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Blog: Studio Bowes Art (Login to Add to MyJacketFlap)
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It is the finale!! I am very proud of it. Very proud of finishing the series. And sad to leave it behind. I did a post for Diversity in YA here on Taekkyon and finishing the series. Please go check it out. And if you haven't read the first in the series, please take advantage of the fact that Prophecy is only $1.99 on all ebook platforms right now!! Add a Comment
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Four young adult writers are set to participate on a panel called “New Twists On Old Fairytales.” Hear them on Tuesday, March 31st at the 92Y (on Lexington Ave.) starting 7 p.m. (New York, NY)
The Miami Poetry Festival will take place throughout the entirety of April. Join in from April 1st to April 30th for events throughout the entire city. (Miami, FL)
The next session of the “Selected Series” event will focus on April Foolery. Check it out on Wednesday, April 1st at Symphony Space starting 7:30 p.m. (New York, NY)
Author Jeffrey Bennett will sign copies of his book What is Relativity? at the UTA Maverick Activity Center. Meet him on Wednesday, April 1st starting 7:30 p.m. (Arlington, TX)
Three young adult authors will take part in the “Great Teen Reads” panel at Books of Wonder. See them on Sunday, April 5th from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. (New York, NY)Add a Comment
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An excerpt from Southern Provisions: The Creation and Revival of a Cuisine by David S. Shields
Rebooting a Cuisine
“I want to bring back Carolina Gold rice. I want there to be authentic Lowcountry cuisine again. Not the local branch of southern cooking incorporated.” That was Glenn Roberts in 2003 during the waning hours of a conference in Charleston exploring “ The Cuisines of the Lowcountry and the Caribbean.”
When Jeffrey Pilcher, Nathalie Dupree, Marion Sullivan, Robert Lukey, and I brainstormed this meeting into shape over 2002, we paid scant attention to the word cuisine.1 I’m sure we all thought that it meant something like “a repertoire of refined dishes that inspired respect among the broad public interested in food.” We probably chose “cuisines” rather than “foodways” or “cookery” for the title because its associations with artistry would give it more splendor in the eyes of the two institutions—the College of Charleston and Johnson & Wales University—footing the administrative costs of the event. Our foremost concern was to bring three communities of people into conversation: culinary historians, chefs, and provisioners (i.e., farmers and fishermen) who produced the food cooked along the southern Atlantic coast and in the West Indies. Theorizing cuisine operated as a pretext.
Glenn Roberts numbered among the producers. The CEO of Anson Mills, he presided over the American company most deeply involved with growing, processing, and selling landrace grains to chefs. I knew him only by reputation. He grew and milled the most ancient and storied grains on the planet—antique strains of wheat, oats, spelt, rye, barley, faro, and corn—so that culinary professionals could make use of the deepest traditional flavor chords in cookery: porridges, breads, and alcoholic beverages. Given Roberts’s fascination with grains, expanding the scope of cultivars to include Carolina’s famous rice showed intellectual consistency. Yet I had always pegged him as a preservationist rather than a restorationist. He asked me, point-blank, whether I wished to participate in the effort to restore authentic Lowcountry cuisine.
Roberts pronounced cuisine with a peculiar inflection, suggesting that it was something that was and could be but that in 2003 did not exist in this part of the South. I knew in a crude way what he meant. Rice had been the glory of the southern coastal table, yet rice had not been commercially cultivated in the region since a hurricane breached the dykes and salted the soil of Carolina’s last commercial plantation in 1911. (Isolated planters on the Combahee River kept local stocks going until the Great Depression, and several families grew it for personal use until World War II, yet Carolina Gold rice disappeared on local grocers’ shelves in 1912.)
When Louisa Stoney and a network Charleston’s grandes dames gathered theirCarolina Rice Cook Book in 1901, the vast majority of ingredients were locally sourced. When John Martin Taylor compiled his Hoppin’ John’s Lowcountry Cooking in 1992,4 the local unavailability of traditional ingredients and a forgetfulness about the region’s foodways gave the volume a shock value, recalling the greatness of a tradition while alerting readers to its tenuous hold on the eating habits of the people.
Glenn Roberts had grown up tasting the remnants of the rice kitchen, his mother having mastered in her girlhood the art of Geechee black skillet cooking. In his younger days, Roberts worked on oyster boats, labored in fields, and cooked in Charleston restaurants, so when he turned to growing grain in the 1990s, he had a peculiar perspective on what he wished for: he knew he wanted to taste the terroir of the Lowcountry in the food.5 Because conventional agriculture had saturated the fields of coastal Carolina with pesticides, herbicides, and chemical fertilizers, he knew he had to restore the soil as well as restore Carolina Gold, and other crops, into cultivation.
I told Roberts that I would help, blurting the promise before understanding the dimensions of what he proposed. Having witnessed the resurgence in Creole cooking in New Orleans and the efflorescence of Cajun cooking in the 1980s, and having read John Folse’s pioneering histories of Louisiana’s culinary traditions, I entertained romantic visions of lost food-ways being restored and local communities being revitalized. My default opinions resembled those of an increasing body of persons, that fast food was aesthetically impoverished, that grocery preparations (snacks, cereals, and spreads) had sugared and salted themselves to a brutal lowest common denominator of taste, and that industrial agriculture was insuring indifferent produce by masking local qualities of soil with chemical supplementations. When I said “yes,” I didn’t realize that good intentions are a kind of stupidity in the absence of an attuned intuition of the problems at hand. When Roberts asked whether I would like to restore a cuisine, my thoughts gravitated toward the payoffs on the consumption end of things: no insta-grits made of GMO corn in my shrimp and grits; no farm-raised South American tiger shrimp. In short, something we all knew around here would be improved.
It never occurred to me that the losses in Lowcountry food had been so great that we all don’t know jack about the splendor that was, even with the aid of historical savants such as “Hoppin’ John” Taylor. Nor did I realize that traditional cuisines cannot be understood simply by reading old cookbooks; you can’t simply re-create recipes and—voilà! Roberts, being a grower and miller, had fronted the problem: cuisines had to be understood from the production side, from the farming, not just the cooking or eating. If the ingredients are mediocre, there will be no revelation on the tongue. There is only one pathway to understanding how the old planters created rice that excited the gastronomes of Paris—the path leading into the dustiest, least-used stacks in the archive, those holding century-and-a-half-old agricultural journals, the most neglected body of early American writings.
In retrospect, I understand why Roberts approached me and not some chef with a penchant for antiquarian study or some champion of southern cooking. While interested in culinary history, it was not my interest but my method that drew Roberts. He must’ve known at the time that I create histories of subjects that have not been explored; that I write “total histories” using only primary sources, finding, reading, and analyzing every extant source of information. He needed someone who could navigate the dusty archive of American farming, a scholar who could reconstruct how cuisine came to be from the ground up. He found me in 2003.
At first, questions tugged in too many directions. When renovating a cuisine, what is it, exactly, that is being restored? An aesthetic of plant breeding? A farming system? A set of kitchen practices? A gastronomic philosophy? We decided not to exclude questions at the outset, but to pursue anything that might serve the goals of bringing back soil, restoring cultivars, and renovating traditional modes of food processing. The understandings being sought had to speak to a practice of growing and kitchen creation. We should not, we all agreed, approach cuisine as an ideal, a theoretical construction, or a utopian possibility.
Our starting point was a working definition of that word I had used so inattentively in the title of the conference: cuisine. What is a cuisine? How does it differ from diet, cookery, or food? Some traditions of reflection on these questions were helpful. Jean-François Revel’s insistence in Culture and Cuisine that cuisines are regional, not national, because of the enduring distinctiveness of local ingredients, meshed with the agricultural preoccupations of our project. Sidney Mintz usefully observed that a population “eats that cuisine with sufficient frequency to consider themselves experts on it. They all believe, and care that they believe, that they know what it consists of, how it is made, and how it should taste. In short, a genuine cuisine has common social roots.” The important point here is consciousness. Cuisine becomes a signature of community and, as such, becomes a source of pride, a focus of debate, and a means of projecting an identity in other places to other people.
