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<<August 2014>>
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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: travel, Most Recent at Top [Help]
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1. Travel journal pages

Do you like traveling as much as I do? 
I am a lucky girl because I get to travel every so often now for Sketchbook Skool. I have been recording new video lessons for the third kourse of Sketchbook Skool! A bit tiring, and when you travel for work, you get to see less of course, but still: such adventures! Paris is so close to Amsterdam, I am asking myself why I haven't visited for almost 15 years. The fast speed train takes you to the heart of the city in just 3 hours time. And I was quite amazed about my French - it wasn't too bad, or well, I could make a little bit of conversation and could understand quite a bit.

Even though the schedule for the two days we had planned in Paris were very full, I managed to draw a little.

A few days later, I found myself in the middle of Stockholm. The old city is so very pretty, and there's sketch opportunities on every corner of the street (just like in paris).

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2. Uglies Exclusive Edition/Gen Con

Below is my Gen Con schedule, but first some interesting news:

Early this year I returned to the Uglies universe to write a short story called “How David Got His Scar.”

David, of course, has a scar through one eyebrow, the origin of which is the subject of much discussion. In the novels, Tally asks him about it, and he says, “I’ll tell you how I got it one day.” But he never does. Because he and I are perverse that way.

In the Shay’s Story graphic novels, he STARTS to talk about it once, but only says something about being chased by a bear. Still perversely uninformative.

But now, dear readers, you can discover the unvarnished truth in this Barnes and Noble Exclusive edition of Uglies! Just look for this black sticker at B&N stores:


That’s right, you can pay money for a book you already own for the sole purpose of reading 4,000 new words! (Not even 4,000. Like, 3914 words.) You could also go into a store and just stand there and read it. (But you would never do that. You are a TRUE fan. Have I mentioned how great your hair looks today?)

You can also order this exclusive edition online right here.

The story is set in the time before David has met Tally, but after Shay’s runaway friends, Croy and Astrix, have reached the Smoke. It was fun writing in that world again, particularly from a new viewpoint, and it was weirdly easy too. (Read NOTHING into this statement. Unless you want to.)

Also, because someone is bound to ask, I hereby declare this story CANONICAL.

Anyway, here’s my Gen Con schedule. See some of you in Indianapolis!

Thursday, August 14
Writer’s Craft: Creating Story Arcs
Room 243

The Art of Leviathan
Room 243

Friday, August 15
Dealers’ room

Q&A with me
Room 244

Business of Writing: Selling Your Stories
Room 243

Saturday, August 16
Dealers’ room

Pushing the YA Envelope
Room 243

Impact of Reader Gender on Your Writing
Room 243

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3. Death by Dessert, or How to Watch the World Cup On the Border


We became pretty solid soccer fans while living in Germany, especially around World Cup time, so on our recent return trip, we were psyched to watch games with our German friends.

For the U.S. v. Germany game, though, we were on our own in France. We planned the whole evening around the game, which aired at 6 p.m. in that time zone.

It was also the only night we could eat at the local Michelin-starred restaurant—and the night they serve a very reasonable prix-fixe menu. So we made a late reservation to fit in both, planning to watch the game at our B & B.

Gourmet Salad

We’d biked 15 miles that day (a lot for us), and I planned to take a shower during half time.

One big problem. After the pre-game commentator chatter, the screen went blank with a message that said something like: “This game is not authorized to be shown in this region.” We flipped around, hoping another station would carry it, but the only game on was the other World Cup match happening at the same time.

Luckily, we were staying right near the German border, so I took a 3 minute shower, hopped into a dress, and we loaded up and drove to the ferry to cross the Rhine. On the other side, my husband knocked on restaurant doors until we found one with public viewing in its little bar area.

The one long table was full of retiree-aged tennis table club members, and the only free seats were at the front with a mustachioed man who’d already had a few too many beers.

He was friendly, though, and when he found out we were American, he told us over and over how much he loved Americans and how the best possible outcome for the game would be a 1-1 tie. He reminded us many times (a few too many) that the German coach and the American team coach (also German) were best friends and how they would both want this.

If you were watching, too, you know the Americans actually lost 0-1. We were disappointed, but after the game, everyone (except the kids) was treated to house-made pear Schnapps while the table tennis team sang the German victory song (is there a name for this?). Everyone was very friendly, and when it was over, we thanked our hosts and dashed back across the river to make our 8:30 reservation.

