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1. Summer Check In + Writing Links


A long way from home!

Hi everyone! I hope everyone is getting some good R & R in during these warm, flower-filled summer months. In fact, I thought it might be fun to post a check in, to catch up on how everyone’s summer is going.

As some of you know, I’ve been out of the country for the last 3 weeks, visiting Malaysia, Thailand, and Korea. I love travel, and I am sure some of you do too, so here are a few highlights of the trip. These pictures are untouched (sorry Instagramers!)


Yep, I climbed all those stairs!

When we travel to these far-flung locations, we usually go on a group tour, one that really immerses a person in the culture while taking care of the flights, transfers, hotels, and many of the activities, so you can just enjoy, participate, and soak everything in.

We started off in Malaysia, checking out local markets, visiting war memorials, the palace, Muslim temples & Buddhist shrines…and so much more.


The Gibbon babies are orange when born, and slowly turn black. The cuteness!

We also hung out with monkeys and gibbons, saw fireflies, visited a tea plantation, ate some crazy stuff like jellyfish (like eating cartilage…not a repeat!), learned how to shoot darts with a blow gun, and went on a jungle hike to find a rare fungus-flower.

(The hike in the jungle was tough, and I’m pretty sure I got heat stroke–it was incredibly hot out. I also fell off a 5-foot high boulder and bashed up my legs quite bad, but luckily no broken bones.)


The main house

The highlight of Malaysia was a “home stay” visit where we lived with a Muslim family for a few days at the Suka-Suka Lake Retreat, where they owned some lovely property at the edge of the water.

You could swim, fish, kayak, walk the nature trails or hang out in a hammock and read (which I did and it was BLISS).

IMG_2999My oldest son and I did a cooking lesson here and learned how to create some popular Malaysian dishes. Later, we dressed in sarongs and ate dinner in the traditional style: on the floor, using only our right hand. Messy, but fun!

The visit was extra special as we arrived at the end of Ramadan which is also the beginning of the Muslim New Year. So there was much celebrating, fireworks, and socializing, and what a treat to be invited into the locals’ homes and experience another culture’s celebrations first hand.


Railay beach…usually the water is crystal clear, but we’ve come during the rainy season.

In Thailand, we started out at Krabi, just beating out a monsoon that showed up after we left. We traveled to the world-famous Railay Beach, and loved all the rock formations that reminded us so much of Halong Bay in Vietnam.

Ironically, while in the water here I was stung by a jellyfish…I guess it was karma for eating a relative a few nights earlier!


Hubs with one big Buddha!

We also saw a ton of Buddhist temples and ruins, often traveling around on tuk-tuks or by boat.

We stopped to see the famous bridge on the River Kwae and swam in a 7 level waterfall filled with fish (the small ones liked to go after our feet in a “Au natural” fish massage, lol). It was hilarious to see the reaction of our tour mates who have never felt fish nibble at their feet!

One night we stayed on a floating house that was pulled out by tugboat to a private island on a lake. We swam, kayaked and drank Chang beer as the sun went down.


Very tranquil

There were geckos EVERYWHERE too, living on the floating house, chomping down on all the mosquitoes. I’d fall asleep watching them skitter back and forth across the ceiling of the boathouse, chasing their dinner.

At the end of our time in Thailand, we spent a day at an Elephant Rescue Park, one that was truly a rescue, with no riding, no tricks for tourists, just a sanctuary for elephants to roam and live free.


They would nuzzle our pockets, trying to grab the sugarcane we had there, haha!

The elephants there were purchased by the sanctuary’s owners from circuses, tourist riding attractions, and illegal logging camps, saving the elephants from a lifetime of misery and abuse.


This one loved it when I scrubbed his trunk!

We spent the day feeding three young elephants bananas and sugarcane, accompanying them on a walk, and finally bathing them in a river.

It was something I will never forget.

After this, it was time to leave our group and set off for Korea, then home.

IMG_3589We arranged a 10 hour layover, enough time to see a bit of Seoul.

While we didn’t have time to visit the DMZ, we did venture into the city for a bit of site-seeing.

All of us enjoyed the time we spent there and I could see us heading back again for another trip.


Because, Korea!

I tooled around the market too, and found these gems:

We continued our marathon travel back home, (about 38 hours all told). Exhausting.

I came home to roughly 1000 emails, and a nice surprise…more foreign editions from Japan, this time, The Positive and Negative Trait Thesaurus books.

IMG_3600While the covers seem unusual to me, I know they must make perfect sense for that market.

Our Japanese publisher made us two beautiful books–they are just incredibly well laid out in the interior, and you can feel the quality.  I’m really happy with them and hope they are as popular as the Emotion Thesaurus is over there.

WestWordAnd, as if this coolness wasn’t enough, I also came home to The Writers’ Guild of Alberta’s magazine…and a familiar face on the cover. Crazy right?

Inside there’s an interview with me written by phenomenal YA author Janet Gurtler, and what’s so fun is that they used a bunch of my photos from my last big trip (Australia) in the article. Seeing this sort of made my vacation feel like it had come full circle! Such a wonderful homecoming.

So, that’s been my summer so far! What about you? Are you relaxing? Gardening? Traveling? Writing? Reading? Let me know all about it!

I managed to get a few books read during my trip–the second and third book in the Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children series (so terrific!), and also the mammoth novel Dune (an oldie but a goodie.)

Your turn. Fill me in on your summer plans! 🙂

Oh and before I forget, a few guest posts published while I was out and about. So, if you’ve ever struggled with Describing a Setting in a Place You’ve Never Visited, you’ll want to check out the advice and mother-lode of helpful researching links at Romance University.

Also, if you’re wondering How To Show Readers What Your Character Is Hiding, Be It A Secret or Emotion, I hope you’ll stop by The Romance Times’ Author Portal.

Happy Summer!

Angela 🙂













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2. I’m So Vain, I Probably Think This Book Is About Me

B.BirdToday we’re going to talk about what happens when your name is so common, it shows up in children’s books willy-nilly without actually having anything to do with YOU.  Which is to say, me.

I took my name willingly.  No parent in their right mind should name a child “Betsy Bird” after all.  When I met my future husband it was, I will admit, one of the first things I realized. “If I marry this guy I could be . . . Betsy Bird!”  So the die was cast.  You can do something like that to your own name.  When my own kids were born, however, I realized what a great responsibility a noun-based last name is.  And not just any noun.  An animal.  So out the window went possible names like Robin, Soren, Colin (think about the song “The 12 Days of Christmas”), Claude, Charlie, Larry, and any first name beginning with the letter “B”.  My husband and I broke the “no two nouns” rule, but at this moment in time I’m the only alliterative name in the family.

Mrs.BirdWhat I hadn’t counted on was how common it would be to find my name in children’s books.  I sort of suspected.  It happens in books for adults, after all.  Little Big by John Crowley (which is definitely not a book for kids) has a “Betsy Bird” in it.  And as for the name “Mrs. Bird” you can find it in everything from Buck’s Tooth to P.D. Eastman’s The Best Nest (where Mrs. Bird is a shrieking harridan, so I try not to read too much into that one).  Mrs. Birds are a dime a dozen, it seems.

I do occasionally show up in children’s books, though.  Sometimes clearly.  Other times I try to read between the lines (and fail).  As of this post there are only two instances of clear cut references.  They are:

The Librarian in Freckleface Strawberry: Best Friends Forever


This is only because artist LeUyen Pham is the nicest human being alive.  So in one scene Windy Pants is discussing what appears to be Junie B. Jones with this person:


In future books in the series, the librarian looks entirely different.

The only other time it happened was, in all books . . .

A Very Babymouse Christmas


In this book various alliterative animals are having their names called.  Including (and off-camera):


There is also a bird librarian in the first Platypus Police Squad title The Frog That Croaked.  The book takes place in Kalamazoo City and the librarian is a bird.  I’m from Kalamazoo and my name IS Bird.  However, this is probably just coincidental.  After all, my mohawk is nowhere near as nice as hers.


This year I’ve also noticed a significant uptick in “Mrs. Birds” in middle grade novels.  Women who are NOT me.  Not even slightly.  But folks do ask me from time to time, so to set the record straight . . .

The First Grade Teacher in The Best Man by Richard Peck


Is not me.  She a bit dippy, so you’d be forgiven for mistaking us, but though I do own the occasional corduroy skirt, she’s not me.

Nor am I the mom in the next Rita Williams-Garcia book.  A great sounding title (coming out in 2017) I can’t remember the actual title but it involves a love of jazz.  As such, the mom is Mrs. Bird, probably because of Charlie “Bird” Parker.

I suspect that there are other children’s librarians out there who have accidentally found themselves within the pages of a children’s book in the past.  Maybe even as the librarian his or her own self.  If you have ’em, confess ’em!  We the commonly monikered should stick together.  And if you’ve been in the pages of a book thanks to the efforts of a kindly illustrator, tell me that too!  I’d love to have a working list of librarians that appear in books by great artists.

Thanks to Travis Jonker who suggested that I write a post called “I’m (Not) So Vain, I Probably Think This Book Isn’t About Me”.  That is because he is a nice guy.  My post’s title is probably a little more on the nose-y.



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3. Celebrating 25 Books Over 25 Years: Under the Lemon Moon

Lee_Low_25th_Anniversary_Poster_2_LEE & LOW BOOKS celebrates its 25th anniversary this year and to recognize how far the company has come, we are featuring one title a week to see how it is being used in classrooms today as well, as hear from the authors and illustrators.

Featured title: Under the Lemon MoonUnder Lemon

Author: Edith Hope Fine

Illustrator: René King Moreno

Synopsis: One night, Rosalinda is awakened by a noise in the garden. When she and her pet hen, Blanca, investigate, they see a man leaving with a large sack-full of fruit from Rosalinda’s beloved lemon tree.

After consulting with family and neighbors about how to save her sick tree, Rosalinda sets out in search of La Anciana, the Old One, the only person who might have a solution to Rosalinda’s predicament. When she finally meets La Anciana, the old woman offers an inventive way for Rosalinda to help her tree–and the Night Man who was driven to steal her lemons.

Awards and Honors:

  • Honor Book Award, Society of School Librarians International
  • Notable Children’s Book, Smithsonian Magazine
  • Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People, National Council for the Social Studies/ Children’s Book Council
  • The 50 Best Children’s Books, Parents Magazine
  • Parent’s Choice Silver Award, Parent’s Choice Foundation
  • Children’s Books Mean Business, Children’s Book Council (CBP)

From the author:

“I can’t help grinning when I look back on my years of Under the Lemon Moon school visits. This book came about from a San Diego news story about a lemon grove that had been vandalized—lemons were taken, trees damaged—a little lemon seed of an idea.

Young readers gasp when I tell them I worked and reworked 42 versions before sending out the manuscript. They brawk like Blanca the chicken, make butterflies with their hands, and echo “Gracias” on cue. They hear, then say, the key opening line, “Deep in the night Rosalinda heard noises,” moving their hands to catch the rhythm of the words. They get their first taste of magical realism as La Anciana helps Rosalinda heal her damaged lemon tree and gain a sense of empathy when learning more about the Night Man.

I’ve now written eighteen books (including Armando and the Blue Tarp School and Snapshots! with Lee & Low) but Lemon Moon, with René King Moreno’s warm illustrations, was my first picture book and has garnered numerous awards. Thanks to my critique group’s patient support, plus Lee & Low’s Spanish translation and attention to back list, Lemon Moon still sells well today. With its subtle theme of sharing and forgiveness, this book still holds a special place in my heart.” –Edith Hope Fine

Resources for teaching with Under the Lemon Moon:

Book activities:

Olfactory FactoryUNDER_THE_LEMON_MOON_spread_3
Lemons have a special scent. Scents can trigger memories from long ago. Choose objects with distinct smells, such as a lemon drop, a flower, a crayon, a Band-aid, a piece of pine, cinnamon, peanut butter on a cracker, etc. Put each object into a separate plastic bag. Choose one bag, without peeking. Now open the bag and waft the scent toward your nose with your hand. (That’s the safe way to pick up scents in the air-you’ll do that in science in high school.) That scent may bring back a strong memory. Write about what you remember.

Bake Lemon Moon Cookies


  • 6 Tablespoons shortening
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons milk
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1-2 tablespoons “zest” (grated lemon peel; add more if you love the lemony zing)
  • 1 capful lemon extract

Preheat over to 375 degrees. Cream shortening and sugar.
Add milk, egg, baking powder, salt, and flour. Mix well.
Add lemon juice and zest. Mix well.
Drop by teaspoonful onto greased cookie sheet, two inches apart.
Bake 10-15 minutes until the cookies are just turning golden.

Under the Lemon Moon is also available in Spanish: Bajo la luna de limón

Have you used Under the Lemon Moon? Let us know!

Celebrate with us! Check out our 25 Years Anniversary Collection

veronicabioVeronica has a degree from Mount Saint Mary College and joined LEE & LOW in the fall of 2014. She has a background in education and holds a New York State childhood education (1-6) and students with disabilities (1-6) certification. When she’s not wandering around New York City, you can find her hiking with her dog Milo in her hometown in the Hudson Valley, NY.


