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1. Talents and Skills Thesaurus Entry: Sewing

As writers, we want to make our characters as unique and interesting as possible. One way to do this is to give your character a special skill or talent that sets him apart from other people. This might be something small, like having a green thumb or being good with animals, to a larger and more competitive talent like stock car racing or being an award-winning film producer. 

When choosing a talent or skill, think about the personality of your character, his range of experiences and who his role models might have been. Some talents might be genetically imparted while others are created through exposure (such as a character talented at fixing watches from growing up in his father’s watch shop) or grow out of interest (archery, wakeboarding, or magic). Don’t be afraid to be creative and make sure the skill or talent is something that works with the scope of the story. 



Courtesy : Lori Branham @ Creative Commons

Description: sewing encompasses a variety of forms: dressmaking, embroidery, millinery (hat making), quilting, needlepoint, crocheting, knitting, and other activities involving needle and thread. Sewing can be a practical endeavor (as a means of producing a needed product) or a leisurely activity that is more craft-like or entertaining in nature.

Beneficial Strengths or Abilities: dexterity, good hand-eye coordination, sharp eyesight, a basic knowledge of mathematics, being able to communicate clearly with others

Character Traits Suited for this Skill or Talent: patience, meticulousness, creativity, organization, dependability

Required Resources and Training: The basics of sewing can be self-taught but many sewers choose to train through an apprenticeship or via trade or fashion schools.

Associated Stereotypes and Perceptions: Sewers are usually portrayed as females; it would be nice to see other people groups represented in this field. Closely related to sewing, fashion design is a popular skill or hobby that is quickly becoming cliché among female protagonists, particularly in YA books.

Scenarios Where this Skill Might be Useful: when extra income is needed; as a means of artistic expression; when money is scarce and clothing/cloth has to be recycled or repurposed; when an article of clothing needs repairing at an important, high-profile event

Resources for Further Information:

Hand Sewing Basics

Choosing Fabrics for a Sewing Project

A Sewing How-To


You can brainstorm other possible Skills and Talents your characters might have by checking out our FULL LIST of this Thesaurus Collection. And for more descriptive help for Setting, Symbolism, Character Traits, Physical Attributes, Emotions, Weather and more, check out our Thesaurus Collections page.


The post Talents and Skills Thesaurus Entry: Sewing appeared first on WRITERS HELPING WRITERS.

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2. 2014 International Book Industry Excellence Awards


Last week, we were humbled to learn that we received the inaugural International Academic and Professional Publisher Award from the London Book Fair, among a ridiculously esteemed group of nominees across multiple categories. The award, part of a new industry-wide pool of honors, furthers the LBF’s mission to “celebrate the role of the book and the written word at the heart of creative content across all formats.”

More from the press release:

These unique new awards, celebrating achievement across the entire business of publishing, will provide a truly global industry vision.  They represent the UK’s recognition of international publishing industry excellence, and take place within the calendar’s most important global publishing event.

LBF and The Publishers Association have selected an group of UK  judges, working at the heart of each category, whose international or discipline-specific expertise qualifies them to judge their peers’ work.

For a full list of winners, visit Publishing Perspectiveswho mention in their write-up of the awards ceremony:

The global book industry saw the birth of something new on Tuesday night, something that will surely grow to become a fixture on the international publishing calendar, something that seemed so right one wondered why it had never existed before.

Again, we’re humbled and honored—congrats to the other winners and all the nominees (excitedly: a truly global list).

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3. Where the North Sea Touches Alabama

Where the North Sea Touches Alabama is a strange book—I’ve been describing it to strangers (note the relationship between adjective and noun) as an ethnography of mourning, but really it’s a peculiar hybrid of sociological exegesis, lyric essay, and phantasmagorical travelogue. I believe author Allen C. Shelton might consider it a novel, just as Walter Benjamin certainly must have plucked a term from the atmosphere to describe the Arcades Project as he carried its pages in a suitcase like fake currency.

The book considers the tragic life and death of the artist Patrik Keim, a friend of the author’s, and a theoretical muse or Betelgeuse ostensibly traveling between this world and another. That’s the stuff of Western philosophy in the wake of Hegel, or a battered Platonic ideal we repeat to ourselves—the absolute idealism that marks being as an all-inclusive whole: not subject without object, and vice-versa. Shelton takes on this canon—Marx, Foucault, Weber, and especially, Benjamin—and arrives at someplace not entirely recognizable. Maybe that’s because the rest of the landscape he renders—via an epistolary immersion in northeastern Alabama—is so unavoidably specific. Anyhow: not to give too much away. The above trailer should be enough to get you started—like the book, it’s a well-made and unconventional narrative.

And to conclude, from an equally strange—lyrical, inculcating even—review of the book by Daryl White from Paste magazine:

My inner Walter Mitty belongs to a small collective of social science writers.

We call ourselves the Professors Higgin. We commiserate, critique and urge each other to confess our literary sins, our endless little murders of the English tongue. We comprise a teacher, a pragmatist, a printmaker, a contrarian, a recovering atheist, an agnostic, a believer with no object of belief, a jaded millenarian, a Luddite, a backsliding Marxist and, depending on academic circumstances, either an anthropologist or a sociologist—an erstwhile Whitman’s Sampler.

We help each other, endlessly contradict, chide, commiserate and condemn colleagues’ writing. We laugh at our phobias, strain for 12-step clarity and all too rarely acknowledge the debt we owe our students. With ease, we blame them for our petty insanities, resent their ability to absorb our time and in the end know our better selves in their reflections.

We read Where the North Sea Touches Alabama in sustained awe. Inspired. Heartened. Daunted.

To read more about Where the North Sea Touches Alabama, click here.


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4. Reading together, a classic activity!

reading quote 6

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5. What Killed it For Me #6: Action Too Early


This looks like a good place to start my story…

It’s likely that we’ve all encountered these stories—the ones that open with an explosion, plague, car chase, alien abduction, fist fight, or other volatile scene involving a main character that we know virtually nothing about. I get why authors do this. It makes sense that starting the story with a bang would engage readers and suck them right in. But most of the time, the opposite happens for me: I end up confused and uninterested. And here’s why: To care about what’s happening to the character, I have to first care about the character.

To care about a hero, readers need to know what he wants and what’s at stake if he doesn’t get it. They’ve also got to respond to him emotionally on a certain level if they’re going to empathize with him and his circumstances. Readers need to have a feel for this stuff before the main character gets thrown into the arena or accused of espionage. If the cart comes before the horse here, it’s highly likely that readers won’t engage and may not continue reading.

So how do we avoid this problem in our own writing?

1. Don’t start with the main action. We need to see the character in her real world before the main conflict arises. This provides contrast, pitting the old safe-but-somehow-unsatisfactory world against the crazy new one. It also gives us a chance to get to know the hero before her world is turned upside down. So if your story is about people surviving an ebola outbreak, don’t open with the hero’s mother bleeding from the eyes. If it’s about a woman living in the aftermath of divorce, don’t open with her husband leaving her. Give readers a chance to care about the hero before the main conflict arises, and readers will be more inclined to stick around to see what happens to her.

2. Avoid gimmicky opening action sequences. I made this mistake in one of my first novels. My book opened with the main character running through a field, breathing heavily and casting frantic looks over her shoulder. Readers assumed she was being chased, and she was. But when it turned out she was just playing hide-and-seek, they were not amused. The opening came across as contrived, which is fitting, since that’s exactly what it was. Readers are smart. They know when they’re being deceived or manhandled, and like anyone with any sense, they don’t like it at all. (This is one of the reasons why opening dream sequences rarely work.)

