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Cambridge University Press recently released The Cambridge Companion to American Science Fiction edited by Eric Carl Link and Gerry Canavan, a sequel, of sorts, to 2003's The Cambridge Companion to Science Fiction edited by Edward James and Farah Mendlesohn. I bought the James and Mendlesohn volume at the first science fiction convention I ever attended, the Worldcon in Boston in 2004, and I think it's an admirable volume that mostly does its best to try for the impossible, which is to present a coherent overview of the history and scholarship of science fiction as a genre-thing (mostly in the Anglo-American mode). I have mixed feelings about the Cambridge Companion to... series, because the volumes often feel like grab-bags and pushmi-pullyus, a bit too specific for people looking for an introduction to the scholarship on a topic, a bit too general for people with knowledge of a topic. They often contain a few excellent individual chapters amidst many chapters that feel, to me at least, like they needed about 15 more pages. That's still, inevitably, the case with James and Mendlesohn's volume, but many of the chapters are impressively efficient, and as a guide for beginning scholars, the book as a whole is useful.
The new Link and Canavan book doesn't work quite as well for me, and it has a higher number of chapters that seem, frankly, shallow and, in a couple of cases, distortingly incomplete and sometimes flat-out inaccurate. With a topic limited to a particular geography, you'd think the editors and writers would be able to zero in a bit more. Some chapters do so quite well, but my experience of reading through the book was that it felt more diffuse and less precise than its predecessor, with annoying little mistakes like Darren Harris-Fain's statement that James Patrick Kelly's story "Think Like a Dinosaur" requires close reading to find its SF tropes (it's set on a space station and includes aliens; finding the SF tropes doesn't require close reading, just the most basic literacy). Despite the annoyance of little errors and the frustration of wild generalizations in many of the post-WWII chapters, I began to wonder if the big problem might be a matter of the volume's determination to focus on "American" science fiction, a determination that works very well for the chapters looking at pre-World War II fiction, but then becomes ... problematic.
The problem, though, might be me. I'm not at all the intended audience for the book, I have ideological/methodological hesitations about some of the framing, and I have a love/hate relationship with academic science fiction scholarship in general — feelings that are probably mostly prejudices unburdened by facts. (Sometimes, I have trouble shaking the feeling that SF criticism is still wearing training wheels.) At the same time, though, I'm also drawn to the idea of scholarship about science fiction and its related genres/modes/things/whatzits, because I am (for now) ensconced in academia and also have been reading SF of one sort of another all my life, off and on. I'm not particularly familiar with Eric Carl Link as a scholar (though I'm using his Norton Critical Edition of The Red Badge of Courage in a course I'm teaching right now), but I've been following Gerry Canavan's work for a few years and I think he's a force for good, someone who is trying to keep SF criticism moving into the 21st century. Indeed, I just got back from the International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts, where I heard Canavan deliver a truly interesting paper on posthumanism, Kim Stanley Robinson, eco-SF, etc.
In my more radical moments, I wonder if, to move into this century, we shouldn't just get rid of the whole idea of "American" science fiction, or at least the study of it as such. (Heck, in my most radical moments, I wonder if we shouldn't get rid of the whole idea of "science fiction", but that's a topic for another time...)
Let's look at the book, or at least its premise and introduction. (I'm not going to do a blow-by-blow review of each chapter. If you must know, the chapters that seem to me most worth the time it takes to read them are Lisa Yaszek's "Afrofuturism in American Science Fiction", John Rieder's "American Frontiers", Karen Hellekson's "Fandom and Fan Culture", and Priscilla Wald's "Science, Technology, and the Environment".) The introduction by the editors serves various purposes, and succeeds impressively in giving a concise overview of 19th century American science fiction. If you want to know where to begin with American proto-SF, you could do a lot worse than to read that section of this intro.
