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A special interest in optics among various seventeenth-century painters living in the Dutch city of Delft has intrigued historians, including art historians, for a long time. Equally, the impressive career of the Delft microscopist Antoni van Leeuwenhoek has been studied by many historians of science. However, it has never been investigated who, at that time, had access to the mathematical and optical knowledge necessary for the impressive achievements of these Delft practitioners. We have tried to gain insight into Delft as a ‘node’ of optical knowledge by following the careers of three minor local figures in early seventeenth-century Delft. We argue that through their work, products, discussions in the vernacular and exchange of skills, rather than via learned publications, these practitioners constituted a foundation on which the later scientific and artistic achievements of other Delft citizens were built. Our Delft case demonstrates that these practitioners were not simple and isolated craftsmen; rather they were crucial components in a network of scholars, savants, painters and rich virtuosi. Decades before Vermeer made his masterworks, or Van Leeuwenhoek started his famous microscopic investigations, the intellectual atmosphere and artisanal knowledge in this city centered on optical topics.
Especially of interest is the authors’ tie between three optical practitioners who lived in Delft simultaneously with Vermeer. One of them, Jacob Spoors, was in 1674 the notary of Vermeer and his mother-in-law Maria Thins. Another was an acquaintance of Spoors, the military engineer Johan van der Wyck, who made an optical device in Delft in 1654, most likely a camera obscura. A report about the demonstration in nearby The Hague has been preserved. Van der Wyck also made telescopes and microscopes and an apparatus that probably was a kind of perspective box. As a telescope maker he was preceded by Evert Harmansz Steenwyck, brother-in- law of the Leiden painter David Bailly and father of two Delft still-life painters: Harman and Pieter Steenwyck. The latter was familiar with Vermeer’s father Reynier Jansz Vermeer, at a time when the young Vermeer was still living with his parents. According to the authors, this is the first real archival evidence that such a device existed in Delft during Vermeer’s life.
(This post was orignially published in January 2014, but I think it's fitting that I have friends serving on the award committees this year and I want them to read this encouragement once again and know it's for them too!) Dear Committee Member-
On the eve of the youth media awards and your committee announcements, I offer you some words of advice from someone who has been there before.
Your choices are amazing. You have done a fantastic job and worked the hardest you have ever worked over the past year. You have read, and re-read, and re-read yet again, taken notes, analyzed, and discussed titles in more depth than you ever thought possible. Your hard work is appreciated.
When the announcement happens and your choices are known, just remember that your titles are amazing. You know why you honored the books you did and now you get to share those amazing titles with the world. You get to watch as others read them and discuss them and discover the intricacies in the plot, setting, characters, and voice that you did. Be proud that you get to share these titles with readers everywhere. Be proud that you have honored an author for their incredible work. Be proud that you get to highlight literary excellence in children's and young adult literature.
Be happy with your choices and don't listen to any naysayers. They don't know these titles as well as you and your fellow committee members. Remember it's not about popularity. That popular mock favorite that you didn't honor? It's OK. The obscure title that surprised everyone? It's OK. The title that everyone has mixed opinions on? It's OK. No matter what you choose, your titles are worth reading, worth knowing, and worth sharing. It doesn't matter if the honored titles don't match everyone's expectations-you know why your books were honored and be proud of giving these books a chance to shine. Feel good about sharing these fantastic titles with readers everywhere and giving them books to discover (or re-discover).
Understand that you just undertook a year of immense critical reading and it's OK to take a break from reading. Your work was exhausting and you deserve a chance to step away from books and not read for awhile. It doesn't make you a bad librarian or a bad reader-you deserve a break. Come back to reading when you're ready-and read something you want to read and find fun. And don't be surprised if the way you read has forever changed-you'll find yourself reading critically, but you can also give yourself a break and read for fun-and sometimes those things will intertwine.
Feel good about the work you did and be proud of your committee. Seek out your titles in a bookstore and library and feel proud when you see that shiny sticker placed on the cover. Be excited when you get to booktalk one of your titles and share it with a reader. And share away-that's one of the best parts of committee work-sharing your titles with others and getting them to read the books you worked hard to honor.
