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Results 1 - 25 of 107
1. Ten facts about the Paralympic Games

The Rio Summer Paralympics Games begin on 7 September, 2016. These games offer audiences a chance to be awed by the athletic elitism of international athletes with disabilities and are renowned for their spirit of accessibility and inclusion. Below are ten interesting facts about the Paralympics so that you can impress your friends and family with your knowledge.

The post Ten facts about the Paralympic Games appeared first on OUPblog.

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2. Facing the Führer: Jesse Owens and the history of the modern Olympic games

Enjoying Rio 2016? This extract from Sport: A Very Short Introduction by Mike Cronin gives a history of the modern Olympic games; from its inspiration in the British Public school system, to the role it played in promoting Nazi propaganda. The modern Olympic Games, and their governing body, the International Olympic Committee (IOC), came into being in 1894 and were the brainchild of Pierre de Coubertin. A Frenchman with a passionate interest in education, de Coubertin had visited England.

The post Facing the Führer: Jesse Owens and the history of the modern Olympic games appeared first on OUPblog.

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3. How fast can you think?

A call comes through to the triage desk of a large hospital in the New York City metropolitan area: a pregnant woman with multiple abdominal gunshot wounds is due to arrive in three minutes. Activating a trauma alert, the head nurse on duty, Denise, requests intubation, scans, anesthesia, surgery, and, due to the special circumstances, sonography and labor and delivery. How is it possible to think about so much so quickly?

The post How fast can you think? appeared first on OUPblog.

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4. Violent sports: the “most perfect of contests”?

Violent sports like American football, ice hockey, rugby, boxing and mixed martial arts are perennially among the most popular. Their status is a frightening indication of the flowering of violence in sports in the 21st century, booming to a level unknown since ancient Greece and Rome. In the ancient Mediterranean, the audiences both in the Greek East and in the Roman West mutually enjoyed Greek athletic contests and Roman spectacles.

The post Violent sports: the “most perfect of contests”? appeared first on OUPblog.

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5. Chapter reveal: Trish's Team by Dawn Brotherton

Genre:  Tween Fiction (Middle Grade Fiction)        
Author:  Dawn Brotherton
Publisher:  Blue Dragon Publishing
Purchase on Amazon

The debut release in Dawn Brotherton’s Lady Tigers series, Trish’s Team is a terrific new young adult tale featuring Trish Murphy.  A member of the Blue Birds, a recreational fastpitch softball team for 11 and 12 year old girls, Trish Murphy longs to be a member of the Lady Tigers, the elite travel team comprised of the best of the best players in the area.  When she is presented with the opportunity to try out for the team, Trish jumps at the chance. There’s just one small problem—it seems Trish’s parents don’t understand her love of the game.  Chances are they’ll be even less understanding and when they find out that team practice conflicts with Trish’s orchestra practice…

But being part of the Lady Tigers—and nurturing newfound friendships with the other team members—is Trish’s top priority.  When she tries to pull a fast one to get what she wants without considering the consequences, Trish puts everything in jeopardy. Trish’s decision could ultimately affect more than just the game: it could affect her friends.  Along the way, Trish discovers that being a part of the Lady Tigers is about much more than playing fastpitch softball:  it’s about being a part of a team.  But Trish may have to learn a painful lesson. After all, it really isn’t if you win or lose, but it’s how you play the game.  

