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1. Proof that We Actually Exist

AF and I met up the other day at our grad school alma mater, Mills College, to speak to the graduate and undergraduate writers in Kathryn Reiss's YA writing course. It was a lot of fun, but it was an afternoon class, and it was a fairly warm... Read the rest of this post

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2. Harold Speed Talks Brushes

Welcome to the GJ Book Club. Today we'll cover pages 237-242 of the chapter on "Materials," from Harold Speed's 1924 art instruction book Oil Painting Techniques and Materials.

I'll present Speed's main points in boldface type either verbatim or paraphrased, followed by my comments. If you want to add a comment, please use the numbered points to refer to the relevant section of the chapter.

In this section of the chapter, Speed discusses the brushes for oil painters.

1. You can use cheaper paints when you're a student, but even if you're poor, you shouldn't skimp on brushes.
I totally agree with Speed on this one. He says "A cheap brush is useless from the start and has, luckily, a very short life as they wear very badly. The best brushes last much longer."

2. Cleaning brushes. "Soap and water cleans them most thoroughly and is the best way of cleaning them. But it is a most tedious process after a hard day's work."
Here's a previous post on "How to Clean out a Brush"

3. After washing them out, the brushes "should be lovingly sucked to bring the hairs together." 
Never heard that one before. One would want to make sure to remove all the lead, cobalt, barium, and cadmium first. Or maybe pass on that idea.

4. "When thoroughly dry they have plenty of spring in them, whereas the slightest dampness gives them a flabbiness."
He's talking about bristle brushes here. It's really true. Damp brushes are flabbier.

5. Flats and Rounds: Flats are better for "laying a perfectly even tone, but give a nasty thin sharp edge...For figure work and form expression generally, one wants a brush that will lay the paint in even, flat tones without thin sharp edges." 
He's referring to flat brushes with rounded corners, alternately the modern filbert option, which has a flat cross section but a rounded tip. The image above shows a set of Simmons filberts.

6. Fashion for soft haired brushes used for flowing strokes (in the 1920s).
Speed notes that some of the inspiration came from studying Frans Hals, who apparently used such brushes. Speed generally prefers stiffer hogs' hair bristles.

7. "Always work with the biggest brush that will do what you want."
Then choose the next size bigger. Speed notes that a big flat brush is really several brushes in one, because you can use the corner and the edge for very different strokes.

8. "The brush makers have an absurd habit of making the size of the handle fit the size of the brush, instead of the size of the hand that will have to hold it." 
He continues, "Very small brushes need a very firm grip to control them as they are only used for very delicate work. And yet they are often given a handle no thicker than a match."

I totally agree, and I've always wondered about this, too. Pencils, pens, knives, and golf clubs have constant sized handles. Why don't brushes?

9. Only German brushes have an indented ring round the metal holder (ferrule) to prevent the tip falling off the handle.
Now crimped ferrules are pretty standard even on cheap brushes.

10. Cheap brushes "appear to have been sharpened off to make them a good shape, after being roughly put together; instead of the good shape being the result of a careful placing of the individual hairs."
Here's a video about how they make Escoda brushes


(Link to video)

More on brushes at:
MacPherson Arts / "Brush Basics"

Next week— Painting Grounds
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In its original edition, the book is called "The Science and Practice of Oil Painting." Unfortunately it's not available in a free edition, but there's an inexpensive print edition that Dover publishes under a different title "Oil Painting Techniques and Materials (with a Sargent cover)," and there's also a Kindle edition.
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3. First Chapter Reveal: The Safest Lies by Megan Miranda

Read the first chapter of The Safest Lies by Megan Miranda below!     Meet Megan Miranda! Megan Miranda is the acclaimed author of Fracture, Vengeance,Hysteria, and Soulprint. She was inspired to write The Safest Lies after reading a study about the way emotions, like fear, are passed down through genes—and wondering whether our own fears are a result...

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4. Author Chat with Rose Mannering (The Tales Trilogy), Plus Giveaway!

Today on the YABC blog we are happy to sit down with author Rose Mannering and talk with her about her about her first two novels in The Tales Trilogy, Roses (Book 1) and Feathers (Book 2), which will be released July 5, 2016!   YABC: What surprised you most while writing your latest book?   Rose...

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5. Pick of the Week for WHEELS and This Week’s Topic

©Thom+Sevalrud_TS266_i2iArt

It’s Illustration Friday!

