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1. How to chose and use your art materials wisely


If you’re anything like the thousands of creatives out there, you’ll no doubt have something called “GotToHaveEveryArtSupply-itis”and its incurable. We get so excited and enthusiastic when the glorious sound of the art supply shop opens like an unknown force pulling us in against our will (not really), to when there’s a sale online we just have to get them all.Although with this vast growing collection of art supplies, in which we think deep down will bestow upon us great creative talent, comes being practical and responsible to.

 Each art material has its advantages and disadvantages, however its actually how you use them that will help you to produce great work.So here’s a few tips to really help  you choose your creative weapons of choice wisely and wield them like a true creative warrior!

1.  Combine materials that compliment each other – Just because you have an artbox filled with yummy supplies, doesn’t mean you have to throw everything into the mix to make the perfect receipe. Experimenting is key to know what works for you and your style to build your creative process. Look closely at the textures, contrasts and effects each material gives you and which would compliment each other nicely to create the perfect creative dish.  For example watercolours and coloured pencil work great together to create colour washes with beautiful tone work.

2. He’s got it so I need to have it to - No doubt you’ve done this to where your inspirational creative idol uses a specific art supply and  you feel the urge to possess it to achieve greatness. Although this isn’t to say its not the quality of product that gives them great results, bear in mind they’ve been honing their skills and processes with it for countless hours through “practice“. Not every art supply works the same with every creatives style and process, but experiment with different materials to see if introducing it to your creative making steps will benefit the pieces you create.

3. Invest within your budget- Last but not least investing and budgeting, understandably art supplies often aren’t cheap as they come in so many different brands, qualities and quantities at different prices. There’s also artist and student grade materials, however the key is be wise and stick to your budget. Test materials out and if you feel they have a permanent place in how you make your art then this gives you the option to invest in them further.

Good luck creatives and have fun wielding those art supplies!

Featured image by Amy Van Luijk  you can find out more about her work here.

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2. लेख इलाईची कपूर

कमाल है लोगो की सोच की … कुछ देर पहले वटस अप पर एक मैसेज आया कि भूल जाओ अब राज कपूर, अनिल कपूर, एकता कपूर, ,साहिद कपूर, रणवीर कपूर, अर्जुन कपूर, करीना कपूर … आज की जरुरत सिर्फ “इलाईची कपूर” सच मानिए पहले तो मुझे समझ ही नही आया पर जब समझ आया तो … Continue reading लेख इलाईची कपूर

The post लेख इलाईची कपूर appeared first on Monica Gupta.

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3. Bookselling in ... Russia

       At Russia Beyond the Headlines they offer an English version of Kira Latukhina and Pavel Basinsky's Rossiyskaya Gazeta article, finding that The Russian book industry is at a crossroads.
       The bleak situation:

"Book distribution networks have been ruined in recent years," Alexei Varlamov says. "The situation is even worse in the regions, where publishing a book is the same as publishing it for yourself. As a result, almost all literary engagement is restricted to our two main urban centers: Moscow and St. Petersburg." The problem is complex and can only be resolved with a complex approach that extends beyond the Year of Literature. Money must be invested into maintaining and reviving regional as well as central bookstores, otherwise a significant portion of the country faces being cut off from this important cultural marker.
       Given the abject failures of the Putin regime in managing ... well, pretty much anything, things do not look promising.

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4. Austin Kleon on the Importance of Attribution

"If you share the work of others, it’s your duty to make sure that the creators of that work get proper credit. Crediting work in our copy-and-paste age of reblogs and retweets can seem like a futile effort, but it’s worth it, and it’s the right thing to do. You should always share the work of others as if it were your own, treating it with respect and care."

"All of this raises a question: What if you want to share something and you don’t know where it came from or who made it? The answer: Don’t share things you can’t properly credit. Find the right credit, or don’t share."

Austin Kleon is the author of Show Your Work!, Steal Like an Artist, and Newspaper Blackout. The above quotes are from an older blog post of his (Credit is Always Due) that he shared via his weekly newsletter.

Thank you for this important reminder, Mr. Kleon. Some believe that students should be able to use media that is not licensed for reuse in projects that never leave the classroom. But I believe that we need to teach students the importance of using only that media which is licensed for reuse (plus giving proper attribution to the source) EVERY time they borrow from others. 

I want my students to be the MAKERS, not just the USERS, and as such, they need to use unto others' creations as they hope others will use unto the things they make and share in the classroom, in the school setting, and in the wide world.

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5. The Secret to Creating a Really Good Bad Guy

12 pillarsBecca and I are welcoming Susanne Lakin today, who is a writing coach, author and editor all rolled into one. Susanne is our go-to expert for all things editing, and has a great new book out called the The 12 Key Pillars of Novel Construction: Your Blueprint for Building a Strong Story (The Writer’s Toolbox Series). I’m reading it now and am far enough in to say this is a book that you want to add to your collection. Susanne does a great job of showcasing each critical piece of storytelling, and explaining how they all fit together to frame the structure of a compelling and meaningful novel.

Today she has some great thoughts on how to build an memorable antagonist, so please read on! FleuronDon’t you just love to hate really great bad guys in novels? A list of the most intriguing villains in literature includes characters such as Moriarty in Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories, Long John Silver in Treasure Island, Edmund from Shakespeare’s King Lear, and Hannibal Lecter in Red Dragon by Thomas Harris.

Not every novel has a villain. Often many characters take on the role of an antagonist at various times —someone who stands in the way of your protagonist. They may be well meaning or not.