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4. Historical Nonfiction Children’s Books I’d Like to See (Based Entirely on Drunk History Episodes)

Recently I did a post where I mentioned several wonderful Hark, A Vagrant webcomics featuring historical figures that I’d love to see turned into picture book biographies.  Well, in a similar vein, I’m a big fan of the Drunk History series on Comedy Central too.  It’ll be returning soon for a fourth season and has a lovely way of highlighting stories that I think would adapt brilliantly into the children’s nonfiction book format.  The real stories, that is.  Not the drunk tellers.  That would be weird.

Now because this is a post where comedians get drunk and try to tell historical moments in history, I think it’s pretty safe to say that a goodly chunk of the videos embedded here are Not Safe for Work.

A quick note too that this is mostly male, just as the Hark, A Vagrant piece contained mostly women.  Kate Beaton’s better at awesome women than Drunk History.  Sad but true.

And none of these video clips are complete by the way.  They’re just little snippets of the full stories.

First up!

Jim Thorpe is named the greatest athlete of the 20th century

The Joseph Bruchac picture book biography Jim Thorpe’s Bright Path and his fiction work Jim Thorpe: Original All-American are pretty much the gold standard on all things children’s-books-about-Jim-Thorpe. Still, considering how amazing the guy was, I bet we could get a lot more books about him out there (though I’d be amiss in not also mentioning Don Brown’s Bright Path: Young Jim Thorpe).  You could even do what Drunk History does here and just highlight one amazing moment in his life.  This clip doesn’t get to it, but when his shoes get stolen and he competes with a pair he finds in the trash . . . I mean, that’s amazing.

Japanese-American Daniel Inouye fights in World War II

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – We do NOT have enough picture book bios of badass Asian-American heroes.  In the Hark, A Vagrant post I made a case for Katherine Sui Fun Cheung.  Well considering Daniel Inouye’s life and contributions it is doggone weird that he has so little in the children’s biography realm.

Sybil Ludington takes her midnight ride

Sadly this clip doesn’t really get to the thick of her contributions in the Revolutionary War, but it’s a good start.  Very few 16-year-old female war heroes out there.  To be fair, this very year (2016) Feiwel and Friends published E.F. Abbot’s fictionalized accounting in Sybil Ludington: Revolutionary War Rider.  But a little nonfiction wouldn’t hurt too.

Muhammad Ali refuses to fight in the Vietnam War.

Screen Shot 2016-07-24 at 11.33.43 PM

One of my favorites.  I know we’ve a fair number of Ali bios for kids.  But, again, what about highlighting this moment in his life? It makes for a fascinating story in and of itself (and lord knows we have too few pacifist bios out there on beyond Gandhi).

Despite having only one hand, Jim Abbott proves to be a great baseball players.

Again, I wish we had the full clip here for you to watch.  Abbott’s story is amazing in and of itself.  The Cuba part is nice but let’s just get into the fact that he could pitch one-handed.  How about that, eh?

Thanks for checking them out!  And with the fourth seasons of the show at hand (including one told by Lin-Manuel Miranda) more ideas are bound to come up.


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5. Emotional Wounds Thesaurus: Being Kidnapped (the Aftermath)

When you’re writing a character, it’s important to know why she is the way she is. Knowing her backstory is important to achieving this end, and one of the most impactful pieces of a character’s backstory is her emotional wound. This negative experience from the past is so intense that a character will go to great lengths to avoid experiencing that kind of pain and negative emotion again. As a result, certain behaviors, beliefs, and character traits will emerge.

Characters, like real people, are unique, and will respond to wounding events differently. The vast array of possible emotional wounds combined with each character’s personality gives you many options in terms of how your character will turn out. With the right amount of exploration, you should be able to come up with a character whose past appropriately affects her present, resulting in a realistic character that will ring true with readers. Understanding what wounds a protagonist bears will also help you plot out her arc, creating a compelling journey of change that will satisfy readers.


Courtesy: Pixabay

NOTE: We realize that sometimes a wound we profile may have personal meaning, stirring up the past for some of our readers. It is not our intent to create emotional turmoil. Please know that we research each wounding topic carefully to treat it with the utmost respect. 

Examples: Escaping or being rescued from being held captive. This entry deals with the long-term effects after having escaped a kidnapping. For more information on the wounds one would experience while being held captive, see this entry.

Basic Needs Often Compromised By This Wound: safety and security, love and belonging, esteem and recognition, self-actualization

False Beliefs That May Be Embraced As a Result of This Wound:

  • If I don’t watch out, it could happen to me again.
  • I’m an easy mark, a target.
  • He’s out there watching me, waiting for another opportunity (if one’s kidnapper remains at large)
  • My life as I knew it is over.
  • I will never be whole again.
  • The others didn’t make it out; I shouldn’t have, either. (survivor’s guilt)
  • My captor wasn’t all bad. (Stockholm syndrome)

Positive Attributes That May Result: alert, appreciative, bold, cautious, disciplined, empathetic, independent, industrious, inspirational, meticulous, observant, patient, persistent, private, proactive, protective, resourceful, socially aware,

Negative Traits That May Result: addictive, callous, compulsive, controlling, devious, evasive, flaky, frivolous, hostile, humorless, ignorant, impulsive, inflexible, inhibited, insecure, irrational, manipulative, morbid, needy, nervous, obsessive, paranoid, possessive, prejudiced, promiscuous, rebellious, reckless, resentful, self-destructive, subservient, suspicious, temperamental, timid, uncommunicative, uncooperative, volatile, weak-willed, withdrawn

Resulting Fears:

  • I can’t take care of myself, much less anyone else.
  • I can’t survive on my own.
  • I’ll never readjust to live in normal society.
  • No one could ever love me now.
  • I’m crippled; I’ll never be able to achieve my dreams.
  • I’m not worthy of anyone’s love or affection.
  • No one is trustworthy.
  • The only person I can count on is me.
  • I need someone else to take care of me.

Possible Habits That May Emerge: 

  • Becoming overly cautious
  • Hyperawareness of one’s surroundings
  • Sensitivity to trigger stimuli (the smell of the captor’s cologne, sounds from one’s captivity, etc.)
  • Withdrawing from friends and loved ones
  • Difficulty trusting others
  • Fatigue due to nightmares
  • Becoming obsessed with security (taking self-defense classes, getting a gun, buying a dog, etc.)
  • Taking steps to leave one’s past behind (changing one’s name, moving, etc.)
  • Depression
  • Losing interest in hobbies and interests one used to enjoy
  • Being overprotective of one’s children
  • Difficulty adjusting to changes that have occurred in the world since one’s abduction
  • Being evasive or dishonest out of a desire to protect one’s privacy
  • Reliving certain traumas over and over
  • Self-medicating
  • Thoughts or attempts of suicide
  • Flying under everyone’s radar so as not to draw attention to oneself
  • Feeling empathy for one’s kidnapper, followed by feelings of guilt over one’s empathy
  • Self-loathing over things that happened or one’s inability to escape or stop them from happening

TIP: If you need help understanding the impact of these factors, please read our introductory post on the Emotional Wound Thesaurus. For our current list of Emotional Wound Entries, go here.

For other Descriptive Thesaurus Collections, go here.

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6. A New Little Library Is Here!

Now the Book Snuggery not only lives online, but in the REAL world too!  If you ever find yourself on the North Fork of Long Island, New York, come visit this new Little Library and check out a book or two!




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7. Part 2–Having Students Analyze Our Classroom Library To See How Diverse It Is

Guest BloggerEarlier this month, we highlighted the impressive work happening in the classroom of Jessica Lifshitz, veteran educator in Northbrook, Illinois. Following her popular essay on how Jessica empowered her fifth grade students to analyze their classroom library for its culturally responsiveness and relevancy, she shares in this interview with LEE & LOW BOOKS why she wanted to take on this project with her students, where families and administrators fit into this process, and her hopes for her students.

LEE & LOW: What inspired you to have your students analyze your classroom library?

After the events surrounding the shooting and death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, I felt compelled to find a way to bring more discussions on race into my classroom. I teach in a suburb of Chicago, where the vast majority of my students are white. There were little or no conversations about race at all taking place. I knew that if things were going to ever have a hope of getting better in this country, my mostly white students HAD to be a part of the solution. They had to recognize the bias that exists in this country and then find a way to fight against it. But that is really hard to do when the concept of race is not one that my students have had much, if any, experience dealing with. So, like with most problems, the first place that I looked to try and find a solution was with the very books that make up a huge part of the work that my students and I do together.

We began by doing a small experiment (explained here) where we looked only at the images on the covers of picture books and made predictions on what those books would be about. Based on our results, we realized that we made MANY predictions because of the race and gender of the people shown on the covers of those books. After a powerful discussion with my students, they crafted the following inquiry question: Where do the biases and stereotypes we carry around related to gender, race, family structure, religion, etc. come from?

We then set out to try and answer that question. This eventually led us to think about the picture books in our classroom and that led us to the work of analyzing our books to look at how they represented or misrepresented different groups of people.

So the short answer really is that this work was inspired by students and the conditions of the world that they are living in.

LEE & LOW: Why do this at all? This project is not a part of the curriculum or scope & sequence for fifth grade—why did you think this was important enough to use instructional time?

As teachers, we have an incredible opportunity to truly make the world a better place. Not to sit and wait for others to fix the problems, but to ask our students to join us in the powerful work of actually starting to make the world a better.

I think that a lot of times we waste this amazing opportunity because we feel limited by standards and objectives and curriculum. But what I have found is that if I begin with what work I want my students to be engaged in and then work backwards to connect that work to the standards, I am then able to do the work that I feel is most important AND meet the standards and objectives that I am asked to teach.

For example, the work that we did here was a part of our unit on synthesizing. We looked at how we could pull pieces of information together in order to gain a better, more complete understanding. So we took the issue of stereotypes and biases and that is what we worked to understand. We looked at advertisements, fairy tales, modern day picture books and novels. We pulled all of these pieces of information together to grow our understanding of how biases form. This allowed us to cover many standards and learning targets.

But more importantly, the kids were learning about their world. They were studying the problems that surround them and thinking of ways to begin to solve those problems. That is learning that will last. That is learning that will make a difference. So if I am able to help them to do that kind of work AND I am able to cover the skills I need to teach in the process, then everyone wins and the world gets better.

BiasesLEE & LOW: What foundation, classroom work, or background context do you think was imperative before leading your students through this project?

I think that one of the most important pieces of work that allowed this project to happen was that, from day one, we had worked to create a culture of trust in our classroom. We practiced making ourselves vulnerable and we practiced listening to the ideas of others without passing judgments on people. These things were absolutely necessary for our work to take place because part of our work involved sharing things about our own thinking that we weren’t necessarily proud of. No one likes to admit that they carry biases, and yet we all do. Ignoring that doesn’t help anything. Confronting that and working to dismantle those biases is what leads to real change. But that takes a lot of trust. So from the start of the school year we talked about big issues.

We began with during our unit on memoirs and on making connections to the texts that we read. These units became a chance to study the power of a person’s story. We learned the power of sharing our own stories and the power of learning from the stories of others. This work allowed my students to open up to each other about their own lives and also allowed us to practicing listening to people whose lives are very different than our own in order to learn more about them and build empathy. These were skills we needed for this project as well.

When we started to look at biases and stereotypes, we began first with gender before tackling race. We began by looking at catalogues like Pottery Barn to notice the differences in what was marketed towards girls and what was marketed towards boys. We did work that helped us to distinguish the actual things we observed from the more hidden messages that this sent. We started with gender because I think it is easier for kids to grapple with. It is more concrete. While my students had almost no experience discussing issues of race, they did have some experience discussing issues of gender. So we started with where they were and then moved on from there. That was really important because I think that if I had just thrown them in to the discussions of how races were misrepresented in the books in our classroom library, they would not have been ready. The work we did with issues of gender helped us to better understand the work we later did with issues of race.

LEE & LOW: For teachers interested in leading their students through similar thinking and analysis, what would you recommend they prepare either for themselves or their students?

I hope that others want to take on similar work and I know that so many already have. The beauty of this kind of work is that is uses materials that are already present in your classroom. We have books and we can all look more closely at those books.

One thing that I would recommend is a whole lot of communication before beginning. I had several conversations with my principal about the work we were taking on. It was never to ask permission to do the work, but instead to just let him know and make sure I had his support in case of any push back from parents. Issues of race often spark fears and concerns with parents and having administrator support makes all of that much easier. On that note, keeping parents informed of the work was also really important for me. I wanted to make sure that parents knew what we were doing so that the conversations we were having could be continued at home. I also made sure to let parents know how our work was connected to our curriculum and our standards and learning targets. Therefore, when questions were asked, I was able to refer back to the information that I had already shared. This was extremely helpful.

