in all blogs
Viewing: Blog Posts from All 1529 Blogs, Most Recent at Top [Help]Results 1 - 25 of 2,000
By: Colleen Mondor,
Blog: Chasing Ray
(Login to Add to MyJacketFlap
, Add a tag
I have a holiday gift list up at Alaska Dispatch for the pilot or aircraft owner in your life. Lots of great ideas on this one - I've been collecting items for months to add to it.
I also have a new column up at Bookslut with some great adventure novels for teens (my 100th column!) and I have a feature on NF titles for kids/teens that are really off the beaten path (sea monsters! collective nouns! hovercrafts!)
That feature also includes the coolest pop-up I've seen in ages on national parks. It's STUNNING.
I have enjoyed my friend Kelly Fineman's downsizing posts for the past few months and because I know her, they've made me think a lot more about getting rid of stuff than the average episode of Clean House. Also, Kelly's level of stuff sounds pretty similar to my own so she's a lot easier for me to identify with.
The other night I was downstairs sorting out books for future columns when I started looking at my own bookshelves. I'm pretty picky about the books I keep and I really have remarkably few when you consider how many I could keep (an insane number, trust me). But I do have two overloaded shelves of books I have bought or have been given to me that I plan to read someday and just haven't gotten to. They are a mess and some of the books have been there for years. I finally decided it was time to let them go.
Kelly's been writing a lot about space and keeping things for emotional reasons and not sitting on things because it's too hard to deal with the trouble of getting rid of them and all of this and more made me pull all the books off the 2 shelves and ruthlessly (RUTHLESSLY) go through them. I think I have about a dozen left which I am now going to read over the next couple of months. I might very well love them all and keep them forever, or give them a shot and pass them along but either way - those shelves are never going to be such a mess again. (Donating all discards this week to local Friends of Library bookstore.)
Books should never become a burden, emotional or otherwise. If you are not going to read them then it's time to set them free, so someone else can give them a good home. I can't believe it took me so long to get this message into my head. Thanks, Kelly!
I’m finishing up season three of “The Walking Dead.”
I admit, I wasn’t sure if I could stomach this series. A gal I work with first told me about the series and I thought, “sure, I’ll watch the pilot and go from there.”
I watched the pilot and just sat in stunned silence. I turned the TV off and just stared at a black screen.
What the HELL did I just watch? It was bloody and super gory and what was I doing wasting my time on something so … dark and disturbing?
I had no intention of watching any more episodes. It was just too much, it disturbed me and though it didn’t exactly give me nightmares, I confess, it took me a while to fall asleep that night.
I went back to work the next day and looked at the girl who advised me to watch it with new eyes. Had I misjudged her? Because honestly, what sort of person LIKES that sort of thing?? But I kept my mouth shut; I like to think I give people the benefit of the doubt. I made a deal with myself – I’d watch one more episode, see if it was any less gory, and see how I felt after that.
I became … curious. I can’t say I liked it any better and after almost three seasons, I still can’t say I like it any better, but it intrigued me. The whole premise intrigues me. Because the story is about so much more than a world that is suddenly overrun with flesh-eating zombies, it’s about human behavior and the extent people will go to in order to survive. When people are faced with life and death situations, the survival instinct takes over and people evolve (or devolve??) into a completely different personality. They turn into people they would normally associate with cold-blooded killers – but if it meant closing the door on personal morals in order to protect those I loved, I’m not sure I wouldn’t start toting a gun and routinely shooting zombies in the head, either.
I’ve always been fascinated by that story line – not about a world overrun with zombies, but a world where people have to make really hard and uncomfortable choices. How far would you go in order to survive? I’d like to think I would end up being a bad ass – someone who thinks quick on her feet and was a valuable member of my little society, but I don’t know – maybe not. Maybe I would end up being one of the whiny, sniffling cry babies that I get so impatient with on the show.
I confess, I don’t dig this sort of show, and after a while, you sort of become desensitized to the blood and gore and pay more attention to the characters’ struggles. Many fight their inner demons and make surprising choices – some characters completely lose their minds.
But who wouldn’t in a world full of zombies?
I’m hoping that season four is more about what exactly happened to the world. How did the virus, or zombie sickness get started? Is there a cure? Is there any way to stop the process and how many “humans” are actually left? Though the story has been really interesting so far, and has thrown quite a few plot twists in there, so many, in fact, that I’m actually surprised and compelled to keep watching to see what main character dies next, it’s almost becoming boring – it’s the same thing episode after episode – conflict, they kill lots of zombies, we watch zombies snack on other humans, tears are shed, more killing, decisions are agonized over, more zombie fights/killings … *yawn*
I’m almost relieved the season is over. Because I’m ready to move on to something a lot less dark and a lot more “human.”
Filed under: General
, Movie/TV Reviews
I realized, as I was looking around for Christmas stories to read this year, that when I think about Christmas stories I’m only thinking about one kind of Christmas story. For me to even read a Christmas story means it’s probably set in the modern day, or, you know, the time period in which it was written. And it’s got to be set in something resembling reality. Like, I’ve enjoyed stories about talking mice, for sure, but if your Christmas story consists of a talking mouse telling a story about how another talking mouse got killed by a cat as a direct result of not believing in Santa Claus, I’m hitting the back button. So it was fitting that I want directly from The Mouse and the Moonbeam to The Blossoming Rod, which is the most prosaic Christmas story I’ve ever read.
