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1. Creating Classroom Environments: Charts to Start the Year

Start the year off right with charts that make expectations, strategies and tips on writing visible for students.

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2. Lovell's Frozen Companion


A friend sent me this unusual painting by Tom Lovell (1909-1997). Apparently Lovell came across the strange true story about two gold miners in Greenland. One of them couldn't take the weather and died. His companion buried him under the woodpile because the ground was frozen. After a while the survivor went a bit crazy with loneliness. Every once in a while he brought the frozen corpse into his little cabin as a dinner companion. He wasn't much for conversation, but he brought back memories of the good old days.

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3. संकल्प नए वर्ष का

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संकल्प नए वर्ष का ( व्यंग्य )

उफ्फ …!!! आखिरकार नए साल मे मैने क्या संकल्प लेना है सोच ही लिया .अब आपसे क्या छिपाना …हर साल जब भी नवम्बर समाप्त होने लगता और दिसम्बर जी का आगमन होता. मन मे अजीब सी बैचेनी करवट लेने लगती कि नए साल मे नया क्या क्या करना है और क्या क्या नही करना है.बस इसी उधेड बुन मे पूरा समय निकल जाता पर भगवान का लाख लाख शुक्र है कि इस साल यह नौबत ही नही आई और समय से पहले ही डिसाईड हो गया.

पता है, पिछ्ले साल मैने यह सोचा था कि सच बोलना शुरु कर दूगी. अरे नही.. नही … आप गलत समझ गए.असल मै, वैसे मै, झूठ नही बोलती पर ना जाने क्यू टीवी पर सच का सामना देख कर डर सी गई थी इसलिए बोल्ड होकर यह निर्णय लिया कि यह आईडिया ड्राप.फिर सोचा था कि कुछ भी हो जाए पतली हो कर दिखाऊगी पर पर पर .. सर्दियो के महीने मे ऐसा विचार मन मे लाना जरा मुश्किल हो जाता है.सरदी की गुनगुनी धूप हो,रजाई हो और गर्मा गर्म पराठे हो और उस तैरता और पिधलता मखन्न.मन भी पिधलना शुरु हो जाता अब ऐसे मे भला खाने पर कैसे ब्रेक लग सकती है.चलो इसे भी सिरे से नकार कर यह सोचा कि सुबह शाम की सैर ही शुरु कर दी जाए. इस पर तुरत अमल करना भी शुरु कर दिया था पर दो ही दिन मे यह मिशन फेल होता सा प्रतीत हुआ. असल मे , ऊबड खाबड सडके, सडको पर मस्ती मे धूमते आवारा बैल,और गंदगी के ढेर के साथ साथ सीवर के ढक्कन गायब.अब बताईए ऐसे मे हाथ पैर तुडवाने से अच्छा है कि कुछ और सोचा जाए.

वैसे सोचा तो मैने यह भी था कि नए साल मे किसी पर गुस्सा नही करुगी.चेहरे पर स्माईल रखूगीं. पिछ्ले साल 31 की रात सबसे यही कह कर सोई कि सभी 1 जनवरी को सुबह सुबह मंदिर चलेगे .मै तो सुबह सुबह तैयार हो गई पर कोई सुबह उठने को तैयार ही नही था. मुस्कुराते मुस्कुराते उठाती रही पर रात को देर से सोने के चक्कर मे सभी गहरी नींद मे थे. इतने मे काम वाली बाई आ गई. उसे पता नही क्या हुआ. बर्तनो को जोर जोर से शोर करते हुए धोने लगी .एक तो देर से आई ऊपर से मुहं बना रखा था इसने. मैने खुद को संयत किया कि मोनिका स्माईल … कंट्रोल कर… कहती हुई ताजा हवा लेने के लिए खिडकी पर जा खडी हुई कि अचानक मेरी नजर पडोसियो की नई चमचमाती कार पर पडी शायद कल ही के लर आए थे.बस आगे आपको बताने की जरुर नही कि ….. !!!!