Other than communication, I would also just encourage teachers to not say too much. Instead, allow the students observations to drive the conversation. We began by looking at the infographic and then jumped pretty quickly into the data collection in our own classroom library. I have a terrible habit of telling my students all of the things that I want them to discover on their own. I have really had to work to stop myself from doing that because taking away that power from my students takes the learning right out of their hands. So I wouldn’t recommend preparing too much and allowing the students to really guide this work.

LEE & LOW: Is this only valuable for classrooms with a majority of students of color? What can classrooms of various demographic configurations take away from this project?

As I mentioned before, my students are mostly white. Because of that, this work is especially important for them. So often, our white students do not ever think about race. That is part of the privilege they are living with. But that makes it really easy for them to ignore what others have to deal with precisely because of their race. I believe that my students MUST be a part of a solution to the many problems connected to race in this country. But they cannot be a part of that solution if they are not even able to recognize that the problems exist.

For Further Reading:


Jessica Lifshitz is a fifth grade teacher in Northbrook, Illinois and has been teaching for 13 years.  She believes in teaching her students that reading and writing can make the world a better place and is honored to learn from her students and to be inspired by them every day.  She writes about teaching and learning at crawlingoutoftheclassroom.wordpress.com.

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8. Picture Book / Movie Pairings: They Make Sense in My Head!

The other day I was sitting with a group of talented children’s librarians discussing Dan Santat’s Are We There Yet?  Boy, I tell ya, there’s nothing like sitting down with smart people to hear them discuss a picture book in full.  I walked out of that room with a lot more knowledge crammed into my cranium than I’d had coming in.

In the course of our talk, it was pointed out that Santat’s latest would actually pair very well with Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure.  There’s something about the tone of both the book and the film, that madcap good-natured energy, that jells.  And so, in that vein, I present to you one of my odder posts.  Picture book and movie pairings.  I have absolutely no idea when you’d actually want to pair the two together.  I just like the couplings.


Are We There Yet? + Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure

 AreWeThereYet  Bill_&_Ted

Granted, there are a lot less pirates in Bill & Ted.  But the idea of traveling through history and gathering a wacky crew of folks along the way . . . that’s awesome.


The Cat and the Hat + Risky Business


Apropos of nothing, the other day a woman in my library mentioned to me that she’d always been discomforted by Seuss’s classic easy reader.  There was something about the chaos of it all that really got to her.  She likened it to Risky Business, which I thought was a particularly amusing pairing.  In both cases a house experiences chaos and clean-up.  And in both cases you really don’t want to be in trouble with mom.  The big difference between the two is that Seuss’s book ends with a question about what YOU would do if your mother asked YOU what you got up to while she was gone.  Tom Cruise suffers no such dark night of the soul.


Are You My Mother + Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome


I’ve often gone on record saying that P.D. Eastman’s classic feels like a somewhat post-apocalyptic wasteland.  Admittedly this comparison to Thunderdome isn’t perfect because there are no mothers in that movie (nor any sentient machines).  Still, in both cases you have motherless children, and some crazy technology, so I’d say the pairing holds.


Frog and Toad Are Friends + Elling


This one makes a lot of sense to me.  The nature of the relationship between a laid back frog and an uptight toad pairs just beautifully with this charming if admittedly somewhat obscure 2001 Norwegian film.  I just see a lot of parallels between Elling and Kjell and Frog and Toad.  For a while there Kevin Spacey was going to remake it here in America.  It didn’t work out, but if Spacey ever wants to consider taking the role of Toad instead, I think he’d be perfect for it.


Outside Over There + Labyrinth


Cheating.  This one’s cheating.  There’s a lot of evidence to suggest that Labyrinth was inspired, in part, by the lesser known of the Sendak picture book trilogy (the first two books being Where the Wild Things Are and In the Night Kitchen).  Sendak is even thanked at the end of the credits so there’s that as well.  I don’t really have to explain why the book and movie are related.  Goblins and stolen babies = children’s classics no matter what the media.


The Little House + Up


That’s a good pairing.  In both cases the house is moved in the wake of incessant industrialization.  However, if I can remember the ending of Up, the house in Burton’s book fares far better.


Sylvester and the Magic Pebble + Being John Malkovich


Yes?  No?  Am I the only one who sees this?  I think it’s the idea of being awake and alert and trapped in a situation where you’ll never be able to escape on your own.  So maybe I should have said Sylvester and the Magic Pebble and the END of Being John Malkovich.


Blueberries for Sal and Grizzly Man


ACK!  That’s no good.  Abort!  Abort!


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9. Critiques 4 U

Well, it’s summertime in my neck of the woods and I’m having a blast—sleeping in, spending time with my kids, and enjoying the weather. Now if only I had some good reading material…Aha!


Courtesy: Pixabay

It’s Critiques 4 U Time! 

If you’re working on a first page and would like some objective feedback, please leave a comment that includes: 

1) your email address. Some of you have expressed concern about making your email address public; if you’re sure that the email address associated with your WordPress account is correct, you don’t have to include it here. But if you do win and I’m unable to contact you through that email address, I’ll have to choose an alternate winner.

2) your story’s genre (no erotica, please)


Three commenters’ names will be randomly drawn and posted tomorrow. If you win, you can email me your first page and I’ll offer my feedback. Best of luck!


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10. There Is a Tribe of Kids: The Current Debate

TribeKidsThis year, in 2016, a conversation has sprung up around the picture book There Is a Tribe of Kids by Lane Smith.  The discussion has occurred primarily on blogs and listservs with the occasional mention on Twitter.  I would like to summarize the points here and explain what’s going on, since, unlike A Fine Dessert and A Birthday Cake for George Washington, I suspect this debate may likely remain within the children’s literature sphere and not branch out into the larger media.  That means that of my readership, perhaps only a small percentage is aware of what’s going on.

Here then are the facts about what’s gone down with There Is a Tribe of Kids, as we know it today.

Published by Roaring Brook Press, an imprint of Macmillan, the book was released this year on May 3rd.  Due to the fact that the author was Lane Smith, it got a serious publicity push.  Smith hadn’t written and illustrated a picture book in this illustration style since his Caldecott Honor winning Grandpa Green, so hopes were undoubtedly high on the part of the publisher.

The book garnered five starred reviews (if we count Shelf Awareness).  On May 5th a review appeared in The New York Times by picture book author and blogger Minh Lê in which he made the following statement:

“Acceptance finally comes with the discovery of a diverse group of other leaf-clad children, kindred spirits who form their own “tribe of kids.” Within the confines of the book, this is a heartwarming finale. Unfortunately, for me the juxtaposition of the word “tribe” with the woodland utopia conjured uncomfortable associations. For example, in the final scene, as the child describes his journey to his new friends, he wears feathers in his hair to re-enact his stint among an “unkindness of ravens.” It’s a whimsical visual in isolation, but some readers may detect something ill-advised, if not sadly familiar, in its echoes of the longstanding trope in children’s literature that uses Native imagery or “playing Indian” to signify wildness, especially since the word “tribe” is so central to this often captivating book.”

Months passed.  On July 8th Sam Bloom wrote about his similar concerns on the site Reading While White.  It led to about 128 comments and counting.  This was followed up with two different blog posts by Debbie Reese at American Indians in Children’s LiteratureThe first was posted on July 9th.  After it came out there was some discussion on the child_lit listserv.  This led to a response by author Rosanne Parry where she defended the book. Debbie’s second response came on July 14th in direct response to Parry’s.  Roxane Feldmann offered her own two cents at her fairrosa blog, which also offers a good encapsulation of the debate.

Meanwhile, on the listservs, discussions have raged at both child_lit and alsc-l though the conversation changed slightly on both sites.  For example, on child_lit folks were finding themselves compared to Trump.  On alsc-l the topic turned to collection development in libraries and where this book fits in when librarians decide not to buy it for their systems.

And yet, for all the discussion, the wider world has been left largely unawares.  As of this post the book has only one critical review on Amazon, and that’s from a grandmother who thinks the title is too advanced for children to comprehend. On Goodreads it has 510 ratings and 125 Reviews, but few if any mention this debate.  It’s too early in the season for Calling Caldecott to discuss it seriously.  So in many ways the book discussion is contained entirely within a very small area online.

And that would be that.

My opinion then?  Hm.

Well, the fact of the matter is that I’m far more interested in the discussion surrounding the book than the book itself.  I’m particularly interested in how different opinions are being treated by both parties.

Because of the nature of the disagreement over the title, the book is currently garnering comparisons to A Fine Dessert and its subsequent criticisms.  And as with A Fine Dessert I included it in my Spring Caldecott prediction post and removed it for my Summer prediction post.  Why the removal this time?  Because at this point it’s clear that this book is going to be the Caldecott committee’s most interesting point of debate and with 2016 such a shockingly strong Caldecott year (it’s kind of frightening how strong it is) it’s entirely likely that the book isn’t going to go very far.  For my part, I didn’t notice the implication of the word “tribe” on an early read and would have missed it entirely if Minh hadn’t written his article.

I’ll say this much.  It takes guts to write about this topic.  No one likes to be the subject of flame wars and in-fighting.  In our current age of social media, blogging has changed significantly.  There was a time before the rise of Twitter when it took a little longer for blog posts to catch fire.  Now bloggers watch what they say with great trepidation.  The people I’ve mentioned above are brave, all of them, whether you agree with them or not.

I have read every opinion, comment, and question about this book that I could get my hands on.  I see the concerns at work here.  I don’t agree with some of the critics.  I agree with some of the others, or at least can see their point of view.  More than anything, I’m interested in hearing a wide range of opinions, both pro and con.  In the end, I suspect that the discussion may die down and then reignite as we get closer to the award season.  When that happens, I’ll watch the new debates with equal interest.


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11. Surprising Jolts of Children’s Books in Unexpected Places

Time for another post that justifies my current job.  As you may or may not know, as Evanston Public Library’s Collection Development Manager I buy all the adult books.  Which is to say, they apparently make them for people over the age of 12 these days.  Who knew?  Happily, there are plenty of connections to the wide and wonderful world of children’s literature in the grown-up book universe.  Here are a couple of interesting recent examples you might enjoy:


Though she’s best known in our world as a mighty successful picture book author (with a killer ping-pong backswing) Rosenthal’s that rare beast that manages to straddle writing for both adults and kids.  The last time she wrote an out-and-out book for the grown-up set, however, was ten years ago (Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life).  This next one’s a memoir of sorts (I say “of sorts” because the subtitle belies this statement).  Here’s the description:

“… each piece of prose is organized into classic subjects such as Social Studies, Music, and Language Arts. Because textbook would accurately describe a book with a first-of-its-kind interactive text messaging component. Because textbook is an expression meaning “quintessential”—Oh, that wordplay and unconventional format is so typical of her, so textbook AKR. Because if an author’s previous book has the word encyclopedia in the title, following it up with a textbook would be rather nice.”



Sorry Permanent Press Publishing Company.  This cover doesn’t do justice the myriad children’s book references parading about inside.  I read all the reviews and tried to find the best description (the official one is lame).  Library Journal‘s was the one that piqued my interest best.  As they said:

“Jonathan Tucker lives with his dog Nip on 20 acres on Long Island, having left his job with a high-powered law firm three years earlier after his wife and two children were killed in a traffic accident. Now his mentor, a senior partner, asks for help. The firm’s biggest client, billionaire Ben Baum of Ozone Industries, has died in London under suspicious circumstances. A descendant of L. Frank Baum of Wizard of Oz fame, Ben had been obsessed with fantasy, in particular the works of Baum, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Lewis Carroll. Attached to his will, he left behind an enigmatic letter, prefaced by runes and filled with puzzles hinting at forces of evil arrayed against him. It’s up to Jonathan and his team to unravel what may be a deadly conspiracy with a host of suspects, each one poised to benefit from Ben’s premature death. . . . Readers may enjoy the kid-lit nomenclature—characters include Alice, Charlotte (who spins webs), Dorothy, Eloise, Madeline, Herr Roald Dahlgrens (a “peach of a man”), Frank Dixon (the Hardy Boys), Peter Abelard, and the Baums—and may not mind the sometimes too-evident craft, e.g., characters who “tell their story” at length and dialog laden with exposition.”

Admit it.  It sounds fun.  But that cover . . . I mean, did they just hire someone who just read the title and found the nearest Getty Images of crows?  No points there.


I feel like it’s been a while since one of these round-ups included a book about a picture book author/illustrator.  This one counts.  In this story, said picture book creator has lost her inspiration.  Other stuff happens too, but with my tunnel vision that was pretty much all I picked up on.



Moving on.


Part of the joy of my job is buying the “cozies” i.e. sweet little murder mystery novels (usually in paperback).  You would not believe the series out there.  There are quilting mysteries, yoga mysteries, jam mysteries, bed and breakfast mysteries (that one makes sense to me), you name it.  The newest series I’ve found?  Little Free Library mysteries.  I kid you not.

As for other mysteries . . .


Now I know what you’re thinking.  You’re wondering if this is actually a book about a murder that occurs at Misselthwaite Manor.  And the answer is . . . . it’s not.  No, it takes place at a book-themed resort where a secret garden has been created for the guests.  How do folks die?  Deadly herbs!!  That gets points from me.


