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1. Scott Balmer

Scott Balmer via grainedit.com

Enter the world of Scott Balmer, an accomplished illustrator from the UK. When he’s not playing tetris or dreaming of chocolate, he’s conjuring up brilliant imagery filled with mischievous characters and majestic beasts.



Scott Balmer via grainedit.com

Scott Balmer via grainedit.com

Scott Balmer via grainedit.com



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2. new series....

©the enchanted easel 2014
in the making.

i am crazy in love with all things japanese...from the culture to the food to the super cute art such as the company sanrio (hello kitty) and anime. oh, and let's not forget my obsession with cherry blossoms and the absolutely breathtakingly beautiful sakura trees. i mean even my fragrance is japanese cherry blossoms. as i said, obsessed. really need to go to japan once day...

anyhoo, i've been wanting to do a little series of kokeshi dolls for quite a while and i had these thumbnails drawn up since this past november. how tight do i work?! gosh, i could probably save myself the drawing step in between and just sketch these right onto the canvas, using these thumbnails as my guide. but....i'm too OCD for that (and love drawing just as much as painting) so i'm going to whip out 4 8x8 sketches and then transfer them to the canvas.

can not wait to paint these! :)

©the enchanted easel 2014
a peek at little sakura {big surprise with the name}...

0 Comments on new series.... as of 4/23/2014 4:13:00 PM
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3. The mysteries of marketing

Yes, that is Drew Barrymore -- the picture was taken on the steps of my building in Boston, while they were filming Feverpitch.  The pink hat is mine, but I (wisely, I think) cropped myself out of the picture.
Ordinary people rarely come off well when photographed with celebrities -- especially when the celebrities are young, beautiful movie stars!

She didn't just happen to be holding my book -- I asked her if she would, which now seems a bit obnoxious. She was really gracious about it, though. I've liked her ever since I saw her in E.T. and I liked her even more after she was generous enough to let the picture be taken.

Even though it seemed like a great marketing idea at the time, all I ever did with the photograph was post it at the bottom of a page on my old Web site. I doubt that anyone ever even saw it (this was before the days of blogging), and I'm almost positive that it didn't sell a single copy! Still, it's nice to have.

And that's the thing about marketing -- you never know in advance what's going to work and what isn't. You have to just try lots of different things, and hope some of them work..... I think it's a little like Internet dating: if you do something fun on the date, it's not time wasted even if it doesn't lead to anything. And you have to date lots of people to find someone you like and do lots of marketing things to find any that work   -- though with marketing, you'll probably never know which things worked and which didn't.

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4. Where’s My Agent?

airline travelI’ve been taking a brief hiatus from writing this blog, but will resume regular posts shortly. Meanwhile, I’ve got a post up at Books & Such today. Here’s a preview:

Don’t you love it when you send someone an email, only to receive the dreaded auto-reply saying they’re out of the office? It can be frustrating, but the reality is that travel is an important part of many jobs. And when it’s your agent who is “out of the office,” you can be glad they’re getting out from behind their desk to go into the world and nurture important relationships, make new acquaintances, advocate for their clients and give back to the writing community.

At Books & Such, we frequently discuss our travel schedules and carefully consider each possible trip. We find we serve our clients best when keep a good balance between office time and important engagements elsewhere. I thought it might be helpful to share what we’re up to this spring, so you’ll have a better idea of what that “auto reply” really means.

Click here to read the overview at Books & Such.



The post Where’s My Agent? appeared first on Rachelle Gardner.

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5. J.K. Rowling to Serve as Executive Producer For ‘The Casual Vacancy’ Mini-Series

en_GB-timeline-image-the-casual-vacancy-cover-image-1341414943-cwHBO and BBC have scheduled production on The Casual Vacancy TV adaptation to begin this summer. Altogether, the team plans to create a three-hour long mini-series.

Variety reports that J.K. Rowling herself will serve as an executive producer. EastEnders TV series writer Sarah Phelps penned the script. Filmmaker Jonny Campbell has been hired to direct.


New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

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6. Michael J. Rosen: ‘Read poets from other countries, in other languages, if possible.’

Michael J RosenHappy National Poetry Month! All throughout April, we will interview poets about working in this digital age. Recently, we spoke with writer Michael J. Rosen.

Throughout his writing career, Rosen (pictured, via) has authored more than a dozen books. Recently, he wrote two installments of a children’s book series that focuses on animal-themed haikus, The Cuckoo’s Haiku and The Hound Dog’s Haiku. Next Spring, Candlewick Press will release book three The Maine Coon’s Haiku. Check out the highlights from our interview below…


New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

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7. Zoe's Jungle: Bethanie Deeney Murguia

Book: Zoe's Jungle
Author: Bethanie Deeney Murguia
Pages: 40
Age Range: 3-5

My daughter and I both enjoyed (and continue to enjoy) Bethanie Murguia's two previous picture books about Zoe (Zoe Gets Ready and Zoe's Room: No Sister's Allowed). In this third installment, the irrepressible Zoe and her younger sister Addie pretend that a playground is a jungle. Some tension is added to the story by the fact that Mama has decreed that they'll be leaving the park in five minutes. But as it turns out, five minutes is enough time for a jungle adventure, if you have sufficient imagination.