The restaurant was lovely, with a view to a garden and a stream. The noise level was nearly silent, but our kids were completely awesome and went with the flow.

We opted for the prix-fixe menu and added on the “Festival of Desserts,” which sounded perfect. We envisioned a dessert sampler.

First course (salad above) was great, second course (some kind of meat pie) was amazing. Meanwhile the service was first-rate. Our hostess made sure to graciously inform us when we were missing something, i.e. “You can actually eat those flowers,” and, “Those table decorations are actually pretzels” (in the first photo, the rock-looking things behind the ceramic elves).

Here’s the cheese table, from which we could choose what we liked.

Cheese Course

And then the desserts started. First, a platter of teeny tiny cookies of many kinds. Then, a pastry with gelato. Another pastry with gelato. Another….we were losing count.

French dessert

Surely the cookies had counted as dessert #1. There were supposed to be five desserts in total. Surely the gelato counted for one and the pastry counted for another, right? Wrong. The desserts kept coming, and we slowed down so much that we started getting two at once. The cookies hadn’t even counted as part of the five.

Gourmet dessert

Not only that, but the kids had gotten (included) a dessert of their own, so they couldn’t help us out so much. Still, we were determined to do our duty and eat every bite. On top of the five desserts + cookies + cheese course, there was a tiny truffle course where we could choose our own adventure. How could we say no?

At one point I said, “If they bring another dessert, I’m going to cry,” and we all started laughing, on the verge of breaking the Code of Near-Silence.

Finally we ate our way through the last plate, now having finished enough dessert for about ten people. The last plate was probably my favorite, some kind of cherry cake (pictured above). We rolled out, giggling to ourselves.

My son said the other day, “Let’s never take the circus of desserts next time.” Amen. Maybe just 1/10 of it.

Below is a picture of one of the children’s desserts.

Ice Cream Rabbit

And in case you’re wondering yes, I threw the whole gluten-free eating thing out the window that week. I paid for it the next week, but it was well worth it!



4 Comments on Death by Dessert, or How to Watch the World Cup On the Border, last added: 8/8/2014
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4. Indonesia, Etc.

Indonesia is interesting in its own right, but in Elizabeth Pisani's joyful hands, this improbable nation of 13,466 islands spanning over 3,300 miles becomes a fascinating cautionary tale about the benefits, limits, and dangers of enforcing a national identity. Pisani has spent many years living and working in Indonesia, and her historical and political insights [...]

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5. Hide and Go Seek — and other Things that Make me Scream

I am not a scaredy cat. I love to hike and wade in mountain streams.  I love to go to places I’ve never been and see things I’ve never seen. I like to watch documentaries on foods from other countries and want to visit those countries one day. I like to make new recipes! I’ll…

4 Comments on Hide and Go Seek — and other Things that Make me Scream, last added: 8/2/2014
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6. Between Two Worlds, by Katherine Kirkpatrick | Book Review

Travel back in time to the year 1900, and place yourself in the shoes of sixteen-year-old Billy Bah, who lives in the unrelenting wintry land of northern Itta, Greenland.

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7. Staycations in the Countryside- What’s On Your Radar?

by Sally Matheny
Whether you’re short on time or low on money, don’t abandon a family getaway just yet. Instead of a vacation, consider a staycation or two.  Staycations can be fun activities, such as a luau, planned for your own backyard.  However, staycations also include day trips.  Even if you live out in the countryside, you may be surprised by the slew of possibilities you discover within a two-hour drive from home sweet home.
     Besides the obvious museums and municipal pools, here’s a few ideas to consider when checking what’s on your staycation radar.
     Perhaps some family members would enjoy creating their own Visitor’s Guide for the area. Include photos, drawings, and descriptions of interesting areas.
     Obtain a map of your county and surrounding counties. Make a copy of the map for each family member. Ask them to highlight the places they’ve visited before. Circle new places they’d like to visit. Highlight a road route they’d like to try. Pleasant surprises may lie on the road less traveled! One time our family visited beautiful, twin waterfalls. The only way to get to them was to park in a neighborhood of homes and hike from there. No one would imagine that majestic falls were nestled behind these little homes.
     Research the history of your area. Your local librarian or town historian can help you locate sources. Have any famous people lived in or visited your town? Were any movies filmed nearby?
     Visit visual and performing arts guilds. Several of these offer classes for adults as well as children. Are there other local artisans open for tours?
     Perhaps a social media survey asking friends about their favorites in the area would reveal a new farmer’s market or roadside ice cream stand to try.
     Google search for free or inexpensive things to do within a two-hour drive of your hometown. You may be surprised! Search for new restaurants to try. Find a new picnic spot.
     What about those historical landmark signs you drive by every day? Find out what important historical events occurred in your area. Visit antique stores. Check out some of the smaller museums such as car and farm equipment museums. Not only will your children gain an education of the past but perhaps a greater appreciation for the conveniences of today.
     Are there aspiring photographers in your family? Travel around and look specifically for great photo opportunities. A mulched path between tall, lush green trees presented a gorgeous backdrop for one of my daughter’s wedding photos. The path emerged between a mammography office and an assisted living center.

