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1. Kristin Halbrook, author of EVERY LAST PROMISE, on avoiding 'easy' choices for characters

We're pleased to have Kristin Halbrook stop by to share more about her latest novel EVERY LAST PROMISE.

Kristin, tell us about your inspiration for writing EVERY LAST PROMISE.

My inspirations were, unfortunately, all over the place. Every time a town was up in arms because of a sexual assault, I was inspired. Every time a rape survivor was vilified, I was inspired. Every time a school or community backed a rapist or twisted processes to ensure he, for example, was still able to play sports, I was inspired. But I was also inspired by friends and colleagues who presented me with tough questions and ideas that made me think harder and deeper than I was, before. Stephanie Kuehn and Christa Desir, in particular, were wonderful for that.

What scene was really hard for you to write and why, and is that the one of which you are most proud? Or is there another scene you particularly love?

Every scene in which Kayla didn’t “do” something was a hard scene to write. Because yes, as a human, I wanted her to act, and act quickly. I wanted her to choose the “right” thing, without having to think about it. But as an author who wanted even more to dig deeply into the experiences a person like Kayla might have, I knew “easy” choices didn’t exist. I particularly love the scenes with Kayla and her mom, and I’m particularly proud of the last line of the book (which I won’t spoil, here ☺).

What book or books would most resonate with readers who love your book--or visa versa?

I think readers would also love SPEAK by Laurie Halse Anderson, and ALL THE RAGE by Courtney Summers.

What do you hope readers will take away from EVERY LAST PROMISE?

By the end of the book, I hope readers will think more deeply about what it means to be a hero, what it means to hold onto secrets, and what it means to give those secrets up. I hope they’ll think about how pervasive and widespread rape culture is, and how the effects of it are rippling. And I hope, too, they’ll be more willing to stand up for rape survivors, be good friends, and also grow their empathy for the variety of reasons survivors don’t speak up about their assaults.


Every Last Promise
by Kristin Halbrook
Released 4/21/2015

Perfect for fans of Laurie Halse Anderson and Gayle Forman, Every Last Promise is a provocative and emotional novel about a girl who must decide between keeping quiet and speaking up after witnessing a classmate's sexual assault.

Kayla saw something at the party that she wasn't supposed to. But she hasn't told anyone. No one knows the real story about what happened that night--about why Kayla was driving the car that ran into a ditch after the party, about what she saw in the hours leading up to the accident, and about the promise she made to her friend Bean before she left for the summer.

Now Kayla's coming home for her senior year. If Kayla keeps quiet, she might be able to get her old life back. If she tells the truth, she risks losing everything--and everyone--she ever cared about.

Purchase Every Last Promise at Amazon
Purchase Every Last Promise at IndieBound
View Every Last Promise on Goodreads


When Kristin Halbrook was little, she wanted to be a writer, the President of the USA or the first female NFL quarterback. Despite being able to throw a wicked spiral, she didn't really grow to the size needed for the NFL. Then, as she got older and studied more, she came to realize there were better ways to effect positive change than becoming president. The first one, however, stuck. Even when Kristin was pursuing other dreams, she always took time to write here and there. NOBODY BUT US was published by HarperChildren's in 2013.

When she's not writing or reading (which is what she does all day, in all of my work), she's spending time with pixies, her Mad Scot soulmate, and one grumpy cocker spaniel; traveling across oceans and time; cooking and baking up a storm and watching sunsets and waves crash on the beach. She currently lives, loves and explores in The Emerald City, though she occasionally make wispy, dream-like plans to move to New York, Paris or a Scottish castle one day (if just temporarily). You can reach her at kristinhalbrook@gmail.com.

What did you think of our interview with Kristin Halbrook, author of EVERY LAST PROMISE? Let us know in the comments!

Happy reading,

Martina, Jocelyn, Shelly, Jan, Lisa, Susan, and Erin

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2. Jessi Kirby, author of THINGS WE KNOW BY HEART, on setting up a little work station in the library

THINGS WE KNOW BY HEART is the latest novel by Jessi Kirby, and we're honored to have her here to tell us more about it.

Jessi, what was your inspiration for writing THINGS WE KNOW BY HEART?

The initial idea for this book actually came from an article I'd read about the concept of Cellular Memory--that is, the idea that some essence of a donor is retained within a donated organ, particularly the heart. The story was going to be much more focused on whether that was true in this case. But when I started researching donor/recipient relationships, I became more interested in those dynamics--why some write, or want to meet, and why some don't. That's where Colton came from.

How long did you work on THINGS WE KNOW BY HEART?

Jessi's writing set-up!
It took me close to 2 years, all told, to write this book. I also work full time as a middle school librarian and have a family, so my writing time is limited. The good thing about that is when I do have writing time, I am extremely focused.

What's your writing ritual like? Do you listen to music? Work at home or at a coffee shop or the library, etc?

