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1. Quoteable Freud

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2. 83rd Annual Writer’s Digest Writing Competition Winners

Writer’s Digest would like to congratulate the 101 winners of the 83rd Annual Writer’s Digest Writing Competition! For full coverage of the awards, please check out the November/December 2014 issue of Writer’s Digest.

Grand Prize

Pamela Schott, “The Passion of Minerva Mullen” (Television/Movie Script) Read Pamela’s winning entry here. An extended Q&A with our winner is also available.

Children’s/Young Adult Fiction

  1. Jayne Jenner, “Berty and CL”
  2. Holly L. Niner, “Chicken Little’s Grade A Idea”
  3. Peter Gibb, “Big Tom, Little Dog”
  4. Mary E. Furlong, “The Far Side of Ryan’s Knock”
  5. Rita Arens, “Bella Eats the Monsters”
  6. Gay Kamber Seltzer, “The Second Day of School”
  7. Mary Edith Cerny, “Picasso and Spike (A Cat Tail in Haiku)”
  8. Laurie Weeks, “Battle on the Home Front”
  9. James A. Schindler, “One Hell of a Sale”
  10. Lara O’Brien, “Chesca and Rogue”

Genre Short Story

  1. Elizabeth English, “Rainbow’s End”
  2. Stephanie Dockery, “Devil in Disguise”
  3. Thomas J. Humprhey, “A Hankerin’ for Justice”
  4. Scotty Williams, “Hitching Devils”
  5. Kara Pauley, “Min’s Promise”
  6. Janella Lee, “Swelling with Love”
  7. N.E. Silver, “The Demerits of Missing Toes”
  8. Courtney Sikora, “When Young Blood Boils”
  9. Max Thorgeirson, “Withdrawn”
  10. Connie Kay Harris, “Redemptive Silver”

Inspirational Writing

  1. Cassandra Rankin, “Life is Messy and Things Aren’t Always So Little on this Crazy Farm”
  2. Roy Martin, “The Day That Changed My Life”
  3. Mandeep Matharu, “Living with Inspiration”
  4. Elvie Bennett and Lois Grzzard, “Major Illness”
  5. Jennifer Reinharz, “A Pleasant Passover”
  6. Samuel Zane Farrell, “Living the Dream with Multiple Sclerosis”
  7. Christine Gray, “Adding Bleach to Water”
  8. Bebe Faas Rice, “Grandma and the Angel”
  9. Soraya Nelson, “A Family Kept”
  10. Barbara Daniel, “The Miracle of Tough Love”

Magazine Feature Article

  1. Julie Loar, “Nemesis or Tyche: Does Our Sun Have a Sister?”
  2. David Sachs, “A Guided Tour of the Spirit World”
  3. Leslie Hsu Oh, “We Paddle Together, Imitating Our Ancestors. Whoosh teen ayxa’a! Daa naaytee!”
  4. Cathy Cassinos-Carr, “When Grief Gets Complicated”
  5. Rebecca L. Rhoades, “The Colors of Bravery”
  6. Edie A. Clark, “Kachidoki Maru”
  7. Angela Waldron, “Coffee Comes to the West”
  8. Marina DelVecchio, “If You Want It, Come and Get It: How Pop Culture Defines Female Sexual Identity”
  9. Rebecca L. Rhoades, “Swimming with Giants”
  10. Elaine K. Howley, “Ageless Wonder”

Mainstream/Literary Short Story

  1. Kara Donadt, “10:03”
  2. Anthony T. Lagler, “Stalingrad”
  3. Andy Zembles, “Safe at Home”
  4. Daniella McGowan, “Forgiven”
  5. Guy Claudy, “Match Play”
  6. Z.J. Czupor, “Down in Disappointment Valley”
  7. Beverly A. Rogers, “Release”
  8. Jean Blasiar, “A Matter of Who”
  9. Robert Granader, “Brothers”
  10. David Meyers, “Derelict: The Curious Voyage of Redemption for a Doubting Thomas”

Nonrhyming Poetry

  1. Caroline Reichard, “Visiting Henry”
  2. Emily Byers, “To my grandfather, while eating”
  3. Kim Garcia, “Tilth of snow”
  4. Susan Kinney-Riordan, “Ocarina”
  5. Jayson C. Lynn, “No One Told Me We Could Float Away”
  6. Johne Richardson, “Generations”
  7. John E. Simonds, “Friendly Intervention”
  8. Linda Neal Reising, “Every Little Being”
  9. Nancy Alvarado, “The Kiss of the Homeless Man”
  10. Johne Richardson, “Drowning”

Personal Essay

  1. Nancy Freund Bills, “The Myth”
  2. Tracy Mancuso, “Perfect Husband”
  3. Flavia Brunetti Proietti, “On sugared ginger, the merits of coffee, and thunderous hoofs over the plaints of the desert”
  4. Lyz Lenz, “How the World Was Supposed to End”
  5. Brandon Loran Maxwell, “Notes From an American Superpower”
  6. Sarah Houssayni, “707 N. Emporia”
  7. Marguerite Lambrinos, “The Decision”
  8. Carol Siyahi Hicks, “Wild Things All”
  9. Colleen K. Penor, “Fearsome Men”
  10. Bobbye DePaul, “I Bought a Banana”

Rhyming Poetry

  1. George Amabile, “Design After Herakleitos”
  2. Melissa Cannon, “Mercury Poises On the Pinnacle of Nashville’s Bygone Union Station”
  3. Clay Fulghum, “The Keening of the Swallows”
  4. Scott Cyre, “True to Joy”
  5. Melissa Cannon, “The Returning Dead”
  6. Robert Daseler, “The Bridesmaids”
  7. Susan Huppert, “The Wool of the Lamb”
  8. Erin T. Gunti, “Simply Put”
  9. Dylan Guy, “It’s a Charade”
  10. Ronald Miller, “Moses”

Stage Play

  1. Jennifer E. Pergola, “Change or Death”
  2. C.M. Webb, “Driver’s Ed”
  3. Pamela Jamruszka Mencher, “Escape from Eden”
  4. Michael Reimann, “American Farce”
  5. Richard Fewell, “Cancer Dreams”
  6. Michael Balin, “Conversion”
  7. Augustus Cileone, “Handicapped”
  8. T.M. Reel, “How I Became an Atheist”
  9. Lisa Snider, “Motel 101”
  10. Gerard Marconi, “Absolution”

Television/Movie Script

  1. Nicholas Kats, “Sweet”
  2. Tess Clark, “Supernatural: The Webs We Weave”
  3. Mark Schroeder, “TrainHoppers”
  4. Sula Miller, “Born Into Hate”
  5. Sonya Davis-Roberts, “Motivation”
  6. Alex Knudsen, “Principles of the Past”
  7. Lynne M. Smelser, “Traunik”
  8. David Ennocenti, “Sniper Queen”
  9. Tess Clark, “Hel”
  10. Michelle Donnelly, “A Golden Moment”

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3. Underpainting Review of "How I Paint Dinosaurs"

Thanks to Matthew Innis of the "Underpaintings" blog for his extensive review of my instructional video "How I Paint Dinosaurs." Here's an excerpt:

"The overall feeling and presentation of the film is “old school,” but “old school” at its best. It does not have all of the bells and whistles of computer graphics and 3-D object renderings, but that is not missed here, nor would it have been welcome (and I usually like the bells and whistles too). Gurney speaks throughout the film, is always clear, and the information he shares is always spot-on. The filming is good, and the delivery, in many ways, is reminiscent of 1950′s educational films mixed with old episodes of Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, which I found interesting. And of course, the artwork itself is excellent, and shows how much, both intellectually and technically, Gurney is the progeny of the greatest of the Golden Age Illustrators.
"Gurney’s talent at finding a balance, as I alluded to earlier, is really what makes the backbone of this film. Never is the film too heady, nor too simple. Every topic is explored well, but not in unwanted detail. The music is good, but not over-played. It is as if Gurney can instinctively find the perfect fulcrum point for any topic, and just balance there effortlessly.

"My favorite parts of the film were when Gurney was painting the background in the first segment, for which he relied heavily upon his experience painting plein air landscapes, the demonstration of the color gamut model in action in the second half, his use of maquettes to determine composition and value arrangements, and the fact that I was able to watch the full movie on a cross-country flight with my six-year-old, and that he was engaged the entire time (again, this is part of Gurney’s skill – even though some of the topics were over the head of my young son, certain elements, like the quirky appearances of Mr. Kooks, were able to re-draw his attention when he was at risk of being overwhelmed with information).
"The running time of How I Paint Dinosaurs is 52 minutes, and is available as both a DVD for $32.00 USD, or as a digital download for $15.00 USD. Although best suited for beginner to intermediate painters, there is much in it to be appreciated by all levels, from young amateurs with an interest in dinosaurs to experienced Academic artists wishing to experiment with painting more imaginative subjects and making them look real. It should also be of particular interest to young persons interested in the field of illustration as the film gives a clear breakdown of completing an illustration commission.

"For more information on the video, or to place an order, please visit James Gurney’s website: www.jamesgurney.com. And while you are there, make sure to look at Gurney’s books, Color and Light and Imaginative Realism, two indispensable guides which cover in more depth everything discussed in the film, and so much more. All are highly recommended.

Matthew Innis's blog Underpaintings is a subscription resource for the field of representational painting, past and present. More info at the Underpaintings home page.

0 Comments on Underpainting Review of "How I Paint Dinosaurs" as of 1/1/1900
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4. Coloring Page Tuesdays - Honey Biscuits

     Where's your favorite reading spot? This bear likes to munch on honey biscuits while reading a good book. Do you have a reading ritual?
     CLICK HERE for more coloring pages!! And be sure to share your creations in my gallery so I can put them in my upcoming newsletters! (Cards, kids art, and crafts are welcome!)
     Sign up to receive alerts when a new coloring page is posted each week and... Please check out my books! Especially...

my debut novel, A BIRD ON WATER STREET, coming out next week! Click the cover to learn more!
     When the birds return to Water Street, will anyone be left to hear them sing? A miner's strike allows green and growing things to return to the Red Hills, but that same strike may force residents to seek new homes and livelihoods elsewhere. Follow the story of Jack Hicks as he struggles to hold onto everything he loves most.
**A SIBA OKRA Pick!**
**A GOLD Mom's Choice Award Winner!**
**The 2014 National Book Festival Featured Title for Georgia!**
**eLit 2014 Gold Medal Winner in the Environmental/Ecology/Nature Category**

0 Comments on Coloring Page Tuesdays - Honey Biscuits as of 9/23/2014 9:54:00 AM
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5. Question: digital backlist

As a reader, is there anything I can do to advocate an author's backlist being made available digitally? There are several authors I love (such as Brian Jacques and Robin McKinley) who had some well-known books a decade or two before ebooks were a thing--and these books aren't available digitally. Who's best to talk to--authors, agents, editors, or publishers? Will my begging do any good?

