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1. Back to School

Teachers!
Set The Stage for Great Writing

Many kids think of writing as a burden and a chore rather than as a pleasurable experience. Here are some suggestions to help you motivate your students to get them writing. 

   Professional writers choose their own topics and story ideas; they write about things they care about. In our current test oppressive culture, students have little opportunity to choose their own writing topics. Whenever possible, offer your students choices within a given writing assignment. If, after being given a writing assignment, a student comes up with a legitimately better idea, be flexible; allow them to bend the assignment to meet their interests.

 Fight to keep creative writing projects in your classroom and your school’s curriculum. With state testing mandates, many teachers have little time to spend on creative writing projects. Your students need to experience writing for joy and pleasure, just like they need to experience reading and books in a pleasurable atmosphere.

 Introducing kids to rich and entertaining children’s literature is the best way to get kids excited about reading and books. Creating their own stories is one of the best ways you can get your students excited about writing.

 The esteemed writer Virginia Woolf suggested that a writer needs "a room of one’s own." Writers need privacy in order to work and school is, conversely, a communal experience. What’s to be done? First, buck the team work trend and have your students work independently on their own writing projects and assignments. Second, see if there is some way you can allow your students to find their own writing space either in the classroom or in the school library, even if they can only use the space on occasion. Third, contact your students' parents and ask them to help their children find a special place at home to write. You may want to print and make multiple copies of Creating a Home Atmosphere That Supports Great Writing, and give a copy to each of your students’ parents. It will help them create an atmosphere at home to support their children’s writing.

 Be a role model. If you want your students to think that writing is a pleasurable activity, then you should try to write, too, and let them see you writing. Participate yourself in the creative writing projects you give your students and let them hear the results of your attempts, after they have completed their assignments. If you have the courage to share your writing, they will follow your example!

For more great tips and articles about encouraging literacy in the classroom and at home, visit the NCBLA's Teacher Handbook and Parent & Guardian Handbook

©2004 Mary Brigid Barrett

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2. #PitchPlus5 Writing Contest! 7 Agents plus 10 Bestselling & Award-Winning Authors Provide Feedback on Your Work!

Here is the big contest info post I promised you. But remember because of the sheer size of this endeavor we have a separate website for all contest posts. So I recommend you go ahead and add http://adventuresinyacontests.blogspot.com to your favorites!

RULES:

  • We will take the first 25 Middle Grade/Young Adult/New Adult entries submitted in the correct format after NINE AM EST on 8/24 and the first 25 MG/YA/NA entries submitted in the correct format after 9PM EST to the email AYAPcontest@gmail.com. Please remember that we have many teen readers on this blog who are under 18, so keep the first pages rated PG. (I'm the last person to suggest any kind of censorship for ANY reason, but there is a level of expectation based on what readers are used to seeing here at AYAP.) 
  • Only one entry per person to make sure everyone has a shot at feedback. 
  • Entries will consist of the first five pages of a COMPLETED manuscript, which should not exceed 1250 words (but please feel free to complete the sentence). Please use single spaced text, no indentations, one space between paragraphs. 12 point font. Please make sure to include your name, email, manuscript title, word count and genre/subgenre. For example:
    IDA Luv Anoffer
    Sillymadeupemail@ayap.com
    BEST BOOK EVER WRITTEN
    78,000 words
    YA Magical Realism
  • The accepted entries will all be posted on AdventuresInYAContests.blogspot.com by 6AM EST August 26.
  • We will invite reading, comments, and love from anyone who wants to participate — until 6:00 AM ET on 9/4. By noon on 9/6 we announce the top 25 entries as judged by our respected blogger judges, who will score the entries according to a standard scale with two bloggers reading each entry and a third blogger serving as a discrepancy judge if there is a wide disparity in scores.
  • The top 25 entries will then be invited to send their query pitch (of no more than 150 words) and a revised first five pages by Midnight EST 9/8, to be posted the next day no later than NOON EST. These entries will be judged by our amazing author judges, who will also score the entries according to a standard scale with two bloggers reading each entry and a third blogger serving as a discrepancy judge if there is a wide disparity in scores.
  • The top 10 will be announced on 9/20 by NOON EST and will have until MIDNIGHT on 9/21 to send in their revised entries in order to move on to the agent round beginning 9/22. 
  • Winners will be announced on 10/3/14. 
  • All feedback, from the public, bloggers, authors, and agents will be posted as comments on the entry or emailed on score cards, but the identity of the judge making the comment will not be revealed. You'll just see Judge 1, or Judge 2, etc. You will, however, have a bio for all of the judges involved in that round. This will give all participants the opportunity to receive feedback that they can apply immediately to their work, and give anyone who is inclined to watch the process the ability to learn vicariously.
PRIZES:

Boy do we have PRIZES. So many that the top FIVE entries as judged by our esteemed agents will receive something priceless:
  • 4 Runners Up will receive one of the following: A one chapter critique from Agent Christa Hescke, Agent Jordy Albert, Agent Victoria Lowes, or Agent Alex Slater!
  • TWO Grand Prize Winners will receive one THREE Chapter Agent Critique from either Melissa Nasson of RPC or Lara Perkins from Andrea Brown AND a free query pass to the also amazing (and currently closed to queries) Ammi-Joan Paquette of the Erin Murphy Literary Agency!
  • AND if that's not enough - we will have a poll near the end of the contest for YOU to pick your favorite two entries that did NOT make it to the finals. Those entries will win the following:
  • Runner Up: One chapter critique from the AMAZING Angela Ackerman (co-author of the can't do without writer's tool: The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writers Guide To Character Expression).
  • First Place: One chapter critique from New York Times Best Selling Author, Jen Nielsen!

EVERYBODY WINS:

Not everyone will get the critiques offered above, however EVERY participant will receive copies of the score sheets from our awesome judges, presented anonymously. These score sheets are standardized and rated on a scale across a spectrum of different areas from likability of characters to story question to premise, freshness, and quality of writing. Even if you don't win, you'll get information you can use to take your writing up a notch.

FOLLOW ALONG:

To keep up with the contest, follow hashtag #PitchPlus5 on Twitter!

MEET THE JUDGES:


Third Round - The Agent Judges

Jordy Albert of the Booker Albert Literary 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. Jordy also works as a freelance editor/PR Director. She enjoys studying languages (French/Japanese), spends time teaching herself how to knit, is a HUGE fan of Doctor Who, and loves dogs.

Jordy is looking for stories that capture her attention and keep her turning the page. She is looking for a strong voice, and stories that have the ability to surprise her. She loves intelligent characters with a great sense of humor. She would love to see fresh, well-developed plots featuring travel, competitions/tournaments, or time travel. Jordy is looking for: *ROMANCE (contemporary, New Adult, erotica, or historical--soft spot for Regency). * YA: Open to pretty much any genre; however, she's looking especially for YA that has a very strong romantic element. *Middle Grade (action/adventure, contemporary).

* * * 

Jess Dallow of New Leaf Literary

Before moving back to her home state of New York, Jess Dallow spent eight years working at a talent agency in Hollywood. Deciding books and cold New York winters were more her speed, she became an intern at New Leaf Literary before being hired as the subrights and film/tv assistant. She is looking to build her list with strong character driven stories, dialogue that can play out like a film in her head and something that will make her laugh and cry (maybe even at once.) Specifically in YA she's looking for something with heart, friendship and romance. In adult, she's looking for new adult, romance, and crime fiction. In her spare time, Jess can be found at either Sprinkles or Dylan's Candy Bar, stuffing her face with cupcakes and gummy bears. 



* * * 


Christa Heschke of McIntosh and 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:
  
I was born and raised in Queens, New York and graduated from the City University of New York, Queens College. Before joining the Bent Agency, I completed internships at Serendipity Literary and the Carol Mann Agency. In my spare time I can be found teaching dance classes for young students or watching re-runs of The Office. I love books that teach me something, whether it be about a culture I don’t know, event in history or about the dynamics of a tumultuous young romance. I want to root for your characters -- connect with them and the problems they face. I'm looking for characters as complex and interesting as those I meet in real life.


* * * 

Melissa Nasson of Rubin Pfeffer Content: 





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.




* * * 

Lara Perkins of Andrea Brown Literary
 
Lara Perkins represents all categories of children's literature, from picture books to young adult. Lara works closely with Executive Agent Laura Rennert, with whom she jointly represents a number of clients, in addition to building her own list. She is also the agency's Digital Manager. Lara is a fan of insightful, page-turning, voice-driven young adult and middle grade fiction, as well as quirky, witty picture books. For middle grade, she's particularly looking for compelling, unexpected mysteries, stories set in fascinating, unexpected worlds (real or imagined), and stories that hit home in their depiction of ending/changing friendships or family shifts. Humor is always welcome. For young adult, Lara is looking for heart-breaking but very funny contemporary (or contemporary with a fantasy or paranormal twist) novels. She loves a bittersweet romance when it's solidly grounded in reality between believable, memorable characters. She's also drawn to character-driven fantasy with striking world building, and whip-smart, page-turning psychological mysteries. In the picture book realm, Lara is drawn to picture books that take a small but universal experience of childhood and draw out something beautiful or hilarious, and an endearingly flawed main character is central for her. She loves working with author/illustrators, and she's drawn to a wide range of illustration styles. Some of Lara's recent titles include THE FANTASTIC FAMILY WHIPPLE by Matthew Ward (Razorbill/Penguin)*, A MILLION WAYS HOME by Dianna Dorisi Winget (Scholastic Press), IF YOUR MONSTER WON'T GO TO BED by Denise Vega (Knopf/Random House), THE STEPSISTER'S TALE by Tracy Barrett (Harlequin Teen)*, and I'M NEW HERE by Anne Sibley O'Brien (Charlesbridge). Noteworthy deals include a two-book, six figure deal to Razorbill/Penguin and a two-book deal to Harlequin Teen (*together with Laura Rennert). Lara has a B.A. in English and Art History from Amherst College and an M.A. in English Literature from Columbia University, where she studied Victorian Brit Lit. In her pre-publishing life, she trained to be an architect, before deciding that books, not bricks, are her true passion. She spent over a year at the B.J. Robbins Literary Agency in Los Angeles before coming to Andrea Brown Literary. She is a frequent speaker at conferences nationwide, and currently is based in the SF Bay Area.