Thank you for your amazing year of reading and re-reading. Thank you for taking the time to discuss titles with your fellow committee member. Thank you for working hard to shine a light on great titles and honoring the best children's and young adult literature has to offer. Thank you for your amazing list of titles and congrats on a job well done! We're all cheering you on!
Now sit back and enjoy celebrating your hard work over the next year!
Little Red's Riding 'Hood. Peter Stein. Illustrated by Chris Gall. 2015. [February 2015] Scholastic. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]
First sentence: Here and there, up and down, in and out, Little Red loved riding around his 'hood. One day, Big Blue Mama gave Little Red an important job. "Poor Granny Putt Putt is feeling run-down," she said. "Her oil is muddy, her exhaust pipe's exhausted, and her wiper fluid is wiped out. Please take her this basket of goodies right away."
Well. I almost don't know what to say about it. It's unusual and original all in one, I suppose. I'd never have thought about retelling the tale of Little Red Riding Hood in this way. The book is set in Vroomville, and all the characters are machines. Little Red is a scooter; Granny Put-Put is a golf cart; and the Big Bad Wolf, well, he's a very mean monster truck. The story is familiar enough, I suppose, in the end, yet it has an original feel to it. That doesn't mean that I personally love it.
Text: 3 out of 5 Illustrations: 3 out of 5 Total: 6 out of 10
The first of February is annual Hourly Comics Day! That's tomorrow (Sunday)! If you've ever wanted to try your hand at comics but not known where to start, this is a great way to do it with lots of other people.
How to do it:
1. Draw a comic for every hour you're awake.
2. Load it onto your blog.
3. If you have access to Twitter, tweet it using the #HourlyComicDay hash tag.
4. Browse around and see what other people have done! Leave comments, they'll love it.
You can also submit it to the tencentticker website (here's last year's forum you can browse). Some people even print it up later and sell copies at comics festivals, but don't let that pressure you into trying to make it too perfect; you can do it very roughly, just for fun.
It was first started in 2006 by John Campbell and most people make it about what they're actually doing in their day, so it's a slice of life, but you don't have to do it that way. It's very informal, no one really runs it, but it's great fun seeing the other contributions. It feels more social doing it on the actual day than any other day because you can see people chatting about it on Twitter, but a few of us aren't able to do it on Sunday - a work day's easier for me - so we're going to do it on Monday. Some people tweet each hour as they go and other people save it all up to scan and post the next morning.
(Venice, Italy) The theme of the 2015 Carnival of Venice is, in Italian: La Festa più golosa del mondo! Which translates to: The Most Golosa Festival in the World! because there just is not an English word that means "golosa." If you ask Google to translate it, or if you look in an Italian-English dictionary, you will find it means "gluttony" or "greed." I have translated it to "tastiest;" the Carnevale site translates it to "most delicious." But golosa is more than that.
Carnival poster 2015 by Giorgio Cavazzano
I love Gorgonzola cheese, which also doesn't really exist in English; it is called "blue cheese" and is a distant cousin from genuine Gongonzola. In Italy, Gorgonzola is protected and can only be produced in certain regions according to certain methods. The result is something divine; an oozy center that is almost liquid, and a distinct taste... if you gob some Gorgonzola onto fresh warm bread... and sip some white wine... AH. It is something I cannot stop eating. If I buy two etti... (a unit of measure that also doesn't exist in English; there are about 4.5 etti in a pound:) I eat the entire two etti; it is impossible for me to control myself. I am GOLOSA for Gorgonzola. If I were male, I would be GOLOSO for Gorgonzola. Some people have this craving when it comes to chocolate. Or Girl Scout cookies. Or Ben & Jerry's Chunky Monkey ice cream. It is something you crave, usually something decadent and delicious. So, the Venice Carnival is the most golosa festival in the world, and there will be plenty of goloso food to tempt you.
There is a new spirit of cooperation and comradery in the city (someone joked it's because we are still without a mayor, so politics are not involved). While Piazza San Marco will still be the center of the action when it comes to parading in costumes, in the evening the party moves down to Arsenale on February 7 and 8, and then again on February 12 through Fat Tuesday, February 17, complete with nightly fireworks.