Please enjoy the wonderful illustration above by Thom Sevalrud, our Pick of the Week for last week’s topic of WHEELS. Thanks to everyone who participated with drawings, paintings, sculptures, and more. We love seeing it all!

You can see a gallery of ALL the entries here.

And of course, you can now participate in this week’s topic:

TRIBAL

Here’s how:

Step 1: Illustrate your interpretation of the current week’s topic (always viewable on the homepage).

Step 2: Post your image onto your blog / flickr / facebook, etc.

Step 3: Come back to Illustration Friday and submit your illustration (see big “Submit your illustration” button on the homepage).

Step 4: Your illustration will then be added to the public Gallery where it will be viewable along with everyone else’s from the IF community!

Also be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter and subscribe to our weekly email newsletter to keep up with our exciting community updates!

HAPPY ILLUSTRATING!

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6. “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” Midnight Release Party Slated for GeekyCon!

GeekyCon 2016 has just announced that it is creating a large-scale, old-school, Harry Potter release party to celebrate the release of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. The book comes out on July 31, 2016, the last day of the convention, which means that it will be the site of one of the biggest midnight parties in the country.

And this party is just one of all the cool and amazing events and activities scheduled for the weekend long festivity that is GeekyCon. As GeekyCon was once a Harry Potter-only convention and is planned by the same crew that brought us LeakyCon, it is backed by and attended by some of the biggest Harry Potter fans on the planet. As many of the people who run GeekyCon are still the biggest Potterheads, and have attended more than their fair share of Harry Potter book parties from 2004-2007, they decided to recreate the Harry Potter Book Midnight Release Party experience!

The party will be hosted by classic Potter podcast MuggleCast and PotterCast, and many others with experience and knowledge of Pottermania. The fun will start at 7 PM with the convention’s traditional Esther Earl Rocking Charity Ball. Starting at 10:00 PM, festivities will convert themselves into a huge Harry Potter and the Cursed Child midnight book release . In tried and true Harry Potter Book Midnight Release party fashion, there will be a set of games, activities, and events to take part of–including, but not limited to:

  • Costume Contests
  • Sorting
  • Trivia and other games
  • Wizard Chess
  • Quidditch
  • Wizard Rock performances
  • Face painting and other crafts
  • Video retrospectives
  • Appearances from special guests
  • Put your name in the Goblet of Fire! (Submit your predictions, and we’ll go through them together at Sunday’s programming!)
  • Share in the Pensieve: Submit memories about Harry Potter and your experiences; we’ll be sharing them throughout the night.
  • And a lot more!

At midnight, everyone will begin to receive their book copy of the Cursed Child script! You must reserve a copy, and purchase will happen on site. Full, detailed instructions will shortly follow this announcement.

Fans in the Florida area, and maybe those who want to apparate further, can choose to come to just the party (which includes the ball) for $20, to enjoy the night’s festivities. If you are a full registered GeekyCon attendee, you can join us for the whole weekend — during which there will be a lot of Harry Potter related festivities and programming. Sunday we’ll be discussing Cursed Child almost nonstop!

Screen Shot 2016-05-26 at 11.55.58 PM

Are you pumped up yet? We are so excited!

For more information about GeekyCon, visit the GeekyCon website. For tickets to this absolutely fantastic geeky convention, please visit this link.

 

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7. Poetry Friday: Just lost when I was saved by Emily Dickinson

Just lost when I was saved!
Just felt the world go by!
Just girt me for the onset with eternity,
When breath blew back,
And on the other side
I heard recede the disappointed tide!

Therefore, as one returned, I feel,
Odd secrets of the line to tell!
Some sailor, skirting foreign shores,
Some pale reporter from the awful doors
Before the seal!

Next time, to stay!
Next time, the things to see
By ear unheard,
Unscrutinized by eye.

Next time, to tarry,
While the ages steal,-
Slow tramp the centuries,
And the cycles wheel.

- Emily Dickinson

View all posts tagged as Poetry Friday at Bildungsroman.

View the roundup schedule at A Year of Reading.

Learn more about Poetry Friday.

