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1. Time's Running Out!

 You'd better get your running shoes on if you want a chance of winning the signed copy of It's A Ruff Life.  Don't let the grass grow under your feet - I don't, that's why I'm so famous.

You have just 4 DAYS left to enter the Goodreads Competiton.

Click here to enter.

Don't forget to click the facebook like box at the top of this page!

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2. Weekend sketches

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3. Spotlight Chemers Gallery Handmade Holiday - Meet the Artisans!

Updated 10-20-14
'Tis the season! The holidays are right around the corner and we can't wait for our first ever...

Over the next few weeks leading up to our Holiday Artisan Faire we will be shinning a spotlight on our Artists & Artisans and sharing a sampling of their delightful goodies with you. Keep checking back, because we'll be updating weekly!

Suzanne mixes up paint and paper to create her brightly-hued mixed media on wood melodies. She constructs a frenzy of bright colors and attractive patterns, and then finishes them off with a layer of epoxy resin to give them a nice shine. Her creations take the form of small, one-of-a-kind contemporary images, large bold statement pieces, artsy bangle bracelets and fun throw pillows (these aren't on wood because that would be really uncomfortable!)

Local gal Soraya has a flair for gemstones, beads and crystals! She labors over her stunning hand-beaded creations to craft wearable magic. A mostly self-taught artisan, Soraya's jewelry follows intricate designs and color schemes that could only be paired by her intuitive eye. Soraya continues to push her beaded work to the limit with innovative techniques and designs, all the while silencing voices that claim “it can’t be done!” Come see her latest designs and find just the right one for yourself or a friend!  

Ready to get your tea on? Tea liqueur that is! Made in Slovakia, Tatratea unites the finest brewed black Assam tea with a number of hand-picked botanical ingredients and fresh fruit in a unique fermentation process. Enjoy as an addition to traditional hot tea or sip chilled neat, on the rocks, or in an endless variety of delicious cocktails if you are in the mood for something festive! Available in six flavors of Coconut, Citrus, Peach, Original, Bohemian and Outlaw and range in proof from 22% to 72%. Rado will be mixing up some knock your socks off libations. Try them all on Dec. 6th!

Monique Selwitz
New & Exclusively at Chemers Gallery!
Silver & gemstone jewelry with an eye catching harmonious flair are the hallmarks of Monique's rings, pendants and earrings. This talented artisan takes inspiration from her creative upbringing surrounded by artists, galleries, goldsmiths and musicians. Originally from Switzerland, Monique possess a keen interest in melding both traditional and new metalsmithing techniques. Breathtaking, each piece is uniquely Moniquely!

Mary Hammond
Mary's delightful handmade fiber designs are the result of dabbling in domestic crafts, sewing clothes, and needlepoint. While working alongside her mother, Mary fabricated her own process by combining knitted fabrics with quilting and collage techniques. Inspired by designs found in nature, Mary sews together various yarns, fibers and silk pieces and then washes them to ensure every creation is soft and wearable. Her elegant creations can be hung on the wall, draped over a  table or bureau, or worn as an eye-catching scarf!

Custom chocolate house, Luisa Chocolatiere, features delicious handmade gourmet chocolates of premium grade and absolute freshness. Luisa learned the art of chocolate making from Monsieur Sender, Master Patissier and Chocolatier in Paris. She received additional training in advanced specialty chocolate courses in Nanterre, west of Paris. Luisa crafts a variety of delectable confections with the highest quality ingredients, assuring rich, silky smooth chocolate goodness in every bite. We are so excited to have Luisa participate in our Holiday Artisan Faire and can't wait for you to meet her and her oh-so-yummy chocolates!

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4. 2014 Update!

Mr Beaver takes a walk!

Hello, long time no blog! Can't believe I haven't posted since April 2013, time has just flown by! I'm still here though and still working away in my studio here in Cheltenham. I've worked on a couple of commissions outside of my day job, the most recent being the cover art for a US children's magazine called High Five. It's the November issue which is out now!! I haven't seen a physical copy yet, but my lovely cousin who lives in New York has taken some pictures of it for me in Barnes and Noble! I'm pretty excited to think that my illustration is currently all over America and as soon as I get a physical copy I will definitely be sharing the artwork here alongside some photographs. Here is a photo she sent me...exciting stuff!:

My most recent piece is Mr Beaver above who is off on some kind of walking adventure! I'm not exactly sure where he's going yet, but we will see!

Please let me know if you are in the US and see a copy of High Five, it would make my day!

