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1. The Folded Clock

coverAs someone who kept a diary as a kid and still does on an albeit infrequent basis, diaries as an art form are a very attractive draw for me. I love to read them and then get really depressed because my diaries are never so interesting as that, never so well written or filled with exciting things or deep thoughts. No, my diaries were about school and friends and who was being mean and how I was feeling lonely. Now they are about work and friends and who is being mean but not so much about being lonely so I guess that’s an improvement.

As Heidi Julavits discovered when she found a childhood diary, they usually end up telling us a different story about ourselves than the one we have currently concocted. As she says at the beginning of The Folded Clock, she has told people that her childhood diary keeping was the seed of her becoming a writer. So when she read her old diary looking for evidence of the future writer, she was surprised to find her absent and instead discovered the mind of a future “paranoid tax auditor.”

The really interesting thing about diaries is that even though they generally have no plot or narrative structure (unless you are writing for publication), the writer thinks she is relating facts but in reality she is assembling a story or an explanation, she is creating something and stamping it with her point of view. And then time intervenes and during those span of years the story created in the diary morphs into something else as the “narrator” becomes more sophisticated and gains more knowledge and experience. We really want our lives to be like a story with a plotline, we want to see in our past selves the beginnings of who we have become and like to think that who we are today is the key to who we will be in the future. But diaries have a tendency to point out the fallacy of narrative desires.

The Folded Clock is written like a diary but it liberally plays with the genre. The entries are dated (month/day but no year) but they are not in order; July 16th follows July 31st and is followed by May 2nd. In homage to her childhood self, Julavits begins each entry with “Today I.” And while it might start with today, it rarely ends with today. Instead it turns into a mini essay of sorts that are sometimes only a page long and sometimes two or three. We get meditations on time and losing things and people, lots of mulling over identity from various angles in more than one entry, thoughts on middle age and adultery, and musings on needs and desire. We also get lots of self-deprecating humor, worries over what is proper friend etiquette in various situations, arguments with her husband, thoughts about her children, and everyday life stuff. The high mixes liberally with the low and all is told in Julavits’s pitch perfect voice. I mean, how can you not like someone who writes this:

Today I read a book while holding a fountain pen. I often have a pen in my hand when I read. I am trying to fool myself into thinking I am writing when I’m not. I read with a pen in my hand because it helps me think. If I underline a sentence, I temporarily own it. It’s mine. I have bought real estate in this book, laid down stakes, moved in. This does not mean I remember where I live. I turn the page. I lose my place.

The Folded Clock is a fun, thoughtful read, never heavy even when talking about a serious subject, but not flippant either. It is serious without taking itself seriously. And because of the diary format, it makes for perfect before bed or in between activities reading.

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2. Chris Wedge’s Live-Action Directorial Debut ‘Monster Trucks’ Delayed

The brakes have been applied on the new project from the 'Ice Age' director.

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3. First scene of A WEDDING

Sharing the first scene of my first play, "A WEDDING" a.k.a. "MAKE ME A WEDDING." A comedy, the story focuses on the trials and tribulations of a young couple who want a small, intimate wedding, versus the bride and groom's mothers, who want an all-out, no holds barred (expensive) affair.

In this opening scene, the bride announces her engagement to her parents.


Scene I

SETTING: Greenberg family living room. Plastic slip-covers cover,
         kitschy French-provincial furniture, circa 1970’s. On
         either side of the couch are two end tables with drop
         “crystal” lamps on each table


AT RISE:  A tense MORTY GREENBERG paces, stopping                 
          periodically to glance out of a window.SADIE     
          his wife, sits in an armchair, absorbed in her knitting.  
          She glances up from time-to-time to watch MORTY


TIME:     Late evening

                                  SFX: television blaring


What time is it now?



Five minutes later than the last time you asked me. Stop
pacing already or you'll wear a hole in the carpet. It's thin enough as it is



(staring out of window)

What could they be doing in the middle of the night?


Counting toothpicks in a restaurant. What's it your business? She needs your permission to stay out late?


What'll the neighbors think?


Oh pul-l-eeze! Get a life. They'll talk no matter what she does or doesn't do and what they don't know, they make up. Sit down and watch TV 


I can't focus knowing that my daughter is out there – somewhere - doing who-knows-what. Maybe we should go search for her or better yet, call the police


Not! If we brought her up right, she's okay. You stay up and wait for her if you want but I'm going to bed


Don't you wanna be here when she comes in?



Why? She doesn't know the way to her room? Come to bed, Morty!


Some mother you are. What happens if… if they were in an accident or something? Maybe they're injured and can't call us


Rachel has a cell phone


Maybe the cell phone got crushed along with the car…


…and maybe you should get a life?


I'm staying up and waiting for her like a good father, unlike other people who are more interested in their beauty rest. Like it'll help anyway… I can’t take it anymore! I’m calling the police


Enough already! Really Morty, she’s 22 years old. Sit here if you want to but I gotta get some sleep


Sure, go to bed and leave me all alone to wait for your daughter


How come she’s “your daughter” when she does things that you don't like? Besides, I'm sure David is taking good care of her


That's what worries me!