But if your novel features one specific character providing the central source of opposition for your hero or heroine—in other words, a villain or bad guy—take the time to craft such a character so that he or she will be believable and memorable.

hannibalThere are countless varieties of bad guys, but the best ones are memorable because of four specific traits:

  • They aren’t stereotyped. People are complex, fickle, selfish, self-sacrificing, and fearful. Depending on the situation and mind-set when something happens, each of us might react in an unpredictable way. The temptation, especially with a nemesis character, is to defer to stereotype. To make bad guys really bad to the point that they are comic-book cutouts. How can writers avoid the stereotype? Read on . . .
  • They have a reason they’re bad. Great villains are passionate about what they believe. They go after a goal much in the way a protagonist does, and believe that what they are doing is the right thing in the circumstance. They aren’t just bad to be bad. All characters, whether virtuous or villainous, need core motivation based on how they were raised and treated throughout their life, the lies they believe about themselves and the world, and the deep-seated fears that frighten them and cause them to act as they do.
  • They show a glimpse of vulnerability and inner conflict. The best villains in literature are the ones you almost like (but would never admit it!) and find fascinating. They are usually complex, full of inner conflict, but have moments of grace or kindness that seem contradictory. Those moments, though, turn a predictable stereotype into a riveting, believable nemesis. Give your bad guy a moment of doubt. Let your readers feel sorry for him . . . for just a second. Then get them back to hating him.
  • They are flawed, and they usually know it. Often a villain’s awareness of his flaws is what motivates him toward his goals. He overcompensates for those flaws with his negative traits: pride, impatience, cruelty, heartlessness, greed, lust—to name a few. Because he is unable to love, he hurts others. Because he lacks true self-worth, he hates to see others succeed and attain happiness. What has been denied him, he denies others.

Push Beyond the Stereotype

Life is messy, difficult, stressful. Everyone reacts to stress differently and often inconsistently. You may want to make your role as writer easier by manufacturing consistent, predictable, stereotyped characters, but I would like to encourage you not to.

Push yourself to create believable characters that are complex and sometimes unpredictable. If you can create a moment in your novel in which the hero and the villain agree on something and realize what they do have in common, you can have a powerful moment.

Likewise, those moments in which the bad guy is actually vulnerable and/or empathetic can go a long way to making your story feel authentic.

How Bad Guys Are Good for Your Story

 Even if you don’t have one classic villain in your story, be sure you have one or more antagonists in your novel in some form or another.

Antagonists are so useful in many ways. By providing opposition, the hero can voice and demonstrate what he is passionate about, what he’s willing to risk, and why he’s after that goal. Nemesis characters provide the means to amplify and showcase the themes in your story, for they often take an opposing view on issues.

Your nemesis character does not want your hero to reach his goal. He himself should have needs, fears, and goals he is striving for based on what he believes. He may be evil, greedy, psychotic, or a sociopath. Or he might instead be a friend who is fearful of losing something precious to her, and who believes with all her heart the protagonist must not reach his goal. It depends on your story.

If you don’t have anyone opposing your protagonist, spend some time thinking how to create someone. Make his needs and goals clash with your hero’s. Make him believe he is right and has the right to his belief. Then readers will really love to hate your bad guy. Which is a good thing!

Who are your favorite bad guys in literature and why? Do they show a glimpse of vulnerability or some empathetic quality in the midst of all their evil? Share in the comments.

susanne S. Lakin is the author of sixteen novels and three writing craft books. Her award-winning blog Live Write Thrive gives tips and writing instruction for both fiction and nonfiction writers. If you want to write a strong, lasting story, check out her new release The 12 Key Pillars of Novel Construction, part of The Writer’s Toolbox Series, which provides a foundational blueprint that is concise and practical, and takes the mystery out of novel structure.

The post The Secret to Creating a Really Good Bad Guy appeared first on WRITERS HELPING WRITERS™.

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6. Vietnamese literature abroad

       As I've often noted, the South-East Asian languages are among the worst-represented in translation (especially into English). In Viet Nam they apparently have been holding an international conference -- "attended by the local literati and over 150 international poets, authors, and translators from 43 countries and territories" -- trying, in part, to figure out what can be done about the situation.
       Coverage can be found in:

       Among the advice on offer:
Kazakhstani writer Bakhitkozha Rustemov stressed that a joint effort from the Government and relevant sectors and agencies, as well as national and ministry-level cooperation agreements, are needed.
       Ah, yes, relying on 'national and ministry-level cooperation agreements', that's the ticket .....
       Of course, there are some ... positive (?) observations: sure, Russian interest and activity is down since Soviet times, but, hey:
As many as 6 books by Vietnamese authors are scheduled to be published in Russian by 2016.
       Compare that to the US: the Three Percent database lists all of one work of Vietnamese fiction published in translation in all of 2014 -- Ticket to Childhood by Nguyen Nhat Anh (not, I'm afraid, a front-runner for the Best Translated Book Award) -- and none at all so far on the (admittedly still incomplete) 2015 database.

       Still, at least they seem to be trying to address the issue(s), and looking for ways to get the word/books out. Which seems more than local laggards Thailand, Burma, Laos, and Cambodia have managed to date ..... Read the rest of this post

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7. Things I Love Thursday

I love this video of students at Pomperaug Elementary School in Southbury, CT. 

They discuss what they learned from their Skype session with me. Also included are some snippets of the Skype (starting at minute mark 2:51).

Special thanks to Ms. Martellino for sending me this. 

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8. Top Ten Entries in Pitch Plus One & the Agents Judging Them

We've made it through to the final round! Congratulations to all of you for all of your hard work and accomplishments. Connections have been made, friendships forged, and feedback assimilated. But we aren't done yet!! We have SEVEN amazing agents (also listed below) who've donated their time to judge the final round.

If your title is below then please take 24 hours to revise and send me your final entry by 9 AM tomorrow (Friday) to be posted by Saturday on the contest blog. Please send all info, including name, email, current title, genre/subgenre, word count, 150 word pitch, and 250 word first page EVEN IF you are not changing anything.

