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Spring is sneaking in! What better time for an interview with illustrator Erin E. Stead about her latest picture book And Then It’s Spring?
Check out this issue of Notes for Roger’s interview with Erin, plus
- picture books about nature and outside play- funny books for middle-grade readers- nonfiction about headlines of the turn of the last century- audiobook recommendations for big kids
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By: Darcy Pattison
Blog: Darcy Pattison's Revision Notes
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, content is king
, Cynthia Leitich Smith
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Meet Cynthia Leitich Smith
Cynthia Leitich Smith is the New York Times and Publishers Weekly best-selling author of ETERNAL and TANTALIZE (both Candlewick).
Her award-winning books for younger children include JINGLE DANCER, INDIAN SHOES and RAIN IS NOT MY INDIAN NAME (all HarperCollins).
Cynthia’s upcoming releases include HOLLER LOUDLY (Dutton, Nov. 2010), BLESSED (Candlewick, Feb. 2011) and TANTALIZE: KIEREN’S STORY (Candlewick, Feb. 2011).
She is a member of faculty at the Vermont College M.F.A. program in Writing for Children and Young Adults.
Her website at www.cynthialeitichsmith.com was named one of the top 10 Writer Sites on the Internet by Writer’s Digest and an ALA Great Website for Kids. Her Cynsations blog at cynthialeitichsmith.blogspot.com/ was listed as among the top two read by the children’s/YA publishing community in the SCBWI “To Market” column.
Promotion, Content, Neutrality: Increase Website Traffic
For PR Notes today, Cynthia will talk about increasing traffic on her website.
Cynthia Leitich Smith
Q: Cynthia, your site is one of the most popular children’s literature sites on the internet today. Let’s talk about how to get traffic to your site. It’s not enough to simply put up a website, you have to make it something that people want to come to. Do you track your traffic? How? What kind of traffic do you get? Per month? per year?
CLS: Thank you! The main site received 2.8 million unique visitors in 2009, and my blog, Cynsations, is the largest feeder after Google. Traffic typically dips between mid-July and mid-August; however, it doesn’t suffer (and sometimes even profits) from major holidays.
Q: List 3 things that have helped increase the traffic to your site. Have any of the social media sites been responsible for a large lift in traffic? What sort of posts get the best traffic?
CLS: Promotion, Content and Neutrality.
- Promotion. The blog is cross-posted to Blogger, LiveJournal, and MySpace. It’s also syndicated to facebook and JacketFlap. In addition, I tweet the URLs to my posts. These strategies have all been successful, as has the fact that I typically include PowerPoint slides of the blog (at its various locations) toward the end of my real-space presentations.
I’m honored to say that my readers tend to respond most enthu
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, children's books
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Here are my notes from the LA conference (finally). They are a mix and jumble of inspiration and tips on craft and are not direct quotes unless you see quote marks (and even then, a word or two could be missing if they talked faster than I could scribble notes). I would have posted them earlier, but I’ve been traveling. The pictures with this post are the doodles I drew in my notebook while taking notes. There were birds on the cover of the notebook and a bird on the back side of each page, but there weren’t any birds on the front of the pages, you know, where I was writing and would have been able to actually see the birds. So I drew my own birdies on top of and around the little non-birdie flower design.
M.T. Anderson (keynote)
- Does some things just for artistic pleasure, not necessarily for the book or for marketing.
- “Those books that take us away from what we expect show us the world anew.”
- “Don’t be afraid of your eccentricities.” (Love that quote!)
Courtney Bongiolatti (on boy books)
- Recommended Guys Read website.
- She also recommended that you know your genre. Are you writing Action, Adventure, Fantasy, Mystery, Humorous Mystery, Sports, School Stories, Historical Fiction, Combination of Genres, Relatable, or Out of the Box?
- Boy books should have a boy main character, be about a kid that the reader wants to be like, and have series potential.
Carolyn Mackler (on characters)
- Quirks, details and language help define characters. Make them consistent throughout the book.
- Writing exercise: What does your character keep hidden in their underwear drawer, and if nothing, where do they hide things and what do they hide?
- “Number one challenge is figuring out what to omit. What you omit is more important than what you keep in the story.”
More Birdie Drawings
E.B. Lewis (keynote)
- “Keep forging forward – there is life after you feel like the inspiration has died.”
- “As artists you need to fill yourself up to overflowing and then give it all back.”
Gail Carson Levine (keynote)
- If a character is going to change, we have to see how it happens (the set up) or understand later how it came to be.
- Grow in the writing – as you write you get to know your characters better and develop them through writing.
- Writing exercise: 3 characters are getting ready for school. How does each one prepare? Reveal the thoughts and feelings of each; they should all be different.
Jon Scieszka (stories across multiple media)
- Websites, blogs, etc. that are mentioned in the book are live and each character has their own online presence. (Talking about his Spaceheadz books.)
- Multimedia platform books are a hard sell even for an established author, but more publishers are starting to look for these books.