There is, of course, a commercial dimension to this. If a locale becomes famous for its butter (as northern New York did in the nineteenth century) or cod (as New England did in the eighteenth century), a premium is paid in the market for those items from those places. The self-consciousness about ingredients gives rise to an artistry in their handling, a sense of tact from long experience of taste, and a desire among both household and professional cooks to satisfy the popular demand for dishes by improving their taste and harmonizing their accompaniments at the table.
One hallmark of the maturity of a locale’s culinary artistry is its discretion when incorporating non-local ingredients with the products of a region’s field, forest, and waters. Towns and cities with their markets and groceries invariably served as places where the melding of the world’s commodities with a region’s produce took place. Cuisines have two faces: a cosmopolitan face, prepared by professional cooks; and a common face, prepared by household cooks. In the modern world, a cuisine is at least bimodal in constitution, with an urbane style and a country vernacular style. At times, these stylistic differences become so pronounced that they described two distinct foodways—the difference between Creole and Cajun food and their disparate histories, for example. More frequently, an urban center creates its style elaborating the bounty of the surrounding countryside—the case of Baltimore and the Tidewater comes to mind.
With a picture of cuisine in hand, Roberts and I debated how to proceed in our understanding. In 2004 the Carolina Gold Rice Foundation was formed with the express purpose of advancing the cultivation of land-race grains and insuring the repatriation of Carolina Gold. Dr. Merle Shepard of Clemson University (head of the Clemson Coastal Experimental Station at Charleston), Dr. Richard Schulze (who planted the first late twentieth-century crops of Carolina Gold on his wetlands near Savannah), Campbell Coxe (the most experienced commercial rice farmer in the Carolinas), Max E. Hill (historian and planter), and Mack Rhodes and Charles Duell (whose Middleton Place showcased the historical importance of rice on the Lowcountry landscape) formed the original nucleus of the enterprise.
It took two and a half years before we knew enough to reformulate our concept of cuisine and historically contextualize the Carolina Rice Kitchen well enough to map our starting point for the work of replenishment—a reboot of Lowcountry cuisine. The key insights were as follows: The enduring distinctiveness of local ingredients arose from very distinct sets of historical circumstances and a confluence of English, French Huguenot, West African, and Native American foodways. What is grown where, when, and for what occurred for very particular reasons. A soil crisis in the early nineteenth century particularly shaped the Lowcountry cuisine that would come, distinguishing it from food produced and prepared elsewhere.
The landraces of rice, wheat, oats, rye, and corn that were brought into agriculture in the coastal Southeast were, during the eighteenth century, planted as cash crops, those same fields being replanted season after season, refreshed only with manuring until the early nineteenth century. Then the boom in long staple Sea Island cotton, a very “exhausting” plant, pushed Lowcountry soil into crisis. (A similar crisis related to tobacco culture and soil erosion because of faulty plowing methods afflicted Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina.) The soil crisis led to the depopulation of agricultural lands as enterprising sons went westward seeking newly cleared land, causing a decline in production, followed by rising farm debt and social distress. The South began to echo with lamentations and warnings proclaimed by a generation of agrarian prophets—John Taylor of Caroline County in Virginia, George W. Jeffreys of North Carolina, Nicholas Herbemont of South Carolina, and Thomas Spalding of Georgia. Their message: Unless the soil is saved; unless crop rotations that build nutrition in soil be instituted; unless agriculture be diversified—then the long-cultivated portions of the South will become a wasteland. In response to the crisis in the 1820s, planters formed associations; they published agricultural journals to exchange information; they read; they planted new crops and employed new techniques of plowing and tilling; they rotated, intercropped, and fallowed fields. The age of experiment began in American agriculture with a vengeance.
The Southern Agriculturist magazine (founded 1828) operated as theengine of changes in the Lowcountry. In its pages, a host of planter-contributors published rotations they had developed for rice, theories of geoponics (soil nourishment), alternatives to monoculture, and descriptions of the world of horticultural options. Just as Judge Jesse Buel in Albany, New York, systematized the northern dairy farm into a self-reliant entity with livestock, pastures, fields, orchard, garden, and dairy interacting for optimum benefit, southern experimentalists conceived of the model plantation. A generation of literate rice planters—Robert F. W. Allston, J. Bryan, Calvin Emmons, James Ferguson, William Hunter, Roswell King, Charles Munnerlyn, Thomas Pinckney, and Hugh Rose— contributed to the conversation, overseen by William Washington, chair of the Committee on Experiments of the South Carolina Agricultural Society. Regularizing the crop rotations, diversifying cultivars, and rationalizing plantation operations gave rise to the distinctive set of ingredients that coalesced into what came to be called the Carolina Rice Kitchen, the cuisine of the Lowcountry.
Now, in order to reconstruct the food production of the Lowcountry, one needs a picture of how the plantations and farms worked internally with respect to local markets, in connection with regional markets, and in terms of commodity trade. One has to know how the field crops, kitchen garden, flower and herb garden, livestock pen, dairy, and kitchen cooperated. Within the matrix of uses, any plant or animal that could be employed in multiple ways would be more widely raised in a locality and more often cycled into cultivation. The sweet potato, for instance, performed many tasks on the plantation: It served as winter feed for livestock, its leaves as fodder; it formed one of the staple foods for slaves; it sold well as a local-market commodity for the home table; and its allelopathic (growth-inhibiting chemistry) made it useful in weed suppression. Our first understandings of locality came by tracing the multiple transits of individual plants through farms, markets, kitchens, and seed brokerages.
After the 1840s, when experiments stabilized into conventions on Low-country plantations, certain items became fixtures in the fields. Besides the sweet potato, one found benne (low-oil West African sesame), corn, colewort/kale/collards, field peas, peanuts, and, late in the 1850s, sorghum. Each one of these plant types would undergo intensive breeding trials, creating new varieties that (a) performed more good for the soil and welfare of the rotation’s other crops; (b) attracted more purchasers at the market; (c) tasted better to the breeder or his livestock; (d) grew more productively than other varieties; and (e) proved more resistant to drought, disease, and infestation than other varieties.
From 1800 to the Civil War, the number of vegetables, the varieties of a given vegetable, the number of fruit trees, the number of ornamental flowers, and the numbers of cattle, pigs, sheep, goat, and fowl breeds all multiplied prodigiously in the United States, in general, and the Low-country, in particular. The seedsman, the orchardist, the livestock breeder, the horticulturist—experimentalists who maintained model farms, nurseries, and breeding herds—became fixtures of the agricultural scene and drove innovation. One such figure was J. V. Jones of Burke County, Georgia, a breeder of field peas in the 1840s and ’50s. In the colonial era, field peas (cowpeas) grew in the garden patches of African slaves, along with okra, benne, watermelon, and guinea squash. Like those other West African plants, their cultivation was taken up by white planters. At first, they grew field peas as fodder for livestock because it inspired great desire among hogs, cattle, and horses. (Hence the popular name cowpea.) Early in the nineteenth century, growers noticed that it improved soils strained by “exhausting plants.” With applications as a green manure, a table pea, and livestock feed, the field pea inspired experiments in breeding with the ends of making it less chalky tasting, more productive, and less prone to mildew when being dried to pea hay. Jones reported on his trials. He grew every sort of pea he could obtain, crossing varieties in the hopes of breeding a pea with superior traits.
- Blue Pea, hardy and prolific. A crop of this pea can be matured in less than 60 days from date of planting the seed. Valuable.
- Lady, matures with No. 1. Not so prolific and hardy. A delicious table pea.
- Rice, most valuable table variety known, and should be grown universally wherever the pea can make a habitation.
- Relief, another valuable table kind, with brown pods.
- Flint Crowder, very profitable.
- Flesh, very profitable.
- Sugar, very profitable.
- Grey, very profitable. More so than 5, 6, 7. [Tory Pea]
- Early Spotted, brown hulls or pods.
- Early Locust, brown hulls, valuable.
- Late Locust, purple hulls, not profitable.
- Black Eyes, valuable for stock.
- Early Black Spotted, matures with nos. 1, 2, and 3.