    You don’t have to live near a big city in order to enjoy an entertaining staycation.  A little investigation will provide plenty of gratifying locations. Be creative! Taking time out to do something fun together is what counts.    

Other things to consider:
airports to watch planes
bus tour group
tea room
farms & gardens
historical sites, battlegrounds, & battleships
water activities
visit & view various animals
try a new sport
try a new creative art
try a new food
play a new game

So, what's on your radar?

0 Comments on Staycations in the Countryside- What’s On Your Radar? as of 7/23/2014 10:11:00 PM
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8. Lately Lily Travel-Centered Books from Micah Player

The Lately Lily books and activity sets, bought together or separately, are beautifully designed items that not only tell an interesting story about travel and adventure, but also encourage children to be storytellers and chroniclers themselves.

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9. If You Were Me and Lived in … Portugal: An Introduction to Learning About Other Cultures | Dedicated Review

Discover the western European country of Portugal with award-winning author and former social studies teacher Carole P. Roman.

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10. The Great American Road Trip

Partially packed, but ready to go.

Partially packed, but ready to go.

This month my family and I returned from our LONGEST ROAD TRIP EVER. Longest in duration (one month), if not in miles (3,033).

We started from our home base in Rockford, IL and drove through eight states: Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, N. Carolina, S. Carolina, Georgia, and Florida, stopping in various towns along the way. What were some of the biggest differences between all these states? Well the gas price for one thing: varying by 60 cents, and the temperature: a high of 104 ° F in Georgia and a low 48 ° F in Illinois. Our journey looked like this:

The long and winding road.

The long and winding road.

Did I mention there are five of us? By the time we were done, as you can imagine, we pretty much had had enough “family time”. There is a phenomenon known as too much vacation. When we finally got home we didn’t even unpack. Instead we separated to our individual rooms.

madcatAlthough we were glad our trip was over, we did accumulate some great memories along the way. Like when we went to the Driftwood Beach at Jekyl Island. Very hot day, very cool views.

Driftwood Beach, Jekyl Island, GA

Driftwood Beach, Jekyl Island, GA

And walking the beach while the sun set over the Gulf of Mexico. Phenomenal. I’d honestly never seen sand turn pink before.

Sunset at the beach, St. Petersburg, FL

Sunset at the beach, St. Petersburg, FL

And of course a trip to Florida is never complete without a jump over to Orlando. For . . . you know . . . Harry.

Hogwarts castle, World of Harry Potter, Universal Studios, Orlando, FL

Hogwarts castle, World of Harry Potter, Universal Studios, Orlando, FL

My enthusiasm at World of Harry Potter easily trumped my kids’. One of my favorite memories was having a woman’s portrait in the Hall of Portraits blink when I took her photograph using my flash.

Hall of Portraits, Hogwarts Castle, World of Harry Potter, Universal Studios, Orlando, FL

Hall of Portraits, Hogwarts Castle, World of Harry Potter, Universal Studios, Orlando, FL

On the other hand, one of my youngest daughter’s favorite recollections wasn’t eating at great local restaurants, swimming in dozens of different swimming pools, or exploring southern architecture. Nope. It was rescuing someone’s Barbie from a perilous fate.

Tortured Barbie left at the beach, owner unknown

Tortured Barbie left at the beach, owner unknown

She (Barbie) is currently in quarantine.

Mad cat photo © Nikolai Nikonov, text added; all other photos © Karin Blaski; route map © mapquest

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11. Wordless Wednesday : Everest



1 Comments on Wordless Wednesday : Everest, last added: 7/11/2014
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12. If You Were Me and Lived in Russia, by Carole P. Roman | Dedicated Review

If You Were Me and Lived in Russia is the latest installment to a great picture book series that showcases diversity and encourages children to explore the world.

