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1. Five superhero shows put to the Bechdel test; only one fails

theflashLast week, fellow Beat writer Alex Jones wrote this article about the TV show Arrow and it's treatment of female characters. I don't really follow Arrow, so I can't say whether I agree with his assessment. But the premise got me thinking about whether any of these shows could pass the Bechdel test, i.e. the new standard for fictional female characters.

1 Comments on Five superhero shows put to the Bechdel test; only one fails, last added: 2/12/2016
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2. New Beginning 1052

The snow around the cabin lay unmarked by man or animal.

“You never told me you owned this place,” Logan and his buddy Nick walked the last hundred yards. The four hundred mile drive from Vancouver left them dog-tired and cold.

“It was Uncle Ronan’s. I found out that I inherited it a month ago.”

“Were you close?”

“After Dad started drinking, I would hitch to the main road. This was my refuge from the beatings. We shared the love of outdoors. He taught me how to survive out here and be a man. I was fifteen when the sheriff called and said Uncle Ronan was missing and presumed dead; no investigations, no missing persons report, just a memorial service, and an empty coffin.”

Nick opened the door and set the LED lantern in the middle of the cabin. A large bed sat facing the fireplace. A rough-hewn table with chairs sat opposite with the stove and sink. Logan grimaced as he removed the drop cloths covered in years of dust.

“Glad I’m not asthmatic. Speaking of rustic, it’s so much more than I thought.” To Logan, rustic meant the scurrying of field mice in the walls, and “almost never washed” sheets. Which would make Nick's one-room walk-up in the city rustic. In Nick's mind, "rustic" was a last-minute hitch-hike beyond the range of the nearest cell tower with no chance to let people know where you're headed; an abandoned cabin in the middle of nowhere, untouched by man or beast; a sharpened ax with a worn but sturdy handle; a pot of slow-cooked stew with that special, sweet sweet meat; and a banjo playing wistfully in the background.

"Why don't you light the stove," Nick asked his friend. "I'll see if I can find some music."

Opening: Dave Fragments......Continuation: ril


P2: If you use a comma instead of a period, we expect a dialogue tag: Logan said as he and his buddy Nick....   

Also, they just spent about seven hours driving to this place and Nick has only now revealed that he owns the place? Surely he told Logan where they were going before they left Vancouver. 

I can see how a 400-miles drive would leave them dog-tired, but not cold. Presumably their vehicle had a heater. Or were they driving a dogsled? 

Change "left" to "had left."

Shouldn't they walk the last hundred yards first and then see that the snow is unmarked by man or animal?

P3: I would say "my" Uncle Ronan's. Omitting the "my" suggests that Logan is familiar with Uncle Ronan, but the following paragraph suggests he isn't.

P5: Start with his answer to the question he was just asked. Possibly by dropping the first two sentences. At least by dropping "I would hitch to the main road." This cabin doesn't sound like it's on the main road, so it's not clear what that has to do with whether they were close.

Change "He" to "Uncle Ronan" and "Uncle Ronan" to "he."

"I was fifteen" would be more meaningful if we knew whether he was now seventeen or thirty-seven. Of course if they had a memorial service when he was fifteen, and he's much older than that now, why did it take till now to find out he inherited the cabin?

P6: Seems like if you're building a cabin in which you want a large bed and a stove, you'd want it where you can get to it without having to walk the last hundred yards. I'll assume there's a driveway that's impassable because of the snow.

P7: I think the removing of the drop cloths and the comment about asthma should be in the same paragraph.

If he means it's more rustic than expected, change "It's so much more" to "It's much more so". Also, field mice in the walls is rustic, and I think you're trying to say Logan hasn't been exposed to rustic, so you want something like: To Logan, "rustic" meant having only two bars on his cell phone.

There are no dialogue tags. I assume Logan is the first to speak only because it says "Logan and his buddy Nick" rather than "Nick and his buddy Logan." It wouldn't hurt to toss in "Nick told him," "Logan asked," "Nick answered," "Logan said" . . . 

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3. Cynsational News & Giveaways

American Indian Youth Literature Awards & Honor Books (click to enlarge)
By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Avoid Melodrama by Writing Deeper by Martina Boone from Adventures in YA Writing. Peek: "Experts tell us there are really only twelve universal emotions: interest, surprise, excitement, joy, love, sadness, fear, shame, guilt, contempt, pride, and anger."

Tim Tingle on House of Purple Cedar Winning the AILA YA Literature Award from Debbie Reese at American Indians in Children's Literature. Peek: "...I will walk the road of goodness, wave the light of forgiveness, and smile warm jokes along the way, as so many of my Choctaw kinfolks did." See also More Coverage of the AILA Awards from AICL and 10 Books About Residential Schools to Read with Your Kids by Chantelle Bellrichard from CBC Radio Canada.