Oh ho!  This one almost sneaked past me the other day.  I read the review, dutifully put it in my order cart, and just as I was moving on to the next book my eye happened to catch the name of the author.  Marjorie?!  The same Marjorie who writes those magnificent yearly round-ups of Jewish kids in books at Tablet Magazine at the end of each year (to say nothing of her posts throughout the other seasons)?  That’s her.  The book’s getting great reviews too, so go, Marjorie, go!


So here’s the problem with this book.  It should be in the humor section alongside the Amy Sedaris title Simple Times: Crafts for Poor People.  Instead, it somehow ended up legitimately with a “Craft” Dewey Decimal Number, a fact I’m going to have to rectify at work tomorrow.  Not that you couldn’t actually do the crafts if you wanted, but the book’s far funnier than it is practical.  No one knows what to do with the thing when they see it, of course.  So why am I including it here?  Because darned if the author isn’t Ross MacDonald, the author/illustrator of fine picture books everywhere.  I did my due diligence to make sure it was actually the same guy.  Yup.  It sure is.  So Macmillan, about that DD# . . .

And finally, just because I thought it was cute . . .


Now someone go out and write a picture book of the same name for all our budding scientists out there.


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12. Emotional Wound Entry: Discovering One’s Parent is a Monster

When you’re writing a character, it’s important to know why she is the way she is. Knowing her backstory is important to achieving this end, and one of the most impactful pieces of a character’s backstory is her emotional wound. This negative experience from the past is so intense that a character will go to great lengths to avoid experiencing that kind of pain and negative emotion again. As a result, certain behaviors, beliefs, and character traits will emerge.

evilCharacters, like real people, are unique, and will respond to wounding events differently. The vast array of possible emotional wounds combined with each character’s personality gives you many options in terms of how your character will turn out. With the right amount of exploration, you should be able to come up with a character whose past appropriately affects her present, resulting in a realistic character that will ring true with readers. Understanding what wounds a protagonist bears will also help you plot out her arc, creating a compelling journey of change that will satisfy readers.

NOTE: We realize that sometimes a wound we profile may have personal meaning, stirring up the past for some of our readers. It is not our intent to create emotional turmoil. Please know that we research each wounding topic carefully to treat it with the utmost respect. 



  • A parent convicted of being a pedophile
  • The discovery that one’s parent has committed murder
  • Having one’s parent outed as a serial killer
  • A parent who abuses children (physically, emotionally, or both)
  • A parent who likes to cause animals pain or kill them for fun
  • Finding out one’s parent is poisoning people to make them sick
  • A parent who is a kidnapper
  • A parent who police discover has captives on the property or in a hidden basement area
  • Discovering one’s parent is a human trafficker
  • A parent who exploits vulnerable people for personal gain
  • Finding out that one’s parent practices sacrifice and taboo blood rituals
  • Discovering one’s parent is also a cannibal
  • Finding out one’s parent likes to torture others

Basic Needs Often Compromised By This Wound: physiological needs, safety and security, love and belonging, esteem and recognition, self-actualization

False Beliefs That May Be Embraced As a Result of This Wound:

  • I should have see this about (mom or dad). My judgement can’t be trusted.
  • Everything I know is a lie
  • My (mom or dad) isn’t human. Maybe I’m not either
  • With (mom or dad) as my parent, I am defective
  • I can never lead a normal life
  • People will judge me no matter what I do because who (mom or dad) is, so why try to fit in?
  • My (mom or dad) never loved me–how could they and do what they did?
  • I should stay away from people for their own protection
  • My dreams are dead. I can never go on to do great things with this hanging over me
  • People will only see me as the son or daughter of a (pedophile, serial killer, madman, etc.) so I must keep this a secret from everyone

Positive Attributes That May Result: appreciative, calm, centered, courageous, disciplined, focused, generous, gentle, honorable, independent, industrious, introverted, just, kind, loyal, merciful, nurturing, patient, pensive, protective, responsible, socially aware, spiritual, supportive, wise

Negative Traits That May Result: addictive, antisocial, compulsive, confrontational, cynical, defensive, dishonest, evasive, fanatical, humorless, impulsive, inhibited, insecure, jealous, martyr, morbid, needy, nervous, paranoid, pessimistic, rebellious, resentful, self-destructive, temperamental, timid, uncommunicative, uncooperative, withdrawn, worrywart

Resulting Fears:

  • Fear of genetics
  • Fear of oneself and what one might be capable of
  • Fear of one’s past being found out
  • Fear of being universally hated
  • Fear of reporters, the media, and information gathering systems
  • Fear of the public eye
  • Fear of trusting the wrong person with the truth
  • Fear of becoming a mother or father, and passing defective genes along

Possible Habits That May Emerge:

  • changing one’s identity
  • moving frequently or when one feels threatened (even if it is just in one’s own mind)
  • keeping secrets
  • avoiding relationships
  • keeping to oneself, not engaging with neighbors or one’s community
  • avoiding family members and friends from one’s past
  • avoiding social media
  • avoiding places and situations that remind one of what one’s parent did
  • googling oneself to see if anything comes up
  • beating oneself up for normal urges and thoughts, believing them to be indications of something sinister
  • Refusing to read books or watch TV/movies with situations that hit close to home (Or, obsessively watching/reading in hopes of insight & answers)

TIP: If you need help understanding the impact of these factors, please read our introductory post on the Emotional Wound Thesaurus. For our current list of Emotional Wound Entries, go here.

For other Descriptive Thesaurus Collections, go here.

Image: Isabellaquintana @pixabay




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13. Great Writing Links You Don’t Want To Miss

This is a bit weird…I’m writing this, but by the time you read it, I’ll be wearing a backpack somewhere in Asia. So, really, it’s like I’m reaching out from the beyond. I’m a ghost!

malaysia*ghost noises* Okay, maybe that’s a bit dramatic.

Anyway, I just wanted to mention that before I ducked out the back door and left Becca with all the work (sorry Becca!) I did a mad hop across the internet, guest posting all over the place.

And heck, there might be some good nuggets out there waiting for you. : ) So I’ll leave a few links below in case you want to check them out.

First up, do you know what the 5 Biggest Mistakes are when it comes to describing the setting? Just head on over to DIY MFA and find out!

Are you writing a protagonist who has been wounded deeply and now has a hard time trusting other people? I wouldn’t be surprised. Many characters have vulnerability issues, and if yours is one of them, you might find Vulnerability In Fiction: Teaching Jaded Characters How To Trust helpful to read.

Are you drafting a new novel and feeling a bit insecure? It’s okay if you are–many of us feel that way at times.  That’s why I designed this writing pep talk:  Be Braver Than You Ever Thought Possible.

And finally, one of the biggest decisions you will make for each scene is where the action will take place. Setting can make or break your scene, so stop by Kobo Writing Life and read Writing Powerful Scenes: Why Choosing The Right Setting Is So Important.

Happy Writing!



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14. The Summer Reading T-Shirt Fashion Show

I think we’ve all learned something here today.  When it all comes down to it, and when all is said and done, summer reading t-shirts that are deeply attractive are rare, beautiful butterflies and that should be treasured and honored.  Which is to say . . . .


Of course you are.

As some of you may recall, last week I was bragging something fierce about my library’s shockingly attractive summer reading t-shirt.  Here’s a group shot to give you a sense of what I mean.


Admit it.  You’re just a teeny bit jealous.  Because good looking t-shirts for summer reading are darn hard to find.

So to see how many good looking shirts are out there this year, I put it to the test.  I made a hashtag (#summerreadtee) and asked readers to send me their shirts.

Now as some readers were quick to inform me, not every library system gives free summer reading t-shirts to its employees every year.  To those libraries I offer my condolences.  Not every system has the money to do the t-shirt thing. And after all, t-shirts in summer is a classic library trope!

Here then are the submissions for 2016.

First off, if you’re playing along at home then you know that the theme of summer reading this year is “Read for the Win”.  That means sports sports sports.  And to set this on the right note, here are the libraries that figured out how sports could equal attractive t-shirt wear.

We begin with Lincolnwood, IL, which is not too far from Evanston.  Take note of the attractive blue and white design (complete with white stripes on the sleeves) as well as the fact that they CLEARLY gave their employees size choices.  Now that is a library system that cares!




The dog is even wearing one.  The dog.  Thanks to Brita for the link.

Run across the country and you’ll see that Delaware Library had its own way of doing the sports theme:


Extra points for sending a picture taken at a parade. Thanks to Connie for the picture.

Next up, letting Multnomah County Library play is kind of like letting a college kid play baseball with a Pee-Wee League.  That kid is just out of everyone else’s league.  Case in point:


Sporty AND multi-lingual.  Thanks to Kirby for the link.

Speaking of multi-lingual, we’ve a couple shirts that did that pretty darn well.  First up, New Haven, CT went with my favorite color for a t-shirt: red.  You honestly cannot go wrong with red, PARTICULARLY when you cover it in a variety of languages:


Thanks to Deborah Freedman for the link.

Worthington Libraries may win the ribbon for Cutest Submission:


And this next one is such a good idea.  Just have a contest where the kids submit their designs and then turn the winner into t-shirts for one and all.  How crazy wonderful would it feel for the kid who got ALL the library employees to wear their design?  This one comes from the Beaumont Public Library System.


Thanks to Robin Smith for the link.

Carl of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library had a whole host of t-shirts to share from over the years.  For the sake of fairness, I’ve chosen only one.  As I’ve said before, it’s hard to go wrong with black:


And I never specified that the shirts had to be from this year, after all.  The Alamogordo Public Library of New Mexico came up with this shirt for last year’s superhero theme.  “They came in rainbow colors, or with white print on black.”


Thanks to Ami Jones for the picture.

And finally, we’re going to let this last one in, even though it was submitted by a publisher and technically isn’t a real t-shirt.  I’ll let Lara Starr explain:

“Christian Robinson created a lot of amazing art and objects for a joint summer reading program with San Francisco Public Library, Oakland Public Library and San Mateo County Library. Bookmarks! Badges! Bus Shelter Posters! BUT, they didn’t create Tshirts. BUT, that’s not gonna keep Chronicle Books from playin’!  I Project Runway-ed one of the SPFL’s totes into a kicky halter top modeled by Associate Marketing Manager Jaime Wong. The top features Leo and Jane, the main characters of Robinson’s book Leo.”


Chronicle Books.  Keepin’ it adorable.

Thanks for playing, everyone!









(but my library’s t-shirt is still the best)


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15. Emotional Wounds Thesaurus: Being Held Captive

When you’re writing a character, it’s important to know why she is the way she is. Knowing her backstory is important to achieving this end, and one of the most impactful pieces of a character’s backstory is her emotional wound. This negative experience from the past is so intense that a character will go to great lengths to avoid experiencing that kind of pain and negative emotion again. As a result, certain behaviors, beliefs, and character traits will emerge.

Characters, like real people, are unique, and will respond to wounding events differently. The vast array of possible emotional wounds combined with each character’s personality gives you many options in terms of how your character will turn out. With the right amount of exploration, you should be able to come up with a character whose past appropriately affects her present, resulting in a realistic character that will ring true with readers. Understanding what wounds a protagonist bears will also help you plot out her arc, creating a compelling journey of change that will satisfy readers.

NOTE: We realize that sometimes a wound we profile may have personal meaning, stirring up the past for some of our readers. It is not our intent to create emotional turmoil. Please know that we research each wounding topic carefully to treat it with the utmost respect. 




  • Being kidnapped and held for ransom
  • Being kidnapped and held captive for an extended period of time
  • Being kidnapped and sold into slavery
  • Being kidnapped by one’s biological parent or other relative and taken underground

Basic Needs Often Compromised By This Wound: physiological needs, safety and security, love and belonging, esteem and recognition, self-actualization

False Beliefs That May Be Embraced As a Result of This Wound:

  • I’ll never get away.
  • If I had done X (paid more attention, not talked to the person, left work 5 minutes later, etc.), this wouldn’t have happened.
  • I’ll never be safe.
  • I’m a weak person (because he targeted me, because I’m too afraid to attempt escape).
  • Specific beliefs that arise as a result of brainwashing by one’s captor: No one is looking for me/cares about me; this is a punishment for something I’ve done, etc.).

