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1. Johnson Museum of Art Hosts a Kurt Vonnegut Exhibit

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2. Lucy and the Magic Loom - a bookwrap

This story is based upon the Rainbow Loom, the 2014 Toy of the Year (as per the American Toy Industry). If you have children or grandchildren chances are you have seen one. They are looms kids use with tiny rubber bands to create bracelets, keychains and more.

Fun facts...

*  The Magic Loom has sold over 8 million units worldwide along with 40 million rubber band packets.  

*  Now there is a delightful children’s book based on the Magic Loom toy – Lucy and the Magic Loom: A Rainbow Loomer’s Adventure Story.


Authored by Alice Downes

Ages:  6-10  (K-5th grade)

About the book...

Lucy Stillwater-Smith is twelve years old and her best friend, Alyssa Jones, has moved away to America leaving her feeling so alone and sad.  Her doctor parents work long hours, totally aborbed in their research, leaving her constantly with her nanny Abigail.  

She longs for adventure and some excitement in her life.  Then one day she notices a package outside her front door and rushes out to claim it.  Unfortunately it is not addressed to her but everything inside of her screams..."It's mine!"

She quickly opens up the gift and low and behold she discovers a loom - not an ordinary loom - but a golden magic one.  Delighted she follows the looms promptings which leads her to an old dusty bookcase and through a secret passageway into a world like non-other she had ever seen before.  

It is a magical, enchanted world with colourful creatures, castles and landscapes.  Lucy finds herself needing the help of the loom as she encounters many challenges.  Together they build a bridge, distract a giant beast, weave wings to fly and even rescue a girl imprisoned in a castle. 

Lucy uses her imagination and her looming skills to get her out of some very precarious situations in that bewitched world she finds herself in.  The story emphasizes kindness and a giving spirit.  It highlights the value of friendships and offering a helping hand to those in need.  

"Perfect for reluctant readers, "Lucy and the Magic Loom" is a necessary addition to any middle grade library, both at home and in the classroom."  I know you will enjoy this series. 

About the author...

Alice Downes is a freelance writer and innovative brand strategist. She has worked for companies such as Random House, Harper Collins, BBC, Nickelodeon, Disney, and many more.  She currently resides in New York City.

Read on and read always!

It's a wrap.

Contact me at storywrapsblog@gmail.com

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3. Pilou Asbæk Cast in Game of Thrones Season 6

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4. Feedback Request

The author of Antonov's Diamonds (most recently queried here) requests feedback on this new version:

Dear Evil Editor,

Former FBI consultant turned pawnbroker Flynn Christopher is asked by an old friend at the bureau to lend his brick and mortar store to run a sting involving fake credit cards. [That's more information than I care to deal with in the first sentence. Dividing the info into two parts with a colon, semicolon or period makes it less overwhelming.

Former FBI consultant Flynn Christopher is asked by a friend at the Bureau for a favor: let the FBI use Flynn's pawn shop for a sting operation involving fake credit cards.]

Their target is Alexei Antonov, an ex-Russian Colonel gone rogue. [Somehow when I read the phrase "ex-Russian Colonel gone rogue," I imagine him running a paramilitary operation, not a credit card scam.] [Possibly calling him a former Russian colonel would be better, as "ex-Russian makes us wonder what nationality he is now.] [In any case, that sentence belongs at the end of the first paragraph.] It should be a simple operation, but instead Antonov has something much bigger and deadlier on the horizon [in mind? in the works?]. At the meet and greet Antonov tells Flynn he plans to takeover [take over] a mine deep in the Ural mountain wilderness and steal millions in diamonds. [When the FBI asks to use your store for a sting, wouldn't they insert their own personnel into the store instead of giving you a major role?] The kicker is, he wants to use Flynn’s connection to the over five thousand members of the American Pawnbrokers Association to fence the stolen goods. [It still sounds like we're talking about stealing uncut diamonds fresh out of the mine. I don't see why pawnbrokers would be interested in that, nor am I convinced that many pawnbrokers would know who would be interested in that.] He leaves out that he is going to double cross and murder his partners in Russia. Flynn is in over his head when the FBI uses him as the bait to draw out Antonov and recover the stolen diamonds. [Still not clear why the FBI cares about diamonds stolen from a Ural Mountains mine. Is there a bigger threat to America than the possibility Antonov will make money selling stolen goods here?] The operation falls apart when Antonov decides he can’t trust Flynn and he has to die too.


Does Antonov have any scheme involving credit cards, and if not, why does the FBI think he does?

You got rid of Peter the Great, but other than that, this sounds pretty similar to the previous incarnation. The plot elements you're choosing to include are inspiring questions. You can leave out those elements or answer those questions.  

