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1. Review of Out of the Woods

Out of the Woodsstar2 Out of the Woods: A True Story of an Unforgettable Event
by Rebecca Bond; illus. by the author
Primary   Ferguson/Farrar   40 pp.
7/15   978-0-374-38077-9   $17.99

Bond relates a story from 1914 Ontario, during her grandfather’s childhood, when he lived at a lakeside hotel run by his mother. Art and text describe young Antonio wandering the hotel, intrigued both by the “travelers” and “outdoor sportsmen” and by the loud, lively “men who worked in the forest” — trappers, lumberjacks, silver miners. Antonio also roams the woods, catching only disappointing half-glimpses of wild animals. One day, a forest fire breaks out, 
driving everyone toward the only safe place — the lake. As people stand in the water watching the fire rage, animals, too, make their way out of the woods and into the lake. It’s a dream come 
true for Antonio, who gets a close-up look at every forest creature imaginable as they slowly parade by. Like a woodland version of Hicks’s Peaceable Kingdom, “wolves stood beside deer, foxes beside rabbits. And people and moose stood close enough to touch.” Bond vividly conveys the nearness and wonder by describing what Antonio experiences: he “smelled the steam 
rising off the animals’ wet fur, saw their chests lifting and falling in steady rhythm, and felt their hot animal breath.” As the fire subsides, all creatures leave the water — and “miraculously,” the hotel has escaped untouched. The endpapers feature realistic drawings of forest animals against a sepia background, the vintage-children’s-book vibe setting the tone for this historical tale. Throughout, Bond’s detailed sketches tinted with muted browns, greens, blues, and oranges create a dreamlike mood, a fine match for the mesmerizing story. An appended note includes a photo of the author’s grandfather as a child.

From the September/October 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

The post Review of Out of the Woods appeared first on The Horn Book.

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2. Siân Has the Best Weekend Ever!

As many of you know, the Horn Book at Simmons Colloquium: “Transformations” was this past Saturday. It was interesting, engaging, educational, and fun (it was also exhausting for those of us working it, and even more so for the amazing Katrina Hedeen, who planned the whole durn thing).

But what you don’t know is the most important thing that happened over our BGHB/HBAS weekend.

Was it the Shuster-men speaking eloquently about Challenger Deep and mental illness?

Was it the informative and funny editor panel?

How about getting to see Marla Frazee’s pre-book sketches (including the illustrated thank-you note that became A Couple of Boys Have the Best Week Ever!)?


What was it?

Susan Cooper took a picture of my Dark Is Rising tattoo.


tattoo  Cooper autograph
For more on the 2015 Boston Globe–Horn Book Awards and the following day’s HBAS Colloquium: “Transformations,” click on the tag BGHB15.

The post Siân Has the Best Weekend Ever! appeared first on The Horn Book.

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3. E.H. Shepard's WWI Illustrations

via Gurney Journey http://ift.tt/1O8cw9Y

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4. All We Have is Now by Lisa Schroeder

Emerson and Vince are walking through the streets of Portland and it's pretty quiet...not a lot of traffic, not a lot of businesses open, very few people out.  It's been this way for awhile because everyone is spending time with their loved ones.  You see, in 28 hours, a meteor will hit the United States and those who survive will be few and far between.

Emerson and Vince just have each other.  They've been living on the streets and there is no one closer than each other.  With not much time left, both of them have made a pact to see the end of their world on their own terms, and with this in mind, they go to that jumping point in the city....and it's there that will change their lives.

Carl is standing on the bridge Emerson and Vince go to, and he saves their lives.  He tells the story of how he met someone who made a wish come true for him.  In turn, Carl is to pay it forward to five people, and Emerson and Vince will make his fifth wish happen.  When asked what they want, both of them reply with the only thing they've never really had an abundance of - money.  Carl gives him his wallet filled with money and has only one request...pay it forward.  People will be easy to find, you just have to look and see which ones have wishes or regrets and make them happen.

Emerson and Vince don't know what he's talking about until they meet people along the way as they make their way through town.  Until they see the one person who always wanted to go to Paris...and they make it happen for her.  They take two little girls home, but also take them on an adventure through a fairy tale.  And slowly, their friendship begins to change from that of friendship to one on a deeper level.

Emerson has a regret she's not sharing with Vince...the one that makes her want to go home one last time.  She knows if she tells him, he'll want to change the regret into reality, but it's so hard to go back after what she's been through...and it's too late, isn't it?

Part novel in verse, part prose, Schroeder is the weaver to lives.  Although many of the people Vince and Emerson meet are strangers, there is an invisible string that will weave their stories into one.  It's a story about what people do knowing their living their last days, but more than that, it's about the impact relationships have on one another, especially when viewed through different perspectives, even if it's the same situation.  Excellent quick read for high school!
Link to book trailer

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5. Orbiting Jupiter

Orbiting Jupiter. Gary D. Schmidt. 2015. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 160 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Orbiting Jupiter is a great book: an emotional, compelling, coming-of-age story with an incredible focus on friendship and family and what it means to love someone.

Jack is the narrator of the book, and I absolutely loved, loved, loved him. I loved him from the start. Here's how the book opens: with Jack and his parents getting ready to welcome a very troubled boy into their home. Joseph, Jack's new foster brother, isn't like other eighth graders. He has a daughter he's never been allowed to see. He has a history of violence. And because of the institutions he's been in, he can freak out and overreact a bit. But Jack's family, well, they are good, solid, dependable, patient, heart-wide-open people ready to love and accept. From the day he walks into their home, they see him as family. And there's nothing Jack won't do to help his brother--sometimes that means giving him plenty of space, and not pushing him to talk, sometimes that means reassuring him that he's there for him, that he has his back, that he is not alone anymore.

But not everyone in the community is ready to welcome Joseph. In particular, some of the people at schools--some who should know better, others who probably don't--are not ready for Joseph. Some are openly hostile and just MEAN. Others treat him not as another human being, but, as a spectacle, a freak. But several teachers see through Joseph's past and come to really LOVE him and see that he's more than the choices he's made, that, he is in fact, really smart and capable of good. I both loved and hated the school scenes. There were a few times I was just so angry--like Jack--in Joseph's defense. And there were a few scenes I just found sweet.

Joseph's story slowly but surely unfolds, and, it is intense. I couldn't help liking Joseph and just caring for him and wanting the best for him.

Orbiting Jupiter is a bittersweet coming-of-age story that worked for me for the most part. But oh how I wish I could rewrite the ending! Not because this one doesn't feel good-enough or that it feels completely out-of-place, but, because it's just so achingly bittersweet.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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6. Starred reviews, November/December Horn Book Magazine


From FUNNY BONES, by Duncan Tonatiuh

The following books will receive starred reviews in the November/December issue of The Horn Book Magazine:

Tiptoe Tapirs; written and illustrated by Hanmin Kim; trans. from the Korean by Sera Lee (Holiday)

I Used to Be Afraid; written and illustrated by Laura Vaccaro Seeger (Porter/Roaring Brook)

Flop to the Top!; written and illustrated by Eleanor Davis and Drew Weing (TOON)

Hereville:How Mirka Caught a Fish; written and illustrated by Barry Deutsch (Amulet/Abrams)

Calvin; by Martine Leavitt (Ferguson/Farrar)

Written and Drawn by Henrietta; written and drawn by Liniers (TOON)

All American Boys; by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely (Dlouhy/Atheneum)

The Emperor of Any Place; by Tim Wynne-Jones (Candlewick)

My Seneca Village; by Marilyn Nelson (Namelos)

Breakthrough!: How Three People Saved “Blue Babies” and Changed Medicine Forever; by Jim Murphy (Clarion)

Funny Bones: Posada and His Day of the Dead Calaveras; written and illustrated by Duncan Tonatiuh (Abrams)

The post Starred reviews, November/December Horn Book Magazine appeared first on The Horn Book.

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7. Balancing Dialogue and Description

Your story should contain a good mix of dialogue and description.


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8. A Little Light at the End of the Tunnel

Just when I was in despair about the state of the world because of our dependence on oil, I read The Quest: Energy, Security, and the Remaking of the Modern World by Daniel Yergin. Whew. There is some hope. At least, that’s my interpretation of it. I am a glass half full type of person and that’s my view of it. I may be wrong. I’ve been wrong before. THE QUEST ENERGY, SECURITY, AND THE REMAKING OF THE MODERN WORLD DANIEL YERGIN 2011 774 Pages The Penguin Press ISBN 978-1-59420-283-4 It also Includes Acknowledgements, Photos and Photo Credits, Notes on each chapter, a Bibliography and an Index. This book gives me hope. Its message is simple and positive. It convinced me, through painstaking research, interviews and a recounting of recent history, that human beings will survive. Somehow, through some miracle, In some unpredictable, unknowable way, human kind will make it through. It is worth reading for that hope alone. The list of major events and their effects on human efforts to harness available energy is impressive. And it all happened within the span of a lifetime. Desert Storm, the collapse of communism, OPEC and Venezuela’s actions, the world recession and, of course, 9/11, the accidents at Chernobyl and Three Mile Island, Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the Japanese tsunami and the Arab Spring. All of them and others are on the list. Daniel Yergin, a Pulitzer Prize winning writer, lays out this book in six sections. Part 1 is called The New World of Oil and is made up of ten chapters which deal with events which range from the Gulf War to the rise of China. The definition and examples of “the Dutch Disease” and “Petrostate” are contained in these chapters as well as an accounting of the creation of the “Supermajors” (giant companies like ExxonMobil) and their influence. Part 2 is called Securing the Supply and includes chapters eleven to sixteen. They deal with unrest in the Middle East, the uncertainty of Venezuela, the threats from Iran and the history and currency of “energy independence” from American and Chinese points of view. Part 3 is called The Electric Age and includes chapters seventeen to twenty which demonstrates that “the history of the oil and gas industry, as with virtually all industries, is one of technological advance”. It is here that human progress is tied inexorably to electricity which is produced, in large part, by burning carbon. Part 4 is called Climate and Carbon. It includes chapters twenty one to twenty-six which tell the story of how climate change went from the study of a few curious scientists climbing around glaciers to the main focus of the Kyoto Conference to the beginning move toward a carbon market and a cap and trade system. Those who object to “trading pollution” are reminded that the internet exists because of electricity. Part 5 is called New Energies and includes chapters twenty-seven to thirty-two in describing alternatives to coal and oil such as wind, sun and other “Renewables”. Part 6 is called Road to the Future and includes chapters thirty-three to thirty-five. The last chapter (35) is called The Great Electric Car Experiment and the Conclusion is called “A Great Revolution”. Who could have known that last year China bought more new cars from American manufacturers than Americans did? And that 70% of all new housing in Japan will have to have solar panels on the roof by 2020? And that grow your own biofuels and electric cars are well on their way to commerciality? On November 12, 2014 China and The US signed an agreement to increase their use of “renewables” to 20% by 2030. Even if it is for show, as some say, it is a small, faltering, baby step in the right direction. When those two behemoths move, they get everyone’s attention. The landscape won’t change appreciably until the 2030’s. Coal, oil and natural gas will generate most of the power and car engines will become more efficient. When the people born now are sixteen years old, the 2030’s will be beginning a new age of energy and power generated by human beings with less pollution of the atmosphere with carbon and other waste. Here you can only hope that it’s not too little, too late. As Yergin demonstrates in this book, huge events like the Japanese tsunami and the Arab spring are as unpredictable as hurricane Katrina and the world recession in their effects on the energy picture. Yet the genius of human beings always finds an answer. Unimagined solutions to our present problems are waiting out there for us to discover them. We might not find them but someone will. This is not a book that encourages us to maintain the status quo. It is worth reading because it delineates the history of human progress and points out the many cases where people were too dedicated or determined to give up until they discovered solutions or partial solutions to our energy problems. No matter how humans try to see what the future holds, they can never quite get it right but somehow, in an unexpected way, they find the solution to the immediate problem and discover a way to attack the bigger problems. The Quest is a meticulously researched book which gives the reader a refreshing, unfamiliar, positive point of view on the big picture. But that’s just my glass half full interpretation of it. As a Canadian that’s the only way to look at it. “This is not a blind faith, by any means. There is no assurance on timing for the innovations that will make a difference. There is no guarantee that the investment at the scale needed will be made in a timely way, or that government policies will be wisely implemented. Certainly, lead times can be long and costs will have to evolve. As this story has shown, the risks of conflict, crisis and disruption are inherent. Things can go seriously wrong, with dire consequences. Thus, it is essential that the conditions are nurtured so that creativity can flourish. For that resource will be critical for meeting the challenges and assuring the security and sustainability of the energy for a prosperous, growing world. That is at the heart of the quest, it is as much about the human spirit as it is about technology, and that is why this is a quest that will never end.” P 717 The Quest

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9. The Grasshopper and the Ants

pinkney_grasshopper and the antsThe Grasshopper & the Ants adds another title to Jerry Pinkney’s growing set of books based on fables by Aesop and Andersen. Unlike his Caldecott-winning The Lion & the Mouse (2009), this title has text, except for an extended wordless sequence in the middle.

But the Caldecott committee will not be comparing this to Pinkney’s other fable books, because they’re only allowed to discuss titles published in 2015.

