represent the kind of work they like to publish. This list is included as a chapter in the Market Section of The Book. If you are not familiar with The Book, it is a pdf compilation of the most current information about the state of children’s book publishing available to all members of SCBWI for free, download here.

The editors agreed that while they understand that multiple submissions are the norm these days, they really all frown on submitting a manuscript to multiple editors within the same house.

Finally, Mary Lee Donovan looked for writing competence. Dinah Stevenson wanted a story with a definite beginning, middle and end and nothing over 100K words. Wendy Loggia requested that manuscripts have page numbers. Julie Straus Gable wanted stories that weren’t boring. Allyn Johnston requested stories that were readable out loud.

The editors also agreed that respectful communication goes a long way.

Judy Schachner:

Skippy

Judy let us into her mental art studio, and confirmed what I suspected all along—Ms. Schachner is a wellspring of genius! She showed us photos of her collage books. When she is creating a character and a story, she spends weeks and weeks pulling photos and compiling them into a workbook in a non-logical jumbled up way. She collages photos on top of drawings, loosely, with her editor’s eye turned off. When she has finished the book, she goes through and looks for juxtapositions that catch her eye. From this rich source material, she makes her story. I was very impressed by the amount of work she put into the generative stage, the stage before she began writing the story. Also, Judy is amazing at accents. She can slip into from a Tennessee drawl, to an Irish brogue, and then to Antonio Banderas. I’m in awe!

Saturday

Aaron Becker:

Aaron led us in a two part sing a long of “Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey. Imagine half the auditorium singing the bass line, and the other half singing the tenor line while Aaron Becker sang the melody on stage. He said we sang better than the editors and agents did at his last presentation. We all sat down feeling very smug. They don’t call us writers ‘the talent’ for nothing. ;)

I didn’t realize how much I liked Aaron’s wordless picture book Journey, until I saw it projected onto a large screen, and I could immerse myself into his gorgeous artwork. Journey was the only book I bought at this conference. Aaron’s story was very inspiring, as his first book was published later in life. His story exemplifies a quote I heard earlier from Erin Murphy:

“The path to success is filled with many waiting periods that feel like failure.”

Aaron Becker


Maggie Stiefvater:

Maggie

Maggie Steifvater stomped on stage looking like a punk rock cheerleader—all tight pants, boots, and leather bracelets covering up a shock wave of energy and enthusiasm.

Maggie talked about being a thief. She steals people’s souls. She freely admits to meeting people and finding their essence. Then she puts that essence into her characters. It’s easy, she said, “just find that one thing that makes them uniquely who they are.” If someone is wearing a plaid shirt, Maggie says, that detail is useless until you know why they are wearing a plaid shirt. When you know why, you can change the details, you can know how they will act in the future. Steal their soul, she said.

Sunday

Deborah Halverson:

Deborah Halverson

Deborah started the Market Report by reminding us that the watchword for 2013 had been ‘dip’. She meant that 2012 had been higher than normal because of the Hunger Games, Divergent and the new Wimpy Kid book, so the sales of 2013 were a return to sales slightly higher than 2011, but not as high as the blockbuster 2012.

She stated that for 2014, the dip is gone. All trade publications are up. Sales of print and ebooks are up 31%.

Picture books in the last two years have been the best ever, specifically those aimed at the youngest markets. Because older kids are moving to chapter books sooner, there is a demand for heavily illustrated chapter books. There is not a lot of demand for digital picture books.

Non-fiction picture books are on the rise, though Deborah stated that they should be considered an extra opportunity rather than a driving force behind higher sales numbers. Writers should be aware that there seems to be a backlash against the common core, so non-fiction picture books need to have entertainment value apart from their ability to fill the common core niche. (A text’s compliance with Common Core requirements should be that extra hook that pleases the editor who would have bought the book anyway.) Non-fiction books that have a strong character driven narrative still sell well, and longer texts are still acceptable.

Chapter Book sales continue to grow because of titles such as The Magic Tree House, Geronimo Stilton, and Dragonbreath. These highly illustrated hybrid books help readers find their footing. Single title Chapter Books struggle for shelf space in the midst of many series which dominate the market niche.

Middle Grade is finally on the upswing. There seems to be a lot of excitement surrounding recent middle grade titles, both series and stand alone titles. Editors are eager to find the right the combination of voice and humor, which have to be spot on. There is a call for more adventure fantasy, and light humor. There is also a place for historical fiction as long as it sounds contemporary.

Young Adult sales are starting to slow down a little, except for within the field of realistic contemporary fiction. Editors are excited about stories that focus on normal kids within normal school settings. Editors are also eager to see YA thrillers and mystery stories including some speculative fiction with a thriller twist. Historical YA is still a hard sell, and paranormal titles are tricky.

Overall, the field is looking up and editors are optimistic that the market will continue to be strong.

linda sue parkLinda Sue Park:

Linda is gracious and calm but she writes like a ninja. Here is her advice for writing lean, clean prose. She says:

Take each block of text and treat it as if it were a prose poem.

Give each clause its own line so you can see which words are working and which ones are cluttering up the flow. Eliminate all clutter.

bruce_covilleBruce Coville:

Bruce advised creating a Bible for each series with detailed character studies, historical background, and the rules of the world. The more detailed the Bible, the more potential a story has for becoming a series.

At this point we were all exhausted, staggering around under the weight of our books, looking bleary-eyed for the exit.

It was a great conference.
Lianna McSwainLianna McSwain lives in Northern California with her husband and her two extraordinarily charming children. After a career in economic development and fundraising, she finally returned to her true love, writing. Lianna is completing an MFA in writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts, specializing in YA and Middle Grade. When she is not writing, she is reading and eating chocolate. Or playing music and taking improv classes. Or hiking with friends.  She rarely does housework willingly. Sometimes she just sits there, thinking.


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1005. Music Monday - The Wedding Song

One of my very good friend's daughter (who is best friends with *my* daughter) is getting married tomorrow. My daughter and I have been doing what we can to help out with reception details.

With all this wedding-on-the-brain, I thought I'd share my favorite wedding song. This version by Gordon Lightfoot:

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1006. Watch Out, Hollywood! Blog Tour

We're featuring the second book in the Confessions of a So-Called Middle Child--Watch Out, Hollywood!  Read on for a quick interview with the author and a chance to win a copy of the books.

Confessions of a So-Called Middle Child cover.jpg Watch Out Hollywood! More Confessions of a So-Called Middle Child cover.jpg

About the Book

Hilarious tween heroine Charlie C. Cooper—reformed bully, misguided fashionista, and so-called middle child—is back! This sequel to Confessions of a So-called Middle Child will delight fans of Louise Rennison, Mean Girls, and Harriet the Spy.

Charlie's adventures offer a fresh look at middle school, bullying, and mean girls. In Book Two, Charlie navigates sudden celebrity and auditions for a television series, but a little white lie may endanger the one friendship Charlie can truly count on—and her connection to swoon-worthy crush Bobby! Poignant and seriously funny, Charlie's account of her dilemma is one all tweens will relate to.

Charlie knows what it feels like to be stuck in the middle, but it's finally her time to shine. After saving her friend Marta in the old Houdini tunnels of Los Angeles, Charlie's become a local hero, gained sudden celebrity, and *MIGHT* just become a TV star! But will Charlie let her newfound fame go to her head? Watch out, Hollywood!

Q&A with Maria T. Lennon

RNSL: What's the most important thing you try to emphasize when you write a story like Charlie's? Is it humor and fun, a life lesson, or a balance of several aspects?

