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1. Chicken Cheeks

I took a punt ordering children’s picture book Chicken Cheeks while on my everlasting quest to find great books about chickens. I am, after all, far from being in the book’s target audience. It was the title and the cover image that sold me. I mean, who can go past the words ‘chickens’ and ‘cheeks’ […]

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2. Illustrator Saturday – Leeza Hernandez

leeza_johnlithgow

Leeza Hernandez is an award-winning illustrator and children’s book author, hails from the south of England, but has been living in New Jersey since 1999. In 2004 she switched from newspaper and magazine design to children’s books, and hasn’t looked back. With a few books now under her belt, she’s currently working on three new projects: a follow up to Dog Gone! called Cat Napped; a sequel to Eat Your Math Homework called Eat Your Science Homework, other released this year. In 2013 she illustrated a picture book written by acclaimed actor and author John Lithgow. Follow Leeza on Twitter @leezaworks. She also took over my place as the Regional Advisor for the New Jersey SCBWI chapter and is doing a great job.

Below is Leeza at six years old with her cat Minnie Weasle!

Leezawcat

Here is Leeza explaining her process:

The cover of Never Play Music Right Next to the Zoo took a fair amount of working out—between not giving too much away and showing to little that it looked too vague. The images show a handful of the different covers that were sketched up, then the progression of the final color cover.

Adobe Photoshop PDF

These are the thumbnail sketches for the book layout.

Adobe Photoshop PDF

Because there were so many animals in Never Play Music Right Next to the Zoo, I kept all my research pictures organized in a jumbo ring binder.

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But, no matter how hard I looked, I just couldn’t find an image of a yak playing a sax so had to use some creative license!

CreativeReference

Below you can see the process of the cover art.

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Below is an up close look at the final cover.

never play music

What caused you to move from the UK to the US?

Work. I took an art director position at a newspaper in the late 90s which was the field I worked in back then.

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When did you decide you wanted to illustrate for children?

It wasn’t a conscious decision really, but in the early 2000s I discovered Illustration Friday (www.illustrationfriday.com)—a great source of inspiration but also a way to help you create illustrations for yourself based upon a weekly word prompt. Browsing through the site, one link led to another and I eventually landed at SCBWI (www.scbwi.org) and that was that!

Leeza_IF_wisdom400

This image was created for the Illustration Friday prompt “Wisdom” and received an American Illustration selection back in the early 2000s. I added it to my portfolio among a handful of painted images and it was what art directors responded to the most. I was encouraged to create more!

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What was the first picture book that you illustrated? And how did that contract come your way?

Eat Your Math Homework was the first trade picture book I was hired to illustrate, which came about after attending a Rutgers One-on-One Plus conference (ruccl.org). I met an editor at the luncheon who took my promo postcard away with her and about six months later the designer reached out to my agent asking if I was available-yay!

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How did you connect with John Lithgow to illustrate his book, Never Play Music Right Next to the Zoo ?

I was asked to do some samples (along with some other illustrators) for a book written by a ‘high-profile’ author but I didn’t know who it was until I found out I was picked for the project. It was all very mysterious and exciting!

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Have you met John Lithgow?

Yes, he’s lovely. We launched the book together in New York, it was so much fun. He sang his songs. I spared the audience and did not sing!

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How long did you have to illustrate Never Play Music Right Next to the Zoo?

This was one of the quickest turnaround books I have worked on and it was 40 pages. From initial sketches, through revisions and to final art was a little less than eight months total.

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I see you illustrated a second book with Ann McCallum this year, titled Eat Your Science Homework. Did you sign a two-book deal when you illustrated Eat Your Math Homework in 2011?

No two-book deal. It was simply an organic progression. Ann had an idea and submitted her proposal for the science book and a few months after they acquired the manuscript, Charlesbridge asked if I’d
illustrate it.

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Will there be a third book with Ann?

Yes! Eat Your U.S. History Homework is due to release in late 2015.

eat your math homework

I am assuming that Cat Napped! published by G. P. Putnam’s Sons came about due to the previous book you wrote and illustrated titled, Dog Gone! Can you tell us the story behind these two books?

Back in 2009 I won the Tomie de Paola portfolio award at the New York SCBWI conference—which was amazing. As a result, I was invited in to the Penguin offices to meet with an editor, publisher and art director and they looked at my work as well as a sample and manuscript for Dog Gone! and they took it. I was beyond thrilled and so, so grateful for the opportunity.

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During the time I worked on Dog Gone! I had this idea that I wanted to create a cat book in the same vein and I already had the title Cat Napped! noodling around in my head, but it took a while to flesh out the story. I remember having submitted the story along with a couple of other ideas to the editor and right after Dog Gone! released they took it.

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Have any of the books you worked on won any awards?

Eat Your Science Homework was awarded a 2014 Junior Library Guild selection—awesomesauce!

eat your mathinterior

Do you have plans to write and illustrate another book?

