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1. Diverse? More Multicultural Than I Look

My life is busy and FULL!
My many hats include children’s book author & publisher, reading & play advocate, reading activist who is committed to diversity in children’s books. I am also co-founder of a very important event call Multicultural Children’s Book Day (1/27/2015) which is now approaching it’s second year. Co-founder Mia Wenjen of Pragmatic Mom is raising children in a 1/4 Japanese-American, 1/4 Chinese-American and 1/2 Korean American home. At first glance, my multicultural roots are not obvious, but I can assure you they are there.
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On any given day, you may hear as many as six different languages spoken in my home.
My life and household has been diverse and multicultural for as long as I can remember. As the daughter of parents who emigrated from Sweden, I have been immersed in Nordic culture since childhood. As a child I attended German/English schools and as an adult I continued learning even more languages for a grand total of six (English, Swedish, French, Arabic, German, Japanese, plus working knowledge in a few others.)
I am also a wife to a Lebanese/Muslim man and am raising Lebanese-American children post 9/11. I may look like an All-American girl, but my multicultural roots run deep and I have been committed to raising my children as global citizens since the day they were born.  As a family we speak Arabic, French, and English in our home and travel often to give our children exposure to people and various cultures on the globe.
Literacy has played a huge roll in my family. We are a family of avid book readers, however it has been very difficult to find books that have characters who are like my children, global citizens with a diverse and varied background.
Other tidbits of information about my life includes the fact that I am passionate about making kid’s books come alive on my website Jump into a Book where we creating moments for adults and children to share together while bringing the books they’re reading to life. I am the author of The Fox Diaries: The Year the Foxes Came to our Garden, The Ultimate Guide To Charlie and The Chocolate Factory, and most recently A Year in The Secret Garden. In fact, the hard cover of this book was just delivered this week and to say I am giddy with glee is an understatement! You can view more details about my latest book here and I’d live if you connected with me!
A Year in the Secret garden

The post Diverse? More Multicultural Than I Look appeared first on Jump Into A Book.

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2. Talents and Skills Thesaurus Entry: The Midas Touch

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

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

THE MIDAS TOUCH

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Keith Cooper @ Creative Commons

Descriptionthe ability to multiply one’s money; having a knack for making money. Most people with this talent have a bent toward the business arena. Many are entrepreneurial by nature and, without any education or formal experience at all, have an inherent knack for understanding the dynamics of finance and are able to apply their knowledge in a way that leads to success.

Beneficial Strengths or Abilities: being able to quickly and accurately size up an opportunity, seeing opportunity where others see nothing, being good at math

Character Traits Suited for this Skill or Talent: disciplined, self-control, shrewd, patient, greedy, risk-taking, ambitious, bold, focused, discerning, persistent, analytical, visionary

Required Resources and Training: Many people with this gift can be found making money at an early age through entrepreneurial enterprises without any resources or training to speak of. As they grow older, they either increase their knowledge through education or experience in the field. They often end up becoming experts in a particular area, be it finance, the stock market, real estate, the fashion industry, etc. They grow and improve (often by making costly mistakes in the beginning) through immersion in their given area.

Associated Stereotypes and Perceptions: investors, entrepreneurs, business moguls. People with this skill are often portrayed as being greedy and caring first and foremost about money. They’re often perceived as materialistic with a shaky moral code.

Scenarios Where this Skill Might be Useful:

  • a situation where the hero is in need of money
  • if someone needs to disappear or start a new life but needs to be able to support himself
  • to support the lifestyle one has become accustomed to living
  • when a large sum of money is needed to back a cause or organization

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

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

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3. Midnight Ghost

Manelle Oliphant Illustration - Illustrator and Writer

Midnight Ghost PDF (0) Midnight Ghost epub (0) Midnight Ghost mobi (0)

Midnight Ghost

A Short Story
By Manelle Oliphant

Text and illustrations © 2014 by Manelle Oliphant

Midnight Ghost Short Story Download

I

waited in the dark hallway. I bounced slightly from the excitement of seeing her again. Every night for months I’d watched her glide down the hallway, but tonight was All Saints’ Eve when the gate between the dead and the living would be open. Maybe this time we would be able to talk, and I could tell her that…that I loved her.

I moved closer to the wall to be out of her way. She always walked the same path. Twice she’s drifted through me when I wasn’t quick enough to stand aside. It felt horrible, a ghost on your inside, cold and damp.

The distant grandfather clock chimed midnight. I held my breath.

She appeared at the end of the hallway and drifted toward me. She wore a flowing dress old-fashioned dress and glowed white with a purple tinge. She grew closer and I smelled lavender. I smiled. She always smelled like lavender. Her colorless eyes looked sad but kind. They must have been green eyes when she still lived. I had never seen a more beautiful woman.

She drifted by me so close that if I put out my hand I could touch her. I imagined her warm and alive, soft hair and laughing lips. I sighed.

The slight wind from my breath blew across the hallway. Her form flickered and everything changed.

Her sad eyes turned to dark holes and she turned to me. Her face twisted in anger. “Why do you always watch me?”

I shrank back toward the wall. A cold despair wrapped around my heart. All my fond feelings disappeared.

She rushed closer. The lavender smell disappeared, replaced by the smell of rotten fruit. Her dark, now soulless, eyes were only a few inches from my face.

“Why?” she shouted at me again. Her chin melted downward as she spoke, and her mouth grew into a gaping hole. Her voice, still feminine but louder, boomed around the hallway and vibrated in my chest.

My mouth opened but words wouldn’t form.

“Ahhhhh!” she gave a frustrated scream. Her spirit form grew in size and her soft purple glow turned to red.

I tried to speak. “I….I…” She moved closer still. I thought she would swallow me whole but as she came forward the last chime on the clock sounded and she disappeared.

I stood in dark silence. I took a shallow breath and reached in my pocket for my candle. My hands shook. I used three matches before the candle lit. I was alone except for the grim family portraits hanging in a line across the hall. I felt sure their eyes watched me. A notion, that before, I always thought rather silly.

Midnight Ghost short story downloadI walked toward the stairs. I wanted to run but couldn’t risk extinguishing my light. At the end of the hallway moonlight shown through a tall window and illuminated the main entrance at the bottom of the stairs. Now I ran. My candle went out. I let it go. Behind me I heard crashes and wails. A few times cold air brushed my skin. At the bottom of the stairs I yanked open the door and rushed outside.

I ran down the drive and only looked back at the house once. Lights shown through every window and the ghosts made a ruckus the likes of which I had never heard before or since. When I arrived earlier I felt excited, but the ghost’s unexpected, violent anger changed all my feelings. I knew I would never be back. Stupid idea, falling in love with a ghost.

The End

 

Thanks for reading. If you enjoyed this story support the author and the creation of other ebooks like this at http://www.patreon.com/manelleoliphant

Or Share it with your friends.

Manelle Oliphant Patreon

The post Midnight Ghost appeared first on Manelle Oliphant Illustration.

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4. Free Fall Friday – Book-Give-a-Way: Karen Romagna

darlenebeckjacobson:

Big Congratulations to fellow NJSCBWI member, illustrator Karen Romagna for her new Picture Book.