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13. Times are a changing (along with the name)…

I am there honestly, right behind the tower of mini prints.

Hiding behind the tower of mini prints.

This has been on my mind for awhile and on the long road trip I had more time to think about it. The business has grown so much in the past couple of years and the direction I want to take it has altered slightly too. The upcoming year there will be some changes, expanding products offered, a book in the works (Shawn get back to writing!), plus some creative, weird stuff from Shawn (I said get back to writing!), along with first and foremost a change in the name of the business.

There are many reasons for the name change, some minor, but  the major one has been growth. I use to share a six foot table with my friend Koko Candles and now I can barely contain everything on an eight foot table, much less a six foot table (which is why I am exploring having booths at certain cons next year). This rapid rate of growth could not have happened without someone very special in my life, Shawn. He has been supportive of me through all of this; he has given me creative ideas, does a lot of grunt work for me, and as he says his official title is, Lifter of Heavy Things. He is very much my partner in this business and I am appreciative of his contributions to the growth of it.

Shawn thinks he is in the new Mad Max movie.

Shawn thinks he is in the new Mad Max movie.

So on a long trip through the desert night of Arizona, Shawn and I started kicking around different names… some good, some hilariously bad. During the banter we had going back and forth it got me thinking; I love the darker side of things and Shawn loves horror (he always disappears from the booth during horror cons to spend money), and we always seem to be on the road lately. The name crystallized in my mind and it just seemed so appropriate. Without further ado I present the new name of the business…

Gypsy Ghouls

This will not be an immediate transition, so Diana Levin Art will still exist. I will still be creating new art and jewelry to have at the shows as these will be the cornerstone of the business as it expands.

More dark things to come...

More dark things to come…

And finally lest I forget to thank the people who also have made this growth possible, the fans of my art. Thank you so much for your support and love, I could not do it without all of you.

Keep dreaming and creating…


The post Times are a changing (along with the name)… appeared first on Diana Levin Art.

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14. Lauren Henderson Talks About Kissing in Italian

Author Lauren Henderson is just as fun to talk to as we imagine Violet, the heroine of her book Kissing in Italian, would be. Half American and British, Henderson seems both posh and down to Earth.

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15. Kissing in Italian, by Lauren Henderson | Book Review

This enchanting romp through the Italian countryside will have any girl, or girl at heart, melting with jealousy. Cute Italian boys and breathtakingly described scenery will make readers want to grab their passports.

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16. Sketch Workshop in Chicago

I am finally posting all of my sketches from Chicago. I have been buried since my return in work. (I have some amazing projects on my plate at the moment.)

But, it was wonderful to have a weekend devoted to just sketching and hanging out with wonderful friends.

You can see photos from the seminar here: http://chicagosketchseminar2014.wordpress.com/
and some of the Cincinnati group's photos and sketches here: http://cincyillustrators.blogspot.com/2014/06/urban-sketching-seminar-in-chicago.html

See Vanessa's sketches here: http://nessydesigns.blogspot.com/2014/06/urban-sketchers-chicago-2014.html

My favorite sketch from the weekend. This is the Holy Name Cathedral where Roger Ebert's funeral was held
and her incredible photos here: http://nessydesigns.blogspot.com/2014/06/chiacgo-urban-sketchers-trip-photos.html

Another church on the church architecture tour

Porsche at what the locals called 'Viagra Triangle' which is a good description
Big statue next to the hotel
A bit of sketching between bites of Garrett popcorn
Detail of the facade
Part of the Newberry Library

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17. Madrid - travel journal pages

Life is sweet. Yesterday, I got back from a wonderful city trip to Madrid, Spain. 
I'm a lucky girl. My husband had to travel there for his work and we decided I could travel with him and to add the weekend. 
So on Thursday morning, we arrived at Barajas, the airport. My husband took a cab to the office, and my little adventure started right there. I love travelling, and when you're on your own, the experience somehow is even deeper. Taking the subway into town was an adventure and my senses opened up completely. It felt like I saw, heard and smelt things sharply, and even the warm air from the subway tunnels felt like it touched the hairs on my arms in a very special way.
I saw well short dressed and high heeled women, smelled freshly fried churros, noticed elderly men wearing pastel colours, their checkered shirts matching the colour of their pink, baby blue or lime green pants. I was still underground and could already see: I am in the south of Europe!

The first thing I did when I arrived in the city and ascended from the subway into the sunny streets of Madrid, was find myself a Cafeteria to drink my very first, very spanish cortado: a single espresso with a little bit of milk.

