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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Research, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 413
1. Thankful For Teachers and More

I have the honor of wrapping up the TA Three Weeks of Thanks-Giving.  To read the eloquent posts of my fellow TAs, follow these links: 

Like all of you, I’m thankful for many things like family, friends, church, health, a place to live and thousands of other things that I sometimes take for granted.  But since this is a TeachingAuthors blog, I’ll confine my thankful thoughts –online anyway – to blessings in that part of my life. 

I’m thankful for great teachers.  I recently spoke at the Arkansas Reading Association where I did a session titled “Writing Nonfiction Using Fiction Techniques” which was attended by some amazing teachers.   Teachers today are given the task of teaching students how to write.  It is a tall order and not an easy thing to pull off even for a professional author of books.   I’m thankful for teachers who do their best even though their classes are filled with a wide range of students that include both gifted and talented and struggling readers.

I’m thankful that people, organizations and museums through the years have preserved our history by preserving documents and artifacts.  As a nonfiction author who does lots of primary source research, I can do research like I do because those before me had the forethought of preservation.   

I’m thankful to enter this holiday season with an exciting new project spinning through my mind.  In the last couple of weeks, I’ve had the real treat of having my newest project go to auction.  It is a dream of authors for more than one editor would want to publish their next book.  I know the new publishing house and editor is just as excited about the project as I am. 

What are you thankful for?  

Carla Killough McClafferty 

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2. Research for the developing world: Moving from development studies toward global science

Research for the developing world is the application of science to the challenges facing poor people and places. In the 20th century, such research fell into two camps.

The post Research for the developing world: Moving from development studies toward global science appeared first on OUPblog.

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3. Historical Fiction

If you write historical fiction, you'd better enjoy doing research.


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4. YALSAblog Tweets of the Week: October 30, 2015

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

Do you have a favorite Tweet from the past week? If so add it in the comments for this post. Or, if you read a Twitter post between October 30 and November 5 that you think is a must for the next Tweets of the Week send a direct or @ message to lbraun2000 on Twitter.

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5. Expanded-Learning, Collaborations, and How the Library Can Help

A recent report from America’s Promise Alliance looks at four communities who strove to expand opportunities for their underserved students. With support from the Ford Foundation, these communities leveraged local resources to expand opportunities in a variety of ways.

America’s Promise Alliance is an organization, founded in 1997 with the support from former Secretary of State Colin Powell and previous presidents: Nancy Reagan (standing in for her husband Ronald Reagan), Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush, and Bill Clinton. The organization strives to create places and situations for students to succeed.

Their report, Expanded Learning, Expanded Opportunities, highlighted the community efforts and the six critical lessons gained from the project as a whole. The four communities that were the focus included:

  • Grand Rapids, Michigan – they created a new network of community collaborations that worked in their school districts to tutor and mentor students.
  • Louisville, Kentucky – where they sought to expand capacity and participation in their community. Through this expansion, they hoped to raise awareness about programs and resources available.
  • Memphis, Tennessee – where they used innovation from the outside to help their schools on the inside. They called it the “Memphis Model” and had programs such as Peer Power.
  • Rochester, New York – schools redesigned the learning day, incorporating community organizations into the normal school day for expanded opportunities for their students.

From these case studies, I think the biggest lesson they learned was about community collaboration and support. Their first critical lesson is that collaboration is key, but it’s a lot of hard work. However, when you leverage the resources you have and work towards a greater goal, there is a better chance of making a sustaining impact.

That’s where libraries can come in. I’ve written a bit on studies about after-school programs during my year blogging for YALSA. I kept asking questions to libraries in the field about how their libraries could play a role in after-school programming. However, after reading this report, I want to flip that question: how does the library become a key collaborator and partner? How do we engage actively with our community, especially our schools, and find ways to work within a district? How can we help raise and expand capacity within our libraries which will hopefully spread throughout the community? That might mean we need to “turn outward” (the buzzword right now) and do engagement outside the walls of our physical library space.

And YALSA has lots to say on community collaboration. From our Wiki section devoted to partnerships, to simply searching the YALSA blog with the tag of “collaboration” brings up great articles and examples from the past. The idea of collaboration even ties into the national campaign ALA is devoting time and energy to, Libraries Transform. (And even more specifically with ALA’s collaboration with the Harwood Institute, Libraries Transforming Communities).

My experience so-far in graduate school and my work experiences show that engagement works best when you are actively present and willing to listen. It seems in these case studies that community involvement was constant and this will hopefully lead to a sustained effort. What is important is that once connections are made, they still require work to keep those relationships vibrant. Every day we can have the choice to strengthen relationships and that takes time and effort. But as we can see from these case studies, it’s worth it.

America’s Promise Alliance also released a study this October looking at mentorships with high school students. There’s an interesting article from Huffington Post about one of the students who took part in the mentorship and I think this study is a nice compliment to their expanded learning report.

What do others think of these studies and how do you see your library engaging with the community as a whole?

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6. Welcome to Wild Wild Cyberspace!

Happy (early) Internet Day.

My husband and I are former drama majors, who met in community theater.

What does this have to do with the Internet?  Patience, please!

We are huge movie fans. Pre-child, we would see three or four movies a week. Post-child and Pre-Netflix, we were Blockbusters' best customers. Watching movies is not a passive experience for us. We discuss the direction, the acting, the anachronisms that pop up. (The average upperclass American 1950's wife did NOT have pierced ears!)

 For years our biggest argument was over a line in The Godfather.  Did Tom Hagen say to Michael Corleone, "You know Pop worked hard to get you a deferment" or "You know Pop worked hard to get you into Furman"? (A small Baptist college in South Carolina...my husband is a South Carolinian.) It didn't matter that the book said Michael went to Dartmouth.

"They changed it for the movie," my husband insisted.

This guy went to Dartmouth.

    Enter the Internet!  I first met "the 'Net" when I was a university reference librarian in the mid-90's. I learned that the right combo of search terms on the right search engine (my favorite was Alta Vista) would get me any information my heart desired. The Godfather screenplay was online. Yes, Don Corleone got Michael a deferment, not into Furman.

   Having settled the matter of Michael Corleone's alma mater, my husband and I continue to "discuss" movies and actors. Thanks to a wonderful database, www.IMDb.com, our differences in opinion are settled before the first commercial.

"Oh there's what's-her-name.  You know her; she was the Lucky Hat Girl in Goodfellas?"

Tap tap tap. "Welker White. She does a lot of Law and Order."

"Didn't we see Goodfellas when we were dating?"

"Nope.  We were living in Wisconsin."

Tap tap tap. "We're both wrong.  Goodfellas  came out September 1990.  We were living Alabama."

     What does all this have to with writing? The Internet, used with caution, saves a boatload of research time. I wrote the first version of Jimmy's Stars in 1984. I spent months in the microfilm room of the Pittsburgh Carnegie Library reading old newspapers, making hundreds of pages of notes. After I finished the book, I sensed it was missing something. (A plot! A conflict!) So, Jimmy lived in my bottom desk drawer for nearly 30 years. (Never throw anything out. Especially something you have researched so long!) When I re-wrote the book (this time with a plot and conflict), I could re-verify my information from my home office with just a couple of hours of online searching.

