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By: Jalissa Corrie
Blog: The Open Book
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, Diversity, Race, and Representation
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The New Visions Award, given annually by our Tu Books imprint, honors a middle grade or young adult novel for young readers by an author of color who has not previously published a novel for that age group. It was established to encourage new talent and to offer authors of color a chance to break into a tough and predominantly white market.
In addition to our New Visions Award Winner and Honor, this year there were three New Visions Award finalists: Alex Brown (Hate Crime), Hilda Burgos (The Castle of Kings), and Elizabeth Stephens (The Rougarou). Below, they share their writing experience, what inspires them, and what they hope readers will take away from their stories. We are thrilled to introduce readers to these talented writers and can’t wait to see how their careers take shape!
Could you tell us about your story?
Elizabeth Stephens: The Rougarou has been a work in progress for several years now. I drafted the first version of this manuscript my freshman year of college, though it has taken on a life of its own since! In particular, my study abroad experience in Paris, France in 2012 helped shape the details of this novel as did later work experience in Geneva, Switzerland. Whenever I reread my own book, it provides me with a sense of nostalgia – a straight shot of Paris. The infusion of Cajun folklore into the story, I adopted only very recently. I am a native French speaker because I grew up in West Africa and knew that I wanted my main character’s roots to be francophone. At the same time, I have been deeply interested in Louisiana culture since I was thirteen years old and first read Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire.
Hilda Burgos: The eleven year-old protagonist of my story, Ana Maria Reyes (Anamay), has a few things in common with me: she has three sisters, her parents are from the Dominican Republic, and she is growing up in the New York City neighborhood of Washington Heights. I first created Anamay about twenty years ago when I drafted a picture book manuscript about a six year-old girl who was nervous about the impending birth of a new sibling. Then I learned about a chapter book contest, and decided that Anamay’s story could be expanded to include the culture shock I experienced when I was ten years old and first visited the Dominican Republic.
Alex Brown: My mother immigrated to the US from the Philippines in the 1980s. She left an entire country behind in order to come here and be a nurse. The US has a long history of recruiting nurses from the Philippines, and from what I can tell, it started after the Spanish-American War, with the Pensionado Act of 1903 (wherein certain Filipino citizens came to the US to study). I took a little bit of what she experienced when she first arrived here, and built upon some of the obstacles she faced (including how incredibly badass she is for raising two kids as a single parent in a new country). I also drew from my own experiences growing up – the discord that happens between my main character and her parents when she chooses not to believe the legitimate folktales they tell her – reflects a lot of my feelings as a kid.
Is there anything in particular you hope readers take away from this story?
ES: I certainly hope that readers enjoy the elements of the story that I had most fun crafting: the romance between Chandelle and Reno, the setting in modern day Paris, and the fantastical elements reminiscent of Southern lore never forgotten.
HB: When I was a child there weren’t many books about kids like me: kids who lived in apartment buildings in a city, who spoke one language at home and another one in school, who had frizzy hair and dark complexions. I always looked for something familiar in the books I read. I hope that readers learn something new and expand their worlds when they read about Anamay, and that this knowledge helps them as they meet new people in their lives. I also hope that readers who share some of Anamay’s experiences find comfort in the familiarity of some of the scenes. Most importantly, I hope that readers enjoy the story and are inspired to read more and more books.
AB: I hope that people will start to think about the impact they can have on others. We live in this society where certain things – stereotypes, prejudices, hatred – are way more insidious than they have any right to be. But, with all of the bad, there’s still the possibility that anyone, anywhere, can stand up for what’s right. I’d also feel quite accomplished if people took a moment to pause and think about all of the obstacles and daily struggles that await anyone who immigrates to America. There’s something to be said about the unquantifiable amount of bravery, hope, and grit that it takes to leave one’s whole world behind, all to start a new life in an unfamiliar (and, at times, unfriendly) place.
Is there anything about your writing experience that you’d like to share?
ES: I wrote my first book at the age of eleven. It was a science fiction saga about a young girl picked up by a ragtag group of bandits and transported to other worlds. Since then, I’ve had the privilege of publishing several short works of horror in a number of online magazines and last year, I published my first fiction novel.
HB: I fell in love with language and literature when I first learned how to read. A well-written book is a work of art. In college I majored in French and Spanish literatures, and I also took English literature and creative writing classes. I wrote stories for pleasure during college and law school, and I took my first class on writing for children after law school. I draw ideas from my life experiences and observations, from stories that I have heard, and from historical accounts and current events.
AB: When I first started to seriously consider writing, I was a co-winner of the Windy City Chapter of the Romance Writers of America’s Four Seasons YA award. A few months after that, I was one of the inaugural winners of SCBWI’s Emerging Voices award. The manuscript that received these cool distinctions was my second, and since then I’ve gone on to write several more, and have quite a few other ideas for new books!
Last year, books by authors of color comprised less than eleven percent of the total number of books published for young readers, according to the Cooperative Children’s Book Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The annual New Visions Award is a step toward the day when all young readers can see themselves in books.
The New Visions Award is open for submissions through October 31, 2016! Please see the full submissions guidelines here.
If you’d like more news regarding the New Visions Award, author interviews, and more, sign up for our newsletter here.
More wolverine news from down in California!
"Simon in the Field" (watercolor on Yupo paper). 11" x 14"
Simon is a Belgian rescue. He needs lots of feed and TLC.
This will be the last post for my George Strait Project
. I thought I would make a few lists, answer a few questions, etc.One word to describe George Strait's music:
TIMELESS Some phrases to describe his music:
consistently high quality; forever true to himself, true to tradition; western swing at its best! makes you want to sing and dance!Was the project fun?
Yes, for the most part.Did I get tired of George by the end of July?
More than I thought I would be. I thought it would be impossible to have too much George in your life.Did I only listen to George Strait?
That's how I started out the month. But by the end, I was ready for a little distance and some other artists to listen to.Would I recommend this project for someone else?