* * * 

 Alex Slater of Trident Media:
    
When asked how he became an agent at Trident, concentrating in the expanding children's, middle grade and young adult businesses, Alex simply replies, "It was only natural.” While karma is not an established business concept, it is clear that Alex's career arc led him in this happy direction. 
Start with Alex's love of fiction, and in particular the stories that captivate the minds and imaginations of young people, from those so young that books are read to them, to young adults who get captivated by creative fiction. "I love to let myself go, and become the reader, whether the story is directed at a ten-year-old or a teenager," says Alex. 
Next is Alex's experience at Trident, where he has been since 2010. He became a very successful agent representing the company's children, middle grade and young adult authors in many licensing arrangements in the global marketplace for translation and in the English language in the U.K., having placed books with publishers in dozens of countries. Alex was Trident's representative at the Bologna Children's Book Fair in Italy, as well as the broader-based London and Frankfurt book fairs. His experience in representing fiction in these areas showed him what elements in stories work well, and how to maximize the value of what an author has created. 
Alex's plan is to, "Look for stories that will rise above the rest with characters that will be remembered well past childhood, with the potential to cross over to other media and formats," such as programming, games, motion pictures and merchandise. "Trident is the leader on taking advantage of the latest opportunities presented by changing technology," says Alex, and, "I will be there to help make the latest innovations happen for my authors." 
"I believe that the most successful writers have a bit of the dreamer in them." And Alex passionately believes that he can help turn their dreams into reality.



Second Round - The Author Judges

Kelly Armstrong


Kelley Armstrong is the #1 New York Times best-selling author of twenty-one books for adults and young adults. She has been telling stories since before she could write. Her earliest written efforts were disastrous. If asked for a story about girls and dolls, hers would invariably feature undead girls and evil dolls, much to her teachers’ dismay. 

Today, she continues to spin tales of ghosts and demons and werewolves, while safely locked away in her basement writing dungeon. She lives in southwestern Ontario with her husband, kids and far too many pets.

Her work includes the Otherworld series, the Cainsville series, the Darkest Powers/Darkness Rising series, and Sea of Shadows, this year's stunning first installment in the Age of Legends series.

* * * 


Erin Cashman
 
I have been writing for as long as I can remember; in grade school usually from my perch near the top of our maple tree (much to my mother’s displeasure!) With three kids and a career as an attorney, I often wrote late at night, or stolen hours here and there. I wrote a previous middle-grade novel about a treasure, and could wallpaper a large room with all of my rejection letters! But within a few weeks of sending The Exceptionals to Pam Glauber, an editor at Holiday House, she called and told me that they wanted to publish it! I was thrilled and very fortunate to work with such a brilliant editor.  The Exceptionals is a Bank Street College of Education Best Children's Book.

My mother was born in Galway Ireland, moving to America when she was about twenty. She believed in angels, fairies and leprechauns, and loved to tell the most imaginative (or who knows – real!) stories. I inherited my love for books from my father, who ironically dropped out of high school at the age of sixteen, joined the Army and eventually went back and finished high school and then graduated from Bentley College, going nights. I grew up in Framingham, Massachusetts. I graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Bates College in Maine and from Boston College Law School. I live in Massachusetts with my husband, three children, and our dog. 




Delilah S. Dawson is a writer, a geek, an artist, an adventure junky, and a coffee and cupcake connoisseur. She writes books for young adults and mostly-adults that range from whimsical to dark to sexy to horrific to adventuresome. She can occasionally be NSFW, but when she is, it's usually because she's ranting about writing or sexism or talking honestly about her experiences with rape, depression, and suicide. Delilah loves having adventures, playing on the trapeze, horseback riding, seeing superhero movies, going to cons, traveling, reading, tacos, the ocean, pretty boots, eating weird animals, tattoos, vests, cosplay, The Cure, painting, narwhals, octopodes, crows, cheese, drinks made with elderflower, dark chocolate, cold sheets, Boyd Crowder, and shows like Justified, Firefly, Venture Bros., Community, Adventure Time, Arrested Development, TWD, and Frisky Dingo. Please geek out with her on Twitter for full SQUEE. She is also an Associate Editor at Cool Mom Picks and Cool Mom Tech and can teach you to wear a baby on your back so you can pretend to be Luke Skywalker toting Yoda.


* * *


Christine Fonesca
 
Critically acclaimed and award-winning nonfiction and fiction author Christine Fonseca is dedicated to helping children and adults find their unique voice in the world. In nonfiction, she delves into the world of giftedness, resiliency, and temperament, offering children and adults a no-nonsense, how-to approach to facing the world head on. In fiction, she explores the more complex aspects of humanity through sweeping romances, Gothic thrillers, and psychological horror stories. Christine's words have been heralded as "thoughtful", "Lyrical and poetic", "gorgeous writing that pulls you in", and "a great voice for teen girls" by editors, critics, book bloggers and readers. She was awarded 2013 Special Achievement Award from the Surrey International Writer’s Conference for her body of work and efforts to give back to the writing community and was a semi-finalist in the Kindle Book Review's Best Indie Book (YA) for her thriller, Transcend. Her 2013 titles include The Girl Guide, Quiet Kids, and the final installment in the Requiem Series, Dominus. Collide, a YA paranormal thriller, is her most recent release. Christine lives in the San Diego area with her husband and children. When she isn't crafting new books, she can be found sipping too many skinny vanilla lattes at the local coffee house, or exploring the world with her family.

* * *

Shannon Greenland

You name it and I’ve pretty much done it. Hiking, rafting, swimming, snorkeling, sailing, surfing, mountain biking, spelunking, canoeing, power lifting, running, camping, para sailing . . . well, you get the drift. 


I’ve been all over the world, use my crazy adventures to spice up my writing, and I’m always on the lookout for the next best thrill. 


My award winning teen spy series, The Specialists, was an ALA top pick and a National Reader’s Choice Recipient. Killer Instinct marks my debut into the world of thrillers. Believe it or not, I dreaded reading and writing when I was a kid. So it’s pretty ironic I’m now an award winning author.




* * *


Nancy Holder
 
New York Times Bestselling author Nancy Holder was born in Los Altos, California. A navy brat, she went to middle school in Japan. When she was sixteen, she dropped out of high school to become a ballet dancer in Cologne, Germany. Eventually she returned to California and graduated from the University of California at San Diego with a degree in Communications. Soon after, she began to write; her first sale was a young adult novel with the unfortunate title of Teach Me to Love. Nancy’s work has appeared on many bestseller lists. A five-time winner of the Bram Stoker Award from the Horror Writers Association, she has also received accolades from the American Library Association, the American Reading Association, the New York Public Library, and Romantic Times. She and Debbie Viguié coauthored the New York Times bestselling Wicked series for Simon and Schuster. They have continued their collaboration with the Crusade and the Wolf Springs Chronicles series, and are hard at work on a teen thriller. She is also the author of the young adult horror series, Possessions, for Razorbill. She has sold many novels and book projects set in the MTV Teen Wolf, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Saving Grace, Hellboy, and Smallville universes. She has also sold approximately two hundred short stories and essays on writing and popular culture. Her anthology, Outsiders, was nominated for the Bram Stoker Award in 2005. She is an editor and writer of comic books, graphic novels, and pulp fiction for Moonstone Books, where much of her work centers around Sherlock Holmes. She writes a column for the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America Bulletin. She also teaches in the Stonecoast MFA in Creative Writing Program, offered through the University of Southern Maine. This summer, she will serve as the Writer in Residence at Odyssey, a six-week summer intensive workshop at Saint Anselm College in New Hampshire. She and her daughter Belle, have sold two short stories together. Their cats, dogs, and leopard gecko allow them to live with them in San Diego. She loves Castle and Firefly, is attempting to catch up on Dr. Who, and firmly believes that nothing says breakfast like really strong coffee and potato chips.

* * * 

Brendan Kiely
 
Brendan Kiely received an MFA in creative writing from The City College of New York. His writing appeared in Fiction, Guernica, The AWP Writer’s Chronicle, and other publications. 
Originally from the Boston area, he now teaches at an independent high school and lives with his wife in Greenwich Village.

His 2014 debut novel, The Gospel of Winter, received starred reviews from Booklist, Kirkus, and Publishers Weekly. 

Brendan Kiely has written a novel that is both unflinching and redemptive.” — Colum McCann, NYT Bestselling author and National Book Award winner for Let the Great World Spin

“The Gospel of Winter marks Brendan Kiely’s auspicious debut as a novelist.”— A.M. Homes, author of May We Be Forgiven and winner of the Women's Prize for Fiction

“An emotional coming of age story that you won’t soon forget.”— John Corey Whaley, winner of the Printz and Morris Awards for Where Things Come Back

“The Gospel of Winter comes to us in full flower, a rich, complex, wise, beautifully written novel and a compelling read.”— Frederic Tuten, author of Tintin in the New World
* * * 



New York Times Bestselling author, Jennifer Nielsen, was born and raised in northern Utah, where she still lives today with her husband, three children, and a dog that won’t play fetch. 

She is the author of The Ascendance trilogy, beginning with THE FALSE PRINCE; the forthcoming A NIGHT DIVIDED, and the forthcoming MARK OF THE THIEF series. She loves chocolate, old books, and lazy days in the mountains.


* * * 


Tamora Pierce
 
Tamora Pierce was born in South Connellsville, Fayette County, Pennsylvania. She began telling herself stories as she did dishes, and her father suggested that she try to write some of them down. The next year, as she was still scribbling her own stories, her English teacher introduced me to The Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkein. She got hooked on fantasy, and then on science fiction, and both made their way into her books. 

She wrote her way through college at the University of Pennsylvania, and has continued writing ever since. Her work includes more than six series and numerous short stories, and she is the 2013 winner of the Margaret A. Edwards Award from the American Library Association for her "significant and lasting contribution to young adult literature"

* * * 

Diana Renn
 
I write contemporary novels for young adults featuring globetrotting teens, international intrigue, and more than a dash of mystery. TOKYO HEIST (Viking/Penguin) is my first novel, and I have two more novels coming out from Viking: LATITUDE ZERO (2014) and BLUE VOYAGE (2015). When I was five years old, I knew that I wanted to be a writer. I always loved writing in school, and I was fortunate to have had many encouraging teachers. I also knew that in order to be a good writer I needed to be a good reader. I majored in English at Hampshire College, and earned my M.A. in English and American Literature from Brandeis University. Over the years I’ve juggled all kinds of jobs in the word business to support my writing habit. Among them: a college writing instructor, an ESL teacher in South America, an editor in educational publishing, a textbook writer, a script writer for language instruction videos, a bookseller, and a comic book shop salesclerk. (Can you guess which was the most fun?) I love to travel, and I’ve enjoyed teaching students from all over the world, so international experiences are a large part of my fiction. I grew up in Seattle, and I now live outside of Boston with my husband, our young son, and a moody cat. In my spare time I love taiko drumming, bike riding, and, of course, traveling.