This year, many local foundations and organizations are contributing to the Carnival, with some dynamic collaborations. Women in Love or Shakespeare's Women written and directed by the Teatro Goldoni's own Giuseppe Emiliani will be performed inside two impressive Venetian palaces that are now part of Venice's Civic Museums -- Ca' Rezzonico and Palazzo Mocenigo -- with costumes by the renowned Venetian atelier, Stefano Nicolao.
The Civic Museums are highlighting The Art of Food, featuring cultural and social influences on traditional Venetian cuisine through the ages, keeping with the theme of EXPO 2015 in Milan: "Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life." Also, on Fat Thursday, February 12 there will be a theatrical and musical marathon at Palazzo Ducale, Museo Correr, Ca' Rezzonico, Palazzo Mocenigo and Casa Goldoni -- for example, at Palazzo Mocenigo, Venice's museum dedicated to fabric, costumes and perfume, there will be a 10-15 minute performance entitled, "THE GOLOSO LIBERTINE," about the appetites and tastes of the infamous Venetian lover, Giacomo Casanova (now that you know what "goloso" means, you can imagine the show!).
from Exhibition on Screen’ website: Girl with a Pearl Earring by Johannes Vermeer is one of the most enduring paintings in the history of art. Even today, its recent world tour garnered huge queues lining up for the briefest glimpse of its majestic beauty – In Japan 1.2 million people saw the exhibition. Yet the painting itself is surrounded in mystery. This beautifully filmed new documentary seeks to investigate the many unanswered questions associated with this extraordinary piece. Who was this girl? Why and how was it painted? Why is it so revered?
After its world tour, the Girl with a Pearl Earring returned to the much-loved Mauritshuis in The Hague, Netherlands, which has just completed extensive renovations. Enjoying unparalleled exclusive access to this historical exhibition, the film takes the audience on a journey as it seeks to answer many of the questions surrounding this enigmatic painting and its mysterious creator, Vermeer. Using the recently completed and highly complex makeover of the museum as its starting point, the film goes on a behind the scenes detective journey to seek out the answers that lie within the other masterpieces housed in the collection.
Colleen McCullough has the kind of life I wanted to live. She was insanely popular but didn’t go on tour or have much of a public life. I guess she wrote a bunch of books, but probably didn’t need to. The Thorn Birds probably makes enough money every year to sustain a slightly indulgent lifestyle. It is the bestselling book of all time to come from Australia, and is that rarest of things, an international bestseller. I now know that she was also a scientist, who pursued her career long past needing the money.
The Thorn Birds was as commonly seen in houses as bread when I was a teenager, even living abroad, and that book also stands out for me as one of a dozen that everybody was reading the same time, and one of a handful I thought deserved every inch of its success. (A couple of others in that exclusive group are Perfume and Pillars of the Earth).
In recaps of her career this past week it’s been unfairly compared to books like Fifty Shades of Grey, which makes me think that reviewers have not read or don’t remember it well. It was a romance, of course, but made of slowly simmering passions left on the back burner for a decade before they were brought to a boil. It is also, for the first third or so, simply a wonderful growing up and coming of age story, for both its heroine and Anglicized Australia. Maybe there’s sexism or anti-genre sentiment in bracketing the two together, a hallmark great novel with a titillating accidental bestseller. But maybe it’s just the laziness of reporting.
I admit that when I saw the news of Ms. McCullough’s passing, I had not thought of The Thorn Birds in decades, but once prompted, I recalled several scenes vividly. What better testament can a book get than being memorable?
She is now known as a person with a bad obit. Nevertheless, she was a remarkable and inspiring person, both for what she did and how she went about it.
Summary : As a young child Eponine never knew kindness, except once from her family's kitchen slave, Cosette. When at sixteen the girls' paths cross again and their circumstances are reversed, Eponine must decide what that friendship is worth, even though they've both fallen for the same boy. In the end, Eponine will sacrifice everything to keep true love alive.
Review:Eponine Thenadier lies in a Parisian street, seventeen years old, dying. As she does so, she remembers how her life progressed in such a way from a spoilt childhood and years of cheating and stealing to taking a bullet for the boy she loves.
I wanted to read this because I have a love for the musical of Les Miserables and an appreciation for the book (see here for my review). Eponine is one of my favourite characters because she has to stand up for herself and no one fights for her, and I was looking forwards to seeing a backstory for her.