इस साल भी यही विचार चल रहा था कि नए साल मे क्या संकल्प लिया जाए कि पूरा भी किया जा सके. घर के एक बडे बुजुर्ग ने सुझाया कि हम लोगो को तीर्थ यात्रा करवा दिया करो हर चार महीने मे एक बार. पुण्य मिलेगा.बात जमी नही और मै बच्चो के कमरे मे गई तो बच्चे कहते कि छोडो मम्मी… हर महीने हमे पिक्चर और पिकनिक पर ले जाया करो.काम वाली बाई भी कहा पीछे रहने वाली थी बोली कि मेरी पगार बढा दो और छुट्टी भी बढा दो. बाहर निकली तो ये बोले कि तुम फुलके पतले नही बनाती जरा श्रीमति ऋतु से सीख लो इतने पतले,मुलायम और गोल गोल चपाती बनाती है और कृष्णामूति से डोसा बनाना भी सीख लो … खश्बू से ही मुहं मे पानी आ जाता है.वो बात कर ही रहे थे कि इतने मे मेरी सहेली मणि का फोन आ गया उसने राय दी कि दो चार किट्टी पार्टी ज्वायन कर ले. थोडी सी चालाक बन बहुत भोली है तू.!!! अगले साल ही तुझे सोसाईटी की सैकट्ररी ना बनवा दिया तो मेरा नाम मणि नही!! मैने कोई बहाना कर के तुरंत फोन रख दिया.उफ्फ !!!किस की सुनू किस की ना सुनूं… देखा कितना टेंशन था.

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अब आपको भी टेंशन हो रही होगी कि आखिर इस साल मैने क्या सकंल्प लिया है. तो सुनिए … पिछ्ले दो तीन सालो के अनुभव को देखते हुए… बहुत सोच विचार के मै इस नतीजे पर पहुंची हूँ कि चाहे कुछ भी जाए बस बहुत हुआ. अब और नही इसलिए इस साल … इस साल … इस साल … नए साल के लिए कोई सकंल्प ही नही लूगी.इसलिए मै खुश हू और बहुत ही खुश हूं ..

कैसा लगा आपको ये व्यंग्य जरुर बताईगा :)

The post संकल्प नए वर्ष का appeared first on Monica Gupta.

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4. And we're off!!!

Sunday we fly from Roanoke to Paris for the first leg of our new life! We'll hang out with friends in Blois, France for two weeks before we enter Scotland with my student visa on August 17th. New life, here we come!

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5. उफ ये मुस्कुराहट

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उफ ये मुस्कुराहट!!!! (व्यंग्य)

इस तनाव भरे माहौल मे अगर कोई कहे कि मुस्कुराओ तो बहुत ही अजीब सा लगता है वैसे ऐसा मेरा मानना है पर पिछ्ले दो चार दिन से कुछ ऐसा हुआ कि मुझे अपने विचार बदलने पडे और मै भी हंसने मुस्कुराने के मैदान मे कूद पडी. वैसे आपको एक सच बात बताऊ कि हँसने खिलखिलाने का शौक तो मुझे बचपन से ही था पर बडे होते होते कुछ ऐसा होता चला गया कि हँसी भी कही दब कर रह गई. दो दिन पहले मेरी सहेली मणि आई उसने बताया कि मुस्कुराहट तो अनमोल गहना है इसे हमेशा धारण करना  चाहिए. वही बाजार मे खरीददारी करते एक अन्य दोस्त ने बताया कि जब 2 सैंकिंड की मुस्कान से फोटो अच्छी आ सकती है तो मुस्कुराने से जिंदगी भी तो अच्छी हो सकती है कि नही. पता नही क्यो पर मुझे बात जम गई. और बस सोच लिया कि अब जो हो सो हो. हमेशा हसंना और मुस्कुराना ही है और अपनी अलग पहचान बनानी है.

अगली सुबह मे बहुत अच्छे मूड मे सो कर उठी और सैर को निकल पडी. एक दम शांत माहौल मे मैने एक पेड चुना और वहाँ हाथ ऊपर करके ठहाका लगा कर जोर जोर से हंसने लगी. इतना ही नही बीच बीच मे ताली भी बजा रही थी इस बात से बिलकुल बेखबर कि सामने ही एक मोटी लडकी व्यायाम करने के लिए रस्सी कूद रही थी और वो गिर गई थी. पता तब चला जब शायद उसकी मम्मी आग्नेय नेत्रो से मुझे धूरने लगी और उसके पास खडा आज्ञाकारी कुत्ता भी मुझ पर बेहिसाब भौकने लगा. इससे पहले मै अपनी सफाई मे कुछ कहती उनकी लडकी और जोर जोर से रोने लगी और मैने चुपचाप खिसकने मे ही भलाई समझी. उफ!! मैने ठंडी सासं ली और धडकते दिल के साथ  घर लौट आई.