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8. The Kindness of Strangers

I'm Thankful for the Kindness of Strangers

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9. Jellyfish (in nature—the other Nature)

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Just in time for this weekend’s unofficial “start of summer” gong, Nature (yea, that Nature—though also, ostensibly, “nature,” the wilder of nouns, not that other one qua Lucretius’s De rerum natura) came through with a review of Lisa-ann Gershwin’s Jellyfish: A Natural History. Stuck behind a paywall? Here it is in its glory, for your holiday reads:

One resembles an exquisitely ruffled and pleated confection of pale silk chiffon; another, a tangle of bioluminescent necklaces cascading from a bauble. Both marine drifters (Desmonema glaciale and Physalia) feature in jellyfish expert Gershwin’s absorbing coffee-table book on this transparent group with three evolutionary lineages. Succinct science is intercut with surreal portraiture — from the twinkling Santa’s hat jellyfish (Periphylla periphylla) to the delicate blue by-the-wind sailor (Velella velella).

To read more about Jellyfish, click here.

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10. Books Beat Summer Slide

Books Beat Summer SlideClassrooms packed, desks emptied, another school year is coming to a close. Summertime is on the horizon and for kids, that means three precious months of sweet, sticky freedom.

But when kids from low-income families leave school for the summer, the outlook isn’t always so sunny.  While their more affluent peers may be visiting libraries, attending summer camp and reading their favorite stories every night, kids in need often spend the summer months without access to books and learning opportunities.

Over the years, those months add up – by the end of 5th grade, kids from low-income families are nearly three grades behind their peers in reading skills.

But there’s good news! Books beat summer slide.

Studies show that kids’ reading skills improve when they have access to books over the summer – and this is especially true for kids in need. In fact, children who are given access to books over the course of three summers perform 35-40% better on reading achievement tests than those without.

Together we can fight summer slide by getting books into the hands of kids in need.

If you work with children in need, you can access books, games, activities and other resources to keep kids learning all summer long. Sign up with First Book today!

The post Books Beat Summer Slide appeared first on First Book Blog.

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11. J.K. Rowling: ‘Harry Potter and The Cursed Child’ WILL Make You Cry!

This morning, one Potter fan on Twitter had a very important question for J.K. Rowling: ‘Will the Cursed Child make me cry?’

J.K. Rowling tweeted back pronto, and now it’s official: if you don’t cry, they haven’t done their job right!

Screen Shot 2016-05-27 at 20.53.08

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With preview performances starting next month, we’ll be able to test Jo’s statements and confirm whether the play is a tear-jerker. We have absolutely no doubts that we’ll be sobbing through the entire show (and scriptbook)!

Take a look behind the scenes with J.K. Rowling here!

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12. THE LONG GAME (The Fixer 2) by Jennifer Lynn Barnes | A Thrilling Adventure

 Review by Natalie THE LONG GAMEThe Fixer #2by Jennifer Lynn BarnesSeries: FixerHardcover: 368 pagesPublisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens (June 7, 2016)Language: EnglishGoodreads | Amazon For Tess Kendrick, a junior at the elite Hardwicke School in Washington D.C., fixing runs in the family. But Tess has another legacy, too, one that involves power and the making of political dynasties. When

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13. Finally Reading... The Sky So Heavy by Claire Zorn

  


Yet again there's a book which took me ages to get around to reading and now I'm whizzing my way through it. It's The Sky So Heavy by Claire Zorn, which was an Honour Book, ie runner-up in the CBCA Awards in 2014. I'm sad to say that doesn't necessarily mean that the kids are reading it. Not at my school, anyway. There are usually some overlaps between the CBCA and YABBA short lists. But only some. I think this one might have been on a YABBA short list, must check it out. 

The cover doesn't help; kids rarely pick up books with depressing grey covers. But what else can you expect from a dystopian novel about a nuclear winter? 

Imagine what it might be like to be going to school one day as normal, hearing about some nuclear missile test going on somewhere on the other side of the world and next morning waking up to dirty, almost certainly toxic, snow outside, power, communication and the Internet gone and being unable to even find out what's going on.

 It's all too frighteningly easy to imagine. 

The rest of it so far is about how people treat each other when canned and dried foods and bottled water are gradually running out and still no word of when, or if, this will end. There are decent people helping each other and others who simply go crazy. The hero, Fin, is one of the former, when his parents go missing and he's left with his younger brother to look after. 

I can see why it has been compared to John Marsden's Tomorrow series, except that at least Ellie and her friends had someone/something to fight. How can you fight nuclear winter?

Anyway, I am looking forward to seeing how it all ends! 