Positive Attributes That May Result: alert, cautious, discreet, nurturing, obedient, observant, persistent, private, protective

Negative Traits That May Result: apathetic, childish, cynical, devious, evasive, flaky, forgetful, hostile, humorless, inattentive, indecisive, inhibited, irrational, morbid, needy, nervous, obsessive, paranoid, reckless, resentful, scatterbrained, self-destructive, subservient, suspicious, temperamental, timid, uncommunicative, uncooperative, volatile, weak-willed, withdrawn

Resulting Fears:

  • Fear of never being able to escape
  • Fear of not being able to adjust to the real world after escaping
  • Fear for the safety of one’s loved ones
  • Fear that the things endured during captivity will cause loved ones to stop loving one
  • Fear of men (if one’s kidnapper is a man)
  • Fear of specific triggers (smells, sounds, etc.) associated with one’s captor or prison

Possible Habits That May Emerge: 

  • Becoming extremely subservient; losing one’s will
  • Wanting to please one’s captor
  • Clinging to one’s captor
  • Withdrawing into oneself
  • Decreased reactions to stimuli
  • Becoming emotionally numb
  • Hyper vigilance
  • Startling easily
  • Impaired concentration, focus, and memory
  • Depression
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Sleeping longer than normal
  • Insomnia
  • Feeling powerless
  • Becoming fearful or anxious
  • Regressing into a childlike state
  • Difficulty telling reality from fantasy
  • Becoming addicted to drugs or alcohol (if one’s captor is using them as a controlling factor)

TIP: If you need help understanding the impact of these factors, please read our introductory post on the Emotional Wound Thesaurus. For our current list of Emotional Wound Entries, go here.

For other Descriptive Thesaurus Collections, go here.

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16. Rage against the dying of the light…

Many individual people in the book trade have expressed their thoughts and anger about the deaths of people of color (and others) over the last few hours, days, nights, years. Yes, how long? Decades long. While words will almost never substitute actions (which is critical NOW), as a unit, as Lux Mentis, we are expressing [...]

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17. Becca at Katie’s blog

Hi, everyone!  Angela and I are taking a leisurely summer this year, with no big projects or deadlines looming, enabling us to enjoy the weather, spend time with family, and relax. I hope you’re enjoying the season—whatever it is in your part of the world!

That’s not to say we’re just sitting around sipping cocktails and sunbathing. Oh no, my precious. We’re still getting SOME work done. For instance, Katie Weiland has generously allowed me to take over her blog today to talk about choosing the right setting for a scene. Katie is a genius blogger with tons of incredible content—particularly in the area of structure. Have you seen her Story Structure Database? Oh my gosh, people. It’s a must-see. Right after my post, of course. 😉

Angela’s also got a humdinger going up at the Kobo Writing Life blog.

Lastly, R.K Grow is celebrating 200,000 views at her blog, and we’re giving away an ebook of either the Urban of Rural Setting Thesaurus books (winner’s choice!) to celebrate. She’s giving away a bunch of other stuff, too, so head on over to check it out.



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18. My Library’s Summer Reading T-Shirt is Cuter Than Yours

Or is it?

Folks, it is a truth universally acknowledged that a library in possession of a summer reading program must produce a t-shirt of some kind.  And generally speaking, it is usually a walking eyesore.  Though I owe New York Public Library more than I can ever repay, I must confess that each and every summer I would receive my designated summer reading t-shirt.  It would be size XXXXXL (it’s much easier to give all staff employees a t-shirt if you just make it one-size-fits-all), usually white, and sporting a design that generally looked better on paper than on a living human body.

When I moved to Evanston, IL, I expected more of the same. What I got was this:


There were multiple sizes.  It was black (I still retain a New Yorker’s love for that slimming, you-can’t-see-dirt-on-me color).  The design was in red.  It was, to be frank, the most beautiful summer reading t-shirt I’d ever seen.

Which got me to thinking.  I just sort of took it for granted that, like a kind of penance to the library gods above, all summer reading shirts were supposed to be unattractive.  But maybe I was wrong from the start.

So here’s my challenge to you: Send me a picture of your summer reading shirt if it is more attractive than this one.  Then I’ll compile the results and create a Summer Reading T-Shirt Fashion Show.  Not only will this be a way you can give props to the design team of your local library, but it could give some libraries ideas for their own attractive summer reading t-shirt designs in the future.

All t-shirt designs may be sent to fusenumber8 at gmail dot com.  Looking forward to them!


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19. Reflections on a Banquet: Newbery/Caldecott/Wilder 2016

While I acknowledge that the logical way to write about the ALA Annual 2016 Conference in Orlando would be to do it chronologically, on the cusp of the banquet and all that it entailed, it makes more sense to me to write that part up first and then circle back to the conference in the coming week.  Your patience with my erratic nature is appreciated.

It had been some time. Maybe just little more than a year but too long in any case. The last time I had attended a Newbery/Caldecott Banquet I had worn a tuxedo, a hat wearing a hat, tiger gloves, and had tucked a small stuffed carrot in my breast pocket. That was the year that This Is Not My Hat [hat wearing hat], One Cool Friend [tuxedo], Creepy Carrots [carrot in breast pocket], and Sleep Like a Tiger [tiger gloves] had won the Caldecott. For whatever reason, as the years have gone by, I’ve had a penchant for kooky Banquet costumes. 2016 would be no different.

It’s difficult to come up with original costuming ideas, though. For my part, it all started simply, inspired in part by incoming ALSC president Nina Lindsay’s fabulous concoctions (one year she was Martha from the George & Martha books, wearing a gray shirt, a colorful skirt, and a single red flower behind her ear) and partly by the NYPL librarians of yore who would wear thematic hats to honor the Caldecott winners. I still remember stumbling on one of their Office Buckle & Gloria police hats with furry ears in a box at work. So you see, there is a precedent.

Having already covered temporary tattoos of book covers, temporary quotes from books, Shrinky-Dink jewelry of the winners’ covers, and the aforementioned tuxedo combination, I had only the grain of an idea at hand. What if I made a dress out of old card catalog cards? It was an odd idea. Just cards? A skirt alone or a full dress? How do you go about sewing paper together? I toyed with the notion, purchasing some children’s book catalog cards off of Ebay. Then providence entered into the equation some months later when I passed a recycling bin at work and found inside a slew of fantastic children’s literature catalog cards, slated for destruction. And not just any cards either. Newbery and Caldecott winners in abundance! Snowflake Bentley. Trina Schart Hyman’s Snow White. Always Room for One More. So You Want to Be President? And then, the crème de la crème: A Visit to William Blake’s Inn. Which is to say, one of the most highly discussed past winners of the season, due to debate as to whether or not IT was the first picture book to win a Newbery or was, instead, a poetry book.

This discovery clinched the deal, as it were, so I went to my closet to figure out what already existing dress might serve to display the wares. I found an old ModCloth number with a floaty filmy veil of black transparent fabric over the stretchy dress beneath. Perfect! My hope was that the overlying fabric might obscure the cards somewhat from a distance. I like a little flash but this isn’t Library Comic Con or anything. Decorum must be maintained. Card catalog cards already come with pre-made holes, so it was just a question of sewing them on. This left the question of what to do with my hair. I had a brief notion of fanning seven or eight cards into a perfect circle, hot gluing them to a large barrette. This plan was abandoned pretty quickly when I saw just how large eight cards are when fanned together. However, if you cut a single card apart and then glue IT to smaller barrettes, you get very much the same effect. Add in an old pin featuring E. Shepard’s Winnie-the-Pooh characters which I was given years ago for working with the original Pooh toys at NYPL and voila! Your outfit is complete:


Note that the gorgeous Yuyi Morales behind me needs no gimmick to look beautiful.

God help my soul, what I do next year is unclear.  I worry I might get a little crazy. Shave the names of the winners into my hair or something. Hmm….

Because I’m not a complete fool, I changed in to this dress in a restroom that was near to the reception for the event.  I was also invited in for a little pre-dinner mix n’ mash n’ nosh in a room secured by Little, Brown & Co. After this we proceeded to the dinner where I found myself not far from the high table of winners, seated beside Nina Lindsay (the aforementioned incoming ALSC president), Jonda McNair (three-year term as chair of the Coretta Scott King Book Awards Committee), some Caldecott committee members, Horn Book’s Editor-in-Chief Roger Sutton, and John Schumacher. Immediately to my left was Lindsay Mattick, the author of this year’s Caldecott Award winning book. She had the somewhat eerie experience of knowing that every single place, at every single table, was set with a program featuring Sophie’s illustrations of Lindsay and her son Cole. At some point I yelled across the table to Roger a question about whether or not a Caldecott Award winner (or Honor book, for that matter) has ever featured an illustration of the author within the story itself. Roger didn’t know, but upon further reflection I could think of one case where a Newbery Award winner did. Show Way by Jacqueline Woodson, in case you’re curious. It’s times like these I particularly miss Peter Sieruta. He would have known in a heartbeat.

Lindsay, as it turns out, was a charming dinner companion and after I subjected her to a lengthy story of the sordid history of the Winnie-the-Pooh toys (something I should turn into a blog post one of these days) she told me about her own history of writing the book. As it turns out, this is a very rare case of an author of a picture book being allowed to help select her own illustrator. It was Lindsay’s idea to reach out to Sophie in the first place. That Sophie accepted is due in large part to a series of remarkable coincidences. It appears this book was meant to be.

If you’ve never been to a Newbery/Caldecott/Wilder Banquet I should explain that there are a couple givens. First off, the food is awful. This is not a slight against the organizers in any way. You walk in expecting the food to be bad and, when some aspect of it is particularly nice, you are pleasantly surprised. To sit at a table you have to buy a ticket, but that’s only if you want to eat. In the back of the room is a series of chairs. You are more than free to eat your own dinner beforehand and then sit in the chairs to listen to the speeches. Many do, as it turns out.

Between each course of the meal you may stare up adoringly at the winners and the Chairs of their committees at a high table. It’s sort of like a triple wedding, only the brides and grooms are required to give speeches that will set the world on fire. No pressure or anything, though. No pressure. So you eat, and between courses you amble over to tables where your friends are. Then you mosey back for more food. Amble. Food. I don’t know how long this particular format has been in existence. It’s nice not to masticate during the speeches, which are only given after everyone has had ample time to devour their desserts. Knowing the friendly nature of the children’s literary world, the organizers probably learned years ago that you may as well just allow folks to mix and mingle at length early on.

When at last the speeches did begin they were kicked off by outgoing President, and all around superhuman/fellow Chicago-area resident, Andrew Medlar. In the event of my death I would like to request that Andrew conduct my funeral services. He seems capable of moderating in every situation with apparent ease and wit.

Now the order of the speeches is Caldecott chair, Caldecott winner, Wilder chair, Wilder winner, Newbery chair, Newbery winner. You get a recording of each speech, since they do formally record them beforehand. In the past this has taken the form of CDs, but this year there was a code to access it online. We were also informed that past speeches are going to be digitized for easy access in the future. One wonders how many will be available! I have visions of librarians trading bootleg tapes of early impossible-to-find speeches like Madeline L’Engle’s or Ezra Jack Keats or, the rarest gem of all, Stephen Gammell’s.

Rachel Payne (an old BPL buddy) was the Caldecott Chair who introduced Sophie Blackall. Now I’ve seen Sophie speak in public before. The stereotype of the artist who fears public speaking, while not without truth in some areas, has been eclipsed over the past years by remarkably loquacious illustrators. Just look at the recent winners: Floca, Klassen, Santat.  The list goes on and on, and they’re all remarkably capable of pitch perfect eloquence. Sophie was no exception. Early on she began to get choked up, and was swift to shut herself down with a hasty, “Right. More jokes now.” She thanked her shockingly attractive children, her partner, her studio mates, Lindsay Mattick, her editor, her agent, and many more folks. I particularly admired that she kept her thanks as selective as she did. A good speech doesn’t need to thank everyone and the moon. A simple “you know who you are” is sufficient to thanking the masses anyway. And yes, I did get choked up myself a little. Sophie had a hard year (in addition to the mess-which-shall-not-be-named, a close friend passed away).  You may read the speech in its entirety here.

Next up was the Wilder Award, a biennial award that for the first time has turned annual. This year it went to Jerry Pinkney, who held the distinction of being the first and only person to win a Virginia K. Hamilton Award and a Wilder Award in the same year. He may also be the first great-grandfather to win both awards, since that is precisely what he is (though you wouldn’t know it to hear or look at him). He was introduced by Chrystal Carr Jeter who wore a magnificent hat. Undeniably the best hat in the room, no question at all. After lauding the man properly, Mr. Pinkney stood up and began to tell the story of his life. Some of it I had heard once long ago when he gave a speech after being honored by the Carle Awards. Some was new. And some hit a chord for a very particular reason.

An odd digression that has a point: Each week the shelvers in my library put together a cart of damaged materials and wheel it up to my desk. There I determine whether or not to reorder, discard, and/or repair the books. One day someone included a MAD Magazine collection that mocked syndicated cartoonists (bear with me – there’s a point to all this). It always kind of depresses me when MAD Magazine collections appear because they’re often beyond repair and yet they’re also out-of-print. As I flipped through the piece (which fortunately was salvageable) I saw the usual jokes made at the expense of Dick Tracy, Dagwood, L’il Abner, etc. Then I saw one making fun of the comic strip Henry. Do you know the strip? It was a funny piece about a kid with a big round head and his small suburban adventures. The style was distinctive, sort of what you’d get if you added Peanuts to Chris Ware with a hint of Crockett Johnson thrown into the mix. The joke in the MAD Magazine bit was the Henry never grows up and has, from the start, actually been a strip about a middle aged man. Why am I telling you all of this? Well, I’d heard in Pinkney’s Carle speech lo these many years ago that as a child he befriended a syndicated comic strip artist. As Jerry tells it, he was working at a newspaper stand and, when business was slow, his boss let him sketch for fun. One day a man asked to see his art and when he saw what Jerry could do he confessed that he was an artist himself. The boy and the man became friends and the man turned out to be John Liney the LINEY HENRYsecond creator of the comic strip Henry. In the vast world of syndicated comics, I do believe that Henry has been forgotten to a certain extent. Yet Mr. Liney has gone on to be remembered by Jerry, and by extension we have many wonderful books. So, in a strange sense, Liney’s legacy lives on in his kindness to others.