   In the past, I would begin a writing project by collecting information.  Pictures, maps, books and bits of ephemera picked up here and there (ration books, streetcar schedules, old postcards.) My tiny office looked like an episode of Hoarders. Now my pre-writing prep consists of a list of questions and items in an notebook.  99% of what I need, I can find and use online. The other 1% comes from my collection of diaries, family letters and photo albums. (OK, there is a still a corner of my office that looks like Hoarders.)

   Fairy tales can come true, if you are a reference librarian! No more juggling enormous reference books. No more waiting for the new edition of that reference book to come out. Instant reference gratification! Almost everything you could ever want to know is online, somewhere.

   Along with the good stuff, comes the wrong, the bad and the half-truths (to say nothing about the wonderful world of Photoshopped pictures).  It's the Wild Wild Cyberspace out there. Anyone can publish anything online, and it doesn't have to be the truth. I am reminded of students from my first school library job, circa 1982.  Do you remember the old Sprite commercials, that showed a "limon--half lemon, half lime"?  I could not convince otherwise intelligent kids that a limon was not a real fruit because...they saw it on TV!  

A limon is a mythical fruit.
 Just because it's online, doesn't make it true.

There is no such thing as a jackalope, either!
The Internet is an endless source of information and misinformation. Some sites may or may not have accurate information (Wikipedia) that has to be verified another way. I found "satirical" news sites, such as The Onion, masquerading as legitimate information sources. If it's too weird to be true, I either search the name of the original source (which will tell me if the site is "satirical" or affiliated with a particular political agenda) or I hit www.snopes.com.  Snopes keeps up with latest rumors, urban legends and conspiracy theories.

 Some people avoid writing by playing Solitaire or Candy Crush online.  Me?  I can spend hours happily toggling from one site to another, answering for own curiosity (and not story research) question after question.  And then double checking those answers.

As the old Russian proverb (which was swiped by President Reagan's speechwriter) says, "Trust but verify." If you don't verify on the front end, some editor is going to ask you to do it eventually.

Now, I am taking a break from blog writing to scroll through my new obsession, www.murderpedia.org, a data base of murderers, living and dead, from around the world.

Don't ask, OK?

Happy Internet Day on the 29th, y'all

   Posted by Mary Ann Rodman

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7. YALSABlog Tweets of the Week - October 23th, 2015

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

Do you have a favorite Tweet from the past week? If so add it in the comments for this post. Or, if you read a Twitter post between October 23 and October 29 that you think is a must for the next Tweets of the Week send a direct or @ message to lbraun2000 on Twitter.

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8. Are drug companies experimenting on us too much?

For years, my cholesterol level remained high, regardless of what I ate. I gave up all butter, cheese, red meat, and fried food. But every time I visited my doctor, he still shook his head sadly, as he looked at my lab results. Then, anti-cholesterol medications became available, and I started one.

The post Are drug companies experimenting on us too much? appeared first on OUPblog.

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9. The ethics of criminological engagement abroad

Criminological knowledge originating in the global North is drawn upon to inform crime control practices in other parts of the world. This idea is well established and most criminologists understand that their efforts to engage with policy makers and practitioners for the purpose of generating research impact abroad can have positive and negative consequences.

The post The ethics of criminological engagement abroad appeared first on OUPblog.

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10. Infographic: Using Google Research to Create MLA Citations for Online Sources


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11. Better medical research for longer, healthier lives

When I started my career as a medical statistician in September 1972, medical research was very different from now. In that month, the Lancet and the British Medical Journal published 61 research reports which used individual participant data, excluding case reports and animal studies. The median sample size was 36 people. In July 2010, I had another look.

The post Better medical research for longer, healthier lives appeared first on OUPblog.

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12. Teen Research Trending: Serving Young Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

Bress, Andrea.  “Making Your School Library More Functional to Individuals with Autism.”  Library Media Connection, 32 (Aug./Sep. 2013):  46-7.

Though not a research article, strictly speaking, this practitioner-oriented essay makes ample use of research on autism and library services for people with autism.  This article is one of several dissemination activities that grew out of the recent PALS Project, a Florida State University (FSU) project funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).  The principal investigator was Dr. Nancy Everhart, a professor in the FSU School of Information, and the co-principal investigator was Dr. Juliann Woods, a professor in the FSU School of Communication Science and Disorders and associate director for research to practice at the Autism Institute.  (In the interest of full disclosure, I should acknowledge that Drs. Everhart and Woods and colleagues of mine; however, I was not involved in this project.)  Andrea Bress was a student in the School of Communication Science and Disorders and a member of the PALS Project research team at the time this article was written.  Three other members of the team were doctoral students Amelia Anderson and Abigail Delehanty and Lezlie Cline, project manager for the Florida Center for Interactive Media.

Bress’s article does not mention Project PALS specifically nor does it focus exclusively on young adults, but all of the information and advice provided certainly can apply to any young adult with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).  She notes that, according to the Centers for Disease Control, one in every eighty-eight children is diagnosed with ASD, and she adds that libraries have the potential to be safe, comfortable places for individuals with ASD.  In order for that to happen, librarians need to be aware of the kind of environment these individuals need in order to function best.  Specifically, a quiet place with low lighting, good signage, accessible technology, and no clutter is an optimal environment.  Routine is highly valued by individuals with ASD, so keeping materials, furniture, and technology in their regular, predictable locations is important.  Because interacting with others can be stressful, making self-checkout kiosks available can help make borrowing materials more user-friendly.

Bress offers specific advice, and, in a handy call-out box, conveys the point of view of an individual with ASD.  For example, “I like things to be the same” and “I am most comfortable when I can access a quite space.”  She concludes by pointing out that making these kinds of modifications to libraries can help “all students who need structure and routine” (47).   Though her focus is on school libraries, the information on serving young people with ASD is potentially useful in public library settings as well.

More about Project PALS . . .

The purpose of Project PALS was to develop and evaluate training for librarians on providing services to people with ASD.  The result was a series of four modules, each lasting an hour, which can be accessed for free through Webjunction.  A Webjunction account is needed, but there is no fee to register.  The link to Webjunction, as well as a list of other resources, is available on the project website: http://pals.cci.fsu.edu/.  

The modules are:

  1.      About Autism in the Library
  2.      Arranging the Library Environment
  3.      Communicating with Individuals with Autism
  4.      Interacting with Technology

The modules are self-paced, and clear learning objectives are provided with each one.  Any librarian who works with young adults, whether in a school or public library setting, will benefit from completing these modules and learning more about serving teens with ASD.

