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1. When drafting a short story, at what point in the plot should the story’s central problem be introduced?

Question: When drafting a short story, at what point in the plot should the story’s central problem be introduced? Answer: It really doesn't matter, as

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2. That Beta Reader Business

Back in the Dark Ages, when I was getting started writing, I never heard anything about beta readers. I barely heard about critique groups. But everyone seems to have BRs these days, and, since I like to maintain the mind of a beginner, I decided I wanted some, too. So when I finally finished a draft of a piece of scifi flash fiction that I'd worked on for the better part of a month, maybe more, I contacted a couple of family members who are science fiction readers and asked them to act as my beta readers. I even used the term, thinking it would make what I was asking them to do sound very professional and technical. Here's what happened:

Beta Reader 1 told me that no one would know what two words in the first sentence meant. I was able to fix that. Evidently the other 898 words were golden.

Beta Reader 2 didn't have time to read the story. I think he might have been afraid to.

I find the whole beta reading thing awkward. Remember all those times people asked you to read something they wrote and it was dreadful and then what were you supposed to do? Yeah, now you're the one asking someone to do the reading, and the people you're asking want to run for their lives. Maybe your writing is as wonderful as you think it is, but your potential beta vict--readers don't know that. Because I like to maintain the mind of a beginner, I'm open to the possibility that maybe I'm wrong.

Additionally, critiquing writing is an acquired skill. The ground isn't thick with trained beta readers.

So this wasn't a particularly successful experience. However, I met with a critique group in August, and I'll be going back in October. Things are looking positive with that, and after a couple more meetings, I'll report on my progress.


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3. Rhinos



From a single doodle of a rhino sleeping and suddenly it burst into this. So, no concept whatsoever....:D
Little changes are made from the original sketch because the composition doesn't feel right... Read the rest of this post

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4. Review: Relentless by Robin Parrish

Title: Relentless
Author: Robin Parrish
Series: dominion (#1)
Publisher: Bethany House
Publication date: July 1, 2006
Pages: 448
Stars: 4

Summary:
In the space of a breath, what he thought was his life…shattered. Grant Borrows has been Shifted- in the silence between heartbeats, his whole life fundamentally altered. There's another man in the world wearing his face and living his life. What's more, the man staring back from his mirror is a stranger. But the changes don't stop at skin-level. Inexplicably, he's able to affect objects around him by simply thinking about them. And as he soon learns, he's become the central figure in a vast web of intrigue that stretches from an underground global conspiracy to a prophecy dating back over seven thousand years. Enemies and allies find him at every turn, but one thing they learn all too soon is that you don't want to push Grant Borrows too far... Can destiny be undone? The players are ready. The game is in motion. And the pace is: Relentless. (The Dominion Trilogy Book 1)

Review:
I really enjoyed this book. It's not quiet like anything I've ever read before. As always the characters were amazing. I felt all of Grants pain and anger. I understood so much of how he was feeling. I feel like this is one of those books that should be made into a book. It had so much detail I felt like I was watching it rather then reading it. After I finished reading the book and writing my review I looked up other reviews. People either loved it or hated it. 4 Stars.

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5. September Releases

Need covers? They’re on my Pinterest board for this month.

 

Dork Diaries 8: Tales from a Not-So-Happily Ever After by Rachel Renee Russell; Aladdin     Nikki Maxwell’s favorite fairy tales get dork-tastic twists in this entry in the #1 “New York Times”-bestselling series. After a bump on the head in gym class on April Fool’s Day, Nikki dreams that she, her BFFs Chloe and Zoey, her crush Brandon, and mean girl Mackenzie are all familiar classic fairy tale characters.

Half a World Away by Cynthia Kadohata; Atheneum MG     The new novel from a Newbery Medalist and National Book Award winner. Eleven-year-old Jaden, an emotionally damaged adopted boy, feels a connection to a small, weak toddler with special needs in Kazakhstan, where Jaden’s family is trying to adopt a “normal” baby.

The Only Thing to Fear by Caroline Tung Richmond; Scholastic     In a stunning reimagining of history, debut author Richmond weaves an incredible story of secrets and honor in a world where Hitler won World War II. In this action-packed, heart-stopping novel of a terrifying reality that could have been, a teenage girl must decide just how far she’ll go for freedom.

On A Clear Day by Walter Dean Myers; Crown Books for Young Readers     It is 2035. Teens, armed only with their ideals, must wage war on the power elite. Dahlia is a Low Gater: a sheep in a storm, struggling to survive completely on her own. The Gaters live in closed safe communities, protected from the Sturmers, mercenary thugs. And the C-8, a consortium of giant companies, control global access to finance, media, food, water, and energy resources—and they are only getting bigger and even more cutthroat. Dahlia, a computer whiz, joins forces with an ex-rocker, an ex-con, a chess prodigy, an ex-athlete, and a soldier wannabe. Their goal: to sabotage the C-8. But how will Sayeed, warlord and terrorist, fit into the equation?