The most provocative part of the introduction is the part that seeks to justify the book's focus on science fiction from the United States (there's no Canada or Mexico, so this isn't North American SF, though Margaret Atwood gets some passing mentions; there's nothing about South American SF; this is United Statesian):
The simple premise of the present volume ... is that the science fictional imagination is so fundamental to the arc of history across the so-called American Century that we might productively talk about a specifically American SF. Many of the ideas, themes, and conventions of contemporary science fiction take their roots in a distinctly American cultural experience, and so SF in America serves as a provocative index to twentieth- and twenty-first-century American culture, reflecting America's hopes, desires, and fears. (4)
I am an avowed skeptic of canonical nationalism, and so my instincts are to tear into these statements, but at the same time there's a real truth to them: science fiction as a genre is deeply tied to origins in American pulp magazines and then in the paperback revolution of the 1950s, '60s, and 70s, as well as, to some extent or another, the dominance of blockbuster Hollywood over so much cultural production (although in some ways that also helps de-genrefy SF by absorbing the idea of the science fictional into whatever Hollywood product happens to be highly popular, whether Star Wars or The X-Files or superhero movies). Additionally, as this Cambridge Companion makes clear, USian mythmaking is a key component to a lot of the foundational works of what we think of as genre SF — myths of individualist heroism, myths of the frontier (John Rieder's chapter tackles this head-on, which is one reason why it's among the strongest chapters in the book). For a long time, what we USians might call SF in other countries was different from American SF, even as American SF was derived from primarily European writers of the 19th century, especially Wells and Verne. One of the major differences was that it was in the US that an immigrant from Luxembourg, Hugo Gernsback, successfully severed science fiction from other streams of fiction, distinguishing it not only from "literature", but also from all other types of popular and pulp fiction. The innovation was not simply a matter of definition or labelling, as that had been done plenty of times elsewhere, with terms like "scientific romance". Science fiction as a genre didn't need a definition, it needed a system. It was Gernsback who, in the late 1920s, not only gave SF its own magazine but also created ways for readers of that magazine to identify themselves as a discourse community — to be, in a word, fans. It was in the US, then, that the production, distribution, and reception of SF as a genre system successfully began, and that system soon allowed for the dissemination of the values constituting it, values that were often stereotypically "American".
After World War Two, things get awfully complex, however, as genre SF becomes quite productively transatlantic, and as the space race and the Cold War affect global perceptions of technology and the future. The New Wave, for instance, makes little sense from a purely US-centric standpoint, and yet the decade of the 1960s in literary SF — and all its repercussions — makes no sense without the New Wave. (Further, as Samuel Delany has pointed out multiple times, it should really be New Waves — Moorcock's New Wave was not Ellison's New Wave was not Merril's New Wave was not Cele Goldsmith's New Wave, etc. The way they diverge and overlap deserves attention.)
And yet, it's also true that American SF publishers and media producers have had more power and success overall than others, at least with English-language SF, and so their ideas of SF spread easily beyond US borders.
The hegemonic monster (hegemonster?) of US power in the second half of the 20th century deserves scrutiny, and science fiction could be a tool for such scrutiny, as I expect the editors of this book hoped to be able to at least begin to do, and as some of the chapters, do, indeed, pay attention to. We need, though, a Cultures of United States Imperialism for science fiction, or a study of Rick Perlstein's histories of US conservatism alongside a study of science fiction in the same era, or ... well, the possibilities are many, because science fiction is often a genre of power fantasies, and the United States is often a country fueled by such fantasies. (For all its messiness, Thomas Disch's The Dreams Our Stuff Is Made Of at least asked some useful questions.) Such an intervention isn't really what Cambridge Companions are about, however.
One of the dangers that the field of American Studies faces is the danger of re-centering American power just as we're beginning to de-center it in literary, cultural, and political studies. We can see the de-centering effort on a small scale with literary science fiction, where the rise of the internet has allowed a nascent movement of global SF to grow, and where there is a stronger awareness than ever of writers and audiences from around the world. There's a long way to go, but if the 20th century was an American century, and also a century of American science fiction, then perhaps the 21st can centered differently.
The editors of the Cambridge Companion hint toward this in their introduction. They are no American jingoists. But they also write: "The vast canon to which all contemporary creators of SF (in all media, forms, and genres) respond is thus (for better or worse) tightly linked to American ideas, experiences, cultural assumptions, and entertainment markets, as well as to distinctly American visions of what the future might be like" (5). I think that statement is false in one important way — I would say "most creators of anglophone, genrefied SF" rather than "all contemporary creators of SF (in all media...)" etc, because I think this rather all-encompassing generalization neglects certain tendencies in British SF that have been influential, and it completely wipes out non-US/UK SF. The result is an unfortunate and I expect unintentional valorizing of UScentricity, unless it is premised on a very narrow definition of SF, which it seems not to be. But this is the danger of nationalistic scholarship, especially when performed by scholars from within a particular nation — they remain blind to the world they cannot see, and so the map they create is one where the US is in the center and is bigger than any other area.
Americanness was, obviously, not quite so much of a problem for the James and Mendelsohn Cambridge Companion, where many of the contributors were not America. Nonetheless, it was very much not a Cambridge Companion to Global Science Fiction — a topic too big for the slim confines of any one book in the Cambridge Companion series. (To see some of the scope, look at the International tag at the SF Encyclopedia site.)
There is no denying the centrality of the US to science fiction in any way that science fiction makes sense as a label. (For better or worse, as Link and Canavan say.) But for myself, I wonder what it means to study American science fiction solely, much as I wonder what it means to study American literature solely, or American anything solely. Or to call it "American".
And yet to deny the centrality of a thing called "American literature" is foolish and distorting, even though, in my more idealistic and la-la-land moments, I might want to. We are not the world? We are the world? We are ... what?