The thing is, enthralling stories that suck readers in don’t have to start with action. Look at The Hunger Games. Talk about action-packed—yet, it opens with the main character waking up. Collins could have opened her book at half-a-dozen later points in the story, and there would have been a lot more going on. But those openings wouldn’t have worked, imo, because they weren’t the right place to start her story. And that brings us to something super important that you have to do…

3. Start your story in the right place. I’ve heard it said that you should start your story just before the protagonist’s life intersects with the antagonist’s agendaThe Hunger Games is a great example. President Snow’s agenda is to strengthen his control over the people of Panem via the hunger games. Katniss has been to the reaping a number of times, but because her name hasn’t been called, her life hasn’t yet intersected with Snow’s agenda. That doesn’t happen until Prim’s name is picked. Had Collins started the story after that, the opening would have been jarring and probably confusing for readers. Had she started much earlier than she did, the opening would have dragged.

Finding the right starting point is critically important in engaging readers early. Locate that magical point where the antagonist’s agenda intersects with the hero’s life. Open your story just before that collision, and you’ll likely be starting in a spot that will resonate with readers.

Photo credit: The Official CTBTO Photostream @ Creative Commons


The post What Killed it For Me #6: Action Too Early appeared first on WRITERS HELPING WRITERS.

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6. Mark Twain Humor Contest


Another opportunity for all young ( or old) writers out there.

Originally posted on Writing and Illustrating:

mark twain imageThe Mark Twain House & Museum’s Inaugural “Royal Nonesuch” Humor Writing Contest for writers of all ages from all corners of the globe!

Recognizing that Samuel Clemens (aka: Mark Twain) began writing at an early age and to encourage other young authors, we welcome submissions for two categories:

  • Adult (age 18 and over at time of submission) at $22 per submission, and
  • Young Author (age 17 and under at time of submission) at $12 per submission.

Celebrity Judges for Adults are: Roy Blount, Jr., Colin McEnroe, and Lucy Ferris.

Celebrity Judges for Young Authors are: Tim Federle, author of Better Nate Than Ever, and Jessica Lawson, author of The Actual & Truthful Adventures of Becky Thatcher.

Submit your original humorous essays and stories for a chance at a cash prize, the opportunity to meet bestselling authors at our annual “Mark My Words” event, and best of…

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7. Screw You for Saying Life Sucks


I’ve had a lot of people tell me lately that life is not a bowl of cherries. I’m not sure what they’re trying to accomplish by the routing of this cliché. Is this supposed to make me feel better?

I was in Florida for a week, and I never wanted to come back to Phoenix. I wanted Jake to move to the beach with the dogs and me. Burn our house down. Forget about our jobs, our belongings. Become perpetual beach bums. I could bartend; he could fix and rent out bicycles. So long as we were near the sand, the water, and the lifestyle.

While there with my brilliant Aunt Susie, we scattered Grandpa Schwind’s ashes into the sea. She reminisced; he never missed a sunset when he was down on Longboat Key. He would wander to the beach at night and say, “Thank you, God.” He planned his whole day around it.

Saying goodbye to Papa.

Saying goodbye to Papa.

Susie and I had an amazing week together. We rode beach cruisers to visit the friendly peacocks down the street. We spent all day at the beach and saw two baby sharks. We drank Kryptonite cocktails at the Daiquiri Deck, and I ate enough oysters to kill a small child. I even took a long walk on the beach in the middle of a torrential rainstorm.

I came back to Phoenix, hoping to keep the “beach mindset,” and I failed immediately. Life got in the way. First, there was the aforementioned “chicken incident.” There was an overburden of work and the stress of trying to sell our house. There was a premenstrual emotional breakdown on Saturday. Finally, yesterday morning, a close friend of mine passed away.

The bowl of cherries comment came about when I admitted to someone I didn’t really want to live in Phoenix anymore. I want to move back east. I want to be near the ocean again, and the longing to do so is a resounding ache in my chest.

Then, David died yesterday, and a friend told me death was just part of life and that life isn’t easy and mortality is a bitch and blah blah blah—I don’t know if this kind of talk helps other people, but it only makes me angry.

beach picPeople telling me life is hard does not help. People giving advice only makes things worse. I need to channel the girl I was on the beach last week, walking in the rain with the tide on my toes. She was so blissfully happy, filled with joy. She was free.

My Grandpa Schwind would have wanted me to be that girl always, every day. David (who reminded me so much of Papa) would have wanted the same. In the past six months, I’ve said goodbye to both of them—such joyful, peaceful, kind men, who would never, ever say, “Life is not a bowl of cherries.”

I need to find the girl I was on the beach, but I need to remember these two important men I’ve lost, as well. We scattered Papa on the beach because now, he can watch the sunset every night. Every night, he can say “Thank you, God.” I am utterly lost, but I can’t buy into this bullshit about life not being fair, life being hard. The negativity will drown me.

I won’t listen. I won’t hear. I’m done being told to keep a stiff upper lip, to be strong. Another friend recently said I needed “joy and ease.” She wanted me to say it like a mantra: “joy and ease.” Okay, I can get behind that. Life might be hard, but it’s also a lot of fun. Screw anyone who says otherwise.

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8. Your Weakness is Your Strength

This might get weird. I’m just gonna put that out here, right up front. I’ve been in an especially reflective mood lately, and I’m pulling this post from that painfully honest well. Because something’s been on my mind. A series of questions, actually…


When did I start second guessing my every move?


Why have I become so self-critical?


When did I turn into a walking apology?


Maybe I’m alone in this. I dunno. But somehow I’ve let toxic self-sabotage become my go-to move. And I need to shake it off. These days, over and over, I find myself thinking…


You’re too emotional.


You’re too easily played.


You’re too naive.


You’re not smart enough.


You’re not tough enough.


You’re not good enough at this game.


And on and on and on. Yes, it’s good to reflect and push yourself. And a healthy dose of self-doubt is an extremely useful thing. Without at least a little of it, it’s almost impossible to grow. But too much? Too much, and there’s no room for growth at all. Instead, there’s only room for the echo of self-destructive thought.


I think it hit me tonight, when I was driving home from an especially long day at work. Tonight, on a long stretch of highway, I had the music cranked up as I was listening to Pharrell’s Happy. And you know what? I was singing along and acting completely goofy and un-ironic and just being… unapologetically happy. I was just being myself, feeling good like no one was watching, no apology necessary. And yanno what? It was great.


All that toxic self-talk had completely disappeared.


And on that cloud of joy-for-no-reason, I came home and reread a recent interview with Pharrell in Red Bulletin. And over and over, he talks about emotion and the power of human feeling and how hard he works to listen and stay open to it as he creates new things. Without apology, he acknowledged this empathy and emotion, and his inability to push it aside. He owns it not as a weakness, but as a strength. A strength that fuels everything he does:


“…Always shooting for that and using feeling as a compass. We are so dismissive of our feelings. Yet…our feelings can lead us to do really crazy things or really amazing things…”
“…Steve Jobs. He so genuinely bought that product to the world; it is called a computer. But we are human, and that is what a computer will never be able to do is feel. That is what makes us the superior species of this planet…”


“…When I realized that thinking is not my path and feeling is for me, I started to realize that people are so dismissive about other people’s feelings…Ferraris, jewelry, all of those things mean nothing…You can’t take that when you go. You take your feelings with you and your experiences that gave you those feelings. That is the wealth, man. An experience. The coolest thing that you talk about is your trip where you went and you had a good time. The first thing you talk about it in terms of description, “Man, it was awesome.”