The Red Pencil by Andrea Davis Pinkney; Scholastic Press     “Amira, look at me,” Muma insists.She collects both my hands in hers.“The Janjaweed attack without warning.Ifever they come run.”
Finally, Amira is twelve. Old enough to wear a toob, old enough for new responsibilities. And maybe old enough to go to school in NyalaAmira’s one true dream.
But life in her peaceful Sudanese village is shattered when the Janjaweed arrive. The terrifying attackers ravage the town and unleash unspeakable horrors. After she loses nearly everything, Amira needs to dig deep within herself to find the strength to make the long journey on foot to safety at a refugee camp. Her days are tough at the camp, until the gift of a simple red pencil opens her mindand all kinds of possibilities.
New York Times bestselling and Coretta Scott King Award-winning author Andrea Davis Pinkney’s powerful verse and Coretta Scott King Award-winning artist Shane W. Evans’s breathtaking illustrations combine to tell an inspiring tale of one girl’s triumph against all odds.

The Madman of Piney Woods by Christopher Paul Curtis; Scholastic     A bestselling Newbery Medalist delivers a powerful companion to “Elijah of Buxton.” Benji and Red aren’t friends, but their fates are entwined. The boys discover that they have more in common than meets the eye. Both of them have encountered a strange presence in the forest. Could the Madman of Piney Woods be real?

The Unstoppable Octobia May by Sharon G. Flake     It’s 1953, and 10-year-old Octobia May lives in her aunt’s boarding house in a southern African-American community. When Octobia starts to question the folks in her world, an adventure and a mystery unfold that beg some troubling questions: Who is black and who is “passing” for white? What happens when their vibrant community must face its own racism?

Billy Buckhorn Abnormal by Gary Robinson     Book one of the Billy Buckhorn series introduces a Cherokee teen who uses his supernatural abilities to solve mysteries. In this first installment, “Abnormal,” Billy is struck by lightning while fishing with his friend Chigger. He survives the lightning strike but begins to experience an enhanced level of esp. Billy is labeled “abnormal” by one of his teachers after he uncovers an unsavory secret from the teacher’s past. What no one suspects is that the teacher is a shape-shifter who becomes an evil raven that gains strength from his victims’ fear. When Billy confronts the teacher, he must channel his own fear into anger in order to defeat the evil birdman.

Falling Into Place by Amy Zhang; Greenwillow     One cold fall day, high school junior Liz Emerson steers her car into a tree. This haunting and heartbreaking story is told by a surprising and unexpected narrator and unfolds in nonlinear flashbacks even as Liz’s friends, foes, and family gather at the hospital and Liz clings to life. This riveting debut will appeal to fans of Before I Fall, by Lauren Oliver, and 13 Reasons Why, by Jay Asher.

“On the day Liz Emerson tries to die, they had reviewed Newton’s laws of motion in physics class. Then, after school, she put them into practice by running her Mercedes off the road.” Why did Liz Emerson decide that the world would be better off without her? Why did she give up? The nonlinear novel pieces together the short and devastating life of Meridian High’s most popular junior girl. Mass, acceleration, momentum, force–Liz didn’t understand it in physics, and even as her Mercedes hurtles toward the tree, she doesn’t understand it now. How do we impact one another? How do our actions reverberate? What does it mean to be a friend? To love someone? To be a daughter? Or a mother? Is life truly more than cause and effect? Amy Zhang’s haunting and universal story will appeal to fans of Lauren Oliver, Gayle Forman, and Jay Asher.

Love is the Drug by Alaya Dawn Johnson; Arthur A. Levine     The privileged daughter of research scientists, Emily Bird attends a party for Washington D.C.’s elite. Days later, she wakes up in a hospital with no memory of that night. Meanwhile, a deadly flu virus has caused a worldwide crisis. Homeland security agent Roosevelt David is certain that Bird knows something about the virus, something she shouldn’t.

The Secret Sky: A Novel of Forbidden Love in Afghanistan by Atia Abawi; Philomel     Fatima is a Hazara girl, raised to be obedient and dutiful. Samiullah is a Pashtun boy raised to defend the traditions of his tribe. They were not meant to fall in love. But they do. And the story that follows shows both the beauty and the violence in current-day Afghanistan as Fatima and Samiullah fight their families, their cultures and the Taliban to stay together. Based on the people Atia Abawi met and the events she covered during her nearly five years in Afghanistan, this stunning novel is a must-read for anyone who has lived during America’s War in Afghanistan.

No Name by Tim Tingle; 7th Generation     nspired by the traditional Choctaw story “No Name,” this modern adaptation features a present-day Choctaw teenager surviving tough family times–his mother left home and he is living with a mean-spirited, abusive father. The one place the teen can find peace is on the neighborhood basketball court. But after a violent confrontation with his father, the teen runs away, only to return home to find an unexpected hiding spot in his own backyard. His hiding spot becomes his home for weeks until the help and encouragement from a basketball coach, a Cherokee buddy and a quiet new next-door girlfriend help him face his father.

Gabi, a Girl in Pieces byIsabel Quintero; Cinco Puntos Press     Gabi Hernandez chronicles her last year in high school in her diary: Cindy’s pregnancy, Sebastian’s coming out, the cute boys, her father’s meth habit, and the food she craves. And best of all, the poetry that helps forge her identity. Isabel Quintero is a library technician in the Inland Empire. She is also the events coordinator for Orange Monkey and helps edit the poetry journal Tin Cannon. Gabi is her debut novel.

 


Filed under: New Books Tagged: Andrea Davis Pinkney, Caroline Tung Richmond, Cynthia Kadohata, new releases, Rachel Renee Russell

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6. I KNOW You Are Out There.....

