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In Amsterdam, days are getting darker, the weather is grey and sometimes wet and cold… Yup, it’s the end of November alright!
I could complain about it, but I’d rather see it as an advantage: I can enjoy being in my apartment, warm and cosy, and while I snuggle under a blanket with a hot cup of tea, I make sure to have my sketchbook in reach. Because I want to do what I love, as much as I can: Make art.
Are you struggling to keep your creative habit going?
So you want to be a artist. You already are one!
You have the best intentions to make, but you may want everything to be perfect before starting; You need the right supplies, you need enough time, the perfect surroundings…
Stop looking for the perfect circumstances. There is no such thing.
You are simply procrastinating, it’s self-sabotage. It’s a waste of your valuable time and energy and it can drain your creativity. And spontaneity. Some of the best art was made on the backs of envelopes, beer mats, napkins or paper placemats.
As an artist (yes, you!), you can make art wherever and whenever you want.
Sure, we do need a bit of planning every so often. Otherwise chances are that busy life eats up all of our time to make art.
Here’s a tip: when you are putting things on the agenda (the one that may be clipped on the fridge, or on the wall next to your computer), sketch the activity instead of writing it! That way you give yourself that quick art fix by combining planning your time AND making art.
Now stick to the plan
Don’t do anything else than working on that creative habit of yours. Shut down your computer and throw your smartphone in the corner. Hanging out on social media is fun, but making art will give you a lot more satisfaction and a great sense of accomplishment!
Happy 50th Anniversary to “A Charlie Brown Christmas”
It’s been a holiday staple in millions of American households since December 9, 1965. And it’s called “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” This December, it celebrates a 50-year run on TV. That’s pretty impressive for this cartoon featuring the Peanuts Gang, Charlie Brown and Snoopy. And, even more than that, it remains pretty counter culture, if religion can be termed counter culture today.
Centering around the perennial late-to-the dance, sad sack Charlie Brown, asking the question, “What is Christmas all about?,” he struggles with an unsettling sadness come holiday time, when all about him, society says that he’s supposed to be joyful – and he’s not. Charlie Brown was a perceptive kid, even 50 years ago!
That is a pretty existential question that cartoonist Charles M. Schulz of the Peanuts Comic strip fame had the courage to ask, via this simple cartoon, with longevity and heft.
And a sponsor, Coca Cola to be exact, a huge corporation then and now, was open to “commissioning and supporting” the production of this type of programming some 50 years ago.
A profound answer finally is given to Charlie’s subliminal question of “What is Christmas all about?,” and it’s provided by the blue-blanket-loving Linus, on a spotlit stage, in his unapologetic recitation of the oft repeated description of Christmas night, quoted from the Bible.
There were obvious concerns about the use of religious material even in 1965 on a Christmas special. Yet, Director Bill Melendez recalls that Charles M. Schulz was adamant about including the Linus reading from the Bible with his famous quote, “If we don’tdo it, who will?”
But, before the cartoon’s denouement hitting the perfect mark in its utter simplicity, “A Charlie Brown Christmas” offers a series of scenes showing what Christmas tends to mean in the secular culture.
And The Peanuts Gang are all in – save Linus – who is a great listener to the qualms of Charlie Brown, about the modern themes surrounding the celebration of Christmas.
Charlie starts his quest for the meaning of Christmas by consulting experts that give psychological answers to his glumness in the guise of instant-psychiatrist-for-a-nickel, Lucy, his sister, Sally, with her “long list of gifts” gives small comfort, and even Snoopy, the beagle, is “buying” in big time.
But a play seems to be one thing that may capture the essence of the holy day.
But even that is co opted by the group’s definition of what the mood-play-provider Christmas tree should look like.
Seeking and finding leads the group ultimately to the Peanuts Gang fashioning themselves a perfect tree from a little bedraggled fir that simply needs a lot of love.
And that leads to a hushed moment and a realization, in Linus’s childlike reading, of ancient words that are pretty profound.
For it is in that still, small moment, and also, as the Peanuts Gang gather about Charlie’s fouled up, previously deadened, single red-balled fir tree, that this small gem hits home.
They have all finally, and lovingly, tended and been tended, and renewed, with Linus providing the final love wrap via his Widow’s Mite of a blanket at the fir tree’s base.
The small, simple tree dispels and warms the growing darkness that settles around the tiny group. Beautiful!
I find myself wanting to belt out “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” right along with the group as they carol amid larger-than-life snow flakes, as the credits roll.
It seems Coca Cola was looking for “a special for advertising during the holidays.” It provided the dollars necessary for the shoot, and sponsored it, originally. I just found that out. It seems they were looking for a holiday production to air in early December.
So, Charles Schulz, creator of the Peanuts comic strip, and TV producer Lee Mendelson, began preparing to pitch their ideas for this special to Coke.
After hearing jazz pianist Vince Guaraldi’s Trio play their wonderful, “Cast Your Fate to the Wind” on the radio, Lee Mendelson called and hired Mr. Guaraldi to provide background music to fit the show. It’s hard to imagine this special without his jaunty, jazzy piano themes, including “Christmas Time is Here” that helped enlarge and define the cartoon and its participants, with a series of unforgettable piano riffs. His soundtrack music also filled many of the Charlie Brown specials
The concept of Charles M. Schulz and Lee Mendelson was accepted by Coke, after a wary wait of several days, as Coke eventually confirmed they were in.
The team was given six months to deliver. And they did. And we are the happy recipients of that 50 year-old decision by Coca Cola. That was a pretty bold move, even then.
