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1. Thoughts on the Debut Author/Illustrator

BrownGirlDreaming 198x300 Thoughts on the Debut Author/IllustratorLast week Jackie Woodson won The National Book Award for Young People’s Literature.  It was a win so deserved that I had difficulty processing it.  Under normal circumstances National Book Awards for children’s books come out of left field and are so blooming unpredictable that they almost always serve my perpetual amusement.  The fact that a deserving book (one might call it “the” deserving book of the year) won was enormously satisfying.  Of course, Ms. Woodson’s not exactly the new kid on the block.  She’s been writing for decades, her style growing sharper, her focus more concentrated.  When she wins awards it’s often for personal stories (her family story Show Way was the last picture book to win a Newbery Honor, for example).  Now Brown Girl Dreaming is poised to do the rare double win of National Book Award and Newbery Award, a move that hasn’t happened since Holes back in 1999.

It feels right that a familiar author who has honed her craft should accrue more and more awards as time goes on.  It seems logical.  Yet once in a while a wrench is thrown in the works and a debut author will pop onto the scene and win scores of awards.  It’s not a bad thing.  It just sometimes happens that such authors and illustrators get more immediate attention as a result than their longstanding hardworking fellows.

On a recent(ish) episode of the podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour the topic was debuts.  The show discussed musical debuts, acting debuts, and authorial ones as well.  At one point I think it was Glen Weldon who pointed out that if you look at a typical high schooler’s summer reading list, it’s just debut title after debut title.  To Kill a Mockingbird, Frankenstein, Jane Eyre, The Catcher in the Rye, Invisible Man, Catch-22, The Bell Jar, White Teeth, The Kite Runner, and on and on it goes.

Naturally, after thinking about this I wondered if this equated on the children’s side of things.  So I took a gander at those old Top 100 Picture Books and Top 100 Children’s Novels polls I did of yore to see if the debuts were the majority of the titles there.  Here are the top 20 in each category (correct me if I’m wrong about any of these):

Picture Books:

#1 Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak (1963) – No
#2 The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle (1979) – No
#3 Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus by Mo Willems (2003) – Yes
#4 Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by Clement Hurd (1947) – No
#5 The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats (1962) – No
#6 Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey (1941) – No
#7 Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale by Mo Willems (2004) – No
#8 Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst, illustrated by Ray Cruz (1972) – No
#9 Bark, George by Jules Feiffer (1999) – No
#10 The Monster at the End of This Book by Jon Stone, illustrated by Mike Smollin (1971) – Yes (?)
#11 Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse by Kevin Henkes (1996) – No
#12 Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss (1960) – No
#13 Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney (1982) – No
#14 Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina (1947) – No
#15 Frog and Toad Are Friends by Arnold Lobel (1970) – No
#16 Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson (1955) – Yes (in that it was the first he wrote and illustrated himself, I believe)
#17 The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf, illustrated by Robert Lawson (1936) – No
#18 A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Philip Stead, illustrated by Erin E. Stead (2010) – Yes
#19 The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter (1902) – Yes
#20 Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes by Eric Litwin, illustrated by James Dean (2010) – Yes

Children’s Novels

#1 Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White (1952) – Yes
#2 A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle (1962) – No
#3 Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling (1997) – Yes
#4 The Giver by Lois Lowry (1993) – No
#5 The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis (1950) – Yes (for kids anyway)
#6 Holes by Louis Sachar (1998) – No
#7 From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg (1967) – Yes (sorta – this was the weird case where her first two novels were published in the same year and BOTH received Newberys of one sort or another)
#8 Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery (1908) – Yes (?)
#9 The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin (1978) – No
#10 Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson (1977) – No
#11 When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead (2009) – No
#12 Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling (1999) – No
#13 The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner (1997) – Yes (if a previously published short story doesn’t count)
#14 The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien (1938) – Yes (for kids, though I’m not sure when he did that Santa Claus letters book)
#15 The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett (1911) – No
#16 Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt (1975) – No
#17 Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh (1964) – Yes
#18 The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander (1964) – No
#19 Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder (1932) – Yes
#20 Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo (2000) – Yes

I was admittedly surprised by how many “Yes”es there were here.  To my mind stunning debuts happen from time to time but are relatively rare.  This seemed to hold true for the picture books, but on the novel side of things the classics are continually peppered with debut works.