MTL: When you write a book I think you need to have skin in the game—to quote Jonathan Franzen. It has to mean something. So, when I started writing about Charlie I wanted to write a story about a young girl trying to figure out who she was and how she fits in. Kids all try to see how they fit in, and they’ll try on a variety of different identities to see which one fits. Am I an athlete? Am I a brain? Am I—wait I’m none of these things. Then what? Am I bad? Am I the troublemaker? That’s the girl who interests me. The girl who just can’t find the thing that fits. So, it begins with a girl, there has to be a point and, of course, humor. Humor is everything in life.

RNSL: Where do you get your sense of humor?

MTL: My father. He was so funny—like hold-your-stomach funny. He had one of the driest, funniest senses of humor I’ve ever come across and thankfully I think we’ve inherited it by osmosis. No matter what we went through as kids—and we went through a lot—he had us laughing. And we still laugh all the time.

RNSL: Have you always been a writer? Tell us how you got started on the path that led you to your current career.

MTL: Yes. Always. First it was notes slipped under my mother’s door to apologize when I did something bad, and then when I went to school in England all I did was write essay after essay. I had great teachers and they supported my efforts.

RNSL: Is there a book or screenplay out there that you love so much, you wish you had been the one to write it? (I'll tell you mine: The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger--the book, NOT the so-called movie!)

MTL: Million Dollar Baby and Brokeback Mountain are, in my humble opinion, perfection.

RNSL: If you could live anywhere else in the world except Los Angeles, where would it be and why?

MTL: In my mind there is always an act three. Act one: Get your life together, figure out who you are and what you want to be. Act two: Build a family and a life. And then Act three—do whatever the heck you like. Now, I’m still in act two but when act three comes along I’d like to have a house in the south of Italy. My husband is from Italy and we lived there for a long time before moving back to LA and having children. Life by the sea there is a good life. 

About the Author

Maria T. Lennon is a graduate of the London School of Economics, a novelist, a screenwriter, and the author of Confessions of a So-called Middle Child, the first book featuring the irrepressible Charlie C. Cooper. When not driving one of her four children to school or volunteering at school libraries, she can be found sitting in a parked car, a café, or a library, writing novels, travel articles, or just passed out. To learn more, and to download a free curiculum guide, visit her website: http://confessionsofasocalledmiddlechild.com/.

Blog Tour Schedule

Follow all of the stops on Maria Lennon’s blog tour!

Wed, Aug 13 - The Hiding Spot
Mon, Aug 18 - Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers
Tues, Aug 19 - The Book Monsters
Wed, Aug 20 - The Children's Book Review
Thurs, Aug 21 - Kid Lit Frenzy
Fri, Aug 22 - Booking Mama
Mon, Aug 25 - Read Now, Sleep Later
Tues, Aug 26 - Once upon a Story
Wed, Aug 27 - The Late Bloomer's Book Blog
Thurs, Aug 28 - The Haunting of Orchid Forsythia
Fri, Aug 29 - Beauty and the Bookshelf

Giveaway

One lucky winner will receive both books featuring Charlie C. Cooper--Confessions of a So-Called Middle Child, new in paperback, and Watch Out, Hollywood! More Confessions of a So-Called Middle Child, in hardcover! (U.S. addresses only.)

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1007. Highlights from the 2014 SCBWI Summer Conference

Guest post by Lianna McSwain

Hi All! SCBWI-LA was a massive event. There were over 1,200 attendees and close to 100 professionals from the field. The conference took place over three days and included so much information I filled a notebook almost completely with notes, which I am happy to share with you. These notes cover only those events I was able to go to. It’s like a cupful of information that I collected from the fire hose.

I wish I could have been everywhere!

2014-Summer-banner-2

Friday

Meg Rosoff:

Meg Rosoff

After Lin Oliver and Stephen Mooser kicked off the conference by charming everyone with their wit and loveliness, we sat back and had our minds blown by Meg Rosoff.

Her talk dissected several academic complaints that fairy tales are harmful because they give children unrealistic perceptions of the world. The academics charged that stories such as Goldilocks and the Three Bears are dangerous because they fail to teach that bears live in dens not cottages, that they eat ant pupae not porridge and that they are more inclined to disembowel and eat small children than they are to be suitable playmates for them.

Meg Rosoff responded that fairy tales are dangerous, but not in the ways the academics say. She reminded us that fairy tales are subversive. They upend cultural norms and allow us access to our most repressed thoughts and fears.

Fairy Tales take the dark matter of our unconscious minds and put them into our hands.

She assigned us the task of going out into the world and writing those stories we’ve been told we can’t or shouldn’t write. She asked us to write subversive.


Editor’s Panel:

Lin Oliver

There were seven editors on the Friday morning editor’s panel: Alessandra Balzer (Balzer+Bray), Mary Lee Donovan (Candlewick), Allyn Johnston (Beach Lane Books), Wendy Loggia (Delacorte), Lucia Monfried (Dial), Dinah Stevenson (Clarion), and Julie Strauss-Gabel (Dutton).

Lin Oliver moderated the panel and asked the editors to begin by naming things they’d like to see more of.

Nearly everyone called for more work with voice.

The editors also called for work that was authentic, original and that surprised them.

Julie Strauss-Gabel asked that the writers take the time to get to know the editors, so that when submitting a work, the writer would know whether the work would be a good fit for that editor. Julie stated that she only publishes 9 or 10 works per year, and she needs to fall in love with them.

The other editors agreed that they too were hoping for works that the writers or agents saw as being a good fit for them. Wendy Loggia said that when an agent says to her, “you’re the best editor for this book” she feels a need to put that manuscript on the top of the pile.

Lin Oliver jumped in and recommended that writers consult the fabulous SCBWI resource called “Edited By.” This is a list of current editors and the ten books that they believe best represent the kind of work they like to publish. This list is included as a chapter in the Market Section of The Book. If you are not familiar with The Book, it is a pdf compilation of the most current information about the state of children’s book publishing available to all members of SCBWI for free, download here.

The editors agreed that while they understand that multiple submissions are the norm these days, they really all frown on submitting a manuscript to multiple editors within the same house.

Finally, Mary Lee Donovan looked for writing competence. Dinah Stevenson wanted a story with a definite beginning, middle and end and nothing over 100K words. Wendy Loggia requested that manuscripts have page numbers. Julie Straus Gable wanted stories that weren’t boring. Allyn Johnston requested stories that were readable out loud.

The editors also agreed that respectful communication goes a long way.

Judy Schachner:

Skippy

Judy let us into her mental art studio, and confirmed what I suspected all along—Ms. Schachner is a wellspring of genius! She showed us photos of her collage books. When she is creating a character and a story, she spends weeks and weeks pulling photos and compiling them into a workbook in a non-logical jumbled up way. She collages photos on top of drawings, loosely, with her editor’s eye turned off. When she has finished the book, she goes through and looks for juxtapositions that catch her eye. From this rich source material, she makes her story. I was very impressed by the amount of work she put into the generative stage, the stage before she began writing the story. Also, Judy is amazing at accents. She can slip into from a Tennessee drawl, to an Irish brogue, and then to Antonio Banderas. I’m in awe!