Joe Langshaw has his eye on a fishing rod. It’s ten dollars, and he never has that much extra cash lying around. Which is not to say that he’s poor — extra money, when he’s got it, mostly seems to go towards social obligations, like contributing to the school janitor’s Christmas turkey. Meanwhile, he worries that his son George is hiding his report cards, and he’s irritated that his kids — there are three — keep asking for monetary compensation for chores and stuff. Langshaw seems nice enough, but his fixation on this fishing rod and his resentment of anything that keeps him from it are hard to sympathize with.
Shortly before Christmas, someone unexpectedly pays a debt and Langshaw finds himself with a ten dollar bill in his pocket. He’s determined to buy the rod now, but then his daughter Mary loses a dollar that she’d saved and he has to make it up to her, and his wife receives an unexpected bill. Also George finally reveals his report card: he’s got perfect marks in deportment, and wants the five dollars his father promised if he could achieve that.
You can see where this is all going, of course: his family is saving up to buy him the fishing rod, and when they do, he likes it all the better for having been a gift from them. And then all of a sudden there’s a religious moral.
The Blossoming Rod is by Mary Stewart Cutting, author of one of my favorite chapters of The Whole Family. I don’t know that there are any obvious comparisons to be made, but I get the sense that she’s really good at scene-setting. Stuff she writes seems to be very firmly located, with lots of concrete detail. I need to read other stuff of hers in order to find out whether or not this is a broad generalization. Anyway, the details are the best thing about The Blossoming Rod — the solidly suburban setting, the janitor-and-report-card sketch of the school, the Christmas decorations that Langshaw chooses to buy at the store in town rather than the local one. I even kind of appreciated the whole intense fixation on the fishing rod thing, in the details if not in the fact of it.
This isn’t a favorite Christmas story, by any means, but it’s the kind of Christmas story I like, for sure, and honestly, I’ll take irritated suburban parents over mauve mice any day.
Link in case the video doesn't load.
[ETA: Ag, I can't make the embed code work, so click on through to USA Today.
Ah. Now that I've taken the time to, you know, READ THE ARTICLE: The song is from from Frog Trouble which is all-country, all the time.
AND HOLY COW, DWIGHT YOAKAM IS ON IT.
Pardon me while I go and buy the hell out of it.]
[ETA REDUX: Okay, so really I only care about Dwight and Ryan Adams and, to a lesser degree, Alison Krauss. But I'm buying it anyway, because Dwight.]
As of November 20, 2012 (that is, Midnight Eastern Time tonight) I am closed to queries. I will reopen to queries January 7, 2013.
If I already have your work, you should hear from me by January 7. (That's the point of taking the break, I have to catch up!)
I'm sorry to say that I cannot respond to new queries sent during this time.
The exceptions will be: work that I've requested -- conference material -- client or editor referrals -- and people I actually know in real life. If this is you, please be sure you've said so, along with the word Query, IN THE SUBJECT LINE of your email. Otherwise, your query will be deleted.
For all other regular queries, please feel free to try any of my colleagues at Andrea Brown Lit, or else try me again in January.
Thanks again for thinking of me in regard to your work.
Wishing you all the best, and Happy Holidays,
Andrea Brown Literary Agency
It snowed another four plus inches last night – we broke a record.
The kids were out of school again today – they’ve already used up three out of six snow days this year.
But then again, why do I care? Our kids are no longer in school …
The comments people leave whenever weather like this hits and they have to make the decision on “weather” (pun intended) or not to call off school, or keep school open, on Facebook is a never ending string of entertainment for me.
The school system can’t win for losing.
Bottom line: If you don’t feel like your kid will be safe going to school in bad weather, then keep ‘em home.
Be a parent. Make the call. Don’t apologize about whatever you decide.
Then shut up about it.
Filed under: Day-By-Day
Posted on 12/11/2013
Hello Glen! It's been awhile since I have written in for a question, though I have participated in the comments section of several questions answered
Lately, I've seen more and more authors opting to go hybrid. They are both self publishing and publishing traditionally. Honestly, I think this is smart. Not all books are suited for traditional publishing. Some do better off as self-published titles. Other books need the traditional structure and the power of a marketing team and budget behind them.
I know an author who is a fantastic writer but is struggling to find an agent. The reason rests in the genre she writes and the agents she's queried have told her that. For her, I think self publishing could build her platform so she can get other books picked up by traditional houses.
I've seen other authors who self publish but don't have great sales, and I can't help wondering why they strictly self publish instead of submitting some books to traditional publishers. Traditional publishers have more reach than a one-man operation. When you have a great book, sometimes you need that push a traditional publisher can give you.
So I think it comes down to deciding what's best for each individual book. What would reach more potential readers—and that's not always traditional publishing.
What are your thoughts on this hybrid model of both self publishing and publishing traditionally?