Then there’s the difference between an authorial debut and that of an illustrator.  I wasn’t able to tell if Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day was Ray Cruz’s debut or if he’d been working in the field for years.  What about Mike Smollin and The Monster at the End of This Book?

Booklist Thoughts on the Debut Author/IllustratorThen there comes the question of how debut authors and illustrators are celebrated.  Recently the periodical Booklist revealed an issue called “Spotlight on First Novels“.  The cover showed primarily adult and YA titles, though there was an inclusion of Wonder by R.J. Palacio.  Inside the regular feature “The Carte Blanche” by Michael Cart concentrated on what could potentially have won the William C. Morris YA Debut Award if it had originated in 1967.  The Morris award, for folks who might not be familiar with it, “honors a debut book published by a first-time author writing for teens and celebrating impressive new voices in young adult literature.”  Cart’s list is good and worth reading, though it include the baffling inclusion of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (a book that never could have won since it’s so clearly a children’s title).  Children’s books too often get the short end of the stick when folks discuss debuts.  For example, later in the issue a list of the “Top 10 First Novels for Youth for 2014″ mentions only the entirely worthy (and rather charming) The Luck Uglies by Paul Durham as the sole children’s inclusion.

Here then is a listing of some of my favorite children’s book debuts of 2014.  I’m sure I’m getting folks here wrong when I say they haven’t published before, so if you see a mistaken entry do be so good as to let me know and I’ll amend accordingly.

Picture Books

  • Anna Carries Water by Olive Senior, ill. Laura James – For Laura James.  I believe Ms. Senior has written several books before.
  • Anna & Solomon by Elaine Snyder, ill. Harry Bliss – Elaine’s debut, that is.
  • Henny by Elizabeth Rose Stanton
  • Sparky! by Jenny Offill, ill. Chris Appelhans – He’s contributed to the Flight series, but I hardly think that counts.  Jenny is a known entity and not a debut.

Middle Grade Fiction

  • Secrets of the Terra-Cotta Soldier by Ying Chang Compestine & Vinson Compestine – Vinson anyway.  His mother has certainly written many of her own books over the years.

Graphic Novels

Non-Fiction

  • Neighborhood Sharks by Katherine Roy (she did the illustrations for books like The Expeditioners but this is her formal writing debut)
  • Grandfather Gandhi by Arun Gandhi and Bethany Hegedus; ill. Evan Turk – For Turk, naturally, though you could probably count Arun as well.

Then there’s the question of what you count as a debut when a picture book author writes their first middle grade or a YA author writes an easy book series.  I leave that to the publishers.

Is there any debut author or artist with whom you were particularly taken this year?

 

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2. Interview with Catherine Scully: Map Design

Industry Life

Kat Zhang with Catherine Scully

Hey guys! I’m here today with the awesome Catherine Scully, who designed the gorgeous map for Claire Legrand’s  WINTERSPELL. Let’s see what she has to say about map-making :)