I’m no creative genius like Pharrell, but I think he might be on to something. Maybe our weaknesses are also our strengths. Sure, I should still try to hone my critical thinking skills, but maybe, I don’t need to dismiss the core of who I am. Maybe I need to embrace it. Maybe I need to flip that thought loop until it sounds more like…


I’m empathic enough to care deeply about others.


I’m optimistic enough to stay open to possibility.


I’m forgiving enough to look past flaws and shortcomings.


I’m headstrong enough to take chances.


I’m resilient enough to ante up, again and again.


I’ve got enough heart to know which games really matter.


So if I’m not alone, and you’re feeling self-critical, this is my long-winded way of passing it along to you: whatever your weakness is, no matter what your critical thought loop says, the flaws in you are probably also your biggest strengths. Be you, and no one else. Be you and work it, baby.


Clap along if you feel like a room without a roof…



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9. How’s and Why’s of Dream Journaling

Dream Journaling

Keeping a Dream Journal

If you are serious about developing a deep connection with your inner self, this task is perhaps the best practice you can do. Keeping a dream journal involves writing down your dreams as they occur. Ideally, this would be just as you are waking up while the dream is still fresh in your mind. So keep a notebook and a pen (or digital diary–there are apps for that now if you can get technical while half awake!) next to your bed. If you are one of those people who can’t seem to remember your dreams, then try keeping a journal of whatever comes to mind that is important to you on a daily basis. For any kind of journaling, keep it simple. That will be the best assurance for encouraging you to be faithful about making regular entries into it. At a minimum each entry in a dream journal should include:

  • The date
  • A title for the dream (this will help you remember the dream as you remember a movie)
  • A detailed description of the dream written in the present tense. Include every color, character, object, background, place, emotional feeling, and emotional nuance. Pay attention to the number of things occurring such as recording if there are 3 books or 2 people. It is important. Find and use a good dream dictionary—one that gives many meanings to each symbol and teaches dreamwork exercises. I like Cloud Nine: A Dreamer’s Dictionary by Sandra A. Thompson.

This practice will usually be all you have time to do on a regular basis. However, depending upon how thorough you want to be, you can do the following:

  • Reserve a section either below or next to the dream where you make a note of any dreamwork done on the dream such as making associations with the dream symbols or make notes on what the dream may be about by using the other dream methods described below.
  • If you have asked to have this dream prior to dreaming it, you should by all means write down the question or intention before having the dream. The point isn’t to be so thorough in analyzing every dream but to keep an ongoing consistent recording of every important dream and even the minor ones, if you have the self-discipline. You can always come back later and do additional dreamwork on any dream if you have done a good job of recording the dream in detail.
  • If you have seen how this dream has helped, you may want to reserve space to add a note about this in the margin or in a space below the dreamwork section.

Also, what appears to be a minor dream to your waking mind can actually end up being of profound importance for the rest of your life, so please pay attention to the very short dreams and ones that don’t seem important. It might not be apparent at the moment, but you will see the dream’s significance in ten or twenty years down the road. You will see that your deeper consciousness is already preparing you for the major tasks that lie years ahead. Also you will want to record dream encounters with healers and guides whose presence you might want to honor later

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10. Flip the Page Update: By Kinsey Cantrell

Writing has been my passion for as long as I can remember, and as a result I’ve been involved with the Thurber House ever since I was in fourth grade, when I attended a summer camp in the hopes of improving my craft. In fifth grade, I was asked to be a docent for the House, and I spent much of my free time explaining the intricacies of the building to tourists, sipping hot chocolate while decorating for various holidays, and interacting with people of all ages who shared my passion. My involvement waned by the time I was in high school and immersed in other activities. Flip the Page has been the perfect opportunity to reacquaint myself with a place I once considered a second home, but, more than that, it has allowed me to see others’ perspectives and learn more about writing and the nuances of life, literature is meant to capture.


Kinsey reading her poem “Concussed and Nonplussed” at the 2013 Columbus Arts Festival.

I first heard about Flip the Page last year, and, excited by the possibility of publication, I submitted a poem, “Concussed and Nonplussed”. After being selected for the magazine, I was given the opportunity to read it out loud at the Columbus Arts Festival and listen to others in the magazine do the same. It was incredible what this small journal had the ability to do for dozens of kids, teachers, and parents, instilling confidence and pride and augmenting a vivacity for both writing and reading. When my friend Brie told me there was a selection committee made up of high schoolers, I knew I had to get involved.

Literature amazes me with its ability to convey idea, thought, knowledge, and, perhaps above all, truth. Even more amazing and curious is that these truths are individualized to each reader. Pieces that have changed my outlook on life leave others lukewarm, and vice versa. Nowhere have I found this to be more true than the Flip the Page Selection Committee room. Often we’ll stumble upon a piece that I’ll fight to include while someone else fights just as hard to leave it out. Overall, this promotes intriguing and enlightening discussion about every facet of a piece – and these are not seasoned, experienced writers inspiring these discussions. These are high school students with astute views of life as a whole and topics that range from love to death to the power of the human mind. And these kids definitely have that power.

I’m thankful to have been able to work alongside the rest of the committee to produce something palpable and beautiful and true. I can’t wait to get my hands on the finished copy of this year’s journal, but I have gained so much more from this than just the book; I’ve gained experience, countless inside jokes, and a community of writers, all passionate, all dedicated to this illuminating form of art.

Concussed and Nonplussed
By Kinsey Cantrell
Hilliard Bradley High School

 Concussed and nonplussed, I sit in this chair
alone on a throne that bode me no wear
Disconnected, I’ve perfected the art of no thought
the pain is the bane and the shame is distraught

Thought I’m meek through the week, I may have found strength
in endings, upendings, and lending some length
to the notion of a potion I sip to feel numb
and sleep much too deep and keep a sure thumb

They ask me where I am and I cannot say
they ask me my name and I ask the day.

It’s been long here, inside my head
where the shade comes to fade and the haze lasts for days
and the rhyme holds be back and the prose pulls me forward
and the light is repulsive and the dark is no horror

Animal, I duck away from the noise
dogged by ponderings of perfect poise
parroting, slurred, the words I’m told are true
stepped up to bat and struck right through

Of sense I make none, of hopes I make many
they tell me to rest, give my musings no penny
I lie awake and dream of potential clarity
of a state I could know, one of disparity

There seems a wall between me and understandings constructed
And all the sights I could see this wall has obstructed
And all of the things that I could have lucked into
Remain out of reach the same way that you do

If I know not what I’m doing, does that not make me human?
In my scant knowledge, I know I’ll place no trust
And though my pleas increase by degrees
I’ve found I meander and I’ve found I am lost
and perhaps that is why I am thusly concussed.

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11. Children’s Literature Online at a Glance: A Look Back at Friends Long Gone

So I was listening to an episode of Pop Culture Happy Hour the other day.  If you happen to unfamiliar with the show it’s just your basic pop culture based podcast where they dissect the trends and news of the day so you don’t have to.  In a recent episode called ‘Captain America’ And The Pitiless March Of Time a discussion was made of websites that have simply disappeared over the years.  The folks over at NPR were concerned about the fact that Television Without Pity is now defunct.  They mentioned how we live in this odd world where things we love and sites that once contained just loads of content can disappear in a day.  It got me to thinking.

I started A Fuse #8 Production as a blog on Blogger back in February of 2006.  At that time I had no idea what I was doing, stringing one word next to another, plucking weirdo news items from the ether, and generally reviewing anything I could get my hot little hands on.  I did a book review a day in my prime.  Now I’m lucky if I can get two out in a week!  That was when I caught some attention for starting a series called The Hot Men of Children’s Literature.  All in good fun, it got attention which was my ultimate goal.  Then SLJ picked me up and the rest is history.