It's interesting seeing the formative years through the eyes of Eponine. We know that her parents were abusive towards Cosette, but the extent they are to Eponine and sister Azelma in their treatment isn't one you think about when seeing or reading Les Mis.
I liked the fact that in little ways, Eponine attempts to redeem herself. Her development is very thorough and wonderful to watch. Sadly, I don't think any of the other characters got the same treatment, which would have been interesting to see.
I didn't like the fact that it randomly slips into French for a couple of words at a time. I don't mean where we need words like sou or Les Halles for nouns or specifically French things. it's just occasional phrases. Oui. Excuzez-moi, mon pere. C'est un joli matin. It's just one of my little pet hates, if it's not a language that is foreign to the focaliser and the thing that is being said has a perfectly good English equivalent (yes, excuse me, father, it’s a pretty morning). We understand that Eponine is speaking and thinking in French, and the little random changes are noticable and get on my nerves.
The plot progresses gently. It fills in the gaps of Hugo’s novel where the focus is on Cosette and Les Amis. At times, it drags, but my interest levels did stay up enough for me to not give up.
However, my heart for Eponine. Fletcher does very well in making you empathise with her, and Especially with the little quote from The Brick at the start, in both French and English- j'etais un peu amoureuse de vous . Please excuse me while I go cry.
Overall: Stregth 3 tea. I really liked the idea and Eponine's development, but it lacked depth in other areas.
from the publisher’s website: In Eye of the Beholder, Laura J. Snyder transports us to the streets, inns, and guildhalls of seventeenth-century Holland, where artists and scientists gathered, and to their studios and laboratories, where they mixed paints and prepared canvases, ground and polished lenses, examined and dissected insects and other animals, and invented the modern notion of seeing. With charm and narrative flair Snyder brings Vermeer and Van Leeuwenhoek—and the men and women around them—vividly to life. The story of these two geniuses and the transformation they engendered shows us why we see the world—and our place within it—as we do today.
“Laura Snyder is both a masterly scholar and a powerful storyteller. In Eye of the Beholder, she transports us to the wonder-age of seventeenth-century Holland, as new discoveries in optics were shaping the two great geniuses of Delft—Vermeer and van Leeuwenhoek—and changing the course of art and science forever. A fabulous book.”
— Oliver Sacks
“Eye of the Beholder is a thoughtful elaboration of the modern notion of seeing. Laura J. Snyder delves into the seventeenth century fascination with the tools of art and science, and shows how they came together to help us make sense of what is right in front of our eyes.”
— Russell Shorto, author of Amsterdam: A History of the World’s Most Liberal City
First sentence: Choo-choo! Choo-choo! The engine's pulling in. George is so excited for the train ride to begin!
Premise/Plot: George and one of his friends--a boy, not the man in the yellow hat--are going for a train ride. George is excited, of course. Don't expect this curious little monkey to get into trouble during the ride. It doesn't happen. He stays in his seat like a good little monkey. The text is simple; it rhymes. It's okay. Nothing special.
My thoughts: This was an okay book for me. I liked that this book is in the style of the original Curious George. And I do think that there's always, always a demand for more train books. This one works well enough for that need at least. The wheels on the front cover do spin a little. This book like Curious George's Crane features press-out pieces for children to play with.
The first sweep of teachers is now meeting every Saturday morning at the Water Works (pictured above) to build the sweeping curriculum that will change the way children learn in my city. This morning, I'm joining my dear friend Adam Levine there on site to contribute to this program. Adam will be sharing his huge knowledge of secret city water ways and streams that have become sewers. I'll be teaching the teachers how to teach Flow, giving them writing exercises and critiquing ideas.
Another week, another great staff member to get to know. When you think of the world of publishing, the work of videos, podcasts, photography, and animated GIFs doesn’t immediately come to mind. But here at Oxford University Press we have Sara Levine, who joined the Social Media team as a Multimedia Producer just last year.
When did you start working at OUP?
I started working at OUP this past August, three months after completing my Master’s degree at Georgetown University’s Communication, Culture and Technology Program.
How did you get started in multimedia production?