Agent Judges:

Jordy Albert of the Booker Albert Agency:

Jordy Albert is a Literary Agent and co-founder of The Booker Albert Literary Agency. She holds a B.A. in English from Pennsylvania State University, and a M.A. from Millersville University of Pennsylvania. She has worked with Marisa Corvisiero during her time at the L. Perkins Agency and the Corvisiero Literary Agency. She enjoys studying languages (French/Japanese), spends time teaching herself how to knit, is a HUGE fan of Doctor WhoSherlock and Supernatural (#Superwholock)!!! And loves dogs.

She is looking for stories that sink their teeth in, leave the reader wanting more, and gives her all the feels. She loves books that make her laugh out loud or tear up (or in some cases wanting to throw the book). She is interested in Middle Grade contemporary or action/adventure (think Indiana Jones, Goonies, Labyrinth and other awesome 80s movies). In YA and New Adult, she is looking for sci-fi/fantasy (romance), contemporary romance. She’s also always looking for characters with strong, authentic voices. Jordy loves an awesome kick butt hero/heroine, especially when they have to work their way out of a tight spot. While it isn’t necessarily a deal breaker, she tends to shy away from novels with trigger topics, such as suicide and any type of abuse. As for adult works, Jordy is looking for smart, sexy contemporary romances that leave her breathless, and where the chemistry between the characters sizzles right off the pages. She is also looking for Historical Romances (she definitely has a soft spot for Regency). Like Brittany, Jordy is a sucker for a HEA! Some favorite authors include Sabrina Jeffries, Teresa Medeiros, Karen Marie Moning, Kresley Cole, Lauren Layne, and Gena Showalter.

Danielle Barthel of New Leaf Literary:

Following her completion of the Denver Publishing Institute after graduation, Danielle began interning at Writers House. While there, she realized she wanted to put her English degree and love of the written word to work at a literary agency. She worked as a full-time assistant for three years, and continues to help keep the New Leaf offices running smoothly in her role of Coordinator of Team and Client Services.
In her downtime, she can be found with a cup of tea, a bar of chocolate, or really good book...sometimes all together.
Follow Danielle on twitter!

Sarah Davies of Greenhouse Literary:

Sarah Davies founded the Greenhouse and is head of the agency.  She created the business after moving to the USA from England in 2007, following a long career as a senior UK children’s publisher.
As a publisher, Sarah worked with many high-profile writers on both sides of the Atlantic. As an agent she has shepherded many debut authors to success. She has considerable experience in contract negotiation, marketing and rights, as well as a strong understanding of digital developments. Excellent publishing contacts in both the USA and Britain, and homes in both countries, have given her an unusually transatlantic view of the children’s books industry, from both sides of the desk.
A member of AAR and SCBWI, Sarah is an experienced speaker on children’s books and creative writing and attends many writers’ and book-trade events throughout the year. She says, ‘Everything you need to know about Greenhouse is embodied in its name.'
Christa Heschke of McIntosh & Otis:

Christa Heschke graduated from Binghamton University with a major in English and a minor in Anthropology. She started in publishing as an intern at both Writers House and Sterling Lord Literistic, where she fell in love with the agency side of publishing. Christa has been at McIntosh and Otis, Inc. in the Children's Literature Department since 2009 where she is actively looking for picture books, middle grade, and young adult projects.

She is a fan of young adult novels with a romantic angle, and strong, quirky protagonists. Within YA, Christa is especially interested in contemporary fiction, horror and thrillers/mysteries. As for middle grade, Christa enjoys contemporary, humor, adventure, mystery and magical realism for boys and girls. For picture books, she’s drawn to cute, funny, character driven stories within fiction and is open to non-fiction with a unique hook.

Victoria Lowes of The Bent Agency:

Victoria was born and raised in Queens, New York and graduated from the City University of New York, Queens College. Before joining the Bent Agency, she completed internships at Serendipity Literary and the Carol Mann Agency. In her spare time she can be found teaching dance classes for young students or watching re-runs of The Office. She loves books that teach her something, whether it be about a culture she doesn’t know, event in history or about the dynamics of a tumultuous young romance. She wants to root for your characters -- connect with them and the problems they face. She’s looking for characters as complex and interesting as those she meets in real life.

Melissa Nasson of RPC:

Melissa Nasson is an associate agent with Rubin Pfeffer Content. She is also an attorney and contracts director at Beacon Press, an independent publisher of non-fiction. Melissa is currently accepting submissions, and she is actively seeking MG, YA, and NA fiction in all genres (though she has a soft spot for fantasy and sci-fi). She will also consider fiction intended for the adult market, particularly edgy speculative fiction and gothic/horror novels. She is not considering non-fiction at this time.

Kelly Sonnack of Andrea Brown:

Kelly Sonnack is a Literary Agent with the Andrea Brown Literary Agency, living in San Diego. She works with illustrators and writers of all areas within children’s literature (picture books, middle grade, young adult, and graphic novels). Some of the YA and middle grade novels she represents include Steve Watkins’ Golden Kite Winner DOWN SAND MOUNTAIN (Candlewick); Sharon Cameron’s debut novel THE DARK UNWINDING and her upcoming novel ROOK (both Scholastic); and Gordon McAlpine’s middle grade trilogy THE MISADVENTURES OF EDGAR AND ALLAN POE (Viking/Penguin), with illustrations by Sam Zuppardi. Picture books she represents include Bridget Heos and Joy Ang’s MUSTACHE BABY (Clarion/HMH); Diane Adams’ TWO HANDS TO LOVE YOU (Chronicle); Jessica Young’s MY BLUE IS HAPPY (Candlewick); Elizabeth Rusch’s ERUPTION! THE SCIENCE OF SAVING LIVES (Houghton Mifflin/HMH); and Sam Zuppardi’s THE NOWHERE BOX (Candlewick). She is a frequent speaker at conferences, including SCBWI’s national and regional conferences, is on the advisory board for University of California San Diego’s Writing and Illustrating for Children Certificate, and can be found talking about all things children’s books on Facebook (agentsonnack) and Twitter (@KSonnack). You can also learn more about her at www.kellysonnack.com or at her agency’s website, www.andreabrownlit.com.

