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1. Character Talent & Skills: Mentalism

As writers, we want to make our characters as unique and interesting as possible. One way to do this is to give your character a special skill or talent that sets him apart from other people. This might be something small, like having a green thumb or being good with animals, to a larger and more competitive talent like stock car racing or being an award-winning film producer. 

When choosing a talent or skill, think about the personality of your character, his range of experiences and who his role models might have been. Some talents might be genetically imparted while others are created through exposure (such as a character talented at fixing watches from growing up in his father’s watch shop) or grow out of interest (archery, wakeboarding, or magic). Don’t be afraid to be creative and make sure the skill or talent is something that works with the scope of the story. 

MENTALISM

medium_6918558888Description: having heightened powers of observation and exceptional body language reading skills that allow one to deduce things that others cannot, leaving many to believe some sort of psychic ability is involved.

Beneficial Strengths or Abilities: because the key to mentalism is the ability to see past deception and facades, appearing good-natured and nonthreatening will encourage others to put their guard down. A background in human psychology gives a mentalist insight into human behavior and motives, which allows them to make judgements about who they are and what they believe in. Armed with this knowledge, they will be able to deduce facts in a way others cannot. Having a way with words will allow the mentalist to ask the right questions to elicit a “tell” that can then be harvested for information. Sharp eyesight will allow them to notice micro-gestures in the split-second that they appear, which acts as breadcrumbs of true emotion. Mentalists are also skilled in mind tricks (the power of suggestion, reverse psychology, leading questions, misdirection, etc.) and utilize them to appear to read minds or somehow access information in a way that seems impossible.

Character Traits Suited for this Skill or Talent: observant, focused, alert, intelligent, shrewd, persuasive, crafty, controlled, friendly, unconventional, creative, curious, charismatic, mysterious, charming

Required Resources and Training: understanding human psychology and emotions, having exceptional body language reading skills through exhaustive practice and some working knowledge of hypnosis and/or the power of suggestion will all hep a mentalist hone his craft.

Scenarios Where this Skill Might be Useful:

  • magicians who use mentalism in conjunction with sleight-of-hand can become very effective at manipulating audiences through illusions
  • police or other law enforcement personnel in the course of interviewing suspects and determining what is truth and what is not
  • those who practice psychological torture, where secrets must be uncovered
  • politicians who must persuade and inspire in order to retain support
  • lawyers during jury selections, and then later at reading the jury during the trial, allowing them to revamp their strategy if needed
  • anyone in a position of leadership or power, where retaining control is difficult and may depend on being able to uncover enemies before they attack (criminal organizations, for example)

Resources for Further Information:

Easy Mentalism Tricks

Psychology Mind Tricks

Mentalism School: Areas of Study

You can brainstorm other possible Skills and Talents your characters might have by checking out our FULL LIST of this Thesaurus Collection. And for more descriptive help for Setting, Symbolism, Character Traits, Physical Attributes, Emotions, Weather and more, check out our Thesaurus Collections page.

photo credit: Condor.com via photopin cc

The post Character Talent & Skills: Mentalism appeared first on WRITERS HELPING WRITERS.

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2. Milo Manara speaks (in English) and reaches out to the farms of Oregon and Maine

SPIDERWOMAN001Manara-06299-600x853
Italian fanzine
Fumettologica has made an English transcript of their interview with Milo Manara available, and offered it to run at The Beat. And it’s…a thing. Like I’ve been saying all along, Manara is Manara and he can draw all the butts in thew air he wants. However, he trots out every bingo card argument there is, from “men are sexualized too!’ to blaming this on the spread of Islam (????!!!!!????). Also women evolved to be sexy.

Also censorship is a red herring here. The issue is a MARKETING one, and I still haven’t seen anyone address that from Tom Breevort on.

I must say, I like the idea of Spider-women advancing like a jaguar. Perhaps focusing on her rump was not the best way to convey this concept.

All that said, this Spider-Woman variant has now become a symbol for many things. It really isn’t just about her butt any more.

Fumettologica: How do you interpret the debate generated by your cover?

MANARA: Reading on the internet, I saw that the criticisms have two different motivations. One is the sexy and erotic side, the other is the anatomical error. Now, about the incompetence in the drawing I do not know what to say. Let’s say I’ve tried to do my best for 40 years. Nobody is perfect, and I may be wrong; simply put, I’m a professional, doing the best I can.

On the erotic side, however, I found it a bit ‘amazing. Apart from the fact that there is a mandatory thing that I have to start by saying: it seems to me that both in the United States and around the world there are things much more important and serious to worry about. The events at Ferguson, or the drama of the Ebola. That there are people getting angry for things like that … Unless there is, these days, a hypersensitivity to more or less erotic images, due to this ongoing confrontation that we are supposed to have with Islam. It’s known that the censorship of the female form should not be a feature of our own Western civilization. This is what I find also quite surprising.

QUESTION: The main criticism to your picture – although not new, neither in discussions about comics nor in your work – is that it represents a woman who is the ‘object’ of sexual desire, through a shape and a pose that is provocative, not very ‘natural ‘

MANARA: “What I wanted to do is a girl who, after climbing the wall of a skyscraper, is crawling over the roof. She finds herself on the edge, and her right leg is still off the roof. So the criticism about anatomical issues that were made, I think they are wrong: she’s not to have both knees on the roof. One leg is still down, and the other is pulling up. Precisely for this reason, also, then this back arched. This is what I tried to do”.

That said, it’s not my fault if women are like that. I’m only drawing them. It’s not me who made women that way: is an author much more “important”, for those who believe … For evolutionists, including me, on the other hand, women’s bodies have taken this form over the millennia in order to avoid the ‘extinction of the species, in fact. If women were made exactly as men, with the same shape, I think we would have already been extinct for a long time.

Also, I do not consider it one of the covers most erotic I’ve done. I think I have chosen, out of all the poses imaginable – and the proof is there, if one goes on the Internet, where I documented myself, to see all the photos of Spider-Woman – the one that is , even framing, less problematic . If fact the view is a bit from above. You do not see hardly anything. We see only that she has an ass, drawn this way. And it’s a girl with a nice ass, indeed, at least from my point of view.

That’s the way Superheroes are: they are naked, covered in whatever color of paint. Superman is naked painted blue, Spider-Man is naked painted red and blue, and Spider-Woman is painted red. But that’s part of the “trick”, so to speak, that publishers use to create these forms of superheroes nude – of which I do not find anything wrong – but without real nudity. When we see them later in the stories, going beyond the cover, these are characters whose bodies are “in view”.

QUESTION: In addition to the form, however, it’s also the position. Don’t you see it as something provocative, if not problematic, in itself?

