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1. NPM Project: Jumping Into Form - Renga

Renga is an ancient Japanese form of collaborative poetry. The Renga platform in the UK provides this introduction for beginners.
A renga is a series of short verses linked into one long poem, composed collaboratively by a group. Each constituent verse must make sense independently. It should also connect in some way with the verses that follow and precede. The verses alternate between 3-lines and 2-lines throughout.

The opening verse of a renga is called the hokku. It takes the same form as haiku -three short lines. A renga opens with some reference to the season of composition and moves - not necessarily in orderly sequence - through all four seasons, generally ending with a spring verse. Seasonal themes are generally sustained for at least a couple of verses, and the passage from one season to the next is often broken by one or more non-seasonal verses.

Seasonal reference is made through the use of a season-word, which may be obvious, like ‘autumn rain’ or ‘snow’, or more subtle, for instance, ‘watermelon’ for summer. Season words include cultural as well as natural references; for instance, you might use April Fool's Day for spring. The two key principles of renga are link and shift. Link means that each verse should connect in some way with its immediate predecessor. Shift means that, with the exception of the link just noted, each verse should move on, drawing on imagery, which is new (for that particular renga). That is, repetition is to be avoided. Even when linking, although there will be some implicit connection, actual words and phrases should not be repeated.
Birds On A Wire: A Renga 'Round Town (2008, OP), written by J. Patrick Lewis & Paul Janeczko and illustrated by Gary Lippincott, is a series of interlinked verses that describe life in a small town on a single day. Instead of the usual renga pattern with authors alternating each verse, the poets here have chosen to alternate PAIRS of verses. They do acknowledge this break from tradition in the introduction, explaining that "We each wrote five lines and broke them into three-line and two-line stanzas.'

The introduction to this book actually provides quite a bit of information about the form. Here's an excerpt.
What, you might be wondering, is a renga? Like a haiku, a renga is an ancient Japanese verse from in which poets take turns adding verses. The word is both singular and plural, like sheep or salmon. A renga (meaning "linked verse") isn't nearly as well known as a haiku, and that's too bad because haiku really evolved from renga. 
A traditional renga is written by two or more poets. The first poet writes three lines (similar to haiku), the second poet follows that with two lines, the first poet comes back with another three lines, then two, three, two, and son on. Like railroad cards in a line, each verse links in some way with the one preceding it, but not with the others. That means that each new verse can send you off in a completely different direction. And the next poet must discover how to connect to the new verse.
The book opens at the beginning of a day with these verses.

in the blizzard
of apple blossoms,
a road edged in white

        old spotted hound
        stops to sniff

As readers are taken on a trip through this small town they encounter a creek, grasshopper, florist, doughnuts, a hardware store, old Ferris wheel, ballpark, and much more. By the end of the journey, readers have had a lovely glimpse into small town life.

My favorite verse from the book hearkens to a poem of William Carlos William's that I love.

glazed with rain
a red wheelbarrow headstands
by the hardware store

        the old doctor recalls
        childhood barnyard

Poems ©J. Patrick Lewis & Paul Janeczko, 2008. All rights reserved.

If you wish to try writing renga in the classroom, you need to settle on some rules that will work for you and your kids. I particularly like those set out at My Need to Write in a post entitled How To Write Poetry: Renga.

You may also find some helpful resources at these sites.

Finally, here is a renga project you should be aware of. Even though it isn't meant for the elementary classroom, it will give you a feel for the the beauty and challenge of writing a renga.

In 2011, a group of 54 poets contributed 10 lines each to one poem about America. Called Crossing State Lines: An American Renga, this amazing collaboration includes the likes of Robert Pinsky, Rita Dove, Philip Levine, Edward Hirsch, Billy Collins, and more. This project was commissioned by America: Now and Here, an organization founded by Eric Fischl to promote conversation about contemporary America through the arts. This 45 minute film is a reading of the resulting renga.
Crossing State Lines: An American Renga from Drew Harty on Vimeo.

NPR also did a story on this project. You can hear Carol Muske-Dukes, one of the book's editors and a poet, along with two additional poets talk about the project in the piece 'Crossing State Lines': 54 Writers, One American Poem.

It's hard to pick a favorite here, but I'm quite drawn to these lines by Edward Hirsch.

How many state lines did we cross
as we drove across a wide country
sometimes divided sometimes united

Every state is a state of mind

Every love is a drive
toward a move perfect union

I hope you've enjoyed this brief introduction to the renga. I'll be back tomorrow with another Asian poetic form.

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2. Exclusive Excerpt: AWAKENING by Shannon Duffy

We are so please to be working with Shannon Duffy and Entangled Teen to bring you an excerpt tour for Awakening!     <!-- /* Font Definitions */ @font-face {font-family:Calibri; panose-1:2 15 5 2 2 2 4 3 2 4; mso-font-charset:0; mso-generic-font-family:auto; mso-font-pitch:variable; mso-font-signature:3 0 0 0 1 0;} /* Style Definitions */ p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal,

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3. EASTER - store snaps

To round off four days of seasonal Easter design I have a few snap shots of cards spotted in stores. The first few are from publisher Paper Salad snapped in a local independent department store. Also snapped colourful eggs (above) from Rachel Ellen and below three cards from Laura Darrington's 'Festive Folk' collection. Below : Finally a small Easter selection

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4. Publishing Jobs: Brown Books, HarperCollins

This week, Brown Books Publishing Group is hiring a public relations expert, while HarperCollins needs a website marketing manager. Skyhorse Publishing is seeking a senior production editor, and Bloomsbury Publishing is on the hunt for a marketing manager. Get the scoop on these openings and more below, and find additional just-posted gigs on Mediabistro.

