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1. Tips for SCBWI conference newbies, second-timers, plus a CHALLENGE for the many-timers

(modified from an earlier post)

The SCBWI Winter Conference starts in a couple of days! Even if you're not attending, you can follow the livetweet action via the hashtag #NY16SCBWI on Twitter.

If you're a conference newbie who is nervous, I encourage you to browse my SCBWI Conference Newbie comics. I created these when I was a nervous newbie as well! So many people think I'm an extrovert, but I'm actually very much an introvert and was terrified (to the point of sweating palms, pounding heart, hating the idea of having go up and introduce myself over and over) about attending my first regular SCBWI conference back in 2009.

(Edit re: above comic: I did end up meeting Jay at the conference and he was really nice! And he didn't mention his Amazon ranking EVEN ONCE! Heh.)

I've posted advice for first-timers before and will post it again at the end of this piece, but now that I've attended other SCBWI annual conferences (and had my career jumpstarted because of the 2010 SCBWI-LA Conference), here is some additional advice I have for those who have attended more than once:

Don't get offended or disheartened if people you've met before don't remember you.

This is something I've learned from both sides. As a 2nd- and 3rd-timer (and so on), I've sometimes gone up to a person or group I've met and had my confidence deflated when it becomes clear they don't remember me at ALL from the previous year. My inner reactions ranged from embarrassment, humiliation, irritation, frustration and even brief anger ("I guess I'm just NOT IMPORTANT enough for xxx to remember!! Hmph.").

Now that I have some experience at attending SCBWI conferences, I've learned the following:

- I'm terrible at remembering people unless I've had multiple conversations or interactions with the same person.

- Even then, especially if I'm tired or am in a noisy crowd (remember what I said earlier about being an introvert?) or have met many new people in a row just before, I may still forget having met someone before.

I still accidentally re-introduce myself to people whom I've met before, sometimes whom I've met EARLIER IN THE CONVENTION. I'm always horribly embarrassed when this happens. 

Make sure your name badge is easily visible.

Also, when I approach someone whom I've met before but with whom I don't have constant contact, I usually try saying something that will help remind them of our mutual context, or remind them of having met at xxx. Until I'm sure they actually do remember me, I try very hard NOT to put them on the spot (e.g. I don't say, "So, what did you think of my most recent post?" etc.).

When someone does this to me (subtly or unsubtly :-) setting the context and helping me remember), I immediately feel more at ease with them and am more likely to want to chat with them in the future.

Another tip: if someone DOES remember you, never assume that they're up-to-date on all your exciting news. I've had the occasional person react badly when they realize I'm not aware of their new book ("?? But I posted it all over Facebook!") I never assume anyone reads all my posts or keeps up with all my news. People have busy lives and different priorities.

Something else I've learned: even so-called Big Name authors and illustrators can be insecure. I am faaaar from being a Big Name, but having had a bit more experience at conference-going now, I also realize how some of the Big Name types who seemed standoffish to me actually weren't.

Be gracious, be forgiving and try very hard to assume the best about a person rather than the worst.

And I apologize ahead of time if I don't remember your name or re-introduce myself. :-\

And here some tips for first-timers who feel nervous about attending for the first time, or are normally very shy or introverted and dread the idea of having to meet a lot of new people:

1. Be brave and make the first move. You'd be surprised at how many other attendees feel exactly the same way as you do. Introduce yourself to people you sit beside, stand in line with, notice standing alone.

2. TAKE BUSINESS CARDS. Yes, even if you aren't published yet. We're all going to meet a lot of people over the weekend, and taking away a business card from an encounter or introduction will help the people you meet remember you. If you're an illustrator, take postcards or make sure a sample of illustration style is on your business card.

3. Have realistic expectations. Don't expect to be "discovered" at the conference.

4. In my experience, you're much more likely to meet new people if you're alone. If you're always chatting and hanging out with the same person or people, you're not as approachable. I'm not saying that you SHOULDN'T hang out with people you like, of course! Just keep in mind that as a group, you're probably not going to meet as many new people as someone who is by themselves.

5. If you're on Twitter, write your Twitter handle on your name badge somewhere.

But most of all: TRY TO HAVE FUN. 

***** A CHALLENGE TO THE "MANY-TIMERS" OUT THERE ****

Try to remember what it was like when you attended your very first event, or how insecure you felt in the beginning. Then make it a personal challenge to find at least one lost-looking or nervous conference newbie who is sitting or standing alone. Introduce yourself, chat with them, find out what they're working on, perhaps (if appropriate) offer some advice.

Give good karma and it WILL come back to you.

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2. New Map ~ The Turn of the Tide

























It's always fun to get copies of a new book with a map I've worked on inside.
This is from THE TURN OF THE TIDE, by Rosanne Parry (Random House BYR, 2016).

Yay!

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3. Her masters voice


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4. Amazon Reveals Most Romantic Cities in U.S.

