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1. 2015 Teen Tech Week Grant Winner - Lindsey Tomsu

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

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

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

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

my teens do not have Internet at home, have outdated computers that seem to freeze all the time and not connect to the

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

any funds left over, additional props for their videos.


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

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


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

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


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

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2. MY GRANDMA'S A NINJA by Todd Tarpley

I have such a fun book to share with you today: MY GRANDMA'S A NINJA by Todd Tarpley and illustrated by Danny Chatzikonstantinou (NorthSouth). Todd stopped by to tell us more about writing children's books...

Everything I Know About Writing Kids Books Conveniently Condensed into 5 Bullet Points
by Todd Tarpley

      I've been writing kids manuscripts for ten years. My Grandma's a Ninja, just published by NorthSouth Books, is my third book. I have two more coming out in the next year. So consider this advice as coming from someone who's not a complete rookie, yet isn't a jaded veteran either.
• The most important line of the book is the title. An editor told me this. Makes sense, but not always true, of course. Knuffle Bunny? Eh, not the greatest title ever. Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus? Yep--good. Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site? Definitely. (My Grandma's a Ninja started as a title, in case that wasn't obvious.)

• The second most important line is the opening line. You stunned them with the title, now go for the knockout punch with the first line. I really have no idea if this is actually good advice, but it sounds like good advice, and it was suggested by the same editor who offered up the first bullet point. I have no examples whatsoever. Take it for what it's worth.
• The best way to bypass the slush pile is by attending writers' workshops. For some reason this is the best-kept secret in the universe. Why would you rely on the lottery ticket of someone pulling your manuscript from the slush pile when you can sit eighteen inches away from an actual editor who has taken the time to know your name and critique your manuscript? Yes, it costs money. I get it. But...just think about it for ten seconds. It's like having lunch with Steven Spielberg. This should be number one on the list, but I'm too lazy to re-order my bullet points.

• Have five flawless manuscripts written before you start submitting. When I started submitting I had ONE. I thought I only needed one because it was the most brilliant manuscript ever written. But you know, if an editor says, "This is not quite right for us, but please feel free to submit more to me," you can't say, "Sorry, that's all I got--take it or leave it." My "brilliant" first manuscript remains unpublished, btw.
• Don't think editors are stupid. You may think they're stupid because they rejected your first five manuscripts or--if you're lucky--because they've asked for changes on your sixth, and how can you possibly be asked to improve on perfection? Here's a secret: editors are generally quite intelligent, good at what they do, and sometimes even NICE. Chill out and pretend to be a team player. My first book was originally titled Do You Like to Kiss a Dog? When the contract came, it said Do You Like to Kill a Frog? I thought, "Hmm, that's odd. Well, they're the experts," and I signed it. Turns out it was a typo. So, okay, sometimes the interns in the legal department are stupid. But not editors.

      Okay, that's the best I've got. I suppose if it were such great advice I'd have eighty books instead of five. If Mo Willems gives you different advice, take it.
      My Grandma's a Ninja is available at Amazon, B&N and local booksellers. Todd's blog is at toddtarpley.com.

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3. Oh, the places I'll go... :)

Hi everyone! I've been getting a lot of questions about where I'll be this spring so I decided to put it all in one place. If you'll be at any of these events, please let me know! This is the most travel I've done for a book and I'm both very excited and very nervous. Friendly faces always welcome and appreciated.Thanks! xx

March 13-15
Tucson, AZ
Tucson Festival of Books

Scheduled events:
Story Interrupted: Moving In and Out of Time and Space in YA
Sat, Mar 14, 10:00 am - 11:00 am Education Room 353
Panelists: E. Lockhart, Jo Knowles, Andrew Smith; Moderator: Celeste Trimble

A Conversation with E. Lockhart and Jo Knowles
Interact with authors as they read aloud from their new books and answer questions
Sat, Mar 14, 12:00 pm - 12:30 pm Teen and Author Meeting Place (Seats 88)

Signing at Mostly Books, Booth #148 (Seats 1)
Sat, Mar 14, 1:30 pm - 2:00 pm

Workshop: Brave Beginnings — Find a Way into Your Story
Sat, Mar 14, 2:30 pm - 3:30 pm Education Room 349

March 20
Montpelier, VT
VCFA Novel Writing Workshop in Montpelier
(So excited to go back after missing for many years, and both my writing partners will be there!)

