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<<May 2015>>
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1. New Voice: Laura Woollett on Big Top Burning: The True Story of an Arsonist, a Missing Girl, and The Greatest Show On Earth

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Laura A. Woollett is the first-time author of Big Top Burning: The True Story of an Arsonist, a Missing Girl, and The Greatest Show On Earth (Chicago Review Press, June 1, 2015). From the promtional copy:

Big Top Burning investigates the 1944 Hartford circus fire and invites readers to take part in a critical evaluation of the evidence

The fire broke out at 2:40 p.m. Thousands of men, women, and children were crowded under Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey’s big top watching the Flying Wallendas begin their death-defying high-wire act. Suddenly someone screamed “Fire!” and the panic began. 

By 2:50 the tent had burned to the ground. Not everyone had made it out alive.

With primary source documents and survivor interviews, Big Top Burning recounts the true story of the 1944 Hartford circus fire—one of the worst fire disasters in U.S. history. 

Its remarkable characters include Robert Segee, a 15-year-old circus roustabout and known pyromaniac, and the Cook children, Donald, Eleanor, and Edward, who were in the audience when the circus tent caught fire. 

Guiding readers through the investigations of the mysteries that make this moment in history so fascinating, this book asks: Was the unidentified body of a little girl nicknamed “Little Miss 1565” Eleanor Cook? Was the fire itself an act of arson—and did Robert Segee set it? 

Big Top Burning combines a gripping disaster story, an ongoing detective and forensics saga, and World War II–era American history, inviting middle-grades readers to take part in a critical evaluation of the evidence and draw their own conclusions.

How did you approach the research process for your story? What resources did you turn to? What roadblocks did you run into? How did you overcome them? What was your greatest coup, and how did it inform your manuscript?

Laura at the circus
When I wrote the first draft of Big Top Burning, a nonfiction account of the 1944 Hartford circus fire, I had only dipped a toe into the giant pool of research that was to inform the final book.

I began the project in graduate school as an independent study in writing nonfiction for young people. That summer, I researched and wrote the entire first draft!

Of course, this was before I was married, before I owned a house, and before I had a child. My research consisted of reading the three (at the time) nonfiction books for adults on the subject, and reading every newspaper article on the fire from 1944 to date that I could find – mostly from the "Hartford Courant" and the now defunct "Hartford Times."

The best thing I did was to interview a few survivors of the fire. They’d been children at the time and were so gracious in sharing the stories of their narrow escapes.

The interviews were gold. However, the newspaper articles, while primary sources, often held inaccurate information. The disaster happened quickly, and as reporters rushed to get information to the public, all sorts of false information found its way into their stories. And the adult books were secondary sources. I needed to form my own conclusions about the tragedy and the mysteries that surrounded it.

Then in 2009, I won the SCBWI Work In Progress grant for nonfiction, and that gave me the inspiration to keep going and to dig deeper. I used the money to travel to Hartford where I discovered the extensive circus fire archives at the Connecticut State Library. I spent several weekends at the library, diving into boxes of police records and witness statements, looking at crime scene photos, and even listening to a tape-recorded interview with the suspected arsonist, Robert Segee.

I’d be immersed for five hours at a time, and when I left I was exhausted, hungry (no food allowed in the archives area), and feeling victorious every time. I truly felt like a detective, collecting the clues to form a complete picture of the events that happened at the circus that day. Thank goodness for the librarians who collected and cataloged boxes and boxes of materials on the circus fire. It’s really due to them that authors like me are able to write such complete accounts of the tragedy.

As I continued to revise and send my manuscript to various agents and publishers, I interviewed more survivors. Interestingly, they seemed to appear wherever I went.

At the Boston Public Library, a gentleman who saw my research materials spread out on a table stopped to tell me his tale of survival. When my father was recovering from heart surgery at Hartford Hospital, he discovered his roommate was a survivor. My high school chemistry teacher (who always told us to keep our backpacks out of the aisles) shows up in one of the photos in my book. And I was able to interview my fifth grade teacher, who had been in the hospital having his tonsils out when they brought the first burn victims in.

I feel honored to be entrusted with their stories and proud to have written a book that will pass on the story of the Hartford circus fire to future generations.

Memorial to the Hartford circus fire victims, built on the former circus grounds. The bronze medallion indicates the location of the center pole of the big top tent.

How did you go about identifying your editor? Did you meet him/her at a conference? Did you read an interview with him/her? Were you impressed by books he/she has edited?

When I sent out my manuscript on submission, I had done my research. (I’m a member of SCBWI after all!) I began by querying agents who represented nonfiction authors, and I looked specifically at those who had worked with narrative nonfiction for older readers. I got some great feedback but no takers.

I turned to querying editors directly, trying all my contacts through writer friends and through SCBWI. Still lots of lovely rejections.

But I had my eyes open. I snoop in the backs of books to find out the names of the author’s agent and editors, which are often listed in the acknowledgements. I read quite a few blogs about writing and books for kids and always make note of agents or editors who publish work similar to mine, or work I think I’d like to write in the future.

It was on Cynsations that I found a New Voices post by editor Susan Signe Morrison, who with author Joan Wehlen Morrison, wrote Home Front Girl (Chicago Review Press, 2012), a diary of everyday life of an American girl growing up in the years leading up to WWII.

Because the book was for an older audience, nonfiction, and about the same era as mine, I thought I’d query her acquiring editor, Lisa Reardon at Chicago Review Press.

Two months after my query, Lisa sent me an offer letter.

After this experience I truly believe that if you write a good book, you will find a home for it—you just have to keep your eyes open and stay persistent. I wrote the first draft of Big Top Burning in the summer of 2005 and just a mere ten years later, I’m incredibly proud of its debut in 2015!