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5. Pumpkins with my Pumpkin

I don't have much time anymore for real art. I can't remember the last time I actually painted a picture that wasn't rushed or scribbled on by tiny hands. But this past weekend my little pirate and I got to make some beautiful pumpkins with our Merriweather and even though we had a few issues (they are both two), it was the most fun I have had in a while. We still have to finish her other two pumpkins (they are actually spaghetti squash that grew wild in Nana's backyard but we won't tell her that) and I found some grapevine this morning I twisted into the shape of a flower bloom while we were playing at the creek.

It is good to at least be able to create something. She helps me find special shaped rocks and sticks (that look like driftwood coming up out of the creek bed) and we come home and make little things from them. So even though I have a demanding (the definition of a two year old) child on my hands, we can still live the creative life. We only have to be determined that we can find common ground. You don't touch Mommy's art supplies and I won't move your special rocks...

Above left is a picture of her in her pirate hat. When we tied it on her head, she said, "I need a pirate ship."

You and me both hon. Maybe it's time to go to Lowe's (since her cardboard house is long gone) and fashion ourselves a get-away vessel?

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6. Breaking: Disney Sets ‘Moana’ For Late-2016 Release

Disney announced this afternoon that Moana, their 56th animated feature, will be released into theaters in late-2016. The film will mark the CGI directing debut of Disney stalwarts Ron Clements and John Musker, who have helmed many of the studio’s beloved hand-drawn films of the last 30 years. “John and I have partnered on so many films—from The Little Mermaid to Aladdin to The Princess & the Frog,” said Clements. “Creating Moana is one of the great thrills of our career. It’s a big adventure set in this beautiful world of Oceania.” The studio offered the following film description on their Disney Insider blog: In the ancient South Pacific world of Oceania, Moana, a born navigator, sets sail in search of a fabled island. During her incredible journey, she teams up with her hero, the legendary demi-god Maui, to traverse the open ocean on an action-packed voyage, encountering enormous sea creatures, breathtaking underworlds and ancient folklore. “Moana is indomitable, passionate and a dreamer with a unique connection to the ocean itself,” Musker said. “She’s the kind of character we all root for, and we can’t wait to introduce her to audiences.”

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7. The British Library Hosts Exhibition on Gothic Storytelling

The British Library is hosting a display focused on gothic storytelling called “Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination.” It will run until January 20, 2015.

The United Kingdom’s “biggest ever Gothic exhibition” features 200 rare objects; some of these pieces shine the spotlight on works by writers Mary Shelley, Bram Stoker, and Clive Barker. Visitors will see ”posters, books, film and even a vampire-slaying kit.”

We’ve embedded a video about this exhibit—what do you think? Click here to learn more about it. Follow this link to read an essay by Neil Gaiman entitled “My hero: Mary Shelley.”

New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

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8. Gogyohka: Poetic Form

If only a poetic form existed that could be both concise and free. Oh wait a second, there’s gogyohka!

Gogyohka was a form developed by Enta Kusakabe in Japan and translates literally to “five-line poem.” An off-shoot of the tanka form, the gogyohka has very simple rules: The poem is comprised of five lines with one phrase per line. That’s it.


Write a poem for a chance at $1,000!

Writer’s Digest is offering a contest strictly for poets with a top prize of $1,000, publication in Writer’s Digest magazine, and a copy of the 2015 Poet’s Market. There are cash prizes for Second ($250) and Third ($100) Prizes, as well as prizes for the Top 25 poems.

The deadline is October 31.

Click here to learn more.


What constitutes a phrase in gogyohka?

From the examples I’ve seen of the form, the definition of phrase is in the eye of the beholder. A compound or complex sentence is probably too long, but I’ve seen phrases as short as one word and others more than five words.

So it’s a little loose, which is kind of the theory behind gogyohka. It’s meant to be concise (five lines) but free (variable line length with each phrase). No special seasonal or cutting words. No subject matter constraints. Just five lines of poetic phrases.

Here’s my attempt at a Gogyohka:


Ghosts hang
from the willow
as the children run
from one door
to the next.


roberttwitterimageRobert Lee Brewer is Senior Content Editor of the Writer’s Digest Writing Community and author of the poetry collection, Solving the World’s Problems (Press 53).

He edits Poet’s Market, Writer’s Market, and Guide to Self-Publishing, in addition to writing a free weekly WritersMarket.com newsletter and poetry column for Writer’s Digest magazine.

He is building a haunted house in his two-car garage with the assistance of his little poets, who are also spooky little creatives when it comes to Halloween decorating.

Follow him on Twitter @robertleebrewer.