Originally posted on Writing and Illustrating:

Here is your chance to win a copy of Karen Romagna’s new book, VOYAGE. All you have to do is leave a comment and be willing to write a short review of the book if you win. The review can be on your blog, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Facebook, or Goodreads. (See more at bottom of this post.)

Voyage Covercropped

Karen Romagna has just finished illustrating her first picture book. Voyage launched at The National Book Festival in Washington, DC on August 30, 2014 and is available in bookstores October 1, 2014. Written by former US Poet Laureate, Billy Collins, Voyage is the tale of a young boy setting off for an adventure on the open sea. Karen used the softness of watercolor in illustrating this wonderful dreamlike tale.

Romagna, Karen Headshot cropped

Karen is a traditional painter. Her illustrations are primarily done in watercolor However, she also loves painting in oil.

Karen grew up surrounded by…

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5. Maggie Soars to No. 1 at Beech Elementary School

0 Comments on Maggie Soars to No. 1 at Beech Elementary School as of 10/24/2014 1:48:00 PM
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6. Easy, Last-Minute Costume Ideas For Kids Big and Small.

Easy, Last-Minute Costume Ideas For Kids Big and Small..


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7. Friends of the Augusta Library Go Over the Moon for Maggie

0 Comments on Friends of the Augusta Library Go Over the Moon for Maggie as of 10/23/2014 9:24:00 PM
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8. UP and DOWN, ROUND and ROUND….

Cycles are what life seems to be all about.  If you live long enough, and stay connected to a business or interest (or person!) long enough, you’ll see the ups and downs…and often the round and rounds of styles, procedures, concerns, and policies.  When I started in the children’s publishing business in 1990, I was told by the agent I worked for, that the ‘best of publishing’ had passed. (WHAT?) I have seen many ‘best’ years come and go since then. Also at that time it was suddenly (again?) all about ‘diversity’.  If a story was written by a Nez Perce American Indian then the editor was looking for a Nez Perce Indian as an illustrator! We wanted to find good African American, Asian, and Hispanic artists. Didn’t matter that a white artist was fabulous at painting black children, they didn’t get the job often! That is just as messed up.  It should be about what’s best for the book or project. But more diverse books were published, and that was good for the industry and good for the readers.

That was over 20 years ago!  Yet in PW end of Sept I read again about “overwhelming white” and “lack of diversity” as being a “bit eye-opening!”  Have they been shut all this time?  I’m shocked that this is again a huge thing; big topic at conferences and conventions, and book fairs.  60% of the responding survey publishers thought it was ‘a big issue’.  Why isn’t it less so today after almost 20 years of being ‘an issue?’  New crop of editors and AD’s and writers and illustrators just tuning in?

Another ‘issue’  is the still under payment of WOMEN in publishing! also something I’ve been tracking for over 20 years.  Working for myself as an agent, I’m less effected by that as a woman.  ( I am by the under payment of ARTISTS, but that’s another long story!) According to the same PW piece, women are 74% of the publishing industry, and yet women averaged a salary of $60,750 in 2013 to the men’s average of $85,000. For some jobs the difference is in the tens of thousands.  (female AD’s make more generally it says! )  Talk about an ‘issue’ that shouldn’t still be an issue!  I have a daughter and two daughter-in-laws and each of them works full-time (two have 3 kids and a full-time working husband too!)  Why on earth would they be paid LESS for their labors and hours in any industry?

So we’ve two issues cropping up ‘suddenly’ that really have always been here and are still here.  When will the talking stop and the fixing begin?  I feel like painting up a sign and taking to the streets!  cycles….Up and Down….Round and Round!

Summer Friends (3).jpgBurrisdiverse female friends by Priscilla Burris


1 Comments on UP and DOWN, ROUND and ROUND…., last added: 10/23/2014
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9. Reflections on Which Dreams May Manifest in Waking Life

Dreams can help keep us healthy.

Hippocrates of Kos taught about dreams indicating illnesses.


If you faithfully keep a dream journal you will notice, over time, many things and events that you dream about come true in waking life. It may be the sequence of events that particularly manifest or it may be that you see a person in dreamtime you never met before–but several months after the dream you meet that person in waking life. Then there are some dreams that don’t appear to have any relationship to current reality or seem so bizarre and surrealistic that it doesn’t seem they could ever be making a true statement about anything.

This raises the question of how do you know if a dream might manifest in waking life? From nearly forty years of dreamwork, I have made these observations about my own dreams. You might see if they apply to your own.

  1. Very realistic dreams tend to manifest in waking life. If I have a dream that is realistic and probable, i.e., I am driving my own car and not some fantasy car, then it probably has something to do with manifesting something in waking life. For example, any physical ailment which I knew about ahead of time in dreamtime presented quite literally and showed up later on a medical test as when years ago I had a dream in which a voice said I had blood in my stool. A medical test actually concurred with that even though a later colonoscopy proved it was nothing to worry about. This rule applies also in cases where the symbolism is present but there is a clear resemblance such as dreaming of having overflowing pipes and end up having diarrhea. This is possible because there is a close proximity to the symbol and waking reality. In fact, Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, said much medical and diagnostic information of this sort could be gained from similar dreams.
  2. Somewhat surrealistic or unrealistic events may be relating events in the far off future. Years ago I had a series of dreams in which I was traveling around Hawaii with my brother. At the time I was living in Massachusetts, and so the possibility of this happening seemed a little far-fetched. The island’s scenery was stylized in my dream, not being typical of a specific place on any of the islands. Yet, as I read my dream journal years later, I found that after I moved to Hawaii, we did travel around the island of Oahu as we did in the dream, and we shared certain concerns that showed up in those early dreams.
  3. Very surrealistic dreams tend to be making a statement about the interior world of the dreamer. Really bizarre, odd or unusual objects in places they don’t usually belong, such as a rare or extinct species of owl in a refrigerator, are most often aspects of the dreamer and need to be looked at as such by asking, “What about me is like this owl?” or “What about me is like the refrigerator?” In this type of dream, I personally have not seen a close or frequent connection to events or objects manifesting in waking life such as opening the refrigerator and finding a rare spotted owl perched next to the orange juice.

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10. Mastering Kid-Speak – Erika Wassall

Originally posted on Writing and Illustrating:

erikaphoto-45Jersey Farm Scribe here on…

A Dialogue Tune-up: Mastering Kid-Speak

Dialogue is one of the most important pieces of any manuscript, and this often goes double for children’s works. Dialogue moves the story along, develops the connection between your readers and the characters and keeps things tangible and realistic.

That means that mastering Kid-Speak is unequivocally important.

There is a rhyme and rhythm to the way that kids communicate, where they pause to think, how they choose their words, the direction their stream of conscious takes them in. I’ve often wondered if there are linguists who study children specifically.  I bet we could learn a lot about the development of the brain and human instincts by looking at how and why kids pick their words.

As writers, if our characters don’t sound realistic, we’ve already lost the battle.  It’s something a child will instantly and instinctively pick up on.  The…

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11. Kidlit Book Bundle Giveaway! {Picture Books for Young Readers}

Welcome to Jump Into a Book’s Three Months of Book Giveaways!