Disability in Kidlit and the Changing Landscape of Disabilities in Books: An Interview With Corinne Duyvis by Alex Townsend from The Mary Sue. Peek: "Most authors genuinely try, which means they’ll do research and want to treat their character with the utmost respect; that leads to a lot of good. At the same time, most authors aren’t disabled themselves, and don’t have a lot of pre-existing knowledge on disability tropes or the specific disability they’re portraying, so they’re starting from square one; that leads to a lot of missteps."

Too Late to Start Writing? by Keith Cronin from Writer Unboxed. Peek: "Don’t use age as an excuse – either for doing nothing, or to complain about how you no longer have a chance."

Reality Scoop: Promoting Mental Wellness with YA Literature by Kimberli Buckley from YALSA Hub. Peek: "...teen depression can affect a teen regardless of gender, social background, income level, race, or school or other achievements, though teenage girls report suffering from depression more often than teenage boys."

Secrets, Lies, Mistakes & Wounds: Creating Engaging Characters by Martina Boone from Adventures in YA Publishing. Peek: "They may not want people to see them the way that they see themselves, and so--consciously or without being aware of it at all--they may lie to themselves and others about who they really are and what they are really like." See also Writing Memorable Characters via "Finding Nemo" by Becca Puglisi from Writers Helping Writers.

The Writer, The Reader & Mirror Neurons by Sarah Johnson from Through the Tollbooth. Peek: "Our neurons fire in the same location in our brain when we move and when we observe the same movement by someone else."

Author Interview: Cynthia Levinson on Hilary Clinton: Do All the Good You Can by Chelsea Langford from Kirkus Reviews. Peek: "Levinson understands that most kids love reading about other kids, 'even if that subject is a grownup,' and that making Hillary known to readers as a child first is a natural way to show how Hillary became the person she is today."

Favorite Picture Book Revision Tips by Elizabeth Bluemle from Publishers Weekly. Peek: "I invited my writer friends and colleagues to share their favorite picture-book tips for new and young writers. Here’s what they said...."

28 Days Later: A Black History Month Celebration of Children's Literature

See also Celebrating Black History Month with Poetry by Sylvia Vardell from Poetry for Children and Celebrate Black History Month with Five Collections from Lee & Low.

This Week at Cynsations

Cynsational Giveaways

Enter to win from Marion Dane Bauer.

More Personally

NAACP Image Awards acceptance speech by Kekla Magoon.
Congratulations to 2016 NAACP Image Award winners Kekla Magoon and Ilyashah Shabazz (X: A Novel (Candlewick)) and Carole Boston Weatherford and Jamey Christoph (Gordon Parks: How the Photographer Captured Black and White America (Albert Whitman))!

Personal Links

AICL recommends!
Take What Your Stories Give You by Brian Yansky
‘Bring Them Home’: Rosebud Sioux Seeking Return of Relatives Buried at Carlisle
"The Great Gilly Hopkins" Movie Trailer
If Jane Austen Got Feedback from Some Guy in a Writing Workshop
Sara Zarr: Manuscript Consulting 
Gravitational Waves: Ripples in Space-Time

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4. Hat

“Live your life, do your work, then take your hat.”
Henry David Thoreau

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5. Be Frank With Me Giveaway!

You might remember that last Friday I posted my review of Be Frank With Me by Julia Claiborne Johnson.  This week, I am so thrilled to be able to offer five readers the chance to win a copy of their own!  

Each of the characters in this book is delightful in his or her own way, but of course Frank really is the show stealer.  This book is a must read for fans of The Rosie Project.  It also had hints of About a Boy by Nick Hornby or even Matilda by Roald Dahl.

Interested in owning a copy?

The rules are simple - just leave a comment below with a way for me to contact you - preferably email, but feel free to leave a twitter or IG handle too.  I'll choose five random posts and email the winners for addresses.  

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6. Harlequin TEEN and Seventeen Magazine Team Up to Form a New Imprint

Harlequin TEEN LogoHarlequin TEEN and Seventeen Magazine have partnered up to launch a new imprint called Seventeen Fiction. The editors plan to work on a variety of projects such as novels,  lifestyle manuals, advice books, and nonfiction digital books.

According to the press release, the executives behind this imprint “will focus on multi-dimensional and empowered fictional female characters and explore topics and situations that authentically reflect the challenges and joys of being a teenager today, just as Seventeen does across all platforms.” Natashya Wilson, an executive editor at Harlequin TEEN, has already acquired the first manuscript: Something in Between by Melissa de la Cruz.

The story “follows the daughter of immigrant parents who is living the American dream—until her world shatters when she learns she is ineligible to receive the National Scholarship Award because her family is in the country illegally and may be deported.” The release date has been scheduled for Fall 2016.

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7. National Book Foundation Reveals New Executive Director

Lisa Lucas has been appointed executive director of The Board of Directors of the National Book Foundation, the organization responsible for the National Book Awards.
Lucas will succeed Harold Augenbraum who revealed that he was stepping down last March.