Top Ten Entries:











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9. DESIGNER - ali benyon

Designer Ali Benyon is originally from the UK but is now based in Australia where she has just released a new product collection. The fabrics for the new range have all been designed by Ali, with some printed by Spoonflower and others screen printed and made in Australia. Items available include make up/toiletry bags, purses, fabric mirrors, cushions, tea towels and soy wax candles. Note books

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10. A Slice of Poetry

Slice up a quick write and a poem may emerge!

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11. HOMEWARES - cordello home

Cordello Home is a brand all about 'design, pattern, colour' and bringing it to life on everyday homeware products.  Their patterns are all created using the iconic heart symbol and the name Cordello was born out of two Italian words Cuore (heart) and Modello (pattern).  The company's founder Kate Shaw is a lover of all things Italian - especially the sense of style. The Cordello Home

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12. Kisses to all the small Ellas out there!


By Mallory Kasdan; illustrated by Marcos Chin


“Ella” is a picture book urban parody of the 1955 iconic Plaza Hotel living, precocious but precious, lots of time on her hands and well-to-do child of means called ELOISE!

Eloise lives with HER Nanny, a dog called Weenie, that looks like a cat, and the turtle, Skipperdee who consumes raisins on the “room on the tippy-top floor” of the hotel. Ella, too, lives in the Penthouse or the “PH” as she dubs it.

Eloise is famous or infamous, as you please, and has enchanted readers both old and young. HER creator, Kay Thompson, star of “Funny Face” and cabaret acts galore, brought her to life with several subsequent books and assorted TV productions. 

Both Eloise and Ella’s days are filled with finding devious and devilish ways to prevent boredom. Remember the famous quote from Dorothy Parker? “The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity.”

Both Eloise and the hip, happening Ella stave off the Big B with abandon – and a great deal of curiosity.They are both six. Eloise lives at The Plaza, while Ella resides at “The Local Hotel” that looks like it could be situated near the High Line in NYC.

Eloise has a female live-in called Nanny, while Ella has a male nanny, named Manny who is ultra cool. He has tattoos for sleeves, makes films, plays guitar AND pickles veggies!

Marcos Chin’s art has a colorfully urban edge that is the exact opposite of the black and white drawings of Hillary Knight that brought Eloise to lavish life in her elegant Plaza abode. The only red in those books was the bow in Eloise’s hair. I like elegant!

Ella has a poofy, blue barrette held hairdo unlike the pin straight locks of Eloise. And here, there are no black, pleated skirts with white blouse and accompanying Mary Janes for Ella.

Nope. Her wardrobe consists of a sky blue skirt with accompanying sleeveless blouse, cinched black belt and tights. High top sneakers are her shoe of choice. Her dog, a moxie, travels in a red polka dotted bag slung over her shoulder. She’s ready to go and go she does. After all, her entire back and front yard is the cultural richness of New York!

Ella also has a pooch named Stacie, and instead of Eloise’s turtle called Skipperdee, she has a fish called Rasta. Cool!

Weaving her way through the ethnically diverse parade of patrons and employees of her hotel home, Ella is as comfy in urban chic as Eloise is at the elegance of the Plaza.

Bell Captains Levi and Louis at Ella’s hotel are red bearded, white shirted with bow and hand over hand style ties. Very cool! And the courtly Maverick, the African-American Bouncer from the roof top bar, greets Ella with a kindly, “What’s up girl how you feel?”

Ella has a LOT of time on her hands to be filled. Never a waster of that precious commodity, she uses the land line at the Front Desk to do helpful wake up calls to sleeping patrons. Hmmm.

This child is more than a bit bored as she pranks her way through the day. A Metro card figures largely in one. Nice current cultural touch here.

Ella spends large portions of some days texting, meditating, doing Zumba and performing mani/pedis for her dog. This girl has a ton of time on her hands! She also loves to hide the “Privacy Please” signs from other residents’ door knobs! Cute.

She checks stairs ways for paparazzi and has even attended a famous woman politico’s fundraiser – I’m sure for a hefty contribution.

Okay. Picture books ARE the portal into other worlds that young readers may never have the chance to experience themselves. I love that. And, aside from the parody of Eloise, that is what “Ella” shows us: what an upper class, maybe 1% of urban children like Ella or Eloise experience.

But, may I be honest here? There is something so wistfully sad about both Eloise AND Ella. Where are the parents? This is definitely parenting by proxy, to say the least.

Then again, maybe it does give kids a window into a much wider variety of diverse population than the suburban child might encounter, and it does give them pause to appreciate the perhaps “helicoptering” parents they DO have.

But I can’t help feeling both kids are lonely. Ella may be longing for something much more fulfilling than attending Fashion Week, attending 62 events, eating edamame, and living a life literally littered with pranks and poking around the fringes of adult lives. This is a child very much left to her own devices for amusement.

Question. Where are the other kids her own age? No time for “playdates” as Ella is on the fast track to the Ivys via her hotel-schooling home tutor from “Hah vard” named Judith. Her education, at least formally, comes to her in the creative memoir journals Ella pens in gold-silver glitter. Ella is a mini Auntie Mame in the making!  

For me, and maybe unwittingly for Ella, she reveals herself more than a little, in the most honest and open passage of this entire picture book:


I use my binoculars to look in the windows of other buildings.


Sometimes I see a dad get a kid a glass of water and a kid read a book with a flashlight before a mom comes in and the light goes off and all is still.


Ella seems to be looking over the shoulder of a particular world that she has very little knowledge of – but one with which she might just like to have a much closer experience. Out there, in that building across the way, is a partially emotional unknown landscape – for her.

Her mom, referred to as a person in the “Entertainment Industry”, knows Bono and Ella gets to speak with her mom in video chats! These tete a tetes occur between mom’s scene changes and at night, before Ella goes sleepy bye! Hard to tell if this is a seldom thing or a way of life. 