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13. Doing Your Research: The Query Trenches Part Three

Hey all, Hannah here! Last week, I spoke in depth about how to summarize your novel for a query. The month before, I gave some tips on little ways to take yours to the next level. Today, I’m going to go into a bit more depth about some of the larger mistakes I often see that might give agents a reason to reject a query.

This is a hard truth: many agents receive hundreds of queries a week, and yours will, someday, be among them. When an agent reads so many queries every day (if they are lucky enough to find the time among all of their other responsibilities), it sometimes becomes easier to find reasons to reject a query, rather than reasons not to.

The number biggest reason a query gets rejected, aside from simply not fitting an agent’s list or tastes? A query that betrays poor to no research. So without further ado, here are some mistakes I regularly see that tell me a querier has jumped the gun.

Mistake: Telling instead of showing.

Yes, this is true in queries as well as fiction. Every so often I’ll see a query that has a very short summary, often even more like a logline, detailing the very broad plot points of the story, followed by many paragraphs explaining character motivation and themes.

For example:

When a girl and a boy are thrust into an emotional situation, they are forced to confront the realities of friendship and go on a search for the meaning of life.

I wanted to write this book because the themes of lost love and identity speak to me, and, as someone who has experienced a terrible breakup, I felt I was the best person to tell this story. Michelle and Tony are best friends but I wanted to drive an emotional wedge between them in the form of a third love interest.


This tendency comes from not knowing how to summarize your story. Rather than over-explaining to the point of confusion, the story is under-explained to the point of being too broad. Anyone who still doubts their ability to summarize their novel well should check out last week’s post for guidance. Because an agent should be able to tell quite clearly from the stakes you outline in the summary what your character’s motivations are.

Mistake: Explaining this is the first book you’ve written/that it’s recently completed OR calling this your debut/yourself a debut writer

This is a mistake because it highlights you as possibly inexperienced whether you are or want to be framed that way. It isn’t pertinent information – it changes nothing about your story, how you summarize your story, or anything within your bio. The only thing it does is tell me that there’s a possibility you haven’t done your research.

There is no need to point out if this is your first book or your fiftieth. Let the work speak for itself.

Mistake: Confusing “personalizing your query” for “restating the submission page on the website”

This actually a very easy mistake to make. We often see advice that suggests personalizing a query by telling the agent why you chose him or her. This shows the agent that you didn’t just mass email your query – you took time and put thought into who you contacted.

But what I often see instead of “I noticed quirky, adventurous middle grade on your #MSWL, and felt my manuscript fit the bill”, is: “I went to your website and saw that you are looking for thrillers and upmarket fiction and romance and that you enjoy working with new authors. Therefore I am emailing you.”

Here’s the thing: the agent knows what’s on the website. Don’t waste valuable query space repeating it. That space should be for you and your story. And if you don’t have something more specific to personalize with, that’s okay! If you chose the agent based on what the website says he or she wants, just start with your hook and go from there.

Mistake: Naming more than three characters.

A long, confusing summary often gets that way when too many characters are named in a query. The moment you name a character is the moment you tell a reader that character is important. Perhaps you have more than one main character – maybe you have five, or seven! It doesn’t matter. Pick your most important character, the one whose struggle your book is ultimately about, and focus your query on him or her. After that, only name those who absolutely must be named in relation to the summary. If you can help it, try not to name more than three characters. The person reading your query will (hopefully) be far less confused.

One of the things I struggled with when querying was exactly this problem – knowing who to name and who to leave out. But trust me: it can be done.

Mistake: Using bad comp titles.

This one is actually really hard to get right, in my opinion, and if you aren’t entirely certain, just don’t use them. Do they help? Only if they’re spot on.

Using books that are huge sellers/extremely well-loved is generally a no-no. Why? Because comparing yourself to J.K. Rowling or Suzanne Collins or Stephen King goes back to the haughty or poorly researched issue. It’s much safer to use titles that do/have done well enough and are known, but not so huge that you look arrogant or ignorant of other good books. It’s also generally best to use something more current – more than a couple years old and they begin to lose relevance.

See? Told you it was tough.

Another question I sometimes get: can a querier use TV shows or films as comp titles? The answer is…yes and no. Tread lightly here. I wouldn’t use more than one TV/film comp title, and if you do, it’s often helpful to balance it with a book title. Lots of agents feel differently in this category – some hate when queriers use TV/film titles, and some really like it. If you aren’t sure, do your research. Check out an agent’s twitter, interviews they have done, etc. If there are no answers to be found and you aren’t 110% certain of the titles you’ve chosen? Skip them. This is another area where it’s best to err on the side of caution.

It’s true that there are writers who make mistakes like these and still get agents. All of publishing is subjective – what bothers one agent may not bother another. The format one agent loves, another might hate. But being informed and well-researched shows in a query, no matter who you’re querying. And that is far more valuable than you realize.

Once again, I hope this has been useful. Good luck to everyone in their querying endeavors!

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14. 6 Key Points from the UK Study on Diversity in Publishing

diversity102-logoDiscussion about diversity in books, at least around here, is often focused on the US market, but the challenges we face regarding diversity here in the United States don’t start and end within our borders. Many countries around the world find themselves struggling with the same growing gap between who is represented in their literature and who their citizens actually are.

The international scope of these problems presents us with a unique opportunity to learn from each other and to share knowledge. What works? What doesn’t? What else can we try?

In April 2015, a writer development agency in London called Spread The Word released a comprehensive 44-page study about Black and Asian writers and publishers in the UK marketplace. Supported by 6 key points from the UK Diversity in Publishing Studythe Arts Council of England, the study delved deep into the experiences of minorities in all aspects of publishing, from acquisitions to literary festivals to creative writing degrees. Here are six important points from that study that I think we can learn from:

  1. New entry-level programs to increase diversity are not enough. For publishers that are serious about increasing diversity in their workforce, entry-level diversity programs must be established in combination with a deeper look at company culture at all levels. Companies should compare pay, retention, and promotion rates of white and non-white staff, suggests Rare Recruitment’s Raphael Mokades: “If you do that rigorous analysis and…you find that BAME [Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic] people are leaving more quickly or taking longer to get promoted, then you have one of two issues: either all the BAME people you recruit are crap, in which case your recruitment is broken and you need to fix it, or–and this is more likely–there is institutional bias going on and you need to work out what it is and you need to stamp it out.
  2. Writers of color are often pushed into the “literary” category, effectively distancing them from the mainstream and more lucrative genres. A survey of UK authors found that 42% of authors of color wrote literary fiction, by far the biggest genre for authors of color in the poll. By contrast, only 4% published in the crime and women’s commercial fiction genres, two genres that sell in far larger quantities than literary work. Diverse authors often felt that they were encouraged–or pushed–into the literary fiction genre. This means that authors of color are often at a commercial disadvantage, especially if they want to be full-time novelists.
  3. Authors of color in the UK feel pidgeonholed, too. One African Caribbean writer is quoted as saying, “There is a sense that if you are a Black writer, you should be writing about that–being Black. I have heard publishers say, ‘She’s Black, what is she doing writing about Australia?’” This is especially interesting because in the US, this phenomenon is often tied to the power of major ethnic-focused literary awards like the Coretta Scott King Award. But in the UK, without those awards, pidgeonholing of authors of color still happens.
  4. A primary problem for diverse graduates seeking careers in publishing is access to personal publishing contacts as well as paid internships. The biggest entries into publishing include having a contact in the industry and serving unpaid internships. As the study says, “It should be a matter of concern to the industry that a primary route into the business poses a significant barrier to those outside the affluent professional classes.
  5. There are few people of color working in HR. People of color in UK publishing are most often employed in the editorial department (35%), finance department (35%), and in social media/online (35%). Only 4% of survey respondents said they had a person of color in their HR departments, which affects not only recruitment and retention but also general company culture.
  6. Diversity initiatives start up and then die again. Over the last decade, several programs have emerged to help recruit more diverse candidates for publishing jobs. However, many have petered out over lack of funding or leaders. What is required in order for these initiatives to be successful, the study suggests, is “management buy-in,” that is, a commitment from people at the senior level of publishers to sustaining these programs and committing the resources to do so.