First Round - The Blogger Judges


Alyssa Hamilton of Swept Away By Books & Adventures in YA Publishing



Alyssa Hamilton is a twenty-something English and Publishing student who hails from Vancouver, Canada. When she is not in class, she is at the bookstore where she works—whether or not she is on duty. 

Her passion for reading started at a young age and has continued to grow, so most of her pay cheque goes toward buying books to fill her already overflowing bookshelves. Her favourite genres within YA are dark and gothic, paranormal, contemporary, high fantasy, and retellings. When she doesn't have a book in hand, you can find her hiking, picking out her next tattoo, or enjoying the outdoors.



* * * 

Amanda from Of Spectacles and Books


Amanda earned a BA in English from a small university in Texas. She is currently getting her Masters in Creative Writing and hopefully go on to obtain her PhD. She dreams of becoming a published author and writing of great adventures and daring sword fights. 

One of her main goals in life is to own a library with a ladder and backpack across Europe. Amanda also enjoys the smell of old books, wearing scarves, social networking, glasses rather than contacts, and boys who can play acoustic guitar. Talk King Arthur or in a British accent and she just might swoon.





* * * 


Angela Ackerman of Writers Helping Writers
Angela is a newly-minted forty year old writer living in Calgary, Alberta, which is nestled close enough to the Rockies to go on a day jaunt, but not so close as to be pummeled by snow and excruciating cold temperatures in the winter months. Despite being Canadian, she lives in a house, not an igloo, she refuses to wear toques and she generally travels by truck, rather than moose or ATVs or beavers or whatever other things the outside world suspects. Angela’s husband and two kids are beyond awesome. The former rarely complains about the hoarder-like piles of books and paper surrounding her desk, regardless of being a self-professed neat freak. Her kids, both teen boys, have inherited Angela’s interest in All Things Strange, and are great to bounce off apocalypse theories and freaky ‘what-if’ scenarios that are common in Angela’s books. Angela often writes about mythology in the real world, but twists everything so that it’s much darker and interesting. Bad things happen, but her teen and pre-teen characters always rise to the challenge in impossible situations. This is no surprise, because kids have internal strength that represents the best qualities in all of us. They struggle, adapt and survive. This is why she writes for this amazing YA & MG audience. Another passion of Angela’s is helping writers succeed. She enjoys working with writers on strengthening their craft and helping them find the tools and resources they need to take their writing to the next level. She teaches workshops on writing and social media, belong to SCBWI and is a strong believer in paying it forward. Along with Becca Puglisi, she is the author of popular brainstorming tool, The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writers Guide To Character Expression.

* * * 


Becca Fowler of Pivot Book Review
My name is Rebecca, but I think that sounds like an old lady name, so I go by Becca :) I am 22 going on 23 (that doesn't have quite the ring to it as it does on The Sound of Music) I live in the great state of Oklahoma (where the wind REALLY does come sweeping down the plain) I live with who I've dubbed The Parentals (who are, not-so-secretly, the BEST) I have one older sister who is married, and has two girls (which means I get to play the Coolest Aunt Ever) I am convinced I will be the old cat lady (minus the cats, because I heart dogs) Speaking of dogs, I have two! An Aussie named Dixie, and a Sheltie named Gentry! I work for my family's business. We rent out inflatables, aka Bouncy Houses, and MORE! I aspire to be a Young Adult author! It is my dream!! My favorite hobbies include: Reading (duh) Writing Skating Drawing I am a total introvert. I would much rather stay home than go out. I am, also, horrible at talking about myself, because I can't think of anything else at the moment!

* * * 

Brenda Drake of Making Connections
Brenda Drake, the youngest of three children, grew up an Air Force brat and the continual new kid at school until her family settled in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Brenda’s fondest memories growing up is of her eccentric, Irish grandmother’s animated tales, which gave her a strong love for storytelling. So it was only fitting that she would choose to write young adult and middle grade novels with a bend toward the fantastical. When Brenda’s not writing or doing the social media thing, she’s haunting libraries, bookstores, and coffee shops or reading someplace quiet and not at all exotic (much to her disappointment).

* * * 

Brooke DelVeccio from the Cover Contessa
Brooke is the creator and owner of The Cover Contessa. She is a book lover for as long as she can remember. She used to pass her evenings in high-school reading books on her bed with a good friend and comparing how far they'd get in a certain amount of minutes. She started this blog a few years ago with the intention of sharing her reviews with people. It blossomed from there and now she includes interviews, release blasts, cover reveals, guests posts, and just about anything else you can think of that applies to books. She has been working as a nurse since 1997 and can truly say she really loves what she does. She's married to her soul mate since 2001 and has three beautiful and active boys! Though she i will always consider herself a Brooklyn girl, she currently lives in Northern New Jersey. As a side job, she works as a publicist for Spencer Hill Press where she currently represents four authors. Her preference in books is MG, YA and some NA, and she'll read almost any sub-genre except horror. But she'll try out any book if it comes highly recommended from a most trusted source! She has dabbled in writing, but has not come away with anything serious, YET!

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Hafsah at Icey Books
Girl. 21. Sister. YA writer. Reviewer. Book Blogger. Blog Designer. Maybe more than that. Hafsah began IceyBooks in late 2010 after many months of reviewing for her local library’s teen blog. What started as just reviews has now expanded to interviews, giveaways, cover reveals, and blogging tips. Aside from blogging, Hafsah is also an author. Her debut YA science fiction novel, UNBREATHABLE, which takes place on a planet much like Mars, released on October 29th, 2013. In addition to being an author, Hafsah has been designing blogs and websites since the age of thirteen. In late 2011, she opened IceyDesigns and began professionally designing blogs, websites, print work and providing social media/marketing solutions to clients – both authors and bloggers alike.

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Julie Musil - Writing and Blogging Between Carpools

Julie Musil is a children's writer, wife, and mother. She lives in a rural California town amid hiking trails and dirt bikes with her high school sweetheart, John. They have three amazing sons, two cute little doggies, and one menacing kitten.

Julie is the author of The Summer of Crossing Lines and The Boy Who Loved Fire, and she is on the Faculty of The Fiction University.



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Nichole from YA Reads

Last year Nichole graduated from a local community college with her AA. She is currently a Junior at the Evergreen State College. She is currently working on her BA with an emphasis on English/Literature. She is planning on applying to the MIT (Master’s In Teaching) program for her MA in hopes to become a high school English teacher.


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Sheri Larsen from Writers Alley
I write fantasy, romance, and paranormal adventures for young adults and middle graders. I also write sweet picture books for the youngest of children. ~Daily News~ For everyday Sheriisms, visit me at WRITER’S ALLEY, where I explore the joys & angst of writing all that’s KidLit, the publishing world at-large, motherhood, and parenting with all its humor. ~Recent News~ After near misses and almosts with literary agents, I submitted my YA novel to smaller publishing houses, which vetted me multiple offers for my YA paranormal fantasy MARKED BEAUTY, including three offers for a sequel. This led to my signing with senior literary agent Paula Munier of Talcott Notch Literary. {She’s amazing!} We spent the next months making the manuscript shine, deciding to submit to larger publishers, while still considering my current offers. The manuscript is currently on submission. The hope is that a deal will be reached later this year. Here’s my most recent school visit, teaching a writing workshop to some of the most amazing elementary school kids from the Oak Hill Writers Club.


Discrepancy Judge

Martina Boone

Martina was born in Prague and spoke several languages before learning English. She fell in love with words and never stopped delighting in them. She’s the founder of AdventuresInYAPublishing.com, a two-time Writer’s Digest 101 Best Websites for Writers site, and YASeriesInsiders.com, a site devoted to encouraging literacy and all this YA Series.

Her Southern Gothic romance, Compulsion, the first novel in the Heirs of Watson Island series from Simon & Schuster, Simon Pulse, will be published October 28, 2014. 

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3. Happiness and high school humanities

I got a request this past year from my friends at Boston Green Academy (BGA) to help them consider their Humanities 4 curriculum, which focuses on philosophies, especially around happiness. This was a tough request for me, and certainly not one I had considered before. There aren’t any titles I can think of that say “Philosophy: Happiness” on their covers to pull me directly down this path.

But as I thought about it, I got more and more excited about how this topic is tackled in the YA world. The first set of books I considered were titles that dealt with “the meaning of life” in a variety of ways. Titles like Nothing by Janne Teller, Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life by Wendy Mass, and one of my personal favorites, The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp give lots of food for thought about where we expend our energy and the wisdom of how we prioritize our attention in life.

 teller nothing 213x300 Happiness and high school humanities    maas jeremyfink 201x300 Happiness and high school humanities    tharp spectacularnow 199x300 Happiness and high school humanities

This, of course, led to stories about facing challenges and finding happiness despite (or because) of the circumstances in our lives.  So we pulled texts like The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini, and Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork, which all deal with characters finding ways to deal with and even prosper alongside difficult circumstances.

green faultinourstars Happiness and high school humanities     vizzini kindofFunnyStory 204x300 Happiness and high school humanities     stork marcelo 195x300 Happiness and high school humanities

Then we happened upon a set of titles that raise questions about whether you can be “happy” if you are or are not being yourself. We pulled segments of titles like Openly Straight by Bill Konigsberg, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz, Tina’s Mouth by Keshni Kashyap, American-Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang, and Rapture Practice, which I’ve talked about here before.

openly straight Happiness and high school humanities     saenz aristotleanddante 199x300 Happiness and high school humanities     keshni tinasmouth 234x300 Happiness and high school humanities     hartzler rapturepractice 203x300 Happiness and high school humanities

And then there were a world of nonfiction possibilities, those written for young people and those not — picture books by Demi about various figures, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s ideas about work and play, and any number of great series texts about philosophers and religions and such.

So I guess the (happy) moral of this story is that it was much easier than I thought to revisit old texts with these new eyes of philosophies of happiness. I left the work feeling as though every text is about this very important topic in one way or another, and I can’t wait to see how the BGA curriculum around it continues to evolve!

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4. Win In Bed with a Rogue by Samantha Grace

I have a special treat this morning! To celebrate the release of Samantha Grace’s In Bed with a Rogue, Sourcebooks is hosting a giveaway! You can win 6 (SIX!) of Samantha Grace’s novels!

In Bed with a Rogue By Samantha Grace

Soucebooks Casablanca

Historical Romance

September 2, 2014

ISBN: 9781402286612

$6.99/£4.99

Mass-Market Paperback

He’s the Talk of the Town

The whole town is tittering about Baron Sebastian Thorne having been jilted at the altar. Every move he makes ends up in the gossip columns. Tired of being the butt of everyone’s jokes, Sebastian vows to restore his family’s reputation no matter what it takes.