घ्रर लौटी तो हमारी पडोसन मिक्सी मांगने आई हुई थी. पर पता नही क्यो आज उसे देखकर मुझे हसीं आ गई. असल मे, वो क्या है ना कि वो डकारे बहुत लेती है. पहले तो मै कुछ नही कहती थी पर जब से हंसना अनमोल गहना है और जिंदगी हंसने से बेहतर बनती है तो सोचा कि आज हंस ही लूं इतने  दिनो बाद खिलखिलाकर हँसी तो शायद उसे बुरा लगा. उसने हसंने का कारण पूछा  तो मैने भी हंसते हुए बता दिया कि उसकी डकार सुनकर मुझे बहुत हंसी आती है. इस पर वो बहुत नाराज हुई और बाहर चली गई. मै एकदम चुप हो गई. इतने मे वो फिर आई और गुस्से मे वहाँ रखी मिक्सी ले गई.मै चुपचाप उसे देखती रह गई.उफ ये मुस्कुराहट!!!

अगले दिन किसी कवि सम्मेलन मे जाना था. वहां एक महोदय बहुत देर से कविता पे कविता सुनाए चले जा रहे थे. मेरे साथ बैठी महिला मुहं पर रुमाल रख कर धीरे धीरे  हसें जा रही थी. मैनें इधर उधर नजरे घुमा कर देखा तो कोई उबासी ले रहा था तो कोई सिर खुजला रहा था तो कोई मोबाईल पर मैसेज भेजने मे जुटा था यानि कुल मिलाकर माहौल मे सन्नाटा था. मैने कनखियो से एक दो बार उस महिला को  देखा तो  भीतर ही भीतर वो इतनी हंस रही थी इतनी हंस रही थी कि उसके आंसू निकल रहे थे.बस फिर क्या था. बोर तो मै भी हो रही थी पर उसे देख कर हंसने वाली बात याद आ गई और उसे देख कर मै जोर से खिलखिला कर हंस पडी. उसके बाद आपको ज्यादा बताने की जरुरत नही क्योकि आप सभी बहुत समझदार है. मुझे बाहर का रास्ता दिखा दिया गया और मै चुपचाप बाहर आ गई.उफ!! बहुत महंगी पडी ये मुस्कुराहट.

समझ नही आ रहा था कि आखिर गलती हो कहाँ रही है.खैर रुआसी होकर घर लौट आई. शाम को बेटा हंसता मुस्कुराता घर आया और उसने मुझे उसका नया पासपोर्ट दिखाया. मै खुशी खुशी देखने लगी पर पासपोर्ट की फोटू मे उसकी मुस्कान ही गायब थी. मेरे पूछ्ने पर उसने बताया कि आजकल पासपोर्ट पर फोटो खिचवाते समय  चेहरे पर कोई भाव नही आना चाहिए…!! यही नियम है.

मुझे लगा कि मेरे लिए भी यही ठीक होगा और फिर मैनें अपने को पहले की तरह बनाने मे ही भलाई समझी और चुपचाप बिना मुस्कुराए काम मे जुट गई….

कैसा लगा ??? जरुर बताईगा??

ये व्यंग्य दैनिक भास्कर की मधुरिमा पत्रिका में प्रकाशित हुआ था.

 

 

The post उफ ये मुस्कुराहट appeared first on Monica Gupta.

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6. Switching point of view??

Question: I was wondering if it was okay to change the point of view every once in a while. I am only writing this story for two reasons: for myself and

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7. Philosopher of the month: Lao Tzu

Lao (Laozi) Tzu is credited as the founder of Taoism, a Chinese philosophy and religion. An elusive figure, he was allegedly a learned yet reclusive official at the Zhōu court (1045–256 BC) – a lesser aristocrat of literary competence who worked as a copyist and archivist. Scholars have variously dated his life to between the third and sixth centuries BC, but he is best known as the author of the classic Tao Te Ching (‘The Book of the Way and its Power’).

The post Philosopher of the month: Lao Tzu appeared first on OUPblog.

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8. Dangerous minds: ‘Public’ political science or ‘punk’ political science?