3 months of book giveaways

With the winter months upon us, I feel this is a great time for readers of all ages to snuggle in with a good book. I have been blessed with tons of amazing books titles for kids over these last few months and I want to get these books into the hands of young readers. SO, for the next three months Jump Into a Book will be hosting a book giveaway every Wednesday! Some giveaways will be a single title, some will be a “Book Bundle,” but all will be books that your readers will love and cherish. I think these books will also make great gifts as well!

This Book Bundle Giveaway includes three excellent chapter books that would appeal to girls (boys will love these books too!) and I’ve listed these books below. A few of them I’ve already done reviews on (I’ve included the links if that is the case).

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GIVEAWAY

Jumping Jack by Germano Zullo

Jumping Jack

From award-winning Swiss author-illustrator team Germano Zullo and Albertine comes this unforgettable tale of Jumping Jack, a champion show-jumping horse whose partnership with his rider has earned him international fame. Victory is expected when Jumping Jack is on the course! Unfortunately, Jumping Jack’s success has mysteriously stalled. He tumbles and struggles. What could possibly be wrong? Jumping Jack’s loyal rider is determined to find out! What the duo discover will charm readers, not to mention reaffirm their faith in second chances, the power of friendship, and the potential for triumph despite stumbling blocks. A true winner! Read my extended review HERE.

 

Otto & the Grand Prix Bees by Kip Noschese

otto

Kip Noschese’s beautifully illustrated story introduces readers to a funny friendship, a wicked race car and an important lesson. Read my extended review HERE
The Alphabet Tree by Leo Lionni

alpha

“The Alphabet Tree” by Leo Lionni starts with letters which change into small words, collecting themselves into small sentences, and then on to say something important. It’s an invaluable lesson that the smallest attributes can and do have the biggest effects. Read my extended review HERE.

GIVEAWAY DETAILS

ONE winner will receive a copy of Jumping Jack by Germano Zullo, Otto & the Grand Prix Bees by Kp Noxchese and
The Alphabet Tree by Leo Lionni. Giveaway begins October 22nd and ends October 29th

  • Prizing & samples  courtesy of Authors of the above books
  • Giveaway open to US addresses only
  • ONE lucky winner will win one copy of each of the above books.
  • Residents of USA only please.
  • Must be 18 years or older to enter
  • One entry per household.
  • Staff and family members of Audrey Press are not eligible.
  • Grand Prize winner has 48 hours to claim prize
  • Winner will be chosen via Rafflecopter on October 30th

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The post Kidlit Book Bundle Giveaway! {Picture Books for Young Readers} appeared first on Jump Into A Book.

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12. The 9th Annual Carle Honors – 2014

Traditionally I tend to attend the Carle Honors secretly pregnant.  I’m not sure why this is but at least twice I have walked about, discretely refusing any and all alcoholic beverages.  One of those times I’d discovered the pregnancy mere hours before the event.

No hidden incipient heirs were on display this time around, and that suited me fine.  But what are The Carle Honors, precisely?  Well, they’re best described as an annual benefeit gala for The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art.  As their little program says, “At the heart of The Carle Honors is a constellation of awards celebrating those individuals whose creative vision and dedication are an inspiration to everyone who values picture books and their role in arts education.”  Each year they designate someone (or sometimes someones) an Artist, a Mentor, an Angel, and a Bridge.  This year those folks broke down into the following categories:

Artist – Jerry Pinkney

Mentor -Dr. Henrietta Mays Smith

Angel – Reach Out and Read (represented by Brian Gallagher & Dr. Perri Klass)

Bridge – Francoise Mouly

On this particular day I decided to lop off my hair right beforehand, thereby assuring that it fool people into thinking I have the ability to blow it out myself (note: I do not).  I have an odd tendency to cut off large chunks of my hair upon the onset of fall after having suffered through a hairy summer.  I have no idea why.  Masochism’s my current working theory.

The event was held at Guastavino’s a fancy little event space where the Honors have been held for the last few years.  It’s a nice area, with a little garden out front where you can change into your high heeled shoes and not look too tawdry doing so.  Inside the hunt begins for waiters bearing trays of tiny food.  You quickly denote your favorites and grab only those.

Every year the Carle has also hosts a big auction at the Honors to raise money.  And because Ms. Mouly was being honored there were at least two original New Yorker covers, including the one that ran after 9/11/01.

Walking through it was time to play my favorite game of If I Had Money, Which One Would I Buy?  In the end, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that my favorite art was by Erin Stead.  Shown here:

1 The 9th Annual Carle Honors   2014

Can you see what it is?  Probably not.  My phone camera isn’t exactly high quality.  In any case, these are various animals from the book A Sick Day for Amos McGee dressed up like other famous children’s literary characters.  The rhino in the Snowy Day costume was worth my attendance that night alone.

After copious schmoozing and devouring of tiny foods it was time to take our seats for the show itself.  And since we could choose any seat we wanted except those reserved, I plunked myself directly behind this:

2 The 9th Annual Carle Honors   2014

My motivations weren’t actually creepy.  It just happened to be the nearest to the podium I could get for my photos.  Honest!  Scout’s honor!

The festivities were to go on without the presence of Eric Carle himself, which may or may not have been a first.  I got to have my usual smile over the perfection of the universe that a man named Christopher Milne was the head of the Carle’s board.

3 The 9th Annual Carle Honors   2014

There was a brief presentation at the beginning highlighting some of the cool things the Carle does.  For example, they had an event where picture book artists did portraits of kids’ stuffed animals.  You cannot understand the wave of envy I experienced when I heard that.  My daughter entertains a rotating cast of roughly 20-30 stuffed animals.  To get an illustration of one of them would be absolutely delightful.  Well done whoever thought that one up!

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And then on to our hosts!  Once again it was MA locals Tony DiTerlizzi and Angela DiTerlizzi.  Tony got a big laugh when he began with, “I see Jerry Pinkney in the audience.  Good luck, Jerry!  I’m rooting for you tonight!”  They also proceeded to show off a slide show of various picture book mash-ups.  As you can (barely thanks to my camera) see, this is a rather seamless Eloise in the Hunger Games.

5 500x375 The 9th Annual Carle Honors   2014

In the program there was a little flyer that gave the complete listing of everyone in attendance.  Always nice to have proof of where I am at a given time.  I like a good alibi.  I also like how I was one of three alliterative BB names present that evening.

7 The 9th Annual Carle Honors   2014

The first presentation was made for “Mentor” Dr. Henrietta Mays Smith.  A former NYPL librarian (!!) Ms. Smith pretty much embodied everything I’d like to be by the time I reach her age.  Whip smart and sharp as a tack she gave a great and very short little acceptance speech.  I made a point to speak to her afterwards since I was fairly certain I was the only working public librarian there in attendance.  She was mighty gracious and we discussed the various branches I live near.