So I took a trip back to my little old blog site and checked out the blogroll on the side.  The blogroll was something I maintained meticulously for a while.  There was even a moment when every day I would systematically check each and every blog there for news I could use.  Looking at it now, I see a lot of familiar faces who are still going strong, but they’re alongside folks I wish were still around.  If we pick a random number and say that the Kidlitosphere has been in existence for a decade, then maybe now is the time to tip our hats to those folks we miss.  In no particular order . . .


Collecting Children’s Books

CollectingChildrensBooks 500x104 Childrens Literature Online at a Glance: A Look Back at Friends Long Gone

Well. . . maybe a certain kind of order.  Here’s the thing about that old blogroll of mine.  If you look at it today you’ll see it’s organized in a kind of haphazard method.  That’s because it’s in order of blogs I checked the most to the least (7 years ago . . don’t flog me if you’re low!).  And coming in at #5 was Peter Sieruta and his jaw-dropping Collecting Children’s Books.  I kid you not when I say that for a time Peter was the hardest working man in show business.  His sheer output put me to shame.  I’d mince about with a tiny post here and there and then he’d swoop in with his Sunday Brunch posts and just blow us all away with these insightful, clever, interesting looks into the history of children’s literature.  He was beloved of certain authors like M.E. Kerr, childhood heroes he connected with thanks to the age of the internet.  Peter was so amazing, in fact, that it seemed a bloody frickin’ shame that no one was paying him to do what he did so well.  So I reached out to him and Julie Danielson of Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast and proposed we all write a book together.  Turns out, I couldn’t have picked two better authors in all my livelong days.  Though our writing styles were diverse we were able to synthesize them into a single unified voice.  That book, Wild Things: Acts of Mischief in Children’s Literature comes out in August (we had to push back the pub date, which is why you’re not seeing it on your shelves this month) and is dedicated to Peter.  You see, after we had turned in our text, Peter passed away unexpectedly leaving a massive gaping hole in the children’s book blogosphere.  He was a kind and witty friend and from time to time I turn back to his old site just to see if there are any updates.  There never will be, but it does the heart good to check.


Just One More Book

JustOneMoreBook 500x151 Childrens Literature Online at a Glance: A Look Back at Friends Long Gone

On Saturday, April 19th at 2:00 p.m. I’m so pleased to announce that I’ll be hosting the Children’s Literary Salon Podcasting Children’s Books: Ins and Outs, Ups and Downs.  In it, podcasters Katie Davis (Brain Burps About Books), John Sellers (PW KidsCast), and Matthew Winner (Let’s Get Busy) will engage me in conversation about the world of children’s literary podcasting and their experiences with the form.  It’s bound to be a real thrill but it’s also important to remember that before any of these folks started in on the form there was one site that was your automatic go-to kidlit podcast.  Just One More Book was a Canadian creation, the brainchild of Andrea Ross and Mark Blevis.  For a time, it was really the only place to get good podcasting (unless, of course, you were a Harry Potter fan who subscribed to Pottercast).  Then personal problems arose.  Andrea was diagnosed with breast cancer and the site bravely chronicled her fight and recovery.  That was in 2009 and since that time there is the occasional podcast or video but for all intents and purposes the site is no longer updated.  Yet even in its defunct state I was happy to note that the Twitter feed of @JustOneMoreBook rakes in a whopping 6,549 followers.  You can bet I’ll be giving them a shout out at my next Lit Salon.


Big A little a

BigAlittlea 500x104 Childrens Literature Online at a Glance: A Look Back at Friends Long Gone

In an age of countless children’s literary blogs, with more and more cropping up every day, people forget that in the early days there just weren’t a lot of us hanging around.  You had your Tea Cozy and your MotherReader.  Your Educating Alice and your bookshelves of doom.  And then there was Big A little a run by Kelly Herold.  It wasn’t one of those big flashy blogs.  Instead, Kelly just provided really good, steady content for folks who were curious.  She had no problem interviewing Judy Blume one day and Mary Pope Osborne the next.  Sadly the site shuttered in 2009 and though she did try to do an alternate blog for a time it didn’t last.  Fortunately you can follow Kelly on Pinterest if you like, where she maintains four different boards.


The Edge of the Forest

EdgeoftheForest 500x88 Childrens Literature Online at a Glance: A Look Back at Friends Long Gone

Now my memory is a bit foggy on this one so folks who remember and worked on this will have to correct me when I get my facts wrong.  You see, in the early children’s literature days we had no idea what we were doing.  We knew we had to get organized in some way, so the Kidlitosphere Central was created, a wiki of reviews born, and the yearly Children’s Book Blogger Conference Kidlitcon established (not to mention the Cybils!).  On top of that, there was an idea of maintaining an online magazine with contributions from our community.  Called “The Edge of the Forest” it featured reviews of its own as well as articles and interviews.  Sadly it didn’t last and the site itself disappeared completely from the internet.  This is one of the rare cases of something children’s book blog related completely disappearing, reminding us that no matter how much content we may produce, it could all cease and desist tomorrow.  A blogger momento mori, if you will.


Editorial Anonymous

EditorialAnonymous Childrens Literature Online at a Glance: A Look Back at Friends Long Gone

Ah.  One of the great mysteries of the children’s book blog age.  Created in 2007 and continuing until its demise in 2011, no one ever knew who EA, as she/he was affectionately known, really was.  Many theories raged, and undoubtedly a number of editors of children’s books probably had to field questions from folks wondering if they were “the one”.  EA’s disappearance isn’t hard to explain though.  She (it’s probably a pretty safe bet to call EA a she) was snarky in the good sense of the word.  Suffering no fools she had a whip smart tongue and a great style to boot.  Undoubtedly someone somewhere figured out her secret and so she stopped posting entirely one day.  I harbor two fantasies about EA.  One is that someday she’ll write a book of her own (though she may easily have already done so) and that I’ll see it and recognize her style.  The other is that I’ll be in my gray later years, oh say 85 or so, and one day someone will call me up and say to me and me alone: “Editorial Anonymous was [enter name here]“.  It could happen.  A girl just has to have faith.


Uncommon Corps

UncommonCorps 500x178 Childrens Literature Online at a Glance: A Look Back at Friends Long Gone

Sometimes a blog goes away and you feel sad.  And sometimes they stop posting and you get a bit miffed.  When The Uncommon Corps was created in the wake of the early Common Core State Standards rollout I was thrilled.  With an illustrious group of authors at the helm this was slated to be THE #1 most important blog to talk about CCSS out there.  But as time passed it just couldn’t quite post regularly.  It was started in 2012 and continued through 2013 then died on the vine.  I do maintain a hope somewhere that someday it will be revived, but until then we’ll just have to be content with the archives, such as they are.

Of course there are other blogs that have been pertinent to our business over the years that I miss just as much as well.  Children’s Music That Rocks used to be my one and only source of great new children’s album reviews.  Golden Age Comic Book Stories showed as much classic children’s book illustration as it did comic book panels.  There are others too that just slowed down their postings to one or two a year.

So now that I’ve steeped you in my own unique brand of nostalgia, return the favor.  What are some of the sites you find yourself missing from time to time?

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12. Tap Tap Boom Boom‘ing Before Breakfast:A Visit with Author and Bookseller Elizabeth Bluemle

(Click spread to enlarge)

Earlier this month, I reviewed Elizabeth Bluemle’s Tap Tap Boom Boom (Candlewick, March 2014), illustrated by G. Brian Karas, for BookPage. What a good book it is, and that review is here over at the wonderful BookPage site.