But I have to ask myself this question. And it is something to ponder.
Would Coke have the courage to do something so simple, yet so definitive today, in a world that is so consumed with not offending anyone, that it forgets to stand for anything? I wonder.
Kids love the skating scene early on in the cartoon that’s supposedly based on memories of places in the St. Paul, Minnesota winters of Schulz’s childhood.
Do kids still play “Whip” on the ice, as the last person in a long line gets snapped across it? I used to love that – as long as I was not on the end.
The United States Post Office has even gotten onboard this 50th Anniversary homage, with the issuance on October 1st 2015, of a special booklet of 20 Peanuts stamps featuring 10 still frames from “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”
Each one features an iconic scene from the show that you may use on a holiday card. Featured among them are the skating scene, Charlie checking out his empty, echoing mailbox, Snoopy’s overly decorated doghouse, as he strives to win a contest, the simple wooden tree wrapped in Linus’s blanket, and, of course, The Peanuts Gang, in chorus, at the end.
I already have bought the stamps and am rereading the picture book issued from the cartoon, plus Lee Mendelson’s book, “A Charlie Brown Christmas: The Making of a Tradition.”
Why not reintroduce your young reader to the book and cartoon, if they have not yet seen it – and even if they have.
It is a timeless message of peace and love that the world desperately needs today.
Funny how kids continue to ask the really pointed questions, and their ability to seek and find, and see through artifice, hopefully, will never change.
That really is what “Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.” It’s a very simple story whose message has lasted over 2,000 years.
Happy 50th Anniversary to “A Charlie Brown Christmas!”
Lancaster University has appointed French graphic novelist and critic Benoît Peeters as Visiting Professor in Graphic Fiction and Comic Art, the first university in the UK to hire someone with this title.
Peeters, a well known scholar on Hergé and Tintin, will hold the position for three years. The author of Tintin and the World of Hergé and Hergé’s biography, Hergé, Son Of Tintin will give lectures, run creative writing workshops, and supervise post-graduate students.
“The appointment will bring a new dimension to our University and, in particular, to our English and creative writing courses,” stated Simon Guy, professor of arts and social sciences at Lancaster University. “It will also demonstrate strong commitment to our collaboration with the increasingly popular and fast-expanding Lakes international Comic Art Festival.”
Lilly Malcom is the Executive Art Director and Associate Publisher of Dial Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Penguin Random House. As an art director, she has had the privilege to work with many talented illustrators, among them David Small, Jon Agee, Jerry Pinkney, Judy Schachner, Tao Nyeu, Zachariah O’Hora, Erin EitterKono and Jen Corace to name a few. Lily enjoys working with longtime professionals as well as first time illustrators. She is always on the lookout for unique memorable characters and stories with a strong visual narrative.
When an illustrator has more than one style, do you like seeing them in one portfolio or does that throw you off?
I’m fine with multiple styles as long as they are executed well. But it’s not something you have to have in your portfolio. It’s better to master one style and keep working at it. That said, if you are excellent at realistic painterly work as well as a loose free line—then go for it! We’re looking for all sorts of styles and if I stumble upon something unexpected, that’s great.
But really the focus should be on making your portfolio strong and captivating. You need about 15 or so pieces that are compelling and geared towards children’s publishing. Sometimes you only have one chance to show your work, so it must be your best. If your strength is animals, then start with those pieces and move on later to people. Be sure to show characters with expressive faces, engaged in different activities. Show that you understand settings, moods and that you’re capable of continuity between scenes.
And if you have a favorite character you’ve created, definitely put that in too. We’ve created books based on one image that we’ve loved and have asked for a story to be created around them. Also, I like sketches when they are included. It shows how artists handle their line and you get to see a bit of their process. This can always go online if you don’t want to put it in your portfolio.
Do you ever ask illustrators you are considering for a project to do samples before hiring them? If so, do you pay for those samples or are they done for free?
At Dial we usually don’t ask for samples. If we’ve gotten in touch with you, it’s because we love your work and think you can create a wonderful world for the characters in the manuscript. We’ve already looked at a bunch of your art and have confidence that you will do a terrific job. That said, on the rare occasion we do ask for a sample, I feel we should pay you for your efforts. If you get the project, then the advance would cover it, and if we go with someone else then we can pay a small fee. Sometimes an agent or illustrator will offer to do a free sample. And in that case, we see if that’s the right thing to do for that project.
Do you like receiving postcards from illustrators you’ve never met? If so, how often do you think one illustrator should send out new postcards?
I love receiving postcards. I get tons of samples every day and postcards allow me to flip through quickly and sort. If I’m interested to see more, I will go to your site. Remember to print work on both sides of your postcards and make your contact info easy to find. And in terms of how often people should send samples out? You could send out a big blast once a year and then follow up with smaller targeted mailings once or twice more.
When you are looking at illustrators online, what is the best way to grab your attention and make you look at more of their work?
This is a little intangible but I’m looking for something unique. I’m not looking for someone to reinvent the wheel and create a whole new style using toothpicks. I’m just looking for someone who can infuse life and heart into the characters and the world around them. It can be as simple as how they work the eyebrows or the bits and pieces around the character that tell you something about them. It’s the artist’s job to illustrate the full story. The story beyond the words. It’s a big thing and a hard thing to do well. I’m looking for hints that you can take a text and make it your own.