I will, on occasion, get ideas for posts on this blog from friends and internet companions. Some of these ideas are good. Some of these ideas are unfortunate. And today’s idea? Top-notch fabulousness. It’s actually probably best suited for children’s librarians but the rest of you can stick around if you want. It is, after all, the brainchild of the daughter of a Newbery winner and her Newbery winning buddy. I kid you not.
For lo, little children, there is a fabulous school in Baltimore called The Park School. And at that school you will find what can only be described as the cream of the children’s librarian crop. This is because The Park School is serviced not only by Twig George, author and daughter of Jean Craighead George, but also by Laura Amy Schlitz, Newbery Award and Honor winner for Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! and Splendors and Glooms respectively. And they aren’t merely good writers. They’re honest-to-god GREAT librarians to boot. Laura recently sent me the following idea that Twig concocted and it’s so cool that I begged her to allow me to post the information here. As you’ll see, this is a program that would be easy to conduct in your school library or public library (or children’s bookclub for that matter) simultaneously benefiting both kids and great books in your collection that simply don’t get enough circ. But I’ll allow Laura to describe it herself:
“I wanted to tell you, as a fellow librarian, about a little program we’re doing at Park. It’s called the BROWSE-O-RAMA. It began as the brainchild of Twig George. Both of us (Twig does K-2 and I do 3_5) have noticed that children don’t BROWSE enough; they read series, or they ask for their parents or librarians to hand them books, and while the former is harmless enough, and the latter has it’s charm (why shouldn’t they get some personal attention from the librarian, for crying out loud?) we were worried, because BROWSING is an essential skill. You need to be able to go into a bookstore or a library and open books and read pages and scruff through and come out with the right book. (The Browse-O-Rama motto is ‘Sink your claws into the best book you’ve never read!’ (The song goes to the tune of Oklahoma)).
So we decided to have a month-long Browsing Festival. Because I was doodling cats when we discussed it, Twig suggested that the cat could be the Browse-O-Rama mascot, because the cat is stealthy and curious, persistent and fastidious, good at sniffing and pouncing and curling up and purring. So we ordered cat tattoos, and made a big scroll called the Browse-O-Rama Wall of Fame, where distinguished browsers can sign their names and stamp the scroll with a paw print stamp. We started by having kids read wordless books (to sharpen observation skills and to slow them down) and then we searched the library for good covers and bad covers, for older books (because nobody ever looks inside our older books) for first sentences, alluring inside flaps…well, you can get the general idea. We plan to award particularly good browsers by painting their eyebrows with face paint, so that when they go home their parents will say, ‘What’s that gunk on your face?’ allowing the child the opportunity to say, ‘I BROWSE!’ Get it?
I tried one experimental class where the children leaped from cushion to cushion to Beethoven’s Fifth (Scherzo movement) and when the music stopped, they were to sit down on the nearest cushion and browse through the books on the nearest shelf. I have to tell you, this didn’t work too well. The energy that you use to leap from cushion to cushion is quite different from the energy you use to browse through books and I ought to have considered this. The children who got into pouncing were reluctant to browse, when the time came, and the children who became engrossed in browsing were disconcerted when the music started up and they were supposed to resume pouncing in time to the music. It wasn’t what you’d call a watertight assignment. However, nobody was hurt, and I greatly enjoyed watching them leap from cushion to cushion. It’s good to have a little chaos in the library from time to time.
Anyway, the thing that’s been surprising to Twig and me is, they are BUYING this. Two children told me they had dreams about the Browse-O-Rama! They are foaming at the mouth to have the cat tattoos (awarded to those students who could find the best and worse covers) or to sign the Wall Of Fame. And actually, they are browsing. They are taking out older books. They are finding stuff that they’ve never looked at before.
Our real aim was not to circulate older materials (though we’re for this, believe me) but to develop browsers–and I do think the children are more willing to take books off the shelf, really look at them, and consider something new and unfamiliar. We weren’t at all sure this was going to work, but I think it’s working, honest to Pete, it is.”
Betsy here again. What a great idea. As I may have mentioned before, in the public librarian sphere you could either do a whole program around this, or you could get your already existing groups to partake. For example, I used to run a children’s bookgroup for 9-12 year olds. It was a lot fun but I found that there were certain weeks where the kids would happily discuss the books for half an hour, leaving another 30 minutes for me to kill. My own solution had been to grab an array of new and old children’s books and to put them into brown paper envelopes. Then I’d tell the kids the titles and plots and make them guess if it was an old book or a new book. A lot of the time they’d want to check out the strange older titles, which made the entire exercise a kind of game in booktalking. Now imagine if I’d been able to do the Browse-O-Rama with them! I could have honed their browsing skills and given them some information they could carry with them through life.
Many thanks to Laura for the pictures. The one at the bottom here features Twig showing two different jackets of My Side of the Mountain (with the Wall of Fame in the background) and at the beginning of this post was the Browse-O-Rama sign. As Laura said of it, “I like it that the sign is tethered by a cast iron cauldron on one side (the cauldron is full of poems photocopied on brightly colored card stock) and a whale vertebra on the other.” The bookmarks seen here were designed by a 13 year old Park Student.