As I think about the introduction to this book and my inchoate (if not incoherent) resistance to the American in American Science Fiction, I can't help but also think about a paragraph in Aaron Bady's recent, important Chronicle of Higher Education essay, "Academe's Willful Ignorance of African Literature", a paragraph that I have no answers for, and which nags at me:
I worry that as Americanists move into “World Anglophone” literature, the world outside of Britain and the United States gets included in theory, but will continue to be excluded in practice. As crass it might be to use “world literature” as a shorthand for “the rest of the world,” the alternative might be worse. I worry that the actual effect of rebranding English departments as “World Anglophone literature departments” would only normalize the status quo. Will their survey of Anglophone letters still consist of dozens of scholars working on British and American literatures and a single, token Africanist? That might be the best-case scenario. For all its flaws, at least the term “postcolonial literature” recognized on which side of the global color line it located its subject, and recognized how much work was yet to be done.
When thinking of "American science fiction", I can't help but think of all that that term doesn't encompass, and perhaps my struggle with this Cambridge Companion is that my own deepest interests are in what sits at the margins, what defies the definitions, what lurks beyond the scopes.
(I told you I'm not the audience for this book!)
I wonder, too, why there isn't more scholarly attention to things like Analog magazine and Baen Books. Neither appears in the index to The Cambridge Companion to American Science Fiction, and the sorts of things published by Analog and Baen don't seem to get much discussed by SF scholars. And yet shouldn't a book about American science fiction provide more than just the most passing of passing mentions to Jerry Pournelle and Larry Niven? The ascent of science fiction in the United States parallels the ascent of Reaganism and neoliberalism, and how is it that among the various references to Star Wars in this book there are none (that I found, at least) to Ronnie's own beloved version? This American Science Fiction needs more Amurrican science fiction, more Newt Gingrich, more Rapture culture, more survivalism. Too much academic SF criticism cherry-picks favorites to valorize, and since most academic lit critics are armchair leftists of some sort or another (myself included), we get lots of Left Hand of Darkness and not nearly enough Left Behind.
(I have no good transition between these paragraphs, so I hope you'll pardon me this momentary aside to admit it. Hi, how are you? Thanks for continuing to read this rambling post, even though I'm sure you have something better to do. We're almost done. Shall we get back to it?)
To set down scholarly stakes within a realm called The American not only risks valorizing an already highly valorized Americanicity, but it also risks seeing things in a narrower way than the creators of the works under study themselves did, and I firmly believe that criticism should add breadth and depth to material rather than narrowing it, should give us more techniques of reading rather than fewer. This is my problem with some versions of canonical nationalism: they are procrustean, and miss the ways writers, for instance, learn from a variety of materials that are not so geographically bound. Among scholars, there's been in recent decades more of a push for, for instance, a view of transatlantic writing and thinking — of the Black Atlantic, of transatlantic Romanticism and transatlantic Modernism(s).
"American" is not only geographical but ideological: the mythography of Americanism. Tracing the flows to and from that ideology is especially interesting to me, particularly as a way to try to interrupt those flows, or at least look at their edges, cracks, and pores. (The Cambridge Companion to Anti-American Science Fiction, anyone? No?) I like that Link and Canavan end the book with a chapter titled "After America", and though I have reservations about the chapter itself, which isn't nearly ambitious enough, the gesture seems necessary for this age: to at least imagine a move beyond the centrality of US power and US dominance, to change the perspective and shift our lenses. Certainly, as global warming threatens to eradicate most life on Earth, the moral imperative of our age is to move beyond any one nation, to perceive the planet entire, and to do what so much science fiction has aspired to do, even if it has almost always failed: to look at things from a broader perspective.
What if "After America" were to mean after the idea of America, after the dominance of the nation, after the discourse of Americanness? (America is just so 20th century, dude.) By ending with "After America", this Cambridge Companion includes the seeds of its own destruction. A worthwhile move, it seems to me. But then, I like books that want to destroy themselves.
I was tearing up a Zambian highway on my white Honda “Dream” when it hit me.
I thought it was mud.
A convoy of trucks thundering past in the opposite direction was kicking up debris. Even after the last tanker had passed, the flak was stinging my hands and face.
What the hell—that mud?—bees! I was plastered in bees.
I’m telling you this story because I love the road and the dire straits into which a journey often leads. If you’re like me you love to hop aboard a good road story and be taken for a ride.
Bees! I was riding headlong into a swarm. They were inside my shirt. They were up my nose and in my ears and stinging my skull. How could they be biting my skill? I was wearing a helmet. I yanked the clasp and jettisoned the thing before I came to a stop.
Where they came from, I have no idea, but I was immediately surrounded by children.