Move away from that window or the neighbors will think you're a voyeur! Did I mention Becky's daughter got engaged last night? Don't think she didn't rub it in about the big diamond that her Joanie got. Two carats she tells me! Like the size of a diamond would interest me!


(flipping TV clicker)

Of course not! Things like that aren't important to a person with your class. You materialistic? Never!

It's what's inside a person’s heart that counts, not the size of a bank account. That's what I told Becky. Honestly, that woman is so money-oriented! I don't know how we stayed best friends all these years


Are you telling me that you’d hold it against a potential husband for your daughter, if he was cash-friendly?


Let me put it this way: if and I say if, the boy happens to come from a wealthy family, I wouldn’t hold it against him. I'm not prejudiced that way. Listen, I get dark circles under my eyes if I don’t get enough sleep

           SADIE exits

(calling after her)

“And you need all the help you can get!” Dark circles aren't her only problem. The woman needs a complete head transplant. Where's that daughter of mine? 

                                           SFX: key in lock

           MORTY rushes to chair and feigns sleep


'Don't forget to call me the minute you get home! Mom will be thrilled when I tell her our news. Wave to Mrs. Belinsky across the road, the nosy busybody. I love you, David!'

           RACHEL enters

Hi popsy. Wha'cha doin' up so late? Are you waiting up for me again?


Wha…hmmm..? Must'a fallen asleep in front of the TV. What time is it?


What am I going to do with you, pops?  Where's mom?


Your mother was tired so she went upstairs. She was knitting me another one of her scarves to join the other sixteen stored away in the closet. When will she realize that I only have one neck? Where were you so late?


I was under the impression I can come home whenever I feel like it – at least that’s what you tell me


What'll the neighbors think, a nice girl like you coming in at the crack of dawn?


Would you prefer that I move out altogether and you won’t have to worry about what everyone will say? Let them mind their own business for a change


It's a lot to ask to call home and say you're alive?


Can we move on? I have something important to tell you both. Better still, go wake up mom. She'll wanna hear this


Something is wrong! I knew it! I told your mother that she should wait up but did she listen? Noooo! Her beauty rest is more important


Why do you always think the worst? It just so happens that this is fantastic news and mom will be thrilled when she hears what I have to say

           Dances around room, waving her left hand

D'ya notice anything new – like - on my left hand?


You changed the color of your nail polish?


Look close…realLY close


Whoa! That’s new since breakfast?


You do know what this means…


A miracle! At last there's gonna be another male in the family and I'll have a chance at winning an argument, for a change!


I didn't expect that kind of reaction but I'll take it as a sign you approve?


What's not to approve? The groom to be is David?


Who else? You know we've been seeing each other seriously and there's never been anyone else in my life, nor will there ever be. He's the most wonderful, sensitive, romantic…


And those are just his so-so qualities. Only joking, honey. He's a good guy and normal, unlike some of those other weirdos you brought home to us. I still break out in a sweat thinking about - what was his name now - Clifford? What kind’a person tattoos the name of his girlfriend on his forehead and God knows where else?


That was just a high school crush, pop and besides, I
kind’a thought it was romantic at the time


Sure you would 'cause you're not a parent - yet. Let’s see now - who came next? What did he call himself - Pukey? Porky? And then there was…

I get your point, popsy


Remember your first rock concert? I couldn't hear for three days and never told your mother. Let me tell you - it was bliss!


So? I'm still waiting for congratulations and a kiss


(hugging RACHEL)

My little girl -  a bride! That means I’m old. I’ve never been old before


How 'bout go get mom so I can share the good news with her, too?


You want me to go wake up sleeping beauty? If I disturb her beauty rest, she'll open up a mouth to me but if I don't… Be right back


‘Whad'ya doing? Lemme alone Morty. I'm tired! It's not Saturday night…go watch another program or something. What about Rachel? Are you talking about our daughter,…. Get me my duster in the cupboard! The other one! That's for the rummage sale. Do you ever look at what I wear?’

           SADIE rushes on stage followed by MORTY

Rachel, is this another of your father's senior moments?

(extends hand)

So? Look for yourself!


It's about time! Looks like a decent sized diamond. Must be -  what - a carat at least? Bigger maybe?


David surprised me with it tonight. We don't want a long engagement so you won't have to plan a big party


You're both so young. What's the big rush?


They've been going out for five years! D'ya want she should be an old maid like your sister Miranda? I'm so excited! Becky's Joanie got engaged yesterday so she only beat you by one day!