Back in college, I did a few freelance articles for a photography trade magazine. Mostly wedding photographer profiles. A woman I’d become close friends with in a creative writing course happened to be an editor for this publication, and she gave me some assignments for fun. By about the third piece I turned in, she sent me a very friendly email that haunts me to this day. She basically said, “Hey Mary, I’m noticing that all of your articles follow the same pattern. You start with the photographer’s youth and then the event that made them fall in love with photography, then you cover their education and development as a photographer, and their you end with their current work. Maybe you could, yanno, mix it up a little bit.”
She was right. Of course she was. I’m no journalist and I had no idea what I was doing or how to organize a compelling non-fiction article, so I picked the easiest possible organizational strategy when talking about a person: the resume, or, in other words, “Started from the bottom, now we here.” And by golly, I was going to drive it into the ground until somebody stopped me because I didn’t know what else to do. And, to my *ahem* credit, I thanked her profusely for the feedback…and was so mortified that I stopped writing for the photography magazine shortly thereafter. A writer’s ego is a strange creature.
But I figured out the lesson in her wise words eventually. Yes, a decade, give or take, counts as “eventually,” guys. There are patterns in writing. Some are good patterns, some are individual patterns that maybe keep us from growing in the craft.
An example of a good pattern is a larger organizing principle or story theory, for example, Joseph Campbell’s hero cycle. While this is an oldie, it’s very much a goodie, since its wisdom applies to any number of stories, in any number of ways. Chronological order is also an old standard that can’t be beat when writing a novel. Sure, you want to jump back in time to fill in some backstory and context every once in a while, but moving from point A to point B as the character grows and time marches forward is an idea that will never go away.
The reason I like these two is that they’ve vague and versatile. They dictate a general idea and then it’s up to you to apply it in your own style. You’ll notice that I talk about story theory in my book, Writing Irresistible Kidlit. But I try to leave much of it up to the writer. I recently ordered a slipcover for my sectional because the upholstery we originally got clings to pet hair like it’s pirate treasure. The slipcover fabric is so stretchy that it was able to fit my couch and look custom-made without any measurement. I was dubious until it arrived, since it purported to fit couches from 66″ to 96″ and that seems like a pretty big spread. But it’s really quite amazing, fits perfectly, and now the dogs can drool and shed on it with abandon. All this is to say that I try to give writing guidelines as if I were that slipcover (stay with me here, folks, this is getting weird…). Your story is the couch. You pick its overall shape and dimensions. The organizing principle’s job is to cover it and mold to what you want to do, all while giving it a cohesive look and function.
Now, there are writing teachers out there who like to dictate patterns in much more specific terms. I’ve had many writers, believe it or not, come to me and ask, “Well, in So and So’s Story Theory, he says I have to include the inciting incident by the 5% mark, then the first conflict by 10%, then the first major loss by 25%. The cousin dies, but it’s at 27% and I don’t know what to do.” This kind of teaching-writing-with-an-iron-fist always baffles me. I like the broader, sweeping guidelines, not micromanaging a manuscript down to the nth percentile. In my world, a rigid story theory is great for people who have never written a novel before. It gives them valuable scaffolding to cling to. But once you’ve written one, and internalized some basic principles, I think most guidelines can take a backseat to how you want to tell the story.
But every writer has other patterns. And before you know what you should do about your patterns, if they’re helpful or hampering, you should at least become aware of them. (Hopefully without becoming mortified and quitting.) This post was inspired by a client of mine who starts many chapters in exactly the same way: scene-setting and talk of the weather. I applaud the scene-setting. Many writers who simply leap into a scene with dialogue or a plot point fail to ground the reader in time and place. But this pattern for this writer was almost formulaic. Weather. Scene. Then the chapter starts. Over and over.
What happens when a reader detects an underlying pattern in your work is they become less engaged. By the fifth weather/scene/start chapter, I’m going to check out at the beginning a little bit. Unless the descriptions of the weather are building up to something massive (it’s a book about a big storm, or a person with weather-related superpowers), there needs to be variety. The pattern cannot take over the narrative.
This reminds me of picture book writers who are working in rhyme. Sometimes I see writers twisting their syntax into crazy sentence pretzels just so they can make a line rhyme. This begs the question: Is the story in the service of the rhyme, or the other way around? You always want to be putting the story first. If you find that writing in rhyme warps your natural voice, makes you write like a Victorian schoolmarm, and leads to all sorts of other problems, then it’s the pattern that needs to go, and you need to free yourself up to tell the story the best way you can. Patterns. They’re all around. Sometimes they’re good, sometimes they’re hindrances.
What are your specific writing patterns? Are you trying to break them or are you working with them? Discuss.
Focus Features has unleashed a teaser trailer for A Monster Calls. According to Vulture, the story for this film adaptation comes from Patrick Ness’ young adult novel, A Monster Calls.
Juan Antonio Bayona took the helm as the director. Ness served as the screenwriter and adapted his own book into a script.
The video embedded above features the voice acting talent of Liam Neeson and glimpses of Lewis MacDougall as 12-year-old Connor. The Wrap reports that this movie will his theatres on Oct. 14, 2016. (via Indiewire)
Please enjoy the wonderful illustration above by Anna Gavrilyuk, our Pick of the Week for last week’s topic of CITY. Thanks to everyone who participated with drawings, paintings, sculptures, and more. We love seeing it all!
The large format hardcover book is purely pictorial, with 224 pages of full-page artwork. The images are arranged alphabetically in a survey that ranges from about 1900-1960. As with all of Dan Zimmer's publications, the quality of the printing and binding is excellent.
