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1. This Is What Is Possible (Part 4)

This girl is definitely living the spirit of Why Not Me? Love her story.


0 Comments on This Is What Is Possible (Part 4) as of 1/22/2015 1:37:00 PM
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2. 2015: the year of risk

I used to make elaborate New Year's Resolutions with 20, 30, even 40 things I was going to change, do, fix.  I would be thinner and a better friend, run faster and pray more.

Often, the only thing that changed on that list was the year at the top.

This year, my resolution was a single word: risk. I'm increasingly aware of my own mortality. Time is flying by and I don't want to say "If only I had."

I got a chance to act on my resolution only a few days into the new year. A man I don't know well but respect often uses a series of funny accents as he makes his points:  New York.  Russian.  Etc.

And one is a big campy gay voice.

That day, I looked around the room, trying to see if it made anyone else as uncomfortable as me. But I felt like I was alone. Still, I waited until everyone else had gone and told him how I felt.

The conversation took some interesting turns I hadn't expected. I think it was eye-opening for both of us.

And afterward I was glad I had taken that risk.

Screen Shot 2015-01-19 at 4.19.04 PMIn a few months I'm going to be taking a class called Urban Escape and Evasion (I snagged the photo from their web site). You spend two days learning how to survive in a dangerous chanotic urban environment (say after a terrorist attack or being kidnapped in a foreign country), then on the third day you are  “kidnapped: hooded, cuffed and taken somewhere dark and uncomfortable to start your day. You will be expected to escape, find your own transportation legally using your social engineering skills, and make your way to the first cache location, where directions for a series of tasks using all your new skills await.Meanwhile, expert trackers will be hunting you down, and if they catch you, you will have to start again from a more distant location."

I know this is going to stressful. As a writer, I'll be an outlier, surrounded by preppers and ex-military.  My guess is I'll be older and one of very few women.

But for the risk, I'll have the reward of having so much amazing writing material. So it will be worth it.

Are you taking any risks this year?

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3. Productivity Tip: Learn how to say no

Those of you who have no trouble saying no can just skip the rest of this post.

Some of you, however, may be like me. I like making people happy and don't like disappointing them. I also dislike conflict. So when people ask me for things, I used to usually say yes....even when I knew I'd probably regret it later.

I'm gradually learning how to say no.

While it's true that saying yes to one "just have a quick favor to ask, would appreciate just a few minutes of your time" is no problem, saying yes to a LOT of these favors accumulates. And in my experience, "just a few minutes" inevitably turns into hours or sometimes days.

What's hardest: saying no to projects that DO sound like a lot of fun and that I want to do. One of my challenges (and I suspect some of you feel similarly): I want to do EVERYTHING.

By saying no more often, however, I'm able to focus and enjoy the projects I say "yes" to more fully AND have more flexibility about when I do take on a new project.


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4. Productivity Tip: Create a safe mental space in which you feel safe to create.

Whether I'm working on my own writing (including the 250, 500 and 1000 Words/Day Challenge) or an illustration project, I find I'm able to better focus and be more productive if I can create a mental space in which I feel safe enough to do my best work.

Perhaps safe isn't the right word. I like Shaun Tan's "bubble of delusion" idea, which I first heard in his talk at an SCBWI Winter Conference a couple of years ago.

Sean's advice: Set up a safe space in which you feel positive about yourself and your work, and in which you know that you WILL do great work. Surround yourself with positive, encouraging people. Try to avoid negativity as much as possible. Sean says he steers clear of reading reviews of his work, for example.

Part of the way I do this is trying very hard to STAY OFFLINE when I'm doing creative work. Even dropping in on Twitter or FB for a few minutes can end up being an energy-sucking black hole, often making me question whether I'm doing enough (especially in terms of promotion, networking, working on my craft, etc.) or doing it -whatever "it" is- the Right Way.

What do YOU do to create your own Bubble Of Happy Delusion?


0 Comments on Productivity Tip: Create a safe mental space in which you feel safe to create. as of 1/14/2015 11:54:00 AM
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5. Go, Write!

In the beginning, the page is blank--just blue lines and white spaces. It’s like looking into a mirror. The page serves as the release mechanism, the trigger, the catalyst for thought. But thought itself doesn’t take place on the page. You may look at the lines and the spaces between the lines, but what you see is the image in your head, the image that is not yet on the page. A

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6. Being a writer is a great job for a naturally nosy person

My vanity license plate reads


In California, where you can have up to 8 characters, it would read:


So do you know what it means?

I'm nosy!

Although I like to think of it as "genuinely interested in people."

I'm starting on a sequel to Girl, Stolen. When I wrote that book, which is about a blind girl who is accidentally kidnapped when someone steals her step-mom's car, I was working full time and had a kid in middle school. I had zero free time. So I read books about what it's like to be blind and did research on the Internet.

Now I have the freedom to talk to people. Today I'm interviewing someone who is blind and here are some of the questions I want to ask:

  • Do you know Braille? How important is it? How many blind people really know Braille?

  • What apps do you use/what do you they do? Can you show me?

  • How has your life changed in the last five years in terms of technology?

  • Do you cook? How do you see how fine the pieces are when chopping or know if things are done?

  • Open the freezer - how do you know what’s in it?

  • How do you sweep or keep floor clean and know it is?

  • How would you walk in straight line across crosswalk without the cues of the sidewalk?

  • How would you find the bathroom in a strange building?

  • How would you find your locker at school and spin it?

  • Do you do any sports?

  • What smells do you notice the most?

  • Are there sayings people say all the time, like Love Is Blind or getting embarrassed about “see”?

  • What’s one thing people always get wrong about what it's like to be blind?

  • What’s one thing people don’t realize?

  • What would scare you the most?

Anything you think I should add?

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7. Picture Book Publisher – Flashlight Press

FlashLight Press is celebrating their 10 year in the publishing business. They are a small publisher and only publish a few books each year, but they specialize in picture books. Check out their awards pages. I was impressed with what they have accomplished. You may even recognize some of the artwork on their covers, since many of their illustrators have been featured on Illustrator Saturday. Click on the illustration that shows off some of the character in their books to look over their book catalog.



If you have a story you want FLASHLIGHT PRESS to consider:

First, make sure your manuscript fits the following criteria:

  • is a fiction picture book (NOT a concept book, non-
    fiction, an early reader, a chapter book, or a YA novel)
  • has a universal theme (but no holiday themes, and no
    talking inanimate objects)
  • deals with family or social situations
  • targets 4-8 year olds
  • is between 500-1,000 words
  • feels like a Flashlight book (Please read about our
    books to determine whether your story really feels like a

If your manuscript meets their criteria:

  • send a query email describing your story (plot, word
    count, target audience, what makes this story unique) and
    a bit about yourself, to Shari Dash Greenspan at
  • do not send snail mail queries. We disregard and
    recycle all snail mail submissions.
  • do not send attachments (instead, type your query
    into the body of the email.)
  • do not send your full manuscript (neither attached nor
    pasted into the email).


  • you will receive an automated reply within a week or so
    that we received your email query.
  • if we wish to see your full manuscript, we’ll let you know
    by email within a month or so. If you do not receive an
    email requesting your full manuscript, please realize that
    your story was not considered a fit for our line.

Manuscripts, when requested, will be evaluated within three to
four months.

Important tip: unless you are also an artist, do not include
illustrations with a requested manuscript.

If you create artwork that you want them to consider:

  • Explore our site to be sure that your style could be a fit.
  • Please do not send any samples by snail mail – we are going
    paperless and will recycle all paper samples we receive.
  • Do not send attachments. Instead, please paste a few sample
    jpegs into an email. Then we don’t have to open any files and
    can easily view your artwork.
  • Do include links to your online portfolio in your email.
  • Send the email to artsubmissions@FlashlightPress.com.
  • We‘ll keep your information on file for future reference, and will
    be in touch if we have any projects to offer.

Make this the year you revise and submit. Gook Luck!

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: authors and illustrators, inspiration, need to know, opportunity, picture books, Places to Submit, publishers Tagged: Flashlight Press, Picture book publisher, submission guidelines

1 Comments on Picture Book Publisher – Flashlight Press, last added: 1/8/2015
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8. It’s 2015 — Believe Anything Can Happen in Your Writing Life

(The column excerpted from WRITE AWAY: A YEAR OF


It’s the New Year, and the blogosphere is teeming with resolutions. Last year, so much—well, let’s call it “debris”—hit the fan that we’re all ready for a clean, fresh start. And I think this national January pastime of resolution-making is particularly compelling for writers. Starting a new project, completing an old one, editing, querying, classes, conferences—we have no shortage of goal-worthy pursuits.

I usually make resolutions. This year, however, I’m trying something different, inspired by Tim Burton’s reimagining of Alice in Wonderland. Early in the movie, when Alice remarks to her stick-in-the-mud potential fiancé that she wonders what it would be like to fly, he asks her why she would spend time thinking of such an impossible thing. She can’t imagine why she wouldn’t and tells him that her late father sometimes believed in six impossible things even before breakfast.