Alternating page spreads show the jungle that Zoe is picturing, vs. the playground as it actually looks. This may be a bit confusing for the youngest readers (my four-year-old wasn't sure what was going on, the first time we read this). But once they understand the device that Murguia is using, I think that kids will enjoy it. For instance, Zoe crosses over an alligator-filled river on a fallen log. The "log" is revealed on the next page to be a wooden bench, passing near some kids playing in a puddle. Not until the final endpages do we see the full view of the park. (And I must say, it's a very nice park!)

Although this is still clearly Zoe's story, it's nice to see her sister growing a bit bigger, and more able to actively take part in things (this is clear from just looking at the cover). The "Addiebeast" runs away and hides, and the brave explorer Zoe must track her down. Addie's polka-dotted dress is echoed in the Addiebeast's spotted tail. 

I also, as a parent, enjoyed the by-play between Zoe and her Mama over when they would leave the park. Zoe goes on a huge rant over how five more minutes is "NOT" enough time. At the end of the rant, Mama just says: "Four minutes!". Zoe slumps over, saying: "Is there no respect for the explorer and her quest?" But then Addie distracts her, and the game is on. 

I love the green jungle palette of Zoe's Jungle, and the images of kids climbing trees and riding wild beasts, as well as the images of kids just playing in a playground. Mostly I love that Zoe's Jungle is a celebration of imaginative play, as well as a celebration of sibling bonds. Recommended, and sure to become a Baby Bookworm favorite!

Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books (@Scholastic
Publication Date: May 27, 2014
Source of Book: Advance review copy from the publisher

FTC Required Disclosure:

This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).

© 2014 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook

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8. The Pros and Cons of Publishing With a Small Publisher

As the editor of Writer’s Market, I’m often quizzed by writers about which is the better option: self-publishing, or getting an agent and trying to land a deal with a big book publisher.

While many professionals seem to acknowledge only these two paths to publication as well, there’s a third route that should not be overlooked: the small press. There’s a whole field of reputable publishers outside of New York’s “Big Five” that can offer the support of the traditional publishing model on a smaller scale—and most accept unagented submissions.

So what are the pros and cons of publishing with a small press, and what should you expect if you decide to give it a go?

—By Robert Lee Brewer

The Submissions Process

There are some crucial differences in what small press editors look for in a submission, in contrast to the “Big Five.” When I speak with writers at conferences, they often voice frustration over the importance of writing commercially marketable stories in today’s publishing environment—and the lack of true risk-taking in the business. That’s what they hear emphasized by editors at big houses, because those professionals have aggressive sales goals. Small presses obviously have sales goals, too, but they’re typically more willing to take risks on projects they believe have artistic merit.

[Understanding Book Contracts: Learn what’s negotiable and what’s not.]

Jen Michalski, who in 2013 published a novel, a novella and a short-story collection with three different small presses (Black Lawrence Press, Dzanc Books and Aqueous Books, respectively), says, “The most important draw about these presses was their willingness to publish work that was risky, a difficult read, and therefore inherently commercially unsuccessful.”

Part of this mindset is formed by how small presses view publishing and sales. “With a small press, there is no 90-day window to make your book a bestseller,” Press 53 Publisher Kevin Morgan Watson says. “We continue to market and support our books and authors years after the book is released. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.”

Michalski says she didn’t even discuss sales targets with the publisher of her novella. “Dzanc really loved what I was trying to do, and we never talked about whether or how it was going to sell, only that they were going to publish it,” she says. “Because that’s what they do—they publish challenging, boundary-pushing fiction. And they’ve achieved a formidable reputation by sticking to their principles.”

If you think a small press might be a good fit for your work, what should you know about vetting your options? Whether the books are made available as print, digital or both (formats and contract terms vary widely, which may give you room to negotiate), authors earn their money primarily through royalties—roughly 10 percent on print sales and up to 25 percent per digital purchase. On average, advances tend to be small—$1,000–2,000 is a common range—or even nonexistent. (At a larger publisher, you’d likely receive a bigger check upon signing—but remember that all advances are paid against royalties, meaning you aren’t paid royalties until you “earn out” your advance. At a small press, you’d likely receive less payment up front, but earn royalties sooner.)

Of course, how many copies you can expect to sell will depend on the nature of your book, as well as the distribution and marketing support the press can offer. Don’t hesitate to ask lots of questions along these lines, as well as what the expected print run would be, before you sign a contract—especially if you’re doing so without agent representation.

Many small presses solicit manuscripts through a mix of open submission periods and book contests. I secured a contract for my poetry collection, Solving the World’s Problems, by submitting directly to Press 53 during its open submission period. But like many other small publishers, Press 53 also offers book contests that award a lump sum and other prizes (in Press 53’s case, a $1,000 advance and a launch party). Keep in mind that such contests are very competitive, and most require reading fees between $10 and $30 per entry. When deciding which are worth the investment, consider giving preference to those that offer all entrants a premium, such as a copy of the winning book, so you get something for your entry fee, even if it’s not publication.

The Publishing Process

When asked about the top advantage small presses offer to authors, Erika Goldman, publisher and editorial director of Bellevue Literary Press, says, “Tender, loving care.”