Here, Pinkney’s adaptation softens the harsher elements of Aesop’s version, allowing the ants to show compassion and portraying the grasshopper as a guy who is devoted to his art rather than just a lazy freeloader. The action starts in the spring and moves quickly through the seasons as the grasshopper implores the ants to stop working and join him fishing, dancing, singing, etc. The ants don’t stop their rushing around to gather food before the snow covers it all up. Pinkney depicts his characters realistically (every leg segment, abdomen, and antenna in place), but dresses the ants in acorn caps and the grasshopper in a natty straw hat and vest.

When winter comes, the grasshopper finds himself surrounded by lots and lots of snow. What follows is a five-spread wordless sequence that juxtaposes the busy ants and the lonely grasshopper. In one especially effective spread, we see the ants in their cozy underground tunnels full of stored food, while a flap folds up to show the grasshopper, hungry and shivering in the snow above them.

Pinkney’s art is as intricate as ever, and it’s clear how much research and thought he put into this book. The endpapers, the illustrative lettering on the title page, and the dual jacket and cover are all exquisite. But to my eye, the pages illustrating the actual story are a little too detailed. They are so full of shapes that it can be hard to figure out what’s happening. This style works better for the ants, with their many dark legs making an interesting repeated design. This style is less successful with the grasshopper. It takes me a second to figure out what position he is sitting in and what he’s doing with all those legs. I also think the wings are too prominent. When I was a kid I spent many hours in the summer hunting and catching grasshoppers and crickets. Their wings stay folded against the abdomen until they jump, so that seems like one aspect Pinkney could have changed to make the character look simpler. I don’t think I’m alone in perceiving this art as overly busy. The first time through, readers will probably struggle to parse the images, but the payoff will come on subsequent readings when they will see more and more as they look again and again.

I don’t want to sound like a downer here. I am a fan of Pinkney’s work and love the texts he chooses to illustrate. Whenever a new book of his comes into the office, I want to drop everything and look at it. But I do think that his style is working against him in this instance.

But that’s just my opinion. I am ready to be convinced otherwise — and I have no doubt the Real Committee will be taking a good, hard look at this book.

The post The Grasshopper and the Ants appeared first on The Horn Book.

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10. How a Tiny Buddha Keeps Growing: An Interview with Lori Deschene About Blogging, Book Authoring, and Beating Writer Stress

Tiny Buddha CoverI was so happy to be able to talk with Lori Deschene. As the founder of Tiny Buddha, she’s helped more than 1,200 people (including me!) share their stories and lessons with more than 60 million readers (as of June, 2015). She’s the author of Tiny Buddha: Simple Wisdom for Life’s Hard Questions, Tiny Buddha’s Guide to Loving Yourself, and her newest release: Tiny Buddha’s 365 Tiny Love Challenges.

Lori, I know you’ve written for girls’ magazines, and many of The Renegade Writer’s readers want to write for magazines themselves. How did you get into that?

I found my first magazine writing opportunity on Craigslist in the gigs section—something that doesn’t happen all that often! I didn’t actually have much professional writing experience at that time, but I did have the right experience.

The magazine was a new middle grade publication, for girls aged eight to twelve, and they were looking for witty, upbeat articles on friendship, self-esteem, and surviving embarrassing moments.

Prior to finding this opportunity, I’d worked in mobile marketing, taking promotional campaigns from city to city. My last tour was a walk across the country to promote a variety of health and fitness-related products. As the tour’s dog walker, I wrote a “dog blog” that chronicled my canine companion’s adventure.

These were all light, funny posts that fit the exact tone the magazine was looking for. They loved my writing samples and hired me to write an article for the first issue, which led to more than a dozen more.

Eventually, I submitted some of those articles to a bigger, more established middle-grade magazine and went on to contribute over fifty articles and quizzes.

I also wrote for a real estate magazine briefly that, once again, I found on Craigslist. It was also a new magazine, and I don’t actually know much about real estate. But I was looking to build a body of work, and I was open to any opportunities I could find!

In retrospect, I realize I could have been more proactive and targeted. I could have identified more magazines that I wanted to write for instead of taking any writing gig I could find on Craigslist (including a job writing travel guides for $6/hour).

But I think there’s something to be said for being hungry, and being willing to take whatever you can get to hone your craft and build your resume.

Then you started the Tiny Buddha site. What inspired you to do that?

Prior to starting the site, I’d spent more than a decade struggling with depression, bulimia, shame, and self-loathing. For years I felt alone with my challenges—like no one knew me, and no one would love me if they did.

After making tremendous progress with my personal struggles, I wanted to create a place where people could share what they’ve been through and what they’ve learned, to help themselves and others.

My hope was that this would help readers feel less alone with their challenges and more empowered to overcome them. And though I didn’t realize this at the time, I eventually recognized that starting Tiny Buddha was a big part of my own healing journey.

There’s something cathartic about leveraging your pain for something useful and valuable—and there’s little more valuable than making a positive difference in someone else’s life.

How has the Tiny Buddha blog helped your career? Do you earn money from the blog through ads, selling books…?

I earn money from a combination of:

  • Banner ads
  • Book/eBook sales
  • eCourse sales
  • Affiliate marketing

I’m also planning to launch some products soon, including journals, gratitude journals, and calendars.

I launched my first eBook roughly a year after the site launched, and it sold regularly, but I was still working another full-time online writing job. I also dabbled with blog coaching and blog review reports—something I didn’t really love and only did briefly.

It really wasn’t until the three-year mark that I felt comfortable depending solely on Tiny Buddha for my livelihood. In retrospect, I’m glad I never felt pressure to earn a specific amount from the site. If I had felt that pressure, I may have said yes to opportunities that didn’t feel right for me.

There are a lot of ways to make money online, or to leverage your online presence to make money. Not all are good for each of us individually — or for our brands.

I also see you have a forum, a widget that lets people post quotes from the site on their websites, and much more. You accept guest posts, do blog tours… that all sounds like a lot of work! How difficult is it really to start and run a successful blog? I think so many writers believe they can just start a WordPress site and start posting their thoughts, and the readers (and money) will come flying in.

It is a lot of work! And I’ve been feeling that a lot more lately, as I don’t have an assistant or any employees. That being said, it wasn’t always a lot of work.

When I first got started, I devoted just a few hours each day to running the site. At the time, it was just a quote and blog feed, and I wrote very short posts (some of which, I now realize, weren’t all that compelling).

If I’d thought to myself back then, “I have to build a site with forums, daily guest contributors, a fun & inspiring section, multiple books, a widget, an eCourse…” I likely would have felt too overwhelmed to start. But I’ve added layers to the site over time.

I think the most important thing is that you show up each day and do something. You remain consistent and keep learning.

This guarantees that you’ll keep growing, slowly, bit by bit, over time.

Writers are always asking me, “I want to start a blog, but I don’t know what to write about.” I think you’re living proof that you don’t decide to start a blog and then cast about for a topic…you have something burning in you that you want to share so much that it can sustain thousands of posts and years of work. Do you agree?

Yes, absolutely! This comes back to what I wrote before, about having a mission. You have to have a compelling “why” behind your blog—some reason you have to explore this topic. Otherwise, you likely won’t have a reason to stick with it if and when progress seems slow. And you’re absolutely right—you likely won’t be able to write for years on the topic.

Every now and then, someone submits a post to Tiny Buddha starting with “I wasn’t sure what to write about this week…” Those are usually the least compelling posts because it’s clear the writer was looking for something to say, as opposed to having something to say.

If you don’t have something you have to say, readers won’t feel compelled to listen.

What are your top three tips for writers on how to build a successful blog?

1. Consistently publish value-packed, personally relatable posts.

I believe you need all three to build and maintain an audience—you need to deliver with consistency, solve problems readers are facing, and reveal your own humanity in doing so.

2. Foster a sense of community.

We all want to be part of something larger than ourselves, and we want to be where other people are congregating and connecting.

The first step in building a community is to have a compelling reason for its existence. People can “hang out” on any site—why yours specifically? What’s the movement they’re joining?

Is it a group of people committed to changing the world through meaningful work? Is it a group committed to sharing themselves vulnerably and learning from each other? When you have a strong mission for your site, community engagement becomes more than comments on isolated posts. It becomes about people supporting each other in working toward a common goal.

Of course, it doesn’t hurt to end posts with questions. And if you can involve the community in a post in any way, that always helps.

Formerly, I asked questions on Facebook (such as “How do you help people who won’t help themselves?”) and then incorporated the responses into posts. I’ve also asked readers to submit pictures and videos for different purposes. An involved community is an engaged community!

3. Focus on building relationships.

Behind the most popular blogs you’ll find people who weren’t afraid to reach out to more established bloggers to learn from them, and to other new bloggers to work with them.

This might mean asking to guest post on a larger site to introduce new readers to your blog. It might mean working on a product with another blogger to launch to both of your communities simultaneously. It might mean building a blog support network with lots of bloggers in the same niche.

The more people you connect with, the greater the odds your blog will grow. And the more people you help, the more people will want to help you.

And you’re the author of three traditionally published books too! How did you get into writing books? Did you find an agent, or were you approached by one? Did you have to write a proposal?

I first started working on a proposal a year after I launched the site, and I sent that to an agent who’d reached out to me. He wasn’t thrilled with my idea, but he gave me some feedback that helped me come up with a new one. Shortly after, a small publisher contacted me after seeing me speak at a conference.

I published two books with them, without an agent. And then for my most recent book, Tiny Buddha’s 365 Tiny Love Challenges, I got an agent and attracted a larger publisher.

The most helpful advice I got when writing my first proposal was to ask myself, “Why would readers buy this book from me specifically?” My first idea was something anyone could have written, and I didn’t have anything in my background that would have positioned me as an authority on this topic.

Each of my three books makes sense from me specifically, because they’re all extensions of Tiny Buddha, including both my own personal experience and insights from the community.

So you’ve written for magazines, and you run a blog AND write books. Do you find there’s some value for writers in diversifying? If so, what is it?

I’ve enjoyed the variety because I find it more stimulating—and challenging. Whereas I could write a blog post in a couple hours, a book is clearly a long-term project. And it’s something that’s far more involved, especially when you’re working with dozens of contributors, like I do.

There’s also a certain level of satisfaction that comes from stretching yourself and trying to do something new. Especially if you’re writing about the same topic every day or every other day, it can help tremendously to mix things up.

What are your top two tips for writers who would like to write traditionally published books?

Aside from answering the question “Why me for this book?”:

Get an agent with success in your niche.

While you could send your proposal to smaller publishers without representation, an agent knows what makes a strong proposal, and which publishers would be best for your book. As I mentioned before, I’ve gotten a book deal with and without one, and the latter was a far superior experience, on every level, and totally worth the money.

Create a solid marketing plan for your proposal.

Publishers are looking to work with authors who can sell books. If you have an established platform, great! If not, do you know any other high-profile bloggers who will help promote your book? Are you willing to invest your money in a book trailer, a blog tour, or a publicist? Do you have any ideas for creative social media campaigns?

Since the Tiny Buddha blog is all about topics like happiness, motivation, inspiration, and letting go…I’d like to talk about two emotions writers feel a lot — fear and stress. Do you have any advice for writers on getting over their fears of rejection, failure, and even success so they can start pitching and writing?

As someone who’s pursued both theater and writing—two incredibly competitive industries—I know all about rejection! Three things that have helped me are:

Not taking rejection personally.

It can be tough to do this when you put your heart into your writing. But agents and publishers aren’t rejecting you. They’re rejecting the idea—and at that specific time.

There are plenty of times when contributors submit posts to Tiny Buddha and they’re very similar to posts I’ve recently accepted. That actually means they’re strong posts, but my job as a site editor is to offer variety and look for varied themes and perspectives.

I always encourage writers to submit again. Not all editors do this, but submit again anyways.

Think of it as a numbers game.

When I worked as a telemarketer, I knew that every twenty calls would likely lead to one sale. Knowing this made it easier to face those nineteen rejections because I knew I was getting closer to closing a deal.

It’s not quite the same with writing, but it can help tremendously to think of every “no” as one step closer to a “yes.” Challenge the belief that “no” is proof you’re not good enough. If you need a reason to believe you can still succeed, despite rejection, check out this article or this one or this one.

Realize you have far more options now than writers once did.

If you have something to say, you can find a way to put it out there. You can start a blog. You can write an eBook. You can self-publish a print book. And if you do self-publish a print book, you could then leverage that to get a deal with a traditional publisher. (I know several authors who’ve done this!)

We’re fortunate to have so many options available us writers today. Knowing this somehow takes the sting out of rejection because you know that no isolated rejection can crush your dream, or prevent you from honing your craft and getting your work out there.

I absolutely hate sending rejection emails because I’m both sensitive and empathetic, and I never want anyone to think I don’t admire and respect both them and their work. If I’ve rejected posts from the same writer a few times, I might offer extra feedback and end the email with “I hope I’m not discouraging you!”

Not too long ago, a writer responded, “No worries—you’re not! I have a whole list of sites I submit to, so I’ll just submit this to one of them.”

It’s something I’ll remember next time I’m feeling rejected. There are other sites. There are other magazines. There are lots of other ways to get my work out there.

And stress…we writers feel that a lot! We’re running our butts off pitching, interviewing, networking, writing. We have tons of deadlines, client demands, and other stressors. How can writers become more calm and centered so they can work more productively?

The best advice I can offer any writer is to get out of your head. There were many times in the past when I sat at my computer for ten+ hours, when on a deadline, with only short breaks to eat or use the restroom. This was a surefire path to stress and burnout!