Scully_headshot

I’m sure I’m not the only one who has always loved not only drawing maps, but staring at the maps in fantasy books, following the heroes along on their journey. How did you first get into map-making? Is Claire’s map the first one you created, or have you been creating maps for your own stories?
 .
The first time I really wanted to do a map was when I read the Hobbit as a kid. I wanted to follow Bilbo along his journey and visit the elves, face the dragon, and return home to the Shire. I used to come up with these stories when I would build these Lego cities, draw a map of what I built and where it went, and then write the entire storyline I made up that day. I should have realized then I wanted to be an author/illustrator! I remember even drawing a map of my favorite stretch of woods with land markers. I was always into fantasy and very much still am, even though I’m more known in the community for horror. The first book I ever wrote was this epic fantasy with world maps and comic panels. I plan on returning to it when I finish working on my current MG horror.
 .
Claire’s map was the first I created for publication then, which was an interesting challenge since I needed to have something to show in my portfolio in the way of world maps in order to get the job at all. I ended up drawing it and finishing it on the hope it would go over well. Needless to say, this story had a very happy ending! Yes, that was nerve-wracking. But after five years working my way up from a graphic designer to a brand manager, I had a pretty tough skin. I knew I could take any criticism thrown at me really well because I’m much more interested in the process of collaborating on a project than an artistic ego.
 .
Can you summarize what was the process like? 
  .
Claire actually first approached me to do collectible cards for four of her WINTERSPELL characters after she saw the work I did for Stefan Bachmann’s bookmarks for his THE WHAT NOT book tour. She ended up loving them so much, she asked if I would be interested in doing a world map as well. After all four characters were finalized, we got started on the map next. Claire had a really clear idea of what she wanted for the map and border, so she sent me a preliminary sketch just to give me an idea of where to place elements. This was immensely helpful! Not to say you can’t start from scratch, but since we were on a tight deadline, a lot of the map back and forth was wonderful and easy because she really knew what she wanted and my job was to make that come alive.
  .
 .
Map1
Map2
Map3
In my first sketch, the map was tightly drawn, with the border elements close to the island. I went ahead and sketched portions on a piece of bristol board and sent them to Claire before I inked. As we went along, we researched a lot of maps. We looked at the Westeros map, the Grisha map, and a dozen others. I sent sketches and would ink them once they were approved. I work by hand first and ink with Micron pens before my illustrations ever see photoshop. When the ink was ready and Claire was happy, I painted it in Photoshop and we sent it off to her publisher. We went through some back and forth before print, mostly trying to extend the border to not crowd the island and balance it out well. I ended up loving the final draft even more and couldn’t be happier with what went to print! It was seriously a dream to get to collaborate with their publishing department.
  .
Maps often seem stylized base on the genre of the book, or the type of world described in the story. Did you draw on any particular style to create Claire’s map? 
 .
Final
For Claire’s map, I mentioned looking at Westeros and especially the Grisha map, but I had another source of inspiration that I brought to the table for WINTERSPELL. My sister is a ballerina and has performed in the Nutcracker since she was four. As my sister is now nineteen, that means I’ve seen almost two decades worth of performances every year. I’m a huge fan. I’m also the sort of person that likes to read the book, or at least the synopsis and a few chapters, before I start on any piece I illustrate for an author. This is so I can really hear the voice of the characters, the world, and place “Easter eggs” or clues to the story. So, before I even started on the character cards much less the map, I got to read an advanced copy and really see the world and characters before I drew them. I also personally really drew inspiration from the Hobbit and surprisingly the end credits to the Secret of Nimh movie, which really influenced how I ended up spacing out the elements towards the final version.
  .
Now that you’ve had a map published (congrats!), what do you see yourself doing next?  What would be your dream project?
  .
Right now, I’m commissioned to do another world map for a friend and a publisher is working with me on starting to illustrate some covers for their middle grade books. Honestly, I’d love to work with more authors on more amazing things! Bookmarks, character cards, world maps, book covers, illustrated web sites, you name it, I’d probably want to work with you on it. One dream project I have is to work on chapter headings for a YA or MG book (regardless of genre) or even a short story collection. Please drop me a line if you’ve got a project in mind! I’d love to hear from you and make something beautiful for your book or author platform together.
  .
Thanks for chatting with us today, Catherine!
  .
Do you guys have any more questions about illustrating, or map design?

Catherine Scully is a writer, illustrator, and graphic designer with her work featured in magazines, anthologies, and in Simon and Schuster’s Young Adult book Winterspell by Claire Legrand. Catherine is represented for Young Adult and Middle Grade fiction by Carrie Howland of Donadio and Olson and is currently working on a horror series for Middle Grade. 

As the Young Adult Editor for the Horror Writer Association, she runs a blog at yahorror.com called “Scary Out There: What is Horror in Young Adult Fiction?” with multiple Bram Stoker Award-winning author Jonathan Maberry, which was featured on CNN.com in an interview with R.L. Stine. She’s also a member of the YA Scream Queens, a group of nine women who write horror for kids and teens. 