She’s the Toast of the Ton

Feted by the crème of society, the beautiful widow Lady Prestwick is a vision of all that is proper. But Helena is no angel, and when Sebastian uncovers her dark secret, he’s quick to press his advantage. In order to keep her hard-won good name, Helen will have to make a deal with the devil. But she’s got some tricks up her sleeves to keep this notorious rogue on his toes…

SAMANTHA GRACE

Historical romance author Samantha Grace discovered the appeal of a great love story when she was just a young girl, thanks to Disney’s Robin Hood. She didn’t care that Robin Hood and Maid Marian were cartoon animals. It was her first happily-ever-after experience and she didn’t want the warm fuzzies to end. Now Samantha enjoys creating her own happy-endings for characters that spring from her imagination. Publishers Weekly describes her stories as “fresh and romantic” with subtle humor and charm. Samantha describes romance writing as the best job ever.      

Website: http://www.samanthagraceauthor.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Samantha-Grace/264436686918343

Twitter: @SamGraceAuthor https://twitter.com/SamGraceAuthor

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4946067.Samantha_Grace

Buy: Amazon | B&N | BAM! | IndieBound | !ndigo | iTunes

Enter for a chance to win a 6 book bundle by Samantha Grace!

The six Samantha Grace books include:

· Miss Hillary Schools a Scoundrel

· Lady Amelia’s Mess and a Half

· Miss Lavigne’s Little White Lie

· Lady Vivian Defies a Duke

· One Rogue Too Many

· In Bed with a Rogue

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The post Win In Bed with a Rogue by Samantha Grace appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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5. Interview with Dixie Lee Brown, Author of Whatever it Takes and Giveaway

Please give special guest Dixie Lee Brown a warm welcome to the virtual offices!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Describe yourself in five words or less.

[Dixie Lee Brown] Independent; persistent; reliable; animal lover

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about your book?

[Dixie Lee Brown] WHATEVER IT TAKES is the fourth book in the Trust No One series. Nate Sanders is a detective for the Portland (Oregon) Police Bureau. His deceased uncle has left some serious trouble behind and now it’s found Nate.

Who should save his bacon but the beautiful and mysterious Alex Morgan, the woman he hasn’t stopped thinking about since she wrecked his classic car in book #3? Alex’s past haunts her day and night. She has a smart mouth, a chip on her shoulder, a dagger on her belt, and knows how to use them all.

Nate sees through her bluster and signs on to help her rescue a kidnapped boy, but his own trouble just might get her killed—or is it the other way around?

[Manga Maniac Café] How did you come up with the concept and the characters for the story?

[Dixie Lee Brown] Nate and Alex both appeared in the third book in the series, IF YOU ONLY KNEW. Their character descriptions and backstory were already set, as well as the setting for the beginning of the story at Nate’s house. Combine that with two minor unanswered questions that suddenly become very important and a “crazy” heroine, and I had my concept.

[Manga Maniac Café] What did you enjoy most about writing this book?

[Dixie Lee Brown] I love the relationships in this book. Alex and Nate are right for each other. Most of Joe’s team from the first three books put in appearances, plus Alex’s best friend from book #1. I love having the whole team show up. Also, being a romantic suspense, there’s a lot of action in this book. Action is just plain fun to write!

[Manga Maniac Café] What gave you the most trouble with this story?

[Dixie Lee Brown] It’s the same problem I have with every book. I’ll write two chapters leading up to a specific event and then handle the event and its aftermath in a paragraph! Lol! My editor calls me on it every time!

[Manga Maniac Café] If you had a theme song, what would it be?

[Dixie Lee Brown] Being the hopeless romantic I am, it would be “I Won’t Let Go” by Rascal Flatts

[Manga Maniac Café] Name one thing you won’t leave home without.

[Dixie Lee Brown] My Kindle – of course.

[Manga Maniac Café] Name three things on your desk right now.

[Dixie Lee Brown] Laptop, notepaper, and a jump drive

[Manga Maniac Café] If you could trade places with anyone for just one day, who would you be?

[Dixie Lee Brown] Assuming something would also make me magically capable of doing her job, I’d want to trade places with my wonderful Avon editor, Chelsey Emmelhainz, cuz she’s terrific!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are some books that you enjoyed recently?

[Dixie Lee Brown] The Golden Key Chronicles by AJ Nuest

Asking For Trouble by Jannine Gallant

The Dysfunctional Test by Kelly Moran

Hard As You Can by Laura Kaye

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?

[Dixie Lee Brown] You probably hear this all the time, but if I have spare time—I read!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How can readers connect with you?

[Dixie Lee Brown] I’d love it if readers would check out my webpage: http://www.dixiebrown.com/

Or like my Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Dixie-Lee-Brown/311618418919108

Or follow me on Twitter: @DixieLeeBrown

Whatever it Takes

Trust No One # 4

By: Dixie Lee Brown

Releasing August 12th, 2014

Avon: Impulse

Blurb

Assassin Alex Morgan will do anything to save an innocent life – especially if it means rescuing a child from a hell like the one she endured.
But going undercover as husband and wife, with none other than the disarmingly sexy Detective Nate Sanders, may be a little more togetherness than she can handle. She’s used to working alone, and no man is going to change that – not even a man who makes her heart pound and her defenses crumble with just a touch
Nate has dodged more than a few bullets over the years, but fighting his attraction for Alex may be the bullet that does him in. Still, Nate’s determined to help her find the missing kid. There’s no doubt in his mind that they’re walking straight into danger, but Nate’s willing to face anything if it means protecting Alex. She might have been on her own once, but Nate has one more mission: to stay by her side – forever. 

Link to Follow Tour: http://www.tastybooktours.com/2014/07/whatever-it-takes-trust-no-one-4-by.html

Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/21150710-whatever-it-takes

Buy Links

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Whatever-Takes-Trust-One-Novel-ebook/dp/B00GG08JAG/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1406816764&sr=1-3&keywords=whatever+it+takes

B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/whatever-it-takes-brown-dixie-lee/1119738830?ean=9780062328304

Kobo: http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/whatever-it-takes-24

iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/mx/book/whatever-it-takes/id738454204?l=en&mt=11

Author Info

DIXIE LEE BROWN lives and writes in Central Oregon, inspired by what she believes is the most gorgeous scenery anywhere. She resides with two dogs and a cat, who make sure she never takes herself too seriously. When she’s not writing, she enjoys reading, movies, and trips to the beach.

Author Links

Website: http://www.dixiebrown.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Dixie-Lee-Brown/311618418919108

Twitter: https://twitter.com/DixieLeeBrown

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6583364.Dixie_Lee_Brown

Rafflecopter Giveaway (Print copy of another installment in Dixie Lee Brown’s Trust No One series, IF YOU ONLY KNEW—where you get to meet Alex and Nate for the first time!)

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The post Interview with Dixie Lee Brown, Author of Whatever it Takes and Giveaway appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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6. Getting to know Anna-Lise Santella, Editor of Grove Music Online

Meet the woman behind Grove Music Online, Anna-Lise Santella. We snagged a bit of Anna-Lise’s time to sit down with her and find out more about her own musical passions and research.

Do you play any musical instruments? Which ones?

My main instrument is violin, which I’ve played since I was eight. I play both classical and Irish fiddle and am currently trying to learn bluegrass. In a previous life I played a lot of pit band for musical theater. I’ve also worked as a singer and choral conductor. These days, though, you’re more likely to find a mandolin or guitar in my hands.

Do you specialize in any particular area or genre of music?

My research interests are pretty broad, which is why I enjoy working in reference so much. Currently I’m working on a history of women’s symphony orchestras in the United States between 1871 and 1945. They were a key route for women seeking admission into formerly all-male orchestras like the Chicago Symphony. After that, I’m hoping to work on a history of the Three Arts Clubs, a network of residential clubs that housed women artists in cities in the US and abroad. The clubs allowed female performers to safely tour or study away from their families by giving them secure places to live while on the road, places to rehearse and practice, and a community of like-minded people to support them. In general, I’m interested in the ways public institutions have affected and responded to women as performers.

What artist do you have on repeat at the moment?

I tend to have my listening on shuffle. I like not being sure what’s coming next. That said, I’ve been listening to Tune-Yards’ (a.k.a. Merill Garbus) latest album an awful lot lately. Neko Case with the New Pornographers and guitarist/songwriter/storyteller extraordinaire Jim White are also in regular rotation.

What was the last concert/gig you went to?

I’m lucky to live not far from the bandshell in Prospect Park and I try to catch as many of the summer concerts there as I can. The last one I attended was Neutral Milk Hotel, although I didn’t stay for the whole thing. I’m looking forward to the upcoming Nickel Creek concert. I love watching Chris Thile play, although he makes me feel totally inadequate as a mandolinist.

How do you listen to most of the music you listen to? On your phone/mp3 player/computer/radio/car radio/CDs?

Mostly on headphones. I’m constantly plugged in, which makes me not a very good citizen, I think. I’m trying to get better about spending some time just listening to the city. But there’s something about the delivery system of headphones to ears that I like – music transmitted straight to your head makes you feel like your life has a soundtrack. I especially like listening on the subway. I’ll often be playing pieces I’m trying to learn on violin or guitar and trying to work out fingerings, which I’m pretty sure makes me look like an insane person. Fortunately insane people are a dime a dozen on the subway.

Do you find that listening to music helps you concentrate while you work, or do you prefer silence?

I like listening while I work, but it has to be music I find fairly innocuous, or I’ll start thinking about it and analyzing it and get distracted from what I’m trying to do. Something beat driven with no vocals is best. My usual office soundtrack is a Pandora station of EDM.

Detail of violin being played by a musician. © bizoo_n via iStockphoto.
Detail of violin being played by a musician. © bizoo_n via iStockphoto.

Has there been any recent music research or scholarship on a topic that has caught your eye or that you’ve found particularly innovative?

In general I’m attracted to interdisciplinary work, as I like what happens when ideologies from one field get applied to subject matter of another – it tends make you reevaluate your methods, to shake you out of the routine of your thinking. Right now I’ve become really interested in the way in which we categorize music vs. noise and am reading everything I can on the subject from all kinds of perspectives – music cognition, acoustics, cultural theory. It’s where neuroscience, anthropology, philosophy and musicology all come together, which, come to think of it, sounds like a pretty dangerous intersection. Currently I’m in the middle of The Oxford Handbook of Sound Studies (2012) edited by Trevor Pinch and Karin Bijsterveld. At the same time, I’m rereading Jacques Attali’s landmark work Noise: The Political Economy of Music (1977). We have a small music/neuroscience book group made up of several editors who work in music and psychology who have an interest in this area. We’ll be discussing the Attali next month.