Today, I’m following up with a couple of spreads from the book — and a chat with Elizabeth. She not only writes, but nearly 20 years ago, she also opened a bookstore along with Josie Leavitt, The Flying Pig Bookstore in Vermont, and she co-writes over at ShelfTalker (at Publishers Weekly), also with Josie.

I took the opportunity to ask Elizabeth today about Tap Tap Boom Boom, but also what she calls the World Full of Color diversity database. I also asked her simply, what are you reading now? (I love this question so much that I’d love to start a simple blog series where I ask authors and illustrators just that one question — short posts with short answers. Would I have time for this, though? Ay, there’s the rub.)

Anyway, enjoy my chat with the ever-curious, always-learning Elizabeth Bluemle …

* * * * * * *

Jules: You describe the book at your site as “beat-rich.” Did you set out to write a book with a beat-specific rhythm, or did it sort of morph into that as you went along?

Elizabeth (pictured left): The beat was there from the beginning, though I made changes along the way, trying to capture the varying rhythms and tempos of the storm. I wrote most of my notes for the book standing on the subway landing platform at 14th Street, waiting out a huge thunderstorm with my suitcases. Some of my notes were just prosaic, fragmented observations about the people going up and down the subway stairs into and out of the storm, but others came out in rhyme and rhythm. (The “big, big fella / with tiny umbrella / it’s yellow” was one of those.)

Jules: What was it like to see Brian’s art for the first time?

Elizabeth: It was fabulous. The spreads were so detailed and the palette so rich. I have always loved Brian’s art, and I loved what he did in this book with the mixing of photos and gouache. I felt as though he perfectly captured the city and the spirit of camaraderie among strangers that I was hoping to get across with the book.

(Click spread to enlarge)

Jules: Do you feel like being a bookstore owner influences your writing? I would think, for instance, that you read tons of picture books, and we all know that reading reading reading as many as possible is step one in learning to write (or so people say).

Elizabeth: I do think reading widely and deeply is a wonderful and irreplaceable education for writers. I was a school librarian and a teacher before I was a bookseller, so I suspect even without bookstore experience, I might have read almost as many picture books as I do now. But it would have been a difference animal. One of the unique advantages of bookselling is getting to see the whole field of children’s literature unfold as it happens, meaning that we get to see which houses are publishing what books each season, a few months in advance. So, while that kind of research is certainly possible if you aren’t a bookseller, it’s so much easier when you have sales reps coming in with catalogs and F&Gs (folded and gathered picture books pre-publication) and ARCs. So, I guess I’d say that being a bookseller influences my understanding of the field, but I don’t think that it really affects my writing, which comes from an intuitive, not a logical, place in my brain.

Jules: Tell me more about your diversity database.

Elizabeth: Oh! Thank you for this question.

For several years, I have been writing in my Publishers Weekly blog, ShelfTalker, about the desperate need for more books featuring main characters of color where race is NOT the driving force of the story. Those books are important, too, but children also need to see themselves in every kind of story — and not merely as the white main character’s sidekick. We need books at every age level featuring kids having magical adventures, solving mysteries, navigating friendships — all of the genres! So, I began keeping a database of books that meet the above criterion, and it is used by teachers and librarians and parents across the country. I call it the World Full of Color database.

This conversation about diversity in children’s books really gained momentum over the past couple of years, and I’m hoping we are finally reaching the tipping point where everyone involved in the creation of children’s books—authors and illustrators, agents and editors, art directors and publishers—realize that this is not just a moral imperative, but good (and forward-thinking) business practice.

Jules: What are you reading now? Any good recommendations, even if it’s adult fiction?

Elizabeth: I recently finished a harrowing, utterly riveting debut adult novel by James Scott, entitled The Kept. It’s a revenge epic about an upstate New York family in 1897 whose lives are ripped apart because of the mother’s past. It’s not for the faint of heart, but it is quite remarkably written and could be used as a textbook for evocative setting and world-building in historical fiction. It’s completely unlike Cormac McCarthy’s The Road in setting, plot, and character, but may appeal to readers who found some harsh beauty in that narrative.

I’m also listening to Cocaine Blues by Kerry Greenwood on audio, a delightful mystery starring a wry, none-too-innocent, 1920s-era high society London heroine, Phryne Fisher. A customer lured me into trying the series, and it is pure fun.

The children’s book that has me in its grip at the moment is S.E. Grove’s debut novel, The Glass Sentence. I’ve just started, so can’t say too much about it yet, but so far it’s fantastic, a fantasy with a phenomenal premise wherein the globe has been flung into disarray — not only are land masses separated by continental and political divides, but there are space-time divisions within them, so the world is a hodgepodge of civilizations co-existing at various times in history, some of them fantastical (even in the context of the book). I’ll have to finish it to describe it better!

Jules: What’s next on your plate? Any news books you’re working on now that you’re allowed to talk about?

Elizabeth: I always have several ideas and manuscripts percolating (more accurately, tugging at me to get back to them), but the one that is clawing most impatiently is about a villainous cat. It’s another rhyming book, though it has a more of a narrative arc and a regular rhythm than Wokka [pictured above] or Tap Tap Boom Boom. It’s really fun to write about an unrepentant rascal!

* * * * * * *

Image of Elizabeth used with her permission.

TAP TAP BOOM BOOM. Text copyright © 2014 by Elizabeth Bluemle. Illustrations copyright © 2014 by G. Brian Karas. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

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13. Get Ready for Día!

What celebration are children’s librarians across the United State getting ready for on April 30th that involves families, fun, food and of course, books? Although every day is an opportunity to celebrate the joy of reading, El día de los niños/ El día de los libros (Children’s Day/ Book Day), founded in 1996 by Latino children’s author Pat Mora, “Día” is a wonderful way for libraries to reach out to their community and emphasize the importance of advocating literacy to children of all backgrounds. In addition, Día connects them to different cultures through books, craft activities and recipes.

 Your celebration can be as small as promotingDía at a storytime with a bookmark making craft or as large as an evening event with a special guest such as an author or storyteller. To get started with some excellent ideas, check out the Día Facebook page or the Día Pinterest account.Register your program on the Día Registry and receive special bookmarks, stickers, and posters. Don’t forget about the wonderful Día Family Book Club Toolkit available for free download! A special bonus offered this month only to help you prepare and incorporate Día into your library programming are the four free webinars offered through ALSC. What are you planning for Día?


Debra S. Gold is blogging on behalf of the Public Awareness Committee and has been a Children’s Librarian for Cuyahoga County Public Library (Cleveland, Ohio)  for the past thirty years.  She served on the Newbery Committee in 1996, the Caldecott Committee in 2004, and the Coretta Scott Book Award Committee in 2011 and 2012.

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14. Character Skills and Talents: Survival Skills

As writers, we want to make our characters as unique and interesting as possible. One way to do this is to give your character a special skill or talent that sets him apart from other people. This might be something small, like having a green thumb or being good with animals, to a larger and more competitive talent like stock car racing or being an award-winning film producer. 

When choosing a talent or skill, think about the personality of your character, his range of experiences and who his role models might have been. Some talents might be genetically imparted while others are created through exposure (such as a character talented at fixing watches from growing up in his father’s watch shop) or grow out of interest (archery, wakeboarding, or magic). Don’t be afraid to be creative and make sure the skill or talent is something that works with the scope of the story. 

shelterDescription: It takes skill, intuition and knowledge to be able to survive in less-than-ideal circumstances with few resources. When disaster happens, often there is no warning and little time to prepare, so understanding how to use what is available to provide necessities like food, water and shelter is very important. People skilled in survival can obtain fresh water, forage for food, build a shelter and defend themselves until help arrives. The willingness to protect oneself (be it flight or fight) is a necessity.