Near the end of the movie, as Alice battles the ferocious Jabberwocky, she gathers her courage by reminding herself to believe in six impossible things. “One: there’s a potion that can make you shrink. Two: and a cake that can make you grow. Three: animals can talk. Four: cats can disappear. Five: there’s a place called Wonderland. Six: I can slay the Jabberwocky.”

She does slay the beast. Then she returns to tell the dull Seamus that she won’t marry him. Instead, she embarks on an exciting new business adventure with her father’s friend. Inspired by Alice’s moxie, I’ve decided that instead of making resolutions this year, I will believe in six impossible things every day before breakfast. For example:

1. Chocolate can make me thin
2. I can win a million dollars just by using my Discover Card
3. My kitchen can stay clean for longer than five minutes
4. I can master time management
5. With the right shampoo, my hair can look like Jennifer Aniston’s
6. I can vanquish the dreaded slush pile like my own personal Jabberwocky.

My rational mind knows that the odds of these things happening might not be in my favor—and probably a kajillion-to-one for #2—but there’s something very liberating about giving myself permission to be open to the idea that anything can happen. As Alice’s father says, “The only way to achieve the impossible is to believe it is possible.” What impossible things will you believe in this year?

Screen Shot 2015-01-05 at 10.57.37 PM

Kerrie Flanagan is the Director of Northern Colorado Writers, an accomplished freelance writer, author and publisher. Her articles have appeared in the 2015 Children’s Writers and Illustrator’s Market, as well as the past four Writer’s Markets,Writer’s Digest and The Writer. She is the author of three books and the founder of Hot Chocolate Press. Jenny Sundstedt is a member of Northern Colorado Writers (NCW) and serves on the creative team for the annual NCW Writer’s Conference. She writes long and short fiction, essays, overly ambitious to-do lists, and since 2010, has been a regular contributor to the NCW blog, The Writing Bug. Their book, WRITE AWAY, is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kindle, Nook and Kobo. The book combines monthly insightful and humorous stories with tips, tools and interactions that encourage writers to reflect on where they are and where they want to be. Here are two essays from the book for you to enjoy.


Those who become successful writers are not always the most talented ones, but they are always the ones who did not give up. They pushed through the tough times, they passed those who dropped out, and they made the decision to cross the finish line.

Someone told me that what you want becomes irrelevant without a decision. This is so true when it comes to writing. I come across people all the time who say they want to be writers. They talk about all the things they want to write, or all the novels they want to finish. But they never do anything about it.

There are so many things I want. I want to spend a year in Alaska, I want to see the Northern Lights, I want to attend the Book Expo of America, I want to publish a short story… Are all of these things possible for me? Of course they are. I just need to make a decision to stop wanting and to start doing.

Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen created the Chicken Soup for the Soul empire. This would not have happened if they hadn’t decided to publish the first Chicken Soup for the Soul book. They also decided that NOT publishing it was NOT an option. So, they persevered. They didn’t quit after 20, 50, 100 publishers said no. When someone said “no,” Jack and Mark would say, “next.” After 123 rejections, Heath Communications gave them the yes they had been waiting for. They have now sold over 100 million Chicken Soup for the Soul books.

Is this the year you will move beyond wanting to write and make the decision to actually be a writer? Are you willing to do what it takes to finish that novel, write that article, start that blog, or find an agent? Are you ready to invest time in your writing, have confidence in your abilities, and push through to the finish line? If so, this is going to be a great year for you.


Other writing/publishing articles & links for you:


Screen Shot 2014-12-17 at 3.39.23 PM

Your new complete and updated instructional guide
to finding an agent is finally here: The 2015 book
GET A LITERARY AGENT shares advice from more
than 110 literary agents who share advice on querying,
craft, the submission process, researching agents, and
much more. Filled with all the advice you’ll ever need to
find an agent, this resource makes a great partner book to
the agent database, Guide to Literary Agents.

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9. 12 Tips to Help Prevent Reader Boredom


I thought the above illustration was a good fit with today’s post. Since I feel that this post will help you stir up you manuscript to keep your readers reading, just like illustrator Alik Arzoumanian did letting her cute lady stir up the sky.  (Note: I am looking for artwork to show off)

Alik received her BFA in Illustration from the Massachusetts College of Art and Design in Boston in 2004.   The first children’s book “Tunjur! Tunjur! Tunjur! A Palestinian Folktale” by Margaret Read MacDonald received an ALA Notable Book Award in 2007. She was also featured on Illustrator Saturday.

Hope these tips help you stir up your manuscript:

1. Keep solving problems and adding new ones. Mix up the problems by using physical, logistical, and ones with other people.

2. Make your MC be in a worse place than before the last problem.

3. Beware of the “one Darn Thing After Another” Syndrome. You don’t want your MC to always be stuck dealing with things that don’t change their circumstances.

4. Deliberately shorten your sentences in tense scenes.

5. If you keep your chapters short, you will lore the reader into reading a little more before taking a break.

6. Stun your protagonist with a negative surprise that comes out of the blue. Shock your hero and you will shock your reader into reading more by ramping up the tension.

7. Delay revealing important information to ratchet up the tension. Let your readers worry about unanswered questions.

8. Contract you protagonists universe by making sure their are consequences for each choice. Lost opportunities add tension. When he chooses one option, he will no longer be able to purse the other good things he might have bee able to do.

9. Make an ally into an oppositional character with a conflicting goal.

10. Use dialogue to imply thing that are not directly said. Add in ironic statements to keep the reader wondering.

11. Make sure all the actions are built upon, leading to something. Look for places in your story that are dead ends.

12. Each scene must have a purpose – pointless events – excessive explanations – backstory. You might want to note the purpose after the first draft to remind you why you included it. This will make it easier to see if you need to eliminate it in later revision.

Do you have any other things you do to avoid reader boredom?

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: Advice, article, demystify, How to, inspiration, list, Process, revisions, Tips Tagged: 12 Tips to Help Prevent Reader Boredom, Alik Arzoumanian

1 Comments on 12 Tips to Help Prevent Reader Boredom, last added: 1/7/2015
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10. What happens in the middle?


Jodi Meadows

I’ve talked about beginnings (here, too) and endings (and here’s one from Sooz), but recently someone mentioned they’d really like some thoughts on middles.

A lot of times, when people get stuck in the middle of their book, it’s because they’re not totally sure what the middle is supposed to do.. Obviously the beginning sets up conflicts and the ending resolves them, but the middle? The middle is all opportunity to make things worse.

Here’s a handy numbered list.

1. Build on established conflicts.

Take a look at what you’ve already done. Build on that by reinforcing something the characters already know, or the reader knows, and show something in action.

  • If there’s a monster marauding through the city in the first part of the story but we haven’t seen it yet, this is a great time to give us a peek. (Cue JAWS theme.)
  • If someone’s threatened war, let them announce the war is on.
  • If there’s a plague, start killing side characters right in front of your main characters.

Show the reader that these conflicts you’ve set up are that serious by giving everyone a hint of what’s to come. The middle is the perfect spot for making everything real

2. Complicate established conflicts.

Yep, I’m counting this as different than building, because by complicating conflicts, you can use twists and reveals and other things to make everything worse.

  • Someone betrays our main characters.
  • Another character appears to shake things up.
  • The characters attempt to solve the problem and they make it worse.
  • Information is revealed and suddenly everything we thought was true is an awful lie.

I always feel like the middle is my last chance to introduce new complications to the story, be it characters or events. For me, introducing those later starts to feel a bit contrived, unless there’s a sequel and something at the very end happens to complicate the situation for the next book.

3. Nudge your characters toward the end.

You’ve just made everything awful. Give them something useful.

  • Information that can help them later (even if they don’t know it yet).
  • A hint about how they might solve the big problems.
  • Even give the poor characters a chance to plan to take some kind of action.

This is your chance to line up those last few dominos so everything can just go horribly (violently!?) wrong in the ending. Godspeed.

So, that’s my basic thoughts on middles. Anyone have anything to add?

Jodi Meadows lives and writes in the Shenandoah Valley, Virginia, with her husband, a Kippy*, and an alarming number of ferrets. She is a confessed book addict, and has wanted to be a writer ever since she decided against becoming an astronaut. She is the author of the INCARNATE Trilogy and THE ORPHAN QUEEN Duology (HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen).
*A Kippy is a cat.

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11. How to squeeze more words out of your time

Do you ever find yourself polishing the same paragraph over and over, moving a clause here, changing a verb there, and not ever actually adding any new words?

Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good.

