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1. Science Poetry Pairings - Forests

"The woods are lovely, dark, and deep," wrote the poet Robert Frost. I spent a lot of time in the woods as a kid, and still do today. When I lead science and outdoor education workshops I take teachers into the woods to look, listen, and learn. There is so much to discover by being still and observing closely.

Today's book pairing will invite and encourage readers to go into the woods and explore. 

Poetry Book
Forest Has a Song, written by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater and illustrated by Robbin Gourley, is a collection of 26 poems about the flora, fauna, and seasons of the forest. One time through will have readers puling on their boots and ready to take a slow, watchful walk through the woods. It opens with this poem.
Invitation
Today
I heard
a pinecone fall.
I smell
a spicy breeze.
I see
Forest
wildly waving
rows of
friendly trees.
I'm here. Come visit. Please?
One of my favorite forest activities to do with teachers is to take them to a site with decomposing logs and have them look over, under, and inside for signs of life. Amy has a poem just for that!
Home 
A rotten log is
home to bug
home to beetle
home to slug
home to chipmunk
home to bee
a lively living
hidden home
inside
a fallen tree.
Poems ©Amy Ludwig VanDerwater. All rights reserved.

One of my favorite poems in the book, Forest News, speaks of the stories that animal tracks tell when left in mud or snow. There are poems here about lichen and moss, as well as the owl, deer and woodpecker. For young and old alike, this is a lovely introduction to the forest.

Nonfiction Picture Books
Forest Explorer: A Life-Size Field Guide, written and photographed by Nic Bishop, is an oversized book that includes seven double-page photographic spreads of a North American deciduous forest in different seasons and different locations (forest floor, canopy, etc.). Designed as a guide to help students identify and learn about the creatures that live in the forest, more than 130 animals appear in these seven scenes.

Each habitat scene is shown life-size and is comprised of more than sixty different photographs that Bishop combined to create a single realistic illustration. (On the final page of the book he describes the meticulous work required to create the final products.) Animals in the scenes are shown engaged in the activities of daily life—hiding, feeding, hunting, waiting—and in different life stages.

Topics for the illustrations include:
  • Walking in Spring
  • The Leafy Understory
  • In the Treetops
  • Explore the Edge
  • After Dark
  • The Fall
  • Winter Survivors
Once readers have had a chance to study the illustrations, they turn the page to find detailed notes and a field guide to the animals and environment in the scene. Animals are named and identified in the narrative text by colored font. The text is engaging, understandable, and offers up interesting facts about the animals.

Bishop opens with a section on how to use the book. He also includes a section near the end entitled "Be a Forest Explorer," where he includes hints and projects for readers to explore a real forest on their own. He discusses finding a place to observe, keeping a journal, seasonal observation suggestions, forest safety, and more. Here's an excerpt.
March-April-May. Listen on warm damp evenings for wood frogs, spring peepers, and toads. Watch for the first spring wildflowers, then look for bumblebees and early butterflies feeding on them. Look for the first leaves to open. What trees do they belong to? See if you can find baby caterpillars and other insects that have just hatched. You may spot turkeys in forest clearings or hear woodpeckers drumming on tree trunks. Birds such as orioles, tanagers, grosbeaks, and wood thrushes may migrate to your forest from farther south at this time to start nesting.
Text ©Nic Bishop. All rights reserved.

The book ends with a picture index that will encourage readers to go back and look yet again at the illustrations.

Perfect Together
FOREST HAS A SONG and FOREST EXPLORER will complement one another nicely, whether a few poems are read before a related scene is shown and studied, or an illustration is shared first, followed by some related poems and then the informational text. Both of these books present strong observations of the life of the forest, albeit in different language.

For additional resources, consider these sites.

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2. Turkish fiction

       In Daily Sabah Kaya Genç considers Turkish Masterpieces Unread by the World -- both some available in translation and some that have yet to make it into English.
       Maureen Freely weighs in with some suggestions:

So which Turkish authors would she like to see in English ? The first name that came to her mind was Sevgi Soysal. Freely had translated Soysal's Yıldırım Bölge Kadınlar Koğuşu in her twenties but said it had been impossible to place Turkish writing in English publishing houses in those days. "The book of hers I really love is Şafak," Freely wrote. "And I also wish that somebody could bring the best of Murathan Mungan into English."
       See also the Turkish fiction under review at the complete review.

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3. The Best Flash Gordon Comic In Quite Some Time

Flash01-Cov-HardmanFlash Gordon has been around for quite awhile.  You’ve got the newspaper strip going back to the 1930s.  Switching over to non-reprint comics, King and Gold Key comics periodically popped up from the 1960s through early 80s.  DC’s reboot by Dan Jurgens in the late 80s.  Marvel did a couple issues in the 90s.  Ardden Entertainment in ’08.  Dynamite in ’11.  Everybody has their favorites from those runs.  I’ve been partial to the Al Williamson material and have a serious soft spot for the Dan Jurgens version.  All that said, Dynamite recently relaunched the franchise with a clever re-imagination and it’s jumping up the list quickly.

The King’s Watch mini-series was the relaunch vehicle for Dynamite’s treatments of the classic King Features Syndicate comic strip heroes: Flash Gordon, Mandrake the Magician and The Phantom.  That series, also written by Flash Gordon writer Jeff Parker, establishes the status quo of Mongo invading Earth through portals that might be magic or might be an unknown science.  At the end of the series, Flash Gordon, Dale Arden and Hans Zarkoff find themselves trapped on Mongo after shutting down the portals by which Ming can access Earth.  That’s where Flash Gordon #1 begins.

The comic book Flash Gordon, as well as the movies and Filmation cartoon have all been centered around Mongo.  Flash Gordon visiting another planet and liberating it from the evil emperor is a classic story, but Mongo was never a constant in the original comic strip the way it tends to be in the comics.  For long stretches of the strip, Ming may not appear and Flash Gordon can be more of a space opera.  Whenever a comic launches, Mongo is always the first story, though.  It creates a bit of a burden as the creators have to tell the classic story in their own way and try to measure up with what’s gone before.