I need quiet, so I usually go to the library to work.  I set up my little work station with everything I need so I won't have reason to get up. Usually that includes coffee, water, Cadbury mini eggs, if they're available. I also have a little talisman that sits next to me for each book. This one was a little blue heart that I got at Changing Hands Book Store in Arizona.


Things We Know by Heart
by Jessi Kirby
Released 4/21/2015

In this unforgettable teen romance that fans of Sarah Dessen and Susane Colasanti will devour, Quinn Sullivan falls for the recipient of her boyfriend's donated heart, forming an unexpected connection that will leave readers utterly breathless.

After Quinn's boyfriend, Trent, dies in an accident their junior year, she reaches out to the recipients of his donated organs in hopes of picking up the fragments of her now-unrecognizable life. But whoever received Trent's heart has mysteriously remained silent. The essence of a person, Quinn has always believed, is in the heart. If she finds Trent's, then in a way she still has a piece of him.

Risking everything to find peace once and for all, Quinn goes outside the system to track down nineteen-year-old Colton Thomas—a guy whose life has been forever changed by this priceless gift. But what starts as an accidental run-in quickly develops into more, sparking an undeniable attraction. She doesn't want to give in to it—especially since he has no idea how they're connected—but their time together has made Quinn feel alive again. No matter how hard she's falling for Colton, each beat of his heart reminds her of all she's lost . . . and all that remains at stake.

Purchase Things We Know by Heart at Amazon
Purchase Things We Know by Heart at IndieBound
View Things We Know by Heart on Goodreads


Jessi Kirby is a former English teacher and librarian. She lives in Orange County, CA with her husband and two kids, where she writes stories and runs the beach every day. Well, almost every day.

You can contact Jessi at jessi@jessikirby.com

What did you think of our interview with Jessi Kirby, author of THINGS WE KNOW BY HEART? Let us know in the comments!

Happy reading,

Martina, Jocelyn, Shelly, Jan, Lisa, Susan, and Erin

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3. IF: Tense

Tension, Doubt, Performance anxiety… Can he catch it? Can it get away?

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4. The Crossover, by Kwame Alexander | Book Review

This is a book young people will probably want to read more than once, both for the themes in the story and for the author’s storytelling. It will appeal to middle grade readers who like sports – especially basketball – and coming of age stories.

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5. Reading & Writing Connections: Getting to Know a Character on the Outside and the Inside

“Writers,” Ali said as she leaned in close to teach her second graders, “I’ve got an important tip for you about your realistic fiction characters. You’ve done such a great job describing what they are… Continue reading

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6. Newsletter-NEW!

Debbie Dadey is the author, with co-author Marcia Thornton Jones, of such best-selling reluctant readers children's series as The Adventures of the Bailey School Kids, The Swamp Monster in Third Grade, Slime Wars, Ghostville Elementary, The Bailey School Kids Junior Chapter Books, the Keyholders series and the Mermaid Tales series from Simon and Schuster.

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7. Jungle Jaguars at Scribble Kids!

We had the fiercest artists around today at Peninsula Art Academy!


By Marymaking

I got my jungle jaguar inspiration from Mary Making.  She created her own jungle jaguar using paper collage and colored pencils. I love the mixed media approach, but we didn’t have time for watercolors to dry today.
I decided to go a step further and teach the kids how to create a foreground, middle and background using collage elements. But first, we created our jaguar close-ups with a guided drawing that explored blending and shading. So proud of how much the kids absorbed!


jaguar sketch

Maura’s jaguar drawing

Next the kids cut out their jaguars, and I gave them big construction paper to create their ‘background’ rain forest.

We used oil pastels and colored pencils to draw our jungle scene. Then we added the ‘middle ground’ or the middle of our scene, by collaging paper leaves and water. Finally we added the ‘foreground’ of our pictures, and glued our super-big jaguars and leaves in front.

The kids used their imaginations with the rain forest scenery, but we also had reference images for inspiration!


Dexter’s jungle jaguars are fighting!

Thatcher's Jungle Jaguar

By Thatcher, age 7

Jungle Jaguar

By Maura, age 6

Jungle Jaguars

By Dexter, age 10

The post Jungle Jaguars at Scribble Kids! appeared first on Scribble Kids.

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8. Reminder: Apply to Host the 2016 Arbuthnot Lecture!

Pat Mora Arbuthnot Lecturer

Pat Mora will deliver the 2016 Arbuthnot Lecture (image courtesy of Pat Mora)

ALSC and the 2016 May Hill Arbuthnot Lecture Committee are proud to announce the opening of the application to host the 2016 event featuring award-winning children’s book author and pioneering literacy advocate Pat Mora.

Host site application forms can be downloaded at the Arbuthnot site. Applications are due May 15, 2015. Information about host site responsibilities is included in the application materials. The lecture traditionally is held in April or early May.