Hahaha, yes of course! I hope I never stop.

leeza-rabbitscropped

What do you consider your first big success?

Wow, that’s a tough question. I’m not sure I can measure one big success that easily. Having a book published is amazing, but I also consider the ever-evolving process as a series of successful stepping-
stones and I do a little happy dance each time I move to the next one—because they all teach me something about myself and/or my work. Creative folks are such sensitive creatures and it can be
intimidating to put our work out there in front of people, so each time we are brave and face our fears head on, that’s a success. Actually, when I attended a SCBWI conference for the first time, I was so overwhelmed I almost didn’t go back the next day—so I’d say not giving up right off the bat was my first big success!

PencilOnArches

For pencil work, I use 2H, HB, 2B and 5 or 6B pencils on Arches hotpress 140lb paper.

PencilOnArches2What is on the drawing board now?

My schedule has been a little nuts lately so I am taking a rest-of-the-year break and finally getting around to updating my website, which has been somewhat neglected.

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Do you ever use Corel Painter or Photoshop when illustrating?

I ‘collage’ in Photoshop. I take all the pieces that I create by hand, scan them in, then slice ‘n’ dice them into a final illustration. I think of Photoshop as my digital scissors and glue, but I don’t actually illustrate with Photoshop if that makes sense, like, I’m not drawing or painting digitally using brushes and filters.

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Do you own a graphic tablet?

No. If you mean a Cintiq or Wacom, that is. I’ve seen them in action though, wow!

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Is there one thing that you did or happened that you feel really pushed your career to the next level?

I joined SCBWI. So far, this has been an amazing journey of education, connections, opportunities, projects and rewards, but it all started with this incredible organization that continues to play a role—LOVE SCBWI!

Hernandez_Wolf

Do you take pictures or other research before you start a project?

Before and during—yes. Having reference material gives me a much better understanding of what I am drawing than simply imagining. I like to begin by drawing realistically before I think about characterizing for a book because it gives me an accurate sense of anatomy, behavior, body language, etc., even though they’re very loose drawings. There were a number of animals in Never Play Music Right Next to the Zoo that I hadn’t drawn before, so I filled a ring binder with reference just for that project.

lhernandez_wolf

The original pick-up truck for Cat Napped! was a struggle, but after sharing with my editor, we realized it was too square and modern, so I went back and researched vintage trucks from the 40s and 50s. The end result was a bit of a hybrid but its softer, curvier edges suited the tone of the book far better than the angular truck I had originally drawn.

LeezaHernandez_Blog

The internet is a powerful tool—National Geographic (nationalgeographic.com), Nat Geo Kids (kids.nationalgeographic.com), NASA (nasa.gov), and Pinterest (pinterest.com) are some of my favorites but discipline is key. The amount of research I do depends upon the project but I have to be careful with the amount of time I spend researching versus creating the art.

leezaillustration1

I use a timer to stay on top of it. And even if I am not researching for a particular project, I carry a sketchbook with me and either have my phone or camera for taking any pictures. Inspiration strikes when I least expect it so I like to be as prepared as possible.

dog

Have you found most art directors and editors give you a lot of freedom when illustrating a book? Do they want to be involved all the way through the process?

Once, I was given very specific art notes for an educational book but the turnaround time was tight, so the notes were helpful for me to jump right in. I’ve received minimal notes for nonfiction projects if there was a point that needed to be demonstrated visually for some specific text. For example: the Homework books sometimes have charts.

leezadg_originalsample

For the fictional projects, I’m pretty much left to it for the first round of sketches, then the art director and/or editor and I discuss together. Sometimes, I’ll offer up additional sketch options for a handful of spreads if I have lots of ideas and can’t decide which direction to go. There can be a lot of back and forth on the cover, though.

leeza

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

My art materials—pencils, brushes, paper, inks, sketchbooks—I’d be kinda lost without them!

leeza in and outcropped

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

Yes, even if it’s only for ten minutes, that’s my rule.

leezaDG_lastSpreadFinal

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

To travel, keep making art, and continue creating books for young readers—that would be lovely!

leeza rock bandcropped

Thank you Leeza haring your journey and process with us. Can’t wait to see your career go forward. You can visit Leeza at her website: http://www.leezaworks.com to see more of her work.

If you have a moment I am sure Leeza would love to read your comments. I enjoy them too. Thanks!

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Filed under: Advice, authors and illustrators, How to, illustrating, Illustrator's Saturday, inspiration, Interview, picture books, Process Tagged: John Lithgow, Leeza Hernandez, Never Play Music Right Next to the Zoo

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3. The literature and history of Chaucer

To read Chaucer today is, in some measure, to read him historically. For instance, when the poet tells us in the ‘General Prologue’ to the Canterbury Tales that the Knight’s crusading experiences include service with the Teutonic Order in ‘Lettow’ (i.e. Lithuania), comprehension of the literal sense or denotation of the text requires some knowledge of fourteenth-century institutions, ideas and events. More generally, discussions of whether the Knight’s crusading activities are being held up for approval or disapproval in the ‘General Prologue’ (i.e., of the text’s connotations), are likely to cite the various, and sometimes conflicting, ways in which the morality of crusading, and in particular of campaigns mounted by the Teutonic Order against the Lithuanians, were regarded in Chaucer’s own day.