Alexandria, Virginia is the most romantic city in America, according to Amazon.

The company has revealed its annual list of the Top 20 Most Romantic Cities in the U.S.

The company comes up with the list based on the sales data of romance novels, relationship books, as well as romantic movies and music from cities with more than 100,000 residents on a per capita basis.

Amazon’s Top 20 Most Romantic Cities 

  1. Alexandria, Va.                                    11. Atlanta, Ga.
  2. Miami, Fla.                          12. Salt Lake City, Utah
  3. Knoxville, Tenn.                          13. Scottsdale, Ariz.
  4. Orlando, Fla.                       14. Everett, Wash.
  5. Vancouver, Wash.                          15. Gainesville, Fla.
  6. Cincinnati, Ohio                           16. Seattle, Wash.
  7. Columbia, S.C.                    17. Wilmington, N.C.
  8. Pittsburgh, Pa.                    18. Rochester, N.Y.
  9. Round Rock, Texas                          19. Dayton, Ohio
  10. Ann Arbor, Mich.                          20. Bellevue, Wash.

 

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5. एक प्रार्थना हनमानथप्पा के लिए

एक प्रार्थना हनमानथप्पा के लिए   सियाचिन में 5 दिन बर्फ में दबे होने के बावजूद जिंदा मिला लांस नायक हनमन थप्पा मेरी सहेली मणि को मंदिर जाना था और मुझे किसी से मिलने अस्तपाल …वापिस लौटते वक्त हम दोनों यही बात कर रहे थे बेशक, मंदिर में हम अपनों की सलामती और दुआ के […]

The post एक प्रार्थना हनमानथप्पा के लिए appeared first on Monica Gupta.

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6. Review of The Smell of Other People’s Houses

hitchcock_smell of other people's housesThe Smell of Other People’s Houses
by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock
Middle School, High School   Lamb/Random   228 pp.
2/16   978-0-553-49778-6   $17.99
Library ed. 978-0-553-49779-3   $20.99   g
e-book ed. 978-0-553-49780-9   $10.99

Through sensory details that viscerally evoke the story’s physical and emotional landscapes, readers are transported to 1970s Birch Park, Alaska, where hunting and fishing are both livelihood and way of life for most families. As the book’s title suggests, richly described scents are pervasive. Sixteen-year-old Ruth associates the smell of freshly cut deer meat with her happy early-childhood home, in sharp contrast to the clinical, Lemon Pledge–clean of Gran’s house, where she and her sister have been raised in rigid austerity since their father’s death. A wealthy family’s lake house smells of cedar, while the heavily trafficked Goodwill “smells like everyone’s mud room in spring…moldy and sweaty.” Four distinct first-person narrative voices — no small feat — breathe life into the adolescent protagonists, whose engaging individual stories, thematically linked by loss and yearning throughout the seasons, are enriched by their intersections. Escaping her alcoholic father’s abuse and mother’s neglect, Dora finds a welcome haven in the bustling energy of Dumpling’s family’s fish camp. A few stolen nights with handsome Ray Stevens lands Ruth scared, alone, and pregnant on a bus to Our Lady of Perpetual Sorrow, an abbey with unexpected ties to her family. While some character crossings strain credulity, all the story lines are grounded in emotional honesty.

From the January/February 2016 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

The post Review of The Smell of Other People’s Houses appeared first on The Horn Book.

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7. Debby Slier's LOVING ME

Debby Slier's Loving Me is a delightful board book! Published in 2013 by Star Bright Books, it is definitely one I'll be recommending!

Here's the cover:



The very last page in the book tells us the woman and baby on the cover are Shoshone Bannock. Indeed, with that page we learn that the other photographs in the book are of children and family members who are Lakota Sioux, Navajo, Iroquois, and Potawatomi.

On the first page, we see a mom and baby. The text is "My mother loves me." That pattern is repeated over the rest of the book. A dad, a brother, a sister, an aunt, an uncle, a grandma, a grandpa, and a great grandma... embracing a child. They're clad in a range of clothing, from jeans and t-shirts to traditional clothing, but all of it in the day-to-day life of the individuals being shown. Slier's photo essay is a terrific mirror for Native kids, and, it'll help children and adults who aren't Native see us as in the fullness of our lives as Native people.

I heartily recommend Slier's Loving Me, published by Star Bright Books.

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8. US publisher goes on shopping spree at Angoulême

I promised I would have only ONE MORE post on Angoulême and here it is! Calvin Reid went to this year fest and has his full report for PW, including of course, all the controversy and insults to cartoonists. However bured in all of that, there was also a comcis festival, and the program to […]

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9. Jackie Earle Haley joins the cast of PREACHER

jehAMC's Vertigo adaptation adds its villain

1 Comments on Jackie Earle Haley joins the cast of PREACHER, last added: 2/9/2016
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10. #STBAblogtour16 DAY TWO

Two more stops on the Sydney Taylor Book Award Blog Tour today, another gold medalist and another silver. Be sure to check out yesterday's interviews on Ketzel, the Cat Who Composed and Serendipity's Footsteps, and get the rest of the blog tour schedule here.  

TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 9, 2016  


Adam & Thomas by Aharon Appelfeld, translated by Jeffrey M. Green, illustrated by Philippe Dumas
Sydney Taylor Book Award winner in the Older Readers Category
At Jewish Books for Kids with Barbara Bietz
Translator Interview
   
Hereville by Barry Deutsch
Sydney Taylor Honor Award winner in the Older Readers Category
At Jewish Comics
Author-illustrator interview
 

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11. Words of Love

Valentine's Day Grammar 2016 Infographic

And thank you once again to Grammarly for some great content - https://www.grammarly.com/spell-check

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12. Asking the Hard Questions: SRC Tracking and Registration

You may remember my post from last month about my library tossing the traditional approach to our Summer Reading Club.  We’ve had a few brainstorming sessions and it’s already feeling really different.  Our conversations about it feel lighter, more exciting, more engaging. While we’re not total renegades, we have decided to completely do away with registration for the reading portion.  And we’re still ramping up our programming, but we’re really looking at how and why to track participants’ reading progress.  For years, I’ve battled the dastardly demons of registration and tracking.

Should we register and track online?  Should we go old school and do paper logs?  Family registrations?  Should we track hours or titles?  Should we ask for addresses?  Should participants have to create usernames and passwords?  Should we offer incentives?  Cheap trinkets or gift certificates?  A grand prize?

The registration part is really there for us the librarians and our obsession with numbers. And those numbers are usually needed to satisfy state reports (and that’s a whole separate blog post: What SRC Stats Do States Track and Why AND How Has That Data Gathering Shaped And Limited Our SRCs?)   State reports are just not enough reason to keep doing it the same way every year.  Sorry Pennsylvania!

I get that tracking can be beneficial and motivating.  And perhaps for many of our patrons it is.  But I (and many others) would argue that the model we’ve been using is inherently designed for motivated readers. Would those kids read without your program?  I know as a kid, I was thrilled to be anywhere (my bedroom, the beach, the pool, the park) with a good book (and I was never part of a library program).  But there are plenty of kids where that’s not the case.  So how can we support (easily, simply and effectively) our dear motivated readers and more importantly, how can we support the kids where books aren’t one of summertime’s allures?  How can we make summer super-simple and energizing, full of learning and brain-expansion?  Is the current SRC structure reaching the kids who need us the most?

These are the questions I ‘m putting front and center as we start planning our summer program. I don’t know if our new approach will change the answers, but I think it’s worth mixing it up to see what happens.

The post Asking the Hard Questions: SRC Tracking and Registration appeared first on ALSC Blog.

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13. Survey of Italian comics retailers reveals a similar Indie/Big Two split

Federico Salvan of the Italian comics news site Manga Forever dropped me a line to alert me to a retailer survey on the state of Italian comics . It’s in Italian, of course, but they surveyed 31 local comics shops out of about 180 in Italy, so it’s a somewhat statistically significant survey. I’ve asked […]

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14. Writing from the Inside Out . . . Award winning Author/Illustrator SUZANNE BLOOM shares

Dear Friends,

Please welcome Award winning author/illustrator, SUZANNE BLOOM! It's been years now since we shared a pan of warm cinnamon rolls on a snowy evening, but Suzanne is always a Splendid Friend Indeed. I'm sure you'll agree! (See details for the giveaway of Suzanne's new book at the end of the post!)

Author/Illustrator SUZANNE BLOOM

AUTHOR SUZANNE BLOOM shares:
 
Though I grew up in Queens NY, my first five formative years were spent in Portland, Oregon. That’s why I retained an “R “ and love rainy days. Living in upstate NY allows a continued appreciation for precipitation. As an antique, I’m mid-century modern. If I were yogurt I’d be traditional/plain.  
My first published piece, in a glossy magazine for teachers, was a third grade poem -- "Blue is My Favorite Color".  Prescient? I guess.
Parents and teachers encouraged my artistic endeavors, except for Jack Tworkov, abstract expressionist and painting teacher at Cooper Union. He urged breaking away from the figurative. Can’t quite do it. 
The idea of writing and illustrating picture books was expressed in a Jr. High autobiography. It came to fruition a quarter of a century later. Creating illustrations that enhance a story puts art into the hands of children. It’s both a portfolio and a passport to a bigger world.  

When I’m writing, it feels like drawing is the easy part and when I’m drawing…well, you know. But once I’ve doodled through the first few lame attempts, something sticks. A character takes shape and then brings a friend.Though the story is far from resolved, I have been reminded that this is what I do. This is how I wish to spend my time and energy. I believe I can do this again.