Lucas will become the third executive director in the Foundation’s history.
Lucas comes to after serving as publisher of Guernica, a non-profit digital magazine focused on art and politics. Prior to Guernica, Lucas served as director of education at the Tribeca Film Institute.

The executive search firm Spencer Stuart conducted the search for Lucas and a search committee of the National Book Foundation Board oversaw the process. This team included: chairman David Steinberger, the board’s vice chair Morgan Entrekin, CEO and Publisher of Grove Atlantic; Reynold Levy, President of The Robin Hood Foundation; Carolyn Reidy, President and CEO of Simon and Schuster; Calvin Sims, President and CEO of International House; and Strauss Zelnick, founder of Zelnick Media Capital.

“We went through an exhaustive search process,” stated David Steinberger, president and CEO of The Perseus Books Group and Chairman of the National Book Foundation, “and we could not be more pleased with the outcome. Lisa Lucas is a dynamic leader who has served as a passionate advocate for literature and has built an impressive track record of accomplishment in the not-for-profit world across theater, film and literature.”

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8. Why We Read


Books were my salvation when, as I was growing up, my mother and I endured poverty, betrayal, and humiliation because of my violent, alcoholic father. From library books, I learned that not every home was like ours, that there were many ways to live. Books inspired my imagination; and imagination is the mother of hope. At thirteen, working part-time, I bought paperbacks, which were my treasure–the only one I needed. Authors, booksellers, and librarians were my heroes, providers of truth, magic, hope. And so they remain.
— Dean Koontz


Click through to sign up for my quarterly newsletter and you’ll receive a free printable from my novel, Blue Birds. Enjoy!

The post Why We Read originally appeared on Caroline Starr Rose

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9. Daniel Radcliffe to star in psychological thriller, ‘Jungle’

Dan Radcliffe certainly has a busy schedule with his upcoming roles in Imperium and Now You See Me: The Second Act, and he is now set to star in Jungle a thriller based on Yossi Ghinsberg’s memoir of his trip to the Amazon.

A young adventurer who trekked into the Amazon with two friends and a guide, Ghinsberg’s expedition soon took a dangerous and deadly turn. The Discovery Channel included Ghinsberg’s story in a docudrama series: I Shouldn’t Be Alive.

The psychological thriller is set to be directed by Greg McLean (Wolf Creek), and Justin Monjo is in charge of the script. Dana Lustig, Gary Hamilton and Mike Gabrawy will co-produce alongside director McLean, with Todd Fellman as executive producer.

The Hollywood Reporter reports:

Screen Australia and Screen Queensland have supported development and invested in the project, which is eyeing a shoot later in 2016 in Australia, among other locations.

“We’re extremely excited about Daniel Radcliffe joining the cast of Jungle,” says Gary Hamilton, managing director of Arclight Films. “He has an enthusiastic global fan base, a wide range as an actor as evident by his diversity of roles and is known for picking out unique and interesting projects.”

Dan is has favoured darker genres after his involvement in the Potter films. The Woman in Black, Kill Your Darlings, Horns and Victor Frankenstein all show Radcliffe’s talent for picking diverse characters to portray, and his latest appearance in Swiss Army Man (which received mixed reviews) depicts his venturing into more ‘unique’ independent films.

His upcoming appearances in Imperium and Now You See Me: The Second Act will add to his diverse array of roles, and with any luck, Jungle will continue to depict his talent!

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10. Poetry Friday: The Pity of Love by William Butler Yeats

A pity beyond all telling
Is hid in the heart of love:
The folk who are buying and selling,
The clouds on their journey above,
The cold, wet winds ever blowing,
And the shadowy hazel grove
Where mouse-grey waters are flowing
Threaten the head that I love.

- The Pity of Love by William Butler Yeats

View all posts tagged as Poetry Friday at Bildungsroman.

View the roundup schedule at A Year of Reading.

Learn more about Poetry Friday.

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11. Ruta Sepetys and Marissa Meyer Debut on the Indie Bestseller List

Stars Above (GalleyCat)We’ve collected the books debuting on Indiebound’s Indie Bestseller List for the week ending Feb. 7, 2016–a sneak peek at the books everybody will be talking about next month.