The end of another academic year and my mind is tired. But tired minds are often dangerous minds. Just as alcohol can loosen the tongue (in vino veritas) for the non-drinkers of this world fatigue can have a similar effect (lassitudine veritas liberabit). Professional pretensions are far harder to sustain when one is work weary but I can’t help wondering if the study of politics has lost its way.

The post Dangerous minds: ‘Public’ political science or ‘punk’ political science? appeared first on OUPblog.

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9. William Lawrence Bragg and Crystallography

The history of modern Crystallography is intertwined with the great discoveries’ of William Lawrence Bragg (WLB), still renowned to be the youngest Nobel Prize in Physics. Bragg received news of his Nobel Prize on the 14th November 1915 in the midst of the carnage of the Great War. This was to be shared with his father William Henry Bragg (WHB), and WHB and WLB are to date the only father and son team to be jointly awarded the Nobel Prize.

The post William Lawrence Bragg and Crystallography appeared first on OUPblog.

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10. Revisiting Reconstruction (Week of August 2, 2015)

Here are the three most notable items pertaining to Reconstruction that I found this past week. Or, at least, two notable items preceded by one blatantly self-promotional one. (What did I miss? Let me know in the comments…) In advance of this month’s inaugural Mississippi Book Festival, this interview with me from Jackson’s Clarion-Ledger: Question: […]

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11. pondering life's pauses, and turns, at Andalusia, in today's Inquirer

In the Philadelphia Inquirer today I'm thinking about serenity—how we need it, where we find it—at Andalusia, along the Delaware River.

A link to the story is here.

A link to my blog post about the children I met and taught at this Biddle mansion is here.

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12. August Words without Borders

       The August issue of Words without Borders, Myth and History: Writing from Indonesia, is now available online; it also includes the usual reviews, as well as 'Three Tibetan Short Stories'.
       Great to see more Indonesian attention as we come up to the Frankfurt Book Fair, where it will be this year's Guest of Honour.

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13. This Month for Writers - July 2015

August has begun, which means it's time once again to sum up the month that was. This month, our attention was captured by snippets into the lives of successful authors; questions of openings, dialogue, and creating that reacher-character connection; how to get our butts in those chairs; and more.

Take a look over the links below, and, as always, tell us of the amazing writing links you find throughout the month by leaving comments below!


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14. Cilla Black dead: Legendary TV presenter and singing star dies aged 72

The Daily Mirror online http://www.mirror.co.uk/3am/celebrity-news/cilla-black-dead-legendary-tv-6180303 just published this. And AS USUAL the BBC News appears to have heard nothing about this. This is the journalism we pay for???

Very sad news. Cilla was, in the 1960s -early 1980s a very popular performer.  Memories are still there of Saturday night TV.


Cilla Black
Surprise Surprise and Blind Date star Cilla Black has died aged 72, it was announced today.

Cilla, who also had two number one singles at the start of a showbiz career stretching over 50 years, died in Spain.

A Spanish police spokeswoman confirmed today that Cilla had died at her Spanish home at her home in Estepona on the Costa del Sol.

She said: “I can confirm the death of British national Priscilla White, aged 72.”

“We are still awaiting autopsy results but everything at this stage is pointing towards her death being the result of natural causes.”

Lexi Jones/WENN.com
Cilla Black at 'Shooting Stars' book launch in May
Police sources said they thought the death had occurred overnight and they believed Cilla, who suffered from hearing problems and arthritis, had jetted to Spain a few days ago with one of her three sons.

Apolice officer was stood outside the front of the property before driving off in a Seat Alhambra car around midday local time.

Cilla, who often flew to Spain in the summer months, also had homes in London, Buckinghamsire and Barbados.


Express NewspapersPatti Boyd, George Harrison, Cilla Black and Brian Epstein

The Liverpudlian star was born Priscilla Maria Veronica White on May 27 1943.

She was championed by The Beatles and enjoyed eleven top ten hits including chart-toppers Anyone Who Had a Heart and You're My World.

Last year she spoke to the Mirror about growing older, saying: “Seventy-five is a good age to go.
“If things are starting to drop off – like the hearing – and I’ve got twinges in the morning, I do think that.”


PA
Cilla Black arriving for the 2014 Arqiva British Academy Television Awards
Cilla was married for 30 years to her manager Bobby Willis until he died in 1999 of lung cancer, aged just 57, leaving her bereft.