The perks of this vocation include observing people, eavesdropping, or as I like to say “over listening”, inventing lives from very few details, elevating the everyday with some attitude and flow. Not to mention visiting behind the scenes at the Jacksonville Zoo to draw anteaters. It also includes honoring the events and people who have inspired the stories.

You may be familiar with Goose and Bear who are best known for smoothing out the bumps that pop up in a friendship.  But did you know that A Splendid Friend, Indeed was inspired by my dad, who is the master of the rhetorical question?“What are you doing? Are you reading?” Yep, word for word. That was the start of a story that has grown into a series of seven books, so far.
Auditions for those two characters required many sketches of many mismatched pairs of animals. In fact, before illustrating begins, I must draw my cast of characters in a variety of poses so I know who they are. Body language and facial expressions are key to each character’s feelings. Pre-readers understand; as a kindergartener told his teacher, “I’m feeling like the Bear today”. The bushy tail on Little Fox doubles as a her emotional barometer. It’s easier to make a flamingo look frazzled than a turtle.

I’m always on the lookout for models -- in the grocery store, at the airport, during school visits. A quick sketch for reference is very helpful. I was trying to discreetly sketch teenagers goofing around on the subway and one commanded his buddies, “Sit down, man. She’s trying to draw us.” It was cool. I got their approval. So many times, revisiting a sketch takes me right back to the scene.

From one story to the next, the process changes. Ideas may first appear as a sketch, character, or some words.  But I do try to have the story settled before starting the art. And I try to work out the design decisions before finalizing the drawings. In the forthcoming A Number Slumber (BMP fall 2016) the tiger spread started out as something entirely different. 

When I draw, I listen to music like Buddha Lounge or The Music Man but when writing, I prefer silence.  

Even a book of 100 words requires revisions because every word carries its own weight. Whooshy and woozy, occasionally, chickadee and bamboozled are choice words. As the boss of the book, I get to make the choices. Which is more fun to say? Tricked  or bamboozled?  Robin or chickadee? Read aloud. Savor.


AWARDS
A Splendid Friend, Indeed has a life of its own. It received an inaugural Theodore Seuss Geisel Honor Award and was shortlisted for The UKLA award.  PA One Book for Every Young Child distributed it to pre-schools and libraries across Pennsylvania and several years later they did the same with The Bus For Us. Several books have appeared on the Bank Street College Best Books list.  There have been a number of starred reviews. But to know that a book is so loved that a dad has to purchase a new copy for his second daughter is a most appreciated seal of approval.   


Reviews of THE NEW BOOK - Bear Can Dance!

What Bear wants is to fly. What Bear does is dance. “It’s like flying, but with your feet on the ground. Mostly.” For the past six books Bear has been put upon and bothered.  It was time to let Bear discover some hidden talents. Goose and Little Fox try to help, but Bear comes up with a personal solution.


Bear Can Dance!
Suzanne Bloom. Boyds Mills, $16.95 (40p) ISBN 978-1-62979-442-6
Bear, Goose, and Fox’s seventh outing sees Bear attempting
to fly. All he wants is to “swoop and glide and feel the wind
in [his] fur,” but even after coaching from
Fox (who outfits Bear with a cape and goggles),
flight remains out of reach for the
lumbering polar bear. With music pouring
out of Bear’s portable turntable, the friends
realize that dancing is “like flying, but
with your feet on the ground. Mostly.”
Bloom’s soft pastel artwork handily captures both the
warmth of this three-way friendship and the wind in Bear’s
fur—while he cuts a rug. Ages 2–6. (Oct.) ~Publishers Weekly, Sept 2015

A review by Sue Heavenrich of Bear Can Dance! is posted Oct. 9, 2015 at Sally's Bookshelf:
http://sallysbookshelf.blogspot.com/2015/10/bear-can-dance.html

Bear Can Dance!

by Suzanne Bloom
40 pages; ages 3-7
Boyds Mills Press

theme: friendship, talents

I love Bear and Goose - they are "splendid friends indeed"... and this book includes their best buddy, Fox...What I like LOVE about this book: 
I love the way Suzanne Bloom can tell a story using a combination of dialog-only text and wondrous illustrations.
I love the creative ways Fox and Goose try to get Bear to fly. 
I love that Bear finds a way to fly with feet on the ground. 
And I love the endpapers where Goose and Fox are dancing the (what else?) Foxtrot.... ~Sue Heavenrich



Beyond the Book:
If you were going to teach Bear how to fly, what would you do? What does it take to fly? Can you get that whooshy feeling doing other things? When you're swinging, or sledding down a hill, do you feel like you're flying?

What animals fly? Birds fly, but there are other animals that fly about, or glide. Think about mammals, fish, amphibians and reptiles, and insects. How do they flit/ fly/soar/glide through the air?