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14. Wouk and Remembrance

Herman WoukI kicked off 2016 by starting The Winds of War and War and Remembrance by Herman Wouk, with the idea of finishing by today, his 101st birthday (which he is alive to celebrate). Alas, I’m only 80-odd hours into the 101 hour audiobook (the numerical coincidence wasn’t lost on me) the two-volume novel comprises. The books are thought provoking and revealing and I’ll have a lot to say about them later, when I’ve actually finished, but I wanted to wish Mr. Wouk a happy birthday.

I’ve been a Wouk fan since high school. My favorite is City Boy, a book I love beyond measure and include in my personal top five. That one and Youngblood Hawke show his bent for humor, but his legacy is his war novels, espcially The Caine Mutiny, which won the Pulitzer Prize, and the two books about the Henry family and World War II. Through Wouk’s novels I’ve gained a lot of appreciation for the men who fought World War II, while also having a much richer and nuanced view of America during the war, which Wouk faithfully records without the “greatest generation” mythmaking.

Byron RobinsonI’ll blog more about the novels later, but a curious coincidence of the books is a major character named Byron Henry. Our own Byron is named for Henry Byron Robinson, his grandfather, who — like Byron in the book — served in the Pacific theater in World War II yesterday. My father in law, like both of my grandparents, never regaled people with war stories, but he was haunted by memories of it for the rest of his life. That is, until yesterday, when he died at the age of 93, taking his secrets with him.

By didn’t define himself by his war experience. He liked reading, music, birdwatching. and big cuddly dogs. Most of all, my wife says, “he enjoyed being a dad.” But she also says “he thought about [the war] every day, even if he never talked about it. It was obvious.” We don’t need myth-making but we do need to respect, as Wouk does, the courage and sacrifice those men made.

 

 


Filed under: Miscellaneous

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15. Doing a Demo Now on Facebook Live


I'm about to do an experimental demo on the new platform Facebook Live at 2:55 EST.

It will be a clash of technologies: iPad meets typewriter meets sketchbook. Tell your friends!

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16. ऑडियो – व्यंग्य – संदेसे आते हैं- मोनिका गुप्ता

Click here .. ऑडियो – व्यंग्य – संदेसे आते हैं- मोनिका गुप्ता मैसेज करना, वटस अप करना आप सब की तरह मुझे भी बहुत पसंद है पर कुछ ऐसा हुआ कि मुझे मैसेज देखते  ही टेंंशन सी शुरु हो जाती है आखिर ऐसा क्या हुआ होगा और  मैसेजिस  मे ऐसा क्या है ?? अगर आप […]

The post ऑडियो – व्यंग्य – संदेसे आते हैं- मोनिका गुप्ता appeared first on Monica Gupta.

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17. Theatre Review- Richard III and Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare, performed by The Handlebards

Review written with input from two of my friends who saw it with me, Lottie and Amy. Their opinion is reflected here too. 