Over 1,582, 116 views on CBO and 705, 633 on Google+ and the feedback?

None.

It is difficult for bloggers to know what they are doing that people like.  That said, I'm never too excited about large numbers of hits but grateful to those who do pop by my Google+ and CBO.

Gets boring though when no one tells you they like "This" or "That".  Come on -give it some thought and let me know.

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7. As More Boots Go In...

I am worn out and tired as fuck.

Why Don't You Find Out For Yourself

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8. Hiroshima in the Morning by Rahna Reiko Rizzuto

On the basis of Beth Kephart's recommendation in her book Handling the Truth, I ordered a copy of Hiroshima in the Morning through Powells. The author Rahna Reiko Rizzuto received a fellowship to go to Japan in mid-2001 for six months and research her planned novel about the bombing of Hiroshima. What she did not expect was the wrenching difficulty (in a myriad of ways) of parting from her husband and 2 young sons in NYC and how complicated it would be to navigate Japanese culture and gain the insight she wanted on her subject.

This is a really tough book to classify because if I tell you it will resonate strongly with women who feel torn between family life and their work, you will probably immediately think of "Lean In" and not give it a second thought. But that aspect of the book is important and needs to be noted. Rizzuto's personal/professional conflict is so intense and so tied to the unique aspects of researching a book, that any writer who has ever felt similarly torn is going to identify very powerfully with her words. She wonders if she is committed enough to her marriage and motherhood and also worries about her own mother who is suffering from the early stages of dementia. Are there other places where Rizzuto should be? It doesn't help when her husband starts to rethink all of his earlier support for the project after spending one too many nights dealing with sick kids. And all Rizzuto can tell him is that she is talking to people, visiting museums and temples, "soaking up" the culture of Japan.

She might be more convincing if she felt more certain that she was getting done the work she needed.

That's the other impressive aspect of Hiroshima in the Morning--Rizzuto's discovery of how complicated the Hiroshima story is. The book has excerpts from the interviews she conducted with survivors and they are the very definition of gut wrenching. Rizzuto finds herself overwhelmed by the horror of those stories, (you will be too), and transformed by them. Then 9/11 happens and her family arrives for a visit and again her vision of herself and the world goes through another change.

There is a lot about this book that made me think about writing, history, stories, the power of family and so much more. So many times as a writer I have questioned the value of what I choose to do with my life and anyone who has ever been in that position will understand what Rizzuto goes through. But the stories from Hiroshima are what has stayed with me more than anything else and they make me think yet again how much our history is dominated by the way we tell stories, and our collective acceptance of who does the telling.

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9. How do you make the face look the same from panel to panel?

I get asked questions occasionally about the process of making comics. I’ve passed this particular question on to a handful of the people I’ve interviewed for them to answer, and I’ll post up more as they come in.

How do you make the faces look the same from panel to panel?

I remember this being a big concern of mine when I started drawing comics, and I get asked this pretty frequently. Probably more of a concern that actually telling a story if I’m honest. I think this is a question that gets asked a lot because it is so apparent when the characters don’t look consistent. Here’s how John Allison, Viv Schwarz, Glyn Dillon and Sarah Glidden tackled this topic...
Well how do we? Go read.

And then subscribe to Dan's podcast, it rocks.

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10. Review – The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell

After only reading Cloud Atlas I was already in awe of David Mitchell so I dove straight into his new novel at the first available opportunity. And once again was swept away by the storytelling, the language and the imagination. The book has been described as “his most Cloud Atlas-y novel since the global phenom Cloud Atlas” and I […]

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11. Patch of Wild

In the middle of the city,
In the middle of the street,
There are buds in bloom
Where the crossroads meet.

Someone plopped some soil
And some wildflower seed
But with city soot,
Nothing’s guaranteed.

Yet those blossoms bloomed,
Never mind the threats
And those flowers look
Good as Nature gets.

Which just proves the point –
That you really can’t
Know who’ll flourish where –
Be it man or plant.

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12. GIRL ON A WIRE Early Bird Special

Anyone who tells you magic isn’t real doesn’t know what they’re talking about. Just like anyone who tells you falling is like flying has never done either.

If you've spoken to me anytime in the past, oh, two-years-ish, you might have heard me gush about  GIRL ON A WIRE from the talented Gwenda Bond. And... its October release date is almost here! In fact...   

*drumroll* ... 

YOU CAN READ IT TODAY!

Yes I know it ISN'T October yet! This is a September surprise. GIRL ON A WIRE is a Kindle First pick. Which means, if you're an Amazon Prime member you can read GIRL ON A WIRE for free (FREE) (zero dollars!) right now. If you aren't, you can read it for $1.99 (which, let's face it, is ALMOST FREE). This deal will be going on the whole month of September. Yesssssss.

GIRL ON A WIRE is the story of Jules Maroni, the extreme high-wire walker and teen daughter of circus royalty. When somebody starts planting jinxy magical items on her costumes, it's unclear if the culprit just trying to scare her... or actually kill her. And is it all just old superstition, or could there be real magic at play? Jules teams up with the son of a rival family to solve the mystery, and sparks fly. (So yeah, it's basically Daredevil Juliet and Trapeze Romeo Solve Possibly Magical Crimes. Yessss.)