What is that funny suitcase-looking thing that Bear is playing music on? If you have one, listen to a recording. If not, see where you can find one: a museum? A thrift shop? Take a close look. How do they work?…






 
SCHOOL VISITS

I learn a lot when I visit schools.  

During a writing exercise a fourth grade boy told me that he couldn’t write the assignment, about his family, because his dad was in jail and they lived with his grandma, and it would make him too sad and he might cry. He and his writing buddy picked another topic and I became their scribe. Kids think faster than they write, so when i read it back to them, their eyes widened as they exclaimed, “WE wrote that?”  It was deep.
  
I chose a skinny little kid in the front row to help me read the bi-lingual version of A Splendid Friend, Indeed.  The gym was hushed as he read very quietly. Afterward one teacher said she was impressed because he was always in trouble and another teacher said she’d never heard him read before and didn’t know he could read Spanish.  

A thank you note from a 2nd grader a student wrote, “You taught us to bleeve in ourselves."
A Texas 3rd grader stood up during question time and announced, “Ma’am, You were born to draw.”  

Indeed.
Thank you, dear Suzanne, for such wonderful insights about your writing and illustrating process. AND THANK YOU for donating an autographed copy of BEAR CAN DANCE! to one lucky reader who stops by to leave a comment for us. Dear reader, We'd love to hear about what gives you that wonderful whooshy feeling!

Learn more about SUZANNE BLOOM:
FACEBOOK: Suzanne Bloom Author
Google Suzanne Bloom YouTube videos
 
The winner of BEAR CAN DANCE! will be announced on Tuesday, February 16th. You'll also learn about Suzanne's newest title, A Number Slumber, coming in Fall of 2016 and get a sneak preview of her illustrations. How exciting is that? 


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15. there was an old lady who gobbled a skink - a bookwrap










I have such a quirky, fun book to review for you this morning.  It is a wonderful twist on an old favourite that I am sure you will recognize immediately.  Enjoy...this is a fabulous one!



Unwrapping...









Authored by Tamera Will Wissinger

Illustrated by Ana Bermejo

Ages 3-6



Unwrapping some illustrations for you to peek at...











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16. Evil Editor's Cancer Diary


Reading someone's cancer diary is usually depressing and heartbreaking, and, if you're like me, scary, because you eventually start worrying that you'll soon be going through the same thing. So you'll be happy to know that this cancer diary isn't the kind where the patient has months to live and gets weaker by the day until there are no more posts, and you end up sobbing over someone you never met.


October, 2015. My doctor's office has been sending me letters and robo-calling me for weeks to inform me that I need to make an appointment. No specifics, like it's time for your rabies shot, just get in here, we haven't seen you in months, and business is a little slow, and you could have a disease with no symptoms and we prefer healthy patients because we don't have to worry about getting their diseases and now's the perfect time, unless you think you might have Ebola, in which case, never mind. So screw it. If I make an appointment, they win. On the other hand, the only way to get them off my back is to make an appointment, so I do. Fuckers.

November 3, 2015. My appointment. I've brought a list of everything that's wrong with me so the visit won't be a waste of time. My nose is reddish, my lips have a blue tint, I have what I think is a skin tag on my neck and a small area under my eye that I think is a chalazion. I made that diagnosis after looking up "sty" on the internet, and finding it was similar to a chalazion, which I'd never heard of, but when I Googled "lower lid chalazion" and clicked on "images", a few of the less-gross pictures resembled what I had. Anyway, chalazions usually go away by themselves, though they can hang around for months. My doctor doesn't care about my red nose or blue lips or skin tag, but he gives me the phone number of a dermatology clinic, telling me to have my eye thing looked at, as it might be something. I think he mentioned the word "squamous" in there. He doesn't seem overly concerned. He doesn't say, Get thee to a surgery.

November 4, 2015. I phone to make my dermatological appointment. The person I speak to says there's one opening next week, so I say I'll take it, and she comes back a minute later and says someone else beat her to it and the next available opening is November 30. I'm thinking, November 30? I could be dying of cancer and you're booked solid for a month? You need to hire more doctors if business is that good. Maybe you should open on Saturdays until you get caught up. I take the appointment, figuring if I stall another minute it'll be gone and I'll be pushed into 2016.

November 30, 2015. As I'm being led back to the room where I'll be seen, I can't help noticing that all the nurses and interns and receptionists I pass have perfect skin. I figure they must know what they're doing in this place. They probably treat all their employees for free and pay for it by upping everyone else's bill. Eventually my doctor comes in and asks why I'm here. I mention my red nose and my chalazion. He looks at me through a giant magnifying glass and says, "That doesn't look like a chalazion." I say, "What does it look like?" and he tells me it looks like skin cancer. I argue that it's a chalazion, and that he'd know that, if he'd ever even heard of a chalazion. He searches for chalazion on an iPad and shows me that my chalazion isn't one because it isn't quite touching the eyelid. I'm not sure I buy it, but that's probably because I'm still in the first stage of my cancer diagnosis, which is denial. (The other stages being demanding a second opinion, reluctant acceptance, life passing before your eyes, booking that vacation you've been putting off, pricing burial plots, scheduling a future appointment with a lawyer to change your will cutting out everyone who doesn't visit you when you're in the hospital dying, and getting religion, just in case.) I ask the doctor if I'm gonna live. He says Yes. I'm thinking, Thanks for burying the lede. You couldn't have opened with It looks like easily treatable, run-of-the-mill, harmless skin cancer? He does a biopsy, gives me a prescription for my red nose, which I know will have no effect, and says he'll be in touch with the results.