March 27
University of New Hampshire
NH Council of Teachers of English Spring Conference
Keynote Speaker (!)

April 3
Concord, NH
Gibsons Bookstore
6:30pm Talking writing with Jennifer Richard Jacobson!
Followed by a signing

April 11
Norwich, VT
Norwich Book Store
Panel of middle-grade and YA authors, including Tara Dairman and Adi Rule
(Still in planning stages, more deets to come!)

April 14-17
Austin, TX
Texas Library Association Annual Conference
Authors Area H-Q
(Schedule to come)

April 18-19
Los Angeles, CA
LA Times Festival of Books
(Schedule to Come)

April 19-21
Pasadena, CA
ABC Children's Institute, American Booksellers Association
Author Reception 5:30-7:00

April 24-26
Springfield, MA
NESCBWI Conference
10:55-11:45am Q&A--Ask me anything!
7:00-8:00pm Keynote (OMG!!!)

May 15
Rochester, NY
Rochester Teen Book Festival
Schedule to come but here is the schedule link: http://www.teenbookfestival.org/?pg=Schedule

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4. Interview with Kidlit Author, Kristen Lamb

It’s Author Interview Thursday and I’m so glad you’ve taken out time to join me today.K Lamb As you may already know, today is World Book Day and it was interesting seeing all the children dressed up as different literary characters on my way to drop off my bambinos at school. And what better day to have a children’s book author remind us why the written word matters. Today’s special guest was introduced to me by C.L. Murphy who was on the hotseat a few weeks ago. In the weeks leading up to today’s interview, I’ve been impressed with her passion to see literacy levels increase in children. Her blog contains lots of good stuff plus interviews with children book authors. Her book covers make you take a second look and she has loads of fans in different countries across the world. Without further ado, ladies and gentlemen, please join me in welcoming Kristen Lamb.


Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? 

This is the part where I want to tell you lots of exciting things, but the truth is―I’m just a simple gal from the San Francisco Bay Area. As an indie writer I find joy in telling my stories and seeing the smiles they produce on a child’s face. I am a wife, mother, and business woman that lives a quiet life. My adventurous side finds peace hiking through the Yosemite Valley and my playful side can be found hanging out with Goofy and Mickey at the “Happiest Place on Earth.” Most importantly, I am always thankful for each new day’s dawn and the promises it brings. I believe it is important to be grateful.


Tell us about the first time someone complemented you on something you had written?  

Surprisingly, I remember quite well the “moment” I was complimented on my writings and the feeling it evoked. The details are a little more fuzzy. I was in grammar school and it was first or second grade. We had an assignment where we had to write a story and then make it into a bound book using material, cardboard, and book binding tape. I was so enthralled with the project, I asked my teacher if I could make two books. Our class “literary masterpieces” were proudly displayed at Parents Night. I can still remember the feeling inside when my teacher smiled down at me that night and then told my parents that someday I was going to be a writer. There was a feeling that radiated from somewhere deep inside of me that seemed to concur with her prediction.


What were some of your favourite books as a child?  Massachusetts-6

When I was very young, I loved my big red book of nursery rhymes. The book was bigger than I was at the time! I’d drag it around everywhere. Then of course, I had my all-time favourite Dumbo. It was more of a treasured memory in that my grandmother (who lived next door) would always tuck me in and read it to me. She must have been so tired of that story! But I loved our routine. She would tuck me in, read me the book, and finally sing me Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah before kissing me goodnight. How could that book not be my favourite?

Oh my, now the truth comes out. The quirkier side of me loved gothic horror. Yes. I admit it. When I was really young I loved the gothic comic books. As an advanced reader, I moved on to novels rather quickly such as Frankenstein, Dracula and countless others. Of course those were contraband that I kept at my grandmother’s house. To be honest, my love of these books probably also relates to the fact that my grandmother and I would always watch the old black & white “B” horror movies together. I loved cuddling up with her as we munched on popcorn and drank Dr. Pepper. For me, the stories were never scary because they came from a safe place.

When at home I would read my favourite Nancy Drew mysteries and other childhood books. I loved Little Women, Red Badge of Courage, Diary of Ann Frank and the classics. The genres I enjoyed varied greatly. Luckily, my grandmother was an avid reader who shared her love of literature with me so my supply of books was endless.