Get your e-copy today, a month before everyone else! And if you want to win a new Kindle Paperwhite, check out Gwenda's contest!


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13. Two Awards and Apologies for the Long Silence

Inspiring Blogger Award from
Julia Hones

Liebster Award from Sandra Cox
See below the info that comes with
the Inspiring Blogger Award















First the apologies for not blogging. 
1.) I've been busy working on my mystery. My goal is to finish this draft by mid-September. There's 24-25 chapters in mind, and I'm on chapter 17 so far. 
2.) We've had company and made a couple of out-of-town trips to visit folks we hadn't seen for a long time, due to travels. 
And 3.) We are getting ready for another long trip to Spain and Portugal. (I haven't even finished blogging about the last trip, but that's how it goes sometimes. Oh, the stories I'd like to tell!)

Meanwhile, two very nice blog friends gave me awards that you can see at the top of this page and read about below. Thank you so much, ladies!

Julia Hones gave me the Inspiring Blogger Award, which I find quite an honor. Julia has a marvelous blog called My Writing Life that I love to read and find inspiring in its own right, and you will too, so do check it out. She's also had many short stories and poems published and is the poetry editor of Southern Pacific Review

As a recipient of the award, I'm supposed to reveal 7 things about myself and then pass the award on to others whose blogs I find inspiring. Hmm. 7 reveals . . . Okay, here we go.

1. In my junior year in college, after finals, I let a girlfriend talk me into bleaching my hair blonde. (She was bleaching her hair, and we were hyper from finals, so I thought, "Why not?") Because I have a lot of red in my hair, it went red instead of blonde. Because I have a few freckles, everyone who met me as a redhead thought I really was a redhead -- to the point that when I got tired of it and decided to dye it back to dark brown, I was told, "No, don't do that, it won't look natural."

2. My favorite dessert is a cookie. Forget pies, cakes, and rich creamy custards. Give me a cookie. Any cookie, although I like sugar, shortbread, oatmeal, or peanutbutter the best.

3. I am a crossword puzzle nut. I love the New York Times crossword puzzle. I can't always finish it (Fridays and Saturdays), but I usually start the day with it. For one thing, it wakes me up and gets the wheels turning for writing later in the day.

4. My husband and I met through a cat named Meathead. That is a ve-r-r-r-y long story, that only some of our friends know and would take up too much space here. But we have very fond feelings for our feline cat-alyst from long ago.

5. I used to write everything in longhand first, but the computer has spoiled me. Cut and paste is so convenient. Even so, I miss that feeling of connection between pen or pencil and heart, and I still write my poetry first in longhand.

6. This is probably a horrible confession for an author to make, particularly one who writes children's books, but . . . I never liked The Wind in the Willows. I know, I know, one of the world's great classics. What's wrong with me! But I never could get into it, no matter how many times I tried. 

7. I loved Edith Nesbit and Edgar Eavers, though. And they stand the test of time. I re-read a couple of their books recently and still found them so funny.

And now the nominees:
1. Keith Wynne has a truly inspiring blog called Musings of an Unapologetic Dreamer . He'll also send a little blurb via email called Thought of the Day, if you sign up for it at his site. I bookmark nearly everyone of these blurbs, as they are quite pithy and inspiring.

2. Catherine Ensley is an author of inspirational romance novels and is writing a four-part series. On her blog she "shares her thoughts on country life, simple living, adventure, reading, writing and faith that transforms." I think you will find it very enjoyable. 

3. Victoria Lindstrom's Writ of Whimsy blog is rich with Middle Grage book reviews, poetry tidbits, thoughts on writing, and a section I love, "Whimsical Word of the Week." Check out her site; it's great fun.

4. Lynda Young has a wonderful blog called W.I.P. It: an Author's Journey in which she addresses many issues for writers with insights and reminders that are so helpful to all of us on this common journey. 

5. Check out Carol Riggs, a published YA author with a personable writing style. Her blog, Artzicarol Ramblings, is full of writing tips, YA book reviews, and shares of her own personal journey with agents and publishers. 

6. Renee Hand's The Crypto-Capers Review is a children's book review blog as well as a platform for her radio show, Stories from Unknown Authors. Renee also writes winning interactive mysteries. How cool is that? Check out her site, and you may find yourself being interviewed if you've written a children's book.

7. Mark Noce has a rather eclectic blog, sharing news about his flash fiction publications, gardening, music he likes, and news about other writers. It's always a feel-good experience to read one of his posts. 

On to the Liebster Award, which Sandra Cox kindly gave to me. Sandra's blog is called, not surprisingly, Sandra's Blog  . Sandra is a prolific blogger as well as a prolific author. Spend a little time at her site. Her pictures will make you smile. Meanwhile, the Liebster Award is given to bloggers with less than 200 followers, ferreting out blogs you think are worthy of more followers. (Thank you, Sandra!) The rules for accepting the award are to share 11 random facts about myself, answer 11 questions posed by the blogger who nominated me, nominate 11 bloggers who qualify, and pose 11 questions to them. Happily, Sandra modified the rules, asking 6 questions, and nominating 5 newbies. So I am following her lead:

The questions she asked:
1. If you were an animal, what would you be? Probably a dog. I love animals, but dogs have a special place in my heart. They are so loving and loyal.
2. What is your favorite genre? That's a hard one. Mysteries and historical novels are about equal.
3. When reading, do you prefer paper or a hand held device? Paper, for sure!
4. What's your favorite vacation spot? Galicia, Spain. 
5. What's your favorite charity? Another hard one. We contribute to a number. I suppose Southern Poverty Law Center, a remarkable organization that goes after hate groups in this country and prosecutes hate crimes.
6. If given the choice, where would you live? Right where we live now. As a runner up, Galicia would be next, but we are quite happy where we are.