Then I checked into our wonderful apartment we found through www.airbnb.com, I worked for a few hours (the entrepreneur life does go on, you know, also when you're travelling!) and then headed outside into the sunny city life. Had tapas for lunch and drew my view from the cervezeria. 

Next day I visited the museum Reina Sofia and I was also told to go see the Atocha train station which is on the other side of the roundabout there. So I did and also drew it.

Early in the evening, I made this drawing while having tapas with my husband. Including greasy tapas stains:

And we visited the wonderful mercado de San Miguel at night, for a glass of Verdejo and... yup, more tapas!

I am still doing my daily self portraits, as you can see. There's just a few pages to go in my current sketchbook, and I will sure keep the habit of doing self portraits, but I'll be glad to not be committed to do one each day anymore when I start a new sketchbook.
On the 14th, we woke up to another gorgeous day and before heading out, I drew the view from our window.
Next day, just before leaving home, we visited El Rastro, the largest flea market in the world, held every week. Super festive. We walked and walked and walked, so I didn't sketch any of it. The only drawing I made was the one in the right corner, during lunch.

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18. June? Seriously?!

We are six months into 2014. It’s June. Isn’t that crazy?

2014 Goals: Revision, Revision

Summer is my favorite time of year. For one thing the software geek job tends not to be “as crazy” as it is during other times of the year and I can get more writing done. My goal is to finish my revisions. Morning writing sessions are helping a lot as well as not giving myself such pressure to be perfect. Basically I’m trying to “fail better” and “write from the heart.” Instead of trying to write what can sell, I would rather write what I would want to read. Much better.

Doing More in 2014: Vacations

I recently went to my favorite place — the beach — and mostly ate shaved ice and read books. Works for me. It was sultry and hot — just the way I like it!

One of my dream vacations is to go to Bali. This Travel Noire post Bali: Island in the Sun just made me want to book a ticket. I’m going to try and make that happen soon. Maybe in 2016? *crosses fingers*

Recently Read Books

I finally got a chance to read the sweeping, thick novel The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert and also the provocative and stunning An Untamed State by Roxane Gay. Both are excellent reads.


Inspirational Gems

Here are some gems that I’ve found in cyberspace that you might find interesting.

YouTube Video: Inspire Her Mind – Promoting More Girls to go into STEM

Shonda Rhimes’ Real Talk for Dartmouth Grads: Dreams Are for Losers

5 Comments on June? Seriously?!, last added: 6/13/2014
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19. Interview with Jan Reynolds, Who Circumnavigated Mount Everest

jan reynoldsJan Reynolds is a writer, photographer, and adventurer who has written over fourteen nonfiction books for children about her travels. Her work has appeared in numerous publications including National Geographic, The New York Times, and Outside Magazine. Reynolds is an avid skier, mountain climber, and adventurer who held the record for women’s high altitude skiing, was part of the first expedition to circumnavigate Mount Everest, and performed a solo crossing of the Himalayas.

You are a world-class adventurer and athlete in addition to being a children’s author. Were you always a writer, or were you inspired to begin writing by your travels?

I’ve always been a writer…. I had a short story, fiction, that was published when I was in high school. I’m working on a young adult fiction book right now!

What was your hardest trip or exploration? Was there ever a moment in your travels when you wanted to turn back? What inspired you to keep going?

When I was crossing the Himalaya solo, I almost turned back, I was so sick (I talk about this in my documentary video, “Cultural Adventure with Jan Reynolds”). I lived in my tent alone for about four days and nights, and was found by a Sherpa and his son who nursed me back to health, and I finished my journey going from Nepal into Tibet over the Himalaya following the salt trade. I kept going because I needed to complete my trade on this salt trade route. I was working for National Geographic magazine, and I wanted to get my story!!jan reynolds_quote

Your books, especially your Vanishing Cultures series, chronicle the time you spent with endangered indigenous groups around the world. Since those books were published, have you gone back to visit any of the communities you connected with? Do you know how they’re doing?

I’ve been back to visit many of the places in my Vanishing Cultures series, and what I’ve found is that they are vanishing in terms of their traditional lives. The young are looking for jobs in the cities and towns nearby. It isn’t possible to make a living  traditionally. For example trucks and planes are much faster crossing the Sahara than a camel, so camel caravans cannot make profitable trades anymore.