Small press authors can expect to receive a lot of attention from the editor, designer and even owner. That can translate into a more re-warding writer-editor relationship, as well as more involvement with the publicity department.

“We take the time to make sustaining connections for authors in the world of literature, scheduling author tours and creating a thoughtful list of prizes to nominate their work,” says Megan Bowden, director of operations and outreach for Sarabande Books.

In my case, I discussed distribution and marketing ideas directly with the owner of Press 53. I spent time on the phone with my editor during the day, in the evening, and even on weekends. And I had input on my book’s cover, even being able to give a thumbs-up or thumbs-down on the suggested design. This type of artistic involvement is not available to most authors at larger houses—but in the small press world, my own experience was not an anomaly.

“I work directly on each book, designing it along with the author to produce something that a reader will want to purchase, as well as an object that best fits how the author wants their writings to be displayed,” says Geoffrey Gatza, founder, editor and publisher of BlazeVOX [books].

Of course, while book design and editorial input are important consi-derations for any author, that doesn’t mean you should expect complete creative control. (Otherwise, why not self-publish?)

“We try to do what’s best for the book in the end,” Bowden says. “We want to hear the desires of the author, but we’ve also been publishing books for almost 20 years and hope that when an author agrees to publish their work with us, they trust that we’re going to work hard and do all that we can to create a smart, bold cover that works with the overall theme of the book, edit the work to the best of our ability without compromising well-executed poetry or prose, all the while understanding the retail side of the publishing world enough to know how a book should look and feel to the reader.”

[Learn important writing lessons from these first-time novelists.]

Career Building

Small presses offer unknown and emerging authors a place to get a foothold in their pursuit of success by publishing those early works upon which a career is built.

“The advantage of being a published author is what most of us want, and a small press can do that tremendously well,” Gatza says. “A small press is the stepping-stone to bigger and better things, and not an end for a book—it is a wondrous beginning.”

Unlike with self-publishing, this beginning is endorsed by an objective gatekeeper who believes in your work enough to invest time and energy in the project—and pay you for the effort.

Of course, small press authors are expected to do their part.

“We expect our authors to be ac-tively publishing nationally and promoting through local and regional events and activities,” Watson says. “You can’t sit back and wait for readers to find you. Creativity does not end with writing the book.”

Thanks for visiting The Writer’s Dig blog. For more great writing advice, click here.


Brian A. Klems is the online editor of Writer’s Digest and author of the popular gift book Oh Boy, You’re Having a Girl: A Dad’s Survival Guide to Raising Daughters.

Follow Brian on Twitter: @BrianKlems
Sign up for Brian’s free Writer’s Digest eNewsletter: WD Newsletter

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9. Open letter from the NCAC to Fauquier High School.

Two boys kissingFrom the letter:

These and other reviews attest to the literary and educational value of the book. In contrast, no legitimate pedagogical rationale has been advanced for its removal, and it is highly doubtful that any legitimate justification could be advanced, especially for removing the book from the library, the purpose of which is to give students the opportunity to explore books on their own, according to their own interests, views and values.

See also: the related press release.

See also: an article from the school newspaper:

After a group of students noticed the cover of David Levithan’s 2013 novel, Two Boys Kissing, parent Jessica Wilson launched a book challenge to remove it from FHS’s library. The complaint was officially filed on the grounds that the picture on the book’s cover, which features two boys kissing, violated the school’s policy of no public displays of affection. Furthermore, Wilson was concerned that the book had overt sexual content.

In that article, there's a quote from the challenger:

“The good thing about appealing is that it opens the matter up to public debate,” Wilson said. “It’s not like this isn’t a book that I wouldn’t let my kids read, but it’s the fact that it’s in a school. Books like The Scarlet Letter and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest don’t embrace sexuality. They have consequences, and it’s integral to the story. When you’re a teenager, it’s normal to question your sexuality, your faith, but the school isn’t your nanny; it isn’t up to the school to provide this guidance.”

I'm fascinated by her logic here: she says that the school "isn't your nanny" and that it isn't up to the school to "provide [this] guidance", but it seems to me that in asking for the library to only include stories in which sexual contact has "consequences", that's EXACTLY what she's asking the school to be and to do.

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10. The great ballerina and Penn Alum Julie Diana Hench turns the tables on me

Readers of this blog and of the Philadelphia Inquirer know that last year I had the exquisite privilege of meeting the Pennsylvania Ballet's principal ballerina, Julie Diana Hench, and her charismatic husband, Zach. Of watching the two of them rehearse for a performance of "Jewels." Of photographing and writing that story for the Inquirer (here).

I'd met Julie a few weeks earlier, at a Penn event, for Julie, among so many other things, presides over the University of Pennsylvania's Association of Alumnae. She'd invited me to speak with her and others on an evening I'll not forget. She'd introduced herself not as a dancer, but as a fellow writer (and, oh, a writer she most certainly is). I'd stumbled toward understanding, that first night, just who this Julie was.

This May 11th, Mother's Day, Julie, following an immaculate career, will be dancing her final dance with Zach on the Academy stage, her two young children no doubt somewhere near. I will be there, with my father, tears streaming. I have long been looking forward to treating my father to this event, and that feeling of anticipation deepened even more today, as I learned of the publication of a story that Julie had once written about me.