8 The 9th Annual Carle Honors   2014

9 The 9th Annual Carle Honors   2014

Next it was a woman I’d actually seen once before at a dinner at NYU.  Dr. Perri Klass should be flown out to every library in the nation to rally the troops.  They should clone her.  Make millions of her and distribute her worldwide because the good she has done with Reach Out and Read cannot be measured.  It was wonderful to hear her speak with Mr. Gallagher.

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Ms. Mouly was the next to be honored.  I got a shot of her with Spiegelman’s head near blocking my view:

11 The 9th Annual Carle Honors   2014

But this one’s nicer.  I was so taken with her talk that I didn’t write almost any of it down.  However there was one quote that stood out:

“With children you have to posit a future that is positive and bright.”

12 The 9th Annual Carle Honors   2014

Finally, it was time to honor Jerry Pinkney.  His talk was something else.  First off, he took time to discuss his own personal connection to the museum.  In the 1960s he was going to deliver art to a publisher.  As he waited in the lobby the art of N.C. Wyeth graced the walls.  That moment was pinpointed as the one that might have inspired Jerry to make art for kids.  And, as he pointed out, the same could happen for some child in the Carle Museum.

He then quoted his great-granddaughter at the end of his talk.  I was just stunned that he had one.  Seriously?  Well played, sir!

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Finally, Tony and Angela paid tribute to outgoing curator of the Carle, Nick Park.  Nick gave a little speech saying “It’s been like getting paid to go to recess.”  Aw.  No replacement has been found for him quite yet but we’re keeping our ears open for any developments.

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Oh!  I almost forgot.  Each year the Carle Honors give these lovely goody bags away.  And what book was in this year’s bag?  Amongst other none other than WILD THINGS: ACTS OF MISCHIEF IN CHILDREN’S LITERATURE!!  I was so pleased to hear it.

Many thanks to the Carle for allowing me to attend the soiree.  See you next year!

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13. How to Paint Glow

Manelle Oliphant Illustration - Illustrator and Writer

How To Paint GlowMy latest short story Midnight Ghost (it’s being released Oct 24th) required me to draw a glowing ghost. This is something you can struggle with if you don’t know the rules but once you do, drawing and painting glow is very easy.

It’s all about values

Values are the lightness or darkness of a color. I wrote a whole post about them so if you want to understand a little better check it out by clicking here. 

It’s impossible to get anything lighter than the paper or white paint you are using, so how to make something look like its lit up? The secret is in the contrast. If you want something to look like light you need to put dark around it. The contrast between light and dark is what makes it look like it’s glowing.

Here is the image I did of the Ghost in my new story. She needed to look like she was glowing so I added the dark area to the background and ta-daa! Glowing ghost. This image was all done with pencil. Since there is no color you can see the contrast in values easier, but it works with color too.

Here’s video of me doing the same thing with watercolor so you can see it in action.

Color can blind us. Sometimes we try to make something look like light by adding yellow, after all, the sun is yellow so it should work right? Nope. Next time approach the problem as something that needs to be lighter or darker rather than a different color. I bet you’ll be pleased with the results.

Have fun painting glow-y things!

The post How to Paint Glow appeared first on Manelle Oliphant Illustration.

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14. ALSC Institute Reflections

Last month I was lucky enough to attend the 2014 ALSC National Institute in Oakland, California thanks to a generous scholarship awarded to me by the Friends of ALSC. I am so grateful for the time spent at the Institute last month and would like to thank the Friends for enabling me to participate in such a stellar weekend of learning and fun. And a huge thanks to everyone at ALSC who worked hard to put together the Institute!

Fairyland Reception (Photo by Nicole Martin)

Fairyland Reception (Photo by Nicole Martin)

Some of my favorite moments from the Institute have to be the wonderful author presentations and panels, especially the hilarious author panel that took place at Children’s Fairyland with Jennifer Holmes, Daniel Handler and Mac Barnett. The crowd was filled with giggling librarians and even a few fairy wings! After our breakout sessions at the park, a reception awaited us in the Emerald City. There was even a yellow brick road! I excitedly stood in a lengthy line so Barnett and Handler could sign some favorite books for me. It was well worth the wait (and the cost to ship my book haul back to Ohio!). I also loved the Closing General Session, during which Andrea Davis Pinkney presented on her work and even sang a bit. She was so energetic and inspiring, truly closing the 2014 Institute with a high note.

Closing Keynote Speaker (Photo by Nicole Martin)

Closing Keynote Speaker (Photo by Nicole Martin)

I was pleasantly surprised at the ease of which I found myself navigating the conference center. I have attended two ALA Annual Conferences and I have yet to not find myself, at least once, mildly lost in a massive conference center trying to find a workshop. It was so great to be able to attend a workshop, drop off handouts in my hotel room and then make it back for another workshop session without getting lost or feeling rushed. This might seem trivial, but it made an impression for me!

I was especially impressed with the wealth of relevant workshop topics available throughout the Institute. Some of my favorite workshops were “Be a Winner! Inspired Youth Grant Writing”, “Tech Access on a Budget” and “Summer Lunch at the Library”. Each of these workshops offered me incredibly practical information and insight that I brought back to my library to share with administration and fellow librarians. I feel confident that our 2015 summer lunch program will be more successful than last year’s because of what I learned at the ALSC Institute. I returned to Ohio knowing that other librarians struggle with shoestring technology budgets and there are various routes to find grant funding.

Oakland farmer's market (Photo by Nicole Martin)

Oakland farmer’s market (Photo by Nicole Martin)

In addition to the great learning and networking opportunities at the Institute, I was happy to spend some time exploring the neighborhood and even managed to squeeze in time for sleep (a sometimes difficult endeavor!).  A wonderful farmer’s market was happening in the neighborhood adjacent to the conference center and I spent my lunch hour meandering the stalls and munching on delicious shrimp tacos.

I would highly recommend any librarians with an interest in serving youth to attend the next ALSC Institute. You won’t regret it! I would also encourage anyone who might be deterred by travel costs and registration fees to apply for the Friends of ALSC Scholarship. I applied rather humbly not expecting to win, and here I am writing my very own recap as a scholarship winner. The next recipient could be you!

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Nicole Lee Martin is a librarian at the Grafton-Midview Public Library and a 2014 Friends of ALSC Scholarship recipient.  You can contact her at nicolemartin@oplin.org .

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15. How Image Systems Can Supercharge a Novel

You know, after 5+ years, we’ve covered a lot of writing-related topics at this blog. At times, it’s a challenge to come up with meaningful material that hasn’t been done to death. So I was super excited to receive C.S. Lakin’s post on a topic that we’ve never discussed before at Writers Helping Writers—a topic that I’d never actually even heard of before: using image systems to improve your novel. What the heck is an image system? I’m so glad you asked….

C.S. Lakin

Filmmakers use a term called “image systems,” and novelists can benefit greatly by creating a similar kind of image system for their novel.

Just What is an Image System?

Think of the overall message coming through your novel. What themes are you honing in on? What controversial issues or moral dilemmas are you presenting? What is the “take-home” feeling you want to leave with your reader after she finishes reading the last page. Asking these questions can help you step back and look at the tone, mood, and intent of your story.