Certainly modern literary critics, influenced by Marxism, feminism, post-structuralism, new historicism, post-colonialism and cultural materialism, have adopted historical and sociological approaches to literary works from the past and have insisted on the need to read medieval literature in its historical context. Whereas the works of canonical authors such as Chaucer were once admired because they were seen to speak to ‘us’ across the centuries about some timeless ‘human condition’, their works are now likely to be seen as interventions in the social, political and ideological conflicts of their day. Medieval literary texts have thus come to be understood as instances of, in Helen Barr’s words, ‘social language practice’, being to some extent determined by contemporary social structures, institutions, conventions and behaviour but also, in turn, participating in them and even influencing them.

This historical approach to literature has been particularly evident in the field of Chaucer studies. As a result of the influence of scholars such as David Aers, Stephen Knight, Paul Strohm, Lee Patterson, Peggy Knapp, and David Wallace, Chaucer’s work has come to be read ‘socio-historically’, as an engagement with the social and political problems and ideological conflicts of the late fourteenth century. For those who proceed in this way, the context needed for understanding the Canterbury Tales is not only other literary texts of this period, such as Langland’s Piers Plowman or Gower’s Confessio Amantis, but also documentary sources of the day, such as Richard II’s 1387 proclamation against slander or the 1382 letters in which aldermen of the city of London were accused of treason at the time of the Peasants’ Revolt.

Portrait_of_Chaucer_-_Portrait_and_Life_of_Chaucer_(16th_C),_f.1_-_BL_Add_MS_5141
Image credit: Portrait of Chaucer, 16th century by the British Library. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Nonetheless, the popularity of historicist approaches to Chaucer’s work has by no means led to agreement about the poet’s social or moral outlook. On the contrary, as Helen Cooper said, there is ‘probably less of a critical consensus’ about Chaucer’s meaning and purpose ‘than for any other English writer’. Three main approaches to Chaucer’s social meaning can be identified, even though any one of them may be adopted by scholars writing from a wide range of theoretical perspectives and deploying many different critical vocabularies. Firstly, are those critics who regard Chaucer’s views as being essentially in accord with conventional medieval defences of social inequality. Here Chaucer’s crusading Knight would be seen as an ideal representative of the estate of ‘those who fight’ and, along with the Parson and Ploughman, as providing a yardstick by which to measure the other pilgrims and the extent to which they perform their proper social functions, put the common good before their own immediate pleasure or profit, and live in harmony with their fellows. Secondly, there are those who adopt the opposite view, discerning a more radical Chaucer, one who highlights the inadequacies of traditional social morality and who offers a challenge to ‘official’ conceptions of the prevailing order. Here Chaucer’s description of the Knight would be seen as challenging traditional chivalric ideals or as questioning the validity of the crusades. Thirdly, there are those who consider Chaucer’s work to be in some way open-ended and so as allowing the members of its audience to make up their own minds about the moral questions – for instance, about the Knight’s willingness to kill in the name of religion – which it raises.

Yet, despite this well-established ‘historical turn’ in literary studies, medieval historians have generally been loath to turn their hands to interpretation of works of imaginative literature from the Middle Ages. Perhaps it is now time for historians to respond to the interdisciplinary approaches which literary critics have pioneered? If we need an historical approach to make sense of Chaucer’s meaning, perhaps historians themselves have something to contribute to the debates about the social meaning of the Canterbury Tales which have so engaged literary critics? In the past, medieval historians have often taken a rather naive approach to works of imaginative literature, asking to what extent Chaucer’s pilgrims constitute accurate ‘reflections’ of the social reality of the time or seeking ‘real-life models’ for the pilgrims amongst the people with whom Chaucer was (or may have been) acquainted. If they are to contribute anything of value to current debates about Chaucer’s social meaning, they will need a need a sensitivity to the specifically literary nature of his texts, including his medieval conceptions of satire and irony and the ways in which his work adapted traditional literary stereotypes and generic conventions. Literary critics have offered us the possibility of a dialogue between the disciplines; it is now up to historians to respond to this invitation, to familiarise themselves with the scholarship in the field and to offer their own assessment of Chaucer’s engagement with the ideology of his time.

Headline image credit: The Canterbury Pilgrims Copper engraving printed on paper. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

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4. ‘Strange Magic’ Has Something That Resembles a Trailer

There are bad trailers, and then there's this incomprehensible thing promoting "Strange Magic," an animated feature that feels like Blue Sky's "Epic" produced by the people who made "Delgo."