- Fully half of hi
Since I've started to get more requests, my marketing biz is focusing more author client for swag and promotion. So if you need any buttons, posters, flyers, postcards, bookmarks, tshirts, twitter/blogger backgrounds, or custom web site designs that you can manage - keep me in mind. I can also help come up with book campaigns, other giveaways, and teaser lines you can use on the road. Some of this can be for published AND prepublished authors. I give 20% off to SCBWI members. You can get more information at my web site. Also if you need fabulous book trailers, my friend Vania rocks!
Decatur Book Fest
Had the best weekend.
Not only was most of it spent with my family. But on Saturday, I spent the whole day in Decatur amongst writer friends, gorge weather, and frawesome panels.
Hung out with Jennifer Jabaley (Lipstick Apology), book trailer guru, Vania, Rachel Hawkins (Hex Hall, DemonGlass), Myra McEntire (Hourglass, 2011, Egmont), Victoria Schwab (The Near Witch, Hyperion 2011) and Michelle Hodkin (THE UNBECOMING OF MARA DYER, S&S 2011).
Some authors I got a chance to chill with were Carrie Ryan (yes you heard that right! Holy crap right and she was a sweetie pie ) and the always-hilarious, Jackson Pearce.
Panel - Chicken Nuggets of Brilliance
Romantic Realism, Realistic Romance with Terra Elan McVoy (author of Pure and After the Kiss) and David Leviathan (co-author of Will Grayson, Will Grayson)
Creating a Fantastical World with Jessica Verday (The Hollow), Kathleen Duey (Skin Hunger), Saundra Mitchell (Shadowed Summer), Cinda Williams
18 Comments on Decatur Book festival recap, last added: 9/9/2010
- The mechanics of romance is not what grabs teens. Its the emotional romance.
- Think about what makes it real. Love is not perfect so when a love scene is - its boring
- The awkward moments are where the realness lies.
- Sometimes romance is impacted by the surroundings and what is happening
- Pull from real life - but ask what if to change the scenarios. What if I hadn't had my first kiss. What if my first kiss was good? bad?
- Romance i funny not serious. Funny moments are always buried under the glistening eyes and puffy lips.
About a month ago on a Saturday night, G and I were kept awake by a large party our downstairs neighbors were throwing. The music caused our entire apartment to vibrate. It was unbearable. I hadn't been feeling great that day and was hoping to get to sleep early. I turned on the TV to mask the sound, put my pillow over my ears. Sleep wasn't happening. Finally, at about a quarter past one, G decided to go downstairs to ask them to turn the music down.
As if the shaking apartment was not provocative enough, above is a photo of the note G encountered when he reached their apartment door. As you can imagine, this note did not improve his mood. After a lengthy discussion with the neighbors about "rights" (their right to throw a party in the U.S. of A, our right to sleep and live in peace in our own apt), they turned the music down.
To their credit, they've been quiet neighbors ever since (a talking-to by our landlord probably helped, too). To our credit, the phone number above is blocked out.
Yes, I have officially turned into the cranky old neighbor. Kids these days. Sheesh.
Today we stray from our standard format for an unplanned and extremely rambly chat about our observations of and unqualified opinions about self-publishing children’s books.
For self-publishing and small publishing featured on JustOneMoreBook!, click here.
Book Update: Bright is backin hadns of Awesome Agent. Cross your fingers! I feel its done - I rewrote beginning and ending in addition to edits _ added material resulting in an additional 12,000 words. Now tween book is at 63,000
It is 10 pm (LA time) and our day really just ended.
Went for breakfast this morning with Lindsey Leavitt, Katie Anderson, Sarah Francis Hardy, and Kimberly Derting. (SFH had the best egg pizza - yum! and LL had a tower of sticky buns!! Yum yum! Me? the healthy oatmeal boring. Tomorrow I am going all out :)
The morning started off with Sherman Alexie, author of ...Diary of Part Time Indian...
he was so funny. But under all the humor was a guy who turned his painful childhood into a dream existence. A kid with brain damage, bad vision, poor, lived on an Indian reservation. A kid who found a way to escape from his hard childhood with books.
Here are some of my "Ah ha" moments (for more detail you can go to scbwi's blog.)
"when you give a kid a book he naturally identifies with than you expect him to connect with it. But when you give a kid a book that is outside his normal comfort zone, and he finds a way to connect with it - that is when you begin changing the world."
"The power of books is amazing. They find a way yo the people that need them the most. Whether its 1 person or 100,000. Every book has the destiny to change at least one person."
"As a children's author - you must accept responsibility of writing for a young audience; prepare to be lonely because it is hard work, and know when you write it - it will impact people."
Next was David Weisner (Flotsam)
"He talked about the films and books that impacted his illustrations and writing. He showed a journey of how he got to Flotsam. How all of his books led up to that one."