In a film, an image system might include repeating shot compositions—for example, a movie might use a certain shape or image in a landscape and repeat it throughout the film. An image system often uses specific colors—some which may not be easy at first to notice or that work on a subliminal level in some way.

Great novelists know the power of motif and symbolism, often using something like a repeated word or phrase, or an object of importance to the character, to bring a richness to the story and to enhance the theme of their novel. In effect, they are creating something similar to an image system. By taking a look at some of the ways filmmakers develop image systems for their films, novelists can learn much and expand their technique.

Get a Clear Vision of the Story You Are Telling

Filmmaker Gustav Mercado says, “If you want to become an effective storyteller, one of the most important things you can do is to have a clear vision of your story, so that it reflects your unique take on it, not somebody else’s. . . . Anything and everything that is included in the composition of a shot will be interpreted by an audience as being there for a specific purpose that is directly related and necessary to understand the story they are watching [or reading, in the case of a novel].”

Writers, as well as filmmakers, need to first identify the core ideas of their story in order to create an image system. Once that is determined, they can design a system that supports and brings out that core idea in either obvious or subtle ways consistently implemented throughout the book.

Ask these questions about each of your scenes:

• What are the main elements (or one main element) that should dominate the scene and be brought to the reader’s attention? Can these be an object or word/phrase or bit of setting that can be symbolic and repetitive in your novel?
• What should and shouldn’t be included in the scene that will help the reader focus on that element? (Think about all that unnecessary narrative or trivial dialog.)
• What meaning will be conveyed subconsciously by these elements you show?

Overlying all this is your main theme or core idea. You’ve perhaps been told you should be able to sum up your premise in a sentence or two (elevator pitch). In that premise lies your core idea for your book. You may have gotten a germ of an idea for your novel, and from that you developed characters with issues and goals, and you came up with settings and scene ideas to play out your storyline. But overlying all that is your core idea.

In Just a Few Words

See if you can encapsulate the main theme or idea of your story in one line or a few words. For example, the core idea behind the movie Rocky might be about gaining self-respect. That’s a simple summation. But if you can come up with a basic thematic concept, you can gear the elements in your scenes to bring out that theme.

Emblematic Shots to Highlight Theme

Think about including emblematic elements that reveal theme and motif.
• Is there a place your character keeps coming back to?
• An emotion she keeps struggling with that can be symbolized by a particular scene composition and “camera angle”?
• A place where she reflects and looks out on the world that can subliminally indicate her mood, self-image, or view of others?
• An object that she studies close up?

Emblematic shots are usually placed at the beginning and end of meaningful scenes, to emphasize them, make them stand out.

Sum It Up in One Picture

Here’s something you can try. Imagine taking one (only one) snapshot of your novel (not of the actual physical book). This picture needs to “tell” what the core idea or theme of your story is about. Think movie poster.

A movie poster has to somehow convey the feel and premise of the entire movie. Imagine showing this picture you took of your novel to a stranger and asking him what he thinks the theme or core idea is behind the photo. Ask him what symbolism comes through. Did you include symbolic elements? What colors did you choose?

Even without knowing the emotional power of each color, we all resonate similarly when it comes to colors. Can you come up with one image that can be the core of your image system? We’ve heard the cliché: a picture is worth a thousand words. If your picture can just speak a dozen key words to you, you can build an image system around it.

Try jotting down six key words that best “represent” your novel. Then think of emblematic images, places, objects, or phrases that will capture those succinctly.

Developing an image system is just one way to infuse your novel with cinematic technique. The more novelists can borrow great “tools” from filmmakers, the more visually powerful and dynamic their novels will be.

What about your novel? Can you come up with some elements to make up your image system? Share your “poster” concept in the comments. Do you have some emblematic objects, places, or phrases that help create an image system for your story? If so, share them!

Shoot your novel ebook cover final

C. S. Lakin is a multipublished best-selling novelist and writing coach. She works full-time as a copyeditor and critiques about two hundred manuscripts a year. She teaches writing workshops and gives instruction on her award-winning blog Live Write Thrive. Her new book—Shoot Your Novel: Cinematic Technique to Supercharge Your Story—is designed to help writers learn the secrets of cinematic technique. You can buy it here in print and as an ebook. Connect with her on Twitter and Facebook.

The post How Image Systems Can Supercharge a Novel appeared first on WRITERS HELPING WRITERS.

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16. Black Speculative Fiction Month

Speculative fiction contains writings of science fiction, fantasy and horror or, those stories the bend what is and ask readers to speculate about what could be. Editors Milton Davis and Balogun Ojetade have set aside October to celebrate works that transport us to new worlds; worlds of adventure; of terror; of war and wonder; of iron and steam and are authored by Black writers. If you’re unable to attend any of the events they’ve planned, do visit the blog page that announces the events so that you can build your background

Chronicles of Harriett by Balogun Ojetade

Chronicles of Harriett by Balogun Ojetade

knowledge in the history, seminal works and authors, both classic and contemporary.

Speculative fiction allows both readers and writings to explore issues such as race in ways other genres do not. At times, these writers create creatures and situations that go beyond race, as do other authors. However, the attraction to spec fic has more to do with the worlds created in the writing. One will read them because they read zombies, sci fi or high fantasy. Milton Davis speaks to this complicated issue.

Scowering my blog, I found a few titles you should consider picking up this month.

Promise of Shadows by Justine Ireland; Simon and Schuster, 2014

The Zero Degree Zombie Zone by Patrick Henry Bass and Jerry Craft; Scholastic, 2014

Love is the Drug by Alaya Dawn Johnson; Arthur A. Levine, 2014

Mesmerize  by Artist Arthur; Kimani Tru, 2009

The Agency 3: Traitor in the Tunnel by Y. S. Lee; Candelwick, 2009

Charm and Strange by Stephanie Kuehn; St. Martin Press 11 2009

The Book of Wonders by Jasmine Richards; HarperCollins, 2012

Ninth Ward by Jewell Parker Rhodes; Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2010

Awake by Wendy McNair Raven; 2010

Shadow Walker by L A Banks; Sea Lion Books, 2010

47 by Walter Mosley; Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2006

Bayou by Jeremy Love; Zuda, 2009

Sweet Whisper Brother Rush by Virginia Hamilton; Philomel, 1982

Black Powder by Staton Rabin; Margaret McElderry Books, 2005

Ship of souls by Zetta Elliott; AmazonEncore, 28 Feb

Shieldwolf Dawning by Selena Nemorin; CreateSpace, 2014

Do yourself a real favor and visit Twinja Book Reviews. Guinevere and Libertad dedicate their blog to black e0d5adf2356a76ea82d72158eb3b79cc_400x400speculative fiction and are a much better source on that than I am. And, check them out on Twitter, too! @Dos_Twinjas

 

 

 


Filed under: Uncategorized Tagged: Black Speculative Fiction Month

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17. Black Speculative Fiction Month

Speculative fiction contains writings of science fiction, fantasy and horror or, those stories the bend what is and ask readers to speculate about what could be. Editors Milton Davis and Balogun Ojetade have set aside October to celebrate works that transport us to new worlds; worlds of adventure; of terror; of war and wonder; of iron and steam and are authored by Black writers. If you’re unable to attend any of the events they’ve planned, do visit the blog page that announces the events so that you can build your background

Chronicles of Harriett by Balogun Ojetade

Chronicles of Harriett by Balogun Ojetade

knowledge in the history, seminal works and authors, both classic and contemporary.

