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1. Every Other Day Blog Challenge (1)

When I was in 7th grade, I was determined to be a writer. I loved English class. I loved to read. More than anything, I loved to write, even if I didn't really have anything to write about. I would journal about my days and try to make them sound exciting, for some future self who might someday be reading my diary. I would scribble story ideas on napkins and used envelopes, and stick them in a notebook for future writing inspiration. I probably still have one or two or ten of those notebooks lying around, gathering dust. 

So what happened? Well, lots of things. My perspective on the world changed a lot when I went home to Manila instead of applying for an Ivy League school like I'd always planned on doing. Depression happened. Working in retail and being really tired all the time happened. Community college happened. Not all things that happened were necessarily good or bad, it was just life. I honed some skills (baking, knitting, art) and got worse at some things (exercising, staying organized, swimming).

Now and then when I think about writing, I realize I have lots and lots of things to talk about. Want to know about that time I got kicked off the school paper? Or that time I really embarrassed myself in front of a guy I liked? (Those times, I should say, there were a few.) How about that time I got left back a grade even though I had the most freaking perfect grades a student could ever want? Oh man, I have some stories.

I read a lot, too. I know I'm preaching to the choir, but reading is so, SO important for anyone who wants to be a writer. You have to learn how words work, how they string along together to do something, like teach a lesson or evoke a feeling or make you cringe. You have to know the rules before you break them. You have to learn what bores people to tears so you can, you know, NOT write like that.

I almost think reading, too much reading, is the thing that has eaten away at my writing life the most in the last 20 years. Every year I try to read more than I did the year before. Every year I write less, and less, and less. I can tweet, no problem. I usually strive for funny/informative in 140 characters or less. I just want to share things that I think people I know will find interesting. I love hashtags, too. They're the best on Instagram--I probably spend more time picking hashtags there than writing the caption. I kind of hate writing reviews now. I still form opinions on things, but I'd rather comment about them on Facebook than really go into a full analysis of something. I want to have short text conversations with others more than I want to carefully compose a critical essay (because that feels like homework). I just want to react and use as many emojis as possible to get my feelings across. Tumblr is my absolute favorite. I don't even have to comment: just reblog. Always reblog.

When I'm not chasing deadlines for school work, I read. I have read some pretty amazing books, and that's kind of the problem. Have you read The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss? How about every book ever written by Leigh Bardugo, or Mary Pearson, or Maggie Stiefvater, or Maria V. Snyder, or Margaret Atwood? How about Carlos Ruiz Zafon's The Shadow of the Wind (no relation to the other previously named book with "wind" in the title)? I love those books. I think some part of me thinks too far ahead, that I'll never be as good as they are, and why waste time working on something that will never pan out, that won't pay the rent, when I can sit here and unwind from my day job by watching 6 episodes of Gilmore Girls every night?

Part of me knows it's not supposed to be easy if it's worth doing. But another part of me insists I need to do something else first. Cleaning the fridge, or scrubbing the toilet, or putting away the laundry: once the most pressing to-do-list items have been checked off, by the time I'm done, all I'm good for is putting my feet up and watching, you guessed it, just one more episode of Gilmore Girls. Some perverse part of me thinks getting on a treadmill for an hour should come first. Barring that, I should play paper ball catch with the cats so they get some much-needed exercise. These are things worth doing. Maintaining good hygiene, cooking a meal from scratch, getting my teeth cleaned. All worthwhile and responsible uses of time and effort. When I'm done with all of these other things, I'll read. When I'm done, I'll paint/knit/sew something. When I'm done, I'll write. It's always in the plans.

Today, however, and every other day for at least a week, I am writing first, and everything else later. (Actually, I thought up this challenge for myself while procrastinating on the final paper I have to turn in to my teacher on Friday.) Every other day, the moment I'm free, the books will stay closed. The knitting bag stays unopened. Netflix remains frozen on the Gilmore Girls episode I stopped watching last night because I had to be up at 4:30 for work.

What do I think will happen? Well, I don't think I'll have a bestselling novel anytime soon. I won't even have a finished first draft of something in the next year (oh school, I love you, I hate you!). I think I will write about writing, about not writing, about things that are not writing. But maybe, just maybe, I will write.