Here are some tools that have helped me more productive:

  • The Pomodoro Technique

  • Freedom

  • Write or Die

  • Twitter sprints

The Pomodoro Technique
The Pomodoro Technique is great for big projects like novels. (Its inventor, Francesco Cirillo, named it after a timer shaped like a tomato, or, in Italian, a pomodoro). It has helped me be more productive by making me focus.

Set a timer for 25 minutes and start working. Let nothing - not the doorbell, not the phone, not the ping of an email or a text - interrupt you. Stop as soon as the timer goes off. You’ve just completed a pomodoro.

Now set the timer for five minutes and do something that isn’t work. Go to the bathroom, make a cup of coffee, check those emails or texts. But you only have five minutes and you must stop as soon as the timer goes off. Repeat the first two steps until you’ve completed four pomodoros. Now you can take a longer break of 15 to 30 minutes.

Want to know more? Go to http://www.pomodorotechnique.com  Or find a free online timer, go here: http://tomato-timer.com

Freedom is a program that won’t let you go on the Internet until a set of amount of time (as long as eight hours - you decide) has expired. I resisted using Freedom for a long time, basically because it cost $10. I figured I was an adult. Which meant I should be perfectly able to set limits and stick to them. For example, I should be able to write on my laptop without taking a peek at the Internet every five minutes for "research" or to see if I've gotten any important emails. Then I gave the free trial a whirl. The first time, I only set the time-out period for 15 minutes. And realized I probably would have clicked on the Internet a dozen times if it weren't for Freedom.Now I use it in conjunction with the Pomodoro Technique. You can find out more at: http://macfreedom.com.

They also sell a program called Antisocial that will lock you off certain sites, but I haven't used it.  Have you?

Write or Die
Writers often get stuck. I think that largely stems from the fear that what you write will suck. That’s where Write or Die can help, by forcing you to stop overthinking and just write. Write or Die is a free program on the Internet. (You can also purchase it to use on your desktop or iPad.)

You set how many words you want to write and you set the amount of time you want to write them in. You also set consequences, which range from gentle (pop-up reminder) to kamikaze (keep writing or words start disappearing). When you’re done, you save the text by selecting it and then copying and pasting into your own word processing program.

I make a running list of ideas - scenes, characters - that I could take to Write or Die. And at least once a day, I set the time for 15 minutes and the number of words for 500. It works best if you don’t over think it - or even think at all. Instead, write as fast as you can and describe the brightest colors, the softest sounds, the way something feels under the character’s fingertips. What are your characters saying? What are they feeling and not saying?

I don’t end up using everything I write on Write or Die, but often I’ll come up with something unexpected and wonderful.

You can try it for yourself at http://writeordie.com (scroll down if you don’t see it).

Twitter sprints
There's something about competition that gets most of us to work harder, longer or faster than we would if we were doing it in isolation. So if you're looking for someone to spur you on, look for hashtags like #wordsprint or #1K1hr .

What works for you?

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12. New Year’s Resolutions: How To Make Them Stick!

Writing Life Banner



First up: As you read this, I’m heading out on tour in the US! If you’re in Los Angeles, San Diego, Houston, Miami, New York, DC or Asheville, I’d love to meet you! If you’d like a signed book but can’t make a stop, the stores can arrange one for you. This is the only time I’ll be in the US in 2015, so come say hi, and make sure you tell me you’re a Pub Crawler! Now, on to today’s post…

It’s that time of year, and most of us jump in every January with a pile of new resolutions. Then, in December, most of us remember them with a guilty start, and wish we’d done better. It’s okay to admit it — you’re in a judgement free zone!

So, how do we do better? How do we make sure the resolutions we make in January actually impact our lives in 2015? At the bottom of this post I’m going to invite you to share yours, and I’d love to hear at the end of the year how you went!

To get us started, here are some of my writing-related resolutions for 2015:

1. Read 52 books — one for every week.

2. Complete drafts of two novels.

3. Yoga at least 5 days a week.

4. Do better at taking evenings off from writing.

5. Average 10,000 steps per day.

If you’re pondering what sort of resolutions to make, I recommend Marissa Meyer’s post on Business Plans for Writers, which I use every year to get myself thinking about my goals.

Goals and Aspirations

The main thing is to remember that there’s a difference between a goal and an aspiration. One you control, the other you don’t. Goals should be measurable, and they should be things you can personally do.

For example:

Goal: I’m going to be ready to query by March, and send out my first ten queries that month.

Aspiration: I’m going to sign with an agent in 2015.

Goal: I’m going to finish polishing my draft and send it to my agent by May.

Aspiration: I’m going to sell a novel this year.

See the difference? And the great thing about the goals is that they’re easily broken down into steps.


If you want to send out ten queries in March, you can set up mini-goals for January and February around researching agents, and finishing polishing up your query and your manuscript. Those mini-goals can make all the difference. Rather than getting to March and realising you’ve got a bazillion things to do if you want to make it (and really, either not making it, or not doing it as well as you could), you can make sure you’re on track by breaking down your goal and putting it in your diary.

For Example

Let’s take my goals. How will I achieve them?

1. Read 52 books — one for every week. I’ll achieve this by keeping a spreadsheet and tracking whether I’m up to date. I’ll have a goal of five books for each month, which gives me a little wriggle room. I’ll have a ready-to-go queue of books sitting on my mantlepiece so I can easily grab the next one, and I’ll make a folder on my e-reader of books I’m planning on reading next.

2. Complete drafts of two novels. I’d better do this one, since they’re both due to publishers this year! In consultation with my co-authors, I’ll set up mini-goals for where we want to be each month of the year, so we know we’re tracking on time.

3. Yoga at least 5 days a week. I’ll achieve this by pairing up with an accountability buddy (an accountabilibuddy, vital to resolutions!) and scheduling a class every week with her. I’ve got an app that has my favourite routines on it, and I’ll make sure I check in with my buddy to report on whether I’m doing it the rest of the time. I’ve also enlisted my husband to work out with me a couple of times a week. (By the way, if this doesn’t sound like a writing-related goal, just eavesdrop on a group of authors… the subject of back pain will come up soon enough!)

4. Do better at taking evenings off from writing. One of the disadvantages of loving your job to pieces is that you’re not always very good at stopping! I’m going to be achieving this one by setting a hard stop time each evening, and I’ve put notes in my diary to check in with myself on whether I’m achieving it. I’ve also enlisted a couple of friends to check regularly with me.

5. Average 10,000 steps per day. My biggest ally on this one will be my beloved treaddesk, but of course it takes more than that! I’ll be using my Fitbit to make sure I’m averaging 70,000 steps each week, and I’ve added a bunch of buddies on there who have promised to taunt me if I fall behind!

So, time to share! What are your goals, and how are you planning on breaking them down and achieving them this year? I’d love to hear!

Amie Kaufman is the co-author of THESE BROKEN STARS and THIS SHATTERED WORLD, out now from  from Disney-Hyperion (US) and Allen & Unwin (Australia). You can also grab a free short story set in the Starbound universe! Her new trilogy will start with ILLUMINAE, coming from Random House/Knopf in 2015. She is represented by Tracey Adams of Adams Literary. You can find her on Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr or Facebook, or sign up to her mailing list for exclusive sneak-peeks and giveaways. Amie lives in Melbourne, Australia, with her husband and rescue dog.

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13. Illustrator Saturday – Diana Kizlauskas

Diana Kizlauskas_photoDiana Kizlauskas says she knew she was in trouble early on. Drawing Barbie was more fun than playing with her. Drawing a poster of the Beatles was more appealing than buying one. A high school mural project meant more than ACT scores. By senior year, I made peace with my art addiction and chose it as my professional path…

With help from above and a little caffeine, I earned B.A. degrees in Art Education (UIC, 1974) and Illustration (Ray College of Design/ Illinois Institute of Art, 1991), supplementing those with drawing workshops at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. My portfolio landed me in the freelance world of advertising and editorial illustration. Then with a new millennium, came a new direction: greeting cards and children’s educational publishing. Throughout this time, I exhibited work in the Chicago area, including at Gallery 400/UIC, Hyde Park Art Center, North Lakeside Cultural Center, and had a solo show at the Beverly Arts Center. In Indiana, my work was displayed at the Anderson Fine Arts Center, the John G. Blank Center for the Arts and Purdue University.

My work, family and faith community make up my rather simple universe. A native Chicagoan, my heart is anchored to the Midwest. However, I often go beyond the familiar to work with ethnic and historical themes. Through books, various other media and travel, I enjoy learning about different eras and cultures. I’ve amassed a wealth of visual reference materials which help me render physical characteristics, geographic features and design elements of various places and times. My background in education helps me translate those images to young readers in ways they can best understand.


The illustrations presented here are created digitally or are hybrids of traditional acrylic on canvas or colored pencil on board combined with digital media.

Here is Diana talking about her process:


When I start an illustration I first break down the image to its most essential components. In the case of “The Climb” from my The Twelve Ravens book project, these are: the mountain, the stormy sky, girl protagonist and the injured eagle.