Born and raised in El Paso, Texas, Mora grew up bilingual and bicultural. With degrees in English and speech, she was a teacher and university administrator before writing children’s books. Known for her lyrical style, Mora’s poetry and prose have won numerous awards, including a 2005 Belpré Honor Medal for text for “Doña Flor: A Tall Tale of a Giant Woman with a Great Big Heart,” published by Knopf Books for Young Readers, and illustrated by Raul Colón. Her generosity for sharing bookjoy, the phrase she coined for the power and pleasure of words, led Mora to launch “Día,” which will observe its 20th anniversary in 2016.

The post Reminder: Apply to Host the 2016 Arbuthnot Lecture! appeared first on ALSC Blog.

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9. Publishing in ... Kenya

       Always fun to see the local complaints -- though admittedly it's also a bit depressing to see such problems and issues appear to be universal -- as in The Standard Abenea Ndago notes there are Few arguments that publishers and editors will never win.
       Ndago doesn't mince words:

The universe of locust feeding on the grass of Kenyan literature is presided over by a clueless generation of publisher CEOs that is probably a hundred times more traditional than the old people they usually accuse of this disease.
We did not initially know it, but it should now be clear that the second biggest stumbling block to the growth of Kenyan literature -- second only to State House -- is the Kenyan publisher.

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10. An Appreciation -British Creator Ben R. Dilworth

There are UK comic creators who deserve to get far more recognition than they do. I have highlighted some of these in the past but  it is worth mentioning one other.  Ben R. Dilworth.

Now the man inked over my pencils "in the day" (which is what we call the period 1986-1990) on strips such as Liz & Jen: Coming Out and D-Gruppe: Revenge of the Ice Queen.

He was also self-publishing Small Press comics under his Penguinflight banner and seemed to be  contributing to every small press comic going -Bum Comic, Creepy Crawlies, Zine Ager, Hardware -it is a bloody long list and the legendary Picasso Cafe must never be forgotten!

Neither do I forget Dilworth stapling Black Tower Adventure issues across his knee at the old Bath marts.  Nor the experimental acetate, spray-painted covers for Previews Comic or a dozen other mad things.

We ought to, really, forget the most famous and now nearly lost legendary visit of Dilworth and Andrew Hope (who recently worked for Marvel Comics) to Bristol.  The drunken outrages committed -including throwing up over the window of comic shop, Forever People, or the very long discussion between the two on the movie A Company of Wolves which kind of resulted in the 0300 hours incident of me wielding a bread-knife......yeah, let's forget that.

Anyhow, The Tall Man wrote and drew for comics such as Fantaco's Taboo, Eternity Comics Killing Stroke and Trident Comics (PLEASE no one mention Trident to Paul Ashley Brown!!) The Shadowmen written by some Scots bloke...uh, Mark Millar.

He can also claim to be, as the artist, co-creator of Pete Wisdom, initially created by Warren Ellis and drawn by Ben , in a pitch for "Electric Angel" for publisher Trident Comics.

Didn't know all that did you?


Here are some of his credits from a data base I just stumbled across at http://comicbookdb.com/creator.php?ID=8028

Killing Stroke (1991)


Killing Stroke (1991) The Shadowmen (1990) Taboo (1988)


Gore Shriek (1986) Gore Shriek (1990) Killing Stroke (1991) The Shadowmen (1990) Shriek (1989) Taboo (1988) Trident (1989)


Gore Shriek (1990)
Killing Stroke (1991)
And over recent years The Tall One has had work published by Black Tower -including his Award winning Haiku (in English), Aesop's Fables, Purple Hood, Runestone, Chronos:The Watchman -and much, much more that has ensured Black Tower titles such as Adventure were able to carry on after a rough patch.

The man is a fecking comic book genius.  WFT is he not working full time in comics and getting paid??!
Calming down a bit....deep breath.  Seriously, check out the Black Tower lulu.com store front and you'll find Dilworth work.  Maybe one day he'll get a creator byline for Pete Wisdom, hmm?
From myself I'd like to offer him a big THANK YOU.

You wait, I'll make him famous yet.  Poor but famous!

And I went and forgot Loaded number 1 from 1991 in which I wrote and pencilled Graveyard  and Dilworth  inked and lettered!

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11. Murder on the Thirty-First Floor review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Per Wahlöö's Murder on the Thirty-First Floor -- a recent re-translation of his 1964 novel (originally published in English as The Thirty-First Floor, in 1967).

       Wahlöö is of course best known for his Martin Beck series, co-written with his wife, Maj Sjöwall, but he also wrote several novels on his own, including this one, the first in his Inspector Jensen diptych.
       In the US Vintage Crime/Black Lizard have re-issued five of his solo efforts -- I had previously reviewed The Generals -- and this one was certainly worth resurrecting (and re-translating).