You can read the full report here. While it is clear that the UK, like the US, has serious diversity problems, it’s nice to see such a comprehensive study on the state of their industry. What would it take to create something similar within the US? What groups would we want to see involved in an effort like this?

It’s also incumbent on all of us to ask ourselves: what does the UK now know that we still don’t know…and how can we find out?

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15. The Story I’ll Paint: Part 3 – Devil’s in the Details

Eventually there comes a time when the artist must figure out all the things that are happily ignored during the thumbnail phase: perspective, anatomy, facial expression, and the nitty-gritty details that fill the world of the picture book. This can seem daunting, but there are plenty of steps one can take in order to make this easier.

1. Reference images

I’ve found that it’s well worth my time to make reference photos or sketches for the poses of my characters. Sometimes I had to be pretty creative to get the right angle and pose. For the balloon page, I needed to draw the mother from above, running and dropping firewood at the same time. I put on a dress, bought some firewood, and made my husband photograph me from the second story of our house. It took quite a few tries and a lot of yelling through the window before we got it right. I’m sure the neighbors thought I was crazy.

Yes, I'm wearing jeans under the dress. But it was snowing.

Yes, I'm wearing jeans under the dress. But it was snowing.

Models are another useful tool. They can be elaborate or simple. Sometimes a bit of modeling clay and a scrap of cloth was enough to get the right position:

balloon-baby clay model and final drawing

Fabric scrap + modeling clay + bowl = hot air balloon baby. Please pardon my dirty window in the background.

2. Perspective

If you’re working with perspective, it’s important to get it right. A few errors can throw the whole illustration off. I often find that my vanishing points are inconveniently distant. There are more traditional ways to deal with this problem, but since I’m a modern gal I’ve taken to using Adobe Illustrator to figure it all out.

The simple and quick method is to open the rough sketch and draw lines for your horizon and vanishing points manually with the line tool. If you have something fancy going on like a wacky three-point perspective or lots of round objects, you can take advantage of the built in perspective tool. I used this for my balloon page, making sure that all the round objects were correctly proportioned:

Perspective drawing for hot air balloon illustration

It looks chaotic, but somehow made sense at the time.

3. Putting it all together

With the perspective lines overlaid on the rough sketch, I projected the whole thing onto a larger piece of paper as my guide for the final drawing, keeping the other reference images nearby. Here you can see the transition from thumbnail to final drawing to final art:

thumbnail, drawing and final illustration of hot air balloon

As you can see, the cat transformed into dad at some point along the way.

For more on this subject, I recommend the wonderful reference book by Dinotopia artist James Gurney, Imaginative Realism. If you’re not familiar with Gurney’s work, he is truly a master of his craft. The book worth a read for everyone, but is especially useful for illustrators working in more realistic styles. (No, I’m not cool enough to actually know Gurney personally and he did not ask me to promote his book. It’s just one of my favorite references.)

Coming up next: Adding the Magic –  Color and light!
Other posts in the series:

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16. Guest Post: Down the Research Rabbit Hole with Mindy McGinnis

Amie here first: Today we have a guest post from the lovely Mindy McGinnis, whose latest book, A Madness So Discreet, came out yesterday! She’s here to tell us about the entirely unreasonable demands of her muse, and the amazing book that resulted!

MadnessSoDiscreetCOVERUSEMy muse is fickle and unreliable, which is really frustrating for me because I’m the type of person that is constantly busy. I knit while watching TV because being still is not in my body’s repertoire. So when Miss Muse shuts down for a little bit, I tend to get frustrated with her, and she usually responds by dumping three to four great concepts into my lap at once, declares her job done, and disappears again.

She pulled this trick on me in 2013 when the barren waste land that had formerly housed my inspiration suddenly said, “Hey, you should write a Victorian Gothic novel set in an insane asylum about a girl who assists a criminal psychologist in catching killers. Also, she has to pretend to be lobotomized in order to escape her abusive father. That should be easy to deliver, ta-ta.”

To which I said, “Hey, thanks muse. Nice. How do I go about doing that?” But she didn’t answer because she’d already jetted off to wherever she goes when not spouting difficult-to-execute concepts at me. But I already knew the answer: research. I needed to know a lot of things in order to even come close to doing this the right way.

How did insane asylums operate in the 1890’s? How was criminal psychology executed then? How often was it right? Was the science accurate enough that a well-trained person could conceivably have caught a killer based on what they knew about the criminal mind at the time? How were lobotomies performed?

OOPS—snag. Lobotomies weren’t a medical practice in 1890. That’s a pretty huge roadblock for me since the plot hinged on my main character being (supposedly) lobotomized. Shifting the timeframe to 1936, when the first lobotomy was performed in the US, would screw up my plot even more. So instead I needed a feasible situation where a doctor could be aware of the benefits of a lobotomy-like procedure, without…you know…actually calling it a lobotomy. This train of thought ended with me reading this book, and this one. Yes, I was really popular on public transit.

I also read this book, and this book, this one (it has pictures—ouch), and to get the other side of that story, this one. And finally a slightly more relaxing one so that I was familiar with my setting. Then just to be thorough, I took a trip to the asylum where the book is set because I’m a big fan of knowing what the hell I’m talking about.

A year after Miss Disappearing Muse dropped the concept on me, I figured I knew enough to actually start writing the book. Except, no. This was the first time I’d ever attempted to write a historical, and because I despise anachronisms I had to get things as correct as I possibly could. From what kind of lighting was in the room my character waked into (Fire? Gas? Electrical?) to what she was wearing, to the question of whether she was working side by side with “policemen,” “cops,” or “constables,” I found myself in the position of not being able to finish most sentences without a quick fact check.