"Writing is a personal journey. We don't write with a certain kid in mind. We write from our kid. From our hearts, experiences, and memory. Kids just happen to be touched by them."
"Think about all the stuff that you thought was cool when you were a kid. There is a story in each thing that stood out to you."
Ingrid Law - Savvy
Write with creativity and courage
Read the book "Spunk and bite"
Push voice further than you thought possible.
exercise: write a crazy sentence - then ask questions. This is how Savvy started - one crazy sentence and a bunch of questions.
Trust your instincts, be wild and playful, have a beginner's mind, be courageous, take risks, and don't be afraid to break the rules - you can always rein them in
pretend you are always a tourist and see things with a new eye.
be sure to look up when you walk around so you can observe the nuances of life
Sarah Davies - Greenhouse Literary (love her!!!)
world rights - all languages in world
world english rights - english language anywhere in world
hard to see Us fiction in UK. less space for YA market
Ways to spread international buzz:
Scouts - represent foreign publishers
Publishers marketplace - sign up and watch foreign right sales
understand foreign market
Pub weekly features on international authors
Bologna Frankfurt conferences/book fairs
Advice for global sales
consider world when you write
have market in mind
middle grade needs strong sales
YA fiction with unique voice and premise
1) primary - when they exploit own rights
2) secondary - sells rights to someone else
what helps international sales
Non fiction and PB do not sell as well as MG/YA
love young boy fiction
concepts and setting that transcends cultures
see you tomorrow!
Today seemed like a longer day.
I think it was because I was not focused on my book so much.
Started out with a coffee meeting with Southern Breeze Region - shout out to Donna and Jo! :)
Met Sherry (Write it out) and Katie for breakfast.
First session was Karen Cushman -
Nuggets of Brilliance:
"I wrote because I couldn't dance."
* To focus on your writing, you need to:
* You have to show up - take time to fantasize, give power to your thoughts. Be present everyday.
* Pay attention - look around, stuff yourselves with sounds, words, images, conversations. Focus on what you love or hate - those bring out the deepest emotions and you get an honest reaction. Read blogs, interviews, books to learn about the market
* You must tell the truth - look for facts, do your research to add believability
make people connect through the realness of your book
Break out with Ari Lewin (Hyperion) - Acquisition process
1) read submissions. Agented only.
2) Take work to Editorial Board - everyone in department. She pitches book. Discuss book. what awards can they potentially get. what is the audience. what is the hook? when is best to put it out - what can we tie book promotion to (dates, events time of year etc).
3) Goes to Acquisitions - includes all publishers, sales, marketing and publicity. They can make or break a sale, especially in this economy. Goes in with flap copy to pitch. At this point, she does not yet call agent b/c she does not want to tip them off to any possible offer. They do not like auction situations. Fill out acquisitions form - what is the sell sentence.
4) Money - how many will sell. advance is based on that. Don't want advance too high so author can earn out advance.
5) Gives offer to agent - negotiates terms
6) sometimes takes right on, sometimes I do a noncontractual agreement which states what I think needs to be done to book for me to acquire it. If author agrees, they work on revisions with hope I will like it in the end.
7)Contract Request Form. Fill in for contract that has been accepted. Fill in subrights, rights, Lewin only gets 1 out of 7 manuscripts for various reason.
Earn out formula- retail price X royalty X # copies
Fyi on top contract clauses:
Look for option clause, high discount royalties, foreign rights, audio rights, Out of print clause.
Blogger buddies here is who I have met so far:
jess Jordon (finally :)
Anica Rissci - Simon Pulse/Krista Marino (Delacorte) - Teen trends
*long series going away - buy very view open series; usually focus on trilogy, 2 books, quartets
* teens follow authors today, not series
* teens like reality-based but in fantastical ways (example Hunger Games, Twilight)
* No more Bitch Lit - dropping name brands on book
* teens like dark books right now. Not as much funny stuff.
* advances for large books staying high. advances for their authors - going down.
* saving money by doing digital galleys and digital catalogues
* Galleys cost 3 times more than books to make.
Wendy Loggia - Delacorte - 7 reasons she rejects a book
We have to be mean to be nice.
1) good writing but no story. No plot. heavy on telling.light on action. It is not EZ to reject a great manuscript when you see potential.
2) too similar to other novels on list or has worked on in past. If it is similar - it must be better.
3) unsure of who target audience/reader is? who do I market the book to?
4) If writer seems difficult or negative. Googles to find blogs and see if they are bashing fellow editors, agent friends, any of her books, authors, negative reviews or complaining about process. writers who belabor process. do not share anything about number of rejections online. If I know 20 houses have passed, I wonder why I should not pass.
5) love concept but cannot connect to voice
6) submitting too early - before work has been done
7) will not stand out on list.
I went outside and read with a glass of wine. Talked to Sarah Davies for a while.
Went to Blue Moon Party. Best costume went to an alien octopus (don't ask). Other costumes: blue man group, astronauts, aliens, blue butt
our readers who have heard of my great note-taking skills. I know there are people out there panting and salivating, waiting for my legendary notes from the L.A. SCBWI.