Okay, my nominees are:
Richard Hughes at Writing and Living by Richard P. Hughes , is an eclectic blogger, sharing thoughts about writing, art, life in general, publishing issues. Right now he's running an interesting series of interviews with other bloggers, called, "Where I Live and Why I Like It.

Rosi Hollinbeck at The Write Stuff reviews children's books, interviews authors, and does a wonderful job of culling and sharing links to help writers in every sphere of writing. I always look forward to her posts, and you will too.

Kenda Turner at Words and Such post book reviews, interviews, and shares rich thoughts about the writer's journey. Always a good read.

Loretta Proctor at Books and Other Things blogs about books, art, and music, "and all things creative and beautiful." Her current post is about Seamus Heaney, one of my favorite poets.

Jeanmarie Anaya's delightful blog, Jeanmarie Anaya is definitely worth your while. Humorous, pithy, eloquent. She writes about a number of writing issues, and wrote a lovely tribute to Robin Williams. 

And here are my six questions for these worthy recipients:
1. Where is your favorite place to read a book?
2. When beginning a new W.I.P., do you write by hand or wordprocess?
3. What are three of your favorite books? 
4. If you could be a character in a novel you've read, who would you be?
5. Which author, living or dead, do you wish you had the opportunity to meet?
6. When did you begin to write for yourself (as opposed to doing early homework assignments)?

And that's it, folks. I look forward to your comments, (feel free to answer any of the questions I posed for the nominees), and I do hope you check out the blogs in both sections of this post.

Ciao for now . . .

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14. got the right shoe? what’s left?

Photo by Vicky Lorencen

Photo by Vicky Lorencen

Agent shopping can be daunting. But recently, and who knows how, I connected agent-shopping with shoe-shopping, and the process is taking on new meaning (and making me want a new pair of pumps).

Here’s how I pair my shoe and agent preferences . . .

Must match. Having one fabulous flat isn’t so fab, is it? Sure, it looks pretty and fits like a dream, but unless I’m leaving a ball in a hurry, going half shoeless is no way to go. And just like shoes, I want to be paired with an agent whose genre preferences and approach match my own.

Must be the right fit. This is a biggie, isn’t it? I may have written the most charming picture book or witty MG novel, but if it  doesn’t “click” with an agent, it just doesn’t. Agents are people with tastes and personalities just like anyone else. An agent needs to be flipped over my work in order to be its best champion. Much as I’d like to, I can’t cram my size 10 dogs into a pair of six 6 mules. I can’t, and wouldn’t want to, force an agent-client relationship either.

Must compliment what’s already in my wardrobe. I wouldn’t pick a pair of chartreuse polka dot flats that only go with one outfit. Ideally, I want an agent who can embrace all of my ambitions and not just one part of my writerly “wardrobe.” (It absolutely can work on a one-genre basis, but it’s not the best option.)

Must be supportive. Oui. Oui. I know. It makes me sound like I’ve become what the French call a woman of a “certain age,” but I want shoes that not only look stylish, but feel comfy too. And while I don’t think an agent has to be my best ever friend, I do want someone who can support not only my project in progress, but encourage me as an author as well.

Must receive good reviews. This is a deal breaker category for me. I sometimes buy shoes online, but I never, ever click “Complete Order” until I’ve read customer reviews. I work in marketing and I know that while the description may be beguiling–and hopefully accurate–it doesn’t tell the whole story. I want to hear from those who have walked in those shoes. It’s no different with agents. Whenever possible, I talk with current clients of the agent–politely and discreetly of course–about their experience before I send click “Send” on that shiny query letter.

Must be able to go the distance. Nothing’s worse than trudging half-way across a mall or reaching the half-mile on a hike and realizing I wore the wrong shoes. I want shoes that offer the right fit and support so that I can feel comfortable and confident. As far as agents go, I want someone who would be there for me for the long haul too.

Here’s wishing all of us in search of an agent a perfect pairing soon (and yes, maybe some new sling-backs too).

Give a girl the right shoes, and she can conquer the world. ~ Marilyn Monroe


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15. Music Monday - You Can Fly

Ah, this makes me all nostalgic (plus gorgeous, acapella harmonies...)

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16. Gary Robinson's SON WHO RETURNS

The cover for Gary Robinson's SON WHO RETURNS is sure to catch the eye of readers interested in stories about Native peoples. Because it is a photograph, one might assume it is a work of non-fiction, but it isn't. Instead, it is the story of Mark Centeno. He is 15 years old. His dad is Mexican and Filipino; his mother (she died of cancer when he was 10) was Chumash and Crow.

Mark is kind of a surfer dude. He loved hanging with his buddies in California, and is unhappy living in Dallas. He convinces his dad to send him back to California for the summer, to live with his mother's Chumash family on their reservation.