They didn’t ask permission to debug me, just began pulling them out of my hair, out of my ears. They pulled one off my eye, which was swelling. These kids swatted bees off my back and off my thighs. They were inside my khaki shorts, for god’s sake. They were inside my mouth. My lips were swelling. I had to do something, and quickly.
Africans have a saying: If the snake bites you within sight of your village rooftops, you will die. The victim dashes home, I guess, pumping the venom to the heart. You get bitten far from home, however, and you have nowhere to run. You will stay put and do the right thing.
Though my heart was racing, I could feasibly ride the motorcycle without making things worse. I thanked the kids and sped back toward the city. At home I slathered calamine lotion over the worst swelling before lying on my bed. Calm down, I told myself, just breathe. I felt no panic, no sense of tragedy at the prospect of dying. No regrets.
Here I was in Africa living a dream. I worked the rivers, measured their flow when hippos would allow it. For two years I crisscrossed that high dry plateau by Land Rover, camping out most nights lulled to sleep by the sounds of deep nature on the prowl. I earned my pilot’s licence flying a Cessna 172, shot my 8 mm movies, and rode that Honda almost to death. I was 22 years old.
I lay as still as death. Is this what the Sufis advocate—to die before you die?
I’ve been lucky for the “still as death” moments that life has forced upon me. I’ve learned how to cultivate such moments but back then I was dependent upon bad luck to trip me up and pin me down. I hope you know what I’m talking about.
We normally operate from a sense of being a physical-emotional-thinking entity. That’s us, the subject of our everyday lives. Then we’re brought suddenly and against our will to a full stop and an amazing thing happens. I’m lying there fully aware of “myself” in all its physical-emotional-thinking-ness. But if I can see it, then what is this subjectivity that’s aware of it?
Who am “I,” really?
The question creates a vast space in which time seems not to exist, but the clock on the wall showed that an hour had passed while my condition had not worsened, so I checked my physical self in the mirror. I would be okay. I remember starting to laugh.
I’m telling you this story because I have a vault full of road stories that might add up to a travel book one day. I was mentioning this publishing possibility to an old friend and without hesitation he instructed me to begin with the bees. It’s a short story which not only doesn’t get very far but then I hurry home. What kind of travel story is that?
Long or short, the key to a good road story is that it distances the protagonist from who he or she mistakenly thinks they are. That would be the point of a story, wouldn’t it? We leave home in the hope that we might reach closer to who we really are.
For one day only we will be celebrating and sharing our love of comics.
Our Expo is all about showcasing the very best in independent comics from South Wales and beyond, their creators and their talent.
Join us on Saturday, June 27th 2015, at Cardiff Masonic Hall to celebrate with us.
Tickets can be purchased using the button above, and the first 100 ticket buyers will receive a complimentary Anthology created exclusively for CICE by a collective of the best local independent comic creators.
Written by Kate Messner Illustrated by Mark Siegel Chronicle Books 5/5/2015 978-1-4521-1233-6 32 pages Age 4 to 8
“STEP 1: Find a Story. “STEP 2: Find a Reading Buddy. “STEP 3: Find a Cozy Reading Spot.
“Kate Messner and Mark Siegel brilliantly chronicle the process of becoming a reader, from choosing a book and finding someone with whom to share it to guessing what will happen and—finally—coming to The End. How to Read a Story playfully and movingly illustrates the idea that the reader who discovers the love of reading finds, at the end, the beginning.” [book jacket]
Early readers will love this short primer on how to read a picture book. A young boy sits among dozens of books trying to find the perfect one. If you look closely, you will see the dog is laying on what will become the final choice: The Princess, the Dragon, and the Robot. I love little details that ask the reader to pay close attention.
Step 4 says to look at the cover and try to decipher what the story will be about. Step 5 is the most exciting step as you finally crack the cover, turn to page 1, and begin reading.
“Once upon a time . . .”
I love this book. From the cover on, How to Read a Story is a perfect primer on reading a picture book—the start of a love of reading. One important point: talking like the characters, whether a powerful mouse or a hungry knight, using character voices will increase a reader and listener’s enjoyment of the story. The author uses different fonts to emphasize these changing voices.
The ink and watercolor illustrations are cute and really add to the instructions as they draw you into How to Read a Story. Young kids—and parents—will love the young boy and his reading partner curling up in a soft over-stuffed chair reading and listening, until step 8, when they take a break to predict what might happen next in The Princess, the Dragon, and the Robot. Stiegel illustrates each possibility in a talk-bubble.
“Will the princess tame the dragon? “Will the robot marry the princess? “Will the dragon eat them all for lunch?”
During Step 2, everyone—except the dog—had better things to do than read to the young boy; by the end of his reading aloud, they are all interested in the end. Each of the ten important steps helps teach the wonderment of reading to young children. How to Read a Story looks fantastic and its text is important for all to learn. Once you have read a picture book—following the steps—there is one-step left:
“When the book is over say, ‘The End.’ “And then . . . start all over again.”