Cynsational Notes

For more information on the Hartford circus fire, visit circus fire historian, Mike Skidgell.

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2. अच्छे दिन आने वाले हैं

cartoon monica gupta

“अच्छे दिन आने वाले हैं’ का नारा देकर प्रधानमंत्री नरेंद्र मोदी सत्ता में आए थे। एक साल के दौरान उन्होंने 18 विदेश दौरे किए। कच्चे तेल की कीमत में गिरावट आई तो पेट्राेल-डीजल सस्ता हुआ। लेकिन फरवरी के बाद कीमतें फिर बढ़ने लगीं। मोदी का चीन दौरा खत्म होते-होते सोशल मीडिया पर उनका जादू भी कमजोर पड़ता दिखा।


Modi One Year

See more…

The post अच्छे दिन आने वाले हैं appeared first on Monica Gupta.

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3. A Rainbow Is A Rainbow!

A rainbow is a rainbow, 
with whom you ride it is all that matters! 

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4. That ‘Wilson’ movie is on again with Harrelson and Dern


Daniel Clowes is the Mark Millar of the indie comics set, with two of his graphic novels—Ghost World and Art School Confidential—having been filmed. And now a third, Wilson, based on the GN of the same name, is back on track, with filming set for Minneapolis next month. The script is by Clowes.

The book was originally slated to be directed by Alexander Payne, back in 2010, and bounced around a bit before Fox Searchlight picked it up. If the Clowes tale—about a grumpy, socially awkward man who is painfully obtuse as he attempts to connect with other humans—was not written directly for Payne to direct, it night as well have been as all his films deal with familial estrangement. But it turns out the film will be directed by Craig Johnson, previously of The Skeleton Twins, and Woody Harrelson and Laura Dern will star as the misanthropic Wilson and his ex-wife/connection interest.

Payne will still produce, however, with his Ad Hominem Enterprises partners Jim Taylor and Jim Burke, Sam Raimi and Josh Donen all attached in some way.

I just happened to watch The Skeleton Twins the other night (it was edited and produced by Jennifer Lee, formerly of Vertigo, and an old Beat Pal.) It was a smart, deft film about…people awkwardly trying to connect with their true feelings, with Hader and Wiig shining. Harrelson and Dern are great 90% of the time, so this sounds like a quality project all around.

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5. SDCC ’15: Nerd HQ teams with IGN and the SD Childern’s Museum

Doubtless spurred by my relentless questioning of their existence, yesterday it was announced that Nerd HQ would be returning to Comic-Con this time merging with IGN and with a new venue, the New Children’s Museum at 200 W Island Ave—just across the tracks from the Hyatt and a very convenient spot for shilling. So this year we’ll have TWO nerdlebrity offsites, NerdHQ and Nerdist, which as we reported yesterday, will be located at PetCo. It’s unknown how extensive the Nerdist event will be, however.

According to some promo on IGN:

Zachary Levi and The Nerd Machine’s Nerd HQ will return to San Diego Comic-Con this July, making its home at the New Children’s Museum for the four-day pop-culture mecca. In addition, this year IGN is teaming with Nerd HQ 2015 as their global media partner, helping to bring Nerd HQ to the fans who can’t make it to San Diego. We’ll be streaming all of Nerd HQ’s Conversations for a Cause panels on IGN as well as on our YouTube channel. The streams will also be available on TheNerdMachine.com and the Nerd HQ App. IGN will also be hosting its own live stream throughout Comic-Con.

Nerd HQ provides fans a free retreat during the con, with the New Children’s Museum’s creative venue providing a 35,000 square foot, three-floor space that will host an expanded Conversations for a Cause panel series, fan-focused interactions, and exclusive hands-on game play with a number of this years’ biggest titles.

Nerd HQ activites include lots of media panels with top names—but instead of queueing up, you buy a separate ticket in advance for every panel. All the activities will be available on a IGN powered Nerd HQ app, and the traditional open fan party has been extended to two nights: Thursday, July 9th and Saturday, July 11th.

It seems the comics-themed off-site Tr!ckster is no more, but I still think there’s room for such an event, if some enterprising entrepreneur has the guts to give it a whirl again. Give it time.

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6. Two Clips Revealed From the Macbeth Movie

Two new clips have been unveiled from a new Macbeth film adaptation. The videos embedded above and below showcases Michael Fassbender as the tragic King of Scotland and Marion Cotillard as Lady Macbeth. According to Deadline.com, Jacob Koskoff, Michael Lesslie, and Todd Louis collaborated on adapting William Shakespeare’s famed play to write the script.

Filmmaker Justin Kurzel served as the director of this project. The movie was recently showcased at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival. A theatrical release date for United Kingdom audiences is set for October 2nd; no United States date has been scheduled yet. (via The Guardian)

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7. The best comics site out there, The Nib, is changing focus


The Nib is the best comics site out there, with new comics every day from some of the greatest cartoonists working. Edited by Matt Bors, it’s a model of how a comics site can be sharply observent and politically relevant, and yet still be good comics overal, with both editorial cartoons—Tis Modern World, Tom the Dancing Bug, Slowpoke, Bors own strip—and new work by folks like Emily Flake, Lisa Hanawalt, R Stevens, Ted Rall, Brian McFadden, Erika Moen, Shannon Wheeler and more more more. A whole generation of incisive non-fiction cartoonists, given a paying platform to work for.

Unfortunately, it’s not going to be around in the same form any more.

The Nib is part of Medium, a start up that is devoted to “long form reads.” Like many start ups, it doesn’t have any visible means of making money, so while the site employed Bors and paid cartoonists to create new work, as I all too presciently suggested, that model was too radical to work forever.