Find more great publishing jobs on the GalleyCat job board. Looking to hire? Tap into our network of talented GalleyCat pros and post a risk-free job listing. For real-time openings and employment news, follow @MBJobPost.

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5. A Letter to THE THIRD TWIN by CJ Omololu

by Becca THE THIRD TWINby CJ OmololuAge Range: 12 and up Grade Level: 7 and upHardcover: 336 pagesPublisher: Delacorte Press (February 24, 2015)Goodreads | Amazon Identical twins. Identical DNA. Identical suspects. It’s Pretty Little Liars meets Revenge in this edge-of-your-seat thriller with a shocking twist. When they were little, Lexi and her identical twin, Ava, made up a third sister,

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6. Tim Gunn

If you’ve watched Project Runway
Then you know its starring role
Isn’t model or designer
But Tim Gunn, its heart and soul.

His is mentor and advisor
And the one who keeps the peace.
He’s the shoulder folks can cry on
When some tears need a release.

With his pocket squares and pin stripes,
In each jazzy suit and shirt,
He’s both classy and flamboyant,
Like some elegant dessert.

On the stage to answer questions
He was witty, wise and charming
And his penchant for the truth
Struck me as utterly disarming.

All the audience delighted
In this star of Project Runway.
I felt privileged to listen
To the stories told Tim Gunn way!

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7. Heroes of History, Part II

In an earlier post I shared how students used biography picture books to practice summarizing, recognizing opposing viewpoints, and citing textual evidence. Using the four-step process modeled there, students cut to the chase to tell what was "most needed to know" about their famous man or woman from history. So what's next?

Below I've shared some of the biography extensions and report options which students have completed over the years in my classroom. I'm sure you'll find a new one to try out!

Time Machine

As students read their biography, they take the usual notes, either on a prepared outline or free hand. When writing the report, however, the students pretend that they're able to travel back in time to interview this famous person. The most important details are then summarized in a question-answer format which reads in a more interesting way than a standard report. The paragraph students generated in the four-step summary process (above) serves nicely as the interview's introduction.

I've provided a sample of the interview format, but I highly encourage you to have students brainstorm their own interview questions as well. The brainstorming and sequencing process is an excellent introduction to the research process where students will need to formulate inquiries for themselves. Students will also discover that the unique experiences of any given person will in large part dictate the type of questions which should be asked. When reading Who Says Women Can't be Doctors? by Tanya Lee Stone, for example, one of my students was amazed to discover that Elizabeth Blackwell was turned down by twenty-eight different schools in her pursuit of attending medical school. "I think I would have quit trying after the first ten schools said no," the student remarked, and I wondered what Elizabeth Blackwell herself would have said to her in return.

Some years we presented these in a talk show format, with partners playing the role of interviewer, and other years students chose to dress as the person they were portraying. 


24 Ready to Go Genre Book Reports is a wonderful teacher resource full of ideas for responding to books, and one project from this resource which students have enjoyed is creating a journal.

When I first began teaching, I assigned students a similar journal format, requiring at least three entries that reflected events from the person's childhood or teen years, university or training years, and years of notable achievement. Additional entries could be written at students' discretion.

With the popularity of scrapbooking, students began asking if they could include artifacts in their journals. Projects soon included replica photos, sketches, tickets, maps, currency, and so on. The journal covers likewise became more creative, with students creating covers that resembled television sets, suitcases, trading cards, shipping crates, cars, space shuttles, hats, jerseys, and wanted posters. 

A wonderful set of biography books which rely upon a similar concepts of "snapshots" from a person's life is the 10 Day series by David Colbert, which so far includes books on Anne Frank, Abraham LincolnThomas Edison, Benjamin Franklin, and Martin Luther King, Jr. If all students in your classroom read the same biography or autobiography, they could likewise focus on the ten most pivotal days of that person's life, with students possibly pairing up and writing a first-person account of one of these days.

As mentioned above, the paragraph students generate in the four-step summary process can serve as an introduction to the diary, as the entries themselves may not provide ample information for some readers to understand the importance of the subject's achievements.

Made in Quotes Cover
Lessons Learned

One of my students' favorite parts of the Time Machine assignment (above) is when they, in the guise of their famous person, are asked to give advice to future generations. Putting themselves "into the shoes" of this famous person and distilling the experiences of a lifetime into a bit of sage advice is a difficult yet rewarding task.

In Lessons Learned, students generate eight to ten tips that their hero might pass on to future generations. The advice can be published as beautiful quotes, using a quote making site such as Quozio, Quotes Cover, ReciteThis, or ProQuoter.

Here, the four-step biography summary is used as an introduction piece that acquaints the reader with the giver of wise counsel. The quotes themselves can be printed, or embedded into a Google Slides or similar sharing platform.


Since most students best understand a biography in strict chronological order, creating a timeline would be a good way for them to explain and illustrate important life events.

For creating an online timeline, I highly recommend Hstry.co, which I discussed at length in a previous post. Check out that post to see how easy it is to get started with Hstry.

Telescoping Story

Telescopic Text allows writers a chance to share a story just one bit at a time, while revealing small and large thoughts alike in a measured manner. You can best understand this site by checking out the site creator's example. To see how a text is entered and edited, and to see a pretty impressive Telescopic Text created by a seven year-old, check out the video below.

Students could use this site to create a slowly expanding narrative of their hero's life. What's great about the site is that it encourages elaboration, a tough topic to teach students who are often trying to write as little as possible.

Caveat: Students should register for their own accounts and learn the difference between saving and publishing (saving allows for future edits; publishing does not).