Chapter 1

Trish Murphy stood in center field and brushed her brown bangs off her forehead with the back of her right hand. Frowning in concentration, she waited for the next pitch. In front of her, Ashley stepped onto the pitcher’s mound, hesitated only briefly, and then spun her right arm in a clockwise motion to deliver a good-looking pitch. Smack. The ball sailed toward center field. Racing forward, Trish got under it, just like the coach had shown her. Plop. It landed snugly in her glove for an easy out.
“Nice catch, Trish!” Coach Tim called from the dugout. She smiled and threw the ball to the infield. It was a beautiful throw, yet it bounced out of the second baseman’s glove and rolled to the pitcher.
Rolling her eyes in frustration, Trish hurried back to her spot in the outfield.
Two outs, one to go.
Trish watched as, on the mound, Ashley took the signal from the catcher. Nodding, Ashley positioned the ball inside her glove, stood tall on her wind up, and fired the ball to the exact low-inside location the catcher had indicated.
“Strike one,” the umpire called.
Shifting her stance to the right slightly so she could look around the pitcher’s back, Trish waited to see where the next pitch would cross the plate. She was betting it would be low and outside this time.
“Strike two!” she heard across the plush grass that lay before her.
Yep, low and outside, she thought, grinning. Ashley was a pretty good pitcher, and with Alisha catching for her, they were a great team.
Trish knew the next pitch would be a change-up, high and inside. She smiled as the batter was caught off guard, swinging before the ball had even reached the plate. “Strike three! Batter’s out!” the ump called.
“Yes!” the team cheered as they raced for the dugout.
Coach Tim met them as they ran off the field, holding his hand out for high-fives. “Come on, girls, gather around. Nice catch out there, Trish. Beautiful strike-outs, Ashley. We’re behind by one run. Let’s swing some sticks.”
The Blue Birds was a recreational fast-pitch softball team for 11- and 12-year-old girls that only played 10 games a summer. The coaches were volunteers and mostly dads of the girls on the team. Trish felt lucky that she was on Coach Tim’s team. Some of the dads didn’t even know how to play softball, let alone teach the girls to play. Coach Tim was different. He had played baseball in college, so at least he knew the game.
Trish glanced around the softball complex hoping her mom might be there. She didn’t really expect to see her, but she was disappointed anyway.
She heard a loud cheer come from the field behind where the Blue Birds were playing. She saw the orange and black uniforms of the Lady Tigers. Trish sighed. She would love to play for the Tigers. The coaches only picked the best-of-the-best players for the travel softball team. They played ball almost every weekend in long tournaments.
“Head in the game, Trish,” Coach Tim said, refocusing her attention on her own team.
“Come on, Becky, you can do it!” Trish yelled to the leadoff batter.
Trish turned to read the lineup hanging on the fence. It was the top of the line-up. Trish grabbed her helmet and bat. She was batting fourth.
Hearing the crack of the bat, she looked up in time to see Becky hit a short pop-up to the third baseman. The player tried to catch it, but the ball dropped in front of her, and Becky beat out the throw to first.
“Batter up!” The umpire seemed in a hurry to keep the game moving. Clara quickly stepped inside the chalk-outlined rectangle of the batter’s box. The pitch came quickly on the inside corner. “Strike one.”
Clara stepped out and took a few practice swings. She settled into the box again. It turned into a long wait as the pitcher threw four balls in a row. Clara jogged to first; Becky went to second.
Trish watched in anticipation as Samantha moved toward home plate for her turn at bat. Trish put on a helmet and stepped out of the dugout to take a few practice swings, getting her timing down for the pitches.
Samantha stepped into the box. She was tall so the outfielders backed up, anticipating that she would hit the ball far. Crack. The ball flew over the third baseman’s head, landing in the grass. The left fielder raced in and scooped up the ball, preventing the runners from scoring.
Bases loaded. No outs. Trish stepped into the box. She knew she didn’t look very impressive. At only four-foot-six, she hadn’t reached her full height by a long shot. Her legs were long, slender, and solid muscle. She was used to people underestimating her, but she liked it that way. It usually worked to her advantage.
Trish settled in as the pitcher began her wind up. The pitch came in. Way inside. Trish leaped out of the way. The next pitch was outside, and the catcher missed it. Becky raced past Trish to cross the plate as the fans cheered.
“Just a base hit, Trish,” her coach called.
“You can do it, Trish!” The fans were all cheering her on. She kept her concentration on the ball leaving the pitcher’s hand.
The pitch was coming in perfect, right down the middle, ideal height. It was slow, so Trish looked at it again. It had a weird spin. She didn’t swing. Right before the plate, it dropped. “Ball three.” Trish was thankful for the many hours of extra batting practice Coach Tim had spent with her. He had shown her how to truly watch the ball.
The next pitch was almost the same, but it didn’t appear to be spinning. Smack. It went over the second baseman, missing the right fielder’s glove and rolled all the way to the fence for a triple. Clara and Samantha scored as Trish rounded the bases.
The fans were cheering. The score now read, “Blue Birds: 9; Redhawks: 7.”
“Nice hit, Trish,” Coach Tim said, smiling broadly.
Trish’s grin lit up her face. She clapped her hands and cheered on the next batter from third base.
Alisha hit a nice single to left center field that allowed Trish to score. The girls lined up to high-five her as she came into the dugout.
Ashley hit a fly ball to right field that cost them an out, but moved Alisha to third. Amber grounded out on a hit to second base, leaving Alisha in place. Ton-Lou flew out to left field to end the inning. The girls were in high spirits because they were winning, and the other team only had one more chance to bat.
“Good inning, ladies; let’s hit the field. Hold them for three more outs,” the coach said.
The first Redhawk hit the ball to Lexi on second base who easily picked it up and threw her out at first. Trish was a little nervous when the other team’s number four batter stepped to the plate. She was tall for a 12-year-old and had already hit it to the fence once this game. She took a few steps back and angled toward left field.
Ashley delivered the pitch low and inside. The batter got under the ball, and it went high into foul territory on the left field side. Much to Trish’s surprise, Ashley put the next pitch in the same place. This time the batter swung and missed.
Trish smiled. She knew the coaches called the pitches from the dugout. She would have to ask Coach Tim why he called two in a row the same way. That wasn’t very common. She liked to learn as much as she could about the strategy of softball, not just the technique.
The third and final pitch stayed low but to the outside corner. The batter swung but didn’t even come close. Two outs.
The number five batter had hit the ball to center field twice already in previous innings so Trish was ready. The batter let the first pitch go by but got ahold of the second. It was a long fly ball to deep center field.
Trish immediately turned her body and began to run toward the fence. She ran full out, praying her left fielder would be there to back her up if she missed it. At the last possible second, Trish dove at where she predicted the ball would be, capturing it in her glove as she hit the ground. That ended the game; final score was 10-7, Blue Birds.
The girls cheered enthusiastically. Trish couldn’t stop smiling as the coach and other girls clapped her on the back as they lined up to shake hands with the Redhawks. Even some of the opposing team members congratulated her on such a great catch. It felt wonderful!
She looked around at the crowd waiting outside the fence, but there was no sign of her parents. Trish wished that they had been there to witness her final catch.