MANARA: It is actually a girl who is crawling, or rather, advancing at the pace of the jaguar. After climbing the wall of the building, she is pulling herself on the roof of this building. That’s how I see it. Sure, of course, since women are built in a certain way, any movement they make, if they are nude … and to some degree, more or less, all super heroines are naked. And this cover isn’t any different. And Spider-Woman is not gonna be sitting in a chair, right? But if one goes on the internet to see all the other images of the character, there are many far more erotic, and if they were naked, they would be more vulgar than what I did. Instead, as we know, this leotard, this – let’s say – ‘colored plastic wrap’ is what saves all appearances.

QUESTION: The debate remains open, however, and very timely. To add an item to the discussion, there’s also the intervention of the vice president of publishing at Marvel, Tom Brevoort, who said ” It’s, for a Manara piece, one of the less sexualized ones, at least to my eye. Maybe others feel differently.

But given that the character is covered head-to-toe, and is crouched in a spider-like pose, it seems far less exploitative to me than other Manara pieces we’ve run in previous months and years. (…) I think a conversation about how women are depicted in comics is relevant at this point, and definitely seems to be bubbling up from the zeitgeist.” 

It seems that this cover has come at a time when even in the comic field there is a somehow new sensitivity: it’s not acceptable anymore to see some excesses in the ‘provocative’ representation of women.

MANARA: I can understand, of course. As I also understand people who have felt offended. But I understand in the sense that it suddenly opens my eyes, and I have to acknowledge that what I think is a beautiful picture, nice, attractive, seductive – that is exactly my purpose, or what I want to achieve – for others it is disturbing. But this is something that I have to face every time I. And by the way it keeps surprising me more and more.

If you go to the beaches now, you see girls whose scanty swimwear totally let see the shapes of their bodies. Of course, for someone that can be an image that is disturbing, but not for me. In fact, I’m sorry, but my aim – when I’m asked to draw – is trying to communicate serenity, more than seduction.

QUESTION: What has struck some commentators and writers – Dan Slott for example – is that we have raised so much amazement on a job perfectly in synch with your extensive career, which is known to everyone. Others have instead asked why all this has happened with one of your drawings and not others, suggesting how in your touch there is a graphic load that, for better or worse, makes the strongest erotic impact of the bodies you draw.

MANARA: If that were so, it would be a great compliment. I tend to believe that maybe I was already in the crosshairs of some commentators or bloggers who have seized the opportunity, even though it wasn’t the most convincing one, to raise such a problem. I understand the controversy over the fact that the use of women bodies is a sensitive issue. And I couldn’t agree more on the fact that the female body should not be used in advertising, for example, to sell … silicone sealant. The thing that I do not agree is not so much the fact that these images are erotic, but the fact that they are banal. Everyone is capable of assign beautiful image to any product: it is clear that you transfer to your product the beauty of that image. A trick so trivial that I find cloying. But when it comes to draw a character in red tights, whose line of work is skyscraper crawling, I see no scandal in the fact of drawing her in a seductive way. Because I imagine that’s how she is.

I don’t know if this character will also become a movie, but it does, I think they would have their sweet problems to make her do what Spider-Man does (frame her in the same vicissitudes and athletic performance and so on) without her becoming seductive. If she’s played by an actress endowed with an ass, it is clear that her ass will be seen. I0m reminded that her tights are “painted on” … I also noticed that some website says that more than a suit, what you see in my drawing, it’s body painting. It’s true. Sure it is. But because it is so in all the superhero comics: These tights are painted on them. You don’t see a crease, a wrinkle. You read the muscles perfectly.

I’m not so convinced, though, by the last part of the controversy. That is, those who accuse Marvel that while trying to take a stab at capturing the female audience, by using a cover of that kind, they’re commissioning it to me, an artist who, you know, has a male audience. I totally reject this. My audience is at least 50% female. I know it for a fact because when I go to festivals, and I see the queue of those who put themselves in line to get signed books, there are more women than men. Therefore, I also reject the notion that the celebration of the female body interests only to males: I do not think so.

Ah, there’s also those who insinuate the whole controversy is manufactured on purpose. I can only say I did not know anything until I was informed about it. If anything, from my point of view, I have to congratulate Marvel, who showed respect for a drawing that, as horrible as it might be, no one asked me to do any kind of change. I do not think it was worse than others, or more scandalous than others. And in front of an image of seduction I feel joy, not repulsion.

QUESTION: The author of the regular cover, Greg Land, it’s been noted that he is known to sometimes use photos of porn actresses to draw poses in his comics.

MANARA: I wasn’t aware of that. I respect very much Land as a draftsman. I see that he is one of the most realistic, and I assumed that he used models, but that he traced pictures of that kind, that I did not know. Unless it’s not just unsubstantiated slander? I like his art because it has a certain evocative power, sometimes strong, impressive, so he’s among the ones I like. I have seen, anyhow, that some have given anatomy lessons to him too. You never stop learning.

And anyway, I have to say this: the last thing I want is “épater les bourgeois” (shock the bourgeoisie), or offend someone. I just want to make something seductive that provides five minutes of relaxation. It’s all there is. The reason why I agreed to do some covers for Marvel when they asked me is because I think that in some remote farm in Maine or Oregon there was anyone who would read these comics, perhaps saying “ah, what a beautiful girl “. It’s all there is. I’d be more than satisfied if such a thing were to happen. But I do not think a design like the one on the cover of Spider-Woman could have masturbatory consequences. I do not think; it must be seductive, and I’ll do my best for it to be that way. As I said, the perspective that I chose – I have not framed her from behind, from beneath, etc. – is from above. And from height you see her sinuous back and you see her two buttocks. But it is not what you see, it’s what you know.

I’m tempted to circle back to the beginning: I think there are other things to worry about. but if you please, however, one last thing. To date I have not heard from Marvel (these days there are some communication difficulties, but I think I’ll hear from them soon, next week). But it seems to me that this cover has not yet been published. This is to say that it may well be that Marvel, seeing these controversies, withdraws it and does not publish it. Who knows, maybe we are talking about nothing: Marvel decides not to publish it so then it’s “goodnight to the bucket” (Italian expression that means “and then we’re screwed”). In any event, just for completeness, I remember that they asked me to enlarge a little bit the costume of one of those covers. So in general, if they have any objections, they tell me. And I concur: since the responsibility is theirs, it is their right to be cautios. Furthermore, it’s the American market, so whatever… Also, I was given this assignment 3-4 months ago. It was and remains only a celebration of the body, without any manipulation. I’d understand if they were real girls, forced to do things they do not want to do, for commercial purposes. But it’s just drawings, santa pazienza (holy patience).”