The best person to talk to is the author. Generally the author controls any unexploited rights (which is what you're talking about.)  If you and many others clamor for an ebook, the author is the one who can show the demand to a publisher, or see there's a enough market to publish themselves.

Even if the author is sadly dead (as in the case of Brian Jacques) there's generally a way to get in touch via the webpage.

Fire off an email!

0 Comments on Question: digital backlist as of 9/23/2014 9:08:00 AM
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6. Guest Post: Lessons Learned from Hong Kong Movies

Writing Life Banner


Grady Hendrix


Note from Sooz: I am so delighted to share a guest post from author Grady Hendrix today. Personally, I am desperate to soak up any writing wisdom he might be so kind as to share.

Because guys, his new book Horrostör is incredible. Like, I got a copy of this in the mail, opened the package and snickered at the cover (and how the entire book is laid out like an Ikea catalog). Then I started reading…

…and two hours later, I finished the book. I COULDN’T PUT IT DOWN. It was laugh-out-loud funny and also thoroughly terrifying. Plus, there was incredible character development, a thoroughly twisty plot, and OH MY GOSH, what an ending!!

Since I’m sure y’all are dying to read this book too now (seriously: everyone should read it.), then make sure you fill out the Rafflecopter form below! We’re giving away 2 copies (hooray!).

Now, I’ll hand over the mic to Sir Grady, writer extraordinaire.

When I was in college, I lived near the Music Palace and that gave me the better education by far. A vast, rotting hulk of a movie palace it showed Hong Kong double features for $6 and, being broke, that was a deal I couldn’t resist. The Music Palace led to me co-founding the New York Asian Film Festival, it led to me moving to Hong Kong, my wife and I bonded over our shared love for Stephen Chow’s Love on Delivery and the hand amputations in Always Be the Winners, and it taught me how to write. Because everything I learned about writing, I learned at the Music Palace.

Everything I learned about language, I learned from subtitles.

“Say if you find him lousy!” Uncle Bill shouts. “Thanks for elephant, it’ll be worse if it’s dinosaur,” mutters Lam Ching-ying. “Are you an archeologist or a sucker!” a cop screams in frustration. Hong Kong movies have to be subtitled in English, but that doesn’t mean the subtitles have to make sense. Recruiting random strangers off the street, or sometimes just making a production assistant stay up late with an out-of-date Cantonese-to-English dictionary, Hong Kong subtitles emerge looking like William Burroughs cut-ups. And I love them. Every time they stretch, push, bend, or otherwise mutate the English language I feel like a door is opening inside my brain. At this point in my life I’ve watched thousands of Hong Kong movies, and not a day goes by when I don’t find subtitles popping into my head. Stuck on a packed elevator? “It’s getting crowdy,” I think. Cut off by an annoying driver? “Damn you, stink man, try my melon!” rolls off my tongue. As I learned from Hong Kong movies, it’s not the actual words that are important. It’s the feeling.

Everything I learned about character, I learned from John Woo.

You may think that John Woo is all about the gunfights, but his secret weapon is his mastery of crafting iconic characters. He doesn’t need plots, he just drops his characters into the ring and lets their conflicting motives drive the story. Whether it’s happy-go-lucky Mark (Chow Yun-fat) in A Better Tomorrow who finally gets sick of being treated like an errand boy and decides to demand respect, or Jeff (Chow Yun-fat, again) in The Killer who’s wracked with guilt over blinding a bystander in an assassination and tries to earn enough money to get her a cornea transplant, or Ben, Frank, and Paul, trapped in Vietnam, one of them wanting to rescue a woman, one of them wanting to steal a crate of gold, and one of them just wanting to go home. In Woo’s movies there are simply characters who want things, and what they want and how they get it drives the story into some of the most insane action sequences ever put onscreen. Because character is action. Quite literally.

Everything I learned about plot, I learned from Comrades, Almost a Love Story

Plot means you throw everything horrible you can think of at your characters and watch them squirm, and by the end they need to be in a different place than where they began. No movie is better at this than Peter Chan’s Comrades, Almost a Love Story. When the movie begins, Leon Lai is a Mainlander who comes to Hong Kong to make money. He falls for local girl, Maggie Cheung, and then…complications. Chan (and screenwriter Ivy Ho) throw every conceivable twist at their two romantic leads and by the time the movie’s over these two characters may seem to be right back where they began, but the viewer isn’t. You’ll find yourself crying buckets of tears not over the main characters but over the people they’ve hurt on their way to “happiness.” Comrades is a movie where every time you think you know the story, you suddenly realize that it’s about something else entirely. Like a great magician, the creators distract your attention over there, and then take you by surprise from over here.

Everything I learned about writing scenes, I learned from Peking Opera Blues

I firmly believe that Peking Opera Blues is the greatest motion picture ever made. Period. Full stop. Movies don’t get any better than Tsui Hark’s tale of three women trying to keep their heads above water during the early 20th century when China was torn into factions by greedy warlords. And one thing he does better than anyone else is stage big fat setpieces that keep going, and going, and going. Just when you think a scene has gone as far as it can, it goes even further. Writers often skip from scene to scene, but great directors know that if you’re going to go through the trouble of lighting a scene, dressing a set, and placing your camera, then you better wring every last ounce of drama out of it. And so, for Tsui, even a scene of a character waking up becomes a slapstick ballet as her father enters her bedroom and she has to keep him from detecting any of the four other people hidden on her bed, armed with nothing more than a blanket. Rather than starting a new scene every ten minutes, Tsui digs deep and plays every spin, variation, and complication on every scene that he can possibly find, turning each one into a setpiece that’s packed with emotional and dramatic information.

Everything I learned about writing women, I learned from The Heroic Trio.

Hollywood has two models for women: mothers and whores. Sometimes they dish up a motherly whore, or a whorish mother, but that’s just about the entire emotional spectrum. I was lucky enough to see The Heroic Trio back in 1993 when it first came out, and in Johnnie To’s movie an evil undead Chinese eunuch from the past is living in an underground lair in a dystopian future, stealing babies to turn them into an army of feral monsters. Opposing him are Wonder Woman (Anita Mui), Thief Catcher (Maggie Cheung), and Invisible Girl (Michelle Yeoh). Wonder Woman is a devoted mother who doesn’t get to spend as much time as she wants with her family because she’s constantly saving the world from evil. Thief Catcher is only in it for the money, but she’ll ultimately do the right thing. And Invisible Girl starts out purely evil, but changes sides when Wonder Woman and Thief Catcher offer her what she’s been missing: friendship. I came out of that movie theater understanding that inside every woman is a Thief Catcher, an Invisible Girl, and a Wonder Woman. I do my best to write them that way.

Well, you have succeeded, my friend. I ADORED Amy in Horrorstör. Thank you so much for joining us, Grady! And for all you readers interested in absorbing more of his wisdom, he’ll be touring all week across the interwebs:

Finally, here’s the giveaway we promised!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Grady Hendrix writes fiction, also called “lies,” and he writes non-fiction, which people sometimes mistakenly pay him for. There is a science fiction book called Occupy Space that he is the author of, and also a fantasy book called Satan Loves You which he wrote as well. Along with his BFF from high school, Katie Crouch, he is the co-author of the YA series, The Magnolia League. With Ryan Dunlavey he was co-authored the Li’l Classix series, which are cartoon degradations of classic literature, and with his wife, and Ryan, he wrote Dirt Candy: A Cookbook, the first graphic novel cookbook in America. His fiction has appeared in Strange Horizons, Pseudopod, and the anthology, The Mad Scientist’s Guide to World Domination.

He is very, very beautiful, but if you ever meet him, please do not let this make you uncomfortable. He does not judge.

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7. Pamela Schott’s The Passion of Minerva Mullen

The Passion of Minerva Mullen, a screenplay by Pamela Schott, is the Grand Prize winner of the 83rd Annual Writer’s Digest Writing Competition. You can read an extended interview with Pamela here, and view a full list of winners here. For complete coverage of the 83rd Annual Writer’s Digest Writing Competition, please check out the November/December 2014 issue of Writer’s Digest.


Whatever you do, please don’t tell my mom about this screenplay. Because if she knew… If she knew that I was laying bare the story of a young girl, circa 1979, on the verge of womanhood, a smart ass middle child who has the unhappy distinction of being the product of 1) Catholic schools; 2) the military; and 3) a family that really knows how to take the “fun” out of dysfunctional, well… Let’s just say that she would wrongly assume that this is about her.

In truth, this story belongs purely, solely, and absolutely to the aforementioned school girl, one so-called Minerva Mullen (named for the Goddess of War; her father had big ideas) who has just about had it up to here with all the things she can’t control. Like nuns with rules (and rulers); a dad with orders that send him to sea with every turn of the tide; a posse of brothers who are left to navigate the road to manhood on their own; and a pill-popping, perpetually pregnant mother with a manic-depressive disorder that makes family life anything but livable. And this is the story of how, having stirred the wrath and ridicule of Holy Name school principal Sister Mary “Battle Axe” Bernard one time too many, Minerva lands in hot holy water and finds herself charged with the impossible task of mounting the school’s annual Christmas pageant to Sister’s satisfaction—complete with a real, live Baby Jesus—or face expulsion. But can Minerva keep the peace at home, the family in Holy Name’s good graces, and her own cool when a secret crush becomes her first true love?