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5. Interesting blog posts about writing – w/e September 4th, 2015

Here’s my selection of interesting (and sometimes amusing) posts about writing from the last weekabout writing from the last week:

Your Elevator Pitch (Rachelle Gardner)

Writing the Cozy Mystery—the Sleuth (Elizabeth Spann Craig)

Get Paid to Write Articles: 10 Magazines That Pay $500 or More (Bamidele Onibalusi)

Is Your Online Presence Ready for Scrutiny? (Mary Keeley)

Getting Over the Hump (Kristan Hoffman)

Your Book-Signing Cheat Sheet (Bonnie Randall)

How Do You know Your Submission is Ready? (Wendy Lawton)

When Your Brainstorming Hits a Drought (James Scott Bell)

6 Ways to Save a Mary Sue (Robbie Blair)

Post "Meh" Debut—Your Options (Natalie Whipple)

If you found these useful, you may also like my personal selection of the most interesting blog posts from 2014, and last week’s list.

If you have a particular favorite among these, please let the author know (and me too, if you have time).  Also, if you've a link to a great post that isn't here, feel free to share.

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6. Do the Menschy Thing

Emmy-nominated filmmaker and founder of The Webby Awards Tiffany Shlain joins us to talk about Character Day, coming up on September 18, 2015. Her films at Let It Ripple are meant to spark conversations that bring about social change. This year on the second annual Character Day, she will reintroduce The Science of Character and debut two new films, The Adaptable Mind and The Making of a Mensch

Also, click here to hear Tiffany on The Book of Life in 2008 talking about her film The Tribe, which looks at Jewish life through the lens of the Barbie doll!


Or click Mp3 File








Produced by: Feldman Children's Library at Congregation B'nai Israel 
Supported in part by: Association of Jewish Libraries  
Theme music: The Freilachmakers Klezmer String Band  
Facebook: facebook.com/bookoflifepodcast  
Twitter: @bookoflifepod 
Support The Book of Life by becoming a patron at Patreon.com/bookoflife!
Your feedback is appreciated! Please write to bookoflifepodcast@gmail.com or call our voicemail number at 561-206-2473.

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7. Hope in the Ashes: Remembering 9/11

by Sally Matheny

Remembering 9-11 (Photo Courtesy of Flickr)

On the morning of September 11, 2001, my six-year-old daughter snuggled next to me on the sofa. My nine-year-old daughter nestled in on my other side. I cherished these moments. Our easing into the mornings with Bible study and prayer were my favorite times. However, even though we were enjoying our second year of homeschooling, I still struggled with doubts. Am I teaching them the right things? How long will I be able to do this? Will we survive being together all day, every day?

I pushed the thoughts aside and focused on the moment. By the time, I finished reading to my girls; President George Bush also ended his reading to a class of second graders in Florida.

Shortly after that, my husband calls from his office and tells me to turn on the television. I stand in shock of the images I’m viewing. Both of the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center are billowing black smoke. Numerous sirens are blaring in the background. Anxious reporters are dropping words of destruction, “hijacked,” “under attack, “and “acts of terrorism.”
Read more »

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8. New Melissa Lozada-Oliva Poetry Video Unleashed

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9. Aaron Eiland’s Picture Book Featured On Kickstarter

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10. "Red Abstraction"

Red Abstraction, a small (8" x 8") watercolor on paper, part of my "Daily Something" series.

More of my artwork can be seen on my website and my Etsy shop

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11. Three Questions For Barney Saltzberg: Advice For Young Writers, Pencil Sharpener Inspiration and INSIDE THIS BOOK (ARE THREE BOOKS)

Barney Saltzberg is the author and illustrator of close to 50 books for children, including Beautiful Oops!, Arlo Needs Glasses, Andrew Drew and Drew, and the bestselling Touch and Feel Kisses series with over one million copies in print. Not only that, but he's also recorded four albums of music for young people (!). See the children's concert clip later in this post.

I was lucky enough to meet Barney at ALA earlier this year and more recently discovered his BEAUTIFUL OOPS!...I can't believe I missed this wonderful book before! Those of you who've seen my found object art demos can guess why I fell in love with this book. Do check out Barney's Celebrate Oops! campaign, an initiative designed to build confidence and turn accidents into teaching moments.

You can find out more about Barney and his work at his website, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and YouTube.

Synopsis of INSIDE THIS BOOK (ARE THREE BOOKS) from Abrams:

"Inside This Book is a tribute to self-publishing in its most pure and endearing form. Three siblings create three books of their own using blank paper that they bind together (in descending sizes to match birth order). One sibling’s work inspires the next, and so on, with each book’s text and art mirroring the distinct interests and abilities of its creator. Upon completion of their works, the siblings put one book inside the other, creating a new book to be read and shared by all!"