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3. Summer Partnership with Somali Students

Tukwila WA is one of the country’s most diverse cities. In part, it’s a hub for many Somali immigrants who attend mosque, visit the local ethnic shops and restaurants, and find support at the Somali Community Services Coalition (SCSC).  SCSC has a vital presence in Tukwila, offering an array of social services for their clients, Somali language instruction for non-Somali-speaking adults, and both afterschool and summer programs for children.  These refugee children are placed in the appropriate grade level by age when they arrive in the U.S.A. If a 5th grader doesn’t know English, nor is literate, it’s a struggle to keep up, especially with parents at home who can’t help them with their lessons, so I formed a partnership with the Youth Program Manager of SCSC to help reduce the summer slide. We made arrangements for two dozen elementary students to visit our library once a week during their summer school period. Our main goal was to improve the students’ reading skills, but we also hoped the Somali children would become familiar with library staff and feel comfortable using the library. I lined up our teen Book Buddy volunteer to help out with one-on-one reading sessions. Additionally, I was tasked with providing library materials to match different themes each week.

Working with this group required a fair amount of flexibility and creativity.  Challenges began on the first day – we wouldn’t be doing activities based on a theme, we’d simply be reading. I had to quickly come up with some activities and reading games that would work for children ranging in ages 4-10.  Those leftover science storytime materials from the previous night sure came in handy! In preparation for the following weeks, I thought of different ways of using our Bananagrams, and I took ideas from Reading Games for Young Children by Jackie Silberg. Her book offers a ton of ideas that can be adapted for early English language learners. I tried to make our reading activities fun for all the children.

The sessions were chaotic and meetings sometimes fell through. Managing this boisterous group was demanding, usually requiring constant interactions with several young people at once. But contributing toward the success of these students felt rewarding, and it was truly fun! They were so enthusiastic about learning!  I’ve been asked to resume working with the students in the afterschool program this fall and I’m looking forward to our continued partnership.

-Gaye Hinchliff, member of School-Age Programs and Services Committee, is a Children’s Librarian at Foster Library, a branch of the King County Library System

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4. Choose Your Own Adventure, Part 4

Adventure Books Bash

Welcome back to Choose Your Own Adventure! In a choose-your-own-adventure story, you read a chapter and then you get a few choices of what the character should do next. Have you read Part 1Part 2, and Part 3 yet? Pay attention to your answer choices because when the story is done, your answers will reveal the adventure hero you are most like.

Part 4

The door bursts open, sending a blinding light everywhere. You skid to a stop. The rain seems to stop, too. You can’t see anything so you squint your eyes, but you still can’t make out anything.  A second later, you hear a deafening BOOM and feel a gust of wind so strong it literally sweeps you off your feet. You’re knocked backwards and land on your back in the mud, which does not feel good at all.

You cough and blink the dirt out of your eyes, groaning and rolling over onto your stomach. You roll over onto something hard that pokes you in the rib painfully.

“Ouch!” you holler. Sitting up, you see that you rolled onto a giant leather-bound book. On the cover, in giant letters, are the words OPEN ME. You scramble away and stand up. You look up and the sky is clear again. You look towards the spot where the door was and see nothing. The tree that you just watched explode is standing tall and whole.

You . . .

A) can’t deal with this situation alone. You take the book back home, planning to take it to a librarian who might know more about it.

B) are totally excited by this new development! You hide the book in a safe spot and will come back for it tomorrow. Right now, you’re pretty hungry. Dinner first, adventure later!

C) know that books that come out of nowhere are dangerous. You learned how to start a fire at summer camp last year, so you build one and throw the book into the flames. Good riddance!

D) study the outside of the book before deciding what to do next. You’re so curious, but you want to play it safe. You want to do more research on the make of the book and find out who made it.

E) open the book!

What would YOU do? Share your answer in the Comments below! And check back for the next installment of the story.

 Are you coming to the Readathon?

See ya next time,

image from kids.scholastic.com — En-Szu, STACKS Staffer

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5. The Fourteenth Goldfish

Discovering the secret to eternal youth is great and all, but middle school is weird enough without having your suddenly-13-years-old-again scientist grandpa hanging around. In The Fourteenth Goldfish, Ellie's in for a wild ride — big adventure, mystery, and lots of cool science. Books mentioned in this post Portland Noir (Akashic Noir) Kevin Sampsell Used [...]

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6. Illustrator Saturday – Annie Wilkinson


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7. Drawing the Summer - Festival Fun!



Sheffield Museums have had funding for an exciting new festival this year, called Drawing the Summer. It's all about getting people to draw: everyone and anyone, especially encouraging those who don't normally do it, to have a go.

It's such a great idea - there are so many people out there who secretly want to draw, but who lack the confidence, or just the time in their busy lives, to get out some paper and 
just try.

As well as lots of practical hands-on events, there are also some great exhibitions on, to tie in with the festival: the Recording Britain Now show in the Millennium Gallery is wonderful - really exciting and varied new work by artists shortlisted for the 2014 Ruskin prize. There is also an excellent series of lithographs from 1916 by Joseph Pennell at The Graves. They bowled me over!

© Catherine Mailhac for Museums Sheffield

Anyway, one of many activities taking place for the festival involved Yours Truly on Monday. Museums Sheffield commissioned me to host an urban sketching session in the centre of Sheffield. 


© Catherine Mailhac for Museums Sheffield

Our Drawing the Summer base-camp was a big table set up with drawing boards and stools, pencils, A3 paper and a big box of coloured pencils. We strung a washing-line up too, so we could peg up drawings. We had two lovely big banners, but it was so windy, we couldn't use them. Hence all the multiple pegs above!


© Catherine Mailhac for Museums Sheffield

We grabbed any passers-by, to ask if they fancied stopping and doing a sketch. There was plenty to draw: as well as all the extremely varied architecture, Tudor Square has a couple of table-tennis tables set up for the summer months so, to get the ball rolling, I had a go at sketching some of the different people who stopped for a while, to play:



We clocked 80 people during the 2.5 hours we were set up, but my favourite was this man, who said he had never drawn before, but who sat for about an hour, very carefully drawing a complex view of the buildings, which turned out really well. I think he was astonished at what he'd achieved.


© Catherine Mailhac for Museums Sheffield

Many people took their work home, some gave it to us to peg up on the line. Some people asked for help and advice, which was where I came in, but mostly they just got stuck in. I obviously had my sketch gear too, so when I wasn't needed, I drew alongside them, hoping to attract attention and perhaps to inspire. This was one view from our table: 



The older kids were lovely to watch: we had various families with children, often around 8 - 11 years old.  In an age of short attention-spans, it was interesting to see how well the act of drawing focussed them. They sat, totally absorbed, for around an hour at a time and created drawings which were strong and confident.


© Catherine Mailhac for Museums Sheffield

One very interesting thing I noticed: the Crucible and The Old Monk pub in Tudor square have prominent lettering. Adults always started by drawing the shapes of the buildings and then added in the typography afterwards, so invariably ran out of space for the letters. The children all started by drawing the lettering, then created the building shapes around the words, so that everything fitted. A curious difference.