Title: "Richard III" and "Much Ado About Nothing"
Writer: William Shakespeare
Director: Emma Sampson  (Richard III), Nicola Samer (Much Ado)
Performed by: The Handlebards
Major cast: Liam Mansfield, Matt Maltby, Paul Hillar, and Stanton Plummer-Cambridge
Seen at: The Museum of the Order of St. John
Review: In Richard III, Richard, Duke of Gloucester murders his way to the throne and doesn't stop once he's there. In Much Ado About Nothing, plots to set up and break up pairs of lovers happen with varying degrees of success. The Handlebards, four actors who cycle with set, props and scenery to wherever they're going, are taking these shows on a tour.
I was incredibly looking forwards to seeing these. The comedy of the Handlebards that I'd seen before, plus one of my favourite shows (Much Ado) plus one of the plays I knew had many murders (Richard III) all combined to make me think I must see these shows somehow.
Both shows are imbued with the Handlebard style-brightly colour coding the actors, easy to remove and/or alter accessories, inventive ways of holding props to symbolise characters on stage when a scene needs more than four people on stage, audience participation, and epic levels of multiroling, energy, and enthusiasm.
The four actors are all new to being part of the Handlebards, and work together well. Liam and Paul play lovers in both plays (Richard and Anne and Benedick and Beatrice) and in both play off each other well, especially in Much Ado when both believe the other to be in love with them. All four of them have an extensive range of physical movement and  voices and facial expressions that differentiate the characters, which is necessary when most of them are learning about 20 characters each.
The music was good.  In Richard III, Richard's theme music is overdone in part one of the play (the same music and choreography each time means it loses its effect), or maybe it seems that way  due to the fact the theme was the only music in part one; part two had much more musical accompaniment (and occasional musical feature) so the recurrences seemed more integrated. It is especially performed well on a mop bass with jazz-style singing. Much Ado About Nothing has a lot more music, which is used throughout for scene transitions, comedy, and where the script calls for singing. They all sing and play their instruments well.
On to each performance specifically. I only knew that Richard III was about a lot of murder to become king; and  I was very pleased with how easy it was to follow. I think the multiroling helped with this a lot. With most Histories, I often see most the cast being men who are all named after parts of England and who all look the same and are very easy to mix up. but here, the huge differences between characterisation made it easy to tell what's happening. Despite all the murder, it's played pretty much as a full-scale comedy- timing, music, Richard's movements, the murder weapons.... oh and the ghosts. That was a most wonderful scene involving lots of bedclothes and wooooooing and the opposite of what you'd expect the souls of the dead haunting their murderer. The whole audience was laughing throughout this scene, and the whole play. It was a brilliant atmosphere and a great night.
Much Ado about Nothing was sadly not as good as I was hoping. It may be because we all studied it and loved it and know it, that it was easy for us to notice little slips and where they cut or shortened some of our favourite bits, such as Beatrice's "double heart for his single one" line, and Benedick's   listing of what he wants in a woman, which relates to his longer speech after his tricking scene. I am also used to seeing this performed at pretty much breakneck speed (like at their Richard III speed), and this felt comparatively slow in parts.  I think what they had in mind would have been brilliant, but the fact that  some things just didn't go as planned, such as scene changes and parts of the set starting to fall down, got in their way. They really did do their best at whatever the circumstances threw at them-Beatrice's temporary deafness being a highlight of their improv. In addition, the Watch scenes were good, I loved Stanton's ballet-dancing Claudio, and Matt made an absolutely adorable Hero.I think as they perform more, they'll get used to what they want to do and they'll get quicker, and I'd like to see Much Ado later on in the run if I can.
All this said, this is a great company. They're learning not only two plays, but multiple roles within the plays, plus cycling to wherever they need to go. Also, we did see them on the first public performances. The overall style of their acting, the huge comedy/comedic potential, the running gags both within plays and across plays, and the sheer amount of energy and connection they have with each other and the audience make the well worth coming to see.

Overall:  A high strength 4.5 tea to Richard III and a solid strength 3 tea to Much Ado About Nothing averages out to Strength 4 tea to a set of shows that you should catch if you can.


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18. L.A. Studio Cosmic Toast Shut Down Without Paying Its Artists: A Cartoon Brew Investigation

A Los Angeles animation studio creating work that appeared on Disney and Nick-owned platforms didn't pay it artists for months and suddenly shut down.

The post L.A. Studio Cosmic Toast Shut Down Without Paying Its Artists: A Cartoon Brew Investigation appeared first on Cartoon Brew.

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19. Tribal


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20. Flogometer for Shifu—are you compelled to turn the page?

Submissions Invited. 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.


Shifu sends the first chapter for Cupid Proof. The rest of the submission follows the break.

 “Mom, I can’t do this.”

I looked up at Mom and pouted.

“No, Eve. You’ve never been out of the house since graduation. You need to get out.”

“I do get out.”

“Morning jog doesn’t count. You’re nineteen, and you need a ‘friend’.”

My eyebrow twitched.

“Because this is so relevant to the original problem.”

Mom took a second to shoot me a glare before tossing the pancake into a plate.

“It may or may not be relevant.”

I felt my stomach churning.

“What is that supposed to mean?”

Mom cleared her throat while spreading a layer of strawberry jam on her bread.

"You see, Arthur Bryan has a son too. And he's your age."

No way.

"Nonononono..." I gripped the edge of the table, and then gripped my head, "Can't I travel straight to office from here?!"

"Nope, it's too far away. Besides, Granny is sick, so we've already made arrangements to (snip)

Were you compelled to turn the page?

The writing is clean, but for me the narrative is far too spare, and there are story question issues. It’s not until halfway down the page that we can deduce where this conversation is taking place—sort of. It could be a kitchen, it could be a dining room, it could be in a restaurant . . . Thus showing the helpfulness of setting the scene just a little bit. Seeing these characters in context helps us visualize and understand what’s happening.