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6. Golfer Business Card Sculpture

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7. Colostrum, performance, and sports doping


By Martin Luck

A recent edition of BBC Radio 4′s On Your Farm programme spoke to a dairy farmer who supplies colostrum to athletes as a food supplement.

Colostrum is the first milk secreted by a mother. Cow colostrum is quite different from normal cow’s milk: it has about four times as much protein, twice as much fat, and half as much lactose (sugar). It is especially rich in the mother’s antibodies (IgG and IgM), providing the newborn calf with passive immunity before its own immune system gets going.

People who take colostrum believe it has health and performance benefits. It’s said to reduce muscle recovery time after intense training, maintain gut integrity against the heat stress of exercise, and assist recovery from illness and surgery. The radio programme spoke to cyclists, rugby players, footballers, runners, and others convinced of its value and who are prepared to pay the significant premium which colostrum commands over ordinary milk.

Unfortunately, the scientific evidence for these effects is rather poor, especially on the health side. Nutritional and clinical scientists who have reviewed the research literature report a lack of well-designed and reliable trials. There is some evidence for enhanced speed and endurance and for increased strength in older people undertaking resistance training, but many studies show equivocal or unconvincing results. So for the moment, it’s probably safest to describe the benefits of colostrum consumption as anecdotal.

Colostrum undoubtedly contains some hormones and growth factors in higher amounts than in normal milk. Levels of insulin and IGF-1 can be eight times higher in colostrum, especially during the first few hours after calving. Growth hormone is also present at this time, and disappears later. Other hormones, including prolactin, cortisol, vitamin D and a range of growth factors (hormones controlling cell division and maturation), also occur at relatively high amounts in colostrum.