Find more poetic treats here:

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9. Black Speculative Fiction Month

Speculative fiction contains writings of science fiction, fantasy and horror or, those stories the bend what is and ask readers to speculate about what could be. Editors Milton Davis and Balogun Ojetade have set aside October to celebrate works that transport us to new worlds; worlds of adventure; of terror; of war and wonder; of iron and steam and are authored by Black writers. If you’re unable to attend any of the events they’ve planned, do visit the blog page that announces the events so that you can build your background

Chronicles of Harriett by Balogun Ojetade

Chronicles of Harriett by Balogun Ojetade

knowledge in the history, seminal works and authors, both classic and contemporary.

Speculative fiction allows both readers and writings to explore issues such as race in ways other genres do not. At times, these writers create creatures and situations that go beyond race, as do other authors. However, the attraction to spec fic has more to do with the worlds created in the writing. One will read them because they read zombies, sci fi or high fantasy. Milton Davis speaks to this complicated issue.

Scowering my blog, I found a few titles you should consider picking up this month.

Promise of Shadows by Justine Ireland; Simon and Schuster, 2014

The Zero Degree Zombie Zone by Patrick Henry Bass and Jerry Craft; Scholastic, 2014

Love is the Drug by Alaya Dawn Johnson; Arthur A. Levine, 2014

Mesmerize  by Artist Arthur; Kimani Tru, 2009

The Agency 3: Traitor in the Tunnel by Y. S. Lee; Candelwick, 2009

Charm and Strange by Stephanie Kuehn; St. Martin Press 11 2009

The Book of Wonders by Jasmine Richards; HarperCollins, 2012

Ninth Ward by Jewell Parker Rhodes; Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2010

Awake by Wendy McNair Raven; 2010

Shadow Walker by L A Banks; Sea Lion Books, 2010

47 by Walter Mosley; Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2006

Bayou by Jeremy Love; Zuda, 2009

Sweet Whisper Brother Rush by Virginia Hamilton; Philomel, 1982

Black Powder by Staton Rabin; Margaret McElderry Books, 2005

Ship of souls by Zetta Elliott; AmazonEncore, 28 Feb

Shieldwolf Dawning by Selena Nemorin; CreateSpace, 2014

Do yourself a real favor and visit Twinja Book Reviews. Guinevere and Libertad dedicate their blog to black e0d5adf2356a76ea82d72158eb3b79cc_400x400speculative fiction and are a much better source on that than I am. And, check them out on Twitter, too! @Dos_Twinjas




Filed under: Uncategorized Tagged: Black Speculative Fiction Month

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10. Instagram of the Week: October 20th

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11. Glen Keane, Nora Twomey, Roger Allers, Robert Kondo, Graham Annable Will Present at Spark Conference

This week in Vancouver, the Spark CG Society will hold its annual Spark Animation conference and festival with an impressive group of presenters including Glen Keane, Nora Twomey, Roger Allers, Robert Kondo, and Graham Annable.

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12. Terror at Dean Clough!

Luckily for me, it wasn't real terror, but Tales of Terror, a wonderful exhibition of beautifully detailed illustrations by David Roberts, which has just opened in the Illustration Gallery at Dean Clough in Halifax. John and I went along to the opening on Saturday, where we met the absolutely lovely David Roberts in the flesh (I think all children illustrators are lovely to be honest... but then, I am biased). 

I just love David's work and I especially love this series, because of the sinister edge to each illustration. It's often quite subtle but definitely disturbing. Wonderful stuff:

They were created for the Tales of Terror books by Chris Priestly, a Victorianesque series of horror tales for children. David explained that that's why the illustrations are created to look a little like the old etching plates from Victorian novels:

I also met up with my friends and fellow illustrators, Chris Mould and Lydia Monks. It was great to have a good old chin-wag. Chris has a permanent studio at Dean Clough (they do loads to support artists). I went to visit his studio a few years back: take a peek... Chris was also the curator of David's show (well done Chris - nice job).

Here we all are in the Dean Clough restaurant, after I had just finished scoffing down a rather yummy lunch (I was a little worried about my grin, visualising bits of rocket between my teeth and am very relieved to see that, if it's there, it doesn't show).

There are several galleries at Dean Clough, and all the exhibitions were opening at the same time, so we had a lovely afternoon, mooching around them all. I particularly liked Jo Brown's abstract paintings

Go take a look yourself. the exhibitions are up until January 3rd.

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13. Hitting the Target Without Really Trying

     The question I am most asked by parents is "What is the reading level of your books?"

     I am currently teaching an adult class on writing for children.  The first question I am usually asked by those students is "How do you write at an appropriate reading difficulty for an age group?"

    Those questions are not as easy to answer as you might think.

     Carmela's Friday post stated that in reaching "reluctant readers" a writer should simply write whatever they are passionate about and the readers will follow.  I have most certainly found this to be true.