December 2, 2015. The dermatologist phones, says he was right, it's cancer. Like he would have admitted it if it turned out to be a chalazion. He says I need two operations, the first to remove it and the second to graft some replacement skin in its place. They can remove it in the clinic, but because it's so close to my eye, there's a specialist who'll have to do the graft (something to do with the possibility that the cancer is close to the tear duct), and the specialist doesn't work there so the operations will have to be done on consecutive days in different cities. Finding two consecutive days convenient for the two surgeons apparently proves difficult, but they book me for January 25th and 26th. I'm thinking, Are you people kidding me? That's like two months from now. I got cancer. I can feel it spreading into my pancreas and lymph nodes and lungs, and you can't move me ahead of all the wart treatments and eyebrow tucks and chalazion removals? I say none of this, because I trust that they know what they're doing and because it's not a good idea to antagonize someone who may soon be in a position to "accidentally" stab your eyeball with a scalpel.

January 7, 2016. I have an appointment with the surgeon who's doing the skin graft on the 26th. It's a chance for him to look at my skin and come up with a game plan for the operation. He looks. He tells me the good news is that I have basal cell carcinoma, and it's more a surgical problem than something requiring ongoing treatment. His assistant takes a couple pictures with her iPhone, probably so she can show them to her friends as examples of the gross stuff she has to look at every day. The surgeon seems like a nice guy. He's there about five minutes during which he does pretty much nothing. Later I'll get his bill for $380.00. Which includes $84 for photography.

January 25, 2016. There was a big snowstorm over the weekend, and I was worried they'd call and say the doctor couldn't make it and they'd need to reschedule me for April, but they called Sunday night to say I could show up late if necessary. Which it is, as it takes about forty minutes for an eight-minute drive. After some paperwork and prep, I sit in "the chair." It isn't an operation where they put you to sleep, although I do have my eyes closed the whole time, because the light shining on my face is the approximate brightness of a sun. Not a yellow sun, like ours; a blue sun like Sirius. They numb the area of the cancer, which is about a half inch by a quarter inch. Then the surgeon slices it off. Since my eyes are closed, I don't see if he's using a scalpel or a cheese slicer. They put a patch over the eye. I had been told I might have to wear a patch, but I was thinking a pirate patch, not just a bandage. When I complain, one of the nurses offers to draw a skull and crossbones on the bandage. They send me back to the waiting room while they look at my now-missing skin under a microscope. Turns out the cancer goes all the way to one edge of the skin they'd removed, and I have to go back so they can take some more from that side, but at least it isn't the tear duct side. At one point I hear the surgeon say, "I need someone to hold the skin apart here," and I reach up, saying, "I'll get it," and several people simultaneously yell "No!" We all have a good laugh. Anyway, back to the waiting room and when they come for me the next time it's to tell me they got it all. This time someone offers to draw a smiley face on my patch. I decline.

January 26, 2016. I'm late again, this time because of rush-hour traffic. I'm to be put to sleep for this operation, not the mask over the face way, just the IV, like I'd had done for colonoscopies. First I fill out some paperwork where I have to tell them whether I have a living will or a do-not-resuscitate order, etc. And where the possible side effects of the operation are listed, including brain damage and death. I start thinking the skin cancer isn't so bad. My glasses hide most of it and I'd probably die of old age before it got bad enough to kill me. They lead me into a prep area behind a curtain where I have to remove all my clothes even though they're only working on my eye area. Surgeons have learned that patients are less likely to make trouble if they don't have their clothes. At least they give me a warm blanket to lie under. A nurse comes in and asks how I'm doing. I tell her I need her to remove my patch so I can rub and scratch my eye for about ten minutes. I'm joking, but she looks at me like I'm a giant blood-oozing chalazion. She asks me if I mind a couple people observing the operation. Med students, I assume, or possibly Syrian refugees. I grant permission because it never hurts to have witnesses if you die on the operating table. She starts asking me questions, all of which I answered a couple days earlier when they phoned me, and then she accuses me of looking at her like I think she's crazy. I have a patch over one eye and without my glasses the other eye has blurry vision, so I don't see how she can tell I think she's crazy. She must have ESP. The surgeon comes in, tells me he's going to get the skin for the graft from near my eyelid. The person who was there to put me to sleep finds the IV isn't working because the nurse who hates me put it on wrong. She gets it going, and the next thing I remember it's all over. They let me look at the results. It looks like terrorists attacked me with box cutters. My "wound" and bruising area is about twenty times the size of the cancer.