Beneficial Strengths or Abilities: Survival is about putting emotion in the backseat so one can think clearly and prioritize what is most important. Being able to read a map, hunt and set traps, start a fire without matches, wield a knife, and build a shelter are all valuable skills. As well, knowing how to find water and filter it in both urban situations and in nature is a must-have skill. Another asset would be a working knowledge of local flora and fauna and how it can be used (food, medicine, protection). Tracking, scouting and the ability to identify potential threats in advance will also greatly improve one’s chances in a survival situation. Being physically strong and healthy, with good endurance, is also important.

Character Traits Suited for this Skill or Talent: observant, adaptable, intelligent, skeptical, inventive, strategic, rational, intrepid, patient and alert

Required Resources and Training: Some form of combat and weapons training can be beneficial, both to gain knowledge of attack and defense and for strategic thinking and self-discipline. Survival situations require rational, calm thinking, which can only be achieved through learning self-control. Exposure to the outdoors, be it through survival camps, scouts, guided excursions, camping, hunting and fishing or having a mentor who knows the outdoors will help a person learn how to live without the myriad of modern resources we take for grated each day. TV “survival preppers” shows, websites, and online videos are an education in itself, providing tips and tricks on using natural and common materials to survive.

Scenarios Where this Skill Might be Useful:

  • Governmental breakdowns or war
  • an apocalypse type situation (caused by a natural disaster, nuclear fallout, aliens, zombies, killer unicorns, you name it)
  • if one is lost in the woods
  • a car breaking down miles from any sort of help
  • if one must flee one’s home and stay off the grid

Resources for Further Information:

14 Steps To Surviving in the Woods

3 Ways To Make A Water Filter

Survival 101

9 Ways To Star A Fire Without Matches

Survive The Apocalypse Site

You can brainstorm other possible Skills and Talents your characters might have by checking out our FULL LIST of this Thesaurus Collection. And for more descriptive help for Setting, Symbolism, Character Traits, Physical Attributes, Emotions, Weather and more, check out our Thesaurus Collections page.

photo credit: Martin Staviar via photopin cc

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15. Free Coloring Page Friday: Easter Bunny

Manelle Oliphant Illustration - Children's book illustrator and writer

It’s been great weather here, and my husband and I had fun buying fruit trees for our backyard. Comic con fanX is next week and I’m almost ready, and Illustrations for Just In Time book 4 are getting into full swing.  There are also some fun events planned for the launch of book 3. More info below.

This week’s coloring page is the Easter bunny. Easter bunny coloring page www.manelleoliphant.com

Click the link below to download, print, and color!

Easter Bunny (0)

Just in Time book 3 Signing and the Orem Library

Mark your calendars May 20th we’ll be signing books at the Orem public library in the Storytelling Room.

The Address is: 58 North State Street Orem, UT 84057

The authors and I will be there from 6:00 to 7:30.

Hope to see you there!


The post Free Coloring Page Friday: Easter Bunny appeared first on Manelle Oliphant Illustration.

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16. Bruce Weber Recap

A big thank you to everyone who came out the Bruce Weber Evenings with Authors Wednesday night! Weber shared the tale that inspired his most recent book, Life is a Wheel: Love, Death, etc. and a Bike Ride Across America accompanied by a presentation of images that brought context to a trip the most of us will never take in our lifetime. Take a trip by bike across the United States is no easy task, but Weber did it to find a story, and to learn about himself. Having been a writer most of his life, Weber decided to take his second trip across the country at 57 years old. While he was lucky enough not to have run into any major snags along the way, his book is inspiring,  empowering, and a great opportunity to see the country through someone else’s eyes.  ImageImageImageImage

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17. Congratulations to the 2014 Guggenheim Fellows


Congratulations to the 2014 class of Guggenheim Fellows, announced this week by the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. The Guggenheim, a “mid-career award” (PS: Clare Vaye Watkins, knocking it out of the park for the younger generation), which honors scholars, scientists, poets, artists, and writers, extends its fellowships to assist with research and artistic creation. As we’ve noted in the past, the fellowship possesses some tortured origins—(John) Simon Guggenheim, who served as president of the American Smelting and Refining Company and Republican senator from Colorado, seeded the award (1925) following the death of this son John (1922) from mastoiditis (Guggenheim’s second son George later committed suicide, and more infamously his older brother Benjamin went down with the Titanic).

We’re delighted to see included among the “professionals who have demonstrated exceptional ability by publishing a significant body of work in the fields of natural sciences, social sciences, humanities, and the creative arts,” a roster of fellowship winners affiliated with the University of Chicago Press:


Susan Bee, Fine Arts; contributor of cover images to With Strings: PoemsMy Way: Speeches and PoemsGirly Man, and Recalculating, all by Charles Bernstein

Susan Bernofsky, Translation; contributor to The Sound of Poetry/The Poetry of Sound (ed. Marjorie Perloff and Craig Dworkin)

Deborah R. Coen, History of Science, Technology, and Economics; author of The Earthquake Observers: Disaster Science from Lisbon to Richter and Vienna in the Age of Uncertainty: Science, Liberalism, and Private Life

Andrew Cole, Medieval and Renaissance Literature; author of The Birth of Theory

Donald Crafton, Film, Video, and Radio Studies; author of Before Mickey: The Animated Film, 1898–1928

Latoya Ruby Frazier, Photography; contributor to The Way of the Shovel: On the Archaeological Imaginary in Art

Joseph P. Gone, Psychology; advisory board member for The Child: An Encyclopedic Companion

Yunte Huang, General Nonfiction; contributor to The Sound of Poetry/The Poetry of Sound (ed. Marjorie Perloff and Craig Dworkin)

Sarah Kay, Medieval and Renaissance Literature, author of Animal Skins and Human Selves in Medieval Latin and French Bestiaries (forthcoming)

Carla Mazzio, English Literature; editorial board member, Renaissance Drama and author of The Trouble with Numbers: The Drama of Mathematics in the Age of Shakespeare (forthcoming)

Ange Mlinko, Poetry; contributor to The Open Door: One Hundred Poems, One Hundred Years of Poetry Magazine

Monika Piazzesi, Economics; editorial board member, Journal of Political Economy

Rayna Rapp, Anthropology and Cultural Studies; contributor to Connected: Engagements with Media (ed. George E. Marcus)

Victoria Redel, Fiction; author of Swoon (Phoenix Poets)

Haun Saussy, East Asian Studies; editorial board member, Modern Philology

Susan Sidlauskas, Fine Arts Research; editorial board member, Signs

Rachel Sussman, Photography; author of The Oldest Living Things in the World

Emily Talen, Architecture, Planning, and Design; author of Neighborhood: The Measure and Meaning of an Urban Ideal (forthcoming)

Marjorie Welish, Poetry; contributor to The Studio Reader: On the Space of Artists

Congratulations, again, to the new cohort of Fellows!

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18. Studio Watercolor

As I’ve mentioned in my blog before, I really love to paint outside.  But sometimes you don’t have time to sit outside and dedicate a few hours to a scenic spot. That or the weather is bit much and the bugs are biting. The list of excuses could go on and on. So I try to justify to myself that there is nothing wrong with taking a quick inspirational picture and coming back to it at a later date.  Today I’m going to show how a quick stop by Wells Harbor in Maine late last fall allowed me to paint inside my studio earlier this spring.