Q. Could you please take a photo of something in your office and tell us the story behind it?

I photographed an electric pencil sharpener that my picture book writing teacher extraordinaire, Barbara Bottner gave me when I was working on my very first book which she mentored me through. It mean so much that she believe in me enough to work with me above and beyond, and for her to think enough of my work to give me a pencil sharpener to encourage my drawing. I couldn’t help but add the giant pencil to the photo. It is only fitting. This was a present from my wife and children many years ago. Talk about support and encouragement to dream big! Both of these are important mementos in my studio.

When I was in elementary school, my teachers often sent me home with notes; “Your son has potential, but we don’t know what to do with him.” I am sure that if I were in school now, I would be diagnosed with a number of learning issues. Luckily, I had a teacher, Mr. Maurer, in the fifth grade. He realized I couldn’t spell, (or multiply, or conjugate, etc;) but he recognized that I was a story teller. I wrote a book that was inspired by this years ago called, (Phoebe and the Spelling Bee) Every week, the day before our spelling test, Mr. Maurer would give me the spelling list and have me make up a story on the spot, in front of the class. I never practiced. I winged it every week. I loved the challenge. Looking back at my childhood, I realize that Mr. Mauer found a way to let me shine, in an otherwise, dismal time in an academic setting. He was a truly amazing teacher.

That’s a long winded introduction to my life as an author/illustrator. I find myself standing in front of thousands of students every year as I travel around the world. It never ceases to amaze me that I am being given an opportunity to address children. When I was in school, drilling a hole in the clock with my eyes as I willed it to be 3:00 so I could go home, I never imagined that I would return to so many schools as a published author. (And, love being there!) I always make a point of saying, “For those of you wondering, if you don’t give up, it gets better! I am the poster child for tenacity.” (Then I explain what tenacity means!)

Q. What advice do you have for young writers?

My advice for any writer is to be open. So many of us are certain we have the next ‘big thing’. My story has seventeen sequels. I see it as a movie. If things go right, there could even be a theme park modeled after this book. Dolls, toys, etc. SLOW DOWN. Editors are really smart. Listen to them. I have learned to ‘sleep on it’ for a night (at least) when an editor makes suggestions. This would also go for a critique group as well. Try on the suggestions and see how it feels. I also recommend reading your work out loud while you are proofing things. Also, have someone else read it out loud to you. You will have an opportunity to ‘hear’ your story in a way that is only possible when someone else reads it to you. Also, you know how to read your own stories and it is really helpful to see if the reader gets tripped up or lost or better yet, if they fall in love with your story. That will usually only happen after a million and six re-writes.

Q. What are you excited about right now?

My current book is one I published with Abrams, Appleseed Press called, Inside This Book (Are Three Books). I am a huge Emily Gravett fan and she opened my mind when it comes to the physicality of books. I had done many interactive books like Beautiful Oops and A Little Bit Of Oomph before, but I started adding flaps to some of my picture books as well. Chengdu Could Not, Would Not Fall Asleep, and Andrew Drew and Drew are all picture books with additional flaps. As a musician, I am really aware of the rhythm of a page turn so having the additional flaps in a picture book adds to the way a story unfolds. (Literally and figuratively) Inside This Book (Are Three Books) is a story about three siblings who are given three different sized blank books and how each child creates their own, individual book and what they do with them. Physically, it’s like Russian dolls, with books. I was delighted that Abrams was open to the concept of binding three sequentially smaller books inside of one book. My hope is that this book will help to inspire a whole crop of budding writers and illustrators.


For more interviews, see my Inkygirl Interview Archive.

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12. What I’m Doing at Kirkus This Week,Plus What I Did Last Week, FeaturingStephen Savage, Lauren Tobia, & Paul O. Zelinsky

“Anna Hibiscus starts to cry. ‘Wha’ happen?’ Papa asks.
‘Everybody is busy with Double Trouble!’ cries Anna Hibiscus.
‘Nobody has time for me.'”
– From Atinuke’s
Double Trouble for Anna Hibiscus!, illustrated by Lauren Tobia
(Click to enlarge spread)


“It is the first snowfall of the year.”
– From Emily Jenkins’
Toys Meet Snow, illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky


From Stephen Savage’s Where’s Walrus? And Penguin?
(Click to enlarge spread)


This morning over at Kirkus, I take a look at Pamela Zagarenski’s The Whisper. That link is here.

* * *

Last week, I wrote here about new picture books that feature the happy return of some beloved picture book protagonists, including Stephen Savage’s Where’s Walrus? And Penguin? (Scholastic, August 2015); Atinuke’s Double Trouble for Anna Hibiscus!, illustrated by Lauren Tobia and whose cover is pictured here (Kane Miller, September 2015); and Emily Jenkins’ Toys Meet Snow, illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky (Schwartz & Wade, September 2015).

I’ve got a bit of art from each today. Zelinsky shares some early sketches and cover sketches as well.