(Debuted at #1 in Young Adult) Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys: “World War II is drawing to a close in East Prussia, and thousands of refugees are on a desperate trek toward freedom, almost all of them with something to hide. Among them are Joana, Emilia, and Florian, whose paths converge en route to the ship that promises salvation, the Wilhelm Gustloff. Forced by circumstance to unite, the three find their strength, courage, and trust in one another tested with each step closer toward safety.” (Feb. 2016)

(Debuted at #6 in Children’s Fiction Series) The Lunar Chronicles: Stars Above by Marissa Meyer: “The enchantment continues…The universe of the Lunar Chronicles holds stories – and secrets – that are wondrous, vicious, and romantic.” (Feb. 2016)

(Debuted at #12 in Hardcover Fiction) The High Mountains of Portugal by Yann Martel: “In Lisbon in 1904, a young man named Tomás discovers an old journal. It hints at the existence of an extraordinary artifact that—if he can find it—would redefine history. Traveling in one of Europe’s earliest automobiles, he sets out in search of this strange treasure.” (Feb. 2016)

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12. Rise of the Wolf (2016)

Rise of the Wolf. Jennifer A. Nielsen. 2016. Scholastic. 352 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I was excited to read Rise of the Wolf, the sequel to Mark of the Thief. (I did not reread Mark of the Thief in order to 'prepare' for this one. But after the first two or three chapters, I found myself managing just fine to remember the characters and the details.)

Nic is the hero of the story. He's a former runaway slave who is now staying with his sometimes-good-sometimes-quite-evil grandfather, Radulf.

Livia is the younger sister of the hero. She is not as defiant perhaps as Nic, but, she is more loyal to her brother than her grandfather. (The two did just meet their grandfather, and they know that he was plotting against Rome.)

Aurelia is probably the strongest female character in the book, and Nic's potential love interest as well. She is resourceful, stubborn, and never backs away from a fight. Nic mostly trusts her intentions, but, sometimes--only sometimes--would prefer her to stay far, far away from the danger.

Crispus is someone Nic has a hard time fully trusting. He is Valerius' son. Valerius was a tricky sort of 'friend' to Nic in the first book. Nic is jealous--does he have cause?--that Aurelia is friends with Crispus. Crispus declares himself mostly-mainly loyal to Nic, unless, Nic should suddenly become a traitor-ish threat to the Roman empire, in which case Crispus would have a hard time still supporting him.

Radulf is a Roman general. His loyalties are definitely questionable. He's power-hungry, ambitious, and not above using his grandson to get what he wants. He doesn't make the best first impression...or second impression. When the book opens, readers learn that he chains his grandson up at night in his room so that he can't escape.

The Praetors. The super-bad guys who are after Nic for the entire book. They want Nic to give them the key so they can find the MALICE. And once they have the MALICE and the BULLA, they want Nic to make them a JUPITER STONE. These are all magical items that wield great power and threaten to destroy life as everyone knows it--completely upsetting the Roman empire.

The plot is simple: As Nic continues to learn and use magic, his life is threatened by the Praetors. If the Praetors didn't have his mother as prisoner, Nic might consider running away from his problems with his sister and friends. But. He wants to save everyone he loves. And this leads him into dozens of confrontations with the bad guys. He has dozens of close-calls. A few of these close calls involve chariot races. But not all of them. There is a HUGE, HUGE, HUGE battle at the end. And the book ends in a crime-worthy cliffhanger.

So did I like it or love it? I think I found it super-compelling as I was reading it. I found the ending frustrating because it was just WRONG to end the book the way she does. But. I found it action-packed and interesting. I mentioned that Aurelia was a love-interest, but, I want to point out there is more action than romance. There are one or two scenes where feelings are discussed, but, it is far from being a romance novel.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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13. Poetry Friday - From The Temple of Nature

In honor of Charles Darwin's birthday today, I'm sharing an excerpt from a book written by his grandfather, Erasmus Darwin.

From The Temple of Nature; or, the Origin of Society: A Poem, with Philosophical Notes (1803)

"Ere Time began, from flaming Chaos hurl'd
Rose the bright spheres, which form the circling world;
Earths from each sun with quick explosions burst,
And second planets issued from the first.
Then, whilst the sea at their coeval birth,
Surge over surge, involv'd the shoreless earth;
Nurs'd by warm sun-beams in primeval caves
Organic Life began beneath the waves.

"First Heat from chemic dissolution springs,
And gives to matter its eccentric wings;
With strong Repulsion parts the exploding mass,
Melts into lymph, or kindles into gas.
Attraction next, as earth or air subsides,
The ponderous atoms from the light divides,
Approaching parts with quick embrace combines,
Swells into spheres, and lengthens into lines.
Last, as fine goads the gluten-threads excite,
Cords grapple cords, and webs with webs unite;
And quick Contraction with ethereal flame
Lights into life the fibre-woven frame.—
Hence without parent by spontaneous birth
Rise the first specks of animated earth;
From Nature's womb the plant or insect swims,
And buds or breathes, with microscopic limbs.

Some may call this work didactic, but I think it's a fine early effort at using poetry to make science accessible to the average citizen.

I do hope you'll take some time today to check out all the wonderful poetic things being shared and collected byKimberley Moran at Written Reflections. Happy poetry Friday friends!

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14. Us and Books: We Ship It...