When she’s not writing and illustrating, Catherine can usually be found practicing on her drums.

You can follow her on twitter @CatMScully or check out her art at cscullyillustrate.tumblr.com

Kat Zhang loves traveling to places both real and fictional–the former allows for better souvenirs, but the latter allows for dragons, so it’s a tough pick. Her novel WHAT’S LEFT OF ME is about a girl struggling to survive in an alternate universe where people are born with two souls, and one is doomed to disappear. It is the first book in a trilogy and was published by HarperCollins in September of 2012.  Book 2, ONCE WE WERE, released September 2013, and Book 3, ECHOES OF US, came out September 16, 2014. You can learn all about Kat at her site, or listen to her ramblings on twitter.

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3. On-the-Spot Research for Writing Historicals

When I write historical fiction, I know any success I might have in recreating an era for my readers largely hinges on my getting the details right. I relied heavily on research when writing The Glass Inheritance, my mystery novel involving Depression era glassware, and found it invaluable to visit historically significant sites from the Great Depression and World War II era. I toured a Japanese internment camp in Wyoming, Pearl Harbor, two concentration camps in Germany, and three Holocaust museums, among other sites. Such travel isn’t always financially feasible, but I’ve discovered local sites offer a wealth of information and inspiration also.

Just this summer I toured a Victorian mansion here in the Midwest and was thrilled to see the museum had a bowl of calling cards near the door. Because I had read in Victorian era novels about characters dropping off their calling cards at one another’s houses, I recognized what the cards were. The tour guide allowed me to pick the cards up and look through them even though the cards were authentic, not reproductions.

calling cards

Some of the cards clearly came from a printer as is, but others appeared to be homemade or had the owner’s name stenciled in after printing. They were all works of art compared with today’s business cards.

Holding these cards gave me insight and inspiration I doubt I would have drawn from just reading about them. I may choose to write a story involving calling cards and have more assurance now of getting the details right.


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4. Going, Going, Gone…

. . . but it won’t be forgotten!

There’s so much to savor from The Original Art Exhibition: The Fine Art of Children’s Book Illustration, as it winds up its stay in Carlsbad, CA.

To recap, here are more trailers from the participating artists in the Show:







For me, the highlight was being able to hold up the actual book page, and compare it alongside its original. I will share some observations in future posts. Seeing them side-by-side provided meditations on the wide spectrum of art media possible, coupled with the reality of CMYK print — it’s all good stuff!


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5. Talents and Skills Thesaurus Entry: Whittling

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. 

WHITTLING

5068714787_2c685a966a_b

Andrea Parrish-Geyer @ Creative Commons

Description: To shape a piece of wood by chipping or cutting small pieces from it

Beneficial Strengths or Abilities: good hand-eye coordination, dexterity, a steady hand and firm grip, the ability to sit for long periods of time without getting stiff or sore

Character Traits Suited for this Skill or Talent: imaginative, artistic, patient, calm, resourceful, meticulous, focused, obsessive

Required Resources and Training: Whittling is a time-consuming activity that takes much practice to master. It can be learned with little or no teaching; all you really need is a sharp knife, a piece of wood, and lots of time. It helps to have a basic understanding of wood types, so you can choose the type of wood that will yield the best result for the project. And while you can whittle with any knife, smaller ones work best, and different kinds of blades can help with different cuts.

Associated Stereotypes and Perceptions: The most common stereotype associated with whittling is the country bumpkin (usually male) sitting on the front porch whittling sticks down to toothpicks. While it makes sense that an avid whittler needs access to wood, he doesn’t have to live in the actual woods. Items can be whittled from wood chunks or twigs found in a park, or even from lumber bought at a hardware store.