Also, since we’re on the subject of Lauren Tobia’s artwork, I’m adding in a couple of spreads from Fran Manushkin’s Happy in Our Skin, published by Candlewick last month.



From Where’s Walrus? And Penguin?:


(Click to enlarge)


(Click to enlarge)



From Toys Meet Snow:


Final art: “‘What is a sunset?’ asks Lumphy. ‘It’s strawberry syrup pouring over the world to make it sweet before nightfall,’ explains StingRay.
Plastic doesn’t say anything. She is thinking.”

(Click to enlarge)


“Inside, the house is dry and warm. Outside, the tiny ballerinas have made a blanket of peace over the world. The strawberry-syrup sun has gone down.”
– The progression of a spread

(Click each to enlarge)


Final art: “And, yes, the world is sweet.”


Jacket sketches
(Click each to enlarge)


Final jacket


From Double Trouble for Anna Hibiscus!:


“Anna Hibiscus takes a big ripe banana. She goes to Grandmother’s mat.
Anna Hibiscus always eat breakfast with Grandmother.
But Grandmother is busy sleeping. …”

(Click to enlarge spread)


“Anna Hibiscus is so happy now! She is going to eat ogi with Grandmother,
splash with her aunties, and play with her uncles and cousins.
But first Anna Hibiscus runs to her mother.”

(Click to enlarge spread)


From Fran Manushkin’s Happy in Our Skin,
illustrated by Lauren Tobia:


“It’s delightful to hug and tickle and wrestle,
get a scratch when we itch, and hold hands and nestle.”

(Click to enlarge spread)


“What a wonderful world! Such a hullabaloo—
with all of us in it! See the splendid view:
bouquets of people, blooming and boisterous,
brawny and thin, loving each day …”

(Click to enlarge spread)



* * * * * * *

DOUBLE TROUBLE FOR ANNA HIBISCUS! Text copyright © 2015 by Atinuke. Illustrations copyright © 2015 by Lauren Tobia. Illustrations reproduced by permission of Lauren Tobia and the publisher, Kane Miller, Tulsa, OK.

HAPPY IN OUR SKIN. Text copyright © 2015 by Fran Manushkin. Illustrations copyright © 2015 by Lauren Tobia. Illustrations reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

TOYS MEET SNOW. Text copyright © 2015 by Emily Jenkins. Illustrations copyright © 2015 by Paul O. Zelinsky. Images reproduced by permission of Paul O. Zelinsky and the publisher, Schartz & Wade Books, New York.

WHERE’S WALRUS? AND PENGUIN? copyright © 2015 by Stephen Savage. Images reproduced by permission of Stephen Savage and the publisher, Scholastic Press, New York.

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13. Old Yeti

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14. Giveaway: The Beast of Cretacea by Todd Strasser (US & Canada Only)

The Beast of Cretacea

by Todd Strasser  

Release Date: 10/13/15


About the Book

Master storyteller Todd Strasser reimagines the classic tale of Moby Dick as set in the future—and takes readers on an epic sci-fi adventure. When seventeen-year-old Ishmael wakes up from stasis aboard the Pequod, he is amazed by how different this planet is from the dirty, dying, Shroud-covered Earth he left behind. But Ishmael isn’t on Cretacea to marvel at the fresh air, sunshine, and endless blue ocean. He’s here to work, risking his life to hunt down great ocean-dwelling beasts to harvest and send back to the resource-depleted Earth. Even though easy prey abounds, time and again the chase boat crews are ordered to ignore it in order to pursue the elusive Great Terrafin. It’s rumored that the ship’s captain, Ahab, lost his leg to the beast years ago, and that he’s now consumed by revenge. But there may be more to Captain Ahab’s obsession. Dark secrets and dangerous exploits swirl around the pursuit of the beast, and Ishmael must do his best to survive—if he can.

To learn more about this book and see our review, go HERE.

b2ap3_thumbnail_Todd_Strasser.jpgAbout the Author

Todd Strasser is the internationally best-selling author of numerous books for children and teens, including Fallout and the classics The Wave and Give a Boy a Gun, which are taught in classrooms around the world.

Learn more Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Tumblr | Pinterest


Giveaway Details

10 winners will receive a hardcover copy of the book. US & Canada.

Entering is simple, just fill out the entry form below. Winners will be announced on this site and in our monthly newsletter (sign up now! ) within 30 days after the giveaway ends.

Subscribe to the E-Volt newsletter for Candlewick’s monthly YA e-book deals. Contestants need to enter their e-mail address in the form.

Click this link to enter.