Tom Lovell and Orson Lowell
So you get one, or sometimes two, illustrations by the well-known illustrators, along with a good sampling of lesser-known names. I find these books to be useful for stimulating new visual ideas and for snapping me out of my pictorial habits.
Gordon Johnson and Victor Kalin
You can preview the whole book online in thumbnail form here and see if it's got what you like. The special collector's edition version is sold out, as is the first volume in the series. But the regular editions of Volumes 3 and 2, priced at $44.95, are still available.
Many of the folks who utilize BookBub are self-published, and because we hear over and over the need for self-published authors to have their work edited, It seemed to me that it could be educational to take a hard look at their first pages. If you don’t know about BookBub, it’s a pretty nifty way to try to build interest in your work. The website is here.
I’m sampling just the books that are offered for free. Following are the first page and a poll. Then my comments are after the fold along with the book cover, the author’s name, and a link so you can take a look for yourself if you wish. At Amazon you can click on the Read More feature to get more of the chapter if you’re interested. There’s a second poll concerning the need for an editor.
Let me know how this works for you. Here’s a book titled Death's Hand.
James spotted a splatter of blood through the tree boughs. It marked the snow like an ink stain on paper.
He pushed through the pine needles, and her bare feet appeared, blue-toed and limp. He saw the curve of a calf and a knobby, bruised knee. He saw the jut of ribs under her skin and an arm thrown over her face. And the next thing he saw was the twelve other bodies.
Nausea gripped James, but he covered his mouth and maintained composure. His guide was not so lucky. The other man dove behind a bush, gagged twice, and vomited across the frozen earth.
Elise was already dead. He was so certain of it that he almost walked away at that moment. But what would Isaac think of James abandoning his daughter’s body? The indignity of leaving her naked on the ice for the birds to devour was too much, and he came so far to find her remains.
Yet he couldn’t bring himself to step foot in the clearing. Elise looked peaceful, but the others were twisted in agony. Blood marked their fingernails. They had gone out fighting.
Each of the twelve other bodies could have been siblings. They had pale skin, slender forms draped in white linen, and white-blue eyes— he could tell, because they were frozen open. The snow around them looked fluffy, as though it were freshly fallen. Something about that (snip)
Have a vote, then go to my editorial notes and vote again after the break.
And don’t forget to let me know if you like this new feature. Thanks.
The book is part of a trilogy, The Descent Series, by SM Reine. The entire trilogy is offered for free here. My thoughts, and then my notes.
The voice is strong and the writing clear. There are a couple of little editorial notes that I would make, but this opening page does a good job of raising story questions, mostly "what happened here?" Who were these people? Who is Elise? While those latter two are close to being “information” questions and not story questions, the question of who were they fighting and why turns them into story questions as well. And, subtly, there’s a hint that Elise could be alive. For me, I think the line about the guide throwing up could be much shorter. But, still, I turned the page.
Last week, my publisher sent me an email inquiring if I would write a guest post for YA Books Central and promote my new YA/dystopian book, Nirvana.
One problem: I hate promoting stuff so I’m going to get that out of the way first so I can talk about what’s really on my mind:
The Hunger Games.
Until the end the day, Nirvanawill be just $3.99 on Amazon for Cyber Monday.
I’m also supposed to let you know that I will be doing an Ask Me Anything (AMA) on Friday, December 4, 2015, from 2‐4 pm on the r/books subreddit. So, if you have any questions on topics related to the consequences of virtual reality, the decline of the bee population, or anything I write about in Nirvana, please join me there.
Okay, let's get back to The Hunger Games.
Yes, that’s right. Despite all of my corporate and government projects that keep me quite busy, the only thing I'm thinking about lately is The Hunger Games. Is it because the final film, Mockingjay Part II, came out last Friday?
With Nirvana receiving four and five star reviews, some reviewers have compared it to
George Orwell’s 1984 (I'm flattered!)
The Matrix (great films),
and, perhaps most quizzically, The Hunger Games.
I get it. There's a dystopian element to The Hunger Games and Nirvana.
Now, I’ll admit my knowledge of The Hunger Games isn't as extensive as yours might be. I have never read the books, nor seen the movies. I spend a lot of time in front of my computer! However, it is my understanding that the books and films depict a world run by a monarchical government that requires each “district” to choose a female and male youth to fight to the death in the annual Hunger Games event. The last person standing is crowned the victor (and gets to live).
Could events described in The Hunger Games happen in our lifetime? I hope not. The majority of us live in a modern society, where violence isn't the only answer. In Nirvana, however, I write about very real issues ‐ ones that we will need to confront in our lifetime. The Hunger Games is completely fictional while Nirvana, through a fictional cast of characters, is grounded in modern day truths.
How do I know this? Well, I research these "modern truths" every day. The technology described in Nirvana does exist. I've seen it and I've used it ‐ that "floating sensation" didn't just come from anywhere! And, most importantly, I've seen the damage that it can cause, both psychologically and socially. Hexagon, the government institution featured in Nirvana, is intended to shed light on what may happen once this virtual reality technology falls into the wrong hands.
The second modern truth I touch on inNirvana is the decline of the bee population. It's very likely that this epidemic could lead to an Extinction event in our lifetime. Bees and other pollinating insects have an essential role in our ecosystem. In fact, at least a third of our food depends on their pollination. A world without these wonderful little creatures would simply be devastating for food production.
The best thing that we can do right now is be aware of the issues. If more of us are informed, and we're spreading the word, maybe we can protect ourselves. For this reason, I invite you to pick up a copy
of Nirvana and tell people about it.