Is there something you'd like me to write about? Let me know in the comments. Here are some things I brainstormed while procrastinating some more because I am really, really not ready to work on this paper for class:

  • learning to drive
  • favorite restaurants
  • collections
  • forgiveness
  • how much I hate shopping for clothes
  • celebrity crushes
  • disorganization
  • being a bad god-parent
  • being a bully
  • my cats (of course)
  • unrealistic musical aspirations (probably)
  • how much I love eating out alone
  • used bookstores
  • pain
  • optimism
  • sugar
  • talking on the phone and how much I hate it now
  • knitting
  • sewing
  • looking for work
  • working in groups
  • board games
  • video games
  • why I procrastinate

Ok, I think that's enough procrastination for now. 

I'm going to go cook some spaghetti while watching Gilmore Girls, then work on my paper... after I watch an episode of Gilmore Girls...

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2. Alcon Plans A Series of Fully-CG ‘Garfield’ Features

First rule of Garfield: You can never have enough Garfield!

The post Alcon Plans A Series of Fully-CG ‘Garfield’ Features appeared first on Cartoon Brew.

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3. Podcorn Podcast– Reviewing DC Comics’ REBIRTH #1

RebirthHeroSpreadGeoff Johns wants to bring hope back to the DC Universe. Does he succeed?

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4. Funko Pop! Announce Hogwarts Express and Harry Potter Mystery Minis

Funko Pop! Rides will soon be releasing their newest addition: The Hogwarts Express!

The train comes in three separate sets: the front engine (which comes with a Harry Potter figure) and two carriages, which come with Ron and Hermione. The complete train measures 45cm in length.

Get your hands on the Funko Pop! Hogwarts Express this June!

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Harry Potter figures will also be released as Mystery Minis in July, starting at 6cm tall. When ordering a Mystery Mini, Funko will send you a random mini figure from a set of your choosing. As part of the Harry Potter set, you could receive a mini of one of the newer releases, including Hedwig, Dumbledore, Fawkes, Voldemort, Nagini, Malfoy, Dobby, Hagrid, Crookshanks and more. Read more here.

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5. Summer Reading from A to Z

I wrote about my slump yesterday and I'm still struggling with reviews, but I've decided to make an effort to keep blogging, even if I post less reviews and more just stuff.  Bookish stuff, of course, but more thoughts and ideas and less reviews.  We'll see how it goes.  

Anyway, I figured a book list is a good way to start and I was inspired by Hoopla's collection of A-Z Summer Reads.  I love me a good book list, so I thought I'd share with you what I think are the essential summer reads for each letter of the alphabet.  There are a billion ways to define a summer read, but I'd say that these books are united in my mind in that they both captured my attention completely and left me feeling at least somewhat intellectually stimulated.

A: About a Boy by Nick Hornby

B: Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

C: Christy by Catherine Marshall

D: Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells

E: Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn

F: Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

G: Gods in Alabama by Joshilyn Jackson

H: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

I: I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

J: Jackaby by William Ritter

K: The King of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner (I'm cheating a bit here - this is the third in the series and you really need to read the whole series in order, but I'm short on K books I love and find summer-appropriate)

L: The Little Friend by Donna Tartt

M: Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

N: Nimona by Noelle Stevenson

O: On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

P: The Princess Bride by William Goldman

Q: Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a Wold That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain

R: Rex Libris by James Turner

S: The Spellman Files by Lisa Lutz

T: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

U: Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer

V: Vampires in the Lemon Grove by Karen Russell

W: Watership Down by Richard Adams

X:  The Execution of Noa P. Singleton by Elizabeth L. Silver (cut me some slack, X is hard)

Y:  Yes Please by Amy Poehler

Z: The Zookeeper's Wife by Diane Ackerman


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6. What a fantastic way to start summer vacation!

Hi Friends,

Many celebrate this upcoming Memorial Day holiday in the US by heading to the local pool or beach. Some go camping and enjoy family time. But I also don't want to forget the reason for the Memorial Day holiday. Memorial Day is a federal holiday in the United States for remembering the people who died while serving in the country's armed forces. I am so grateful to the men and women who serve our country and sacrifice so much for our freedom.

To help celebrate Memorial Day I am offering 20% off everything in the shop! Starts now and runs through May 31, 2016. Be sure to enter the coupon code MEM2016 at checkout. Start shopping now!
Thank you for being a part of our wonderful community. I am so grateful for each and every one of you!

Phyllis

Gifts that give back
Phyllis Harris Designs & You – Giving the gift of love and healing

Every purchase of a heart-warming Phyllis Harris Designs illustration print donates 5 percent of every illustration print sold from our website to Children's Mercy Hospital. 