Here's the deal.
I did take some great notes, but there were people there taking better notes. Yes. I'm talking about Team Blog
. They went to every single
keynote and, since there were several of them, they went to every single
breakout session as well. And, they blogged their tails off. I bow down to Team Blog.
Instead of my usual court reporter transcription of my notes, I thought I'd just hit some highlights and share some quotes that really hit home with me.
Sherman Alexie: After he was published he began to hear from teens from all socio-economic groups with the same theme: that of feeling trapped--i.e. "my choices are being made for me."
"Things change when you can get a kid to identify with someone unlike himself."
David Weisner: Worlds within worlds.
Steven Malk: Don't dibble dabble--you must go in all the way.
Courtney Bongiolatti: You need a very obvious climax in a picture book (subtle is not the way to go).
Jordon Brown: The first book you acquire is like your first sexual experience.
Marietta Zacker: Resident "passionista".
Kadir Nelson: Both the art and the text have to speak to both a personal truth and a universal truth.
Eve Bunting: Asks herself "is this worth saying" after she finishes a manuscript.
Melinda Long: Picture book must appeal to both children and adults--adults should be able to say "I remember when I felt this way."
Karen Cushman: How to live a successful life--show up, pay attention, tell the truth, and let go of the outcome.
Ellen Hopkins: Expect to work hard, and don't make Everest your first climb. Expect switchbacks.
Jordon Brown: Great voice and great character are what create a great plot.
Dan Yaccarino: Always do your personal work, it will feed your professional work. And, try to create as many opportunities as you can.
Holly Black: Fantasy must have elements of fear and awe (with just fear, it's horror) as well as a human subplot that starts earlier and ends later than the fantasy plot.
Richard Peck: "You can teach children or you can fear their parents, but you cannot do both."
"We can't be fired, we're unemployed" [writers].
"Story is always a question, never an answer."
"We need literature that celebrates the individual in the most conformist generation in history."
Elizabeth Law: "If I can go on a blind date in New York, then you can submit your manuscript."
Kathleen Duey: Story is connective tissue.
Now, go forth and create.
Cheryl Klein - Character Development (BTW she posts all of her talks on her web site.
"Your characters should literally change the world, especially the one you created."
Know the point of your book and who is your reader.
Once you know that - everything should support and not detract from that purpose and readership
Ask yourself "What am I trying to do here?"
ESSENSE OF CHARACTERS
- Figure out the facts of your character - age, gender, social status, marital status, where do they live.
- Know their Internal qualities - personality traits, ethics, values, morals, self awareness. Look for qualities that can be contradictory to cause conflict.
- Create external qualities - appearance, descriptions, how they see the world or other people. If you use first person - know what she sees in others. manner of speaking (mannerisms), set your character apart with a few characteristics (nose tapping, rub hair across lips when they think). Watch people around you.
- History or backstory - you need to know it even if you don't tell or show it. Only use the things that are relevant to the story. (is if it is a book about competitive nature, tell us her volleyball scores etc). You need to know backstory between characters too. If she has a best friend - how long, why, how are they together.
Every story should have a "tater tot" moment - where something happens to begin the sympathy.ACTION
- Desire - what a character wants. create double desire - a conflict between two wants where they have to choose one over the other. which one is more important and what is the consequence of going against the other one.
- Attitude/Energy - how do they relate to others, life, a situation, death, fights etc. are they an optimist or pessimist? Try journaling as the character to find voice. Must balance + and - energy -For example: the pessimist girl who is funny. The optimist who is annoying. Create a story conversation - a) what is said, b) what is unsaid, c) what can't be said.
- Action - Desire plus attitude. if a character has a desire there must be follow through that is relevant to book. plunk character down in different situations in your mind to decide what they would DO in that situation. Lack of action from a protagonist is one of the top 10 reason why she rejects manuscripts. either its impossible to accomplish or she wont do anything. There must be a reason for inaction.
You must increase the "action quotient" - the reader must see things happen. 1) character can act out against something 2) add in desire where she can take action. (lisa yee
does a good job)3 questions to answer:
1) what keeps him alive?
2) what is his pain?
3) what is his name?
Every character is a hero in their own story.
Secondary characters must not be over played. They must be relevant to the story and plot. If there is not a need - don't
most important elements are - honesty (must be honest with what happens) and time (must be the proper pacing)
let characters words and actions speak for themselves. Try not to stop them. Wind your characters up and let them go. You are not your characters' mother. You are their observer. Allow them to make mistakes and suffer the appropriate consequence.
Cheryl loves characters that make mistakes and show pain.Activity - character outlines
- boy or girl
- Male of female
- what is the family like?
- where do they live?
- what is their name?
- what are the internal qualities? external?
- what keeps him alive?
- How are they emotionally interesting?
- what is their pain?
- what do they want?
- what is their attitude?