The major tweak here is the portals.  Instead of being kidnapped to Mongo by Dr. Zarkoff (i.e., the only person who really understood the threat) in a rocketship that may or may not be able to get them home, Flash and company are there in a form of sacrifice.  They’ve got the mysterious crystal that let’s Ming access the Earth and they’re on the run.  There are also more portals.  Instead of having the various kingdoms of Mongo, the kingdoms are different worlds accessed by the portals.  Ming controls Mongo and then subjugates the other worlds.  Issue one finds Flash and company spending time in Arboria, now a forest world, not just a forest kingdom.  It opens up the scope a bit.

The characters are slightly tweaked.  Instead of a professional polo player or ex-NBA player, Flash is now a daredevil trust fund baby.  Younger, brasher, but a good excuse for him to have a background in stunt flying, extreme sports and the like — he’s just been a professional adrenaline junkie who ‘s hobbies have trained him well for the situation he’s fallen into.

Dale Arden is the least changed.  Still a reporter, but much more assertive than in the original

Dr. Zarkoff is now a hard drinking scientist, perhaps not quite as crazy as in some versions, but definitely cranky.

The thing that sets this comic apart from other versions is the sense of fun.  This is high adventure on strange new worlds, but it doesn’t take itself overly seriously past that they’re trying to prevent an invasion of Earth.  Evan Shaner is further away from the Raymond/Williamson school of art than many who have worked on Flash Gordon.  He’s using a looser style, closer to something you’d see in a French science fiction graphic album.  More of the Roy Crane/Milt Canniff school than Raymond school, if you want to go back to the original 1930s sources.

This comic wins on flow and tone.  There’s a decent amount of characterization, too, but Flash Gordon immediately jumps on the fun train and you’re along for the ride.  A great change of pace comic.  Dynamite’s been doing a lot with the classic pulp characters and in many (good) ways, this is the inverse of something like The Shadow or The Spider.

To be quite honest with you, although the next thing Jeff Parker should be doing be the sequel to his Interman graphic novel (the sooner you crank that out, the sooner I stop nagging you Jeff), I would welcome Jeff Parker’s Mandrake and Phantom.

Highly recommended for anybody looking for a fun romp with aliens and monster.  If you want gritty and dark, this might not be for you (but gritty and dark isn’t exactly hard to find these days).

2 Comments on The Best Flash Gordon Comic In Quite Some Time, last added: 4/19/2014
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4. In the Light of What We Know review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Zia Haider Rahman's In the Light of What We Know -- apparently one of this year's 'big' debuts.

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5. the proudest prof alive: the art of revision

I offered my students the opportunity to revise their memoirs for an additional five points.

No requirement. No insistence. Just a chance, if they wanted to take it.

The points themselves—they hardly meant a thing to this talented bunch. The chance to return to their work, to their selves—that was the thing. We find the heart of our stories not the first time we write them, not the second time or third. We find the heart of our stories when we begin again, or look again, when we say, Maybe this.

After a long day, after an afternoon of such crushing corporate pressures that I could not go, as I had wanted to, to church, I have read the work of the four students who chose to revise their memoirs.

Two wrote newly, from scratch.

Two amended from within.

Each of them soared. Each of them soars.

I am the proudest prof alive. This is God's goodness to me, on this Good Friday.

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6. The Midg-its...

From a picture book I'm writing called: "The Invasion"
I'll post the next color soon.


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7.


ORAC Annual Membership Meeting

Monday, April 21, 2014

5:00 pm

Vada Sheid ASUMH

 
Please join us for our annual membership meeting and learn who we are and what we do.

 
All our organizational members andall visual and performing art groups, our individual members and artists, our sponsors and any patron of the visual and performing arts are welcomed to attend.

 
We will have our 6 x 6 canvases available at this meeting for you to take and create your masterpiece.



Deborah Lively-  President
Ozark Regional Arts Council,
a  501(c)3 corporation


172 Robin Drive
Mountain Home, AR 72653
870-425-8291



 

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8. Call for Submissions: The Ofi Press Literary Magazine

The Ofi Press, a cultural ezine with a real international flavour, is looking for fiction, poetry, visual arts, and interviews for possible publication in issue 36. So far, for this issue we have work lined up from top and emerging writers from Mexico, Canada, the USA, the UK, Sierra Leone, Slovakia and Nigeria.

Visit our website

Our response time is from 2-14 days and we have around a 5% acceptance rate. We are not able to provide payment for works published on our site but we offer assistance with the promotion of books and projects via our facebook and twitter feeds for all of our collaborators.

Submissions are open year-round for our bimonthly issues but to be considered for our next edition, please submit your work by the 9th of May 2014. All submissions will be read and responded to by the editor Jack Little.

While the edition has no specific theme, issues of identity, gender, colonialism are o particular interest to the editor. The most important thing though is that we love your work, that it moves us, or even better, excites us.

For our full submission guidelines, please check here.

We look forward to hearing from you!

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9. Artist of the Day: Joan Casaramona

Barcelona, Spain-based Joan Casaramona draws and sketches with pencil, applies digital techniques to animated stamped images, designs graphics, and generally produces all kinds of visual work. Casaramona shares his sketches and free form sketchbook pages. Below is one of Casaramona’s animated experiments, and after that is two sketchbook pages that were multiplied together in different colors to create a chaotic effect. Some of the themes of Casaramona’s illustration projects include Picasso and Napoleon. See more work from Joan Casaramona on his blog, Flickr, and Tumblr, which has a lot of work categorized for browsing by type.

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10. A Story before Easter

I wrote this story a few years ago for something called a Monthly Write off at a writing forum I am part of.  The writing prompt specified the story had to be about a villain, and the overall theme had to be on the side of horror.  For some reason this story wrote itself in my head at the prompt, and while I think it is well written, it gives me a sort of shudder whenever I read it.  A good, somber kind of shudder.  I hope you enjoy it.