Who are a few of your favorite music critics/writers?

There are so many – I’m a bit of a criticism junkie. I work a lot with period music journalism in my own research and I love reading music criticism from the early 20th century. It’s so beautifully candid — at times sexy, cruel, completely inappropriate — in a way that’s rare in contemporary criticism. A lot of the reviews were unsigned or pseudonymous, so I’m not sure I have a favorite I can name. There’s a great book by Mark N. Grant on the history of American music criticism called Maestros of the Pen that I highly recommend as an introduction. For rock criticism, Ellen Willis’columns from the Village Voice are still the benchmark for me, I think. Of people writing currently, I like Mark Gresham (classical) and Sasha Frere-Jones (pop). And I like to argue with Alex Ross and John von Rhein.

I also like reading more literary approaches to musical writing. Geoff Dyer’s But Beautiful is a poetic, semi-fictional look at jazz, with a mix of stories about legendary musicians like Duke Ellington and Lester Young interspersed with an analytical look at jazz. And some of my favorite writing about music is found in fiction. Three of my favorite novels use music to tell the story. Richard Powers’ The Time of Our Singing uses Marian Anderson’s 1939 concert at the Lincoln Memorial as the focal point of a story that alternates between a musical mixed-race family and the story of the Civil Rights movement itself. In The Fortress of Solitude, Jonathan Lethem writes beautifully about music of the 1970s that mediates between nearly journalistic detail of Brooklyn in the 1970s and magical realism. And Kathryn Davies’ The Girl Who Trod on a Loaf contains some of the best description of compositional process that I’ve come across in fiction. It’s a challenge to evoke sound in prose – it’s an act of translation – and I admire those who can do it well.

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7. Querying a second agent after no reply from first



Back in April, I queried an agent at a literary agency where guidelines ask you to requery (with a note to that effect) after one month. After a little over a month, I re-queried, but I never did get any response. 

The agency invites queries to other agents once one has rejected your MS, but they're also clear that they always respond to queries. I'd really like to query another agent at the same agency, but I'm not sure what to do. I don't particularly want to email that first agent yet again with another reminder, as it just feels silly and pushy, and I'm also not sure it would do any good. Should I query a second agent at that agency? And, if I do, do I mention the no-response? I've been ignoring the other agents at the agency until now because of the no-answer, but as I get further down my query list, I can't help wondering and wishing I hadn't emailed this agent to begin with...






You query the second agent and you don't mention the first. If she's not courteous enough to reply to the initial query or the follow up, then either she didn't get either email, or she's so behind she's not even looking at her email.  What this means for you is she doesn't count anymore.  It's not a no, nor is it a yes, it's more like a do-over.


I know there are agents who have hundreds of queries stacked up over many months.  That's not your problem.  If an agent can't get a handle on her inbox and her website says 30 days, you've fulfilled your part of the social contract.

Of course, if the agent you're querying is me, you might want to check Query Letter Diagnostics, cause I'm caught up through yesterday.



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8. The Vault of Dreamers

The Vault of Dreamers by Caragh M. O'Brien

ISBN 10: 1596439386
ISBN 13: 9781596439382

Publication date: 16 Sept 2014 by Roaring Brook Press

Category: Young Adult Science Fiction

Keywords: SciFi, Reality Show, Privacy, Dreaming

Format: Hardcover, ebook

Source: ARC from Publisher

For students at The Forge School, every day is more than just a popularity contest. It's the most prestigious arts school in the country, true, but it's also the set of The Forge Show, a reality television series. Students attending Forge give up all of their privacy, except for the half day that they sleep, in exchange for 3 years of first-class creative education and revenue from ad sales, which they can later use to fund college studies.

For Rosie Sinclair, it's the chance to escape a life of poverty and obscurity. Just one problem: she's not very popular, and just before half of the sophomore class gets cut, she skips her sleeping pill so she can watch the rain fall on the dorm at night. Might as well make some good memories before she has to go back to the disused railway car her family calls home.

Except she doesn't get "voted off the island". A series of circumstances results in her blip rank rising high enough to stay. She gets to know a few of the kids in her classes, as well as a kitchen worker, Linus Pitts. But she also discovers that at Forge, not all of what you see is what you get... and there are eyes watching everywhere.

I didn't expect to enjoy this book as much as I did. The conclusion doesn't quite satisfy the outlandish premise, but I did find the journey there gripping and hard to put down. I liked Rosie, thought I felt frustration rising as she tried to unravel the mystery surrounding the school: with so much at stake, why jeopardize her position? And yet, I kept rooting for her through all of her obviously bad decisions, because somehow I felt that doing the wrong thing was really the right thing to do.

This novel raises some great discussion questions:

  • How far would you go to make money and improve your prospects for success?
  • How important is privacy to you? Are there instances in which you would give up your right to privacy? How is our privacy invaded on a daily basis, and what makes it ok/not ok?
  • What are dreams? How does the novel play with the different meanings of the word?
  • When Rosie makes decisions, is she influenced by their potential effect on her blip rank? If she is, is that wrong? Or is she just playing the game as it's supposed to be played?
  • What is the purpose of reality television? Think about this from several angles: as a subject on the show, as a producer, or as an audience member.

This book caused me at least one sleepless night. The secretiveness of the school's staff, the cinematic pace of the action, and the near-plausibility of the setup will tingle many a reader's spine.

I received this book for free from Macmillan for review purposes.

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Alethea

 

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9. I'm A Genuine Media Genius. meh

Now, I have a Google+ account that gets, some times, in excess the number of CBO hits.  So CBO items get seen by a good few thousand a day (and yet I'm still poor!).

Any old how, I checked Google+ yesterday and got a few surprises.  Okay, quite a few have started posting pretty obscure items that I never saw on Google+  before but I post them and a few days later -voila!

How many weeks have I been writing that there is a Hulk movie on the way?  NOW people are writing that there seems a very strong possibility a Hulk movie is on the way. Wow.

How long ago did I write that the Wonder Woman photo from the "Superman v Batman" movie was not the one you'll see in the movie?  Did I not say that this was actually the FIRST Justice League movie and that the movie might get a name change?  Now everyone is chipping in with these as facts and "very strong" rumour.

So am I a genius?

No. In fact, it's all VERY obvious if you know anything about comics and the companies behind the movies.  Its like the "life long DC fan" who was stumped when I mentioned National Periodical Publications....DCs old name. "DC had another name???"

meh.  I'd be happy to be getting money for this!

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10. Amanda Palmer Reveals Cover For ‘The Art of Asking’


Musician Amanda Palmer has revealed the jacket of her forthcoming book. What do you think?

Grand Central Publishing will release The Art of Asking on November 11, 2014. Over at her blog, Palmer has shared several (NSFW) behind-the-scenes photos from the cover shoot.

(more…)

New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

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11. It's an Orange Aardvark! by Michael Hall

A couple of years ago I reviewed Cat Tale, Michael Hall's third picture book, and took the opportunity to talk about his first two amazing picture books as well. My Heart is Like a Zoo and Perfect Square (my favorite) are both books that rely heavily on the geometric illustrations to tell the stories in brilliant ways. With Cat Tale Hall used homophones to tell a silly story that is sure

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12. Early Modern Porn Wars

One day in 1668, the English diarist Samuel Pepys went shopping for a book to give his young French-speaking wife. He saw a book he thought she might enjoy, L’École des femmes or The School of Women, “but when I came to look into it, it is the most bawdy, lewd book that ever I saw,” he wrote, “so that I was ashamed of reading in it.” Not so ashamed, however, that he didn’t return to buy it for himself three weeks later — but “in plain binding…because I resolve, as soon as I have read it, to burn it, that it may not stand in the list of books, nor among them, to disgrace them if it should be found.” The next night he stole off to his room to read it, judging it to be “a lewd book, but what doth me no wrong to read for information sake (but it did hazer my prick para stand all the while, and una vez to decharger); and after I had done it, I burned it, that it might not be among my books to my shame.” Pepys’s coy detours into mock-Spanish or Franglais fail to conceal the orgasmic effect the lewd book had on him, and his is the earliest and most candid report we have of one reader’s bodily response to the reading of pornography. But what is “pornography”? What is its history? Was there even such a thing as “pornography” before the word was coined in the nineteenth century?

The announcement, in early 2013, of the establishment of a new academic journal to be called Porn Studies led to a minor flurry of media reports and set off, predictably, responses ranging from interest to outrage by way of derision. One group, self-titled Stop Porn Culture, circulated a petition denouncing the project, echoing the “porn wars” of the 1970s and 80s which pitted anti-censorship against anti-pornography activists. Those years saw an eruption of heated, if not always illuminating, debate over the meanings and effects of sexual representations; and if the anti-censorship side may seem to have “won” the war, in that sexual representations seem to be inescapable in the age of the internet and social media, the anti-pornography credo that such representations cause cultural, psychological, and physical harm is now so widespread as almost to be taken for granted in the mainstream press.

The brave new world of “sexting” and content-sharing apps may have fueled anxieties about the apparent sexualization of popular culture, and especially of young people, but these anxieties are anything but new; they may, in fact, be as old as culture itself. At the very least, they go back to a period when new print technologies and rising literacy rates first put sexual representations within reach of a wide popular audience in England and elsewhere in Western Europe: the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. Most readers did not leave diaries, but Pepys was probably typical in the mixture of shame and excitement he felt when erotic works like L’École des filles began to appear in London bookshops from the 1680s on. Yet as long as such works could only be found in the original French or Italian, British censors took little interest in them, for their readership was limited to a linguistic elite. It was only when translation made such texts available to less privileged readers — women, tradesmen, apprentices, servants — that the agents of the law came to view them as a threat to what the Attorney General, Sir Philip Yorke, in an important 1728 obscenity trial, called the “public order which is morality.” The pornographic or obscene work is one whose sexual representations violate cultural taboos and norms of decency. In doing so it may lend itself to social and political critique, as happened in France in the 1780s and 90s, when obscene texts were used to critique the corruptions of the ancien régime; but the pornographic can also be used as a vehicle of debasement and violence, notably against women — which is one historical reality behind the US porn wars of the 1970s.