Lonnie Mann is trying to raise $3,000 on Kickstarter to fund a comic strip book called Thoughts from Iceland, a Travelogue Comic.
Inspired by John & Hank Green’s \"Thoughts From Places\" videos on YouTube, the comics recount Mann’s experiences traveling around Iceland. Check it out:
I’ve self-published very small runs of the comic in 3 short volumes, which I sell at cons, and online. But they’re expensive to print, and so they’re also expensive for people buy!
This kickstarter is to raise money to print professional-quality, perfect-bound, softcover books of the whole finished comic. Plus, it includes 30+ pages of new watercolors and stories about the second trip I took to Iceland, a year later. And that’s not even to mention the Icelandic glossary, and pronunciation guide!
Today at Strange Horizons, I review Zen Cho's Crawford-winning short story collection Spirits Abroad. This is something of a milestone for me--the first review I've had published in Strange Horizons since stepping down as a reviews editor. It's also a welcome return to writing full-length book reviews, and for both of those occasions I couldn't have chosen a better subject with which to mark
I just learned that my Lives essay, “A Doubter in the Holy Land,” will be included in Best American Travel Writing 2015. The guest editor is Andrew McCarthy. Thank you for choosing my essay, Andrew McCarthy!
CBS Denver initially reported that a woman crashed her car into Mile High Comics in Denver Yesterday. The 17-year-old woman died as a result of the crash. Nobody was inside the store at the time of the collision and no other injuries resulted from the accident. CBS News followed-up on the event with a separate video as well. The woman’s identity is currently not known to the public, but owner Chuck Rozanski placed two bouquets of flowers next to the loading dock where the accident happened. “If this was my daughter I would just be just devastated just beyond words,” Rozanski told CBS News .
These of course arrive at the same time I have gotten a review copy of The Architect’s Apprentice by Elif Shafak. I’ve not read Shafak before and I am really looking forward to it. It takes place in the Ottoman Empire starting around 1540 and centers around architecture, jealousy and rivalry.
And because that’s not enough, I’m expecting another review copy in the mail of a book called The Last Bookaneer by Matthew Pearl. Nineteenth century book pirates! Yes, you read that right. They are out to steal Robert Louis Stevenson’s last manuscript. It sounds completely silly but I’m hoping for a good, fun adventure kind of novel. Fingers crossed!
These four books in addition to all the other books that are lined up or already on the go. I am quite probably demented. Also, I am fairly certain that I have no concept of time when it comes to books and how much time is available during my day for me to spend reading.
Since I work at a Catholic University I will be having a four-day Easter holiday weekend. The weather on Friday and Saturday is forecast to be not so very pleasant which means I will have plenty of time to indulge in reading and catalog transcribing. But since I already know I have no concept of time, I no doubt am thinking there will be so much more of it available than there really will be. I wonder if the scientists at the Large Hadron Collider really do make contact with a parallel universe that might mean I can find another me and we can get together and divide and conquer. That’s divide and conquer the reading, though being in charge of a universe or two could be fun. Nah, it would cut into my reading time.
Disney Junior plans to create an animated TV movie and show based on the Fancy Nancy picture book series. The adaptation projects will be released in 2017.
This development has prompted HarperCollins and Disney Publishing to form a partnership. The two publishers will collaborate on a new Fancy Nancy books inspired by the forthcoming television series.
Here’s more from the press release: “The stories, geared towards kids age 2-7, have an underlying theme of self-expression and love of family as they follow the adventures of a girl who likes to be fancy in everything from her creative, elaborate attire to her advanced vocabulary…Now in its 10th year, Fancy Nancy includes over 60 titles, has sold more than 28 million books and has been translated into 20 languages. Beloved by young children around the world, Fancy Nancy was named 2008’s Book Character of the Year by Global License.”
Berkley Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House, is re-releasing a book on Robert Durst, the subject of HBO’s popular documentary series The Jinx.
A Deadly Secret: The Bizarre and Chilling Story of Robert Durst by Matt Birkbeck, was originally published in 2002 and had two new chapters added in 2012. This year, the author wrote a new introduction to bring the story up to date with current developments, including Durst’s recent arrest.
The book follows the search for Durst’s first wife, medical student Kathie Durst, who went missing in 1982, a case that was reopened 18 years later. Birkbeck, covered the investigation for People magazine and Reader’s Digest and had access Durst’s NYPD files. The eBook is already available and the trade paperback will be out on April 14, 2015.
A lot--A LOT--of people are writing to me about a page in Home, the new book by Carson Ellis. Published in 2015 by Candlewick, here's the cover:
I draw your attention to the last image in the top row (a tipi) and the first image in the fourth row (an igloo). And... I sigh.