     When I first began writing, "targeting" a group, or writing with a specific grade level vocabulary never crossed my mind.  Thanks to years and years of working in children's library service, I have read thousands and thousands of children's books for all ages.  When I write, my brain goes into "child mode."  That's just the way I write, period.  My normal style involves short sentences and short paragraphs using simple words.

     I was not aware of my writing style, until my then elementary school-aged daughter introduced me to "Accelerated Reader."  This was the program her school used for "pleasure" reading. (I am not sure how pleasurable it was since it was required.)  Only books on the Accelerated Reader program were counted for the reading grade.  Books had point values, based on complexity of language and interest level.

    I was thrilled to learn that all my books were on the Accelerated Reader list, which increased the likelihood of their purchase by a school library. However, I was puzzled to learn that my middle grade books, Yankee Girl and Jimmy's Stars, were not being read by the fourth and fifth graders, my intended audience.

     The mystery was solved when one of my daughter's friends told me how much she liked Jimmy's Stars "even though it doesn't have many points."  A trip to the school library informed me that both of the books had a point value of 3.  For comparison, anything written by J.K. Rowling had a point value of upwards of 7.  That particular year, my daughter was supposed to read 7 points worth every six weeks.  How could I compete with Harry Potter?

     A little digging into the mysteries of Accelerated Reader yielded the information that while my middle grade books had a third grade reading level, their content was appropriate for upper fifth grade and sixth grade students.  Considering that the subjects of those books were Civil Rights Era Mississippi and the ravages of World War II, I thought that was a fair evaluation.

     Then parents began to ask me that troublesome reading level question.  This was often prefaced with something like, "My daughter is in second grade but she reads on a fourth grade level. She should be able to read your books, right?"

     I found myself in the strange position of talking down my own books. While the child in question would be able to read and recognize the words I had written, would they be able to understand the events in the book?  It had never occurred to me that a seven-year-old might read those books.  Tough things happen in them:  racial prejudice, death, violence.  Although I didn't "target" my writing, I didn't think anyone under ten would be reading them.  I started hedging my answers by telling parents they could buy the book but perhaps they should put it away until their child was older.  Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't.  No matter what I said, some parents completely missed the fact that some "low reading level" material might contain concepts too mature or sophisticated for a first grader who was "a really good reader."

     What did I learn from this experience?  Did this cause me to become a cautious, self-censoring writer?  Do I now write in a more complex style?


     I write what I am passionate about.  I write for my inner eleven-year-old.  It's the best that I can do.  It's all any of us can do.

     Don't forget to enter our latest book giveaway for a chance to win a copy of the 2015 Children's Writer's and Illustrator's Market.  See Carmela's post for details.

     The giveaway ends Oct 31.

     Best of luck,  Mary Ann

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14. Frank! By Connah Brecon


About the Book: 

Try as he might (or might not), Frank is a bear who is always late. And when he starts school, the trouble really begins.

Frank has very good reasons, like the time he had to save a cat stuck in a tree and the morning he found himself challenged to a charity dance-off, and even the time he had to rescue a family of bunnies from a huge, smelly ogre.

Frank's teacher has heard enough of Frank's excuses, but what happens when a giant zombie lizard king really does attack the school?

Sometimes there is truth to the most unusual of circumstances, and being helpful can pay off in the most unexpected ways.

What I thought:  

Frank! is a really fun picture book. We all know that one person who is always late and that's why we'll all be able to relate to Frank. Frank comes up with some of the most absurd excuses for being late--I mean, it's not often you're mistaken for a famous dancer and get challenged to a dance-off by an Elvis look-alike. It's also not often that you find a family of bunnies being bullied by an ogre and must say something. That's why in the end, when a giant zombie lizard king really does attack the school, it's Frank who comes to the rescue. I absolutely love the illustrations and find them to be pretty unique compared to other picture books on the market. Children will especially love the bright colors and will pick up the quirky appeal. This would be a great picture book to use in the classroom to discuss making excuses, being on time, and working together. Then everyone can have their own dance off!

Additional Information:

Age Range: 3 - 7 years
Grade Level: Preschool - 2
Hardcover: 32 pages
Publisher: Running Press Kids (September 30, 2014)
ISBN-10: 0762454237
ISBN-13: 978-0762454235

Watch the Frank! Book Trailer:

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15. ‘Batman vs. Superman’ Movie May Feature a Female Robin

bvsBatman’s famous sidekick, Robin, may be played by a female in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

Rumors have been swirling in Hollywood that Catching Fire actress Jena Malone will be taking on that role. According to Variety, the movie studio has not confirmed this to be true. The theatrical release date has been scheduled for March 25, 2016.