Newspaper Clipping

A newspaper clipping describing an important event from a person's life is a terrific way to get students to focus upon what really merits attention. The Fodey Newspaper Generator provides a very short format clipping (about 1000 total characters), which is just enough to provide facts without the clutter of details. The clipping to the right, for example, was created in response to A Nation's Hope: The Story of Boxing Legend Joe Louis, written by Matt De La Peña and illustrated by Kadir Nelson. While the picture book chronicles Louis' rise as a fighter, the newspaper clipping captures just a highlight of that life.

This newspaper generator (which I found at the Learning Never Stops blog) allows for more space and also an image, but fills in the rest of the front page with two nonsense articles. Students would need to screen shot and crop out the other articles if they didn't want them to show.

In addition to a stand-alone activity, the newspaper clipping could also be used as an artifact in the Journal assignment above (some students have also used the movie clapboard generator at the Fodey site for their journal project). 

He Said, She Said 

I previously discussed Google Story Builder in another blog, and I'm still a fan. It's a very neat way to show differing points of view. Take a second to check out my review.  

Here's a short Google Docs Story I created after reading Mary Walker Wears the Pants: The True Story of the Doctor, Reformer, and Civil War Hero, written by Cheryl Harness and illustrated by Carlo Molinari. Note that activist Mary Walker disagrees with what a fabricated nemesis named "Nathan Properbody" has to say.  

Students can create both sides of such a fictional dialogue, or two students can take on opposing roles and write from each viewpoint. The process will need some trial and error, and the resulting pieces can't be long, but it's a very different type of writing requiring some critical and creative thinking.

Looking for more tech tools to assess student learning? Be sure to check out this collection of over thirty of the best free sites I've found to assess students at all stages of learning process.

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8. National Book Awards Reveals Judges, Opens Applications

The National Book Foundation has revealed that judges for this year’s awards and has also opened up the application process.

The judging panels for Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry and Young People’s Literature brings together a combination of writers and literary experts. We have the full list for you after the jump. Publishers can apply to have their works considers at this link.

Each panel of judges will select a longlist of ten titles in each of the four categories. These titles will be revealed in mid-September. The shortlisted finalists will be announced on October 14. The winners in each category will be revealed at the 66thNational Book Awards Ceremony and Benefit Dinner in New York on November 18, 2015.

The Judges for the 2015 National Book Awards

Fiction panel: Daniel Alarcón, Jeffery Renard Allen, Sarah Bagby, Laura Lippman, David L. Ulin (chair)

Nonfiction panel: Diane Ackerman (chair), Patricia Hill Collins, John D’Agata, Paul Holdengraber, Adrienne Mayor

Poetry panel: Sherman Alexie, Willie Perdomo, Katha Pollitt, Tim Seibles (chair), Jan Weissmiller


Young People’s Literature panel: John Joseph Adams, Teri Lesesne, Laura McNeal (chair), G. Neri, Eliot Schrefer

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9. National. Poetry. Month!

Ahhh, April! You come in with Foolishness and sustain us with poetry all month long.

This year here at Gottabook... well... there is no master plan for celebrating the month. I have put a pin in 30 Poets/30 Days for now, though it may very well be back in 2016. And this year, unlike when I began here in 2006, I'm not posting an original poem a day, either. There will be poetry love here during the month, no doubt, but there's not an ongoing thang.

Luckily, throughout the kidlitosphere, many others are celebrating in big, clear ways, so I'm going to send you to this great list of fun goings-on compiled by Jama at Jama's Alphabet Soup.

I look forward to seeing you here, there, and everywhere during April (and beyond)!

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10. April issue of Words without Borders

       The April issue of Words without Borders is now up -- 'Changing Landscapes and Identities: An Introduction to Tamil Writing', along with some 'New Armenian Writing by Women'.

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11. Hold Me

Bookman and I were out last night learning how to fix a flat tire on our bikes. The weather was nice enough and it is light late enough that we were able to ride over to the bike shop. We were the only two people there for the class which was kind of nice actually. Since it was such a lovely evening we had the class outside behind the shop. The instructor and I both turned out to be seasonal allergy sufferers so we had a bonding moment over that. If you don’t have seasonal allergies, you have no idea what a mixed blessing spring is especially after the long cold winters we have in Minnesota.

The class was conducted as if we were roadside, out riding and, oh no! flat tire! The hardest part about the whole thing for me was opening the quick release lever on my back wheel. Quick release my ass. The second hardest thing was getting enough air in my tire. My road bike tire is supposed to be up to 120psi and at 90 I had to start leaning my weight into the pump handle to force the air in. At 100 I was practically doing a handstand on the pump. At 110, the handle would not budge. But apparently close enough is good enough, which is a relief. After the class we got a discount on patch kits and a little pump that attaches to the bike. I feel so prepared for long distance rides now!

But you don’t care about that, you want to know about books. Well, another book arrived for me at the library because even when I keep my hold request queue at five or less, when it rains it pours. Add to my reading pile When books Went to War: The Stories That Helped Us Win WWII by Molly Guptill Manning. It recounts the campaign (begun by librarians!) to send free books to American troops. Over a million paperback books were sent to troops. Should be an interesting piece of history.

Also unexpectedly arriving was Missing Person by Patrick Modiano. It’s a slim book, but something tells me it is not going to be a fast read.

Since this left only one book in my hold queue, Lumberjanes by Noelle Stevenson, and that one is on order and not at the library for lending yet, I figured it was okay to add two more books to my hold queue.

So I added The Folded Clock: A Diary by Heidi Julavits. The library has this one on order too so it might be a little while before I get it. After reading old diaries from when she was younger and realizing she was not how she remembered herself and her diaries were all about worries over grades and boys and being popular, Julavits decides to try again and see if she can write a diary of her current life that is what she wished her old diaries were like.