I used to think taking a break for a walk or a quick meditation was wasting time, but I’ve since learned than fifteen to thirty rejuvenating minutes are actually huge time savers. I come back to my work refreshed, recharged—and in some cases, particularly if I’ve been in nature, inspired.

Then I have much calmer, and much more positive energy, to bring to my work.

Some ways to clear your head:

  • Meditation/listening to guided meditations (you can find a ton of free ones on YouTube) [Note from Linda: Or the Positive Thinking for Writers guided meditation, which is Pay What It’s Worth in the Renegade Writer Store?]
  • Yoga or Tai Chi
  • Deep breathing
  • Taking a walk outside
  • Doing something childlike, like hopping on a swing
  • Dancing to your favorite music and releasing pent up energy

Tell us about your latest book, Tiny Buddha’s 365 Tiny Love Challenges. What inspired you to write it, and where can readers buy the book?

As someone who’s felt alone at various points in my life, I understand the value of strong relationships. I also know we’re living in an increasingly disconnected world, despite being more connected than ever.

We all need to feel seen, valued, appreciated, and loved. We’re social creatures, and we need to feel like we belong, like people get us and will be there for us. We also need to know people trust us and depend on us to be there for them.

Of course, these things are far more easily said than done. Tiny Buddha’s 365 Tiny Love Challenges can help.

The book offers a year’s worth of simple daily challenges to help people give more love in their relationships, treat themselves more lovingly, and put more love into the world.

Some of the challenges are active, some are reflective, some involve having conversations with other people, and some are writing exercises.

Each month has a different theme, including:

  • Kindness and Thoughtfulness
  • Compassion and Understanding
  • Authenticity and Vulnerability
  • Releasing Anger and Forgiving
  • Attention and Listening
  • Honesty and Trust
  • Kindness and Thoughtfulness
  • Acceptance and Non-Judgment
  • Releasing Comparisons and Competition
  • Support and Encouragement
  • Admiration and Appreciation
  • Giving and Receiving

And every week starts with a relevant story or two from members of the Tiny Buddha community, illustrating the power of applying these principles in daily life.

The challenges are all little things, and some might seem simple, but the simplest things are often the hardest to do consistently—like putting your phone down and giving someone your full attention, or looking a stranger in the eye and smiling.

Relationships have never been my strong suit, but I feel much closer to people, and much better equipped to give them the love they deserve, since incorporating these tiny actions into my daily life.

Readers can learn more about the book at http://tinybuddha.com/love-book.


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11. Author Interview: Leo Averbach author of Breakup; Enduring Divorce

About Your Book: BreakupAid BREAKUP is a brutally honest and surprising divorce memoir, written as a journal in real time. The narrative interweaves the story of Averbach's painful divorce with his...

[[ This is a content summary only. Visit my website for full links, other content, and more! ]]

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12. Gwelf Travel Update - The Teasel Leaf Tavern

via Mythwood - The Art of Larry MacDougall http://ift.tt/1OlI91r

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13. Face-Lift 1277

Guess the Plot


1. Not really a manuscript. Nothing to see here. Move along.

2. Stage magician Harry "Whodunnit" must prove his assistant's live beheading was suicide, not murder, or his next escape act will be from death row.

3. Kate has her summer all planned out, until she's kidnapped by an organization of good magicians from another world. Then an evil band of magicians shows up, and it's up to Kate to thwart their diabolical plan to make human beings less creative.

4. When magician Kris Angle dies in an onstage stunt, it's considered an accident by Las Vegas PD. But LA homicide detective Zack Martinez was there, and he knows two things. One, a simple disappearing stunt shouldn't kill anyone, and two, 'Cirque de Soleil' puts out a better show anyway.

5. Life got you down? Truth hurts? Ask your doctor about Illusion (TM). Congressman Charlie Hahn has, and even though his fiance is cheating on him, his subordinates hate him, and he's five shades greyer and 15 pounds heavier than the guy being groomed to replace him, life is great. But what happens when he develops a tolerance for Illusion and his prescription runs out?

6. When Tom Bradley wakes up with a bloody knife in his hand and a dead clown in his bed, he's got a mess to clean up. But a witness comes forward and Detective Sophie Lamb is on the case. It's not the first time a hunky suspect claimed it was all an illusion. But will she fall for that again?

7. Debra Loughlin married too young. At least, that's her excuse why her husband is cheating, her kids hate her, and she just got fired from her job. But now she's got a plan. One evil magician, one deadly illusion, and her life will take a new turn.

8. Rupturio is a stage magician with a stage like no other, but when shapeshifting mobsters sieze his illusory platform and tweak it for their own nefarious purposes, rabbits gotta be pulled from hats. Big rabbits. Fluffy. Some of 'em babies.

9. Joey is a high functioning autistic savant. He sees things that aren't there, then shouts things these things at strangers. They all come true in some odd way. One day he tells a mob boss that he’s going fall to his death. Now Joey must run for his life because the boss’s henchmen try to kill Joey. Also voices in his head.

10. When Jonathan Holmes meets Cherry Lane, he projects his best possible image: Tall, dark, and handsome with just a touch of scoundrel. She buys it, of course, as have most women who've fallen under his magical spell. But when Jonathan realizes he actually loves her, he must decide whether to keep up the illusion, or reveal that he is, in fact, a troll. 

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor:

Sixteen-year-old Kate Stillwell has her summer organized into a tidy list of bullet points and subheaders—until she’s abducted by Idina, her best friend.

Kate is taken to the headquarters of the Celestian Guard, an organization of magicians from another world. While at the Guard, Kate learns that she is the daughter of a Celestian and a human, which gifts her with a rare form of magic: her words can become reality. [They can? Or they do? Anyone's words can become reality. For instance, a while ago I said I was going to publish this blog post. Hey, I'm a magician!] [Has she ever noticed that her words become reality? Or did she think it was a coincidence that even her most outlandish words actually happened?] [If she says, Justin Bieber will walk into my bedroom, does she have to do something special to make it happen, or does it just happen?]

She also discovers that the magicians were commissioned to protect the delicate balance between humanity’s magic—creativity—and real magic, a task the magicians fulfilled effectively until an enemy band of magicians called Berserkers severed the pathway to Celestus. [I thought the Celestian Guard lived on Celestia, and the Celestusian Guard lived on Celestus. Guess I had that backwards.] 

Now the Berserkers are hunting for a lost sword that could be used to free their leader from his prison in the center of the earth. Intent on protecting creativity, Kate volunteers to join a hunt to find and destroy the sword—but if they can’t, then creativity will fall. [It seems like all Kate has to do is say, "The sword is in Mt. Doom." Problem solved. That would be too easy. What can make Kate's words not become reality?]

ILLUSION is a YA contemporary fantasy complete at 54,000 words that could be pitched as National Treasure meets The Kane Chronicles. ILLUSION does have series potential, but can stand on its own.

I am a member of the Florida Writers Association. ILLUSION is currently a finalist for the Royal Palm Literary Award (winners to be announced in October).

Thank you for your time and consideration.



A sword doesn't sound like the best tool to free someone from a prison. Although even if it is, the hard part will be getting to the center of the Earth. Of course Kate can prevent the Berserkers from bringing the sword to the center of the Earth to rescue their leader by simply saying  The Berserkers' leader is now imprisoned in the center of Uranus.

If creativity exists on Earth and magic exists on Celestus, why are the magicians charged with keeping a balance? It's really hot on Mercury and cold on Neptune, but it wouldn't make sense to tell someone to keep a balance between their temperatures.

Kate has an unstoppable super power. We need to know her limitations.

As Idina is never mentioned again, do we really need to know she's involved in the abduction? Do you really need to abduct your best friend? Can't you just say Come with me to a magical world.? I'd go.

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14. Line, silhouette & a dash of bright color

I was pleased with how this piece came out - I managed to keep some of the spontaneity of the sketch in the finished color. It seems like I'm always struggling to choose a line for the finals - but in this one I combined several different solutions - colored line and silhouette shapes and a dash of bright colors.  Thanks to my pastel brush for the painting. 

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15. Bare bodkins and sparsely clothed buttinskis, or, speaking daggers but using none

Few people would today have remembered the word bodkin if it had not occurred in the most famous of Hamlet’s monologues. Chaucer was the earliest author in whose works bodkin occurred. At its appearance, it had three syllables and a diphthong in the root, for it was spelled boidekin. The suffix -kin suggested to John Minsheu, our first English etymologist (1617), that he was dealing with a Dutch noun.

The post Bare bodkins and sparsely clothed buttinskis, or, speaking daggers but using none appeared first on OUPblog.

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16. Here's a headstart for those of you doing NaNoWriMo this year

Just a few more weeks until NaNoWriMo!

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17. Laser Eye Surgery PRK - PreOp Patient Education HD

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18. Guest Interview: Mina Witteman on Talking Books, Ghosts, Writing & Teaching

By Angela Cerrito
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

Mina Witteman is a published author, writing in Dutch and English. She has four adventurous middle grade novels, over 40 short stories, and a Little Golden Book out in the Netherlands.

The first volume of a middle grade series, Boreas and the Seven Seas, came out in June 2015. The second book is scheduled for early spring 2016.

Mina is the Regional Advisor for SCBWI The Netherlands and Chairman of the Working Group Children’s Books of the Dutch Authors Guild.

In addition, Mina is an accredited teacher creative writing and teaches writing to children and adults. She is a university-trained freelance editor and a mentor to budding writers.

For her English works, she is represented by Kathleen Rushall of Marsal Lyon Literary Agency. Follow her on Twitter @MinaWitteman.

You have two books released recently, Mia’s Nest, a Little Golden Book, and Boreas and the Seven Seas (Boreas en de zeven zeeën), about the adventures of twelve-year-old Boreas as he sails around the world. Let’s start with Mia’s Nest. What was the inspiration for this book?

Actually, the inspiration came from the illustrator, Angela Pelaez Vargas who was inspired to create illustrations based on her young daughter’s constantly tangled hair.

When she showed me the illustrations and mentioned that she was trying to work them into a story, I fell in love with both the illustrations and the story, also because my son’s nickname through primary school, which was Bird’s Nest, because of his abundant curly hair. I wrote the story and Angela added and changed some of the illustrations.

We were thrilled when the Dutch publisher Rubinstein decided to publish it as a Little Golden Book.

The title character’s name is very similar to yours. Is this picture book semi-autobiographical? 

No, it was inspired by Angela’s daughter and my son’s nickname, although I still vividly remember my mother trying to untangle my hair when I was young.

Now onto Boreas and the Seven Seas: newly released this is the first book in a series. What inspired you to write about Boreas?

My dad was a sailing aficionado, and my entire childhood stood in the sign of sailing. He taught me to sail before I could ride a bike, which says something, for in the Netherlands, most children are born with a bike attached to them.

We had a small boat near our home and my father took me and my siblings out on the water nearly every day.

What I liked, and what I still like, most about sailing is the wind in my face, the way it can clear your mind and give you a feeling of ultimate freedom.

My mother used to call me "Wind Child," and when I wasn’t sailing, I would try to recreate the feeling. On windy days, she knew if she couldn’t find me, to look on the roof. I would crawl out of the window in my bedroom and onto the roof and stand with the wind in my face.

So you love to sail and Boreas goes on a sailing adventure. Is this book semi-autobiographical?

The book itself is not, however there are a few adventures at sea that I have experienced, like getting caught in a storm. Also the impressions and sights, like Sark, a small beautiful island where Boreas ends up. I’ve been to these places and seen the sights and that helps a great deal in writing about them.

It feels good that Boreas and the Seven Seas receives raving reviews – the Dutch Libraries even made it Summer Reading Tip – and reviewers are unanimously praising the fact that reading the book is like you are actually experiencing what Boreas is experiencing and that you can feel the wind in your hair.

Without giving away any spoilers, what is the most unexpected adventure for Boreas in the book?

Mina sailing with her sister
Early on in the novel, the family is sailing through the night passing the English Channel and they crash into a wooden raft occupied by a young boy from Sudan. The boy is a refugee stranded in France trying desperately to get to the U.K. He is thrown from the raft but can’t swim.

Without thinking, Boreas jumps in the water and saves him. This is a turning point for Boreas and his understanding about his privileged situation compared to other children.

You write in both Dutch and English. What are the advantages of being so versatile?

I’m able to work on two projects, a Dutch and an English project, at the same time because I use different parts of my brain. Actually, I think having a more limited vocabulary in English than a native speaker is an advantage because it forces me to focus on the core of the story and prevents me from fluffing up the text.

You’ve mentioned on your blog your love of music, math and architecture. Do you incorporate this into your writing?

As a science girl, coming from a technically-minded family, structuring and building is infused into my life and thinking. I’m hooked on rule-based systems like math and computers. Architecture is incorporated in the way I set up a novel, and even when I teach – I’m also a teacher creative writing – I often use the design of a building as a metaphor for stories and the way you can set them up.

I always start a new story making an outline like an architect, with a sturdy foundation, a skeleton of strong walls and then fill those structures in with more details. The math comes in when it comes to balancing word count, chapters. I love Scrivener for this.

My fondness for math and science is often reflected in my characters who tend to be logical and mathematical in their thinking. In a YA novel I’m working on now, one of my protagonists is a science geek.

The same goes for music. There is always music somewhere in my books to provoke a certain reaction or emotion.