Speculative fiction allows both readers and writings to explore issues such as race in ways other genres do not. At times, these writers create creatures and situations that go beyond race, as do other authors. However, the attraction to spec fic has more to do with the worlds created in the writing. One will read them because they read zombies, sci fi or high fantasy. Milton Davis speaks to this complicated issue.

Scowering my blog, I found a few titles you should consider picking up this month.

Promise of Shadows by Justine Ireland; Simon and Schuster, 2014

The Zero Degree Zombie Zone by Patrick Henry Bass and Jerry Craft; Scholastic, 2014

Love is the Drug by Alaya Dawn Johnson; Arthur A. Levine, 2014

Mesmerize  by Artist Arthur; Kimani Tru, 2009

The Agency 3: Traitor in the Tunnel by Y. S. Lee; Candelwick, 2009

Charm and Strange by Stephanie Kuehn; St. Martin Press 11 2009

The Book of Wonders by Jasmine Richards; HarperCollins, 2012

Ninth Ward by Jewell Parker Rhodes; Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2010

Awake by Wendy McNair Raven; 2010

Shadow Walker by L A Banks; Sea Lion Books, 2010

47 by Walter Mosley; Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2006

Bayou by Jeremy Love; Zuda, 2009

Sweet Whisper Brother Rush by Virginia Hamilton; Philomel, 1982

Black Powder by Staton Rabin; Margaret McElderry Books, 2005

Ship of souls by Zetta Elliott; AmazonEncore, 28 Feb

Shieldwolf Dawning by Selena Nemorin; CreateSpace, 2014

Do yourself a real favor and visit Twinja Book Reviews. Guinevere and Libertad dedicate their blog to black e0d5adf2356a76ea82d72158eb3b79cc_400x400speculative fiction and are a much better source on that than I am. And, check them out on Twitter, too! @Dos_Twinjas

 

 

 


Filed under: Uncategorized Tagged: Black Speculative Fiction Month

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18. Leaves Fall, Pages Turn!

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19. The Broken Ones 1-3 Bundle Now Available!

BrokenOnesbundleThe Broken Ones 1-3 Bundle by Jen Wylie

Published Oct 11 2014

Available in eBook only on [Amazon]

Get the first three books in Jen Wylie’s The Broken One’s Series at one great low price!

Join Arowyn and her boys in a world of dragons, fey, elves and were. If you love strong female leads you won’t want to miss watching Aro’s growth into a power to be reckoned with. Battles, adventure, mystery, twists and romance will keep up and turning pages.

Contains books 1-3. Full length novels. Young adult fantasy.


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20. Nicholson Baker Preview

Join us Tuesday, October 21 at the Columbus Museum of Art for an evening with New York Times bestselling N Baker webauthor, Nicholson Baker. Baker’s character, Paul Chowder, has won over readers with his eccentric and witty poetry over the course three books, all of which are being published for the first time in an original omnibus. A lover of books and knowledge, Baker is also the writer of the award-winning book, Double Fold: Libraries and the Assault on Paper. In conjunction with that publication, he also created a non profit organization in 1999 that works to rescue old print material from destruction by libraries. As lovers of books and knowledge ourselves, we are excited to welcome Nicholson Baker to Columbus and celebrate the joining of Paul Chowders adventures for the first time.

Click here for more information about this event, or to purchase a ticket.

If you’re interested in a more personal experience with Nicholson Baker, consider attending out Author’s Table Dinner! This opportunity allows you to sit down for a catered dinner with the author, receive reserved seating at the event, and get your book signed ahead of time. For more information about the Author’s Table Dinner, please call Anne Touvell at Thurber House, 614-464-1032 ext. 10.

As a gesture of respect to our authors and guests, the event will begin promptly at 7:30 p.m. with no admission allowed past 7:45 p.m. We thank you for your understanding on this matter.


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21. 5 AWESOME BOOK REVIEWS OF WHY POETRY CAN SAVE THE PLANET By Joe Sottile 

Most Helpful Customer Reviews 5.0 out of 5 stars          Reasons Why Everyone Should Read Poetry October 5, 2014 By Teacher, Reader, and Reviewer Format:Kindle Edition Joe Sottile's poetry that I've read is uplifting and inspiring. It brightens the sometimes dreary world. Now, Joe has written a book titled WHY POETRY CAN SAVE THE PLANET. In this book he gives reasons why even non-poetry lovers should read poetry, valid reasons that make you stop and think, at least they did me.

Joe is a former teacher and from what I can tell, not knowing him personally, he was a good one. When students got angry he'd have them write their anger on paper. This helped them learn to deal with their anger. He offers many other ideas of how parents and teachers can help children and red flags to watch out for.

WHY POETRY CAN SAVE THE PLANET would be a great book for teachers, counselors, and everyone that works with children and teens. If I were still teaching I'd want a copy for my classroom. Let me leave you with a quote from Joe: "...you have to see with your heart, your passion ... and sooner or later your mind will follow."

I was provided with a copy of this book for my honest review.

5.0 out of 5 stars
A different book about poetry October 16, 2014 By Amazon Customer Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase I was not expecting to find such a witty, smart and constructive book when I actually got the book - I was expecting some nice poems that I can read and potentially some interpretation of those. But inside I found a revolutionary approach of poetry - why and how can poetry influence in a positive fashion our lives - the author had the courage to express his view in writing. And his view turned out to be a very interesting read that I enjoyed from the first page to the last.

5.0 out of 5 stars Joe continues to amaze with yet another stroke of brilliance October 16, 2014 By Jill Alcorn Format:Kindle Edition Joe continues to amaze with yet another stroke of brilliance, Why Poetry can Save the Planet. Every page is filled with story after story that is sure to give pause to all readers, even those who don't read poetry. He will always be Joe "Silly" Sottile, but in this book, we are granted more serious narratives, and they make every bit as great a story.

Incredible value for the book, honestly. This is a book you'll be sure to read again and again.

4.0 out of 5 stars A Teacher/Counselor/Therapist Must-Read October 7, 2014 By J. Mctaggart Format:Kindle Edition Although I am not a poetry lover (or anywhere close), I have been using Sottile's poems with students for a great many years. I choose to use his work because he "gets" kids, and he speaks TO them - not above them. In "Poetry Can Save the Planet" Sottile, speaking to the adults who work with children, presents a powerful case for what he believes to be true. And who knows? He just might be right.