The other book I added is Ongoingness: The End of a Diary by Sarah Manguso. Two new books about diaries. Is this going to be the start of a trend? This one has been published and I am 15th in the queue. The odds are good that it and the Julavits will both be mine at the same time because that’s the way these things work. Ongoingness is a book-length essay about the diary Manguso has kept for 25 years and continues to keep. It is about why she started and how it has become a kind of spiritual practice.

As someone who has been keeping a diary since the age of eleven, I always find books about diaries fascinating. It is such a personal, private thing that having a glimpse into the diary-keeping of other people is a special kind of thrill.

Lunch time reading spot

Lunch time reading spot

Today was a beautiful, warm day in spite of the gusty wind. It is early enough in spring that high winds on an otherwise pleasant day are not enough to keep me indoors so I went outside and sat on a bench in the law school courtyard. There are a couple of these benches in the courtyard and when the weather is fine from now until it is too cold in the fall, I spend my lunch breaks during the week sitting on one of them and reading while I eat. Sometimes I share bits of bread from my sandwich with the birds. One year there were baby rabbits I would share carrot sticks with. It’s a generally quiet place with the hum of downtown Minneapolis serving as white noise in the background. And sometimes there are other people out enjoying the weather and a quiet read too. Today I was the only one. Bliss.

Filed under: Books

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12. Targeting Autism: Serving Library Patrons on the Spectrum


Did you know that April is National Autism Awareness Month? According to the latest statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 1 in 68 children have been identified with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) nationwide.  This dramatic increase is no doubt affecting how libraries provide programs and services that are inclusive and welcoming to those with ASD.  Because of that, the state of Illinois has kickstarted the conversation with Targeting Autism: A National Forum on Serving Library Patrons on the Spectrum.

In 2014, the Illinois State Library was awarded an Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) National Leadership Forum Grant to help libraries better serve patrons and family members impacted by Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). This project explores how libraries can work with diverse community organizations and programs to address the topic of ASD, through training, education and support services. The primary goals of the Targeting Autism Forum include:

    • Build a shared appreciation of the challenges and opportunities associated with acquiring information on Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
    • Identify leadership roles for community libraries in improving community supports and services for individuals with ASD
    • Begin fostering stakeholder alignment around a community library ASD initiative
    • Begin developing a shared vision of success for a state library initiative on ASD
    • Identify next steps

The majority of the participation and conversation will take place at two Autism Stakeholder Forums, which were scheduled for March and September of 2015.  This past March, nearly 80 individuals came together representing various stakeholder groups including libraries, schools, institutions of higher education, health services professionals, government agencies, ASD service organizations, and parent advocates.  The idea behind the Forums is to inform the creation of an implementation plan.  With this plan, the state of Illinois hopes to achieve the following:

  1. Increase ASD awareness, education, and support services
  2. Improve adn streamline online access to the wealth of information intended to provide support for families and indiviuals with ASD
  3. Ensure sustainable, inter-organizational partnerships committed to enhancing ASD support, state-wide

The March Forum offered a wealth of information and inspiration provided by variety of experts and advocates.  Among the presenters included self-advocate Adria Nassim from Adria’s Village, who discussed her experience as a reader, a library user, and a person with autism.  Participants also heard from former librarian Barbara Klipper about her book Programming for Children and Teens with Autism Spectrum Disorder, as well as Nancy Farmer, who highlighted content from her book Library Services for Youth with Autism Spectrum Disorders.  Dan Weiss discussed his experience partnering with libraries across the state of New Jersey in collaboration on a project called Libraries and Autism: We’re Connected.  In addition, forum participants heard from a panel entitled “Training Librarians: What’s Being Done (or Not).”  This included a panel of professors from Syracuse University School of Information, Florida State University College of Communication and Information, Dominican University Graduate School of Library and Information Science, and UIUC Graduate School of Library and Information Science.  All of the presentations from the March Forum are available on Youtube, so you don’t have to be an Illinois librarian to learn from what the Forum has to offer.

What can you do to help contribute to this effort?  Targeting Autism has launched a nationwide effort to collect personal stories that describe an individual’s connection to autism and a statement as to why this initiative is important.  Positive, negative, constructive–all experiences are welcome to help inform this process. Simply click here and submit your personal story to Suzanne Schriar, Targeting Autism Project Director.  We would love to have your input!

In the meantime, follow the Targeting Autism blog, join the conversation, and think about what you and your library can do today and every day to be a more welcoming place to people with autism.


Renee Grassi is the Youth Department Director at the Glen Ellyn Public Library in Glen Ellyn, Illinois.  She is also a “Targeting Autism” Board member.  In 2012, she was recognized by Library Journal as a Mover & Shaker for her work serving children with autism and other special needs.  She is also one of the co-founding members of SNAILS, a state-wide networking group in Illinois for librarians and library staff who discuss and learn about expanding library services to those with special needs.  As a proud ALSC member and a former ALSC Blogger, she has written on the blog about a variety of topics related to inclusive library services. 

The post Targeting Autism: Serving Library Patrons on the Spectrum appeared first on ALSC Blog.

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13. Happy Book Birthday!



Illustration by Don Tate

We didn’t want to let the day end without wishing our brother Don Tate congratulations on his new picture book with Chris Barton, The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch (Eerdmans). What makes this collaboration even more special? Chris and Don are friends.

Chris suggested Don, his critique partner, as the illustrator of his story that had been years in the making. “I don’t know that I could articulate then why he would be a great artistic choice,” Chris said in this interview, ” but his style turned out to be just right both for making John Roy Lynch accessible as a person and for conveying acts of violence and terrorism in a vivid but not overwhelming way.”