For all the latch-key kids who remember what the world felt like when Iran took American hostages; who found the fun in a Slinky and Pet Rocks and Pong; who yearned for the first kisses, first cars and first place in the Spelling Bee; and who witnessed the advent of the self-help movement—watched, helpless, as their families fell apart, Minerva’s story is a story about what it’s like to go kicking and screaming into an uncertain future.

But it’s definitely, absolutely, and positively not about my mom. So, please. Whatever you do? Don’t tell her about this screenplay.



A bright, early fall morning. Wind rustles EUCALYPTUS TREES and tall, colorless grasses that line the drive to the GUARD GATE.

Too fast, A DATSUN STATION WAGON approaches the GATE, braking at the last moment, tires crunching pavement.

As it stops, the GATE SERGEANT (early 20s) leans out of the guard shack, smartly salutes the COAST GUARD STICKER on the car’s silver bumper.


The driver, a very pregnant BRENDA MULLEN, early 30s, a pretty bottle blonde just this side of washed up, stubs her cigarette in the ash tray, rolls down her window.

Next to her is MINERVA MULLEN (15). Awkward, gangly, she’s got the bold-faced confidence of girls three times prettier, and a rebellious streak to match.

On Minerva’s lap is blonde, curly-haired PATSY KLINE (2). Patsy Kline munches Zweiback toast, works it through the web of her hands, into her hair. None wear a seat belt.

Good morning, Sergeant.

Sergeant rubs his gloved hands together, blows into them.


Looking good today, Sergeant. Very smart.

Ma’am, yes ma’am, Mrs. Mullen.

Please, Sergeant. Mrs. Mullen is my mother-in-law, the old battle ax.

Sergeant eyes the BAGS of bread in the back of the car.

Commissary out of bread this morning, Ma’am?

Can’t beat the day-old prices at the bakery. Girls, say good morning to the Sergeant.

Good morning, Sergeant.

Patsy Kline extends the mushy cookie, grins.

No cookie for me, Patsy Kline. Still on duty.

(grinding the gears)
Always by the book, eh, Sergeant? That’s what I like about you. Stay

Goodbye, Mrs. Mullen.

Brenda floors it, wipes Patsy Kline’s mouth with the corner of her sleeve, reaches to the dash to shove the CIGARETTE LIGHTER into place.

It’s a well-rehearsed orchestration of movements.

Grab me a cigarette, will you Minerva?

Minerva moves Patsy Kline off of her lap, straddles the seat to reach into the back.

Balance is precarious as Brenda takes the right angles of the base streets, rolling through each stop.

Why doesn’t the Sergeant ever say good morning to me?

You know how it is. The young ones always steal the show.

Brenda slows for another stop, pitching Patsy Kline forward towards the gear shift.

BRENDA (cont’d)
Whoa, there, Patsy Kline!

Minerva finds the SALEMS, climbs back to her seat.

BRENDA (cont’d)
You grow into those knobby knees of yours, that Sergeant’ll be
noticing you soon enough. Mark my words. And ‘Nerve?

Minerva peels the plastic from the pack, expertly smacks it against the heel of her hand, pulls a cigarette out.

BRENDA (cont’d)
Didn’t we have an agreement about those bangs?

Patsy Kline reaches for the cigarette.

No, Patsy Kline.

(to Patsy Kline)
Not till you’re 18, darlin’. 16, if you don’t let your daddy know you’re

doing it.

The LIGHTER disengages with a crisp, metallic POP! Minerva lights the cigarette, avoids Patsy Kline’s grab.

No, Patsy Kline.
(to Brenda)
I like my bangs.

The cigarette lit, Brenda takes a long drag, down shifts.

They bounce onto the driveway and into the carport of a one-level, nondescript cinder block medley of grey and greyer, just like every other house on the block.

Brenda exhales as she studies Minerva.

In your eyes, you like them?

Minerva adjusts the rear-view mirror, studies herself.

I’m trying to grow them so they can feather. Laura Cooper? At school?
She has the perfect feather.

She’s got the right hair for it, ‘Nerve. Blonde and thick. Gorgeous hair.

Brenda brushes the bangs from Minerva’s eyes.

BRENDA (cont’d)
We’ll cut these this weekend. Remind me, okay?

Not gonna happen.


Brenda hoists herself out of the car, leaving Minerva to scrutinize in the mirror.

She’s not happy with what she sees, but this isn’t the first time.

BRENDA (cont’d)
Bring those groceries inside, I’ve got a surprise for you.

As Brenda waddles to the kitchen door, Patsy Kline in tow, Minerva dutifully begins unpacking the car.

BRENDA (cont’d)
(calling into the house)
Boys, you better be up and ready. Frankie? Sammy? Let’s go.
Reveille, reveille!

Minerva struggles with the bags, kicks the car door closed, moves to the other side where she shoves her hip into Brenda’s door to close it, heads towards the kitchen door.

Remembering something, she moves back to the car, peers into the back passenger window, taps on the glass.

Come on, Sammy.

Momentarily, SAMMY MULLEN (6), HEARING AIDS IN BOTH EARS, emerges from the car, obediently follows Minerva inside.



CLOSE ON three squirming PAIR OF FEET, each sporting identical pairs of DAY-GLO ORANGE AND BLUE ADIDAS TRACK SHOES. Atrocious.

Brenda double-ties Sammy’s shoes, sits back on her heels, scratches her distended belly.

As she does, we get a look at the living room: the tattered FURNITURE, B&W T.V. SET, old UPRIGHT PIANO, PHOTOS crooked on the wall.

ON ONE PHOTO, a recent family portrait, where we see COAST GUARD LIEUTENANT COMMANDER BECK MULLEN, mid-30, surrounded by Brenda and the children, dressed in military WHITES. He is handsome, and proud.

Hey? What do you think?

From her angle, we see Minerva and Sammy, plus FRANKIE (16), all dressed in Catholic school uniforms, and humiliated beyond belief.

Fair like his father, movie star good looks, Frankie is Brenda’s favorite. He’s also a closeted homosexual who’s trying desperately to be straight.

Next to Brenda, Patsy Kline chews on a sponge that has yet to clean the mess on her face.

BRENDA (cont’d)
Got those on close out at Big Five. Adidas, guys! Brand name, right?

No one wears Adidas.

No one?

Frankie drops to one knee, cuffs his pants.

They’re not so bad if you know how to wear them.

Isn’t that a little, you know…?

Brenda makes her wrist go limp.

BRENDA (cont’d)
…queer, Frankie?

No. Ma, it’s “Grease”!

Anyway. It’s Nikes now.

Brenda takes the sponge from Patsy Kline, wipes faces as Frank wordlessly undoes his cuffs.

When it’s her turn for the sponge, Minerva moves so her face is out of reach. No way.

Then the Mullens get to start a new trend

God, you are so wrong about so many things. Did you even go to
school, Mom?

Don’t push my buttons. I’m having a good day so far and I don’t want
you ruining it.

What about my day? Do you know what’s going to happen to me the
minute we set foot on campus?

Leave it, Minerva.

You watch. You wear those Adidas today, everyone’ll be wearing them
tomorrow. Nikes’ll be a thing of the past.

Fat chance.

Grab your lunches, let’s go. You know how Sister Mary Joseph
Bernard gets when we’re late.

(to the others)
Do not, under any circumstances, call attention to yourselves. Or
your feet. Especially your feet.




SR. MARY JOSEPH BERNARD, 50s, full black and white robes—
RULER strapped to her belt, ROSARY hanging at her side—stands at the foot of the school stairs, hands warming under her robes.

Above her is a mammoth-sized STATUE OF JESUS.

Eagle eying all commers, he extends one hand out before him, points the other to his heart. Long hair flows in two plates over each shoulder, as if waiting to be braided.

The Datsun slides to a stop as the LAST BELL RINGS. Brenda gets out, opening car doors to release her brood.

Mullens tumble out, race up the steps past Sister.

Morning, Sister! Looking lovely today! That black and white on you?

Then, spotting his best friend, HENRY (16), handsome in his Clark Kent glasses, Frank hurries up the steps.

FRANKIE (cont’d)
Henry! Wait up.

The day-glo ADIDAS catch Sister’s eye as he goes.

Sammy is next to tumble out of the car. When Sister sees the ADIDAS on Sammy’s feet, she has to smother a smile.

Sammy hurries past Sister without a word, but she grabs him by the collar, literally sweeping him off his feet.

“Good morning, Sister Mary Joseph Bernard.” Say it. Say it!
(under her breath)
I know you can talk, you little brat.

Blushing furiously, Sammy MUMBLES something incoherent, breaks free of Sister’s grasp, tears up the stairs.

Back at the car, Brenda licks her fingers, wets Minerva’s bangs, slicks them back away from her eyes. Minerva brushes her off.

Now, ‘Nerve, remember…

Brenda thrusts her chest out, wiggles her shoulders.

BRENDA (cont’d)

Oh my God.

Minerva hurries past Sister, who notes Minerva’s day glo ADIDAS.

Just… try. Please? We’ll go bra shopping at the Commissary this
weekend, just so we’re ready. Okay?

Beyond humiliated, Minerva disappears into the CROWD of STUDENTS.

Sister arches an eyebrow at Brenda

BRENDA (cont’d)
Not all of us are called to be Brides of Christ, Sister. Landing a man’s
the next best thing.

Brenda gets in the car, moves Patsy Kline from the window.

ON SISTER as the Datsun pulls away, an idea brewing before she marches up the stairs, garments billowing.



The restless STUDENT BODY, a mass of K through 12 STUDENTS, is assembled outside the Mission-style school for morning prayers. They stamp and paw at the ground against the cold.

At the front of the assembly is a PODIUM on which stands a small AMERICAN FLAG.

Behind this is a LARGE WOODEN CROSS.

Momentarily, Sister emerges from her office, strides up the center aisle as if assessing troops.

Francis Mullen, please.

Frankie moves to the podium, takes the FLAG from its stand. This is a familiar routine.

Samuel Mullen?

Moving noiselessly to avoid attention, Sammy complies.

A PUZZLED WHISPER ripples through the student body as the Mullens line up at the front.

Who are we missing? Oh, yes. Minerva Mary? Will you join us?

Minerva emerges from line, reluctantly joins her brothers. She throws Frankie a questioning look, but he shrugs it off.