January 28, 2016. Here's my first-ever selfie:





It looks even worse when I look at it in the mirror because my glasses magnify it. On the other hand it already looks a lot better than it did right after the operation; now it just looks like I've been in a bar fight.

February 3, 2016. Followup visit. My various concerns, such as I can't open that eye as far as the other one and my vision in that eye is blurry and it feels like there's some kind of bone spur or tumor on the edge of the eye and I look grotesque get brushed off as temporary. Also, there's still a swollen area about the size of a cigarette butt under my skin, possibly because the surgeon was smoking during the operation and dropped it in and left it there just to amuse the observers and the nurse who hates me. Better a butt than a retractor or a scalpel, I tell myself. As I'm leaving, they stop me because they forgot to take more iPhone pictures. Can't let me get away without that $84 charge on the bill. I'm guessing they want all these pictures to illustrate a textbook on successful skin grafting. Or unsuccessful, depending. They tell me to come back in a month so the surgeon can admire his handiwork and charge me another $380.00.  Technically I think I can call myself a cancer survivor.


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17. Mio, My Son

Mio, My Son. Astrid Lindgren. 1954/2015. NYR Children's Collection. 184 pages. [Source: Library]

Here's how Mio, My Son begins: "Did you listen to the radio on October 15th last year? Did you hear the news about a boy who disappeared? This is what it said: 'Police in Stockholm are searching for a nine-year-old boy missing from his home, at 13 North Street, since 6.P.M. two days ago. Karl Anders Nilsson has light hair and blue eyes. At the time of his disappearance he was wearing brown shorts, a gray sweater, and a small red cap. Anyone with more information on his whereabouts should contact the police.'"

I don't even know why, but, something about that opening paragraph grabbed me. I wanted to read more. I knew nothing about the book, but I knew I wanted to make time to read it. (When was the last time you got hooked into a book?! I'd love to hear about it!)

So, you might think based on the opening paragraph that Mio, My Son was realistic fiction. That it was perhaps a bit on the dark side, and, that it would perhaps involve a kidnapping. Unless you've read reviews of it, you might not be expecting to find a FAIRY-TALE like fantasy novel set not in the 'real world' but in Farawayland. I know I was surprised--quite pleasantly--to find that Mio, My Son IS a fantasy novel.

The hero of this one is a boy sometimes called 'Andy' but usually called MIO. He is the 'missing boy.' He is narrating his own story, and doing it in his own way. The narrative voice is quite strong, in my opinion.

Now, I will warn readers that sometimes Mio repeats himself. For example, "I must go there to fight Sir Kato, though I was so scared, so scared." Some readers might find this an unforgivable sin. I don't. Not in this case at least. I didn't find it as annoying as a written stutter, for example. Perhaps because it mainly occurs when Mio is thinking about or talking about Sir Kato. It doesn't occur on every page.

So essentially, the book is Mio's adventures in Farawayland. The first half of the book is mostly light and joyous. Nothing heavy or dark. The second half of the book, however, is much more dramatic and dark. THINK Lord of the Rings only for a much younger audience. Mio has a mission to accomplish, something that only HE, as a royal son, can do. And it is seemingly impossible and very daunting. Mio must make up his mind to be brave and determined and risk everything for his mission.

Mio is not alone. He has a best friend, Pompoo, and a horse, Miramis. And, there is, of course, his father THE KING, who I personally LOVED.

So did I like this one? Did I love it? Did I love, love, LOVE it? I think I definitely loved it. I loved it for the narrative, for the descriptive language, for the imagery. I really loved the imagery of the Bread That Satisfies Hunger and the Well That Quenches Thirst. Also I really liked the Well That Whispers at Night. The first two images reminded me of Scripture. (John 4:13-14; John 6:35) The sacrificial nature of the mission also reminded me of Scripture. I'm not convinced it can only, always be read as an "allegory" (think The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe). But as a Christian reader, I saw how it could be interpreted that way.

I think anyone can appreciate the imagery of the Well That Whispers At Night:

A whisper began deep, deep down in the well. It was such a strange voice, unlike any other voice. It whispered fairy tales. They weren't like any other fairy tales, and they were the most beautiful stories in the whole world. There was almost nothing that I loved more than listening to fairy tales, so I lay down flat on my stomach, leaning over the edge of the well to hear more and more of the voice that whispered. Sometimes it sang too, the strangest and most beautiful songs.
"What strange kind of well is this?" I said to Totty.
"A well full of fairy tales and songs. That's all I know," said Totty. "A well full of old stories and songs that have existed in the world for a long time, but that people forgot a long time ago. It is only the Well That Whispers at Night that remembers them all."
Here's another favorite passage:
I understood then for the first time that I never needed to be afraid of my father the King, that whatever I did he would always look at me kindly, like he was doing now as he stood there with his hand on the Master Rose Gardener's shoulder and with all the white birds flying around him. And when I understood him, I was happier than I'd ever been before in my life. I was so glad that I laughed quite hard.



© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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18. Valentine's Rejection

I'm heading for NYC for the SCBWI Winter Conference and meetings. If you're on Twitter, you can follow the action via the #NYC16SCBWI hashtag. If you see me there, please do say hi!

Happy writing and illustrating, all!

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19. Authors Guild Google Suit Could Reach Supreme Court

The Authors Guild’s dispute with Google over scanning copyrighted works could reach the Supreme Court.

The case began in 2005, when the writer’s group accused Google of “massive copyright infringement.” The case has had many twists and turns along the way. In October 2015, a judge upheld Google’s appeal that its efforts to scan millions of books for its digital library does not violate copyright law.

Now, publishers are petitioning the Supreme Court to hear the copyright-infringement case against Google brought by the Authors Guild. In an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal, Author’s Guild president Roxana Robinson explains why. Here is an excerpt:

Google claims that it would be “prohibitive” to pay the authors for using their work, but that’s not an acceptable response. Paying suppliers is simply a cost of doing business. It isn’t acceptable for one of the world’s richest companies to claim that it needn’t pay for content that plays such a crucial part in its financial success. Google depends on these texts to make its search engine one of the best in the world, and that superiority is what drives its ad revenues. Content draws traffic, and traffic drives ad revenues.

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20. What's New in YA--February 9, 2016

  Are you wondering what's new in YA today? Check out these wonderful new releases!     Blackbeard the pirate was known for striking fear in the hearts of the bravest of sailors. But once he was just a young man who dreamed of leaving his rigid life behind to chase...

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21. Would you visit my design website?

Hi. I want to ask you to please take a look at samples of my book design work--while you may not be in the market, at some time you may know someone who is, and it might be fun for you to see all the variety that's there.

You'll see designs for fiction, memoir, and non-fiction.  Click on a cover to see the full front/spine/back cover in a larger size. I hope you'll drop in for a minute or two. A screen chapter of the samples page is below. To visit, go here or click the image below. Thanks for your time and consideration.

Ray

Design page

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22. Spotlight on Burning Midnight by Will McIntosh, Plus Giveaway!

  Today, we're spotlighting Burning Midnight! This new book is a contemporary thriller sure to keep you hooked all the way through. Read on for a guest post by Will McIntosh himself, and a chance to enter the giveaway!    But first, meet Will McIntosh!  WILL McINTOSH is the author of several adult speculative...

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23. Very cool Infographic: Deadpool’s cast compared to their comics origins

The Beat’s own Kate Willaert, infographic queen, has been at it again with a comparison of the characters in the Deadpool movie with their four-color inspirations, written by Devin Rubink. (She did one for Avengers: Age of Ultron as well.) As you can see, the old ‘Pool is quite similar and Colossus is unchanged. The […]

1 Comments on Very cool Infographic: Deadpool’s cast compared to their comics origins, last added: 2/9/2016
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24. Literary Events This Week: Jonathan Galassi and Yann Martel

High Mountains of Portugal Cover (GalleyCat)Here are some literary events to pencil in your calendar this week.

To get your event posted on our calendar, visit our Facebook Your Literary Event page. Please post your event at least one week prior to its date.

The next session of the Pen Parentis literary salon will feature four writers: Jonathan Galassi, Tia Williams, Emma McLaughlin, and Nicola Kraus. Hear them on Tuesday, Feb. 9 at Hotel Andaz starting 7 p.m. (New York, NY)

Steve Light will celebrate the launch of his new children’s book, Swap!, at Books of Wonder. Join in on Saturday, Feb. 13 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. (New York, NY)

Yann Martel will discuss and sign copies of his newest novel, The Highest Mountains of Portugal, at McNally Jackson. Meet him on Saturday, Feb. 13 starting 5 p.m. (New York, NY)

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25. Stephan Pastis to Create the Fifth Timmy Failure Book

Timmy Failure Book 5 (GalleyCat)Stephan Pastis has signed a deal with Candlewick Press for Timmy Failure: The Book You’re Not Supposed to Have. This book will be the fifth installment of Pastis’ popular middle grade series.

Daniel Lazar, a literary agent at Writers House, negotiated this deal on Pastis’ behalf. The publisher has scheduled the release date for September 27.

Here’s more from the press release: “The most important thing to know about Timmy’s fifth memoir to date is: this book was never meant to EXIST. No one needs to know the details. Just know this: There’s a Merry, a Larry, a missing tooth, and a teachers’ strike that is crippling Timmy Failure’s academic future. Worst of all, Timmy is banned from detective work. It’s a conspiracy of buffoons.”

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