Colostrum cakes

These hormones all have well known biological effects in the body, but finding them in colostrum doesn’t necessarily mean that they will be active when it is consumed in the diet. There are two main reasons for this. Firstly, protein hormones like insulin and IGF-1 get broken down in the gut and are unlikely to be absorbed in an active state. (If the reverse were true, diabetics could take insulin in pill form rather than injections.) Secondly, naturally-secreted hormones generally work in concentration-related ways, appearing in the blood as repeated pulses with which their receptors become coordinated. This pattern is unlikely to be replicated by pouring colostrum over the breakfast cornflakes.

Nevertheless, the possibility that colostrum is a source of potentially performance enhancing bioactive materials has been considered by the World Anti-Doping Agency. Many hormones and growth factors including insulin, IGF-1, cortisol and Growth Hormone, appear in their list of prohibited substances. So could colostrum make athletes fall foul of the regulations? The WADA website advises that although colostrum is not banned, its growth factor content “could influence the outcome of anti-doping tests” and its consumption is not recommended.

Aside from efficacy, colostrum poses a wider, ethical question: when does a natural food product become an artificial supplement? At one extreme, it might be feasible to extract the active ingredients and take them as a training aid or performance enhancer. At the other, perhaps as recognised by WADA, one might happen to consume colostrum as a food without intending to benefit unduly from it. Somewhere in between would be the deliberate consumption of colostrum knowing that it contains potentially beneficial components.

But then why is that different from, say, increasing ones intake of protein or energy to support a higher level of athletic performance? Neither whey protein nor glucose, nor for that matter caffeine or bananas, appear in WADA’s prohibited list, yet they all have their place in the training and performance regimes of many athletes and sports men and women.

Identifying hormones as discrete, potentially bioactive chemical components of food seems to encourage the drawing of a false line along this continuum. No one condones cheating or the gaining of unfair advantage, but it is not clear why one food product should be restricted when another is not, especially when it is available to all and has no identified side effects.

But this brings us back to the question of efficacy? Does colostrum really work? If it could be shown that it does and if it were made widely available as a food item, there is no doubt that all athletes would use it. This might make the doping authorities review their position, although it could mean, of course, that no one is really advantaged (just as being tall brings no gain when playing basketball against others selected for their height).

To find out if colostrum really does work, many more well-designed, high quality, double blind placebo-controlled trials would be necessary. Such investigations are expensive and difficult and few organisations will have the expertise or resources to devote to something which, as a completely natural product, is unlikely to bring commercial gain. But this is the problem with many food supplements and so-called superfoods (and partly explains why health food shops abound in the high street).

In the end, people use food supplements because they believe them to work, not because there is much reliable evidence that they do. And perhaps this, in turn, means that there is no legitimate reason for banning their use.

Based at the University of Nottingham as a Professor of Physiological Education, Martin Luck is the author of Hormones: A Very Short Introduction. He was awarded a National Teaching Fellowship by the Higher Education Academy in 2011.

The Very Short Introductions (VSI) series combines a small format with authoritative analysis and big ideas for hundreds of topic areas. Written by our expert authors, these books can change the way you think about the things that interest you and are the perfect introduction to subjects you previously knew nothing about. Grow your knowledge with OUPblog and the VSI series every Friday, subscribe to Very Short Introductions articles on the OUPblog via email or RSS, and like Very Short Introductions on Facebook.

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Image credit: Colostrum cakes, by Surya Prakash.S.A., CC-BY-SA-3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

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8. Illustrating a graphic history: Mendoza the Jew

By Liz Clarke

The illustration of a graphic history begins with the author’s script. There are two aspects to turning that script into artwork. It’s both a story, calling for decisions to be made about the best way to present the narrative visually, and a history, rooted in fact and raising questions about what the places and people (and their furniture and transportation and utensils) would actually have looked like.


A sketch of Esther Mendoza, wife of Daniel Mendoza. Courtesy of Liz Clarke. Used with permission.

It’s unlikely that we’ll find perfect answers to all of these questions, particularly in a pre-photography age like the late 18th century, when Daniel Mendoza was at the height of his boxing career. Some subjects offer a wealth of images. Some, like a number of the places Mendoza frequented in London, still exist today. I was able to work from current photographs of locations including Mendoza’s house in Paradise Row, the cemetery where he is buried, and the exterior of the White Hart Inn. We had several images of Mendoza himself to refer to, thanks to his celebrity status. We knew what he looked like at different points in his life, how tall he was and how much he weighed. We knew about his fighting style from newspaper reports, artwork, and from his own instructional writing.