Once you start reading this picture book, you'll come to a page that says "Some homes are boats." But it isn't just a boat. No boat is just a boat, right? They have purpose.
On the facing page of the boat are three figures, partially clothed, standing in front of a structure, looking out at that boat as it approaches. The text is "Some homes are wigwams." That tells us that this particular boat is one on which--shall we say, Europeans--are aboard.
That boat has been their home for a while, but they're looking to build new homes. On Native lands. On the home lands that belong to those three figures standing by that wigwam.
I wonder if those thoughts occurred to Ellis as she did this part of the book?
I wonder if Ellis imagined, say, children of tribal nations on the East Coast as readers of her book?
While a lot of people are sighing with pleasure as they turn the pages of this book, lots of others are rolling their eyes. I'm among the latter. And all the Native and non-Native people who are writing to me? They're of the latter group, too.
Home -- for its point of view -- is not recommended.
SANTIAGO, PANAMA -- Nena has seen horrors. The wife of a member of a Santiago Rotary Club has seen it all. When we enter a Santiago hospital and I ask her if she works here, she laughs.
“No,” she tells me. “I volunteer here. I volunteer everywhere. My husband. The man with the cane? He works here.”
Nena is from Mexico originally. She knows Spanish, English, Italian and Japanese. She is a Rotarian from birth, she says. Her father was a Rotarian. Her husband is a Rotarian. She is not an official part of the Santiago Rotary Club, which is about 26 members strong. Only one of those members is a woman. She is still a Rotarian.
“There used to be five women.” She shrugs like this change in the membership dynamics is not much of a big deal.
She spends the day showing us the projects that the Santiago Rotarian men have accomplished, but also the projects that are propelled by the wives of the club, women who spend their times unofficially helping people.
One of those places she brings us is a home for children who are malnourished. Another is a home for children whose mothers are having difficulties. Some of them are orphans. Some of them are not officially orphans. There are sisters whose father is their grandfather. There is Kimberly, 11, whose mother tried to kill her last year. Kimberly is sweet, perching on a coach, a desk, while the younger children frolic around her. She picks a multi-colored Beanie Baby bear and cradles it in her hands. She watches the Rotarians crowd in to meet her and the other children and hear how Rotary has helped them. She smiles shyly but quickly. I am instantly in love with her as she laughs as a Rotarian with spotty Spanish tries to figure out her age.
“Her mother is in prison forever,” Nena says with anger. She tells us the story of another girl, eight, who she met in a hospital. “I saw her, saw the line on her belly and said, ‘This girl is pregnant.’”
But Nena persisted. “They said, ‘She hasn’t even had her first period yet.’ But I said, ‘She is.’”
They tested her and she was more than halfway through her pregnancy. Her mother couldn’t understand. It turned out that her grandfather watched her while her mother worked. Her grandfather had been raping her. He also sold her to his friends. He is in jail now.
“As far as I am concerned they should have cut off his balls,” Nena says.
Nena enters a home for children with troubles, children like Kimberly, those sisters, a little boy named Jesus, and she scoops up a baby, cradling him in her arms, cooing. She is justice and kindness. She is anger and action. She is love and grace and a million things all wrapped up in a small package of a woman that wears multiple pieces of jewelry at once.
The Bar Harbor and Ellsworth Maine Rotary Clubs and Nena visit schools and water towers that the Santiago Rotary Club has sponsored. We meet Jesus who folds his Ellsworth Blueberry Pancake Breakfast t-shirt into a precise rectangle, smiling at his colored pencils and coloring book. We meet school children who will have physical education class again simply because we have brought a few soccer balls. We meet Kimberly who smiles with love despite what her mother tried to do.
Ellsworth President David Wells hands out toys and t-shirts. Ellsworth High School student Josh Callnan who pumps up soccer balls with a pump that Dave Wheaton and Annette Higgins thought to bring. Sallie Boggs is greeted by an eight-kindergartener simultaneous hug. Shaun Farrar is surrounded by children at each school he visits. The students gaze up and up at his 6 foot 5 inch frame with wonder, giggling as he asks their names.
“They think he is a giant,” one Santiago Rotarian laughs. “He is, actually.”
In a place where malnourishment is often an issue, growing so tall is rare. The Santiago Rotarians have made combatting malnourishment a priority creating fiver or six sites at schools where they hatch and raise chickens for six weeks, three times a year. The students then eat the chickens for lunch. Their parents take turns cooking, rotating throughout the year. The chickens that are not eaten are sold to buy more at an earlier stage in their life cycle.