Many of the groups about which you’ve written have a history of being exploited by outsiders. How do you first approach them about doing a project? How do you build trust with the community?vanishing cultures mongolia

When I visited these people it was a matter of me just showing up. So approaching them was literally just being there, it was so far out in most cases, they were just curious about me, that was my approach! I built trust by making one really good friend, and they became my mentor and guardian of sorts, and I always traveled as a trader with trade goods, silk, wool scarves, gold and silver jewelry, that opened doors too.

It is not always easy to get people to “act natural” in front of a camera, especially people who are not often photographed. How do you get your subjects comfortable in front of your camera? What do you do to ensure that your presence as a photographer does not change their behavior?

I dress like the locals as much as I can so that when they look at me behind the camera they aren’t having funny expressions! I also hang out with people quite a while before I start shooting so they are comfortable with me. I also give them a little snap shooter with a flash. Kids really love that, and they take pics of me, whether they know they are or not…. it’s like playing a game together. I try not to bring in things that are junky or techno, my trade items are things they know, and I try to blend in as much as I can so I’m not intrusive. I’m not there to teach or train, I’m just there to be, and record.

vanishing cultures amazonWhy do you think it’s important for a young reader from, say, Nebraska, to learn about a small indigenous culture from the Amazon Basin? What do you think are the big benefits of geo-literacy and global education?

I think all kids need to know that all environments around the world have people in them, the Amazon had a thriving community of people throughout, before the Spanish explorers brought disease and killed the local Indians by the thousands. Now kids study plain environments, the rainforest, the desert, etc. without people in them, and it gives kids the wrong idea, that man and environments are separate.

We are part of every environment, we are connected, and we need to live in harmony. Man lived his daily life in all the environments on earth. We can still, we just need to be partners with the earth. So what I tried to do with my books is have students study the environment AND the people in that environment at the same time, that’s more normal….together, not separate.

What travel tips can you offer to young readers traveling abroad for the first time?

When you travel abroad, befriend a local, they are the doorway to understanding the people and the environment, and how they work together, through traditions, food, ceremonies, and so on.

Thanks for joining us, Jan! Feel free to leave further questions for Jan in the comments section below.

Further Reading:

Raising Global Citizens: Jan Reynolds Author Study

Where in the World: How One Class Used Google Maps to Explore the Vanishing Cultures Series

Beyond “Did You Know. . .”: Teaching Geo-Literacy Using the Vanishing Cultures Book Series


Filed under: guest blogger Tagged: environmentalism, Himalaya, informational text standards, interview, Jan Reynolds, National Geographic, nonfiction, photography, Travel, vanishing cultures

0 Comments on Interview with Jan Reynolds, Who Circumnavigated Mount Everest as of 4/29/2014 3:25:00 PM
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20. Writing and Place: How Santa Barbara Sunshine Led To a Tale of Wolves and Snowy Woods – by Emma Barnes

I’ve just come back from a visit to Santa Barbara.  It was wonderful to revisit old haunts – the Daily Grind coffee shop, Chaucer Books – and to spend time watching the dolphins and pelicans from Arroyo Burro beach, smell the roses near the Mission, and most of all, bask in California sunshine after a long, cold, Yorkshire winter. 

It also made me think about the relationship between writing and place.

It was while I was in Santa Barbara I got a message saying that my book Wolfie had won a Fantastic Book Award (voted for by children across Lancashire).  This seemed fitting, as it was actually while I was staying in Santa Barbara, five years ago, that I wrote Wolfie.  And that made me think how odd it was that a book about wolves and deep winter woods (so atmospherically brought to life in Emma Chichester Clark’s illustrations) should have been created in such a completely different environment.

cover: Emma Chichester Clark
I remember the process well.  I’d walk my daughter to preschool – passing rows of jacaranda trees, an open air swimming pool and banks of creeping rosemary.  Then I’d go home and open my laptop and plunge into a world where a wolf appears in an ordinary British neighbourhood, and takes the heroine into a snow-filled world of adventure.  Maybe it was the contrast itself that got my imagination going?  I was certainly driven: tapping away intently, working against the clock until pick-up time.  

illustration: Emma Chichester Clark
 Of course many writers are inspired by their particular environment and its familiarity.  But I wonder how often writers are inspired to write about a setting precisely because it isn’t there?  Quite often, I suspect.  In some cases, this might be tinged with homesickness, or nostalgia for a place and time lost.