Scenarios Where this Skill Might be Useful:

  • for relaxation or stress relief
  • as a way of passing the time when one has excess time on one’s hands
  • coming up with a new product or technique that can be turned into a much-needed money-making venture for the hero
  • when a small, secretive item is needed to help save the day (a lock pick, wooden coin, weapon, etc.)
  • when it’s necessary to camouflage something important as an everyday object

Stories Where Whittling is Used As Part of the Plot Line

  • The Shawshank Redemption—though Andy Dufresne whittled soapstone instead of wood
  • Spindle’s End (Robin McKinley)

Related Talents and Skills: Carpentry

Resources for Further Information:

Whittling 101

A Beginner’s Guide to Whittling 

Getting Started in Woodcarving and Whittling

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: Whittling appeared first on WRITERS HELPING WRITERS.

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6. Siren’s Song

Siren’s Song

Siren's Song Illustration by Manelle Oliphant

Siren’s Song, Personal Project: Digital

A Short Story

By Manelle Oliphant

To Download This Story Click Here

Joseph stood on the ship’s deck where he’d served for the last three years and stared at the miniature painting his wife had sent. The picture showed his smiling two-year-old son in a sailor’s outfit.

“I show him your portrait and tell him about you every day. We are very excited you will be home soon,” her most recent letter had read.

Joseph smiled. The shortcut through the pass would allow them to be home in a few short weeks. He would see his wife and meet his son. Best of all he could now retire from the navy. The crew had made a fortune on this voyage. His percent plus the money he’d saved from his pay was enough to buy a small house.

The ship’s bell tolled and someone yelled, “Amar Pass ahead! Make yourself ready.”

Joseph stuffed the letter and miniature in his pocket as he ran toward the helm. Sailing through the pass required strict protocol. Every sailor must have their ears plugged and be tied to the ship. One man steered the ship with his hands tied to the helm. The pass’s smooth water held few hidden rocks, despite the high hills on either side. The pass itself was safe. Any danger came from the creatures who lived there.

Commander Weldmen would steer the ship, and Joseph’s assignment was to help him prepare. When Joseph arrived Weldmen handed him some rope. “Get on with things Midshipman. We don’t have long.”

“Yes sir.” Joseph took the rope and waited while Commander Weldmen plugged his ears with wads of cloth. Then he tied the Commander’s hands to the wheel. Weldmen nodded and Joseph ran to the main deck.

The pass was in view. The sight filled him with dread no matter how many times he’d seen it before. He took some rope from Billy, another Midshipmen, and tied himself to the railing. He double checked its tightness around his waist, and stuffed his ears with cotton cloth.

The only sound Joseph could hear as they entered the pass was the breathing inside his head. Huge boulders jutted up out of the water on either side of them. He looked toward the shoreline where the sirens sat.

They were ugly. They looked like women but green and blue scales covered their skin. Instead of legs they had long tails, which flopped in the water like a dying fish. When the ship steered close enough they bit at the sailors with their sharp teeth.

All the while they sang a song Joseph couldn’t hear. The song enchanted men to drown themselves. Stories told of only one man who heard the song and survived. His shipmates kept him from jumping overboard and he lived out the rest of his days in an asylum. Joseph shuttered when he thought about it.

The movement loosed the cotton in his left ear and it fell into the water. Horrified he watched it fall into the water, and the beauty of the song wrapped around his heart.

Joseph reached up and pulled the other plug from his ear. Waves of song flowed through him. The water, clouds, and rocks dazzled before his eyes. He looked at the singing women and sighed. Such beautiful women! His heart leaped in his chest when one smiled at him. Her teeth shined like pearls and her scales glistened in the sun. She waved him over. He waved back. He thought about feeling her cold skin and wet tail. He imagined putting his arm around her tiny waist and pulling her close. Would she let him give her a kiss?

He tried to jump over the railing but a rope tied around his waist stopped him. He remembered tying the rope but couldn’t understand the reason. There was no danger here. He grabbed at the knot with his fingers. It wouldn’t budge. Curse his knot tying skill. He pulled a knife from his pocket and sawed at his prison.

Someone grabbed his arm. Joseph looked up. Billy shook his head and reached for the knife. Joseph scowled and jerked it away. Wasn’t Billy his friend? Now, when he thought back, he remembered all the times Billy had betrayed him. Why hadn’t he seen it before?

Billy reached for the knife again. Joseph hit him with its handle. Billy’s nose started to bleed.

Joseph smiled. Serves him right. He finished sawing and jumped into the water.