This isn't a contest as far as I'm concerned. We want to get married in three months

(ignoring RACHEL)

A summer wedding would be perfect, don'cha think? Maybe we could have it under a tent, in the back garden, just like those fancy society weddings. Mind you, indoors might be better in case of rain, but we have plenty of time to talk about the details


Did you hear what I said? We wanna get married in –like -three months

Come again? I gotta get my ears checked 'cause I thought I heard you say three months


Your ears are fine, ma, and even if - and I say if - we wanted a garden wedding, pops has his old cars stored on the lawn, along with a thousand spare parts covering every square inch


Listen, you want a reception in the back yard, I'll move everything into the garage…


It has to be at that time because David's been invited to be a keynote speaker at a big lawyer's convention in Europe, so we'll make it a working honeymoon. It's the only time we're both free


…maybe call a few scrap dealers today to see what they'll give me. At least we'll have a couple of extra dollars towards the wedding expenses…


Typical! Your father is worrying about the gelt, already! You expect we should get everything together in such a short time? It takes a year at least to reserve a place and even then, we have to talk to a caterer, get a band…


…then again maybe I should keep them all. 'Ya never know when my car is gonna die on me. It's going on nine years already


There’s something else I haven't told you. We want a small wedding with just close friends and family, so there shouldn't be any problems with the arrangements


           Grabs chest, feigns shock and grabs MORTY for

 Do I hear right? You would deprive your parents of making you a big tra-la-la-wedding? I think I'm gonna faint. Catch me Morty!


We'd rather put everything towards important things like buying a house. You should be happy with all the money you’re gonna save


Happy? You're gonna kill me! What'll I tell my friends? They'll think we're too cheap or can't afford to marry off our only daughter right! You can't do this to me Rachel!


Sorry? It's our wedding and we want to keep it small. The idea of inviting a lot of people we don't know is not for us! I'm really tired and not prepared to hash this out with you now. We'll continue tomorrow when I'm fresh and can think clearly. At least I'll have a fighting chance

RACHEL starts to leave


Stay right where you are! I wanna hear all about how David proposed. This is what a mother waits for!


I promise to tell you everything only let me get a couple of hours of sleep. Please?


Let her go to bed, Sadie. The kind of wedding you want will put us back a few dollars. I like the idea that the kids are thinking small. Small is good


You would, Mr. Cheap-skate! I'm sure David's family would want a decent-sized affair, too. Open up your pockets father-of-the-bride and let the moths fly out! Small wedding - over my dead body


That can be arranged




I've heard enough for one night. Enjoy yourselves, you two!

RACHEL exits


You don't get it, do you? A big wedding means nice gifts. Have a small wedding and you end up with a bunch of fruit bowls and vases


As far as I know, the only green growing on our trees are leaves. I have to worry about the cost if you don't


What's money when you're marrying off your only child? Dear, dear, husband of mine, you should keep your nose out of things that aren't your business. Planning a wedding is a woman's affair. The husband only writes the checks


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4. The show must go on

I recently had school visits in Central Oregon. Two memorable things about that visit: the librarian got deathly sick the morning of the visit, and despite our best efforts, I picked up what she had and took it with me to Wisconsin a few days later.

But the second, much better thing, was that while I was there I met up again with old 7th grade history teacher, Mr. Perkins. I loved him as a teacher, and meeting him again, some 40+ years later, I remembered why. He still asks thoughtful, intereting questions and he listens attentively to your answers. It was nice to hang out with someone who was more my parents' peer.  Fewer and fewer of my friends have living parents.

I got home, hoped I had escaped getting sick, and then the day before I flew to Wisconsin, I started coughing. I remembered the librarian doing the same thing, but hoped it was allergies.

After taking three flights to Appleton, Wisconsin - and for the longest flight, my seatmate was 6 foot 3, which meant he physically did not fit in the seat - I landed and quickly realized I was in trouble.

I ended up walking to a nearby Target and getting every OTC cold remedy known to man. The next day, my ride bought me chicken soup  By that time, I was trying to refrain from even making small talk, because my voice was going. In between speaking engagements - 9 school visits and/or writing worshops and one book festival visit - I did everything I could to keep myself going. Lozenges, throat spray, Throat Coat tea, honey and water, sitting by the hot tub at the hotel, using saline nasal rinse, and drinking at least one bottle of water an hour (Appleton has sweet tasting water, so it mostly came from the tap).

The Throat Coat tea helped the most, but it was no match for how bad I was feeling. By my second to the last visit, I started thinking I might pass out. For my last talk, the kind librarian sent kids on a scavenger hunt to see if any teachers used stools with backs. They came back with two. Somehow I made it. I just didn't want to disappoint the kids.

I actually think I did a pretty good job.

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5. Quote of the Day: Daniel Clowes on the artist’s tools


Photo by Abigail Huller, via Oakland Museum of California

Do you still work the same way you did 25 years ago, drawing by hand at a table?


Yes. I was just at an antiquarian book fair, and I picked up this catalog for a cartooning correspondence course from 1921. There was a photo of all the tools you need to use for cartooning in 1921, and it could be a photo of my drawing board: T-square, a watercolor brush, some ink, a pen, an eraser and a pencil. I do the coloring on a computer, but for the drawing I need to not have any screens around me at all.

Ben Sisario chats to the artist about Eightball
And also, more tantalizingly, Patience, which turns out to be a full on SF story that “Energized” the artist.