- Goat, so called, I presume, from its spots. Very valuable, and a hard kind to shell.
- Small Black, very valuable, lies on the field all winter with the power of reproduction.
- Large Black Crowder, the largest pea known, and produces great and luxuriant vines. A splendid variety.
- Brown Spotted, equal to nos. 6, 7, 8 and 14.
- Claret Spotted, equal to nos. 6, 7, 8 and 14.
- Large Spotted, equal to nos. 6, 7, 8 and 14.
- Jones Little Claret Crowder. It is my opinion a greater quantity in pounds and bushels can be grown per acre of this pea, than any other grain with the knowledge of man. Matures with nos. 1, 2, 3, 9 and 13, and one of the most valuable.
- Jones Black Hull, prolific and profitable.
- Jones Yellow Hay, valuable for hay only.
- Jones no. 1, new and very valuable; originated in the last 2 years.
- Chickasaw, its value is as yet unknown. Ignorance has abused it.
- Shinney or Java, this is the Prince of Peas.
The list dramatizes the complex of qualities that bear on the judgments of plant breeders—flavor, profitability, feed potential, processability, ability to self-seed, productivity, and utility as hay. And it suggests the genius of agriculture in the age of experiment—the creation of a myriad of tastes and uses.
At this juncture, we confront a problem of culinary history. If one writes the history of taste as it is usually written, using the cookbook authors and chefs as the spokespersons for developments, one will not register the multiple taste options that pea breeders created. Recipes with gnomic reticence call for field peas (or cowpeas). One would not know, for example, that the Shinney pea, the large white lady pea, or the small white rice pea would be most suitable for this or that dish. It is only in the agricultural literature that we learn that the Sea Island red pea was the traditional pea used in rice stews, or that the red Tory pea with molasses and a ham hock made a dish rivaling Boston baked beans.
Growers drove taste innovation in American grains, legumes, and vegetables during the age of experiment. And their views about texture, quality, and application were expressed in seed catalogs, agricultural journals, and horticultural handbooks. If one wishes to understand what was distinctive about regional cookery in the United States, the cookbook supplies but a partial apprehension at best. New England’s plenitude of squashes, to take another example, is best comprehended by reading James J. H. Gregory’s Squashes: How to Grow Them (1867), not Mrs. N. Orr’s De Witt’sConnecticut Cook Book, and Housekeeper’s Assistant (1871). In the pages of the 1869 annual report of the Massachusetts Board of Agriculture, we encounter the expert observation, “As a general rule, the Turban and Hubbard are too grainy in texture to enter the structure of that grand Yankee luxury, a squash pie. For this the Marrow [autumnal marrow squash] excels, and this, I hold, is now the proper sphere of this squash; it is now a pie squash.” No cookbook contains so trenchant an assessment, and when the marrow squash receives mention, it suggests it is a milder-flavored alternative to the pumpkin pie.
Wendell Berry’s maxim that “eating is an agricultural act” finds support in nineteenth-century agricultural letters. The aesthetics of planting, breeding, and eating formed a whole sense of the ends of agriculture. No cookbook would tell you why a farmer chose a clay pea to intercrop with white flint corn, or a lady pea, or a black Crowder, but a reader of the agricultural press would know that the clay pea would be plowed under with the corn to fertilize a field (a practice on some rice fields every fourth year), that the lady pea would be harvested for human consumption, and that the black Crowder would be cut for cattle feed. Only reading a pea savant like J. V. Jones would one know that a black-eyed pea was regarded as “valuable for stock” but too common tasting to recommend it for the supper table.
When the question that guides one’s reading is which pea or peasshould be planted today to build the nitrogen level of the soil and complement the grains and vegetables of Lowcountry cuisines, the multiplicity of varieties suggests an answer. That J. V. Jones grew at least four of his own creations, as well as twenty-one other reputable types, indicates that one should grow several sorts of field peas, with each sort targeted to a desired end. The instincts of southern seed savers such as Dr. David Bradshaw, Bill Best, and John Coykendall were correct—to preserve the richness of southern pea culture, one had to keep multiple strains of cowpea viable. Glenn Roberts and the Carolina Gold Rice Foundation have concentrated on two categories of peas—those favored in rice dishes and those known for soil replenishment. The culinary peas are the Sea Island red pea, known for traditional dishes such as reezy peezy, red pea soup, and red pea gravy; and the rice pea, cooked as an edible pod pea, for most hoppin’ John recipes and for the most refined version of field peas with butter. For soil building, iron and clay peas have been a mainstay of warm-zone agriculture since the second half of the nineteenth century.
It should be clear by this juncture that this inquiry differs from the projects most frequently encountered in food history. Here, the value of a cultivar or dish does not reside in its being a heritage marker, a survival from an originating culture previous to its uses in southern planting and cooking. The Native American origins of a Chickasaw plum, the African origins of okra, the Swedish origins of the rutabaga don’t much matter for our purposes. This is not to discount the worth of the sort of etiological food genealogies that Gary Nabhan performs with the foods of Native peoples, that Karen Hess performed with the cooking of Jewish conversos, or that Jessica Harris and others perform in their explorations of the food of the African diaspora, but the hallmark of the experimental age was change in what was grown—importation, alteration, ramification, improvement, and repurposing. The parched and boiled peanuts/pindars of West Africa were used for oil production and peanut butter. Sorghum, or imphee grass, employed in beer brewing and making flat breads in West Africa and Natal became in the hands of American experimentalists a sugar-producing plant. That said, the expropriations and experimental transformations did not entirely supplant traditional uses. The work of agronomist George Washington Carver at the Tuskegee Agricultural Experiment Station commands particular notice because it combines its novel recommendations for industrial and commercial uses of plants as lubricants, blacking, and toothpaste, with a thoroughgoing recovery of the repertoire of Deep South African American sweet potato, cowpea, and peanut cookery in an effort to present the maximum utility of the ingredients.
While part of this study does depend on the work that Joyce E. Chaplin and Max Edelson have published on the engagement of southern planters with science, it departs from the literature concerned with agricultural reform in the South. Because this exploration proceeds from the factum brutum of an achieved regional cuisine produced as the result of agricultural innovations, market evolutions, and kitchen creativity, it stands somewhat at odds with that literature, arguing the ineffectuality of agricultural reform. Works in this tradition—Charles G. Steffen’s “In Search of the Good Overseer” or William M. Mathew’s Edmund Ruffin and the Crisis of Slavery in the Old South—argue that what passed for innovation in farming was a charade, and that soil restoration and crop diversification were fitful at best. When a forkful of hominy made from the white flint corn perfected in the 1830s on the Sea Islands melts on one’s tongue, there is little doubting that something splendid has been achieved.
The sorts of experiments that produced white flint corn, the rice pea, and the long-grain form of Carolina Gold rice did not cease with the Civil War. Indeed, with the armistice, the scope and intensity of experimentation increased as the economies of the coast rearranged from staple production to truck farming. The reliance on agricultural improvement would culminate in the formation of the network of agricultural experimental stations in the wake of the Hatch Act of 1886. One finding of our research has been that the fullness of Lowcountry agriculture and the efflorescence of Lowcountry cuisine came about during the Reconstruction era, and its heyday continued into the second decade of the twentieth century.
The Lowcountry was in no way exceptional in its embrace of experiments and improvement or insular in its view of what should be grown. In the 1830s, when Carolina horticulturists read about the success that northern growers had with Russian strains of rhubarb, several persons attempted with modest success to grow it in kitchen gardens. Readers of Alexander von Humboldt’s accounts of the commodities of South America experimented with Peruvian quinoa in grain rotations. Because agricultural letters and print mediated the conversations of the experimentalists, and because regional journals reprinted extensively from other journals from other places, a curiosity about the best variety of vegetables, fruits, and berries grown anywhere regularly led many to secure seed from northern brokers (only the Landreth Seed Company of Pennsylvaniamaintained staff in the Lowcountry), or seedsmen in England, France, and Germany. Planters regularly sought new sweet potato varieties from Central and South America, new citrus fruit from Asia, and melons wherever they might be had.