I started off by  lightly penciling the key spots in this painting with a 4H pencil on a full sheet of Cold Press 400lb Arches.  The cold press paper has small groves and a rough surface allowing your painting to showcase texture.  I very rarely paint on the smooth hot press paper but the more I think about it, this painting could have used either.  This is actually a lot of drawing detail for my watercolors as I usually like to paint in the details as much as possible. I simply didn’t want to ruin the perspective on the harbor master shack roof line.  Had I gotten that wrong the whole painting would have been for not. The Arches 400 lb paper is so thick that I often don’t need to tape it down to avoid buckling.  I lightly washed over the entire sky with clean water then worked in Raw Sienna.Image

When the Raw Sienna dried I then re-wet the entire sky again and worked in Cobalt Blue and Burnt Sienna as I tried to muster the dreary Maine sky.  I then carried the colors into the harbor and added in the beginnings of the reflective dock posts in the water. When painting water it’s best to work fast or wet into wet. The trick is to learn how your paper responds as you work it.  The 400lb is highly absorbent and color values really soak into the paper quicker than the other 140lb or 200lb paper I work with. I’m not afraid to dry brush the paint with the heal of my brush if needed either.  I like the effect of highlights happening randomly.  You can see that on the right side of the painting.  Remember, all of the white in a successful painting is the paper coming through.  You can’t add white paint back over this translucent medium and still call it a traditional watercolor.Image


OK, time for the harbor shack.  The overcast day didn’t allow for many shadows so as you can see, the left side of the shack is almost the same color value as the front.  This caused me to tighten up a little while painting and I’m unsure if I’m happy with the outcome. Of course had the sun been out the entire painting would have had a different feel to it but it’s these slight color changes that can make a painting pop or lay flat.  I think my efforts using Carmine Red, English Red and Violet  is somewhere in the middle here.  I did loosen back up when I painted the rock wall leading to the dock.  A few incidental paint splatter here and there gave the wall just enough character without overdoing it. I then added the land on the other side of the harbor making sure to not feature anything specific.  If you look close you can see a few roof lines of cottages but I didn’t want your eye to get busy as the dock was the focus of the painting.  Next I added the worn tar and cement that is used as a boat launch and faded it into the sand in the foreground.  I then added a bit of the scrub brush to give the painting depth.


I can’t really say what colors I used here as I always leave my painting palette dirty and work in all sorts of colors into one big gross muddy puddle.  I probably used a low of Raw Umber and I’m sure there was Olive Green and Prussian Azure tossed into the mix. I do this because when I’m at a location I see millions of colors and always want multiple colors mixing together creating happy surprises.  The dirty palette always me to immediately allow one color to be influenced by others haphazardly.  You’ll look like a genius if a color works out but more often than not it’s just luck. The maze of dock posts was very specific to the actual “structure” of the dock but as I started adding them the painting started to “lose its looseness.”  After bit of futsing  (my own word for trying to be perfect)  with them I finally just started slamming them down as fast as possible. To me this is the best part of the painting because I saw I was going down a “tight” road again and I forced myself to loosen up.  I then added more shadows in the water (wet into dry) then pulled some of the paint out with a clean wash.  The camera I used doesn’t do it justice but there are actually a lot of little green and blue tints inside the shadow.   I think this deep shadow helped anchor the painting to the paper and was what originally attracted me to this scene in the first place.


Done!  Total time…about five hours.  Most of that “futsing” time on the shack.   I usually mat watercolors but I had this old green frame in my studio and it seemed to compliment the image well.  I did trim a bit off the right side of the painting and the bottom to accommodate the frame but I don’t think it hurt the overall look.    So there you go.  A look at how I go about painting a real scene from my own reference photos inside my studio as opposed to painting outside.  Is it as good as Plein Air painting? Only you can decide.  :)  If you’d like a print check out this link:   http://fineartamerica.com/profiles/5-scott-nelson.html?tab=artworkgalleries&artworkgalleryid=226296       If you’d like the original, don’t hesitate to contact me at NelsonandSon@Juno.com


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19. Hurting Animals (In Fiction!)

Before we get to today’s very intriguing post…Angela and I need to let everyone know that we’re in the process of uploading new files of The Emotion Thesaurus to the various stores that sell it. No content is being changed; we’re just adding our new website address and information on our newest books. If you’re trying to buy The Emotion Thesaurus and it’s unavailable at the distributor of your choice, please know that this is temporary, and the new file should be available within 24-48 hours. If you simply can’t wait, you also have the option of buying from a different site (we’ll be staggering uploads so only one distributor is unavailable at a time). See our bookstore for a complete list of distributors. And now, on to the interesting stuff.

Marian Perera is here today to talk about a topic that I’ve never seen before on a writing blog. You’re probably cringing already, just reading the title. What if your story does call for an animal being harmed at some point? How do you handle it? Is it worth the possible backlash? Talk amongst yourselves…

Warning up front. If you hurt a cute animal or a pet in your book, no matter what the reason, there’s a small subset of readers who will hate the book, never read anything else you write, and maybe hate you too.

I know this because, inspired by a cat going overboard in my third manuscript, I started a thread on a forum to discuss the topic. There was a reason for the cat’s fate and there were no details at all, gory or otherwise. The cat simply went overboard and was never seen again.

cats salvation II

I’ve gotta get off this boat.

Some readers made it clear this was an absolute no-no for them. One said that if he read a book that featured an animal, he went to the end to check if the animal was alive and safe. If the animal didn’t appear, the book was dropped. Another reader said that if the hero rode a horse into battle, she would want the hero to die for endangering the horse. “Boycott the author” and “blacklist” featured in a few of the replies.

It reminded me of a certain novel where the heroine survives a shipwreck. After she washes up on an island, she finds the ship’s cat clinging to some wreckage and climbing ashore. The cat makes occasional appearances throughout the book, doing nothing other than giving her a purry pet to cuddle. It makes me wonder if the author wanted a cute animal in the story but either couldn’t bear to let it go down with the crew or was worried about potential backlash if the cat didn’t reappear, completely unharmed.

I’m not in favor of gratuitous cruelty to animals, but I’m not keen on cute animals wearing a mantle of authorial protection either. If the protagonist’s family is burned alive in their house in an act of revenge but her fuzzy kitten escapes without scorching a paw, the author’s preferences will be only too clear. Though if Fluffy dies too, the heroine mourning her children and her pet in the same breath might be unrealistic (yes, I’ve seen that happen).

It also matters why the animal is harmed. If your villain tortures a puppy to show us how evil he is, that’s likely to come off as gratuitous. If your villain, during a home invasion, shoots a trained guard dog, that still hurts and some readers will still hate you, but at least it won’t seem as though you’re just going for the shock factor. In some stories, endangering an animal is unavoidable. If you’re writing an epic fantasy where the heroes go to battle à la the Ride of the Rohirrim, only they walk so their horses won’t be hurt… well, I won’t buy this. Literally.

Genre definitely plays a role; readers of horror or suspense might be more prepared for this kind of thing. Stephen King’s novels are great examples, and in one of Dean Koontz’s books, the lovable dog doesn’t survive to the end. The time period should be taken into consideration, too. My novel takes place in the early days of the Age of Steam; if my characters had too much of a modern, Western perspective on animal welfare, that would be unrealistic. I mention whaling in my novels without condemning the practice because during this time, when the characters are fighting a war, marine conservation is going to be the last thing on their minds, even though this is very important to me.

Overall, I’m in favor of being true to the story no matter what. My novel The Deepest Ocean could not have been written without a shark fighting a killer whale and both being injured, though few readers get upset over what happens to sharks. Which is sad, because these are beautiful apex predators…but that’s a digression for another day.