I then scan the images into Photoshop, placing each on a separate layer so that I can manipulate them independently. I play with size, cropping, etc., until I’m satisfied with the arrangement.

6_tonal rough

Since an odd number of objects make for a more interesting composition, I’ll eventually add in a fifth element, the “swoosh” of a blizzard.


Next, I add tones to the drawing. I do this digitally or by printing out the line art and adding shading by hand and rescanning. The prior picture is an example where I have done both to achieve the result.
I start “painting” by duplicating my black and white tonal image and adjusting its color to umber (Figure 7). This layer lies atop the original tonal art.


I again replicate the image to create a blue layer, which lies atop the umber. Then, using various percentages of opacity in my eraser tool, I remove sections of blue to expose umber and umber to expose black and greys. This results in a balanced warm-cool color underlayment.


I go to finish by brushing on an entire spectrum of colors, working out details, depth, drama, texture. I give myself creative license to cut, crop, chop and drop, until—voila, it’s done!


Even as I’m working on the final art, I like to keep each key component of the piece in a separate layer so that I can continue to scale it, move it or manipulate its brightness and color. This is particularly helpful when the format of the illustration needs to be changed from print edition to eBook or if you need to “repurpose” images for a promotional spot. For example, I adapted the scene from “The Climb” to use as my Facebook masthead last winter.


How long have you been illustrating?

I’ve been drawing since I could clutch a crayon in my chubby little hands; I’ve been paid for it since 1991.


How did you end up going to University of California, Irvine?

I received a BA degree in Art Education from the College of Art and Architecture, University of Illinois at Chicago, known around these parts as UIC. (I have never studied in California; perhaps your question is based on a typo in one of my bio pages.)


Since you received a BA in Art Education, did you teach after you graduated?

After completing my student teaching, I opted to stay home with my two children until they started grammar school. However, I do have about a decade of experience teaching part-time extracurricular classes to 3-7 year olds, including crafts, science and religious education.

What types of classes did you take that really helped you to develop as an illustrator?

Because a successful illustration is the result of craft, composition and creative communication, I think that Life drawing, Basic Design and Illustration Concepts courses were all indispensable.

When did you get involved in Freelance Art?

I began getting professional free-lance projects immediately upon graduating from Ray College of Design. Their job placement services were quite helpful in getting me those initial interviews and portfolio showings.

What was the first thing you created where someone paid you for your work?

As a kid, I sold poster-size portraits of the Beatles to classmates. My first job as a “bone fide” illustrator was an editorial piece for the Chicago Daily Southtown newspaper.

What made you decide to study illustration at Ray College of Design/ Illinois Institute of Art in 1991?

Ray College was a small vocational school providing a lot of individual attention to its students and geared toward getting them into the working world. At this point in my life, I felt I had had enough theoretical background and needed to jump into action.

How long did you take drawing workshops at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago?

I attended Advanced Drawing Workshop for about a year.

Do you think taking those workshops helped improve your drawing skills?

They certainly did. But more importantly, they impressed upon me the importance of surrender to the mystery of creative process, experimentation with images, as well as pushing techniques and materials to their limits. Oddly enough, I also came away from my experience at SAIC with a personal resolve to avoid conformity to non-conformity.

When did you go digital?
I was dragged into the Digital Age in the late 2000’s by clients and agents who wanted a project done quicker, cleaner, and cheaper. I went kicking and screaming, but it was one of the best things that ever happened to me professionally.

How many children’s books have you illustrated?

If we count leveled readers, I have illustrated 14 books in traditional print and 4 eBooks.

Do you still do freelance art?

All my work is done on a free-lance basis.

What was the first picture book that you illustrated? When did that happen?

I illustrated The Legend of the Bluebonnet in 2004.

How did that contract come about?

I was approached by Steven Edsey Sons artists’ reps to do the project. They had seen a piece in my samples portfolio which matched the needs of the client very closely—a Plains’ Indian family preparing a meal. The rest was, as they say, history.

Was the Legend of the Bluebonnet the first book you did with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt?

The publisher of the Legend of the Bluebonnet was Rigby/ Harcourt Achieve. I’m unclear as to what its relation to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt was at that time.

How many books have you done with Harcourt?

I have illustrated four leveled readers for Rigby/ Harcourt Achieve and one for Harcourt School Publishers.

Would you consider working with an author who wants to self publish?

I would base my decision on the strength of the author’s credentials and the quality of the material.

Can you tell us a little bit about EDCO/Ireland? How did they find you and what type of work did they have you do?

EDCO is an educational publisher in Ireland. I believe their art directors saw my work on childrensillustrators.com and then contacted my current artist reps. I illustrated several stories (“In the Deep Dark Wood,” and “The Island of the Blue Dolphins”) and a poem (“The North Wind”) for them. One of these illustrations was then adapted as a cover for By The North Star, a book in their Big Box Library series.

Have you worked with educational publishers? Which one’s?

Besides the aforementioned Rigby/Harcourt Achieve, Harcourt School Publishers and EDCO/Ireland, I have worked with Macmillan/McGrawHill, Pearson/Scott Foresman, Pearson Education, Compass Publishing and Quarasan, Inc. Though they might also be considered a trade or religious publisher, Pauline Books and Media contracted me to illustrate Jorge of Argentina: The Story of Pope Francis for Children (2014).

How did those books come your way?

Nearly all of them came through artists’ reps with whom I was associated at the time of the project’s inception.

Have you ever tried to write and illustrate a children’s book?

Yes, I have. LETTUCE! , my tall tale about a rabbit and his rampant good fortune, is on the eBook market right now. Parents and teachers of preschoolers have given it a 5-star rating and I’m very excited about making it available in a traditional print version this spring.

Do you have an agent? If so, who and how long have the represented you? If not, would you like one?

Over the years I have been represented by several agencies, but since 2010 by WendyLynn&Co.

What types of things do you do to get your work seen by publishing professionals?

I supply my artist reps with promotional material and advertise on childrensillustrators.com (http://www.childrensillustrators.com/illustrator-details/DKizlauskas/id=2110/). I maintain gallery and bookstore spaces on the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators website (http://www.scbwi.org/members-public/diana-kizlauskas) and I maintain an author/illustrator page on amazon.com. Also, I post regularly to my business Facebook page (www.facebook.com/DKIllustration). Most importantly, I keep my DKI Children’s Illustration website (www.dianakizlauskas.com ) updated and functioning.

Have you seen your style change since you first started illustrating?

Absolutely. My work is increasingly softer edged, more painterly, and close to 100% digital.

Have you gotten any work through networking or the Internet?

Almost exclusively so. As I described above, nearly all my marketing revolves around websites and on-line portfolio displays.

Do you use software for painting besides Photoshop?

So far, only Photoshop.

Do you own a graphic tablet? If so, how do you use it?

Yes, indeed. To reduce a complicated explanation to bare basics: I scan hand-drawn and photo-reference images into Photoshop, then use both a mouse and stylus to create layers, lines, colors, textures and draw additional images directly onto the tablet—whatever it takes to bring the illustration to finish.

How much time do you spend illustrating?

When working on a client project, I keep a very strict 10-hour, 6 day per week schedule. When creating promotional samples or working on my own books, I loosen it up to 6-hours per 5 days weekly. (This fall a family medical crisis put my work on temporary “hold,” but I’m slowly getting back on track.)

Do you have a studio set up in your house?

Yes, I do. I’m very fortunate to have a large room and loft area that accommodate a drawing table,easel, computer, printer, scanner, copier, a 8’x3.5’ work counter with horizontal storage, and 3 file cabinets full of reference clippings (some dating back to grammar school). Scads of shelves house more reference, paints, brushes , pencils and pens—not to mention a potpourri of chachkies. The closet full of dusty portfolio cases and canvases bears witness to a time before computers took over.

Any picture books on the horizon?

The Twelve Ravens , a Lithuanuian folktale which I have adapted, retold and illustrated, is a project I hope to have out by Fall, 2015. The eBook version is almost done, the print format awaits revision.

What are your career goals?
Beautiful books for beautiful children! I want to continue communicating to children of all colors and backgrounds through positive, bright and inspiring images. Whether my illustrations attain the stature of being published by the top trade publishers in the country or are independently made and distributed, my goal is to make each one better than the one before. I believe that concentrating on the work itself and not the fame or fortune it may bring is the only way an artist can maintain sanity in an ever-changing business world and culture.

What are you working on now?

As I mentioned, LETTUCE! and The Twelve Ravens are on my mind, but they may have to simmer on a back burner if my agent drafts me for a McGraw-Hill Education project for which I’ve recently been approved.

Are there any painting tips (materials, paper, etc.) you can share that work well for you? Technique tips?