5.0 out of 5 stars I loved this book October 7, 2014 By R. Humbert Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase I loved this book! I never really gave much thought to poetry at all. I started reading and couldn't stop! My favorite part is his story about his mom and how he used poetry to help him through such a difficult time. Very inspiring! Lisa Humbert

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22. Character Talents and Skills: ESP (Clairvoyance)

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

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

Clairvoyance

Description: The ability to “see” a mental image or know information about a person, place or event through means outside of the senses. Some clairvoyants have visions, read auras, see colors, symbols or even spirits. This ability is commonly used to find lost things, discern information about specific individuals, places or things that one has no prior knowledge of, or to make prediction of the future. Clairvoyance often comes through Clairsentience, in which information comes through the act of feeling or touching an object; Clairaudience, in which information comes through an auditory sound or word, Clairalience, in which information comes through smells; Claircognizance, in which information comes through an intrinsic sense of knowing or intuition; or Clairgustance, in which information comes in through the ability to taste something vividly without actually consuming it.

Beneficial Strengths or Abilities: while many believe that any psychic ability is simply there or it is not, others feel it is a latent ability that any can access if willing to. Others still believe no such thing exists. For those who do believe in this discipline, having strong control over one’s mood and emotions, the ability to relax immediately and a willingness to be open to extrasensory awareness and listen to one’s intuition are all important to becoming a clairvoyant.

Character Traits Suited for this Skill or Talent: focused, calm, intuitive, determined, unbiased, helpful, diplomatic

Required Resources and Training: Learning to meditate and take in all the sensory information around oneself will increase mental clarity, acting on one’s gut will hone one’s intuition, practicing with different types of divination (tarot cards, crystals, etc.) to find one that resonates, and following hunches to see if they are correct will reinforce the pathways needed to discern extrasensory information. Continually practicing and testing oneself by handling items or paying close attention to what one feels while speaking with someone, visiting a place, etc. may also strengthen one’s intuitive responses.

Associated Stereotypes and (Mis)Perceptions:

  • That most people claiming psychic abilities are fakes who are actually using mentalism to discern information
  • clairvoyants are shunned by small-minded individuals
  • clairvoyants have a strong affinity for nature
  • clairvoyants believe in the occult

Scenarios Where this Skill Might be Useful:

  • finding a missing person
  • interpreting dangerous situations and people (either for one’s own interactions, or on behalf of others, such as working in a terrorist prevention task force)
  • to prepare for what will come and warn others
  • to find lost objects that have great importance or value (monetary, historical, power, etc.)

Resources for Further Information:

Unlocking Extra Sensory Perception (ESP)

Improve Your Clairvoyance

How to Develop Clairvoyance

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

 

Image via Antranias @ Pixabay

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23. Two retirements

The Minister's Wife

Yes, this book exists

So there are two retirements in our household today. Sandy is giving her last sermon as a regular, full-time UCC pastor. She isn’t going to stop pastoring, but she’s stepping down and looking forward to consultancies, supply preaching, and interim positions.

I was a child bride… ok, perhaps that’s a mild exaggeration… but I’m a long time from retirement myself. I’m a Boomer with not the greatest retirement portfolio, plenty of years in front of me, and lots of vim and vigor, and LibraryLand will have me around in the full-time regular workforce for a very long time. (And my Uncle Bob, may he rest in peace, worked into his mid-80s, had a stroke on a Friday night, and left this world on Sunday. I may want to kick back in a couple of decades and do other things, like travel and write–but go you, Uncle Bob.)

However, I do get to retire from my role as the pastor’s wife. I do use the word “wife” deliberately, because I think if your spouse is a minister, even if you are the husband, you are the Wife, as in Judy Brady’s wife–the docile, compliant shadow behind the Main Event.

This is not a role I have embraced perhaps as fully as I could have, but in my two decades in this role, it has been a learning experience. I have some very good memories, such as the holiday reception in Albany, New York where I had purchased this well-known locally-smoked ham, and it was so good people stopped being polite and just stood in a circle around this huge joint of meat, hacking away at it and gobbling with abandon. I remember the Christmas open house in Palo Alto; our rental home, a fake Eichler, was so packed I had to slither sideways into the kitchen to refresh the mulled cider. I also have any number of heartwarming moments with children, elderly people, and the sort of folks who end up in churches these days, which is to say people who feel a need for something much larger and older and more organized than themselves.

LibraryLand is all a-buzz these days with the notion of threshold concepts. As I dutifully make an effort to understand this concept, I see it describing a point at which you do not know something, and then you do. And like a bride, you are carried over the threshold, to be forever transformed.

I don’t have any serious objections to freshening up our concepts of how we teach information literacy with this model — it’s certainly better than arguing against library instruction per se, as Michael Gorman did in 1991. (Oh yes, he did! The things you learn skimming bibliographies.) But–and I’m guessing this isn’t antithetical to the whole threshold idea–I do think some thresholds are more like train tracks you walk along for a good long while until the town you were looking for  begins to slowly swim into focus on the horizon.

I don’t recall when the threshold for my awareness of being the minister’s Wife emerged. It’s an interesting place to be. It’s not simply a matter of being that person who sits in the back pew and will do what is asked of her — serving cookies, showing up to help make the holiday jam, folding bulletins, or showing up in a dressy dress and looking interested about the wedding of two people I don’t know and will never hear from again. I am the person people remember to chat with, though never in great depth. I am the one who will not talk back if spoken to sharply;  I have bit my tongue so often I’m surprised I still have one. I am the person most parishioners will forget as soon as we move on.

Threshold theory includes the idea of troublesome knowledge: “the process of crossing the threshold commonly causes some mental and emotional discomfort (troublesome).”  I am the person who a parishioner once asked, “So, you’re the one making the real salary, eh?”and that startling moment caught me because it was an assumption that made so many things clearer to me, and was also — frighteningly for a librarian — true. While these days the trend is not to pay the pastor in “free” housing and a few chickens now and then, but in wages with pension plans, it’s still a profession that usually requires a two-salary household.

Despite the need to make a “real salary,” some unchurched people assume I have the time –and even the obligation — to be the Wife. As noted above, I do within limits, but I also need to focus on doing those things that ensure we have enough money to live on, which mean I am not available to help organize meals for the homeless at 3 pm on a weekday afternoons or joining the knitting group on Thursday mornings.  When I do volunteer for something like coffee hour, it is usually squeezed into a day that began at 6 AM with doctoral homework that will be resumed once I have wiped down the church kitchen counters and folded the tablecloths.

A threshold I crossed many years ago that can also be lost on unchurched people was the need to have my own spiritual life.  In Olden Days, the (male) minister married some darling parishioner, who then moved into the helpmate role — quite a bargain for the church to get a twofer, but in addition to the labor issues, it left these women in a strange place. I have often wondered about the private worlds of these Wives. Did they really see their husbands as their spiritual muses? The patriarchal implications of this arrangement make my toes curl in discomfort (talk about troublesome knowledge!). Who did these women turn to when they needed pastoral care?

Additionally, unchurched people — and some churched people — don’t get the nuance that when I attend Sandy’s church, I am essentially visiting her workplace. Work — even other people’s work — is not a stress-free experience. It’s a worldly place full of personalities and interactions, the stories for which spill over into my life enough to  make what you call a sanctuary often feel to me like an office, with all that entails. I always try to have  a spiritual home elsewhere, someplace I am not the Wife but just me, another parishioner. It feels so different, so unburdened.