Caroline Cooney - write at full speed
- make characters new
- give character a cause
- take action and show energy
- put them in anticipated pain
- surround with unlikeable characters
- be able to feel with and kill your character at any moment. don't get too attached so that you hold them back.
writing activity - write without thinking.
- use pen and paper - not computer. because you always have 10 minutes somewhere
- fill out the character outline above....
- write a line about setting
- write a sentence about character
- bring in another character
- bring in conflict
- change their location
- what do they see?
- write first sentence to 2nd chapter.
- Everyone can write a page a day
- next day - reread what you wrote
- write while you are in car waiting
- answer who, what , where , when and why at everything to dig deeper into story
- every sentence should give you another one
It was fabulous!
I've been perusing and reading some great notes from the NYC conference. I thought I would lists out a summary of what I have found. Some of this is on the SCBWI Team Blog, but a lot of these I found on Twitter/ random blogs.
Write Up My Life
Beware of the Hot Pterodactyl
Libba Bray on Writing
Writing as an Extreme Sport
Libba Bray on Writing as a Sport
Jim Benton - Illustrator
Viral Marketing/Promotion - Jennifer Bailey, Blogger & Graphic Designer
Jenn Bailey on Promotion
TV and New Media - Eddie Gamarra Agent, The Gotham Group
Your book as a Movie
Picture Books - Allyn Johnston, Vice President & Publisher, Beach Lane Books
Real Deal about Picture Books
Writing Fantasy - Arianne Lewin Editor, Disney/Hyperion
Arianne Lewin on Fantasy
Literary Novels - Alvina Ling Senior Editor, Little Brown
SCBWI Aving Ling
Visual StoryTelling - Laurent Linn Art Director, S&S Books for Young Readers
SCBWI Laurent Linn
27 Comments on 2010 SCBWI New York Notes from across the Net, last added: 2/10/2010
I realized the other day that I forgot to post my notes from the SCBWI NY conference in January. I can’t believe it’s been a month already; it seems like last week. So, here are my notes from the conference – finally!
* Check back tomorrow for notes from illustrator workshops this year: Steve Metzler (Dutton), Patrick Collins (Henry Holt), and Regina Griffith (Egmont).
SCBWI NY Conference Notes:
Friday – Illustrator’s Intensive
There were really great speakers and a portfolio exhibit. This was a good year for the illustrator’s intensive. The only bump in the road was not finding out we had an assignment until the day before the conference. Lots of other people didn’t know either.
Paul O. Zelinsky (my favorite speaker of the day – even if it was too early in the am):
- He uses the style/medium that fits the story he’s illustrating and not just the style that people expect him to use.
- When he’s inspired by something, he doesn’t do a copy of that picture or style, he finds his own unique way to do it.
- Did the art project with us later, when Kevin Hawkes was speaking. Paul gets the creativity award for the day. He didn’t have any glue for the project, so he used the mints on the table … brilliant!
- It’s important to do personal work and what inspires you. It will find a way into your work.
- After reading a poem/story to illustrate, she circles the main concept words. Then she takes those words, or phrases, and brainstorms about them to figure out what to illustrate for each scene or poem. (*This is something I’m going to try in the future to illustrate something other than what’s expected.)
- Curved lines are not static.
- Curved diagonals have a lot of energy.
- Figure out where the emotional center of the story is going to go, then try not to hijack that (especially when working with another author’s text).
- Shapes that come to a point can be scary to a 5 year old.
Art Director Panel (All said they don’t look at source books – look online instead):
Ann Bobco (Atheneum, McElderry and Beach Lane):
- Make sure pictures are not redundant to the text. The example she showed was from Seven Hungry Babies (out this spring). The story the illustrations tell is why mama bird gets so tired by the end of the book. Each time she gets food for the baby, she faces some kind of challenge, which is not in the text.
- Art samples need to speak to her as if they are coming from a real person or tied to an individual working in that voice.
Chad Beckerman (Abrams and Amulet):
- Likes illustrators that don’t need to be pushed, but come up with ideas, character sketches, etc.
- Passion – give more than is expected. Don’t settle just to get the work done. Picture books are a continuous job. It’s a job.
- Art is a constant exploration, not, “I’m done./This is all there is.” It’s easy to work with and give feedback to artists that are used to evolving and exploring.
- He likes what entertains him now and would have when he was a kid/teen.
Lee Wade (Schwartz and Wade):
- Asks all new illustrators, “are you up for this?” There’s a steep learning curve for illustrators of picture books. It’s par for the course to get four pages of illustration notes as feedback on the dummy or sketches. Every round of sketches/illustrations has this kind of feedback from them.
- Consistency is one of the biggest challenges in picture books.
- hear/read the feedback comments and process them/interpret them in your own way.