Her story begins like this:
In the back room of the Sweeten Alumni House, Beth Kephart nestled into the couch, holding a copy of her most recent book and pages from an unfinished manuscript. She smiled warmly at the 30 or so women sitting around her and graciously thanked us for inviting her to speak. A few words on why she wrote the book, some humble comments about its success, and she began to read selections from Handling the Truth: On the Writing of Memoir
It’s not unusual for the Association of Alumnae to host esteemed guest speakers who are Penn alumnae and/or faculty. But this first meeting of 2013-14 was different due to the soft-spoken and intimate language of Kephart’s presentation – and the nature of her expertise. We sat on the edge of our seats, listening to the rhythmic sounds of her prose. We visualized the colorful passages depicting Kephart in class with students and we felt her emotion as she described her honest, sometimes emotional, reasons for writing the book. She graciously answered our questions: “What is the difference between memoir and autobiography?” and “As a perfectionist, do you ever feel satisfied with a final draft or what you see in print?” Her answers were candid yet thoughtful.
It continues here.

Julie Diana Hench, I will always treasure this. Look for me, in May. I will be there, every inch of me, for you, the song, and Zach.

All of you, give yourself these 55 seconds. Watch Julie and her Zach dance.

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11. How to Write Middle Grade Horror: 7 Tips

I scare children for a living.

As the author of a middle grade horror series, my job is to deliver stories that frighten and thrill my readers. Those readers tend to range in age from ten to fourteen, which makes delivering on that task more difficult than you might imagine. My readership is growing up in the age when video games are rife with monsters and violence, when YouTube offers limitless access to scary independent films and, of course, when “The Walking Dead” is the number one show on television. So, if I want to inspire some good old fashioned fright in my fans, I need to do more than yell “Boo!” Here, then, are seven tips for scaring the pants off of young readers:

GIVEAWAY: Ty is excited to give away a free copy of his novel to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (Please note that comments may take a little while to appear; this is normal).



OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA        the-undertakers-novel-drago

Column by Ty Drago, author of THE UNDERTAKERS: SECRET OF THE
CORPSE EATER (the third book in his middle grade horror series). The
book was praised by Publishers Weekly, while Booklist said the story was one
that would “both disgust and delight readers . . . who will be clamoring for the
continuation of the story.”  Ty has authored numerous sci-fi and horror books
for kids. (Find them all on Amazon here.) His first Undertakers novelette,
NIGHT OF MONSTERS, is currently available for free on Smashwords.com
and barnesandnoble.com. Connect with Ty on Twitter or Facebook.

1) Pick the right villain

Any horror story is only as good as its bad guy. When writing adult horror, it’s prudent, when appropriate, to add a dash of humanity to one’s serial killer, vampire, succubus, etc. We do this to give the character depth. But in children’s fiction, that rule goes out the window. Even if your villain is a human, he or she must still be a monster. They should be savage and pitiless. Your bad guy needs to take delight in their misdeeds, cherish each moment of the suffering they cause. And if he or she is inhuman, then let them revel in their inhumanity. Let them be the absolute worst that they can be — then throw in a little more awful, just for the fun of it.

2) Start on page one

In children’s fiction, the old writer’s axiom, “start the story where it starts,” is at its most vital. Kids, even avid readers, expect a book to grab them from page one. They have a harder time immersing themselves in a plot with a gradual build. If your story is about an alien invasion, open with that. If your story centers around demonic slayings, begin with the first of them. Whoever — or whatever — your villain is, let’s meet him, or at least glimpse him, right up front.

So here’s a new axiom: “The first scare should be on the first page.”

(Never open your novel with a dream — here’s why.)

3) Find a new slant

Say what you will about sparkly vampires, they worked.

Even the villain you tout is one of the classics, your young readers will still expect to see something they haven’t before. Be it a two-headed werewolf, a mummy who can wrap up its victims in bandages and turn them into mummies, or a vampire clown (kind of like that last one!), your bad guy has to bring something original to the table. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve asked at a school visit, “Do we need another vampire book?” and received a resounding “No!” I wonder how they’d feel about the clown?

4) Ebb and flow

Non-stop action worked for Indiana Jones, but it’s tiring in print. Even the most gripping horror story needs to allow its readers to take a breath. This is especially true in children’s fiction, where the attention span can sometimes be — abbreviated. Keep your chapters short, your scares solid, but use the gaps between the scares to build characterization, establish mood and voice, and let your reader’s heart rate steady.

Then: At ‘em again!

5) Use the “Pop Out”

I know: It’s considered cheap in a horror movie. The terrified heroine standing before a mirror and, suddenly, the demon’s face is at her shoulder. The violins slash a discordant chord as she spins around, to only find nothing there. But in fiction, the Pop Out can actually prove quite effective. The trick lies in how you spin it. When writing such moments, keep the paragraphs small and the sentences short. Don’t over-describe the scene; allow your reader’s imagination do the work.

So let those purple dead hands reach out from a hole in the floorboards to seize an ankle or two, let those red eyes shine in the window, and never hesitate to have something drop out of a tree or lunge from under the bed.