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12. Debbie Dadey, Children's Author

Debbie Dadey is the author, with co-author Marcia Thornton Jones, of such best-selling reluctant readers children's series as The Adventures of the Bailey School Kids, The Swamp Monster in Third Grade, Slime Wars, Ghostville Elementary, The Bailey School Kids Junior Chapter Books, the Keyholders series and the Mermaid Tales series from Simon and Schuster.

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13. Week in Review: April 19-25

Miss Marjoribanks. Margaret Oliphant. 1866. 512 pages. [Source: Bought] 
Dick Whittington and His Cat. Told and cut in linoleum by Marcia Brown. 1950. Simon & Schuster. 32 pages. [Source: Bought]
Board Book: The Babies and Doggies Book. John Schindel and Molly Woodward. 2015. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 26 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Board Book: This Little Piggy. A Finger & Toes Nursery Rhyme Book. Natalie Marshall. 2015. [May] Scholastic. 12 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Board book: Red Light, Green Light. Yumi Heo. 2015. [June] Scholastic. 20 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Jampires. Sarah McIntyre. Illustrated by David O'Connell. 2015. [June] Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Side by Side. Rachel Bright. Illustrated by Debi Gliori. 2015. [April] Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish. Dr. Seuss. 1960. Random House. 60 pages. [Source: Library]
Ramona's World. Beverly Cleary. 1999. HarperCollins. 240 pages. [Source: Library]
Ginger Pye. Eleanor Estes. 1950. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 306 pages. [Source: library]
Bo at Iditarod Creek. Kirkpatrick Hill. Illustrated by LeUyen Pham. 2014. Henry Holt. 288 pages. [Source: Library]
Green for Danger. Christianna Brand. 1944. 256 pages. [Source: Bought]
Dragon Flight. Jessica Day George. Bloomsbury USA. 272 pages. [Source: Library]
Hippos Are Huge. Jonathan London. Illustrated by Matthew Trueman. 2015. Candlewick. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
A Life Observed: A Spiritual Biography of C.S. Lewis. Devin Brown. 2013. 256 pages. [Source: Library]
Gospel: Recovering the Power That Made Christianity Revolutionary. J.D. Greear. Foreword by Timothy Keller. 2011. B&H Books. 266 pages. [Source: Bought]
The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. C.S. Lewis. 1950. HarperCollins. 224 pages. [Source: Bought]

This week's recommendation(s):

I loved, loved, LOVED Miss Marjoribanks. I also really enjoyed rereading The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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14. Anniversary Rituals

Every year, Stan and I celebrate our anniversary by attending the Inman Park Festival and buying art. We've been married 14 years, so we've gathered some nice items over time. Today we found our last festival treasure before we start some new traditions in Scotland. It's a lovely (little) print by Andrew Kosten of Gum Pal Press. I adored all his work, so it was hard to decide. Stan, of course, leaned toward the piece with wheels. Isn't he great? Click here or the image to go see more of Andrew's work (and maybe buy some for yourself)!

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15. 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #429: Featuring Charles Santoso

– From Sean Ferrell’s I Don’t Like Koala
(Click to see spread in its entirety)


– From Jessica Young’s Spy Guy
(Click to enlarge)


I’ve got a review over at BookPage of Sean Ferrell’s I Don’t Like Koala (Atheneum, April 2015), illustrated by Charles Santoso. That is here, and I’ve got some art from the book here today at 7-Imp.

To boot, I’ve got some illustrations from another Santoso-illustrated book, Jessica Young’s Spy Guy, coming to bookshelves in May from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, the story of a very loud, very bumbly spy and his “Chief” (a.k.a. his dad). Looks like the Spy Guy illustrations were created digitally, and the Koala illustrations were colored digitally — but originally created in pencil. There’s a definite difference in the two; there’s more texture, for one thing, in the Koala illustrations, and the Spy Guy illustrations channel more of a traditional cartoon vibe, which is fitting for this light and fun slapstick story.

Santoso, who lives in Australia, is an animation-studio concept artist/art director by day and illustrator by night! Here’s a bit more art from both books. Enjoy. …


Art from Sean Ferrell’s I Don’t Like Koala:


(Click to see spread in its entirety)


(Click to enlarge)



Art from Jessica Young’s Spy Guy:


“So Spy Guy went to Headquarters to see the Chief. ‘Chief!’ he said. ‘Tell me the secret to spying!’ ‘Spy Guy,’ said the Chief, ‘that you must discover for yourself.
But if you seek to sneak, try not to speak.'”

(Click to enlarge)


“Spy Guy put on his brand-new shoes. He didn’t make a sound as he crept through town. But … everyone saw him coming.”
(Click to enlarge)




I DON’T LIKE KOALA. Text copyright © 2015 by Sean Ferrell. Illustrations copyright © 2015 by Charles Santoso. Illustrations reproduced by permission of the publisher, Atheneum Books for Young Readers, New York.