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5. Mabati-Cornell Kiswahili Prize for African Literature

       Yes, "Major New Prize for African Literature Announced", the Mabati-Cornell Kiswahili Prize for African Literature, and that's certainly very welcome.
       Apparently:

The prize recognizes excellent writing in African languages and encourages translation from, between and into African languages.
       Which is certainly admirable -- though excellent writing in African languages might be easier to recognize if the prize weren't restricted to just one of them ... (as the prize is for: "the best unpublished manuscripts or books in Kiswahili published within two years of the award year").
       Still, as (Gikuyu-writing author) Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o notes:
Prizes have generally been used to drown African Literature in African languages under a Europhone flood. [...] I hope that this prize becomes an invitation for other African languages to do the same and much more.
       (There are/have been some (generally regional/national prizes) honoring work in African languages, but this looks like the grandest in scale to date; the money is good too)
       Let's hope prizes in other major African languages follow suit -- though the real dream is, of course, to finally see a truly pan-African prize in which submissions can be in any language.

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6. Hot Butterbeer Now Sold at Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Universal Orlando announced today that in addition to cold, frozen, and ice cream flavor guests at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter can now drink butterbeer the way it was written in the books: hot!

Just in time for winter, this delicious new addition has the same alluring flavors of butterscotch and shortbread that have been so popular in the colder varieties. But the top-secret recipe has been fine-tuned just the right way to make it perfect as a hot treat.

Hot butterbeer can be found at Three Broomsticks and the Hog’s Head Pub on the Hogsmeade side, and at the Leaky Cauldron, the Hopping Pot, and the Fountain of Fair Fortune on the Diagon Alley side. You can read more here.

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7. Feedback Request


The author of Kingdom of Fire (Face-Lift 1237) has sent a new revision, and requests our input.

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8. FINDING MY VOICE by Adèle Geras

(This post appeared first on a blog called The Great British Bookshop. I'm very grateful to them for permission to publish it here again. Adele Geras)


It's been nearly eight years since I published a novel for adults. This is not because I've been lying around on sofas, eating peeled grapes, but because things have got in the way of my writing. These are both personal (moving from Manchester to Cambridge after living in the former for 46 years, my husband's last illness and death and so forth) and professional.
I haven't been idle.  Children's books have appeared during this time, but since A Hidden Life, I haven't published a novel for adults. And that's mainly because this particular novel, Cover your Eyes, has given me more trouble in the writing than any other of my books.  On the face of it, there's no obvious reason for this. I had the germ of the story right from the beginning, but in the first and second drafts and the subsequent fiddlings and fossickings that went on once the novel had actually been written, there were many different things to get right.
The first was that I needed to create convincing voices and stories for each of my heroines.  I like having more than one heroine in my books, and I enjoy going from one point of view to the other. Perhaps this is to stop myself from becoming tired of the single vision throughout, but it's also I think, (and hope!) a way of appealing to readers of different ages. The first thing you have to get right is the language. I made the decision early on to have Megan's sections in the first person, and that meant that the words had to be ones that were suitable for a young woman of 29. Eva's part of the story is in the third person, (a sort of modified form, which is really her point of view).
Also, I enjoy writing about the past. I blog on a site called The History Girls, which is for writers of historical fiction, and I count myself as one of those.  I like going back in time and to this end, I have always put a character who is about 75 or 80 years old in my novels to provide a view of the past. In my first adult novel, Facing the Light, (now only available as an e book from Quercus) the whole action of the novel takes place during the 75th birthday celebrations of my heroine, Leonora. Her memories of childhood, and of being young and middle-aged were layered into the narrative, and I wrote all seven of these 'past' bits first, before writing the rest of the book. I then slotted them into their appropriate positions at the end.
In Cover your Eyes, my elderly heroine is Eva, and she came to England in 1938 on the Kindertransport.  She has a secret that she has revealed to no one, and she is haunted, quite literally, by a ghost about whom she has never said a word.  She used to be a famous dress designer and she meets the other heroine of the novel, who's a journalist, when the latter (Megan), comes to interview her for a fashion magazine.  Eva's narrative is intercut with memories of times from her past, in the manner that I used in Facing the Light, but in this novel, I wrote the sections in the past as I went along.  Megan is recovering from being dumped by her married lover. Eva is sad because her beautiful home, Salix House, is going to be sold.  Stuff happens, and Megan ends up living in Eva's house, where she becomes aware of a certain strangeness - she sees and hears things that she can't explain.
I won't say more; I don't like spoiling the plot, but I hope that everyone who reads the book enjoys it. It went through several incarnations because it's very hard to weave a supernatural element into a typical 'women's fiction' story. I hope that there are things in this book which resonate with lovers of historical fiction* too. Even though only small sections of the actual story take place in the past, I like to think that what happened to Eva when she was four and came to England for the first time, tinges the book and gives it its flavour, rather like the Angostura in a drink of gin and bitters.
 * I have also written a children's book about the Kindertransport, called A Candle in the Dark, published by A&C Black, which is suitable for readers of seven and upwards.