Thanks to Twig and Laura for the great idea. Now let’s turn those kiddos into some serious browsers!!
Plasma Frequency Magazine, Issue 9, December 2013/January 2014
SO excited to announce my adult sci-fi short story DUST, just published in Plasma Frequency Magazine! It was by far one of my favorites to write, and I’m so glad it found a home with Plasma Frequency.
Interestingly, I wrote the story while I was getting used to a new migraine medicine. One of the side-effects of the medicine was vibrating gold spots behind my eyelids whenever I closed my eyes. This side-effect, among others, became the inspiration for some of the side-effects of DUST. Luckily, I’m no longer taking that med, so the pharmaceutical-induced hallucinations and periodic brain fog are long gone.
I did get a nice story out of the experience. You just never know what’s going to get that imagination stirring.
You can get a hold of a copy for Kindle here or a Print copy here. Just remember kiddies, this is an adults only story…
First drafts usually contain the words anybody can write. Revision is the key to crafting writing that sounds just like you.
First things first: this cover art does Rebel Heart such a disservice. So much so, in fact, that despite my EPIC LOVE for Blood Red Road, I put off reading this, the sequel, for what, over a year?
I understand that the publisher wants, naturally, to bring in more readers. And I understand that Beefcake sells. BELIEVE ME, I DO. But this cover is selling a somewhat generic contemporary sexy Western.
And Rebel Heart is not that. I'd put it in the Western family, yes. And there are sexytimes, yes. But although Saba's love for Jack is the driving force behind many of the decisions she makes in the book, the sexytimes themselves are few and far between, and are certainly not at the forefront. And a contemporary, this is not: those new, off-the-rack clothes Mr. Model there is wearing? No. The people in this world are lucky if their clothes come fourth-hand, and oftentimes, they are pulled off of dead bodies. And finally, Jack—assuming that's supposed to represent Jack—is hardly in the book at all, as the majority of the story is about Saba trying to find him.
I understand that generic sells—otherwise it wouldn't become generic, right?—but I find it sad that this series, which is SO special and such a standout in terms of voice and character and world and action and romance and plotting, didn't get treated as such by its own publisher.
WOW. I... my feelings about the cover were a tad more passionate than I realized. I apologize for the rant, I just... UGH.
ANYWAY, THE BOOK. It works as a sequel—it begins shortly after Blood Red Road ended, with Jack headed to the Lost Cause to give Molly the bad news about Ike, while Saba, Lugh, Emmi, and Tommo head out across the Waste towards Big Water, which is (they hope) safe as well as being a land of plenty—but Young gives enough backstory that new readers will catch up quickly.
Everything that I loved about Blood Red Road is here, and then some:
- Saba's voice continues to be outstanding, both in terms of her dialect and how she expresses herself: she's gruff and stormy; easily angered; from the outside, to people who didn't know her, she'd seem like an implacable, dangerous, often-terrifying person; but much of her anger comes from how deeply, how piercingly she feels things. She's not infallible, she's not selfless, and she doesn't always make the "right" decision... but it's totally understandable why she's become a legend in her own time, and it's totally understandable why, despite her every attempt to push people away, they keep coming back.
- Blood Red Road was about Saba trying to find her twin brother, Lugh, but now that she's found him, she finds that life can't go back to the way it was, that they can't go back to the way they were. And so, despite how much of this book is about Saba and Jack, a whole lot of it is about Saba and her siblings. It is, despite the post-apocalyptic world, the constant action and adventure, a story about family.
- It's also a story in which violence has long-term effects. Not just in that people die—and they do, which alarming regularity—but in that Saba is still processing some of the actions she took in the previous book: in particular, her very own "Kiss me, Hardy!" moment. Logically, she knows that she did the right thing—she gave Epona a clean death, rather than a long, lingering, rapey death—but as most of us know, logic doesn't help to stave off guilt.
- And then there's the world. It's harsh, it's gritty, it's mean—Young doesn't gloss over the hard facts of the kind of evil that people are capable of—but it isn't black-and-white. The villain, DeMalo, is a zealot, and his methods are absolutely revolting... but he's got a vision of making the world a better place. (Albeit just for certain people.) He's charismatic and passionate and smart, though, and it's understandable why Saba is A) drawn to him and B) tempted by his pitch.
- I do think that some readers will be irritated by the whole everyone-falls-in-love-with-Saba thing. But here's how I look at it: she's pretty much the Chosen One. Some people see her as that, even. So gaining followers—platonic and romantic—kind of comes with the territory. And the three suitors are representative of three different kinds of relationship: DeMalo looks at her as the Angel of Death, and he wants (possibly subconsciously) to tame her, to ultimately manipulate her into a subservient role; though Tommo has grown into a man, and a good one at that, he's not on Saba's level in terms of well, anything; it's only with Jack that she stands with as an equal, in terms of respect and trust in each others' capabilities. Jack loves her for who she is, not as a symbol, like DeMalo, and not as a hero, like Tommo, but purely for being Saba.
Um, so yeah. I guess you could say that I liked it?
Book source: Bought.