Young readers will probably feel that Ella’s life is way cool as she scoots through her days, literally, with Manny, the minder. They do  “a lot of ordering in and taking out.” And Ella’s doxie dog walker, Topher, would probably be a great helper to most young kid’s hearing mom shout, “Did you remember to walk Bentley?” But then, again, how DO you teach kids some personal responsibility?

BUT, I do think dropping that big watermelon off the roof of The Local Hotel might possibly kill someone, sweetie! Manny, where are you?    

Deep down, perhaps, all young Ella unconsciously wishes for, and wants, is to be tucked in at night by mom or dad, with that last minute drink of water.

Tell you what, Ella. C’mon out to our farm for a new and refreshing experience of life with picking grapes, veggies and riding tractors. It’s not cool or cray, but I think you just might find it comforting.

And, I promise to tuck you in at night, give you a glass of water – and read lots of books to you too, of course! 

Kisses to all the small Ellas out there!

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13. Query Question: so, what's your batting average?

I've been reading a small debate on a writing forum. Someone stated that only 50-60% of first novels (represented by an agent) actually get picked up by a publisher. Their source is an agent's blog post. Another person questioned whether that agent's estimates are accurate. I'm sure some agents have different rates, this is supposed to be a rough average.

Is it true that even if someone signs with an agent, their odds of successfully getting a publisher for that book are only 50-60%? At first glance, that seemed a low figure. I'm afraid it really is accurate. But I'm curious about your thoughts on this. I want to recall a post by you about this (though maybe it didn't give actual figures?), but I can't find it again now.

You're missing two key pieces of information: time period, and number of books.

First, if an agent hasn't sold a novel within a day of signing the client, that's not a problem. A month isn't a problem either. Six months either, particularly in this acquisition climate. I've got several novels I've had on submission for longer than six months right now. There are a couple strategic reasons, and a couple just have editors who are backlogged as hell right now.

So it's entirely possible that I won't sell half my novels on submission within six months.

I have sold books that I've had on my list for nine years.

And let's all remember that Philip Spitzer, an agent I revere, had a James Lee Burke  novel on submission for something like seventeen years before selling it.

The amount of time is hugely important for assessing something like this.

And here's the other factor: if I can't sell the novel I signed a client for, generally s/he's going to write a second or a third.  We'll hit on one of them, we hope, eventually, but it makes the stats look bad if you're only considering the first novel an author writes.

But, more important here, your question tells me you're having doubts. Stop it.

As a writer, you must be determined to be the exception to any statistic that says you will fail. You must be willing to see that bleak truth, and refuse to let it apply to you.  There's a lot to be said for vision and tenacity as keys to success.

Don't focus on statistics right now. Focus on your writing.

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14. RHYMOCEROS by Janik Coat

Hooray! Janik Coat, creator of the fantastic hippoposites, brought to us by the wonderful people at Abrams Appleseed in 2012, is back with a companion book - RHYMOCEROS! Coat has a visually stunning style that is paired with a fresh take on what are usually tired concept books. Where hippoposites stands out for a creative use of opposites, RHYMOCEROS is equally matched with creative rhymes -

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15. The Room review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Jonas Karlsson's small workplace novel, The Room.

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16. Throwback Thursday: Remembering where you came from, and 2015 plans

There's a thing on Facebook called Throwback Thursday. It's pretty fun: people post old pictures of themselves (or others) from a while ago. You're probably familiar if you hang out at the virtual watercooler that is Faceybook.

This is me, I'm thinking around three years old. And laughing at someone's joke, clearly. As I flipped through my old picture album, I was reminded how nice my childhood was, and how lucky I am to have all these good memories (there were a lot of smiley-me pictures to choose from).

As a writer, I'm not the same girl who wrote those dark stories umpteen years ago--which is understandable, especially since I write for kids now. But it's good to remember where you came from sometimes. I actually wrote a short story recently, and was reminded to do more of it. And I ticked off one of my plans for 2015, so that felt good.

I still like to have a good laugh like three year-old Fleur, though, so that hasn't changed.

How about you? Do you look back and realize you write differently, or read different books?

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17. Mel Crawford, Little Golden Books Illustrator, RIP

Mel Crawford spent decades drawing the world's most famous cartoon characters, but he didn't do it at any animation studio.

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18. making the day what it can be, in the winter of should have/would have

We're frustrated. Face it. We are. Our delayed trip to see our daughter. Our thwarted trip to see the sun. Our meeting that's been canceled. Our promise we can't keep.

This is our weather, and this is our now. We've tilted our planet on its axis, so to speak, and the planet was always going to be larger, and more powerful, than we are.

Today I was to have joined Professor/Writer Cyndi Reeves and her students at Bryn Mawr College to talk about memoir. I was to have later lunched with her and her teaching colleague. After that I was to have headed down to the Philadelphia Flower Show with my husband, looked at flowers and pots, and joined my friend Adam Levine for the official launch of his glorious horticultural magazine, GROW. And finally, 8 o'clock, thanks to my brother and sister-in-law, I was to have dined at Laurel, the "intimate French/American BYO restaurant by Chef/Owner Nicholas Elmi." (Top Chef viewers will remember him.)

All of that now jeopardized, junked, postponed, terminated by all the snow that falls.

"Peaceful out there," my husband just said, having opened the door and stood, for a moment, in the white plenitude. "Peaceful." I stop typing. Can barely hear the wind. Can almost hear a train on its track. Can see no one in the street, no car passing.

Peaceful, he says.

Make the day what the day can be, I remind myself. A lesson that my son keeps teaching. A lesson that the world is demanding that we learn—again. Make the day what the day can be. In this sudden wash of white time, I will write an essay about my students, My Spectaculars, and what they teach me (and us). I will count the eggs and measure the sugar and experiment, again, with my new KitchenAid. I will read the new memoir, Walking with Abel: Journeys with the Nomads of the African Savannah, by my brilliant friend, Anna Badkhen, who walks the world to learn the world and who whispers one word, again and again: compassion.