The collaboration is paying off. Their book earned starred reviews from Booklist and Publishers Weekly. We’re proud of Don and Chris and look forward to seeing many more accolades. Learn more about The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch on their sites: http://www.dontate.com and http://www.chrisbarton.info.

Check out the buzz here:

“The fascinating story of John Roy Lynch’s life from slavery to his election to the U.S. House of Representatives at age 25, gets a stirring treatment here . . . Tate’s often expansive illustrations emphasize important incidents in the text. A reference to harsh laws passed by whites is coupled with a dramatic two-page spread of a whipping, a potential lynching and lots of angry white faces in the foreground, fists clenched. A small African American boy covers his eyes at the scene. The horrors of a school burning shows praying figures overshadowed by masked attackers with burning torches. The emphasis in other illustrations is on faces, full of emotion add to the power of the telling and the rich soft tones of Tate’s palette welcome the eye to linger.”

- Booklist, starred review

“Barton offers an immersive, engaging, and unflinching portrait of the difficulties of the Reconstruction era, while Tate’s cartoonlike artwork softens moments of cruelty and prejudice without diminishing them.”

- Publishers Weekly, starred review

“A picture book worth reading about a historical figure worth remembering.”

- Kirkus

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14. The Gift of Reading: An Open Letter


Brian O. Jordan

On March 21, 2015, I had the pleasure to share the gift of reading with the “Birdy Book Club.”   What a wonderful group of young men. I am proud of their parents and grandparents for beginning to instill the love of reading at such a young age. My parents did the same with me.

I read them my book titled, I Told You I Can Play (illustrated by Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu, published by Just Us Books). This was the first time I ever did a children’s reading leveraging FaceTime on my computer and it turned out to be a good experience for the young men.  This book captures a story about my own youth and speaks to being a small child who was always told I was too young to play. The book goes on and shows how I proved to my family and others that I could play, but it took focus, determination, and dedication for me to do this. These are characteristics I like to instill in young children. I invite others to reach out and read my book I Told You I Can Play. I also have two other books that youth may enjoy and others I am working on:

Birdy Book Club members show Brian via FaceTime one of their favorite pictures from his book.

Birdy Book Club members show Brian via FaceTime one of their favorite pictures from his book.

  • Overcoming the Fear of the Baseball details a childhood experience when I was hit in the face with a fastball.  Instead of calling it quits, I was forced to face my fear and return to the baseball field where I went on to play 15 years of Major League Baseball.
  • Time-Out For Bullies discusses how my mother taught me first-hand what bullying was and how it negatively impacts children.  I then reveal how I used my athletic ability to help those dealing with bullies in my school.

Some ask why I decided to write children’s books. It came from my wanting to find ways to educate youth, get them to read, and have others learn from my experiences.   I thought I-told-You-I-Can-Play__22529_1405364701_1280_500if I could engage youth at a young age then maybe I could capture their minds to read and to learn to believe in themselves to reach their future goals. Mr. Wade Hudson from Just Us Books, Inc. in New Jersey published my first book. He heard my story and wanted to help me get started. He taught me the process of publishing a book and leveraged his best creative people to illustrate my book. I was blessed to have met Mr. Wade Hudson and what he is trying to do through Just Us Books, Inc. to get youth to read.

I went on to write and self-publish other books and at the end of the day I just really want youth to read and believe in themselves to reach their dreams. The hardest part for me about being a children’s book author is my transition. Most of the world sees me as an athlete, and yes I did play Major League Baseball and in the NFL, but I also received my education while I was in college. With that education, I knew that after sports I could transition and do multiple items. So many athletes just see themselves as that, but I knew that at some point my body would not be able to compete at those professional levels and my education from University of Richmond would take me further. Getting others to take a retired professional athlete seriously as an author has been challenging. But as people see my love for writing and reading about children and my publishing new books, this makes people realize I am serious and they are respecting me as an author.

Thank you to Kelly Starling Lyons for reaching out to me to do this children’s reading virtually. I welcome others to leverage my books to help youth develop the love of reading and to find that confidence in themselves to reach their goals.


Brian O. Jordan

Former MLB Player and NFL Player




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15. Avengers : Rage of Ultron (Official Trailer)

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16. EASTER 2015 - round-up

It's the last day before the Easter holidays begin and I have a last minute selection of cards to showcase the work of some fab artists. The first is Jessica Hogarth who creates some really striking and contemporary greetings cards. Her Easter designs are no exception and can be found in her online store here or at Not on the High Street. Below ; Several quirky Easter designs from La

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17. Flogometer for Ted—are you compelled to turn the page?

Submissions Needed—none for Friday or next week. 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 connecting the reader with the protagonist
  • Something is happening. On a first page, this does NOT include a character musing about whatever.
  • What happens is dramatized in an immediate scene with action and description plus, if it works, dialogue.
  • What happens moves the story forward.
  • What happens has consequences for the protagonist.
  • The protagonist desires something.
  • The protagonist 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—what happens next? or why did that happen?

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.

Ted sends the first chapter for Sallying Forth. The rest of the chapter after the break.

Kate Ingram shivered. She wasn’t cold; she was scared, and hoping no one noticed that Serendipity was getting underway from the Kent Island marina.

The only people up this early were a boatyard worker preparing to paint a dinghy, an elderly man with snow-white hair on another sailboat, the Wanderer, assisted by a younger woman in preparing to get underway. As Serendipity came abeam, the woman said something to the man. He looked up, and then they both waved. Kate returned the wave, scrutinized the waterfront, and then relaxed a little. No one else was about.