Because of the cosmopolitan sourcing of things grown, the idea of a regional agriculture growing organically out of the indigenous productions of a geographically delimited zone becomes questionable. (The case of the harvest of game animals and fish is different.) There is, of course, a kind of provocative poetry to reminding persons, as Gary Nabhan has done, that portions of the Southeast once regarded the American chestnut as a staple and food mapping an area as “Chestnut Nation,” yet it has little resonance for a population that has never tasted an American chestnut in their lifetime. Rather, region makes sense only as a geography mapped by consciousness—by a community’s attestation in naming, argumentation, and sometimes attempts at legal delimitation of a place.
We can see the inflection of territory with consciousness in the history of the name “Lowcountry.” It emerges as “low country” in the work of early nineteenth-century geographers and geologists who were attempting to characterize the topography of the states and territories of the young nation. In 1812 Jedidiah Morse uses “low country” in the American Universal Gazetteer to designate the coastal mainland of North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. Originally, the Sea Islands were viewed as a separate topography. “ The sea coast,” he writes, “is bordered with a fine chain of islands, between which and the shore there is a very convenient navigation. The main land is naturally divided into the Lower and Upper country. The low country extends 80 or 100 miles from the coast, and is covered with extensive forests of pitch pine, called pine barrens, interspersed with swamps and marshes of rich soil.” Geologist Elisha Mitchell took up the characterization in his 1828 article, “On the Character and Origin of the Low Country of North Carolina,” defining the region east of the Pee Dee River to the Atlantic coast by a stratigraphy of sand and clay layers as the low country. Within a generation, the designation had entered into the usage of the population as a way of characterizing a distinctive way of growing practiced on coastal lands. Wilmot Gibbs, a wheat farmer in Chester County in the South Carolina midlands, observed in a report to the US Patent Office: “ The sweet potatoes do better, much better on sandy soil, and though not to be compared in quantity and quality with the lowcountry sweet potatoes, yet yield a fair crop.” Two words became one word. And when culture—agriculture—inflected the understanding of region, the boundaries of the map altered. The northern boundary of rice growing and the northern range of the cabbage palmetto were just north of Wilmington, North Carolina. The northern bound of USDA Plant Hardiness Zone 8 in the Cape Fear River drainage became the cultural terminus of the Lowcountry. Agriculturally, the farming on the Sea Islands differed little from that on the mainland, so they became assimilated into the cultural Lowcountry. And since the Sea Islands extended to Amelia Island, Florida, the Lowcountry extended into east Florida. What remained indistinct and subject to debate was the interior bound of the Lowcountry. Was the St. Johns River region in Florida assimilated into it, or not? Did it end where tidal flow became negligible upriver on the major coastal estuaries? Perceptual regions that do not evolve into legislated territories, such as the French wine regions, should be treated with a recognition of their mutable shape.
Cuisines are regional to the extent that the ingredients the region supplies to the kitchen are distinctive, not seen as a signature of another place. Consequently, Lowcountry cuisine must be understood comparatively, contrasting its features with those of other perceived styles, such as “southern cooking” or “tidewater cuisine” or “New Orleans Creole cooking” or “American school cooking” or “cosmopolitan hotel gastronomy.” The comparisons will take place, however, acknowledging that all of these styles share a deep grammar. A common store of ancient landrace grains (wheat, spelt, rye, barley, oats, corn, rice, millet, faro), the oil seeds and fruits (sesame, sunflower, rapeseed, linseed, olive), the livestock, the root vegetables, the fruit trees, the garden vegetables, the nuts, the berries, the game, and the fowls—all these supply a broad canvas against which the novel syncretisms and breeders’ creations emerge. It is easy to overstate the peculiarity of a region’s farming or food.
One of the hallmarks of the age of experiment was openness to new plants from other parts of the world. There was nothing of the culinary purism that drove the expulsion of “ignoble grapes” from France in the 1930s. Nor was there the kind of nationalist food security fixation that drives the current Plant Protection and Quarantine (PPQ ) protocols of the USDA. In that era, before crop monocultures made vast stretches of American countryside an uninterrupted banquet for viruses, disease organisms, and insect pests, nightmares of continental pestilence did not roil agronomists. The desire to plant a healthier, tastier, more productive sweet potato had planters working their connections in the West Indies and South America for new varieties. Periodically, an imported variety—a cross between old cultivated varieties, a cross between a traditional and an imported variety, or a sport of an old or new variety—proved something so splendid that it became a classic, a brand, a market variety, a seed catalog–illustrated plant. Examples of these include the Carolina African peanut, the Bradford watermelon, the Georgia pumpkin yam, the Hanson lettuce, Sea Island white flint corn, the Virginia peanut, the Carolina Long Gold rice, the Charleston Wakefield cabbage, and the Dancy tangerine. That something from a foreign clime might be acculturated, becoming central to an American regional cuisine, was more usual than not.
With the rise of the commercial seedsmen, naming of vegetable varieties became chaotic. Northern breeders rebranded the popular white-fleshed Hayman sweet potato, first brought from the West Indies into North Carolina in 1854, as the “Southern Queen sweet potato” in the hope of securing the big southern market, or as the “West Indian White.” Whether a seedsman tweaked a strain or not, it appeared in the catalogs as new and improved. Only with the aid of the skeptical field-trial reporters working the experimental stations of the 1890s can one see that the number of horticultural and pomological novelties named as being available for purchase substantially exceeds the number of varieties that actually exist.
Numbers of plant varieties enjoyed sufficient following to resist the yearly tide of “new and improved” alternatives. They survived over decades, supported by devotees or retained by experimental stations and commercial breeders as breeding stock. Of Jones’s list of cowpeas, for instance, the blue, the lady, the rice, the flint Crowder, the claret, the small black, the black-eyed, and Shinney peas still exist in twenty-first-century fields, and two remain in commercial cultivation: the lady and the Crowder.
In order to bring back the surviving old varieties important in traditional Lowcountry cuisine yet no longer commercially farmed, Dr. Merle Shepard, Glenn Roberts, or I sought them in germplasm banks andthrough the networks of growers and seed savers. Some important items seem irrevocably lost: the Neunan’s strawberry and the Hoffman seedling strawberry, both massively cultivated during the truck-farming era in the decades following the Civil War. The Ravenscroft watermelon has perished. Because of the premium placed on taste in nineteenth-century plant and fruit breeding, we believed the repatriation of old strains to be important. Yet we by no means believed that skill at plant breeding suddenly ceased in 1900. Rather, the aesthetics of breeding changed so that cold tolerance, productivity, quick maturity, disease resistance, transportability, and slow decay often trumped taste in the list of desiderata. The recent revelation that the commercial tomato’s roundness and redness was genetically accomplished at the expense of certain of the alleles governing taste quality is only the most conspicuous instance of the subordination of flavor in recent breeding aesthetics.
We have reversed the priority—asserting the primacy of taste over other qualities in a plant. We cherish plants that in the eyes of industrial farmers may seem inefficient, underproductive, or vulnerable to disease and depredation because they offer more to the kitchen, to the tongue, and to the imagination. The simple fact that a plant is heirloom does not make it pertinent for our purposes. It had to have had traction agriculturallyand culinarily. It had to retain its vaunted flavor. Glenn Roberts sought with particular avidity the old landrace grains because their flavors provided the fundamental notes comprising the harmonics of Western food, both bread and alcohol. The more ancient, the better. I sought benne, peanuts, sieva beans, asparagus, peppers, squashes, and root vegetables. Our conviction has been—and is—that the quality of the ingredients will determine the vitality of Lowcountry cuisine.