I’ve been drawing comics and making short videos since I was a kid. My first big hit was in high school. I wrote, directed, filmed, and edited a parody of Wuthering Heights called “Withering Estates.” I played Heathcliff. No, it’s not on YouTube.
What is your typical day like at OUP?
My workdays at OUP vary depending on the projects that I’m currently working on. I’m usually filming, animating, drawing, recording audio, editing footage, or multi-tasking any of the above.
What will you be doing once you’ve completed this Q&A?
What gear or software are you obsessed with right now?
I learn something new about Adobe After Effects every time I use it. The unlimited amount of techniques and shortcuts in After Effects seems daunting at first, but I really enjoy exploring everything it can do.
What are you reading right now?
I just started reading Virginia Woolf’s Orlando. I have a bad habit of reading books too quickly (developed over years of tearing through Harry Potter books on their release dates), so I’m trying to pace myself with this one.
What’s your favorite book?
Instead of one favorite book, I’m going to list five of my favorite comics:
Batwoman: Elegy by Greg Rucka and J.H. Williams III
The Long Journey by Boulet
Pancakes by Kat Leyh
Skim by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki
Fun Home by Alison Bechdel
Which book-to-movie adaptation did you actually like?
I was surprised at how much I enjoyed teen movies that are modern adaptations of older works. Films like Clueless, She’s the Man, O, Easy A, and 10 Things I Hate About You are very clever and sometimes overlooked because of their target demographic.
What is in your backpack right now?
A Maruman Mnemosyne sketchbook, a Wacom Intuos 2 tablet, Orlando, a manual for the Canon C100, a pencil case, a red umbrella, a disposable rain poncho, a pear, and a small bag of gluten-free pretzels.
Most obscure talent or hobby?
I’m not sure how obscure this is, but I played the French horn for about eight years. The experience gave me very powerful lungs and some great French horn jokes.
What do you do for fun?
I make more multimedia, of course! You can find my doodles, comics, .gifs, and videos under the handle “morphmaker” on Twitter, Tumblr, Vimeo, and Deviantart. I also run a podcast with my sister. It’s called Sara & Allison Talk TV. We discuss television shows and web series that feature central female characters and include elements of fantasy, action, and science fiction.
Last Friday evening, at an intimate salon, I had the privilege of hearing Peter Turchi, author of Maps of the Imagination, tease us toward his gorgeously crafted new book, A Muse and a Maze.
(Read that title fast, and you'll get the point.)
Like the best of books, this one won't be easily classified. Puzzles and magic abound. Commentary on obsessions. Quotes on sentence rhythms. Forays into slow time. A slice from Bruce Springsteen (yes, my friends, that Bruce Springsteen). A few helpful definitions illuminating genres, puzzles, and mysteries. I'm not finished reading yet. It's not the sort of book one rushes. But an hour or so ago I came across Turchi's reflections on the real purpose of multiple drafts, and I knew that I could be accused of gross selfishness if I did not stop and share. I live for the next draft with my own work. I've gone horizontal-vertical-down-out-up, and if one were to apply aesthetic measures to my draft sequences one would shake one's head in pity. One Thing Stolen,my new novel, is the perfect example of a book that took more than a little swish and swirl (and more than a few tears, but I did not drown) before it found itself. But that is a story for another day.
With no further ado, then, Peter Turchi:
To learn to dwell in our work is to use drafts to explore, with the understanding that our movement toward the final draft of a story or poem or novel is likely to include not only lateral movement but backward movement, and circular movement, and movement we can't confidently describe. Because to insist to ourselves that each draft carry a story toward closure is, necessarily, to limit the possibilities. Every choice must then at least seem to be an improvement on what's currently on the page, part of a straight-line progression, rather than an alternative to what's on the page, movement within a larger plane. We need to allow ourselves to pursue hunches, to discover, in the words of Robert Sternberg, nonobvious pieces of information and, even more important, nonobvious relationships between new information and information already in our memory.
Mort Kunstler, "Buried Alive for Four Months," Stag Magazine, 1965.
The exhibit spans his entire career, celebrating his well-known Civil War paintings, but I'd like to focus here on his earlier work for the men's action magazines, which doesn't get exhibited as often.