Nana (his grandmother) and his aunt meet his plane and he starts to learn a lot about his Chumash heritage. When he was younger, his mom had told him some things, but as the story unfolds, he learns a lot more. As the cover suggests, dancing is part of what Mark is going to learn about. By the end of the story, he's a pretty good Traditional dancer and knows several songs in that category.

Early on, Mark learns that his cousin, Adrian, is actually his half-brother. When Mark first talks with him, Adrian is getting ready for an upcoming pow wow. Mark asks him if a choker is part of his costume. Adrian is incensed that Mark has used the word "costume" rather than regalia. It is moments like that by which Robinson (the author) imparts a lot of solid information to us (the readers)--information that bats down stereotyping and bias that is all-too-rampant in society.

Robinson also introduces readers to some of the identity politics that run through Native communities. Another character in the book is Charley. He's Lakota from Pine Ridge. Mark meets him when he registers to dance for the first time. Charley looks down on Mark, saying (p. 75):
"You know, powwows aren't really meant for California Indians. You're all mostly watered-down mixed breeds. You should leave this stuff to real Indians like me."  
I'm glad to see Robinson take up this fraught topic. I think Native kids (like Mark) who are new to powwow dancing, or who are mixed, will like reading how this identity politics will all get sorted out, and many will love seeing references to Gathering of Nations. Non-Native kids will get a glimpse into the not-monolithic world of Native people.

Son Who Returns was published in 2014 by 7th Generation. It is in their Pathfinder series of books for reluctant teen readers.

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17. Brown Girl Dreaming, by Jacqueline Woodson

I was lucky enough to hear Jacqueline Woodson speak about and read from Brown Girl Dreaming during the School Library Journal Day of Dialog last spring.  If any of you have seen Woodson before, you know she is charming, and dynamic and funny.  She read a few poems from the book and spoke of her family and writing life.  Like the rest of the librarians, I waited in line to speak with Ms. Woodson and have an arc signed, but 10 minutes or so into the wait I knew this arc wasn't going to be for me to keep.  Instead, I had it signed for a student and gave it to her when I saw her next.   So like so many others, I waited for the book birthday to get my hands on the hard cover copy on the day of its' release.

I'm not sure I can add much to the conversation around this book, as I agree with the buzz.  Brown Girl Dreaming is more than a book or a memoir....it is a gift.  We follow Jacqueline and her changing family from Ohio to South Carolina and up to NYC and each poem is a revelation of sorts that brings the reader through the timeline of Woodson's life.  From the "how to listen" haikus to poems like "sometimes, no words are needed", "stevie", and "as a child, i smelled the air" I found myself closing the book to pause again and again.

I had posted a photo of "stevie" on Instagram and commented that I was swooning over this book, and a friend commented that her copy is so dog-eared that she isn't going to share it with her students.  It made me comment back that this is the kind of book you carry around with you.  I will take the dust jacket off, and place it in my school bag.  And when the world gets to be a little too much, I will open the pages and gift myself with a little bit of magic.

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18. That Moment

Sad face.
That moment you find out somebody you truly care about went off the deep end because of a tragic circumstance. And it pretty much ruined their entire life. When you wish you had been there for them, but they are far away and you didn't even know they were struggling because they fell off the face of the earth. I need to keep better tabs on some of my "babies".

The one I speak of in particular- please keep them in prayer. Definitely needed... Read the rest of this post

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19. Audiobook Review: Simon and Schuster's Shakespeare Full Cast Dramatizations



First of all, I cannot thank Lauren at Simon and Schuster enough for sending me copies of these five plays to review.  I am a HUGE fan of all things Shakespeare, but I haven't spent much time with him since Dr. Johnny Wink's Shakespeare course in college.  I don't think these really need plot summaries, as they're pretty much cannon, right?  So we'll just jump right in!

Writing
I mean, it's Shakespeare.  Do I really need to talk about how amazing the writing is?  I'll just say that every single time I watch, listen, or read one of his works I catch something new that reminds me of just how witty, smart, and delightful these are to read.  They're just so smart and so funny.  Even the tragedies have amazing comic moments.

Entertainment Value
Again, there's a reason these works have inspired countless spin offs and alternate takes.  They're classic stories that have informed every aspect of culture and it's because they're just so amazing.  Listening to each of these has made me want to find and consume all of my favorite iterations of Shakespeare - Romeo + Juliet, David Tennant's Hamlet, even Shakespeare in Love.

Narration
Y'all.  If you've only read these or seen the modern movies, you are seriously missing out on something amazing.  Shakespeare is meant to be performed and if you listen to these recordings you'll see (hear) why.  These are incredibly done.  I started them a little bit worried about my ability to follow them in audiobook format.  I was afraid that without seeing the characters or reading the play, I'd get lost as far as who was speaking.  When I've read Shakespeare, I've always done is very slowly to try to get everything I can out of it.  Visually it's easier to understand.  But I just wasn't convinced I'd be able to follow on audio.  Thankfully, my fears were completely unfounded.  Even the play I'm least familiar with (A Midsummer Night's Dream) was perfectly easy to follow.  These all have a full cast, music, and sound effects and are just beautifully done.

Overall
I can't say enough great things about these.  They're a treasure to own and something that I know I'll go back to again and again.  At two to four hours, they're perfect for a road trip.  I couldn't be happier with them!