Nourishment helps children have stronger minds and bodies. Rotarians including former Santiago Club President Edwin Munoz dispersed 10,000 dictionaries throughout Panama to give students access to words that will give them broader, stronger futures. `
Clean water is also important. Working with a Rotarian from Texas, the club has provided multiple water tanks to both residential areas and schools. The Rotarian’s wife had died. When they were visiting Panama she had been saddened by the lack of running water in schools. School would have to be closed in the middle of the day so children could wash and get water off site.
“It was disruptive,” says their principal. “This is so much better.”
The Santiago Rotarians have even provided sewing machines to the local hospital so that workers could make hospital gowns and surgery garments for doctors and patients. Hospital Director Doctor Rafael Andrade addressed the Rotarians and speaking both about the sewing machines and the wheelchairs that the Ellsworth and Bar Harbor Rotarians brought over said, “There is no word for this because it is something that comes from you’re heart. I hope that this visit is not your last time here.”
As the Rotarians visited the bowels of the hospital to see the industrial sewing machines, Nena said, “They have needs. The hospital – everyone – they have many needs. They want wheelchairs, too.”
Rotary and Nena and the women like her keep picking away at those needs. When the home for malnourished children needed a physical therapy room, Rotarians from Panama and the United States stepped up.
“They needed a wall for the room. We built a wall. They needed another wall for a room. They built another wall. Piece by piece is how these things happen,” Nena says.
And she’s right. It is piece by piece, volunteer by volunteer, wheelchair by wheelchair, water tower by water tower that change happens, that lives become a little bit better, that hope because reality. Change and hope, service and volunteerism are powerful things. It doesn’t matter if it’s little steps. All that matters is that it’s steps in the right direction. That direction is forward. That direction is to a better life. That direction is towards hope. #rotary#rotaryinternational
Most of us lucky ones live many lives on our sojourn on earth. We assay many roles, we experience varying circumstances. We Live. And we make amazing memories while we do that.
My dad was a very senior doctor in the Indian Railways, and we traveled a lot - always in British Raj style. Of all the memories I have of that life, the holidays are the sharpest, and the most beautiful. A snapshot of explaining murals on a lovely temple in Orissa to him, eyes scrunched against the sun, is probably clearer today in my mind than it was then.
Travel is a wonderful way to expand the mind. It teaches you about the place you visit, opens your mind to other cultures and people, tells you you can move, change and adapt. It is an entirely positive experience in most cases. Everyone likes to travel, some in any way, to anywhere, some with more specifications. For me, I would travel less, but travel well... really well. Four stars minimum. The fact that I cannot bring myself to shell out for more than economy-class plane tickets is bad enough. But elitist compulsions aside, I believe travelling is a must for personal growth. A person who grows and dies in the place he is born in misses out on a lot. A lot of pain, maybe, but a lot of fun too.
But I digress. I was talking of the memories that travel engenders. A holiday is a separate space in our lives. It is a time when we take out time for the 'unnecessary', when the routine, generic parts of living are given secondary place to the special, personal part. Precious taking precedence over the pressing. That itself makes it sacrosanct.
When we create memories with people we love in a different place, we make a personal landmark in time-space. A special time is created, a bubble in itself, indestructible.
A trip to Orlando for the opening of Harry Potter Park is an indelible memory, easily revisited. The smiles, the frowns, the heat, the conversation. The silly guitar photo. Nothing that happens or will happen can change that. A big party at home becomes one of many, but the trip will remain unchanged through Time. The first time I swam with Manta rays is as fresh today as it was then. I can feel the cold salt water, the rough scaly fin as it brushed me, the slowing of time, the meaninglessness of the world outside the water. Another bubble I can retreat to anytime.
That bubble is a reminder of who we are, of what we do, of what matters. It confirms that life has to be more than our earthly existence. We get little pieces of heaven in our experiences as we travel, and those are what we tuck away in our hearts and minds. Because every time we experience something new, see something beautiful, taste something fabulous, we know it cannot be meaningless. We know there is more. And we know that a lifetime is simply not enough - certainly not in this miserably limited existence.
So when we are all standing in front of our Creator on the Day of Judgement, and he opens the gates to Heaven, (after all, does anyone think they might actually go to hell??) I am going to ask instead for the 6-star resorts on the beaches and mountains of all the worlds to travel around with the people I love. And yes, with the full dessert buffet. And if he has to do a bit of recreating... well, that will be one hell of a memory!
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 ofNineteen 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 fromGeorgia 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.
Errington explained: “She actually wrote four editions of The Daily Prophet, the newspaper within the Wizarding World, which were printed and distributed by Bloomsbury to the Harry Potter Fan Club. Those four issues are entirely by her. So if you were looking at the author’s work, you would know that between the American publication of The Sorcerer’s Stone and the English publication of The Prisoner of Azkaban, she wrote two issues of The Daily Prophet. Between Azkaban and Goblet of Fire, she wrote another version of The Daily Prophet.”