SPY GUY: THE NOT-SO-SECRET AGENT. Text copyright © 2015 by Jessica Young. Illustrations copyright © 2015 by Charles Santoso. Illustrations reproduced by permission of the publisher, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Boston.

* * *

Note for any new readers: 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks is a weekly meeting ground for taking some time to reflect on Seven(ish) Exceptionally Fabulous, Beautiful, Interesting, Hilarious, or Otherwise Positive Noteworthy Things from the past week, whether book-related or not, that happened to you. New kickers are always welcome.

* * * Jules’ Kicks * * *

I’m typing this while listening to President Obama’s remarks at the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner, and it’s funny stuff. (The Anger Translator made me laugh outloud.) My kicks 1-7 will be that — and, selfishly, I want to hear the rest of it, so I’m off! But tell me …

What are YOUR kicks this week?

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16. vivid 1-2-8

vivid 1-2-8 by dibujandoarte
vivid 1-2-8, a photo by dibujandoarte on Flickr.

i'm trying to turn things that I feel unpleasant​ or as a dead space-time
into something vivid, like the 1st, 2nd and 8th definitions from "the free

vivid (ˈvɪvɪd)
*1. *(of a colour) very bright; having a very high saturation or purity;
produced by a pure oralmost pure colouring agent
*2. *brilliantly coloured: vivid plumage.
*3. *conveying to the mind striking realism, freshness, or trueness to life;
graphic: a vividaccount.
*4. *(of a recollection, memory, etc) remaining distinct in the mind
*5. *(of the imagination, etc) prolific in the formation of lifelike images
*6. *making a powerful impact on the emotions or senses: a vivid feeling of
*7. *uttered, operating, or acting with vigour: vivid expostulations.
*8. *full of life or vitality: a vivid personality.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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18. Planting for Pollinators

I was inspired by one of my own characters to plant a “bee garden,” this spring, and today planted the better part of my wife’s little pocket of prairie with beardtongue, salvia, bee balm, black-eyed susans, coneflowers, thymus, verbena, coreopsis, asclepias, and yarrow. There’s an empty spot for milkweed we’re getting from a neighbor. The stuff in back is prairie grass that’s (mostly) been there for years.

pollinator garden

It doesn’t look like much now, but by mid-summer most of these guys will be 2-4 feet high, in bloom, humming with bees and crawling with caterpillars. My wife even supports this venture though she doesn’t like butterflies, but it will be hard not to be taken in by the potential magic of watching, with our bug-loving boy, a monarch nudging its way out of a chrysalis one late summer morning. Thanks to a book by a local author, he is also expecting bison.

Filed under: Miscellaneous Tagged: bees, gardening, monarchs, native grasses and forbs, phyllis root, plant a pocket of prairie, pollinators

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19. NPM Project: Jumping Into Form - Interview with Joan Bransfield Graham

In preparation for sharing forms this month, I wrote to a number of poets and asked if they would respond to a short list of questions on poetry, writing, and form. I'm thrilled every time one responds positively and find they have all been extremely generous with their time.

Today I'm sharing the thoughts of Joan Bransfield Graham, author of the books Splish Splash (2001), Flicker Flash (2003), and The Poem That Will Not End (2014). In addition to these books, Joan's poetry for children has been published in numerous anthologies, textbooks, and children's magazines.
How do you begin a poem? OR How does a poem begin for you — with an idea, a form, an image, or something else? 
Joan: There are so many ways that poems tempt me to write them. Sometimes it starts with "a rhythm, a rhythm and a rhyme" and, then just like Ryan O'Brian, I'm off and writing. After we went on a family camping trip to Yosemite and hiked up Vernal Falls on the Cold Shower Trail, I wrote a "Waterfall" poem. When I thought about how it might look on the page, I decided to experiment with shaping it like a waterfall. Whole stanzas solidified into "Ice Cubes," I froze words into a "Popsicle," and took a "Shower" in words . . . Splish Splash evolved. Having an ongoing interest in photography, I often think of poems as wide-angle (the big picture) or telephoto (zoom in for the details) poems.  With poetry, as with my camera, I can capture a moment in time, an emotion, a new perspective. I like to play with the shape of language and the language of shape. Also, if you rub words together, how can you not ignite a spark?

How do you choose the form of your poems?
Joan: Perhaps the poems choose their own forms, the one that fits best. It helps to try out various forms for the same idea to see which is the most effective. Musicians jazz our world with soul, rock, classical. Artists amaze with oil paints, watercolor, collage. Poets surprise our senses and shake us awake with delicious forms and voices to best express what they want to say. It is exciting to have so many options. It's fun to experiment until it clicks, and you know you've found the perfect fit. Former U.S. Poet Laureate Stanley Kunitz said, "A common fallacy is to think that a poem begins with a meaning which then gets dressed up in words. On the contrary, a poem is language surprised in the act of changing into meaning."  