© Catherine Mailhac for Museums Sheffield

There are still lots of events to go, between now and September 10th, in fact there is another very similar event tomorrow (Sunday 24th) at Weston Park, so you too could have a go. Whether you are an experienced sketcher or a complete beginner, it'll be fun. And if you really don't want to draw yourself, there are still some excellent talks and demonstrations you will enjoy. Check out the Events Guide and look for the yellow pencil icon.



© Catherine Mailhac for Museums Sheffield

In the meantime, if you want to see more photos from my Tudor Square event on Monday, take a look here.






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8. Home, a bracelet and the Maasi

Maasi women (photo credit : D. Burrows)

Maasi women (photo credit : D. Burrows

Some of the joy of travel is when I return home and share the fun and stories with my friends and family.

On this trip though, it occurred to me that I really didn’t have a home to come back to. Not the kind of home that I had always had. This thought kept me traveling for much longer that I had planned and would take me around the world. It was in the space of time when I left the plan behind that I realized home is no longer a place, but resides in my heart. And the heart, while fragile, has an infinite capacity for love.

Some trips shape me. Some trips change me. Some trips transform me. Some trips have affected my family and friends. And sometimes, the stories I tell and the gifts I give have reached beyond those I know and love. Far beyond anything I could have ever imagined.

This is the story of the bracelet.

Wherever I was, whether in the countryside on the outskirts of Melbourne, trekking the Himalayas, in the jungles of Java or on the shores of the Bali Sea, I had my eye out for little treasures. Unique gifts I could bring back for friends and family. As I was backpacking through the world, portability was key.

In Kalibaru on the island of Java I found and purchased a handful of beautiful handmade bracelets. For the next sixty days they would travel with me all over the world. When I returned to the U.S. I gave one to my very good friend. She loved the bracelet so much she never took it off. It stayed on her wrist as she journeyed to Wales and then to Africa.

The bracelet (photo credit: A. Burrows)

The bracelet (photo credit: A. Burrows)

And it found its way to a little village in northern Tanzania where a tribe of Maasai lived. The women of the village made bracelets to help support their families. The Maasai women surrounded my friend when they saw her bracelet. The idea of using different-sized beads on the same bracelet never occurred to them. The type of beads captivated them. The way the bracelet fastened was a curiosity. This gave the Maasai women lots of ideas about bracelets and their future designs. My friend bought one of their bracelets and when she returned home, she gave the bracelet to me.

And through my friend and the bracelet and the Maasi women, my home just got a little bit bigger.

So often in life we think that the little things we do don’t matter. We discount our influence or even our own significance, at times. But the biggest things we do can be the smallest. A smile. A joke. A well-timed call. A small gift. A simple treasure. The little things your heart whispers can bring so much joy to the world.

20140822-160347.jpg


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9. Dialogue

Question: I am currently writing a science fiction with dialogue and this is my first time writing. I'm well into the book with a word count of over 45,000,

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10. A quick nothing on Friday

Today I purged a forest of paper from my files and finished setting up a nifty new filing system that has me squeeing a bit. I spent hours on this project over the past three days, but the funny thing is that right now, as I look around the room, I can’t see any difference: all the change is inside closed drawers. But now there will be much less chance of those drawers disgorging their contents across the flat surfaces of this room. Invisible or not, it’s a mighty satisfying development.

Tonight some of us are headed to a friend’s house for a group reading of The Importance of Being Earnest. Promises to be fun.

I’ll be spending part of the weekend prepping for a talk I’ve been asked to give on Monday night, about habits and scheduling and atmosphere. It’s going to be here at the house, since part of the idea is to see us in our habitat (warts and all). I promised myself to do only ordinary cleaning, nothing extraordinary, because I want to give a really true impression of what everyday life is like. (The overhauled files live in my room, where my visitors are unlikely to go, so although my efforts in that department may well qualify as extraordinary—maybe a once-a-decade event for me—it doesn’t count as a breach of my aforementioned promise to myself.)

Was going to add a photo (of what, I know not), but it’s time to head out for our Wilde reading!

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11. SURVIVAL COLONY 9 {Excerpt & Giveaway}

From Simon & Schuster Written by Joshua David Bellin Fourteen-year-old Querry Genn's world is a desert where small groups of survivors struggle against heat, starvation, and the creatures known as the Skaldi, monsters that appeared on the planet after war swept away the old world. Suffering from amnesia brought on by an accident, Querry struggles to recover the lost memories that might save

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12. Dracula name

Question: Do I need permission to use the name of Dracula in a novel? My idea is to have his son as my main character and Dracula as secondary character.

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13. I Called Him Necktie review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Austrian-Japanese author Milena Michiko Flašar's I Called Him Necktie, coming out soon from New Vessel Press.

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14. The Rule of Thoughts

Michael is faced with the terrifying truth: the plot to implant artificial intelligence into unsuspecting gamers has begun. Will all of humanity fall under the control of the Mortality Doctrine? An action-packed read that hurtles the reader to a thrilling conclusion. Books mentioned in this post The Rule of Thoughts (Mortality... James Dashner New Hardcover [...]

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15. Illustrator Saturday – Inés Hüni

inesphotoineInés Hüni was born in Mendoza (Argentina), the land that produces the finest Malbec wine grapes in the world.

She remembers that as a little girl, she always dreamed about having her “taller de arte” with lots of small “frasquitos”, colored pencils and brushes of all sizes.

She moved to Buenos Aires – the big city – when she was 11.

During high school, in her spare time, Inés was always involved in drawing and arts & crafts activities. She could not wait to finish high school in order to begin studying what she really loved: Arts.

She graduated from Fine Arts with major in drawing and engraving. Inés also studied humoristic drawing and animation with some of the finest professors in Argentina and USA.

Ines is a great observer of the world that surrounds her. She loves the challenge of interpreting every brush stroke of reality and capturing it in her artwork.

Already married and with two daughters, she moved to México. What was initially supposed to be a 3-year-experience, but it has now turned into an 8-years-one, tasting and living Mexican flavors and colors. The family has recently added a fifth member, her little Mexican daughter named Mora.

Inés is a versatile creative professional. She illustrated children magazines, scholastic manuals, worked for animated movie studios, developed characters to be used in murals and posters and has illustrated several children’s books from renowned Editorial Houses from many countries.

Some of her customers are: Animation: Heart of Texas Productions (Texas, USA) in films for Disney Studios, Warner Bros and Lyric Corporation – Illustration: Garcia Ferré, Infantil, El Gato de Hojalata, Guadal, Perfil and Quipu (Argentina), Richmond, Mac Millian, Cordillera, Trillas, and Bilineata (Mexico), Santillana (Puerto Rico & U.S.A)-   Everest (Spain).

Here is Ines explaining her process:

This is one of my illustrations in “Mymini moleskine.” Myninimoleskine is a little red sketchbook that I take everywhere, especially if I travel.