Here’s more from Time: “Making Robin a woman, though, isn’t all that drastic. Zack Snyder’s Batman v. Superman movie is reportedly based largely on Frank Miller’s comic The Dark Knight Returns, in which Batman’s sidekick is a woman named Carrie Kelley. In the comics, a raven-haired Kelley—obsessed with the Dark Knight—saves him from some bad guys in order to win his trust and become the new Robin.”

New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

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16. The Death of Bees

Any book that opens with teen girls burying their dead parents in the garden is going to be a page turner.  Marnie (whose fifteenth birthday is the day of the secret interment) suspects her 12-year-old sister, Nelly of suffocating their father, Gene.  Nelly suspects that Marnie is the culprit.  Neither of them are overly concerned since all they want to do is stay together.  Hence the hiding of the dead bodies.  (Mom's death was something else entirely.)  Gene and Izzy were NOT model parents.

Lenny, the aging neighbor watches the girls from his window, missing his dead partner, Joseph, and wondering where the parents have gone.

The girls struggle through school, and with friends and boys (Marnie) and social ineptitude (Nelly), until a crisis forces them to seek refuge with Lenny.  They find a safe place there.  But nothing lasts forever.

Sex, drugs, violence - this book may be about teens but it is written for adults or New Adults as 20-somethings are now called in the publishing world.  Marnie and Nelly are both very smart.  As they alternate telling the story, with some help from Lenny, they uncover what a truly neglected life they have led.  All the reader really wants is for them to have a home with Lenny - he's so lonely and he can really cook! - and get on with their lives.  But murder is not a victimless crime.  Someone always has to pay.

I can't get this book out of my head.  Some of the observations attributed to Marnie and Nelly are so apt, so well-put, that I want to memorize them.  Or post them on a sampler on my wall.

When Marnie catches her bible-thumping grandfather swigging whiskey from a bottle she reacts this way:
"I go back to my room afraid, because people like Robert T. Macdonald carrying righteousness like a handbag are dangerous and I never considered him dangerous before and now that I do I am scared."

"People...carrying righteousness like a handbag are dangerous."  We see them every single day.

Click for Lisa O'Donnell's NPR interview here.

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Thinking about getting a tablet or pressure sensitive monitor like Cintiq? I go over my thoughts on what worked for me and what didn't and what I'm using now...

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18. Discovering ‘Templeman Art’



After being recommended by a friend, I discovered the beautiful work by Emily Templeman of ‘Templeman Art’. Her main themes are based around nature and animals, often using watercolours to capture the beauty of what she sees.

I contacted the artist asking about her main inspirations, background and where she sees her work heading in the future. I was very pleased to receive such a detailed response, giving me great insight to her thoughts and inspirations:


‘Basically, my decision to start pursuing art as a career stemmed from A level art class. Part of the course was to try and get in contact with a local artist and create work inspired by theirs; similar medium, or style, or subject choice. I contacted Mary Ann Rogers and we got talking a lot; she was very helpful and encouraging and was the first person to look at my work and say ‘that would sell’.

I ended up doing a year of Computer Games Art in university but that didn’t stick and I ended up completing only the first year before deciding to leave. It was then that I chose to try and chance my luck at setting up as a self employed artist. Now my style has changed greatly; if you compare the images in the Animal Watercolour and Tribal galleries to the 2014 gallery, but it’s still very much animal focussed, with my attentions now on capturing the flow, movement and colour rather than a realistic.

I’ve also been inspired by the designs and styles you see in art nouveau pieces. Particularly, I use the vines, leaves and flower motifs in my paintings. The Showa Koi, for example, has leaves that make up the black markings and a flower design for the red crown. As for the future, I think just with more practice and experience, I hope to carve out a niche in the art world where my work is recognisable as mine. With my early pieces, I did get a few comments along the lines of ‘That looks like Mary Ann Rogers’ stuff!’, which while a huge compliment, also means I wasn’t really creating anything unique to me. Ultimately, I’d love, love, love to have my own studio and gallery. I don’t expect to become hugely famous or rich, but if I could make enough to earn a decent living, it would be an absolute dream come true.’


More work by ‘Templeman Art’ can be found on her website or Facebook page, don’t miss out!


Thanks for reading,


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19. Animals Everywhere!

Animals Everywhere!
Author & Illustrator: Simon Abbott
Publisher: Ticktock Books
Genre: Children / Animals
ISBN: 978-1-78325-077-6
Pages: 24
Price: $8.99

Author’s website
Downloadable fun activities – coming soon!
Buy it at Amazon

There are many kinds of habitats, and each supports certain animal populations. Animals Everywhere! is an illustrated guide which provides some interesting information about them.