Are there any forms you haven't tried but would like to? Why or why not?
Joan: I'm always eager to try something new. I have information in my files about the Arabic ghazal and might have to give that a try. An example is Patricia Smith's "Hip-Hop Ghazal." I just got home from the gym where I stretched my way through yoga with peaceful music in the background and then danced through a loud Zumba class with hip-hop, Middle Eastern, and salsa rhythms. A woman said to me, "My brain is ready, but my body's not." I don't think she actually spoke in iambic pentameter, but that's how I remembered it. Music and dance can have repetitive movements and moves, and I am thinking maybe I need to write a Zumba/exercise/dance villanelle.

I'm quite fond of the villanelle. Here's "Fever," compliments of Ryan O'Brain, from THE POEM THAT WILL NOT END. When I wrote this, I had visions of Amadeus at his creative crescendo and could hear Peggy Lee singing and snapping her fingers. I've color-coded the repeating lines. When I'm working on a villanelle, I fill in the repeating lines I've chosen and then work backwards, forward, around—it's an intriguing challenge. I'm planning to use this for a choral reading sometime with one side of the room reading the red lines and the other side reading the blue lines. I have written those lines on large strips of oaktag. Then students can see and feel this form before they encounter Dylan Thomas' "Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night" and Elizabeth Bishop's "One Art." I dedicate this to all poets, artists, actors, and musicians who have a fever to create. 


I cannot stop this fever in my brain,
I feel compelled to write, and write, and write.
Day in, day out, the words just fall like rain.

Is there some way that I can plug the drain—
To rescue me, to save me from this plight?
I cannot stop this fever in my brain.

I’ve stepped on board a rhythm kind of train,
That’s traveling, zooming at the speed of light.
Day in, day out, the words just fall like rain.

What made this happen no one can explain,
I toss and turn and twist each sleepless night.
I cannot stop this fever in my brain.

What’s that? You say that I should not complain?
I’m tired and hungry, but you might be right.
Day in, day out, the words just fall like rain.

Now, I just wrote this villanelle refrain.
Hey . . . maybe I should NOT put up a fight.
I cannot stop this fever in my brain.
Day in, day out, the words just fall like rain.

Poem ©Joan Bransfield Graham. All rights reserved.

What tools (rhyming dictionary, book of forms, etc.) do you use in writing poetry (if any)?
Joan: My senses are the most important tools. (A Natural History of the Senses by Diane Ackerman is a terrific book.) I don't own a rhyming dictionary. If I'm looking for a rhyme, I go through the alphabet in my head for possibilities. Myra Cohn Livingston's Poem Making, Mary Oliver's A Poetry Handbook, and Edward Hirsch's How to Read a Poem and Fall in Love with Poetry are all resources I enjoy using. And, of course, reading lots of stimulating poetry. What would you like students or children to know about poetry?

What would you like students or children to know about poetry?
Joan: My I'd like them to know that poetry is fun, useful, and a great adventure. Each poem is an act of discovery; you can learn more about yourself and more about the world around you; it helps us widen our vision and our hearts. Poetry is a bridge that connects us and allows us to step into another's experiences, ideas, life. We are all connected, and nowhere is that connection stronger than in poetry. C. S. Lewis said "We read to know we are not alone." When someone responds to what we have written, then we are singing a duet.

Finally, one of your esteemed colleagues suggested I ask for a poem in a foreign verse form. Would you be willing to share a poem for this project?
Joan: Edward Hirsch reports that "pattern poems have been found in Greek, Latin, Hebrew, Chinese, Sanskrit, ancient Persian, and in most modern European languages." Today we often use the term "concrete" (the opposite of "abstract")—having a definite form. The Pattern Poem shows a visual relationship between form and meaning. And so I offer two versions of my poem "Birthday Candles" from Flicker Flash—one in English and then the same poem in a foreign language—Japanese. What an amazing job they did! The Japanese version of Flicker Flash came out in 2013 from Fukuinkan Shoten, Japanese text ©Chie Fujita. I am astonished they were able to translate the poems and maintain the shapes so successfully.
To refer back to question #1, when I was attempting to write this poem,  I put candles on a cake, lit them, and sat alone at the dining room table in the dark.  I thought about all the celebrations we had experienced around that table . . . and the glowing faces, which made all those occasions so special.

A million thanks to Joan for participating in my Jumping Into Form project this month.

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20. Social Media Etiquette

What not to do when using social media.