FOLLOW ME ON SOCIAL MEDIA

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Twitter: https://twitter.com/PhyllisHarris
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7. Yang Jiang (1911-2016)

       One suspects that the reason for obituaries in e.g. The New York Times and The Washingotn Post have more to do with her centenarian- than literary-status; regardless, the death of Chinese author (and translator) Yang Jiang deserves the notice -- even if her work hasn't made much of an English impression.
       She's perhaps best know in the English-speaking world as the wife of Qian Zhongshu, author the classic Fortress Besieged; see the New Directions publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk, but her own companion piece of sorts, Baptism, -- though much harder to find -- is also worth a look; see the Hong Kong University Press publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.

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8. Neil Gaiman Quote: True Fact!

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9. Presidential Polar Bear Post Card Project No. 157 - 5.24.16


If polar bears were farmers, I'm pretty sure they'd work in eastern Washington.

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10. Q & A: Fariba Hachtroudi

       At Sampsonia Way they now have a transcript of their Q&A with Fariba Hachtroudi, whose The Man Who Snapped His Fingers recently came out from Europa Editions; see their publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
       I do like this reaction:

The publisher suggested cutting the length of the book. And I said, "Instead of trimming the book, I'm going to add."
       (Her reasoning is, of course, entirely sensible.)

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11. StoryMakers | Jennifer Oxley & Billy Aronson

STORYMAKERS - Jennifer Oxley & Billy Aronson (Peg + Cat) Featured Image

We’re trying to make math cool … It’s for everybody
and it’s everywhere. It’s a part of your life.
— Billy Aronson

Jennifer Oxley and Billy Aronson are the team behind the award-winning PBS series “Peg + Cat”. Peg is a little girl whose life is a big math problem, which she solves with her best friend, Cat. Her world looks like math as the backdrop is graph paper and various items are made from simple shapes. The animated television series Peg + Cat has won seven Daytime Emmy Awards including Outstanding Pre-School Children’s Animated Program, Outstanding Individual Achievement in Animation (Jennifer Oxley), and Outstanding Writing in a Pre-School Animated Program.

Parents and teachers who want to continue the STEAM fun offline can turn to the Peg + Cat books written by the series creators. In this episode of StoryMakers Rocco Staino, Billy Aronson, and Jennifer Oxley discuss the creative vision for the series and several themes central to the  series of books. Fun, simple mathematics, diversity, and a seamless flow are essential to the success of the books and television series.

Oxley and Aronson offer encouraging messages about mathematics that will inspire children, parents, and teachers alike.

We’re giving away three (3) sets of books for this episode of StoryMakers. Each set includes a of copy of Jennifer and Billy’s picture book, PEG + CAT: THE PIZZA PROBLEM and PEG + CAT: THE RACE CAR PROBLEM. The giveaway ends at 11:59 PM on June 7, 2016. ENTER NOW!

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StoryMakers - Jennifer Oxley & Billy Aronson (PEG + CAT) Pinterest Image

 

ABOUT THE BOOKS


Peg + Cat: The Pizza Problem
Peg + Cat: The Pizza Problem - Jennifer Oxley & Billy Aronson
By Jennifer Oxley and Billy Aronson
Published by Candlewick Entertainment

What do fractions have to do with pizza? The stars of the Emmy Award winning animated series “Peg + Cat” serve up a delicious new episode.
It’s lunchtime at Peg’s Pizza Place. Peg and Cat are excited to take their first order from the Teens only to learn that some of their customers want a whole pizza while one of them wants half a pie. How can Peg and Cat make half a pie when they don t know what “half “is? Luckily, Ramone and Mac are there to help, with a slice up the middle of the pizza. As more customers come in, things get entertaining, with Peg singing a jazzy song and Cat doing a dance. But soon there’s another problem: four orders, but only two and a half pizzas left. Peg is totally freaking out until Cat reminds her that when it comes to halves and wholes, it’s all in how you slice it.


Peg + Cat: The Race Car Problem - Jennifer Oxley & Billy AronsonPeg + Cat: The Race Car Problem
By Jennifer Oxley and Billy Aronson
Published by Candlewick Entertainment

Peg and Cat, stars of their own Emmy Award winning animated TV series, zoom into a picture book and put math skills to the test in a lively racing adventure. Peg and Cat have built an amazing car out of things they found lying around. They’ve named her Hot Buttered Lightning (since she’s built for speed), and they plan to win the Tallapegga Twenty. If they can make it out of the junkyard, that is. It’s a good thing Peg knows the best shape to use to make wheels and how to count laps to see who is ahead. And it’s lucky that Cat reminds Peg to keep calm when she’s “totally freaking out.” Will Peg and Cat be the first to complete twenty laps and win the Golden Cup? Or will it be one of their quirky competitors? Count on Peg and Cat to rev up young problem-solvers for an exciting race to the finish.