From the New Yorker:
Earlier this year, a New York Times Magazine profile of the showrunner Shonda Rhimes (“Scandal,” “Grey’s Anatomy”) included a line that made me think she was even more than the talented and savvy TV writer she’s already shown herself to be: “Rhimes observes that people, even the ones who like ‘Scandal,’ describe it as ‘ridiculous,’ which she can live with, or a ‘guilty pleasure,’ which she ardently despises.” I despise it, too. If there’s a contemporary idiom that puzzles and irritates me in equal measure, “guilty pleasure” is it. I object to neither the pleasure, nor the guilt; it’s the modifying of one by the other that works my nerves, the awkward attempt to elevate as well as denigrate the object to which the phrase is typically assigned.
LIKE WHAT YOU LIKE, MAKE NO EXCUSES.
OWN YOUR JOY.
Book: Hero Worship
Author: Christopher E. Long
Age Range: 12 and up
Hero Worship is an upcoming young adult title by Christopher E. Long. Technically, Hero Worship is a dystopia, set in a future civilization that is similar to ours, except for the some advanced technologies, and the harsh rules guiding the rights of certain segments of the population. But for practical purposes, Hero Worship is speculative fiction that explores what might happen to society if a small percentage of the population developed superpowers. Funnily enough, I recently read an adult title with a very similar premise (Marcus Sakey's Brilliance). But Hero Worship is clearly young adult fiction, with its emphasis on the personality, and personal growth, of the primary narrator, Marvin.
Marvin is something of a classic superhero - he has super-strength and speed, but only after he drinks in fear from someone nearby. He's quite powerful, and wishes that he could be part of The Core, a group of famous superheroes who aid law enforcement. But because his power was branded "dirty" after a required government blood test, it's illegal for Marvin to use his superpowers. He's relegated to earning a meager living as a dishwasher. He lives with two other teens who are also dirty: Yvonne, who can induce mindless bliss in anyone she touches; and Kent, who can change his appearance by molding his shape (and can turn into a puddle, basically). After Marvin saves a family, a member of The Core seeks him out, and offers him a chance to become part of their group. And Marvin learns that things are not always as they seem.
I think that this premise, and the various superpowers held by the different characters, will appeal to young readers. I found it interesting, but I would have liked to see a bit more background/context. How did these superpowers develop? How long has the world been divided into "clean", dirty", and "normies", and people with no powers?
I did like Marvin as a character. He's driven by personal demons, and tries hard to do the right thing. He matures quite a bit over the course of the book (though not much calendar time passes). I found him a bit naive, especially early in the book, but this does nothing to diminish his appeal.
Hero Worship has a reasonable balance of introspection and action. Here's some introspection:
"On the way to the convenience store, I think about last night and how Eliza just acted. Perhaps that is what's required of members of The Core -- just act, don't think. I recognize that I overanalyze everything. I spend so much time thinking about how I should act, I don't do anything." (Chapter Eighteen)
And here's some action:
"In a blur, I speed toward the hoodlum. I reach out and grab hold of Jackson, pulling him out of the hood-rat's grasp. Clutching the boy to my chest, I run him to safety behind the SUV. The ringleader hasn't even had time to process that he no longer has a grip on the young boy as I connect my clenched fist to the side of his head."(Chapter Three)
There's one coincidence in Hero Worship that I found overdone (an unnecessary scene in which Marvin reads a seemingly random books, the knowledge from which turns out to be helpful later). But I thought that the superhero bits were well-done. Kent is particularly interesting as a case study. And the larger societal aspects (discrimination against the "dirties", the collapse of the factory districts, the rise of a shadow economy) lend a bit of heft to what is otherwise a quick, light read.
Much of Hero Worship would actually be fine for readers younger than 12, but there are some references to sex (a character who uses her sex appeal as a weapon), as well as drinking and drug use (not by the protagonists, but it's there). It's like a complex comic book come to life, though Long leaves the reader to imagine his or her own pictures). I think it would be a good fit for reluctant teen readers, especially boys, and anyone who has ever wondered what it would be like to be a superhero.
Publisher: Flux (@FluxBooks)
Publication Date: January 8, 2014
Source of Book: Advance review copy from the publisher. Quotes should be checked against the final book.
FTC Required Disclosure:
This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).
© 2013 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook.
At mental_floss: 11 Classic Video Games You Can Play Online.
And my arch-nemesis, Atari's E.T: THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL.
This is a present day version of Black Beauty. LIke the original, it is told from the horse's point of view, and really allows you to come as close as
Eight Hour day is the online home and moniker of Katie Kirk and Nathan Strandberg, a husband and wife design duo based out of Minneapolis. Their client list includes The New York Times, Chronicle Books, Williams Sonoma, Random House, among others. Driven by their belief that process and collaboration should be as exciting and fun as the end result, they create work that is honest, smart and succinct. In today’s interview, the 2nd part of our ongoing design in process series, Katie shares some of the challenges of working with a significant other, her workflow for a recent project and much more.
Let’s start off with a little bit about your background. Where are you from? When and how did you become interested in design?