It was early on a sunny Wednesday morning in June; the sun had peeked over the horizon about fifteen minutes ago. The breeze blew Kate’s long dark brown hair across her face, and she realized she would have to get a ribbon to tie it back. There was a nip in the air. In a couple of hours, it would be hot, but pleasant as long as the wind kept blowing. The forecast was for a high of seventy-five with light winds in the morning, squalls in the afternoon, and a nighttime low of forty. It would be chilly standing watches tonight.

Retrieving the bow dock line, Kate made sure it was properly stowed, ready to use if needed. Remembering the adage, ‘one hand for yourself, and one for the ship’, she moved aft holding onto a handrail to where her little sister, Kayla, had just coiled a spring line. She leaned over to whisper in Kayla’s ear.

Were you compelled to turn Ted's first page?

It’s good that Ted is thinking about and visualizing the scene thoroughly, but the space it takes up to do that robs this first page of story elements that create tension—and a page-turn. We are told that she is scared, but not what of nor how serious it is. And I’d rather be shown that she was scared than told. The shivering is good, but maybe she should hide her face when the man waves instead of waving back, fearing something, and so on. For me, this didn’t compel. And the reason she’s scared still isn’t revealed by chapter’s end, giving the reader little reason to care about this character and read on. I think you need to start later when something happens to force her to do something. What she wants here is to not be noticed. When that’s blocked by the couple, she does nothing to deal with it. I think we need more of what’s at stake here. Notes:

Kate Ingram shivered. She wasn’t cold; she was scared, and hoping no one noticed that Serendipity was getting underway from the Kent Island marina. Scared of what? Could be anything, including something as non-threatening as being seasick.

The only people up this early were a boatyard worker preparing to paint a dinghy, an elderly man with snow-white hair on another sailboat, the Wanderer, assisted by a younger woman in preparing to get underway. As Serendipity came abeam, the woman said something to the man. He looked up, and then they both waved. Kate returned the wave, scrutinized the waterfront, and then relaxed a little. No one else was about. Unless it matters to story later that the couple saw them, this whole paragraph isn’t needed.

It was early on a sunny Wednesday morning in June; the sun had peeked over the horizon about fifteen minutes ago. The breeze blew Kate’s long dark brown hair across her face, and she realized she would have to get a ribbon to tie it back. There was a nip in the air. In a couple of hours, it would be hot, but pleasant as long as the wind kept blowing. The forecast was for a high of seventy-five with light winds in the morning, squalls in the afternoon, and a nighttime low of forty. It would be chilly standing watches tonight. Point of view shift: she wouldn’t think of her hair as “long dark brown,” she would just think of hair in her face. This is the author intruding to dump info. The color and length of her hair doesn’t impact story here, so it’s not needed. Maybe it’s because I’m from Texas, but seventy-five degrees seems far from “hot” to me. The use of “she realized” is using a filter that distances us from the experience. And how does it impact the story for her to be thinking about tying her hair back when she’s supposed to be scared? Not much of this setup stuff seems to me to matter to the story.

Retrieving the bow dock line, Kate made sure it was properly stowed, ready to use if needed. Remembering the adage, ‘one hand for yourself, and one for the ship’, she moved aft holding onto a handrail to where her little sister, Kayla, had just coiled a spring line. She leaned over to whisper in Kayla’s ear. The sailing adage reference adds to the world and character, but it doesn’t seem to me to be vital for the story opening at this point.

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 Ted



“Here we go, ‘Sallying Forth’; I think we’re okay so far.”

Kayla had pulled her light brown hair back into a ponytail and tied it with a blue ribbon, making her look even younger. She touched Kate’s arm and looked up at her. “Kate, I’m so scared.”

Kate didn’t dare let Kayla know how scared she was herself. Running for your life was scary for anyone, but it had to be even worse for Kayla who was only fourteen. Kate needed to try to make this journey an adventure that Kayla would enjoy. She knew that people would notice if one of them was unhappy, drawing attention they didn’t need.

Kate gave her a quick hug. “I don’t know why, but Dad wanted us to go ‘Sallying Forth’ right away.”

“I know, Kate, but I’m worried about him, and Mom.”

Kate gave her a gentle shove towards the stern. “See if Tom needs help with the sails.”

Kayla moved aft and called out, “Tom, what do you need me to do?”

“Nothing until we clear the point, Kayla. Checkout the rigging and get ready to set the sails.”

Several minutes later, as they reached the open waters of the Chesapeake and found more wind, Tom signaled for sails. When they were set, he killed the diesel. Kate and Kayla returned to the cockpit to join him. Tom smiled at Kayla.

“Kayla, trim her for this heading? We should be able to hold it for an hour.” Kayla didn’t reply but expertly trimmed the sails for maximum wind effect.

Kate sat on the high side. When Serendipity caught the wind, she heeled over slightly, her bow sloshing through the water. The cries of the gulls circling in her wake were the only other noise. Kate loved the serenity of sailing and the smell of saltwater. It was going to be a wonderful day for a sail. They were lucky Tom had known that Mr. Stone was looking for a crew to help him move Serendipity, his sailing yacht, a Morgan Out Island 41, to Norfolk, Virginia.

Everyone had been eager to get underway. Mr. Stone wanted to catch the breeze and meet his friends in Norfolk so they could start their trip to Bermuda. Kate, Kayla, and Tom just wanted to disappear quickly and luckily Norfolk fit into their plan. Mr. Stone was below in the galley preparing breakfast which he had promised would be a gourmet meal. A few minutes later, he called up to them.

“Chow’s ready!”

Tom said, “Kayla, how about bring breakfast up for us. After breakfast, why don’t you take a nap since you didn’t sleep well last night?”

“Sounds good,” Kayla said as she hurried below.

Kate scanned the horizon astern to see if anyone was following and said, “No one seemed to pay any attention to us as we got underway.”

Tom didn’t reply.