It was painful, torturous writing – and not only because of what I put the characters through. To make thing worse, I’d spent so much time researching that I’d painted myself into a pretty serious corner in terms of deadlines. I won’t tell you how quickly I wrote MADNESS because you’ll question my sanity, but I will tell you I gained almost fifteen pounds doing it because I basically shut myself in my room and wrote while slamming cheeseburgers. At one point I would’ve accepted a catheter just to get the job done more effectively.

A Madness So Discreet released yesterday, and I’m pretty proud of it. It marks a genre departure from my earlier works—Not a Drop to Drink and In a Handful of Dust are post-apoc survival—but not a departure from what I do best. Which apparently is write rather stomach-churning scenarios while eating.

Told you I’m a multi-tasker.

Amazon Head ShotMINDY MCGINNIS is a YA author who has worked in a high school library for thirteen years. Her debut, Not a Drop to Drink, a post-apocalyptic survival story set in a world with very little freshwater, has been optioned for film my Stephanie Meyer’s Fickle Fish Films. The companion novel, In a Handful of Dust was released in 2014. Look for her Gothic historical thriller, A Madness So Discreet on October 6 from Katherine Tegen Books.

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17. Evolution: Some difficult problems

Two other major and largely unsolved problems in evolution, at the opposite extremes of the history of life, are the origin of the basic features of living cells and the origin of human consciousness. In contrast to the questions we have just been discussing, these are unique events in the history of life.

The post Evolution: Some difficult problems appeared first on OUPblog.

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18. Teens and How They Use Technology – What’s Our Role?

This semester I’m enrolled in a Collaborations in Feminism and Technology class. It parallels the larger organization, FemTechNet. During our most recent class, our discussion turned to a frequently talked about: children/teens and technology. What sort of access to technology should they have and how will they use it?

Part of our class veered towards the idea of technocentrism (technology is the center of our world and it controls us. See Seymour Papert’s paper to read more) or technological determinism (essentially get on board with technology’s pace or forever be left behind). We discussed just giving kids and teens technology and counting on them to “just know” how to use it. We discussed restricting access because they aren’t old enough to really know how to use technology. And we discussed that teens simply don’t understand the permanence of putting something online.

However, some of my classmates (myself included) were not quick to jump aboard the technocentrism train of thought. I firmly ground myself in the idea of living in a socio-technical system – where I impact and shape technology just as much as technology is shaping and changing me. People in positions of power and privilege are making decisions on how they design and create technology and that has impacts on how we use and think about technology. So shouldn’t we be having some of these conversations with the teens we interact with?

I think we should take some responsibility for this education and problem posing of technology and its impacts. Because in many ways, the decisions we are making affect how current and future teens will use and think about technology (and the digital footprint that has been involuntarily created for them). Recently I’ve been hooked on WNYC’s podcast, Note to Self with Manoush Zomorodi. The focus of this podcast is our relationship with technology and a recent episode lets us hear first hand from a teen interviewed on her views of technology (and smart phones). Teens are actively using technology and making decisions about it and we should respect and think about those decisions (Manoush also has a great “back to school tech” post with links on [mainly] managing kids and educational apps and technology). These posts and podcasts made me think of participatory action research that people like Rachel Magee and others are doing that digs deeper into the relationships teens have with technology (a field I’m very interested in. Also Rachel is a new faculty member at the University of Illinois so I’ve been learning more about her work).

So how do we do this? How do we have those conversations? How do we talk about our permant identity on the Internet? How do we help teens to see the ways in which we shape and our shaped by technology. My main idea is through dialogue – both informal and formal. Everything from a passing comment to longer workshops (I wrote earlier this year about a week long Twitter workshop that could be led to show how information is distributed, biased, and controlled through Twitter and what users we select to follow). Or…how could we incorporate resources like YALSA’s 2012 Issue Brief on Keeping Teens Safe Online (or revise it for 2015)? How might we incorporate idea of connected learning into these conversations for a greater and long lasting impact? How can we take this Social Media Guide and turn it into an engaging program or informal conversation? Granted, I know these programs or conversations would take time – time to plan, time to think through the ideas, time to get to know the teens, and time to actually implement these ideas (I get a little tired thinking about how I would do that once I enter the working world of Library Land). But, what keeps me going is the idea that we too can impact technology. The sooner we have those conversations with our teens, the sooner we start engaging in that critical dialogue, the sooner we can start changing the world.

How do you do this in your libraries with your teens? How do you not get trapped in the idea of technocentrism and instead, strive to empower teens to think critically about technology and their technological footprint?

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Are you struggling trying to find ways to engage teens at your library? Look no further! As part of our ongoing research relating to teen library services, we talked with teens across the country and have answers for you in “10 Questions to Ask about Your Teen Services.” (For details about the research, see our recent YALS article: Denise Agosto, Rachel Magee, Andrea Forte, and Michael Dickard, 2015, "The Teens Speak Out: What Teens in a Tech High School Really Think about Libraries...and What You can do to Improve their Perceptions." Young Adult Library Services 13 (3): 7-12.)

10 Questions to Ask about Your Teen Services

  1. Can teens find quiet spaces for reading and studying in your library and vibrant spaces for hanging out, socializing, and creative activities?

It’s important to remember that teens use libraries for all sorts of activities - social interaction, quiet reading, collaborative school work, and hanging out with friends. Your library space needs to support all of these diverse activities. When asked why they use libraries, some of the teens we’ve worked with talked about schoolwork. For example, Kacie* (age 18), told us that she hadn’t visited her public library in years. Then she stopped in one day and realized that it was a great place to do her homework. She realized that: "'Hey! The library is quiet. There's everything I need [for studying].'… It was like: 'Hey! The library's kind of awesome!'" On the other hand, other teens told us about using libraries as spaces to connect with their friends or to engage in creative pursuits. As Jamie (age 18) explained: "People usually just go to the library to play music or just chill out, eat lunch, or read a game magazine. I have used it for that. They have cool magazines there." Your library should provide clearly marked spaces to support each of these different activities.

  1. Do you avoid charging fines and other penalties that can keep teens away from the library?

Our work with teens has taught us that worries about possible fines and fees even as small as thirty cents can keep teens from using their public and school libraries. As Jenny (age 16) told us: "I used to [use the public library]. What ended up happening was a thirty dollar fine for a video that I didn't even check out, so I never ended up going back and finding out how to solve the problem.” Patrick (age 18) explained that: "Personally, I know that I'm really bad at remembering due dates, or I'll just be really lazy one day and be like, 'I don't want to return this book right now.' So to save myself money and know I don't have to worry about that, I don't bother using real libraries."

What's more important: attracting teens to libraries, or collecting fines? We think you’ll agree that encouraging teens to use libraries is far more important. It’s time we work toward finding creative non-monetary alternatives to fines and fees. Possible solutions include providing volunteering options for working off fines and scheduling periodic amnesty days instead of insisting that teens pay up.