You have currently published three books in the Dani P. Mystery series. Was it a conscious decision to write a series and what led you to do it?Dani and the Haunted House  

The birth of Dani P. Mystery started out as a short story. It was a gift of love to my daughter. Dani, the protagonist in my series, is loosely based on my daughter and it was created specifically for her when she was seven years old.

When I became an ‘empty nester’ my family encouraged me to publish one of my stories. I always thought someday I would, but then they challenged me to make it a reality. I had worked on several projects and could have released any one of them, but in my heart I knew it had to be Dani P.  It is then that I decided to create the series and share Dani’s adventures with other children.

As you mentioned there are currently three books in the series:  Dani and the Haunted House (1st edition), Dani and the Mall Caper (1st edition), and Dani and the Rocking Horse Ranch. There will be more books available in the future and I look forward to seeing what Dani gets into next! The important thing to know about the books is that I always try and include some kind of message in the story, in a subtle way that promotes self-esteem or life lessons. And although the books are part of a series, they can be read independently in any order.


What have you found to be a successful way to market your books? 

Gasp. I have not begun marketing! You mean there’s more to it than just writing a book? Okay, so that’s my humour showing through. As any indie writer will probably tell you, writing a book is the easy part! Marketing is what drains your life away.

In truth, I really haven’t begun marketing my books yet. I made a conscious decision not to until I had three books in which to market. I feel it is important, especially when doing a children’s series, to have more than one book available to a child before getting them “hooked.” Right now I do have three books available on Amazon, but I am in the process of having the first two books re-illustrated by my amazing new illustrator, Katrina Glidewell. When the first three books are complete with all new illustrations, then I will begin marketing. As it is, I get inquiries all the time asking me when the next Dani P. book will be released. This is an incredible feeling, but at the same time I don’t want to let the kids down by not having the next book immediately available, which is why we are still on the soft release without a big marketing campaign.

In the meantime, I am getting out there and letting people meet Dani. I’m connecting with teachers, parents, and children. I’m slowly building the platform to (hopefully) make her a success. We have our website, Facebook Page, and Twitter account where we can interact with her readers. One of the things I have thoroughly enjoyed is the communication I’ve had between the parents/children and teachers. They make each day brighter with their notes, their pictures, and feedback. We even have a new feature on our website where we are tracking where Dani has visited. Our readers are notifying us when Dani “visits” them and we are marking those visits on our world map. We look forward to expanding the map as more people learn of this feature!


I really like your book covers as they stand out. What advice would you offer other children authors with regard to working with an illustrator for illustrations and book covers? Dani and the Rocking Horse Ranch

There are several factors one needs to consider when deciding upon an illustrator! My first piece of advice would be to take your time. Don’t rush. We all get so excited when we write that story and we want to see it brought to life, but it is so important to wait for the right illustrator to come along.

It is also important to shop around. Spend the money to get several concept pieces done from different illustrators. Who best understands your vision? Can you communicate well with them? Do they respond? All of these are key factors. And ultimately, put your agreement in writing. It is crucial for both parties to have a clear understanding of each other’s expectations.

A writer must also focus on the reality of the situation: what can you afford? Personally, I don’t expect to make a profit from my books. It would be wonderful if I did, but it isn’t the reason I write. I write for children. To share the gift of reading. However, you have to be realistic that the overall cost of production is within means to produce and sustain. Ask yourself the hard questions and be prepared to answer it honestly.


Do you think social media is a waste of time and how has it helped or hurt you as a writer? 

I absolutely do not believe social media is a waste of time. But that does not mean it equates to book sales either. Social media is a wonderful way to connect with readers, parents, teachers, and other authors. The relationships, and even friendships, I’ve built from social media cannot be depreciated because they don’t bring in sales. Never underestimate the power of human connections and their true worth.

As an author friend of mine says, social media is a “time vortex.” Time disappears when on these sites. It is important to monitor the time you are investing in them and balance that out with productive time. It is all about accountability to yourself, and ultimately, to your writing.


What tips do you have for writing good dialogue? 

Honesty. I believe it is simple. Become your character. Would a character on a page really speak the same in real life? And don’t forget to listen. The world is a wonderful place to learn if you’re willing to be a sponge. Soak it all up. Then pour it all onto the page through your writing.