When Mort Kunstler started doing illustrations in the early 1950s, he said that the field of mainstream magazine story illustration was already beginning to die away. "Color photography and television was coming in," he says, and advertising money was going to television. Dramas were broadcast on TV instead of being published in magazines.
But there were over 130 separate titles of men's adventure magazines still going strong, catering to veterans of World War II. The magazines had names like Adventure, Real, True, Saga, Stag, Swank and For Men Only.
The illustrations were often printed in limited color palettes, such as red and black, and they required tight deadlines. Kunstler produced a vast output of complex images, usually staged with maximum drama and sex appeal. Most of these early paintings were executed in gouache on board.
Still at the easel in his 80s, Mort has remained busy for all these decades, with one assignment or painting idea following another. He has done it all: movie posters, plastic model box covers, commercial advertisements, and limited edition art prints.
He painted this spoof on Jaws for Mad magazine. He wasn't sure if it would alienate his fans, so he signed it "Mutz," just one of his pseudonyms.
In the 1970s, after the era of men's magazines was over, he painted paperback covers, such as "The Kansan," above. He switched to oil paint, and found his main calling painting scenes from American history, particularly documenting epic moments from the Civil War.
All these aspects of his career are well represented in the three large rooms of the exhibition, along with examples of his preliminary sketches, comprehensive drawings, and tearsheets that show his process.
McElligot's Pool. Dr. Seuss. 1947/1974. Random House. 64 pages. [Source: Library]
"Young man," laughed the farmer, "You're sort of a fool! You'll never catch fish in McElligot's Pool!"
Premise/Plot. Marco, the young boy in the story, is fishing at McElligot's Pool. Though the farmer warns him that the pool is just where people throw junk, the young boy claims he's not foolish or wasting his time fishing there. He tells how the pool could be--might be--connected to the sea itself. And how right this minute even all sorts of fish might be making their way to the pool for him to catch. He describes hundreds of fish, giving his imagination room to shine. But is the farmer convinced? Are readers?
My thoughts: It is nice to see Marco again. (I'm assuming that this Marco is the Marco of And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street, which was published ten years previously.) Marco's imagination is going strong.
Even though I don't like fishing. I liked this book about fishing. I liked it more than I thought I would.
I might catch a thin fish, I might catch a stout fish. I might catch a short or a long, long, drawn-out fish. Any kind! Any shape! Any color or size! I might catch some fish that would open your eyes!
Oh, the sea is so full of a number of fish If a fellow is patient, he might get his wish!
This one won a Caldecott Honor. Half the illustrations are in black and white. Half the illustrations are in color.
Have you read McElligot's Pool? Did you like it? love it? hate it? I would love to hear what you thought of it!
If you'd like to join me in reading or rereading Dr. Seuss' picture books (chronologically) I'd love to have you join me! The next book I'll be reviewing is Thidwick The Big-Hearted Moose.
from publisher’s website:
Through the paintings of Vermeer, Michael White explores new landscapes and transforms familiar ones in this extraordinary new collection of poems. This captivating masterwork transports us across eras and continents, from Confederate lynchings to the bombing of Dresden, through its lyrical inhabitations of some of Vermeer’s most revered paintings, each one magically described and renewed. More than mere ekphrasis, Michael White explores the transformative possibilities of great art in his fourth collection.
“Vermeer in Hell is Michael White’s museum of ghosts and shades, of narratives woven masterfully out of the personal and historical alike—out of the lived, the envisioned, the loved, and the terrible. Rarely have I felt the ekphrastic to be as dramatic as in White’s tour through the portraits of Vermeer, with its history of fiery damages, wars and afflictions, but also its own depiction of ‘love’s face as it is.’ Out of Michael White’s vision, each poem achieves for us the delicacy and durability of Vermeer’s own art.”
“Nearly every one of Michael White’s new poems is the equivalent of a quiet stroll through a blazing fire, igniting the reader’s imagination. His insights are frightening and comforting at the same time, his craft allowing for the most surprising and thrilling of associations. Vermeer in Hell is a collection that belongs in the room with all of the traditions of our language’s poetry, but it brings something completely original to us, too. It is not an overstatement to call this poetry Genius.”