The part I have liked about being the Wife has been its narrative stance. I watch church life unfold on its little tableaux, one of the last big volunteer activities in American life. Just like in a good novel, its inhabitants are both predictable and surprising. The Christmas play features an adorable child who will make everyone laugh. A parishioner will die, and the corner of the pew she sat in will remain empty until a clueless new person sits there, breaking the spell.   Parishioners will stand up during Joys and Concerns to share stories of illness, death, life, and global sadness. The same group of elderly women found in every church, temple, and mosque will meet to knit blankets for homeless people and gossip. A baptism, the child held aloft like a prize, will make everyone breathe with hope.

The decades I have spent as the Wife have given me a privileged observer status, one that will continue as Sandy’s ministry continues in new, different ways. I won’t miss the decades where Saturday night was a “school night” for Sandy; only on vacations do we experience secular Sunday life, and I can see its attraction. And for the most part, I won’t miss being the Wife. But I will miss observing people trying to connect with something larger than themselves, with all the awkwardness and challenge and beauty that entails.

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24. Two retirements

The Minister's Wife

Yes, this book exists

So there are two retirements in our household today. Sandy is giving her last sermon as a regular, full-time UCC pastor. She isn’t going to stop pastoring, but she’s stepping down and looking forward to consultancies, supply preaching, and interim positions.

I was a child bride… ok, perhaps that’s a mild exaggeration… but I’m a long time from retirement myself. I’m a Boomer with not the greatest retirement portfolio, plenty of years in front of me, and lots of vim and vigor, and LibraryLand will have me around in the full-time regular workforce for a very long time. (And my Uncle Bob, may he rest in peace, worked into his mid-80s, had a stroke on a Friday night, and left this world on Sunday. I may want to kick back in a couple of decades and do other things, like travel and write–but go you, Uncle Bob.)

However, I do get to retire from my role as the pastor’s wife. I do use the word “wife” deliberately, because I think if your spouse is a minister, even if you are the husband, you are the Wife, as in Judy Brady’s wife–the docile, compliant shadow behind the Main Event.

This is not a role I have embraced perhaps as fully as I could have, but in my two decades in this role, it has been a learning experience. I have some very good memories, such as the holiday reception in Albany, New York where I had purchased this well-known locally-smoked ham, and it was so good people stopped being polite and just stood in a circle around this huge joint of meat, hacking away at it and gobbling with abandon. I remember the Christmas open house in Palo Alto; our rental home, a fake Eichler, was so packed I had to slither sideways into the kitchen to refresh the mulled cider. I also have any number of heartwarming moments with children, elderly people, and the sort of folks who end up in churches these days, which is to say people who feel a need for something much larger and older and more organized than themselves.

LibraryLand is all a-buzz these days with the notion of threshold concepts. As I dutifully make an effort to understand this concept, I see it describing a point at which you do not know something, and then you do. And like a bride, you are carried over the threshold, to be forever transformed.

I don’t have any serious objections to freshening up our concepts of how we teach information literacy with this model — it’s certainly better than arguing against library instruction per se, as Michael Gorman did in 1991. (Oh yes, he did! The things you learn skimming bibliographies.) But–and I’m guessing this isn’t antithetical to the whole threshold idea–I do think some thresholds are more like train tracks you walk along for a good long while until the town you were looking for  begins to slowly swim into focus on the horizon.

I don’t recall when the threshold for my awareness of being the minister’s Wife emerged. It’s an interesting place to be. It’s not simply a matter of being that person who sits in the back pew and will do what is asked of her — serving cookies, showing up to help make the holiday jam, folding bulletins, or showing up in a dressy dress and looking interested about the wedding of two people I don’t know and will never hear from again. I am the person people remember to chat with, though never in great depth. I am the one who will not talk back if spoken to sharply;  I have bit my tongue so often I’m surprised I still have one. I am the person most parishioners will forget as soon as we move on.

Threshold theory includes the idea of troublesome knowledge: “the process of crossing the threshold commonly causes some mental and emotional discomfort (troublesome).”  I am the person who a parishioner once asked, “So, you’re the one making the real salary, eh?”and that startling moment caught me because it was an assumption that made so many things clearer to me, and was also — frighteningly for a librarian — true. While these days the trend is not to pay the pastor in “free” housing and a few chickens now and then, but in wages with pension plans, it’s still a profession that usually requires a two-salary household.

Despite the need to make a “real salary,” some unchurched people assume I have the time –and even the obligation — to be the Wife. As noted above, I do within limits, but I also need to focus on doing those things that ensure we have enough money to live on, which mean I am not available to help organize meals for the homeless at 3 pm on a weekday afternoons or joining the knitting group on Thursday mornings.  When I do volunteer for something like coffee hour, it is usually squeezed into a day that began at 6 AM with doctoral homework that will be resumed once I have wiped down the church kitchen counters and folded the tablecloths.

A threshold I crossed many years ago that can also be lost on unchurched people was the need to have my own spiritual life.  In Olden Days, the (male) minister married some darling parishioner, who then moved into the helpmate role — quite a bargain for the church to get a twofer, but in addition to the labor issues, it left these women in a strange place. I have often wondered about the private worlds of these Wives. Did they really see their husbands as their spiritual muses? The patriarchal implications of this arrangement make my toes curl in discomfort (talk about troublesome knowledge!). Who did these women turn to when they needed pastoral care?

Additionally, unchurched people — and some churched people — don’t get the nuance that when I attend Sandy’s church, I am essentially visiting her workplace. Work — even other people’s work — is not a stress-free experience. It’s a worldly place full of personalities and interactions, the stories for which spill over into my life enough to  make what you call a sanctuary often feel to me like an office, with all that entails. I always try to have  a spiritual home elsewhere, someplace I am not the Wife but just me, another parishioner. It feels so different, so unburdened.

The part I have liked about being the Wife has been its narrative stance. I watch church life unfold on its little tableaux, one of the last big volunteer activities in American life. Just like in a good novel, its inhabitants are both predictable and surprising. The Christmas play features an adorable child who will make everyone laugh. A parishioner will die, and the corner of the pew she sat in will remain empty until a clueless new person sits there, breaking the spell.   Parishioners will stand up during Joys and Concerns to share stories of illness, death, life, and global sadness. The same group of elderly women found in every church, temple, and mosque will meet to knit blankets for homeless people and gossip. A baptism, the child held aloft like a prize, will make everyone breathe with hope.

The decades I have spent as the Wife have given me a privileged observer status, one that will continue as Sandy’s ministry continues in new, different ways. I won’t miss the decades where Saturday night was a “school night” for Sandy; only on vacations do we experience secular Sunday life, and I can see its attraction. And for the most part, I won’t miss being the Wife. But I will miss observing people trying to connect with something larger than themselves, with all the awkwardness and challenge and beauty that entails.

1 Comments on Two retirements, last added: 10/19/2014
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25. Lenny Lee Fest – Happy Birthday, Lenny!

Blogging takes a lot of time, so I’ve always been impressed with the Kid Lit bloggers I’ve found who are also kids. People like Erik at This Kid Reviews Books, or Felicia at Stanley & Katrina. But the first kid blogger I ever followed was Lenny Lee at Lenny’s World. Despite battling leukemia and being […]

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