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15. ‘Hipopotamy’ by Piotr Dumała (NSFW)

A few naked women and children are bathing in a river. They are being secretly observed by a group of men, who, at one point decide to approach them... Read the rest of this post

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16. Poetry Friday: That Music Always Round Me by Walt Whitman

That music always round me, unceasing, unbeginning - yet long untaught I did not hear;
But now the chorus I hear, and am elated;
A tenor, strong, ascending, with power and health, with glad notes of day-break I hear,
A soprano, at intervals, sailing buoyantly over the tops of immense waves,
A transparent bass, shuddering lusciously under and through the universe,
The triumphant tutti - the funeral wailings, with sweet flutes and violins - all these I fill myself with;
I hear not the volumes of sound merely - I am moved by the exquisite meanings,
I listen to the different voices winding in and out, striving, contending with fiery vehemence to excel each other in emotion;
I do not think the performers know themselves - but now I think I begin to know them.

- That Music Always Round Me by Walt Whitman

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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17. Lumos Releases a New Video Message from JK Rowling

Lumos has released a new video message from J.K. Rowling about the dangers of institutionalization of children, and the hope that Lumos provides. Just as in the previous video, J.K. Rowling narrates an animated video that tells of 8 million children in orphanages, 80% of which who are not orphans.

This video doesn’t give specific statistics on suicide, prostitution, and crime that institutionalized children are more likely to be prey too, as the last video did, but the video is still amazing. Please watch this wonderful video below, and at the Lumos Website.



Once again, we thank and support J.K. Rowling for bring a voice to the voiceless, and raising awareness for 8 million children who would otherwise go unnoticed. If you would like to make a donation to Lumos, or find out how to be come more involved, please visit wearelumos.org.

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19. Sunny Side Up (2015)

Sunny Side Up. Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm. 2015. Scholastic. 224 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Sunny Side Up is a graphic novel, a coming-of-age story starring Sunny Lewin. It is set in August 1976. It wasn't Sunny's first vacation choice to go visit her grandfather in Florida. The family had planned on a beach vacation, a vacation where Sunny's best friend could come too. But family troubles--troubles concerning Sunny's older brother--changed everything. Now Sunny is on her own for this trip and visiting her grandfather in his retirement community. Flashes reveal much in this one, readers learn about Sunny's life in Pennsylvania: her friends, her family, and what led to this vacation.

I liked this one. I did. I don't read many graphic novels per year--at most three or four. But I am SO GLAD I read Sunny Side Up. I loved the setting. I love stories featuring grandparents and the senior community. I love the main character, Sunny. I loved, loved, loved how by the end of vacation she had found her voice and REALLY opened up. I also loved that she made a new friend and had a few adventures with someone her own age. I loved that she discovered comic books and super heroes. Some of the pages devoted to her discovering super heroes were among my favorites. And I LOVED the ending.

Overall this one is oh-so-easy to recommend. Even to readers who don't typically read graphic novels.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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20. FOODFIC: The Royal Diaries, Elizabeth I - Kathryn Lasky


I loved how this format gave the young heroine a big voice. This novel introduces us to Elizabeth I, daughter of the infamous Henry VIII and his scandalous 2nd wife Anne Boleyn. And through Elizabeth’s diary, we learn that she’s just like any girl in any century, longing for the love and approval of her father. This peeling back of layers to reveal a real person (where used to be only a printed name in a textbook followed by a few carefully chosen facts and dates) reminds me of Philippa Gregory’s work. I say all the time that if her books were in print when I was in high school, I’d have been a much better history student!

So for either – or both – series of books, what is it that so handily captures readers? Is it the writing? The girls’ voices? The female perspective?

Or could it be the food?

Okay, it’s not the food if we’re talking appeal, because, well, historic food is historically disgusting. In Anne’s case, her father’s favorites are goose, swan, rabbit, lamb, quail and lamprey eel. Blech. I have no idea if they sent royal fisherman to catch the eels in the wild or if they just hauled the suckers up out of the moat – not that it matters – but that eel actually lost to the swan in my grossest delicacy ranking when I read that they turned the swan’s neck into pudding. It’s just too much for my 21st century American stomach to handle.

Of course it gives me greater respect for Anne and her half-sister Mary and all the other women for whom such bad food was just the cherry on top of the sundae of crap dumped on them by the ruling men. Women were treated and traded like cattle – exquisitely, prize-winning cattle – with no choices socially, academically, and even gastronomically. Sadly, the meals are just one of many details of court life that leave a bad taste in our mouths, yet the stories of Anne and her peers make us hungrily read on.

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21. Giveaway: MARTians by Blythe Woolston (US & Canada Only)


by Blythe Woolston  

Release Date: Oct 13, 2015


About the Book

In a near-future world of exurban decay studded with big box stores, daily routine revolves around shopping—for those who can. For Zoë, the mission is simpler: live.
Last girl Zoë Zindleman, numerical ID 009-99-9999, is starting work at AllMART, where "your smile is the AllMART welcome mat.” Her living arrangements are equally bleak: she can wait for her home to be foreclosed and stripped of anything valuable now that AnnaMom has moved away, leaving Zoë behind, or move to the Warren, an abandoned strip-mall-turned-refuge for other left-behinds. With a handful of other disaffected, forgotten kids, Zoë must find her place in a world that has consumed itself beyond redemption. She may be a last girl, but her name means “life,” and Zoë isn’t ready to disappear into the AllMART abyss. Zoë wants to live.