While the repertoire of dishes created in Lowcountry cuisine interested us greatly, and while we studied the half-dozen nineteenth-century cookbooks, the several dozen manuscript recipe collections, and the newspaper recipe literature with the greatest attention, we realized that our project was not the culinary equivalent of Civil War reenactment, a kind of temporary evacuation of the present for some vision of the past. Rather, we wanted to revive the ingredients that had made that food so memorable and make the tastes available again, so the best cooks of this moment could combine them to invoke or invent a cooking rich with this place. Roberts was too marked by his Californian youth, me by formative years in Japan, Shepard by his long engagement with Asian food culture, Campbell Coxe with his late twentieth-century business mentality, to yearn for some antebellum never-never land of big house banqueting. What did move us, however, was the taste of rice. We all could savor the faint hazelnut delicacy, the luxurious melting wholesomeness of Carolina Gold. And we all wondered at those tales of Charleston hotel chefs of the Reconstruction era who could identify which stretch of which river where a plate of gold rice had been nourished. They could, they claimed, taste the water and the soil in the rice.
The quality of ingredients depends upon the quality of the soil, and this book is not, to my regret, a recovery of the lost art of soil building. Though we have unearthed, with the aid of Dr. Stephen Spratt, a substantial body of information about crop rotations and their effects, and though certain of these traditional rotations have been followed in growing rice, benne, corn, beans, wheat, oats, et cetera, we can’t point to a particular method of treating soil that we could attest as having been sufficient and sustainable in its fertility in all cases. While individual planters hit upon soil-building solutions for their complex of holdings, particularly in the Sea Islands and in the Pee Dee River basin, these were often vast operations employing swamp muck, rather than dung, as a manure. Even planter-savants, such as John Couper and Thomas Spalding, felt they had not optimized the growing potential of their lands. Planters who farmed land that had suffered fertility decline and were bringing it back to viability often felt dissatisfaction because its productivity could not match the newly cleared lands in Alabama, Louisiana, Texas, and Mississippi. Lowcountry planters were undersold by producers to the west. Hence, coastal planters heeded the promises of the great advocates of manure—Edmund Ruffin’s call to crush fossilized limestone and spread calcareous manures on fields, or Alexander von Humboldt’s scientific case for Peruvian guano—as the answer to amplifying yield per acre. Those who could afford it became guano addicts. Slowly, southern planters became habituated to the idea that in order to yield a field needed some sort of chemical supplementation. It was then a short step to industrially produced chemical fertilizers.
What we now know to be irrefutably true, after a decade of Glenn Roberts’s field work, is that grain and vegetables grown in soil that has never been subjected to the chemical supplementations of conventional agriculture, or that has been raised in fields cleansed of the chemicals by repeated organic grow-outs, possess greater depth and distinct local inflections of flavor. Tongues taste terroir. This is a truth confirmed by the work of other cuisine restorationists in other areas—I think particularly of Dan Barber’s work at Stone Barns Center in northern New York and John Coykendall’s work in Tennessee.
Our conviction that enhancing the quality of flavors a region produces as the goal of our agricultural work gives our efforts a clarity of purpose that enables sure decision making at the local level. We realize, of course, the human and animal health benefits from consuming food free of toxins and chemical additives. We know that the preservation of the soil and the treatment of water resources in a non-exploitative way constitute a kind of virtue. But without the aesthetic focus on flavor, the ethical treatment of resources will hardly succeed. When pleasure coincides with virtue, the prospect of an enduring change in the production and treatment of food takes on solidity.
Since its organization a decade ago, the Carolina Gold Rice Foundation has published material on rice culture and the cultivation of landrace grains. By 2010 it became apparent that the information we had gleaned and the practical experience we had gained in plant repatriations had reached a threshold permitting a more public presentation of our historical sense of this regional cuisine, its original conditions of production, and observations on its preparation. After substantial conversation about the shape of this study with Roberts, Shepard, Bernard L. Herman, John T. Edge, Nathalie Dupree, Sean Brock, Linton Hopkins, Jim Kibler, and Marcie Cohen Ferris, I determined that it should not resort to the conventional chronological, academic organization of the subject, nor should it rely on the specialized languages of botany, agronomy, or nutrition. My desire in writing Southern Provisions was to treat the subject so that a reader could trace the connections between plants, plantations, growers, seed brokers, markets, vendors, cooks, and consumers. The focus of attention had to alter, following the transit of food from field to market, from garden to table. The entire landscape of the Lowcountry had to be included, from the Wilmington peanut patches to the truck farms of the Charleston Neck, from the cane fields of the Georgia Sea Islands to the citrus groves of Amelia Island, Florida. For comparison’s sake, there had to be moments when attention turned to food of the South generally, to the West Indies, and to the United States more generally.
In current books charting alternatives to conventional agriculture, there has been a strong and understandable tendency to announce crisis. This was also the common tactic of writers at the beginning of the age of experimentation in the 1810s and ’20s. Yet here, curiosity and pleasure, the quest to understand a rich world of taste, direct our inquiry more than fear and trepidation.
To read more about Southern Provisions, click here.Add a Comment
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Just within this month here in our state, we have had/are having three great statewide conferences that are perfect for public youth librarians to attend. One is with our library media peers in WEMTA; one with the WI Afterschool Association and one an early childhood conference full of great sessions. We made sure we could get a staffer to each.
Attending conferences outside the library world opens us up to new experiences, new ideas, new colleagues and new ways to approach our work. It's a great way to fill up our toolboxes and give even better service to our communities!
What are your favorite "out-of-the-library" box conferences (national or local)? I'd love to hear about them! Add a Comment
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March 2015: 9 books and scripts read
Knee-deep in rehearsals, I read a scant 9 books this month.
I enjoyed Alex as Well by Alyssa Brugman. I posted my review of the book here and at GuysLitWire.
I read and discussed The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon with a friend who had also read it - and then I recommended that she read Snowblind by Christopher Golden stat. Both of those books make me grateful for life and sunshine.
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Arlene Holmes, the mother of James Holmes, the man on trial for a massive shooting at a movie theater in Colorado during a screening of \"The Dark Night Rises\" back in 2012, has self-published a book.
When the Focus Shifts: The Prayer Book of Arlene Holmes is a collection of prayers from Arlene’s journals, written in the aftermath of the tragedy. In the book, she analyzes the guilt that her family has experienced after the horrible event. Check it out:
Few people have analyzed the effect on the family of an accused shooter facing the death penalty. This prayer book is a unique look at the aftermath of a mass shooting from the perspective of the accused’s mother, as she prays her way through the pretrial court proceedings.
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Beatrix and her book Good Morning to Me! got a starred review from Publishers Weekly! The link is here. We're all eager for the book to be out on May 5th!Add a Comment
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The Very Fairy Princess, a popular children’s book franchise from actress Julie Andrews and her daughter Emma Walton Hamilton will be adapted into a television series.
Corus Entertainment’s Nelvana Enterprises, a producer and distributor of children’s animated content, has teamed up with the two authors to produce the series.
The series star a young girl named Geraldine, who lives her day to day as a fairy princess. There are currently eight books in the franchise with a ninth book, The Very Fairy Princess: A Spooky, Sparkly Halloween, coming out this fall.Add a Comment
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JacketFlap tags: Christine Taylor-Butler, not recommended, Pub year: 2015, The Lost Tribes, Add a tag
Christine Taylor-Butler's The Lost Tribes was released on March 25th. Published by Move Books, I read an advanced copy. Here's the synopsis from Amazon:
In The Lost Tribes, five friends could never imagine their ordinary parents are scientists on a secret mission. When their parents go missing, they are forced into unfathomable circumstances and learn of a history that's best left unknown. Now they must race against time in the search for tribal artifacts that are thousands of years old. Artifacts that hold the fate of the universe in the balance. But unbeknownst to them, they are catalysts in an ancient score that must be settled. The Lost Tribes is a challenge from beginning to end. As the chaos unfolds so do opportunities to solve codes and figure out where the characters will end up next (and the illustration and design give the reader a visual unfolding as well). Written by a former engineer, this book provides a sturdy and accurate science and history foundation, where readers will surely become participants in the facts, fun, and adventure.
Among those five friends and their parents is Serise Hightower and her parents, Dr. David Hightower and Dr. Cheryl Hightower. The kids (Serise, Carlos, Grace, and Ben and his little sister, April) all live in the same cul-de-sac in California. Until later in the book when we learn that all these characters are "scientific observers from another galaxy" we think of Serise as being Navajo. We first learn about her on page 52 (reading the ARC, so page numbers may differ in final copy) when two characters, Ben and Grace, are trying to break a coded message in a game that Ben's uncle has given to him. Serise, Grace tells Ben, is good at breaking codes.