This year AF and I were on the same judging panel - which has never happened before! There were some really interesting finalists this year; do stay tuned to find out what we - and the rest of our hep cat crew - chose for the YA Speculative Fiction... Read the rest of this post

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15. #STBAblogtour16 DAY FIVE

 The "grand finale" of the 2016 Sydney Taylor Book Award Blog Tour is a virtual panel discussion amongst the various winning authors and illustrators. As always, this roundup is hosted by Barbara Krasner at The Whole Megillah.

The participants made comments about the experience like "Always inspiring to be included in a group of such accomplished, thoughtful authors and illustrators!" (Leslie Kimmelman), "It's wonderful to read all the blogs!" (Kathy Kacer), and "It has been an honor and a privilege getting to know all of you. See you in Charleston!" (Heidi Smith Hyde). We hope to see you as well, dear reader, in Charleston at the 51st Annual Association of Jewish Libraries conference where the Sydney Taylor winners will receive their awards!

The entire blog tour may be found here.


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16. Turning Pages Reads: PULL by Anne Riley

Welcome to another session of Turning Pages!Synopsis: It was pretty well going to be the most depressing visit to Blackheath 17-year-old Rosie Clayton had ever taken. Though she visited her grandparents in the London neighborhood from Nashville... Read the rest of this post

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17. ANNOUNCEMENT: How Charise Harper’s CRAFTY CAT Will Teach Kids to Embrace Their Inner Strength Through Art!

2From First Second Books comes a new series about a young girl and her artistic alter ego!

0 Comments on ANNOUNCEMENT: How Charise Harper’s CRAFTY CAT Will Teach Kids to Embrace Their Inner Strength Through Art! as of 2/12/2016 11:42:00 AM
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18. floating forest

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19. Roiling Contradictions

AmericanahThe best book I read in my nine-month adventure of reading books only women of color was Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I composed and deleted several “reviews,” but I found it hard to get a handle on the material. The truth is that I loved the book for its two deftly-drawn protagonists and their story, but didn’t know quite what to make of the bloggier parts of the book. Ifemelu, one protagonist, has a blog and the book includes many of her articles, which are wry commentaries on race in the U.S. Were these an opportunity for Adichie to include her own commentary? Or was she showing the inner workings of Ifemelu’s mind? I had a hard time correlating the observations made by Ifemelu in her blog with the third-person glimpses into her mind.

The passage I think about the most is one where she gets a sales call from a long distance company and has a friendly but awkward conversation with the telemarketer. It’s a loaded scene for a simple phone conversation.  She accepts his compliment that she “sounds totally American,” after she tells him she is from Nigeria, but later resents it. She tells him she calls London a lot and he says he will look up the rates for France; his astonishing ignorance of geography amuses her. She visualizes him as pudgy, white, and naive, and obsessed with video games. In particular, Ifemelu sort of pities the young man for not understanding the “roiling contradictions” of the real world.

Is an appreciation for such roiling contradictions present in her own blog entries? I don’t think they are. They are amusing for the most part, sometimes have a good insight or observation, but tend to be broad-brushed. How white people think and what black people experience are represented as universal truths without roiling contradictions. If I knew Ifemelu only through her blog, I would think what I think about many blogs: passingly entertaining, but shallow and quickly tiring.

My central question about the book is whether Adichie means for readers to be struck by that contrast. If so, it is not clear enough. If not, it is a problem with the book. Mind you, I still think it’s brilliant novel and I’ve recommended it to everyone, but the bloggy parts fail for me as a critique of social media (too subtle) and fail more if this whole notion of the wisdom attained from hardship and travel doesn’t come through in the ultimate representation of Ifemelu’s experience, her own writing.

In any case, I think there is a conversation worth having. As bloggy-type commentaries becomes a bigger and bigger part of how we gather information and form opinions, the fact that they rarely appreciate roiling contradictions is very much on my mind. The whole economy of the Internet, the way clicks are baited and things go viral, relies on being able to do a quick take: give a soft elbow to the ribs like you’re nudging a friend. Whether it’s outrage or an inside joke (or both), I feel like if the prevailing McLuhanesque message is one of affinity. We find the like minded and feel less lonely.

Some who disagrees with you on the InternetThe problem is that those circles of affinity give us tunnel vision. We become less inclined to seek out opposing points of view, unless we mean to roast the author on Twitter with our like-minded friends. We become less inclined to express a slightly different point of view, because the response can be swift, unforgiving, and alienating. We become more inclined to go along with whatever everyone else is saying. And, over time, we become more like minded, more indoctrinated by the group, and more reactive to challenges from “outsiders.” From the inevitable fire-breathing Sanders-fan response to anything positive I say about Hillary Clinton, you’d barely know we have the same political values.