“In these elegant, powerful poems, Michael White pays homage to a great painter while engaging social realities that affect us all. They are brave, beautiful poems linked by authentic vision and a sensitive, educated ear.”
So here I am, home again in Greencastle, as happy a Hoosier as I was before. I'm living again with my friend Julia, and her six-year-old son Alex, in her cozy home on Anderson Street, a few blocks from the campus. (Ignore my thumb at the top of the photo. I'm still new to taking pictures with my phone.)
I'm teaching two courses: Children's Literature for the English department (28 students - 25 girls and 3 boys!), and Jean-Jacques Rousseau for Philosophy (9 students who fit comfortably into our tiny classroom tucked under the eaves on the third floor of Asbury Hall). The picture below is the walk from my house down Anderson Street to campus. (Any better quality photo on this blog is one I didn't take.)
I spend Tuesday/Thursday on campus, and MWF out at my office at the peaceful, pristine Prindle Institute for Ethics situated in the DePauw Nature Park on the site of a reclaimed quarry.
The strangest thing about my happiness here is that I don't have as many of my four "pillars of happiness" as I do at home. Writing, reading, walking, and being with friends are my four most reliable sources of everyday joy. Here I walk vastly less than I do at home, without my little dog Tank and best friend Rowan as faithful walking partners, and without Colorado's winter warmth and sun. I've been writing less, as I'm so busy, filling every day with DePauw-related activities and conversations, and reading less for the same reason. I do have lots of delightful catching up to do with DePauw friends, but I have even more dear friends back home in Boulder.
So why do I feel so fully alive here? Maybe it's the strong sense of community, similar to what I find with my church. On this campus, even as we're struggling with some painful issues of racial discrimination and exclusion, we work so hard together as a community to try to make things better. So maybe a strong sense of community is more important to me than I realized. I also love living in a small town - perhaps for the same reason? Or just because I like a certain scale to my life. I like having hardly any stuff, walking everywhere, residing in a town where the public library is steps away from the post office, which is steps away from the campus, which is steps away from the courthouse square. I've always loved small spaces.
And yet my life here doesn't feel small. It feels big, stuffed full of intellectual challenge through constant talks and reading groups, concerts and conversations. I feel so fully alive, what Rousseau calls the "sentiment of existence." Or maybe I just like being constantly busy. I've always been the kind of person who likes having a long to-do list and then crossing things off, one by one.That, too, makes me feel like I'm living more intensely.
I just found out yesterday that I lost a new friend to a tragic car accident. She was someone who lived with extravagant generous fullness, as writer, mother, friend. So whatever we can find to make ourselves feel the wonder of our existence most keenly, that's what we need to do. Today and always.
Downsizing isn't easy, but it must be done if we are to become more mobile for this move to Scotland. I'm realizing that a photo of a precious item can sometimes be enough to keep - that I often don't need the actual item. What I do need is the trigger for that memory. Because I plan to use these memories in my writing. Strong writing comes from being able to relate experiences that feel true and I have a lifetime to draw upon. One item I let go of was the first gift I ever received from a boy... My 5th birthday was looming and somehow Danny came into my life. He lived in a neighborhood that backed up to ours in Maryland. I don't recall how we met, but I do remember standing on the back stoop to our house. If I stepped off or tried to open the door to go inside, Danny would run forward to tickle me. He made me laugh - I like him! When I finally did make it inside, I asked my mother if Danny could come to my birthday party. He did! And he gave me a lovely jewelry box as a gift - a music box. It used to have a little ballerina that spun around with the music, but that disappeared long ago. It remained one of my most precious possessions for many years...until I realized it was the memory I cherished. The photo is enough to trigger the memory, and that is what I hold dear and what I will use - that first feeling of a heart in play. The jewelry box hasn't shown up in any of my stories yet, but I imagine it's just a matter of time. Meanwhile, maybe some other little girl is enjoying it.
Sometimes beauty is its own reason. These daffodils (any daffodils really) bring me joy. Building these vector flowers was every bit a love affair. As with every project, I get to practice what I know and stretch into areas unknown. For those of you that know Illustrator, the leaves are brushes with the twist built in. The flowers themselves are blends, and radial and linear gradients (no gradient mesh).