Since I do all my “painting “ in Photoshop these days, there’s not much in the way of materials that I need to think about. But when working with colored pencils on paper or creating a “hybrid” piece where I draw onto a printed digital image, I like to use a wonderfully smooth paper called Mohawk Superfine. It is a 100 lb. “ultra white” cover stock used by the printing industry. It is receptive to the toner inks in my printer and is a perfect surface for multiple layers of Prismacolor pencils.

Any words of wisdom you can share with the illustrators who are trying to develop their career?

Like a man walking a tight rope, look straight ahead, never down. In creative, competitive fields, people who remain positive, patient, and intrinsically motivated—eventually prevail. Or as a colleague once remarked, “I can’t NOT do this…” Really, what other choice does a true artist have? So, KEEP AT IT!


Thank you Diana for sharing your journey and process with us and helping us kick off 2015. You can visit Diana at her website: http://www.dianakizlauskas.com to see more of her work.

If you have a moment I am sure Leeza would love to read your comments. I enjoy them too. Thanks!

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: Advice, authors and illustrators, demystify, illustrating, Illustrator Sites, Illustrator's Saturday, inspiration, Interview, Process Tagged: Diana Kizlauskas, Digital Art, Ray College of Design, University of California

9 Comments on Illustrator Saturday – Diana Kizlauskas, last added: 1/6/2015
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14. Free Fall Friday – Why Does Your Story Happen?

I will announce the guest critique for January next Friday, but you can start sending in your first pages now. See bottom of post for submission guidelines.

erikaphoto-45Erika Wassall, the Jersey Farm Scribe here with an important question for you today:

Why Does Your Story Happen?

No matter what I’m writing, from a picture book, to a young adult novel, or even a flash fiction piece, I have learned that all stories will present themselves better, be stronger and more meaningful if the reader has an idea of WHY they are happening.

This has taken me some time to learn. I like to start out knee-deep IN the action. One problem I’ve never had was a slow beginning. I like books that throw me right in there, even if I’m fumbling to understand what’s going on at first, so that’s how I almost always write.

High energy. Instant engagement.

Great, right?

Sure, sure, it has positives. But I had to learn to take a step back. And it has to be fast. Within a few paragraphs, or a page, the reader has to be let into the details of the world, what’s going on, and WHY.

At first, instant action is exciting. The reader gets the immediate thrill (hopefully) of really feeling the movement of the story. But that will quickly wear off, and leave them with a sour taste of “okay… what the heck is actually going on here??”

The reader needs to be in on the secrets.

Not every secret right away of course. But they quickly need to feel a sense of inclusiveness and grasp of the reality they dove into.

And it has to be more than an explanation of what monster they’re running from, or that Haylie is worried about them being lost because she’s out WAY past her curfew already.

I need to introduce a catalyst. WHY did they come to this place where the monster’s roam? If Haylie is so worried about her curfew, why did she choose TONIGHT to break the rules?

It’s something I struggle with. Feeling out how much information I need to put out there.

A trick that helps me is to look at it like a playground. Clichés of kids huddle together, whispering about whatever mischief or drama is the flavor of the moment. The reader needs to feel like one of the gang, like they understand the inside jokes and are “in” on everything going on.

This can be especially difficult in picture books. Every word is precious in a PB, and it can seem like a waste to be using them up to explain how the main character got to that point or why. But it can take less than you’d think, and really adds a depth of buy-in from the reader.

Understanding WHY a story is happening can ground it more in its own reality, giving it a sense of linear tangibility, as well as natural character development. Cause and effect are a part of every world and handled differently by every individual.

Billy darts into the kitchen, begging mom for a few toy.

Why then? Perhaps Billy just came from his friend’s house and learned they were getting one and is now jealous. This could need little more than the comment that Tommy’s mom said HE was getting one.

Or maybe Billy just saw the TV advertisement. A plate of crackers in front of the TV with a spilled glass of juice and the TV still blaring in the background could paint the picture without even using a single word.

No matter how it’s done, it can make the reader feel more like an insider on the story itself, and at the same time, gives insight on what type of person Billy is, what motivates him, what set off his longing.

So take a moment, step back and make sure that you’re letting your readers in on the secrets, giving them the insight into this new world that makes them know they’ve unlocked something special. Because there’s no doubt in my mind…

… your manuscripts are worth it.


Erika Wassall is a writer, a farmer and a liver of life. She is a member of SCBWI and a proud Mad Scientist, bringing science experiments right into children’s classrooms, and hearts. She has a small farm in New Jersey with sheep, chickens, pigs and vegetables. Check out her new website at www.TheJerseyFarmScribe.com where as a first generation farmer, she often takes the long way, learning the tricks of the trade on The Farm. On her website is also The Shop page with tips and a free Q/A from her husband’s mechanic shop, and The Writer page where she shares stories, experiences and characters from the heart. Follow her on Twitter at @NJFarmScribe. She’d love to hear from you!

Thank you Erika for kicking off the new year with this new article.

SUBMISSION GUIDELINES for January’s First Page Critiques:

In the subject line, please write “January 2015 First Page Critique” and paste the text in the email. Please make sure you include your name, the title of the piece, and whether it is as picture book, middle grade, or young adult, etc. at the top.

Plus attach your first page Word doc. to email. Format using one inch margins and 12 point New Times Roman font – double space – no more than 23 lines – only one page. Send to: kathy(dot)temean(at)gmail(dot)com.

PLEASE FOLLOW THE GUIDELINES: Last month a number of submissions were taken out of the mix, due to not following the directions for both the pasted email and the attached Word doc.

DEADLINE: January 22nd.

RESULTS: January 30th.

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: Advice, article, inspiration, writing Tagged: Erika Wassall, Why Does Your Story Happen?

5 Comments on Free Fall Friday – Why Does Your Story Happen?, last added: 1/5/2015
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15. Parallelogram 4 Now Available for Pre-Order!

Parallelogram 4

Happy 2015! And here’s a new book for you!

Parallel universes. Time travel. And a race for teen amateur physicist Audie Masters to save her own life before it’s too late.

Enjoy the exciting, mind-bending conclusion to the PARALLELOGRAM series.

You’ll never look at your own life the same way again.

I am BEYOND ecstatic to be able to tell you that PARALLELOGRAM (Book 4: BEYOND THE PARALLEL) will be coming out January 20, 2015, and is available right now for pre-order! Yes! Finally!

This final book in the series took me a long, long time to write (as those of you who have been waiting for it can attest), but you’ll understand why once you read it. It’s full of adventure, mystery, love, some very cool science, and the return of what I hope are some of your favorite characters.

In celebration of the final book coming out, each of the first three books in the series will be a mere $2.99, and the new book will be only $4.99–but only until January 20. After that, all of them return to their regular prices.

So if you haven’t read the first three books in the series yet, now’s your chance. I’m your book nerd friend who’s saying, “Come on! Come on! Catch up so we can discuss it!”

Can’t wait to hear what you all think. I truly wrote this series for YOU!

You can pre-order Book 4 from:

Thanks for being my readers! Hope you love the book!

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16. Focus on Positive

When life throws you down a crooked track, hold close your family, latch onto new friends, throw up your hands and find something to smile about.


While 2014 was definitely a crooked track for us, I want to close it with a look to the good. Shortly after our diagnosis, I had a friend reach out to me amidst his own health crisis. My advice to him was, “Hear the negative, focus on the positive and know that God has both covered.”

Good advice? I think so – but much easier said than done. This world screams negative. We are bombarded with the bad. The nightly news covers everything wrong with our world first and longest before they throw in one human interest story just before saying good night. (If you missed Kylie on the news, you can watch it HERE)

While sifting through the ruins of this broken world, how do we see what is good? I have seen a lot of things in my 47 years. To borrow the movie title, I’ve seen the good, the bad, and the ugly. I have driven a man out of the slum of Port ‘au Prince, Haiti and watched as he was given the keys to his new home. I have been fortunate enough to help put a roof on a hut in Swaziland for a family decimated by HIV. Beauty plucked from ugly, good snatched from bad. Both started with a choice to engage.

Despite my experiences, never in my life have I seen the good side of humanity than from the day Kylie was diagnosed with cancer. The flood of well-wishes, prayers, and support for our family has been as overwhelming as the diagnosis itself. When you hear the words, “Your child has cancer,” the temptation is to curl up in the fetal position, shut out the world and cry. When I was at my weakest, I found an abundance of arms to hold me.

Friends, family, our school and church rallied to our side.

The nurses, doctors, childlife specialists, and staff of the Aflac Cancer Center at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta became dear partners in this journey. We also found great care at Levine Children’s Hospital in Charlotte.

Organizations came alongside to help navigate and let us know we aren’t alone: 1 Million for Anna, Make-A-Wish, Cure Childhood Cancer, The Truth 365, Rally Foundation, Melodic Caring Project, The Jesse Rees Foundation, Along Comes Hope, 3/32 Foundation, Blessed Beauty, Open Hands Overflowing Hearts, Kingdom Kids, Lily’s Run.