A while back a friend retweeted something about video games teaching you that when you’re encountering enemies, you know you are moving in the right direction. It had like a million retweets and comments that it was “brilliant.” For me it conveyed the central problem with getting your world view — like Imefelu’s telemarketer — from video games. You see not opponents, not good people with a different point of view, or even better information (heaven forbid), but “enemies.” And of course in video games, you never have a conversation. You hack and slash and defeat the enemies: that’s the point of the game. But I think this worldview has more to do with the effect of Twitter on a person’s worldview than playing video games.

Maybe I’m lapsing into my own simplicity by assuming people are as cut-and-dried as they seem in aggregate, and that they really stand behind every hastily retweeted platitude. But assuming that people were since in their appreciation of that sentiment, that life has no roiling contradictions, simply a path to find and follow, enemies to defeat, I have worries bigger than whatever we’re actually arguing about.


Filed under: Miscellaneous

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20. Casting Your Characters: 16 Lovers Part 2

#storybuildingblocks,#fiction, #genre, #novel, #romance, #writingtips, #storybuildingblocks, #writingtips, #amwriting, #screenplay, @Diana_Hurwitz
Casting Characters
Last week, we began our exploration of the character mannequins presented in Story Building Blocks II and Build A Cast Workbook. Remember, each mannequin has a male/female/adrogynous counterpart. This week, we explore four more.

5. Blair

Blair’s currency is affection and admiration. If she isn’t praised for being wonderful, she deflates. She would be deeply wounded if anyone demeaned her. At the first sign of disapproval in any form, she’s gone in a flash of lightening. Blair places her relationship on top of the list. She wants a long-term commitment. She struggles to choose, but sticks with her choice forever if possible.

Blair loves deeply but is slow to warm up. Her partner may not understand just how much she cares. Few people know her extremely well. She is secretly intense while appearing outwardly light-hearted. She is vulnerable and easily hurt, though she won’t tell her partner. She expects him to “see” he has hurt her. She is disappointed when he doesn’t. When hurt, she withdraws. She hates conflict and goes to great lengths to avoid it. She is an easy going partner. She doesn’t ask for, or expect, a lot. She is traditional and organized and takes care of what needs to be done. She wants to be adored for it.

Blair feels attacked when an argument gets heated. She releases all the negative impressions and feelings she has repressed. She isn’t likely to leave, even if her partner is dissatisfied. She stays and works it out if at all possible. If she found herself with a partner who revealed his secret life, she’d try to deal with it, but eventually the negativity would chase her off.

Blair is serious about sex. It is a sacred act that should be given the time and attention it deserves. She is sensual and enjoys the physical expression of love. She shows her love through this communion. She needs positive affirmations to feel good about herself but doesn’t offer them. The SMBD subculture is the opposite of her core need.

6. Dallas

Dallas wants to be adored for being Dallas. She wants her partner to appreciate her sense of fun and adventure. Everything is fun until the party is over. She likes exploring all the options. Once she commits, she intends to stay. She might not if the situation grows tense. She always wonders if there are better bachelors behind other doors. Dallas might take up SMBD as a sport as long as it doesn’t get too heavy or intense. The minute things turn dark, she’s off to chase the sunshine.

Dallas is passionate and fun-loving. She cares about her partner’s happiness. She is flexible and open to suggestion. She takes her partner’s emotional temperature frequently, which irks some mannequins. The problems set in when she encounters conflict and confrontation. She takes criticism, even objective statements, as a personal attack. Her partner would have to be very, very careful of what he said. Conflict stresses her. She represses her initial response for the sake of smoothing things over, but continues to fester. She gives in to avoid a protracted disagreement. She ignores a problem until she can’t. This just delays the inevitable.

Dallas is loyal and views it as her responsibility to fix things that aren’t working. She isn’t one to give up easily. If things get too intense, restrictive, or boring, she moves on. She finds it hard to do so and blames herself for the failure.

Dallas is playful and creative. She has a rich fantasy world which she applies to sex. She sees sex as a natural expression of her love. She needs positive affirmations. She may fish for reassurance and compliments. If she doesn’t get them, she lavishes them on her partner in the hopes of sparking them.

7. Hadley

Hadley wants to be adored for breathing. Since she is adorable, her partner usually complies. If the adoration fades, trouble sets in. She would be deeply offended if anyone criticized her, much less spanked her. The relationship would die off instantly.

Hadley isn’t overly interested in being tied down (or tied up). She places a relationship on the back burner. She struggles with long-term commitment and likes to explore all the bachelors. Hadley loves to be in love and struggles when the initial adrenaline rush tapers. She may overcome her desire to flit and settle down, as long as the relationship isn’t too restrictive or her partner too critical.

Hadley loves to date and encourages her partner to enjoy life as much as she does. She is weak at planning and follow-through. She takes every day as it comes and wants to grab the gusto. If that means changing plans, she changes plans. She doesn’t ask for much. She wants to be happy and wants her partner to be happy. She schedules a busy social life. She changes things to keep them from becoming dull, whether it’s rearranging the furniture or their lives. She hates to miss out on anything she considers fun. She doesn’t like vague promises or “we’ll see” as an answer. If you stated it, you promised. She is bored by analyzing the past and worrying about the future. Tomorrow will take care of itself. She ends a necessary conversation. She would not deal well with someone who likes to debate for fun.