However, other subjects may not have been recorded in an image or even in a written description at the time. If records were made, they may not have survived. This means we have to cast the net wider. There are many sources of general information available that allow a lateral approach — records of people and places with shared characteristics, surviving artefacts and garments, artwork and documents from the time. There was nothing definite to work from in the case of Mendoza’s wife Esther, but we could ask what a woman like Mendoza’s wife would have looked like. How would a woman similar in age, class, and religion to Esther have dressed and worn her hair? We could then blend fact and imagination to arrive at a concept sketch of Esther, which allowed us to agree on how we would depict her.


A page from Mendoza the Jew, showing the process from the sketch stage to the final piece. Courtesy of Liz Clarke. Used with permission.

Once we have enough information, each page is planned in detail. I’ll decide on the composition of the whole page, and of the contents of each panel on the page. There are choices to make about viewpoint (for example, if the scene is going to be presented from a low angle, looking up at it, or a high angle, looking down on it, which creates two very different effects), how to draw attention to the pivotal point in the scene, the characters’ body language and expressions, if they aren’t already defined by the script, and how to convey the themes of the book. This layout sketch is the most important stage in the illustration of a page.

Once the author has approved the sketch, I draw it in ink as line art and prepare this to be coloured digitally. Colour and the nature and direction of the light can also contribute to the storytelling. For example, the desaturated colours at the beginning of an exchange between Mendoza and Humphries, when Mendoza is not at his best, gradually become brighter and warmer by the end of the scene, as their verbal sparring restores Mendoza’s fighting spirit. The text comprising the narrative and dialogue is added to the art, and text boxes and speech bubbles are fitted to it. For Mendoza the Jew, we decided to use three different fonts. Two fonts with some resemblance to typefaces from the time period represented quotes from Mendoza’s autobiography and from a newspaper report of Mendoza’s match against Humphries in Doncaster, distinguishing the author’s words from Mendoza’s, and those of the reporter.

As an artist, illustrating a graphic history, as opposed to a work of fiction, has some unique rewards as well as challenges. There’s an awareness that these were real individuals and events, and it always feels like a privilege to be telling their stories.

Liz Clarke is an illustrator based in Cape Town, South Africa. Her artwork has appeared in magazines, games and books, including Abina and the Important Men: A Graphic History by Trevor R. Getz and Mendoza the Jew, Boxing, Manliness, and Nationalism: A Graphic History by Ronald Schechter.

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9. Cheltenham Gold Cup

My horse lost at the Cheltenham Gold Cup yesterday. I had to sell grandma to pay the bookies.
ZenBrush on iPad. Click to enlarge.

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10. The Bread Library and Vastball

Two more pages from my Memoirs. They just keep coming.
Paper53 on iPad. Click to enlarge.

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11. Father’s Day Gifts: 3 of the weirdest Sport Books

The Olympics are over and many sport-loving Dads from all over the world are feeling a little flat, my own father included.

After several weeks with an excuse to always have the channel set to Sport he’s had to relinquish the remote. It’s not that he’s deprived normally; my Mum and I also like a good game played well but we can’t match my father’s dedication to all things sporting. If there’s a ball or puck involved, he’ll watch it. If there’s not, he watch it in the hope that there might be a ball or puck involved soon. (I once came home at 2am to find him trying to take an interest in curling. He’ll watch anything.)

Luckily for him, it’s Father’s Day soon, and Sunday September 2nd offers the opportunity not just to buy him a book about sport but a chance to introduce him to a while new bunch of sports so incredibly strange that even he doesn’t already know about them.

1.  Insatiable - Competitive Eating and the Big Fat American Dream by Jason Fagone

How many hot dogs could you eat in 10 minutes? 10? 20? If it’s over 25, you could be the next big star of one of the world’s most controversial sports – competitive eating.

(Don’t get into practicing unless you are also a fitness freak, as the world record holder can eat 68 hot dogs and buns in 10 minutes. At 290 calories that’s as much as a normal person on a 2,000-calorie-a-day diet would need for ten days.)