Not yet reviewed by Cynsations.
Some of your earlier novels, middle grade adventures, were written in Dutch and featured North American locations in the U.S. and Canada. What inspired these settings?

I’ve always been very interested in myths, legends, and stories, especially Native American stories. When I visited the U.S. and Canada, I learned so much more about the Native cultures. But when I returned to the Netherlands and looked in the Dutch libraries, I could only find stereotypical cowboy-and-Indian stories.

We needed to do better, I thought, otherwise, our children would grow up with a misrepresentation of entire cultures.

In addition to writing, you are also a writing instructor. Tell me about your experiences teaching writing to both to young writers and adults.

I enjoy giving children insight into how a story is built. It makes reading so much more fun. The biggest reward is encountering the student who says, “I don’t like reading. I don’t like writing. I don’t want to do this.” When this student “gets it” and starts writing, I couldn’t be happier.

When teaching adults, I like to give people the opportunity to hone their storytelling craft. I love helping people get their dreams realized and a few of my students are really close to being published now. I’m also mentoring someone who just signed his first contract, which is very exciting.

You are a fan of Writing Maps. How have you used these tools in your writing and teaching?

There are so many writing maps, there is really one for everyone. I randomly pick one each morning to get started writing. I typically use it as an exercise.

In a few instances, the result of the exercises end up in my novels, like little snippets I wrote with prompts from the Writing by the Sea map that ended up in Boreas and the Seven Seas.

As someone who loves to travel, what has been your favorite places to visit?

Mina at Tsé Bit’Aí
I love the empty vastness of Navajo Nation (located in the four corners of Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Utah in the U.S.), especially Canyon de Chelly. To me, it is more impressive than the Grand Canyon. I love that you can walk or even drive for hours without anyone around, you can feel how the stories came to be, how they were inspired by the landscape and life.

There is this vast dessert with a cathedral like –or ship like- rock coming out of the earth. It’s often called "Shiprock," but the Navajo named it "Tsé Bit’Aí" or "the Rock with Wings," and it’s said to be the petrified remains of the bird that brought the Navajo people to safety.

Where is somewhere that you haven’t traveled to but would like to go?

New Zealand is at the top of my list. Also, I think it would be great to be on the international time line. It would be magical to be able to jump over the line and move through time.

Your first book, Dee Dee’s Revenge was set in a city much like your hometown of Vught. Do you plan to set more novels there?

No. This was my debut and that was me coming to terms with growing up in the southern part of the Netherlands, where life is easy going compared to Amsterdam, but also very small-town-ish and judgmental. Deedee’s Revenge was also a way for me to get even with my older brother.

My brother once locked me in a concrete sewage pipe on an assault course in a military restricted area. I couldn’t tell my parents what he’d done, because by doing so I would have to admit that I went into the restricted area, too. The book was my revenge.

So, it’s your first book that was semi-autobiographical! Tell us about your writing routine. Is it the same every day?

I meditate early in the morning. Then I make time for all of the business things related to my volunteer work for the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI) and the Dutch Authors Guild. Next I do a writing prompt and then I write or revise.

Since I’m also a freelance editor I understand the importance of and the process of revision and I commit a lot of time to revising my stories.

I heard that you’re working on a YA novel that is a ghost story. Did that involve a lot of research?

I didn’t have to do research because I see ghosts. They come to me.

For example, I was part of the SCBWI Nevada mentor program. Our group of mentors and mentees spent four days at a cultural center in an old mining town that was claimed to be haunted. I’ve learned that when people think a place is haunted, it usually isn’t.

However, in this case I was in the kitchen and I felt the strong presence of a refined young man just over my shoulder. I was assigned to sleep in room number 16, which was reported to be haunted with a very nasty ghost. But all the while I was there, I felt the presence of this other ghost instead. I believe his presence with me for those four days kept the other ghost away.

That is fascinating. Tell us more about the SCBWI mentorship program.

I was already published in the Netherlands and teaching writing when I entered, but many mentees are not. Mentor programs are amazing perks for SCBWI members, who want to move forward.

The program teaches mentees to take the profession of writing seriously. It pushes them from having a hobby to having a career. I think writing, especially writing for children, should be done well.

Children’s book stories are so important and they absolutely must be crafted well. A mentor program can help aspiring writers to take their craft to the next level. We are in the process of starting a program for SCBWI members in Europe.

Cynsational Notes

Angela Cerrito writes by night and is a pediatric therapist by day. Her debut novel,  The End of the Line (Holiday House, 2011), was named to VOYA’s top of the top shelf, a YALSA quick pick and a Winchester Fiction Honor Book.

More on Angela Cerrito
Her forthcoming novel The Safest Lie (Holiday House, Fall 2015) is based on her research in Warsaw Poland including interviewing Irena Sendler, a mastermind spy and member of the Polish resistance, who helped over 2,500 children escape the Warsaw ghetto.

Angela volunteers as SCBWI’s Assistant International Advisor and is the co-organizer of SCBWI events at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair.

Angela contributes news and interviews from the children's-YA creative, literature and publishing community in Europe and beyond.

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19. Open Mic Wednesday - Your welcome

Unwrapping my morning...

I'm late getting this up this morning because I had to make a visit to the local hospital for laser surgery on my left eye.  It was a very positive experience and over skillfully, quickly and painlessly (three very good things when it comes to surgery don't you agree?)

I love my ophthalmologist.  She is so organized and brilliant and funny and bouncy and cute..... so any visit with her is a fun time.  She had her patients all sitting down lined up against a wall and she went one by one and put drops into their eyes like a mama bird feeding worms to her babies.  She also checked our identification bracelets which was of great importance because I did not want Jane Doe's eye surgery who is sitting next to me, but my own ... exclusive only to me.

Post drops...

* couldn't wear eye make-up
* left pupil enlarged and extra moist
*big nose protruding
*looked like an alien
*yep, that's me alright

I waited about 30 minutes and then was called in.  She had asked us while she "dropped" which eye we were getting done today, which I thought was strange because if she didn't know which eye she was to work on that could be a very bad thing. Didn't she know?  Didn't she write it down on our charts?  What if we forgot and gave her the wrong eye?  She did confirm that we had given her the correct answer which appeased me some. So she did know after all and was not trying to trick us.  After all it was 7:00 in the morning and no one had had their coffee yet. 

When it was my turn to go with her inside the surgery room I asked her why she posed that question to everyone seated outside.  She said it was protocol and a way of getting the go-ahead and nod from her patients for her to proceed.  Now the fun really began. She put more drops into my eyes...can't have enough of those I figured.  I sat in a chair across from her and was told to rest my forehead and chin on a machine with lights hanging all over it.  

She put a funny little device in my eye to hold the eyelids open and before she began the delicate procedure I desperately wanted to I asked her:  did she get a good night's sleep?  did she eat a hearty breakfast? did she need to use the bathroom?  I really didn't ask her  any of those questions out loud but they certainly crossed my mind.   I obediently remained silent and trusted in her to do a terrific job.

She instructed me to look at the end of a little tube with a red light on it with my right eye, while she happily zapped away at the left one.  In about three minutes I was entirely done.  I told her no wonder she liked this part of her job, it was like she was playing a video game inside my head, pointing that machine and vaporizing that old secondary cataract.  Zap!  Pow!  Zing! Hurray!!

It was a wonderful experience and a chance to connect with my favourite doctor. I had an added bonus too because I live in Canada!  Everything from start to finish was absolutely.... FREE!   I am blessed.  Thank you my amazing doctor...  can't wait until my right eye visit........

Leaving you with a kid's poem from reading juice.co.uk about laser surgery.... yes there actually is a poem about it!

Laser Eye Surgery

Being so blind
I misread the sign
When I went to get laser eye surgery
I hoped that it might
Restore my sight
But the result was quite on the contrary
Much to my surprise
They put lasers in my eyes
And now people run at the sight of me.

Read on and read always!

It's a wrap.

Contact me at storywrapsblog@gmail.com

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20. Flogometer for Arielle—would you pay to turn the page?

Submissions Welcome. If you’d like a fresh look at your opening chapter or prologue, please email your submission to me re the directions at the bottom of this post.

The Flogometer challenge: can you craft a first page that compels me to turn to the next page? Caveat: Please keep in mind that this is entirely subjective.

Note: all the Flogometer posts are here.

What's a first page in publishingland? In a properly formatted novel manuscript (double-spaced, 1-inch margins, 12-point type, etc.) there should be about 16 or 17 lines on the first page (first pages of chapters/prologues start about 1/3 of the way down the page). Directions for submissions are below—they include a request to post the rest of the chapter, but that’s optional.

A word about the line-editing in these posts: it’s “one-pass” editing, and I don’t try to address everything, which is why I appreciate the comments from the FtQ tribe. In a paid edit, I go through each manuscript three times.

Mastering front 100WshadowBefore you rip into today’s submission, consider this checklist of first-page ingredients from my book, Mastering the Craft of Compelling Storytelling. While it's not a requirement that all of these elements must be on the first page, they can be, and I think you have the best chance of hooking a reader if they are.

Download a free PDF copy here.

Were I you, I'd examine my first page in the light of this list before submitting to the Flogometer. I use it on my own work.

A First-page Checklist

  • It begins engaging the reader with the character
  • Something is happening. On a first page, this does NOT include a character musing about whatever.
  • The character desires something.
  • The character does something.
  • There’s enough of a setting to orient the reader as to where things are happening.
  • It happens in the NOW of the story.
  • Backstory? What backstory? We’re in the NOW of the story.
  • Set-up? What set-up? We’re in the NOW of the story.
  • What happens raises a story question.

Caveat: a strong first-person voice with the right content can raise powerful story questions and create page turns without doing all of the above. A recent submission worked wonderfully well and didn't deal with five of the things in the checklist.

Also, if you think about it, the same checklist should apply to the page where you introduce an antagonist.

Arielle sends the prologue and first chapter of The Flaw in Beautiful Things . The remainder of the chapter follows the break.

Please vote and comment. It helps the writer.


To the aged eye Dante appeared to be standing alone in the orchard, a stout stick clutched firmly in his grubby fingers. In Dante’s mind though; he was swamped on all sides by a fearsome enemy. His gleaming sword poised perfectly in anticipation of the imminent attack. His dark eyes swung left right up down, calculating his plan of attack against the monsters he faced. Hulking night trolls with lightening crackling between their palms. Slavering jackals with poison dripping from their jowls. Deceptively fragile looking forest imps with enough strength in their spindly fingers to crush a man’s bones to dust. Worthy opponents indeed. With a ferocious battle cry Dante leapt into action, his mighty sword swirling around him in a dizzying blur, too fast for the feeble human eye to perceive. Down went the night trolls blood gushing from fatal gut slashes. The heads of the jackals flew far from their bodies. The tiny imps crushed into oblivion with a well-placed spinning kick. With a final flourish Dante sheathed his sharp sword and gazed around in satisfaction. Leaves drifted slowly back down to the ground and beheaded dandelions drifted away in the breeze. An irate squirrel chattered at him angrily from the safety of the apple trees. Worthy opponents indeed.

Satisfied that his realm was safe from invaders; for now at least; Dante turned on his heel smartly and began strolling out of the orchards, whistling a merry little tune of his own composition. As he walked out of the shade of the trees Dante began to ponder a question.

Were you compelled to turn the prologue's first page?

Chapter 1

“Hey will you take a picture with my baby?”

Quinn froze in the act of trying to discretely pull out her wedgie and smiled plastically at the man who had spoken. “Sure, hand ‘im over.” She answered as enthusiastically as she could manage. Taking the screaming child, she planted him on her hip and posing just so, smiled for the camera.  Once the pictures were taken to the satisfaction of the father, Quinn handed the still howling child back and waved cheerfully goodbye to the departing diners. As soon as they were out of sight she slumped against the bar with a sigh. Reaching back with both hands Quinn gave her shorts a mighty tug downward, freeing them from the crevice in which they had lodged themselves. Straightening Quinn wandered over to where the rest of the waitresses had congregated.

“Girl you are way too nice.” One of them commented as she approached. “There’s no way that I would have stood there and posed with that brat for as long as you did.”

“Yeah.” Another one chimed in. “I just checked their table. He didn’t even leave you a tip.”

Quinn laughed embarrassedly. “I felt bad for the kid.” She said sheepishly.  The other girls made noises of agreement. “Seriously, what kind of father keeps their baby out til closing time?” One of them griped. Quinn shrugged noncommittedly then turned to start the cleanup.

Were you compelled to turn the chapter's first page?

While the prologue has colorful fantasy things in it, there’s no real story question. Basically, it’s a boy at play. No jeopardy, nothing happening to make me wonder what will happen next. There are some clarity/punctuation issues, too. What is an “aged eye?”

I liked the character in the first chapter, and it was amusing to have her dealing with a wedgie. Her sympathy for the child also works to maker her an engaging and sympathetic character. But, again, there are no story questions raised.

I think both the prologue and the chapter need to start later. As it is, they begin with setup. Get closer to the inciting incident.

Also, you need to read up on how to use paragraphs. There is one in the prologue that is more than a page long (single-spaced) and amounts to more than 1200 words. You will guaranteed stop a reader in their tracks when they encounter a solid block of text like that. The “paragraph” has plenty of opportunities to insert paragraph breaks.

Comments, please?

For what it’s worth.