 THIRTY PIECES OF SILVER

I sat before the fire, hiding myself amongst the other folk in the courtyard.  I swallowed wine in an effort to warm away the coldness in my heart, but it could not be thawed.  I weighed the purse in my hands, hefted the silver I'd gained for the price of a kiss.  Such a bargain.

Why did I feel so dark inside?

"They say he's to die."

I looked across the fire toward the speaker, a young girl with features obscured by conflicting shadows of flame and night.

"They say he's to die.  How can they commit such a sin?  He is no criminal!"

My fingers curled so tightly that the coins within the purse bit into my skin.  I recognized her.  I'd seen her long ago when she lay defeated on the sands before her accusers, and he had bent down to write her defense into the sand.

Who was she, to speak the words that gnawed into my very soul?  I shook away the voice that reminded me, He that dippeth his hand with me in the dish, he shall betray me, and rubbed away the cramp that stiffened the fingers of that hand.

Her eyes burned in the flames to the murmuring of voices.  "He is my lord," she said, "and he was betrayed."

She wept, faded into the crowd, and became no more than a formless shape amongst so many other formless shapes of men.  I brushed my fingertips together, the red fury that her words had kindled gradually fading to a black horror.  Woe to that man, memory whispered, by whom the son of man shall be betrayed:  it were better for him, if that man had not been born.  I shook the bag of coins until they rattled in the cloth, trying to blot out his face.

he night was suddenly very cold.  Not even the fire could warm me.  I touched my mouth with my fingers and my lips burned with the acidity of my traitor's kiss.
Dost thou betray the son of man with a kiss?

Were the words memory, or did the fire speak them to mock me?


I rose, wrapped my cloak about me, and left the fire and courtyard and the mass of staring men.  I lost myself in the night, but I could not lose myself from myself.

"He is no king," I told the wind.  "He is a liar and a blasphemer!  He is worthy of death."  But my own heart revealed the lie.  I remembered his eyes, those eyes that had looked deep into my own with love and pleading.  Dost thou betray the son of man?

I walked faster, the clinking of the coins becoming tin rattles of death within the smothering folds of leather.  The gnawing loss in my heart was growing, becoming something worse,  something awful and devouring.  It was as though my inner darkness were changing into a monster that opened a flaming mouth to reveal a far-off pit of fire.  As the monster grew, so did my horror.


What had I done?

Clink, clink, clink, clink.  The coins chattered in my purse.  Trai-tor, trai-tor, they whispered as they jingled.  Had I betrayed him for this, these thirty pieces of silver?

You are not all clean.  Ah, that whispering voice of memory!  Would it not leave me be?  "He saw the temptation in me!"  I shouted to the stars.  "I was the treasurer!  Money is my desire.  How could I not put him aside?"  I stopped in the darkness, plunged my hand into my purse and held the silver to the night.  "The chief priests do not want him either.  They gave me this in exchange for him.  He is a blasphemer!  Death is his just reward."

The monster inside me laughed and the night turned a pitiless eye to me.  Friend, dost thou betray the son of man?

I choked, dropped to my knees in the darkness.  The silver fell about me, each coin striking off the cobbles with the sound of a sharply-tuned bell.  Their thirty separate chimes beat at me, played in counter melody to the laughter of the devil in my soul.

I had betrayed him.  Now he was to die.  Remorse painted my soul black.  I'd known.  Of course I'd known!  Did I not exchange him for thirty pieces of silver, the price of a dead slave?  I knew the priests' hatred of him.  I shared it.

But now... now...

On my knees I gathered the coins into my hands and made my way to the hall where I knew the chief priests and the elders would be gathered.

I burst in on them and didn't recognize my voice as I said, "I have sinned in betraying innocent blood."

For a moment there was a silence, and then one of the priests said, "What is that to us?  You see to it!"

The devil within me chortled louder, and it seemed the flames in his smile rose up and devoured me.  There was no thought in my mind, no sense of action.  There was only a choking well of guilt as I flung the silver from my hand.  The coins rang out again, but colder this time as they clashed upon the marble floor.

Then I turned and went out.

There was no point in going on.  I had sinned.  I had betrayed him, my lord and my God.  For love of money, for earthly power, for avarice, greed, and selfishness, I had betrayed him.

There was no way to atone. 

Beneath the shadows of a tree, I bound the halter around my neck.

---
Katrina DeLallo, 2012 

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11. Honorable Mention

It is never one’s intention
Earning “honorable mention”
When you’re entered in a contest or a race.
Yes, you’ve gotten some attention
So that listing, by extension,
Means approval that you really should embrace.

Still, it’s not exactly winning
And it will not leave you grinning
For it feels more like a pat upon the head,
‘Cause you know at the beginning
All your hopes were proudly pinning
On that very first or second place instead.

Since most judgment is subjective
You must know that one’s perspective
May not match or be divergent from your own,
So it’s best to be reflective
Which is rather more effective
Than reacting like you’ve just been tossed a bone.

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12. Illustrator Saturday – Dana Martin

danapicturesm

Dana Martin is an illustrator and designer who was born in New Mexico and has been roaming ever since. A recent graduate of Montserrat College of Art, her work has appeared in several local shows and was recently featured in CMYK’s Top New 100 Creatives.

Her clients include the Peabody Essex Museum, Hendrickson Publishers, Chrysler, ABDO, ArtThrob Magazine, and Ploughshares. The Johnstown Flood, scheduled for release this fall, will be her first illustrated chapter book.

Here is Dana showing and discussing her process:

dana1-Dana_Martin_Process

Once I’ve worked out my composition in thumbnails and sketches, I make a preliminary drawing.

dana2_Dana_Martin_process

Then I transfer it to watercolor paper.

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I ink the drawing, but I keep it pretty light, sticking to a color I know will blend well with the paint and feathering my edges. Once it’s dry, I add masking fluid to any light areas I want to preserve.

dana4_Dana_Martin_process

I wet the paper and paint my first coat, adding a little ink wherever I need the color to be bolder.  Once that’s dry I add more masking fluid to the flower stems.

dana5_Dana_Martin_process

I do a second coat with darker red, and this time I really soak the paper to float the paint.

dana6_Dana_Martin_process

After that, it’s just about adding detail and building up a tonal range.

dana7_Dana_Martin_process

As a final step, I add a little splatter around the corners for texture.

danaJohnstown-Flood-Cover

Above: The Cover of Dana’s First Illustrated Book. Below: A few back and white interior illustrations. 

dana booksketchtumblr_inline_mpa7vdLUUT1qz4rgp

How long have you been illustrating?