* * * * *

A man with a gruff voice spoke hurriedly; “We checked all of the Annapolis marinas. No luck. The chopper flew over all of the local creeks and marinas here and other side of the bay. They spotted a pink sail cover. We checked. It was the girls’ boat. No sign of the girls.”

“Where was it?”

“Queenstown, other side of the bay.”

“Queenstown? I wonder why there.”

“I don’t know.”

“Check around for an Aunt Sally over there. Check all of the marinas to see if they are going out with someone else. Check the bus station, the car rentals. Get on it. I want one of them today!”

“Already in progress.”

“I’m trying to find Ingram, but he’s sly. We need to get his attention. Once he knows we have one of them, he’ll keep quiet.”

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18. New Adult Fiction Genre - Contemporary Romance - #WriteTip

There is a new genre emerging..."New Adult" fiction for older teens aka college-aged readers. You never stop growing up, but little in the market seems to address the coming-of-age that also happens between the ages of Nineteen to Twenty-six. Life changes drastically once high school is over, you have college, first jobs, first internships, first adult relationships…

Part of the appeal of NA is that the storylines are about characters who are taking on adult responsibilities for the first time without guidance from their parents. And the storylines generally have a heavy romance element. 

Keep this in mind as you revise your wonderful story, New Adult books are mostly about that specific time in every person's life—the time when the apron strings are cut from your parents, you no longer have a curfew, you're experiencing the world for the very first time, in most cases, with innocent eyes. New Adult is this section of your life where you discover who you want to be, what you want to be, and what type of person you will become. This time defines you. This is the time of firsts, the time where you can't blame your parents for your own bad choices. 

An NA character has to take responsibility for their own choices and live with the consequences. Most storylines are about twenty-something (18 to 26) characters living their own lives without any parents breathing down their necks, and learning to solve things on their own as they would in real life. New Adult fiction focuses on switching gears, from depending on our parents to becoming full-fledged, independent adults.

I am a firm believer that if you’re going to write a certain genre that you should read it, too. So I’m going to recommend that you start devouring NA novels to get a real sense and understanding of the genre before you write one.

Here are some great recommendations: https://www.goodreads.com/genres/new-adult-romance and http://www.goodreads.com/genres/new-adult and https://www.goodreads.com/shelf/show/new-adult-romance

Just as YA is fiction about teens discovering who they are as a person, New Adult (NA) is fiction about building your own life as an actual adult. As older teen readers discover the joy of the Young Adult genres, the New Adult—demand may increase. This, in turn, would give writers the chance to explore the freedom of a slightly older protagonist (over the age of 18 and out of high school, like the brilliant novel, "BEAUTIFUL DISASTER" by the amazing talents of author, Jamie McGuire) while addressing more adult issues that early 20-year-olds must face.

Older protagonists (basically, college students) are surprisingly rare; in a panel on YA literature at Harvard’s 2008 Vericon, City of Bones author talked about pitching her novel, then about twenty-somethings, as adult fiction. After several conversations, Clare realized she had to choose between adults and teens. She went with teens.

Quote from the publisher, St. Martin’s Press: We are actively looking for great, new, cutting edge fiction with protagonists who are slightly older than YA and can appeal to an adult audience. Since twenty-somethings are devouring YA, St. Martin’s Press is seeking fiction similar to YA that can be published and marketed as adult—a sort of an “older YA” or “new adult.” In this category, they are looking for spunky but not stupid, serious but not dull, cutting-edge, supernatural stories.

Quote from Georgia McBride, author (Praefatio) and founder of #YALitChat and publisher at Month9Books: "New Adult is a fabulous idea in theory, and authors seem to be excited about it. But in a world where bookstores shelf by category, to them, it is either  Adult or Young Adult. Some booksellers even call their YA section “teen.” And when you have a character who is over a certain age (19 seems to be the age most consider the start of New Adult), it is received as Adult. In some cases, the designation by publishers causes more confusion than not.
Let’s face it, YA is associated with teens, and at 19, most no longer consider themselves teens. So, it would support the theory of placing these “New Adult” titles in the Adult section. However, with the prevalence of eBook content, it would seem that the powers that be could easily create a New Adult category if they really wanted to...."

There’s also a list on goodreads of New Adult book titles. These books focus on college age characters, late teens to early twenties, transitioning into the adult world.

Some popular authors of the NA category include:
  • Jamie McGuire
  • Jessica Park
  • Tammara Webber
  • Steph Campbell
  • Liz Reinhardt
  • Abbi Glines
  • Colleen Hoover 
  • Sherry Soule

Would you buy New Adult books? 
Does the genre appeal to you? 

Does it sound better than YA (teen novels)? 
Or are you happy with YA as it stands?

Do you consider YA to include characters that are over the age of eighteen? 

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19. Wingfest

Wingfest is a poetry and flight contest conducted by the birds of Faradawn Island, which the characters from The Fog Mound visit in Book Two of the trilogy, Faradawn, by Susan Schade and Jon Buller, Simon and Schuster, 2007.

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20. Social Media Etiquette

What not to do when using social media.

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21. Australia’s Blinky Bill Goes CG for Upcoming Film

An icon of Australian children's entertainment is rebooted in CGI.

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22. Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards

       They've announced the winners of the 80th (!) Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards -- "the only national juried prize for literature that confronts racism and examines diversity".
       None of the five winning titles are under review at the complete review.

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23. A recipe for a story

recipeforstoryI would never normally encourage underhand or devious behaviour, but today I’m most wholeheartedly advocating cooking the books!

Recipe For a Story by Ella Burfoot is a joyous and playful guide on how to have great fun creating a story good enough to eat. A little girl tells us, in lilting rhyme, how she weighs out her words, mixes in characters, adds flavour with feelings, colours and sounds, sprinkles in some punctuation and glazes her baking with happiness, all to ensure her story is a delicious read.