Thank you again to Lauren and Simon and Schuster for providing me with a copy of each to review!

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20. One of my favorite things in Sylvia Plath’s diaries are the entries that swing from “I...

One of my favorite things in Sylvia Plath’s diaries are the entries that swing from “I need to start having people over for dinner more often! What a pleasure to cook for people!” to “I need to stop having people over for dinner all the time, they’re assholes and I need more time to write.” (Loose paraphrase!)

I think of this whenever I get in a burst of sociability.

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21. Institute from near or far

2014 Institute LogoIt’s true: registration for the ALSC Institute has reached maximum capacity and is now closed. We’re very sorry that we weren’t able to accommodate the demand.   But not to fear: you can come right here for live blogging during the Institute!  And watch for a wrap up post next month, along with an announcement of the location for ALSC Institute 2016.

For those that will be joining us in Oakland, stayed tuned for local information on our website, as well as instructions for how to access online materials.  And… would you care to share with your colleagues? We are still recruiting live bloggers; just contact alscblog@gmail.com.

Here’s what’s happening in Oakland this week. See you all soon!

Nina Lindsay, ALSC Institute Task Force Chair, Oakland Public Library

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22. ये कैसा रिश्ता

क्या किया एक कवि ने आज तक,
अपनी कविता के लिए,
क्या कभी उसने साथ मे,
दो पल भी मुस्कुरा कर है जिए, 

बस लिखता रहा,
अपना गम और बातें,
और वो भोली सी सरिता,
बहती रही, बिता अपनी दिन और रातें, 

क्या मिला उस मासूम को,
बन के एक दर्द का ज़रिया,
क्योकि दर्द तो दर्द ही रहा,
ना बदला उसका नज़रिया,

कमाता रहा वो शोहरत,
और श्रोताओ की तालिया,
पर उस दीवानी को,
ना दे पाया खुद से - दो बालिया,

अपने आक्रोश और जोश का,
सारी दुनिया मे डंका बजाया,
पर उस मासूम प्रेमिका को,
कभी उसने पास ना बुलाया,

बस करता रहा इस्तेमाल,
ऐश्वर्य और अभिमान के लिए,
उस दुल्हन के शृंगार को,
ज़ालिम ने दो पल भी ना दिए,

क्या फ़र्क हुआ फिर,
इंसान और कवि में,
कविता तो बस जलती रही,
प्रकाश मे इस अंधे रवि के |

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23. Never say obsolete

School and public libraries across the country are being cut back or worse.

We see the reports almost daily, like this one from NPR and this Indiegogo project started by two kids who want a library in their school.

I’ve heard people comment that “I don’t need no lie-berry ‘cuz I can find everything I need on my smartphone.” Except, perhaps, the proper pronunciation of the word li-BRARY.

It saddens me that professionals once revered and honored (in the case of librarians) have become luxuries to cut from budgets, and necessary public services (in the case of libraries) are considered expendable.

Rod Serling penned an episode of The Twilight Zone which aired in 1961, The Obsolete Man, about a day when librarians would be considered obsolete, expendable, unnecessary.

It’s fifty years later, and look where we are.

It’s up to us — writers, readers, those who care about public access to information and the quality of life for our communities and our nation — to support our libraries and our librarians.

Learning, and equal access to information, should never be considered obsolete.

 

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24. 3 Crucial Reasons to Attend Your Next Family Reunion

by Sally Matheny
Smushy Kisses at Family Reunions

     Is there cringing, wincing, and gnashing of teeth at just the thought of a family reunion? Perhaps you had an agonizing experience as a child. Some crinkled stranger planted smushy kisses on your cheek. Then, pulling you away from your mother, the stranger weaved you through a chattering sea of unfamiliar faces. Finally, she anchored in front of another foreign body and the torture began.

     “This is your mother’s great aunt’s, second cousin, Bertha, who first married Joe Schmitt, who was a tire salesman, but then he died, and about ten years ago she married John Brown, who manufactures straight pins in Detroit and he just so happens to be your dad’s podiatrist's first cousin! How about that?”

Excruciating. But you’re an adult now and here are three crucial reasons why you need to attend your next family reunion.


Remember

     When multiple generations gather, there will always be times of remembering special moments from the past. Births, school days, weddings, funerals. While certain memories will mean more to some than others will, this is your heritage.
     Even if you’re attending your spouse’s family reunion, you can learn a great deal. Maybe listening to your mother-in-law’s childhood memories will give you a better understanding of why his family celebrates Christmas the way they do. What annoyed you in the past, you may perceive differently now.

Too often, an unforgiving spirit
is a person's only legacy.
     Pausing to reflect on the past brings joy, knowledge, and healing. Perhaps the reason many people resist a family reunion is due to a past hurt.   
     Aunt Bertha said or did something she shouldn’t have five, ten, or fifty years ago and for whatever reason people chose to hold onto that strife rather than letting it go. Bitterness was chosen over forgiveness. Pain over joy. Too often, an unforgiving spirit is a person’s only legacy.
     What healing might take place if you go to your next family reunion?