(Agents define their “ideal client” — hear what they have to say.)

6) Use the “Slow Dread”

Pop Outs are great. But they don’t tell a horror story. For that, you need the right mood, the perfect edge, the slow dread. Even when no immediate danger threatens your heroes, the whisper of it must always be there. I usually establish this subtle undertone of menace by getting inside my character’s head, letting my reader share their apprehension, their fear of what might be around the next corner, or what may happen when the sun goes down. Just remember to “show” and not “tell.” Never inform the reader, not even in children’s fiction. Instead, let them use what the characters see, hear, smell and feel to inform themselves.

7) Mind your happy endings

We’re living in an age of ambiguity, at least where endings are concerned. In fiction, as in life, endings are rarely completely happy. Young readers tend to be skeptical of a conclusion that ties everything up in a neat bow. Heroes can ride off into the sunset, but there should be an edge to their triumph — the death of a friend perhaps, or a broken promise, or simply the loss of innocence — that tempers their success. This is not to say that evil should triumph. I’m a big believer in good winning the day every time. But victory should be tempered with sacrifice, and no hero, regardless of their tender age, should escape entirely unscathed.

To wrap things up, here’s another axiom: “Never underestimate your reader.” Today’s kids don’t want to be coddled. They don’t want you to hold back the frights. They don’t fear nightmares, and they want to show the world that they can “take it.” So if horror is your genre, then horror should be your goal. Let your young readers tremble in the shadows and run for their lives.

After all, it’s why they bought the book!

GIVEAWAY: Ty is excited to give away a free copy of his novel to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (Please note that comments may take a little while to appear; this is normal).



Writing books/novels for kids & teens? There are hundreds
of publishers, agents and other markets listed in the
latest Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market.
Buy it online at a discount.

Other writing/publishing articles & links for you:


Want to build your visibility and sell more books?
Create Your Writer Platform shows you how to
promote yourself and your books through social
media, public speaking, article writing, branding,
and more.
Order the book from WD at a discount.



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12. Best-Selling Author Terrie Williams: ‘Follow Your Inner Voice and Be True to It’

Terrie-Williams-ArticleTerrie Williams is a woman of many talents. No only is she a licensed therapist, she’s also the founder of her own eponymous public relations firm and a four-time best-selling author. Her books include: The Personal Touch (which is being updated in honor of its 20th anniversary); Black Pain: It Just Looks Like We’re Not Hurting; A Plentiful Harvest: Creating Balance and Harmony Through the Seven Living Virtues; and Stay Strong: Simple Life Lessons for Teens. 

In our latest So What Do You Do column, Williams discusses everything from the humble beginnings of her PR firm to her mental health advocacy work. Here, she shares the advice she’d give her younger self:

If you could have a 20-something Terrie Williams as your intern now, what would you tell her to do differently?
Listen to your freakin’ inner voice. You know in your gut what’s right but either fear sets in or something keeps you from listening. There are always other forces crowding the good sense you have. Follow your inner voice and be true to it. I know this is about media, but the underlying core is our shared humanity. It impacts how effective we are in particular roles. If you look at a lot of different media personalities, you wonder what drives them because of certain things that they say or do. Even though you don’t know what that person’s journey is, you know they have one and it colors everything about who they are. Assume there’s something you don’t know that had a profound impact on that person.

For more from Williams, including the greatest professional lesson she’s learned, read: So What Do You Do, Terrie Williams, Author, Activist and Public Relations Strategist? 

New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

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13. Reading Bingo Book Clue 13

Reading Bingo

Reading Bingo Day 3 Continues!


We’re at book clue 13 already! I can’t believe it! Have you gotten the H-shape BINGO yet? Tell us what titles you used!

Here’s our 13th book clue . . .

Dork Diaries:

Tales from a Not-So-Fabulous LifeDork Diaries: Tales from a Not-So-Fabulous Life by Rachel Renee Russell

Have you read this book? If so, choose the Bingo square

that it fits in and write in the title.

Two more clues are left for today’s Reading Bingo. Come back to Ink Splot 26 and check the Stack Back Message Board

 to find them later today!

Remember that book clues 1-12

also count in today’s game, so you can fill those in plus today’s clues. Can’t wait to see what cool books you’ve been reading!

Until next time!

image from kids.scholastic.com — En-Szu, STACKS Staffer

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Every week someone asks me what stylus I'm using for drawing on my iPad - so I made a video about it!

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15. Wednesday...

Well, hello there!  Here's a sample I did several months ago for a project that didn't work out. 

And here are some links for you to peruse...

A lovely blog post from Author/Illustrator Mike Curato

The Let's Get Busy podcast features interesting interviews with several authors and illustrators

Congratualtions to my friends, Jessixa Bagley and Corinna Luyken, who both recently won portfolio awards at the Washington SCBWI conference!  Hooray!

Have you registered for the SCBWI 43rd Annual Summer Conference?  I signed up on Monday and I hope to see you there!

Happy Wednesday!

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16. Deborah Bladon’s Obsessed Trilogy Takes Over Self-Published Bestsellers List

obsessedDeborah Bladon‘s Obsessed Trilogy dominates the Self-published Bestsellers List this week — all three titles have made the top 10 list.