Front page of L'École des femmes—engraving from the 1719 edition. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.
Front page of L’École des femmes—engraving from the 1719 edition. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Pornography’s critics in the late twentieth or early twenty-first centuries have had less interest in the written word than in visual media; but recurrent campaigns to ban books by such authors as Judy Blume which aim to engage candidly with younger readers on sexual concerns suggest that literature can still be a battleground, as it was in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Take, for example, the words of the British attorney general Dudley Ryder in the 1749 obscenity trial of Thomas Cannon’s Ancient and Modern Pederasty Investigated and Exemplify’d, a paean to male same-sex desire masquerading as an attack. Cannon, Ryder declared, aimed to “Debauch Poison and Infect the Minds of all the Youth of this Kingdom and to Raise Excite and Create in the Minds of all the said Youth most Shocking and Abominable Ideas and Sentiments”; and in so doing, Ryder contends, Cannon aimed to draw readers “into the Love and Practice of that unnatural detestable and odious crime of Sodomy.” Two and a half centuries ago, Ryder set the terms of our ongoing porn wars. Denouncing the recent profusion of sexual representations, he insists that such works create dangerous new desires and inspire their readers to commit sexual crimes of their own.

Then as now, attitudes towards sexuality and sexual representations were almost unbridgeably polarized. A surge in the popularity of pornographic texts was countered by increasingly severe campaigns to suppress them. Ironically, however, those very attempts to suppress could actually bring the offending work to a wider audience, by exciting their curiosity. No copies of Cannon’s “shocking and abominable” work survive in their original form; but the text has been preserved for us to read in the indictment that Ryder prepared for the trial against it. Eighty years earlier, after his encounter with L’École des femmes, Pepys guiltily burned the book, but at the same time immortalized the sensual, shameful experience of reading it. Of such contradictions is the long history of porn wars made.

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13. How to UP Your Word Count and Write Like a Boss! (Part 2)

Keep calm and write onGuest Post by Sheryl Scarborough

We shouldn’t be surprised or amazed when our writing suddenly starts to click. After all, this is what we’ve been practicing, perfecting, mastering and perhaps even MFA’ing, right? So it makes sense that as we grow as writers we will become more proficient. We will find our centers and words will flow.

But as all writers also know, the magic word faucet can suddenly and inexplicably develop a clog. So for those times – and regular times, too – I asked some of my successful writer friends to share their methods.

My friends publish a LOT of books and I’m predicting this blog will be relevant for some years to come, so I’m not listing their recent sales next to their names. Instead, I’m including a link to their websites where you will find the most up-to-date info on their publishing successes. Please do yourself a favor and check them out.

Kelly Barson, and Melanie Fishbane, don’t worry about word count per se but both of them try to get through a complete scene in one sitting. Then if they feel like they can go further, they do. I call this PACING YOURSELF.

The prolific Kekla Magoon, admits to not being very scheduled or orderly, but she writes up against DEADLINES so she sets daily goals for herself depending on chapters, pages and scenes. She also swears by Scrivener, saying it has enhanced her productivity. Kekla’s method seems to be GUN-TO-THE-HEAD + PROPER TOOLS = WORDS ON THE PAGE.

Carrie Jones, sets ridiculously low word count goals for drafting, then celebrates when she goes beyond that goal. She also points out that failure to meet her goals would result in starvation, so there is that. I’m calling Carrie’s method SURVIVAL as MOTIVATION.

Kristen Kittscher is another author/friend who advocates SCRIVENER. “Scrivener helped me speed up immensely because I feel freer to jump around and write where the energy is,” she says. I call this creativity freed through proper tools.  FORGET WILLIE… FREE YOUR CREATIVITY!

nanowrimo_logov101Heather Demetriios-Fehst just offered up two words – “Use SCRIVENER.”  I’ll forgive her the brevity since she has already released TWO books this year. This is the third vote for Scrivener… It’s starting to have an impact on me.

Tammy Subia did something she never thought she would do. She wrote a complete first draft of a novel in four months and she was anxious to share her secrets.

Tammy has identified three things that really worked for her and they might work for you, too.

  • One: she set weekly word goals instead of daily ones, but she kept a daily chart of what she accomplished. She said just seeing the progress each day spurred her on the next day.
  • Two: She read her first chapter to a non-writer friend who really loved it and kept asking to hear more. Consequently, she wrote more to satisfy her friend.
  • Three: this might be her most important technique of all. Tammy described feeling like this book needed to be written. She wanted the story to be told so badly she couldn’t stop writing it! I’m going to call this DRIVE (and for the record I’m picturing Nick Cage behind the wheel of a muscle car when I say this.)

PICK YOUR TECHNIQUE:

Everyone seems to employ a different technique. Below is the full list. Feel free to be creative. Try on different ones. Pick and choose. Combine two or three. Experiment and see if you can’t UP your output. And if you do… write to us and let us know.

GET A RUNNING START Hold something back for the next day
DEVELOP A ROUTINE Write everyday.
KNOWLEDGE + TIME + ENTHUSIASM Know what you’re going to write, put in the time and be excited about your story.
PACE YOURSELF One word after the other until you get to the end.
RESPECT DEADLINES You can’t blow ‘em, so you get it done.
WRITE FOR FOOD You can’t eat promises and I should’ves.
DRIVE Find a story that demands to be written.
KEEP A WORD COUNT Set word count goals, daily or weekly. It piles up.
USE SCRIVENER Yay for sophisticated writer tools.

As for Scrivener – I’m going to buy it and use Scrivener for my revision process. I will report back in my next blog.

Here are some Scrivener tutorials that came up in a search on Youtube.com. I haven’t looked at any of them yet… but I plan to.

Sheryl_Quote

Be sure to read the first half of this amazing two-part series: How to UP Your Word Count and Write Like a Boss! (Part 1)

More guest posts by Sheryl:

Sheryl Scarborough - Photo by Russell Gearhart PhotographyOver the years, Sheryl Scarborough has written: TV series, cartoons, comic books, graphic novels, magazine articles, Business Plans, Direct Music Marketing letters (as Mariah Carey, MC Hammer and others), Corporate Newsletters and Restaurant and Theater Reviews (for free food and great seats!) Now she writes what she really loves which are YA mysteries and thrillers.

Follow Sheryl on Twitter: @scarbo_author

Read more by Sheryl on her blog: Sheryl Scarborough Blog

 


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14. The real story of allied nursing during the First World War

The anniversaries of conflicts seem to be more likely to capture the public’s attention than any other significant commemorations. When I first began researching the nurses of the First World War in 2004, I was vaguely aware of an increase in media attention: now, ten years on, as my third book leaves the press, I find myself astonished by the level of interest in the subject. The Centenary of the First World War is becoming a significant cultural event. This time, though, much of the attention is focussed on the role of women, and, in particular, of nurses. The recent publication of several nurses’ diaries has increased the public’s fascination for the subject. A number of television programmes have already been aired. Most of these trace journeys of discovery by celebrity presenters, and are, therefore, somewhat quirky – if not rather random – in their content. The BBC’s project, World War One at Home, has aired numerous stories. I have been involved in some of these – as I have, also, in local projects, such as the impressive recreation of the ‘Stamford Military Hospital’ at Dunham Massey Hall, Cheshire. Many local radio stories have brought to light the work of individuals whose extraordinary experiences and contributions would otherwise have remained hidden – women such as Kate Luard, sister-in-charge of a casualty clearing station during the Battle of Passchendaele; Margaret Maule, who nursed German prisoners-of-war in Dartford; and Elsie Knocker, a fully-trained nurse who established an aid post on the Belgian front lines. One radio story is particularly poignant: that of Clementina Addison, a British nurse, who served with the French Flag Nursing Corps – a unit of fully trained professionals working in French military field hospitals. Clementina cared for hundreds of wounded French ‘poilus’, and died of an unnamed infectious disease as a direct result of her work.

The BBC drama, The Crimson Field was just one of a number of television programmes designed to capture the interest of viewers. I was one of the historical advisers to the series. I came ‘on board’ quite late in the process, and discovered just how difficult it is to transform real, historical events into engaging drama. Most of my work took place in the safety of my own office, where I commented on scripts. But I did spend one highly memorable – and pretty terrifying – week in a field in Wiltshire working with the team producing the first two episodes. Providing ‘authentic background detail’, while, at the same time, creating atmosphere and constructing characters who are both credible and interesting is fraught with difficulty for producers and directors. Since its release this spring, The Crimson Field has become quite controversial, because whilst many people appear to have loved it, others complained vociferously about its lack of authentic detail. Of course, it is hard to reconcile the realities of history with the demands of popular drama.

Crimson Field
The Crimson Field poster, with permission from the BBC.

I give talks about the nurses of the First World War, and often people come up to me to ask about The Crimson Field. Surprisingly often, their one objection is to the fact that the hospital and the nurses were ‘just too clean’. This makes me smile. In these days of contract-cleaners and hospital-acquired infection, we have forgotten the meticulous attention to detail the nurses of the past gave to the cleanliness of their wards. The depiction of cleanliness in the drama was, in fact one of its authentic details.

One of the events I remember most clearly about my work on set with The Crimson Field is the remarkable commitment of director, David Evans, and leading actor, Hermione Norris, in recreating a scene in which Matron Grace Carter enters a ward which is in chaos because a patient has become psychotic and is attacking a padre. The matron takes a sedative injection from a nurse, checks the medication and administers the drug with impeccable professionalism – and this all happens in the space of about three minutes. I remember the intensity of the discussions about how this scene would work, and how many times it was ‘shot’ on the day of filming. But I also remember with some chagrin how, the night after filming, I realised that the injection technique had not been performed entirely correctly. I had to tell David Evans that I had watched the whole sequence six times without noticing that a mistake had been made. Some historical adviser! The entire scene had to be re-filmed. The end result, though, is an impressive piece of hospital drama. Norris looks as though she has been giving intramuscular injections all her life. I shall never forget the professionalism of the director and actors on that set – nor their patience with the absent-minded-professor who was their adviser for the week.

In a centenary year, it can be difficult to distinguish between myths and realities. We all want to know the ‘facts’ or the ‘truths’ about the First World War, but we also want to hear good stories – and it is all the better if those elide facts and enhance the drama of events – because, as human beings, we want to be entertained as well. The important thing, for me, is to fully realise what it is we are commemorating: the significance of the contributions and the enormity of the sacrifices made by our ancestors. Being honest to their memories is the only thing that really matters –the thing that makes all centenary commemoration projects worthwhile.

Image credit: Ministry of Information First World War Collection, from Imperial War Museum Archive. IWM Non Commercial Licence via Wikimedia Commons.