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21. Library Loot: Fourth Trip in April

New Loot:
  • The Turnip Princess and Other Newly Discovered Fairy Tales by Franz Zaver von Schonwerth
  • The Whole Story of the Bible in 16 Verses by Chris Bruno
  • The Sound Of Music Story by Tom Santopietro
  • Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
  • Dr. Seuss's ABC
  • Dr. Seuss's Sleep Book
  • King's Cross by Timothy Keller
  • Ten Apples Up On Top by Dr. Seuss
  • The Sneetches and Other Stories by Dr. Seuss
  • Onion John by Joseph Krumgold 
Leftover Loot:
  • The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights by John Steinbeck
  • The Midwife's Tale by Sam Thomas
  • Three Musketeers by Alexander Dumas, translated by Richard Pevear
  • Murder at Mullings by Dorothy Cannell
  • Green Eggs & Ham by Dr. Seuss
  • Princess of the Silver Woods by Jessica Day George
  • Princess of Glass by Jessica Day George
  • Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George
  • The Black Cauldron by Lloyd Alexander
  • Les Miserables by Victor Hugo, translated and with notes by Christine Donougher
  • Cursed in the Act by Raymond Buckland
  • The Search for the Red Dragon by James A. Owen
  • The Just City by Jo Walton
  • Here, There Be Dragons by James A. Owen
  • The Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare
  • The Indigo King by James A. Owen
  • Enchantress from the Stars by Sylvia Louise Engdahl
  • War Bonds: Love Stories from the Greatest Generation by Cindy Hval
  • Emma: A Modern Retelling by Alexander McCall Smith
  • The Story of the Trapp Family Singers by Maria Augusta Trapp
  • Memories Before and After The Sound of Music by Agathe von Trapp
  • Mary Poppins, She Wrote: The Life of P.L. Travers by Valerie Lawson
  • George, Nicholas and Wilhelm: Three Royal Cousins and the Road to World War I by Miranda Carter
  • The Beauty and the Sorrow: An Intimate History of the First World War, Peter Englund, translated by Peter Graves.
  • Anastasia and Her Sisters by Carolyn Meyer
  • The Far Side of Evil by Sylvia Louise Engdahl
  • The War that Ended Peace: To Road to 1914 by Margaret MacMillan
  • Pete the Cat's Groovy Guide to Life by Kimberley and James Dean
  • Who Thinks Evil: A Professor Moriarty Novel by Michael Kurland
  • The Infernal Devices & Others: A Professor Moriarty Omnibus by Michael Kurland
  • The Empress of India: A Professor Moriarty Novel by Michael Kurland
  • The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America by Erik Larson

      Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Linda from Silly Little Mischief that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries.   

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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22. The Trees by Philip Larkin

The Trees The trees are coming into leaf Like something almost being said; The recent buds relax and spread,  Their greenness is a kind of grief. Is it that they are born again And we grow old? No, they die too. Their yearly trick of looking new Is written down in rings of grain. Yet still the unresting castles thresh In fullgrown thickness every May. Last year is dead, they seem to say,

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23. This Little Piggy (2015)

Board Book: This Little Piggy. A Finger & Toes Nursery Rhyme Book. Natalie Marshall. 2015. [May] Scholastic. 12 pages. [Source: Review copy]

 First sentence: This little piggy went to the market.

Premise/Plot: A board book adaptation of the traditional nursery rhyme. Though these little piggies won't be eating any roast beef. I don't have a problem with adapting any of the lines. That's part of the fun of playing little piggies.

My thoughts: I enjoyed this one! I love the sturdiness of the pages. I think the pages will be easy for little hands to turn. All books--even board books--can be "loved" too much and wear out quickly. But this one seems a little better than some I've read and reviewed. I thought the illustrations were nice.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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24. Meredith Zeitlin, author of SOPHOMORE YEAR IS GREEK TO ME, on writing what you're excited about

We're delighted to have Meredith Zeitlin with us to share more about her latest novel SOPHOMORE YEAR IS GREEK TO ME.

Meredith, what was your inspiration for writing SOPHOMORE YEAR IS GREEK TO ME?

I had a friend who mentioned that when she was a kid she used to live in Greece with her extended family for months at a time, during the school year. I thought that was such an interesting idea, to be IN school but not at YOUR school. Since the friend was Greek, I figured I’d make my character Greek, too - especially because, with all the recent economic issues in Greece in the last few years, there would be plenty for my character to discover and explore on her journey. I also wanted to continue writing the world I created for my first book (Freshman Year and Other Unnatural Disasters) but through the eyes of a new main character.

What scene was really hard for you to write and why, and is that the one of which you are most proud? Or is there another scene you particularly love?

I don’t want to give anything away, so this is a hard question to answer… but I will say that the scenes between Zona and her dad were both very enjoyable and very difficult for me to write. My own father died when I was 21, and we were very close when I was growing up. In imagining the character of David Lowell I had to think a lot about details I hadn’t reflected on in a long time, and that was not so easy. There’s a scene at the end of the book where Zona is in a very vulnerable position and truly terrified, and it was painful to put myself through those emotions to get the scene just right. I’m very proud of how it came out in the end.

Another scene I really love is the one in which a boy Zona likes puts an ice cream cone down - ice cream side first - on top of her head. That actually happened to me in college, and it was one of the most absurd moments ever. I have been dying to use it in a book!