  1. Do teens help you decide what you stock in the library?

Some teens told us that the materials their libraries stock are irrelevant or uninteresting to them. For instance, Amani (age 16) said that libraries "don't necessarily have the books you might be looking for," so she prefers going to bookstores or looking for reading materials online. Public and school libraries should set up a communication channels to encourage teens to ask for the materials they would most like to use—not just books, but magazines, music, gaming equipment, and any other types of materials you consider purchasing.

  1. Are you fighting against the stereotype of libraries as just book providers?

Many teens we talked to expressed the idea that "library" equals "books"and nothing else. This limited perception meant they would mainly think to use a library when looking for a paper book, not for socializing, for entertainment opportunities, for homework help, or to take advantage of the many other services that libraries offer. As Hannah (age 15) stated, she goes "to a school that doesn't use books as much [for class assignments], so that's another reason why I've never used [the library]." As librarians and other library staff know, libraries offer much, much more than just books, but this message doesn’t seem to be getting through to teens. As a field we must work to fight against the outdated image of libraries just as book providers and help teens learn the full range of services that today’s libraries offer.

  1. Are you going to where the teens are (outside of the library) to market your services?

Most library research takes place in libraries and uses library users as study participants. Our research took place in high schools with random groups of students who did not self-identify as library users. Sadly, the teens in our studies were largely unfamiliar with their libraries and were mostly infrequent public and school library users. Jamie (age 18) even suggested that "today's youth have quit libraries," in part because "usually everything is done online." This finding highlights the importance of moving library marketing outside the physical library boundaries. After all, why focus your marketing efforts on teens who are already using libraries? Moving outside the library to other places where teens go, such as shopping malls, churches, community centers, sports fields, and online to social media and any other popular online teen hangouts makes for much more effective marketing by spreading the message of how great your library is to teens who don’t already know it.

  1. Are you working to ensure that all library staff exhibit positive, welcoming attitudes toward teens?

We learned that some teens perceive libraries as having unpleasant, unwelcoming staff members—people who don’t seem to like teens all that much. For example, Meghan (age 17) noted that the previously pleasant atmosphere of her school library was ruined by a new "librarian that was like, 'No food! No drinks! No talking!' [After she was hired] people were no longer interested in going there." Once the library gets the reputation of being unwelcoming to teens, it can spread quickly throughout the teen community and keep teens away.

  1. Are your policies framed in positive language?

We also learned that negative language in library policies can send the message that the library views teens as potential troublemakers. A sign that says, “No cell phone use in the library!” sends an angry, distrustful message. A sign that says, “Please take all phone calls to the lobby to avoid disrupting others who are working” means the same thing but sends a message of trust and mutual respect. Library staff members’ actions when enforcing policies can also have a major effect on teens’ perceptions of the library. Kacie (age 18) described returning to the library after having a positive experience with library staff waiving a fine: "Yeah, the one time I had sixty cents [in fines]. One book was late, but they forgave that. That was very nice. That's why I keep going. I've been at least five times in the last two months." Framing library policies in positive language can go a long way toward promoting the image of the library as welcoming to teens.

  1. Are you matching your services to your teen community’s unique needs?

We all know that community needs and interests should drive collection development and programming, but it’s a rule that bears repeating. For example, there has been strong push in the library literature to think of public and school libraries as technology providers, but in economically-advantaged or technology-saturated communities, teens are likely to have reduced needs for technology access. As Maisha (age 15), a student in a technology magnet school, told us: "I really don't need to go to the library because I have everything at home," including several digital devices and full access to a range of online tools and resources at home and at school. In these types of communities, the more effective approach to teen library services might be to focus on providing community engagement opportunities, civic participation outlets, social activities, recreation, information literacy education, etc., instead of focusing on information resource provision and on technology access. For more disadvantaged communities, however, public and school libraries might better serve teens by focusing resources and energy on providing technology access, infrastructure, and education, and by providing information resources teens can't get elsewhere.

  1. Do you provide opportunities for teens to demonstrate their knowledge and accomplishments, such as avenues for displaying teen fiction, teen photography, teen computer game designs, teen music compositions and performances, etc.?

Libraries are perfect places for celebrating and encouraging teens' creativity and their creations. Teens in our studies described deep levels of engagement with creative endeavors like writing, photography, and music. Taahira (age 14) explained that, "I just take pictures, because I want to be a photographer when I grow up." She went on to detail her photography and to describe her efforts to find good outlets for sharing her work others. Isaac (age 16) explained that he plays "drums, guitar, and bass…. We started a [music] club, too." Libraries have the opportunity to provide community spaces where teens can share their creativity and knowledge with other teens and with their community at large, both in the physical library and online via the library’s website or social media accounts.

  1. Do you work hard to bring the teens in your community together at your library, either face-to-face or online?

The teens in our studies told us that the social support aspects of libraries are key to engaging their interest, especially for those with limited transportation options or limited access to places where they can safely or easily hang out and socialize. Public and school libraries interested in increasing teen participation should look toward providing services that facilitate social interaction and focus on promoting libraries as social organizations. Victoria (age 16) described a successful program at her local public library: "They have these things every Tuesday, these teen programs that they have. And all these teens from different places come and meet, and they play all these games, and eat, and just hang out. We actually started going on Tuesdays, because it was really fun." That’s what teen librarianship should be about at its core: bringing teens together and providing them with a wide variety of opportunities for positive social, intellectual, and personal development.

Were you able to answer yes to all 10 questions? We hope so!

Please tell us if you found this information useful by completing a short, three-question survey at: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/GRN5PMQ. For more information about our research with teens, visit our homepage: Drexel University’s Youth Online Research Group.

Thank you!


By Michelle Purcell, Rachel Magee, Denise Agosto, and Andrea Forte


*Note: All teens’ names are pseudonyms. Quotes come from our interviews and focus groups with high school students, conducted between 2013 and 2015 in U.S. public high schools.

10 Questions to Ask about Your Teen Services” is based on research conducted by Drexel University’s Youth Online Research Group, funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services [IMLS], Award #LG-06-11-0261-11, and the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship under Grant No. 2011121873.


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20. YALSAblog Tweets of the Week - August 7, 2015

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

Do you have a favorite Tweet from the past week? If so add it in the comments for this post. Or, if you read a Twitter post between August 7 and August 13 that you think is a must for the next Tweets of the Week send a direct or @ message to lbraun2000 on Twitter.

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Many of today’s teens spend hours each day online communicating with friends. They visit their online friends in social network sites such as Facebook and Twitter; they share photos and videos via services such as YouTube, Vine, and Snapchat; and they send each other text messages throughout the day – and night – via their ever-present cell phones.

In a recent research grant funded by IMLS, we set out to study how public and school libraries fit into teens’ increasingly online information lives, especially when it comes to searching for information. To that end, we collected data through interviews, focus groups, and surveys from two populations of U.S. high school students. One population attends an urban public science and engineering magnet high school which is known for its award-winning integration of technology throughout the curriculum and its 1:1 laptop program. The school enrolls about 500 students, about 30% of whom are economically disadvantaged and 65% of whom are minority students. The second student population attends a suburban public high school located outside of a major U.S. metropolitan area in a different region of the country. About 55% of the students are economically disadvantaged and 75% are minorities. This second school also supports a small science and engineering magnet program within its total student body of about 2500. Our research sample from this school included both magnet and non-magnet students.