- Questions she asks when looking at an art sample: Does she feel something? Know that kid? Kn
I don’t DO snail mail, but I pass notes in class and the last note I wrote before Summer Vacation changed my life. I had scribbled the usual. Same B.S. to Jody about the same lame things that always bug me about high school and then my Daily Six. It’s what we do everyday, she has her six I have mine. I can’t really remember what was up with the number six. But that’s what it’s always been and that’s what we always do.
Everyday Jody and I rate the top six guys we’d do it with if we ever had a chance, that is if they ever knew we existed. You know, the guys we’ll never do it with. Okay, so we don’t write down names or anything. Just initials and a number. The number of BJs we’d give them looking like that. Five was the most any guy ever got. We knew each other’s Sixes by heart and they hadn’t changed in years until Billy showed up on our high school steps in April and by May he’d bumped Derek Eddy off my list. Even though Derek was beyond gorgeous and had a summer house on the lake and consistently rated a 4, there was something about Billy. Something about hot, new guys that made a girl like me think about him day and night. Nights especially.
So when I filled in Billy’s name in the spot that used to read D. E. and gave him a 5 and folded it up and slid the note across the floor to Jody in English that B*tch Nicole booted it in Billy’s direction and Billy bent down and picked it up. He read the “To” and eyed Jody and even the new guy, Number 5, knew I was her best friend because the next thing he did was stare me down with his laser green eyes and he looked so amazing I had to look away. And since he connected the dots between me and Jody, he knew we were best friends which meant that I was more on his radar than any other boy who’d ever been on my Six before. And I wanted to throw up. Because I wrote his WHOLE name and because none of my other Sixes ever looked at me before. He put the note in his pocket and I silently screamed inside for the whole rest of class. Nicole had the biggest grin on her face and went up to him right when the bell rang. And instead of getting into the drama with Nicole, Billy walked over to Jody and handed her the note all the while keeping his eye on me. I grabbed the note out of Jody’s hand ready to scratch Billy’s name out with my big black pen but I just couldn’t. Of all the boys I’d ever known, who made my Six or not, no boy had ever looked at me like Billy had.
Electrified monkeys for a TV show.
By: Just One More Book!!
Blog: Just One More Book Children's Book Podcast
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, Ages 4-8
, Barbara Cooney
, Emily Dickenson
, Michael Bedard
, Picture book
, Making a difference
, Ages 9-12
, Life Skills
, Barbara Cooney
, childrens book
, Emily Dickenson
, Michael Bedard
, Add a tag
Author: Michael Bedard
Illustrator: Barbara Cooney
Published: 1992 Dell Dragonfly Books (on JOMB)
ISBN: 0440417406 Chapters.ca Amazon.com
Warm, evocative illustrations and beautifully worded, thought provoking narration make this fictional encounter with poet Emily Dickenson a stirring introduction to poetry, eccentricity and the power of understanding.
You can read more about social anxiety in children’s book here.
, childrens book
, Emily Dickenson
, Michael Bedard
, reviewBarbara Cooney
, childrens book
, Emily Dickenson
, Michael Bedard
This week’s interview is with illustrator/author Jane Ray. Unfortunately, we have been unable to successfully upload the show to our file host provider, Libsyn. A ticket with their support team has been opened and the show will be published as soon as the problem is corrected — likely during business hours on Monday (Jan 21).
We apologize for the delay.
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, Oxford Etymologist
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By Anatoly Liberman
All words must have been coined by individuals. This statement surprises and embarrasses not only the uninitiated but also some language historians. We are used to thinking that “people” created ancient language and art, but what is people? (This question, though in another guise, will recur below.) A group of activists working together and producing in chorus meaningful sound complexes like big ~ bag ~ bug ~ bog? Or a committee like those on which we sit, organs of collective wisdom? As a rule, every novelty that does not die “without issue” passes through a predictable cycle: someone has something to offer, a small group of enthusiasts surrounding the inventor adopts it, more adherents show their support, the novelty becomes common property, and (not necessarily) the originator is forgotten. We have no way of tracing the beginning of the oldest words, and even some neologisms remain etymological puzzles, but the names of some “wordsmiths” have not been lost. For instance, Lilliputian was coined by Jonathan Swift, gas by J.B. van Helmont, and jeep (which later became Jeep) by E.C. Segar. As a rule, inventors use the material at hand. Swift seems to have combined lil, the colloquial pronunciation of little and put(t) “blockhead,” a slang word common in the 18th century. Van Helmont was probably inspired by the Dutch pronunciation of chaos. Jeep is sound imitative, like peep. In similar fashion, we have no doubt about the structure of the noun folklore (folk + lore), but the story of its emergence is worth telling.