Habitats such as the rain forest, mountains, desert, and ocean are each presented in a two-page spread. In these pages, various animals that live in the habitat are illustrated in cartoon style, along with fun facts about them.

Kids will be fascinated to learn about the goliath bird-eating spider, which is as big as a pizza, or the male narwhal, which is also called the “unicorn of the sea” because it has a long, spiral tusk. These and other fascinating creatures fill the pages of this fun and colorful book.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

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20. Trying again to find peace and beauty in the depths of despair

Not long ago, I wrote this:

"After I posted my blueberry photo, I realized how crazy and selfish it is to post a photo of an especially large blueberry when there is so much horrific violence going on around the world. And close to home, learning of the tragic death of a woman who babysat for us when we were kids. I am thinking about all the people who are touched by grief every day. Every day there are horrors and tragedies. And every day there are things like the wonder of a blueberry you picked from a bush you've been nurturing for ten and a half years. And every day there are cats doing cute things. And baby photos posted by a proud new grandparent. Every day there is sadness. And every day there is joy. And every day there is love. And who gets what every day seems to be a cruel crapshoot. And I don't know what to do about that except try to remember it. And try to be more kind. So I am sorry about the blueberry. But I am also grateful for it. Maybe more so because it grows despite the sorrow."

Early Saturday morning, my cousin Josh went missing, and soon later, his body was found in the woods near his home. He took his own life after years of battling depression.

Growing up, my sister and I babysat for him and his two little brothers. We spent vacations together in Maine every summer. We spent Christmas and Thanksgiving and Easter together. But when he got older, his family moved away and we didn't see them for a long time. Long enough that we weren't close the way we used to be. In fact, we really didn't know each other at all.

Not long ago, he moved back to New England and I saw him last Christmas at my parents' house. He was quiet and reserved. I knew he'd had a hard life in our years apart. We didn't talk much. We were strangers linked by childhood memories. And I sensed he felt as uncomfortable and shy as I did, having let so many years go by without being in touch.

One day, not too long ago, he messaged me on Facebook and said he'd like to call and talk to me about writing a book. I put off replying because I felt like I didn't really know him, or what to say, and imagined how awkward it would be to talk to him over the phone. I told myself I would send an e-mail first, with tips to get him started, and then, if he had questions, we could talk. A few weeks later, I left him a note, "I owe you an e-mail and promise to be in touch soon!" Or some such. I was on deadline for school packets and told myself I didn't have time. And then I did have time but sort of forgot until I'd see him update his page with an inspirational quote, I would get mad at myself for not writing that e-mail yet. Just last week, I thought of some books I would recommend he read. Some good memoirs. Mentally, I made a list. And then I started to think of tips I could give him to help him get started. But I still didn't manage to write that e-mail.

And now he's gone.

For the rest of my life, I will always feel this aching regret that I didn't take the twenty minutes of effort that e-mail required to reach out. I will regret that I didn't try to get to know my cousin again. That I didn't know he was hurting. That I didn't do a single blessed thing.

Suicide isn't anyone's fault. I know that. But how we care about people and treat each other and reach out to each other is. And I'm ashamed.

On Saturday morning, I was sitting at a table with dear friends in Maine. We were about to start a weekend writing retreat. We were drinking coffee and laughing. And then my phone buzzed. "Call home immediately."

The ground shifted underneath me when my husband told me Josh had died.

A veil of grief and sadness and guilt and regret slid between me and the rest of the world. Nothing had changed on your side, but on my side, nothing will ever be the same. It's like looking at the world through some sort of gauze, as if I'm not a part of it anymore. On the other side, life goes on as usual, on mine, I can't seem to move.

My sister drove to Maine to come get me and bring me to her house so we could be with my parents, aunt and uncle. On the drive home, memories of losing my brother, wounds I thought healed, slowly reopened and all that pain wrapped around my heart. So much guilt. So many regrets. Why didn't I do this? Why didn't I say that? Why why why? Why. Why did he have to die?

Life isn't fair. This was the year to see the beauty in the world and I have seen a lot. But I have also seen misery. I have seen it and felt it deep in my bones. I feel it right now.

Every day, there are people who die and people who are born and people who love and people who hurt. And every day, we need to remember this.

Every day, we need to be more kind.

We need to reply to the e-mail we've been avoiding. To answer the phone. To make the coffee date with the needy friend. To walk the dog. To pat the cats. To make the bed. To breathe the air. To shower. To love. To live. Every. Day. But on days like this it is so, so hard.

But I know. For those of us living behind the veil of grief, we need to remember that it's OK to slide it to the side again and walk back through. That eventually, we will have to. Eventually, we must.