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Flogging the Quill © 2015 Ray Rhamey, story © 2015 Arielle



Where was the little princess? Usually when Dante was left on his own to romp through the castle grounds, young princess Tabitha managed to appear out of  seemingly no where. Dante was secretly convinced that she used cracks in the walls and holes in the ground to travel unnoticed. While Dante did not mind playing with Tabitha it was rare that he was left alone long enough to dispatch the monsters without having to rescue the princess from the evil clutches of the night trolls. Dante frowned, in fact the last time the princess had not come out to play was when she was being punished for being naughty. She had been locked up inside of her room for days and was forbidden visitors. (the exact nature of her crime warranting such punishment remained unclear to him) Did she get in trouble again? For all of being only four years old Tabitha seemed to get in trouble a lot.

It must be tough being a princess Dante mused. A princess is never allowed to have any fun it seemed. Maybe he should go pay her a visit. Dante grinned at the thought. Even though he was only eight years old Dante was wiser than most men. He knew that when visiting a potentially angry female it is always best to come bearing gifts. With this in mind he snuck to the castle garden. Being careful to avoid the attention of the gardeners Dante stealthily picked flowers that were in the princesses’ favorite colors and the ones that he thought smelled pretty. Giving them a quick shake to knock the dirt off of them Dante took off to find Tabitha. Her rooms were on the ground floor and she had a window that looked out towards the orchards. Tall and narrow, the window reached low enough to the ground that Dante could reached it. If he turned sideways and shimmied, Dante could just barely squeeze through the opening.

With a lot of grunting and a couple squeaks, Dante forced his way through the window and collapsed on the floor. Scrambling to his feet and flourishing the now slightly smushed flowers, he swept a low bow and then looked up; expecting the delighted laughter and applause that usually accompanied his comical entrances. Silence greeted him.  Dante surveyed the room uneasily. It was one thing to sneak in when the princess was there. It was another thing entirely to sneak in when she was gone. If he was found by her governess or one of the maids he would be in deep trouble. His father did not like him playing with the princess, claiming it wasn’t proper. If the son of the captain of the guard was discovered sneaking around in the princess’s bedroom, a sore bottom would be the least of his problems. Footsteps and voices began echoing out in the corridor, becoming increasingly louder as they came closer. Seized by panic Dante frantically cast about the room looking for a hiding place. He did not have time to go back through the window. The bed was too high off of the ground to conceal him. Dante’s panicked gaze paused on the wardrobe standing in the corner. If the people in the hall were maids coming to replace Tabitha’s clothes then hiding in the wardrobe was the worst thing he could do. Unfortunately he had no other choice. Dante crossed the room to the wardrobe on lightning fast tip toes and crawled inside, latching the doors behind him as best he could.  Just in the nick of time; for no sooner had he closed the doors behind him did the footsteps in the hallway enter the room. It was not the maids. Low, rough, voices drifted to him through the closed wardrobe doors.

“Gather up anything that the princess might be even remotely attached too.”

“Sir…. why are we doing this? It’s not right.” Came a timid response.

“Shut up.” Snarled the first voice. “It’s not your place to question the king.” 

Dante pressed himself further against the back of the wardrobe. He recognized the voice giving the commands. He heard it every morning when he woke up and again before he was sent to bed. Why was his father rifling through Tabitha’s things? A strange sensation was worming its way through Dante’s stomach; making him feel sick. Dante tried to breathe quietly through his mouth.

 “Don’t check the wardrobe. Don’t check the wardrobe.” He begged silently. This single wish swirled through his mind in an endless loop. As long as he kept thinking that, the wardrobe would be ignored; enveloped in the bubble that was Dante’s prayer. Invisible to his father. Unfortunately Dante’s thoughts offered as much protection as a bubble, popping into oblivion the moment the wardrobe door creaked open. Dante stared wide eyed into the startled face of a guard; Mutely pleading for silence. “Sir, I think you need to see this.” The guard said in a bemused sort of fashion. He clearly did not expect to find a small boy cowering in a closet. Dante heard a low growl of annoyance come from just beyond his range of vision. In moments the scowling face of his father loomed in front of his eyes. Dante frantically considered his options, which were limited. He could feign ignorance, or plead innocence. Neither were very attractive. Plastering a wide smile in his face Dante decided to go with his standard fall back; bluffing. Launching himself from the back of the wardrobe, Dante wrapped himself around his father’s middle yelling “BOO!!” laughing manically he stepped back from his father and declared as loudly as possible “I SCARED YOU!” Then adopting a lecturing tone he said “Papa, I don’t think you’re very good at hide and seek.” Taking a deep breathe Dante fixed his grin on his face and looked up into his father’s face. He felt his grin slip. The look on his father’s face was not what he was expecting at all. Instead of being angry, or amused; the look on his face was… Considering. The captain of the Guard had the same contemplating look on his face that he wore when considering whether a risk was worth taking or not. Dante had never seen this expression directed at him before. The sick feeling in his stomach seemed to increase and was spreading. His legs felt like they were turning to water. Sometimes it was best to beg for forgiveness even when one had not actually done anything. “Papa I’m so-” Dante began, but his father cut him off. “Follow me Dante.” He said curtly, turning on his heel and striding past the guard. The other man opened his mouth as if to protest, then snapped his jaw shut with an audible click. Dante glanced up at the guard in confusion before scrambling to fall in step behind his father. The guard hesitated for a slight moment before following the captain after Dante. He stared straight ahead and did not so much as glance down at the child trotting in front of him, but every time Dante sneaked a peek behind him at the guard, the ill sensation in his stomach grew a little more. Finally Dante decided that looking behind him wasn’t helping matters any; so he kept his face forward and stared after his father; bewilderment growing with every step.  Where were they going?  Dante didn’t want to ask. The Captain of the Guard marched along the long, dimly lit corridors at a rapid pace; causing the tapestries hung at intervals to ripple in his wake. Finally he came to a halt in front of an imposing set of doors. He knocked on the doors twice, then strode in without waiting for a reply; trailing Dante behind him. The Guard was crossing the threshold into the room when the Captain suddenly spun around and barked “Stand outside and guard the doors. Nobody is allowed inside unless I instruct otherwise.” The guard glanced uneasily at Dante then retreated to his designated post outside; closing the doors firmly behind him. Dante gazed around the room he had been led into: the sickness that had started in his belly had now spread to his heart. It was beating faster than ever, yet somehow felt as if it were stuck in a vise. His father had brought him into the King’s study. Dante had never actually been inside but he had seen Tabitha being dragged in and out of it on numerous occasions. Tabitha hated that room. Sitting directly in front of an empty fireplace was a large desk. Describing this desk as ornate would have been generous. Dante thought it was as ugly as the business end of a swamp hag. It was not the desk that truly disturbed Dante though; it was the man who had taken up residence behind it on a matching and equally repulsive chair. The king who languished behind the desk was the personification of the word gaunt. His hollowed out cheeks and skeletal frame made a corpse seem well fed. The green eyes of the king flickered over to the Captain before settling on Dante. For reasons he could not explain Dante felt the sick feeling from his stomach suddenly surge over the rest of his body; leaving him cold and shivering. He did not like those eyes. It was a small wonder that Tabitha hated coming here. The king studied Dante for what seemed like an eternity before speaking. “Why did you bring me a child Judiah?” The Captain replied “This is my son Dante, your majesty. I know he spends a great amount of time in the company of the princess. I thought he might be of some use to you.”  Dante gave a slight start at his father’s reply. What use could he be to the king? Where was Tabitha? The king’s lips twitched upward in a ghost of a smile. His eyes never left Dante. “We shall see.” Was his soft reply. Suddenly the King picked up a paper weight from his desk and hurled it as hard as he could at the far wall. “BRING THEM IN!” He roared thunderously. Dante stared at the king in shock. He tried to hide behind his father but the Captain  roughly hauled him out from behind him and forced him back into the middle of the room. Dante turned to stare at the wall the king had assaulted; his trembling becoming more pronounced. Silence stretched……Finally the wall swung open silently on cleverly hidden, well-oiled hinges; revealing a dark stone passage. Four figures emerged from the gloom, one miniscule compared to the brutish guards escorting her. Tabitha shuffled into the room as slowly as possible, dragging her feet. Dante felt his bewilderment deepen to something far more sinister when he realized that the princess was wrapped in manacles. There was a second prisoner being dragged behind Tabitha. Dante’s already wide eyes stretched further in shock. His mother. Dante’s mother was a diminutive, exotic looking women. Her dark complexion, normally unblemished; was now a canvas covered in bruises, producing a startling array of colors. One of her eyes was swollen shut and lightly bleeding. The other half of her once beautiful face was covered by her tangled mass of dark hair. Despite the wretched condition of her face she apparently could still see. Her one good eye peered out through the curtain of her hair and locked onto Dante. Moments passed before recognition flickered in that pain glazed orb. When the woman realized that it was her son standing in the middle of the room she began shrieking hysterically. “NOT HIM! NOT HIM! NOT HIM! NOOOO!! PLEASE!!!”

Startled, Dante took a step back from the battered form of his mother. Never in his entire life had he heard such an animalistic sound come from a human being. Eyes wide Dante turned to see how his father would react to the wretched condition of his wife. The captain of the guard surveyed the battered form screeching at him coldly. Disgust lined his features. Dante felt himself grow cold. The vise on his heart seemed to tighten further. Why? Dante felt trapped. He wanted to rush forward and calm his terrified mother but his feet seemed to be glued to the floor. All he could do was stare helplessly at the pitiful human crawling on the floor in front of him; bargaining for something he didn’t understand. Movement in the corner caught his eye. With a stab of guilt Dante shifted his gaze and caught the eyes of Tabitha. Wide, frightened eyes stared back at him from a wan face. The shock of seeing his mother in such a dismal state had caused him to momentarily forget about the young princess. Studying her, Dante was relieved to see that she was not injured. A small blessing. SMASH!! Dante flinched away from the shards of yet another flying ornament. Shrieking ceased.

Silence fell.

The king lowered his catapulting arm slowly. An eerie grin stretched across his face making him appear even more skeletal. He was enjoying himself. Rising, he stepped around his ghastly desk and sauntered over to where Dante stood rooted. Smiling down at him the king clapped a hand down upon Dante’s shoulder and used it to steer him around the room. Dante had no choice but to follow the kings lead. The King towed Dante about in a long, slow circuit of the room for all the world as if they were strolling through a garden. Or a zoo.  They came to a stop in front of Dante’s mother. The king smiled at Dante again.

“Do you recognize this woman Dante?” The King asked in his quiet voice.

Dante swallowed hard. What kind of question was that? Surely the king knew who this woman was. Perhaps he had never met her before Dante thought nervously. Maybe this was all a huge misunderstanding. “If this was a misunderstanding,” replied an ugly little voice in his head. “Then why has your father done nothing to help?” Dante couldn’t answer.

 Pain splintered through the side of his head, causing his vision to streak black and red. His mother shrieked again. Dante would have fallen to the ground if it wasn’t for the iron grip the king kept on his shoulder. Eye’s watering, Dante looked up into the smiling face of the king.

 “I expect you to answer promptly Dante.” Said the king in a pleasant voice. “I am not a very patient man.”

Dante swallowed hard and whispered “She is my mother your Majesty.” The king smiled. “Do you know what happened to your mother?” Numbly Dante shook his head no; then fearing another blow, he answered aloud “No your Majesty.” The king gave Dante’s shoulder a tight squeeze, then replied “I punished her Dante. Do you know why?” Again Dante said he did not know. The king tutted then said in a mocking voice. “She Lied to me Dante.” Dante stared up at the king horrified. All of this for a lie? Staring at the king Dante realized that he was waiting for some sort of reply. Sweat trickling down his back he asked the only question he could think of. “what did she lie to you about?” The king’s smile broadened and suddenly his hand disappeared from Dante’s shoulder. Striding away the king answered in an airy tone. “It wasn’t just her who lied to me you know. It was my wife too. They both did. Together they concocted a nasty lie; Hoping to bamboozle their beloved king. It almost worked too. If my beautiful queen hadn’t died so suddenly I would have never found out the truth. How fortunate for me that her health was so poor.” At this the king paused and turned back to Dante. His grin was deranged now. “Imagine my surprise when the medical examiner came and informed me that my wife had managed a medical miracle by producing a child. According to him, it should have been physically impossible for her to bear children.” The king paused his narrative and narrowed his eyes maliciously. “Which begs the question; Where did THAT ONE come from?” The king swept his arms wide and pointed an accusing finger at Tabitha. Dante followed the king’s finger to stare at Tabitha. He didn’t want to admit it but he was very puzzled. If the Queen wasn’t Tabitha’s mother then who was?