More obnoxious to Ben, however, are the "maroon and purple highlights and feathers in her jet black hair" (p. 60). Another character, Carlos, doesn't like Serise either. He praises the watch but smirks at Ben as he does it. Serise's mom is the Curator of the Sunnyslope Museum of Natural History. She travels a lot. The expensive gifts she brings back to Serise mean that she is spoiled.
Ben doesn't think much of the watch. Serise asks if he wants to see "something cool" (p. 61). Ben, Grace, and Carlos follow her to her backyard (p. 61):
A domed structure sat in the corner. Covered with blankets, canvas tarps and leather, it looked like a cross between a hut and a tent. A single opening was visible on the west side.It, she tells them, is a "new sweat lodge" built by her dad. He is "getting ready for a vision quest." His hobby is mystic religions and he's "always trying to conjure up the spirit of an ancient ancestor." In this vision quest, he'll "cleanse himself of toxic impurities and restore his soul" (p. 61). He's been meditating and fasting and wants to do a ceremony on Sunday to get guidance for a journey he's going to go on.
Ben asks if he always does these ceremonies before a trip, and Serise tells him this one is different. After "the big storm" that happened when the book begins, her dad is going to "ask the Tribal Council for permission to conduct an Enemyway ceremony" (p. 61). From inside, the kids can hear her dad chanting. Grace thinks the whole thing sounds cool till Serise tells her "You have to be naked."
Serise goes to the sweat lodge and shows them a walkie talkie she has put there with the intent of playing a joke on her dad while he does the ceremony. While she's doing that, Grace, Ben, and Carlos whisper to each other about how awful it is to be around her.
That evening, Ben's dad tells him that they're invited to the sweat lodge on Sunday. Of course, Ben is unhappy about it. When he gets there, he sees Dr. Hightower and Grace's dad, Dr. Choedon, standing by "an intricate painting at the entrance to the lodge." Dr. Choedon calls it a mandala that is part of the ritual. Inside, Dr. Hightower tells them that if they're sick, they shouldn't participate, because being in a sweat lodge "is a grueling test of endurance." He starts to chant and pour water over huge "red-hot boulders" that Dr. Hightower tells them were heated outside the lodge and brought inside with "a little ingenuity" that he doesn't describe.
Thus far, Taylor-Butler (the author) has not named a specific tribal nation.
The "Enemyway ceremony" and the language that Serise's dad uses, however, indicate that we are meant to think they are Navajo. But because they aren't really Navajo (remember, they're not of Earth at all), I'm not sure what to do with this.
Where did these observers from another galaxy get the information they needed to behave in what they think of as Navajo?
What they do is troubling and misrepresentative. Generally speaking, Navajo ceremonies take place in hogans, not sweat lodges, and sandpaintings are done inside of hogans. Healers don't need to seek permission from a tribal council to do ceremonies. Fasting isn't part of the preparation. Though the ceremony in The Lost Tribes is called an "Enemyway" ceremony (usually written as Enemy Way), the language that Hightower uses is that of the Beauty Way ceremony.
The description of the sweat lodge in The Lost Tribes is more like the sweats done by other Native nations. With this vision quest/sweat lodge/Enemyway ceremony, the author has collapsed the ways of several distinct Native Nations and Tibetan Monks into... the ways of who?!
On page 286, we get an explanation. The kids learn their parents are not from Earth. They were sent to Earth from their homes in the Sonecian galaxy to find out what happened to a previous group. Henry (Ben's uncle), explains (p. 289):
"We call this place Safe Harbor because that is what it represented to our ancestors--a sanctuary from the impending collapse of a star near our galaxy.
"Our ancestors wanted to preserve something of their cultures. Earth was the nearest planet capable of sustaining the many species found in our solar system, making it perfect for colonization. They placed eight tribes on a land mass similar to the environment on their home planet. In time, the tribes blended with the indigenous populations and became part of their genetic pool."
For some unknown reason, they didn't survive and there's no records as to what happened. The kids parents are supposed to investigate what went wrong, but they've done other things, too--like having children. Medie (Ben's mom, who is a chemist) created a way for the kids to behave like human children. For Ben, it was a drink. Parents of the other kids gave it to them, too, in other forms. For Carlos, it was a green tamale. For Grace, it was sushi rolls. For Serise, it was smoothies and mud masks she used at night.
Because Earth's core is unstable, a decision is made to evacuate. Plans are being made to leave, but those plans are interrupted by the arrival of a transport ship, accompanied by military escorts.
"Fierce-looking warriors" in heavy body armor arrive. They are the Royal Guard of Casmir, which is Carlos's tribe. They carry spears, and show no mercy when provoked. Their leader has a "macho swagger" (p. 307-308).
Another group of warriors materializes. These wear no armor and carry no weapons. They are Serise's tribe, the "Hayookaal." Their long black hair "blew in an invisible breeze" -- which signals their ability to control weather and climate on Earth (p. 308). They are very muscular.
Hmmm... the Latino and Native characters are from tribes known as exceptional warriors, even in another galaxy.
Grace's tribe arrives next. They look a lot like Serise's. They're "one of the oldest tribes in the known universe" and are the best linguists in this alliance. They've got a power, too, but do not speak of it publicly. Three other tribes materialize. As Ben wonders when his tribe will materialize, an explosion takes place, but it is the means by which his tribe arrives. They're the Xenobian Warrior caste, an "elite squad" who are "brilliant strategists."
As is clear, the kids in The Lost Tribes are from various tribes, which means the book qualifies as a "diverse" one. For me, however, the diversity must ring true.
The Native characters and their attributes are a mish-mash of several nations, and they're stereotypical, too. The use and misrepresentation of ceremonies that are sacred to the Navajo Nation is especially troubling. Also troubling is that the Kirkus review says there is a "lack of stereotyping" in the book.
These problems could be attributed to stereotypical material that the inhabitants from the other planets read---we all know there's plenty of that right now---but elsewhere in the story, they talk of how superior they are to humans. They've been watching and living amongst humans on earth for thousands of years, so it seems to me they'd know a lot about all the humans on earth and how they were treated by each other. That would include misrepresentations.
The problems in The Lost Tribes are such that I cannot recommend it.
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The "Waltz with Bashir" director has been experimenting with a combination of 2D animation and stop-motion.Add a Comment
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Author Maya Angelou is getting a forever stamp from the USPS and you can go to the dedication ceremony on Tuesday, April 7.
The event, which will also be attended by Oprah Winfrey, Al Sharpton and poet Nikki Giovanni, will take place at the Warner Theatre in Washington DC at 11 a.m. You can RSVP to attend at this link or by calling866-268-3243 before 5 p.m. ET April 3. Each RSVP is limited to two (2) seats.
The stamp features a hyper-realistic painting of Angelou by the Atlanta-based artist Ross Rossin. The original painting is currently on display at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery through Nov. 1. The stamp also features a quote from the author: \"A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.\"Add a Comment
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3D version and animation scene mockup of a crocheted Dendennis amigurumi figure.
More: MetinSeven.com.Add a Comment
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JacketFlap tags: Critique Group, Distraction/Procrastination, VCFA, Writing career, Writing Techniques, Dana Walrath, David McGinnis, Joy Peskin, Kathi Appelt, Vermont College of Fine Arts, Add a tag
You roll your quarters, register, and highlight the dates on the calendar. You pre-pick your plane seat and pack your bags. You’re going to a workshop! You look forward to it for months, fret about how many pairs of shoes to take, and finally, it’s time to blast off. I got to do just that earlier this month when I attended the amazing 12th Annual Novel Writing Retreat at Vermont College of Fine Arts. (If you’d like a great recap of the experience itself, I highly recommend visiting Debbi Michiko Florence’s site.)
I don’t know about you, but time passes at a sloth’s pace leading up to an event, but then the workshop itself whisks by at road runner speed. If you’re not careful (and by you’re, of course, I mean, I’m), it’s easy as gliding up an escalator to let the whole experience slip away once you’re back home.