From pie-cramming competitions at county fairs to the spectacle that is the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest on Coney Island, author Jason Fagone spends a year traveling, eating and even competing with the biggest names in the business trying to find just out just what compels a ‘gurgitator’ to force down forty-six dozen oysters in ten minutes – and what makes us want to watch them. Filled with drama, conflict and larger-than-life stars, this book is well worth taking the time to digest even if thinking about the food they are cramming makes that difficult.

(I should probably point out that typing “Insatiable” into Boomerang’s search box brings up over 20 results, only one of which involve food instead of semi-naked people cavorting. Be warned.)

2. Lucha Loco by Malcolm Venville

From the eating highs of America we go south to Mexico where the Lucha Libre – “free wrestling” – is a cultural phenomenon, renowned not only for the wrestler’s moves for the masks they wear, and the mythology that has grown around the masked wrestlers or luchadors.

I was lucky enough to make it to the Lucha Libre while in Mexico and had the time of my life – it’s part sport, part soap opera, and all drama. In modern lucha libre, masks are designed to create a persona for the luchador to takes on during a performance. Putting your mask – or your hair – on the line against a foe is the ultimate challenge in this sport. During their careers, masked luchadores will often be seen in public wearing their masks interacting with the public and press normally, and concealing their true identities. One of Lucha Libre’s most famous figures,

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12. The Snoid Games

A pencil sketch for a post- London Olympics picture featuring a new, improved games: The Snoid Games.
Pencil and digital toning. A3 size. Click to enlarge.

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13. On Getting Notes From First Readers

As I may have mentioned, once or twice, I recently finished the first draft of my Sekrit Project novel. And, yay verily, I was full of joy. There was dancing. Bouncing. Happiness and even more joy.

After the joy I spent a few days tinkering with it, fixing the egregiously rubbishy bits, adding things that needed adding, moving chapters around. As you do.

Then I sent it off to my wondrous, fabulous, worth-more-than-their-weight-in-mangosteens-and-other-precious-things first readers.

Then I kicked back and watched loads of Olympics and blogged and did many things that have nothing to do with Sekrit Project. And there was more joy.

After a week there was still some joy on account of OLYMPICS OH HOW I LOVE THE OLYMPICS but there was also creeping OMG THEY ALL HATE IT WHY HASN’T ANYONE GOTTEN BACK TO ME ABOUT IT NOT EVEN MY OWN HUSBAND IS IT REALLY THAT BAD thoughts.

Then yesterday one of my readers got back to me. She liked it! PHEW.1

But more importantly Meg had really smart, useful notes for me. And I got to talk with someone who was not me about Sekrit Project and most especially about the second half of the book and the ending.2

I think I got a little giddy. It was such a pleasure to finally talk about it. Poor Meg. I plied her with a million and one questions. And she answered them all for me in really useful ways. I have a much better idea of what is and isn’t working and how to fix it. Scott also came through with notes on the first half of the book. There was bouncing and dancing.

Both Meg and Scott’s notes were full of questions about character’s motivations, aspects of the worldbuilding that didn’t make sense to them, why certain things happen when they do and so on. Questions that make me realise that I had not achieved what I thought I had. All too often the book was too subtle, too opaque, too confusing. All of which I am now brimming with ideas for how to fix.

This world and people I have created changes once other people have seen them. Meg and Scott’s comments and questions have changed how I see them too. I love this part. I love how it gives me a million and one ideas for making the book better.

Have I mentioned that rewriting is my favourite part of the writing process? This is why.

I know there are lots of writers who can figure out all this stuff for themselves. But I really depend on feedback. I need to know how readers respond to what I’ve written because all too often what I think is there is not there. And I can’t discover that by reading and rewriting my book over and over again. I can’t do it alone.

So now I can rewrite to deal with all those problems and work towards the general embetterment of the book. And once that’s done I send it off to my agent. Then when both she and I are happy it gets sent out to editors. Who will in turn send me their own notes.

At least that is how I do it.