Very slowly, the answer came to him. Dante turned back to his mother who was still huddled on the floor, then to his father behind him. Unwillingly he returned his gaze to the king. The king saw that the truth had dawned on Dante and his grin became even more ghastly. “Clever little whores aren’t they, eh Dante?” Dante flinched at the change of tone in the king’s voice. The King continued as though he hadn’t noticed. “It took some coaxing; but your mother is quite the storyteller once the proper motivation is given. She was very quick to defend her husband, swearing that he didn’t have a clue. Not that I would ever doubt my esteemed Captain of the Guard. Do you know why?” Dante shook his head numbly. The king seem to find this an acceptable form of answering because he replied “Kings are not above doing their own research Dante. I took a tour of the records room and discovered that your father was showing his loyalty to the throne by being on border patrol for exactly two years. Far far away from his darling little wife.” The king drifted into silence, staring at something only he could see. Dante fidgeted. The King’s silence bothered him more than his vicious conversation. He glanced over at Tabitha and saw that she was twitching too. Slowly, very slowly; Dante started shuffling towards her; trying his best not to disturb the dangerous atmosphere that lay heavy over them. No one else in the room moved. Finally after what seemed to be an eternity he made it over to Tabitha’s side. Reaching for her small hand, Dante gave her fingers what he hoped was a reassuring squeeze. Chains clinking softly Tabitha wrapped her arms around his waist and clung to him tightly. Now that he was closer Dante realized that the little princess was quivering from head to toe. He gave her head an awkward pat then shifted her so that she was standing behind him. Holding his breathe, Dante started inching towards the door. Maybe the king wouldn’t notice. Dante thought desperately. Dante was so focused on watching the king, he failed to notice his own father. His backwards retreat was suddenly halted when he collided with something hard and unyielding. Dante heard Tabitha whimper; she was sandwiched in between him and the hard place. Looking up Dante came face to face with his father’s scowl. “You’re not leaving until the king is through with you.” Said his father softly. “THAT’S RIGHT!!!” The king’s voice boomed out suddenly, causing Dante to jump. Every head in the room turned at once to look at the king. The king strode back to his desk and perched on top of it. The sight would have been comical if the king wasn’t so terrifying. “I have come to a decision.” announced the king grandly. “I want them both executed. Their crime; conspiring against the king.” Dante’s mother started howling, begging for mercy. The king ignored her. Tabitha’s trembling became even more pronounced until Dante thought that she was having fits. Dante stood rooted to the spot; stunned. Execution for his mother and the princess? Dante felt movement behind him and jerked his head to see. It was his father. Relief poured through Dante. His father would fix everything. He wouldn’t let the king kill his mother. Dante watched his father stride toward his mother confident that things were going to be set right. His relief and confidence melted away as his father drew his sword. Before Dante could process what was happening; his mother’s head was rolling on the floor. Dante and Tabitha both started screaming. The Captain turned to the king and saluted him with his sword before rounding on Dante and Tabitha. Both children were tripping over themselves in an effort to get away from the captains blade. Backed up against the door Dante vainly tried to hide Tabitha behind him. The captain was steadily bearing down on them. Dante no longer felt cold and quivery. He had gone beyond that and merely felt numb. This couldn’t be happening he thought as he stared up at the figure approaching him. The captain came to a stop in front of them. “Step aside Dante.” The Captain demanded. Dante tried his best to stare at his father defiantly. He didn’t move. Whether or not he wouldn’t or couldn’t was entirely beyond him. All he knew was that he couldn’t leave Tabitha alone. “Move boy.” Dante swallowed hard, looked his father square in the eye and said “no.” It barely came out as a whisper. The captain stared down at him for a moment longer then shrugged. He brought his sword up and slashed down hard. Dante screwed his eyes shut and braced himself, backing up as far away as possible. Suddenly the door opened behind him and a pair of hands snatched up Dante and Tabitha. They were a moment too slow though. For the second time that day pain stabbed through Dante’s head. This time it was accompanied by a rush of warmth and throbbing. Dante wasn’t aware of the events that followed. He dimly heard shouting and was aware that he was being passed from hands to hands. After what seemed like an eternity Dante was dumped on the ground. He gazed around blearily through a curtain of blood. Moments passed before he realized that he was outside of the castle.  And that someone was speaking to him. “Get up!” Small hands were tugging on his shirt. Looking up, he saw that Tabitha was desperately trying to drag him across the grass. Stumbling to his feet, Dante took her by the hand and started following her lead. It was getting harder to see. Squinting ahead he realized that Tabitha was leading him to the forest. And she was crying. Tears streamed down her face as she tried hard not to make a sound. When they had made it into the relative shelter of the trees, she collapsed. Still sobbing softly Tabitha brought her knees up to her chest and buried her head in them. Dante slumped to the ground and pulled his shirt off. Holding it up to his eye he sat still.

After what seemed like an eternity but was really only minutes, Dante asked “What happened?” In between spurts of tears Tabitha relayed the story of how the guard left to stand outside had burst in at the last minute to save them and then how they had been smuggled outside of the castle and left to fend for themselves. By the end of her story Tabitha had calmed down and Dante’s face was no longer bleeding. Tabitha stared at Dante for a moment then asked tentatively “Dante…..What do we do now?” Dante stared dully backed at her. How was he supposed to know? His face still throbbed but the pain was less. Studying the ground Dante tried to consider their options. They didn’t have families anymore. No food. No place to call home. He refused to go back. They had nothing except each other.  He could only think of one course of action. Putting on his best brave face he smiled at Tabitha, who gave him a small smile in return.

“We’ll run away and do the best we can. Together.” Tabitha’s face lit up at the mention of being together.  Bouncing up enthusiastically she answered “We can be a family by ourselves.” Nodding Dante said “that’s right. We’re a family; you’re my sister.”


Six year old Quinn slumped at the bottom of the stair case, stuffed tiger in her lap; staring at the door. She was waiting for daddy to come home. Laughter drifted down the stairs; mommy was having fun. Quinn tightened her grip on her tiger. Leaning against the bannister she closed her eyes. She hated waiting. Quinn’s eyes sprang open as she heard a key in the lock. Bounding to her feet she rushed forward as the door swung open to admit the large figure framed in the doorway. When she was close enough Quinn took a running leap into the man’s waiting arms. Her daddy was a bear of a man. Huge with a beard, and tattoos up both arms he was known for his fearsome temper. But none of that mattered to Quinn. She was her daddy’s little princess, and she was his world. Spinning her around in a circle Quinn’s daddy brought her in close and squeezed her tight. Quinn snuggled in close as her daddy stroked her hair. He smelled like gasoline and far off places. Daddy smiled fondly down at her then whispered “why are you still up? It’s three in the morning.” Quinn burrowed even farther into her daddy’s beard and mumbled “I couldn’t sleep. Mommy’s too noisy.” Her daddy frowned. “Is she watching TV again? We’ve talked about this hundreds of times, she doesn-” he stopped talking at Quinn’s violent head shakes. She replied “It’s her friend she brought home. Daddy I don’t like him; He’s mean, he pinches me to make mom laugh.” the expression on her daddy’s face darkened. He carefully lowered Quinn to the ground and asked “Is this man still here?” Quinn nodded and mutely pointed up the stairs. He growled softly, making Quinn step back in alarm. Pointing to the kitchen he commanded Quinn to go stand in there. Once he was sure that Quinn was hiding, He stormed up the stairs. Quinn stuck her head out of the kitchen. Once she saw where her daddy had gone, she quietly trailed after him. Ghosting up the stairs, she followed him. At the top of the landing she stopped. Her father’s angry voice thundered down the hallway. Huddling close to the wall, Quinn approached the door to her parent’s bedroom.

Framed in the doorway Quinn watched the grisly scene unfold before her wide eyes. Her father stood at the foot of the bed bellowing at her mother and the man. Her mother cowered against the head board but the man sat up defiantly and yelled insults back at her father. Quinn watched in mounting horror as her father snatched the strange man out of the bed by his throat and, with animalistic rage, smashed his face down into the bedside table. Quinn’s mother shrieked and scrambled out of the bed as her husband began repeatedly bashing the man’s face against the table. The man struggled to get away from the iron grip on his head but with each sickening crunch his struggles lessened.

Quinn’s father had ceased his yelling; instead focusing all of his attention on the grim task he had set for himself. All Quinn could hear was the grunts of her father and rhythmic crunch of face against table when a different sound echoed through the room. CRTCH. Quinn’s father dropped the man; His face a bloody unrecognizable pulp, his head twisted at an unnatural angle. Straightening Quinn’s father rounded on her mother who had plastered herself against the far wall. Her mother began screeching hysterically. As her husband approached to deal out his judgment she scuttled all along the wall searching for an escape. She came to the doorway in which Quinn was still silently stood in. She tried to push around her but Quinn was rooted to the spot, gaping at the murderous man who was her father. He was right on top of them at this point. In desperation Quinn’s mother snatched her up and held her in front of her like a human shield. Quinn gazed up in terror at the stone face of her father. He bore down on them then paused. Time stopped.

Quinn saw tears sliding down her daddy’s face. She felt her mothers’ trembling and bony hands biting into her arms.  Her daddy reached for Quinn. Out in the hallway police stormed onto the landing.

 Chapter one

Life Sucks…….

“Hey will you take a picture with my baby?”

Quinn froze in the act of trying to discretely pull out her wedgie and smiled plastically at the man who had spoken. “Sure, hand ‘im over.” She answered as enthusiastically as she could manage. Taking the screaming child, she planted him on her hip and posing just so, smiled for the camera.  Once the pictures were taken to the satisfaction of the father, Quinn handed the still howling child back and waved cheerfully goodbye to the departing diners. As soon as they were out of sight she slumped against the bar with a sigh. Reaching back with both hands Quinn gave her shorts a mighty tug downward, freeing them from the crevice in which they had lodged themselves. Straightening Quinn wandered over to where the rest of the waitresses had congregated.

“Girl you are way too nice.” One of them commented as she approached. “There’s no way that I would have stood there and posed with that brat for as long as you did.”

“Yeah.” Another one chimed in. “I just checked their table. He didn’t even leave you a tip.”

Quinn laughed embarrassedly. “I felt bad for the kid.” She said sheepishly.  The other girls made noises of agreement. “Seriously, what kind of father keeps their baby out til closing time?” One of them griped. Quinn shrugged noncommittedly then turned to start the cleanup.

One by one the girls dispersed and began their own closing shift routine.  As soon as she was finished, Quinn hurried out the door and down to the bus stop at the end of the street. It was late. Quinn hated the bus stop. She just knew that it was only a matter of time before she was mugged for her tip money. Quinn stood under the street light, trying hard not to bounce on the balls of her feet. Quinn had long since given up on constantly pulling up her shirt but she was still uncomfortable in her stretchy, low slung T-shirt, and tacky orange shorts. Bright headlights appeared at the end of the street and Quinn let out a sigh of relief. Most nights the bus was late.  Quinn boarded the bus, giving her customary greeting to the driver and sat down in her usual seat. Turning to look out the window, Quinn began mentally tabulating this month’s tips. As the numbers added up she smiled slightly. “Even though tonight sucked for tips; I still have enough to the electric and water bill.  It was a good month.” She thought.  Humming to herself quietly, Quinn disembarked the bus and started down the street to her house. When she reached the edge of her driveway she stopped.

She surveyed the scene warily. Only one car in the drive way. That was good. Lights in the living room were on. That could be bad. Reaching a decision Quinn crept towards the tree in her front yard. Looking around her again to be sure no one was looking, Quinn shimmied up the tree. Years ago she had discovered a hollow area near the top. As a child she had hid all of her treasures in it. Now at nineteen years old, she hid an entirely different kind of treasure in it. Quinn took off her small book bag and stashed it in the tree. Checking that the way was still clear, she lowered herself to the ground then approached the back of the house. Opening the back door just a hair Quinn peeked into the house. No one to be seen. That was good. Opening it a little wider, Quinn slid in and closed it behind her. Holding her breath she tiptoed across the kitchen floor; taking care to avoid every squeaky patch. She paused at the doorway and leaned in a little to take in the living room. No one was visible. That was good. She crept past the door way and angled towards her room. Walking faster now Quinn was almost to her door when she heard a crash. Freezing, Quinn turned towards the bathroom. The door slammed open and her mother staggered out; shrieking about spiders. The tiniest of whimpers escaped Quinn, causing her mother to look up and spot her. Snarling she charged forward swinging a nail file wildly. 

Quinn turned and sprinted for her door. Luckily it was open. She slammed the door shut behind her and threw the deadbolt that she had installed years before. Shaking like mad she collapsed to the floor and crawled over to her bed. This was bad. Quinn huddled into a ball and considered her options.

Should I call the police? She thought to herself. No. She decided. She had done that before and nothing had changed. Her mother was still a meth addict. She hadn’t even tried to recover. As soon as she was released the last time she had wasted no time in finding her dealer. So the police was out. A small voice in the back if her mind asked a single question; run away? Quinn snorted at this thought. And go where? She thought sarcastically. That silenced the voice. It was not the first time she had thought of running away. The problem, as Quinn saw it; was that there was no place to run too. She had no other relatives. She couldn’t afford college. Heck, she could barely feed herself.


Quinn flinched at the sound. Her mother had started throwing herself against the door. In her current state she could keep at it for hours. Quinn grabbed her pillow and blanket and hauled them over to the closet. She had long since given up being embarrassed over hiding in the closet when her mother was high. Oddly enough it was the one place her mother never looked when hunting for her. Quinn tucked herself behind the hanging clothes. Settling in, Quinn listening to the rhythmic thumping of her mother against the door and waited for sleep to come. At least that night she had one comfort. Tomorrow is visiting day she realized; as she turned over on her side. I can go see daddy.


“Good morning Miss. Debauche.”

Quinn grinned at the guard sitting behind the glass wall. “Mornin Stan.”