Your new book, “Patience,” is a time-travel story, a very common comic-book trope. How did you come to that theme?
At a certain point I realized that the time-travel story, as many times as it’s been done, is an archetype that can go off in any direction. I didn’t want it to be about science of time travel. It’s more about the psychological aspect of what that would mean. I feel like a lot of my work is about time travel in other ways, about memory and living multiple lives at the same time.
“Patience” is sort of about chasing after a relationship to make it perfect. That’s a poignant topic regardless of the sci-fi aspect.
It had a lot to it, which is why is why I made it as long as it is. One of the main rules I have for working is that as soon as it becomes boring I either get rid of what I have and start over, or go in a completely new direction. And I have to say this one was never boring. It was really energizing to work on from start to finish, even though it was five years.


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6. The last few days...

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7. रख दूँगा

जो सोचेगी दर मेरे आने की तू रानी, चुन चुन के राहों में फूल रख दूँगा,
जो सपनो में लगी गले एक बार, असलियत का नाम फ़िज़ूल रख दूँगा,   
क्या दुनिया सिखाएगी मुझको मोहब्बत, अंदाज़े बयान निराला है अपना, 
पूरी कायनात बिक जायें जितने में यहाँ, इतनी चमकती धूल रख दूँगा, 

बस एक नज़र देख ले तू मुझको, हर पल तुझे ही पाने की चाह रखता हूँ, 
बस तेरी एक मुकुराहट के वास्तें यहाँ, दान में मैं हर एक शूल रख दूँगा 

बस "मेरी तू" और "तेरा मैं" ही तो है, एक बार इस रूह को तू छू जा, 
तेरी वो परछाई ओढ़ लूँगा मैं सनम, तेरे आगे अपनी हर भूल रख दूँगा, 

जो डर है तुझको ज़माने का 'साकी', एक बार तो नज़रे मिला दे हमसे, 
ख़तरे की आहट भी जो हुई मुझे, भगवान के आगे भी त्रिशूल रख दूँगा| 

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8. All-New By Its Cover #4 (Covers For April 2015)


The column that judges a book by its cover, focusing on the month’s best-designed comic covers. For the month’s best-illustrated comic covers, see Best Comic Covers Ever (This Month).



Deep State #5 by Matt Taylor

There are a lot of things working really well in this cover. The core image is very simple, while the complex red lines add texture. The color scheme is solid. But the thing that really grabs my interest is the realization that the gun to the back of his head looks like it could be his own, disappearing off to the side and coming out the other. Depending on how well the comic was trimmed at press, you could line them up side-by-side and create a repeating image (except for the texture that doesn’t quite match up).  It’s a fun concept.



Ghosted #19 by Dan Panosian

I always enjoy seeing clever attempts at integrating the logo into the image. Filling most of the cover with the logo, dwarfing characters placed in front of it, gives the image an epic feel. Unfortunately, the other text elements seem like afterthoughts in comparison. Also, while I noticed right away that the logo was part of a fence, it took me awhile to realize that the “O” was a door opening.



Outlast #8 by Paul Azaceta

I love the color palette of this image, except that the darkest black seems a little too loud. It could’ve been just a little more subtle. I love the mood of the cover, which reminds me a little of the indie game Kentucky Route Zero, but there’s something goofy happening with the perspective of the figure in relation to the background. He’s towering over that car. I like the placement of all the text elements, but every time I see the logo, I think it says “Outlast.”



Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier #7 by Mike Del Mundo

The only problem with this cover is that it disappoints me by being for an issue of Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier, a series that is very clearly not about a boy flying a kite with his robot while death looms overhead. Unless I’m wrong, and the series has been transformed into a quirky indie book?



Ms. Marvel #14 by Jake Wyatt

I love the idea of integrating the logo in this way, but I think the composition would be much stronger if it was all moved up and to the left a little, kind of like this (please excuse the sloppiness of the edit).



Adventure Time #36 (2nd Printing) by Jay Shaw

This might be the most epic Adventure Time cover I’ve ever seen. Unfortunately, the text placement on the printed cover kinda screws it all up. One AT fan I showed it to didn’t even realized it was Jake at first due to the way the logo interrupts the image. It might’ve worked better to make the logo smaller and move it to the lower right corner above the barcode.



Howard The Duck #2 by Joe Quinones

The bottom is so cluttered with randomly placed elements, but the illustration made me smile, so it gets a free pass.



Convergence Variants by Chip Kidd

I was tempted to be a smart ass and just copy/paste the text from my very first column, where I talked about concept dilution. Instead, I’m going to be a smart ass by linking to that installment, so you can see just how similar these covers are to the original example I used.

Apologies to Chip Kidd — I do enjoy your work a great deal. :-)


Kate Willaert is a graphic designer for Shirts.com. You can find her her art on Tumblr and her thoughts @KateWillaert. Notice any spelling errors? Leave a comment below.

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9. Bay Poem

Each carving thread of sunset strand

Burnishes to mind

The lowly things inside the sand

Which have lately come alive.

How wondrous is our oval place,

The bay yawns open wide.