William John Thoms (1802-1885) began his literary career as an expert editor of old tales and prose romances. He also investigated customs and superstitions. Especially interesting are his studies of popular lore in Shakespeare: elves, fairies, Puck, Queen Mab, and others. They were published in the forties, the decade in which he met his star hour. Special works on Thoms are extremely few (the main one dates to 1946), and the archival documents pertaining to him remain untapped, but he related some events of his life himself. It was not by chance that California Folklore Quarterly printed an article about him (“’Folklore’: William John Thoms” by Duncan Emrich, volume 5, pp. 155-374) in 1946. A hundred years earlier a letter signed by Ambrose Merton appeared in the London-based journal The Athenaeum. Those who have leafed through its huge folio volumes probably could not help wondering how the subscribers managed to find their way through such an enormous mass of heterogeneous materials. Yet that weekly had a devoted readership, and its voice reached far.
The 1846 letter is available in two modern anthologies, but outside the professional circle of folklorists hardly anyone has read it, so that I will quote its beginning and end. “Your pages have so often given evidence of the interest which you take in what we in England designate as Popular Antiquities, or Popular Literature (though by-the-by it is more a Lore than a literature, and would be most aptly described by a good Saxon compound, Folklore,—the Lore of the People)—that I am not without hopes of enlisting your aid in garnering the few ears which are remaining, scattered over that field from which our forefathers might have gathered a goodly crop. No one who has made the manners, customs, observances, superstitions, ballads, proverbs, etc., of the olden time his study, but must have arrived at two conclusions:—the first how much that is curious and interesting in those matters is now entirely lost—the second, how much may yet be rescued by timely exertion…. It is only honest that I should tell you I have long been contemplating a work upon our “Folklore” (under that title, mind Messes. A, B, and C,—so do not try to forestall me);—and I am personally interested in the success of the experiment which I have, in this letter, albeit imperfectly, urged you to undertake.” Not only did the editor of The Athenaeum welcome the letter. He opened a special rubric for “folk-lore,” and “Ambrose Merton” (this was Thoms of course) became its editor.
The letter was followed by an injunction, part of which is so much to the point that it must be reproduced here: “We have taken some time to weigh the suggestion of our correspondent—desirous to satisfy ourselves that any good of the kind which he proposes could be effected in such space as we are able to spare from the many other demands upon our columns; and have before our eyes the fear of that shower of trivial communication which a notice in conformity with his suggestion is likely to bring. We have finally decided that, if our antiquarian correspondents be earnest and well-informed and subject their communications to the condition of having something to communicate, we may… be the means of effecting some valuable salvage for the future historian of old customs and feelings…. With these views, however, we must announce to our future contributors under the above head, that their communications will be subjected to a careful sifting—both as regards value, authenticity, and novelty; and that they will save both themselves and us much unnecessary trouble if they will refrain from offering any facts and speculations which at once need recording and deserve it.”
Thoms may have regretted the fact that he wrote his letter to The Athenaeum under a pseudonym, for a year later, in another letter to the same journal, he disclosed his identity. He more than once reminded his readers that it was he who launched the word folklore. From time to time somebody would derive folklore from German or Danish. As long as he lived, Thoms kept refuting such unworthy rumors (he also suffered from the neglect of his Shakespeare scholarship); after his death others defended him. The word found acceptance both in the English speaking world and abroad. German, Austrian, and Swiss scholars eventually borrowed it with its original spelling (Folklore), though the German for folk is Volk. By the end of the eighties folklore had become an accepted term in Scandinavia, as well as in the Romance and Slavic speaking countries. The British Folklore Society, which was also formed largely thanks to Thoms’s efforts, adopted the title Folk-Lore Record for its journal (now it is called simply Folklore), and Thoms was elected the Society’s director. In the introduction to the first volume he noted, perhaps not without a touch of irony, that the word he had coined would make him better known than the rest of his professional activities.
As we have seen, the “Saxon” term folklore was applied to the vanishing “manners, customs, observances, superstitions, ballads, proverbs, etc.” Thoms did not realize how ambiguous his agenda was. For more than 150 years, researchers have been arguing over whether the subject of folklore is only “survivals” (does modern folklore exist?), who are the people, the “folk” to be approached, and whether folklore is the name of the treasures to be collected and described or of the science (“the lore”) devoted to them. Today folklore is often understood as a study of verbal art, but not less often it passes off as a branch of cultural anthropology. In 1846 folk meant “peasantry,” which excluded urban culture. One also spoke vaguely of common people, of story tellers nearly untouched by the advance of civilization, and of the working people in the “byeways of England” (the phrase, spelling and all, is from The Gentleman’s Magazine for 1885). Railways were the main bugaboo of those who watched the rural landscape disappear under the wheels of the devil, the steam engine. Being run over by a train became a literary motif.
In 1849 an event of great importance happened in Thoms’s life: he began publishing his own weekly that, after rejecting many titles and ignoring the advice of some well-wishers, he decided to call Notes and Queries. His old appeal to the readers to send ballads, tales, proverbs, descriptions of customs, and so forth brought many responses, and Thoms was loath to start a rival periodical, for fear of undermining The Athenaeum, but he received the editor’s blessing. The new journal turned into a main forum for letters that Thoms had invited correspondents to send to The Athenaeum. The rubric on “folk-lore” in both periodicals made the term familiar, and later the derivatives (folklorist and folkloric) emerged. Before resigning as editor, Thoms told the story of his magazine in a series of short essays and published them in Notes and Queries for 1871 and 1872. In 1848 Dombey and Son appeared. One of the novel’s most endearing characters is the one-armed Captain Cuttle. Like so many other personages brought to life by Dickens, the good captain has a tag: he likes to repeat the maxim “When found, make a note of.” Thoms used this catchphrase as a motto for his journal, and it was printed on the title page of each issue.