(Katie) I originally hail from the great state of Wisconsin — the land of cheese, beer and the Packers. I have always loved art, so when it came time for school I wanted to pursue an art career. My (we’ll call him “practical”) father talked me into trying graphic design instead. I attended the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis for Design Communications, and from the very first class I fell in love. I really enjoyed the challenge of working within the parameters that are often part of the equation with design. It was a good fit.
What was your first design gig?
(Katie)My first gig was for a small design shop in Minneapolis called rED Design. Sadly, they were affected by the dot-bomb of the early 2000s and ended up shutting their doors. Shortly after that I started at another Minneapolis studio, Design Guys. I really consider that to be my first real job. I learned a ton about design, process and business there — it also introduced me to some of my best friends to this day.
What are some of the challenges you face as a couple working together? Do you tend to work independently, or do you have a strong collaborative focus?
I think our biggest challenge in working together is always trying to keep our business life balanced with our personal life. We absolutely love what we do, but it’s still a job. We try to set hard boundaries around the beginning and end of the workday, so it’s not a constant in our life.
Although Nate and I focus on our own specialties at times, our process is very collaborative. We are always checking in and talking back and forth. Our branding projects are particularly collaborative.
Do you maintain side projects or do you always work as a team?
We often have our own little side projects, whether it’s Nate working on some lettering or me working on an art print. But even then, we check in with each other all the time, to get opinions and feedback and conversation.
Could you walk us through one of your projects? Please describe your workflow, including your tools, from pen and paper to software and devices.
Yep. Let’s look at the branding and stationery system we created for Linda Engler’s Minneapolis interior design studio.
At the start of our branding projects, we often ask our clients to answer some business-related questions and to send us examples of work they’ve seen and liked. This helps us get inside their heads, and we feel it’s important to start this visual dialogue early. The inspiration pieces Linda sent us involved a lot of patterns and colors, a mixture of classic and modern styling. You can also see that she was speaking to us in her language — interior design.
Using that information, we moved on to mood boards. We typically do three boards that span a range of styles, each with their own distinct identity. We’ll spend a couple of days researching and scanning our favorite inspiration sites, going over our personal inspiration folders, and you know, digging through the rest of the Internet. It’s as fun as it is exhausting—I often have crazy dreams those nights because of it. We then go through the inspiration that caught our attention, discuss, add, eliminate and ultimately sort it into our three proposed directions. We create the mood boards using Adobe InDesign and send PDFs to the client. I think a good mood board is as much about each individual image as it is the whole overall look.
The mood-board portion of the process can be a bit abstract at times. I often feel like the more creative and visual the client is, the more they “get it.” But with all our clients and projects, the mood boards are an important phase. It’s where we listen and see and hear what they’re responding to — and sometimes even more importantly, what they hate. After the first round, we’ll revise the chosen board and move on to start the concepts. You can see that we revised the Engler Studio board to bring the bolder patterns together with the larger areas of color. It also pulls in more white space and modern typography.
During the concept round, we start playing with typography, patterns and logo design. Most of the time, we use Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop for concepts. Early on, we create a first-round brand board to share with the client. As you can see, our first round wasn’t quite there yet—it lacked some of the depth and dimension that was incorporated in the final work. The revised board is brighter and bolder, with a more constant equation. The client loved it.
All along, we knew that we wanted to create a brand for Engler Studio that highlighted and celebrated its interior design skills, as well as its individual design personality. The main element of the brand is a graphic combination of patterns that overlap each other; they represent the images and colors you might find on an interior designer’s inspiration board, and also nod to the play of patterns, colors, light and shadows in a beautifully designed room. The patterns can be assembled in various combinations, depending on mood, usage, and need.
From there, we moved onto the stationery system. During that executional part of the process, we’ll often sketch layout ideas in our sketchbooks.
And finally, the finished identity. We often create final files for the printer using Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator or InDesign. This was a two-color job that included an embossed detail and duplexed business cards. As you can see, the “E” detail in the logomark was changed to a simpler, more representational “E,” like a Greek key, which ultimately holds up better against the bold patterns.
How has your process evolved since you first started designing?
I think it’s always evolving, with every project. Sometimes it depends on the client; what works for some doesn’t work for others. Sometimes you figure out a better approach as you go. We almost always learn something new along the way.
Are you a creature of habit or do you like to try new technologies, applications, and features?
Hmmm … that’s a good question. I feel like, sadly, with each year I’m more of a creature of habit — but I mostly blame that on just not having the time to dig in and learn new things. That said, we try to keep up with changing treands and stay abreast of what’s happening in the worlds of design and technology.
Analytical tools are now ubiquitous, and because of this designers are often asked to back up their work with data and research. With this in mind, how much of your work is based on intuition — and what role should intuition play in design today?
Super interesting question. Honestly, I think intuition has a lot to do with our work, but where do you draw the line? As designers, we’re constantly looking, searching and evaluating the world around us: what’s working, what isn’t, how things could be better. During our initial mood-board and concept phases, these are the questions we always ask ourselves, directly or indirectly. Asking the right questions isn’t the same as relying on hard numbers, but I don’t feel like they are any less important. Plus, I feel if hard numbers, data spreadsheets and focus groups ran the world of design, I think it would be a pretty sad and boring place.
What are your passions and interests outside of design and why?