To help GalleyCat readers discover self-published authors, we compile weekly lists of the top eBooks in three major marketplaces for self-published digital books: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords. You can read all the lists below, complete with links to each book.

If you want more resources as an author, try our Free Sites to Promote Your eBook post, How To Sell Your Self-Published Book in Bookstores post and our How to Pitch Your Book to Online Outlets post.

If you are an independent author looking for support, check out our free directory of people looking for writers groups. continued…

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17. It's RhyPiBoMo! Rhyming Picture Book Month -- time to rhyme!

My blog post is up!

This is RhyPiBoMo -- Rhyming Picture Book Month, designated and developed by Angie Karcher, author.

It's a month of blog posts about picture book rhyme -- written by authors who excel at rhyme (and then there's me, a newbie). You'll find lots of tips, ideas, how-to's -- really great stuff taught by people who know how to do it well. It's all free, of course!
So check it out!

Find my post here:

And then go read all the other days!

I'm thrilled to be included in RhyPiBoMo. I've written lots and lots of rhyme, tried many stories in rhyme over the years, and, after all that work, I have exactly one marketable manuscript in rhyme.
The story is about music.
I'm not really a musician. I play harmonica pretty well, but that's about it. I remember a little from organ classes, I know how to put together and hold a clarinet and make awful sounds come out. On days when my voice isn't husky from allergies or exertion, I can sing moderately well. I can sight-read music well, though slowly. I can figure out how to play a song I heard, on harmonica, after a couple tries. I'm in a band composed of authors, and we sing and play music -- much of it original -- at agency retreats. I'm no musician, though.
My husband sings beautifully.
Our four kids are all musical. Two sang on stage in high school. One's a real musician, performing for pay -- he and his wife play duets together, songs they write and sing with their own instruments. It's beautiful, heartwarming, inspiring -- intimidating. Seeing how well some people play with (and work at) music makes me realize how far behind I am.

When this idea for a music picture book hit me, I first wrote it down. Then I emailed my son and asked for his help writing the book (really, I wanted him to write it and me to illustrate).
He said no.
He said I could do the job, and he would send a few ideas. His ideas were really great, but I sure was disappointed at first. The story was too big for me to let drop or give away, so I started to tackle it. Piece by piece, stanza by stanza, line by line, word by word, image by image... The story came together. I'm very excited about its potential.
I'm working on the art.

Figuring out one of the characters:

These are early sketches. I have no idea how much of this will be in the final book.

Just like the writing, creating the art of this book scares me.

You never know what you can do until you push yourself, right?

My whole life I've done things that scared me.
It's always paid off.

My page on Angie Karcher's blog has my post and lots of great extras, collected and organized by Angie:

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18. (Cool) Progeny Interview

Screen Shot 2014-04-23 at 2.56.06 PM
Last weekend I was interviewed by (cool) progeny.com to help spread the word about this year’s upcoming African American Book Fair at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum. I really enjoyed this interview because I had a chance to offer some advice to young artists on finding the resources (specifically in Baltimore) they need to develop their skills. Many thanks to Heather for the wonderful interview and snazzy title design. I love it.

I hope to see you at the museum!

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19. Decisions, Decisions...

It's been an intense, soul-searching time for the Teen and I as we analyzed, compared, deliberated and ruminated on colleges. I'm excited to say that she's decided on George Washington University!

It fits everything she is looking for in a college, put together in parts. It's an urban campus offering the city of Washington, DC to explore. Yet, it also has a smaller, greener campus that is mostly residential and a short shuttle ride away from the main campus, four blocks away from the White House. It offers the resources and variety of a large university, but being admitted to the honors program gives her a small, nurturing community of advisors and intellectual challenge. There are great programs in political science and public policy, which is where her interests are leaning, and several combined programs for earning a Masters degree. She was offered a large scholarship that puts the school in our price range, plus they'll take enough of her AP credits that she may be able to knock out a semester. The school is very focused on internships and since she lives near, she may be able to turn one into a summer job. She'll be close to home, but the environment is completely different from the suburban area where we live.

And omigod the dorm! The honors program offers housing in a dorm that has four single rooms that open into a common area with shared bathroom in a hall with a full kitchen and laundry in a building that houses the dining area and - I swear it's true - a black box theatre space. Could it be more perfect? Oh yeah, the Shakespeare learning community is housed in the same campus.

Okay, that long description was indulgent, but it's for the five or six people who may be interested in the decision process. I'm available for personal college consultation on request. I also do children's parties.

I'm happy that things look so ideal for her, and also that we're done. Honestly I'm ready to have my brain back from thinking about colleges and you know, her "future." It's tiring. Deciding whether to read the new teen book OR the adult bestseller is more my speed. (Answer: duh, both.)

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20. The story of pizza - really!

I have a deep appreciation for family food traditions. From my mother's side (Irish American) we don't have many. (The most enduring is easting Entenmann's Coffee Cake which I don't think really counts but we love it.) On my father's side (French Canadian) there are many because he was a great cook and my memere was as well (especially baking). But in terms of ethnic food, I don't know that anyone really sees something and yells "Oh, look! French Canadian food!" (If you can name any French Canadian food other than syrup right now, you deserve an award.)