3 years professionally.

danatumblr_inline_mkmxmadB681qz4rgp

How did you decide to attend Montserrat College of Art?

Because I knew so little then about how to choose an art school, I started my search with two lists. One was of all the schools in the AICAD (Association of Independent Schools of Art and Design) and the other was of those in the NASAD (National Association of Schools of Art and Design). I wanted to go to a private college and I figured any school that made both the lists was probably pretty good (now that I know more about accreditation processes, this seems amazingly naïve). After that I just started investigating every school that was in both associations. Most of them didn’t offer illustration programs, so they were easy to cross off. Others I could tell just weren’t the right fit. I eventually applied to RISD, the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, and Montserrat, and was accepted into all three. At that point, the smart thing would have been to visit the campuses, but since I was in the middle of gen. ed. classes at a state university on the other side of the country, I couldn’t get away. I kept calling and emailing the admissions offices with more questions, and they all did their best to get me the info I needed. Montserrat was always the pleasantest to deal with, though, and I just started to get the sense that it was a place where I would really feel at home. This turned out to be true.

danatumblr_inline_mm537aWGfr1qz4rgp

Can you tell us a bit about that school?

Montserrat is a quirky little school slightly north of Boston. They offer all the standard art school concentrations, but the illustration department is particularly strong. There’s an emphasis on building foundational skills rather than chasing the latest trends, and the learning atmosphere is great because the students and instructors are serious about their work, but not their self-image. It’s a down-to-earth and unpretentious community, something that’s not always easy to find in the art world.

dana artthrobtumblr_m871woCm1Y1qfkufk

What were you favorite classes?

That’s a hard choice, I had a lot of great ones. I really enjoyed the natural science illustration class, because we learned a lot about botany and insects, and there was a whole closet full of butterflies, dried flowers, stuffed birds, and other treasures that we were free to borrow for sketching. My thesis class was also amazing, because I got to plan my own assignments but was supported by everyone’s feedback. Even the classes I wasn’t enthusiastic about, though, such as typography and web design, have proven invaluable since graduation.

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Did the school help you get work?

No, not directly. If there is one downside to a small college, it’s that the career department is also small and just doesn’t have the resources to place students in jobs right after they graduate. But the school did give me the skills I needed to get work for myself, as well as a wealth of friends and colleagues to help me on the way.

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What did you do right after you graduated?

I continued with some of the things I’d already been doing in college – working at a library and helping with Montserrat’s summer program – but I did manage to get some small illustration jobs almost as soon as I graduated.

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Do you feel that the classes you took in college have influenced your style?

One thing I appreciated about my instructors was that they didn’t steer students toward one style or another, but instead worked to help each of us sort out the voices we already had. I’ve always had an eye for detail, but when I started school, it was out of hand. My compositions were cramped and everything in the picture was competing for elbow room, so nothing could flow. The instructors helped me recognize the problem and find ways to open up the page.

dana800crocodile

 

 

What was the first thing you did where someone paid you for your artwork?

I did some architectural illustrations for an organization that taught adults with developmental disabilities. They were planning to renovate a veterans memorial park, with the idea that their students would maintain it once it was finished and the whole community could enjoy it. But first they needed to raise the money, so my illustrations of the future park were designed for the fundraising brochures. It was the kind of obscure job that you only find through the friend of a friend; I heard about it because the assistant director of the organization was friends with a Montserrat alum, who kindly posted the job on one of the school’s social network pages.

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What was the first illustration work you did for children?

It was for Clubhouse Magazine. I was nine years old. So actually, come to think of it, that was my first paid work. I got ten dollars.

dana800flamingo

How did that come about?

Clubhouse used to put out one issue a year that was exclusively written and illustrated by children. Amazingly, the process hardly varied from what I now do professionally. I sent them a sample of my work (a horse, because to my nine-year-old self, horses were the supreme challenge, so drawing one was proof that I was a master artist). Someone from Clubhouse wrote back to say they liked it and would I care to illustrate the story they’d enclosed? It was a mystery story written by another child about a ticking bomb and a school band (it wasn’t really a bomb, just a metronome, and this was before bombs in schools had become such a fraught issue). I did a top-notch job on the metronome, because I’d just started piano lessons and knew exactly what it looked like. I did a derivative job on the bomb, because the only ones I’d seen were in Bugs Bunny cartoons. They also wanted a drawing of a trumpet, and I did a really terrible job on that. I couldn’t figure out all the twists and turns in the brass tubing, let alone where the trumpet player’s hands were supposed to go. The big difference between this project and all the subsequent ones was that I had no contact with the art director and nobody looked at my sketches; I was just supposed to mail everything in when I was finished. I’m pretty sure, though, that the art director felt the same way about the pictures as I did, because the story, the metronome, and the bomb made the first page of the magazine and the trumpet picture disappeared quietly into the night. They never printed it and I never saw it again, thank God.

dana800Fisherman&Djinn480

How did you get to be featured in CMYK’s Top New 100 Creatives?

I did have to submit work to be considered, but unlike most competitions, the judging was based on the whole portfolio rather than any one piece.

dana800artthrob

When did you decide you wanted to illustrate a children’s book?

I expect from the moment I first saw a children’s book. Even before I could read them I never went anywhere without one. Come to think of it, I still don’t.

dana800goldrush500

How did you get the contract to illustrate the chapter book titled The Johnstown Flood?

I had sent a black-and-white postcard to the publisher, ABDO, and one of their editors contacted me shortly after that because she had some black-and-white interior work. I’m thankful that she liked the card enough to comb through my blog, because the medium we went with was not at all what I’d sent her. She liked my preliminary drawings, which were all done in graphite. I’d never considered marketing them, because to me they seemed unfinished. I did push the drawings a bit for the book, using darker pencils and some Photoshop to get a wider tonal range, but the style was basically the same.

dana800hunchback500

How long did it take you to illustrate that book?