The idea is to draw women in different poses and moments of their lives, in one small space, that’s a challenge!

inesMyminimoleskine 1 blue prismacolor

I start the sketch with the blue pencil and on it I remark with black pencil.

Here we have a sketch of a woman who is a football (soccer) fan. She is celebrating a goal with all her soul. That’s an example of how I like to start with the blue PRISMACOLOR  col- erase pencil and then remark with black pencil.

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Woman of the Cats: here you can see the hole process and my work space.

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After scanning I clean it up with Photoshop.

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This is my workspace with my lightbox, I use this table to trace and transfer the illustration to a good paper. You can also see all my painting materials, including color inks and watercolors.

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You can see how I start to paint the big areas and views of my desk and materials.

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Continue to paint.

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With the whole illustration painted, I begin adding details with color Prismalo Carandache pencils.

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Illustration almost done.

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Finished Illustration.

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Character sketch.

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Finished illustration

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Sketch

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Finished illustration.

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Finished Book.

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Here are several drawings I made after a trip by the south of  Mexico, in Chiapas State.  I was delighted by this place, especially by a town called San Juan Chamula, it’s church, and it’s popular market.

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How long have you been illustrating?

I always drew, but it has been 20 years since I started to illustrate.

inesChamula Chiapas The mayan sky

How did you go to school to study art?

I wanted to study Fine Arts since I was a little girl.

I finished school since I needed to, in order to pursue a University Degree in Arts.

When the time came to choose a career I had no doubts in my mind: Fine Arts. At the same time, I took a course in Humoristic Drawing in another school.

It was a lot of fun since I realized that everything that I was learning was really interesting to me.

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What made you move from Argentina to Mexico?

We moved to Mexico with my family due to my husband’s job. It was supposed to be a 3 year experience but it has been almost 9 years already!

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Do you think the culture of Argentina influenced your style?

Every experience a person has gone through contributes to defining you as an individual. Regarding specifically my illustration style, I think I have influence from many places, not only from my Argentinian background, but also from other places I have visited, books that I read, movies that I watched and also from some of my colleagues’ works.

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What was the first art related work that you did for money?

That is a tough question! I started out by doing Christmas Cards and painting T-Shirts with original designs. I guess my first customers were my parents and my family.

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Did you start out doing freelance art or did you do other work to pay the bills?

It was really a mix. At the same time that I looked for free-lance jobs, I worked in a greeting cards editorial house (similar to Hallmark) and also worked in a company that made sticker albums.

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How did you get involved with animation with Heart of Texas Productions (Austin,Tx USA) in films for Disney Studios, Warner Bros and Lyrick Corporation?

Wow, that was one pretty chance! My husband and I had just moved to Austin, Texas to study a postgraduate and a neighbor of our condominium worked in that study of animation. When the person who rented us the apartment learnt that I was an illustrator, she made arrangements for me to visit the studios. After the tour, I asked if I could show my portfolio. I think that they had not finished telling me that I was already leaving my folder with them. A few days later I was called to sit for a test and then I was chosen. In Heart of Texas, we also worked for larger studios such as Disney, Warner and Lyric Corporation and that is how I ended being part of films like Aladdin, The Quest for Camelot and three children’s animations on St. Francis and his friendly world.

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Do you still do animation?

No. Animation was a great learning experience and I learned it well from the inside: I was trained while I worked in Heart of Texas. In addition to that, I attended College where I experienced going through the whole process of designing: from scratch, to filming my own short (very short) animated movie.

I soon found out that the process of making animation was like a very long, mechanical chain, where one is just a small link and the only way of applying your own creativity was by designing the characters, backgrounds or the story itself. So I turned completely to illustration, which is less mechanical and a greater challenge, because each job order demands my own imagination and creativity.

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What type of work did you do right after you graduated?

I worked doing typographies and some illustrations for greeting cards.

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When did you decide to get involved in children’s illustration?

Well, as I already said, while I was studying Arts, I attended another school for humorous drawing, where I learned the basics on how to create characters and move them from side to side, to explore and to draw different topics and to make comic strips… But while I was studying, I realized that it would be hard for me to come up with a joke every day to go with an illustration, like the comics in newspapers. That was when I said to myself: my thing is children’s illustration. I do come up with cute illustrations that can actually be funny but are still not the daily joke or comic strip.

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Have you ever illustrated a children’s book or book dummy?

Yes, I have several illustrated books:

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The collection Palabrerio by Infantil.com

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The collection Hadas Virtuosas – Editorial Guadal, El Gato de Hojalata

inesHadas Patitas - Edit. El gato de Hojalata Guadal.

Collection Hadas con patitas – Editorial Guadal, El Gato de Hojalata

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Several pedagogical publications with Santillana of Puerto Rico and the United States.

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Historias maravillosas de la Biblia [Wonderful histories of the Bible] – Publishing Everest.

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Deseo of Mateo [Mateo’s wish] – For Kraft, Oreo

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Kazurá.Un manifiesto infantil – Editorial Quipu

 

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It looks like you have a friend who writes and you do the illustrations. Could you tell us about how the two of you connected and how many books have you done?

Yes, my friend Agustina, another coincidence in my life! One day in Mexico, I went to a birthday party where new comers had just arrived. I ended up sitting next to one of the new ones, and the host looked at us and said: “Inés, this is Agustina and she writes. Agustina, this is Inés and she illustrates. You must know each other!” Just a few days later, I was contacted by a publisher to make a Christmas Story for Kraft Foods about the Oreo cookie. They wanted it immediately but there was no story yet and they requested the cover and an inside page… I told them that I knew two writers and we could see if they already had something written to adapt into the project… So I contacted both writers. Agustina responded immediately with a story, thought and written especially for the project. It was called “El deseo de Mateo” [Mateo’s wish].

It ended up being a beautiful book, and the best part was discovering what a wonderful team we made together. Then, new projects came up and we continued working together.

Recently our book “Kazurá” was published. It is an illustrated children’s book that we presented in Buenos Aires Book Fair this past July and continue to promote here in Mexico.

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What do you consider is your first big success?

I believe that my biggest success is to be able to turn my passion into work, to let my imagination fly, to face challenges with each job order, which sometimes can be something completely new in my life. I sometimes worry but in the end, I always come up with something that I like, and that amuses me!

Each stage of my life had its own hit, like working for Disney and Warner Bross or winning a contest for and important hospital: My character became the Pediatrics’ mascot!

Success for me also meant travelling to the greatest Illustration Fair in the world (Bologna) and being contacted for different jobs after those interviews. And lately, success meant to materialize one of our projects with Agus: our book “Kazurá” recently published.

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How did that come about?

The most recent success was our book “Kazurá”, which we worked jointly with my friend Agustina, designing each word and each illustration so that each of us, in our own specialized language, would tell the same story without repeating each other. We made a very good presentation of the book, with a dummy, at the Book Fair of Guadalajara. This was an efficient way to introduce ourselves and the book to the different publishers. Not only did we make a good impression on them but we ended with more than one publishing offer for “Kazurá”.