Record

     If there’s emotional or physical healing in the family, record it! Everybody has a story. A family reunion is a wonderful time to record those stories. Make a scrapbook or journal. Better yet, make a video.
     Are there any veterans willing to share their experiences? Those who survived a war can instill fresh perspectives on freedom.
     Who survived an accident or a disease? A problem at work or their first day of high school? Survivors bring strength and hope to the family.

Survivors bring strength and hope to the family.
    Ask the older ones to recall interesting tidbits about the family’s ancestry.
     Even recording opinions on current events will be an interesting piece of history for the next generation.
     No family reunion will ever be the same. The dynamics change. People come and go, jobs vary, and events alter our lives.
     So often, we never submerge past the friendly greetings. Families need to go deeper conveying their life experiences. They inspire us and we can encourage them to keep pressing onward. Everybody has a story that can affect others. You need to share your story.


Recount

     If nothing else, family members need to recount God’s blessings to the next generation. How have you seen God working in your life and the lives of others?

     Describe times when God answered your prayers, when he brought healing, and when your needs were met.

    Share experiences where your faith was tested and God was glorified. Consider the value others could glean from lessons you learned through setbacks and poor decisions.

     If you carve out time for your next family reunion, and share the love of Christ, what eternal rewards are possible? It is not within our power to fathom how God can use us. He is quite capable of making transformations we never thought possible.

 

…which he commanded our ancestors
    to teach their children,
 so the next generation would know them,
    even the children yet to be born,
    and they in turn would tell their children.
 Then they would put their trust in God
    and would not forget his deeds
    but would keep his commands.
Psalm 78:5b-7 (NIV)


     Is it time for a family reunion?

Live out your faith at the next family reunion!
     Reflect on what’s worth remembering, and what things are best left in the past.
     Record family stories to share for generations to come. Recount God’s blessings and faithfulness.

     It’s quite possible, family reunions will have a quirk or two. With a large gathering of imperfect humans, we’ll experience occasional flawed moments. For some, showing love to family is more difficult than it is to friends. God freely offers His assistance with that. He’s the master demonstrator of mind-boggling grace.  
     If you truly believe you’ll attend a perfect, glorious, and joyful heavenly reunion one day, then live it out at your next family reunion.




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25. Watch for it: Be a Changemaker


 
“We've had the civil rights movement and the women's movement—now it's time for the youth movement. Today, youth everywhere are rising up, building new organizations, and creating the changes they want to see in their communities and around the world. Be a Changemaker gives readers the tools and confidence they need to affect real change.”
“BE A CHANGEMAKER is a how-to guide for young social entrepreneurs who want to effect social change in their communities and around the world. Equal parts instruction and inspiration, the book will include tools and tips, exercises, and profiles of teens who’ve already been there, done that.”

Laurie Ann Thompson  swings by readergirlz today to chat with readergirlz cofounder, Janet Lee Carey abouther new book.

 

JLC - Welcome Laurie! It’s good to have you’re here. Tell us what inspired you to write this book.

LAT - I was that kid who wanted desperately to save the world, but I had no idea where to start or even that I actually could. I didn’t come to discover my own power until I was in my 30s, and I didn’t think anyone should have to wait that long! In fact, I believe the world needs everyone to start making their own changes much sooner than that. I wrote Be a Changemaker to inspire teens as well as give them the tools they need to start creating the changes they care about—right now.

JLC - What can readergirlz learn from these committed teens? 


LAT - I hope they can start to see themselves in the various profiles included in Be a Changemaker. I interviewed young people from age 9 through young adults, from across the United States and around the world, and from a variety of racial and economic backgrounds. If they can do it, readergirlz can, too!


JLC – I agree! Anything else you’d like to add about the book?


LAT - In addition to the inspirational profiles of young people who have already created change, Be a Changemaker is loaded with practical advice, templates, examples, anecdotes, and resources to help readergirlz jump right in and start making their change.


JLC – Can you share some excerpts? 


 
“How many times have you complained about something but done nothing to fix it? Or noticed something and thought, Someone should do something about that? We all have those thoughts sometimes. And it’s okay, because none of us can solve every problem we encounter. But guess what . . . you’re someone. And when you set your mind to it, you absolutely can do something that matters.”
 (Chapter 1)

“‘Even though I can’t [completely] stop poverty, war, or rainforest destruction,’ Change the World Kids co-founder Phebe Myers says, ‘I’m a changemaker.’ As their motto goes, ‘No one can do everything, but everyone can do something.’” (Chapter 15)

Change the World Kids 

“’Don’t hesitate because you feel like you have to have the whole model or long-term vision figured out and on a massive scale,’ says Jackie Rotman. ‘You can start small. Just start!’ She adds that after almost eight years of steady work, Everybody Dance Now! has achieved things she never even envisioned when she began the project.” (Chapter 17)
Everybody Dance Now
 
JLC Anything else?
LAT I’d like to invite readergirlz to come and participate in the Q&A section on the Be-a-Changemakerwebsite where we’re hoping to have an ongoing conversation between young changemakers at various stages in their journeys. Even if you’re just thinking about it, and you’re at the brainstorming stage about what you’d like to do, we would welcome your ideas.
JLC Thanks for this book highlighting innovative teen changemakers, Laurie. May their example inspire a wave of teen outreach worldwide.
Be a Changemaker: How to Start Something That Matters   
By Laurie Ann Thompson
Simon Pulse/Beyond Words, 9/14

 

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