Is there a particular book or film that inspires you to be a better writer and why? 

Hopefully this doesn’t come out the wrong way, but I don’t want to be inspired by a book or a film. I want my inspiration to come from within. I want it to be genuine, and me.

I do have a book that has inspired me, but not as a writer―as a person. Many years ago, a client brought in a book for everyone in our office. He said he had received it as a gift and it moved him so much, that he bought dozens of books to share with others. The book was The Ultimate Gift by Jim Stovall. I easily understood why it moved him as it struck a chord within me as well. Truth be told, I bought several copies of it myself and shared with family members.


Toy Story or Shrek? 1 - ATW Map

You’ve got a friend in me….Toy Story. I love the entire dynamic between Woody, Buzz Lightyear, and Andy. In today’s life too many things are disposable and friendship shouldn’t be one of them. There is always room in our heart for one more. Although, I am a person that values genuine friendship over acquaintances. My grandmother always taught me that it is better to have a few true friendships than a multitude of false ones. It is all about quality over quantity.


What three things should a first time visitor to your city/town do? 

Living in the San Francisco Bay Area there is never a loss of things to do, whether it is taking in the theatre, strolling through Golden Gate Park, visiting Napa Valley, or heading out to the ballpark!

The possibilities are as varied as the personalities that visit! There is truly something for everyone. Of course, you can always visit one of the many libraries!


What can we expect from Kristen Lamb in the next 12 months? 

In addition to re-releasing the first two books, it is my hope to have the next two books in the Dani P. Mystery series released as well. The fourth book in the series is Dani and the Hidden Treasure and the fifth book is Dani and the Magician. That is a lot to accomplish in such a short period of time, but I like setting goals. It is always good to be striving toward something.


Where can readers and fans connect with you? Dani and the Mall Caper

I love connecting with Dani’s readers! You can find us at:




www.twitter.com/danipmystery or @danipmystery



Any advice for authors out there who are either just starting out or getting frustrated with the industry? 

Decide whether you want to be an indie author or publish traditionally. Then have patience. Being a writer isn’t glamorous. It takes a lot of hard work, even longer hours, and it doesn’t happen overnight. But if you have a voice that demands to be heard, it is worth it.


Thanks for sharing so much with us today Kristen. I really loved the tips you gave on working with an illustrator and how we shouldn’t rush into working with the first person who comes along. As its World Book Day, I’d like to encourage everyone to checkout Kristen’s page on Amazon or any other retailer of your choice and pick up one of her books. We’d also love to hear an questions or comments you may have and as always do share this interview on your social networks.

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5. Kisses to all the small Ellas out there!


By Mallory Kasdan; illustrated by Marcos Chin


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kisses to all the small Ellas out there!

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6. Painting an Imaginary Scene Outdoors

Can you paint a fantasy picture outdoors, directly from nature? 

In the Dinotopian scene called "Small Wonder," I wanted to show a springtime scene of two young people caring for a dinosaur hatchling. 

I painted the figures first in the studio, based on posed models—my son Dan and one of his friends, wearing Renaissance Fair costumes. Then I asked a neighbor if I could bring the painting into her garden of tulips and finish it there.

Here's the original painting "Small Wonder," from Dinotopia, The World Beneath.

My inspiration for executing a finished fantasy painting outdoors came from William Holman Hunt. In 1851, he painted "The Light of the World" (left) by moonlight in a makeshift hut on a farm in Surrey, England.

Hunt took the idea of location-painting further when he created the allegorical scene "The Scapegoat." His picture idea came from something he read in the Talmud, saying that a congregation would drive a symbolic goat to its death into the wilderness, carrying the sins of the people away with it.

Hunt traveled with his art supplies to the salt-encrusted shores of the Dead Sea. He brought a goat along with him for a model. His guides warned him that there was a risk from from hostile tribesmen near Oosdoom.

The desolate scenery inspired Hunt: “…never was so extraordinary a scene of beautifully arranged horrible wilderness. It is black, full of asphalt scum and in the hand slimy, and smarting as a sting — No one can stand and say that it is not accursed of God…”

The Scapegoat by William Holman Hunt (Lady Lever Gallery) 1854
The goat did not enjoy being tethered. Hunt described him as a "fidgety model." Meanwhile, storms rolled in, and his guides implored him to get away from the dangerous spot.