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9. Cake Massacre, ‘Penguins of Madagascar’ Edition

Following the grueling completion of each DreamWorks animated feature, the company's employees engage in a ritualistic cake sacrifice ceremony.

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10. The Making of Glen Keane’s ‘Duet’ (Video)

Google's ATAP group has released a mini-featurette about the making of Glen Keane's short "Duet," which was released earlier this week in its intended interactive version.

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11. Slowly learning to use new features

Some attempts at a playful use of new options in SA V5
The hillside scene represents a whole different approach to vector art for me.





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12. Six questions with Amy DeRogatis

In her new book, Amy DeRogatis explores a relatively untouched topic: evangelicals and sexuality. While many may think that evangelicals are anti-sex, DeRogatis argues that this could not be further from the truth. We sat down with the author of Saving Sex: Sexuality and Salvation in American Evangelicalism to learn more about her research into the topic.

How did you become interested in this topic?

My interest in this topic began when I was asked a question by a student in my Religion and Gender class at Michigan State University (MSU). In the course we had been reading a book that discussed some ritual practices around marital sexuality in Orthodox Judaism. One student raised her hand and asked, “Where do Christians go to read about the proper ways to have sex?” Knowing the student, I understood that she didn’t mean all Christians; she was referring specifically to evangelicals. I made a quick reply about evangelicals publishing lots of material about how not to have sex and returned to the topic of discussion. The question stuck with me and after class I ran a few Internet searches for Christian sex manuals, and I found some Catholic writings. I then refined the search to evangelical sex manuals, and although I was unable to find any secondary material, such as a scholarly article that surveyed and analyzed the literature, I did eventually find lots of primary sources. I was astonished to discover that Special Collections in the Main Library at MSU had a large collection of these publications. Within a week of hearing the student’s question, I was in the library reading evangelical sex manuals, and I was hooked.

How do you define “evangelical” in this book?

That is a great question. There has been much debate among scholars about how to define evangelicalism and whether there is even a cohesive category under which we can talk about and study evangelicals. I adopt a very broad definition. I define evangelicals as Protestants who affirm the necessity of individual spiritual rebirth. Evangelicals emphasize personal conversion, the authority of Scripture, the imminent return of Christ, and the desire to spread the gospel. Evangelicals express their theological beliefs through daily practices such as prayer, Bible study, refraining from sinful behavior and furthering what is often called “their walk with Christ.”

Sexuality is a huge topic. Is there anything you planned to write about that you didn’t include in the book?

Yes, of course. The first question I usually am asked about is why I focus on heterosexuality in my book. Originally I had planned to write a chapter on prescriptive literature about same-sex desires and practices. There are a few recent books that do an excellent job of examining this issue (here I’ll just mention two: Tanya Erzen’s, Straight to Jesus and Lynne Gerber’s The Straight and Narrow) and I felt that I did not have much to add to or improve their excellent analyses. When I wrote the book proposal I was imagining a chapter on LGBTQ evangelicals and their writings about sexuality. But, as the project developed, I focused in on conservative evangelicals, and to me, what is one of the fascinating points that evangelical sex writers are deeply concerned with monitoring and regulating heterosexual sex.

What do you think is the biggest misconception about evangelicals and sexuality?

The biggest misconception is that evangelicals are anti-sex. They are not. Contrary to popular stereotypes that characterize conservative Christians as prudes, since the 1960s evangelicals have been engaged in an enterprise to claim and affirm the joys of sex for married born-again Christians. Rather than turning away from the sexual liberation movement, they have simply made it their own by publishing sex manuals, running sex workshops, and holding counseling sessions to aid married evangelicals achieve sexual satisfaction. The sex publications are distinct from secular sex manuals in their exclusive focus on heterosexuality, the assumption of virginity prior to marriage, the role of the Bible as a reliable guide for sexual pleasure, and the emphasis on understanding and maintaining traditional gender roles as a requirement for “true” sexual satisfaction. The authors go to great lengths to suggest techniques for sexual pleasure and argue that marital sexual pleasure is biblical and good marital sex is a sign of faithfulness and a testimony to others. It is true—evangelical publications do not promote all forms of human sexuality. It is also true that within heterosexual marriage, sexual pleasure, according to these manuals, is part of God’s plan for humanity. So, no, evangelicals are not anti-sex.

How do you think this work will influence your scholarly field?