Trust me, every writer has their own methods. Some never show anyone anything other than their agent and editor. Some talk constantly about their book and what happens in it as they write and have several people read it as they go along. Some, like me, only let people read it once they have a complete draft. Some have everyone in the world read it and comment. Others none.

Whatever works for you is how to do it.

  1. Yes, no matter how many books I’ve written I am always nervous about how the people whose opinions I value most will respond to my latest one especially in its raw state.
  2. Usually as I write the first draft I read chapters out loud to scott every three or four days. But this time he only got to hear the first half because he was overseas while I wrote the second half and totally rewrote the first half and he has not yet finished reading the complete draft.

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14. On Blogging and the Olympics

So here it is the final day of my blogging every day of July effort and I have succeeded!1 And it was fun. So much fun that I’m going to keep on blogging. Not every day but at least once a week. Turns out I missed it way more than I realised. Missed you commenter types both here and on twitter. I think we had some really cool and interesting conversations over this month and I hope we’ll have many more. *hugs blog* *hugs commenters* *cries*

I didn’t do all the posts I promised I would. I know. I am badness. But I will do them. In the future. In the not-too-distant future even. If you ask me to opine on something here or on twitter eventually I will do so.

I did not, in fact, use voice recognition software. I tried and gave up in anger and frustration. But I will do the post I promised @SirTessa in which I use that dread software without correcting any of the mistakes.

However, not using it was really positive because I also finished the first draft of a novel this month2 and thus between that and blogging every day was typing more than I had for ages and doing so in a managed way. Some days, yes, I was very sore. But I never pushed through and typed more than twenty minutes at a time. And the frequent breaks—including at least two days off per week—and stretching and strength work and treatment kept the pain manageable. Turns out I can write more than I think I can. To which, well, YAY + DANCE OF JOY.

And my reward for finishing the first draft of a new novel and blogging every day?


So far I have watched, in no particular order:

  • shooting—for the first time and it was way more interesting than I thought it would be
  • hockey—the Aussie men are RIDICULOUSLY good what a pleasure they are to watch
  • basketball—the US women ditto. I mean, they could field an entirely different team from the WNBA and they’d still win gold. Hell, they could go all the way down to, like, the fourth, fifth, and sixth team options and they’d still medal. Depth? Oh, yes, my second nation has it. Total pleasure to watch them play. Especially Seimone Augustus. Oh, how I love her. And yes I adore the Opals and I want them to win but without Penny Taylor? I mean, even with Penny Taylor it was a long long long long shot.
  • badminton—shuttlecocks are freaking awesome, I love how they are at once faster and slower than a tennis ball. I also love that serving has no impact on the game
  • weightlifting—has to be the most stressful sport of all. I am always afraid their eyeballs are going to pop out of their skulls, that muscles will rip from bone, that their heads will explode. I love the slapping and screaming and other weird stuff they do to psych themselves up and how cool is it when they manage to keep that insanely heavy bar above their head and their feet in line and not moving? Very. And some of them are lifting three times their own weight. Let me repeat: THREE TIMES THEIR OWN WEIGHT!
  • gymnastics—you know, every other sport I kind of feel like I can do a much crappier version of it. I could shoot and play hockey. I have played basketball and tennis and table tennis. I’ve lifted weights. I’ve been training at boxing for almost a year now. I have dived into pools. I’ve swum, run, rowed, canoed and

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15. The Mouthtrap

With the London Olympics just around the corner, Team GB are favourites in the Men's Freestyle Shouting event.
Pen and ink with gouache. 11cm x 14cm. Click to enlarge.

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16. Using football fever to get young kids excited about books

I’ll come straight out with it: I’m not a football fan.


I am a fan of using whatever I can to get kids excited about books and reading.

So this week at school, in our story+activity enrichment session on Friday, it’s all about football (soccer) in the hope that Euro 2012 is fizzing rather than fizzling.

I’ll be reading three football-based picture books: Goal! by Mina Javaherbin and A.G. Ford, Pass it, Polly by Sarah Garland and Football Fever by Alan Durant and Kate Leake.

Goal!, set in a South African township, is about just how much fun playing football can be. Bullying and poverty also play a role in this book, which Archbiship Desmond Tutu has described as “uplifting and inspiring”. I’ve chosen to read it in school for its interesting setting and exuberance.