Jerry talked much more than just about Mr. Liney of course. He spoke at length, and with feeling, about the limited options for African-American men when he was growing up, making it clear that there is still a long road ahead. He talked about his mentors, both the good and the bad. The ones who believed he could go far, and the ones who didn’t. He spoke of African-American art instructors who had shelved their own dreams in a time when the future seemed impossible. His was a speech that took note of the changes in the African-American landscape over a vast number of decades, using his own career to highlight the changes. It was superb, as you might imagine.  You can read it in full here.

By the way, has Mr. Pinkney ever been recorded in conversation with Ashley Bryan? Wouldn’t that be the most interesting of discussions? Just putting that out there.

After Jerry it was time for Matt de la Peña. Ernie Cox, the chair of the Newbery committee, introduced him. Not much was made of a picture book’s win of a Newbery Award and how extraordinary and unprecedented (unless you believe A Visit to William Blake’s Inn was a picture book) it was. I was curious to hear Matt speak, of course. I’ve seen him do it twice, once about Last Stop on Market Street at a librarian preview in NYC, and once to a group of librarians about his career, but only in brief. This speech was different in tone, and depth, and content, and feeling. You might not know it was the same guy.

Matt came up, took his award, and then said apologetically that this was lovely but he needed to give the award to his mom. He then proceeded to run down to the audience level, handing his mother the large heavy medal in its velvet lined case to his mom. Then he leapt back to the podium to speak in earnest. Matt talked about his youth, growing up Mexican-American and not much of a reader. He credited the teachers and librarians that fed his reading, even if it was sports magazines during a time when he was supposed to be reading books (his description of how he’d claim to be enjoying War and Peace with all that war and then all that peace is great). He spoke of how he became an author, though not at any particular length. Instead he talked about getting “the call” and how confusing it was for him. As he tells it, he wasn’t expecting to win anything, but he knew that Christian might win a Caldecott proper and that if he did their agent (they share an agent) would ring him up. So he turned on his ringer and a couple hours later a call came in. Only it wasn’t the call he was expecting exactly. Ernie Cox explained to Matt that he’d won a Newbery Award. What picture book author would ever expect such a thing? After Matt hung up he describes it this way:

As soon as we hung up, I called my wife. “Caroline,” I said, in an even voice, “I have something I need to tell you.” I paused for a long time, trying to keep myself in check. Like I have all my life.

“What?” she said. “Is everything okay?”

“I think Last Stop just won the Newbery.”

She paused. “Wait, are you sure?”

“No,” I answered.

She fired up her iPad and went onto the ALA website and looked up the 2016 award committees and asked me, “Okay, was it a man or woman on the phone?”

“A man.”

“Holy shit,” she said. “The chair of the Caldecott is a woman.”

And he could have stopped right there. Could have closed the speech with the usual congrats and approbation and thanks, but to my surprise he kept going. Discussions of “the call” often end acceptance speeches. Matt had more to say. More to say about the kids who read his books who might think that they are worthless and who can find value in themselves by reading. Amongst his stories he told one about visiting a school and giving a copy of his book to a boy who was sitting just a little to the side. And when the boy confronted him later, asking why Matt would have given the book to him, of all people, Matt just told him that he didn’t know why. There just seemed to be something special about the kid. The boy started to cry at this, and his classmates rubbed his back and comforted him, telling Matt that the boy was new to their school. Matt said that’s how he felt like when he got the call about the Newbery. That this group of people thought that there was something special about him. And that the librarians and friends and other members of the children’s literature community out there were the ones rubbing his back and propping him up and telling him it was okay. And let me tell you something, ladies and gentlemen. There was not a dry eye in the house when he said this. You can read the speech in full here.

After that it was receiving line time. The winners all trooped outside while we watched a little of the most recent Weston Woods Award winner . . . I’m sorry. The Carnegie Award winner, That Is Not a Good Idea. Sadly they only showed a little. I would have liked to have watched the whole thing again. Mo Willems, as the fox, does a delicious cackle.

But there were lots of fine and fancy people to talk to, so I lingered and spoke with various folks. And when it was very late, and I was very tired, I was still able to have a tasty root beer float with friends before drifting off to beddy-bye. It was a nice banquet this year. One of the best, really.

A thank you to Little, Brown for my nice ticket and meal.


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20. Oh, What a Time It Was: The ALA Annual 2016 Conference Floor

Sweaty, sticky, moist Orlando edition.

So here’s a new way to experience the American Library Association Conference.  We’re going to tackle it in a visual way.  Which is to say, if I took a picture of it, it’s going into this post.  Here then is a look at what caught my eye on the conference floor, where the booths are plentiful, the alcohol oddly prevalent, and the carpets super sproingy.

First up, a slew of diverse picture books I hadn’t heard of before that I encountered for the first time at ALA.  In no particular order:


This is such a cool book.  It’s the children and possibly grandchildren of modern immigrants talking about how much they owe to their forebears.  This is the perfect book to combat immigration studies in schools that begin and end with Ellis Island.  The text is shockingly simple, but very well done.  Look for it!

Other cool looking books included:















Next up, titles that aren’t necessarily picture books that caught my eye for different reasons.  All of these look interesting to me in some way.  Without comment:




Now for some of the more useful items from the floor.

When you walk past the booths at ALA you may find yourself avoiding eye contact with anyone aside from a large publisher.  This act has some problematic repercussions, particularly when the person at the conference is new.  Honestly, if the rep from Vox Books hadn’t called me by name I might have missed what is clearly a super cool new innovation in audio picture books.  And please bear in mind, if I’m enthusiastic about this it’s because I liked what I heard.  I haven’t tried out this product myself yet.

Meet Vox Books.  Better yet, take a gander at it.


Okay, so what you’re seeing here is going to be a little unclear at first.  Basically, this is a picture book, normal as can be, but with a little, thin, audio component on the left.  Do you see it?  Right there.  It really doesn’t affect the closing of the book at all and it can’t be removed.

Now if you’re library is anything like the ones I’ve worked in, you may have an area where book and CD sets hang off to the side.  And as we all know, when they’re returned, half the time the book and CD don’t even match.  One library system I worked for tried just creating little pockets for the CDs within the books, but then you couldn’t tell them from the other picture books on the shelves.  And then the CDs would get lost.

In this case you have the audio right there, with a headphone jack, the ability to skip ahead or adjust the pages, and some seriously good books.  Check ’em out:


Really quite good.  You should hear the background music they create as well. The readers are also excellent.

They’ve even covered their bases and done nonfiction books too:


And let me tell you, that hardcore voice reading the Earth Movers book was great to listen too.

I know what you children’s librarians out there are thinking.  You’re considering the noise these could create in the library.  You aren’t wrong.  Remember The Very Quiet Cricket?  Ever have the batteries in one of those puppies die on you?  You get a sick sounding duck quack emanating from your shelves, randomly, for days.  This could be much worse, except you can actually charge these books up.  They even ding when you’re supposed to turn the page.

So yeah.  Looked neat.  Worth exploring, anyway.

Less useful items from the floor?  You got it:

First up, it seems that Ripley’s Believe It Or Not is committing hardcore to the children’s book scene.  They have early chapter books, nonfiction, board books, you name it coming out.  And they had one of their fellas doing caricatures on the floor.  Vain critter I am, I couldn’t resist:

Betsy RipleyYup.

Then there was a station set up to help people with copyright advice.  I approved of the look of the place:

Screen Shot 2016-06-28 at 11.54.41 PM

Have I any regrets from the weekend?  Well, I would have liked to have known about this beforehand.  I didn’t have any ideas of what to read, but it would have been really fun.


And finally, some good old-fashioned liquid nitrogen.

I’ve seen some fun gimmicks at a conference before, but dipping carmel corn into liquid nitrogen so that when you eat it you look like a dragon spitting smoke . . . well that’s pretty original.

Screen Shot 2016-06-28 at 11.58.49 PM

What did the rest of you guys who went see?

Tomorrow – Actual panels n’ stuff!



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21. What Good Are Windows and Mirrors When the Windows Just Look at Your Own Back Yard?

“If we don’t offer children literature from other languages, we are starving them.” Philip Pullman (TES, 2005)

USBBYPhew! I’d been planning on doing a round-up of some of the speeches and talks I sat in on at the ALA Conference in Orlando a week or so ago, only to find that I’d lost my notes.  They have since resurfaced.

When one attends an ALA Conference in full, it is useful to decide early what kind of talks you’d like to attend.  Is your interest in copyright or preservation?  Do you have more of a yen to learn about sustainable thinking, coding groups, STEM collaboration, or small scale digitization?  This year I decided to concentrate more on international children’s literature.  It’s an interest that has grown within me over the past few years and I was curious to learn more about the topic.

First up, Diverse Books from Across the Globe.  Description: “How can the local library help voices from emerging markets and developing countries be heard? How can we make their books available to refugee populations and foreign language speakers across the United States? Join innovators from Library for All to look at how libraries can continue to support access to quality educational materials in an increasingly global context.”  The panelists included Rebecca McDonald of Library for All, Kerri Poore of First Book, and Hannah Ehrlich of Lee & Low Books.

This was right up my alley.  As I say, my interest in international literature for kids has peaked over the last few years, possibly kickstarted by an event held at The New School in NYC that addressed American discomfort with books from other nations.  With all the talk of getting kids to read more diverse books, there’s been very little talk about getting kids to read books that are from a diverse range of countries.  Windows and mirrors are great, but why do the windows always have to look at our own back yards?  Now with the rise of Donald Trump and the recent Brexit vote, nativism is at an all-time high, making me wonder why we don’t talk more about the value of teaching kids about other cultures through those nations’ books.  I’m no innocent.  I don’t think the world’s problems can be solved if kids in Texas read more books written for kids in Iraq.  Nor do I think that American discomfort with the art of other nations (whether it’s foreign films or translated novels) is relegated solely to picture books.  That said, there is value in learning, at a young age, the different ways in which other nations and cultures tell their stories.

LibraryForAllSo!  The talk!  It was such an interesting collection of speakers.  The focus of this particular panel was how to meet the needs of kids in the United States that have families from international cultures.  I confess that I’d never heard of Library for All before.  Though their primary purpose is to bring books to poverty stricken areas of the world, the organization also works closely with First Book to bring books from other countries to kids here in America.  What struck me as particularly interesting is how they will essentially become book detectives for specific cultures and languages.  Which is to say, they’ll go into other countries to seek out and find books that would otherwise never make it to American shores.

When it was time for questions I asked how librarians can work to promote international books here in the United States.  There are some problems with doing so, of course.  There is, and has always been, a marked preference for diverse American books vs. diverse international literature.  Add in the fact that such books can only win a couple awards here and there, and there’s very little incentive on the part of the publishers to promote or distribute them.

In answering it was Hannah Ehrlich who gave me quite a lot to chew on.  She pointed out to me (and this is key) that this isn’t just a children’s book problem.  The wider difficulty comes with getting Americans as a whole used to different narrative styles.  One way to do this is to get very young children used to these different kinds of books from the start.

leelowAnother factor?  The discoverability of international children’s book is key.  Visibility is, in many ways, the greatest hurdle to overcome.  That’s why we have USBBY lists like their yearly release of Outstanding International Books (you can find the 2016 list here).  But the greatest hurdle?  Getting such books into curriculum.  To do this, publishers like Lee & Low work with the school and library market.  The problem is that the text complexity of these books is often their downfall.  Books written for foreign markets don’t care two bits about leveling.  As a result, they’re often kept out of those schools that live and die by Fountas and Pinnell and their ilk.

So what can be done?  The panelists had some excellent suggestions.  First off, let’s be honest.  International children’s literature can sometimes be a hard sell.  You can’t introduce these books to Americans cold.  If you’re going to introduce a global perspective into your classroom, you need to foster a dialogue around these books.  As for librarians, do displays of translated children’s books!  Start international book clubs where you highlight a different country every month.  And be aware that some types of books simply do not exist in other countries.  Young adult literature, for example, just isn’t an age level designation in some places.

It was a good talk.

The second one I attended a little later was entitled Conversation Starter: Other People’s Voices: Using Global Literature in Translation to Reimagine Diversity in Libraries. Its panel consisted of Rachel Hildebrandt, Marc Aronson, and moderator Doris Gebel.

The problem?  I had difficulty finding the room and missed Marc Aronson’s opening remarks.  Too bad, since the man is a positive machine of good quotes.  Here’s one I was able to catch:

“It is wrong to hem our children in to a national experience when they are living an international experience.”