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How do you promote your work to get more business?

Mainly through Blogs and webpages. I am in Childrensillustrators.com and I have recently created a blog on Facebook called “Hüni la ilustratera”.

I also promote my work presenting dummies of books in fairs such as FIL de Guadalajara in Mexico (the greatest Spanish-speaking fair of the world ) to show a complete, well presented idea, something which publishers seem to look forward to seeing, lately.

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The above is an illustration which represents everything that a book can contain, and how they can amaze us. In this illustration I used a photograph of a painted wall taken by me, as a background. Then I worked on creating the characters with several sketches. I transferred them into final lines in good paper, then I scanned them and once in the computer, I worked digitally on the color in Photoshop.

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What materials do you use to paint your color illustrations?

I like to work with inks and watercolors, on good papers, and on those backgrounds I work on the details with coloured pencils. Finally, I finish up digitally in the computer. Lately, I have been applying textures and photos with digital collages.

How I work:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sP0nLgk_PF8#t=196

Here is a link to a video of an e-book called “Al son the Rigoberto”, a story about frienship between a mosquito and an elephant. It is in Spanish, published by Editorial Bilineata. https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/al-son-de-rigoberto/id658854724?l=es&mt=11

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Do you do any black and white illustrations?

Yes, I do. Although I am a colour fan, I have studied and made many engravings in the past during my Fine Arts career. I also made several comics with ink and pens. It is a different type of exercise, to think in black and white, and I love it, especially in my sketchbooks.

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Above and Below: Painted with inks and watercolors (usually I use Colorex by Pebeo) in a good watercolor paper (Strathmore cold press),  retouching the details with colored pencils (Prismalo by Carandache). Finally, after scanning it I worked digitally with Photoshop. The shells are a digital collage of my photographs.

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Have you done illustrations for any children’s magazines?

Yes, in Argentina I worked for García Ferré’s magazine “Anteojito” and for women’s magazine called “Mia” by “Editorial Perfil”.

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Above and the four below are illustrations made for a collective exposition in honor to the Grimm brothers, the story I had to illustrate was “All-kinds-of-fur” (is that the translation in English for Bestia Peluda?) – 2012 Buenos Aires International Book Fair.

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Have you done any work for educational publishers?

Yes, I worked for many educational Publishers illustrating pedagogical texts.

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What is the one thing in your studio that you could not live without?

Uh, one? Just one? I cannot work without good light or without music. And, by all means, I am very careful to have the right and best materials to work… If I must choose just a single item, that is a good, well-sharpened pencil.

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Do you try to spend a specific amount of time working on your craft?

In theory, I try to… but in practice, I can´t always do so. I generally work at night. I like it when everyone at home is asleep. I do burn the midnight oil.

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Do you have an agent?

I do not have an agent. And yes, I would love to have one that could make my work known worldwide and sell it for me.

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Do you take pictures or do any types of research before you start a project?

I am also a photographer. It is a great advantage that today we have easy access to document everything that we like or calls our attention. When I began to study humoristic drawing, the professors encouraged us to have a file with cut-outs and photos of things that helped us draw, for example: things from the field and from the city, examples of animals and of different leaves and plants. Today, everything is a click away and we must do research before we begin to draw.

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Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

Absolutely! Today, you can be reached from anywhere and everywhere in the world.

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Do you use Photoshop or Corel Painter with your illustrations?

I use both. They are the absolute key to my work.

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Do you own or have you used a Graphic Drawing Tablet in your illustrating?

A long time ago, I believe in 1998, I bought my first Wacom tablet. Today, I cannot work without it!

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Do you have any career dreams that you want to fulfill?

Yes, indeed… there’s always a goal ahead.

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What are you working on now?

I am working on a new book and a complete project to take to FIL de Guadalajara, and on personalized illustrations that my clients have ordered.

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Do you have any material type tips you can share with us? Example: Paint or paper that you love – the best place to buy – a new product that you’ve tried – A how to tip, etc.

In animation I learned to sketch with blue pencil, Prismacolor Col-Erase is the brand, which has become almost an addiction to me as I can no longer sketch without them. The idea is to make all the necessary lines and scribbles in blue and then clean up the definitive lines with a black pencil.

There are some drawings that I like better in their primary state of sketch, and sometimes I decide “not to remark them with pencil or ink” and even let them without paint.

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Any words of wisdom on how to become a successful writer or illustrator?

I really don’t know how to be a successful writer or illustrator, but I do know that a great part of our learning takes place as we observe, and perfection is reached through practice.

The more you feed your senses, the better you tell the story.

In reality, writers and illustrators are devoted to tell, to convey something. Nobody can do this successfully, unless they know it and feel it deeply from within. Last but not least, it is important to demand respect and value for our work so that our profession keeps growing strong.

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Thank you Ines for taking the time to share your process and journey with us. We look forward to hearing about your future successes.

To see more of Ines’ illustrations you can visit her at:

Website: http://ineshuni.blogspot.com/  

Please take a minute to leave a comment for Ines, I know she would love to heard from you and I always appreciate it. Thanks!

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Filed under: authors and illustrators, demystify, illustrating, Illustrator's Saturday, inspiration, Interview, Process Tagged: Agentina, Children's Illustrator, Inés Hüni

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16. Gauguin in Panama - Maeve Friel


Paul Gauguin arrived in Panamá in June 1887. He was 37, practically destitute having gone from riches to rags as a broker, and in bad health. (Absinthe didn´t help.) His sister Marie was married to a Peruvian with business interests in Panamá city and Gauguin believed that, with his experience in banking, his brother in law would offer him a job and that he could then send for Mette and their five children. Years earlier a sailor had told him that the island of Taboga in Panama Bay was a true paradise, that land was as good as free and that fish and pineapples and coconuts could be had for nothing.

He wrote to Mette before his departure: "I´m taking my paints and brushes and will, living like a native, immerse myself far from mankind."

Unfortunately, the brother-in-law´s business was no more than a general store and the French canal-building project under the direction of Dr de Lesseps was already in big trouble. Malaria and yellow fever were killing thousands of the workforce every year. Landslides and explosions killed thousands more. (Most of the workers at that time were from the French-speaking islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe.)

Worse, the supposed paradise island of Taboga had been turned into a huge sanatorium run by the French Sisters of Charity and, to add insult to injury, was a day-trip destination for the French officials and their families escaping the oppressive heat of Panamá city.  The price of land had soared and was already out of reach of Gauguin´s limited resources.



Charles Laval, the artist, who had travelled with Gauguin, started doing studio portraits of the wives and daughters of the French officials but Gauguin refused to do so. Instead he worked as a labourer on the canal, with the crews dynamiting through the Continental Divide at the Gaillard Cut.  He wrote again to Mette:  "I have to work from five-thirty in the morning to six in the evening under tropical sun and rain. At night I am devoured by mosquitoes."