Reluctantly he returned to his studio in Jerusalem, but the goat died along the way. He brought samples of salt and mud to help him reconstruct the foreground, and left the middle of the picture empty. He bought another goat, some skulls, and a camel skeleton, and worked them into the picture.
My painting "Small Wonder" is currently on exhibit at the Stamford Museum and Nature Center through May 25.
Dinotopia, The World Beneath
William Holman Hunt: A Catalogue Raisonne
Related Posts on GJ:
Getting a goat to pose in the satyr workshop
Painting "World of Dinosaurs Stamps" outdoors

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7. Some Very Interesting Statistics

Says the man with dyscalculus.  I don't really bother with view stats but I do find them interesting because of what they reveal about people who are "interested" in comics these days.  The idea of a comic fandom is almost out-dated now and it seems as though the "can't troll then won't bother to comment at all" attitude prevails!

Anyway, I took down figures for views of my blogs on the 7th February, 2015 and today is almost a month so let's see.

British Golden Age Comics 
7/2:     9,277        22/2: 9,669         24/2:  9,861      27/2: 9964        4/3: 10,009

UK GA Comics
7/2:   408            22/2:  549           24/2:  585          27/2: 642          4/3: 665

T Hooper-S/BTCB
7/2:  3,575         22/2:  3,754        24/2: 3,831       27/2: 3,873       4/3: 3,892

Anomalous Observational Phenomena

7/2: 22,502      22/2:  23,090       24/2: 23,421    27/2: 23,628     4/3:  23,788

Maakika Art

7/2:  890          22/2: 932             24/2: 961          27/2:  969          4/3: 977

Black Tower Comics & Books

7/2:   NA          22/2:   10,628      24/2:  NA         27/2: 10,946      4/3: 10,974

Alan Class

7/2:  9,918      22/2: NA             24/2: 10,010      27/2:  10,047    4/3: 10,087

One thing you'll note is the odd "NA" and this is down to the fact that numbers are so jumbled to me that I thought I had noted view figures on those dates but had not!  Still, it does not affect the total overview.

It is important for the point that I am about to make so I need to note that all postings on Google+ have received (as of 4th March)  1,236,739.

I am not including CBO views for the incredible number of views posting have gotten on other sites via "spiders" and what not.   

That is.....1,286,157 and from all those view there have been 5 comments

Seriously. That is one hell of an awful statistic -not eve a "fun posting!"  or "Really enjoyed that!"  or even a "Thanks for promoting my book!"   The total lack of wanting to even say "I'd like to read more about this" while, obviously, reading postings and, yes, downloading items (I can see how many pieces of art are downloaded and THAT is why they are never high resolution!).

Don't you think Ben R. Dilworth or Stransky & Labbat might be interested in what you thought of their strip-work/illoes posted on CBO?  

In fact, that brings me to the comments I mentioned.  One was positive regarding the Ultimate British Golden Age Collection but two complained (sort of) that Slicksure was not drawn the same way as he was in the afore mentioned collection.  Well, d'uh!  Slicksure in the 1940s was drawn by Harry E. Banger (pronounced  as in "Ranger") who was, primarily, a humour strip artist.  The 2014 version remained true to the Banger style Slicksure but was NOT drawn by Banger.  Still made me chuckle out loud.

Black Tower does NOT alter or "modernise" or "reboot" Golden Age UK characters. We stay true to the characters and I think any artist who has worked with me ore drawn these characters for me, will tell you I am on any negative change like an avalanche of bricks.  But Ben Dilworth, Stransky & Labbat seem to have immediately understood the characters and what they are about.

On CBO the comments are usually continued conversations between myself and..."the four usual suspects".  That means the "comments" count is higher even though they are part of drawn out internet chat!  Exclude those and CBO is in the same position.

WHY do people visiting the blogs never comment?  Yes, we have a VERY large overseas audience where English is not the first language but we are in the age of Google Translate and even if someone does not use online translation, if the English is not great, I don't care.  That they took the effort means far more that how it is written.