It's OK to enjoy a blueberry. It's OK to keep living our lives and seeing beauty, even in the depths of despair.

It's more than OK.

It's necessary.

So I'm going to force myself out of this room and go walk my dog now. I'm going to honor Josh's memory by seeing the beauty in every step. I'm going to breathe in the peace around us, and try to be grateful that that's what Josh finally has now.

Peace to you now, Josh. Rest in peace.

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21. Paul Krugman Speaks Out Against Amazon

NYT_Twitter_KrugmanNobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman has written a New York Times op-ed criticizing Amazon. For book selling, he goes so far as to say that it has a “robber-baron-type market power.”

In his piece, Krugman (pictured, via) compares Amazon with Standard Oil and talks about the consequences that may ensue should the online retail giant continue its current standard of operations. He feels that Amazon has abused its powers to retaliate against Hachette throughout the dispute between the two companies. Here’s an excerpt from the article:

“So far Amazon has not tried to exploit consumers. In fact, it has systematically kept prices low, to reinforce its dominance. What it has done, instead, is use its market power to put a squeeze on publishers, in effect driving down the prices it pays for books — hence the fight with Hachette. In economics jargon, Amazon is not, at least so far, acting like a monopolist, a dominant seller with the power to raise prices. Instead, it is acting as a monopsonist, a dominant buyer with the power to push prices down.”

New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

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22. the carnegie co-author conundrum

I was glad to spot Oliver and the Seawigs on this year's Carnegie Medal nomination list, but something made me do a double-take on the way it was written:

Now, I feel uncomfortable writing about awards. Partly because they're someone else's business; other people can give awards to anyone they like. Partly because I don't spend a lot of time researching the exact particulars of each award because I'm too busy trying to make good books, and good books that earn enough money to let me keep doing this job. So I'm no expert on the Carnegie and Greenaway medals. But these awards are set forward as the most important of the book prizes and picked up the most by the media, so when I spot something that seems amiss, I feel I need to ask questions, even if they don't directly benefit my own prospects.

Question: Why would the Carnegie list a highly illustrated book with just the writer's name and not the illustrator's name?

Answer (Answered by awards judge @mattlibrarian): Because of the eligibility criteria, the book must be written by a single author:

So books with two writers are out. And books with a writer and an illustrator are eligible, but only if the illustrator remains uncredited.

My publisher and agent didn't know about this nomination listing in advance, and it's causing all sorts of stir. They're asking, should we insist that I'm a a co-author and pull our book out of the running? (I blogged about this co-author business very recently!) Or should we leave it there on the list and pretend I'm not a co-author, like many other illustrators have had to pretend in the past? The book isn't a whole book without the pictures; they're integral to the story.

I'm fine with Oliver and the Seawigs not being nominated for the Greenaway Award, that's the personal taste of the judges, and whether they thought it met the criteria. I wouldn't expect Seawigs to win against full-illustrated picture books; there are too many words in the book to give space for lavish pictures. Compare this page of Oliver and the Seawigs...

... to a wordless page in There's a Shark in the Bath:

Or a page in Jim Field's There's a Lion in my Cornflakes:

Both of the picture books have SO much more room to show off blazing technical skill and overwhelm the reader with pure imagery that makes more visceral impact than the text. (And the Greenaway medal is supposed to be a pure illustration award.) Oliver and the Seawigs doesn't work exactly like that; it's more of an equal partner to a longer text. Occasionally it has moments when the imagery speaks more loudly than the text:

But we also have page with no pictures at all. Compare this to Philip's Carnegie-winning novel, Here Lies Arthur, which is pure text. Philip's a wizard at creating mental word pictures, and he has plenty of room for long descriptive passages:

Or his famous opening lines to Mortal Engines:

Philip CAN write in a way that needs no pictures. But he chose not to write that way for Oliver and the Seawigs because we were trying to do something very different. 'They had met on the top of Mount Everest' is short and says very little; that's a job for the picture to do.

So the Carnegie judging process could go two ways:

1. Oliver and the Seawigs and other highly illustrated chapter books could be read for words alone.
'They met on the top of Mount Everest' with no picture is not going to knock off anyone's socks or be humourous in any way. The 'meh' of the mountain goat doesn't even make sense by itself.

2. The judges take the illustrations into account when they judge the quality of the story, but any award given would be to Philip alone, listed that way in the press release. It would be up to Philip to give me credit, and the prize money situation would be awkward.

Do you think either of these options seem ideal? I'm not just asking for our books, but for other writers and illustrators, too.

Why does it even matter?