A few weeks later, he was arrested (allegedly for urinating in a street, protesting that it was in any case an open sewer,) was imprisoned for a night or two, and fined. To compound his problems, he was then laid off before he had earned enough to get off the isthmus and return to France. On June 8th, with his dream of life in the tropics shattered, he left for Martinique where he promptly came down with amoebic dysentery and nearly died before being repatriated to France.

It would be several years before he could fulfil his dream of paradise when he moved to Tahiti and unleashed a totally new way of painting saturated with tropical colour.

(But what if, in fact, he did paint some as yet undiscovered masterpieces inspired by his stay on Taboga Island? That´s the seed that I´m working on at moment.)

De Lesseps´ dream of building the interoceanic canal also foundered around the same time.  The French abandoned the canal amid financial and political scandals that shook and nearly bankrupted the entire country.

In 1904, the Americans stepped in (after engineering a "revolution" in which Panamá declared its independence from Colombia so that the USA could do a land grab and take control of the canal building). The work was mostly done by harshly treated, poorly paid and  segregated Jamaicans and Barbadians.

I´m recalling this because the canal was finally completed in August 1914, one hundred years ago , an extraordinary achievement that changed the world but that was totally eclipsed by the outbreak of  War in Europe days earlier.

The epic story of its building, the massive death tolls, the engineering and medical advances that the canal builders brought about, the struggle of the Panamanians to regain their autonomy : all these deserve to be remembered in this year of the canal´s centenary. 

Happy 100th Birthday, Panamá Canal. 

PS Will update with more photos... 

www.maevefriel.com
www.maevefriel.com/blog







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17. CBTV Student Fest: ‘Grandma’ by Karolien Raeymaekers

A girl has to conquer her fear for her grandma who is deathly ill.

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18. U.R.Ananthamurthy (1932-2014)

       U.R.Ananthamurthy (Udupi Rajagopalacharya Ananthmurthy), one of India's leading writers, has passed away.
       Lots of Indian media coverage about this, of course (see, for example, Shiv Visvanathan on U.R. Ananthamurthy -- The greatest storyteller in The Hindu) -- he was a leading Kannada literary figure -- but little beyond, so far; some will surely follow -- hey, he was a finalist for the Man Booker International Prize, 2013.
       Two of Ananthamurthy's novels are under review at the complete review:

       I wish I could cover more -- and hope eventually to be able to.

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19. How A Chinese Animation Studio Uses An American ‘Robot’ Director

The BBC created this video profile of Beijing, China-based animation studio Light Chaser Animation, which is one of numerous companies in China that is aiming to create high-end Hollywood-quality CGI.

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20. Bleakboy and Hunter Stand Out in the Rain by Steven Herrick


Some things are too big for a boy to solve. 

Jesse is an eleven-year-old boy tackling many problems in life, especially fitting in to a new school. 

Luckily he meets Kate. She has curly black hair, braces and an infectious smile. She wants to ‘Save the Whales’ and needs Jesse’s help. 

But they haven’t counted on Hunter, the school bully, who appears to enjoy hurling insults at random. 

With Hunter’s catchphrase ‘Ha!’ echoing through the school, something or someone has to give. 

But will it be Jesse? Kate? Or is there more to Hunter than everyone thinks? 

An inspiring and funny story about the small gestures that can help to make the world a better place.

I think Steven Herrick writes with a great deal of insight and subtlety, so I was really looking forward to reading Bleakboy and Hunter Stand Out in the Rain. I strongly recommend both Cold Skin and The Simple Gift (the only other Herrick novels I've read so far) - extraordinary verse novels with tough subject matter delicately handled, very powerful. They demonstrate beautifully the meaningfulness that can be achieved even when words are used economically.

Bleakboy and Hunter Stand Out in the Rain is written in prose rather than verse, and for a younger audience than other Herrick novels I've read, and it's both funny and thoughtful. I think it will really appeal to kids in upper primary school. It's positive and uplifting - a lovely little story with lots of nice messages, about environmental conservation and charitable causes (it's very message-dense). The story is told from the perspectives of both Jesse, who is well-meaning and quiet and a bit eccentric (he talks to a poster of Jesus that he refers to as Trevor, as his parents are atheist - the family dynamics are rather amusing), and Hunter, who is the school bully but gradually revealed as an endearing character - his interactions with the elderly man he befriends were some of my favourite in the book. As someone who was a bit eccentric and very thoughtful as an eleven-year-old, I really identified with Jesse, but both characters are likeable and authentic.

It's definitely a feel-good sort of novel, and one I think 9-12-year-olds will love, and anyone older who likes heartwarming stories about saving whales and making friends and the various awkwardnesses of being eleven.

Bleakboy and Hunter Stand Out in the Rain on the publisher's website.

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21. The Messy Baker

With chapter titles such as "Crumbly," "Drippy," and "Flaky," how can you not get "hungry" looking at the recipes in this fantastic baking book? Charmian Christie brings the best recipes from her popular blog to your home kitchen in a very approachable, relaxed (and delicious) way. Books mentioned in this post The Messy Baker: More [...]

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22. Writing in ... Brazil

       At PEN Atlas Paulo Scott writes on Identity and durability, arguing:

The period of recent Brazilian democratisation (...), has so far failed to produce an even moderately impressive number of novels that manage to get away from the reality of white guys, living in the big urban centres, belonging to a middle class that is modernised and advantaged. Nor has it produced novels that risk a more substantial (and also more vertically-oriented) and challenging weighing-up of the social impact of recent political choices.
       Indeed, he thinks:
From this perspective, contemporary Brazilian literature (...) is still quite timid compared to what is being produced in the rest of Latin America, from Mexico to Argentina.
       In English we of course only get a sliver of the big picture (since very little is translated), but from that limited vantage point the differences don't seem so great.
       Scott's Nowhere People is just out from And Other Stories -- see their publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk. I have a copy, and will certainly be taking a closer look.

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23. Uni the Unicorn

From the author of Little Pea, Spoon, and Duck! Rabbit! comes a uniquely magical tale of Uni the Unicorn. Uni is the only unicorn who believes little girls are real! Lovely illustrations by Brigette Barrager make this a wonderful and memorable read. Books mentioned in this post Uni the Unicorn Amy Krouse Rosenthal New Hardcover [...]

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24. Reading demeanor in the courtroom

When it comes to assessing someone’s sincerity, we pay close attention to what people say and how they say it. This is because the emotion-based elements of communication are understood as partially controllable and partially uncontrollable. The words that people use tend to be viewed as relatively controllable; in contrast, rate of speech, tone of voice, hesitations, and gestures (paralinguistic elements) have tended to be viewed as less controllable. As a result of the perception of speakers’ lack of control over them, the meanings conveyed via paralinguistic channels have tended to be understood as providing more reliable evidence of a speaker’s inner state.