A total of 158 students from the two schools took part in the study. As a group they were heavy social media users, and the majority had used social media services such as Facebook and Twitter to ask (77%) and answer (61%) questions. More than half of the participants had asked or were willing to ask questions about 20 common information needs topics, ranging from social activities and entertainment to careers and health information. School was the most common topic they asked about online, with 77% reporting that they had used social media to ask questions about school-related topics such as homework and class scheduling.

These findings demonstrate that – contrary to common belief -- teens are not just wasting time when using social media. Often they are seeking information and sharing what they know with others. Recognizing that teens are using social media for beneficial uses such as information seeking and sharing can help libraries to better support teens’ information needs. Libraries can develop policies that support teens’ use of social media and consider providing informational content through these outlets. Library staff can also encourage teachers, school administrators, and other adults who interact with teens to consider the value of using social media for information access and sharing.

Based on this research, we’ve put together an infographic that summarizes some of the main points we learned in direct contrast to common myths about teens and social media. The infographic uses direct quotes from teens in our study to contradict five common myths about teens and social media:

MYTH #1: Teens talk about everything online and have little regard for personal privacy.

MYTH #2: Facebook and other social media just distract teens from schoolwork.

MYTH #3: Teens’ use of social media is frivolous.

MYTH #4: It’s dangerous for teens to interact with adults online.

MYTH #5: Internet in schools and libraries is just for finding information.

You can find the infographic at: http://youthonline.ischool.drexel.edu/.

Would you like to display the infographic in your library so that parents, teachers, other library staff, and even teens can learn some of the positive benefits of teens’ social media use? We’ll send you a free poster of the infographic if you contact us at youthonline@drexel.edu (first come first served, while supplies last).

Also, please let us know what you think of the infographic in our brief survey (https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/MXKDSXR). This will help us to develop our ongoing research about teens, social media, and libraries, and to improve the ways we share our research results with library staff, teachers, parents, and others.

And…there’s more from this project! We also talked with teens about their perceptions of libraries. We focused on this part of the study in our Spring 2015 YALS article “The Teens Speak Out: What Teens in a Tech High School Really Think about Libraries…and What You Can Do To Improve Their Perceptions.”

You might also be interested in our short quiz for assessing the quality of your teen services: 10 Questions to Ask about your Teen Services.

Lastly, for more information about the research team and our work, visit the Drexel University Youth Online Research Group website.

(This work is based on research conducted by Drexel University’s Youth Online Research Group, funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services [IMLS], Award #LG-06-11-0261-11, and the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship, Grant No. 2011121873.)

By Michelle Purcell, Rachel Magee, Denise Agosto, and Andrea Forte

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22. research: book 3 sixties trilogy (TRIBE)

I'm gonna do occasional posts on research as I move deeper into Book 3 of the Sixties Trilogy. I house research links on my Pinterest boards, but I also want to document my process, thinking, and resources here. I'll label all research posts as such.


Full disclosure: I am stuck with book three. I don't know my story. I'm frustrated. So I'm contenting myself with research, which I've been doing intensely (ebb and flow) for about a year now, which has been mostly reading, and with no real focused objective but to understand the late sixties.

I did this with REVOLUTION and COUNTDOWN as well -- I read for about a year. You can find my bibliographies on Pinterest -- they are incomplete but will be added to as I can get to it.

So I'm working on scrapbooks today -- the non-fiction pieces of the documentary novels. I need about seven songs, one to anchor each scrapbook. They will change as the story is known and changes, but I need something to get me started, and I'm wondering if listening to the songs of the late sixties might also help me with finding my way into the story itself.

I spent most of my research day listening to the Billboard hits of 1967, 1968, and 1969. I dipped into 1970 as well. I want book 3 to be (in part) about ROCK-AND-ROLL. We've not had the chance to really do rock-and-roll with COUNTDOWN and REVOLUTION, so here is the chance to Go Big Or Go Home, and I want to revel in the music. Maybe I have a character who does the same (that's what I've been playing with, anyway).

This is the kind of day where I have 24 windows open online at once and jump back and forth between YouTube and Wikipedia for lyrics and cursory information about The Rascals, Chicago (can only use their first album), Buffalo Springfield ("For What It's Worth" is perfect, about the Sunset Strip riots in 1967 -- I can use it for larger meaning), Jefferson Airplane (which leads to a lengthy side-trip down the "San Francisco Sound" tunnel), The Fifth Dimension, The Isley Brothers, Steppenwolf -- yes, I can use "Born to be Wild," now that I have moved book 3 from 1968 to 1969.

Last year, anticipating the long flights to Hong Kong and back, I invested in Bose noise-cancelling headphones, and they are perfect for this task. I'm listening a lot right now, trying to find a way in, and pulling out a line here, a line there, of select songs (not scrapbook anchors) for inclusion somehow -- don't know how yet. I'm going on faith here that I'll figure out a way to do this, and if I don't, it's not time wasted.

Delicious lines like "It appears to be such a long long long long time before the dawn." Know it? "And the beat goes on." "The past is just a goodbye." "All the world over it's easy to see, people everywhere just got to be free." And many more.

I've been wondering if I can put more of myself into this book, like I did with REVOLUTION and COUNTDOWN. I've said I'm going to the Bay Area for book 3, but I lived in Charleston, South Carolina in 1969, my dad flew into and out of Vietnam, our high school was integrated - in spite of Strom Thurmond's defiance - by the National Guard, boy picketed to grow their hair long, girls picketed to shorten their skirts, and I loved Crosby, Stills and Nash and the Beatles and many more... the music was fresh, new, energizing, and amazing.

I was 16 years old and wanted to see the film Easy Rider. I didn't have the $3 it cost for a movie ticket. My dad said, "I will not give you three dollars to support Peter Fonda's drug habit." He forbid me to see Easy Rider. So I told my parents I was off to somewhere or other on a date with Jim (that took care of the $3, and besides, it was JIM), and instead went into downtown Charleston, South Carolina to see Easy Rider.

It. Was. Thrilling. Imagine sitting in the theater, a sheltered child of strict Southern, military parents who didn't even want rock-and-roll in the house -- I'd had to "audition" rock-and-roll in order to be allowed to play it -- I chose my 45 of "We Can Work It Out" by the Beatles and got a reluctant okay.

Imagine this kid sitting in the theater and watching Easy Rider unfold. Born to be Wild indeed. Here is the beginning of the movie with Steppenwolf's signature anthem (if you can call it that):

That's it for today. I've listened until my ears hurt. And we've got to get myself back to the garden....

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23. Historical Research

Whether you're writing fiction or nonfiction, if your book takes place in the past you need to do your research.