Peaceful. To you, from me, while the planet reminds us how small we are, how temporary and shifting our plans.

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19. cally jane studio

Post by Alice Palace

These are some super cute animal illustrations from cally jane studio…

otters-cally jane studio Horsey_callyJaneStudio Moon Owl-Cally Jane Studio

See more of her work here

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20. 2015 Teen Tech Week Grant Winner - Lindsey Tomsu

In 2012 the Teen Advisory Board received a grant from the Nebraska Library Commission (NLC) of $1,900 to start a Teen

Media Club to give teens a chance to learn how to create digital content. Many of my teens do not have access to basic

technologies. The library’s computer lab does not have filters so you must be 17 to enter which means that our

community’s teens that do not have access to computers outside of school can’t even use the library’s resources. Many of

my teens do not have Internet at home, have outdated computers that seem to freeze all the time and not connect to the

library’s wireless, and many do not have smartphones.


The goal of Media Club was to use technology to enable teens to create such things as book trailers and the creation and

maintenance of a teen library website. The original NLC grant funds were used to purchase an HD Digital Recorder, a

laptop for the teens, and various props for their videos. While there still is a lot of interest in Media Club we realized that

just having a camera and a laptop was not enough. As we went about beginning to create, draft, and record various video

projects we learned that we really need certain other tech equipment to properly be able to run our club. We discovered

this after a large-scale project (La Vista’s Next Top Project Snazz Maszter—a “reality” show cross between America’s

Next Top Model and Project Runway) which we filmed during a 17-hour lock-in (filming all 17 hours!) and discovered

afterward that a lot of the film was unusable. Our library has 20-foot ceilings and the sound on most of our film was barely

audible because of echoes. We also realized free film editing software can’t do things like green screen effects. The teens

decided they wanted me to apply for a YALSA/Best Buy Teen Tech Week grant for funds to be used toward the purchase

of the additional equipment we need to get Media Club properly equipped and off the ground again.

We are using the funds as a launching point for the new and improved Media Club. One of their large-scale goals they are

planning to do for TTW is the creation of a sketch show a la Kids in the Hall. During TTW we plan to offer programs that

range from a workshop for the teens to brainstorm their sketches and work with groups, a time to rehearse, a time to learn

how to use the filming equipment, a time to do the actual filming, and a time to learn to use editing equipment, and then

time to edit the film together. The great thing is that this is not just a one-time only program where the funds will be used

and the equipment expended. As a re-launching point of Media Club, we have been given the ability to revive interest in

Media Club and actually get it off the ground this time and continue it (whether through more sketch show “episodes” in

the future or better book trailers and other digital programs) indefinitely.


Many of my teens have gotten their first experiences with film creation equipment at Media Club. Their teachers are now

requiring mandatory exercises that need access to smartphones, laptops, and film making equipment that the teens do

not have access to outside of the classroom. With our Media Club they not only get to learn how to build and maintain a

teen library website, but also how to use the HD camera, how to film digital content, and how to edit it into something

watchable. We also recently started a Teen Makerspace, and the teens are interested in the possibilities of incorporating

the digital content creation of 3-D printing with possible filming opportunities.


Media Club is using the YALSA Best Buy Teen Tech Week grant funds for the purchase of a high-quality green screen kit

(with lighting), a high-quality boom mic kit, professional video editing software, a tripod for our camera, and, if we have

any funds left over, additional props for their videos.


You can see some of the videos that the teens have created in the past on our YouTube Channel, TheTabblerTeens,

here: https://www.youtube.com/user/TheTabblerTeens/videos?view=0


I highly recommend our “Dinosaur Book Trailers” of which we have filmed six so far. Now that we have been awarded a

TTW grant we know there will be more videos for us in our future!


Lindsey Tomsu has been the Teen Coordinator of the La Vista Public Library since 2009. Lindsey and her dedicated Teen Advisory Board members have brought in more than $10,000 in grant funds over the years to make the La Vista teen program one of the most active in the area.  Their overall goal is world domination—in a nice way of course!

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21. Travel Journal: Beach Memories

Keeping a travel art journal has so many benefits. While drawing, you enjoy the moment so much more, your senses open up and you really look at your surroundings. It makes you appreciate the place, the moment, your time, and it makes you realize how lucky you are to be where you are.
Plus, you're creating a book of memories to never forget.
Seeing this drawing again brings me right back to the warm breeze on my skin, the sound of the wind through the palm tree leaves and the sound of the waves. 


After doing the drawing above, a lady who worked at the beach restaurant came over curiously and flipped through my sketchbook. Then she asked me to draw her. I felt challenged, I never did something like that on request, but I thought 'why not?' and gave it a go, next to a bunch of blind contour drawings I made of my husband earlier that day. 
The drawing doesn't look much like her, but it was a nice and intimate moment and a great way to connect with a local anyway. I asked her name, which was Tui, and then I asked her to write it on the drawing. Not my best drawing ever, but a wonderful memory.

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22. DESIGNER - ailsa lishman

Ailsa Lishman is a recent graduate from Manchester School of Art where she studied a BA (Hons) in Textiles In Practice. Ailsa specialised in printed textiles using a a combination of screen printed and digital techniques to create her designs. She loves to play around with mark making and abstraction to create fresh and exciting surface pattern prints. Ailsa recently completed a three month

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23. L.A. Times Book Prize finalists

       They've announced the finalists for the 35th annual L.A. Times Book Prizes.
       Some interesting works -- and a lot of categories. I have some of these, but none are under review at the complete review at this time.

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24. Editor Stacy Whitman of Tu Books Discusses Diversity in YA, What She's Searching For, and Her Favorite Books

I am thrilled to introduce Stacy Whitman who has provided us with an incredible interview.