ABOUT JENNIFER OXLEY

Jennifer Oxley was born in Hollywood, California and caught the filmmaking bug early – she made her first film at the age of seven. Since then she has directed fifteen short films for Sesame Street, as well as the award-winning adaptation of Spike Lee and Tanya Lewis Lee’s children’s book, Please, Baby, Please.

Her latest film, The Music Box, was acquired by The Museum of Modern Art for their permanent children’s film collection. Her work in children’s television includes directing and artistic credits. Jennifer is the recipient of an Emmy Award for her role as director on Little Bill, and she created the look and animation style of The Wonder Pets!, which won an Environmental Media Award and the prestigious Japan Prize.

Most recently Jennifer teamed up with Billy Aronson to create Peg + Cat for PBS Kids, and is co-founder of 9ate7 Productions.

Source: 9ate 7 Productions

CONNECT WITH JENNIFER OXLEY
Website | Facebook | Twitter

ABOUT BILLY ARONSON

Billy Aronson is a playwright and writer. Aronson is probably best known for creating the original concept behind the Tony award-winning rock opera Rent. He’s written several plays and musicals. Also, he’s written for popular children’s shows, and cartoons including Courage the Cowardly, Codename: Kids Next Door, The Backyardigans, The Wonder Pets, and Beavis and Butthead.

Aronson attended Princeton University. He counts several plays by Shakespeare, Looney Tunes, and The Brothers Grimm among his influences. Billy Aronson is a co-creator of Peg + Cat for PBS Kids, and is co-founder of 9ate7 Productions, with Jennifer Oxley.

Learn more about his playwriting, television work, and  here.

CONNECT WITH BILLY ARONSON
Website | Facebook

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StoryMakers
Host: Rocco Staino | Executive Producer: Julie Gribble | Producer: Kassia Graham

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The post StoryMakers | Jennifer Oxley & Billy Aronson appeared first on KidLit.TV.

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12. Under Earth, Under Water

Aleksandra Mizielinska and Daniel Mizieliński (@hipopotam) started a revolution here in the UK, with the publication by Big Picture Press back in 2013 of their now famous Maps. With that beautifully produced book we started to see something of new departure for children’s non-fiction, with publishers realising that there was an appetite for gorgeously illustrated and finely produced information books which didn’t look or feel like school textbooks.

Since then we’ve seen several new non-fiction imprints established, dedicated to bringing us eye-catching, unusual and sumptuous non-fiction for children and young people, such as Wide Eyed Editions and 360 Degrees. This is great news, especially for younger children who report choosing to read non-fiction (42% of 7-11 year olds) almost as much as they do fiction (48.2% of 7-11 year olds, source), though you’d never guess this from the imbalance in titles published and reviewed.

underearthunderwatercoverIt’s wonderful to see the return of the founders of the non-fiction revolution with a new title, Under Earth, Under Water, a substantial and wide-ranging exploration of what lies beneath the surface of the globe.

Split into two halves, allowing you to start from either end of the book by turning it around to explore either what lies beneath the earth, or under the oceans, this compendium of startling facts and quirky, fresh illustrations makes the most of its large format (a double page spread almost extends to A2), with great visual and verbal detail to pour over and a real sense of going down, down, down across the expanse of the pages.

The Earth pages cover everything from burrowing creatures to plant life in the soil, via extracting natural resources to industrial underground infrastructure. Tunnels, caves, digging up fossils and plate tectonics are all included in this rich and varied buffet brought together though a simple concept – simply exploring what is underneath our feet.

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The Water pages explore aquatic life right from the surface down to the bottom of the Mariana Trench, ocean geography, human exploration with the aid of diving equipment, the history of submarines and even shipwrecks.

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Lavishly produced, with gorgeously thick paper it is a delight to hold this book in your hands. Wonderful design, featuring lots of natural reds and browns in the Earth section and soothing shades of blues and green in the Water section, ensures exploring the diverse content is a visual treat as much as it is a spark for thinking about the world around us in new ways.