We have seen built a network of people who pray faithfully for Kylie. To be totally honest, I admit there are times when I cannot lift a word to heaven. Maybe a grunt, maybe an angry shake of the fist. Without a doubt, I know there are many people praying for my little girl when I can’t. That is incredibly humbling.

Then there is encouragement and love. Kylie gets cards and letters daily. At least a dozen young ladies have donated their hair in Kylie’s honor. People all across the country and literally around the world have been #SmileyForKylie. As of today, 87 countries have done it. Grown men have written it on their bald heads.

Between Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, we have received over 10,000 smiling selfies for Kylie. Unreal. We have gotten them from celebrities, athletes, and Kylie’s beloved Broadway performers. Idina Menzel made a video. Kristin Chenoweth made two pics and talked about her on a radio show. Laura Osnes posted a word of encouragement to her. She got a box of Broadway treats from Hunter Foster. She had pics from 9 out of 12 musicals nominated for Tony Awards, and the cast of her favorite show, Aladdin have reached out to her over and over again. Sometimes we can trace the web that led to the picture, but most of the time we have no idea how they happen – we have no line to these people. It’s just good. And it is out there – making a choice to engage with our little girl in a time when she so desperately needs it. A thank you will never be enough, but all I can offer.

Regardless of your view of the Bible, Philippians 4:8 gives us sage advice:

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

I’ll not be able to change everyone’s mind. You can remain a cynic if you choose to. But the things I have experienced in 2014 prove to me that there is good in this world. I choose to think about such things – it is what has kept me going.

In 2015, we look forward to hearing the words: No Evidence of Disease and watching Kylie resume a normal life. That will be something worth throwing up our hands and smiling about.


Happy New Year from Portsong, your humble mayor & Kylie

Filed under: Learned Along the Way

6 Comments on Focus on Positive, last added: 1/3/2015
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17. Comic: Alphabet Soup

Just one reason you should always keep a notebook handy -- you never know when inspiration will strike!

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18. The Best of 2014 Writing and Illustrating


Kendra Shedenhelm sent this illustration in for us to enjoy. It makes me think of the song that was out a year ago titled, “What does the Fox say.” Must be Tee Hee Hee. The fourth book she has illustrated, “You, the Magician,” was released in November 2014, and can be viewed at http://www.youthemagician.com. http://www.kendrashedenhelm.com/



Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: Advice, authors and illustrators, demystify, inspiration, list, Process, reference, Tips Tagged: Best of Writing and Illustrating 2014, Kendra Shedenhelm

4 Comments on The Best of 2014 Writing and Illustrating, last added: 12/29/2014
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19. Kudo & Books

dowpostcard holiday feast kathy

Dow Phumiruk is an aspiring children’s book illustrator. She won the 2013 SCBWI On-the-Verge Emerging Voices Award that promotes diversity in children’s books. This feast illustration is from a book idea called Arissa and the Queen’s Mice. Please visit her portfolio site at http://www.artbydow.blogspot.com or her blog at http://www.happydow.blogspot.com to see more of her work.

kelly calabrese headshot2I’m thrilled to share that… drum roll please… Kelly Calabrese has accepted representation with Sarah LaPolla of Bradford Literary Agency!

Kelly says, “Sarah LaPolla is a super sharp, smart, and witty agent who really *gets* the types of books that I like to write – which I believe is the most important factor in an agent/writer relationship.”

Kelly first met Sarah at the annual NJ SCBWI June Conference, and then again at the Full Manuscript Avalon Writres’ Retreat at the end of September. Sarah critiqued her full manuscript of her YA Thriller-Horror, BEAUTIFUL BLOODY DUCKLING, and gave her editorial notes that were dead-on insightful.

I asked Kelly what happened post the Avalon Writers’ Retreat, here is what she said:

I had the amazing fortune of being accepted into Brenda Drake’s Pitch Wars. As a chosen mentee in this contest, I won the editorial aid of two published mentors – Trisha Leaver and Lindsay Currie – who helped to shape my story into a much stronger version. I can’t shout loud enough from the rooftops about how life-changing Pitch Wars can be. After working day and night on revisions (Sleep? What sleep?!), I completed my manuscript a mere two days before Thanksgiving.

Sarah received my full manuscript on the 25th of November, and offered me representation within two weeks. Crazy. I know. And so very encouraging!!! It’s all very *dream come true* – WHOOT!

I truly believe that Sarah is an ideal agent for me, and that we are going to KICK ASS together. So, watch out world.

Of course, I could not have done it on my own. I am beyond grateful for Dee Falvo (my über talented CP), for the constant encouragement provided by my fellow NJ SCBWI members, and for the empowering mentorship offered through Pitch Wars.

The writing community ROCKS. And I am so thrilled to be a part of it…. #AmWriting #AmReading #Forevermore :)

— @kellycalabrese & @sarahlapolla —-

PS: I started a new BLOG called We Hear YA! It connects YA writers with their teen audience and can be found here: http://wehearya.blogspot.com/ (@WeHear_YA)

Sarah LaPolla: http://www.bradfordlit.com/about/sarah-lapolla-agent/

Pitch Wars: http://www.brenda-drake.com/pitch-wars/

Trisha & Lindsay’s book:



FYI: If you have a Kindle, here are two books that have had their prices temporarily reduced. Can’t ever go wrong buying a Lauren Oliver book. I personally read and enjoyed. I just bought RED RISING, but have not read it yet. It has gotten a lot of buzz and awards.



By Lauren Oliver

A New York Times bestselling author delivers a “fast-paced and captivating book” (School Library Journal). In the small town of Carp, teenagers have invented a dangerous game, and newly graduated Heather and Dodge find themselves competing for thousands of dollars — putting their very lives at risk.


Deal ends: January 5


By Pierce Brown

For fans of The Hunger Games comes a New York Times bestseller that’s a “heart-pounding ride” (Entertainment Weekly). Darrow is a Red — part of the lowest level in his color-coded dystopia. Can he infiltrate the ruling Gold caste and bring justice to his people? “Fast-paced, gripping, well-written” (Terry Brooks).



Deal ends: December 27

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: Agent, authors and illustrators, Book, illustrating, inspiration, success Tagged: Avalon Writer's Retreat, Bradford Literary Agency, Dow Phumiruk, Kelly Calebrese, Sarah LaPolla

5 Comments on Kudo & Books, last added: 12/26/2014
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20. Christmas Eve is Here! Two Poems for Judging – One for fun

Christmas Lauren Gallegos FINALAsleep

Lauren Gallegos sent in this cute illustration that rings so true. She is a Children’s Book Illustrator who was featured on Illustrator Saturday: http://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2012/11/03/illustrator-saturday-lauren-gallegos/  www.Laurengallegos.com Twitter: @laurengallegos

Here are two holiday poems. More tomorrow and Christmas Day. Voting will start on Friday.

The Tasting Tree

By: Robin Jordan

Busy hands stained juicy, red.

Berries strung. Needle ‘n thread.

Draped around a fragrant pine

Over, under branches fine.

Popcorn seeds shake, shake, shake, then

Burst into a snowy flake.

Loosely sewn all in a row

On the festive tree they go.

Vanilla scents thrill the nose.

Cookies tied with shiny bows

Sprinkles shimmer, precious gems

Dot the sweeping verdant stems.

Shepherd crooks, a sweet delight

Twisted stripes. Some red, some white.

Candy canes hung by their hook

Help create a gleeful look.

My tasting tree’s now complete.

Leaving Santa lots to eat.

Working hard all through the night

Must stir up his appetite!



The above illustration was done by Mark Meyers. He was featured on Illustrator Saturday in 2012. Here’s the link.  http://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2013/10/05/illustrator-saturday-mark-meyers/

Christmas Movies and Meaning

By Hally Franz –

On the Twelve days of Christmas I hoped I could see,

The classic holiday movies I’d missed on TV.

So many favorites make me smile, laugh, and cry,

But the days left for watching are flying right by.


Day one, I will start with some time spent with Clark,

Though his house was lit well, he was left in the dark,

‘Bout what grand or glum bonus would come his way,

And what crazy cousin Eddie would do that last day.


Day two, it’s time for a freckle-faced kid,

And the tale of what the two robbers did.

Left all alone, but helpless he’s not,

For few have the tricks clever Kevin has got!


Day three, I must visit a lodge in Pine Tree,

For Vermont is a lovely white place one should be,

On lyrical holidays with Danny and Bing,

Engagements and soldiers, all the songs they will sing.


Day four is saved for a swelling single dad,

Who put on the suit and left the life he once had.

Shaving and gaining, graying and growing,

He flew to the North Pole where elves he’s employing.


On day five, I’ll enjoy a sugary treat,

A Caan-Ferrell combo is one hard to beat.

Jovie leads carols, gets Santa’s sleigh off the ground,

In a place folks think no Christmas cheer can be found.