Nothing from Sister, who watches the assembled students, waiting for what she prays is coming.

Finally, a STIR in the crowd, then SNICKERS and GIGGLES as the students get Sister’s unspoken message.

It’s the shoes.

In the morning grey, with the Mullens shoulder to shoulder, the day glo awfulness of the three pair of ADIDAS is glaringly obvious.

Sister lets the commotion ride, poker faced, a few delicious moments longer, then:

Excuse me, Holy Name students, is this how we behave at morning

SILENCE once again. Sister closes her eyes, is the epitome of reverence.

On this, the first day of Advent, we pray… In the name of the Father,
and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.

ALL but Minerva bless themselves.


Today we begin the season of waiting. Waiting for the Baby Jesus to
be born, in our hearts, and in our world. As we take that first step on
the road to Bethlehem to meet Jesus in the manger, will we walk, sure-
footed in our fine, shiny shoes…


I’m gonna kill her.

…or stumble, pitifully, over our own egos. Our inequities. Our shame.
As we ready ourselves for the birth of our Savior, wash us clean of all
our sins, clean as bright, unsoiled new shoes…

So help me God, I’m gonna kill her.

…that we may so walk forever in your Grace. In Jesus’ name.


Now, Minerva, if you would lead us in the Pledge of Allegiance?

Minerva slices Sister a look of pure hatred, steps forward, raises the FLAG.

I pledge allegiance to the flag…

CLOSE ON SISTER as a small smile plays around her lips.





The clock tower BELL CHIMES three times.

Minerva and Frankie huddle on the wall for warmth in front of the school, Sammy on Minerva’s lap.

The last to be picked up, they wait for Brenda, who’s very late. Minerva eyes the CLOCK TOWER, the STATUE of Jesus.

I can’t wait to get the hell out of here.


What’re you gonna do, tell Mom on me? What does she have against
us, anyway?

Sister? She knows we can’t afford to be here. Not really. She knows
we’re vulnerable.

Sammy gets Minerva’s attention, SIGNS a question.

What Frankie means is, Sister isn’t a good person.

Minerva sees Sammy isn’t understanding.

MINERVA (cont’d)
She’s mean, Sammy.

Minerva eyes the STATUE again, an idea dawning.

Then, she lifts Sammy off her lap, places him on the wall, jumps down, begins untying her shoes.

MINERVA (cont’d)
Mean, and nasty, and so much fun to mess with.

What are you doing?

Minerva takes her shoes off, grins from ear to ear, ties them together with the shoelaces.

Do you remember what the Three Wise Men brought Jesus for his

Gold. Frankincense. Myrrh.

Totally useless gifts. Like, he’s a baby. In a manger. What’s he gonna
do with Myrrh?

I don’t even know what Myrrh is.

Exactly my point.

Frankie and Sammy watch in disbelief as Minerva approaches the STATUE, swings the shoes in a high arc… and lets go.

ON THE SHOES as they fly through the air, catching on Jesus’ outstretched hand, winding around his fingers.

The blue and orange DAY GLO stripes are a bright contrast against the marble statue.

Sammy laughs, thrilled at what Minerva’s done as Frankie stares, wide-eyed.

You are so busted.


She’s gonna know it’s you.


Frankie slips his backpack over his shoulder, grabs Sammy’s, too, gives Minerva a wary shake of the head.

Let’s go, Sammy.

Frankie takes Sammy’s hand, begins walking.

Hey, Frank?


When’re you going to get your own wheels?

Soon as I can, ‘Nerve. Soon as I can

Minerva hangs back, suddenly aware she’s got to walk home without shoes.

Hey, guys? Guys?

Minerva hoists her backpack, gives one last look to Jesus, beams as she considers her handiwork.

Then, hobbling in her stocking feet, she hurries to catch up.

MINERVA (cont’d)
Ow. Ow. Ow.



Minerva enters the kitchen, drops her backpack on the floor below the row of HOOKS where the family’s book bags hang.

From somewhere in the house, Patsy Kline CRIES.

MINERVA (cont’d)

Frankie enters, a SOBBING Patsy Kline on his hip, gives Minerva a dark look.

MINERVA (cont’d)
What—no. Again?

Minerva looks past Frankie to the hallway.

MINERVA’S POV: THE CLOSED DOOR at the end of the hall.

ON THE KITCHEN, where BOWLS, CEREAL BOXES, MILK from breakfast crowd the counter. This is not a good sign.

Minerva sighs, moves to take the baby from Frankie.

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8. Emotional Description: 3 Common Problems with Show & Tell

Writing compelling emotional moments is the lifeblood of any story and the key to building a relationship between characters and readers. Yet steering clear of the show-don’t-tell pitfalls requires practice and skill. I’m reposting this from where it originally appeared at Romance University to shed light on three scenarios that challenge writers as they search for the right balance of emotional description.


Telling is a big issue, especially when writers are still getting to know their characters. Often they do not yet have enough insight into the hero’s personality and their motivation to really be able to describe how they feel in a unique way. Instead of using a vivid and authentic mix of body language, thoughts, dialogue and visceral sensations, writers convey emotion  in broad, telling strokes:


Bill had to steel himself emotionally before entering the church. He’d managed to avoid his family for seven years, but his father’s funeral wasn’t something he could blow off. Anger and jealousy welled inside him as he thought of his two older brothers, the ones who always impressed Dad by being just like him: athletic, manly, hard. Now he would have to face them, and hear once again how he was a failure, a disappointment, an abomination that should have done the world a favor and hung himself from the Jackson family tree.

What’s wrong with this passage?

While the above alludes to an unhealthy relationship between brothers and conveys that Bill is the family misfit, the emotions are TOLD to the reader.

Bill had to steel himself emotionally… What does that look like? Does he sneak a slug of whiskey in his car before going in? Shuffle around on the church step, tugging at his starched cuffs?  Something else? With emotion, the reader should always get a clear image of how the character is expressing their feelings.

Anger and jealousy welled inside him… This again is telling, simply by naming the emotions. What does that anger and jealousy feel like? Is his pulse throbbing so loud he can barely think? Are his thoughts boiling with brotherly slurs that show his jealousy: dad’s golden children, his perfect prodigy, etc. Does his chest feel stuffed full of broken glass, and with each thrum of the church organ, the pain drives itself deeper?

Showing and Telling

Another common snag is showing the character’s feelings (thoughts, actions, body language, visceral sensations, etc.) but then adding some telling just to make sure the reader ‘got it.’ This often happens when a writer doesn’t have confidence in their own abilities to get emotion across to the reader, or they question whether they’ve shown the character’s feelings strongly enough for the situation.


Dean Harlow finally called Tammy’s name and Lacy’s breath hitched. Her daughter crossed the stage in her rich purple robe, smiling and thrusting her arm out for the customary handshake. Warmth blurred Lacy’s vision and she swiped at the tears, unwilling to miss a second of the graduation ceremony. Her calloused fingers scraped beneath her eyelids, a reminder of long hours at the laundry, all to ensure Tammy would have opportunities she herself never did. 

When her daughter accepted her diploma, Lacy shot out of her seat, clapping and cheering. She had never been so happy and proud in all her life. 

What’s wrong with this passage?

Emotion is shown clearly through Lacy’s hitching breath, the warm rush signaling tears, her rapt attention and then finally jumping up to cheer her daughter on. But that last line: She had never been so happy and proud in all her life. This unnecessary explanation of Lacy’s happiness and pride is like hammering a nail long after it’s flush with the board.  In the book, Description by Monica Wood, there’s a great rule of writing called RUE: Resist the Urge to Explain. So when it comes to emotion, remember RUE.

Over Showing

Over showing is when a writer gets caught up in the moment and goes too far by showing everything. Too much emotional description can slow the pace of the scene, create purple prose or clichés, and come across as melodramatic.


Finn huddled behind the rusted oil drum, dripping with cold sweat as she tried to control her loud, rasping breath. The sound of Alex scraping the crowbar along the warehouse’s cement floor turned her heart into a jackhammer. A scream built up in her throat and she clamped her teeth tight, converting it into a nearly soundless whimper. Her body trembled and shuddered in the dark, and a cascade of thoughts piled up like shoreline debris– the odd things he said, the strange gifts and creepy poems, his interest in seeing blood—why didn’t these things didn’t send off air raid sirens in her head before tonight? 

What’s wrong with this passage?

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000046_00058]In some ways, this is a great moment showing fear. Body language, thoughts and visceral sensations all work to bring about intensity, but because there is so much of it, it feels overblown. Emotion doesn’t just build here…it roars. As a result, clichés form (the jackhammer heartbeat) and purple prose emerges from too many fanciful ideas (cascading thoughts, shoreline debris, air raid sirens, etc.) The combination of too much description creates the flavor of melodrama, which can cause the reader to disengage. Showing is great, but in moderation. Sometimes an author can say more with less.

Getting the right balance of emotion on the page isn’t easy, so I hope this helps! And if you would like to read about these common problems in more detail (or the other issues with writing emotion), you can find in depth information in the “Look Inside” sample of The Emotion Thesaurus at Amazon. Feel free to take a peek!


Also, Becca’s at Rebecca Lyndon’s blog today talking about characterization techniques writers can steal borrow from the stellar cast of Finding Nemo. If you’ve got time, please stop by and say hello!

The post Emotional Description: 3 Common Problems with Show & Tell appeared first on WRITERS HELPING WRITERS.

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9. Extended Q&A With Annual Winner Pamela Schott

The Passion of Minerva Mullen, by Pamela Schott, is the grand-prize winning manuscript (available here) in the 83rd Annual Writer’s Digest Writing Competition, besting more than 6,300 entries across the 10 categories. For complete coverage of this year’s awards, check out the November/December 2014 issue of Writer’s Digest. Click here for a complete list of winners from the competition.

Pamela Schott is an award-winning screenwriter and a contributing author to the Amazon.com #1 Bestseller, Speaking Your Truth. A creative executive who got her start in marketing and advertising as a copywriter in San Francisco, Pamela has written for Creative Screenwriting Magazine and was featured in Writer’s Market 2009, the annual New York Times bestseller for aspiring writers. A wife (of one) and mother (of two), Pamela is currently at work on her seventh screenplay and in pre-production on her first major motion picture, Music From a Scorched Earth.