I should note that I have no idea what the changes will be. Assistant editor Eleri Mai Harris was let go a few weeks ago, the first warning sign, and now the cartoonists who were syndicated on the site, such as Tom Tomorrow and Ruben Bolling, as indicating they they will not appear there any more. Bolling wrote:

Hey, Tom the Dancing Bug ran regularly on Medium.com’s comic site, The Nib, for about a year and a half, but I’m told that due to changes at Medium, The Nib will be reinventing itself, and will not carry comics on regular basis anymore.
I’ve been tremendously impressed with Nib founder/owner Matt Bors and the way he built the site up.  I’d known him as a young, very talented editorial cartoonist, and a friend, but once he grabbed the reins of The Nib he proved himself to be an endlessly energetic, brilliantly innovative editor and comics impresario.  He developed a large, flexible roster of cartoonists and ran fascinating journalism comics, hilarious and fresh humor comics, heart-wrenching autobiographical comics, and on a moment’s notice he would figure out a way to round up local cartoonists to comment on international stories.  He also did all this with great organization, professionalism, integrity and respect for the artists he gathered.
My comic played a small part in Matt’s grand webcomics project, but I was proud to be associated with it.
The Nib is not going away, and I’ll be watching (and maybe even participating in small ways) how Matt reinvents it, quite possibly in ways that even better lend themselves to his unique editorial talents and vision.


Just as a reminder, here are the most recent comics to appear on the site, a look at the meat industry by Mike Dawson, Longstreet Farm, that will make you uncomfortable


And Eleanor Davis’s The Highgate County Fancy Chicken Show, which, like most of her work, is a multi leveled indictment of stereotypes, fat shaming and other shade we throw at people for no reason whatsoever.

These are good comics, and The Nib was full of them.

I’ve reached out to Bors for further information, but I do know that The Nib will be continuing, so let’s not write an obituary just yet. But everytime i clicked on the site, I thought “This is too good to last” and sadly…I was right.

Here’s a selection of twitter outrage over the change — even CNN’s Jake Tapper got in on the action.

I just interviewed Jen Sorenson about her similar gig at Fusion.net the other day. Hopefully this lasts a lot longer.

1 Comments on The best comics site out there, The Nib, is changing focus, last added: 5/28/2015
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8. The Hardest Part of Summer Reading

Summer is here at if you work in the Public Library, than Summer equals Summer Reading and Summer Reading Programs.

Summer Reading encourages kids to read during their school break, read for fun and enjoyment, and keep up their reading so they avoid the Summer Slide. I think we do a great job promoting that kids should read during the Summer at my library and we have great involvement and feedback about our Summer Reading Program. Parents comment that kids were motivated to read, they had fun, and that they used the activities on the game board to create fun activities for their family over Summer. This is all great and I love it, but there is a very hard part to Summer Reading that happens each and every year. No matter how much I try, I always hear the following comments:

"Read real books." 
"You can only read books on your level."
"Listening doesn't count in our house."

When I hear these or other similar statements, I have to try really hard to make sure I don't make this face:
Photo Credit: Flickr, Mindaugas Danys

Because that screaming child pretty much sums up how I feel anytime I hear someone discrediting any reading-of any genre, format, or suggested age and level. 

Reading is supposed to be enjoyable and Summer Reading finally gives kids a chance to have a break from everyone telling them what to read all school year long. I still remember one of my teens telling me how high school pretty much ruined her reading life because she was sick and tired of being told to read at a higher Lexile level and being forced to read classics instead of the YA books she wanted to read. Do we really want to turn out kids into reading haters? They don't get enough choice in school, so let them have choice during Summer. If we want our kids to become readers, we know the best way to get them to read is to let them read what they want. The best way to increase their reading skills and reading levels (which let's be honest, I hate reading levels and think they are a lot of nonsense, but that's a post for another day!) is to let them read. Scholastic's 5th Annual Reading Report shows that "Ninety-one percent of children ages 6–17 say “my favorite books are the ones that I have picked out myself.” (And really, go read the whole thing-it's fantastic!) 

When I give my Summer Reading Spiel to parents and kids, I stress that ANYTHING they read counts. Any format, any genre, reading aloud, reading silently, reading together, reading alone, looking at books for pre-readers, audiobooks, ebooks-ANYTHING! I make a big deal at my school presentations to the kids that I'm not going to tell them what to read, their teachers aren't going to tell them what to read, and that their parents aren't going to tell them what to read. And this year I told them that if they do, that they need to come talk to me, because I will tell them that Summer Reading is all about choice! (I haven't had anyone show up yelling at me yet, but I'm still waiting for that angry parent who is upset because I promised their kid free choice for Summer Reading!) 

Parents seem to get the importance of Summer Reading. Yet they are shocked to discover they can read aloud, listen to audiobooks, or read comic books!

I try to point out that listening is a great way to read for auditory learners, it can help kids who are struggling readers with a longer text, it can help readers who need to follow along with text and read aloud, they are fantastic models for storytelling, and audio can be a way to share a book together as a family. I also love how audiobooks work great for kids who can't sit still and need to move around while reading-audiobooks can provide the best of both worlds-movement and reading. 

I talk about how graphic novels aren't easier just because they have picture, but instead of creating a picture alone in your mind along with the text, readers have to evaluate text and pictures while reading! Graphic novels can also be a way for readers who need more of a visual element to read classics because there are illustrations to help explain the context. 

Those are just a few reasons I love encouraging new formats and new ways of reading. All reading counts and all reading matters. Reading Rockets has a great resource about the benefits of audiobooks for all listeners. And Scholastic and School Library Journal have fantastic resources for using graphic novels and comics. 