From sweet to a sneak on day six, I will go,

When I watch the green guy with the heart yet to grow.

He seemed determined to ruin Christmas for young Cindy Lou,

Until Dr. Seuss taught him a lesson compliments of the Whos.


By seven I travel across the pond to hear,

Tales of Mark and Daniel and Bridget dear.

Their accents are lovely, their troubles quite mad,

The kiss in the snow leaves me a Colin Firth fan.


Now when on day eight, loves turns to divorce,

It’s time for “delousing babies in Burma,” of course.

Though they try to avoid crazy families, they find,

Even spray cheese and spending limits are better than “lies.”


Though Peter B. helped produce my selection above,

He’s rabbit-costume-hating Ralphie in one we all love.

On day nine it’s Red Ryder BB guns and lady-leg lamps,

Frozen tongues, broken glasses, and little guy scamps.


My nostalgic mood continues on ten,

When I’ll watch my old black-and-white friend.

George questions himself and thinks his life’s been a waste,

Clarence reveals he’s made Bedford Falls a fine place.


Dickens’s story, reincarnated has been,

But, any version works fine on day eleven.

Visions and dreams appear as in our story above,

Unlike good-guy George, Scrooge must learn how to love.


Day twelve is reserved for one from way back,

A short film of a child and the love he did lack.

A poor boy he has only his drum he can play,

For the newborn king on that most glorious day.


Thank you, Hollywood, for movies we enjoy year after year,

For stories of love, life, and lessons held perennially dear.

But, if one studies the list, I think you will find,

Few of the flicks bring the true meaning to mind.


The most known films are sweet and funny, it’s true,

But fail to bring Mary, the manger, and Jesus in view.

Tinsel Town, try addressing man’s internal crave,

And, give us more to see about the son that He gave.

It’s a story that’s true, compelling, and brave,

Of One born to die, our sinning souls to be saved.


Consider my list, along with my request,

While I reveal answers to the above test.


“Christmas Vacation” should not be spent “Home Alone,”

Unless it’s a “White Christmas” and you’re talking by phone.

But, then “The Santa Clause” and his “Elf” won’t find you around,

If in spite of “The Grinch that Stole Christmas” down the chimney they bound.


If left stranded deep in snow read “Bridget Jones’ Diary” for fun,

Are remember “Four Christmases” are rarely better than one.

Tell “The Christmas Story” for one or all who are near,

Be thankful “It’s a Wonderful Life” whether you’re there or you’re here.

Sing “A Christmas Carol” or two with joy in your heart,

And, one called “Little Drummer Boy” is a great way to start.


Blessings to all at this Christmastime,

And, thank you for reading my ramble-ing rhyme.

In summary, I say watch those movies we love,

But save time for the Savior sent from above.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~ *~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

This was sent in by Margo Sorenson. She doesn’t know who wrote it, but it is a very well-known in Hawaii.

“Da Night Bafo Christmas” Was da night bafo’ Christmas, and all ova’ da place,

Not even da geckos was showin’ their face.

Da stockings was hangin’ on top da TV

(‘Cause no mo’ fireplace in Hawai’i )

Da kids stay all crashed, my old man too.

They leave all da work for you-know-who.

So me, I stay pickin’ up alla dea toys,

When – boom! – outside get only big noise!

I run to da window, I open ‘em up,

I stick out my head and I yell, “Eh! Whassup?!”

And then, I no can ba-lieve what I seen!

Was so unreal, you know what I mean?

This fat haole guy get his reindeers in my yard!

And reindeers not housebroken,

you know, as’ why hard!

But nemmind, this Christmas,

so I cut ‘em some slack.

Plus, had uku pile presents pokin’ outta his sack!

So I wait ’till he pau tie up his reindeer,

Then I yell out da window,

“Huui! Brah, ova hea!”

An’ I tell ‘em first thing,

when I open da door,

“Eh, Hemo your shoes! You going dirty my floor!”

He take off his boots, he tell, “You know who I am?”

I go, “Ho! From the smell, must be Mr. Toe Jam!”

He make mempachi eyes and he go, “Ho, ho, ho!”

By now, I stay thinking this guy kinda slow!

He look like my Tutu, but little less weight,

And his beard stay so white, mo’ white than shark bait!

He stay all in red, specially his nose,

And get reindeer spit on top his nice clothes!

But him, he no care; he just smile at me,

And he start fo’ put presents unda-neath da tree.

I tell ‘em, “Eh, brah, no need make li’dat,

And watch where you step! You going ma-ke da cat!”

Then, out from his bag, he pull one brand new computah,

Choke video games, and one motorized scootah!

He try for fill up da Christmas socks too, But had so much pukas,

all da stuff went fall troo.

When he pau, I tell ‘em, “Eh Santa, try wait!

I get plenty leftovahs, I go make you one plate!”

But  he nevah like hang, he had so much fo’ do;

Gotta make all them small kids’  wishes come true.

So I wave ‘em goodbye, and I flash ‘em da shaka,

And  I tell ‘em, “Mele Kalikimaka!”

When he hear that, he stop…and I telling  you true,

He go, “Garans ball-barans! Merry Christmas to you!”  


Thank you Hally and Robin for sending in your December poems. I will post a couple more tomorrow and a few on Christmas, then you can vote on Friday. Please stop back an vote  for your favorite Holiday poem. Have a Merry Christmas.

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: authors and illustrators, Holiday, inspiration, Poems Tagged: Christmas Poems, Hally Franz, Lauren Gallegos, Mark Meyers, Robin Jordan

2 Comments on Christmas Eve is Here! Two Poems for Judging – One for fun, last added: 12/27/2014
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21. Merry Christmas

ana ochoa

This Christmas illustration was sent in by Ana Ocho to help us celebrate the day. Ana has worked with most publishers in Mexico (both private and government), doing picture books as well as school text books. She was featured at the beginning of the year on Illustrator Saturday. http://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2014/01/11/illustrator-saturday-ana-ochoa/

Christmas Andreja

This happy North Pole Illustration was sent in by Andreha Peklar. She was featured earlier this year on Illustrator Saturday. http://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2014/07/12/illustrator-saturday-andreja-peklar/

DECEMBER’S LIGHT by Eileen Spinelli


It’s the slanted light of a silver star,

  soft candlelight in a quiet room.

  It’s lantern light from house to barn

  swaying bright against the gloom.

  It’s the light of home across the miles.

  It’s the puddled light of moon-on snow.

  It’s the light in eyes…in smiles…in hearts.

  It’s the sweetest light of all I know.

christmas tree

Thank you Eileen and Carol for the Christmas cheer. Hope everyone is having a wonderful day. Merry Christmas!

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: authors and illustrators, Holiday, inspiration, Poems Tagged: Ana Ochoa, Andreja Peklar, Carol Murray, Eileen Spinelli

4 Comments on Merry Christmas, last added: 12/25/2014
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22. Illustrator Saturday – Let It Snow!

Step in and visit. You will find many of the wonderful snowy illustrations that have graced books and Illustrator Saturday on this blog over the years. Hope you enjoy.


Ruth Sandersonhttp://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2012/03/17/illustrator-saturday-ruth-sanderson/


Laura Jacobsenhttp://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2013/12/07/illustrator-saturday-laura-jacobsen/


Michael Garlandhttp://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2013/08/31/illustrator-saturday-michael-garland/


Nancy Cote - http://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2012/06/02/illustrator-saturday-nancy-cote/


Rob McClurkanhttp://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2014/06/07/illustrator-saturday-rob-mcclurkan/


Christopher Denisehttp://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2014/04/12/illustrator-saturday-christopher-denise/


David Thorn Wenzelhttp://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2013/08/24/illustrator-saturday-david-thorn-wenzel/


Danielle Arborhttp://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2013/03/30/illustrator-saturday-danielle-arbor/


Lyn Stonehttp://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2014/03/29/illustrator-saturday-lyn-stone/


Michelle Henningerhttp://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2014/01/04/illustrator-saturday-michelle-henninger/


Alison Jayhttp://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2014/05/17/illustrator-saturday-alison-jay/


Michael Garlandhttp://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2013/08/31/illustrator-saturday-michael-garland/


Roberta Aangaramohttp://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2012/02/18/illustrator-saturday-roberta-aangaramo/


Kathleen Kemlyhttp://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2012/04/07/illustrator-saturday-kathleen-kemly/

bobSnow Finish

Bob McMahonhttp://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2014/01/25/illustrator-saturday-bob-mcmahon/


Suzanne Kauffmanhttp://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2014/01/18/illustrator-saturday-suzanne-kauffman/

Stomping through the snowy woods500

Stacy Heller Budnickhttp://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2013/11/23/illustrator-saturday-stacy-heller-budnick/


Yvonne Gilberthttp://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2013/11/09/illustrator-saturday-yvonne-gilbert/