Let’s see… I love movies and their ability to transport, connect and alter you emotionally. I love baking too. It feels creative in a different way than I’m used to — plus it has a delicious outcome. I think if I hadn’t gone into design I probably would have been a baker.
We would like to thank Nate and Katie for taking time to share with us. You can see more of their work at eighthourday.com.
This interview is part of the #designinprocess series brought to you by Adobe. Read all of the interviews here and follow along on Twitter and Pinterest at #designinprocess and #newcreatives.
Also worth viewing…
Mike Cina Interview
Katie Kirk Illustration
Not signed up for the Grain Edit RSS Feed yet? Give it a try. Its free and yummy.
Share on Facebook Thanks to The Art of Getting Started
for being this week's sponsor.
Working with tweens can be fun and also frustrating. My branch will have a large after school crowd of tweens but they’re not at the library to attend a program or hang out. Instead they are at the library to meet with a tutor, work on homework, or grab a book quickly before they rush off to their extracurricular activities. No matter how much we advertise programs to this age group, our attendance can sometimes be low. Or at least it feels low when we’ve put a lot of effort into planning a program that we hope will be a big success.
It’s hard to get caught up in numbers and statistics when it comes to programming. It’s also hard not to compare programs with each other. Sometimes I think about how we can get a group of 30 or more toddlers for storytime but I’m lucky if I can get a few tweens for a program.
But I can’t get caught up in measuring program success by numbers. Instead I focus on the stories. Like the middle schooler who came to every single Hunger Games program we provided last year, won the movie tickets in the giveaway, and came to the library this year and said “thank you so much for having those programs about The Hunger Games! They were my favorite and I met my best friend-and we’re still friends today and we met at the library.”
Or the tween who attended a recent program and was excited to win a set of books she hadn’t read yet.
Or the tween who gets excited to meet someone else who shares their interests when they thought they were the only one who liked Doctor Who, or Origami Yoda, or Cupcake Club.
When I feel down about tween programs and wonder what we could do better to reach this age group, I remind myself of all that we have provided for tweens and that we are successful. We are providing a place for tweens to come, meet other tweens, and participate in a program just for them-and that’s a success.
I stumbled upon 18 Minutes: Find Your Focus, Master Distraction, and Get the Right Things Done
by Peter Bergman
at my local library last week. 18 Minutes! A unit of time
! Yes, I'm a sucker for that kind of thing. So since it's December, and I have nothing to do
, I picked it up.
It's hard to say just what 18 Minutes
is. It definitely doesn't deal specifically with managing time. There's lots in the first half of the book about things like finding ways to make your weaknesses work for you and ways to pursue your passion. I'm a little past the halfway point, and I haven't hit on anything about 18 minutes. I will admit, though, that I'm doing a lot of skimming. The short chapters with a carefully written summary at the end make that easy to do. Still, I haven't seen a lot that's new here.
Bergman does write about using a year as a unit of time and planning for same. That's appropriate for my purposes because on New Year's Eve I'll be doing a recapitulation post for this year
and early in January I'll be doing one on goals and objectives for next year
. One twist Bergman brings to the yearly discussion is making sure your daily plan relates to items on the yearly plan. That's something I could be more conscientious about with my situational planning
. He also writes about deciding what you're not going to do. We've talked about this a bit here in relation to recognizing the things we aren't likely to do, accepting that, and not wasting time and energy on them
. Again, this is something to be thinking about while pulling together goals and objectives for next year.
Next week I hope to be able to report on what the 18 minutes in the book title refers to. In the meantime, here's what we need to be doing this month:Sprinting to keep our heads in our projects Doing some recapitulatingPutting together some goals and objectives for next year
MIMS HOUSE: Great NonFiction for Common Core
The story of the oldest known wild bird in the world. At 62+, she hatched a new chick in February, 2013. Read her remarkable story. A biography in text and art.
Here’s an adorable video “Gotta Keep Reading,” a variation of “I Gotta Feeling,” with teachers and kids from New Academy Canoga Park. THIS is why we write!
‘Gotta Keep Reading’ Music Video from NACP School on Vimeo.
If you can’t see this video, click here.
One of the best things about the holiday season is the excuse to browse bookstores and buy books: for friends and family, for local charities eager to spread the joy of reading, and hey, just for you!
Books as gifts have always been special for me; my first memory of visiting Santa in the department store was to ask for a book--I wanted Johanna Spyri's Heidi, and sure enough, I got it! Of course that didn't work so great the year I wanted Lona by Dare Wright. (Still want Lona, sigh.)
The number of books I read in 2013 was not as extensive as in past years, but quality certainly made up for quantity. Here are the books categorized by their respective genres that stood out for me:
Historical: Cathedral of the Sea by Ildefonso Falcones. I bought my copy in a bookstore while strolling down the seemingly endless Las Ramblas shopping district during my trip to Barcelona this summer. I had gone in to buy some children's books in Spanish and Catalan and saw a display of books in English--surprise! I had to have this one immediately, but I saved it to read for when I got home. I'm so glad I did; set in medieval Barcelona, the book made me relive my trip through an entirely new perspective. A real page turner.