And Ella Burfoot’s book is indeed a very appetising offering! Both text and illustration are clever and comical, creating an enormously enjoyable story to share, but one which also offers scope for learning about aspects of bookmaking and storytelling; this is a book which could work as well in the classroom as at home on the sofa.

Illustrations full of jokes about both books and food offer lots to ensure repeat reading will be requested, with new details being discovered each time. The images also ooze happiness (there are so many smiles in this book, including a gorgeous one created – presumably – by Burfoot’s own child at the front of the book) and a charming child-like innocence. Burfoot’s use of pencil, crayon and collage in the illustration, at times reminding me of Louise Yates‘s work, will inspire kids not only to try writing their own stories, but also to illustrate them.



Recipe For a Story by Ella Burfoot is delicately and sweetly flavoured feel-good treat perfect for feeding the writing bug! Bon appetit!


Now I’ve got a bit of a thing for edible books so I knew I had try my hand at making book slices inspired by Burfoot’s pie illustration above. After all, a slice of pie or cake has just the right shape to represent an open book. One Victoria sponge and inordinate amounts of icing later I had a teatime treat ready for my girls:



Like Recipe For a Story, these books made from cake and icing were devoured with delight.

M and J then wanted to set up their own “story kitchen” with jars full of special ingredients. Old jars, labels and a few cut-up newspapers later, we had our ingredients all ready to be mixed up in bowls and turned into stories of our own.


The girls cut out words they liked from a variety of newspapers and magazines:


Jam jar labels were filled in with the names of various ingredients:


The girls created jars for “Quality Adverbs”, “Juicy Adjectives”, “Nonsense words”, “Crazy words”, “Hyphens”, “Book words” and my personal favourite, “Kim’s tiny words from concentrate”.


We used shop-bought labels but if you’ve a good printer you could print your own jam jar labels at home – here’s a Pinterest board full of ideas.

Whilst eating cake and filling our story kitchen cupboards with good ingredients we listened to:

  • Sunshine Cake by Mike & Carleen Mccornack – this is a perfect match for the book reviewed today.
  • Bookmobile Submarine by John Hadfield (a surreal but fun song and video)
  • Doodle Book by Ocean Colour Scene
  • Other activities which could be paired nicely with reading Recipe For a Story include:

  • Helping your kids create their own books. This video tutorial shows you how to fold a piece of paper to create a mini book waiting to be filled with stories and illustration.
  • Encouraging a sense of real ownership of the books your kids already have at home, by letting them put customised book plates inside them. My Home Library is a fabulous source of bookplates designed by some of the world’s best illustrators free for you to print off and stick in your books. Many bookplates can be coloured in too.
  • Investigating the options for printing the stories your children create. Here’s my round-up post exploring many of the different publishing options available to kids and families who want to create their own books.
  • What’s your favourite recipe for a good story?

    Disclosure: I was sent a free review copy of Recipe For a Story by the publisher.

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    24. Burmese literary festival

           The Irrawaddy Literary Festival was 28 to 30 March, and in The Guardian Margaret Simons reports on Water shortages, factions and free speech at Burma's Irrawaddy literary festival.
           Among her observations:

    Very few Burmese writers are internationally known. The Asia-based literary agent Kelly Falconer, who attended the festival with some of her authors, acknowledges that Burma has yet to produce the book that defines its recent history in the international imagination. It has had no Solzhenitsyn, and no equivalent to Jung Chang's Wild Swans, which carried the Chinese story into popular awareness when that country began to open up.

    Falconer says: "Who is going to write that book for Myanmar ? We are waiting to find out who they are, and we are waiting for Burmese writers to find out who we are." Because Burma has been so closed for so long, that there is hardly any awareness of what international literary recognition means. Writers have been working in a vacuum.
           While no doubt (?) such books need to be written, personally I have ... limited, at best, interest in: 'the book that defines its recent history in the international imagination'. (Indeed, I find the 'international imagination' -- and playing to it/writing for it -- rather suspect.) What I'm really curious about is what they produced or are producing -- especially what they're producing with 'hardly any awareness of what international literary recognition means', in that vacuum she's talking about. That sounds interesting, in this globalized world .....
           (Ever hopeful, there's been an index of Burmese Literature at the site for a while -- but, alas, there are still just two bona fide Burmese works of fiction to be found there. Here's hoping more gets translated soon.)

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    25. An Indian headdress in WINNIE AND WALDORF by Kati Hites

    I am always glad when people write to me about problems they see in children's books. In recent weeks I've heard from a few people about Winnie and Waldorf.  A picture book written and illustrated by Kati Hites, it was released on March 5th of this year.

    School Library Journal's review says that "Families with dogs will see the humor in this mixed-media and digitally illustrated book; cat lovers will be shaking their heads in wonder."

    Let's add... "People who find kids donning Indian headdresses will also be shaking their heads as they wonder when this sort of thing will end."

    There's no reason for this:

    Winnie wears that "formal attire" to her sister's violin concert. The feathers obscure the view, so this happens:

    If that was a real headdress, nobody would do that to it. They carry a great deal of significance. They aren't playthings to handle in that way.

    That headdress, as Winnie says, is her "most formal attire." In the story, she isn't playing Indian. It wouldn't make it ok if she was, I hasten to say, but there is a backstory for it, right? Hites had a backstory for having that item amongst the items Winnie uses to dress up. What is that backstory?!

    Of course, Hites has an editor over at HarperCollins. I wonder who that person is? Did they talk about that headdress? I hope someone reads this post and shares it with Hites and her editor.

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