Since the focus on this talk was, to a certain extent, translation, I was particularly intrigued by a mention made of something called The Global Literature in Libraries Initiative.  In June there was an excellent piece in YALSA’s The Hub blog explaining what this is.  As their mission statement says:

“. . . the Global Literature in Libraries Initiative strives to raise the visibility of world literature for adults and children at the local, national and international levels. We intend to do so by facilitating close and direct collaboration between translators and librarians, because we believe translators are uniquely positioned to help librarians provide support and events to engage readers of all ages in a library framework that explores and celebrates literature from around the world.”

There are a lot of great points in the piece.  For example, when talking about the lack of international books available to a lot of kids today in our increasingly interconnected global world it said that, “Librarians play a key role in counteracting this dangerous insularity.”

ManWhoCollinsOn the panel, the panelists mentioned that our love affair with translation is a funny, fickle thing.  We do well when it comes to Pippi Longstocking, but we’re not great when it comes to contemporary literature.  That gives the U.S. book market, and American children’s books in general, cultural dominance.  To get an outsider perspective is invaluable to kids today.  For example, in 2004 Chronicle Books won the Batchelder Award for The Man Who Went to the Far Side of the Moon: The Story of Apollo 11 Astronaut Michael Collins by Bea Uusma Schyffert, translated from the Swedish by Emi Guner.  And let me tell you, our space program looks a LOT different when its story is told by someone other than rah-rah Americans.

Doris Gebel urged the attendees to start kids young on international literature.  Fail to do so and they won’t have a yearning for it as teens.  Show them those “strange” books that confuse you, the adult.  “Our young children need other books from other lands every day.”

Mention was made of the two major book lists/awards of translated children’s literature in the States.  One is the Batchelder Award (named after Evanston librarian Mildred L. Batchelder so HOMETOWN PRIDE!) which is given each year.  The International Books List (which I mentioned before) celebrates 40 books and breaks them down by age groups.  That’s great, but the bulk of the books are from Western countries.

bookbirdIt was at this point that Marc Aronson spoke about the importance of distinctive translations.  Take Anne Frank’s diary, for example.  The version we read in schools is a very particular rendering.  A lot of people would be shocked to hear that there are different versions out there.  This reminded me of an article I read in Book Bird (a fantastic international children’s book periodical) years ago about how translating Hans Christian Andersen changes the meaning of his stories, depending on the translator.  Until I read that piece it wasn’t something I’d thought about.  As Marc said, “Translation is a creative act.”  Mention was made at this time of the fact that for the very first time a woman has translated an edition of Madame Bovary.  Meanwhile the famous translator of 100 Years of Solitude just died.  If you think you know that book and you speak English, you only know his version.

Today, things are perking up.  In the last five years we’ve seen more small independent presses translating children’s books than ever before.  Often these publishers are their own translators.  Look at that USBBY list.  It’s almost entirely small presses.  And if these small presses don’t get reviewed in most of the journals out there (Kirkus is beloved to me because they take special care in reviewing the little guys) then the books just don’t get any attention.

When the audience members came up to speak, we heard some fascinating takes on all this.  One woman said that the bulk of books translated from Colombia in the United States are about losing weight.  She has Colombian immigrants in her library wondering aloud to her why Americans want them to lose weight so much, but that’s just what’s (weirdly) available.

So let’s talk solutions.  What can libraries do to promote translated materials?  Well, we could work with our immigrant communities more.  Doris also pointed out that storytimes of translated books and library displays of translations could be useful as well.  That got me to thinking how cool it would be if someone were to create lists like, “Top Ten Kids’ Books Translated from German” or “Top Ten Kids’ Books Translated from Swahili”.  Or by country!

ICDLWhich finally brings us to the International Digital Children’s Library.  If you haven’t seen it yet, please check it out.  Seeking to serve the international community, the site makes, “the best in children’s literature available online free of charge.”

Also mentioned was the collection at Worlds of Words, at the University of Arizona. The description reads, “Worlds of Words is committed to providing a range of resources to encourage educators at all levels to integrate global literature into the lives of children. The resources on this site grew out of work in schools around the world and the identification of needs…”

Thanks to both panels for this fascinating exchange of ideas.  Much to chew on here.


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22. Emotional Wounds Thesaurus: A Family Member’s Suicide

When you’re writing a character, it’s important to know why she is the way she is. Knowing her backstory is important to achieving this end, and one of the most impactful pieces of a character’s backstory is her emotional wound. This negative experience from the past is so intense that a character will go to great lengths to avoid experiencing that kind of pain and negative emotion again. As a result, certain behaviors, beliefs, and character traits will emerge.

Characters, like real people, are unique, and will respond to wounding events differently. The vast array of possible emotional wounds combined with each character’s personality gives you many options in terms of how your character will turn out. With the right amount of exploration, you should be able to come up with a character whose past appropriately affects her present, resulting in a realistic character that will ring true with readers. Understanding what wounds a protagonist bears will also help you plot out her arc, creating a compelling journey of change that will satisfy readers.

NOTE: We realize that sometimes a wound we profile may have personal meaning, stirring up the past for some of our readers. It is not our intent to create emotional turmoil. Please know that we research each wounding topic carefully to treat it with the utmost respect. 


Courtesy: Pixabay

Basic Needs Often Compromised By This Wound: physiological needs, safety and security, love and belonging, esteem and recognition

False Beliefs That May Be Embraced As a Result of This Wound:

  • This is my fault.
  • If I had been X (more available, a better daughter/son/spouse, etc.) he/she wouldn’t have done it.
  • I should have seen the signs.
  • If she had really loved me she wouldn’t have done this.
  • Why didn’t he confide in me? Maybe there’s something wrong with me.
  • I’m incapable of true intimacy.
  • I’m good enough when life is light and easy, but when things get tough, I’m not someone that people turn to.

Positive Attributes That May Result: affectionate, appreciative, nurturing, observant, pensive, private, proactive, responsible, sentimental, supportive

Negative Traits That May Result: addictive, apathetic, callous, compulsive, confrontational, cynical, fussy, hostile, humorless, inhibited, insecure, irrational, martyr, morbid, needy, obsessive, rebellious, reckless, resentful, self-destructive, uncooperative, volatile, withdrawn

Resulting Fears:

  • The fear that one will miss the signs and it will happen again
  • The fear of never being “good enough” for one’s loved ones
  • The fear of never achieving true intimacy with others
  • The fear that one is untrustworthy or incapable.
  • The fear that there is something inherently wrong with oneself.

Possible Habits That May Emerge: 

  • Withdrawing from loved ones
  • Maintaining surface relationships as a way of avoiding potential hurt
  • Becoming overly needy and clingy with loved ones
  • Becoming hyper vigilant with loved ones
  • Obsessively watching for signs
  • Overcompensating for whatever one feels guilty about (being less or more strict, smothering loved ones in an effort to pay closer attention, etc.)
  • Trying to be “better” in whatever way one felt was lacking (paying more attention, being more obedient, etc.)
  • Becoming more observant
  • Falling into depression
  • Having suicidal thoughts or attempting suicide
  • Self-medicating

TIP: If you need help understanding the impact of these factors, please read our introductory post on the Emotional Wound Thesaurus. For our current list of Emotional Wound Entries, go here.

For other Descriptive Thesaurus Collections, go here.

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23. Making your Character Shine From Page One

Happy Monday, everyone! Angela and I have been so focused lately on the launch of our setting thesaurus books, it feels like that’s all we’ve been doing for months. So we’re excited to get back to the normal Writers Helping Writers routine with a guest post by Kate Foster. She’s here today to talk about how to get readers falling in love with your characters on the very first page.

Plot and characters are both vitally important to a good story, but I’ve always been drawn to the people in the story more than to the story itself. In my opinion, characters are the all-important key to sinking your teeth into your readers and tearing out their hearts. Dramatic, of course, but fundamentally, it’s the reader’s heart you want to win over, and the characters are your bow and arrow. Get them right, and you’re on a pretty smooth course to writing an engaging book.

After you’ve profiled your character and know them better than your own family members – and definitely do this detailed, time-consuming background work; I promise it will make all the difference – it’s time to put pen to paper and let them take over your words. Because it’s no longer you telling the story; your character should be in the driving seat.


What makes your character different or interesting?

But don’t wait until the end of chapter one, or chapter two, or even page two to showcase their personalities, who they are, and what they do. No, smash it straight in there on page one, paragraph one. Lure, hook, intrigue. Let the reader hear the character and get to know them right off the bat; give your audience an important detail as to who this person is, what he or she does, what’s happened in the past.

To clarify this, here are a few examples of authors who showed readers on the very first page who they were getting involved with.

‘Bradley Chalkers sat at his desk in the back of the room—last seat, last row. No one sat at the desk next to him or at the one in front of him. He was an island.’ (There’s a Boy in the Girl’s Bathroom—middle grade, contemporary— by Louis Sachar)

Bam! From the very first line, we know in three sentences that no one wants to sit with Bradley, and probably because no one likes him. We know how Bradley feels about this too: isolated. And just like that, we’re touched, we’re sucked in. We’re sad. We want to know why. What is it about Bradley that’s so wrong, so terrible that he sits at the back of the class, alone?

‘The door would splinter off its hinges with a swift kick from his boot like the previous dozen he’d blasted in over the years. But bashing in doors was noisy and drew the wrong kind of attention.’ (Poor Boy Road by James L. Weaver)

Straight away we know we’re dealing with a tough guy—someone violent, someone who’s been doing this for a while. Kicking in doors isn’t an unusual experience for this character, which sets him apart from normal people as, let’s face it, most of us use the doorknob. But we also know that he doesn’t want to get caught. So, who is he? Is he working alone? Voluntarily? Is this his day job?

What these authors have done in their opening lines is dropped in sneaky clues to show (rather than tell) that their characters are different—definitely not run-of-the-mill—which prompts the reader to start asking questions. They’ve injected intrigue and interest in their first pages. And this is essential to make a reader keep reading. What authors mostly want is for their readers to invest time, and money, into their characters. Making this happen from the very first page is critical, and with deft characterization, it’s fairly simple.

As the book opens into that life-changing moment, ask yourself:

  • How can I show the reader that my character is different than other characters? What’s unique about him/her, what’s important for the reader to know?
  • How can I show the reader my character’s personality and voice through his or her reactions (physically and mentally) to the current scene?
  • What emotion is my character experiencing as the book opens?
  • What secret is my character hiding that sits at the root of his/her motivation?

Questions like these will help you to really know your characters before you write your book. And knowing them well—their flaws, strengths, habits, speech patterns, every puzzle piece from the past that has created this imaginary person—is important to being able to make them real, make them whole. Only then can they shine from that very first page.



Kate Foster ImageKate is an Englishwoman who lives on the sunny Gold Coast in Australia with her tribe of ‘lads’ – three sons, husband and male spoodle! She is the editorial director at Lakewater Press as well as a freelance developmental editor and loves nothing more than teaming up with authors to improve their raw manuscripts. She has been a writing judge and mentor for numerous writing contests, including Freshly Squeezed Reads, Nest Pitch, Fic Fest and Pitch Wars. Kate also dabbles a little with her own writing! You can find her online at www.katejfoster.com, www.katefosterauthor.com, on Twitter, and Facebook.

*photo courtesy: Pixabay

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24. Taking the Audiobook Plunge? Read This First

Super thrilled to have author Diane Rinella with us today, who has a ton of experience with audiobooks and has put together some great information for anyone looking to take the leap. Audiobooks are a completely different animal than ebooks or print, and this post can save your a lot of time, heartache, and money.

Plunging Into Audiobooks

ACXI love audiobooks. Many find the convenience of listening to them nearly anytime and anywhere a virtue. But for me, the appeal is how I get to listen to another person’s dream.

For years, hearing your book come to life was a fantasy reserved for top-selling authors. But we live in an amazing age where technology makes yesterday’s imaginings today’s reality. Not unlike how Amazon helped drive the Indie ebook revolution with Kindle Direct Publishing, they are at it again with Audio Creation Exchange. However, much like the trials of ebook publishing, sharing your book with listeners is not as simple as reading it aloud. Thus before hiring a producer, or biting the bullet and self-producing, a few things are worth considering.

Before moving forward, let’s define a few roles:

Producer – The person who records and masters the material. This may be the same person as the narrator/voice actor.

Narrator – The general term for the person performing your book.

Voice Actor – May also be referred to as narrator. However, this person can also bring multiple voices to life and expresses emotion.


Take a deep breath, because there are a few things to consider before you look for a producer. Remember everything you did (such as editing and formatting) to give consumers the best reading experience? Now you need to determine how to give them the best listening experience.

Pay Per Finished Hour or Royalty Split

Just like any other project, what you can afford will guide your decisions. ACX offers a great program called Royalty Share. The author provides the book, the producer records it, the author approves it—both split the proceeds. However, some producers will only accept projects paid by the finished hour. (If the producer spends forty hours on a project that comes in at eight hours long, you pay for eight hours.) All sales proceeds go to you. However, a finished hour can range between $50 and $200. Most novels are eight to ten hours long. Will your budget cover $400 to $1600? If not, you might consider a royalty share or self-production. (We will return to that can of worms later.)