Mainstream/Romance/Series: The Stone Trilogy by Mariam Kobras. I know this series is often referred to as "romance" but to me it's more mainstream, possibly "women's fiction" if I had to really narrow it. Regardless of description, however, these three books following the story of rock star Jon Stone and his soul mate Naomi Carlsson will stay with you forever. The writing is so strong and descriptive, the characters so real and well-rounded, it's hard to keep in mind that this is fiction! Seriously, I have to constantly remind myself that these people are characters in a book--not people I have actually met. I seem to think about them all the time as if they had ongoing stories happening right now--that's how vibrant they are. Earlier this year I was lucky enough to have Mariam visit my blog as a guest author. To read her post, please just click author Mariam Kobras.
Literary: 2666 by Roberto Bolano. Difficult, haunting, disturbing . . . and I couldn't stop reading even when I didn't want to. Partly based on the horrific multiple murders of women in Juarez, Mexico, the book is divided into five distinct but interwoven stories that read as a metaphor for everything corrupt and evil in the world we live in. My feeling after finishing: I survived a walk through Hell. And I learned a lot about both life and writing, that's for sure.
Mystery: The Dinosaur Feather by S.J. Gazan. Another dark book, but very, very readable. I often stayed up past midnight just to keep reading--bad decision, but I couldn't help it. I live to read. Anyway, Dinosaur Feather was the winner of the Danish Crime Novel of the Decade (!) and I think it will especially appeal to fans of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. (Although I think it's much better . . . sorry, Dragon fans.)
Scary: A Cold Season by Alison Littlewood. England. Snowstorm of the century. A single mother and her young son come to live in a creepy village where nothing is quite what it seems. I read this in one sitting and was terrified the whole way through. Need I say more?
Nonfiction: The Book of Kimono by Norio Yamanaka. I read this book after attending an exhibition of Japanese Art Deco. I've always been fascinated by Japanese art, culture, and literature, and I decided to make that my writing theme in April with my project "30 Days of Kimono." I got so enthused over the whole subject I even made a Pinterest board to go with my writing! The main thing I learned from the book however: I am very grateful to not wear a kimono, LOL! The time involved to simply get dressed must take ALL day. Whew. And then you have to be on your very best behavior for whatever hours you have left. Nope, not for me. But it was a good book.
Art Instruction: The Tao of Sketching by Qu Lei Lei. After working on my kimono project and then taking a Splash Ink Watercolor class, when I saw this book on super-sale I just had to have it. It's turned out to be one of my favorite how-to books, full of quiet wisdom and excellent painting tips.
Writing Instruction: Now Write! Screenwriting edited by Sherry Ellis and Laurie Lamson. I have to qualify here that I have a chapter in the Now Write! Mysteries volume of this series, so I may be a teensy bit biased, but I think all the Now Write! books are some of the best around. This one on writing screenplays is incredibly helpful with advice you won't easily find elsewhere. (Note: I made another Pinterest board for the screenplay draft I wrote with the aid of the book. I do love Pinterest.)
What I'm reading now: The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton. I bought The Luminaries the minute I heard it had won the 2013 Man Booker Prize several weeks ago. Set in nineteenth-century New Zealand during the Gold Rush, the book is written in an unusual and archaic style reminiscent of Dickens or Thackeray that somehow actually works. I love New Zealand authors, starting with Katherine Mansfield, and it's exciting to find a new writer to add to my list.
What's next on my TBR pile: Bite Down Little Whisper by Canadian poet Don Domanski just arrived in my post box yesterday. I'm saving it up for Christmas Day when I plan to drink tea and eat cake and wrap myself in a blanket of astonishing words and images. Can't wait!
Tip of the Day: While you're doing your book shopping, don't forget about The Great Scarab Scam, Better Than Perfect, Overtaken, and The Essential Guide for New Writers, all available at my website and always with free domestic shipping. Drop me a note, say you saw this message on my blog, and I'll include an extra free copy of the Essential Guide with every order right up until January 1, 2014! Catch you later--I'm off to find some more great new reads for the new year . . .
Sony Pictures Classics announced Austenland DVD and Blu-Ray release in the USA on February 11, 2014. I know many of you are disappointed and were hoping it would come out in time for Christmas. But hey, pre-orders make great presents too! (sort of? Not quite as cool as a DVD in hand but almost?) The good news why it isn't coming out earlier is because it's still in some theaters. Thank you for coming out to see our flick.
You can pre-order the video now and plan on the best Valentine's Day ever. I know I will.
In the meantime, those of you who have seen it, would you mind giving a one sentence blurb of what you thought about it in the comments? I'll use some of your blurbs in a post about the DVD release in February.
View Next 25 Posts
Okay, so I found this Disney Babies series.
It's mostly comprised of titles like this:
Colors, ABCs, 123s, etc., etc.
You get the idea, right?
SUCH A STRANGE CHOICE, TITLE-WISE.
For a split-second, I thought that a library school had teamed up with Disney to create some sort of massively nerdy pamphlet. But, no. It's just a four-page book about putting things in order. For babies. CALLED SEQUENCING & CLASSIFYING.
If the other books had had adult-ish titles, I probably wouldn't have even noticed.