Stan returned her smile and beckoned her forward. “You know the drill, I don’t need to tell you.” Quinn obligingly slid her possessions through and stepped through the metal detector. She did indeed know the drill. Starting on her sixteenth birthday Quinn had visited her father in prison once a month every month. Four years later the security at the prison treated as a part of the family. Even her visitors badge was personalized. Quinn followed her escort to the visiting room. There, her father was waiting. He was still a bear of a man whose presence naturally dwarfed everyone else in the room. His beard was still bright red, skull still bald. He was bulkier as a result of endless hours in the weight room. In Quinn’s eyes the changes in her daddy were small. But even the smallest changes can have dramatic results. The change that shocked Quinn every time she saw her daddy was in his eyes. The love of life had completely left them. Quinn had spent four years watching her daddy’s spirit waste away and it made her want to howl in grief.  Quinn braced herself internally as she took a seat in front of her daddy. Looking up into his face she couldn’t help wincing. He was completely defeated.

Noticing his daughter’s flinch her daddy chuckled sadly. He knew that if he looked anything like he felt, then he was sorry looking indeed. Remy Debauche leaned back in his chair and surveyed his daughter. She was a tiny little thing he mused to himself. Definitely his daughter though; that head of fiery curls couldn’t have come from anyone else. Remy had no idea what he had done to deserve such a beautiful daughter but he thanked God every day for her. Remy hated himself for what he was about to do. Leaning back closer to Quinn he asked softly “How’s life on the outside?” Quinn beamed at him and began prattling on about her life; her new job, her friends, college. As she spoke Remy surveyed her. He knew that she was lying about her life. He knew perfectly well that his ex was making his daughters life a living nightmare. He doubted that Quinn actually had friends or went with them every Thursday night. He knew that Quinn couldn’t afford to go to college. He knew all of this and more; but there wasn’t a bloody thing he could do about it. Except for one thing.

          Quinn’s voice died away as she realized that her daddy was not actually listening. He nodded at her and made noises when she asked him a question but it was clear that his brain had engaged the auto pilot. Quinn frowned at him. Her daddy very rarely ignored her when she came to visit. She didn’t blame him for doing so exactly; Quinn was fully aware that her daddy knew that she lied to him habitually about her life. (Neither of them were strangers to her mother after all.)

Remy closed his eyes and took and deep breathe. Opening them he looked his daughter square in the eye. Quinn figeted nervously as he held her gaze. What was going on? He stared at her for a moment longer before speaking. “I don’t want you to come visit here anymore.” Quinn rolled her eyes at him. “We’ve been over this a dozen times already. I don’t mind coming by every month. I like visiting you, it’s no trouble on my part. Did I miss anything?” She smiled at him. He didn’t smile back; just kept his gaze steady on her. Quinn felt the first quiver of fear slide down her spine. “You’re not serious?” She blurted. Remy didn’t flinch.

“I don’t want to see you anymore.” He reiterated. Quinn felt that her breathes were coming in shorter gasps. Trying to steady her breathing Quinn forced out “Why?”

This was it. The point of no return. Steeling himself Remy replied as tonelessly as possible “I’m tired of you coming here. You’re as bad as your mother. She did nothing but lie to me as well.” Quinn felt as if the floor had opened up underneath her. She stared at her father in horror. He thought she was like her mother? Tears gathered in her eyes. “No daddy.” She whispered. “Please don’t do this.”

Remy felt his resolve crack. He gathered himself for the finishing blow. Coming to his feet he towered over Quinn. “GET OUT!!!” He bellowed at her at the top of his lungs. Quinn burst into hysterical sobs and ran out of the room as the security guards leapt forward. Remy stared after her for a moment then collapsed back onto his chair much to the confusion of the guard. Cradling his head in his hands he finally let the tears loose.  It’s better this way. He thought. Stumbling to his feet, Remy followed the guard out of the visitor’s room.

Quinn stood outside of her house in a daze. She didn’t know how she got there. Probably took the bus. It didn’t matter. She stared at the driveway. There were cars parked in it. Crap. Today must be delivery day. Quinn knew better than to try and sneak inside. If she did that she would be a part of the “payment”’ too. She also knew better than to try and recover the book bag that she had stashed in the tree. Anyone could be watching. Especially her mother. Turning she trudged up the street. She had to go work. It was a good thing she had worn her work clothes under her street clothes. She had a long wait at the bus stop. Eventually she made to the restaurant. Quinn smiled and nodded at her coworkers as prepared for her shift but she must not have looked very convincing because everyone steered clear. The night passed by in a blur. She had no idea how much if anything she made in tips.  Nothing stood out in the haze that was her mind until it was closing time. As she and the other girls were cleaning up the manager stepped out and beckoned to her. “Quinn! I need to see you in my office.” For the first time that night Quinn felt something lance through the fog of her brain. Apprehension. It was not a pleasant change. Fidgeting with her clothes, Quinn followed the manager and closed the door behind her. The manager flashed her an apologetic smile at her and; after some hmmming and hawing started speaking. “Now Quinn I want to first tell you that you have been an excellent employee; always on time, you never complain, always willing to help out. But, and it breaks my heart to have to tell you this.” By this point Quinn’s apprehension had morphed into dread. “I’m sorry Quinn, but I’ve been ordered to reduce staff here. We’re not able to support so many employees. Since you are the newest addition I’m afraid that you are the first on the list of people I have to let go. This wasn’t an easy decision and I’m sorry that it has to be this way. But you’re a bright kid and a hard worker so I have no doubt that you’ll be able to find another job in no time. I will be more than happy to give my recommendation for you to future employers but I’m afraid that we just can’t keep you here.” The manager finished his speech by exhaling gustily and smiling bracingly at Quinn again. Quinn stared dully back at him. It was official. This was the second worst day of her life. The manager looked at Quinn nervously. “Are you ok?” he asked timidly. Quinn blinked at him slowly. Taking a deep breath, she stood up straighter and said “Thank you for taking care of me.” With that she turned around and walked out. The restaurant had already emptied. She was the last one. Without even bothering to grab her street clothes Quinn wandered out into the parking lot. Standing at the bus stop Quinn waited. And waited…………………….. When it became clear that the bus was not coming she started trudging down the road. Quinn stared at the ground as she walked her sneakers blurring as the tears she had fought all night came rushing out. Life shouldn’t be this hard. She thought bitterly. Train tracks loomed in front of her. As she approached them, the caution arms descended, blocking her path. Quinn watched the blinking lights of the arms and listened for the train. She could hear it rattling down the rails. You could take a nap on the rails. Whispered a voice inside her head. This was not the first time this voice had spoken to Quinn. Tonight though; she was having a hard time disagreeing. Two steps and I wouldn’t have to worry about what’s at home. Honestly, she thought to herself bitterly; why bother going back? Quinn sucked her breathe in sharply and collapsed to the ground. Wrapping her arms around her knees, she let the storm out. Howling, Quinn rocked back and forth, tears and snot gushing down her face. Her daddy didn’t love her anymore. He thought she was just like her mother. A lying whore. Why???? She screamed at the train as it thundered passed her.

Quinn didn’t know how long she sat huddled on the asphalt of the dark street. Eventually the torrent of tears dried up. Sniffling, Quinn watched the train tracks. When is the next one coming by? She wondered dully.  As Quinn had sat on the cold ground she had purposed in her heart that she wasn’t going home. There was nothing for her there.  Who said you had to go home? Inquired a previously unheard voice inside her head. Quinn stilled at this new thought. She was surprised that she had never considered this before. Mulling over this new idea; she considered her options. She had four hundred dollars stashed away in her tree hollow; and another two hundred in the bank. Was this enough to live off of. Not even close. But it could buy her a bus ticket out of town. Maybe a cheap hotel. She had her uniform. She could get a job at another restaurant. Maybe shack up with another waitress. She could save her money and get an apartment. Maybe go to college. With student loans she could live in a dorm.

Quinn sat up and smiled, drying her face off. I’m getting out of this hellhole, she thought with satisfaction. Climbing to her feet, Quinn leaned forward and started dusting herself off. No need to look homeless just yet.

BLRRRTTTT!!!! Quinn’s head snapped up at the sound of a horn and stared transfixed at the headlights bearing down on her. She only had time to think “I’ve always hated the trucks with teeth.”


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21. Eye Candy for Today: Botticelli idealized portrait

via Lines and Colors :: a blog about drawing, painting, illustration, comics, concept art and other visual arts http://ift.tt/1VsDJKq

Idealized Portrait of a Lady (Portrait of Simonetta Vespucci as Nymph), Sandro Botticelli Tempera on wood panel, 32×21 in (82×54 cm) Link is to zoomable version on Google Art Project; downloadable file on Wikimedia Commons; original is in the Städel Museum, Frankfurt. There is also an article devoted to the painting on Wikipedia. This exquisite […]

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22. KidLit Author Events Oct. 7-12

We only have one kidlit author/illustrator event this week (that isn’t sold out) but lots of workshop opportunities. Mark your calendars for next week, Wednesday, October 14. Lincoln Pierce, author/illustrator of BIG NATE will be at Blue Willow! The last time he was here, the place was packed with kids and they had a blast! When you purchase BIG NATE: WELCOME TO MY WORLD from Blue Willow Bookshop, you will get your place in the signing line. Don’t delay! Blue Willow Bookshop’s event with Rick Riordan is sold out!

NYT Bestselling author Brandon Sanderson, who has authored many fantasy books for kids and teens, will be in town tonight at Murder By the Book discussing his newest fantasy for adults, SHADOWS OF SELF. He is always asked about AFTER THE ASHES by Sara K. Joinerhis writing process at these events, so go prepared for a fascinating and exhausting discussion. If you want to hear/see his lectures on writing fantasy, check out his videos on Write About Dragons.

Also, please mark your calendars for local author Sara Joiner’s launch for her debut MG novel, AFTER THE ASHES. Sara will be celebrating her book birthday at Blue Willow Bookshop on October 17. I had originally thought I wouldn’t be able to make it to this event, but happily, plans have changed! I love this book and I’m excited about joining Sara’s party.

My critique partner, Kathy Duval, has a new picture book out later this month from Random House, A BEAR’S YEAR. Look for it at bookstores everywhere. If you see it out there in the wild, please post a pic on twitter or facebook. Kathy’s twitter handle is @duval_kathy.

Here’s what’s going on this week:

OCTOBER 8, THURSDAY, 6:00-9:00 PM Writespace
How to Edit Your Own Story: An IndieFest Hands-on Workshop, with Elizabeth White-Olsen
COST: $20-$30; See website for details

Self-editing is a crucial skill for any and every writer, because self-editing can significantly decrease the cost of hiring an editor and significantly increase the likelihood that readers will pick up our stories. In this hands-on workshop, we will learn important editing techniques and apply them to our own work. Please bring a digital or hard-copy version of your work-in-progress and come prepared to edit and rewrite. The first three writers to send in the first three pages of their manuscripts will get to have their work critiqued and incorporated into the workshop’s discussions.

Houston Writing Mastery Workshop with David Farland
Hilton Houston NASA Clear Lake
COST: $229

Learn to take your writing from “okay” to “powerful” and “mesmerizing.” Dave will identify some of the most common writing weaknesses that keep new authors from publishing successfully, then help you overcome them. This workshop is a sample of his Writing Mastery 1 and Writing Mastery 2 workshops and allows access to select videos of those courses. You will come to the class with finished assignments from those videos and get feedback from Dave.

South Shore Harbor Resort, League City, TX
Cost: Event prices vary from $10 to $250; Please see their website!

The First Houston Readers & Writers Roundup will take place at the South Shore Harbor Resort, a beautiful resort in League City, located between Houston and Galveston Island. Friday, October 9 will be a full day of seminars focused on how to get started in self-publishing and how to promote yourself and work. Join our featured authors and industry specialists to discuss everything from legal and business considerations to street teams and social media marketing. The Saturday agenda will feature an all day author signing and author showcases with over 80 traditional, hybrid and indie bestsellers. The evening will end with a Masquerade Ball. Sunday events include “Breakfast with Bloggers, Booksellers, and Librarians” plus “The Business of Self Publishing” seminar. Guest speakers include publishers, editors, literary agents, formatters, free-lance editors, proof readers, beta readers, street team leaders, cover designers, cover models/photographers, personal assistants (PA), marketing/PR professionals, reviewers, and bloggers.

SCBWI Brazos Valley
Connections and Craft: Novel Workshop
La Quinta Inn, College Station, TX
COST: Members $115, Non-members $155 (Extra’s not included)

Join us for a day-long workshop focused on the craft of novel writing. Featured speakers will be award-winning author, Kimberly Willis Holt; the Book Doctor, Robyn Conley; and Balzer + Bray (HarperCollins) editor, Kelsey Murphy. See website for critique submission guidelines.Topics include:

  • “Develop Your Character”
  • “After the First Draft”
  • “Self-editing without Self-destructing”
  • “Cross Marketing Story Elements for Cross Selling”

Writers In the Schools
Houston Baptist University
Tuition: $125

Fall Writing Festival for Educators: a conference specifically for educators, grades K-12, who want to: Improve their own writing skills, explore creative brainstorming methods, support their students’ writing, and experience the WITS method of teaching. Participants will attend two workshops with professional writers, gain hands-on writing experiences, discuss classroom applications AND receive 6 hours of TAGT-approved G/T credit and 6 TEA approved CPE credit hours!