Saturday

Aaron Becker:

Aaron led us in a two part sing a long of “Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey. Imagine half the auditorium singing the bass line, and the other half singing the tenor line while Aaron Becker sang the melody on stage. He said we sang better than the editors and agents did at his last presentation. We all sat down feeling very smug. They don’t call us writers ‘the talent’ for nothing. ;)

I didn’t realize how much I liked Aaron’s wordless picture book Journey, until I saw it projected onto a large screen, and I could immerse myself into his gorgeous artwork. Journey was the only book I bought at this conference. Aaron’s story was very inspiring, as his first book was published later in life. His story exemplifies a quote I heard earlier from Erin Murphy:

“The path to success is filled with many waiting periods that feel like failure.”

Aaron Becker


Maggie Stiefvater:

Maggie

Maggie Steifvater stomped on stage looking like a punk rock cheerleader—all tight pants, boots, and leather bracelets covering up a shock wave of energy and enthusiasm.

Maggie talked about being a thief. She steals people’s souls. She freely admits to meeting people and finding their essence. Then she puts that essence into her characters. It’s easy, she said, “just find that one thing that makes them uniquely who they are.” If someone is wearing a plaid shirt, Maggie says, that detail is useless until you know why they are wearing a plaid shirt. When you know why, you can change the details, you can know how they will act in the future. Steal their soul, she said.

Sunday

Deborah Halverson:

Deborah Halverson

Deborah started the Market Report by reminding us that the watchword for 2013 had been ‘dip’. She meant that 2012 had been higher than normal because of the Hunger Games, Divergent and the new Wimpy Kid book, so the sales of 2013 were a return to sales slightly higher than 2011, but not as high as the blockbuster 2012.

She stated that for 2014, the dip is gone. All trade publications are up. Sales of print and ebooks are up 31%.

Picture books in the last two years have been the best ever, specifically those aimed at the youngest markets. Because older kids are moving to chapter books sooner, there is a demand for heavily illustrated chapter books. There is not a lot of demand for digital picture books.

Non-fiction picture books are on the rise, though Deborah stated that they should be considered an extra opportunity rather than a driving force behind higher sales numbers. Writers should be aware that there seems to be a backlash against the common core, so non-fiction picture books need to have entertainment value apart from their ability to fill the common core niche. (A text’s compliance with Common Core requirements should be that extra hook that pleases the editor who would have bought the book anyway.) Non-fiction books that have a strong character driven narrative still sell well, and longer texts are still acceptable.

Chapter Book sales continue to grow because of titles such as The Magic Tree House, Geronimo Stilton, and Dragonbreath. These highly illustrated hybrid books help readers find their footing. Single title Chapter Books struggle for shelf space in the midst of many series which dominate the market niche.

Middle Grade is finally on the upswing. There seems to be a lot of excitement surrounding recent middle grade titles, both series and stand alone titles. Editors are eager to find the right the combination of voice and humor, which have to be spot on. There is a call for more adventure fantasy, and light humor. There is also a place for historical fiction as long as it sounds contemporary.

Young Adult sales are starting to slow down a little, except for within the field of realistic contemporary fiction. Editors are excited about stories that focus on normal kids within normal school settings. Editors are also eager to see YA thrillers and mystery stories including some speculative fiction with a thriller twist. Historical YA is still a hard sell, and paranormal titles are tricky.

Overall, the field is looking up and editors are optimistic that the market will continue to be strong.

linda sue parkLinda Sue Park:

Linda is gracious and calm but she writes like a ninja. Here is her advice for writing lean, clean prose. She says:

Take each block of text and treat it as if it were a prose poem.

Give each clause its own line so you can see which words are working and which ones are cluttering up the flow. Eliminate all clutter.

bruce_covilleBruce Coville:

Bruce advised creating a Bible for each series with detailed character studies, historical background, and the rules of the world. The more detailed the Bible, the more potential a story has for becoming a series.

At this point we were all exhausted, staggering around under the weight of our books, looking bleary-eyed for the exit.

It was a great conference.
Lianna McSwainLianna McSwain lives in Northern California with her husband and her two extraordinarily charming children. After a career in economic development and fundraising, she finally returned to her true love, writing. Lianna is completing an MFA in writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts, specializing in YA and Middle Grade. When she is not writing, she is reading and eating chocolate. Or playing music and taking improv classes. Or hiking with friends.  She rarely does housework willingly. Sometimes she just sits there, thinking.


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1008. Win Rumble by Ellen Hopkins!

This morning I have a giveaway for Ellen Hopkins’ latest release RUMBLE.  Check out the blurb and enter to win a copy!

 

Can an atheist be saved? The New York Times bestselling author of Crank and Tricks explores the highly charged landscapes of faith and forgiveness with brilliant sensitivity and emotional resonance.

“There is no God, no benevolent ruler of the earth, no omnipotent grand poobah of countless universes. Because if there was…my little brother would still be fishing or playing basketball instead of fertilizing cemetery vegetation.”
Matthew Turner doesn’t have faith in anything.

Not in family—his is a shambles after his younger brother was bullied into suicide. Not in so-called friends who turn their backs when things get tough. Not in some all-powerful creator who lets too much bad stuff happen. And certainly not in some “It Gets Better” psychobabble.

No matter what his girlfriend Hayden says about faith and forgiveness, there’s no way Matt’s letting go of blame. He’s decided to “live large and go out with a huge bang,” and whatever happens happens. But when a horrific event plunges Matt into a dark, silent place, he hears a rumble…a rumble that wakes him up, calling everything he’s ever disbelieved into question.

About Ellen Hopkins:

Ellen Hopkins is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Crank, Burned, Impulse, Glass, Identical, Tricks, Fallout, Perfect, Tilt, and Smoke, as well as the adult novels Triangles and Collateral. She has helped to shape the literary landscape with more than 4.5 million copies in print. Successfully combining her two passions—writing poetry and writing fiction—her compelling novels told in free verse expose and examine the struggles facing today’s youth. Ellen lives with her family in Carson City, Nevada, where she founded Ventana Sierra, a nonprofit youth housing and resource initiative designed to help highly motivated young people build solid career paths toward a more positive future. Rumble is her latest book. Visit her at www.EllenHopkins.com or go to www.VentanaSierra.org.

US addresses only, please.

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1009. Legs to Crush a Runway

I love what Sally Bergesen, founder of Oiselle, recently posted HERE. Fashion is chasing us. Atfter all the original leggings were running tights I’m sure.

running and life fashion

Run. Life. Fashion


I couldn’t be more on-board with this, at last the fashion mavens and my world intersect. Would it too brazen to say that my runnerchick friends and I helped cause this shift with our #SweatsintheCity movement? Possibly, probably, but who cares?

Running clothes are comfortable, if others want to call it fashionable (and I’ve given you GOOD REASON to find them fashionable…Bergesen does too in fact), then that’s awesome.

But outside of comfort, may I tell you that for me, running clothes represent much more than a fashion statement. The love runs much deeper.

Running makes me feel special. It’s not the only thing, but it sure does make me feel special. No matter what happens in a day, if I’ve gotten my run on I feel accomplished. Most ‘regular’ people flee from discomfort, I run towards it, embrace it because it’s a test.

I wear my running shorts in public and they are a token reminder that I worked that day.
ezzere peacock runner tee
Running has introduced me to my best friends, opened me up to an entire community of people that, without even knowing them or needing to say a word to them…we GET each other.

The running shirt I’m wearing feels especially fashionable after a hard workout. I want to eke out every second of the feeling that comes with pushing my body.

Running gives me focus. Creativity. The best ideas always come to me on my run, or the loose thoughts finally connect.