Narration versus Acting

ScaryModstersAudiobookWould your book benefit most from narration, or should a voice actor bring the characters to life? Are you dead set about how the narrator, or any of the characters, should sound? These questions led me to a dilemma. Scary Modsters … and Creepy Freaks, was written in three, first person POVs, two of which are male and one of those is from East London.

I wanted multiple actors, not to mention a proper accent.  However, I quickly found my dream scenario required hiring four people and heavy editing. Since the price tag would be at least a hefty $400 per finished hour, the only cost-effective option was to go with one, very talented producer. Fortunately, Hollie Jackson came to the rescue. Hollie is a partner worth her weight in gold. Partners can make or break a project. (More on partnerships later.)

Books Are Meant To Be Read, Not Heard

Writers often give visual clues that do not translate into audiobooks. Are you willing to consider changes that improve the experience, or must the audio version match the original text without fail? Some things can enhance the listening experience, either by adding or removing them. One of those is dialog tags.

listenThe visual characteristics of a quoted sentence ending and a new paragraph beginning with another quoted line is an accepted cue a new person is speaking. If the conversation is two-sided, a dialog tag may not have been deemed necessary. If an actor uses vocal changes to represent new characters, a dialog tag may still be unnecessary. However, in the case of straight narration, where all voices sound alike, adding one would eliminate confusion.

Conversely, when a character’s speech spans multiple paragraphs, writers often add the clue, “he continued.” However, when a character is read with a distinct voice, not only do these clues become unnecessary, they become pace-breaking distractions.

Italics are often used to stress a word or to reflect deep thought. Stressing these items is part of a narrator’s job. However, quoted italics can reflect hearing a person’s thoughts, such as during telepathy. If you did not use dialog tags such as, “he thought”, translating the idea of telepathy into audio may be difficult, and changes should be considered.

Consider making listening-enhancing revisions before submitting your manuscript.

Ready? Let’s Dive In!

Let’s get to the fun stuff! There are many ways to create an audiobook. To keep this simple, I will focus on two methods; using ACX to hire a producer, and the self-production method—both of which I have experienced.


Whether you seek a royalty split or to hire someone per finished hour, here are some things to keep in mind when pursuing talent and when listening to auditions:

Reputation – Simply stated, never jump into a partnership without ensuring it will be a strong one, and never hire a person you don’t want to work with. I turned down numerous offers for many reasons—some of which were less than stellar reputations for delivering the basics. Do not be afraid to ask your friends for recommendations or producers for references.

Voice and Characterization – Does the narrator have an appealing tone? Does she “feel right” for the part? Is the accent appropriate yet understandable? Determining voices and narration style before signing a contract is key. While the writer must be comfortable with the presentation, nitpicking over a performance is best saved for the actor. Both need to set realistic expectations. My partner, Hollie Jackson, summed the characterization process beautifully.I truly think the absolute biggest thing is to trust your narrator, particularly in regards to characterization. If an author can provide notes to give us a direction to point our voices, it takes a huge load off of us trying to figure out how a particular character sounds. But by that same token, sometimes a character will strike a particular reference chord, and things might sound a little different compared to the voice in the writer’s head. Being able to work with that is a huge part of the process.”

microphoneQuality/Mastering (hiss, pops, clicks, timing) – Inadequate mastering can ruin a brilliant performance. While ACX has strict submission requirements regarding noise floor (the level at which hiss is heard) and level variation (a whisper and a yell need to be close in volume), there are no stated requirements regarding pops and clicks. Listen for these, along with timing. Timing is not only the pace at which a book is read, but also how lines are delivered. For comedy, the outstanding timing of Robin Williams and George Burns had us rolling in the aisles. Dramatic timing is just as important. The demo’s timing should fit the book’s genre.

Eliminate Surprises – If part of the audition seems unfitting, yet you still suspect the voice actor could be a match, express your concerns and request a new audition. Re-reads are not unreasonable and may save both the writer and producer many headaches.

Building A Partnership – I cannot stress the importance of this enough, especially if you wish to do multiple projects with the same person. I tell Hollie all the important things up front and then let her work magic. As a fellow actress, I completely agreed when she said, “Micromanagement is the hugest creative buzzkill around.” However, she also respects my concerns and will quickly make changes when things go awry. The bottom line is, if you are concerned that a producer will not give you the end results you desire, either find someone else or self-produce.


I will preface this by saying I have decades of acting experience—stage, screen, and voice. Since my husband is an Indie film director/producer, resources are at my disposal. Still, it took quite a bit of working with sound engineers before I could produce a solid audiobook.

DIYThe absolute basics to home recording include: a room with a low noise floor (I lined the quietest room in my house with moving blankets.), proper equipment (A good microphone, a pop filter, a pre-amp, a Mudguard, and a stand will cost several hundred dollars.), and editing software (I pay $20 a month to use Adobe Audition.).

In a nutshell, recording two takes without outside sounds (birds, pets, kids, cars, planes) generally gets you what you need. Edit these into one good take before removing pops, clicks, and rustling. In my case, I also have to remove background hiss. Top all of this off with balancing the levels. (By the way, you might want to consider that it takes Hollie about two hours to record and master one finished hour while it takes me three or four. Be prepared to invest some time.)

Have I scared you out of the self-production method yet? Learning the recording and mastering process is a hurdle, yet producing audiobooks is simple compared to other types of sound engineering. While I highly recommend ACX’s video series on recording, the installment on mastering falls short of providing usable information. Thus, you might want to consider hiring someone to master your files. However, if you really want to give it a go, ACX does have an Audio Masters class.


ACX does not offer the option to hire a producer, only to master files. Thus, you will need to pay someone outside of their system. Professional sound services can be expensive and offer more than you need for an audiobook. I strongly suggest contacting local filmmaker groups (Here in San Francisco, we have Scary Cow.) or colleges to seek emerging talent at a reasonable rate. Though there are also services that will perform this task for you, I’ve yet to find an author who has done this, thus I cannot make a recommendation.

 This is a lot to digest, but once you get your head around the process, it’s actually a lot of fun. I have to say that having done this with a partner and now producing myself, I prefer the partner route. Then again, I struck gold with Hollie. With a little determination to find the right person, you can too. Either way, bringing your book to life is a rush akin to the time you held your first novel in your hands!

The benefits to partnering with an experienced producer are no learning curve, a faster turn around, often better talent than an inexperienced performer can provide, and a built-in audience, as many often have their own fanbase. The con is you may not get the creative control you desire.

The benefit to self-production is full creative control. The cons may include steep learning curves in voice acting, recording, and mastering.

Diane Rinella

indexEnjoying San Francisco as a backdrop, the ghosts in USA Today Bestselling Author Diane Rinella‘s one hundred and fifty-year old Victorian home augment the chorus in her head. With insomnia as their catalyst, these voices have become multifarious characters that haunt her well into the sun’s crowning hours, refusing to let go until they have manipulated her into succumbing to their whims. Her experiences as an actress, business owner, artisan cake designer, software project manager, Internet radio disc jockey, vintage rock ‘n’ roll journalist/fan girl, and lover of dark and quirky personalities influence her idiosyncratic writing. Hang out with her on Twitter, Facebook & Goodreads and find more audiobook projects here.

Hollie Jackson

narratrixpicTaking her own love of storytelling, not just for her own work, but that of others, Hollie (aka Narratrix) found her true calling in the vocal booth. From the innocent to the risqué, the snarky to the serious, Hollie’s voice brings characters of all types to vibrant, compelling life, letting you sit back and allow the words to wrap around you and work their resonant magic. With over 300 audiobooks narrated and produced to date, Hollie enjoys an eclectic range of genres and has worked with authors/publishers who are both Indie and NYT/USA Today Bestselling.

ScaryModstersAudiobookWant to check out Scary Modsters yourself? here’s a soundbite:

Rosalyn possesses a sunny personality that is laced with quirks. Although she seeks acceptance in a world where she lives out of time, what she gets is ridiculed for her eclectic wardrobe and unconventional music collection.

One fateful night, Rosalyn bewitches Niles, a stylish man whose offbeat character perfectly complements her own. Unfortunately, he possesses a critical flaw that means relationship suicide for him and pretty much anyone.

While under the influence of insomnia-impaired judgment, Rosalyn summons Rock ‘n Roll deity Peter Lane back from the dead. Not only does he spin her hormones into a frenzy, Peter is also the precarious puzzle piece that brings sense into her world. When Niles learns that he can overcome his life-long challenge by helping Peter avenge his death, how far will he go to secure Rosalyn’s heart?

Have an Audiobook Production question for Diane? Her brain is stuffed with knowledge and experience, so let us know in the comments.










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25. Emotional Wound Entry: Discovering One’s Sibling Was Abused

When you’re writing a character, it’s important to know why she is the way she is. Knowing her backstory is important to achieving this end, and one of the most impactful pieces of a character’s backstory is her emotional wound. This negative experience from the past is so intense that a character will go to great lengths to avoid experiencing that kind of pain and negative emotion again. As a result, certain behaviors, beliefs, and character traits will emerge.

sad1Characters, like real people, are unique, and will respond to wounding events differently. The vast array of possible emotional wounds combined with each character’s personality gives you many options in terms of how your character will turn out. With the right amount of exploration, you should be able to come up with a character whose past appropriately affects her present, resulting in a realistic character that will ring true with readers. Understanding what wounds a protagonist bears will also help you plot out her arc, creating a compelling journey of change that will satisfy readers.

NOTE: We realize that sometimes a wound we profile may have personal meaning, stirring up the past for some of our readers. It is not our intent to create emotional turmoil. Please know that we research each wounding topic carefully to treat it with the utmost respect. 

Discovering One’s Sibling Was Abused


  • witnessing the abuse first hand (seeing or hearing it occur)
  • discovering the abuse after the fact only when one’s sibling opens up about it
  • knowing one’s sibling is taking the abuse to protect oneself or other loved ones
  • hearing a rumor about abuse involving one’s sibling and discovering it to be true
  • being abused and realizing up to this point, one’s sibling has allowed herself or himself to been victimized in order to shield
  • discovering the abuse when one’s sibling attempted suicide and left a note
  • being told by a friend or family member that one’s sibling was abused

Basic Needs Often Compromised By This Wound: safety and security, love and belonging, esteem and recognition

False Beliefs That May Be Embraced As a Result of This Wound:

  • This is my fault, I should have done something
  • I should have protected my sibling
  • I should have seen what was happening
  • I failed as a sister/brother and should have shielded them from this
  • I should have been stronger and taken the abuse myself
  • I am unworthy of love, respect, and trust
  • I can’t help others; I will only fail or let them down
  • I cause other people pain and shouldn’t be close to anyone
  • I am weak and deserve only pain and unhappiness
  • I can never make up for my failure, I deserve the darkness of this guilt
  • I can’t protect the people I love
  • I don’t deserve to feel safe and secure, not when my sibling had that taken away

Positive Attributes That May Result: affectionate, alert, appreciative, courageous, empathetic, generous, honest, honorable, humble, introverted, loyal, kind, merciful, nurturing, obedient, observant, patient, perceptive, persistent, private, protective, resourceful, responsible, spiritual, supportive, tolerant, unselfish

Negative Traits That May Result: confrontational, cowardly, humorless, inhibited, insecure, nervous, paranoid, promiscuous, reckless, self-destructive, subservient, suspicious, timid, uncommunicative, violent, volatile, withdrawn workaholic, worrywart

Resulting Fears:

  • fear of trusting people
  • fear of being responsible for others
  • fear of letting others down
  • fear of one’s children also being abused
  • fear of misreading people and missing a threat
  • fear of being left alone with people who make one uncomfortable or who intimidate
  • fear of helplessness
  • fear of secrets or fear that secrets are being kept from oneself
  • fear of exploitation
  • Fear of people who trigger reminders of the “type” of abuser

Possible Habits That May Emerge:

  • subservience to one’s sibling to make up for a perceived past failing (the character will feel guilt, even if they were not in a position to help or didn’t know it was occurring
  • anger and outbursts, even violence
  • refusing to speak to those who one blames, even if they were unaware themselves of what happened
  • a desire for revenge
  • second guessing one’s decisions, especially when one is responsible for others
  • Growing overprotective of loved ones
  • Digging for secrets if one suspects they are there, seeing even the smallest one as toxic
  • wanting to know where one’s loved ones are at all times
  • placing oneself in risky situations that increase the likelihood one will be hurt out of a deep sense of guilt and believing one deserves it
  • deep feeling of shame keeping one from being around one’s sibling
  • self-harm, medicating with alcohol or drugs, or engaging is self-destructive behavior from guilt

TIP: If you need help understanding the impact of these factors, please read our introductory post on the Emotional Wound Thesaurus. For our current list of Emotional Wound Entries, go here.

For other Descriptive Thesaurus Collections, go here.

Image: 422694 @pixabay


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