To learn more about this book and see our review, go HERE.

b2ap3_thumbnail_Blythe_Woolston.jpgAbout the Author

Blythe Woolston's first novel, The Freak Observer, won the William C. Morris Debut Award. She is also the author of Black Helicopters, an American Library Association Best Fiction for Young Adults Selection and a Montana Book Award Honor Book. Blythe Woolston lives in Billings, Montana.

Learn more Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Tumblr | Pinterest

Giveaway Details

10 winners will receive a hardcover copy of the book. US & Canada.

Entering is simple, just fill out the entry form below. Winners will be announced on this site and in our monthly newsletter (sign up now! ) within 30 days after the giveaway ends.

Subscribe to the E-Volt newsletter for Candlewick’s monthly YA e-book deals. Contestants need to enter their e-mail address in the form.

Click this link to enter.

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22. Flogometer for Aleena—would you pay to turn the page?

Submissions Welcome. If you’d like a fresh look at your opening chapter or prologue, please email your submission to me re the directions at the bottom of this post.

The Flogometer challenge: can you craft a first page that compels me to turn to the next page? Caveat: Please keep in mind that this is entirely subjective.

Note: all the Flogometer posts are here.

What's a first page in publishingland? In a properly formatted novel manuscript (double-spaced, 1-inch margins, 12-point type, etc.) there should be about 16 or 17 lines on the first page (first pages of chapters/prologues start about 1/3 of the way down the page). Directions for submissions are below—they include a request to post the rest of the chapter, but that’s optional.

A word about the line-editing in these posts: it’s “one-pass” editing, and I don’t try to address everything, which is why I appreciate the comments from the FtQ tribe. In a paid edit, I go through each manuscript three times.

Mastering front 100WshadowBefore you rip into today’s submission, consider this checklist of first-page ingredients from my book, Mastering the Craft of Compelling Storytelling. While it's not a requirement that all of these elements must be on the first page, they can be, and I think you have the best chance of hooking a reader if they are.

Download a free PDF copy here.

Were I you, I'd examine my first page in the light of this list before submitting to the Flogometer. I use it on my own work.

A First-page Checklist

  • It begins engaging the reader with the character
  • Something is happening. On a first page, this does NOT include a character musing about whatever.
  • The character desires something.
  • The character does something.
  • There’s enough of a setting to orient the reader as to where things are happening.
  • It happens in the NOW of the story.
  • Backstory? What backstory? We’re in the NOW of the story.
  • Set-up? What set-up? We’re in the NOW of the story.
  • What happens raises a story question.

Caveat: a strong first-person voice with the right content can raise powerful story questions and create page turns without doing all of the above. A recent submission worked wonderfully well and didn't deal with five of the things in the checklist.

Also, if you think about it, the same checklist should apply to the page where you introduce an antagonist.

Aleena sends the first chapter of Graffiti Casanova. The remainder is after the break.

Please vote and comment. It helps the writer.

I’m going back to the old poll approach. The pay-for-it approach makes sense, but the cost was too low. Any suggestions on the nature of the basic poll question to get at how truly motivating the opening page is?

My dad always told me being on stage, blinded by the lights and deafened by the music and screams, was the biggest rush he’d ever get. Doing what he loved in front of thousands of people screaming for more fulfilled him.

My experience was entirely different.

When I closed my eyes and played my music, it didn’t matter where I was or who was in the room with me. The realization that I was part of creating something beautiful, something magical-- that was what gave me the rush. That was why I kept coming back.

But that wasn’t why I was about to step out onto the stage.

The host of Write, Sing, Star! was shouting out the introduction to the show, riling up the audience, who I could hear clapping and whistling back with excitement. But all I could focus on were the words on the small screen in my hand that burned into my mind.

It’s stage two Alzheimer’s, Claire.

Someone took the phone from me and handed me my guitar.

Alzheimer’s. It wasn’t possible. He was too young.

“You ready?” They were smiling at me but I could only stare blankly back. I should have told them I couldn’t come. I should’ve gone with him to his appointment. “You’re up!” I was gently shoved from behind and suddenly I was on the stage.

Were you compelled to turn the page?

For me, this opening illustrates what agent Donald Maass refers to as engaging a reader with a character. While this narrative isn’t guns and threats and tension, it reveals a character dealing with strong feelings about a deep and loving relationship, one in which she is not the one in jeopardy but her father. I wanted to know more about how she would handle this, and what would happen to them. The voice is strong and the writing clean, so no notes (other that I would stick a “that” into the first phrase). Nice work.