Yes. But I would suggest spreading it out throughout a six month or even a year period. You could cover two to three albums per month and get it done in a year.Would I be interested in doing another chronological project?
Yes, probably. I'm not sure WHO at this point. And it will probably not be any time soon. I am also not sure if I'd ever devote that many posts to music at Becky's Book Reviews. Though if it were to be a year-long project, one post per month wouldn't be seen as quite the invasion that George became!!!Which albums are MUSTS?
If you were to only have TWO albums in your collection--say you have zero George Strait at the moment--then definitely 50 Number Ones (2004) and and 22 More Hits (2007). That would give you 72 of his best songs.Favorite album from the 1980s
? Probably Ocean Front Property. I really LOVE that one.Favorite singles from the 1980s
? Fool Hearted Memory, Amarillo by Morning, You Look So Good In Love, The Cowboy Rides Away, The Chair, Nobody In His Right Mind Would Have Left Her, Baby Blue, Ace in the Hole, Am I Blue, Famous Last Words of a Fool, Ocean Front Property, It Ain't Cool To Be Crazy About You, etc.Favorite songs from the 1980s that were never released as singles?
Friday Night Fever, 80 Proof Bottle of Tear Stopper, Dance Time in Texas, My Heart Won't Wander Very Far From You, You Can't Buy Your Way Out of the Blues...Favorite album from the 1990s
? I don't think I could ever, ever, ever choose. I might could come up with a top three albums from the 1990s...Livin' It Up (1990); Lead On (1994); One Step at A Time (1998).Favorite singles from the 1990s?
You Know Me Better Than That; Easy Come, Easy Go; The Big One; Check Yes or No; Lead On; Blue Clear Sky; One Night at a Time; I Just Want To Dance With You; We Really Shouldn't Be Doing This; Write This Down.Favorite songs from the 1990s never released as singles
? Someone Had to Teach You; She Loves Me (She Don't Love You); Is It Already Time; You're Right, I'm Wrong; Baby Your Baby; Stay Out My Arms; I Wasn't Fooling Around; Nobody Has To Get Hurt; That's Me (Every Chance I Get); Real Good Place to Start; That's Where I Want To Take Our Love; Always Never The Same.Favorite album from the 2000s?
I'm torn between Twang (2009) and Honkytonkville (2003).Favorite singles from the 2000s?
Don't Make Me Comve Over There and Love You, Troubadour, Twang.Favorite songs from the 2000s that were never released as singles?
Honk if You Honky Tonk, I Found Jesus on the Jailhouse Floor, She Used to Say That To Me, Texas Cookin', It Was Me, Where Have I Been All My LifeFavorite album from the 2010s?
Cold Beer ConversationFavorite singles from the 2010s?
I Got A Car; Drinkin' Man; Here for a Good Time.Favorite songs from the 2010s never released as singles?
Three Nails and a Cross, I'll Always Remember You, It was Love, Take Me To Texas, It Takes All Kinds.
Country Music Is....
- No more late nights, comin' in at daylight, and no more doin' you wrong.
- Nickels and dimes, memories and wines - she's on his mind once again.
- I ain't rich, but Lord I'm free.
- He must have stolen some stars from the sky, and gave them to you to wear in your eyes.
- We've been in and out of love and in-between.
- With a little mouth to mouth she was ready to go.
- Well, thank you, could I drink you a buy?
- Even my heart was smart enough to stay behind.
- I don't worship the ground you walk on.
- A devil when she held me close, an angel when she smiled.
- Don't put it all on the line for just one roll.
- All the times before she'd break down and cry.
- There won't be no more next time doin' me wrong.
- Truth be known, you're dyin', cryin', lyin' there in bed.
- I miss picnics and blue jeans and buckets of beer.
- When you hear twin fiddles and a steel guitar, you're listening to the sound of the American heart.
- We tried to work it out a hundred times, ninety-nine it didn't work.
- I'm not the hero who will always save the day.
- Oh they just don't make hearts like hers anymore.
- My heart's the only part of me that's not in love with you.
- She said I don't recall seeing you around here you must be new to this town.
- But I never felt this feeling with anybody else.
- I got my fingers crossed that this goes on and on.
- I hit my knees and told God how much I hurt.
- I caught you lookin' at me when I looked at you. Yes I did, ain't that true?
- We'd each be hurting somebody else if we don't say our good-byes real fast.
- That's where I wanna raise the babies that we make.
- My heart's been on a long vacation, but now it's beating like a cha, cha, cha
- Today I'm right where Mama prayed I'd be.
- Some peddle steel whining like a whistle of an old freight train...
Can you identify which songs these lines are from?
© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews
By: Stacy Curtis,
Blog: Stacy Draws Stuff
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This is a photo I snapped of Richard drawing in 2012 his studio.
A year or so after meeting him for the first time, I found myself in Richard Thompson’s studio watching and listening as he taught me how to draw his comic strip “Cul de Sac.”
I sat next to him as he walked me through the shape of Alice Otterloop’s head, the shape of Petey’s nose and we talked pen nibs, inks, paper and what pie he likes. I felt honored that he would allow me to work on his strip with him. So much so I offered to bring coffee and doughnuts into his studio every morning, despite the 700 mile commute and the fact I’d probably eat all the doughnuts on the way there.
I got several opportunities to have dinner at Richard’s dining room table with him and his family. Whenever I get around to updating my resume, I’m going to add that. “I ate dinner with Richard Thompson and his family at their dining room table in their house. Boom.”
Anyway ... I will never forget sitting with Richard in his studio receiving the education of a lifetime. Watching the master draw and talk about his process was surreal. His artwork permeates my work. There are small pieces of Richard Thompson influence that I have left in my drawings as a tribute to him. It will always be imitation, but it’s my way of saying, “Thank you.”