Yvonne Gilberthttp://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2013/11/09/illustrator-saturday-yvonne-gilbert/


Sheralyn Barneshttp://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2013/04/06/illustrator-saturday-sheralyn-barnes/


Laura Watsonhttp://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2013/08/10/illustrator-saturday-laura-watson/


Kristina Swarnerhttp://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2013/02/23/illustrator-saturday-kristina-swarner/


Randy Gallegoeshttp://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2013/08/03/illustrator-saturday-randy-gallegos/


Gregory Manchesshttp://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2014/11/29/illustrator-saturday-gregory-manchess/


Susan Detwilerhttp://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2013/03/09/illustrator-saturday-susan-detwiler/


Marit Menzinhttp://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2013/01/12/illustrator-saturday-marit-menzin/


Leeza Hernandez - http://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2014/11/22/illustrator-saturday-leeza-hernandez-3/


Kristie Edmundshttp://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2012/08/04/illustrator-saturday-kristi-edmunds/


Constanze von Kitzinghttp://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2013/01/26/illustrator-saturday-constanze-von-kitzing/


Ruth Sandersonhttp://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2012/03/17/illustrator-saturday-ruth-sanderson/

winter mayfield rd

Jeremy Tugeauhttp://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2011/07/16/illustrator-saturday-jeremy-tugeau/

Screen Shot 2014-10-16 at 7_42_18 AM

Anne Wertheimhttp://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2014/10/25/illustrator-saturday-anne-wertheim/


Alison Jayhttp://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2014/05/17/illustrator-saturday-alison-jay/


Lita Judgehttp://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2014/10/04/illustrator-saturday-lita-judge/


David Hillhttp://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2014/09/06/illustrator-saturday-david-hill-2/


Eric Freeberghttp://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2014/04/26/illustrator-saturday-eric-freeberg/


Patrick Girouardhttp://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2013/01/05/illustrator-saturday-patrick-girouard/


Anne Wilkinsonhttp://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2014/08/30/illustrator-saturday-annie-wilkinson-2/


Michele Noisethttp://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2012/09/22/illustrator-saturday-michele-noiset/


Mark Meyershttp://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2013/10/05/illustrator-saturday-mark-meyers/

dillardsnow squalls

Sarah Dillarhttp://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2012/08/19/illustrator-saturday-sarah-dillard/


Ruth Sandersonhttp://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2012/03/17/illustrator-saturday-ruth-sanderson/


Lisa Anchin – http://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2012/10/27/illustrator-saturday-lisa-anchin/

timsnowman sequence 5

Tim Bowershttp://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2012/07/28/illustrator-saturday-tim-bowes/

Angela Padron illustrator intesive FINAL

Angela Padronhttp://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2014/07/19/illustrator-saturday-angela-padron/


Melanie Greenberghttp://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2014/03/22/illustrator-saturday-melanie-hope-greenberg/


Susan Eaddyhttp://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2013/06/01/illustrator-saturday-susan-eaddy/

melissa iwaiwinter-scene3

Melissa Iwaihttp://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2012/10/13/illustrator-saturday-mellisa-iwai/


Nancy Cotehttp://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2012/06/02/illustrator-saturday-nancy-cote/


Ruth Sandersonhttp://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2012/03/17/illustrator-saturday-ruth-sanderson/


Ruth Sandersonhttp://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2012/03/17/illustrator-saturday-ruth-sanderson/


Ruth Sandersonhttp://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2012/03/17/illustrator-saturday-ruth-sanderson/


Cheryl Kirk Nollhttp://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2012/09/29/illustrator-saturday-cheryl-kirk-noll/


Michael Doolinghttp://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2014/02/22/illustrator-saturday-michael-dooling/


Kathie Ember - http://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2012/10/06/illustrator-saturday-kathi-ember/


Sharon Vargo - http://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2011/04/30/illustrator-saturday-sharon-vargo/

bogadeChristmascard stork2bigger

Maria Bogadehttp://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2013/02/09/illustrator-saturday-maria-bogade/


Jennifer Thermeshttp://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2014/02/15/illustrator-saturday-jennifer-thermes/


Kris Aro McLeodhttp://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2012/02/11/illustrator-saturday-kris-aro-mcleod/


Hans Wilhelmhttp://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2011/11/12/illustrator-saturday-hans-wilhelm/


Carol Liddiment – http://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2013/11/30/illustrator-saturday-carol-liddiment/


Susan Jeffers - http://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2011/01/08/illustrator-saturday-susan-jeffers/


Ruth Sandersonhttp://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2012/03/17/illustrator-saturday-ruth-sanderson/

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: authors and illustrators, illustrating, Illustrator's Saturday, inspiration, list, picture books Tagged: Illustrator Saturday Snow, snowy illustrations

3 Comments on Illustrator Saturday – Let It Snow!, last added: 12/27/2014
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23. No Fee Poetry Contest



Contest is open to residents of the U.S., its territories and possessions, including Puerto Rico who are 18 years of age or older at the time of entry.


Tell us your original poem, in 15 lines or fewer. The entry must not be lewd, obscene, sexually explicit, pornographic, disparaging, defamatory, libelous or otherwise inappropriate or objectionable, as determined by the Judges and/or Sponsor in their sole and absolute discretion.

Prize(s): One grand-prize winner will receive $500 and his/her story will be published in Reader’s Digest Magazine. Reader’s Digest will also select three (3) runner-up winners to receive $100.

Winners and finalists will be notified by email and regular mail within two months of the closing date.

SUBMISSION LINK: http://www.rd.com/poetry

Read Rules: http://www.rd.com/magazine/poetry-contest-rules/#ixzz3MaCPeJpR

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: Contest, inspiration, magazine, opportunity, Places to Submit, poetry Tagged: Andreja Peklar, Christine Brallier, No fee Writing Contest, Poetry Contest, Reader's Digest

2 Comments on No Fee Poetry Contest, last added: 12/28/2014
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24. How to start a new book

I'm starting a new book this week. It's been a while since I did that. The book I finished a few weeks ago was originally my old "affair" book (the one you sneak off to write on the side), one that had been underway for a couple of years. The two books before that were series books.

While this book will revisit some characters I've already created (in Girl, Stolen), the two books will only be loosely linked. In fact, one of the first things I want to do is give my blind character some technology that didn't exist when I wrote the first book.  Did you know there are apps for blind people that will read a menu to you? Tell you the denomination of the bill you are holding? Tell you what color something is? I don't think apps even existed when I wrote Girl, Stolen in 2007-2008.

Screen Shot 2014-12-22 at 8.07.27 PMSo I'm going to read about apps for the visually imparied. I'm going to make a list of questions. I'm going to talk to an author I know who is blind.  I'm going to meet someone at the Oregon Commission for the Blind. I'm going to do some free writing (I just got these cool prompt cards called Storymatic).  I'm reading a book on plotting.  I'm re-reading Girl, Stolen. I'm going to watch a documentary on the Multnomah County Jail, since one of the characters is being held there. I also want to learn more about Google's self-driving cars.

You may have noticed what I didn't mention: actually writing the book. Sometimes that's the scariest part. Sometimes you just have to close your eyes, hold your nose, and jump.

So I need to do that too.

If you write, what do you do to help you start a new book?

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25. The Clean Slate New Year’s Eve Ritual

Hi, everybody! Yep, it’s time. Back by popular demand (and to remind myself, in addition to all of you), it’s the New Year’s Eve Ritual. Here’s how it goes:

Years ago a friend of mine told me about his Korean mother-in-law’s tradition for New Year’s Eve.  Her theory was that you want to go into the new year the way you want the rest of the year to go. If you want abundance, ease, order, fun, etc., these are among the things you do:

  • Fill your car with gas.
  • Fill your cupboards and refrigerator with groceries.
  • Put money in your pocket.
  • Catch up on your bookkeeping/bills.
  • Clean your house.
  • Catch up on your laundry and ironing.
  • Clear out any old clothes in your closet that don’t fit or that you don’t absolutely love anymore, and give them away so someone else can start enjoying them right now.
  • Catch up on your beauty routine (get a fresh haircut or color your hair, do your nails, shave/wax, etc.)
  • Eat the kind of food that you love.
  • Pick an event for yourself on New Year’s Eve that symbolizes the kinds of things you want to do more of in the coming year.

That’s just the base list to get you started.  The fun is in adding your own items year by year.  Maybe you want to spend the day reading, to make sure you read more books in 2015.  Or maybe you want to see a great movie.  Or spend time with your loved ones.  Or get more sleep!  Pick something you’ve been meaning to move to the top of your list for the coming year, then treat yourself to it right away.  We all need to practice being sweeter to ourselves.  The day leading into the new year seems like an excellent time to start.

Enjoy your fresh start!  And Happy 2015 everyone!

0 Comments on The Clean Slate New Year’s Eve Ritual as of 12/31/2014 4:47:00 AM
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