Certainly, one of the most evocative children’s books that I know, in terms of creating a setting, is Susan Cooper’s Dark Is Rising – part of the famous fantasy series of the same title.  This book is set in rural Berkshire near Windsor, and Will’s house, the village, the manor and the surrounding landscape are brilliantly portrayed: so real, so immediate, but also echoing with the years of history that lie behind.  When Will sets out into the woods he may meet a Smith from centuries past, or a tramp who has travelled through time, or the mythical Herne the Hunter: somehow the place can contain them all.  This capturing of landscape is also a feature of Cooper’s other books – the mountains of Wales in The Grey King, and a Cornish village in Greenwitch.

These books capture perfectly a British place and time (and I say time because I suspect the “present day” Berkshire that Cooper portrays has probably now been lost as totally as her Medieval or Dark Age versions, under the pressures of modern development).  Yet they were written when Cooper was far from her original home, living on the East Coast of the US.  In interviews, she has described how she was cross country skiing (a thoroughly un-British activity) when the idea of The Dark Is Rising came to her.

I’m certainly grateful for my time in California.  Towards the end of my stay I also went to the Santa Barbara Writer’s Conference, which was stimulating in a different way.  And I enjoyed happy hours running on the beach.  But mainly those months were a warm, calm, interlude: a bubble in which I managed to write a book.

Maybe one cold, winteryYorkshire morning I will sit down and find myself writing a tale of sunshine, sand and dolphins…

Emma's new book, Wild Thing,  about the naughtiest little sister ever (and her bottom-biting ways), is out now from Scholastic. It is the first of a series for readers 8+.
"Hilarious and heart-warming" The Scotsman
"Charming modern version of My Naughty Little Sister" Armadillo Mag

 Wolfie is published by Strident.   Sometimes a Girl’s Best Friend is…a Wolf. 
Winner of 2014 Fantastic Book Award
"A real cracker of a book" Armadillo 
"Funny, clever and satisfying...thoroughly recommended" Books for Keeps
"This delightful story is an ideal mix of love and loyalty, stirred together with a little magic and fantasy" Carousel 

Emma's Website
Emma’s Facebook Fanpage
Emma on Twitter - @EmmaBarnesWrite

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21. tulips (drawings) from Amsterdam

Last weekend I had a trip to Amsterdam to film my classes for Sketchbook Skool. I'll be a tutor in the second Semester, which kicks off on July 4th. I was met by the co-founder of the skool Koosje Keone and we spent two full days of filming.
I have to say I was more than a little nervous. I am not a natural in the front of the camera, in fact it's probably one of my biggest fears so if you are signing up to the second semester then please understand!
I really enjoyed the whole project, though. More than I thought I could, which was thanks to Koosje. I think we worked well together and I hope that my videos will be enjoyable, informative and useful, despite my awkwardness.
As well as filming we got to hang out in Koosje's neighbourhood a little. We ate some great food (those guys really know how to eat well) and, of course, we did a little bit of drawing.
I remember, at one point, discussing, with her, some of the other sketchers I'd met over the last few years and saying "some of them are REALLY obsessive, really hardcore sketchers". I then proceeded to make 17 drawings in my short stay! Turns out I might just be a little bit obsessive myself.
Here are thirteen of the sketchbook pages I made. I also did a couple of 'finish at home' jobbies - which I'll post later. And, of course, one drawing that will be revealed at Sketchbook Skool. The other sketch I made was so bad NOBODY will ever be seeing it. Koosje asked what I do if one of my pages goes wrong. I said "collage". Her musician husband, Pascal, said "ah, in music we call it a medley". I liked that quote.
One evening we sat outside a great restaurant, in the sun, where Koosje and Pascal are regulars. I drew the  guy in the cap, below, whom Koosje called 'an old sock' - which is an expression for a young guy person who has an old soul (I guess). Again, I liked that expression and the magpie in me will be flying off with these and storing them for future use.
Koosje also remarked on how quickly I made my sketches. That, again, is something I'd never noticed about my own drawing. And it came as a surprise to hear, as over the past few years I've sat labouring over drawings that take hours and hours and hours. But, she is quite right. It's true.
I've taught myself how to draw really quickly more recently. Yes, I still do my long highly worked up time consuming drawings, but I've also learnt to capture things as they are happening. It's not only a totally new way of drawing for me but it has also opened up a whole new way of seeing the world. I'll tell you how I did that sometime - but that's another film/class/blog post.
So, that was my weekend. I had no idea at the beginning of May that I'd be making this trip so it was an unexpected surprise. I also got an extra day in Amsterdam to wonder around, in the sunshine, drawing whatever took my fancy.
When I look at the drawings I made there it makes me realise how far I have come in the last few years. Just two or three year ago, I'd never have been able to do this stuff. I'd never have drawn people on the plane, in the park, having coffee. But that's what keeping a sketchbook or illustrated journal does. It's not just a place to document your life, but also somewhere to work on your skills and techniques.
 And, just one more observation I made on this trip; if you ever thought that being cabin crew was a glamorous job then you ain't ever been on the weekend stag-party flights from the UK to Amsterdam. Those guys deserve medals.