I did the whole thing in a month. I could tell the editor was anxious to get it done; I think because it was part of a new line, the Up2U adventures, she needed some artwork to show the rest of her team.

dana800FoxKeepsWatch500

I know Lisa Mullarkey, but I didn’t know that her husband was writing with her now. Have you met Lisa?

No, sadly I have not had the pleasure. It’s so cool that you know her, though! I hope she and Mr. Mullarkey like the illustrations.

dana800moth

Do you have any other work planned with ABDO Publishing?

At the moment, no. As far as I can tell, the majority of the work they use is digital. The editor I worked with also left shortly after that book was finished.

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Do you plan on marketing your illustrations to other educational publishers?

I have, yes, and will continue to do so.

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What was your first illustration success?

I did a t-shirt project for Ploughshares, and I was happy both with how the project turned out and how it was conducted, so I guess that was my first big success. Technically it was a design contest, but I and the other two artists were paid for our participation, and we all got to work with the wonderful editor Andrea Martucci to come up with designs that fit the magazine. The contest entries got so many online votes that Ploughshares decided to produce all three designs. So everybody won. Later that year I ran into Andrea at the Boston Book Festival, and she was just as nice in person as she’d been in her emails.

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Do you think you will ever try to write and illustrate a picture book?

Oh yes, I already have and will continue to write more. I just haven’t gotten them published yet.

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Have you done any illustrating for children’s magazines?

Yes, the main one has been Spellbound magazine. The editor and art director are both really great to work with and the magazine always has interesting, fantasy-related themes, so I always enjoy their assignments.

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Do you have an artist rep or an agent? If so, could you tell us how the two of you connected? If not, would you like to get representation?

No, I don’t have one. I’ve heard some agent horror stories that made me wary of pursuing the matter. Obviously there are some amazing agents out there, but you are giving them a lot of power over the direction of your career. I can’t say I’d never be interested, but I would need to be confident that we were on the same page about where my work was going and how it would be represented.

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What types of things do you do to find illustration work?

I send out a lot of postcards and emails, meet people at conferences and events, and try to maintain a strong internet presence.

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What is your favorite medium to use?

Watercolor

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Has that changed over time?

No, but I’ve upgraded from the Crayola set. Now I use Winsor & Newton and Daniel Smith watercolors.

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What is the one thing in your studio that you could not live without?

A cup of tea.

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Do you try to spend a specific amount of time working on your craft?

I track the time I’m spending, but it’s usually not my goal to spend a specific number of hours. Instead, I review my time records now and then to help me evaluate things such as: how long did this project take and which part took longest, was the time well-spent, is there anything I’m repeatedly struggling over, when was I most productive, etc. This helps me figure out whether there’s anything I need to adjust in my routine.

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Are you open to working with self-published authors?

Yes, cautiously open. Self-publishing has come a long way in the last decade, and there are some interesting projects out there that are too specialized for traditional publishing but can be successful as self-published books. I have worked with self-published authors in the past, and sometimes it was a great experience. Other times it was anything but.

Sometimes when authors pitch their projects to me, they say something along the lines of, “I have the whole book pictured in my head, and I know you’ll be able to paint it the way I see it.” But that is exactly what I cannot do, as I was born without mind-reading powers. I almost always turn these authors down, because I know they’re going to be disappointed once they figure out I’m not telepathic. (I wish I was joking about this, but it’s all too true.) Another problem I’ve run into is that authors may not realize just how massive an undertaking a book is. I’ve had authors offer me a few hundred dollars to do all the art and design work on a picture book, with no royalties, and they wanted me to sign away all rights into the bargain. They actually seemed to think it was a fair price.

Of course, there are also lots of brilliant authors who have done their research and have more realistic expectations. All in all, though, I am generally more willing to take on smaller self-publishing projects, such as novel and chapter-book covers, than I am self-published picture books. It’s simply less of a risk.

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Do you take pictures or do any types of research before you start a project?

Yes, I do lots of research; in fact, I’m particularly drawn to projects where research is required. Investigating historic fashion, rare plants, and obscure legends is all part of the fun.

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Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

Without a doubt. My whole business is conducted online.

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Do you use Photoshop with your illustrations?

I do use Photoshop, but just for minimal editing, such as adjusting for contrast or stitching a piece together if it was too large for the scanner bed.

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Do you own or have you used a Graphic Drawing Tablet in your illustrating?

I’ve used them, but so far I don’t need a tablet enough to invest in one.

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Do you find exhibiting your artwork gets you jobs?

No, because most of the shows I’ve been in have not been the sort that would attract editors and art directors.

Rather, the shows are their own experience. They’re an opportunity to interact with my audience and hear their thoughts on my work. I never know what to expect, but people have actually been extraordinarily positive and encouraging, and I always come back from a show energized to make more art.

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Do you have any career dreams that you want to fulfill?

Yes, so many! Bringing out my own picture book is the one I’m focused on at the moment.

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What are you working on now?

I have some small magazine assignments, but the projects I’m most excited about right now are actually personal ones. I’m working on a picture book manuscript set in Venice, and I’ve also started a new series of paintings. I’ve recently become fascinated with really limited palettes, so each of the paintings (which are based on some old stories) has a different dominant color. They’re also all set in different decades, because I wanted to explore some of the ways fashion has changed in the last hundred years.

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Do you have any material type tips you can share with us? Example: Paint or paper that you love – the best place to buy – a new product that you’ve tried – A how to tip, etc.

My painting methods can be hard on the paper, so I need something sturdy. Arches cold press is the paper for me. It stands up to washes, doesn’t tear from tape or masking fluid, has enough texture to get interesting effects with the paint, but not so much that it interferes with pen work.

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 Any words of wisdom on how to become a successful writer or illustrator?