There’s a couple of unhelpful “information” questions that I’ll point out, but there is no story question. Nor do we get a sense of what this conversation—or the story—is about. For example, after reading more I think the conversation is about the character living with a family and babysitting a child. But we don’t get that here. There is no trouble or complication ahead for the character that I can see, even after reading the chapter. I think the story starts later, and all this setup can be either skipped or woven in once something starts happening. In this page, all that happens is that a teenage person has breakfast and doesn’t like what’s going on (whatever that is). Notes:

“Mom, I can’t do this.” Where are they?

I looked up at Mom and pouted.

“No, Eve. You’ve never been out of the house since graduation. You need to get out.” Essentially meaningless since we don’t know how long it has been since graduation. It could be years, months, days, we have no clue.

“I do get out.”

“Morning jog doesn’t count. You’re nineteen, and you need a ‘friend’.”

My eyebrow twitched.

“Because this is so relevant to the original problem. Information question/problem: we have no clue what the original problem is. And I don’t think I learned it in the rest of the chapter. Since this doesn’t meaning anything, why have it here?

Mom took a second to shoot me a glare before tossing the pancake into a plate.

“It may or may not be relevant.”

I felt my stomach churning.

“What is that supposed to mean?”

Mom cleared her throat while spreading a layer of strawberry jam on her bread.

"You see, Arthur Bryan has a son too. And he's your age."

No way.

"Nonononono..." I gripped the edge of the table, and then gripped my head, "Can't I travel straight to office from here?!" Another information question: what does “to office” mean? I have no idea. So why is this here?

"Nope, it's too far away. Besides, Granny is sick, so we've already made arrangements to (snip) Defining in context in terms of distance or time would help “too far away” have some meaning to the reader.

Your thoughts?

For what it’s worth.

Ray

Submitting to the Flogometer:

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Were I you, I'd examine my first page in the light of the first-page checklist before submitting to the Flogometer.

Flogging the Quill © 2016 Ray Rhamey, prologue and chapter © 2016 by Shifu

 

Continued:

. . . leave to Japan next week."

NO WAY.

"Why Mom, why!" I cried, unable to hide the despair in my voice. Mom slid my plate towards me and raised an eyebrow.

"You're overreacting, Eve."

"She's always overreacting. Remember when she actually applied for the internship?" Dad plopped on the seat right next to me. I could smell his strong minty toothpaste when he spoke. "Even with A grades, she was complaining about what a bad idea it was."

"It was a bad idea! My instincts don't lie! Oh, I should have listened to them!"

"Hmm, is there something I don't know?" Dad plopped a pancake slice in his mouth and chewed as he looked at me intently.

I glanced at Mom and shook my head slightly. She shook her head in reply and glanced at Dad.

"She's overreacting about having to live with Mia and Ian."

Dad let out a hearty chuckle. "That's my shy girl for you." Then, he turned to me. "Eve, just go with the flow. Concentrate on the internship and nothing else. Besides you don't have to babysit Mia alone. Ian will help too. And Mia is four. She won't be as much trouble as Uncle Troy's... What was his name again?" Dad scratched his head.

"Timothy." I chuckled, remembering last summer when I had to babysit him. I’d rather not talk about how troublesome he was. ‘Troublesome’ isn’t enough to describe how much that kid irritated me. He was pure evil; the devil himself.

“You’re not recalling those days, are you?” Dad said, chuckling. This was why I liked Dad more than Mom. He always seemed to read my mind and know exactly what to say to make me feel better.

"Still, I can't believe you're telling me this today."

Mom smirked while Dad laughed, laying a hand on my shoulder. "It'll be okay, hon. Just go with the flow."

*****

After breakfast, I went up to my room to get my luggage. It was dreadful, but I had no choice. Even with all the studying I did, I only managed second place in the high school finals. I lost the scholarship. If I refuse to turn up to the internship, I don’t think I can land myself a job as a successful lawyer, ever. I most certainly could not risk this opportunity just because I had to live with complete strangers.

“Eve, are you coming or what?” I heard Mom’s faint voice. Darn, she may be cold, but I was going to miss her. They probably wouldn’t come back from Granny’s if I wasn’t going to be here.

“Eve!”

“I’m coming, dammit!” I said, dragging my suitcase out the door.  I slid the suitcase down the slide Dad built next to the stairs before I walked down.

“Let’s go.” I said, walking straight out the front door.

“Aww, Eve. It’s okay to be sentimental, you know?” Mom giggled, closing the door behind her.