Paradoxically, the very elements that are viewed as so reliable are consistent with multiple meanings. Furthermore, people often believe that their reading of another person’s demeanor is the correct one. Many studies have shown that people – judges included – are notoriously bad at assessing the meaning of another person’s affective display. Moreover, some research suggests that people are worse at this when the ethnic background of the speaker differs from their own – not an uncommon situation when defendants address federal judges, even in 2014.

The element of defendants’ demeanor is not only problematic for judges; it is also problematic for the record of the proceedings. This is due to courtroom reporters’ practice of reporting the words that are spoken and excluding input from paralinguistic channels.

One of the original Victorian Courtrooms at the Galleries of Justice Museum. Photo by Fayerollinson. CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.
One of the original Victorian Courtrooms at the Galleries of Justice Museum. Photo by Fayerollinson. CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

I observed one case in which this practice had the potential for undermining the integrity of the sentencing hearing transcript. In this case, the defendant lost her composure while making her statement to the court. The short, sob-filled “sorry” she produced mid-way through her statement was (from my perspective) clearly intended to refer to her preceding tears and the delays in her speech. The official transcript, however, made no reference to the defendant’s outburst of emotion, thereby making her “sorry” difficult to understand. Without the clarifying information about what was going on at the time – namely, the defendant’s crying — her “sorry” could conceivably be read as part of her apology to the court for her crime of robbing a bank.

Not distinguishing between apologies for the crime and apologies for a problem with delivery of one’s statement is a problem in the context of a sentencing hearing because apologies for crimes are understood as an admission of guilt. If the defendant had not already apologized earlier, the ambiguity of the defendant’s words could have significant legal ramifications if she sought to appeal her sentence or to claim that her guilty plea was illegal.

As the above example illustrates, the exclusion of meaning that comes from paralinguistic channels can result in misleading and inaccurate transcripts. (This is one reason why more and more police departments are video-recording confessions and witness statements.) If a written record is to be made of a proceeding, it should preserve the significant paralinguistic elements of communication. (Following the approach advocated by Du Bois 2006, one can do this with varying amounts of detail. For example, the beginning and ending of crying-while-talking can be indicated with double angled brackets, e.g., < < sorry > >.) Relatedly, if a judge is going to use elements of a defendant’s demeanor in court to increase a sentence, the judge should be prepared to defend this decision and cite the evidence that was employed. Just as a judge’s decision based on the facts of the case can be challenged, a decision based on demeanor evidence deserves the same scrutiny.

The post Reading demeanor in the courtroom appeared first on OUPblog.

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25. GUIDE for Crossover by Kwame Alexander

As we "crossover" from summer to back-to-school, I want to encourage you to put Crossover, a novel in verse by Kwame Alexander on your must-share list for the new school year-- particularly if you work with kids in 4th - 8th grade. It's such a fresh story with twin 12 year old boy protagonists who love playing basketball and are growing up-- and maybe apart-- as they cope with middle school, girls, and the expectations of their parents. The poems are full of energy and propel the story forward energetically. But I especially loved the picture of family life that comes across as each boy is trying to carve out his own identity, their dad (a former pro basketball player himself) is a hilarious character with a big story arc of his own, and their mom is the school's vice principal-- more savvy than they give her credit for. The family dynamics are lively and authentic and the picture of life at school rings true too. I'm calling it part Love That Dog meets The Watsons Go to Birmingham meets Slam. 
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Here are just a few nuggets from the Readers' Guide I developed for the book and you'll find the whole guide here

1. As students read or listen to this verse novel, encourage them to visualize each of the main characters and talk about what they look like and how they talk and act. Work together to draw character sketches or find magazine or web-based images that look like these characters:
  • Jordan (JB) Bell
  • Josh (“Filthy McNasty”) Bell
  • Dad: Chuck Bell (“Da Man”), a former professional basketball player
  • Mom: Dr. Crystal Stanley-Bell, the assistant principal at the boys’ school (Reggie Lewis Junior High)
Talk about how the twins are alike and how they are different. For example, Jordan (JB) and Josh (“Filthy McNasty”) are identical twins, but JB shaves his head bald and plays shooting guard and Josh has shoulder length dreadlocks (at first) and plays forward. It is usually Josh’s point of view we see as the story unfolds.

5. Several of the poems in this novel lend themselves to readers theater performance, so that students can get a sense of the characters’ voices. The following poems offer text in two parts: plain text and italicized text for two volunteers or two groups to read aloud in turn.
  1. “Conversation” pp.17-19
  2. “The game is tied” p. 36
  3. “Mom doesn’t like us eating out” pp. 41-42
  4. “The inside of Mom and Dad’s bedroom closet” pp. 44-47
  5. “Dad Takes Us to Krispy Kreme and Tells Us His Favorite Story (Again)” pp. 63-65
  6. “Mom calls me into the kitchen” pp. 96-98
  7.  “Phone Conversation (I Sub for JB)” pp. 106-109
  8. “Suspension” pp. 138-141
  9. “I run into Dad’s room” pp. 165-167
  10. “School’s Out” pp. 188-189
  11. “Santa Claus Stops By” pp. 207-209
  12. “Questions” pp. 210-211
7. The author also introduces crucial vocabulary terms through twelve key poemspresented at critical intervals throughout the book.
  • “cross-o-ver” p. 29
  •  “ca-lam-i-ty” p. 38-39
  •  “pa-tel-la ten-di-ni-tis” pp. 48-49
  • “pul-chri-tu-di-nous” p. 55
  • “hy-per-ten-sion” p. 76
  •  “i-ron-ic” p. 104
  • “tip-ping point” pp. 118-119
  • “chur-lish” pp. 142-143
  •  “pro-fuse-ly” p. 154
  • “es-tranged” p. 187
  •  “my-o-car-di-al in-farc-tion” p. 201-202
  • “star-less” p. 229
Talk with students about how the poet uses the usual dictionary format in presenting the vocabulary term: the word is shown in syllables, with a pronunciation guide, the part of speech is indicated, and the poem provides a kind of definition along with examples of the meaning of the word (using the phrase “as in:”). Working together, look up some of these words in a dictionary (or online) and compare your findings with the vocabulary poem. Challenge students to write their own “vocabulary” poems for a new word they encounter in the book using Alexander’s “formula.”

Plus, the Readers Guide pinpoints:
  • poems in rap, 
  • incorporates the power of nicknames, 
  • connects with YouTube videos of sports and music figures in the book, 
  • looks at the role of rules in the novel, 
  • showcases various forms and types of poetry that are included, 
  • and examines the "crossover" themes. 
Check it out here.

Now head on over to Irene's place, Live Your Poem, for more Poetry Friday nuggets!





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