Everyone knows they have to work hard, but I don’t think everyone realizes how long they’ll be working hard. This is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s easy to neglect everything else in the pursuit of your craft, but over time that undermines you. Art has to be about something. If you cut yourself off from your friends, your hobbies, and whatever else fuels you as a person, you eventually will have nothing to say artistically. In the words of Gore Vidal, the unfed mind devours itself.

So keep an eye out for all the wonderful and interesting things that are happening around you and cultivate an agile mind. That, rather than any technical skill, is an artist’s greatest asset.

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Thank you Dana for sharing your illustrations, journey, and process with us this week. We look forward to following your career, so please let us know of all your future successes. 

You can visit Dana at www.dana-martin.com or find out what’s new with her on her blog at http://danamartinillustration.tumblr.com/

Please take a minute to leave Dana a comment. I am sure she would love to hear from you and I would appreciate it, too.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Filed under: Book, illustrating, Illustrator's Saturday, inspiration, Process, Tips Tagged: ABDO Publishing, Dana Martin, Liza Mullarkey, Montserrat College of Art

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13. Promo Friday: Working On Twitter

Okay, I've done a little more snooping about Twitter.

Basics


I'm not going to do any "First, choose a name" things because you can find that all over the place. Agent Molly Jaffa does that in The Writer's Guide to Rocking It on Twitter, reprinted at Backspace. She does a little something extra by suggesting appropriate tweet material for writers--your writing and, additionally, your reading.

Then What About Followers?


Pragmaticmom (who I sort of know through Google+, not Twitter) has an interesting post, Twitter Tips and How I Got 55,000 Followers. Mia has a great deal of information here, but the point that really popped for me was the one about following and unfollowing people to increase your followers. Scroll down to the comments, and at the end you'll see I asked why to unfollow. Well, Twitter only allows you to follow so many people at a time. So you unfollow those who don't follow you back so you can follow others.

I think you have to consider what your goal is for Twitter. I originally joined for content, so whether or not people were following me back wasn't that great an issue. I was more concerned with cluttering my stream with content I wasn't interested in, keeping me from getting to the stuff I was. But rereading Mia's information about finding an audience niche and following hashtags has made me reconsider what I'm doing there.

Speaking of Hashtags


My understanding of hashtags is that they can increase your reach beyond your followers because anyone who is interested in the topic/hashtag you've added could end up finding your tweet in their stream. Feel free to correct me on that, readers.

You can find lists of hashtags related to various fields. Twitter Hashtags for Authors and Book Marketing Pros is one of them.

How Much Am I Liking Tweeting?

 

Ehh. I don't dislike it. I can even get into quickly sharing an article I've enjoyed reading. But I'm finding learning how to best use Twitter a little time consuming.

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14. New Murakami (in Japan)

       A new volume of stories by Murakami Haruki is out in Japan, 女のいない男たち; see the 文藝春秋 publicity page.
       See, for example, The Japan Times report, Murakami's new book hits shelves amid fan frenzy; more ordered, as:

Publisher Bungei Shunju has already raised the first shipment of the book to 300,000 copies from 200,000 due to heavier-than-expected advance orders for the first compilation since 2005, local media said.
       You figure they'd have this figured out by now; I assume they just low-ball what they say the initial print run is so that they can report the 'heavier-than-expected' demand ..... (Of course, since this the publishing industry it's distinctly possible that they have nothing figured out .....)

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15. well, it's so good to be here

Nice of Dexter to come and help paint the bench.

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16. A Snicker of Magic, by Natalie Lloyd -- Nominated for the 2015 Emerson Mock Newbery (ages 9-12)

Last week, two girls came bounding into our lunchtime book club bubbling over about how much they loved a new book they both just read: A Snicker of Magic. Their enthusiasm immediately spread to other friends. Hooray!! And so, here is our first book nominated to the 2015 Emerson Mock Newbery, followed by Thea and Fiona's review.
A Snicker of Magic
by Natalie Lloyd
Scholastic, 2014
preview on Google Books
*2015 Emerson Mock Newbery*
Your local library
Amazon
ages 9-12
A Snicker of Magic
Review by Thea and Fiona

A Snicker of Magic is a great book about a young girl, Felicity Pickle, who sees words around people and things .”Some words glow, and some words dance Some have wings , and some have zebra stripes.” After moving (again) to her mom’s childhood home, Midnight Gulch, (which is magic) she learns some important things about her family. But there’s still a gaping hole. Will she find it out in time or is she going to feel the hole forever?

Natalie Lloyd
We think that the moral of A Snicker of Magic is you can believe in anything you want to and always believe in yourself and your family. Our evidence of this is at first Felicity did not believe in magic until she started learning about her family. What we have in common with Felicity is that sometimes we don’t always believe in something until we have seen or witnessed it.

We recommend this book because this story has a really good plot that makes you want to never put it down once you started it. It has magic mixed with family drama , and amazing characters like Felicity and the Beedle, and lots of suspense.

WE RECOMMEND THIS BOOK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thea enjoyed Natalie's recent post on the Nerdy Book Club, all about the magic of memories that are hidden away in the books we read. This is certainly part of the wonderful charm of A Snicker of Magic.
There's a Lion in My Closet, by Natalie Lloyd

My first novel, A Snicker of Magic, takes place in a quirky Tennessee mountain town called Midnight Gulch. The sugar-wind blows through Midnight Gulch thanks to a famous (er… infamous, rather) ice cream factory called Dr. Zook’s. While Zook’s boasts all sorts of strangely delicious concoctions, the most popular flavor is only sold locally. It’s called Blackberry Sunrise, and years ago, the first batch was made from a crop of wild berries, sugar, milk … and memories. That’s the problem with eating Blackberry Sunrise, as my hero, Felicity Pickle, soon discovers. That particular flavor always calls up a memory. And you never know if the memory will be sweet or sour unless you’re brave enough to take a bite.

Sadly, I don’t know how to hide memories in ice cream.

But I know how to hide memories in books.

For more, head to the Nerdy Book Club post.