My only question mark over Under Earth, Under Water is the lack of an index. Maybe this makes it more like a box of treasures to rummage in and linger over, the sort of space where you can’t be sure what gems you’ll dig up. Although perhaps not a resource from which to clinically extract information, Under Earth, Under Water offers a great deal to explore and a very enjoyable journey to the centre of the earth.

burrow

There’s so much we could have “played” in Under Earth, Under Water. We toyed with making submarines, visiting caves, planting seeds to watch roots grow, but in the end the animal burrows won out, and we decided it was time to make our own. This began with papier mache and balloons…

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…which when dry were set into a cardboard box frame, and surrounded by layers of “soil” i.e. different coloured felt, to recreate the layering of different soil and rock types.

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Then the burrows needed filling! Sylvanian families came to the rescue, along with nature treasures gathered from the garden.

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And soon we had a dollshouse with a difference! (Can you spot the bones and other archaeological finds waiting to be dug up from the soil??)

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Whilst making our underground burrow we listened to:

  • Underwater Land by Shel Silverstein and Pat Dailey
  • Underground Overground Wombling Free….
  • Going Underground by The Jam

  • Other activities which might work well alongside reading Under Earth, Under Water include:

  • Watching live video footage from NOAA’s Okeanos Explorer in the Mariana Trench!
  • Reading Above and Below by Patricia Hegarty and Hanako Clulow. This books explores similar territory to Under Earth, Under Water – but for slightly younger children – and makes great use of split pages.
  • Digging to see what’s under the earth in your garden. We did exactly this, as a mini archaeological excavation inspired by Sam & Dave Dig a Hole by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen
  • Creating your own underwater volcano
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    Disclosure: I was sent a free review copy of this book by the publisher, Big Picture Press. The book was translated by Antonia Lloyd Jones although she is not credited in the book.

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    13. Poetry contest with $1500 first prize

    PRISM InternationalPRISM International invites entries for the inaugural Pacific Spirit Poetry Prize. First prize: $1500 grand prize ($600 runner-up, $400 2nd runner-up. Up to three poems per entry (100 lines max per poem). Entry fees: $35-$45 (includes subscription). Deadline: October 15, 2016.

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    14. Helena Bonham Carter Gives Insight on the Red Queen

    Helena Bonham Carter has always been one to take on more anomalous roles in her acting career. The Red Queen definitely does not differ from this pattern. With her abnormally large head and a tendency to order beheadings onto others, the role is one that Helena enjoys quite a bit.

    She gave a interview with Den of Geek this week, telling us a little about her return to the role in Alice Through the Looking Glass. While the first movie, Alice in Wonderland, had little focus on Helena’s character, this one will not only show her more in present time but also give us a peak into her past.

    And then when the sequel came around, I was just praying it was well-written. And it was. And in a sort of typically Red Queen egocentric way, I thought, “Oh, there’s a lot about me!” [laughs] And it all made sense. And there was lots of things to develop. So it was fun, because she wasn’t necessarily a big part in the first one. So it was nice to have something where you develop something and you work on something quite a lot. And I seriously do…I’m anal about my craft.

    Helena Bonham Carter is no doubt one of those actresses who puts everything she can into a role, finding ways to better relate to her characters. She tells that she did a bit of research, using the Alice books, on her character. She seems to understand Iracebeth and her childish anger, “…I thought, “Well, she’s got too big a head.” So everybody’s head that was normal size was always a reminder that hers was abnormal. So that’s why she had to cut everybody else’s head off.”

    Another face, or voice rather, from Harry Potter will appear in the film. Alice Through the Looking Glass, which is dedicated to him, is said to be Alan Rickman’s last film. Helena and Alan have worked closely many times before and she had a few words of consolation for those still mourning his passing:

    Well, the poetic thing about it is he’s voicing a blue butterfly. And anything that I can tell Rima, his wife, to comfort her, is there’s that quote: “Just when the caterpillar thought it was all over, it became a butterfly.” And often, butterflies…you know, death can be seen as the end. It can also…I don’t know if it’s any comfort, but you can also see that it’s a point of transition.

    Give me a moment to wipe my tears…

    Wow, okay. On that note, see the rest of the interview here and be sure to get tickets to see Helena Bonham Carter in Alice Through the Looking Glass which comes out this Friday!