My running shoes are more comfortable than heels.

#SweatsintheCity may have moved to the bona-fide runway, but unlike the thin legged models, fashion moguls, or masses of those donning these duds purely because it’s now ‘cool’ to do so…I, WE, are not posers.

My fashion is legit. Because within these running shirts, tanks, shoes, beat the hearts of real runners. With legs that could crush a runway.

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1010. Writing Quote: Writer’s Block

calvin-writers


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1011. Film Review: If I Stay

Saturday morning I decided to cry my eyes out at an early showing of If I Stay.



Any money saved by going to that early show was quickly spent on eating my feelings afterward, and buying a feel-good book to counter all the sad.

That's good, by the way. In case you were wondering.

If I Stay is the film based on Gayle Forman's book of the same name. Earlier this summer I reviewed If I Stay, and it's companion, Where She Went.

If I Stay is the story of a Mia, a seventeen year old girl whose family was in a terrible car accident. She is in a coma, yet can still observe the world around her, including learning what has happened to her parents and baby brother. Should she fight to stay alive?

Here is the thing. I cried at the trailers for this film. I cried when I read the book. I knew all the plot points. There were no surprises. And yet.... I cried through the whole film.

Why?

Because sometimes, it's not what happens. It's the emotional journey. And no matter how many times you go on that journey, it remains heart wrenching. Plus, Chloe Grace Moretz as Mia was stunning -- the perfect portrayal of not just Mia, but of a teenage girl, with insecurities and faults, strengths and passion. She made Mia so real that my heart broke, yet again, as I saw Mia realizing what she had lost and trying to decide if what she had left was enough.

As in the book, If I Stay introduces us to Mia, a teenager who is fairly typical. She has a good family and friends and a boyfriend. She loves them; they love her. That's big. That's huge. And it's a huge thing played out against a life that is not much different from the viewers. That Mia is "just another teen" is the strength of this movie. Oh, yes, she's also a cellist who wants to go to Julliard, and I'm not diminishing her talent or her dream but really -- she's not a superstar. She's not performing in front of crowds from the time she's five.

Even in Mia's music, which yes, matters to her -- it's hers, and it's something she loves and is passionate about, but it's also something that she's not sure of. Is she good enough? It's a question any teen asks themselves, as they try to decide what to do with their life. It's a bit heightened in that Mia's father is in a band, and she's grown up around music and musicians (even if it's not her type of music), so she's well aware -- even if its never outright stated -- that a person can love something and it not mean they are the best at it.

One thing I like about visual storytelling is it can show me things, reveal things, that I may not have picked up in the book. And yes, sometimes this is because of changes in the adaptation, but it's often about staying true to the spirit of the book if not the text. So, for me, the movie made me understand more how Mia viewed her father leaving his band to pursue a job that was more stable as something he did because of her younger brother, Teddy -- never realizing it was also for her.

The movie is true to the book, but something happened at one point where I both feared and hoped that a change had been made and I said to myself, please please please even though there was no way, no way, and it was just like in the book BUT STILL MY FOOLISH HEART, IT HOPED.

There were a couple changes that I thought made the movie stronger. Slight spoilers, here --

In both, Adam and Mia's other friends at first cannot visit her because of hospital rules limiting visitors to immediate family. So, of course, they decide a distraction is needed -- and it's changed in the movie. Personally, the book-one was one that I had eye-rolled at but that's because I found it too over the top for my tastes; and I think the movie-one makes much more sense and is more "real."

My only slight problem with the movie -- and this I think is editing -- also has to do with the visitor rule. (Spoilers, again.) While the viewer can infer that a family friend who works at the hospital stepped in to allow visitors despite the rule, it's not explicitly said, and I can see some viewers thinking "wait, look at all those visitors now? why?" (And if it was explicit and I didn't hear that line in my crying, let me know and I'll remove this paragraph.)

One last personal observation: the book was fresh in my mind. So I cannot write to the experience of someone who has no knowledge of the book -- whether, to them, the movie worked as well as it did for me.

So overall: thumbs up!

Now, on to quibble about other people's reviews. In part because for both of them, I wondered how much it was about teen girls, and films for teen girls, than this particular film.

While The New York Times review is overall good, why the hell does any review of If I Stay need to include a The Fault In Our Stars reference? Maybe I'm being a bit sensitive, but it seems like many other films, for other genres and audiences beyond teen girls, get reviewed without including references to other films for the same audience.

Also calling Adam a bad boy...where in the film does it say he is? Adam is only a "bad boy" for a viewer who assumes, from the start, that any teenage boy in a band is "bad." Which just leaves me annoyed, because "bad" is about actions, not about liking to play punk / rock music; wearing leather; and having a less-than-perfect family. Also, why not just praise Moretz as a good actor? Saying she's good at this role because it somehow reflects something in her own diminishes Moretz's accomplishments, even if its meant as a compliment. It's called ACTING.

I'm also less than a fan of the School Library Journal review, but that's more because I disagree that Moretz's performance made Mia into a girl who was "taciturn and a bit sullen." (Yes, Mia is shown to be a private and quiet, but especially combining taciturn with "sullen" leads me to think this isn't using the tern taciturn in a positive way.) That and other ways the review talks about Mia makes me think "ok, so Moretz is playing a typical teen...and that's somehow not good?" I also have to rewatch the film because I thought the point of their car trip was visiting friends and family, not snowboarding, but I may have missed that reference. And I think paring down Mia's circle of family and friends is necessary for a film; too many people can be too hard to keep track of. But that's just me.











Movie poster from Gayle Forman's Tumblr.

Amazon Affiliate. If you click from here to Amazon and buy something, I receive a percentage of the purchase price.

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

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1012. It's Monday! What Are You Reading? - 8/25/14


   a
**********************
I hope you had a great reading week.  
 
**********************
This is a weekly meme run by Book Journey!
 

Post the books completed last week, the books you are currently reading, and the books you hope to finish this week. 

There is a giveaway for WE ARE NOT OURSELVES here until August 28.

********************** 

Books Completed Last Week:


THE WINTER GUEST by Pam Jenoff


Another wonderful read by Pam Jenoff.  

My review will be up on Wednesday, August 27.

**********************

Book Currently Reading: 

THE STORY OF LAND AND SEA by Katy Simpson Smith

This book is for a TLC tour for September 26.



Books Up Next:


NEVERHOME by Laird Hunt


FLIGHT OF THE SPARROW by Amy Belding Brown


THREE STORY HOUSE by Courtney Miller Santo


GARDEN OF LETTERS by Alyson Richman


AN UNSEEMINGLY WIFE by E. B. Moore

TAHOE GHOST by Todd Borg


THE BEEKEEPER'S BALL by Susan Wiggs


HIGH SEAS DARKNESS by



VILLAGE OF SECRETS by Caroline Moorehead.



THE TRUTH ABOUT THE HARRY QUEBERT AFFAIR by Joel Dicker


THE GIRL WHO CAME HOME by Hazel Gaynor


WOMAN OF ILL FAME by Erika Mailman



THE SIGNATURE OF ALL THINGS by Elizabeth Gilbert



PERFECT by Rachel Joyce


UNDER THE WIDE AND STARRY SKY by Nancy Horan


**********************

The books below are not necessarily in the order I have planned to read them.  

I normally read in order of publication or tour date.

And....these are not for reading in the upcoming week.  They are books into and including all of 2014.

The "list" is a means of keeping me organized.  A visual display helps a lot for organization along with my Excel lists. 