Comments, please?

For what it’s worth.


Submitting to the Flogometer:

Email the following in an attachment (.doc, .docx, or .rtf preferred, no PDFs):

  1. your title
  2. your complete 1st chapter or prologue plus 1st chapter
  3. Please include in your email permission to post it on FtQ.
  4. Note: I’m adding a copyright notice for the writer at the end of the post. I’ll use just the first name unless I’m told I can use the full name.
  5. Also, please tell me if it’s okay to post the rest of the chapter so people can turn the page.
  6. And, optionally, include your permission to use it as an example in a book on writing craft if that's okay.
  7. If you’re in a hurry, I’ve done “private floggings,” $50 for a first chapter.
  8. If you rewrite while you wait for your turn, it’s okay with me to update the submission.

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

Flogging the Quill © 2015 Ray Rhamey, story © 2015 Aleena



The applause was a dull roar in my ears and I struggled to stretch my lips into a smile that ended up feeling all wrong from my end of things. The tension in my body pulled tighter as I moved to the middle of the stage and tried not to think of how alone I was up there. Or why I was there in the first place. I tried not to think about those words that had just ripped my silly hope in half.

One of the judges was speaking and the applause died down.

“Claire De Cecco, we’re glad to have you on the show!”

“Thank you,” I smiled into the blinding lights, hoping it was in his direction. My voice trembled a little and I gripped my guitar tighter. “I’m excited to be here.” Easily one of the falsest things I’d ever said.

“Well you wouldn’t be here if you didn’t have an original song to play for us today, so what’s this one called?” he asked.

“This one is called Voices.” There, that was definitely true.

“Great, let’s hear it!”

And the first notes resounded from my guitar.

Dad always told me whenever I was nervous to imagine I was playing to him. It used to work like a charm, and I imagined him with me at every show my band had played last year. But I was desperately trying not to imagine him now. I couldn’t help it though-- the song was about him.

I knew the magic in music was its ability to make people feel. And it seemed appropriate to choose this song at the time I picked it-- I was doing this for him, after all. But those words on the screen changed everything. I needed to be numb. I needed to be numb or I wouldn’t make it through the audition, and I promised him--

Focus, Claire. Focus on the notes, the fingerings, the stage presence, am I playing too fast, is this intro too long?

No. Don’t go there either. I gritted my teeth and blocked my thoughts, forced myself to breathe evenly. And I closed my eyes and began to sing.

But it felt all wrong. No magic and no rush and I felt like a fake.

I knew it was because I wasn’t letting myself feel the music, but there was no way I’d make it through the song if I did. Only two minutes. Verse, chorus, bridge, chorus, chorus. I only had to hold it back for two more minutes.

I only made it thirty seconds before I started to slip.

My voice caught in the back of my throat but I pressed through, coming back in stronger than before. I can do this for him.

But I really couldn’t.

The tears started then, and my voice caught again. The quality of my voice was gone, and I knew I wouldn’t hit the bridge notes. It was just my song carrying the weight of my audition at this point-- I lied to myself that it was enough but I’d never been a very good liar. My face twisted and my fingers trembled on the strings and I knew everyone had noticed.

Right there, in the middle of the chorus, I couldn’t take it anymore. My voice faded into a silent sob and my hands faltered on the guitar and I stepped back, trying to escape thousands of eyes fixed on me. There was no way to salvage this, and I didn’t care. Screw this promise. It didn’t matter anymore-- nothing there mattered anymore. Only Dad mattered, and I needed to be at the hospital.

So I turned and walked off the stage, giving up on the promise I had made my dad that I would go through with this audition, that I would pursue my dream of music with everything I had.

There was a good chance he wouldn’t even remember it anyway.

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23. Stirring the Plot with Isolation

Earliest man lived in small tribes. With fewer people, they relied on each other more. Such is the stuff of Historicals, Westerns, and Literary pioneer stories. When people died, especially in large numbers due to disease, famine, or drought, it preyed on the survivors' mortal fear of being alone. These stakes can heighten a story problem or create a scene conflict.

If the population of a planet is dying, Dick has an overall story problem.

If Jane feels alone in her marriage, she has a personal dilemma or overall story problem.

The situation in a dark, spooky mansion is heightened if Dick is alone, as would a perfectly normal forest. A planet would be terrifying if he was the only surviving astronaut.

The smaller the population, the higher the stakes of survival and the more claustrophobic the situation becomes. Put Dick in a city of a thousand people and he can easily get lost in the throng. That makes a good Mystery. Putting ten people in a space station makes a great Science Fiction story. Killing them off one by one makes a great Thriller or Horror story. Post apocalyptic stories explore our fear of being alone and the desire for survivors to find one another. Science Fiction stories explore our desire to not be alone in the universe.