We have a PowerPoint that advertises our programs, new books, and other Library info. I'm hoping to take some stats from these various reports and cycle through them on our slideshow to encourage parents to take note that reading in various formats is of course reading!  I may not win every battle, but I'm going to try my hardest. And I will continue to stress to every child and parent that comes in my library that ANYTHING they read counts for Summer Reading. If you want your child to read, let them read what they want-any genre, any format, and a book of their choice-because that is what is going to get them to read. 

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9. Cover Revealed for First Issue of New Jughead Series

Jughead Cover GalleyCat

After the executives at Archie Comics shut down their Kickstarter campaign, the team pledged to move forward with three new series projects: Betty & Veronica, Life with Kevin, and Jughead. The main cover for issue No. 1 of the new Jughead series has been unveiled. We’ve embedded the full image above—what do you think?

The first cover was designed by artist Erica Henderson. Illustrator Chip Zdarsky created a variant cover (embedded below). The publication date has been scheduled for October 7th.

Jughead Variant Cover GalleyCat

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10. Underbits Izzy Elf #3!

FIZZY!  We Izzies all think she looks tall and elegant, even in her undies!

Stay tuned for the other five Izzies Underbitted!


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11. UK Comics -What Might Have Been: Maxwell Pergamon Publishing Vs News International

I have already written how, after late businessman Robert Maxwell had purchased Fleetway and made it part of Maxwell Pergamon Publishing, I met up with Maxwell.  He saw that comics could make money and I put a lot of proposals together.

Robert Maxwell

Very nice, genial and joking man but I recall as I left I WAS counting my fingers. There was something too "off" but if he had the money to back UK comics and re-establish the UK as a comic publishing nation who was I to complain?

But talking to an assistant, later, I learnt that, basically, Maxwell wanted his fingers in as many pies as News International boss Rupert Murdoch.  If Murdoch was involved in an industry -whether newspaper, media or sport then Maxwell had to try to outdo him.  And Murdoch vice versa.

I was told that if any representative of News International or Murdoch approached me regarding comic publishing I was to consider myself "being loyal to Mr. Maxwell -and let us know " -which had me imaging brown envelopes full of cash being handed to me in " special deals"  (I was in comics -come on, let me fantasize! )

I did discuss the matter with a couple of the higher ranking Fleetway people who were still at the company.  The advice was to go ahead -" it can't do any more harm can it?"

You see, only afterwards did I realise what was said: "It can't do any more harm..."

Well, we all know what happened to Robert Maxwell http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Maxwell

Oddly, even after Egmont took over Fleetway, things were shaky and I was left unpaid for work to the tune of £5,000.  And I was given the excuse that it was all "Maxwell's fault!"  But Maxwell had died years before and had nothing to do with Egmont-Fleetway!

But I digress.

Maxwell was paranoid about Murdoch who he said he knew -others confirmed it later- was going to jump into comic book publishing.  I even signed an agreement that I was committed to Maxwell Pergamon and would not discuss or advise on publishing comics in the UK (specifically) with News International representatives.

Rupert Murdoch - Flickr - Eva Rinaldi Celebrity and Live Music Photographer.jpg
 Rupert Murdoch

To be fair, at one point, while in London, I was approached by someone who said he was from News International but despite all his smooth talking I told him I was "under contract" -those magic words shut him up completely but he gave me a number to call "in case".

The interesting thing is that Maxwell had said that he knew Science Fiction (2000 AD) and super heroes were the best genres to jump in to.  He also wanted "the best" creators -"big names if possible but very talented if not".

How different the 1980s-1990s might have been with two battling media giants controlling rival comic publishing houses.  We might even have a comics industry today like any other in Europe. Of course, it would all  have depended on whether this was merely a one-upmanship deal or a serious business project. We'll never know.

This was all brought back to me as I looked through old papers.  I have a rule, based on my "other work", that any correspondence is strictly confidential for thirty years -unless it is needed to provide evidence in a legal case some how.  In fact, I have enough dirt on people in UK comics (letters, faxes etc) that I could quite easily cause them real problems!  The old joke of my body being pulled out of the River Avon and in my hand a note reading "Comic scandal if----" springs to mind.

But I have ethics.  And that makes me wonder how long I might have lasted in a Maxwell controlled comic industry.  Would have been interesting though.

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12. Gloria Steinem Inks Deal

Gloria Steinem Cover (GalleyCat)Famed feminist activist Gloria Steinem has landed a book deal.

According to USA Today, this projects marks the first time Steinem has written a book in over 20 years. Penguin Random House will release My Life on the Road on October 27th.

Entertainment Weekly reports that this memoir focuses on Steinem’s “experiences on the road and the people she met who influenced her life. Steinem will detail her encounters with both famous faces and not-so-familiar names, all of whom were important to Steinem’s journey. She’ll also write about how the nomadic state of her life also played a major role in her roles as a journalist and activist.”

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13. BookEnds Takes on #BEA15

In the back of my mind I've been obsessively debating which shoes to wear to BEA. Certainly BEA is a lot more than shoes, but if you've ever been to the Javits Center I think you'll understand my obsession. Hard floors, giant spaces and tons and tons of walking. Not to mention that its as far West as you can get in New York City so just getting there is a hike of its own.

Although BEA started on Wednesday, Bookends will be attending Thursday and Friday and while the free galleys and new books will be tempting (and snatched up), we're there primarily to network. At BEA we'll be meeting with various co-agents to discuss the possibility of foreign and performance rights for our books, as well as audio and anything else that we can do to promote and sell more rights for our authors and their books.

Moe has stepped into her new position with a vengeance and she and Beth have been working on updating, revising and reformatting our rights lists for the past month. They are wonderful. Somehow they make our already sparkly books shine even more.