Its teeth the little houses face

In company confide


All ages here within one time

All years and journeys met


Without the worry of when or then

Now Moswetuset


Gulls strung up from tip to tip

Strings in bellow curl

Glassy toes of pebbles whet

The clarity of home.


Oh Quincy Bay, and wild marsh

Your Spirit is alive.


And ever play around my neck

Sunset sad and sunny fleck

Deep hearted tree

Deep heart in me



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10. Artist of the Day: Jimmy Simpson

Discover the work of Jimmy Simpson, Cartoon Brew's Artist of the Day!

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11. Milkshake

A malted made without the malt
You may think a mistake,
But take a sip - it still tastes great
Though now it's called a shake.

A real one, though, comes with a tin
Directly from the shaker,
A second glass-worth sitting there,
A present from the maker.

You slurp it down, so cool and sweet
And when your straw hits air,
You pour a refill from the tin,
So calmly waiting there.

There's nothing like a milkshake
When you're really in the mood -
A splurge, a treat, a pure delight 
And better than most food!

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12. Literary funding in ... New Zealand

       Literary times are tough in New Zealand, it seems. As Belinda Feek reports in The New Zealand Herald:

New Zealand Book Month has been postponed indefinitely as the trust that governs it failed to get funding, the Literary Awards are on hold after BNZ pulled its funding and The New Zealand Book Awards had a shake-up after NZ Post withdrew their funding last year.
       Relying on sponsorship is, of course, always risky; sad to see what looks like near-across-the-board cutbacks here.

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13. First Pass Editing

After you've let your first draft sit for a bit, it's time to ask these questions.


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14. Fan of INTO THE DARK series? Watch this goofy short film by Bree Despain where she explains Mythology.

Bree Despain's INTO THE DARK series is based on two of her favorite Greek myths: Persephone and Hades, and Orpheus and Eurydice. Both are stories about people who ventured into the dark (or the unknown) for the sake of love. Most people are more familiar with the Persephone myth than they are with the story of Orpheus and Eurydice so Bree decided to to make a little 4 minute movie version of

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15. Some really excellent food writing

I am certain that in a previous life I loved cooking. I’m certain that I was one of those people who threw ingredients into a pan with abandon and created great and wholesome dishes that were the envy and delight of many. (Cue image of Meryl Streep from “It’s Complicated”.) (Don’t mock me for liking this move. It’s Meryl-freaking-Streep. I get to love it without shame.)

I am certain that in some parallel dimension I am an excellent cook.

Enter Tod Davies and Jam Today, Too. Following up on Jam Today: A Diary of Cooking With What You’ve Got, this new foodie title includes more of the author’s wonderful recipes along with peeks into her life as a carnivore who is married to the “Beloved Vegetarian Husband”. This time Davies has some trouble on the homefront however, as a flood has seriously damaged their Oregon home forcing relocation into temporary digs. This includes some weeks in a RV which produce more than a few hilarious cooking anecdotes about a teeny tiny RV stove.

Here’s what I love about food writing: clearly written recipes that make me think I can cook the meal myself and some insight into the life & mind of the cook who crafted them. Davies has all of that and more going for her; the recipes ingredients range from basic to exotic (I don’t see myself eating oxtail anytime soon!) and none are overly complicated. What really sells the book though are her stories about how she comes to these recipes (like the oxtail), the friends she eats them with and the good times she has (even when eating alone).

And here’s the best thing about her, Davies celebrates just trying – that you shouldn’t worry every second that you are “doing it right”. Here’s a bit about that attitude from the book:

There are two questions that interest me mainly, and food is just a way of getting more answers for me, not an end in itself. Which is why it is endlessly fascinating. And not just that–endlessly productive. I don’t mean endlessly productive of meals (though there certainly is that benefit!), but rather, endlessly productive of insight. Insight that leads me to a firmer understanding of my likes and dislikes, and through that, to building my own autonomy. Autonomy, I truly believe, is what each person owes the world——because only an autonomous adult, who knows who she/he is, and knows what her/his duties and rights are, can participate in making our world better for everyone.

Some recipes, laughs and philosophy on food and life. What more could you want from a book? Highly recommended as just the sort of summer diversion we all are looking for.

You can read an interview with Tod here.

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16. The Making of Zombie Wars review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Aleksandar Hemon's just-released new novel, The Making of Zombie Wars.

       I've been hoping to cover more English-language/US fiction -- I've been lagging: this is the first American work of fiction I've reviewed in seven months ! -- but this did not help convince me that that would be a good investment of my reading and reviewing time and resources.

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17. Book Review: Savage Park by Amy Fusselman

From Goodreads:
On a visit to Tokyo with her family, Fusselman stumbles on Hanegi playpark, where children are sawing wood, hammering nails, stringing hammocks to trees, building open fires. When she returns to New York, her conceptions of space, risk, and fear are completely changed. Fusselman invites us along on her tightrope-walking expeditions with Philippe Petit and late night adventures with the Tokyo park-workers, showing that when we deprive ourselves, and our children, of the experience of taking risks in space, we make them less safe, not more so.