Stacy Whitman is the founder and publisher of Tu Books, an imprint of Lee & Low Books that publishes diverse fantasy, science fiction, and mystery for children and young adults. Books she has edited include Joseph Bruchac’s AILA YA Award and Top Ten Quick Picks titleKiller of Enemies, and Summer of the Mariposas by Guadalupe Garcia McCall, which received a starred review from School Library Journaland has been placed on numerous lists, including the Amelia Bloomer Project, School Library Journal’s Best of 2012 List, and the Lone Star Reading List. Stacy holds a master’s degree in children’s literature from Simmons College.

1. What drew you to publishing? Why specifically diverse books?
I’ve always been a big reader, but I didn’t know that publishing was possible for me as a kid. I spent most of my after-school time at the library or up a tree, reading a book. Or riding a book on the back of a horse. Getting my first job in children’s books was a long, winding road. I actually grew up poor, on a farm, and was an animal science pre-vet major my freshman year in college. No one I knew worked in publishing—I had no idea it was a viable career choice. When you come from where I come from, practical majors in agribusiness or engineering are generally what you’re encouraged to study. 
And even in college when I started seeing writing and editing as a viable path, I didn’t realize books were a possibility for me until much further down the road. It took me almost 8 years within my undergrad journey (I took time off to work several times during my undergrad years) until I came to the point of realizing that working in children’s books was something I could and would want to do. By that time, I nearly had a bachelor’s in child development, and a really great teacher helped me realize that all those part-time and full-time jobs I’d been holding down just to pay the bills because office jobs were easier than shoveling manure at the college dairy farm—working for the local paper, transcribing overland trails journals for the college library special collections department, typesetting college textbooks, and proofreading phone books for a living (yes, I used to edit the phone book)—would combine with my degree to give me the chance to do something I actually wanted to do: create books for children and teens, the kinds of books that made such a difference for me as a kid.
As far as diversity in the books I publish, part of that was personal experience with all the college roommates I had along the way (many of whom were American POCs or from other countries), who taught me how to see the world from a different perspective, combined with a desire to learn about the world through books and seeing a glaring gap in the stories I was reading—I started noticing the stories I *wasn’t* reading. At Mirrorstone, which is the imprint of Wizards of the Coast I worked at right out of my master’s in children’s lit—my first editorial job in children’s books—my senior editor emphasized that she wanted to see diverse characters in the books I acquired because librarians were always asking what we had in the way of diversity at library conferences. It felt natural to seek diversity, but I was pretty clueless at first about white privilege and centering the stories of people of color. The more I’ve learned over the years, the more I’ve been passionate about diversity in the books I publish. 
Starting Tu Books was a natural extension of that learning process, borne out of a desire to use the power I have as an editor for good, to help make fantasy and science fiction, in particular, a more welcoming place for readers of color. We’ve expanded out to other genres since starting in 2010.

2. What do you look for in a submission? 
I look for good writing first and foremost—strong voice, in particular. I also want to see strong worldbuilding, characters I want to root for (which is not the same as “relatable,” which I don’t want to use—sometimes characters aren’t relatable, but you still care what happens to them, and root for them to succeed). I like culturally specific content, as appropriate to the story being told—whether the book is “about race” or “about culture” doesn’t matter so much that what content there is is specific and accurate. So whether there’s a lot of cultural content (such as the Slovak content in VODNIK by Bryce Moore, which is about a boy who can see characters from Slovak folklore, one of which is trying to drown him and save his soul in a teacup) or really not that much (such as the Chinese and Nordic content in CAT GIRL’S DAY OFF by Kimberly Pauley, which mentions the main character’s heritage very briefly and moves right along with the rest of the story about a girl who can talk to cats saving a celebrity blogger from kidnapping), as long as it works for the story, that’s what matters.

3. Do you feel that representation of diversity in YA is gaining ground? Is there a particular group that is more often ignored, misrepresented, or avoided?
That’s a hard question to answer right now. It’s definitely a hopeful sign that the CCBC numbers that just came out indicate a nice boost to certain groups’ numbers, as far as characters who are being written about. But the gains in authorship by people of color aren’t nearly as big. (And, note, those numbers are all children’s books—picture books, chapter books, middle grade, and YA, so it’s hard to pin down exactly how we’re doing in YA.) 
So as far as representation of authors, we have a long, long way to go. I’m very happy that white authors are just as excited these days about We Need Diverse Books as authors of color, but I think it’s also important for me and my fellow editors to be seeking authors of color and publishing them. And we in publishing—from the marketing and sales staffs to the booksellers on the other end—need to be promoting a wide variety of voices so that new voices of color aren’t lost in the shuffle. We’re nowhere near equity yet.
As far as groups you rarely hear from in YA, I am seeking Southeast Asian and Pacific Islander voices in particular because we don’t see much of them out there even in comparison to other groups. In addition, Native American representation is often hard to find, and even today, much of what you find in new books relies on stereotypes. So I seek to change that in the books I publish.

4. How do you feel about authors writing characters of different ethnicities and backgrounds?
If the writing is great, awesome!—with a few caveats. I have no problem publishing a wonderful book by a writer who is not from the background they’re writing about, as long as the author has done the necessary research, and done a good job. We evaluate that not just in the quality of the writing and of any sources the writer depended upon, but also by sending manuscripts out to expert readers from those communities, who give us critical feedback.
However, I also feel very strongly that should center the voices of marginalized writers. In fantasy and science fiction, that can be a challenge, so I reach out to those communities and share calls for submissions, and I’ve started a writing contest, the New Visions Award, to seek new writers of color. We just announced our most recent finalists, and will be picking this year’s winner in April. Debut authors of color who missed this last year should be working on their manuscripts for when we open again in June.