     

How was your reading week?  










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1013. 2015 Looney Tunes Calendar Is One For The Ages

Some people say Bugs and gang ain't kewl no more, but Warner Bros. got its bizness figured with this hella wicked 2015 Looney Tunes wall calendar.

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1014. Jessie Would You Rather?

Debby Ryan in Jessie

“It feels like a party every day. Hey, Jessie! Hey, hey, Jessie!” If you recognize this song, then you probably watch the Disney Channel show Jessie.

Start with a small town Texas girl with dreams of the big city . . . add a wealthy, kooky family with 4 totally different kids, and you end up with Jessie. We know you guys are BIG fans and something BIG is supposed to be happening this fall. So to get you in the spirit, Jessie-style, answer the following quiz questions.

Would you rather . . .

1. Be a nanny to Emma, Luke, Ravi, and Zuri in New York City OR baby Prince George in England?
2. Have all of the clothes in Jessie’s closet OR Emma’s closet?
3. Inherit Mr. Kipling OR a giant angry tarantula as your new pet?
4. Vacation in Texas and hang out with cowboys OR California and hang with movie stars?
5. See Jessie fall in love with Tony the doorman OR Ross Lynch from Austin & Ally?
6. Be babysat by Nanny McPhee OR Agatha the evil nanny?
7. Miss a trip to outer space on your birthday OR get stranded in space forever? (like what happened to Ravi in the “Spaced Out” episode)
8. Have Bertram cook you breakfast OR go to IHOP?






Let us know what YOU would rather do, AND if you’ve heard the buzz of what is going to happen this fall!

- Ratha, STACKS Writer

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1015. Guest Post: Why Author Jan Flores Walks Shelter Dogs… Part 2

Everyone is emotionally touched by an animal at some point in their lives. For me, having a dog in the house since the day I was born forever cemented canines in my heart. Some people have had terrible experiences with animals, while others can’t live without one. If you’re thinking about getting a dog or cat to add to your family, then I urge you to adopt a pet from your local animal shelter. You’ll not only help an animal in need, you’ll receive something we ALL need—unconditional love.

 And now, without further ado, part two of Jan Flores’s heartwarming tail, er tale…

Things have changed at the shelter where I volunteer as a dog walker. It now has a Behavior and Training Department, whose members evaluate the dogs that come in to determine if they have any medical and/or behavior problems before advancing them to the adoption floor. But when I first started, it was just me, the dogs, and a slip lead (For those who don’t know what a slip lead is, it’s a long piece of material about half an inch wide with a metal “D” ring at one end. To use it, you thread the end through the ring, forming a circle that substitutes as a collar. The “slip” of the lead means that it can be adjusted to any size dog).  In those early days, I quickly learned that it wasn’t so simple as: put on a leash and go.

I chose to work with the clinic/hospital dogs instead of those already up for adoption because they seemed to be most in need of help and attention. They didn’t know where they were, or why their family had left them behind in a strange place.  I wasn’t a familiar face, but I could be a helping hand, letting them know—for the brief time I was there on my volunteer day—that they weren’t alone.

It was an experiment for both of us. In those early days, I had no way of knowing when I entered a kennel what I was about to face. Some dogs “shut down” in depression and turned away; others became aggressive because they were uncertain and scared. But most were so glad to see me that they almost vibrated with excitement.  A leash, a leash, we’re going for a walk! I could see it in their faces, and it makes me smile every time.  Their joy at such a simple act almost makes me forget why they are here. Almost.

It was a shock to learn that only a minority of the shelter dogs are strays (at least in our shelter); the majority have been brought in by owners with various excuses (see Part I) about why they can’t  keep the dog any longer. But one justification I’ll never understand, is “We just don’t want him anymore.”

How can you not want a dog who has been a faithful family member for years? How can you throw him away for someone else to take care of just because he has silver around the muzzle, or cataracts in his eyes, or limbs crippled with arthritis? To see such a dog watching his former family walking away without looking back is simply gut-wrenching.

I always pay special attention to these old dogs. The look in their eyes just breaks my heart.

On a brighter note, here are some of the special dogs I’ve met at the shelter:

HOLLY:  (so named because she was found in a parking lot at Christmas). We never knew what happened to this white, bright-eyed little Maltese cross—whether it was abuse, or being hit by a car—that caused paralysis in both hind legs. I admit to mixed emotions when they fitted her with a canine version of a wheelchair. It seemed so unnaturalto me. But when I saw Holly’s joy at being able to race around—sometimes on one wheel—I had to admit that, for her, it was the right prescription.

 LEO: a small boxer cross that came from Mexicowith what appeared at first to be a tumor the size of a small grapefruit under his chin. I won’t go into the medical details this dog suffered; suffice to say he became one of the most loved because of his resilience, determination, and sheer refusal to lose to a deadly disease.

STEVIE: a black, blind terrier cross with eyes that looked like silver coins. He was found wandering on a busy thoroughfare. It was a miracle he wasn’t killed. The shelter vet reluctantly determined that it was too late to restore his vision, but he didn’t let his blindness stop him. Whenever he heard the jingle of a harness and a leash, he whirled in circles, eager to go outside for a walk.

CHANCE: a beautiful 25-pound American Eskimo, with the blackest eyes and a blindingly white coat (once he’d had a bath to wash away the street grime). He had many physical problems, but he didn’t let that stop him. Sometimes he just wanted to sit with my arm around him while we watched the world go by.

FLOWER: an abused pit bull with so much potential. Black with a little white on her chest; eyes gleaming with intelligence. We worked hard getting her aggression under control so she could be adopted, only to have her returned in a semi-crazed state with no explanation about what had happened. Despite our best efforts, she quickly developed “shelter stress”, and even though it was the best thing for her, it was a sad day for us all when she was put down. Such a loss for a dog who had tried so hard.

ABBIE: an extremely shy Aussie, with a beautiful “Autumn” coat. She would retreat to the opposite of her kennel and shake when anyone tried to get near her, but with a lot of patience we brought her out of her shell and into a new life.

BRIE: another Aussie. She had to have her front leg amputated because her owner left a home-made, too-tight bandage on and left it on too long, destroying the circulation in that leg. She was a brave and uncomplaining girl who just wanted to be loved. That’s what we gave her—until her new family came along, fell in love, and adopted her.

There are so many more that I could go on and on. They pass through my mind like a fancy shuffle, with the cards falling in a waterfall, moving so fast I can’t see the faces. But I know they were there, and I believe I did my own small part in helping them. What they did for me—and continue to do—is more than I can say.

Janis Flores was born in Montana, and raised in Colorado and California. After graduating from college, she received her license in Medical Technology, married Ray Flores, and they moved to northern California—she to supervise a laboratory, he to establish his horseshoeing business. She found time to take a class on the short story, but instead wrote her first book—a Gothic suspense titled HAWKSHEAD, which was subsequently published in hardcover by (then) Doubleday and company. Thirty-four novels—from historical to contemporary mainstream—followed.

SWEETER THAN WINE, published by Musapublishing.com, is her first ebook.
The award-winning TOUCHED BY FIRE has now been reissued in ebook form.

Both titles can be found at:

SWEETER THAN WINE:

TOUCHED BY FIRE:

You can find Jan on her website: www.janisflores.com

On Twitter: @JanisOFlores

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1016. Sunday Sketching -

In the teensy purse Moleskine balanced upon my knee....