She leaves three sons, Robert, Ben and Jack, as well as two grandchildren.

The iconic British star, who was famous for her music career as well as her Surprise Surprise show, passed away this weekend although details remain unknown at this time.

Highly regarded for as a pioneer for women in media, Black went on to host more than 500 editions of her programmes and was the first woman to have her own prime-time chat show on BBC One.


Getty
Cilla Black before BAFTA honour in 2013
Andrew Newman, the chairman of Bafta's television committee, previously said: "From hosting her own show for the BBC in '68 to defining ITV entertainment throughout the '80s and '90s, Cilla has been an extremely popular and hugely influential entertainer throughout her long career in television ."

Speaking in May last year, showbiz legend Cilla Black said she is ‘over the moon’ to be receiving an outstanding contribution prize at the Bafta Television Awards .



"I am thrilled to be honoured with this award - I am totally delighted,” she said.

“I've been very fortunate to have a long and full career in television and this means the world to me."
Cilla’s rise to stardom was recently told in an award-winning three-part drama starring Sheridan Smith.


PACilla Black and her husband and personal manager Bobby Willis
Of watching the show, Cilla, she said: “It’s a strange experience seeing other people recreating your life… I was a bit worried when I heard that Sheridan was playing me because I’d only ever seen her as Mrs Biggs.”

She added: “I needn’t have worried because Sheridan is absolutely terrific.”
Cilla married her manager Bobby in 1963 and was desperate to be a star.


MirrorpixCilla Black pop singer entertainer with Brian Epstein 1964
“Bobby was offered his own recording contract,” she had said. “But I made him say no. There was only room for one ego in our relationship.

Tempus fugit

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15. What kids should read ?

       In the UK the 'TES and the National Association for the Teaching of English ran a survey to find teachers' top 100 fiction books all children should read' -- before leaving primary school and before leaving secondary school. (There is some overlap.)
       I am a bit shocked by how few books in translation feature, especially on the secondary school list (fewer than on the primary school list) -- all of three, as best I can tell: Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne (53), I am David by Anne Holm (71) (and this one is also 29 on the primary school list), and One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (89). But it's a very mixed (up ?) list, in any case.

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16. Francelia Butler Conference Film

Every year at Hollins University student volunteers put together the Francelia Butler conference. One of the highlights is the annual video. A few faculty are usually hijacked, shanghaied, asked to participate. This was my year to play the White Witch. So with baited breath, I hesitantly share... (Click the image to see the video on YouTube.)

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17. Summer issue of list

       It's well-hidden at the official site -- certainly not to be found under 'Current Issue' (that would be much too easy ...) -- but the Volume 28, Summer 2015 issue of list Books from Korea -- "a quarterly literary magazine [that] introduces Korean literature and authors to overseas reader" -- is now available online.

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18. Hungry? Eat like The King!

http://www.theydrawandcook.com/illustrations/6811-the-elvis-sandwich
After seeing 'The Fat Elvis' on the menu in a restaurant (which is a baked pie, inspired Elvis Presley's favourite breakfast -a sandwich with Peanut butter, banana and bacon), I HAD to illustrate this recipe!

Would you like to learn how to illustrate recipes? You can! I can teach you in 4 weeks - join my online worlshop on drawing food and illustrating recipes 'Draw It Like It's Hot!'!
It's $69 and starts September 21. Click here to find out more

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19. Happy Friendship day

cartoon friends by monica

 

Happy Friendship day   अब  Friendship day पर तो सभी को हक है विश करने का फिर ये महंगाई किसलिए पीछे रहे… सोच इस बात की है कि उसे जवाब दिया जाए या नही …

The post Happy Friendship day appeared first on Monica Gupta.

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20. Meet Elizabeth Parker

Murder at Longbourn. (Elizabeth Parker #1) Tracy Kiely. 2009. St. Martin's Press. 320 pages. [Source: Library]

I enjoyed reading Tracy Kiely's Murder at Longbourn. It is first and foremost a cozy mystery. It is not a retelling or adaptation of any particular Austen novel. So don't expect that, and you won't be disappointed, or as disappointed.