Watch out for these post-workshop mistakes . . .
1. Rushing to query or submit your manuscript. Some writers think, if I don’t send that editor or agent my manuscript as soon as I get home, they’ll forget all about me. Not true, especially when you wisely offer a little reminder in the first sentence of your cover letter about how you met. Even if a presenter gives you a teensy window–like six weeks–to submit, take your time. Better to email a glistening, well-groomed manuscript, than to rush yourself and offer a schloppy copy. Your work is a reflection of you. Go for shiny, not speedy.
2. Neglecting your notes–if your notes are handwritten (mine always are), type them up. Seriously. It won’t take long, and while you’re typing, you’ll be reviewing the gems the presenters shared with you. It’ll be easy to highlight the parts that resonate with you too. [Next, pop some brackets around a hint or suggestion that perfectly applies to your WIP and cut/paste it into your ms. to serve as a reminder when you return to that section.] Don’t want to type? Use an old school highlighter or sticky notes to spotlight the bits you most want to recall. Put those pages (or copies of them) in the folder of goodies (research, hard copies, feedback) you’re compiling for this new novel. The idea is to incorporate every epiphany, aha and eureka into what you’re working on now, plus you’ll make them easier to find for future follies, that is to say, novels.
3. Disconnecting with the people who “clicked” with you. Friend them on Facebook, send a follow-up email or connect with them on LinkedIn. Send a text, a tweet or smoke signal, whatever works for you. These are your new peeps who share your passion. Passing on this chance to expand your circle is criminal, okay, well, at the very least, a pity.
4. Cooling off—you arrived home pooped, but positively giddy about a new idea for your WIP, but then your fervor fizzled. Family, your tyrannical to do list and Facebook eclipsed your euphoria. Don’t let them! If you have a critique group (or a beloved writing buddy), share what you learned with them. Talking about the lectures will help to solidify concepts in your mind. Your group/buddy may also be able to help decide out how to best use what you learned (and of course, you can return the favor). Ask someone to hold you accountable and offer to do likewise.
How about you? How do you keep the momentum moving after a workshop or retreat?
It is our choices, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities. ~ J.K. Rowling
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Blog: Young Adult (& Kid's) Books Central (Login to Add to MyJacketFlap)
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Today we're super excited to celebrate the cover reveal for YOUR VOICE IS ALL I HEAR by Leah Scheier, releasing September 1, 2015 from Sourcebooks. Before we get to the cover, here's a note from Leah:
Ready to see?
Scroll, YABCers! Scroll!
Here it is!
*** If you choose to share this image elsewhere, please include a courtesy link back to this page so others can enter Leah's giveaway. Thank you! ***
YOUR VOICE IS ALL I HEAR
April won't let Jonah go without a fight. He’s her boyfriend—her best friend. She’ll do anything to keep him safe. But as Jonah slips into a dark depression, trying to escape the traumatic past that haunts him, April is torn. To protect Jonah, she risks losing everything: family, friends, an opportunity to attend a prestigious music school. How much must she sacrifice? And will her voice be loud enough to drown out the dissenters—and the ones in his head?
About the Author
Leah Scheier is the author of Secret Letters, a historical mystery featuring the daughter of the Great Detective. After finishing up her adventures in Victorian England, Leah moved back to modern times, and currently writes about teens in her hometown of Baltimore. During the day she waves around a pink stethoscope and sheets of Smurf stickers; at night she bangs on her battered computer and drinks too much caffeine. You can visit her website at leahscheier.com or say hi to her on Twitter @leahscheier.
Two winners will each receive a signed copy of YOUR VOICE IS ALL I HEAR (when available).
During each giveaway, we ask entrants a question pertaining to the book. Here is the question they'll be answering in the comments below for extra entries:
What do you think about the cover and synopsis?
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Annecy has selected 199 short film and TV projects for its 2015 edition.Add a Comment
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The cover for The Girl in The Spider’s Web, the fourth installment of the bestselling Millennium series, has been unveiled by The Wall Street Journal.
Swedish writer David Lagercrantz picks up where the late Stieg Larsson left off. Deadline reports that Lagercrantz did not consult “the partial manuscript for a fourth book that the author’s partner, Eva Gabrielsson, reportedly found in his computer.”
According to The Guardian, Quercus Books will publish the United Kingdom edition of this book on August 27th. Click here to watch the book trailer and see the cover art for this title. Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of Penguin Random House, won’t release the American version until September 1st. Follow this link to see the American publisher’s book trailer.Add a Comment
What not to do when using social media.
Blog: Galley Cat (Mediabistro) (Login to Add to MyJacketFlap)
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This character appears in Mo Willems’ Caldecott Honor-winning picture book Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale and the sequel Knuffle Bunny Too. In the past, Willems used to be a resident of this Brooklyn neighborhood.
Here’s more from DNAinfo.com: “The garden is one of several neighborhood upgrades that could receive funding through City Councilman Brad Lander’s participatory budgeting program, which kicks off April 14. Voters in Lander’s 39th District will choose their favorites from a list of 13 possible projects, and the top five vote-getters will split $1.5 million in taxpayer dollars from Lander’s discretionary budget. Now in its fourth year, the citizen-led budgeting initiative has paid for several local improvements that were dreamed up by residents, from new computers at libraries to bathroom renovations at elementary schools.” (via The Mo Willems Blog)Add a Comment
Part of the appeal of NA is that the storylines are about characters who are taking on adult responsibilities for the first time without guidance from their parents. And the storylines generally have a heavy romance element.
Keep this in mind as you revise your wonderful story, New Adult books are mostly about that specific time in every person's life—the time when the apron strings are cut from your parents, you no longer have a curfew, you're experiencing the world for the very first time, in most cases, with innocent eyes. New Adult is this section of your life where you discover who you want to be, what you want to be, and what type of person you will become. This time defines you. This is the time of firsts, the time where you can't blame your parents for your own bad choices.
An NA character has to take responsibility for their own choices and live with the consequences. Most storylines are about twenty-something (18 to 26) characters living their own lives without any parents breathing down their necks, and learning to solve things on their own as they would in real life. New Adult fiction focuses on switching gears, from depending on our parents to becoming full-fledged, independent adults.
I am a firm believer that if you’re going to write a certain genre that you should read it, too. So I’m going to recommend that you start devouring NA novels to get a real sense and understanding of the genre before you write one.
Here are some great recommendations: https://www.goodreads.com/genres/new-adult-romance and http://www.goodreads.com/genres/new-adult and https://www.goodreads.com/shelf/show/new-adult-romance
Just as YA is fiction about teens discovering who they are as a person, New Adult (NA) is fiction about building your own life as an actual adult. As older teen readers discover the joy of the Young Adult genres, the New Adult—demand may increase. This, in turn, would give writers the chance to explore the freedom of a slightly older protagonist (over the age of 18 and out of high school, like the brilliant novel, "BEAUTIFUL DISASTER" by the amazing talents of author, Jamie McGuire) while addressing more adult issues that early 20-year-olds must face.
Quote from Georgia McBride, author (Praefatio) and founder of #YALitChat and publisher at Month9Books: "New Adult is a fabulous idea in theory, and authors seem to be excited about it. But in a world where bookstores shelf by category, to them, it is either Adult or Young Adult. Some booksellers even call their YA section “teen.” And when you have a character who is over a certain age (19 seems to be the age most consider the start of New Adult), it is received as Adult. In some cases, the designation by publishers causes more confusion than not.
Let’s face it, YA is associated with teens, and at 19, most no longer consider themselves teens. So, it would support the theory of placing these “New Adult” titles in the Adult section. However, with the prevalence of eBook content, it would seem that the powers that be could easily create a New Adult category if they really wanted to...."
- Jamie McGuire
- Jessica Park
- Tammara Webber
- Steph Campbell
- Liz Reinhardt
- Abbi Glines
- Colleen Hoover
- Sherry Soule
Does it sound better than YA (teen novels)?
Do you consider YA to include characters that are over the age of eighteen?