And this year, like many years, we'll have a special guest. Our new intern James starts on Thursday. just in time to be inaugurated into BEA meetings, book lugging, and all of publishing in one giant room. I can't wait to hear his thoughts.

A few tips I've learned over the years at BEA:

  1. Wear comfortable shoes. You'll be walking and walking and some more walking so be prepared.
  2. Dress for the heat. The Javits is always hot so cool and comfortable are good.
  3. Pack lightly. You're going to want to grab book so pack your smallest purse and go. You don't want to be weighted down more than you already will be.
  4. Pick galleys sparingly. You don't want to be the one lugging five canvas bags full of books that you'll later wonder why you even grabbed them (they are just not your style). Trust me. I've been there. At BookEnds we make an effort to pick one galley for the team. Unless its something we all plan to read immediately we can usually share. We have also gotten picky. I'm not afraid to take a moment to read the cover copy and put the book back down if I don't think I'll read it. I mean, I still have galleys from last year I haven't read.
  5. Stop and chat with people. The whole point of BEA is to network and meet people. Stop and booths to say hello and take a moment to introduce yourself and pass out a card. And follow-up later!
And lastly, check out #BookEnds on Twitter and @Bookends_Literary on Instagram where we'll be Tweeting and Instagramming all the fun things we see and do.


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14. Whew!

I know it's been a while.  The last month has been a bit bonkers with the end of the school year looming, and a bunch of projects in the air.  One of the most exciting projects was moderating a panel during School Library Journal's Day of Dialog at the beginning of BEA!

Consequently, I was reading up a storm.  I'm happy to share a bit about the books that were represented on the panel!

Five, Six, Seven, Nate! by Tim Federle

I talked about this fantastic and hole filling title on this blog when it first came out.  I can tell you, if you ever get an opportunity to have Tim on a panel make it happen!  Stage presence times 1000 -- lovely, generous and kind, Tim speaks eloquently about his own books as well as the world of publishing.  He has also been a visiting author at our school and our kids still talk about him and his presentations!

Gone Crazy in Alabama, by Rita Williams-Garcia

I am going to dedicate a whole blog post to this one soon (if you can't wait follow the title link to the Book Smugglers review), but suffice it to say the Gaither sisters remain characters who I will always carry in my heart.  Rita makes each word in her books count, and these are titles I am going to listen to with my daughters this summer.  A fantastic panelist, Rita is willing to get real and share stories.  She speaks powerfully on her writing process and is willing the share the lessons she's learned about writing over the years.

Lost in the Sun, by Lisa Graff

This will get a Tweendom review soon as well. Feel free to follow the title link to the NYTimes review.  Lisa revisits the world of Umbrella Summer, this time focusing in on Trent -- the boy who shot the puck.  I quickly got sucked into Trent's world of broken family and friendships and was pulling for him as he tried to figure his way through his guilt and pain.  Lisa writes across ages and genres and brings keen insight to the conversation.  Lisa clearly remembers her middle school years and is willing to get personal! Such fun!

Goodbye Stranger, by Rebecca Stead

Again, one I will talk about more closer to the pub date. I have linked to Monica Edinger's review in the title.  I have seen Rebecca speak several times now (including being the lucky duck to be there for the presentation of the Newbery Award) and each time she comes fresh to the table. It's obvious she considers the questions, and her heart is in it for her readers. She speaks about middle school readers having the freedom of choice, and the many little deaths they experience as they grow up.  Goodbye Stranger does read a bit older than When You Reach Me and Liar and Spy and I can't wait to put it in the hands of my students and hear what they think!

The Looney Experiment, by Luke Reynolds

And last but not least we have The Looney Experiment, by Luke Reynolds. While relatively new to the world of middle school literature, Luke has been writing extensively on the world of education for some time.  His job as a 7th grade teacher obviously gave him the stage presence necessary to hang with the rest of the panelists!  His passion for literature and for kids is palpable and he reminds us that kids want us to notice them and see what is below the surface. His character of Atticus demonstrates this idea as there is so much going on in his mind that his classmates, and most of the adults in his life just don't see!

It was such an honor getting to moderate this panel, and I just wish we had more time.  I want to thank all of the authors for being so generous with their time, and also thank School Library Journal for allowing me to have this opportunity.  This was definitely a career highlight for me! This was the first time I had ever moderated, and I hope it won't be the last!

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15. Face-Lift 1259

Guess the Plot

A Fearful Brew

1. Was it a heart attack that killed that dinner party guest? Or was it poison in his soup? Inspector Snow is on the case, but can his scientific investigation reveal the truth before the society ladies' gossip destroys lives? Also, women's suffrage.

2. When amateur microbrewer Joe Bona creates what may well be the best beer in the world he's ecstatic - until he realizes that his creation is sentient . . . and it's got stage fright. 

3. John Longstein has had a good run as a serial killer. Now it's time to toss back a few brewskies. Just one last step. His last victim-to-be watches him prepare a batch of home-made brew with those "special" ingredients still to come. 

4. Celebrity, actress, chef, writer, model and lifestyle guru Gwen Patronal has a new beverage for the health-happy Hamptons set: a gluten-free, GMO-free, sodium-free, cruelty-free, fat-free, calorie-free, cholestoral-free, free range, organic, vegan beer she calls "Good". Will she clean up at the Sag Harbor Brew Fest, or will she fall to a *gasp* traditional ale? Also, hipsters.

5. High school student Taylor inherits her late grandmother's recipe collection and it includes a recipe for witch's brew. Is this the secret to getting that new boy Josh to finally notice her? Or will the concoction kill everyone who drinks it? Only one way to find out.