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1017. Why Readers and Writers are the Best People by Tamsyn Murray

Last week, I had a very sad experience. We found a stray cat in the woods and brought it home, hoping to find its owner. The cat was horribly thin but very friendly and I was certain he belonged to someone, although he had clearly been lost for some time. So we did what we could - fed him, stroked him, nicknamed him Huck and the next day, took him to the vet to see if he had a microchip.

The vet had bad news: Huck wasn't chipped. Even worse, he needed a raft of expensive tests and treatment, which I couldn't afford on my own. So I put a shout out on Twitter and Facebook, asking people to donate if they could to Help Huck to recover from his ordeal and get back to his family. Many, many people donated and we smashed the £500 target in less than twenty-four hours. It didn't take long before I noticed something: almost all of the people who gave money were writers. Now you might think that there's nothing so very unexpected about that - I know a lot of writers, after all. But I think there's more to it than that. I have a few thousand followers on Twitter, several hundred Facebook friends. The proportion of people donating from that pool was very small, especially when you factor in retweets and shares. And they were mostly writers. Lovely, lovely writers.

I think it's because as writers, we empathise. In Huck's case, we empathised with the owners, searching in vain for their lost cat. We imagined he was our cat, lost and scared, and hoped that someone kind might find him and do what they could to help him. Some of us put ourselves in Huck's place, lonely and hungry. And because we could imagine ourselves in some or all of those situations, we were moved to do something to help. And we wanted a happy ending, the one where Huck got better and was reunited with his family. We wanted that so much.

Ultimately, the kindest thing for Huck was to let him go to sleep one last time, without fear and hunger. I am still desperately sad about that. But one of the things that helped me do this very difficult thing was the messages I received from the people who'd donated. Eloquent, heartfelt messages of support, reassuring me that I had done the right thing, thanking me for caring and pledging support to my idea of using any left over donations to create a small bursary for any owner who was struggling to pay for their pet's care. Some people donated even after I'd told them Huck had gone, wanting to help another animal in Huck's name. These people were writers too.

It's proof (if proof were needed) that writers are the best people. Writers empathise to make their characters and stories work. Of those people donors who were not writers, I am willing to take a gamble that they are readers, because readers make the best people too. And it's why I will argue and argue that children need to have access to books, need to be readers for pleasure. Reading teaches empathy and empathy makes the world a better, kinder place. In fact, we all need to be readers.

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1018. Poetry Para la Gente in El Salvador


Xanath Caraza
 
 
 

El 2o Festival Internacional de Poesía de Occidente, Leyla Quintana, 2014, organized by Fundación Metáfora was held in a variety of cities in El Salvador from August 10 to August 16.  Hoy comparto parte de esa experiencia.




First, let me discuss some important background information about El Salvador to give a broader context of this wonderful country to situate the significance of this creative gathering, the Festival Internacional de Poesía de Occidente.  El Salvador is a beautiful, small country in Central America that experienced a traumatic war in the 80’s.  Many Salvadorian families fled the country and came to the U. S. during that time, others ended up in Mexico, Canada and a number of European countries.  Lately, here in the U.S., our attention has been directed to the unfortunate situation of the children who are traveling alone from Central America to the U.S. and have been detained in the U.S., being placed in what seems to be more of a concentration camp than anything else.  We also hear about the tremendous violence that El Salvador experiences due to the Maras.
 
 
 

Yes, El Salvador is all of the above and has areas definitely not recommended to enter.  It is hot and humid, and is a country that is still rebuilding.  However, El Salvador is also poetry and through the hard work of poets and activist like those of Fundación metáfora (Robert Deras, Marisol Alfaro, Mixtli Alejandra, Anthony Molina, Nestor Duran, Vladimir Baiza, Lili Alfaro and Otoniel Guevara), El Salvador is changing minds, and bringing hope one poem at a time.




For the Fesitival itself this year, we,  the other guest poets and I, visited San Salvador, Santa Tecla, Santa Ana, Sonsonate, Ahuachapán, Caluco, Chalchuapa, Metapan, Coatepeque, San Marcos and other communities, reading poetry, as part of el 2o Festival Internacional de Poesía de Occidente, Leyla Quintana, 2014, from August 10 to the 16.  We, the poets, were taken care by all members of Fundación Metáfora, we had a special bus that picked us up and drove us to the different communities where our presentations and Q & A sessions took place.  I was not just surprised, but impressed by the numerous audiences that attended our readings. 




Of the readings we had, most were in public schools; many students were from junior high and high schools.  We read twice a day, one reading in the morning and a second one in the evening.  Many times our readings prolonged for almost three to four hours, and yes, I will do it all over again. 
 
 
 
 
 

During these readings with the bright, young people we met, it was hearing the questions that our young audiences had for us after our presentations that brought light and hope to me.  They, as many of our young audiences here in the U.S., want to be poets; therefore, these wonderfully eager young people in El Salvador also asked about what they can do to improve their writing skills.  They continued to inquire if we are born a poet or if we become one along the way.  What is more, they were inquisitive about where to publish, how to come up with a manuscript, or simply, these young audiences wanted us to hear them, the young people, read a poem. 
 
 
 

In the U.S., I have met several young men and women who are either originally from El Salvador or whose parents are from El Salvador.  I have wonderful poet friends from El Salvador too, who have lived here in the U.S. since the 80’s.  Visiting this small and beautiful country, for the first time, made me remember of my own childhood in Mexico, where with very few, but with tons of corazón and much curiosity, my friends and I learnt and discussed about poets and writers.  Some of us even became poets and writers thanks to those discussions and in a very few occasions thanks to an encounter with a poeta de carne y hueso. 
 
 
 

How important is it to remember or to know where we come from or where our parents have come from was a constant thought during my visit to El Salvador?    How important is it to know the history of our countries of origin and to learn about those powerful culturas prehispánicas that we, in many occasions, know very little about.  How important is it to hear los testimonios of those who experienced la Guerra, how hard and heart breaking it is to listen, or at least that was my own experience.  Will I go back to El Salvador, por supuesto, the same as I would go back wherever I am called to read la poesía.




Why is important for us to learn about la literatura salvadoreña?  It is vital since a great deal of our youth in the U.S. have raíces en El Salvador, simple and plain.  How many of us know about Leyla Quintana, Otoniel Guevara, Kenny Rodríguez, Salarrué, Roque Dalton, Luis Borja, Noé Lima, Argelia Quintana among many more poetas y escritores.  I invite you to learn more about our own poetas in the U.S. whose orígenes are salvadoreños and as well I invite you to celebrate them. 
 
 
 

Thankful and with hope I am, one poem at a time, one word one mind.

 

 

 

“La oportunidad de viajar y conocer a poetas con tanta sensibilidad me ha dejado el alma liviana, del festival me llevo historias hechas poemas, a través de esta patria sin tiempo comprendí lo que significa la lucha y el amor, como lo diría Silvio Rodríguez “¿Te molesta mi amor? Mi amor de juventud y mi amor es un arte de virtud” Eso era Leyla Quintana-Amada Libertad juventud hecha arte en revolución,  la conciencia y las letras se desbordan después de este encuentro, supongo que esta es la victoria que no esperaba dejar Amada Libertad, reivindicar la poesía y la mujer.”