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15. Storytelling: One Surprising Approach to Plotting


Find Darcy Pattison Books in the iBook Store


Plotting is probably the hardest thing I do. I can explain to you 29 different plot templates. And I often write about plotting a novel. Theory, I know. And I know that I can plot a story pretty well. It’s just HARD.

The problem is that there are a series of inter-connected scenes which build to a climax. The structure of events, though, needs to progress from an introduction of a character goal, dramatizing problems and obstacles to getting that goal, and then, finally some resolution, either a happy or sad ending.

OK. I can slot events into a novel structure from a structural viewpoint. For example, at the mid-point of a story, the hero’s journey, the Snowflake method and other plot paradigms might ask you to provide a bleak moment for the main character. There should be a mini-death: the death of hope–the character will never reach your goal; the death of a feeling of safety, and so on.

Knowing that is easy. The exact type of mini-death that is best for the current WIP, and figuring out how to dramatize that event (Show, Don’t Tell), is hard.

Storytellers Statue on Buena Vista Street in Disney California Adventure Park. One of the most amazing American storytellers that ever lived.

Storytellers Statue on Buena Vista Street in Disney California Adventure Park. One of the most amazing American storytellers that ever lived.

We are in the Business of Storytelling

What’s my answer to this straight-laced method of working? Storytelling.
Several articles recently reminded me that I am not just a writer, but a writer of stories. I am getting way to hung up on the theory and I am forgetting that i can just tell the story and have fun with it. Sure–I know that certain plot elements will make the story stronger, but those things are killing my joy in writing. So, I started telling my story.

Once upon a time, there were two water worlds. One world—Rison by name—was dying, the result of misguided scientists trying to act as God and control the natural forces of the planet. The inhabitants knew their time was limited and sought a refuge, a new home. The other water world—called Earth—caught the Risonian’s attention because the inhabitants only lived on land. Surely, they could share their water, the only place the creatures from the dying world would ask for.
Ah, but therein lies the problem. Sharing.

How do creatures put aside their own fears and self-interest and share? And, how can creatures do so willingly? When would the long-term benefits outweigh the short-term problems.

This could cause a war: if you don’t give us room on your planet, maybe we’ll just take over your planet.

The voice isn’t right. There’s not an opening scene. But right now, none of that matters because I don’t know the story. The first draft is to tell you the story; every draft after that is the question of how to craft the story in the most dramatic and compelling way for your readers. Right now, I’m just trying to tell a story. Crafting that into a novel will come later. Come. Listen to my story. . .

A side note: Did you know that if you have an iPhone, you can ask Siri to tell you a bedtime story. She’s told me so many bedtime stories, that she refuses to do it again–unless I beg.

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16. Top 5 Publishing Mistakes

In light of the news that He Who Must Be Obeid by Kate McClymont and Linton Besser has been withdrawn from sale and recalled by the publisher due to legal reasons we though we would list our top 5 publishing mistakes. Let us know ones we have missed! 5. Goodbye Jerusalem by Bob Ellis Bob Ellis […]

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17. Cote de Pablo & Rachel Brosnahan to Star in ‘The Dovekeepers’ Miniseries

Two ladies have joined the cast for The Dovekeepers adaptation. Deadline reports that Cote de Pablo will portray Shirah and Rachel Brosnahan will portray Yael.

The filmmaking team still has to cast two actors to play the lead protagonists Revka and Aziza. The story takes place in ancient Israel.

Scribner, an imprint at Simon & Schuster, released Alice Hoffman’s novel back in October 2011. CBS plans to air this four-hour TV miniseries in 2015.

New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

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18. Are we too “smart” to understand how we see?

About half a century ago, an MIT professor set up a summer project for students to write a computer programme that can “see” or interpret objects in photographs. Why not! After all, seeing must be some smart manipulation of image data that can be implemented in an algorithm, and so should be a good practice for smart students. Decades passed, we still have not fully reached the aim of that summer student project, and a worldwide computer vision community has been born.

We think of being “smart” as including the intellectual ability to do advanced mathematics, complex computer programming, and similar feats. It was shocking to realise that this is often insufficient for recognising objects such as those in the following image.

segmentation_forOUPblog

Image credit: Fig 5.51 from Li Zhaoping,
Understanding Vision: Theory Models, and Data

Can you devise a computer code to “see” the apple from the black-and-white pixel values? A pre-school child could of course see the apple easily with her brain (using her eyes as cameras), despite lacking advanced maths or programming skills. It turns out that one of the most difficult issues is a chicken-and-egg problem: to see the apple it helps to first pick out the image pixels for this apple, and to pick out these pixels it helps to see the apple first.

A more recent shocking discovery about vision in our brain is that we are blind to almost everything in front of us. “What? I see things crystal-clearly in front of my eyes!” you may protest. However, can you quickly tell the difference between the following two images?

SpotTheDifferenceFigure

Image credit: Alyssa Dayan, 2013 Fig. 1.6 from Li Zhaoping
Understanding Vision: Theory Models, and Data. Used with permission

It takes most people more than several seconds to see the (big) difference – but why so long? Our brain gives us the impression that we “have seen everything clearly”, and this impression is consistent with our ignorance of what we do not see. This makes us blind to our own blindness! How we survive in our world given our near-blindness is a long, and as yet incomplete, story, with a cast including powerful mechanisms of attention.

Being “smart” also includes the ability to use our conscious brain to reason and make logical deductions, using familiar rules and past experience. But what if most brain mechanisms for vision are subconscious and do not follow the rules or conform to the experience known to our conscious parts of the brain? Indeed, in humans, most of the brain areas responsible for visual processing are among the furthest from the frontal brain areas most responsible for our conscious thoughts and reasoning. No wonder the two examples above are so counter-intuitive! This explains why the most obvious near-blindness was discovered only a decade ago despite centuries of scientific investigation of vision.

Another counter-intuitive finding, discovered only six years ago, is that our attention or gaze can be attracted by something we are blind to. In our experience, only objects that appear highly distinctive from their surroundings attract our gaze automatically. For example, a lone-red flower in a field of green leaves does so, except if we are colour-blind. Our impression that gaze capture occurs only to highly distinctive features turns out to be wrong. In the following figure, a viewer perceives an image which is a superposition of two images, one shown to each of the two eyes using the equivalent of spectacles for watching 3D movies.

cularSingleton_GazeAttraction

Image credit: Fig 5.9 from Li Zhaoping,
Understanding Vision: Theory Models, and Data

To the viewer, it is as if the perceived image (containing only the bars but not the arrows) is shown simultaneously to both eyes. The uniquely tilted bar appears most distinctive from the background. In contrast, the ocular singleton appears identical to all the other background bars, i.e. we are blind to its distinctiveness. Nevertheless, the ocular singleton often attracts attention more strongly than the orientation singleton (so that the first gaze shift is more frequently directed to the ocular rather than the orientation singleton) even when the viewer is told to find the latter as soon as possible and ignore all distractions. This is as if this ocular singleton is uniquely coloured and distracting like the lone-red flower in a green field, except that we are “colour-blind” to it. Many vision scientists find this hard to believe without experiencing it themselves.

Are these counter-intuitive visual phenomena too alien to our “smart”, intuitive, and conscious brain to comprehend? In studying vision, are we like Earthlings trying to comprehend Martians? Landing on Mars rather than glimpsing it from afar can help the Earthlings. However, are the conscious parts of our brain too “smart” and too partial to “dumb” down suitably to the less conscious parts of our brain? Are we ill-equipped to understand vision because we are such “smart” visual animals possessing too many conscious pre-conceptions about vision? (At least we will be impartial in studying, say, electric sensing in electric fish.) Being aware of our difficulties is the first step to overcoming them – then we can truly be smart rather than smarting at our incompetence.

Headline image credit: Beautiful woman eye with long eyelashes. © RyanKing999 via iStockphoto.

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19. Fan Mail Wednesday #187: A Lovely, Lively One from Ashley in MA

postalletter-150x150 I don’t share every letter, as there can be some repetition. But I quite enjoyed this one from Ashley, who, like me, is also a writer. Scan 2 I replied:

Dear Ashley,

It is so nice to hear from a fellow writer – even if, well, you are not exactly a “fellow” at all. I don’t think the “fellow” part is important anyway. But I dither. 

I mean to say:

Thank you for your detailed and wildly entertaining letter. I’m grateful that you enjoyed my book, BYSTANDER, and that you took the time to write to me. I realize from the heading that it was your “Summer Reading Letter,” but you obviously didn’t mail it in, so to speak. It felt genuine to me. And, yes, it was mailed.

(Sorry, weird mood.)

You sound a little like my daughter, Maggie, who is entering 8th grade. She plays soccer and basketball and, like you, is a 100% effort type of person. You can’t go wrong when you give your best. I love that about her. She is also sunny and optimistic, like you, whereas I can get a little gloomy at times, often thinking that it’s about to rain.

I’m glad, too, that you realize the importance of teachers. They come in all sizes and shapes, it’s true, and some are great while others are barely bearable, but when we can make a real connection with one, the entire world can open up in a new way. It’s amazing, really. As an adult, I find that I am more and more grateful to those people from long ago, those teachers and mentors, who gave me so much of themselves. They impacted me, they make a difference. Such a powerful gift – and a great, honorable profession.

9780312547967Of course, I guess there is a message to BYSTANDER, though I sort of hate to see it reduced to that. It’s a story, and I hope for readers to become involved in the characters, to step into their shoes, and see the dynamic from different angles. I want the reader to reach his or her own conclusions. 

Since you asked, many readers have asked if I was planning on a sequel. Short answer: no. Longer answer: I just wrote one! Sort of. Not really. It’s a new book coming out in the Fall of 2015, called THE FALL. In it I take on some of the same themes, but go to a darker place. I’m very excited about it. 

As for your questions, I guess that Mary, to me, is the key character to the story. Yes, she’s a minor character, but with a small and pivotal role. I think she is the book’s most courageous character.

Thanks again for that awesome letter, Ashley. I really like your spirit. 

Btw, you might also like my book, BEFORE YOU GO.

My best . . .

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20. Bruno and Titch: A Tale of a Boy and His Guinea Pig by Sheena Dempsy

Sheena Dempsy's new book, Bruno & Titch: A Tale of a Boy and His Guinea Pig, is a wonderful story about bringing home a first pet (and the interesting ideas kids sometimes have about how to best care for that pet) and also a fantastic book featuring the (somewhat) underrepresented guinea pig! Be sure not to miss a short list of other picture and chapter books featuring this furry pet at the

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21. From My Archives: Visual Development Sketches for Lilo and Stitch

 Lilo's house.






Thumbnails showing spacecraft carrying Stitch enter earth.