Pass it, Polly, by one of my favourite British author/illustrators, shows girls loving playing football just as much as boys. Polly and Nisha are determined to make it onto the school football team, and with a bit of practice and family support, they do indeed show everyone girls can make great footballers.

Football Fever is the most conventional, least challenging of the three stories (an anglo saxon family with a soccer mad son and father) but it is told with lovely humour, fun illustrations and a great punch line showing how football can excite anyone.

After reading the books we’ll be designing our own soccer strip and making footballing finger puppets. We’ll also be putting new designs on footballs and then playing footie on the classroom tables…

The template for the finger puppets can be found here (there are both boy and girl footballer templates). You may need to make the finger holes a little larger depending on the age of your kids. I’ve photocopied the templates onto white card. The kids will use ordinary pens and pencils to colour them in before cutting them out themselves (I’ll use a craft punch to make the finger holes – speed is of the essence when you’ve 30 kids on the go).

For footballs I’m using pingpong balls (I was able to find 12 pingpong balls for £1 in the pound shop), and we’ll be using permanent pens (Sharpies) to draw our designs onto the balls.

3 Comments on Using football fever to get young kids excited about books, last added: 6/14/2012

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17. Roller Derby Sketchin'!!

Had the luck to be invited out to watch the uber-awesome Rose City Rollers in a scrimmage last night and did a bunch of sketching. This was my first time watching roller derby live -- and it won't be the last.

1 Comments on Roller Derby Sketchin'!!, last added: 4/29/2012
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18. Empty Threat

More musings....

  • An inspector inspecting an empty threat device
  • Melancholia - the spice of life
  • Let's face it, we're all clueless
  • At long last, the sequel to Vonnegut's classic
  • In this Olympics year, may I propose the standing still race?
  • I must get round to reading William James
Pen and ink with digital colour. A4 size. Click to enlarge

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19. Recent Sketch

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20. Farewell For Now

As some of you may have noticed I’ve not been around much online. Sorry! Thank you so much for all the concerned supportive emails. They are much appreciated. (You made me all teary.)

Here’s where things stand with me:

The good news: The original injury that caused me to cut back on blogging is completely healed. Yay!

The bad news: The RSI in my hands and forearms got worse.

I took four weeks off from the computer entirely. I have reorganised my computer setup. I’ve been doing a vast amount of physical therapy. I’m improving. Slowly and frustratingly but surely.

However, my time at keyboard remains limited and my top priority is my novel. All else—blogging, tweeting, emailing—is on hiatus until I can get through a day’s1 work without pain.

I see that all sounds depressing. But honestly I’m doing great. While I miss being in close contact with all my fabby online friends.2 I’ve been spending more time with friends in the real world. I’ve been reading more than I have in years. Watching lots of crazy good anime. Who recommended Moribito? I LOVE YOU.3 I’ve been cooking up a storm. And immersing myself in the WNBA, NBA, French Open, various cricket series and am ecstatic about the coming World Cup and Wimbledon and the Tour de France.

Life is very good.

So this is farewell for now. Thanks for all the support. It means heaps.4

I’ll be back.5

  1. I.e. four hours.
  2. A LOT.
  3. Feel free to make more recs in the comments.
  4. Thanks to the lovely folks who inquired after my health at BEA. Even if most of you were Team Unicorn. What’s up with that?
  5. But not in a scary way. I swear that I’m not a cyborg from the future hellbent on wiping out humanity. Me, I like humanity.

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21. Oxtown

Then I saw her face
Now I'm a bulleaper
Sung to the tune of "I'm a Believer" by the Monkees
Brushpen with watercolour. 16cm x 14cm. Click to enlarge.

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22. Swimmer

Sketch for a painting.
Acrylics 9cm x 9cm. Click to enlarge.

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23. In the Swim

All the pond swimming is getting to my brain.
Pen and wash 13cm x 9cm. Click to enlarge.

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24. This sporting life

Some random dips into the world of sports



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25. The Folding 5ive

A sketch for my team's logo in this year's Brompton World Championships....see you there!
Pen and ink with digital colour 9cm x 8cm. Click to enlarge.

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