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    15. Haven't I seen you someplace before? More dueling covers of falling cutouts

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    16. The Dead Ladies Art of Memoir Writing

    9780226278452

    From “Live through This,” by Catherine Hollis, her recent essay at Public Books on how much of our own lives we construct when we read and write memoirs:

    In The Dead Ladies Project: Exiles, Expats, and Ex-Countries, Jessa Crispin, the scrappy founding editor of Bookslut and Spolia, finds herself at an impasse when a suicide threat brings the Chicago police to her apartment. She needs a reason to live, and turns to the dead for help. “The writers and artists and composers who kept me company in the late hours of the night: I needed to know how they did it.” How did they stay alive? She decides to go visit them—her “dead ladies”—in Europe, and leave the husk of her old life behind. Crispin’s list includes men and women, exiles and expatriates, each of whom is paired with a European city. Her first port of call is Berlin, and William James. Rather than explicitly narrating her own struggle, Crispin focuses on James’s depressive crisis in Berlin, where as a young man he learned how to disentangle his thoughts and desires from his father’s. Out of James’s own decision to live—“my first act of free will shall be to believe in free will”—the rest of his life takes shape. Crispin reconstructs what it might have felt like to be William James before he was William James, professor at Harvard and author of The Varieties of Religious Experience. If he can live through the uncertainty of a life-in-progress, so too might she.

    But not before checking in with Nora Barnacle in Trieste, Rebecca West in Sarajevo, Margaret Anderson in the south of France, W. Somerset Maugham in St. Petersburg, Jean Rhys in London, and the miraculous and amazing surrealist photographer Claude Cahun on Jersey Island. Through each biographical anecdote, each place, Crispin analyzes some issue at work in her own life: wives and mistresses, revolutionaries with messy love lives, and the problem of carting around a suicidal brain. Crispin travels with one suitcase, but a good deal of emotional baggage. While she focuses on each subject’s pain, what she’s seeking is how these writers and artists alchemized their suffering into art, and how that transmutation opens up an individual’s story to others. . . .

    In the end, learning how other women and men decided to live helps Crispin decide that suicide is a failure of imagination. “Here is something else you could do,” Crispin’s ladies tell her; here is some other way to live.

    To read the piece in full at Public Books, click here.

    To read more about The Dead Ladies Project, click here.

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    17. Looking for bravest moments (YA anthology)

    Annick PressChildren’s publisher Annick Press (Canada) is seeking true stories of bravest moments for a YA non-fiction anthology. The format of the testimonial can be in one of many different mediums (prose, poetry, photography, illustration, etc.). Contact Robbie Patterson at robbiep@annickpress.com for full details.

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    18. Equipment for a Free Range Artist – Part 2

    I’m back from my free range field test: a weekend trip to Fruita, Colorado for some plein air mountain biking fun. (If you missed the first post about all of my new plein-air equipment, you can read all about it here.)

    First stop were the Kokopelli trails, which take you along the edge of the Colorado river. There are gorgeous vistas at every turn, and I hiked a few meters off trail and painted one of my favorite views of the canyon. If I’d been walking, it would have probably taken about four hours to get to this spot (and another four to hike back!) but with the bike I could get there in no time.

    Plein air painting along Steve's Loop

    Most bikers on the path below didn't even see me.

    The equipment really improved the experience. Not only was I more comfortable, but I had a much easier time judging color and value with the help of my shade umbrella.

    Watercolor painting of a sandstone canyon

    The final painting

    One benefit of combining mountain biking and painting was that my husband could do extra laps while waiting for me. Sometimes he had a good view of my painting spot:

    cliff-painting-setup

    See the white dot of my umbrella?

    Watercolor painting of a sandstone cliff in Fruita, CO

    I was painting this interesting rock formation. So many holes!

    So, you ask, how was all the equipment?

    The Umbrella (Bestbrella white)
    Pros: Provided a neutral, even light. I found it easy to set up and relatively stable. It even protected my painting against the odd sprinkle of raindrops.
    Cons: I’m not sure I’d use it in a downpour or high winds, but that’s not really what it’s for. When the sun was at certain angles (like right behind my head) it was difficult to properly position the umbrella because the easel got in the way of the tripod pole. I think this is actually a problem with the tripod, not the umbrella: if I had a taller tripod I could have clamped the umbrella lower on the leg in order to miss the easel.

    The Easel (En Plein Air Pro Traveler Series)
    Pros: Easy to set up, lightweight, simple.
    Cons: The easel is fitted with holes to hold your brushes, but a lot of my brushes are either too big or too small to fit in these. Some slide all the way down to the ferrule, while others stick out quite a bit. On more than one occasion I’d absentmindedly put down a brush only to have it slip right through.