Whenever a sign of spring is needed, this little beauty is there to remind me.
from the publisher’s webpage:
In the midst of a bad divorce, the poet Michael White unexpectedly discovers the consoling power of Johannes Vermeer’s radiant vision. Over the course of a year, he travels to Amsterdam, The Hague, Delft, Washington D.C., New York, and London to view twenty-four paintings, including nearly all of Vermeer’s major work.
“A certain chain of events has left me open, on a startlingly deep level, to Vermeer’s gaze, to his meditation on our place on earth,” White writes.
Part travelogue, part soul-searching investigation into romantic love and intimate discourse on art, this erudite and lyrical memoir encompasses the author’s past–his difficult youth, stint in the Navy, alcoholism, and the early death of his first wife–and ends with his finding grace and transformation through deeply affecting encounters with the paintings of Vermeer, an artist obsessed with romance and the inner life, who has captivated millions, from the seventeenth century until now.
“All the sorrow of love is compressed into White’s memoir. But so, too, is all the consolation of art. Nothing I’ve read…suggests so eloquently what [Vermeer’s paintings] hold for a contemporary viewer…Figures it took a poet to get it this beautifully, thrillingly right.”
— Peter Trachtenberg
“[Travels in Vermeer] touches on the mysteries of seduction, loss, and the artistic impulse. It shows how time can be interrupted.”
“This book is a treasure and a guide. It is a type of healing for the intellect and the heart.”
about the author:
Michael White is the author of four collections of poetry and a memoir, Travels in Vermeer (Persea 2015), and has published widely in respected periodicals, including The Paris Review, The New Republic, The Kenyon Review, Ploughshares, Western Humanities Review, and the Best American Poetry. White teaches poetry and is presently chair of the Creative Writing department at the University of North Carolina, Wilmington.
Our February workshop will open for entries at noon EST on Saturday, February 7, 2015. We'll take the first five Middle Grade, Young Adult, or New Adult entries that meet all guidelines and formatting requirements. In addition to our wonderful permanent mentors, we have the very talented Chelsea Pitcher, author of THE LAST CHANGELING. If that wasn’t enough, in the final week agent Shelby Sampsel will not only review the first five pages, but a query letter too!
Chelsea Pitcher is a native of Portland, OR where she received her BA in English Literature. Fascinated by all things literary, she began gobbling up stories as soon as she could read, and especially enjoys delving into the darker places to see if she can draw out some light.
Chelsea’s paranormal fantasy, THE LAST CHANGELING, is available now!
A Kingdom at War . . .
Elora, the young princess of the Dark Faeries, plans to overthrow her tyrannical mother, the Dark Queen, and bring equality to faeriekind. All she has to do is convince her mother’s loathed enemy, the Bright Queen, to join her cause. But the Bright Queen demands an offering first: a human boy who is a “young leader of men.”
A Dark Princess In Disguise . . .
To steal a mortal, Elora must become a mortal—at least, by all appearances. And infiltrating a high school is surprisingly easy. When Elora meets Taylor, the seventeen-year-old who’s plotting to overthrow a ruthless bully, she thinks she’s found her offering . . . until she starts to fall in love.
We are thrilled to announce that Shelby Sampsel of the Vicky Bijur Literary Agency will be our guest agent for February – and Shelby has agreed to review a query letter, too! See below for Shelby’s bio!
Shelby Sampsel joined the Vicky Bijur Literary Agency after graduating from NYU. She comes to the agency with previous internship experience at Thomas Dunne Books, Simon and Schuster, Tor Books, Penguin Group, the Maria Carvainis Agency, and McIntosh and Otis. She is interested in Young Adult and New Adult Fiction as well as memoirs with a strong voice.
First sentence: One day out his window George looks and sees a bright shiny crane as high as the trees!
Premise/plot: The book is one of four in the "mini-movers-shaped" board book series starring Curious George. There's also a train, a firetruck, and a dump truck. The arm of the crane is movable. But the wheels are not. The text is simple, as you'd expect, and features George investigating a construction site. What are they building? A playground!
My thoughts: Not particularly thrilling for adults to read. But for a construction-obsessed toddler, this one probably has some appeal. The book also has press-out pieces so kids can play construction on their own. I'm not sure if these pieces would really work and stand up to repeated use.