“That’s childish. I’ve stopped that now.” I said, putting on my best straight face.

“Liar.” Dad said, putting my suitcase in the trunk and closing it.

I said nothing and got inside.

“You know love; you won’t get any guys if you’re acting indifferent all the time.” Dad chuckled clicking his seatbelt and turning on the ignition.

“Not the least bit interested. I’m going to sleep.” I said, laying down fully on the back seat into fetal position.

“She didn’t get any sleep last night; I’m a thousand percent sure.” Dad’s faraway voice ringed in my ears along with Mom’s laugh as I drifted off.

****

Eve…

Go away. I’m sleeping.

“Eve…”

Dammit, can’t this asshole see?

“Eve, we’ve reached the Bryans, wake up.”

Oh fudge!

I shot up so suddenly and so fast that my head hit the car’s ceiling. I felt birds and butterflies flying over my head for a while.

“Damn me and my grace…” I mumbled, as I clutched my head in my palms and moaned.

“We’ve got no time for that, Eve. Arthur is coming. Fix yourself and get out.” Mom said, looking at herself in the rearview mirror.

“Them? Coming?” I asked her which earned me a glare. It meant that I wasn’t supposed to ask questions.

“Okay, okay, fine, dammit.” I loosely combed my fingers through my hair and put on my backpack before getting out alongside Mom. Dad was unloading my suitcase. Just then, the gate opened and just as I expected, the three Bryans stepped out.

It wasn’t hard to identify Mia. She was clutching onto one of the men with one hand, the other wrapped around her baby blue teddy bear.

That was sad. I honestly thought there would be red carpets and a row of butlers and maids waiting for us.

The older dude walked ahead and shook Dad's hand. "Nice to meet you, I'm Arthur Bryan. Welcome to my household. Shall we go inside? The summer heat's too intense, isn't it? Come on." He gestured inside and turned around.

I, Mom and Dad exchanged weird looks and followed him.

I dug my hands into my jean pockets and let my finger caress my phone. I couldn’t dare to take it out within the radar of Mom; especially during a formal setting. The fear of being called to introduce myself to the Bryans was growing with each step I took.

“Hey.”

A masculine sound made me jerk; I almost dropped my phone in the process of pulling my hands out of my pockets. I pushed it inside properly before facing him.

“Hi.”

Mia snuggled closer to her brother as we fell into step with each other. I inwardly hoped that my smile wasn’t the reason. I heard a chuckle.

“My name’s Ian, nice to meet you.”

I gave up on Mia after she walked over to the other side of Ian. “Nice to meet you too,” I said, looking up to the sky.

“You’re gonna burn your face in this heat; or are you a huge fan of sunbathing?” I felt him inching closer to me.

“No, and I don’t care.” I increased my pace.

However, my attempt failed.

Our parents walked ahead and I tried to listen to whatever it was they were talking about, but I couldn’t hear anything. Mia seemed scared of me, and her brother wasn’t helping.

“I heard you’re 19 too.”

I nodded. Dad turned around and gave me a toothy smile. Oh, how I wanted this day to end.

I pretended to observe the scenery. From the corner of my eye I found Mia looking at me, as        if she wanted me to approach her and tickle her playful side out of her. But how could I do that, when her brother was staring at me so intently? An urge to punch him stirred up inside me.

Now that I had found out a bit about the Bryans, by the time we had reached the door, I had the schedule for the rest of the day planned out well.

*****

And to my dismay, all my plans had to be dumped in the trash can.

As soon as we got in, a butler came in with three glasses of fresh orange juice. We were escorted to my new room while we sipped on the drinks.

Mom and Dad simultaneously asked if I enjoyed Ian’s company to which I replied, “She was cool.” This earned laughs from them and I saw that the butler stifled a giggle. I wasn’t bothered anymore because the room was stationed pretty close to the entrance.

Apart from that, I honestly didn’t enjoy a single thing about my new room.

It was  huge, in the sense, huge.

“What is that, a chandelier? And why are curtains hanging around a… a KING-SIZED bed, oh my God,” I covered my face in my hands and sighed heavily. “I can’t stay here, Mom, take me home.” I clung into Mom’s elbow.

“For God’s sake, Eve, grow up!” Mom pried me off her and laughed. She was stiffer        that a pole; but she cared deeply and didn’t brush off her dramatic antics either.