We don't really have a word for these kinds of books, but in the USA, they call them 'Middle Grade' books, to distinguish from 'Young Adult'. Philip and I think these books are absolutely vital to keeping kids reading; we're losing a lot of readers between picture books and books with no pictures at all. We watched Philip's son start reading Oliver and the Seawigs and he kept going until he got to the first page without a picture, and that's when he put it down. A page with no pictures at all can be completely daunting to a non-bookworm. This is a feeling a lot of book lovers can't even imagine, and it's book lovers who judge these sorts of prizes.

Two things I wish would happen:

1. The Carnegie would be opened to more than one author, to co-authors.
That would allow proper recognition for illustrators as co-authors, as well as close writing partnerships. (Why should authors have to be solitary for a book to be good?)

2. There would be a third prize created for these 'Middle Grade' books. There would be allowances made for stories that might appeal to younger readers, and for illustrations to play a major part in the storytelling process. A lot of kids who can read a bit more text than they find in picture books aren't quite ready for the very grown-up themes of recent Carnegie winners. You don't go straight from reading This is Not My Hat to The Bunker Diaries. Prize money would be spread equally between the awards, to show these books are all important.

Why would people nominate a book they didn't think stood a chance of winning? If Seawigs is judged by words alone, it won't win. If it's judged as a whole, it will be a blow to the whole illustrator-as-co-author argument.

I did get a tweet from the organisers, CILIP, on the subject:

And Philip's made his stance clear enough. (Can I say how much I love working with my co-author?)

So what should we DO? Pull out of the award? Stay in? I know it's only the long list, not the short list, and I'm tempted to stay in, for Philip's sake, and because I want to give the awards process a chance. I think the inclusion of the book allows us to talk more about these issues. But what do you think? Do you think this issue needs addressing? You can tweet to CILIP at @CILIPCKG and/or use the hash tag #CKG15 and I know they'll welcome the discussion.


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23. Penguin and Pumpkin by Salina Yoon

Penguin and PumpkinJust in time for autumn and Halloween, Penguin is back. This time Penguin is off on an adventure to find out what fall is like. Unfortunately, her little brother, Pumpkin, is too small to make the journey. But Penguin doesn’t forget about him and brings him back a little bit of fall.

Not only is this a story about the season but of sibling relationships as well. The cute illustrations share some of the joys of autumn. While Penguin and Pinecone is still my favorite in this series, I love the ending image of snowing leaves in this title.

Posted by: Liz

0 Comments on Penguin and Pumpkin by Salina Yoon as of 10/20/2014 1:48:00 PM
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24. The Fairy's Conversation

I found this little sketch while cleaning out my studio.  I nearly forgot about it.  Hope to come back to it in paint some day.

0 Comments on The Fairy's Conversation as of 10/20/2014 3:54:00 PM
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25. I’m excited!

Mastering front 250WI’m only a proof and a couple of weeks away from publishing Mastering the Craft of Compelling Storytelling, a sorta-new writing craft book.

My original book, Flogging the Quill, Crafting a Novel that Sells, is now out of print. I’ve gone through it to polish the content, reorganized it completely, and added new content and examples. It still feels good to me, and it seems I’m in good company: a couple of quotes from Amazon reviewers on the original about what's in my book(s):

“This is one of the outstanding 'how-to' books about writing. I keep it right beside two other favorites, Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Dave King and Renni Browne and On Writing by Stephen King.”

“Ray’s . . . advice on experiential description is on par with Donald Maass's 'micro tension' advice—critical to delivering top-shelf writing.”

Why a new version with a new title and new cover?

By going from 8.5” by 11” to a 5.5” by 8.5” trade paperback, the new size lowers the price—$16.99 versus $21.95—and may make it more convenient for writers to have in their bookshelves. At 320 pages, it should look something like the 3D image at the bottom of this post.

The change in print format also enabled conversion to ebooks, too, so there will be a Kindle edition published at the same time. Maybe an epub too, but I’m focused on Kindle for now.

By the way, did you know that you can get a free Kindle reader for a PC or a Mac that enables you to read a Kindle book on your computer? Same goes for epub (Nook) ebooks, too, with Adobe Digital Editions.

New title? I’m hoping that a more benefit-oriented title will attract more readers.

New cover? I felt the original wasn’t all that good and needed refreshing.

And I’m hoping the new ebook formats will also reach more readers.

Want to receive a free Kindle ebook in return for a review?

On Amazon, the new version won’t be able to bring to its pages all the amazingly positive reviews of the original. While it can point to the old FtQ page, it would be good to have fresh reviews—if, of course, they’re positive. But that’s the chance all authors take.

If you want a free beta Kindle version to read for review purposes, please email me. I’ll let you know when the book is officially published and has a page on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Pass this on?

More anon.

Thanks for your time and consideration,


3D cover400W

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