Last night as I raised a toast to Richard, I looked around and realized his influence is everywhere in my studio. His books on my bookshelves. Richard gave me a handful of his pen nibs. I still ink with some of them, others (I will never use) have a special place in my stockpile of art supplies. Original Richard Thompson artwork hangs on my walls. There are still files on my computer of the “Cul de Sac” roughs Richard sent me to ink.
I also have a folder on my computer of the photos I took during my visit to the Thompson compound. Photos of art hanging on the walls in the house. Photos of his Reuben Award. Photos of his studio. Photos of him drawing. And a couple photos of the backyard view out his bathroom window. When he asked why I took those I said, “Because I want to know what you’re looking at every time you take a piss.” He laughed.
I will miss Richard Thompson. Hell, I already miss Richard Thompson. It seems an emptier planet without him here. And I want to say fuck Parkinson’s Disease. I hope someone finds a cure for it and for the icing on the cake, I hope that person is a cartoonist.
Richard was loved. He had a circle of friends who would have jumped on a grenade to protect him. He knew his work was loved and he left behind a massive amount of work that will inspire people Richard will never get to meet. If you’re not aware of his work, look it up, buy his books, find a comfy place to read and be prepared to have your socks knocked off.
Literally. Knocked right off. By Richard Thompson.Artwork by Richard Thompson
One of the many links below is if you choose to donate to the Michael J. Fox Foundation in Richard’s name. Nothing can bring Richard Thompson back, but we can work to prevent this loss from ever happening to someone else.
My family's condolences to Richard's wife, his children and his many, many friends and admirers. Big hugs to you all.
Donate money to Team Cul de Sac on the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research site.
A link to Richard's books.
(Buy them wherever you feel comfortable buying books.)
The Art of Richard Thompson documentary.
Review by Sara...
THREE TRUTHS AND A LIE
By Brent Hartinger
Hardcover: 288 pages
Publisher: Simon Pulse (August 2, 2016)
Grade Level: 9 and up
Goodreads | Amazon
A weekend retreat in the woods and an innocent game of three truths and a lie go horribly wrong in this high-octane psychological thriller filled with romantic suspense by a Lambda Award–winning author.Deep in the
By: Gavin McGuire,
Blog: First Book
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Children don’t need planes, trains and automobiles to be transported to different countries, different worlds or even different points of view. All it takes is an engaged imagination and the right resources and they can explore the far-off corners of their active and growing minds.
First Book offers books and resources that will stimulate children’s creativity this summer and take their imaginations on vacations!
Children can fly to outer space, perform surgery, put out an inferno, explore uncharted territories and do it all before lunch with the help of fun role playing costumes. When children imagine what it would be like to be an astronaut or a doctor their world expands and they begin to dream bigger. In this section you’ll also find puppets, building blocks and even a toy taco!
Fairy and Folk Tales
This section is filled with old classics as well as exciting new titles that will keep young minds captivated. These stories, legends and myths from different cultures all over the globe will give children endless worlds full of princesses, monsters and giant beanstalks to explore.
Fantasy and Sci-Fi
Books and stories from different dimensions and galaxies! Free from the rules of space and time, the books and stories in this section will help children think beyond what seems possible and imagine freely. Children can go to the beach in another galaxy or visit an amusement park in the future…the imagination vacation possibilities go on and on with these engaging books.
Arts and Crafts
All of the beautiful paintings or paper planes children dream up can’t come to life without the tools and resources they need. This section features a wide variety of kits and activities that will help children turn their creative ideas into fantastic works of art or fun puppets.
The post Take Your Imagination On Vacation appeared first on First Book Blog.
I can’t avoid the dentist Though I really wish I could ‘Cause once I’m in that chair I know Of course, it’s for my benefit But man, it’s so unpleasant That being told I didn’t have to go The poking and the prodding, The drill with all its noise Add up to what I’m sure that Placed to suck up all the drool. He calls it “Mr. Thirsty” But that doesn’t make it cool. The only plus that I can see Is, when my visit’s done, At least 6 months will pass before
There’ll be another one.
Today I'm thrilled to have renowned author/illustrator, and Co-Director of the Writing and Illustrating Children's Books MFA and Certificate programs at Hollins University, Ruth Sanderson at dulemba.com. She has a fantastic new book to share...
THE GOLDEN KEY
by Ruth Sanderson
Reading "The Golden Key" close to forty years ago instilled in me a profound desire to some day create pictures that illuminated this evocative text. Over the years, when people have asked, “If there was one book you’d like to illustrate, what would it be?” —my answer has always been "The Golden Key" by George MacDonald. I loved the story, and the version I had was illustrated by Maurice Sendak with beautiful, dream-like pen and ink pictures. There were only 6 plates in the book, however, and I wanted to do a fully illustrated version.
After I became a working author/illustrator I tried to edit down the story to fit a picture book format, but it didn’t feel right. The story is simply too long and complex for a picture book. So my "dream project" was put on the shelf for thirty years.
In 2007 with Brian Selznick's Invention of Hugo Cabret I became aware that artists were challenging the standard format of books for children. A few years later when thinking wistfully about how The Golden Key could absolutely never be made into a picture book in this climate of shorter and shorter texts, it occurred to me that this very long story might be easily broken into chapters, as it alternates between the two characters' points of view. I also felt that 8-12 was a more suitable age group for this unusual story than that of a younger picture book audience.
In contemplating the style and medium to use, I felt that scratchboard would be perfect to convey the story's mythic quality and dramatic light and dark imagery. In my spare time between other book projects In 2011 I started to create some of the key scenes that I wanted to include in the story. My favorite scene is Tangle descending the stairway into the earth, and I always felt this was like Persephone descending into Hades.
I split the story into 9 chapters and created a dummy that paged out to around 224 pages, carefully planning room for over 45 illustrations. Some are wordless spreads, some are single pages, and some are vignettes that wrap around the text. I wanted to create the look of a fully illustrated novel. It is really a very long picture book for an older audience.