First and foremost, I hope that my book will put the study of evangelical sexuality on the scholarly agenda. Before I began publishing my research on evangelicals and sexuality there were very few scholarly essays about evangelicals and sexuality. The most compelling writings were focused on evangelical responses to same-sex desires and practices, not on heterosexuality. There were some popular magazine articles and a couple of books written by scholars outside of the field of religious studies that primarily focused on gender or sexuality and discussed evangelical sexual writings and practices as part of a larger project. While there are numerous excellent monographs on American evangelicals and gender, I am not aware of anyone who has written a scholarly study of American evangelical popular prescriptive literature about heterosexual practices. The one exception would be a few monographs that examine adolescent sexuality and the purity movement. I hope that my book will influence future scholars to take up the topic and investigate areas that I do not consider in this book. I know that there are a few dissertations in the works that focus on social media, more controversial sexual practices, a specific figure (Mark Driscoll currently is a favorite), as well as a few sociological and anthropological studies that consider the effects of the prescriptive literature I examine on the lives of everyday believers. Beyond my topic, I hope my book will inspire other scholars who study religion to take seriously popular literature about embodied practices and the role of the senses in the construction and maintenance of religious identity.

What was the last book you read for pleasure that you would recommend to others?

Dear Committee Members: A Novel by Julie Schumacher.

Image credit: “Chastity Ring” by Rlmabie. CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

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13. Comics Illustrator of the Week :: Nimit Malavia

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DC/Vertigo’s long running title Fables has been a showcase for some of the top illustrators working in comics, today. One of the shining stars to contribute covers to the series(as well as a recent interior story) is artist Nimit Malavia. His dynamic yet delicate illustrations portray a strong sense of mood/color existing in a deep field of depth. While looking at them, you literally feel like you could fall into the page(or screen, if you prefer digital)!

Nimit’s work graces the walls of Shopify’s offices(as pictured above), and he’s done commercial work for high profile clients like 20th Century Fox, DC, and Marvel Comics, just to name a few.

Iam8bit in Los Angeles, CA is currently featuring Nimit’s art, along with 39 other artists, for a show called Sequel, where artists create movie poster art for imaginary sequels(Cowboy Bebop:The Movie was Nimit’s contribution).

You can explore more of Nimit Malavia’s art, and keep up with the latest news on his website here.

For more comics related art, you can follow me on my website comicstavern.com - Andy Yates

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14. Captain No Beard and the Aurora Borealis, by Carole P. Roman | Book Giveaway

Enter to win a full autographed set of the Captain No Beard series, by award-winning author Carole P. Roman; including the newest title Captain No Beard and the Aurora Borealis! Giveaway begins November 22, 2014, at 12:01 A.M. PST and ends December 21, 2014, at 11:59 P.M. PST.

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15. The Buying Frenzy

The buying frenzy has begun
And every store’s competing.
You’d better hurry up; these discount
Prices will be fleeting.

For those of us who hate to shop
‘Cause holidays demand it,
It doesn’t pay to moan about
How much we cannot stand it.

If we were smart we could have bought
Our presents months ago,
But good intentions somehow buck
Against the status quo.

And so we venture into stores
Among the crowds that crush
With pledges to ourselves next year
We’ll beat the Christmas rush.

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16. WINTER LIGHT

It's getting colder in Rhode Island and each day seems to pass in the blink of an eye. I've been keeping busy in my free time, spending it either reading books (currently Bill Nye's newest), comics (Bravest Warriors is a new fun favorite), or watching documentaries and educational programing via PBS, Netflix, Hulu, and YouTube while I work on new doodle paintings.

I have one more small craft show coming up on December 6th (Blackstone River Theatre's Holiday Fair). It's the last show I have lined up at the moment so it seems a nice time to wrap up the doodles for a while so I can dive back into developing (and perhaps writing) my story idea.

Generally, during the cold months I tend to go into a hibernation mode, wanting very little to leave the house after sundown except for occasional trips to the movies. I've seen Interstellar [twice], and Big Hero Six---both excellent. Interstellar was just about everything I imagined and hoped it would be, namely epic and beautiful and emotionally moving and ambitious and mind bending, while at the same time different (enough) in plot from my own. There are many components of the story that overlap but thankfully there's still enough unexplored in my idea that continues to push me forward conceiving my own epic space odyssey.

I certainly haven't been able to get enough of space related stuff since I began this project a year and a half ago and I'm fairly certain the obsession won't let up any time soon. I'm also fairly confident that there's room for yet another space exploration story in the world...

Anyway, as I mentioned, I don't want to leave the house when it's cold which has a nice bi-product of increased productivity. Staying in = working longer = getting more done. I'm quite content to "work" until late each night since there isn't much else happening to distract me. This has resulted in several new doodles in progress, including this one just finished this evening.

"Winter Light" is the final installment in my "Four Seasons" series.




I really do love the doodle painting process, and while it will always be part of me, I suspect I'm using it now more as a diversion from tackling the things that scare me most---and that truly matter to me and my ambitions. I don't so much miss illustrating but I miss the idea of actively pursuing a career I want. When I close my eyes and imagine my dream job, it's working in a studio writing and illustrating my own picture books. So why is it that I'm not working towards this every day?

Perhaps it's time to really consider my priorities and find a way to tend to all the branches of my creative tree---including pruning those that aren't what and where I truly want to be growing...