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22. The Tale of Tango, by Paul E. Hohmann | Dedicated Review

The Children’s Book Review | May 21, 2014 The Tale of Tango By Paul E. Hohmann; Illustrated by Ivan Earl Aguilar Paperback: 24 pages Age Range: 4-8 Publisher: XLIBRIS (February 20, 2014) ISBN: 978-1493163687 What to expect: Airplanes, Pilots, Overcoming New Challenges The Tale of Tango is an illustrated story of one little plane’s life journey […]

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23. Journal Pages

Phew, there's so much awesomeness going on.
The very first semester of Sketchbook Skool has just finished and it was a tremendous succes. We are now working on all the good stuff coming up in the second kourse, which has the theme 'Seeing'.
Just last weekend, Andrea Joseph (I know, she is an amazing illustrator!!) came over to Amsterdam, and she and I spent the weekend, filming the videos for her klass in the upcoming kourse. I got to see some (no, a lot) of her magic and I hope it rubbed off just a little on me.

It was hard work, but we also had a lot of fun, and I was glad that she enjoyed it after all, even though she was very hesitant towards the whole filming bit of the klass. It was great to spend the weekend with her. We had fun, and she really is a lovely person.
I have a huge pile of editing work to do now, but the things she showed in front of the camera are very inspiring and I know the whole skool is gonna love it. So... if you haven't signed up for Sketchbook Skool yet: make sure to get yourself a seat in klass! The kourse starts July 4 and you can click here to find out more and enroll right away.

In the meantime, Spring is here, and I am teaching a fun workshop to start (and keep) art journaling:

The workshop starts May 26, and will be running for 4 weeks. After that, I will give you a workbook to take home and keep going on your new daily drawing habit.
So what are you waiting for? For only $69, you will get 4 weeks of fun, full of drawing tips, motivation and a kick-in-the butt for those procrastinators out there.

Does this post look like an advertisement? Sorry about that, if you don't like it. It's just that I am just so excited about the online classes, and I want to share it with everyone!

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24. Five on Friday: Travel Edition + a Book Giveaway

A recent visit to San Francisco inspired me to think about oral story telling, publishing, an persuasive writing. Here are five things my trip left me thinking about. PLUS, leave a comment on this blog post for a chance to win a copy of a new picture book from Chronicle Books.

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25. When you see the Southern Cross for the first time…


Where have I been?

Around the world, in ninety days.

A research trip for a screenplay that was supposed to be five weeks long where I traveled to Australia and Indonesia turned into so much more. Thanks for your patience while I was away. I’m in the process of understanding all the changes that I’ve been going through and putting words to the experience. Surprisingly I’ve had no jet lag when I returned nearly three weeks ago and am instead working very hard on the screenplay and some film documentaries too. There’s so much to process. The trip was life affirming as well as life changing. You’ve been great supporters of my work and I’m thrilled to have you on this journey with me. One of the places I least expected to go was Mt. Everest, and as fate would have it, while I was there the worst disaster in the history of the storied mountain unfolded. An avalanche took the lives of 16 sherpas. They were family members and friends of the sherpas who trekked with me on the Everest trail. Sometimes stories come to you. This was perhaps the biggest story I’d ever been caught up in and it influenced my entire experience in Nepal, which started off as a humanitarian trip to provide dental care to “yakland” kids (children who live above 10,000 feet) some who are orphaned (due to the ten year civil war there) and some victims of human trafficking. This is but a small a window into one of the unexpected, but wonderful stops on my journey.

I haven’t updated my about page, because I really like the fact that I had written there that one of my dreams was to travel to Indonesia. And it’s so nice when dreams come true. I don’t think I’ll update it with my new dreams yet. It’s nice to savor and celebrate moments like this. *pops the cork off the champagne bottle* *pours you a glass* Now about that stand up comedy routine…




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