Lourdes Soto, poeta

 


 

“Siempre participar en un festival de poesía es provechoso, pues se comparte el trabajo con un público en vivo, es posible confrontarse con otros autores contemporáneos, se idean proyectos compartidos. Pero la participación a este festival fue algo más. Creo que hemos logrado hermanarnos entre poetas a un nivel sincero y profundo y también creo que el público que asistió al evento, en su mayoría jóvenes, han entrado en comunicación con nosotros con entusiasmo. Me llevo, entonces, mucho más de lo que di: las historias de estas mujeres valientes, de las que tanto aprendí, y los ojos asombrados de éstos jóvenes a los que espero haberle enseñado algo.”

Silvia Favaretto, poeta

 
 
 

“El segundo festival internacional de poesía de occidente en El Salvador incluye el desarrollo de aspectos intelectuales, culturales, históricos y emocionales-vivenciales. Significó para mí una especie de graduación como poeta, porque el sentido de la poesía incluye emociones, asombro y disciplina, aspectos cumplidos literalmente.

Recibí además del apoyo a mi poesía, conocimiento in situ de un legado histórico de los sucesos de una guerra que han marcado a un país hermano,  el regalo hermoso de amistades auténticas que serán permanentes y que guardo como un tesoro entre las mejores. El cariño sincero de los estudiantes salvadoreños nos revela que la poesía llega a nuestra vida en momentos donde solo ella puede explicarnos el porqué se vive. Sostengo apretados a mis versos los de Leyla Quintana, para dejar claro en este mundo que la vida convoca a la rebeldía y a la lucha.”

Perla Rivera, poeta

 
 
 

“Traigo los ojos llenos de verde y juventud; el paladar ebrio de yuca y maíz. Mis honduras colmadas de palabras que resucitan anhelos enterrados en las montañas de la existencia. Traigo el testimonio de un amor. Amor es fuego que transforma el corazón; llama que lucha en vilo, siempre “en la punta del delirio”. Amado es el hombre, amada la tierra, Amada Libertad. La inútil e imprescindible poesía, tan como el amor, voz que busca el centro donde Verdad coincide con Libertad. Traigo de vuelta amigos nuevos y un manojo de Camelias que tanto había buscado Leyla en el manglar.”

 

Zingonia Zingone, poeta

 

 


 

 

 

 

In Other News

 

Hot off the presses! Angels of the Americlypse.  An Anthology of New Latin@ Writing (Counterpath, 2014)

 

 

 
 
Finalmente

Celebrating 100 years of Octavio Paz on August 28, 2014 at the Consulate of Mexico in Kansas City

 


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1019. Writing Quote: Writer’s Block

calvin-writers


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1020. The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place, Book 1: The Mysterious Howling, by Maryrose Wood, illustrated by Jon Klassen, 267 pp, RL 4

I have had a copy of The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place, Book 1: The Mysterious Howling by Maryrose Wood on my shelf since 2010 when it was released. While the plot sounded interesting, I have hung on to it for over four years, hoping to get to it someday, because of the completely charming  illustrations by a favorite of mine, Jon Klassen. Now, four years later and four books into

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1021. The Good and the Bad: Garden Pests and Beneficial Insects.

Today’s post comes through the courtesy and expertise of Shiela Fuller.

If you started a backyard garden in May, odds are you’ve encountered a few insects in your plot by August. Some are peskier than others. The good bugs arrive right along with the bad, so it is helpful to know the difference.
Before you head off to your local garden supply to buy your pest eradicator, it’s best to identify your pest so you know exactly what you are annihilating. Then before you go, take another moment to research homemade, nontoxic pest controls. They are cheap to make, safer for you to apply, and a healthier choice for the environment. Some commercial products will also kill the good bugs as well as the bad.

What have you planted in your garden and what are the most common pests?
• TOMATOES.
Backyard tomato plants attract a wide variety of bad pests. Most you can pick off by hand and eliminate the need for any spray. The tomato hornworm is a common pest. They start out small and may go unnoticed until you see large areas of plant chewed away. Or you see the telltale peppercorn – like droppings they deposit on the plant leaves. They are green with lighter green shaped “v” markings and a single “horn” poking off the end of its body. Occasionally, you will find white rice shaped eggs attached to the hornworms body. They are the parasitic eggs of a good pest. The eggs suck nutrients out of the hornworm. It dies and the braconid wasp lives on.

tomato hornworm

tomato hornworm

PEPPERS.
Pesticide spray is rarely needed for the pepper plant.
GREENS.
If you see tiny holes in the leaves of your lovely greens, the flea beetle is most likely the culprit. They won’t usually destroy your plant and you will probably have sufficient supply, even if you have shared your greens with a beetle. Just wash and eat.
POTATOES.
We love our potatoes and so does the Colorado potato beetle. The peskiest of the pests. If you decide to grow your own potatoes, you will become an expert inspector. It will be imperative that your plants are inspected twice a day. The potato beetle is prolific and the larvae, numerous. Begin by checking for the yellow eggs laid underneath the plant leaf. Remove the eggs. Dispose of them. Unfortunately, you will miss eggs and they will hatch. Numerous little specks of brown will begin to demolish your plant. Find and remove them. If you miss them they will quickly grow into reddish, slug like creatures. Pick them off. At every stage, they will eat your plant down till all that is left is a twig. Remain diligent in your search for potato beetle eggs and larva. Homegrown potatoes are worth it.

HERBS.
Most herbs are bad pest free. In fact, many are planted to do just the opposite, ward off the bad. However, important to note is that dill and parsley, attract the black swallowtail butterfly. It may be difficult to find the tiny pearlized eggs, but you may find the droppings or the black, prickled larvae eating your precious herbs. They are capable of devouring the entire plant, so always plant enough for all to enjoy.

swallowtail caterpillar courtesy of Mary Braccilli

swallowtail caterpillar courtesy of Mary Braccilli

How Do You Attract the Good Insects?

Food, shelter, and water are necessary to encourage and keep the good insects in your garden.
LADYBUGS
Plant herbs like chives or cilantro, and cosmos flowers to attract the ladybugs.
PRAYING MANTIS
Raspberry, yarrow and fennel attract praying mantis.
SPIDERS
The argiope is a large, harmless spider we should be thankful to see in our garden. With its spectacular coloring and circled web with zig zag stitching, it is a treasure to behold.
Food for good insects comes in the form of the bad insects that arrive in your garden. Provide daytime shelter for the good insects; low lying thyme or oregano offer good hiding places. Offer them a shallow tin of water and encourage them to make your garden their home.

garden spider

garden spider

Refrain from using insecticides/pesticides in your home garden. These products will actually keep the good bugs away from your garden. They are not good for the health of the insect. Or yours.

Shiela Fuller has been a Cornell University Project Feeder Watch participant for many years and an avid birder since 1988. Currently, she enjoys writing picture books, yoga, chicken raising, wildlife photography, and is the legacy keeper for her family.

 


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1022. Contaminated 2: Mercy Code, by Em Garner | Book Giveaway

Enter to win a copy of Contaminated 2: Mercy Code and Contaminated, by Em Garner. Giveaway begins August 25, 2014, at 12:01 A.M. PST and ends September 24, 2014, at 11:59 P.M. PST.

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1023. Mailbox Monday - 8/25/2014


 
Mailbox Monday is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came into their house last week. (Library books don’t count, but eBooks & audiobooks do).    

Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles, and humongous wish lists!

Mailbox Monday, created by Marcia @ A Girl and Her Books, has a permanent home now at Mailbox Monday.


 **********************
Every week Mailbox Monday will have a new linky posted for our Mailbox Monday links at Marcia's Mailbox Monday blog.