5. What do you recommend for authors nervous about writing a diverse character because of a fear of not being able to do her justice or accidentally misrepresenting something in a different culture?
First of all, no one should be writing diversity if they don’t feel qualified. The first step for writing cross-culturally is to *get* qualified, whatever that looks like for you. I’ve forgotten who said it, but someone said that you shouldn’t feel qualified to write about a community until you’ve “held their babies.” Sometimes that’s not possible in a literal sense—especially when you’re talking about writing about history; your research might involve more library time than holding literal or metaphorical babies—but the principle of spending time in the community you want to write about, really coming to understand people from the inside rather than from an outsider’s perspective, is hugely important.
A great place to start when thinking about writing from a cultural perspective not your own is Nisi Shawl’s excellent essays, “Appropriate Cultural Appropriation” and “Transracial Writing for the Sincere." In an ideal world, you want to be at a “guest” status—and not an imagined one. I’ve known a few white writers who have trampled on cultures they consider themselves a part of, who say that the people in the culture are fine with what they do, when in fact the culture is not known for telling someone to their face that they’re being offensive. No one wants to be in that position. No one wants to be the person who has committed a microaggression or outright aggression—few people go into writing about another culture intending to cause offense or pain, but it happens. So understanding power dynamics, understanding what microaggressions are and how not to culturally appropriate, and how to politely learn about a culture not your own—these are all really important before you start writing. 
Don’t let fear of blundering hold you back, either—accept that you will likely blunder, and that to err is human. We all make blunders, but learning how to apologize and do better next time is also very important. Learn to listen and respond politely to feedback before you publish, and to change what needs to change. And learn that even after doing all you can, you will make mistakes. Learn from them and move on to do better next time. 
I recently presented on this topic at New York Winter SCBWI, and blogged a recap of my session over at the Lee & Low blog. Check that out for further links & reading.

6. What are you looking for currently?
We’re still relatively new (we are 5 years old in March), so if a writer wants to know what we’d be interested in, take a look at the list of books we’ve published so far  and make sure that your submission isn’t *too* close to what we’ve already published. And be aware of trends that are waning. For example, I’m not terribly interested in dystopias right now—we’ve published a 3-book dystopian series and an anthology centered on dystopian stories, and right now, with so many dystopias out there, it’s just not something I’m interested in right now. 
I am looking in particular for books with a strong adventurous streak, whatever the genre, and possibly a strong romance storyline. We’re open to science fiction, fantasy, mystery, and historical fiction—and I love genre mash-ups. I love, for example, historical fiction set in a real-world setting but with a magical or steampunk twist. I’d love to see a steampunk set in colonial India or Hong Kong, addressing colonialism from a native worldview. I’d love to see more African American and African diaspora stories of all stripes, particularly futuristic (not dystopian—perhaps set in space!) or a contemporary fantasy drawing upon Gullah or Creole cultures and folklores. There’s such a wide variety of possibilities.
Most of all, I am looking for writers who are people of color themselves. While I welcome writers of all backgrounds who write well cross-culturally, I want to boost the voices of marginalized communities.

7. What are some of your favorite books and why?
This is one of the hardest questions to answer, because I have SO MANY. Can’t pin them all down! Growing up and through college, I loved Diana Wynne Jones, Robin McKinley, Robert Jordan, and other high fantasy authors of their ilk. One of the biggest reasons is the folkloric connection in high fantasy. I used to reread Franny Billingsley’s THE FOLK KEEPER in college because I just LOVED the connection to Irish folklore. My own ancestry includes Swedish, Irish, Scottish, English, Prussian, and German roots, along with—I discovered later—a very tiny connection to Cherokee and Choctaw people (though those ancestors could well have been lying about their deceased mother’s ancestry to gain land in Indian Country, so I don’t *identify* as that). I tell you that because I am a family historian and I loved to read books connected to the culture of the people I come from. But reading that high fantasy voraciously also brought out to me just how little I know about the folklore of other places in the world, and how much I’d love to read fantasy set in those cultures.
So, more recently, one of my favorites is Cindy Pon’s SILVER PHOENIX, which opens that kind of world to me in a Chinese-related setting. 
On the science fiction side, a recent favorite is Shannon Hale’s DANGEROUS, which stars a Latina character who also has a disability who saves the world from aliens. I’m all about superheroes! On my list up next is Gene Luen Yang’s THE SHADOW HERO for that reason.

8. What book/author are you most proud of working with?
It’s really hard to pick any one particular book! I am very proud of the recognition that KILLER OF ENEMIES by Joseph Bruchac has gotten in the last couple of years—it was a QuickPicks Top Ten title, as well as winning the American Indian Youth Literature Award for YA book—as well as the starred review and multiple lists that SUMMER OF THE MARIPOSAS by Guadalupe Garcia McCall has been recognized with. These accolades are great because many of them are showing a connection to the readers themselves, at how these books have been hitting a gap our teens need filled.
I am also very excited about our new spring title, INK AND ASHES by Valynne Maetani, which is our first mystery title and the winner of our first New Visions Award contest. It’s already receiving wonderful blurbs from other authors, and is a Junior Library Guild selection.
But as far as an author I’m most proud of working with, they’re all important. They have each made excellent books, no matter the accolades received.

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25. A Darker Shade of Magic: Tour Stop + Giveaway (international)

We have two fun things for you today–A Darker Shade of Magic prize pack and a quick visit from V.E. Schwab as part of the official blog tour! The book was just released this week and reviewed by Kim–I’m in the middle of the book myself and I can see why she lavished it such glowing praise. In the book, which takes place in multiple alternate universe Londons, one character observes, “No London is truly without magic.” Kim’s question for our stop on the official blog tour: What are the most magical parts of London to you? V.E. Schwab: I grew up wanting the world to be stranger than it was, and because of that, I’m inclined to look for—and see—the potential for the magical, the fantastical, the extraordinary everywhere I look. In alleys and doorways and in the seams between places—and in the case of ADSOM, between worlds—anywhere there’s... Read more »

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