One thing that will set my version apart is the fact that, as a picture book illustrator, I decided to add elements that were not expressly stated in the text, that would “expand” the story and add an interesting subtext. This subtext was created as I mused on the object and meaning of the golden key itself and the fact that MacDonald places the key in Fairyland. I have framed the story with wordless pictures, one before the text of the story starts and one right after it ends. I have always been intrigued by the fact that the golden key seems to magically appear at the base of a rainbow in Fairyland. I imagined that perhaps a fairy might be put in charge of placing it there. And perhaps that fairy might arrange for a particular person to see the rainbow and seek the key. Or perhaps in "flitting from place to place" lest anyone should find the key, she notices a boy with a spark of desire for something beyond our normal human grasp.
Therefore, in the first illustration, before the text begins, the creatures in Fairyland watch the boy as he listens to his great-aunt's stories. One fairy is sitting on a tree stump with the golden key. I imagined her observing his spark of interest in the key.
After showing a close-up of this conversation between Mossy and his great-aunt at the start of the text, I added another wordless spread with the fairy flying off with the key, implying that she was going to hide it for the boy to find.
And sure enough, he could not resist dashing into Fairyland that evening when he sees the rainbow, a "grand sight, burning away there in silence, with its gorgeous, its lovely, its delicate colors, each distinct, all combining."
At the end of the story, in the picture where Mossy and Tangle climb into the rainbow in the distance, the fairy flies off with the key in the foreground, indicating that their story is over, but another story is about to begin. The final wordless illustration shows the fairy bringing the key back to the base of the rainbow in the forest, looking back toward the reader—an invitation for the next person to seek the key.
George MacDonald considered Fairyland to be a symbol of the imagination, and he invited each reader to interpret his stories after his/her own sensibilities. I invite readers to interpret my pictures in the same light. For me, imagination is the Golden Key.
As a result of the generous RNR article this morning (https://www.newsreview.com/…/cool-enough-for-school/content…), I've been asked already several times about the infamous "Rejection Notebooks" I've been keeping for almost 20 years. Originally, I kept them as a way to keep organized about to whom I'd already submitted, but soon after lugging them to a few school visits, I realized that they have incredible power to illustrate just how much persistence is required for authors who hope to be published. Or for that matter for anyone pursuing a dream. I'll soon hit 30 books in print, but there are at least 1,000 rejections here. And I stopped filing them a few years ago when I began exclusively submitting via email--so I probably have another notebook's-worth in digital form. I also stopped because there's no need to risk hernia, even for an author visit :)
mixed media - digital collage
By: Izzy Elves,
My dad’s medical bag, probably not much different from Dr. Flagg’s in the story. It had compartments for storing medicines, bandages, etc. Just like Clara in A Buss from Lafayette
, for many years of my childhood I believed that when a doctor went to deliver a baby, it was inside this bag. I wonder if doctors still carry these. Bublish
गूगल सर्च – कार्टून कुछ भी सर्च करना हो तो Google Search से सर्च किया जा सकता है. आज जब अपने नाम के कार्टून सर्च किए तो मेरे कुछ cartoons देखने को मिले.. लेखिका से कार्टूनिस्ट तक का सफर चार्ली चेप्लिन के जन्म के 125 वे वर्ष पर उनके फ़िल्मी जीवन में व्यंग्य की कथा […]
The post गूगल सर्च – कार्टून appeared first on Monica Gupta.
With mere days until the release of the Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – Parts 1 & 2 script book, fans around the world are celebrating in ways we haven’t seen since the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
On July 21, hundreds of Potter fans descended on NYC’s SoHo neighborhood to put on a “Muggle Mob” in celebration of the release of the eighth book.
Scholastic shares more:
“More than 300 Harry Potter fans formed a massive flash mob or ‘Muggle Mob’ today, taking over Broadway in front of the Scholastic headquarters building in New York City, just 10 days before the highly anticipated release of the eighth Harry Potter story, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Parts One and Two. The fans, all Scholastic employees and their children, flooded onto the street reading from a favorite Harry Potter book and stopping traffic in the busy SoHo area. At the culmination of the estimated two-and-a-half[-]minute event, the fans lowered their books and raised up paddles showing the cover of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Parts One and Two, drawing cheers throughout the neighborhood. As the crowd dispersed, ‘Muggle Mob’ participants handed out their Harry Potter books from the Harry Potter series 1-7 to lucky passersby, sharing the gift of books and reading.”
Watch the video below for a recap of the event!
Cursed Child‘s already staggering sales have made the script book for the new play a bestseller, but according to Amazon and Barnes & Noble‘s reports, the book is also breaking pre-sale records.
According to Barnes & Noble:
“…the latest addition to the Wizarding World is the most pre-ordered book since Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in 2007.”
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – Parts 1 & 2 will be released internationally on Sunday, July 31.
Thanks to our friends at Mugglenet for the heads-up!
Blog: drawings & sketches - dibujandoarte
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s.p. remastered - scanned and redrawn - (mixed media on paper)
मुंबई की बारिश भी तुम्हारी तरह है,
तभी आती है जब भीग नही सकता,
पर आती रोज़ है ये पगली भिगाने,
और मैं पागला छुप भी नही सकता,
ललचाती है मुझे अदाओ से अपनी,
उस मोड़ पर, जहाँ मुड़ नही सकता,
ऐसा संगीत गुनगुनाती है वो अक्सर,
जो मेरे लफ़ज़ो में घुल नही सकता,
वो करती है अनेक भावनाए अंकुरित,
परन्तु दूजा लिबास चुन नही सकता,
बस निहारता रहता हूँ चंचलता को,
जानता हूँ मैं ख्वाब बुन नही सकता,
मुंबई की बारिश तुम्हारी तरह ही है,
निहारता हूँ हर्सू पर, रुक नही सकता,
बरसता यौवन देता है कुछ दर्द, पर,
एहसास के बिना घाव दुख नही सकता || Dr. DV ||
By: Carolyn Napolitano,
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, Arts & Humanities
, answer me
, Anton LaVey
, Children of Lucifer
, Church of Satan
, Diane Evelyn Hegarthy
, Nat King Cole
, religious satanism
, Ruben van Luijk
, The Origins of Modern Religious Satanism
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Anton Szandor LaVey was the most outspoken and most notorious apostle of Satan in the twentieth century. On his life before founding the Church of Satan in 1966, LaVey liked to spun wild tales, but he did actually work as a professional and semi-professional musician in the carnival circuit. The High Priest of Satan was fond of bombastic classic music in the Wagnerian mould and popular tunes from the thirties, forties, and fifties, the period in which he himself had been young.