As I said, I enjoyed this holiday-themed mystery novel. Elizabeth Parker, the heroine, goes to visit her great-aunt for New Year's Eve/Day. There is a party hosted at her great-aunt's bed and breakfast. It is a themed party--there will be a "murder" at the party. She meets plenty of new people at her great-aunt's bed and breakfast. Some of them being guests staying at the b&b. Some being guests (from the town) invited to the New Year's party. But one person is not a new acquaintance at all, but, an old "nemesis" named Peter. The two knew each other as children, and, as far as Elizabeth is concerned, there's nothing but hate between them: past, present, and future.

The party goes horribly, of course, and a real murder is committed. Elizabeth is convinced that there is a lot of framing going on--and her aunt may suffer for it--but can she with a tiny bit of help from Peter--find the real murderer in time?

I liked Elizabeth well enough. I didn't love everything about her. There were times she came across as not too bright. And I did find quite a few things about this one to be predictable. But. In the moment, as I was reading it, I cared more than I didn't. I wanted to keep reading it. I wasn't annoyed or frustrated or disgusted or disappointed. It was a very pleasant read. Now, a week after finishing it, the in-the-moment pleasure of it all has faded a bit.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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21. The Sunday Post and Stacking the Shelves – It’s August!

The Sunday Post is hosted by Kimba of The Caffeinated Book Reviewer.  This is a weekly meme where we can share news of the week and highlight new books received.

I had a meeting with the surgical coordinator on Friday.  Apparently, I have to stay away from the duppers for a few weeks after my surgery?  I don’t know how I’m going to be able to do that.  I look to these guys to give me emotional support and to keep my spirits up.  Now I can’t take naps with them or cuddle with them while I’m recuperating? I am going to be unhappy, and they are going to be unhappy and confused while they are segregated to a room I’m not in.  I am so bummed…

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga’s Reviews to share new additions to our library.  Click here to learn more about it.

New Arrivals at the Café:

Crowned: The Nanny Palace (.99)

Racing Hearts

Her Holiday Rancher

Unwrapping the Castelli Secret

A Christmas Vow of Seduction

Long Tall Christmas

The Complete Chi’s Sweet Home Part 1

Her Lucky Cowboy

A great big thanks to the publishers for their continued support!

What did you get? Please leave links and share!

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22. Illustrator Submission :: Nick Bear

Post by Chloe

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Nick Bear is a professional artist with a passion for illustration. His style is bold, colourful and often full of character and humour. This has made him popular among game production companies and his illustrations have featured in some of the world’s most popular games such as Plants vs Zombies 2 and Bejeweled Blitz. If you would like to see more of Nick Bear’s graphic illustrations, please visit his portfolio.

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23. Best Selling Picture Books | August 2015

This month, our best selling picture book from our affiliate store is the entertaining If You Happen to have a Dinosaur, written by Linda Bailey and illustrated by Colin Jack.

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24. My tweets

  • Sun, 02:11: Best overheard quote of the day - Just because you have a thought, doesn't mean you should post it on the Internet. #quoteoftheday
  • Sun, 02:12: Second best overheard quote of the day - And that is why I am asexual. #quoteoftheday

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25. SCBWI Retreat 2015: Workshops with Grown-Ups (and FOOD!)



Last weekend I was away from home for 4 days in the historic village of Evesham, near Worcester, doing another of my dream jobs. It involved enormous amounts of eating (best rhubarb crumble I ever tasted), sketching in the sunshine, listening to stories, chatting into the night over glasses of wine... oh, and also delivering workshops and portfolio advice for members of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators.

I knew the SCBWI retreat was to be held in a lovely old house with pretty grounds, but I was completely gob-smacked when my taxi stopped outside a long, Tudor house, all timbers and thatch. I was shown up a big, wooden staircase into a lovely old room, whose floorboards sloped down into one corner. I unpacked with a smile.


We kicked off about an hour later, with a brilliant getting-to-know-you exercise run by fellow author/illustrators, Loretta Schauer and Alexis Deacon. We paired up and had to draw or describe events from each other's past, stimulated by silly questions like: When have you injured yourself as a result of your own stupidity?

Then I ran my first session of the weekend: teaching people how to make concertina sketchbooks. 




SCBWI had provided a big pile of watercolour paper. We set to, cutting and sticking. We cut up old cardboard boxes for the covers - it worked a treat. Then we all filed into the dining room for the first feast of many.



After dinner, we had a book review cum storytelling session, where we each read a favourite picture book to the rest of the group. There were 30 of us, so it took a while, but was a lovely way to spend the evening.