Do you believe in these "modern truths" like I do? Comment below ‐ I'll read every single one.
Your Friend, J.R.
PS ‐ My publisher would also be very happy if you entered the Nirvana GIVEAWAY attached to this blog. Now, if you win, you have to promise to tell people about these issues. Okay?
About: When the real world is emptied of all that you love, how can you keep yourself from dependence on the virtual?
Animal activist and punk rock star Larissa Kenders lives in a dystopian world where the real and the virtual intermingle. After the disappearance of her soulmate, Andrew, Kenders finds solace by escaping to Nirvana, a virtual world controlled by Hexagon. In Nirvana, anyone’s deepest desires may be realized ‐ even visits with Andrew.
Although Kenders knows that this version of Andrew is virtual, when he asks for her assistance revealing Hexagon’s dark secret, she cannot help but comply. Soon after, Kenders and her closest allies find themselves in a battle with Hexagon, the very institution they have been taught to trust. After uncovering much more than she expected, Kenders’ biggest challenge is determining what is real – and what is virtual.
Nirvana is a fast‐paced, page‐turning young adult novel combining elements of science fiction, mystery, and romance. Part of a trilogy, this book introduces readers to a young woman who refuses to give up on the man she loves, even if it means taking on an entire government to do so.
Release Date: November 10, 2015
One winner will receive a copy of Nirvana, US and Canada only.
Entering is simple, just fill out the entry form below. During this giveaway, J.R. Stewart has a question for you to answer in the comments below for more chances to win his book! When J.R. Stewart is not writing, which field does the author work in?
*Click the Rafflecopter link to enter the giveaway*
has worked on many corporate projects throughout a prolific IT academic and consulting career, and is involved with many confidential virtual reality projects. After working on advanced "VR" technologies for over a decade, Stewart grew concerned about the implications of this work and the possible psychological effects that it may have on its users.
Greetings, YABC! Today we are pleased to welcome Lauren Morrill, author of The Trouble With Destiny. Their book presents a unique YA science fiction experience through an eclectic collection of literary mediums. Lauren was kind enough to answer a few questions about her book!
Lauren Morrill is the author of Meant to Be, Being Sloane Jacobs, and the forthcoming The Trouble With Destiny. She lives in Macon, Georgia with her husband and son. When she’s not writing, she spends a lot of hours on the track getting knocked around playing roller derby. Follow Lauren on Twitter at @laurenemorrill.
Now meet Lauren's book, The Trouble With Destiny.
With her trusty baton and six insanely organized clipboards, drum major Liza Sanders is about to take Destiny by storm—the boat, that is. When Liza discovered that her beloved band was losing funding, she found Destiny, a luxury cruise ship complete with pools, midnight chocolate buffets, and a $25,000 spring break talent show prize.
Liza can’t imagine senior year without the band, and nothing will distract her from achieving victory. She’s therefore not interested when her old camp crush, Lenny, shows up on board, looking shockingly hipster-hot. And she’s especially not interested in Russ, the probably-as-dumb-as-he-is-cute prankster jock whose ex, Demi, happens be Liza’s ex–best friend and leader of the Athenas, a show choir that’s the band’s greatest competition.
But it’s not going to be smooth sailing. After the Destiny breaks down, all of Liza’s best-laid plans start to go awry. Liza likes to think of herself as an expert at almost everything, but when it comes to love, she’s about to find herself lost at sea.
With introductions in order, it's time to CHAT!!
Joanne Mumley: As a proud former HS concert band member, I was impressed with the voice you gave your characters. It definitely brought me back to high school. What did you do to help keep that Liza’s voice authentic throughout the story?
Lauren Morrill: I’m so glad you think so! This book was inspired by my own experiences in high school marching and concert band, so I definitely thought back to high school Lauren and my fellow bandmates to try to nail the voice. While the book is 100% fiction, there’s a lot of callbacks to my my time playing flute for the Maryville High School Red Rebel Marching Band. I’m expecting to get a few emails from my old classmates after this one!
JM: What is one thing you want your readers to take away from The Trouble with Destiny?
LM: What I love about Liza and Huck and the rest of the band kids is how unabashedly in love they are with their nerdy band selves. While Destiny is a romance, it’s also about finding your people, having their back and knowing they have yours. You don’t ever have to be ashamed of your tribe.
JM: Who are some of the authors that inspire you?
LM: Sarah Dessen is probably my biggest inspiration, and not just her writing, either (though her books are among my very favorite YA novels of all time). I love how honest she is about how scary/difficult/wonderful writing can be. Her tweets and blog posts have really helped get me through some rough writing days. I’ve had the privilege of meeting and get to know her over the last couple of years, and she is absolutely one of the kindest, most generous people in the YA community. I’ll read anything she writes (but my favorites are The Truth About Forever and Along for the Ride!).
JM: There are tons of music competitions around the country, what made you decide to choose a cruise ship as the major setting of The Trouble with Destiny as opposed to music competitions that happen on the main land?
LM: Remember how I said the book is 100% fiction? Ok, so maybe it’s more like 99%, because when I was in high school my band took our annual spring trip on a cruise ship to Nassau, where we played in a competition (and that’s where the similarities end, I promise!). Setting the novel aboard a cruise ship might have been more fun than taking the actual cruise. As a writer, it’s fun to put your characters in inescapable situations, and what’s more inescapable than being trapped on a boat in the middle of the ocean with your closest friends, your biggest enemies, and your ultimate crush? Cruise ships may be huge, but they start feeling a lot smaller when the stakes get raised!