In the pre-internet age (yes, the internet ruined a great deal) we had LOCs or letters of comment. I used to get them all the time from Russia, Poland the old Czechoslovakia, Australia, New Zealand, the USA, Canada, Sweden, Finland (I still get fan mail from there!) and so on.  Now you do not even have to go to the post office to send a written letter -you just type and send -and that is too much??

I was not joking when I wrote fandom was dead.  And now not even a Bristol comic event to go to and talk to comic folk!

Retirement is looking like a nicer prospect every day.  

One thing that has never changed: I still love comics!



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

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

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

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

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

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

Peaceful, he says.

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

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

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9. Travel Journal: Beach Memories

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


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

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10. March Adness Continues

Round 1, Day 5 

Vote for your faves in the comments. 
Votes will be secretly compiled
Once we're down to 32 ads, we'll start round 2.
Voting remains open on all games
until the entire round is posted.

Click on ads to enlarge them. 

"BLOG" BRACKET (Bottom Half)

Game 17: Phone vs. Infinity

Game 17: Diet vs. Croissant 

Game 17: Breakfast vs. Severed Head

Game 17: Sauna vs. Friends

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11. The Secret to Creating a Really Good Bad Guy

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

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

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

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

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

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

Push Beyond the Stereotype

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

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

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

How Bad Guys Are Good for Your Story

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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12. Austin SCBWI Mentor Award Winner Laney Nielson Signs with Greenburger Associates

Follow @LaneyNielson
By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Hooray! Laney Nielson, recipient of the 2014 Austin SCBWI Cynthia Leitich Smith Mentor Award, has signed with literary agent Bethany Buck of Greenburger Associates.

Laney Nielson is a writer who lives in Plano, Texas.

A former upper elementary school teacher, Laney has taught in both suburban Virginia and inner city Boston. She has her Masters in Education.

Laney is a member of a critique group formed through the North Texas Chapter of SCBWI. She has attended the Highlights Foundation Whole Novel Workshop and many regional events, including the Austin SCBWI regional conference for the past three years.

I am delighted that Laney has signed with Bethany. Laney has a lovely sense of story and character, heart and humor. I look forward to many terrific books from them.

Register for the 2015 Con!
Laney says: "I want to thank Austin SCBWI and Cynthia for offering this mentorship. It was an incredible opportunity to learn from one of the best. Cynthia provided me with the guidance and expertise I needed to take my writing to the next level."

(She is so gracious. Laney came in strong, worked hard, and deserves all the credit for her success. Learn more about Laney's experience and the mentorship from Austin SCBWI.)

Bethany says: "I am thrilled to represent Laney Nielson, a great new debut whose writing is smart and sparkly." (Yes, it is!)

From the Greenburger Associates website:

Bethany Buck represents teen fiction, middle-grade fiction, and chapter books, as well as a select list of picture books...

Before becoming an agent, Bethany held editorial positions in children’s book publishing for thirty years. Previously she was Vice President and Publisher of the Aladdin and Simon Pulse imprints of Simon & Schuster’s Children’s Publishing Division, where she was the editor of Scott Westerfeld’s #1 New York Times best-selling Uglies series, as well as his other teen books. Bethany began her career at Scholastic Inc., where she was a longtime editor of The Baby-Sitters Club by Ann M. Martin, and rose to be an editorial director in the trade division.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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14. quick parent safety lectures

Screen Shot 2015-03-05 at 8.35.09

The principals of all the local schools got together and did a parent safety evening at the school. I was one of the presenters. I think they were expecting a big turnout, but it was a small (but interested) crowd. I did two very short presentations

1. Ten apps in ten minutes. For parents who are not using mobile devices for social purposes outside of facebook, knowing what the various apps are and what they do can be useful. I just had a very basic slide deck and talked over some images of the apps. I had to learn to use Snapchat which was sort of hilarious.

2. “How the heck does this work” a short talk about things parents can control in their home internet environment and what they can’t. Obviously the standard line is that the best thing you can do is talk to your kids and this is more useful than just using technological tools on what is, ultimately, more of a social problem. That said, it’s good to understand what you can and can’t do with the technology.

Most importantly was, I think, people seeing and getting to know each other and getting to have conversations about what their systems were at home. One parent charged all the devices in his room at night, for example, so the kids couldn’t sleep with their phones. Another had a “no phones/devices before homework is done” policy. Another had a “two hours of screen time a night” rule. I was glad to be a “local expert” of a sort who could give people some perspective on what technology can look like form another direction. The newspaper wrote up a short article about the event. Feel free to use my slides for your own safety talks.