Either way, it’s good to know what will be a deal breaker to some of your readers, and I’m glad I was warned beforehand. Though interestingly, my editor didn’t ask for the cat detail to be changed.

I’d love to hear from more readers on this topic. What are your experiences or thoughts on animals being hurt in fiction?



Bio : Marian Perera was born in Sri Lanka, grew up in the United Arab Emirates, studied in the United States, and lives in Canada. For now. Her sharkpunk romance The Deepest Ocean was recently released by Samhain Publishing, and two sequels have been signed. You can learn more about her and her books at her website, her blog and Twitter (@MDPerera).

*Cat photo courtesy of Alan @ Creative Commons*

The post Hurting Animals (In Fiction!) appeared first on WRITERS HELPING WRITERS.

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20. Book Lovers Quote #5

Reading quote 5

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21. Writing Opportunity – Looking for Submissions


In honor of National Poetry Month, here’s an opportunity to submit poetry and other works for publication.

Originally posted on Writing and Illustrating:


This illustration, “Down the Rabbit Hole” was sent in by Diana Ting Delosh. Dianna says she contracted the art bug at the age of two when she consumed her first box of crayons. Ever since that day, she has been happily doodling away. Currently she is an illustrater/writer. More of her art may be seen at: http://dianadelosh.com and she blogs at http://dtdelosh.blogspot.com

The Center for Educational Testing and Evaluation is a research center at the University of Kansas that administers the Kansas Assessment Program on behalf of the Kansas Department of Education and is currently looking for writers to submit quality poetry and prose to be considered for use on state assessments.

CETE is accepting poetry, fiction, and nonfiction texts for use on reading assessments for grades 3 – 12. Buys exclusive assessment rights and non-exclusive other rights. Pays $250 upon acceptance. Previously published work is acceptable, but…

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22. Japanese Light Dance: Interpreting the Human Energy Field?

If people could see what their energy fields look like going through a good day, I imagine it would look a lot like this.

A Dance with Light by Nobuyuki Hanabusa by Posted by 95.7 KJR on Facebook.

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23. Free Fall Friday – Guest Critiquer

samanthafor litagency bioSamantha Bremekamp started her career in publishing in 2008, and quickly realized that she preferred working directly with authors from the other side of the industry. She runs critique groups and writing groups for fun, as she also loves to write and help others to fulfill their writing ambitions. She is fully aware of how hard of an industry it really is in this day and age.

Her favorite writing is children’s, middle grade, young adult, and new adult. There is something so pure about each building block of life these book groups represent. Although there may be a difference between a three year old and a 33 year old, maybe, Samantha finds that all of life’s challenges in these age groups really show the potential for amazing growth in a character.

Samantha’s background is in English literature, communications, and Spanish. She really thinks that if a writer is confident and believes in their work, their work will show that without having to showboat to prove it via a pitch.

Follow Samantha on Twitter at @LiterallySmash

Samantha loves reading Children’s, MG, YA, and NA fiction. She is open to any genre within those age groups, but prefers speculative fiction, mystery, and quirky romance.

CALL FOR ILLUSTRATIONS: Still need illustrations for the month of April. Would love to show off your illustrations during one of my daily posts. So please submit your illustrations: To kathy (dot) temean (at) gmail (dot) com. Illustrations must be at least 500 pixels wide and include a blurb about you that I can use. Thanks!

Below is the April picture prompt for anyone who would like to use it. Guest Critiquer will be announced next week.


The above illustration was done by Elizabeth Alba. She works in watercolor and gouche. Elizabeth was featured on Illustrator Saturday in March. Here is the link: http://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2014/03/08/illustrator-saturday-elisabeth-alba/

Here are the submission guidelines for submitting a First Page in April: Please “April First Page Critique” or “April First Page Picture Prompt Critique” in the subject line. Please make sure you include your name, the title of the piece, and whether it is as picture book, middle grade, or young adult, etc. at the top.

Please attach your first page submission using one inch margins and 12 point font – double spaced, no more than 23 lines to an e-mail and send it to: kathy(dot)temean(at)gmail(dot)com. Also cut and paste it into the body of the e-mail and then also attach it in a Word document to the email.

DEADLINE: April 24th.

RESULTS: May 2nd.

Use inch margins – double space your text – 12 pt. New Times Roman font – no more than 23 lines – paste into body of the email

You can only send in one first page each month. It can be the same first page each month or a different one, but if you sent it to me last month and it didn’t get chosen, you need to send it again using the April’s directions. Of course, it doesn’t have to be the same submission. It can be a first page from a work in process or you can use the picture prompt above.

Talk tomorrow,


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24. Celebrating John Corey Whaley’s NOGGIN

Happy Hour

 by Adam Silvera, featuring John Corey Whaley’s head

On Tuesday (April 8th) the highly-anticipated sophomore novel from Printz Medal and William C. Morris award-winning author John Corey Whaley finally hit shelves! Warning: Heads may roll Yeah Yeah Yeahs-style when reading the crazy weird premise of Noggin:

Listen — Travis Coates was alive once and then he wasn’t.

Now he’s alive again.

Simple as that.

The in between part is still a little fuzzy, but he can tell you that, at some point or another, his head got chopped off and shoved into a freezer in Denver, Colorado. Five years later, it was reattached to some other guy’s body, and well, here he is. Despite all logic, he’s still 16 and everything and everyone around him has changed. That includes his bedroom, his parents, his best friend, and his girlfriend. Or maybe she’s not his girlfriend anymore? That’s a bit fuzzy too.

Looks like if the new Travis and the old Travis are ever going to find a way to exist together, then there are going to be a few more scars.

Oh well, you only live twice. 

Now, I was hoping to interview Corey on how he conceived such a weird premise, but when I caught up with him I was really struck by his appearance….

Photographed" by Jeremy West.

“Photographed” by Jeremy West.

ADAM: So, uh, I see you’ve had some work done since publishing Noggin on Tuesday.

COREY: You know, change is always good. I thought I’d pull out all the stops and go full Noggin, hence the whole my head being attached to a kangaroo’s body. Get it?!

ADAM: Sure, but why not put your head on someone a little more human and cool, like Dylan O’Brien or Jennifer Lawrence?

COREY: Well, I’d never want to disembody those two doobers (doobers = beautiful people). Plus, now I have this awesome pouch in which I can carry extra copies of Noggin. And yes – I have the cartoon-style kangaroo pouch that isn’t disgusting inside.

ADAM: You’re regretting not just getting another tattoo, aren’t you?

COREY: Next time I’ll quit while I’m A HEAD.

ADAM: (sigh)

If you want to check out Corey’s crazy amazing new book, let us know in the comments whose body you would like to reattach your own head on to! (This giveaway is US only, sorry, but you should totally still get in on the question fun!)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Oh, and here’s a bonus video from Austin Powers full of head puns. You’re welcome!

mr. fantastic copy

Adam was born and raised in the Bronx where he wrote fan-fiction in between competitive online gaming and napping. He couldn’t afford to go to college because <insert long story here> so he got a job working in the children’s department at Barnes and Noble to keep busy. He was a marketing assistant at Paper Lantern Lit and currently reviews children’s and young adult novels for Shelf Awareness. He has a compulsion to walk on everyone’s left side, prefers even numbers, will listen to a single song for weeks, and is tall for no reason. His debut novel, More Happy Than Not, will be available June 2015 from Soho Teen. Go say stuff to him on Twitter.

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25. Happy Passover From the Snuggery!

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In honor of Passover, I’d like to share with you a video I recorded a year ago about Tomie dePaola’s My First Passover board book.  This year, the Passover celebration begins the night of April 14 and lasts through April 22.  Happy Passover!


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