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24. Jellyfish in the Sun

It's happening again!  Books with similar themes end up on my list right next to each other.

The Thing about Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin is narrated by Suzy who can't believe that her oldest friend could just drown.  "These things happen" is NOT an acceptable explanation.  Suzy becomes convinced that a rare jellyfish is responsible for Franny's death. 

Suzy is a fact person who inundates the reader with math and facts about jellyfish and the people who study them.  But this book also chronicles the all too frequent trauma that occurs when one person outgrows another - as Franny outgrows Suzy by the end of 6th grade.  This relationship break makes Franny's death so much harder for Suzy to accept. 

Her search for someone who can understand the horror of jellyfish - as she sees it - leads Suzy to start out on a dangerous and possibly illegal journey.

Her parents, her older brother and an unexpected friend help Suzy to move into a life without Franny.

Lost in the Sun by Lisa Graff    Ok.   In fifth grade, Trent killed someone during an ice hockey game.  Total accident.   Trent's parents and older and younger brother seem to think Trent should move on.  Trent's Dad, especially, has little patience for Trent's surly attitude.  Dad's new wife is expecting their first child any time now.  So, it was an accident. Get over it already.  (Not actual words from the book.)

Trent reacts to the guilt and the anxiety he feels by making sure he gets into trouble at school, and with his Dad.  He even refuses to enter into prank wars with his little brother.

Luckily, Fallon, a girl at school with a noticeable facial scar befriends Trent after she peeks into his Book of Thoughts and sees the pictures he draws there - pictures of what the boy he killed might be doing at that very moment.  Fallon wants Trent to draw a picture for her.

How Trent manages to make things worse and then how he manages to make them better - with the help of sympathetic outsiders - makes an engrossing and emotional read.

These books have totally different styles, despite their similarities - see below.  Jellyfish is awash with facts and musings on facts - the type of book that will lend itself to STEM curricula.  But there is an immediacy to Suzy's pain, even as she carefully plans her science report and her journey,  and her need to find explanations for her friend's death.

Sun, on the other hand, concentrates on Trent's emotional struggles.  Trent speaks in a matter-of-fact voice, referring to the accident almost casually.  And all the time he is seething and unable to see that he is till a worthwhile human being.  

Here is a list of other similarities:
New friends:  Both of the new frends have problems of their own that they seem to have overcome. 
Older brothers: Aaron - yeah, both of them.
Nice teachers:  Suzy likes her science teacher right away.  Trent hates everyone but his homeroom teacher really is pretty old.

Read 'em both, except you might want to read other books in between.  OK?

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25. Teen research trending: Margaret Mackey and the problem of finding your next read

This is the first of a series of monthly posts that the YALSA Research Committee would like to share with the YA LIS community. These posts will reflect some of the many publications that we encounter in the process of updating YALSA's Research Bibliography for the 2013-2015 period. The emphasis of the bibliography will be LIS research, but some of these posts will also share research from other disciplines such as Education, Media, Urban Studies etc., where teens are also protagonists. Posts will briefly summarize the article and highlight some important points for LIS practice, but each of the authors will bring a different flavor. Hopefully you will find them useful to inspire and support your work and knowledge about teens!!


Mackey, Margaret. “Finding the Next Book to Read in a Universe of Bestsellers, Blockbusters, and Spin-Offs.”  Academic Quarter (Akademisk Kvarter):  The Academic Journal for Research from the Humanities, 7 (2013): 216-236. http://www.akademiskkvarter.hum.aau.dk/pdf/vol7/15a_MargaretMackey_Finding%20The%20Next.pdf

Respecting mass choices but not being confined to them requires walking a fine line, but it is an important space to find. (p.133)

Margaret Mackey is a Canadian scholar who has been writing about reading and literacies in a broad sense for the past 25 years. If you are familiar or enjoyed the work of Eliza Dresang, I think you might also enjoy this. Yes, this is a blatant attempt to do reader's advisory about research.

The quote that introduces this post reflects a struggle with which many librarians must contend everyday. We would like to see that important space of reading selection not only found, but also clearly occupied by libraries and librarians. In exploring how to take over this space, Mackey examines the role that bestsellers play, especially when they are becoming increasingly adapted into diverse types of media.

Before digging in, it is important to note that her analysis is framed around an important issue: if you cannot find your next book to read, you will likely become a dormant reader or a non-reader. Mackey situates her discussion with a description of the different ways that readers might choose to tackle this adaptation issue. Some prefer to read the original first (p.318). Others would rather consume reviews, people's opinions, and other paratexts (see Gray, 2010) to the point that they can feel like they have committed to a text they have not even yet read or watched. The myriad of official and unofficial booktrailers or booktubers makes this process manageable for books, not just movies. An important topic that is just briefly mentioned is that of the effect of technology in this ocean of paratextual works, especially in the case of blockbuster franchises (for more see Rushkoff's last Frontline documentary). It is also important to mention that the paratextual approach is intimately related to the culture of unfinish, (p.220) a contemporary phenomenon where narratives never actually end, but are kept alive in a never-ending loop of texts, including adaptations, prequels, fanfiction etc...

But let's come back to Mackey. For her analysis, she explores two texts, one clearly for youth, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, and another one which is also popular with the YA population, Fifty Shades of Grey. As case studies, she examines their similar origins and the paratextual explosion around them to exemplify the complexity (or easiness) of choosing/committing to a text in a world where, potentially, a favorite text never ends. For example, Wimpy Wonderland was an on-line paratext marketing the movie version of the book that was created out of the online story (p.225). This analysis makes evident the (potential) complexity of the contemporary reading experience. The following rather lengthy quote exemplifies this complexity, especially if we situate it in a discussion that would involve teen librarians:

In part, the mind-blowing numbers associated with The Wimpy Kid and Fifty Shades of Grey are a reflection of the fact that many people do not have more subtle selection skills than to read what everyone else is reading. In making this comment, I am not saying that these novels and other number 1 titles do not have something to offer to a very wide range of readers; clearly they do. But I think it is also true that many people enjoy reading bestsellers in part because they do actually like to read and a headline hitting title that is being read by all their friends and relations provides a shortcut to finding the next book that will offer genuine reading pleasure. (p.229)

Mackey points to the impact the works emerging in this culture of unfinish might have in reading practices, such as traditional understandings of intensive and extensive readings (p.230). She wraps up with a brief comment on 4 (attention, participation, collaboration, and network awareness) of 17 items for 21st literacies from Education scholars Cathy Davidson and Howard Rheingold and how these items have potential roles in a reader’s selection process. In the end, we cannot shy away from these complexities but must instead try to understand them in order to be able to find the space where we respect mass choices while also creating tools to expand the media universes of our patrons.

To keep thinking about teen media and reading, you can browse Mackey's publications or read the recently published article about Dresang's work and Harry Potter at YALSA's Journal of Research in Libraries and Young Adults.


Lucia Cedeira Serantes, Assistant Professor at Queens College (CUNY). Recent member of the YALSA Research Committee.

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