Original Version

A Fearful Brew

Inspector Snow thinks there is more to the death of Sir Atwood than the hasty verdict of heart attack. ["Hasty" because Atwood was a young man, and an athlete, and his head is missing.] [Assuming Atwood isn't the guy's first name, that should be Sir John or Sir John Atwood, but not Sir Atwood. I know this because on golf telecasts they always refer to Nick Faldo as Sir Nick.] ["Heart attack" sounds more like a diagnosis than a verdict. Has there been an inquest or was Atwood merely examined at the scene by a doctor?]

The hostess of the fatal dinner party fears the gossip will damage her social position. [Already there are whisperings that Sir Atwood's heart attack was caused by the Clams Casino.] Her guests, obligate [obligated] to attend, find their secrets at risk. 

[Guests: He had a heart attack. What do you want from us?

Inspector Snow: I want to know all of your secrets.]

Charlotte Magnolia, observes sagely from her husband's side, [Observes what?] with a flask of bourbon to keep her warm. [Is Charlotte Magnolia the hostess? A randomly chosen guest? I was convinced we were in London; now I'm thinking Mississippi.]

Jane Bradford, [no comma needed there.] fights her fear. She convinces her widowed sister, Lady Harrington, to help her start a suffrage group, [What is this "fear" Jane is fighting? I can't think of any fears that can be overcome by starting a suffrage group.] despite Aunt Edith's warning that it will ruin their chances of marriage. [Wait, are we in the same book?]

With only three recruits, her sister wavering, and Aunt Edith's smug reaction to their lack of members, Jane makes the radical decision to include the household servants in their group. The only one to object [decline?] is the cook, to everyone's surprise. [The surprise isn't that the cook didn't want in; it's that the butler did.] 

When news of the death of Sir Atwood reaches the group, the servants prove to be more than mere prop . The cook's knowledge of herbs, Maisy's determination to help a sacked maid, [Who is Maisy?] and tidbits of gossip from the society ladies, spark a transformation in an era that demand [demands] social correctness. 


What does Sir Atwood's death have to do with the servants in Jane Bradford's home?

Characters named in query: Inspector Snow, Sir Atwood, Charlotte Magnolia, Jane Bradford, Lady Harrington, Aunt Edith, Maisy. Add to that the hostess, the guests, Charlotte's husband, the cook, Jane's other household servants, and the society ladies, and we have a cast bigger than Downton Abbey. Which is okay for a novel, but way too many for a query letter.

Stating the title at the top isn't enough. We want a couple sentences in which you give the title, genre, word count, and anything else that might convince the reader to request your manuscript.

The first name mentioned is Inspector Snow, but he's never mentioned again. If Jane's cook solves the murder, we don't need the inspector in the query. 

You need to decide whether the main plot is Inspector Snow's murder investigation or Jane Bradford's quest for suffrage. The latter seems to get more attention, but as the suffrage group comprises only Jane and her sister (maybe) and her household staff, maybe the suffrage group is a subplot.

If the investigation is the main plot, tell us why Snow thinks there's more to Atwood's death than a heart attack, and name some suspects and their possible motives.

If women's suffrage is the main plot, open the query with Jane, tell us about her struggles to interest others in the cause, and mention Atwood's death only if you can explain how it's connected to the cause.

Don't name characters without also telling us who they are.

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16. Jump into Fun

Sneaky peek of my next collection with Robert Kaufman fabrics due out in Sept. '15

(click to see larger)

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17. Dear Dragon Goes to the Beach - a bookwrap


Authored by Margaret Hillert
Illustrated by Jack Pullan
A Beginning-to-Read Book

Unwrapping the illustrations for you to take a peek...

About the book...

A family decides to take a trip and spend the day at the beach. Of course Dear Dragon is invited to come along too.  Together they  experience the sand, collecting seashells, and the water for the first time.  Illustrator Jack Pullan has done a fine job as the pictures are colourful and expressive dove-tailing perfectly with the text. I especially liked the part where they found litter and waste on the beach and cleaned it up.  What a great message to give to kids, that the world is our responsibility to look after and we (in matter how small) can pitch in and make a difference. 

"These Beginning-to-Read books capture the imaginations of beginning readers and help them on their way to independent reading.  Each book in this series includes a miniature teaching guide in the back with a note to the caregiver in the front that helps the reader take as much away from the book as possible, including phonetic and vocabulary exercise.  These books use text that is comprised of common, frequently used words to assist the reader with reinforcing illustrations to help he or she become an independent reader and develop comprehension.  A word list and activities in the back of the book are also included.

Use Dear Dragon books to:

* Practice reading high frequency words

* Expand comprehension

* Improve oral language skills."

I think these books would be perfect in a Kindergarten/Grade One/Grade Two classroom.  Libraries would also be a wonderful place to find them.  I highly recommend this book and this series.

About the author...

Margaret Hillert has written over 80 books for children who are just learning to read. Her books have been translated into many languages and have helped children throughout the world learn to read. She first started writing poetry as a child and has continued to write for children and adults throughout her life. As a first grade teacher, Margaret realized that the books available for students just learning to read were beyond their comprehension. She then began to write her easy readers and poetry for children. Her first collection of poetry Farther Than Far was published in 1969. Her many awards include the Chicago Children's Reading Round Table Annual Award for outstanding contributions to the field of children's literature. Other honors include the David W. Longe Prize and the Michigan Bookwoman of the Year Award. A teacher for 34 years, she is now retired and lives in Michigan where she continues to write stories and poetry. 

Read on and read always!

It's a wrap.

Contact me at storywrapsblog@gmail.com

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18. Interview with Susan Marie Murdoch for Bully Blues

Come and join me as I talk with author Susan Marie Murdoch about her picture book Iwogs Adventures in Bully Blues on Stories From Unknown Authors http://blogtalkradio.com/storiesfromunknownauthors at 1pm EST today. 