The post Was Anton LaVey serenading Satan in his cover of “Answer Me”? appeared first on OUPblog.
By: Matthew Cheney,
Blog: The Mumpsimus
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, Bonnie Nadzam
, Mac Wellman
, Stephen Burt
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Bonnie Nadzam's recent essay at Literary Hub
, "What Should Fiction Do?"
, is well worth reading, despite the title. (The only accurate answer to the question in the title [which may not be Nadzam's] is: "Lots of stuff, including what it hasn't done yet...") What resonates for me in the essay is Nadzam's attention to the ways reality effects intersect with questions of identity — indeed, with the ways that fictional texts produce ideas about identity and reality. I especially loved Nadzam's discussion of how she teaches writing with such ideas in mind.
Nadzam starts right off with a bang:
An artistic practice that perpetually reinforces my sense of self is not, in my mind, an artistic practice. I’m not talking about rejecting memoir or characters “based on me.” What I mean is I don’t have the stomach for art that purports to “hold up a mirror to nature,” or for what this implies, philosophically, about selfhood and the world in which we live.
This is a statement that avant-gardes have been making since at least the beginning of the 20th century — it is the anti-mimetic
school of art, a school at which I have long been a happy pupil. Ronald Sukenick, whose purposes are somewhat different to Nadzam's, wrote in Narralogues
that "fiction is a matter of argument rather than of dramatic representation" and "it is the mutability of consciousness through time rather than representation that is the essential element of fiction." Sukenick proposes that all fiction, whether opaquely innovative or blockbuster entertainment, "raises issues, examines situations, meditates solutions, reflects on outcomes" and so is a sort of reasoning and reflection. "The question," he writes, "is only whether a story reflects thoughtfully, or robotically reflects the status quo with no illuminating angle of vision of its own."
|Magritte, "The Human Condition", 1933|
Sukenick, too, disparages the "mirror to reality" or "mirror to nature" idea: "Once the 'mirror of reality' argument for fiction crumbles, possibilities long submerged in our tradition open up, and in fact a new rationale for fiction becomes necessary."
Nadzam's essay provides some possibilities for remembering what has been submerged in the tradition of fiction and for creating new rationales for fiction's necessity:
I want fiction to bend, for its structure not to mirror the reality I think I see, but for its form and structure to help me peel back and question the way reality seems. The way I seem. I love working with the English language precisely because it fails. Even the most perfect word or phrase or narrative can at best shadow and haunt the phenomena of the world. Words and stories offer a way of experiencing being that is in their most perfect articulation a beat removed from direct experience. And so have I long mistrusted those works in which representation and words function without a hiccup, creating a story that is meant to be utterly believed.
Again, not at all new, but necessary because these ideas so push against dominant assumptions about fiction (and reality) today.
An example of one strain of dominant assumptions: Some readers struggle to separate characters from writers. On Twitter recently, my friend Andrew Mitchell, a writer and editor, expressed frustration with this tendency, saying
: "EVERYTHING a character says/does in a story reflects EXACTLY what the writer believes, right? Based on the comments I just read: YES!" As I said to Andrew in reply, this way of thinking results from certain popular types of literary analysis and pedagogy, ones that seek Message from art, ones that want literature to be a paragon of Self Expression, with the Self either a fragile, wounded bird or an allegorical representative of All Such Selfs. It's "write what you know" taken to its logical conclusion: write only
what you know about what and who you are. (Good luck writing a story about a serial killer if you're not one.) Such assumptions are anti-imagination and, ultimately, anti-art.
These dominant assumptions aren't limited to classrooms and naive readers. Consider this, from Achy Obejas's foreword to The Art of Friction
(ed. Charles Blackstone & Jill Talbot):
When my first book, We Came All the Way from Cuba So You Could Dress Like This?, was released in 1994, my publishers were ecstatic at the starred review it received in Publishers Weekly.
But though I appreciated the applause, I was a bit dismayed. The review referred to the seven pieces that comprise the book as “autobiographical essays.” I found this particularly alarming, since six of the seven stories were first-person narrations, mostly Puerto Rican and Mexican voices, while I am Cuban, and one was from the point of view of a white gay man named Tommy who is dying of AIDS.
I’d have thought that the reviewer might have noticed that nationality, race, and gender seemed to shift from story to story—and that is what they were, stories, not essays; fiction, not memoir—but perhaps that reviewer, like many others who followed, felt more comforted in believing that the stories were not products of the imagination but lived experiences.
Imagination is incomprehensible and terrifying. In the classroom, I see this all the time when students read anything even slightly weird — at least one will insist the writer must have been on drugs. When a person reads a work of fiction and their first impulse is to either seek out the autobiographical elements or declare the writer to be a drug addict, then we know that that reader has no experience with or understanding of imagination. For such readers, based on a true story
are the five most comforting words to read.
I come back again and again to a brief passage from one of my favorites of Gayatri Spivak's books, Readings
I am insisting that all teachers, including literary criticism teachers, are activists of the imagination. It is not a question of just producing correct descriptions, which should of course be produced, but which can always be disproved; otherwise nobody can write dissertations. There must be, at the same time, the sense of how to train the imagination, so that it can become something other than Narcissus waiting to see his own powerful image in the eyes of the other. (54)
There must be the sense of how to train the imagination so that it can become something other than Narcissus waiting to see his own powerful image in the eyes of the other.