Savage Park is a fresh, poetic reconsideration of behaviors in our culture that — in the guise of protecting us — make us numb and encourage us to sleepwalk through our lives. We babyproof our homes; plug our ears to our devices while walking through the city. What would happen if we exposed ourselves, if — like the children at Hanegi park — we put ourselves in situations that require true vigilance? Readers of Rebecca Solnit and Cheryl Strayed will delight in the revelations in Savage Park.
Very well written.  I think Fusselman is an excellent essayist and she has a lot of great things to say about the nature of play, space and risk in relation to both children and adults.  I like that she included both aspects and that the book wasn't just a meditation on over-parenting.   The essays are all short and easy to follow although some are fairly philosophical in nature and do require the reader's full attention.

Entertainment Value
As I mentioned above, some essays are more philosophical and therefore more difficult to read than others, but that doesn't mean they're less interesting.  I do think, however, that this is going to have a somewhat limited appeal to the general reader.  Unless you find the topic of play and risk and what it means to take up space of particular interest, you probably won't be as entertained by this as a reader who either has a topical interest or, like me, who just really enjoys a well-crafted essay.

It's a great read and makes for either an afternoon of thoughtful reading or as something you can read an essay at a time.  It's not something that will grab you and not let you go, but it is interesting and something that left me pondering what it really means to be safe and how to challenge my own fears.

Thanks to NetGalley for providing me with a copy to review.

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18. Sergio Ramírez event

       The English translation of Sergio Ramírez's 1988 novel, Divine Punishment, was launched yesterday at a PEN World Voices/Americas Society event.
       As I've mentioned, the book actually got a lot of good US media coverage when it first came out in Spanish -- see the profiles in The Los Angeles Times and The New York Times -- and was slated for 1990 publication in the US. But the Sandinistas lost the 1990 elections, Ramírez -- Nicaragua's vice-president since 1985 -- was no longer a hot political figure, the editor at his American publisher left, and they dropped the book. (Neither Ramírez nor his translator, Nick Caistor, were sure of who exactly the publisher had been -- a few names were bandied about, but the foolish outfit not definitively identified.)
       Caistor had actually translated the book back then -- but all traces of hard- and disk-copies were lost in the ensuing mess, and he actually translated it again, for the now available -- from McPherson & Co. -- edition.
       Ramírez described how he wrote the book, even though he was kept rather busy in his official capacity at the time -- rising at four in the morning (with the help of his wife -- someone to wake him, and push him out of bed ...), and working for a few hours before he switched to a completely different frame of mind.
       Among the amusing titbits: he did write the book on a computer -- an IBM that came to him via Canada and Madrid (with the US embargoing Nicaragua, computers were impossible to get from or via the US at the time) -- using the old Symphony (DOS) program. The book took up 20 (!) floppy disks -- ah, the good old days of data storage -- which, of course, are now essentially unreadable (the necessary hardware hardly exists any longer); he donated them to a Spanish literary museum.
       Back in 1988 the book got a rave from Carlos Fuentes -- a rave published just as Fuentes was picking up his Premio Cervantes, the highest Spanish literary honor. Ramírez was in town for the ceremony, as were many of Fuentes' foreign publishers; selling foreign rights to the book went very well that week.

       (You can catch Ramírez at another PEN World Voices event today, Sergio Ramírez: Journey to the Heart of Literature; the PEN World Voices page notes it's in Spanish but fails to note that the Instituto Cervantes admirably provides simultaneous translation (see the small print), so (just-)English-speakers shouldn't be scared off. An interesting life, and a very fine writer, so an event well worth checking out.)

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19. Confirmed: Nick Park Will Direct ‘Early Man’ for Aardman

The stop-motion director takes on his first feature film since 'Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit'.

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20. International Prize for Arabic Fiction

       They've announced that The Italian [الطلياني] by Shukri Mabkhout [شكرى المبخوت] wins 2015 International Prize for Arabic Fiction.
       This leading Arabic fiction prize comes with US$50,000 prize money, and Mabkhout is: "guaranteed an English translation of his novel". There were 180 entries for the prize.
       As M. Lynx Qualey notes in her report in The Guardian, the novel has been banned from bookshops across the Emirates (though it will be available at the Abu Dhabi International Book, which opens today). Mixed messages here -- awards, yes, but let people actually/easily read the book: not so much.

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21. Updated the Artwork for our online Children's Book Class

With Summer coming on we decided that our little ice skating rink image felt a little chilly - you can see the class here.

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22. New Adult Fiction Genre - Contemporary Romance - #WriteTip

There is a new genre emerging..."New Adult" fiction for older teens aka college-aged readers. You never stop growing up, but little in the market seems to address the coming-of-age that also happens between the ages of Nineteen to Twenty-six. Life changes drastically once high school is over, you have college, first jobs, first internships, first adult relationships…

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.

Older protagonists (basically, college students) are surprisingly rare; in a panel on YA literature at Harvard’s 2008 Vericon, City of Bones author talked about pitching her novel, then about twenty-somethings, as adult fiction. After several conversations, Clare realized she had to choose between adults and teens. She went with teens.