Can you give us a summary of The Passion of Minerva Mullen?

This is the story of a young girl, circa 1979, on the verge of womanhood, a smart-ass middle child who has the unhappy distinction of being the product of 1) Catholic schools; 2) the military; and 3) a family that really knows how to take the “fun” out of dysfunctional.

Although laden with authority figures, this story belongs purely, solely, and absolutely to the aforementioned school girl, one so-called Minerva Mullen (named for the Goddess of War; her father had big ideas) who has just about had it up to here with all the things she can’t control. Like nuns with rules (and rulers); a dad with orders that send him to sea with every turn of the tide; a posse of brothers who are left to navigate the road to manhood on their own; and a pill-popping, perpetually pregnant mother with a manic-depressive disorder that makes family life anything but livable.

And this is the story of how, having stirred the wrath and ridicule of Holy Name school principal Sister Mary “Battle Axe” Bernard one time too many, Minerva lands in hot holy water and finds herself charged with the impossible task of mounting the school’s annual Christmas pageant to Sister’s satisfaction—complete with a real, live Baby Jesus—or face expulsion.

But can Minerva keep the peace at home, the family in Holy Name’s good graces, and her own cool when a secret crush becomes her first true love?

For all the latch-key kids who remember what the world felt like when Iran took American hostages; who found the fun in a Slinky and Pet Rocks and Pong; who yearned for first kisses, first cars and first place in the spelling bee; and who witnessed the advent of the self help movement—watched, helpless, as their families fell apart—Minerva’s is a story about what it’s like to go kicking and screaming into an uncertain future.

Describe your writing process for this piece.

While it’s not accurate to say that Mineva is autobiographical, there are many aspects of the story that were lifted directly from my childhood. I grew up in a very conservative Catholic family with a dad who served as an officer in the Coast Guard, so my life was a constant cycle of confession and upheaval as we followed him around the world from one assignment to the next. I am also one of nine children (insert Catholic joke here), so naturally, our household was a hive of activity—“controlled chaos” might be the best term for it. What resulted was often loud and messy and unsettling, but there was a lot of love there, too.

My husband had long been on my case to write down my experiences, and so when I finally decided to do just that, the pages came quickly. A normal first draft of a screenplay takes about six months for me to complete, but the first act of Minerva was done in about two weeks.

After that, I put it away for a few years (I went through a rough patch in which I considered giving up on a writing career altogether), but then, in the fall of 2013, I decided to see if I could knock out a completed draft by the end of Christmas. I jumped in where I had left off and again, the words just poured out of me. Before long—and in record time—the script was done.

What do you think are the biggest benefits and challenges of writing screenplays?

The biggest benefits of writing screenplays are actually the same benefits that come with any creative endeavor: you get to play, have fun, and let your imagination run free. On this level, you are powerful and unlimited, and there’s nothing more satisfying than experiencing that.

The biggest challenge to screenwriting that I find is getting out of the way of the characters and what they want to say and how they want to behave. I’ve gotten better at this with time, but I remember in the beginning being overly concerned with how my characters behaved or the language they used because I cared about what people I knew would think of me for making those choices. When I finally realized that a good writer knows how to let the characters come in as they are—flaws and f-bombs and all—I started to care less about what people thought about the end product and more about letting my characters be wholly who they are.

How long have you been writing? How did you start?

I started writing screenplays at night after my two babies were in bed (my daughter, Julia, was a newborn at the time, and she would sleep in her bassinet next to my desk in between feedings). With a toddler, a newbie, and a business to run, nights were best because it was quiet and I could think without interruption. That was 16 years ago. But my desire to work in show business dates back to when I was little and dreamed of being a member of the Mickey Mouse Club. In truth, I was more drawn to their cowboys outfits—white leather boots, vests, hats, etc.—than actually being in front of the camera. But writing was always there, and I was always receiving encouragement from teachers to pursue it on a professional level.

After my husband and I got married, I bought a copy of Syd Field’s book, Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting and started playing with the idea of writing movies, but it wasn’t until a few years later that I sat down and actually tried it.

Have you published any stories? Won any other competitions?

Since I work in the film industry, I’m not seeking publication. I do have another script that is being made into a major motion picture as we speak, plus an additional screenplay that is being shopped around.

I have placed twice in the Writer’s Digest Annual Competition in the screenwriting category, receiving Honorable Mention for the two scripts I just spoke about.

Who and what has inspired you as a writer?

Nora Ephron has been a big influence in my writing life. I also admire Christopher Nolan (Inception, Memento). I wish I could think like he does so that I could write stories that bend the brain as his do, but my mind just doesn’t work like that. Steven Soderbergh and Steven Spielberg are also up there, and I am inspired every day to write something that either of them would want to direct.

For the “what” category, it’s got to be music that inspires me the most. My life has been informed by the music of U2. It’s layered and poetic and original and sexy, and if I can create something on the page that halfway resembles any of that, I will be that much closer to becoming the writer I want to be.

Do you write in any other genres?

I have tried writing dramatic fiction—short and long form—but it’s too hard. Too much work. In novels, you have to paint with a larger brush to communicate to the reader what you see in your mind’s eye. Screenwriting is more dialogue driven—both in terms of what a character says and doesn’t say—which means you get to leave the heavy lifting on all the other stuff to the actors and director and director of photography and set designers and all the other host of professionals who make a script come to life.

As a screenwriter, while I tend towards dramas, I have also written several romantic comedies and coming-of-age stories. Minerva is a coming-of-age script that is both sad and funny all at once, so I guess this one spans what I’m capable of at this point.

What’s the one thing you can’t live without in your writing life?

My laptop and screenwriting software. Wait, that’s two things.

Where do you get ideas for your writing?

Minerva came from my growing up experiences. My other project, Music From a Scorched Earth, which is now being made into a film, came from an experience I had that sparked a question. Back in high school, I had been inseparable from a friend of mine. We spent every waking hour together, and I loved her and admired her. After we graduated, we took a trip together, and the wheels just fell off the whole relationship. It was very painful for me, and I took the memory of that experience into adulthood and wrestled with it for some time. Finally, when I sat down to write MUSIC, it was with my friend in mind and the question, What is the worst thing that could happen to a friendship that tears it apart, and what would it take to mend that relationship? The script just unfolded from there.

What are some aspects of writing you’ve struggled with? How have you worked to strengthen yourself in these areas?

As I mentioned before, self censoring has been a little bit of a struggle. But, c’mon. Catholic school and the military will do that to the best of us.

Overcoming that censorship has been a process, but when you stop caring what other people think about you, writing gets a whole lot easier. (That’s a good tip for life in general, too.)

What’s your proudest moment as a writer?

Finishing a script is always a proud moment. There’s no feeling like it. But setting up my first motion picture and then winning the Grand Prize in this competition—all within a matter of a few weeks—has topped everything so far. It actually took about two days for the shock to wear off.

What are your goals as a writer?

I’m looking forward to seeing my name on the big screen, to seeing the script embodied by actors, and experiencing the creative collaboration with all of the talented people that will come together to realize that vision. I’m just getting a taste of that right now with MUSIC, and it is an intoxicating cocktail!

Any final thoughts or advice?

Yes. Make up your own mind about the industry that you’ve chosen to create in, and ignore everything that doesn’t fit with that vision. I started writing 16 years ago, and for the majority of that time, I had bought into the whole notion of being a starving artist in a brutal field that’s run by crazy people. And guess what? I made no money, fell flat on my face, and had my share of encounters with lots of questionable individuals.

Over time, I came to realize that the most successful people (successful in all aspects of their lives, not just their careers) don’t think about obstacles or struggle. They keep their eye on what they want, and they refuse to listen to anything that doesn’t match the story that they are telling themselves. They shut out the peanut gallery and go about their business, and we read about them in the trades and hear about them on the news as a result.

If you want to be successful in your field, think like people who have that success. There is a way to get from where you are to where you want to be. Hold firm to your vision, love what you do, and see who turns up to light the path as a result.

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10. Gregory Maguire on Writing and Inspiration (especially for Egg & Spoon)

If I can collect a little assemblage of items that put me in a mood of the book, then I find some place in my study where I can put them out. For “Egg and Spoon,” I had some wonderful things. I had a 1940’s era paper mache Baba Yaga’s cottage. It’s only standing on one chicken’s foot; it got broken somewhere along the way. I have a number of matryoshkas I’ve collected over the years. I have a number of painted eggs I’ve painted myself starting 40 years ago; I used to paint one every Easter. Some of them have Russian themes. I have little British foot soldiers. I’ll arrange them on a little altar to the muse. I don’t play with them — I don’t march them around the room and sing little songs — but the fact that they’re there is a clue to myself that the studio is open.



via Karen Kosko

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11. nerosunero @ Fusion Tribal

Fusion Tribal (Mexico City, Mexico, 22 IX 2014)

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12. Building Read Aloud Routine in 3rd Grade

The first eight weeks of school is critical.  Building routines and setting the stage for learning across the year happens in those first few weeks. Read Aloud is one of the most important routines in our classroom.  It is the time when we come together around a book and enjoy it together. But it is far more than enjoying a book. Our conversations help us build and grow our thinking and give us strategies for understanding longer, more complex books.  I know if the conversation is to grow over the course of the year, I need to choose books carefully for read aloud.

During the first three weeks of school, I thought it was important to read short read alouds that matched the kinds of books kids would be reading at this age. I think it was Joanne Hindley who taught me the importance of not always reading books above a child's independent reading level because what we read aloud is often what kids think we value. So if I want kids to read books that are right for them independently, I want to share those books often and throughout the year.  The books I read early were books that set up the routine of daily read aloud from a book we had to carry in our heads over days. It also introduced kids to various authors and series as a starting point to our talk about series and authors.  And, we so loved seeing Mercy Watson appear in Leroy Ninker! These were the books we shared during the first few weeks of school:

Lulu and the Brontosaurus
The  Meanest Birthday Girl
Leroy Ninker Saddles Up
Bink and Gollie
Chicken Squad

Currently we are reading aloud The Quirks. My students last year love the Quirks and I blogged about it  here and here  because I loved it so much.  It is a little bit of a stretch for some kids as they are many characters to keep track of and some little things that readers miss unless we stop to talk. So we are stopping to talk often and learning how to hold onto a story over several days.  Getting your head back into a book every day is critical and an important skill for this age.  During this read, we've also changed read aloud a bit. We moved to sitting in a circle facing each other on the floor. We've worked at building on a conversation rather than just sharing what you are thinking and moving on to the next person. And we've added a reader's notebook component where kids can stop and jot their thinking. At the beginning of third grade, I find students want to say everything they are thinking and learning to capture thinking in writing helps them learn to analyze and prioritize their thinking--figuring out the thinking that helps them dig deeper into their reading.