To return to Bonnie Nadzam's essay: Another dominant force that keeps fiction from becoming too interesting, keeps readers from reading carefully, and prevents the education of literary imagination is mass media (which these days basically means visual/cinematic media). I love mass media and visual media for all sorts of reasons, but if we ignore pernicious effects then we can't adjust for them. Nadzam writes:
...I’ve noticed that with much contemporary fiction, when we read, we’re often not asked to imagine we’re reading a history, biography, diary or anything at all. Often the text doesn’t even ask the reader to be aware of the text as text. With much fiction, we seem to pretend we are watching a movie. And it is supposed to be a good thing if a novel is “cinematic.”
Much fiction today, especially fiction that achieves any level of popularity, seems to me to draw not just structurally but emotionally from television. At its best, it's The Wire
(perhaps the great melodrama of our era -- and I mean that as high praise); more commonly, it's a Lifetime movie-of-the-week. TV, like pop songs, knows the emotional moves it needs to pull off to make its audience feel what the audience desires to feel -- make your audience feel something they don't
desire to feel, and most of them will turn on you with hate and scorn.
The giveaway, I think, is the narrowness of the prose aesthetic in all fiction that pulls its effects from common wells of emotion, because a complex, unfamiliar prose structure will get in the way of readers drinking up the emotions they desire. Such writing may not itself be inherently rich with emotion; all it needs to do is transmit signs that signal feelings already within the reader's repertoire. Keep the prose structure and style familiar, keep the emotions within the expected range, and the writer only needs to point toward those emotions for the reader to feel them. The reader becomes Pavlov's dog, salivating not over real food, but over the expectation of it. If an identity group exists, then that identity group can train its members toward particular structures of feeling. If the structures are even minimally in place, then members in good standing of an identity group will receive the emotional payoff they desire. Fiction then becomes a confirmation of identity and emotion, not a challenge to it.
(Tangentially: The radical potential of melodrama is to trick audiences into feeling emotions they would not otherwise feel and to complicate expected emotions. This was, for instance, the great achievement of Uncle Tom's Cabin
, a book that is terribly written in all sorts of ways, but which mobilized -- even weaponized -- sentiment to an extraordinary degree. The same could be said for The Wire,
though with significantly less social effect [Linda Williams has some thoughts on this
, if I'm remembering her book correctly].)
Anyone who's taught creative writing will tell you that lots of students don't aspire to write for the sake of writing so much as they aspire to write movies on paper. Which is fine, in and of itself, but if students want to write movies, they should take screenwriting and film production courses. And if I want to watch a movie, I'll watch a movie, not read a book.
Movies, TV, and video games are the dominant narrative forms of our time, so it should be no surprise that fiction often resembles those dominant forms. Even the most blockbustery of bestselling novels can't compete for dominance (and almost every bestselling novel these days is a movie-in-a-book, anyway, so they're just contributing to the dominance). Look how excited people get when they find out their favorite book will be turned into a movie. It's like Pinocchio being turned into a real boy!
What gets lost is the literary
. Not in some high-falutin' sense of the Great Books, but in the technical sense of what written texts can do that other media either can't or don't do as well. Conversely, other media have things they do that written texts don't do as well, or at all — this is what bugs me when people write about films as if they're novels, for instance, because it loses all sense of what is distinctly cinematic. But that's a topic for another time...
Nadzam discusses how she teaches fiction, and I hope at some point she writes a longer essay about this:
When I do “teach” creative writing, I point out that a work of formal realism (which I neither condemn nor condone) usually adheres to a particular formula: Exposition informs a person’s Psychology, from which arises their Character, out of which certain Motives emerge, based upon which the character takes Action, from which Plot results (EPiC MAP). And what formal realism achieved thereby was answering some of the metaphysical questions raised by Enlightenment thinkers about what the self, or character, might be—a person is a noun. A changing noun, perhaps, but a noun nonetheless—somehow separate from the flux of the world they inhabit. The students I’ve had who want to “be writers” hear about EPiC MAP and diligently set to work. The artists in the class, however—the kindred spirits with the mortal wound—they look at me skeptically. Something about that doesn’t feel right, they say. I don’t want to do it that way, they say. Can we break those rules? And each of their “stories” is a terrible, fascinating mess. Are the stories messes because these writers are breaking with habit, forcing readers to break with expectation, or is the EPiC MAP really an effective mirror? I grant that this is an impossible question to answer, but an essential question to raise. By my lights these students are trying, literally, to re-make the world.
This reminded me of Mac Wellman's longstanding practice of encouraging his playwrighting students to write "bad" plays. The New York Times describes this amusingly
He asks students to write bad plays, to write plays with their nondominant hands, to write a play that takes five hours to perform and covers a period of seven years. Ms. Satter recalled an exercise in which she had to write a play in a language she barely knew.
“I wrote mine in extremely limited Russian,” she wrote in an email. “Then we translated them back into English and read them aloud. The results were these oddly clarified, quiveringly bizarre mini-gems.”
Mr. Wellman explained: “I’m not trying to teach them how to write a play. I’m trying to teach them to think about what kind of play they want to write.”
Further, from a 1992 interview
Inevitably, if you start mismatching pronouns, getting your tenses wrong, writing sentences that are too long or too short, you will begin to say things that suggest a subversive political reality.
One of the most effective exercises I do with students (of all levels) is to have them make a list of "writing rules" — the things they have been told or believe to be key to "good writing". I present this to them seriously. I want them to write down what they really believe, which is often what teachers past have taught them. Then, for the next assignment, I tell them to write something in which they break all those rules. Every single one. Some students are thrilled (breaking rules is fun!), some are terrified (we're not supposed to break rules!), but again and again it leads to some fascinating insights for them. It can be liberating, because they discover the freedom of choice in writing, and do things with words that they would never have given themselves permission to do on their own. It's also educative, because they discover that some of the rules, at least for some situations, make sense to them. Then, though, they don't apply those rules ignorantly and unreflectively: when they follow those rules in the future, they do so because the rules make sense to them.