Blog: Through the Looking Glass Book Review (Login to Add to MyJacketFlap)
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We often like to think that there is only one side to a story, the side we know and believe in. This is rarely true, and into today's picture book we see how the same story can be very different depending on who is telling that story. Children will be amused by this tale, and hopefully they will also take something away with them after they have read it.
A tale of two beasts
Kane Miller, 2015, 978-1-61067-361-7
One day a little girl is walking home through the woods when she sees a peculiar little beast hanging from a tree. The little beast is “whining sadly,” so the little girl decides to “rescue” the little animal. She takes him home wrapped in her scarf, washes him, dresses him in a sweater and hat, and gives him a bowl of nuts to eat. She takes him for walks and shows him off to her friends. Then the little girl realizes that the little beast is not happy and soon after he runs away, returning to his home in the woods.
One day, a little beast is happily hanging from a tree singing when he is “AMBUSHED by a terrible beast!” The beast ties it up, takes it to her “secret lair” and then proceeds to do unspeakable things to the little beast, things like bathing it, dressing it, and giving is stupid squirrel food to eat. Eventually the little beast comes up with a “cunning plan” and it escapes into the woods before its cruel captor can get her hands on him again.
In this clever book the author tells us the same story from two points of view. First the little girl tells the story, and then the little beast tells the story. They both think the other is a “beast,” and they don’t think very highly of each other either. It is interesting to see how the little girl thinks she is saving the beast, whereas he thinks she is kidnapping, or rather beastnapping, him.
Both the stories are funny, and together they will help children to see that there are always at least two sides to every story. The wonderful thing about both stories is that in the end the two beasts come to an understanding. They see things from slightly different perspectives to be sure, but the end result is a good one for both of them.
Blog: Galley Cat (Mediabistro) (Login to Add to MyJacketFlap)
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Becoming Steve Jobs by Brent Schlender & Rick Tetzeli has debuted on the iBooks bestsellers list this week at No. 2.
Apple has released its top selling books list for paid books from iBooks in the U.S. for week ending March 30, 2015. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins remained at No. 1 and The Stranger by Harlan Coben landed the No 3 slot.
We’ve included Apple’s entire list.
iBooks US Bestseller List – Paid Books 3/30/151. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins – 9780698185395 – (Penguin Publishing Group) 2. Becoming Steve Jobs by Brent Schlender & Rick Tetzeli – 9780385347419 – (The Crown Publishing Group) 3. The Stranger by Harlan Coben – 9780698186200 – (Penguin Publishing Group) 4. The Longest Ride by Nicholas Sparks – 9781455520664 – (Grand Central Publishing) 5. Paper Towns by John Green – 9781101010938 – (Penguin Young Readers Group) 6. NYPD Red 3 by James Patterson & Marshall Karp – 9780316284561 – (Little, Brown and Company) 7. Fifty Shades Darker by E L James – 9781612130590 – (Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group) 8. Fifty Shades Freed by E L James – 9781612130613 – (Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group) 9. Dead Wake by Erik Larson – 9780553446753 – (Crown/Archetype) 10. Fifty Shades of Grey by E L James – 9781612130293 – (Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group) 11. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr – 9781476746609 – (Scribner) 12. Allegiant by Veronica Roth – 9780062209276 – (Katherine Tegen Books) 13. Divergent by Veronica Roth – 9780062077011 – (Katherine Tegen Books) 14. Almost Broken by Portia Moore – No ISBN Available – (Portia Moore) 15. Beautifully Broken by Portia Moore – No ISBN Available – (Portia MOore) 16. The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah – 9781466850606 – (St. Martin’s Press) 17. Dark Places by Gillian Flynn – 9780307459923 – (Crown Publishing Group) 18. Insurgent by Veronica Roth – 9780062114457 – (Katherine Tegen Books) 19. Manwhore by Katy Evans – 9781501101564 – (Gallery Books) 20. Before I Break by Portia Moore – No ISBN Available – (Portia Moore) Add a Comment
Blog: Becky's Book Reviews (Login to Add to MyJacketFlap)
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Bradamante knelt in the mud and cut away all of her hair. Rain peppered her bare scalp. The wind shoved at her in gusts, plastering her wet clothes against her skin. It was stupid, she knew, to kneel here in the storm--even in summer the combination of wet and wind could prove deadly. Her fingers were already wooden from the cold. But she continued working, pulling each new section of hair taut and slicing it away with her hunting knife.
Did I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Robin Brande's Book of Earth? No. I didn't LOVE it. Did I love it enough that I'd want to read more in the series? Yes. In fact, I probably would enjoy them more.
The main focus of Book of Earth is on world-building and introducing the characters. Both are important, essential even. But it had a prologue feel to it, like the real story had yet to begin. That's not to say that the book lacks action or suspense. But most of it comes towards the end.
Bradamante is the heroine of Book of Earth. Is she weak? Is she strong? Is she decisive? Is she impulsive? At the start of the novel, Bradamante has perhaps taken the first step towards her future. Her decision to cut her hair may seem small, but, it's life-changing. That night she has her first vision. (This first vision reminded me of Samuel's calling in the Bible. For those that are interested, you can read about it in 1 Samuel 3.) In the vision, she sees a teacher, Manat, and an older-stronger-wiser self. I believe at the time of the vision, she is twelve, but her older self, her "warrior" self is in her twenties. She listens to what Manat has to say. She's at a crossroads of sorts. She can choose what direction her life will take. She can choose to commit to the warrior-path knowing that it will be difficult and demanding and require tough sacrifices, or, she can remain where she is and take a more passive role. (I hesitate to use the word "victim" here, but, in some ways it might apply. Since most readers can guess this will not be her choice, I'm not sure if it matters.) Bradamante chooses to become a warrior: to begin her training. But this training is unique. For it occurs NIGHTLY in her visions. She's training for the future while she sleeps. She wakes and plays instructor for her brother, Rinaldo. I'll be honest: these visions add strangeness to the novel. I wasn't sure, at the beginning, who Manat was, if she was a real person, or a spirit. Her brother also had some doubts about "Manat." Is his sister crazy? Why is she suddenly having all these strange dreams or "visions"? How does she know what she knows? Bradamante's biggest fear--at first--is that her new life will take her away from her brother. She is hoping that it WILL take her far, far away from her mother, however. But in her reckoning, the perfect life would take both of them far, far away, and they'd be together and both strong warriors.
Things don't go as Bradamante would wish. To say the least! And there's a dark, cruelty to the world Brande has created in Book of Earth. There were definitely scenes that brought the Bible to mind once again. (Genesis 19 and Judges 19). I'm struggling with how much to reveal--in general. How much is too much in a review? I will add this perhaps. There comes a time when Bradamante's training moves from nightly visions to reality. In other words, she begins to physically train and do battle with other would-be warriors. She continues to learn from Manat, Samual, and others. Not just how to do battle or how to survive, but, more meaning-of-life, philosophical, spiritual stuff.
The world Brande has created definitely has a spiritual side to it. But it isn't exactly a spirituality that one would recognize or distinguish as being "Christian". There isn't one God. In fact, lower-case "g" throughout. And all the talk is of each person finding and listening to their god. There isn't any one message to be spread or taught either. In fact, in quite a few places, it's stressed that what happens between a person and their god is private and personal and just for them. That being said, Bradamante's message from her god comes almost straight from the Bible--Jeremiah 1:5. Before I formed you in the womb I knew you. Before you were born I set you apart. That is the message Bradamante's god gives her along with: Do not be afraid. I have called you to this life. Do not be afraid. Be strong in body. Strong in mind. Strong in heart. And know that I am with you.
Book of Earth kept me reading. Even if I didn't always "like" a particular scene. (Intense scenes can make me uncomfortable in the moment. I want to know what happens, if characters get out of a situation. But until they do--I have an almost hate-to-look reaction.) For the most part, I cared about the characters and thought they were well-developed. (Jara and Astolpho are other characters I came to care about.) The world she created was interesting. Not one I'd like to visit, mind you, but interesting all the same. I do want to know what happens next.
© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews Add a Comment
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