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15. A Slice of Poetry

Slice up a quick write and a poem may emerge!

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16. JF Wishlist Updates

I posted on Twitter the need for blog ideas. It seems I've run out already.

@BookEndsJessica Hmmmmmm.... any changes to your/your colleagues' wishlists?
2/11/15, 9:44 AM

This is actually a great question only because these things change all the time. An agent can talk to an editor or read a great new book and get excited about something new.

While I'm always looking for the standards: Cozy mysteries, mysteries, suspense, romance, women's fiction and YA, there are those submissions I will drop everything for.

Suspense--a great dark suspense stand alone or series with, preferably, a female protagonist, romantic suspense and definitely YA suspense. Give it to me dark, make it gritty, and I require that it leaves me in a panic about what's around the corner.

Women's fiction with magical realism ala Sarah Addison Allen.

Contemporary YA with dark secrets and big story lines.

An entire week where nothing happens so that I can catch up on all the reading I want to do and need to do. If that week happens to be at the beach with margaritas at the ready even better.

A new talented agent knocking at my door. I'm looking to grow our BookEnds team and I really only have a few requirements: Smart, fun and someone we'd all like to have a drink with. Oh, and you'll need some experience as either an agent or an editor. Your areas of expertise can be just about any genre. http://www.bookends-inc.com/employment.html

This new standing desk from Ikea

Image result for ikea bekant sit/stand desk

Richard Blais or either Voltaggio as a private chef.

I'll keep my fingers crossed.


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

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

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

Agent Judges:

Jordy Albert of the Booker Albert Agency:

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

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

Danielle Barthel of New Leaf Literary:

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

Sarah Davies of Greenhouse Literary:

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

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

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

Victoria Lowes of The Bent Agency:

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

Melissa Nasson of RPC:

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

Kelly Sonnack of Andrea Brown:

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

Top Ten Entries:











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18. Marvel Unveils a Third Trailer For The Avengers: Age of Ultron

Marvel Entertainment has unveiled a third trailer for The Avengers: Age of Ultron movie. Comic books fans spread the #AvengersAssemble hashtag across the Twittersphere to unlock it.

The video embedded above offers a deeper look at the robotic supervillain that will challenge Iron Man, Captain America, Black Widow, Hawkeye, Thor, and The Hulk. Follow these links to watch another trailer and a clip from this film adaptation. (via IGN.com)

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19. लेख इलाईची कपूर

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

The post लेख इलाईची कपूर appeared first on Monica Gupta.

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20. KEIKO: The First Time

Anyone else purposely slow down near the end of a really, really good book?

Also see my previous Keiko comics.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A Birthday To Crow About Spiral-bound – Unabridged, 2015

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<div> Another in a series of delightful children's books about Sun-E-Dale Knoll. Tales from the journal of Princess Paisley and her pet ferret, Bizzy-as-a Bee.</div> <em></em>

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

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

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

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

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

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

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24. 20 months in Seattle & Why it is Home

Today marks 20 months since I moved to Seattle. After the first year, I stopped counting, stopped taking a moment to observe that it was the 5th and counting back to July of 2013, doing the math. But I’ve never stopped observing that I’m here. I still don’t take it for granted. I still have several moments each day where I marvel to myself, “I’m here. For real. This city. It’s mine.” It starts when I look out the living room window and see the sunrise, the mountains, the rain or the fog. It continues when I walk to the bus stop, observing the contrast in the colors between the water and the sky—blue, gray, sometimes with a hint of pink—watching the boats move across the Sound. Then I walk onto the campus where I work and am delighted by the smells—the flowers, the greenery, there is something no matter what the season. I watch the sky change out the window all day. Sometimes blue, sometimes gray, sometimes changing back and forth. Sometimes there are rainbows. In the winter, darkness begins to fall before I leave. In the summer, it’s still bright as noon at five pm. On my walk home, sometimes I see the Mountain. I always see the skyline from the Jose Rizal bridge. Sometimes it’s already dark, sometimes the sun is setting, sometimes the sky and the Sound are unbelievable shades of blue, sometimes shades of misty gray. Every time I think, “This is perfect.” Every time I take a photo. I have hundreds of photos from my living room window, from my bus stop, my walk home. I have hundreds  and hundreds more from our walks and hikes during the weekend, from the parks, the forests, the mountains, the beaches. On the surface, they many of them may seem the same—trees, beach, gray waves, blue sky, sunset, skyline—but look closely and each is different. Each is perfect. I can’t pick a favorite.