(I make them read Gertrude Stein, too. I make them try to write like Gertrude Stein, especially at her most abstract. [Tender Buttons
works well.] It's harder than it looks. They scoff at Stein at first, but once they try to imitate her, they struggle, usually, and discover how wedded their minds are to a particular way of writing and particular assumptions about sense and purpose.)
(I show them Carole Maso's book Break Every Rule
. I tell them it's a good motto for a writer.)
To learn new ways to write, to educate our imaginations, we need not only to think about new possibilities but to look at old models, especially the strange and somewhat forgotten ones. Writers who only read what is near at hand are starving themselves, starving their imaginations.
Nadzam returns to 18th century writers, a trove of possibilities:
Fielding thought a crucial and often overlooked aspect of the theatrum mundi metaphor was the emphasis the metaphor puts on the role of the audience, and the audience’s tendency to hastily judge the character of his fellow men. We are not supposed to assume, Fielding’s narrator tells us in Tom Jones, that just because the brilliant 18th-century actor David Garrick plays the fool, Garrick himself is a fool. Nor should we assume that the fool we meet in life is actually—or always—a fool. How then is Fielding’s audience to determine the character of Fielding’s contemporary who plays the part of an actor playing the part of a ghost puppet who represents a real-life individual whose eccentric and condemnable behavior Fielding satirizes? For Fielding, there is no such thing as an un-interpreted experience; an instance of mimetic simulation cannot be considered “truth” (a clear image in a well-polished mirror) because truth itself is the very act of mimetic simulation.
Seeking out writers from before fiction's conventions were conventional helps us see new possibilities. (This is one of the values of Steven Moore's two-volume "alternative history" of the novel
, which upends so many received ideas about what novels are and aren't, and when they were what they are or aren't. Also Margaret Anne Doody's The True Story of the Novel.
Also so much else.)
Finally, one of the central concerns of Nadzam's essay is the way that assumptions about fiction reproduce and reify assumptions about identity:
...what is now generally accepted as “fiction” emerged out of an essentialism that is oddly consoling in its reduction of each individual to a particular set of characteristics, and the reality they inhabit a background distinct from this self. At worst, behind this form are assumptions about identity and reality that may prevent us from really knowing or loving ourselves or each other, and certainly shield us from mystery.
So much fiction seems to see people as little more than roleplaying game character sheets written in stone. Great mysteries of motivation, great changes in conviction or belief, all these too often get relegated to the realms of the "unrealistic" — and yet the true realism is the one that knows our movement from one day to the next is mostly luck and magic.
Relevant here also is a marvelous essay by Stephen Burt for Los Angeles Review of Books
, partly a review of poetry by Andrew Maxwell and Kay Ryan, partly a meditation on how lyric poetry works. More fiction writers ought to learn from poetry. (More fiction reviewers ought to learn from the specificity and attention to language and form in Burt's essay, and in many essays on poetry.) Consider:
A clever resistance to semantic function, an insistence that we just don’t know, that words can turn opaque, pops up every few lines and yet never takes over a reader’s experience: that’s what you get when you try to merge aphorism (general truth) and lyric (personal truth) and Maxwell’s particular line of the North American and European avant-garde (what is truth?). It haunts, it teases, it invites me to return. By the end of the first chapbook, “Quotation or Paternity,” Maxwell has asked whether lyric identification is also escapism: “Trying to identify, it means / Trying to be mistaken / About something else.” Poetic language is, perhaps, the record of a mistake: in somebody else’s terms, we misrecognize ourselves.
We can never be certain how much of our experience resembles other people’s, just as we can’t know if they see our “blue”.... Nor can we know how much of what we believe will fall apart on us next year. ... His poems understand how tough understanding yourself, or understanding anyone else, or predicting their behavior, or putting reflection into words can be, and then forgive us for doing it anyway...
We need more fiction like Stephen Burt's description of Andrew Maxwell's poems: More fiction that understands how tough understanding yourself, or understanding anyone else, or predicting their behavior, or putting reflection into words can be, and then forgives us for doing it anyway.
By: Priscilla Yu,
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Do you have back pain? Statistics show you likely do. Or you have had it in the past or will in the future. Back pain can be a million different things, and you can get it an equal number of ways. Until you've suffered it, you don't realise how disruptive it can be. Trying to fix back pain is a superb way to make people understand the power of scientific method and how to use it.
The post Scientific method and back pain appeared first on OUPblog.
Between Shades of Gray. Ruta Sepetys. 2011. Penguin. 352 pages. [Source: Library]
First sentence: They took me in my nightgown. Thinking back, the signs were there--family photos burned in the fireplace, Mother sewing her best silver and jewelry into the lining of her coat late at night, and Papa not returning from work. My younger brother, Jonas, was asking questions. I asked questions, too, but perhaps I refused to acknowledge the signs. Only later did I realize that Mother and Father intended we escape. We did not escape. We were taken. Premise/plot: I'm tempted to not give any premise or plot at all. To just say: READ THIS BOOK. But I'm not sure that's exactly fair. While, I do think this book should be read WIDELY, I think it's only fair to tell you a little bit about what to expect. It's set in 1941 in Lithuania. Lina, the heroine, and her family are in a difficult position. They're trapped between two worst-case-scenarios: Stalin, on one side, and Hitler on the other. No matter which "wins" control over Lithuania, Lina and her family--and so many others--are in great danger.
The book opens with Lina's family being arrested. It doesn't get any cheerier from that point. Lina, her mother, and her brother, Jonas, take the reader on quite an emotional journey. It's an incredible read, partly set in Siberia as well, which is where these 'prisoners' end up.