“You’ll get used to it, Ms. Winters,” the butler said, and for some weird reason, I felt reassured. “Please, rest. You must be tired. We will call you when dinner’s           ready.”

I couldn’t believe myself; those words kind of made me feel at home.

“You are so kind, sir. How may we address you?”

Whoa, Dad sure knew how to speak to people.

“Please, don’t be so formal with me. My name is Anderson. Mostly I’m called Andy.”

“Andy, it is!” Dad gave him a warm handshake. “Please take care of her for us.” Mom too, shook his hand. I would admit; I felt out of place. But I’m not supposed        to shake his hand too, am I?

“The pleasure is mine.” With a warm smile, he was out of sight.

A full minute passed with the three of us frozen in spot, without so much of moving a limb.

“Uh… guys? Is it time for you to leave already or what?”

Dad flinched. “Goddammit, Eve. How cold are you?” He chuckled nervously.

“I was thinking of how to say goodbye.” Mom walked closer to me and enveloped me in a warm hug.

“Be strong; don’t ever waver in the face of obstacles. Look ahead at you dream and nothing can beat you. Don’t ever change yourself, no matter how many criticisms come your way. There are people who love you for who you are, and they are the only people that matter.” Normally, I would consider  those words cheesy, but today, I felt really good. I hugged Mom back. “Yes, and I will call you both every frigging day.”

At that, Mom and Dad let out a hearty laugh.

“Of course, you will.” Mom let go of me and cupped my face. Her eyes were trembling and tears were threatening to come out. I felt my eyes sting, so I said, “You know, if you feel like crying, just do it.”

Mom lightly slapped my cheek. “Idiot child, I will miss you so much.” She rubbed her eyes and sniffed, and Dad wrapped and arm around her and extended an arm to me.

“Eve, I will miss you, hon. Do miss me too,” Dad chuckled as         he planted a kiss on my forehead and let go of both of us. “And be cold.” He pinched my cheek.

I think a tear rolled down my cheek, because as soon as I vigorously nodded my head, Mom and Dad both wrapped their arms around me. “Our baby…” they cooed. It was       then that it dawned on me that although I was giggling, I was sniffling. There was       a huge grin on my face, but my cheeks were wet with tears.

They let go and leaned over, planting a kiss on either side of my cheeks. When they moved back, I giggled, gently turning them round and pushing them out the door. “Get going already, dammit.”

“Call us every day!” They called as they walked down the hall, laughing.

Shaking my head, I closed the door and dropped my backpack on the ground.

Placing my hands on my waist, I let my gaze wander around the room. Everything was so organised; it appeared that all I needed to do was transferring my clothes to the dresser.

And then, it occured to me.

I ran for the bathroom door and swung it open. A small smile spread across my face as I let my criticizing stare peer into every possible corner of the bathroom. "Mmm... Neat," I said, closing the door and walking towards my suitcase.

Back at home, my room was one-third the size of this room. Since my Mom was half Japanese, our house had a traditional Japanese ring to it. As a result, making the most of small spaces and simplicity had become a lifestyle for me, unlike most girls my age.

There was a knock on the door. I folded the last sock and closed the drawer, before neatly placing the suitcase in the corner of the dresser. There was another knock. "Goddammit," I mumbled, momentarily gritting my teeth. I hardly locked my door, so if I did, it was when I desperately needed privacy. "Coming!" I called.

All my hunches were proved right when I opened the door.

In front of me, stood none other than Ian Bryan.

"Hey, you already done settling everything? Man, you really are different."

I didn't give a response. I just stood there, my mouth slightly agape.

What in the world was happening? What was he doing here?

"Come. I wanna show you around." He said, leaning against the door frame, a warm smile on his face.

Though I didn't feel warm at all.

'No, thanks.' I wanted to say. But that would be rude. I already had enough thinking to do.

"Sorry, I'm really tired."

"Oh, um... Okay then. Rest well." Oh so casually, he ruffled my hair and disappeared.

What?

Closing the door behind me, I leaned back against it. I didn't understand it. Why was he being nice to me? Why was he talking to me? He was supposed to act like I didn't exist. So why?

But that wasn't any more important than the cloud of thoughts over my head. I needed to assess these feelings of discomfort right away.

Digging into my backpack and pulling out my journal, I plopped on the bed lazily. I didn't know when night fell, or if I was even called for dinner.

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21. School Visit Tips

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22. Steeplejack: Review

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25. Seeking manuscripts from poets with a connection to India

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