Thea and Fiona are nominating A Snicker of Magic to our 2015 Emerson Mock Newbery. Our process is that a book must be nominated by two readers to be entered into our final reading list. Students commit to reading at least 5 books from our list to participate in our voting in January. Thank you, Thea and Fiona, for sharing about why you want all of us to read A Snicker of Magic!

The review copy was kindly sent to us by the publishers, Scholastic Press. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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17. PFAS: “Teacher’s Look” by Shirley Smith Duke

Cara S. uses images of hands and pens and a frowning teacher along with fun background sound effects to tell the story behind Shirley Smith Duke’s poem, “Teacher’s Look.”

Check it out here (below).


You’ll find this engaging poem in the 5th grade section of The Poetry Friday Anthology for Science in Week 13: Light & Sound.


0 Comments on PFAS: “Teacher’s Look” by Shirley Smith Duke as of 4/19/2014 1:57:00 AM
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18. A Highly Unlikely Scenario

Have you ever read a review of a book from a trusted source that gushed about a book, how utterly fantastic, original, funny, quirky it is (fill in the blanks with the descriptive words that make you say omg I have to read this book)? Of course you have. And have you then gone out and either bought it or borrowed it from the library, brought it home in a great excitement of anticipation, opened the cover, dove in and about halfway through realized the book was not even close to the heights of delight you thought it would be and in fact got lost somewhere in the foothills? Of course you have. And did you keep reading it anyway because you thought that maybe the big payoff came at the end, oh please let there be a big payoff at the end to have made it all worthwhile? Of course you have. And then when you got to the end and closed the cover did you sigh, not with satisfaction but with sadness because the payoff never came? Of course you have.

I seem to be having some difficulty with books lately. First the Prose book I have set aside and probably will never finish, and now A Highly Unlikely Scenario Or, A Neetsa Pizza Employee’s Guide to Saving the World by Rachel Cantor, which I did finish. The book held such promise.

The story takes place in an unspecified future where the world is run by fast food companies that faction themselves into different philosophical traditions. For instance Neetsa Pizza, the company our hero Leonard works for, governs itself and its food by Pythagorean precepts. Leonard’s sister, Carol, works for a Scottish fast food company called the Jack-o-Bites. There are also Heraclitans, Cathars, (Roger) Baconians, neo-Maoists, and a host of other competing fast food ideologies.

But the book is not about fast food, that’s just the setting. The book is about Leonard whose gift is his receptivity and ability to listen. He sits in an all white room and takes calls from unhappy Neetsa Pizza customers, helps them feel better and gives them coupons. He has a training book on hand to help with likely scenarios. But one day he gets a call that turns out to be an unlikely scenario that sets him on a journey in which he saves the world, finds love, and travels through time. It is completely bonkers, but given that his love turns out to be Sally who is a librarian and Baconian whose job is to guard the Voynich manuscript and, who has managed to decipher some of it, the book was looking to be promising.

Does the Voynich manuscript sound familiar to you? It has been in the news lately. Cantor’s book was published in 2013 before the latest news about the manuscript. The Voynich, was supposedly composed by Roger Bacon in the 13th century and discovered in 1912 by Wilfred Voynich. The book is written in a code no one, not even top cryptologists, has been able to crack. This has many believing the book is a hoax. Though a University of Bedfordshire applied linguistics professor has recently claimed to have cracked the code.

The news added to the promise of the book, but the book did not deliver. Dancing letters, talks in the present with historical personages from the past, Jewish mysticism, time travel, Isaac the Blind, and Abulafia never melded into a story that made much sense. Sure, the world was supposed to be in danger because Abulafia got Felix, Leonard’s nephew who could stop time, to go back in time where he, Abulafia, planned on using Felix to bring on the end of days. But given that Felix comes from the future there isn’t much sense of peril because we know the outcome even though there are hints that the future might be changed.

The book could have been a fun story about finding and using your gifts to make the world a better place but all that gets lost amidst the quirkiness and fighting between the fast food companies and the mysticism. As far as I can tell, this is Cantor’s first novel. She has previously published a number of short stories in literary journals. There appear to be enough to make a short story collection and if she goes that direction I would definitely read it. The writing itself is good and her style is fun. She creates interesting characters and knows how to keep the pace moving. And she is original and obviously creative. However, all these pluses end up fighting against each other. I hope she writes another novel because she does have potential if she can manage to get all of her skills working together instead of competing for top billing.


Filed under: Books, Reviews, SciFi/Fantasy

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19. Peter Buwalda Q & A

       This week's Small Talk-column in the Financial Times has a Q & A with Peter Buwalda, whose Bonita Avenue is just out from Pushkin Press; see their publicity page and the Dutch Foundation for Literature information page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
       I'm won over by this response:

Which book changed your life ?

The Darkroom of Damocles by Willem Frederik Hermans, one of the great 20th-century Dutch writers. It's a novel about resistance in the second world war but also about personal failure. I read the book when I was 18. I stopped studying physics immediately and started studying literature.
       Damn, that warms the heart.

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20. Margot's GRAB BAG



"HEARTBLEED"


 Nothing romantic about this heart!

This is the terrible problem that was an ACCIDENTAL mistake by a programmer several years ago, was not picked up by other code checkers, and now has major sites and providers over a barrel.  Read more about how to protect yourself from Heartbeat on my "TECKIE NEWS and Help" board on Pinterest: <!--[if gte mso 9]> Normal 0 false false false EN-US X-NONE X-NONE <![endif]-->  http://www.pinterest.com/margotfinke/

Norton has sent me a link to a site where I can check all my most used web and blog lings to see if they are infected, or NOT with Heartbeat. A 2 second click, and you can reassure yourself about any site: <!--[if gte mso 9]> Normal 0 false false false EN-US X-NONE X-NONE <![endif]-->


TECKIE HELP

I recommend KIM KOMANDO'S daily updates and website for advice on new purchases, scams, virus protection, and everything technical to do with computers and e-readers etc. Her Radio Show is nation wide.

KIM KOMANDO WROTE:
Just when you thought things couldn't get any worse with 'Heartbleed' ... they do.
The "Heartbleed" bug that has floored Internet experts around the world just got worse. Cisco and Juniper, two of the largest network equipment makers, said today that the vulnerability, which exposes encrypted data like passwords, is present in their routers, switches and firewalls.