I have already written about the value and the worldwide success of Notes and Queries. This magazine is one of a kind. Personally, I owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to it, for suggestions on word origins were (and still are) common in Notes and Queries, and I have nearly 8000 of them in my database. Some words have been discussed only in its pages, and some first-rate specialists sought no better exposure of their ideas. The man who invented the word folklore and founded Notes and Queries deserves to be remembered, and I am sorry that no one has written a book about him. The reason may be that he was neither a professor nor a madman. Perfectly sane and of humble origin, he was survived by his wife and nine children.
Anatoly Liberman is the author of Word Origins…And How We Know Them
as well as An Analytic Dictionary of English Etymology: An Introduction.
His column on word origins, The Oxford Etymologist
, appears here, each Wednesday. Send your etymology question to firstname.lastname@example.org
; he’ll do his best to avoid responding with “origin unknown.”
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, Reading The OED
, ammon shea
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Ammon Shea recently spent a year of his life reading the OED from start to finish. Over the next few months he will be posting weekly blogs about the insights, gems, and thoughts on language that came from this experience. His book, Reading the OED, has been published by Perigee, so go check it out in your local bookstore.In the post below Ammon reflects on note-taking.
Every so often I find myself engaged in some activity that works out much better than I had expected it to. When this happens I inevitably find myself thinking ‘why don’t I remember to do this all the time?’, as though I could irrevocably change my life for the better, if only I took careful notes of what works and what doesn’t, and then scrupulously followed those notes in all my future endeavors.
But just as inevitably I cast aside these intentions, and far too often find myself engaged in some activity that doesn’t work quite so well as I’d hoped. Of late, I’ve been wondering why I don’t keep notes when I read.
I always keep notes when I read a dictionary; if I don’t I find myself constantly plagued by the feeling that there is a word I can’t remember, somewhere back in the first three letters of the alphabet, and I’ll waste some large portion of a morning going back and fruitlessly searching for it. So when I sat down to read the OED last year I did so with a blank book in which I planned on keeping notes.
Because the OED was a larger dictionary than any other I had read I decided to get a larger book for a my notes. I found a used book dealer in Massachusetts who had a blank nineteenth century daybook; 500 enormous pages of clean old paper that had been waiting patiently for well over a hundred years for someone to come along and write on them. In it I wrote all the words that I came across that I liked, or the things about which I had questions, or any thoughts that I had about the dictionary as I read it.
The book is filled halfway with my scrawls, inkblots, and coffee stains. Sometimes I’ll look through it if I’m looking for some word that slipped out of mind, and sometimes I’ll just pick it up to browse through. It is an extremely condensed and personal version of the OED. While it lacks the majesty and erudition of that work it does do a wonderful job of reminding me why I enjoyed reading it in the first place.
Why don’t I keep notebooks for the other books I read? I’ve tried many different methods of memorializing my books – dog-earing pages that I want to come back to, interleaving sheets of paper with jotted comments, penciling or penning in marginalia. In all cases I have similar results: the beginning of the book is marked with this readerly spoor, but as I progress through the pages the intentions apparently give way to the simple pleasure of reading in the moment, without plans for the future, and the notes and creased pages die off.
Part of me thinks that keeping notes for reading non-reference works is a waste of time. I tell myself that I’ll always remember certain parts of certain books – some writing is so terribly well done that it sears itself into my memory. At least, that’s what I thought, and to prove it to myself this morning I picked up what has long been one of most treasured and well-remembered books, Bohumil Hrabal’s Too Loud a Solitude. It’s a tiny little novel, with an utterly improbable amount of joy and sadness packed into just under a hundred pages. I’ve read it a number of times, and one of the things about it that I remember most clearly is that every single chapter begins with the exact same line: “For thirty-five years now I’ve compacted wastepaper in a hydraulic press…”
Yet when I looked at it this morning I discovered that I was wrong. Many of the chapters begin with some variation of this line, but no two are exactly the same, and some chapters are missing it completely. At first I found this extremely disconcerting - if only I had kept notes when I read this book I never would have spent all these years cherishing a false memory. And then I realized the absurdity of keeping notes for reading a 98 page novella.
My memories of this book are inimitably mine and every bit as real and meaningful as the book itself. The fact that they are graced with the creativity of imprecise recollection gives this book even more of a hold on me. The enjoyment I get from rereading my notes on the OED notwithstanding, I’ll continue to read my books without an eye to the future.