"Iwogs Adventures in Bully Blues is an enlightening story that brings an awareness of an important issue in today's society, bullying. This book is a must read for every classroom and home. The charming characters emanate the emotions so many children feel and are unable to express."

  • Hardcover: 48 pages
  • Publisher: Goose River Press; First edition (March 2, 2015)
  • ISBN-10: 159713158X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1597131582

Author Bio:
I love being an author & Illustrator of children's books. I grew up on the seacoast of Maine, and have been a resident of Taos, NM for the past three years. My son Tim, and daughter Jacquelyn, have been my foundation through the years and they are my biggest supporters.

I have enjoyed spending over a decade as a Licensed Nursing Assistant in New Hampshire and continues to devote my time as a part-time caregiver to the elderly in the surrounding communities of New Mexico. I am currently a caregiver to the renowned Taos artist Alyce Frank.

Growing up, my passion had always been painting and drawing. It was later in life after experiencing some traumatic events while serving in the Unite States Army as a military police officer, did I learn that writing was a therapeutic tool to express myself. I try to incorporate personal experiences and emotions into my stories in hopes the messages will ring true with the reader.

My latest book, Iwogs Adventures in Bully Blues, is an enlightening story that brings an awareness of an important issue in today's society, bullying. Children can relate to and read about how the Iwogs battle against Snip and Snap, the turtle brothers and learn that with kindness and forgiveness, anything is possible.

My first children's book, Plaid Frogs, Blue Toads & Pink Pollywogs, was designed to help kids with cancer or any childhood disease in search of a cure, be able to discuss their emotions with a parent, teacher or healthcare provider. A portion of the proceeds of Plaid Frogs Blue Toad & Pink Pollywogs, goes to the American Cancer Society.

I believe that children books should have strong ideals and morals, and send a positive message to the young and old!

Bully Blues is a story about Iwogs who are getting bullied by turtle brothers, Snip and Snap. Snip and Snap kick the Iwogs out of their food bed and tease them about their appearances. Having enough, Corky decides to rally his friends and fellow Iwogs together to see the Grand Unog to get advice on how to deal with the bullies. The wise Unog tells the Iwogs that they all live together in the same pond and they need to find a way to live in harmony with one another. They all need to show patience, kindness, and forgiveness. That advice gets put to the test when Snip and Snap go missing.   

This story encompasses the problem of bullying. It doesn't matter where you are, or even your age, bullying is a problem everywhere. Bully Blues, through the story, tells the Iwogs how to stick together and to avoid the turtle brothers. This worked. But the underlining lesson is to also show compassion, which at times, is very hard to do, especially when the person being bullied is emotionally and/or physically dramatized. But children will learn in this 41 page picture book, that with forgiveness comes great rewards and with kindness comes lasting friendships. 

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19. Schooool's Out...for...the Summer!

Time to pack up that classroom or library and head to the beach! While you're relaxing, let us offer a little light reading with our recent goings-on.

Latest News

Emma Virján

Emma is pleased to announce that her latest book 
What This Story Needs is a Pig in a Wig is now officially on sale!
Publisher's Weekly has listed the book as one of the Best Books of Summer 2015, so be sure to pick up a copy for your trip to the beach.
A HUGE thank you to BookPeople for hosting Pig's fantastic book launch.
Learn more about the book and see the trailer here.
Thank you Texas librarians and teachers for your support!

Jeanette Larson

Jeanette was honored to receive the Texas Library Association's Distinguished Service Award, one of the state's highest recognitions for librarians and educators across the state, at the TLA Conference in April. 
Way to go, Jeanette!

P. J. Hoover

P. J. had a busy month filled with school visits, wrapping up a great year, including a highlighted visit to her own son's middle school (he wouldn't talk to her for a solid hour afterward!). 
During the 2014-2015 school year, P. J. visited over thirty schools, talking with kids from 3rd grade through high school. It was a blast, and she is looking forward to doing the same next year. Her schedule is filling up, so if you are interested in an author visit for the 2015-2016 school year, please contact P. J. as soon as possible. 
P. J. surprised students at Trinity Episcopal School in Austin for a Lone Star List celebration lunch.

Over Memorial Day weekend, P. J. banded together with Texas Writing Ninjas Mari Mancusi, Madeline Smoot, and Joy Preble for Comicpalooza in Houston. Aside from having fun at the booth and talking to book fans, she participated in panels on everything from YA Literature to Star Wars vs. Star Trek: It's on. (Star Trek, btw, is definitely the winner!)
P. J. ran into all sorts of awesome SFF icons at Comicpalooza.

K. A. Holt

Kari is excited to show you a sneak peek of the cover of her newest middle grade novel, RED MOON RISING. It will be released by McElderry Books (Simon & Schuster) in the Spring of 2016. 
Pitched as Firefly meets Little House on the Prairie, RED MOON RISING is about a feisty 13-year-old who becomes an unwitting pawn in the standoff between her struggling colony and an enclave of aliens who may be something quite different than they seem.

If you are going to be at ALA in San Francisco this June, Kari would love to see you. She'll be signing books on Sunday the 28th from 11:30-12:30, and she'll be on the Engaging Reluctant Readers panel at the Pop Top Stage on Monday 29th at 1 pm.