For a complete guide to  Kim Komando’s "Heartbleed" coverage and help,
click here

MY VIRUS PROTECTION MANTRA
<!--[if gte mso 9]> Normal 0 false false false EN-US X-NONE X-NONE <![endif]-->
You need super reliable virus protection at any time, plus one other program that sweeps your computer's floor after your protection has done the rounds - just in case!  I have used NORTON for years, and it keeps me safe.  I also have Win Patrol - a nifty little program that among many other things warns me whenever anything wants to alter or add to my Registry.  COOL!!

The main thing for whatever virus protection you use, is to keep the program updated, do regular computer scans, and download the latest virus protection fixes daily.   Keep other programs, like Quick Time, Apple and Microsoft programs etc updated as well.  You can set these things to be done automatically.

Playing ostrich will not stop something bad happening
if you don't do YOUR part in protecting
your computer.




*********************************

Books for Kids - FREE Skype Author Visits
http://www.margotfinke.com

***********************************






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21. It's Our Turn Now! Celebrating Project #UKYA - Lucy Coats


If you haven't already heard about it, I'd like to introduce you to Project UKYA, set up in September 2013 by Lucy Powrie, a teenage Force for Good, and a manic bibliophile. Essentially, Lucy has come up with the brilliant idea of blowing the trumpet loudly and publicly for UK Young Adult authors and their books, with a different 'project' happening each month. Right now there's a marvellously wide-ranging series of chats going on on Twitter under the hashtag #ukyachat. People are sharing books they love, and talking about different aspects of UKYA. Next month a new longterm project launches - a monthly (to begin with) 'livechat' on YouTube, talking about the latest UKYA releases, discussing UKYA books and much more, including special guests and author Q and As.

Why does this matter? It matters because YA from the US has held the balance of power in the public perception of YA for far too long. While the likes of Twilight, The Hunger Games and The Mortal Instruments have all sold millions of copies and had films made in a relatively short time after publication, UK YA authors have been lagging behind in terms both of sales and of international recognition. We need to try and change that, because the pool of UK writing talent is immense, and yes, I'm going to say it, just as good if not better than anything coming out of America. All of us who care about books and reading need to work together to get the word out there to YA readers about just how good British books are at the moment.



This is absolutely not to denigrate US writers - I'm very excited currently about Laini Taylor and Sarah J Maas's forthcoming titles, among others. It's just that I'm equally excited - or more so - about Clare Furniss's Year of the Rat, Keren David's Salvage, Teri Terry's Shattered, Claire McFall's Bombmaker, Ruth Warburton's Witchfinder, Gillian Philip's Icefall, Ellen Renner's Tribute, James Dawson's Cruel Summer, Candy Gourlay's Shine and the new film of Anthony McGowan's The Knife that Killed Me. And that's just touching the surface of what's out there right now. I could spend the rest of this post just making a list of great UKYA books and writers (don't worry, I won't).



So, really what I'm asking you to do here is to support Project UKYA. Follow it on Twitter and take part in the chat, join its Facebook page, read and comment on the blog - but above all, spread the word about its existence to everyone you know who loves good books. UKYA books and authors deserve to be known and celebrated all over the world - let's be the pebbles which start the avalanche.

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22. Celebrate 404 Day!

On April 4, 2014, the Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) teamed up to celebrate 404 Day- the day that honors this little message that pops up when there’s an error and you can’t access a webpage. The OIF and EFF took this opportunity talk about the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA).

Enacted in 2000, CIPA was written to address concerns about the exposure of children to pornography and other explicit content, through the implementation of browser filters.  Additionally, public and school libraries that adhere to CIPA and apply to filters to at least the internet devices in their children’s department, are eligible for government funding.  More information on CIPA can be found at the FCC website and the OIF website as well.

Through a Google+ Hangout streamed on YouTube, Intellectual Freedom buffs Deborah Caldwell-Stone, Sarah Houghton, and Chris Petersen talked about what CIPA really means for libraries, how to cope with CIPA, and how to get your board to reconsider CIPA.

Since the Hangout is available for you to watch here, I won’t rehash the whole thing, but I will share some important points:

  • Many people think they understand CIPA fully, but they actually don’t.  If you don’t understand ask questions!
  • Filters are mainly English-centric.  If you have access to a translator page or spell some of the search terms wrong, you will most likely be able to bypass the filter.
  • Only lighter skin tones are recognized as skin tones.  Therefore, a filter might block any variation of this.
  • When asked the best way to start a library board to reconsider their filters and compliance with CIPA, Sarah recommended moving the conversation from a conversation about morality to a cost benefit analysis.  For example, how well are the filters doing their job?  Do things get blocked by the filter, that shouldn’t be? How much does it cost to have these filters in both time and money?

Also, Deborah shared that the OIF will be releasing a new white paper at the end of the month on the topic of CIPA and its role in your library.

Remember, the ALSC IF Committee is always here for you if you have questions about intellectual freedom issues or if you are facing a challenge (it doesn’t have to make the news!).  We’re here to help, so feel free to reach out via ALA Connect or email.

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23. A Boy Can Dream

Christine Marie Larsen Illustration of a boy who never sleeps, brushes teeth, or washes.

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24. YALSAblog Tweets of the Week – April 18, 2014

A short list of tweets from the past week of interest to teens and the library staff that work with them.

Do you have a favorite Tweet from the past week? If so add it in the comments for this post. Or, if you read a Twitter post between April 18 and April 24 that you think is a must for the next Tweets of the Week send a direct or @ message to lbraun2000 on Twitter.

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25. Bunny Rabbit Paper Bag Puppet


I'm in the process of creating some new activity pages to coincide with my latest book that is coming out in a few weeks.  But I felt like this weekend was a perfect time for this super simple rabbit puppet.  Just download the free PDF and cut out the face and hands and glue them to a paper lunch sack.  Ta da! a bunny rabbit for Easter.

Download the PDF here...

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