©Disney

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22. Review of the Day: El Deafo by Cece Bell

ElDeafo1 198x300 Review of the Day: El Deafo by Cece BellEl Deafo
By Cece Bell
Amulet (an imprint of Abrams)
$21.95
ISBN: 978-1-4197-1020-9
Ages 9-12
On shelves September 2nd

We appear to exist in a golden age of children’s graphic novel memoirs. Which is to say, there are three of them out this year (El Deafo, Sisters, and The Dumbest Idea Ever). How to account for the sudden tiny boom? If I were to harbor a guess I’d say it has something to do with publishers realizing that the genre can prove a profitable one (hat tip then to Smile). We’re beginning to enter into an era where the bulk of the gatekeepers out there, be they parents or teachers or librarians, are viewing comics not as a corrupting influence but rather as a new literary form with which to teach. Memoirs are particularly interesting and have proven to be a wonderful way to slowly ease kids into the big beautiful world of nonfiction. That said, not everyone’s youth is worthy of a retelling. To tell a memoir well you need to have a narrative arc of some sort. One that doesn’t feel forced. For CeCe Bell, her first foray into graphic novels is also telling the story of her youth. The result, El Deafo, is a remarkable look at a great grand question (What to do when you can no longer hear and feel different from everyone you know?) alongside a smaller one that every kid will relate to (How do you find a good friend?). Bell takes the personal and makes it universal, an act that truly requires superhero skills.

Until the age of four CeCe was pretty much indistinguishable from any other kid. She liked her older siblings. She liked to sing to herself. But a sudden bout with meningitis and something changed for CeCe. All at once her hearing was gone. After some experimentation she was fitted with a Sonic Ear (a device that enabled her to hear her teacher’s voice) and started attending classes with other kids like herself. A family trip to a smaller town, however, meant going to a new school and trying to make new friends. When faced with problems she reverts to her pretend superhero self, El Deafo. With subtlety Bell weaves in knowledge of everything from reading lips and sign language to the difficulties of watching un-captioned television. At the same time the book’s heart lies with a single quest: That of finding the absolute perfect friend.

ElDeafo2 327x500 Review of the Day: El Deafo by Cece BellThe rise of the graphic novel memoir of a cartoonist’s youth with a child audience in mind really hit its stride when Raina Telgemeier wrote, Smile. That dire accounting of her at times horrific dental history paved the way for other books in the same vein. So where did my library choose to catalog that graceful memoir? In the biography section? No. In the graphic novel section? Not initially, no. For the first year of its existence it was shelved in nonfiction under the Dewey Decimal number 617.645 T. That’s right. We put it in the dental section. So it was with great trepidation that I looked to see where El Deafo would end up. Would it be in the section on the hearing impaired or would the catalog understand that this book is about so much more than the Sonic Ear? As it happens, the book appears to be primarily cataloged as a memoir more than anything else. Sure the information in there about the deaf community and other aspects of living as someone hearing impaired are nonfiction, but the focus of the story is always squarely on CeCe herself.

The real reason I found the book as compelling as I did was due in large part to the way in which Bell tackles the illogical logic of childhood friendships. So many kids are friends thanks to geographical convenience. You’re my age and live within a certain radius of my home? We’re besties! And Bell’s hearing impaired state is just a part of why she is or is not friends with one person or another. Really, the true arc of the story isn’t necessarily CeCe coming to terms with the Sonic Ear, but rather how she comes to terms with herself and, in doing so, gets the best possible friend. It’s like reading a real life Goldilocks story. This friend is too bossy. This friend is too fixated on Cece’s hearing. But this friend? She’s juuuuuust right.

ElDeafo3 329x500 Review of the Day: El Deafo by Cece BellSo why bunnies? Bell could easily have told her story with human beings. And though the characters in this book appear to be anthropomorphized rabbits (reminding me of nothing so much as when guest stars would appear on the children’s television program Arthur) there is no particular reason for this. They never mention a particular love of carrots or restrict their movements to hop hop hopping. They are, however, very easy on the eyes and very enticing. This book was sitting on my To Be Reviewed shelf when my three-year-old waltzed over and plucked it for her own perusal. The bunnies are accessible. In fact, you completely forget that they even are bunnies in the course of reading the book. You also fail to notice after a while how beautifully Bell has laid out her comic panels too. The sequential storytelling is expertly rendered, never losing the reader or throwing you out of the story. One librarian I spoke to also mentioned how nice it was to see that the dream sequences with El Deafo are always clearly delineated as just that. Dream sequences. Fantasy and reality are easily distinguishable in this novel. No mean feat when everyone has a twitchy little nose.

Maybe we’ve peaked. Maybe we’re seeing as many graphic memoirs for kids as we’ll ever see in a given year. But that can’t be, can it? We all have stories to tell, no matter what our upbringing looked like. There’s always some element in our past that’s relatable to a wide audience. It’s the clever author that knows how to spin that element into a storyline worthy of a younger audience. There isn’t a jot of doubt in my mind that CeCe Bell’s book is going to be vastly beloved by nearly every child that picks it up. Engaging and beautifully drawn, to say nothing of its strength and out-and-out facts, El Deafo is going to help set the standard for what a memoir for kids should be. Infinitely clever. Undeniably fun. Don’t miss it.

On shelves September 2nd.

Source: Galley sent from publisher for review.

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23. She Doesn’t Live Here Anymore

And so, the wheel turns. My eldest has moved to college. Although my Lovely Wife (LW) tells me we have to keep her room intact because she will still come home, I remember that I never lived at home after I left for college. I am somewhat sad about that, but we’ve been prepping for this and hoping she would take flight someday. It’s just hard to watch the baby condor drop off the ledge knowing the perilous plunge that awaits.

I’m taking it pretty well, actually. LW, not so much. Everything in the house seems to remind her that one of her babies has left the nest. Tears, oh there have been tears. I don’t understand tears, nor do I deal with them very well. I remind LW that she’s always got me… forever…  Somehow, that doesn’t seem to help.

After moving our collegian, we had to take our little patient in for treatment where she and mom stayed a few days. While they were gone, I happened into the pantry and realized LW must not have been there since baby condor left. If food packaging could form a face, every piece of junk food in there conspired to draw our missing daughter – even to me and I’m oblivious to the most obvious of things.

This was bad! I couldn’t let LW see this, she would cry for days. It all had to go, but the cheapskate in me said I also couldn’t throw out all of the food. Only one option remained. A 24 hour binge of Munchos and Dr. Pepper.

Have you ever read the nutrition label on those things? DON’T! You can gain 3 pounds just from holding the bag too long. They don’t list things by proportion, otherwise the label would read something like this:

Lard 70%image

Air 27%

Salt 2.5%

Potatoes 0.5%

How they bond the ingredients I will never know. Anyway, I polished off the first bag for breakfast and washed it down with three Dr. Peppers. I checked the remaining inventory and was disheartened to discover that LW must have decided to stock up to try to lure the girl to forsake college and stay with us. Either that or she suspected a Y2k15 disaster and wanted to be prepared. Our pantry was like a saferoom.

This is where having many offspring should pay off! I enlisted the help of the remaining children. When I explained the dilemma, I got more “Oh, Dad” eye rolls than the average game of nine-ball. One took a Dr. Pepper before she left, so I was down to hoarder’s surplus minus one. Alone, I dug in for the day.

In the late evening, I was sure a trip the emergency room was in order. The pantry was reverting back to a faceless state, and my stomach was screaming something in Idahoan. I was sweating a substance that looked like maple syrup, which can’t be good. I put in a call to Poison Control where a kind gentleman told me there was no known toxicity in the combination, but urged me to go to the hospital if I felt light-headed. That’s the last thing I remember before passing out amongst the crumbs of the last bag.

When I came to, it was time to go and pick up LW and the youngest. I used the shower squeegee to remove the syrup-sweat and when I arrived, they were ready to go. The trip home was uneventful, I successfully hid the tick and slurred speech caused by sugar intake. While I was unloading the car, LW stopped me.

“Where are the snacks for the party?”

I shrugged my shoulders and grunted. I didn’t ask ‘what party’, I’m sure I’d been told.

“The pantry was full of them.”

“I dunno,” I replied without making eye contact.

“Well, we need more for the party Saturday. Can you go to the store?”

“Uh, sure.”

They say never go to the store hungry. I went full! And I bought $57 worth of Dr. Pepper and Munchos, feeling bloated and quite resentful. Even after all the sweets, this was a bitter pill to swallow.


Filed under: It Made Me Laugh

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24. Poetry Friday - A review of On the Wing

Douglas Florian is a poet and artist who has created poetry picture books that explore a wide variety of subjects. Over the years I have greatly enjoyed reading these books, and it is interesting to see how he applies his considerable talent to take on a new topic that interests him.

Douglas Florian
Poetry Picture Book
For ages 6 to 8
Harcourt, 1996, 978-0152023669
Birds truly are remarkable animals. They come in a dazzling array of colors, live on every continent, and make their homes in all kinds of places. In this wonderful picture book Douglas Florian pairs short poems with his artwork to give readers a true celebration of birds.
   Over the millennia birds have evolved to suit many kinds of environments. Some birds, like the egret, sail on water and then rest on the beach making it seem as if there is a “feathered hat” lying on the sand. Dippers love to dip and dive in waterfalls. They are so aquatic that one wonders if they would be happy to “trade / Their oily wings for flippers.” They are such good swimmers that it is possible that the little birds might “think that they are fish.”
   Birds come in all shapes and sizes. The spoonbill is tall and thin with a beak that does indeed look like a long-handled spoon. In his poem about this rather odd looking species, Douglas Florian wonders if the spoonbill uses its bill “for stirring tea” or does it “use it as a scoop / For eating peas and drinking soup.”
   The stork has a bill that is perfectly suited for the environment it lives in. Wading through shallow water, the bird uses it rapier like bill to stab frogs and other creatures. Woodpeckers also have beaks that are perfectly adapted so that they can get to their chosen food - insects that live in wood and sap that runs through wood. Not only are these beaks perfect for creating holes, but woodpeckers also use them to communicate.
   With clever touches of humor and insightful descriptions, this collection of poems will give young readers a colorful picture of twenty-one bird speci

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25. There Are More Ways Than One To Teach A Minilesson

Last week I wrote a post titled How To Plan A Minilesson From Scratch, and I outlined a very simple way to plan minilessons, based on the work of my wonderful colleagues at the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project. Now, I am going to backtrack a bit and revisit just a teensy weensy bit of what I said. I wrote, "Every minilesson can pretty much go the same way." And this is absolutely true, most of the time. Except for those times when it's not true.

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