Next morning was a workshop by Alexis. He taught us techniques for making narratives more interesting, looking at the potential for using dishonest characters with hidden motivations. We all tried to create a story, though mine ran out of steam half way through. After coffee and biccies, we had a bit of free time, so I took my newly-minted sketchbook into the grounds:


Then it was lunch (yum), followed by an interesting talk by Andrea MacDonald, Senior Editor at Random House, about what makes a good picture book:


I did a couple of one-to-one advice sessions next. I found a lovely little summer house tucked away at the foot of the garden, which was perfect for a cost chat. people had booked appointments with me and I did my best to be wise and helpful with first an illustrator, then an author:


My 2nd workshop used the sketchbooks we made earlier. I wanted to explore the idea of finding a narrative in a place, of capturing the essence of a particular period of time using words and pictures, but doing it through close observation, recording what we could see, hear and smell. This is of course something which I am very used to doing in my sketchbooks, and I thought it might make a good source of inspiration.

I sat under a big tree and rang a bell. People gathered from around the grounds. Some had been playing croquet on the lawn!


We had expected mostly illustrators to take up the challenge, but a few authors went for it too. I showed the work I'd done since I arrived, as an example, and talked through easy techniques for getting instant results with watercolour (it was a revelation to most people that you could paint with clear water first, to control the colour), then everyone dispersed for an hour or so of experimentation.


After dinner (yum), we gathered in the conference room and, in small groups, talked though our work-in-progress. Each group then chose the strongest 3 pieces of work for each person - a great idea, as your own favourite bits of work are not necessarily your best and a fresh perspective is very useful. All the work was then displayed for everyone to browse and the next thing I knew, it was midnight!


Sunday began with my main workshop (after breakfast of course - yum). I devised a technique for drawing a journey, one piece at a time, to build up the elements of a story. Only, to put a fly in the ointment and get people out of their comfort-zone, many of the components were chosen randomly, by a neighbour. For me, the challenge was making it work, when about a third of the delegates were not illustrators. Still, it seemed to go extremely well. After coffee (and biccies) people took it in turns to pin up their drawing and tell their story.


Some ideas were hilarious, some were quite dark, some narratives were in a bit of a tangle, which the group helped to sort out: the brainstorming of 30 creative minds, all focussed on progressing one story idea was fantastic to watch.


The 'house cat' decided he wanted to join in. He demanded to be let in from the rain through the French windows, jumped up on the tables, walked across people's work, then took at seat near the front to listen:


After this of course, it was time for lunch (yum). Then we had another talk, this time by Emily Lamm, once my editor at Gullane (who worked with me on Swap!), now working as Commissioning Editor at Hachette. She gave some excellent advice on what editors are looking for and things to try / avoid in your writing. I tried to capture her and highlights from what she was saying in the concertina sketchbook:


I had two more mentoring sessions during the afternoon, sadly in the house this time, as rain was still bouncing around outside. Then Alexis did a demo session, showing how he draws with ink, using different kinds of brushes (in various stages of decay): 


I had my final one-to-one session, then at 7pm the gong sounded and it was time for another glorious dinner. I was impressed with the fact that the veggie choice for every meal was just as adventurous and delicious as its meat counterpart. We were all so impressed as a group that we asked for the chef and kitchen staff to come out and gave them a huge round of applause.

After dinner, we took a group photo in the garden:


Then we were all given a postcard, onto which we had to write three achievable goals for the next 3 months. The illustrators decorated the front of their cards. We stuck stamps on and handed them back to Loretta, whose job it was to post them all back to us in three months time. Good idea, or what?

We stayed up chatting and drinking and taking photos of each other until late, a gradually dwindling group. Finally, at 1am, the last dregs gave up the ghost and headed for bed.

Next morning, I packed my suitcase then luxuriated over my final breakfast (yum):


Then gradually, a few at a time, people had to leave (cue hugging...). It had been such a rich weekend, we all felt rather sad to be on our way. I was so sad that I had to buy myself a present from the gift shop (a VERY funky necklace).


Thank you to Loretta and all the team at SCBWI for inviting me to take part. It was a joy. Thanks as well to Sue Eves and Paul Morton, for the photos.

It was lovely to meet everyone, including the rather amazing Alexis Deacon, who's head is just stuffed with crazy story-stuff. And you know the really good news? I get to do it all again next year, as it's a 2-year invitation!

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