How long did you work on SOPHOMORE YEAR IS GREEK TO ME?

Writing a book is a strange and very drawn-out process. I traveled in Greece for three weeks to research the book and craft the story around the people I met and the experiences I had, and I wrote maybe 40 pages while I was there. When I came home I wrote the rest of the book in about three months, and then sent it off to my editor. Every few months after that I’d get notes and do rewrites and send back a new draft. And for the last six months or so, the book has been finished but not actually FINISHED, i.e. printed. So the overall timeline from starting the book to publication was about two years, but the actual time spent writing it is more like five months overall.

What do you hope readers will take away from SOPHOMORE YEAR IS GREEK TO ME?

Excitement about travel. A desire to connect with new people. The knowledge that being brave and being scared aren’t mutually exclusive. All the main characters in this story are wrestling with being true to themselves, despite what other people are asking of them or expecting, and I hope their experiences might be helpful to young readers who are dealing with some of the same issues.

What's your writing ritual like? Do you listen to music? Work at home or at a coffee shop or the library, etc?

I am a terrible example for other writers and writers-to-be. I have no ritual. I’m the worst procrastinator, and will do almost anything to keep from actually sitting down and getting work done. I don’t even have a desk! I write on my couch or in bed (bad idea, obviously), and for short spurts before I get distracted by something and have to take a break. TV and Facebook are the worst distractions for me, so sometimes I’ll force myself to go to a coffee shop and sit there until I get pages done. I do write scenes in my head, though, often before I fall asleep at night, and then I might get up and finally type them up the next day. (Or a month later.) I find it easier to let ideas flow and develop when I’m drifting off instead of when I’m forcing myself to stare at a computer screen.

When I do listen to music, I usually put on one of my favorite Broadway scores - “Ragtime” and “Once on this Island” are two I always seem to go back to. Then sometimes there will be a magical moment when I realize the music has ended and I’m still working… which means I actually did it: I was a writer for two whole hours! Then I feel exceptionally proud of myself and eat a bunch of candy and refuse to do any work for a week.

What advice would you most like to pass along to other writers?

Don’t worry about getting a publisher or writing something commercial or any of that stuff - just write. Write anything that you are interested in or excited about - even it’s sappy poems or memories from your childhood or retellings of books you love. You never know what you’ll be able to use someday for a project, and just getting into the habit of writing is the best exercise of all. Now if only I could take my own advice…

What are you working on now?

I should be working on Junior Year, and I do have thoughts about it. I’m also toying with an idea for something totally different, and not necessarily YA. But no promises!


Sophomore Year Is Greek to Me
by Meredith Zeitlin
G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers
Released 4/21/2015

A laugh-out-loud high school adventure set in Greece, perfect for fans of Meg Cabot

High school sophomore Zona Lowell has lived in New York City her whole life, and plans to follow in the footsteps of her renowned-journalist father. But when he announces they’re moving to Athens for six months so he can work on an important new story, she's devastated— he must have an ulterior motive. See, when Zona's mother married an American, her huge Greek family cut off contact. But Zona never knew her mom, and now she’s supposed to uproot her entire life and meet possibly hostile relatives on their turf? Thanks... but no thanks.

In the vein of Anna and the French Kiss, Zona navigates a series of hilarious escapades, eye-opening revelations, and unexpected reunions in a foreign country—all while documenting the trip through one-of-a-kind commentary.

Purchase Sophomore Year Is Greek to Me at Amazon
Purchase Sophomore Year Is Greek to Me at IndieBound
View Sophomore Year Is Greek to Me on Goodreads


mzphotosmallMeredith Zeitlin has written two books for young people (so far) and lots of articles for Ladygunn Magazine. She is also a voiceover artist who can be heard on commercials, cartoons, and TV shows (if you want to know more about that, go here: www.mzspeaks.com).

She lives with two adorable feline roommates in Brooklyn, NY, and loves talking about herself in the third person. All of which, you have to admit, is pretty rad.

What did you think of our interview with Meredith Zeitlin, author of SOPHOMORE YEAR IS GREEK TO ME? Let us know in the comments!

Happy reading,

Martina, Jocelyn, Shelly, Jan, Lisa, Susan, and Erin

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25. The Babies and Doggies Book

Board Book: The Babies and Doggies Book. John Schindel and Molly Woodward. 2015. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 26 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Lots of things babies do, doggies do too. Babies and doggies hide and peek. Babies and doggies like to eat.

Premise/plot: Photos and text reveal just how much babies and doggies have in common. The photos are adorable. If you find babies cute and adorable, you'll like the pictures. If you find dogs cute--especially puppies--then you'll like the pictures. If you like puppies and babies, you'll find the book precious.

My thoughts: I liked it. I did. I loved looking at the photographs. The text was very nice as well. The rhyming worked well and didn't get in the way. 

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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