Here’s a shout out to the new administrators:

Leslie of Under My Apple Tree 
Vicki of I’d Rather Be at the Beach
Serena @ Savvy Verse And Wit 

THANKS to everyone for keeping Mailbox Monday alive. 

 ****************
I hope you had a good mailbox.  

My mailbox was lean again, but that is fine with me.

There is a giveaway for WE ARE NOT OURSELVES here until August 28.
 ****************

On Tuesday, July 19, I received:

1.  SOMEONE ELSE'S SKIN by Sarah Hilary courtesy of Christopher Smith of Penguin Books.



On Saturday, August 23, I received:

1. Three Story House by Courtney Miller Santo, courtesy of Harper Collins.


I  am really looking forward to reading this book.  I loved her other book, The Roots of The Olive Tree.


**********
 How about your mailbox?   

Which title was in your mailbox that you were excited about seeing?

**********

 

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1024. Historical Kids: What the HECK is Going On With Nonfiction Bios These Days?

Maybe it’s Common Core.  Maybe not.  I’m not always quite certain how far to place the blame in these cases.  However you look at it, children’s nonfiction bios are getting weird these days.  In some ways it’s quite remarkable.  I’m the first one to say that nonfiction for kids is better now than it has ever been.  I mean, when I was a young ‘un the only nonfiction I ever enjoyed was the Childhood of Famous Americans series.  Not that it was actually nonfiction.  I mean, it made these interesting suppositions about the youth of various famous people, complete with fake dialogue (I am the strictest anti-fake dialogue person you’ll ever meet).  I enjoyed them the way I enjoyed fiction because, for the most part, they were fiction.  Boy, you just couldn’t get away with that kind of thing today, right?

Right?

Meet three new “nonfiction” series of varying degrees of fictionalization and authenticity that caught my eye recently.  I can’t exactly call them a trend.  Rather, they’re simply interesting examples of how publishers are struggling to figure out how to tackle the notion of “nonfiction” and “high-interest” for kids.  And it’s now our job to determine how successful they’ve become.

First up, let’s go back old Childhood of Famous Americans.  They remain beloved, but they’re problematic.  So what do you do when you have a product that slots into that category?  You rebrand, baby!

Introducing History’s All-Stars from Aladdin (an imprint of Simon & Schuster).  Observe the following covers:

Sacagawea Historical Kids: What the HECK is Going On With Nonfiction Bios These Days?

JackieRobinson Historical Kids: What the HECK is Going On With Nonfiction Bios These Days?

Look vaguely familiar?  Pick up the book and you may find the words “Childhood of Famous American” in there individually, but never strung together in that particular order. The publication page only mentions that the books were previously published as far back as the 1950s (little wonder I’m worried about that Sacagawea title, yes).  Yet the design, as you can see, isn’t far off so we had to wonder.  Is it just the same series?  A side-by-side comparison:

BetsyRoss2 Historical Kids: What the HECK is Going On With Nonfiction Bios These Days?BetsyRoss Historical Kids: What the HECK is Going On With Nonfiction Bios These Days?

The publisher description calls this “a narrative biography” which is technically the accepted term for this kind of book.  But there is no way you could use this for a report.  They’re fiction, baby.  A kind of fiction that doesn’t really have a designated place in a library collection at this time, though that could change.  Which brings us to . . .

Ordinary People Change the World – A series by Brad Meltzer, illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos

AmeliaEarhart Historical Kids: What the HECK is Going On With Nonfiction Bios These Days?

AbrahamLincoln Historical Kids: What the HECK is Going On With Nonfiction Bios These Days?

It’s the series bound to wreck havoc with catalogers everywhere!  They look like Charles Schulz characters.  They read like nonfiction . . . sorta?  Kinda?  Kirkus said of I Am Rosa Parks that it was, “A barely serviceable introduction with far more child appeal than substance.”  Yet they’re bestsellers and visually incredibly appealing.  Published by Dial (a Penguin imprint), the books were a risk that appears to have paid off in terms of dollars.  In terms of sparking interest in these historical figures it’s also a success.  But is it factual?  Is it accurate?  Does it stand up to scrutiny?  Does it matter?  Why shouldn’t it matter?  You see the conundrum.

Finally, there’s a series coming out from Scholastic that looks like it might be along similar lines to these, but that I haven’t seen firsthand quite yet:

BenjaminFranklin Historical Kids: What the HECK is Going On With Nonfiction Bios These Days?

SallyRide Historical Kids: What the HECK is Going On With Nonfiction Bios These Days?

Called the When I Grow Up series, again we’re seeing historical figures as children.  But maybe these are entirely accurate in their retellings?  They’re Scholastic Readers, made to meet the needs of early readers.  It’s the title “When I Grow Up” that raises the red flag for me.  Because, you see, they’re written in the first person.  And as a librarian who has had to field reference questions from first graders asking for “autobiographies”, this is problematic.  If a book is entirely accurate but seems to come from the lips of its biographical subject, what is it worth in the pantheon of nonfiction?

People will always say that worrying along these lines is ridiculous.  If the books are good and spark an interest, isn’t that enough?  Why do you have to require strict accuracy at all times?  My argument would be that when biographies are written for adults, people are meticulous (hopefully) about maintaining authenticity.  Why should we hold our kids to different standards?

It’s a debate.  These books just crack it open wide.

Along the same lines (WARNING: Shameless plug looming on the horizon!) I’ve gotten out the jumper cables and restarted the old Children’s Literary Salon at NYPL.  Babies have been born and it is time to get back in the swing of things.  On that note, on Saturday, September 6th I’ll be hosting one of children’s nonfiction all-stars in a conversation that might very well touch on this topic.  Behold!

Personal Passions and Changes in Nonfiction for Children and Teens: A Conversation with Marc Aronson

Author, professor, speaker, editor and publisher by turns, Marc Aronson’s love of nonfiction and his conviction that young people can read carefully, examine evidence, and engage with new and challenging ideas informs everything he does.  Join us for a conversation about the changing role of nonfiction for youth, and the special challenges and advantages of this one-of-a-kind genre.

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10 Comments on Historical Kids: What the HECK is Going On With Nonfiction Bios These Days?, last added: 8/26/2014
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1025. BOBBEE BEE: BACK TO SCHOOL WITH A NEW ATTITUDE


Dear Parents ,Teachers, Therapists, Psychologists, Counselors, School Administrators, and Pastors

Start this school year off with a smile!

Seminole Productions is privileged to present "BACK TO SCHOOL With A New Attitude" "The Back To School With a New Attitude," which is a literacy campaign attempting to improve the attitude of our children in the classroom as well as aiding them in identifying some of the problems they may face in school and at home.

The first book in our "BACK TO SCHOOL WITH A NEW ATTITUDE" literary campaign is "IN THE MIND OF BOBEE BEE "the Hater" which is about an obnoxious, opinionated 10 year old child who copes with his anger at home and at school.

The following topics are creatively yet humorously covered in this fantastic children's book: anger management, behavior modification, character development, academic success, and self-esteem.
This beautifully illustrated children's book serves as a tool which will allow parents, counselors, and teachers to help children do self analysis and self-correction. In addition, this book will also allow children to read positive literature which will increase their intellectual development.

This hilarious must have book is for children ages 6 to 14 is now available for purchase on www.bn.com.
Please help us in our quest to "Leave No Child Behind."


This book is currently being used by Life Skills Counseling, Inc. (Raleigh, NC), a center that provides multidisciplinary programs aimed at addressing the emotional and behavioral challenges of children and teenagers.



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