All in all, I am extremely grateful to be in a position where I have the luxury of contemplating what I want to be when I grow up. I just don't want to miss my chance to make something of myself.

No better day than today, no better time than now. The winter light is fading. Better get to work.

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17. Captain No Beard and the Aurora Borealis, by Carole P. Roman | Dedicated Review

In the latest installment to Carole P. Roman’s award-wining series, Captain No Beard and his crew are heading in the direction of the North Star. This time they’re on a journey that the captain’s team is not so keen on joining—Captain No Beard has plans to take something without asking permission.

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18. So busy-

 AHH,  I've been so busy working up my Work in Progress for a new Easy Reader Series. Yes, it is coming along so well. And since I've fallen in love with my characters, I've decided to get them out of my head and onto my sketch pad. The dummys are almost done.

So  please be patient with me as I finish up.
Here are a few tips I ran across from  The Editor's Blog to help me with this project. Lots of great tips.             





So be patient with me as I finish up.

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19. SkADaMo 2014 Day 18

stink 2


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20. ‘Mouse in Transition’: Disney Dead-Ends and Lucrative Mexican Caterpillars (Chapter 12)

Steve Hulett on everything from "Winnie the Pooh and a Day for Eeyore" to "Katy Caterpillar."

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21. 2014 November PAD Chapbook Challenge: Day 22

For today’s prompt, write a release poem. Maybe somebody’s being released from prison or a contract. Maybe a person is signing a release form. There’s emotional and physical release. Animals capturing and releasing other animals. Trees releasing leaves in autumn. And so on.

*****

2015 Poet's Market

2015 Poet’s Market

Get your poetry published!

Learn how to get your poetry published with the premiere book on publishing your poetry: the 2015 Poet’s Market, edited by Robert Lee Brewer.

This essential resource includes hundreds of listings for book publishers, magazines, journals, contests, grants, and so much more. Plus, there are articles on the craft of poetry, business of poetry, and promotion of poetry. Beyond that, there’s an hour-long webinar, a subscription to the poetry slice of WritersMarket.com, original poems, poet interviews, resources galore, and more-more-more!!!

Click to continue.

*****

Here’s my attempt at a Release poem:

“in words, no”

but I’m afraid your actions have
provided enough reasons that I

feel you could never truly ever
care for more than money. I sought

the city for small examples of your
charity, but I found no release.

*****

roberttwitterimageRobert Lee Brewer is Senior Content Editor of the Writer’s Digest Writing Community and author of the poetry collection, Solving the World’s Problems (Press 53). He edits Poet’s Market, Writer’s Market, and Guide to Self-Publishing, in addition to writing a free weekly WritersMarket.com newsletter and poetry column for Writer’s Digest magazine.

His golden shovel today was taken from a fairly popular Christmas story (and since I can’t find the book, it may be slightly paraphrased). If you can name the story, you get one point. Two points if you can pinpoint the exchange.

Follow him on Twitter @robertleebrewer.

*****

Find more poetic goodies here:

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22. Promo Friday: On-line Holiday Book Fair Next Weekend

The 10-Minute Novelist writers' community will be running a Holiday Book Fair on Facebook starting November 28th, Black Friday. Dozens of authors are scheduled to take part, posting sales links to their books, organized in seventeen categories. I'll be there with Saving the Planet and perhaps one or more of my other eBooks.

The sale starts November 28th and runs through Wednesday, December 3.

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23. Cundill Prize in Historical Literature

       Just three weeks ago I noted that The Blood Telegram: Nixon, Kissinger and A Forgotten Genocide, by Gary Bass, had picked up the Asia Society Bernard Schwartz Book Award, and now it has picked up the next (and even more remunerative) honor, winning the Cundill Prize in Historical Literature -- a Canadian prize (that pays out in US dollars -- a tidy 75,000 for the winner).
       See the Vintage publicity page for the book, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.

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24. Martha Brockbrough Shares The Scoop on The Writers' Roundtable Intensive

Check out this very informative post, The Benefits of A Writers' Roundtable, by author and team blog member Martha Brockenbrough. In it, Martha tells us about the Writers Roundtable Intensive at the upcoming 2015 SCBWI Winter Conference in New York City, February 6-8.



In addition to sharing what happened to her four years ago at the roundtable, Martha is now the intensive's moderator, and shares her thoughts on how to maximize this remarkable opportunity.

Illustrate and Write On,
Lee

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25. Music and Movement at the Library

This past summer, the Fayetteville Free Library (FFL) offered several new early literacy programs targeted at improving family health and nutrition. Perhaps the most popular of these were our “Music and Movement” programs for infants through preschoolers. We know that music and movement are important at every stage of a child’s development, and can be made applicable for children who are at different stages. We were especially interested in creating new ways to engage families with babies and toddlers, and this series provided a fun, dynamic way to do that. In fact, libraries are well positioned to provide access to music and movement opportunities for children. As children’s librarians we already sing, clap, and engage in dramatic play through action rhymes in our storytimes. And while there might be other businesses that offer these types of programs, we found that they are often expensive and cost prohibitive to some families. I don’t claim to be a music educator, but I do think that, as librarians, we can instill in children a love of music in much the same way that we encourage a love of reading.