JM: What are some of your current favorite books? Do any of them influence your writing?
LM: This is a throwback, I just finished binging the Gallagher Girls series by Ally Carter. I checked out all six books from the library and read them in under two weeks (which is pretty fast for me these days, what with chasing a toddler around). They’re shippy and funny, which is my favorite kind of read, while also totally thrilling. They made me want to write a teen spy novel for sure. I’m also always trying to get people to read Vivian Apple at the End of the World by Katie Coyle and its sequel, Vivian Apple Needs A Miracle. Those books are so funny and so subversive and so unlike anything else on the shelves right now. I’m always here for a book with some seriously witty snark (so if anyone has any recs, please let me know!).
JM: I hear you are active in roller derby. Could there be a story surrounding roller derby in the future?
LM: Funny you should ask that, because I *might* be writing a roller derby novel as we speak … we’ll see if it ever sees the light of day, but I’m having so much fun writing about a world I’ve spent the last eight years immersed in as a player, a coach, and a league owner (I was a co-owner of the Boston Derby Dames for 3 years before I moved to Georgia). I love writing tough female characters (like the Sloanes from Being Sloane Jacobs), and you’ll find no one tougher than the girls and women who strap on skates and play one of the most intense contact sports out there.
JM: Do you have any current book projects you can tell us about?
LM: I’ve got a 4th YA contemporary romance coming out in October 2016 called My Unscripted Life that’s inspired by my time working as an extra on The Vampire Diaries and The Originals. It’s really swoony and fun, and I can’t wait for everyone to read it. I’m hoping I’ll get to reveal the cover soon!
A big thank you to Lauren Morrill and Joanne Mumley for this enlightening interview! Now read on for the latest giveaway below!
One winner will receive a signed copy of The Trouble With Destiny plus swag, US only.
Entering is simple, just fill out the entry form below. During this giveaway, Lauren has a question for you to answer in the comments below for more chances to win her book! In the Trouble With Destiny, the band kids love a good round of karaoke. What’s your karaoke song of choice?
*Click the Rafflecopter link to enter the giveaway*
Joanne Mumley is a middle school Language Arts teacher, who loves tweeting about the things she loves; books, Doctor Who, Star Wars, Marvel movies, and Pop Culture, and how to make reading a passion not something tedious you do in school. Back in high school, Joanne loved going to sports events, being a percussionist in the school concert band, and making memories with friends. Now, outside of work, she loves performing music, playing video games, and archery. Joanne especially loves having the opportunity to go to San Diego Comic Con this year and finding out more about favorite authors and sharing all the cool information with my students!
Carl De Keyzer’s The First World Warreproduces newly restored glass-plate images (scratches and flaws meticulously removed, which involved De Keyzer’s pursuit of the original glass plates from international archives, private collections, and museums), depicting the experience of WWI from vantages and perspectives previously lost to history. A recent post at Slate‘s history blog, The Vault, featured several images from the book taken by the photographer Arthur Brusselle, who was commissioned by the Belgian government to travel to those sites that had seen the most devastation and document his encounters (these particular plates are held in the archive of the City of Bruges).
From Rebecca Onion’s post at Slate, with a couple of accompanying images below:
Two of the towns in the photographs below—Diksmuide and Nieuwpoort—were the sites of the Belgian Army’s final stand against the invading German Army, in October 1914. Pushed to the coast, the Belgians, accompanied by British and French troops, created a 22-mile defensive line from Nieuwpoort to a village named Zuidschote. The nearly monthlong Battle of the Yser, during which the Belgians purposefully flooded part of this landscape in order to deter German advances, ended in defeat for the Germans and allowed Belgium to keep a small percentage of its land under its own control.
Arthur Brusselle, Diksmuide (1918–19). Photo copyright: City of Bruges.
Arthur Brusselle, Diksmuide (1918–19). Photo copyright: City of Bruges.
To read more about The First World War, click here.
To see more sample images from the book, click here.