Hadley isn’t good with conflict and lashes out angrily in the moment with words she can’t take back. She retreats when criticized or restricted. A controlling partner sends Hadley off to find someone more fun to play with.

Hadley energetically embraces romantic love. She seeks out and enjoys intimate contact. She is tactile and sensual. She is generous, warm, and highly motivated to make her partner happy. She is lavish with loving affirmations. She isn’t big on gifts, but can provide them when requested. She might go along with her partner's suggestions as long as they remain playful. The moment the tone shifts, she’s gone.

8. Shelby

Shelby wants to be honored and respected. As long as her partner makes her feel respected, things are fine.

She is loyal and committed. If she isn’t in a permanent relationship, she continually searches for one. Once committed, she places her relationship at the top of her list. On a subconscious level, she feels vaguely dissatisfied with all of her relationships because they are never truly “ideal.”

Shelby seeks a harmonious, loving relationship and works hard to make it a success. She may need reminders to do the bill-paying and housekeeping. She often pushes routine tasks to the bottom of the priority pile. That annoys a partner who expects her to be on top of things. Once committed, she may romanticize a bad relationship in her own mind as a form of protection.

She may attribute virtues to her partner that he lacks and place him on a pedestal. She struggles to reconcile the idealistic romance novel relationship with the demands of a real one. She overlooks imperfections for the sake of connection. She avoids conflict and confrontation. So if her partner decided he wanted to play a few games, she’d be offended. 

If she ends up with a partner that is all action, no talk, she grows resentful. She values personal space and the freedom to do her own thing. If her partner respects and supports her, she thrives. She is not the possessive or jealous type. She understands her partner’s need to indulge in his own pursuits. She respects his privacy and independence. She rejects hints that something is going on and firmly defends her partner while secretly worrying that she has done something wrong to drive him away. She might not join in, but could turn a blind eye to her partner's afterhours hobby.

Shelby resents a controlling spouse, so the minute a partner tried to dominate her, she’d start figuring out a way to escape. Her need to avoid conflict and criticism is a problem. No matter how a comment is presented, she takes it personally. She responds with irrational emotion. Her distress, and immediate assumption that she is somehow at fault, make her lash out. She manipulates her partner through guilt to obtain the positive feedback she craves. It is a very unhealthy dynamic. She would not leave easily, but will if things become unsatisfactory enough.

Shelby is slow in letting someone close. Once trust has been established, she embraces the opportunity to express her intense love and affection. She is affirming and affectionate. She values the romantic aspect over the physical aspect. She places her partner’s pleasure above her own.

Next week, we will meet four more mannequins.

For more about how to craft characters, pick up a copy of Story Building Blocks II: Crafting Believable Conflict, available in paperback and E-book and Story Building Blocks: Build A Cast Workbook, available in paperback and E-book.

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21. I wrote a Fiction Novel based on true events...

Question: I wrote a Fiction novel based on a true story with a word count of 30200. Is this too short? I'm a first time Author and intend to go for self

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22. Dame Maggie Smith’s interview with ‘The Evening Standard’ on winning Best Actress

Last Sunday, Dame Maggie Smith was named Best Actress at the Evening Standard British Film Awards for The Lady in the Van. The Evening Standard caught up with Dame Smith to talk about Sunday’s awards and her wide-ranging career.

On her latest win, Smith remained modest as ever, highlighting the brilliance of the actresses she was up against:

“Quite honestly, the things one was up against, it doesn’t seem fair,” she says. “Brooklyn [starring Saoirse Ronan], and 45 Years in which Charlotte [Rampling] was so terrific, and Sicario [with Emily Blunt], although I didn’t really get that…” 

She puts on a Uriah Heep voice: “I just feel ever so ‘umble. It does seem awfully unfair and I can’t help feeling it’s because I am so old.”

The interview developed more on recent interviews about Smith’s early career conducted by LA Times (read here) and CBS News (here). Smith tells more about her portrayal of The Lady in the Van‘s Mary Shepherd in Nicholas Hytner’s West End production in 1999, alongside writer Alan Bennett:

“I was fascinated by the mystery of her,” says Smith. “And of Alan, the way he coped with it and put up with her. I don’t know who was the oddest. You just wonder where her head was. You think ‘confused’ but she was very clear in what she thought, trying to form these political parties and writing letters to [Seventies TV personality] Eamonn Andrews and all that. 

“As I have got older I wonder how the hell she did it. Honest to God, the filming finished me off and that was sort of deluxe. The van was… cleansed from time to time.” She couldn’t have been the Good Samaritan Bennett was, she says.