Quote from the publisher, St. Martin’s Press: We are actively looking for great, new, cutting edge fiction with protagonists who are slightly older than YA and can appeal to an adult audience. Since twenty-somethings are devouring YA, St. Martin’s Press is seeking fiction similar to YA that can be published and marketed as adult—a sort of an “older YA” or “new adult.” In this category, they are looking for spunky but not stupid, serious but not dull, cutting-edge, supernatural stories.

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...."

There’s also a list on goodreads of New Adult book titles. These books focus on college age characters, late teens to early twenties, transitioning into the adult world.

Some popular authors of the NA category include:
  • Jamie McGuire
  • Jessica Park
  • Tammara Webber
  • Steph Campbell
  • Liz Reinhardt
  • Abbi Glines
  • Colleen Hoover 
  • Sherry Soule

Would you buy New Adult books? 
Does the genre appeal to you? 

Does it sound better than YA (teen novels)? 
Or are you happy with YA as it stands?

Do you consider YA to include characters that are over the age of eighteen? 

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23. Space Dog by Mini Grey: Out of this world playfulness!

spacedogcoverOut in the depths of the Spooniverse Space Dog is getting read to return home following a long mission sorting out planetary problems in the Dairy Quadrant. Just as he starts to unwind a distress call comes through on his Laser Display Screen. Without a moment’s hesitation our super hero, Space Dog, jumps to and rescues the occupant of a flying saucer drowning in an thick ocean of cream on a nearby planet. But what’s this?

It turns out he’s saved his sworn enemy: Astrocat.


Will they be able to put aside their differences as another cry for help comes in over the space ship tannoy? Will teamwork triumph as they face terror together?

Space Dog by Mini Grey is an anarchic, adrenalin-packed adventure of The Highest Order. Utterly and joyously playful, wildly and lavishly imaginative, this dynamic and delightful journey exploring space and friendship is sublime.

Grey’s witty language, from the hilarious exclamations made by Space Dog (“Thundering milkswamps!”, “Shivering Stilton!”) to the deliciously outlandish names of rare alien life forms (the Cruets of West Cutlery, the Fruitons of Crumble Major) has had us all giggling time and again, even on the 15th reading of Space Dog. Her pacing is timed to perfection, with dramatic stretches interspersed with moments of great relief and humour, drawing readers, listeners, grown-ups, children ever more closely in to Grey’s fantastic, phenomenal universe Spooniverse.


Grey’s illustrations are equally packed with panache. From the detailing given to brand labels and packaging (whether on space food or game boxes) to her powerful use of suggestion (look out for what is almost missing off the page on the spread immediately before Space Dog and Astrocat land on Cheesoid 12, or the shadow redolent with threat as they turn to leave the Cheesy planet), Grey’s illustrations richly illuminate the world she has built to share with us, giving enormous pleasure every time they are returned to.


Although there are echoes of super hero comic strips and silent movies with their intertitles, dramatic soundtracks and expressive emotions theatrically mimed, Mini Grey’s visual and verbal style is truly unique. Spirited and inventive, Space Dog is an outstanding book and fortunately you can find it right here right now in our very own universe.


Every single page turn of Space Dog was met with “Mummy, can we do that??!!”, whether it was making a planet out of cereal packets, coming up with a recipe for supper based on the Spaghetti Entity in the Pastaroid Belt, designing our own version of Dogopoly, rustling up Astrocat’s cake, making spewing tomato ketchup volcanoes, or playing with fondue. In the end we settled for making spaceships for the characters in the book, and flying them over our patio.


Using this fantastic tutorial from one of my favourite library blogs as a starting point, we created spaceships using paperplates, plastic cups and stickers. Where Pop Goes the Page used toilet cardboard rolls, we used yoghurt pots instead, and aliens were replaced by Space Dog and other astonauts cut out from print-offs of these drawing pages created by Mini Grey.


We dressed up as astronauts ourselves, making space suits from disposable painting overalls, decorated with electrical tape and completed with control panels from cardboard.


Once appropriately attired we were ready to launch our space ships. Unlike Pop Goes the Page we used nylon bead thread rather than wire to make a zip line, partly because this is what we had to hand, but also because it’s extremely smooth and there are no issues with kinking. One end was tied to the bathroom window, the other to the end of the washing line in the garden.


Soon spaceships were zooming all over our patio…

Later we turned our hand to making hats for a fruit and vegetable parade, inspired by the hat competition which Space Dog has to judge:



We used origami hat tutorials to come up with these millinery masterpieces, including this army cap and samurai helmet with plenty more hat ideas here.

Whilst making our spaceships and competition-winning hats we listened to:

  • The bilingual song Los Planetas by Nathalia
  • Cheese Please by Chris Stapleton – essential listening for any cheese lover :-)
  • Sputniks and Mutniks by Ray Anderson & The Home Folks. I discovered this thanks to this interesting NPR article, Sputniks in Space.