Next week, I plan to begin Tuesdays at the Castle by Jessica Day George. Jessica Day George will be visiting our school in October and we are very excited!  The kids are very familiar with fairy tales but this will most likely be the first novel-length fairy tale they've read.  For this read aloud, I am going to share the audiobook. I decided on this for a few reasons.  I want to talk about audiobooks as a way to read. So many kids build fluency with audiobooks and the text in front of them. I also think audiobooks are important for all readers-I am a reader who gets carsick so the only way I can read in the car is with audiobooks. I figure some of my students may want to add audiobooks to their reading lives. The audiobook will also give me a chance to keep a readers's notebook as we read.  I will use an iPad app such as Notability and track my own thinking as I listen to the audiobook. I have found that this is a great way to model a variety of ways to track thinking without interfering much with kids' own thinking/process.

Following Tuesdays at the Castle, we'll jump into Global Read Aloud a few days late. We'll be reading Edward Tulane with classrooms around the world. I am anxious for my students to see the power of this event and the way our thinking can be impacted by others.  

By the time we get to the end of October, we'll have a great deal in place when it comes to the read aloud routine.  And these strategies and behaviors will begin to show up in students' independent reading.  Whether these are the perfect choices or not, I know that each book will change us as a community of readers in a different way.

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13. Book Review: Sketching from Square One to Trafalgar Square

Richard Scott's new book, "Sketching - from Square One to Trafalgar Square" is a comprehensive introduction to drawing from observation.

The book presents practical advice for achieving accuracy, including measuring angles and organizing value shapes. One tip is that you can size up an appropriate cone of vision by holding your arms out at the width of your shoulders in front of you.

Scott includes a variety of excellent examples of sketch techniques, including pen and ink, marker, pencil, and wash drawing, all in black and white.

He discusses not only linear perspective, but also the simplification of a subject into tonal shapes, with fresh ideas that will appeal to painters, too. He acknowledges not only objective features of the scene, but also subjective aspects of visual perception, such as how certain edges go in and out of focus when you squint.

Scott's background is in architectural rendering, so he approaches subjects from the built environment with particular authority.

Although his approach is clear and analytical, it's not just technical. He has an artist's eye throughout. One of the inspiring qualities of the book is the focus on conveying feeling, and the emphasis on digging into why a subject appeals to you in the first place and how to play up that emotional quality.

The book lays out useful methods that anyone can use to see better, think better, and draw better. The result is a practical drawing manual that is a worthy successor of classic sketching books by Betty Edwards and Arthur Guptill, one that will improve the drawing skills of the beginner and master sketcher alike.
Details: 192 pages, 8" x 10" (horizontal format), softcover (with covers that are a bit too thin, unfortunately). The book is organized into three parts, with 10 chapters and 419 illustrations. It is priced at $29.95.-----
Available on Amazon: Sketching - from Square One to Trafalgar Square
Official website: Sketching from Square One

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14. College Introduction

It’s your first day of college and, in your first class, your professor does something unusual—she has you all sit on the floor in a big circle and introduce yourself, as if you were in kindergarten. When it gets to be your turn, you say, “My name is _____. Every day I like to _____ in purple and yellow______.” Amused, the professor asks you to explain. So you do.

writing-promptsWant more creative writing prompts?

Pick up a copy of A Year of Writing Prompts: 365 Story Ideas for Honing Your Craft and Eliminating Writer’s Block. There’s a prompt for every day of the year and you can start on any day.

Order now from our shop.






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15. The kid-friendly, kid-maintainable classroom library

If you’re a teacher reading this blog, you likely devote significant attention to carefully selecting literature to add to your classroom library. And, if you’re like me, you want your students to have access to these books, but also to not spend hours after school reorganizing and looking for titles that have mysteriously disappeared. Last year, I found a solution to keeping my classroom library well-stocked and maintainable, but before I share it, let me explain the rationale behind it.

When I was in elementary school, there were always books out on display in my classrooms, but there were also many, many titles hidden away in cupboards and closets that my teachers would search through after exclaiming, “Have I got just the book for you!” This practice always struck me as odd and restrictive — I loved going to the library precisely because the number of titles was overwhelming and it seemed that there were treasures to discover as I explored the shelves.

In my own classroom, I am committed to making sure that my students have constant access to as many titles as possible. However, it is essential to me that the books can remain organized without much effort from me — which is something of a challenge when you work with second graders.

The solution that I’ve come up with for my own classroom library is pretty simple. I started by drawing up a list of categories into which I could sort all of the books in my classroom library. Current categories include biographies, world cultures, biology and chemistry, and, my favorite, “Books Miss Hewes loves.” Next, I assigned each category a specific color-code, using dot and star stickers. For example, biographies have a yellow dot with a green star, while easy readers have just a silver star. Then, I bought bins and clearly labeled them with the proper codes and category names.

photo 1 e1409716191871 500x375 The kid friendly, kid maintainable classroom library

photo 2 e1409716078349 375x500 The kid friendly, kid maintainable classroom library

The next step was the most labor-intensive — putting the proper labels on each and every book in my library. While I was doing this, I also used the free tools available at Book Source to create a digital catalog of my library, which came in handy during the year as I wondered whether or not I actually had a certain book. (You can check out the organizer at  http://classroom.booksource.com/). Finally, after labeling the books, I put them into the appropriate bins and then put all of the bins on display in my classroom.

photo 3 e1409715975770 375x500 The kid friendly, kid maintainable classroom library

photo 4 e1409716039837 375x500 The kid friendly, kid maintainable classroom library

This system proved to be an overwhelming success last year. It allowed me to saturate my students in books without needing to go find a perfect book that I have tucked away somewhere in my room. Additionally, when I looked through the bins over the summer to check on them — something I faced with trepidation after having seen my students’ cubby area — I only found four books out of place. Most importantly, I am confident that my students found books to treasure as they independently navigated the bins — something I hope helped steer them towards becoming lifelong readers.

photo5 500x375 The kid friendly, kid maintainable classroom library

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The post The kid-friendly, kid-maintainable classroom library appeared first on The Horn Book.

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16. Electro-Sculptures! Cool Photos of the Week

Here’s a new word - PYLON. A pylon is the name for those huge towers that support the wires that carry electricity to our towns and cities. They are generally considered to be pretty ugly…a necessary, but unattractive feature of modern life. In Europe, they have been holding competitions, asking architects to rethink the homely pylon. Is there a way to make this necessary utility more attractive? To think about it more like a sculpture, or a piece of art? The answer is a definitive Yes! A British company came up with this design, which they call the Flower Tower. And in Russia, a company submitted this design for the Sochi Olympics. Isn’t it magnificent?

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17. Two Things Designed To Put Me In A Coma Of Disinterest.....

Ryan Reynolds (accolades include worst actor of his generation -I watched 40 minutes of Green Lantern) and Deadpool

Deadpool Creator 'Thrilled' About 2016 Movie

Deadpool creator Rob Liefeld has said he is ’Beyond Thrilled’ about the movie confirmed for 2016. 
Variety broke the news, confirming that Ryan Reynolds would return to the role he played in 2009’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine with director Tim Miller helming the movie from Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick’s script. 

Deadpool Creator 'Thrilled' About 2016 Movie
[Photo credit: 20th Century Fox]

Liefeld, who created the fan-favourite character in 1991, said: ”I am absolutely beyond thrilled that Deadpool has been officially announced!

"I’m thrilled for Tim Miller, Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick and Ryan Reynolds as well as all the guys at Blur Studio! This is a tremendous achievement for them! Rhett and Paul wrote a brilliant, and I don’t throw that word around loosely, a brilliant script!"

The filmmaking team is the same that has been pushing for the film to made for years, and who put together the Deadpool test footage that leaked online earlier this year. 

[Photo credit: 20th Century Fox]

"Audiences are going to go on the ride of their collective lives with this film as they envisioned it," continued Liefeld. "Tim Miller is a genius, he is brilliant as everyone who witnessed the leaked footage witnessed! There is so much more to come. Deadpool fans will freak out when they see all that Tim and the boys have in store for them.

"This is a huge triumph for all the fans that supported my work on New Mutants, X-Force over the years. The fans deserve this amazing gift from film makers who have proven they have what the fans desire. Very exciting!"

Deadpool will be released on 12 February 2016.

MY question has to be what remuneration Liefeld will get from Marvel over this? After all Tom Brevoort and others at the company have started more than one name-calling war with Liefeld but I guess Brevoort will sit there smiling and drone on about this great Marvel property because he likes it up the **** from his bosses. The man has no dignity.

Liefeld, on the other hand, has tended to come off with far more dignity. I even praised his standing up and revealing the dirty goings on at Marvel (which incurred Marvel AND DC bosses wrath -"hired help don't talk back!").

But a Deadpool movie?  No. No.  Just no.

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18. My tweets

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19. Review of the Day: Fox’s Garden by Princesse Camcam

FoxsGarden1 300x177 Review of the Day: Foxs Garden by Princesse CamcamFox’s Garden
By Princesse Camcam
Enchanted Lion Books
ISBN: 978-1-59270-167-4
Ages 3-6
On shelves now.