At the risk of wearing out my welcome I'm hoping you'll give one more look at a re-write of my query for ONE WAY TO TUCSON (title of the moment)[Most recently seen here.] Former two-tour Marine MP Trevor Hayworth is now a substitute mailman. One day, while he’s delivering, a young woman begs him to help her escape [From ?] —but warns against calling the police. He returns at night, breaks in, and stun-guns her captor. [Starting with the next sentence, the word "trafficking" (or "traffickers") appears seven times in seven sentences. For some reason I get sick of reading it.] The girl, Alita, tells Hayworth the man is a boss in an international sex trafficking ring and Hayworth can’t call the police because ranking officers are clients of the traffickers. While Hayworth processes the mess they’re in, two trafficking couriers arrive for a money pick up. When the fight is over the couriers are tied up, the trafficking boss is dead, and the mess has metastasized. [That's a pretty long setup paragraph. Removing a few unnecessary words might help: Former Marine MP Trevor Hayworth hears a woman calling out to him from a nearby house, begging for rescue. He pulls out his cell phone, but she warns against calling the police. Hayworth breaks in and subdues her captor.The girl, Alita, says the man runs an international sex trafficking ring with ranking police officers among his clients. As Hayworth processes this mess, two couriers arrive for a money pick up. When the dust clears, the couriers are tied up, the boss is dead, and the mess has metastasized.] Later, Hayworth and Alita are in his pickup, racing out of San Diego for Tucson, where the girl’s family supposedly lives. With them is a list of names and numbers of trafficking honchos from around the world—and their clients. [When you said "With them" I wasn't sure you didn't mean with the girl's family.] Chasing them east on Route 10 are trafficking thugs, corrupt cops, and a twisted newspaper reporter who moonlights as a hitman. Between shootouts and hospital visits Hayworth tries to get the trafficking info to the right people. He realizes it’s unlikely they’ll make it to Tucson, and if they do he has a bad feeling the welcoming committee won’t be Alita’s family. [If the immediate goal is to get the info to the right people, I'm not sure we need Tucson. Unless the right people are in Tucson. You could combine the last two paragraphs into something like: Hayworth and Alita race out of San Diego carrying a list of names and numbers of trafficking honchos from around the world—and their clients. Chasing them east on Route 10 are thugs, corrupt cops, and a twisted newspaper reporter who moonlights as a hitman. If they can make it to Tucson unscathed, they can turn the list over to the FBI, reunite Alita with her family, and live happily ever after.] Notes If someone asked me to rescue her from a house, I'm not sure I'd assume I could handle it by myself. There could be a gang of guys holding her captive. I'd probably bring along a few of my ex-marine buddies. I would expect a house containing the boss in an international sex trafficking ring to also contain a few of his underlings and more than one woman in need of rescue. Once they're far from San Diego, all they have to do is drive about 110 miles per hour. They should eventually attract some state troopers who aren't clients of the sex traffickers. In checking a map to see how long they have to drive (about 6 hours) I discover most of the trip from San Diego to Tucson is on Interstate 8. Interstate 10 runs from LA to Phoenix, then south to Tucson, and they would merge into 10 between Tucson and Phoenix. Most of the "chasing" would probably be on I-8. (Assuming when you say "Route 10" you mean the Interstate.)
Kimberly Jones of Little Shop of Stories in Decatur, Georgia, tells us what's on the shelves.
What trends do you notice in children’s book sales? What are the current hot reads?
Graphic novels have always been exciting to kids, but more parents are starting to be okay with their kids selecting a graphic novel over a traditional chapter book. Also, with graphic novels like El Deafo, Sisters, Boxers and Saints, and Roller Girl it's easier to show the parents that these books have merit.
How do you choose what books to order? Do you use a publishing rep?
We are advised by our publishing reps, but we also use edelweiss, customer recommendations and we try to keep a pulse on exciting new titles. Listening to NPR is another great source to hear about upcoming new books.
What would you like to see more of from authors/illustrators in terms of community involvement?
I'm very proud of our community of authors. I see lots of authors being heavily involved in the community, taking on important issues and launching their own campaigns and platforms. They are a group of artist who are naturally embedded in the community and don't require a nudge to do the right thing.
How do you handle author/illustrator visits? Can authors/illustrators contact you directly?
Normally our author/illustrator visits are set-up via their publicist or publisher. If an author is self-published or with a small press they should go to our blog: http://www.littleblogofstories.com/ for instructions on setting up a visit.
What is your favorite part of being a bookseller/manager/librarian?
My favorite part of being a bookseller is getting the right book in the right person's hand, nothing is more rewarding than that. My favorite part about being the Store Manager is listening to all the creative ideas our booksellers have and seeing them come to life.
Personal book recommendation?
Right now I'm in love with Written In the Stars by Aisha Saeed. I love diverse books that introduce me to a new culture in an interesting way.
Do you remember the nursery rhyme, "This little piggy went to market?" Well the little piggy I am going to introduce to you today did go to market... literally.... he markets himself on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter and becomes an overnight sensation. I want you to meet Chris P. Bacon and his owner Dr. Len Lucerno. I know you will be inspired by their story...
Authored by Len Lucerno and Kristina Tracy
Illustrated by Penny Weber
Ages 2+ and beyond
Unwrapping some illustrations for you...
Isn't that just the cutest face ever? He's in birthday-cake heaven. The illustrations are bold, colourful, charged with emotion and action, and extremely kid-friendly. I love all the detail and busyness that captures the momentum of the story and that makes the reader feel he is in the scene not just a by-stander looking at it from afar.
About the book...
Chris P. Bacon is a modern-day hero. The poor little guy is born physically challenged and is taken to the local veterinarian to be euthanized by his owners. When the vet looks into his eyes, he smiles and claims the little malformed piggy for his very own. The vet just senses in his heart that Chris P. Bacon is one-of-a-kind, unique, and very special.
Dr. Len Lucerno and his family lovingly care for the tiny piglet. The doctor then comes up with a brilliant contraption to launch that tiny fellow into the world of mobility. He takes pieces from his son's K-Nex set, tweaks them, and creates a wheelchair so his newly adoptee can actually move safely around, play happily and experience a much better quality of life.
Within a matter of a few weeks Chris P. Bacon is the darling of social media gaining rock-star status. All over the world he inspires people with his courage, his ingenuity and his amazing loving heart. Do you know what else he morphed into? He becomes a famous author! He can now hoof-it around his world and spin piggy tales too. Magic!
In this fabulous third book he is celebrating his birthday. Like every two year old on the planet he is excited because this day will be all about him. Chris's exuberance spills over to his farm animal friends who can't wait for his party to begin. Not only are they invited to his soirée but he welcomes his human friends as well. So, if you are human... and I think you qualify...guess what? YOU are invited to his birthday bash too!
Chris P. Bacon, everyone's favourite Pig on Wheels, cordially invites you to join him for an "oinking" good time. He has saved a humungous slice of his birthday cake for you to partake of. Come on everyone let's go and pig-out, Chris is waiting for us!
The authors for you...