Yesterday The Mary Sue published an article noting that for-profit comic-cons might be violating federal labor law by not paying minimum wage to workers improperly classified as volunteers. However, a recent case involving Major League Baseball shows how commercial comic-cons could beat the tag.
The use of free labor by for-profit companies has become a hot issue in recent years. Internships have become a particularly touchy topic – class action lawsuits by former interns have prompted some companies to end their unpaid internship programs, although there are at least a couple high-profile cases on appeal in which companies are challenging the Department of Labor’s standards for determining whether an intern is actually an employee.
Given how costly it can be for a company to fall afoul of federal law on this issue, it is indeed prudent for the companies that run comic conventions to assess whether it is legal for them to use unpaid volunteers. This is especially conventions run by for-profit companies, since charitable nonprofits enjoy a special exemption from minimum wage and overtime requirements in regard to volunteers. The Mary Sue has once again performed a service to the community in calling attention to this important issue.
With that in mind, in making this analysis it’s important to be aware of both the law’s requirements, the specific practices of each company, and the exemptions that are available outside the one given to charities.
First, since conventions produced by ReedPop — NYCC, ECCC, C2E2 — were mentioned in the post, it’s worth noting, as several “volunteers” have stated in the original comments thread and a related Reddit thread, that ReedPop pays volunteers minimum wage as official crew. Calling people volunteers in this context is a great way to foster a sense of community and community — one of things for which Lance Fensterman and company are to be commended is the way that they have fostered this communal sensibility while maximizing return on investment.
But not every for-profit comic-con that brings on volunteers gives these workers compensation – in fact, depending on the convention, you might actually be required to pay a fee for the privilege of helping the company out! Although this may seem on its face like a violation of federal law, there’s a legal loophole that has enabled countless commercial businesses to use volunteers in the standard sense of term.
Over the years the federal Fair Labor Standards Act has accumulated dozens of exemptions for a wide range of ventures, from homemakers making wreaths to C-level executives. For a company that operates a program taking place within a limited period of time during the year, there is one exemption in particular that catches the corporate attorney’s eye: minimum wage and overtime requirements do not apply to “any employee employed by an establishment which is an amusement or recreational establishment…” that operates no more than seven months a year or meets a financial test as to revenue generated at different times of the year. (29 USC 213(a)(3))
There are several cases that show how a commercial comic-con can take advantage of this provision, but the ruling perhaps most on-point was issued just a year ago in the Southern District of New York – coincidentally, the same federal district in which the New York Comic-Con takes place. Chen v. Major League Baseball Properties was brought by a former volunteer for the 2013 All-Star Week FanFest at the Javits Center (!), and the volunteer made arguments similar to those made in the intern lawsuits: volunteers at the event met the criteria for employee status, and thus Major League Baseball should have paid them at least minimum wage.
Major League Baseball — and the court — disagreed. As the court observed, although Major League Baseball operates all year long, Department of Labor regulations distinguish an entire enterprise from an “establishment,” which specifically refers to “a distinct place of business.” The exemption was put in place to accommodate seasonal ventures employing people for discrete periods of time in activities that might offer “non-monetary rewards.” The court concluded Major League Baseball’s FanFest was analogous to the amusement and recreational activities in view when legislators originally enacted the exemption, and the plaintiff’s federal as well as state law claims were summarily dismissed.
The plaintiff has appealed the district court’s ruling – in fact, it was argued in the Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals today, March 30 – but as noted above, there are a number of cases in other circuits that have reached similar conclusions. What’s more, even if the appeal succeeds, the main case being cited in opposition focuses on aspects of one baseball team’s operations that are distinguishable from a comic-con. For instance, while the team in question utilized its stadium for events throughout much of the year, comic-cons typically take place in rented facilities for discrete periods of time.
The analysis gets somewhat trickier for an entity operating multiple conventions. For instance, let’s assume that Wizard World doesn’t pay its volunteers — there’s nothing about compensation in the volunteer information packet, at least; Wizard World volunteers don’t even get munchies or parking reimbursements. The fact that Wizard World operates year-round could be grounds for arguing that the seasonal establishment exemption doesn’t apply, but there are also clever counter-arguments and organizational strategies that could persuade a court to disagree. Others have tried and succeeded with even more daunting facts – which, on a related front, is why the NCAA doesn’t have to pay taxes on ads sold for March Madness.
The seasonal exemption has long been a lifeline for companies offering an opportunity to volunteer for ventures that operate on a limited-term basis, such as amusement parks, outdoor swimming pools, Oprah’s Life You Want Tour, and New York Fashion Week. If you are an unpaid commercial comic-con volunteer who believes a lawsuit for back wages would be a clear home run, expect Major League Baseball Properties and cases like it to be deployed to strike you out.