About now you probably understand that I spent a large part of my childhood wishing I was Chinese, Mexican or Italian solely for the food.

All of this explains why when I received a copy of the picture book Pizza in Pienza by Susan Fillion, I was delighted by each and every page. It's a very simple story about a girl in Pienza, Italy, who takes readers through her day and across her town. Along the way she shares her love of pizza, ("Even while I'm eating spaghetti, I'm dreaming about the next pizza pie."), and her research into the history of pizza which, as we know it, comes from Naples, Italy. The story comes around to America, where the first pizzeria opened in NYC in 1905 and the final spreads show people enjoying pizza both in the U.S. and Italy which is all kinds of wonderful.

Everyone would like to be a member of the ethnic group that invented pizza, don't you think?

Fillion both wrote and illustrated Pizza in Pienza and the illustrations are large and colorful, with a folk art feel. The story reads as a picture book travel essay and the dual text, with a single line on each page in both English and Italian, fits well in this narrative design. In the final pages the author includes a pronunciation page, a history of pizza and a recipe for Pizza Margherita (including the dough).

This is a decidedly quiet book but it provides a nice lesson about a well known topic while introducing a foreign country in a very accessible way. (That's the part that will appeal to folks looking for educational reads.) For me, it was quite reminiscent of all those delightful Italian memoirs for adults (paging Frances Mayes). It's one of the better ways to bring Italy home to kids and it will likely also spur them to appreciate their pizza even more which is always a good thing. Call this one a nice delightful and tasty trip for younger readers. :)

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21. TONIGHT! At Franklin School, 7 p.m.

Singletrack High Film Tour comes to Mankato!

Join the Mankato High School Cycling Team at the Franklin Elementary Auditorium, 1000 N. Broad Street, Wednesday, April 23rd for a FREE screening of “Singletrack High” Doors open at 6:30 p.m! Student Athletes, Parents, Teachers, Friends & Family--all are welcome!

Singletrack High Film Tour comes to Mankato!

Photo: Singletrack High Film Tour comes to Mankato!  Join the Mankato High School Cycling Team at the Franklin Elementary Auditorium, 1000 N. Broad Street, Wednesday, April 23rd for a FREE screening of “Singletrack High” Doors open at 6:30 p.m! Student Athletes, Parents, Teachers, Friends & Family--all are welcome!Trailer for Singletrack High

And I'll be there with CHASING ALLIECAT!

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22. 30 Days: "Master of All Masters" by Mattie Noell


Within the land of            there are five kingdoms.  Two of these kingdoms are amoung the largest, A            
and      B      .  In the kingdom of         A   , their began to be some rebels who felt like they should expand their kingdom and take over the kingdom of         B    , but the King didn't want to, at first but more and more people were pushing him to fight.  Then came the insult? (The emmessary)  King A         swore vengence on the Kingdom of           .  King B        of           was very concerned.  What was said was nothing.  The other kingdom was blowing things way out of proportion, but because of the rebels, it was the straw that broke the camels back.  The truth was that King A        of          had decided that he really would like the other kingdoms lands because they were filled with forests, lakes, and rivers, he wanted the resources their kingdom could provide.  King B had already tried to talk peace and find out as much information as he could.  The emmessary had been a good idea.  At least the King's councel had thought it was.  Unfortunatley, that was where the insult had come from.  What King B really needed was a man on the inside.  He needed to send a spy.  His most trusted councelor was also a seasoned spy.  He could blend in with anything and become anyone.  He would send him. 

At first, all seemed well.  C was sending messages about all he saw.  Tension was high in the Kingdom of A.  But suddenly, no more messages came.  No one seemed to be able to locate C.  Through a spy network they find him in a fishing community on the coast in Kingdom D.  C has become a fisherman and is enjoying the quiet life.  He has no recollection of who he was and is just a bit mad.  King B meets with doctors and experts to decide what they should do. They determines that he had been captured and must have suffered a blow to the head.  C would slowly regain his memories, but would it be in time to stop a war?  Also because he doesn't know who he is, they must gain his trust so that they can be there when his memory returns.  How she gains his trust is most unusual and she fears that she is not prepared for it.

King B assigns his daughter to go and tend to the man and gain his trust.  “Do whatever he needs to regain his memories.  He is slightly mad but it is only in his speech.  Let us know of anything that makes sense.”

At the same time, King A has become aware that the spy he had captured my ruin his plans if he were to gain his memory back.  If the spy regains his memories, it could mean the end of his war and his rein.  He sends someone to stop the spy once and for all.  The person (also a girl) must also gain his trust to get close enough to him. She is unable to do what he requests so she never gains the old man's trust. Will he remember in time or will this mean his end?

Maybe a son takes over the throne in his fathers death he swears vengence on Kingdom B for an insult.?  Or a witch possess the king.?

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23. Stamford’s First Little Free Library On Kickstarter

Little Free LibrarySteven Wood hopes to raise $400 to install the first Little Free Library in Stamford, CT.