On a personal level, most of us prefer to live with someone. A few thrive on the freedom of living alone.

How far is Jane willing to go to feel connected? Jane may marry someone she does not love, become friends with someone she wouldn’t otherwise, build a robot so she has a companion, join an organization she does not agree with, or draw a face on a football so she has someone to talk to on a deserted island.

How far is Dick willing to go to live alone? He might rent a cabin in the Dakota badlands or buy an island and find out he needs people after all.

Characters who are hurt by something or someone often withdraw from the people around them. Some do it for a week, others a month, at the most extreme end they withdraw from life entirely.

At the scene level Dick may need to be alone to accomplish something but all his well-meaning friends keep dropping by to chat.

Dick may momentarily find himself in an empty house, which creates the perfect opportunity for the ghost to visit.

Isolation adds an element of creepiness to any situation. It is a keystone of Horror stories. The characters must be trapped in a building, a city or on a planet from which there is no escape, so they must turn and face the horror instead of run away from it.

Isolation is critical in a Gothic novel for the same reason. The hapless governess cannot simply walk away from the creepy plantation house. She can’t board a bus or walk into a Starbucks. She can’t have a cell phone – not one that works anyway – or call a cab. She needs to be isolated so that she is forced to unravel the mystery or uncover the secret instead of running away at the first sign of trouble.

Isolation is also a key component of YA because so many teens feel isolated: from their family, their peers, their world. Isolation leads to depression and anxiety and feelings of low self-esteem. The character can realize they aren’t alone after all. They can graduate high school and find their “soul mate” friends in college. They can leave their all-Caucasian neighborhood to live in a predominantly Hispanic one and find themselves at home, or find the new community has its share of issues to contend with.

In a Literary story, Sally might embrace her mid-life crisis by selling up and moving to a house in Italy only to realize the locals don’t want her there. All that high life and camaraderie she expected are denied her. The doors remain shut but the curtains are pulled to the side so they can spy on her. Sally sits in her wilting, rustic money pit an unscrupulous salesman talked her into and realizes she should have stayed at home. It was boring but people liked and accepted her there. If murders start happening, it could become a Mystery and Sally the sleuth forced to solve them. In a Thriller, someone could want her to leave their family home and she becomes the target.

In a Romance, the opposite could happen. Sally could feel isolated in her home town because all of her friends have moved away or moved on. Her family might not be supportive or emotionally connected. She kicks the traces and runs off to a charming seaside cottage in Ireland and finds the circle of friends she desperately needed and a lad with a charming brogue to keep her warm at night.

If Sally’s best friend is moving away, in a sense abandoning her, the situation can cause subtle conflict as Sally attempts to overcome the overall story problem or a momentary distraction at scene level.

You can use isolation to fuel any genre at any story level. 

For more obstacles that create conflict, pick up a copy of Story Building Blocks II: Crafting Believable Conflict in print or E-book version.

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24. Undertow By Michael Buckley

For three years, Lyric Walker has behaved like a model citizen - in school, at home, everywhere.  The wild thing she used to be cannot come out.  Her home town of Coney Island has become a refugee camp for a strange race of sentient sea creatures.  The hatred and mistrust between humans and these aliens - the Alpha - grows to a fever pitch when the president demands that Alpha children enter New York's public schools.

Lyric's school is first. 

But Lyric and her parents have a secret that may kill them.  When Lyric is forced to befriend the Alpha prince, Fathom, things become confusing all too quickly.  He is untamed - as are all the Alpha - with a sense of honor that demands quick and violent retribution for the smallest of slights.  Lyric only agrees to help Fathom adjust to humans when escape from the area is offered to her for parents as well as herself.

The government, itself, is split between the locals who hate and want to exterminate these interlopers and the federal government that views them as possible allies.

A subplot about Lyric's best friend's abusive step-father, and that best friend's boy friend add pathos to an otherwise action adventure sci-fi novel.

Things start out uncomfortably in this book and quickly become ugly and then uglier.  Hate and what it motivates people to do is never a pretty sight.

Things I liked best about this book:
1.  Cool battle scenes.
2.  Lyric and Bex, her best friend.
3.  Lyric's migraines turn into something significant.
4.  The trial scene - wow, that was so awesome!
5.  Governmental wrangling.  Don't totally trust them!!  Conspiracy theorists, unite!

Possible Spoiler Alert!!
I expected an underlying theme to be the warming of the oceans.  I thought that was the reason these people were forced onto land.  That may crop up in subsequent titles in this series - because Fathom, Lyric, Bex and all the others will return.  But the reason the Alpha left the sea is pretty freaky and scary.

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25. Brené Brown & David Levithan Debut on the Indie Bestseller List

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