Afternoon from my bus stop
Sunset from my bus stop

Puget Sound from Lincoln Park

A gray but beautiful day at the beach

From eighth grade through most of high school, I had periods when I was so depressed that I saw the world in shades of gray sometimes. I told people this and I’m pretty sure they thought I was exaggerating, but it’s real. I have a bunch of gray memories. I also have a bunch of black holes where memories should have been but I was too sad, too angry, too broken, so my brain replaced moments and feelings with a scrawl of black ink. After high school and into my early twenties, those black holes were my own fault; they were blackouts. I worked through all of this. I worked hard. With therapists, with pen and paper, with painful and uncomfortable conversations with friends and family, with love from friends and family and the man who would become my husband. Things got hard again in 2010. Life is hard. It throws things at you. Sometimes all at once. There’s grief and illness, there’s money woes, there’s major disappointments in your career. It happens to everyone. It’s hard to handle for everyone. But when you are a person who saw in shades of gray, who cut open her arms and/or drank heavily to cope, who is full of self-blame and hatred, hard can start to feel really scary. Hard can start to feel like a trap or even a death sentence. By 2012, I was desperate and scared. I was seeing gray, feeling suffocated by my mistakes and self-perceived mistakes. I also knew people were whispering about me, things like “Debbie Downer,” and it hurt. I was mired in the gray and I didn’t want to be, but as anyone else who has been there knows, it’s not easy to escape. I went back to therapy, to the difficult conversations. I worked and I thought and I weighed out what I had to do. I knew I had to take a risk. I don’t like risks. But I had to. So I did. And here I am.

I am home.

Two years ago, I wrote about why Seattle. I called it my heart city and tried to explain what that meant. I’m not sure if I got it quite right. I seem to keep redrafting it in blog posts and essays and a chapter of my memoir and maybe that’s sort of what I’m doing here, but just with new terminology; now I am trying to explain why Seattle is home. I’m going back to Chicago for a visit in a couple of weeks. Some friends and family members refer to this as me “coming home.” I haven’t corrected them because I didn’t want to hurt feelings, but a little voice inside of me always pipes up, “No, Seattle is home.” Chicago is where I’m from. It’s where many of the people I love reside. But Seattle is home now and here is why:

This year has been hard so far. Last month in particular. Another one of those periods where things are thrown at you all at once. So much stress on so many fronts plus the flu. That’s why I haven’t blogged in a while, not here or even to my Seattle photos Tumblr. But in the middle of it all, I took an afternoon to myself. I went downtown and saw this:

(*Whispers* This, all of this, is mine.)

I also noticed the daffodils in full bloom in front of my building. In the middle of February.

The trees, too.

I had a mountain view from my window when I was sick. Sometimes I even see eagles there. I can get out for fresh air and sunshine without freezing to death in February. I can run year-round. I walk everywhere. I am surrounded by so much natural beauty that it isn’t hard to pull myself out of my thoughts and worries and say, “Hey, look around! This is yours. This is yours.

Seattle has helped me find and practice gratitude. It has helped me work on calm and inner peace. I’ve made friends here more easily than I have anywhere else or at any other time in my life. And that’s not just about the people (though they are awesome), that’s about me and what I’ve found within. I’m still shy. I still worry. I still get sad. But this city centers me. No, it allows me to center myself. When the stress and the bad and the sad descend, I look out the window, I breathe the air, I wait for the bus, I stare at the sky, the water, the flowers, and I center myself. I say, “I am here, I am grounded, and I brought myself to this place. I can keep going through anything.” It was the missing piece that I needed. It was the challenge I had to set for myself to find my own strength. Seattle has given me what the girl who saw in shades of gray thought she would never have: happiness and hopefulness. That’s why Seattle is home.     

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25. Things I Love Thursday

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

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

Special thanks to Ms. Martellino for sending me this. 

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