Have you ever read a picture book multiple times, enjoying it with each and every read, and then find later that it was wordless . . . and you didn’t even notice? Now THAT is the mark of an effective title. The publisher Enchanted Lion Books prides itself on its “Stories Without Words” series, and deservedly so. They import wordless picture books from abroad, format them into these long, slender books, and subsequently prove to the world that good storytelling is universal. It goes beyond language. The latest in this long line of beauties is, to my mind, the most impressive offering to date. Fox’s Garden by author Princesse Camcam (who edges out Sara Pennypacker, Mary Quattlebaum, and Robert Quackenbush in the Best Children’s Author’s Name contest) is ostensibly a very simple story about kindness and unexpected rewards. Combined with remarkable cut paper scenes that are lit and photographed in an eerie, wonderful way, this is a book that manages to simultaneously convey the joy that comes after a simple act of kindness as well as the feel and look of winter, night and day.

On a cold and windy night, when the snow blows in high drifts, a single fox plunges onward. When a warm, inviting village appears in a valley she makes her way there. However, once there she is summarily rejected by the hostile townspeople, at last taking refuge in a small greenhouse. A small boy spots the fox’s presence and goes to offer her some food. When he finds her, he sees that she is not alone. Newborn kits suckle, so he leaves the edibles at a safe distance and goes inside to bed. In the early morn the fox and her brood prepare to leave but before doing so they leap through the boy’s window, planting flowers in his floor so that he wakes up to a wonder of blossoms of his very own.

FoxsGarden2 300x175 Review of the Day: Foxs Garden by Princesse CamcamThe fact of the matter is that I’ve seen cut paper work in picture books before, whether it’s the scale models in books like Cynthia von Buhler’s But Who Will Bell the Cats? or the distinctive Lauren Child style of The Princess and the Pea. But books of that sort are part cut paper and part dollhouse, to a certain extent, since they utilize models. Titles that consist of cut paper and lighting alone are rarities. Even as I write this it sounds like such a technique would be some fancy designer’s dream and not something appealing to kids. Yet what makes Camcam’s style so appealing is that it combines not just technical prowess but also good old-fashioned storytelling. The glow that emanates from behind some of the homes in the snowy winter village looks infinitely appealing. You can practically feel the heat that would strike you as you entered through one of those doorways. Even more impressive to me, however, was the artist’s ability to capture winter daytime cloudy light. You know that light I’m talking about. When snow has blanketed the earth and the white/gray clouds above give off this particular winter gleam. I’m used to complimenting illustrators on how well they portray winter light in paint. I’m less accustomed to praising that same technique in sliced up paper.

The shape of the book itself is an interesting choice as well. The publisher Enchanted Lion specializes in these long thin books, so I wasn’t quite sure if the book originally published (under the name “Une rencontre”) in the same format. To my mind it feels as though it was always intended to look this way. Just watching where the gutter between the two pages falls is an interesting exercise in and of itself. The first two-page spread shows the fox struggling, belly low, through snowdrifts. She’s on the right-hand page, the desolate woods behind her. When she spots the village she is on the left page and the town looks warm and inviting on the opposite side. Distant, because of the nature of the layout, but comforting. Interestingly the only time the two pages show two different scenes is when you see people kicking and yelling at the fox. In contrast to the rest of the book the two different images make everything feel tense and angry. Landscapes are calming. From there on in everything is a two-page spread, sometimes presenting a close-up shot (there is an amazing image of the happy fox in the foreground on the left page, while the boy is in the distant doorway of the greenhouse on the right) and sometimes an image of distance, as with the final shot.

FoxsGarden3 300x87 Review of the Day: Foxs Garden by Princesse CamcamIt isn’t just the art that had me fail to recognize that the book was wordless. Camcam’s vixen seems to tell whole stories with just a glance here and there. She’s a proud animal. You understand that even as she’s kicked and cursed she’s retaining her dignity. The boy’s act of kindness may be given because he sees a creature in need, but it seems as though it’s just as likely that he’s helping her because she is worth worshipping anear. And though she and her brood do something particularly un-foxlike near the end she is, for the most part, not anthropomorphized. The storytelling sounds so oddly trite when I summarize the book, but it doesn’t feel trite in the least. You could easily see this book adapted into a ballet or similar wordless format. It’s a naturally beautiful tale.

Let’s examine that word for a second. Beautiful. I don’t use it enough when I’m describing picture books. It’s not the kind of word you should bandy about for no reason. If I called every other book “beautiful” it would diminish the importance of the word and I couldn’t use it when something as truly stunning as this. It’s the kind of book that doesn’t feel like anything else you’ve seen or read. True and lovely and entirely unique. A book to borrow and a book to own.

On shelves now.

Source: Final copy sent from publisher for review.

Like This? Then Try:

Professional Reviews: A star from Kirkus

Misc: You can see a whole mess of spreads from the book over at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast

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20. BilBolbul NEWSLETTER 23/9/2014

NEWSLETTER 23/9/2014

È online il nuovo sito di BilBOlbul!

Scoprite come cambia pelle il festival, gli ospiti italiani e internazionali, le mostre e i workshop. Ammirate la nuova immagine realizzata per il festival da Sarah Mazzetti e la grafica di Paper Resistance.

Il 24 settembre parte il Treviso Comic Book Festival.
Visitate le loro mostre, incontri ed eventi, e salutateci gli autori che poi ritroverete anche a BilBOlbul 2014: Bianca Bagnarelli, Matteo Farinella, Cristina Portolano, Lucia Biagi, Niccolò Pellizzon, Cristina Spanò, Andrea Settimo, Massimo Giacon e Tiziano Scarpa.

Noi porteremo a Treviso le nostre nuove cartoline!

Sabato 27 Settembre dalle ore 15 al Circolo KINO (via Gramsci 71, Pieve di Cento) si terrà il laboratorio di Xilografia "Illustrare e Incidere" con Silvia Rocchi.

Il laboratorio si terrà in un pomeriggio e sarà dedicato ai processi della xilografia: l'obiettivo è capire la tecnica e le varie possibilità dei segni a intaglio e come questi influenzino la resa finale della stampa. Non occorre avere esperienze specifiche nel campo del disegno o dell’intaglio.

Il corso è gratuito e aperto a tutti coloro che sono interessati alla xilografia e che non hanno paura di sporcarsi le mani d'inchiostro.

Flashfumetto, il portale del Comune di Bologna dedicato alla nona arte, rinnova l’appuntamento con il concorso per giovani autori.

Per partecipare, non c'è un tema da seguire, ma un limite...non utilizzare nessuna forma scritta, raccogliendo la sfida di raccontare una storia, un concetto, un fatto di attualità, o qualsiasi altra cosa esclusivamente attraverso un'espressione grafica.

La scadenza per l’invio degli elaborati è il 15 ottobre 2014

BilBOlbul Festival internazionale di fumetto fa parte della
Rete dei Festival del Contemporaneo di Bologna
Future Film Festival: 1 > 6 aprile 2014 - futurefilmfestival.org :: Live Arts Week: 8 > 13 aprile 2014 - liveartsweek.it :: Angelica- Festival Internazionale di musica: 2 > 31 maggio 2014 - aaa-angelica.com :: Biografilm: 6 > 16 giugno 2014 - biografilm.it :: Gender Bender: www.genderbender.it :: BilBOlBul: 21 > 23 novembre 2014 - bilbolbulnet

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21. A Sad Farewell, a Happy Introduction, and a Giveaway of AFTERWORLDS by Scott Westerfeld

Saying Goodbye to Clara Kensie

Today is a sad day for me. I have to announce that Clara Kensie is leaving the blog, at least temporarily, for personal reasons. As many of you know, Clara has been doing the Question of the Week for us for the past year and a half or so. You may also remember that even before that, she used to help out with the This Week for Writers Round-up segments. All in all, she's been involved with the blog off and on since almost the beginning.

I first met Clara on the blog. She was working on the query letter for a book that sounded so good, I eventually asked to read it. We became critique partners, both inside the fantastic online group she introduced me to, and on our own. I was thrilled when her book landed her an agent, the awesome Laura Bradford, and then again when the book sold to the brand new digital imprint of Harlequin Teen. I knew she and the book both deserved every bit of success.

Harlequin decided to make RUN TO YOU their flagship serial release, which meant they split it into three pieces and released each piece separately. Clara's book is perfect for that, because each of the three parts has the kind of surprise twists we should all have at major turing points. And the girl knows how to write suspense, great romance, and dreamy guys.

Haven't read it yet? WHAT are you waiting for?

Part 1: First Sight
RUN TO YOU PART ONE: FIRST SIGHT (available February 1, 2014)
Part One in the riveting romantic thriller about a family on the run from a deadly past and a first love that will transcend secrets, lies and danger…

Sarah Spencer has a secret: her real name is Tessa Carson, and to stay alive, she can tell no one the truth about her psychically gifted family and the danger they are running from. As the new girl in the latest of countless schools, she also runs from her attraction to Tristan Walker—after all, she can’t even tell him her real name. But Tristan won’t be put off by a few secrets. Not even dangerous ones that might rip Tessa from his arms before they even kiss…

Part 2: Second Glance
RUN TO YOU PART TWO: SECOND GLANCE (available February 8, 2014)
Part Two in the riveting romantic thriller about a family on the run from a deadly past and a first love that will transcend secrets, lies and danger…

Tessa Carson has unlocked her heart and her secrets to Tristan Walker—but Tristan has secrets of his own, and his might just mean the end of Tessa’s family. Unaware, Tessa embraces falling in love and being herself for the first time since she was attacked when she was only eight years old. But secrets can’t be run from forever, and sometimes love is too good to be true…

Part 3: Third Charm
RUN TO YOU PART THREE: THIRD CHARM (available February 15, 2014)Part Three in the riveting romantic thriller about a family on the run from a deadly past and a first love that will transcend secrets, lies and danger…

Betrayed, heartbroken, and determined to save her family, Tessa Carson refuses to give in to Tristan Walker’s pleas for forgiveness. But her own awakening psychic gift won’t let her rest until she uncovers the truth about her family and her past. And Tristan is the only one who can help her sift through the secrets to find the truth hidden in all the lies…

Add RUN TO YOU to your Goodreads Want To Read shelf,

and order from your favorite e-tailer:
Amazon   B&N    Google Play    BAM    Harlequin

A second volume in the series is also available, so feel free to start a fabulous binge!

I want to thank Clara for all her contributions to the blog, but mostly for the friendship and all her support and kindness over the years. It's an honor to follow in her path and to get the chance to share experiences together. We've got one last Question of the Week from Clara that will be posting soon, but in the meantime, please say your good-byes and thank her for her contribution!