Barnes & Noble, The Woodlands
James Dean, PB Author/Illustrator

Join author James Dean in the seating area upstairs as he discusses his newest book PETE THE CAT AND THE BEDTIME BLUES! Pete the Cat and his friends are having so much fun playing and surfing in the sun, they don’t want the day to end. Pete has an idea—how about a sleepover? Groovy! As the night gets later, it’s time for bed. This cool cat needs to catch some ZZZs, but Pete’s friends aren’t ready to go to sleep just yet. Then Pete has another idea. . . . Will it work?


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23. Shadra Strickland and Sally Derby Discuss Their New Book, Diversity in Publishing, and More

sunday shopping coverReleased this past May, Sunday Shopping tells a whimsical story of a girl and her grandma who go “shopping” through the newspaper ads every Sunday. We interviewed author Sally Derby and illustrator Shadra Strickland about their creative processes, the children’s book publishing industry, and encouraging children to write more.

sally derbySally Derby, author

1. Sunday Shopping is not exactly a story about economic need, but the book subtly suggests that the family doesn’t have a lot of disposable income. Why did you decide to address this subject in this particular way? Are there any picture books that address poverty in a way you really love or admire?

As long as your basic needs for food and shelter are met, then poverty is a point of view and no matter what anyone else thinks, if you are happy with what you have, you are rich. In this country, so many of us have so much. I wanted to show a child who is happy without all the possessions many other families take for granted. In this regard, I have always loved Nikki Giovanni’s poem “Nikki-Rosa” about growing up in Woodlawn, a suburb of Cincinnati near where I lived. Just listen to the last lines of that lovely poem:

because they never understand

Black love is Black wealth and they’ll

probably talk about my hard childhood

and never understand that

all the while I was quite happy

I wasn’t Black, but I was a child of the depression, and I spent some of the happiest days of my childhood in my great-grandparents’ house in Elkhart, Indiana, outdoor plumbing and all. If that house had been set down next door to Nikki Rosa’s it probably would have fit right in.

2. Although you are white, many of your books (including Sunday Shopping) are told from the perspective of black characters. Why do you decide to write cross-culturally, and what kind of research do you do to make sure you get it right?

no mush today coverI know my answer will sound unbelievable to many, but I don’t “decide” to write cross-culturally or any other way. When I start to write a story I usually have only a fragment of something in my mind—a scene, a character, a scrap of conversation. But as soon as my fingers touch the keyboard I’ll hear a voice saying the words I type, and that voice determines everything that follows. As I listen, the story becomes clearer to me and as long as I don’t start sticking in my own words I have to trust that the story is going where it’s meant to go.

I feel very lucky that many of the voices happen to have come from Black characters. I always love listening to and learning from vernacular speech—Yiddish, Pennsylvania-Dutch, Appalachian, Urban Black. Before the Dictionary of American English went on line, I saved and scrimped to buy all six volumes for my own bookshelves. I could spend hours every day browsing in DARE and thoroughly enjoying myself.

I know many people think no one should write outside their own culture. But I think I have the right to write any way I want about anything I want. After I’ve written it, if I didn’t get the voice “right” people are free to say so and explain what is lacking or wrong.

I have had to do very little research for the three “cross-cultural” picture books I’ve written for Lee & Low, because the books’ narrators are talking about their experiences as little girls who just happen to be African American, experiences they might just as easily have had if they were Asian or Caucasian or . Of course, they will have had experiences peculiar to children of their race, but they are not speaking of those. If they had been, I would have had much more research to do.

3. What advice do you have for other authors who are writing stories cross-culturally?

I have no advice about writing cross-culturally that differs from what I’d advise about any sort of writing. No matter the subject, approach your writing honestly and humbly. Treat your characters with respect. When adverse criticism comes (as it will, no matter who you are or how well you write) try to evaluate it honestly. If it’s worthwhile, learn from it, and if it isn’t, disregard it.sunday shopping spread 1

We are limited by our experiences and we tend to judge everything from our own point of view. We learn by allowing ourselves, and being allowed, to see through the eyes of people unlike us. Reading can expand our worldview by introducing us to those we are unlikely to meet, even sometimes to those we wouldn’t want to meet.

4. Many people feel that libraries are becoming obsolete, given the Internet and the wealth of information that exists now. As someone who has seen publishing evolve over the years, what is your opinion on the relevance of libraries in the “age of information”?

I’m an optimist. Movies didn’t replace books, and television hasn’t replaced books, and I don’t think the Internet will replace books either. Kindles have their place, but it’s still more satisfying to close the cover of a book than to push a button that returns you to a black screen. And besides the enjoyment of books, especially picture books, that you can touch and hold, I don’t think we can overestimate the value of being able to wander through a library when you are researching a subject. If you confine yourself to a Google search, you may be offered a plenitude of sources, but the order in which they are presented will necessarily influence your choice of what to read. What you write then may be solid and factual, but it won’t be nearly as interesting or original as it would have been if your eye had been caught by that odd little volume with the faded purple color on the bottom shelf of the 590’s.

Sally Derby is the author of books for children including the popular NO MUSH TODAY and MY STEPS, published by Lee & Low. Her books are notable for their heartfelt family stories told from a spot-on childlike point of view. The mother of six grown children, she lives in Cincinnati, Ohio, with her husband.

shadra strickland Shadra Strickland, illustrator

1. What was your process for creating the unique and playful art in Sunday Shopping?

The art was made in many stages. The vignettes of Evie and Grandma in the bedroom were done in watercolor and gouache. I made line drawings of the imaginary scenes and scanned those in along with separate acrylic paintings of Evie and Grandma along with hand painted textures.sunday shopping 3

  1. Do you have a similar childhood experience to Evie, who pretends to go shopping with her grandma every Sunday?

I do! When I was little, I would ride the bus to my grandmother’s house after school while my mom was still teaching during the day. After my grandmother would finish her “stories” on television, most days I’d watch cartoons, but sometimes the JCPenny or Macy’s Wish Book would come in and we would spend hours looking through to pick out the things we wanted to buy. Often times, I would cut out the items I wanted to do my own shopping just like Evie. My grandmother is well into her 80s now and collects all of my books. When I shared Sunday Shopping with her, she gave a big laugh out loud and said, “This is you and me, aint it?”. It was the best validation I could ever get.

  1. You use a wide variety of media in your illustrations that vary from book to book. Do you have a favorite medium to work with? How did you decide which media to use for Sunday Shopping?

I love working in watercolor and gouache mostly, but when I read a manuscript, I usually have very strong visions of what it should look and feel like. Most stories have a strong visual element that is carried throughout. For Bird, it was his line drawings and MArcus’s hat. I knew from the start that Sunday Shopping would be driven by collage, but when I sat down to try and make collages, I failed miserably. It wasn’t until I found a youtube video of Michael Jackson and Roberta Flack singing “Free to be You and Me” that the idea of cut outs and digital collage came to the surface.

  1. Children are often encouraged to seek fields to go into other than art and other creative fields. How would you encourage a child who wants to become an artist or a writer?

I would give them opportunities to create. My mom made sure I always had lots of paper and pencils around and she would pose for me when I asked to draw her. Once she noticed how captivated I was with drawing, she gave me full reign to do so. She introduced me to the art teacher at the high school where she worked, bought me lots of how-to books on how to draw, and enrolled me in art classes at one of our local community art centers. I never will forget taking a portraiture class at Callenwolde Art Center when I was around 11. I was the youngest artist there in a room full of grown ups. It completely changed my life. It was my first time having a real professional teach me how to draw.sunday shopping spread 2

  1. What were your favorite picture books as a child, and what are a few of your favorite picture books as an adult?

I read a lot of instructional books as a kid. Things like, “Where Does Rain Come From?”, and he like. I remember being completely enchanted by “The Snowy Day”. A little later on when Reading Rainbow was popular, I fell in love with “Just Us Women” by Pat Cummings. Now, as an avid pupil of picturebooks, it is hard to say which ones are my favorites. I do still love “Bird”. Everything about that book came together so perfectly. I also, love looking through all of Mirislov Sasek’s “This is…” books. What an amazing life! To be able to travel and draw and share that work with readers for years to come…amazing.

  1. Lee & Low Books has the New Voices Award to create opportunities for new writers of color. What would be a good way to create more opportunities for illustrators of color and illustrators from other underrepresented groups?

That’s a tough question. Though competitions are wonderful ways for I also think that inspiring and encouraging kids to tell their own stories is a great way to get them started on a long road to storytelling. As artists and writers of color, I believe that we must be examples for future writers and artists. School visits is still a great vehicle for this.

Being active in our communities is also important ways to motivate, and teach through example. Recently I volunteered to bring the Ezra Jack Keats Bookmaking Competition to Baltimore City this fall. My hope is that it will help connect multiple community organizations committed to literacy and the arts and inspire young writers and artists to take their work seriously at a young age so that they will continue to develop and pursue their talents as they get older. The winners will receive cash prizes and have their work displayed across city libraries in the summer.

I think that exposing people to what we do as artists and authors is the best way to help keep them inspired. I also believe that now with technology becoming more and more accessible to everyone, it has become much easier for artists and authors to get their stories out into the world.

Shadra Strickland is the illustrator of several children’s books including Lee & Low’s BIRD, winner of the Ezra Jack Keats New Illustrator Award and the Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award for New Talent in Illustration. Along with illustrating and writing stories, Strickland loves to make drawings during her travels around the country and the world. She lives in Baltimore, where she also teaches illustration at Maryland Institute College of Art. Her website isjumpin.shadrastrickland.com.

Purchase a copy of Sunday Shopping here.

1 Comments on Shadra Strickland and Sally Derby Discuss Their New Book, Diversity in Publishing, and More, last added: 10/7/2015
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24. It's live!! Cover Reveal: The Marked Girl by Lindsey Klingele + Giveaway (US/Canada)

Welcome to today's cover reveal!

Today we're super excited to celebrate the cover reveal for THE MARKED GIRL by Lindsey Klingele, releasing June 21, 2016 from HarperCollins. Before we get to the cover, here's a note from Lindsey:


Hello YABC! So excited for you to see the exclusive cover reveal for THE MARKED GIRL!

My debut book includes two things I love a lot -- fantasy worlds and Los Angeles (though one can easily be confused with the other). So obviously when I first saw the cover for THE MARKED GIRL -- created by the amazing Kate Engbring at HarperCollins -- I was beyond stoked. The Griffith Observatory! The Walt Disney Concert Hall! CASTLE! I could only love this cover more if it opened up to reveal a never-ending serving of In ‘N Out french fries. Maybe for the sequel? Until then, hope you enjoy this cover as much as I do.

~ Lindsey Klingele (THE MARKED GIRL, HarperTeen)




Ready to see?

Scroll, YABCers! Scroll!


































Here it is!



*** If you choose to share this image elsewhere, please include a courtesy link back to this page so others can enter Lindsey's giveaway. Thank you! ***



by Lindsey Klingele
Release date: June 21, 2016
Publisher: HarperCollins
ISBN: 9780062380333
E-book ISBN: 9780062380357
About the Book

Once upon a time, in a land far, far away (Los Angeles)…

When Cedric, crowned prince of Caelum, and his fellow royal friends (including his betrothed, Kat) find themselves stranded in modern-day L.A. via a magical portal and an evil traitor named Malquin, all they want to do is get home to Caelum—soon. Then they meet Liv, a filmmaker foster girl who just wants to get out of the system and on with her life. As she and Cedric bond, they’ll discover that she’s more connected to his world than they ever could’ve imagined…and that finding home is no easy task…

Worlds collide in The Marked Girl, an exciting fantasy tale turned upside down.

To learn more about this book and see our review, go HERE.

b2ap3_thumbnail_LindseyKlingele.jpgAbout the Author

Lindsey Klingele may be fascinated with anything castle-related, but she actually grew up in the suburbs of Western Michigan. She moved to Los Angeles (the real land of make believe) and went on to work as a writers’ assistant for shows such as ABC Family’s The Lying Game andTwisted. She loves living in LA, especially since it’s home to great TV, amazing cheeseburgers, and her dog, a pitbull named Bighead.

Twitter | Web | Goodreads | Facebook | Instagram


Giveaway Details

Three winners will each receive a signed ARC of THE MARKED GIRL (when available). 

Entering is simple, just fill out the entry form below. Winners will be announced on this site and in our monthly newsletter (sign up now!) within 30 days after the giveaway ends.

During each giveaway, we ask entrants a question pertaining to the book. Here is the question they'll be answering in the comments below for extra entries:

What do you think about the cover and synopsis?

Click the Rafflecopter link below to enter the giveaway:


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25. Inky October

#Inktober Day 2 

In my quest to blog more (this always goes 'tits up' as we say in the UK) I've got on board with the whole Inktober thing. A day late, but I'm on board now. 
#Inktober Day 3 

Now, I'm truly rubbish at doing these things. Almost as soon as I commit I start resenting having to do a drawing a day for a month (or however long the thing is that you've signed up to) and then it just becomes a massive chore. But it has been a while since I've committed to any such thing, and I draw everyday anyway, so I'm giving it a bash. How hard can it be?
#Inktober Day 4

Another reason that participating in Inktober makes sense is that I am going to be taking a couple of Tracy Fennell's ink workshops during October. I really feel that need to push my work in a new direction. To take it somewhere exciting and I've always been a massive ink fan. So, no doubt, after the classes I'll be itching to experiment with all the new techniques.
#Inktober Day 5 

So that's the story so far. I'll post the rest as I go along. I will, I will, I will *trying to convince myself*. 

Some of my Inktober sketches are for sale, in my Etsy shop, HERE

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