A film was immediately mooted in 1999 — “the material is actually more filmic” — but for some reason was only made 15 years later. “Whether it was just that Alan decided he wanted to do it, or Nick nagged him, I don’t know,” says Smith. “It certainly wasn’t me! I didn’t go on about it at all. But I was very pleased to sort of finish her off in a way.” 

The loss of Alan Rickman is also mentioned in the interview, along with the recent passing of Frank Finlay – another member of the first National Theatre company in 1962. Smith starred as Desdemona alongside Finlay (who portrayed Iago) in Laurence Oliver’s Othello:

“One night dear Frank came off stage and he flew to the prompt corner and started tearing at his eyes, like Oedipus,” she recalls. “I got very worried, and went over, and said ‘Are you all right?’. He had terribly bad sight, Frank, and was wearing contact lenses, which he never normally wore, and he said: ‘I’ve just seen Sir Laurence for the first time! And I never want to do it again.’” 

She gives a husky laugh, then says: “You get a bit wobbly, you know, when you get to a certain age. It [mortality] seems to be too near.”

For the first time in her career, Maggie Smith has found herself a lot less busy, and whilst The Evening Standard picks up on the fact that she hasn’t much relished the fame brought on by her roles in Potter and Downton, Smith still finds the quietness ‘weird':

Margaret Natalie Smith was born in Romford but moved to Oxford aged four, her father a pathologist and her mother a secretary who thought young Maggie would never work on stage “with a face like that”. Actually, Smith says, she benefited from not being a “juve”, or ingénue, and has worked constantly, though latterly she’s been stuck playing “’orrible old women”. This is the first time in her career that she hasn’t had a job to go to, “and it’s weird, because suddenly there is no shape to anything”.

On the prospect of taking up future work, Smith says ‘big TV shows’ are out of the option, but on a role in film, she retains her sense of humour and answers:

“I can’t think what the part would be, can you?” she says. “It’ll be another old bag won’t it, hurr-hurr-hurr.”

Smith tends to keep her personal life away from the press, but her spoke briefly about her marriages:

Smith was married to the fiery but rackety actor Robert Stephens for seven years and they had two sons, Toby Stephens and Chris Larkin, both actors “and both out in South Africa at the moment, can you believe, doing this thing called Black Sails, being piratical”. 

After her divorce from Stephens in 1974 she married playwright Beverley Cross in 1975. He died in 1998; Robert Stephens had died in 1995. Smith says it doesn’t get any easier being on her own, especially when fans intrude. But she doesn’t think she’ll enjoy an autumnal romance like the one her friend Judi Dench is having: “No, I don’t think I would get that lucky. I don’t think I would find anybody who would come anywhere near Bev.”

Given how rare interviews with Dame Maggie are, we’re very lucky to have had so many recently! Read the rest of the interview here, and make sure you catch her latest award-winning performance in The Lady in the Van.

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23. KING BRONTY! "Return To Witch Castle!"

Yes, we are finally returning to "Witch Castle" and here is the complete record so far, for your enlightenment and for mine. 
King Bronty and Prince Podoee finally left the pirates of the "Scurvy Shark" and took off in their little boat, the "Dino Flyer" with a promise to their father to be careful.
Today I have collected that story so far to bring us all up to date!


 I hope you enjoy this blog.  I truly enjoy making "King Bronty"!  "King Bronty" is drawn on paper then transferred to bristol board using tracing paper and a carbon-like paper.  The transferred drawing is then inked in black lines with either ink and a brush or a brush pen or a Sharpie marker.                         
Next, I use combinations of Crayola Markers, Pitt Artist's Markers, Prismacolor Markers, gouache paint and colored pencils. Then, of course, I scan each page, re-size it and post the strip for you to enjoy!    
 Please use the little PayPal button below to support "King Bronty" with any amount you wish.
Thank you!               
                                                                          John Randall York

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24. Happy Birthday, Charles Darwin!

"... There are several other sources of enjoyment in a long voyage... the map of the world ceases to be a blank; it becomes a picture full of the most varied and animated pictures." –from THE VOYAGE OF THE BEAGLE

Charles Darwin was born 207 years ago today, on February 12, 1809. Today is also Darwin Day– a celebration of Darwin's life and amazing contributions to the world of science. Cake for everyone!

*Art detail from CHARLES DARWIN'S AROUND-THE-WORLD ADVENTURE (Abrams 2016), coming in October!

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25. Michael Pollan Talks Food in the New ‘Cooked’ Trailer

Netflix has unveiled a trailer for the Cooked documentary series. The video embedded above features narration by author Michael Pollan.

According to Tasting Table, the title of the show shares the same name as Pollan’s 2013 nonfiction book. Each installment will focus on a different element: fire, water, air, and earth.

Eater reports that all four episodes will be posted online on Feb. 19. To learn more about Pollan’s book, click here to listen to a talk he gave at the Google office.

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