    The Stool (Walkstool Comfort)
    Pros: Durable, easy to set up, pretty comfortable.
    Cons: You can only use it with the legs fully extended when it’s on level ground.

    The Backpack (Camelbak Motherlode)
    Pros: Spacious, durable, well-balanced, lots of convenient pockets.
    Cons: It’s not designed with women in mind, and was wide and bulky on me, particularly around the shoulder area. But the width makes it perfect for holding the easel, so I’m not complaining.
    Other notes: It can also throw off your center of gravity while biking, which makes technical terrain very difficult. I wouldn’t recommend this for beginners. In fact, I made my husband carry it most of the time so that I wouldn’t mess up and fall off the cliff.

    I'm just posing. I gave it back to my husband right after this photo.

    I'm just posing. I gave it back to him right after this photo.

    The tripod (an old mini travel tripod–I have no idea what brand or model.)
    Pros: Very small, compact and lightweight.
    Cons: My mini tripod is clearly not meant to hold a bulky plein air easel and umbrella. It’s unstable, and is so small that there’s no way you could use it while standing. The short legs make it difficult to level on steep slopes. It’ll do for now, but I’m going to start saving up for something a little more versatile for the future.

    Watercolor painting of two utah junipers and a high desert view beyond

    We also visited 18 Road, on the other side of the valley.

    Conclusion:

    All in all, I’d call it a success! If you’re thinking of doing more “free-range” painting and are hesitating about investing in equipment, I recommend that you go for it. No matter where you go to paint–be it far off the beaten path or as close as your back yard–it’s a fun challenge and a great way to improve your painting skills.

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    19. Rare Prisoner of Azkaban Poster to be Auctioned in Watford

    Excalibur Auctions will be selling off a Sirius Black ‘wanted’ style poster from the promotion of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban film in just a few days time.

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    The promotional poster is one of less than ten of this kind known to be produced for the film, leading Excalibur Auctions to call this ‘one of the rarest posters ever produced to publicise the films’.

    It is particularly unique due to its lenticular design, meaning that the images changes depending on which angle you view it from. Sirius Black (Gary Oldman) is in the shot if you view the poster from head on, and he disappears if you angle the poster slightly differently. Clearly this format was much more expensive to produce, leading to the remaining posters being coveted!

    The poster is predicted to sell for £4,000-£6,000, and the auction will take place at The Village Hotel in Elstree, Watford on Saturday 28th May 2016 at 10:30am. Live bidding will occur in the room, with internet bidding available at The Sale Room and Invaluable.

    The auction will also feature a Star Wars Episode II Yoda lenticular poster, a 1920s Sherlock Holmes window card and many James Bond themed items (including original Quad posters from Dr No and From Russia With Love.

    More information can be found on the Excalibur Auctions website, here.

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    20. Q & A: Can Xue

           At Sixth Tone Zang Jixian has a Q&A with Author Can Xue on the State of Chinese Literature
           Can Xue is the author whose The Last Lover won last year's Best Translated Book Award (for which I was a judge); see also the Yale University Press publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
           Among the interesting/depressing answers:

    Zang Jixian: Your works are gaining a large readership in the English-speaking world. What would you say are the reasons ?

    Can Xue: It's mostly because I integrate a lot of Western cultural elements in my work. I believe I'm doing the best job among Chinese writers in that aspect. Therefore, foreign readers can accept my work as literature.
           And:
    Zang Jixian: Could you evaluate the current situation of China's literary world ?

    Can Xue: I've said it before: I have no hope, and I don't feel like evaluating it.
           Ouch.

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    21. The Marvel Rundown: The Nature of Freedom and Justice is Challenged in CAPTAIN AMERICA #1 & NIGHTHAWK #1

    569e646046152This week, two Marvel #1's shipped and they both have one thing in common: amazing cliffhangers that are the product of a long period of careful foreshadowing and preparation. I love it when good plans come together, and boy do they ever in Captain America #1 and Nighthawk #1.

    2 Comments on The Marvel Rundown: The Nature of Freedom and Justice is Challenged in CAPTAIN AMERICA #1 & NIGHTHAWK #1, last added: 5/25/2016
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    22. A tour! A tour! My first tour in 14 years!

    This month began with the most amazing thing ever: a book tour for The Girl I Used to Be! The last time I had a tour was in 2002. As the economy crashed, independent bookstores folded, and newspapers cut back, tours faded right along with them.

    I was determined to make the most of it. So I said yes to everything. Yes to speaking to kids from four different schools in a day. Yes to doing a bookstore event that same night. Yes to flying to a different city after that.