And now for some happier news.

A Warm Welcome to Becca Fowler

We've been wanting to do something fun for readers for some time now--but still with a slant toward things that writers want to know. And whether writers realize it or not, what we need is to have some idea of what readers are thinking and talking about.


We've been super lucky to snag the awesome Becca Fowler from Pivot Book Reviews to come in and help us out with some book blogger round-ups every month. She'll be asking some questions that bloggers can answer, and she'll also be doing a blogger check in so you can scan it and quickly catch up with the most interesting stuff going on around the blogosphere. Look for some fantastic bloggers to be joining us on a regular basis, but we'll also be opening it up to new bloggers as guests so that we can help create some exposure for up and coming bloggers.

Now, a little bit about our newest indomitable AYAPer:

My name is Rebecca, but I think that sounds like an old lady name, so I go by Becca :)

I am 22 going on 23
(that doesn't have quite the ring to it as it does on The Sound of Music)

I live in the great state of Oklahoma
(where the wind REALLY does come sweeping down the plain)

I live with who I've dubbed The Parentals
(who are, not-so-secretly, the BEST)

I have one older sister who is married, and has two girls
(which means I get to play the Coolest Aunt Ever)

I am convinced I will be the old cat lady
(minus the cats, because I heart dogs)

Speaking of dogs, I have two!
An Aussie named Dixie, and a Sheltie named Gentry!

I work for my family's business. We rent out inflatables, aka Bouncy Houses, and MORE!

I aspire to be a Young Adult author! It is my dream!!

My favorite hobbies include:
Reading (duh)

Rebecca blogs at Pivot Book Reviews and appears regularly on the Reading Teen blog. Please give her a lovely welcome.

This Week's Giveaway

by Scott Westerfield
Hardcover Giveaway
Simon Pulse
Released 9/23/2014

Darcy Patel has put college and everything else on hold to publish her teen novel, Afterworlds. Arriving in New York with no apartment or friends she wonders whether she's made the right decision until she falls in with a crowd of other seasoned and fledgling writers who take her under their wings…

Told in alternating chapters is Darcy's novel, a suspenseful thriller about Lizzie, a teen who slips into the 'Afterworld' to survive a terrorist attack. But the Afterworld is a place between the living and the dead and as Lizzie drifts between our world and that of the Afterworld, she discovers that many unsolved - and terrifying - stories need to be reconciled. And when a new threat resurfaces, Lizzie learns her special gifts may not be enough to protect those she loves and cares about most.

Author Question: What is your favorite thing about Afterworlds?

Afterworlds is two interleaved books, really. The odd-numbered chapters tell the story of Darcy Patel, a young writer moving away from home; the even chapters are the entirety of Darcy's first novel, which she's rewriting throughout that same year. The most exciting part of writing a dual novel was linking the two narratives, having things spill over from Darcy's day-today reality into her fiction. All writers steal from reality, so what Darcy experiences in her life always bubbles up in her novel, whether it's a setting, a realization about true love, or just a new word.

Collectively, the two books are my really long answer to the question that all writers dread, "Where do you get your ideas?"

Purchase Afterworlds at Amazon
Purchase Afterworlds at IndieBound
View Afterworlds on Goodreads

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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22. Book Review: The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion & The Fall of Imperial Russia, by Candace Fleming (Schwartz & Wade, 2014)

Recommended for ages 10 and up.

Candace Fleming is a master at writing narrative nonfiction that is entertaining as well as informative, and her newest book on the tragic and doomed Romanovs is a worthy successor to her last foray into nonfiction, the highly acclaimed Amelia Lost

Fleming expertly weaves together the intimate life of Russia's last czar and his family with the saga of the revolution brewing underneath their royal noses, beginning with workers' strikes in 1905 and leading up to Lenin's seizing power in 1917.  Interspersed with her compelling narrative are original documents from the time that tell the stories of ordinary men and women swept up in the dramatic events in Russia. 

Unlike many books for young people, which seem to romanticize the Romanovs, Fleming doesn't try to make the family into martyrs.  Indeed, it is hard to have a lot of sympathy for the Russian royal family after reading Fleming's account.  Fleming describes Nicholas as a young boy as "shy and gentle," unable to stand up to his "Russian bear of a father."  His wife, the Empress Alexandra, a German princess raised to be a proper Englishwoman under the wing of Queen Victoria, never felt comfortable with the excesses of the bejeweled, partying Russian aristocracy, and encouraged her husband to retreat to Tsarskoe Selo, a park 15 miles and a world apart from St. Petersburg.  Fleming brings us inside of their privileged--but also strangely spartan--life (for example the children were bathed with cold water in the mornings and slept on army cots in their palace!), one in which they had almost no contact with outsiders. 

Fleming manages to integrate her narrative history of the Romanov family with the larger history of the turbulent times in Russia, as the czar is forced to resign and he and his family are exiled to Siberia, fleeing in a train disguised as a "Japanese Red Cross Mission" so that the royal family would not be captured by angry peasants.  She skips back and forth from the family's saga to what is happening in the capital, with plenty of original documents such as an excerpt from journalist John Reed's first-hand account of the swarming of the Winter Palace as well as excerpts from many other diaries.

In my favorite quote in the book, Fleming discusses how Lenin nationalized the mansions and private homes throughout the country, while the owners were forced to live in the servants' quarters.  She quotes one ex-servant as saying:
"I've spent all my life in the stables while they live in their beautiful flats and lie on soft couches playing with their poodles...no more of that, I say!  It's my turn to play with poodles now."  

Whatever one's feelings about the Romanovs, one cannot help but be moved by the account of their cruel assassination in the basement of their quarters in Siberia.  Particularly ironic is the fate of the royal children, who did not die immediately because they were hiding the family jewels in their camisoles and other undergarments.  This layer of jewels unwittingly created a bullet proof vest that protected them initially, until they were finally murdered with bayonets and then with gunshots.  The bodies were immediately hidden in the woods, where the remains were not found until 1979 and then kept secret until the fall of communism in Russia.  Ironically, the Romanovs have since been canonized by the Orthodox Church in Russia.

The book is abundantly illustrated with archival photographs.  An extensive bibliography is included, as well as a discussion of primary and secondary sources.  Fleming also includes suggestions of websites on the Romanovs, as well as source notes for each chapter and an index.

Highly recommended for middle school and high school students.

0 Comments on Book Review: The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion & The Fall of Imperial Russia, by Candace Fleming (Schwartz & Wade, 2014) as of 9/23/2014 9:42:00 AM
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23. A Super September Special for our Super Special Readers! A Year in The Secret Garden

A Super September Special for our Super Special Readers!

A Year in the Secret Garden

It’s time! It’s time for us to reveal a magical guide that was not only inspired by the classic children’s novel, but one that is helping readers young and old get back to the magic and wonder of nature.


Award-winning authors and co-creators Valarie Budayr and Marilyn Scott-Waters have come together to create A Year in the Secret Garden as an opportunity to introduce a new generation of families to the magic that is The Secret Garden. With over 144 pages, 200 original color illustrations and 48 activities, your family and friends will be crafting, cooking, enjoying, learning and playing together with monthly activities inspired by the characters and events of the original children’s classic. Every month readers will get to meet another Secret Garden character, as well as experiencing original crafts and activities based on the book.

A year in the Secret Garden

We are excited to announce that our valued readers will now have the opportunity to pre-order the print version A Year in the Secret Garden and get 10 Bonus downloads from the book as our gift to you.

A Year in the Secret Garden

Can’t wait? No problem! Our full-color PDF of A Year in the Secret Garden can be downloaded to your eReader immediately, AND as an Added Bonus for both our tree and e-readers, we will include A Year in the Secret Garden 8.5 x 10 printable PDF poster of original artwork from A Year in the Secret Garden by the Toymaker herself, Marilyn Scott-Waters.


Click HERE to visit our extended information page and begin your journey into the magic of The Secret Garden!

The post A Super September Special for our Super Special Readers! A Year in The Secret Garden appeared first on Jump Into A Book.

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24. My tweets

  • Mon, 14:05: Sitting on the hotel floor, trying to think if it's worth it to stay another night just because I don't want to deal with Boston traffic.
  • Mon, 14:06: Also, it's Banned Books Week, so read something others don't want you to read.
  • Mon, 14:11: The art in my hotel room makes me wonder about all the Dougs who randomly stay here. What do they… http://t.co/2xPP3ans1Q
  • Tue, 01:02: I'm trying hard not to live tweet #TheVoice because... because...? Oh forget it.
  • Tue, 01:03: I kind of want to be a contestant on #TheVoice because I think they'd do my hair. I really need someone to do my hair. That's wrong, right?
  • Tue, 01:06: "You should stay in your lane but let me drive a little bit" sounds so naughty. #TheVoice It's all inneundos @adamlevine
  • Tue, 01:24: Taylor John Williams really should be a character in one of my books. #TheVoice Is it sad that I'm sad he's real? He's such a protagonist.
  • Tue, 01:25: "I was so in the moment. I was so moved." Also sounds pervy. #thevoice needs a pervy blog.
  • Tue, 01:34: I love when men sing Beyonce. #thevoice I have no idea why. I'm not big on men singing Madonna or Britney or Rihanna. Just Beyonce.
  • Tue, 01:36: If I were to make #thevoice a drinking game, I'd make people drink every time someone cries. Everyone would be super drunk by now.
  • Tue, 01:39: And the U.S. airstrikes happen in Syria.
  • Tue, 01:46: When the chairs don't turn 💔 #Pharrell is possibly the best human ever. #TheVoice
  • Tue, 01:54: Because something is obviously wrong with my brain, I only just realized that #TheVoice chairs say "I WANT YOU!" It really is all innuendo.

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25. Draw Tip Tuesday - Drawing a bicycle

Welcome to Draw Tip Tuesday!

People often say to me: you draw bicycles? That is so difficult! But is it really? After all, like drawing anything else; it's just shapes and lines.

If you want more help, drawing bicycles, learning to see negative shapes, and broaden your drawing skills, you might like to join my 5-week online course 'Just Draw It'. You can read everything about it, and join me here

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