Don Tate

School Visiting
Don says: Thank you for your support, Texas librarians! Each month, I visit schools all over Texas, and beyond; it's because of you that I get to do what I love-create inspiring, important books for young readers. Thank you for taking the time to read our newsletters, and for all of the won
derful responses you've sent me throughout the school year. You rock!
Freedom Touring
Last week, author-illustrator Don Tate and his colleague, author Kelly Starling Lyons, forged the next leg of their Freedom Book Tour through the Washington D.C. area. The tour featured their books that celebrate inspiring African-American historical figures and their journeys to freedom. Stops included: a live taping of RIF Live!, to kick off RIF's (Reading Is Fundamental) 2015 Multicultural Booklist; a Diversity in the Classroom event sponsored by We Need Diverse Books; an Early Childhood Education Literacy Workshop with the National Black Child Development Institute; and a reading at the African-American Civil War Museum. A blurb about the event in Publisher's Weekly can be found here. 
Above: Don at RIF Live!
Below: Don speaks to students at Sherrod Elementary in Arlington, Texas.

Jessica Lee Anderson

Jessica Lee Anderson looks forward to sharing more details about her educational books in the pipeline soon!  She's now booking school visits for Fall 2015 and is currently offering a discount if the visit is booked by June 15, 2015.  You can visit Jessica's website for contact information and more details.

Jo Whittemore

Jo has been juggling working on the new Confidentially Yoursseries for Harper Collins, debuting January 2016, with teaching craft to her fellow writers. She's looking forward to a brief summer break between projects!

For some kids, reading is strictly a school activity, where books are abandoned once the last bell rings. Before they head out the door, why not suggest a summer reading program like theScholastic Summer Reading Challenge? Or create one of your own!


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20. Fidelia Bridges

Fidelity Bridges, Milkweeds, 1876. Watercolor and gouache on paper
Fidelia Bridges (1834 - 1923) was known for her meticulous botanical studies, many of which were painted outdoors in nature.

Both of her parents died when she was in her teens. She never married, but had a small circle of friends, including Mark Twain, for whom she served for a time as a governess of his daughters. 

She lived by herself in a home in Canaan, Connecticut, overlooking a stream and a flower garden filled with birds and butterflies. A writer of the time described her this way:

"She soon became a familiar village figure, tall, elegant, beautiful even in her sixties, her hair swept back, her attire always formal, even when sketching in the fields or riding her bicycle through town. Her life was quiet and un-ostentatious, her friends unmarried ladies of refinement and of literary and artistic task who she joined for woodland picnics and afternoon teas."

Fidelia Bridges, Calla Lily, 1875
She was inspired by reading John Ruskin's Modern Painters, which preached truth to nature. She found her way to study under William Trost Richards, who became a lifelong mentor. Her early studies in watercolor and gouache, such as this one of a calla lily, show a patient and observant eye. 

Bridges was one of only seven women who became members of the American Watercolor Society in the 19th century. She worked for the Prang company in her later career, and her work was often reproduced on greeting cards.

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21. Cinebook The 9th Art; Papyrus 6 - The Amulet of the Great Pyramid

  Papyrus 6 - The Amulet of the Great Pyramid
Author: De Gieter
Age: 8 years and up
Size: 21.7 x 28.7 cm
Number of pages: 48 colour pages
ISBN: 9781849182409
Price: £6.99 inc. VAT

Publication: February 2015

Drawn by strange cries coming from the necropolis at the foot of the pyramids, Papyrus comes face to face with Anubis, the god of the dead. The jackal-headed god, angered by a rash of grave robbing, orders the young Egyptian to enter the Great Pyramid and retrieve there the heart scarab of Kheops. But the pyramid is already 1000 years old to Papyrus, and robbers have long ago desecrated it. The young boy will have to search it from top to bottom.

I think this was one of the first European books I saw from Cinebook that showed a rather cartoony figure style could be employed in amongst wonderfully drawn Egyptian architecture and scenes from daily life.

Of course, there is some history thrown in, Anubis gets to appear in a comic (he complains so!) and young Papyrus has to face snakes and other dangers.  The series is very enjoyable and I would, again, write that this title is "suitable for kids of all ages".  And, incidentally, the colour work by B. Swysen is excellent and adds to each scene.

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22. Reframing gangs

Picture the scene.
Scene 1: A group of wildly drunk young men smash a local business to smithereens, systematically destroying every inch, before beating the owner within an inch of his life.
Scene 2: A group of power-crazed men (and one woman), driven by an aggressive culture of hyper-competitiveness, commit economic crime on an epic scale.

The post Reframing gangs appeared first on OUPblog.

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23. Details, Details...

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24. Publisher & Ad Agency Create a Children’s Book That Can Transform Into a Tree

Mi Papa Estuvo en la Selva Cover (GalleyCat)Argentinian publisher Pequeno Editor and ad agency FCB Buenos Aires teamed up to launch the Tree Book Tree program. The mission behind this venture is to create books that can become trees once they are planted into the ground.

The Huffington Post reports that the “tree book” features a children’s story called Mi Papá Estuvo en la Selva (which translates to My Dad Was in the Jungle in English). Click here to watch a video to learn more about this program.

According to Adweek, the materials used to make these “”hand-stitched” books include “acid-free paper, jacaranda seeds, and ecologically friendly ink.” The executives hope “to teach kids 8-12 where books come from—not the Internet, as some probably believe.” (via Good Magazine)

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25. The Carnival at Bray: Review

The Carnival at Bray is the coming of age story of Maggie, a 16 year old American who, in 1994, finds herself suddenly moved to a remote Irish town. Is 1994 historical? I would say more yes than no. The time is sufficiently removed from ours with the biggest difference being that Maggie doesn’t have the luxury of Skype, Facebook, and all the modern conveniences of connection. Her isolation from her old life is near complete. An ocean removed from her family, it’s a void that she spends the book looking to fill. Being a teenager is often tough at the best of times. When you’ve been completely removed from everything you know this only becomes that much harder. Bray is the sort of misty, coastal Irish town that could drown you in its dreary isolation and Maggie feels it keenly. She makes a few attempts at friendships with classmates,... Read more »

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