As is the case with other similar street libraries, this structure encourages people to “take a book, leave a book.” By constructing a Little Free Library, Wood hopes to deepen the sense of community with his neighborhood. Here’s more from the Kickstarter page:

“The finished project will look similar to the library that is pictured above. We will need to design and build this library from scratch. The library will hold enough space for approximately 20 or 30 books of various types for children and adults.”


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24. What do writers and mental illness have in common?

When a writer needs help, what do fellow writers do? We write! (Let’s be honest, it’s all we know how to do. We literally have zero other skills.) Due to his debilitating mental illnesses, fellow writer Robison Wells (Variant) and his family have crippling debt. In support of Robison Wells, his brother Dan Wells (I Am Not a Serial Killer) and Brandon Sanderson (Mistborn, Steelheart) have put together Altered Perceptions, a stellar anthology with contributions from 30 professional authors. For $10 buy the ebook, for $25 a hardcopy, with every dime going to the Wells’ family debt (Brandon Sanderson is swallowing all the overhead).

Please go to the Indiegogo page and pledge your money! Great stuff for a great cause! My own contribution is a short story. As of this moment, the only people in the world who have read this short story are my husband and Kiersten White. I hesitate to describe it for fear of spoiling it. But it’s safe to say my readers haven’t read anything like it from me before. I anticipate some people might be shocked by it, but I like it.

I wanted to participate in this fundraiser not only because I know and like Robison, but because mental illness is a personal matter for me. Like all of you I’m sure, there are dear people in my life who have to claw their way through every day battling a mental illness. It’s common. It’s biological. It’s not their fault. It’s not laziness or a bad attitude or a result of bad choices. It’s a disease like cancer or any other. I appreciate how open Robison is about his own struggles. He is helping to remove the stigma of mental illness. It’s something we could all acknowledge a little more.

One of Robison’s illnesses is OCD. I think this may be the most misunderstood of all mental illnesses. I hear people say, “I’m so OCD. I have to have my house clean” or such, as if OCD and cleanliness or fastidiousness were the same thing. In fact, OCD is a neurobiological disorder. If you don’t have OCD, you clean your house because you like it that way, and you feel satisfied when it is. If you have OCD, you are crawling with horrible feelings and compulsions, you have intrusive thoughts you wish would leave you alone but they shout inside your head over and over and over again, and you don’t want to wash your hands one more time or check the light switch twenty times before leaving the room or mumble a chant you loathe every time you have a certain thought, but if you don’t you feel sure that something horrible, horrible, horrible will happen and it will be all your fault so you do these things over and over again and worry that you’re crazy and don’t know how to stop and sometimes hate yourself for it all. OCD is a terrible taskmaster. OCD is frightening. OCD is exhausting. OCD is not a joke for those who suffer from it. The good news is there are treatments for OCD. Cognitive behavioral therapy and often medications can help put a patient back in control of their life. The bad news is mental health services aren’t widely available or affordable for many in the country, and the accompanying stigma of mental illness keeps many from seeking help. I hope we can change this, and I hope this conversation and this anthology is one small step forward.

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25. Writing Lessons from the TV Show Dexter

I just got into the TV show, Dexter.

I never had Showtime before so I couldn't watch it and the entire 8 seasons is now free on Netflix. (woot woot! I know what I'll be doing over the summer.)

This is the. best. show. evah!

If I could write books like this - I would be a bestseller for sure!

I'm learning so many writing lessons from this show that I wanted to share:

Top 10 writing lessons from Dexter:

  1. Character arc - The character arc in each show let alone every season is amazing! Each character changes a little. in each episode.
  2. Dexter. The man perfect for this character - smart, hot, funny. So relatable that the whole serial killer thing is overlooked or accepted and you don't really know why or how it happened. :)
  3. Tension/Pace - Each chapter should have some tension or suspense. Even in books that aren't thrillers, you need to keep the reader turning the page. The suspense is killing me - every show has an amazing cliff hanger and i find myself saying "just one more episode."
  4. Voice - Each character should have his/her own voice. This is what makes each person special and relatable. Every character has their quirks, flaws and lovable moments.
  5. Character Development - Every character should be fully developed with backstory and motive. Each character from Dexter, to his sister Deb, to the "reborn cop" Angel, to the other forensic scientist, Vince. Each is unique.
  6. Villain - Your antagonist should be relatable. Not that Dexter is the antagonist but he should be. he's a serial killer yet somehow you root for him not to be caught.
  7. Setting. Your setting should invoke some emotion. Dexter is set in Miami. Everyone is always hot and sweating which adds anxiety to everything they do.
  8. Romance - Dexter started out awkward and has become more sexy as the shows go on. He's had a couple love interests but they were very purposeful in his character development which I find refreshing. It's not just love on the side. Each plays an important role in his arc.
  9. Reveals/Surprises. The reveals should be well placed and strategic. It all has to make sense in the end. So far they have done a brilliant job of reveals and I find myself going "I did not see that coming."
  10. Hook - You need a great hook as the foundation of any story. The idea of a serial killer killing bad guys is brilliant. 
You need to watch this show, esp if you are a thriller writer. The lessons are endless.

I heard there were Dexter books so I may check that out just to see how it plays out in the writing vs script.

Have you watched Dexter? What do you think? What is your favorite lesson from the show?

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