My thoughts: This was a reread for me. There is a companion book newly released this year starring Lina's cousin Joana. The companion book is set at much closer to the end of World War II. I read Salt to the Sea not really realizing its connection with Between Shades of Gray. It worked. So if you do read the books out of order, that is okay. But definitely I think you'll want to read both books.
I love this one. I do. I love the characterization. I really, really, really love Lina. And I love Andrius as well. Just because there is a tiny bit of romance, don't mistake this one for a proper ROMANCE. It's so much more than that. It's a fight for survival, and, a fight for DIGNITY. It is very bittersweet. But if you're looking for a book you can't put down, this one is it.
© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews
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The sound of paddling pools, ice-cream vans, and sizzling barbecues means but one thing: summer is finally here. We caught up with four of Oxford University Press' most seasoned travelers to see which books they recommend for trips to Thailand, Cambodia, Germany, India, and France.
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It's birthday week for my three girls.
It took them awhile to agree on a theme.
Paris + kitty cats + French pastries.
Kitty cat cafe ?
Ooh la la.
And you know me - I love any chance to make art,
especially for a party.
After researching all manner of things French,
I sat down to sketch in the book fort.
(Avec iced coffee in a jar, no less.)
Oh, happy day, mes petits.
I think I'll make some hanging art
and some tiny, cupcake art.
I should probably figure out games.
I'm no good at games.
Hide the baguettes?
Name the French cities?
Guess the French words?
Some French books we love:
This is Paris - Miroslav Sasek
Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans
The Story of Babar - Jean de Brunhoff
The Fantastic Drawings of Danielle by Barbara McClintock
Madame Martine by Sarah S. Brannen
The Story of Diva and Flea by Mo Willems & Toni DiTerlizzi
Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell, ill. by Terry Fan
Over the past few years I’ve watched the screen debate evolve as families choose between having a “screen-free” or a “screen-filled” home. In our family we’ve carefully chosen what is watched on TV, what Internet sites can be accessed, and enforced a strict “no cellphone until you can drive” policy. Of course, every on-line safety precaution has been taken as well as placing a time-tracker on the family computer.
All of this is fine and good until schools and society started encroaching on my little domestic bubble. Our schools have chosen to embrace technology in a variety of ways from turning in term papers, taking tests, research, and in-school discussions forums.
Our children’s visiting friends come over to our house with a variety of electronic gadgets, and with them come their own rules. My first reaction was to say, “my house, my rules,” but then it dawned on me that the conversation that was not being had was the one about balance.
What does an electronically balanced family look like?
Technology, whether TV, computer, iPad, or cell phone, is a tool and a tool is only as good as the hand that guides it. That hand is only as good as the heart and mind that picks it up as well.
I decided I was tired of feeling like a “screen-cop” so I decided to sit down with my kids and come up with a set of guidelines that we could all agree to. I was really impressed with their perspective and how complete they were in coming up with guidelines for our family.
Guidelines for Screen-Time:
• Get On The Same Page: Begin the talk by discussing with your children why there needs to be limits and talk about computer and Internet safety.
• Priorities: Using computers, TVs, and electronic devices are wwwaaayy down on the priority list and can occur only after homework, music or sports practice, and family time. As one of my children put it, “screen time is a privilege and not a right.”
• Active Engagement: A point that is really important for my husband and myself is that screen time is often a passive activity. One of our Golden Rules of Home is that screen time must engage our children actively. Programs we value are Mindcraft (on our server), STEM computer activities which engage our children into building robots, airplanes, and creative computer games requesting kids to solve math problems, etc.
• Must Add Value: Whether watching a good movie, playing an iPad game, or texting on a cell phone, everything must add value our lives. Is my child learning something? Are they texting for a purpose such as directions or meeting times? Is the screen time
creating a problem solving moment such as building a STEM game? Is what they’re doing on the screen purposeful?
• Be Together: A wonderful way to connect with children and their friends is to set up a game night, and play along with them. We have a Wii and love to play the family-friendly games together. We add one half hour to our game nights so everyone gets a couple of turns and then we change the game to an off-screen one. It’s created a nice balance between on-screen and off -screen games.
• Cell-phones and Friends: Many of my children’s friends are now carrying cell phones. Before they come to our house, I make sure their parents have our land-line and cell phone numbers in case they should need to speak with their child. Near our front door is the cell-phone basket where everyone’s cell phones are turned off, placed inside, and not retrieved until it’s time for our guests to head home. I love this “electronics bin” idea I spotted on Facebook, but unfortunately I don’t know the source.
• Laptops and Friends: Many friends have laptops and iPads and are usually surprised when they are asked to leave them on the shelf inside our front door. It may sound odd, but I feel I have a responsibility to make sure our kids cannot access inappropriate websites at any time. Balanced screen time applies to everyone who enters our home. After the first couple of times visiting, friends begin automatically leaving their computers by the front door or in their backpacks which, to me, shows great understanding and support.
The best guide that we’ve found for balanced screen time is to model the behavior we want to see. One of the most important steps in creating balanced screen time is for your child to watch you turn off your devices. By creating a balance in your own habits you will help create a natural model for your children to pattern their behavior after. We’ve been very conscious to do this in our own home and have seen similar screen usage results in our growing extended family.
One More Thing…
My Secret Codes, Mysteries and Adventures Activity PDF for kids will keep young minds percolating for HOURS with this screen-free activity!
Inside young super detectives will discover:
*19 pages of sleuthing fun for your family to enjoy.
*Use Pilot Frixion Pens and craft paper to create Invisible Secret Notes!
*Make I Spy Cookies!
*Discover a President of the United States who was a Master Code Creator!
This free activity guide is a great way to encourage kids to pull books off of shelves, discover the power of imagination and build a new excitement and anticipation for reading. Fill out the info below and grab your FREE copy. Enjoy!
The post How to Create Balanced Screen Time in your Home appeared first on Jump Into A Book.
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Many thanks to Matt Bieker and the Reno News & Review for this generous spotlight.
A local middle school teacher is also an author. Two of his dozens of books are on their second release.