So why is it important to offer a music and movement program? Research shows that “movement education is basic physical education that emphasizes fundamental motor skills and concepts such as body and spatial awareness, but that it is also a philosophy of physical education in that it is success-oriented, child-centered, and non-competitive”  (Pica, emphasis mine). We also know that childhood obesity rates in American are at an all time high. Music and movement programs not only aid a child’s physical development, they help children “feel good about their movement abilities, [thus] they are more likely to make physical activity part of their lives” (Pica). An active lifestyle is essential for a child’s overall physical fitness and health.

Benefits to Movement

  • There are many obvious physical benefits to movement, including cardiovascular endurance, muscular strength, muscular endurance, flexibility, and body composition.
  • Children need 60 minutes of play with moderate to vigorous activity every day to grow up to a healthy weight (letsmove.gov).
  • Movement also has social and emotional benefits, as it helps children unleash creativity through physical expression like dance. Certain games and activities can also teach them cooperation and help them work together with peers and adults.
  • Finally, movement also helps children develop cognitively; “studies have proven that they especially acquire knowledge experientially–through play, experimentation, exploration, and discovery.  Though a developmentally appropriate movement program, instructors can help nurture the bodily/kinesthetic intelligence possessed in varying degrees, by all children” (Pica).

Benefits of Music

  • Music is vital to the development of language and listening skills. We know from Every Child Read to Read that singing is an important early literacy practice, and is a key way children learn about language.
  • Music’s melody and rhythmic patterns help develop memory, which is why it’s easier to remember song lyrics than prose text. This is why we learn our ABC’s in a song.
  • Music engages the brain, stimulating neural pathways that are associated with higher forms of intelligence such as empathy and mathematics. (National Association for Music Education)
  • Music and language arts both consist of symbols and ideas; when the two are used in combination, abstract concepts become more concrete and are therefore easier for children to grasp. (National Association for Music Education)

Program Plan

MusicMovementblurred2Hopefully, now you’re convinced and wondering how to implement a Music and Movement program of your own. Chances are you already have most of the ingredients! I used a combination of acapella singing and children’s CDs for the music. I then broke the 30-45 minute program down into different activities and skills, for example, exploring up and down/ stretching and jumping; clapping and rhythm; clapping/singing and tempo; etc. Many of the songs and rhymes I used to correspond to these activities are familiar and beloved: “Pop Goes the Weasel” for jumping, “If You’re Happy and You Know It” for clapping, “Row Your Boat” for rhythm. For each song we sang as a group, I also played a song from the CDs. Other favorites included stop and go, or statue games. Children dance and move until the music stops and then have to freeze in place! Playing “statue” develops listening skills and helps children distinguish between sound and silence. It also helps them practice self control, starting, and stopping. “Stop and Go” by Greg & Steve and “Bodies 1-2-3” by Peter & Ellen Allard are perfect songs for this activity, but you can really use any song and then manually stop the music unexpectedly!  

In the second half of the program, we explore an instrument. Shakers and bells are perfect for babies, toddlers, and preschoolers, and rhythm sticks are fun for older groups. There are tons of great shaking songs, including “Shake Your Sillies Out” by Raffi, “Shake, Rattle & Rock” by Greg & Steve, “Shaky, Shaky” by the Wiggles. “Frere Jacques” is a classic if you’re using bells. If you can’t afford a large set of instruments, you can also make your own and explore the sounds of common household items. I sometimes intersperse this half MusicMovementBlurredof the program with movement activities like jumping jacks and toe touches. Finally, we end with the parachute activities. We bought a 12’ parachute for $25-30 and a smaller 6’ one for use with the babies and toddlers. Not only are the parachutes endlessly entertain to children of all ages, they have a myriad of uses and promote teamwork and coordination. If you have bean bags, small balls, or a beach ball to add, even better.

Our Music and Movement Program at the Fayetteville Free Library was wildly successful with 40-50 attendees at each session. It was the perfect way for us to reach families with young children of all ages and support family health and an active lifestyle at the same time. Do you offer a music and movement program at your library? Tell us about it in the comments!

Resources for Music and Movement Education

  1. Pica, R., & Pica, R. (2010). Experiences in movement & music: Birth to age 8. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Cengage Learning.
  2. Early Childhood Music and Movement Association
  3. LetsMove.gov
  4. National Association for Music Education

(Photos courtesy guest blogger)

*****************************************************************************************

Stephanie Prato is a member of the ALSC Early Childhood Programs and Services Committee. She is the Director of Play to Learn Services at the Fayetteville Free Library in NY. If you have any questions, email her at sprato@fflib.org.

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