    Other activities you could try inspired by Space Dog include:

  • Making space ships big enough for kids (and their grownups?) to fit in. A large cardboard box, a roll of tin foil and some plastic lids or moulded plastic from biscuit boxes is all you need to get you started. (Here’s one we made earlier).
  • Playing with your food. Mini is just so inventive when it comes to playing with food, but if you want even more ideas, you could take a look at Carl Warner’s A World of Food or The Art of Clean Up by Ursus Wehrli. Both of these books are massive hits with my kids.
  • Reading the extraordinary graphic novel Laika by Nick Abadzis. This is more for us grown ups than the kids (though my 10 year old has read it) but I can’t resist recommending it whilst I’ve got a chance.
  • Would you like to go into space if you had the chance?

    Disclosure: I was sent a free review copy of Space Dog by the book’s publisher.

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    24. 'Rubbish Chinese fiction' in Viet Nam

           Via I'm pointed to this article from a couple of weeks ago at Tuoi Tre News, Oversentimental, sex fiction of Chinese origin endemic in Vietnam, which is as bizarrely amusing a story as you'd expect.
           All the concern about: "Young Vietnamese's adoration for soppy fiction" is good fun, but what I also found fascinating was that:

    The boom in online "translators," most of whom have a fragmentary command or none at all of the Chinese language, has added to the bountiful supply of such books.

    They generally use software to convert the Chinese versions into awkward Vietnamese stories before clumsily "editing" them into finished "works."

    Such "translators" as Yingli, Dennis Q, and Greenrosetq are "venerated" by their fans as much as the Chinese writers themselves
           Despite the journalist's disdain ("disdain" ?), surely it's of interest that these "translators" are onto something -- that re-writing machine-translation (of the right material) is good enough to wow the fans. Obviously, these 'translators' are more (if also rather differently) involved in shaping the final text than is usually the case, but if they're being identified and venerated, they surely must be doing something very right (both in their selection of source material and then their repackaging of it in Vietnamese).
           I'm curious whether anything similar will ever happen (or has happened ?) in 'major' languages with a better-established domestic translation/publishing market.

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    25. Every Child Ready to… Talk Read Sing!: Partnership in Action

    Talk Read Sing

    Taken from the Talk Read Sing website

    Talking is Teaching: Talk Read Sing, a campaign of Too Small to Fail, offers libraries tools for high-exposure partnerships in early literacy, and a clear alignment with Every Child Ready to Read through its targeted parent engagement strategies to close the 30 million word gap.

    As an advertising campaign to parents, it works on the evidence that organized drives to change behavior are most effective when they use “nudges” to remind people to make small changes in their daily routines.  The campaign asks communities to organize its trusted messengers (us!) to work together, putting that consistent message “Talk Read Sing” in front of parents throughout their day, and throughout their city.  And it gives us plenty of tools to do it.

    Oakland CA was the kickoff city for Talk Read Sing last summer.  Billboards on freeways and bus shelters still invite parents, in English and Spanish, to talk with their children through playful slogans: “Let’s talk about the bus” or “Let’s talk about the weather.”  Bibs and towels distributed in our libraries and elsewhere: “Let’s talk about food” and “Let’s talk about bath time.”  The branding and creative assets produced by the campaign are available to libraries and other organizations who register at Too Small to Fail’s Community site.

    OPL Talk Read Sing enthusiast

    A Talk Read Sing enthusiast at the Elmhurst Branch of the Oakland Public Library (photo courtesy of the author)

    Here, the coordinated distribution of free materials was managed by First 5 Alameda County, in partnership with many organizations (including OPL) involved in Oakland Reads 2020, a community in the National Campaign for Grade Level Reading.  The Talk Read Sing campaign is a natural strategy for school readiness, and works seamlessly within Grade Level Reading campaigns.

    Our rollout meetings provided a perfect opportunity for me to share our own OPL “Talk Sing Read Write Play” brochures, which we developed from the ECRR2 curriculum.  Despite the fact that ECRR2 promotes two additional elements, the message is clearly the same, and partners were thrilled to have local materials to weave into the campaign.  Boom: our library brochures went city wide.

    If you have a Grade Level Reading Community or a functioning literacy collation, you have the perfect network to build a Talk Read Sing campaign in your community.   Introduce yourself as a partner who can help engage parents around teaching behaviors that will help everyone meet common goals for early literacy.  And if you don’t have such a network yet, this campaign is the perfect carrot to get one going.  See SPFL’s Christy Estrovitz’s presentation “Inspired Collaborations” for some tips.

    For the public overview of the campaign, including free resources: http://talkingisteaching.org/

    For the community campaigning materials, register at: http://toosmall.org/community

    And find out more at ALA Annual, Sunday June 28 from 1-2pm, at Babies Need Words Every Day: Bridging the Word Gap as a Community


    Our guest blogger today is Nina Lindsay, Children’s Services Coordinator at the Oakland Public Library, CA, who talks, reads, and—yes!—sings, every day.

    The post Every Child Ready to… Talk Read Sing!: Partnership in Action appeared first on ALSC Blog.

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