    And I had a great time! But I did pick up some tips I’m going to pass along for the next person who wins the tour lottery.

    The last time your clothes fit in your carryon is the day you pack it at home. Don’t overpack! If you’re willing to wear the same black polyester (and thus unwrinkle-able and basically indestructible) top in every city you visit, you can save some space in your suitcase. And you need to leave room, because every school will want to give you a coffee mug, T-shirt, and pen emblazoned with the school’s logo. I have also gotten a tea towel, “genuine sand,” a plaster hand missing fingernails like one of my characters, and reusable grocery bags.

    And you’ll also end up with treats: chocolate in the shape of the Alamo, pralines so sweet they make your teeth ache, Kind bars, chocolate covered almonds, a package of Oreos, caramel toasted coconut chips, mini Kitkats, homemade cookies, Lindor balls, and occasionally fruit. Those who follow me on social media often give me potato chips. I actually carried a full bag of chips from Milwaukee to Chicago where I ate them at midnight when I finally checked into my hotel. My advice is to avoid the crab-flavored ones.

    In fact, for your waistline, dump all the treats into the nearest garbage can as soon as you are out of eyesight. Otherwise you will end up in your hotel room eating a piece of really bad candy that tastes like chocolate-covered perfume, wincing, and then opening another wrapper.

    All the candy did come in handy when Alaska ran out of meals on a flight from Chicago to Seattle. For breakfast, I ate a peanut butter cup that had been rattling around in my backpack. Loose. By the time I found it, half the chocolate was missing. But at least it didn’t have anything stuck to it. And I figured the peanut butter counted as protein.

    If you’re ever wondering what to get an author, Starbucks cards are small and endlessly useful. Also those grocery bags, especially if they are emblazoned with something local, are a fun gift and pack flat.

    My other tip would be figure out the shower while you are still sort of awake. Do you raise the handle, spin it, press it? Is there a separate piece you need to engage first? Otherwise you’ll end up after four hours sleep phoning the front desk and begging them to reveal the secret. And they in turn will send up a maintenance man, who will turn it on with ease, and look at you in your shortie PJs with barely concealed disgust.

    And then after you take your shower you will realize you have no idea how to turn it OFF. Resist the urge to leave it running for four hours until housekeeping shows up.

    I also stayed in a hotel hosting the a conference for the White Shrine of Jerusalem, a Masonic organization that seemed to be made up of white ladies over the age of 80 and wearing formal polyester gowns with corsages even for the 6 am breakfast buffet.

    I visited more than a dozen schools and talked to over 3,000 kids. One girl who wanted to be a writer was shaking so badly it looked like she would fly apart. I held one of her hands with my left hand while I signed her book with my right. One teacher worried that her pizza lunch wouldn’t be “sophisticated enough” for me. I had a wonderful time, and even though I came down with a weird kind of strep normally only seen in cows, I would do it again in a heartbeat!

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    23. Featured Review: The Hunt (The Cage #2) by Megan Shepherd

    About this book:The Maze Runner meets Scott Westerfeld in the second novel in this gripping and romantic YA series about teens abducted from Earth by an otherworldly race—from Megan Shepherd, the acclaimed author of the Madman’s Daughter series. They’ve left the cage—but they’re not free yet. After their failed escape attempt,...

    0 Comments on Featured Review: The Hunt (The Cage #2) by Megan Shepherd as of 1/1/1900
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    24. Translation pieces at the Literary Hub

           At the Literary Hub they have six new translation-related pieces (as they're apparently 'Celebrating Translation Month', whatever that might be ...).
           It's all worth a look -- despite some really lax fact-checking in several places ..... (E.g.: "In 2015, 570 translated books were published in the United States" writes Anjali Enjeti -- relying on the invaluable Three Percent database, but ignoring what databaser Chad Post always makes very clear, that that refers only to: "titles that have never before appeared in English" (in the US); the actual number of 'translated books' published is, of course many times larger, thanks to new translations of previously translated titles and, especially, reprints of previously published translations.)

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    25. Deep Point of View

    What is deep of point of view and how do you write it?

    https://warriorwriters.wordpress.com/2016/03/09/introducing-deep-pov-wth-is-it-can-we-buy-some-on-amazon/
    https://warriorwriters.wordpress.com/2016/03/13/getting-in-character-deep-pov-part-two/
    https://warriorwriters.wordpress.com/2016/03/16/want-a-page-turner-you-need-deep-pov/

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