Lucero, who lives on a farm in central Florida, brought the little pig home to his wife, two kids and menagerie of animals.
The animal's official name became 'Chris P. Bacon' but informally, they called him 'Piggy' Lucero's kids loved him and snapped photos.
The family dog, a black and white Australian Shepherd, became his protector.
The doctor wondered how he could help the pig move easier and considered a set of wheels attached to a harness, similar to what some lame dogs use.
Kristina Tracy is having a great time working on children’s books with Wayne and Doreen. When she is not writing or being a mom, she loves gardening, horseback riding, and rearranging the furniture in her house. She may also be found at the counter at Starbucks pondering the infinite possibilities!
The Powerhouse Museum, an institution based in Sydney, Australia, has been hosting “The Art of the Brick: DC Comics exhibit.” Nathan Sawaya, an artist, created a variety of lego sculptures inspired by several beloved DC Comics series.
This is the last day for Phyllis Harris Designs biggest sale of the year! Sale expires at midnight on Monday, November 30, 2015 CST. 30% off($30 min.) using code: 3030SALE. Everything in the shop on sale! Jewelry, Books, Canvases and Prints! Discount available in either shop.
Be sure to take a peek at my newest 2 minute video, too! My talented husband provided the background music. It is his original song title, "Thanksgiving".
You my friends, are the reason for the joy and success of Phyllis Harris Designsand I cherish you and your support. I so appreciate you sharing our website with your friends and family; and I wish you all a blessed Christmas season!
♥ Gifts that give back ♥
Phyllis Harris Designs & You – Giving the gift of love and healing
Castillo, Lauren Nana in the City 40 pp. Clarion 2014. ISBN 978-0-544-10443-3
Visiting Nana in the city, the unnamed child narrator is initially unreceptive to the appeal. “The city is busy…loud…[and] filled with scary things.” Nana promises to show her young visitor that “the city is wonderful — bustling, booming, and extraordinary,” and their tour the following day does just that. The simple, meaningful text is well served by richly detailed watercolors conveying a bustling city.
Subjects: Preschool; City and town life; Family—Grandmothers; Emotions—Courage
dePaola, Tomie Look and Be Grateful 32 pp. Holiday 2015. ISBN 978-0-8234-3443-5
DePaola’s rouse from sleep is a gentle one, asking readers to “open your eyes, and look.” The text remains quiet, moving from its opening imploration to a suggested response: “Be grateful, for everything you see.” The brief handwritten text on peachy-beige paper is accompanied by the simplest of images: a child, a flower or two, one of the artist’s signature doves.
Subjects: Preschool; Emotions—Gratitude
Fleming, Candace Bulldozer’s Big Day 32 pp. Atheneum 2015. ISBN 978-1-4814-0097-8 Ebook ISBN 978-1-4814-0098-5
Illustrated by Eric Rohmann. On his “big day,” Bulldozer can’t wait to invite his friends to his party: “Guess what today is!” The other construction vehicles appear too preoccupied with work to guess. “No friends. No party,” sniffs Bulldozer. Of course, there is a party; everyone’s secretly been constructing a giant birthday cake. Engaging text will keep story-hour audiences invested; block-print illustrations feature trucks with loads of personality.
Subjects: Preschool; Birthdays; Parties; Vehicles—Trucks; Construction
Golan, Avirama Little Naomi, Little Chick 40 pp. Eerdmans 2013. ISBN 978-0-8028-5427-8
Illustrated by Raaya Karas. This clever book tells two stories, one about a preschooler named Naomi, the other about a little chick. Left-hand pages describe Naomi’s day, with tidy spot art at the bottom of the pages illustrating the activities. Meanwhile, on right-hand pages, Little Chick’s day on the farm unfolds in expansive, comical illustrations. Several visual elements gracefully unite these two worlds of play.
Henkes, Kevin Waiting 32 pp. Greenwillow 2015. ISBN 978-0-06-236843-0 Library binding ISBN 978-0-06-236844-7
Waiting is a huge part of every child’s life, and Henkes uses a light touch to address the topic. Five toys, outlined in brown and filled in with muted colors, wait on a windowsill. Time passes slowly through seasons; small changes in body positions and eyes show a range of emotions. A straightforward text sets up predictable patterns with small surprises, while the design is varied to create momentum.
Subjects: Preschool; Toys; Behavior—Patience
Kanevsky, Polly Here Is the Baby 40 pp. Random/Schwartz & Wade 2014. ISBN 978-0-375-86731-6 Library binding ISBN 978-0-375-96731-3 Ebook ISBN 978-0-375-98785-4
Illustrated by Taeeun Yoo. Readers follow a baby’s full day in a city neighborhood from wake-up (“Here is the baby. And a bright morning sun”) to bedtime, complete with a library outing (“Here is the lady. She reads to the children”), stroller nap, and playground time, all supervised by a low-key dad. The text’s “here is” pattern is reassuring and concrete. The mixed-media illustrations are steeped in cozy imagery.
Subjects: Preschool; Babies; Family
Portis, Antoinette Wait 32 pp. Roaring Brook/Porter 2015. ISBN 978-1-59643-921-4
A mother rushes her toddler through busy city streets. He stalls to look at everything they encounter. This tension plays out over several spreads illustrating the same refrain: “Hurry!” / “Wait.” As their train’s doors begin closing, he insists on one last pause — for a brilliant rainbow. “Yes. / Wait.” Predictive details in the accessible illustrations add richness to this story about appreciating simple pleasures.
Subjects: Preschool; City and town life; Family—Mother and child