Cold engulfed his whole body and a current pulled at his legs. The sensations invigorated his body. He’d never felt so alive. He kicked to the surface and looked around. The ship had passed him. He waved at the men who watched him from the poop deck. Silly fools, they would regret not taking this chance. He turned to the shore and spotted the flirt who smiled at him before. He grinned and swam toward her.

He ignored the current pulling at his legs, and imagined running his fingers through her long clammy hair. His muscles grew colder but rainbows danced off her scales as the sunlight hit them. He smiled again. His eyes had never beheld such a feast. He had never heard such a song. He ignored his body’s protests and swam closer. His whole purpose in life was to make this beautiful creature happy.

She was so close now. She smiled at him again with her beautiful arrow-like teeth. Inviting teeth. Oh, to kiss her mouth!

The current pulled at his legs again, he fought it, but his cold muscles protested. His head went under water. He kicked hard and resurfaced. He reached for her. She sang her song. He relaxed and sunk again. He looked up through the clear water. She grinned at him. Water filled his mouth. He didn’t fight. Water filled his nose. He breathed it in. He could still see her smile. He had made her happy. Now he knew every event in his life, good and bad, had happened to lead him to this blessed moment.

November 6, 1895

My Dear Mrs. Hansen,

I understand you have heard the news of your husband’s death. I write to offer you my deepest condolences. I served with your husband on the Greenfly for the last three years. He talked of you often, and was very proud of his son. He showed me the miniature you sent. He looks like a strong healthy boy who takes after his father. I was with him as he went overboard and I know he thought of you ‘til the last. Your husband was a good man, and a good friend. It was an honour to serve with him.

With deepest sympathies,

Midshipman William Smith

 

The End

 

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

Manelle Oliphant Patreon

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7. Fan Mail Wednesday #193: Stinky Science & Secret Codes

 

postalletter-150x150

Today’s letter comes from the International School in Palo Alto, CA, and it’s written by Chih-Hsuan. But that’s not the best part. The best part is that it includes a brand new code — and I cracked it!

Here’s the letter:

Scan 1

Scan 3

I replied:

Dear Chih-Hsuan:

It’s always amazing to receive fan mail. When you think of the world today, how many people on the planet receive actual letters? What’s more, you wrote to me about a book that I wrote 15 years ago. That’s before you were born!

I’m glad that I’m still alive to read it.

And I mean, I’m very glad. The old ticker is still working!

I love your code, which is a variation of the List Code that Mila created in the book. At first it looks like a shopping list: 4 peanuts, 3 lobsters, 26 tomatos, etc.

The number, of course, is the key which directs me, the reader, to the proper letter. 3 lobsters means: “b.” What stumped me, briefly, was 26 tomatos. Hmmm? The letter “z”? Then I separated the number into its parts, a “2” and a “6.” Oooooooh. Double ooooooh!

Your secret message: FUN BOOK!

Thanks for that.

I should also thank you for getting me to pull that book off the shelf. I was actually charmed by the first page — a good beginning, I thought, in which I introduce a new character:

Illustration by John Speirs.

Illustration by John Speirs.

The pink bows didn’t fool me. I ignored the matching lace socks and the little red plastic pocketbook. I knew that Sally-Ann Simms was one tough cookie.

So what if she was only four and a half years old.

Sally-Ann stood in my backyard, hands on her hips. She shouted up to my tree house, “Jigsaw Jones! You up there?”

I was up there — and I told her so. “Take the ladder,” I called down. “The elevator’s broken.”

It’s a relief for me to read something I wrote long ago to discover that I still like it. Not bad, I think. And “not bad” is “pretty good.”

You asked why Joey didn’t simply throw his egg sandwich away in the trash. Good question. I think he felt bad about wasting food, so he wanted to get rid of the sandwich without anyone noticing. Of course, as a storyteller, I needed Joey to hide it in the volcano to help keep my plot moving forward. I have to confess that the smell of hard-boiled eggs makes me flee the room. It’s just one of those odors that I can’t tolerate. Yuck. Super yuck. 

Thanks for writing to me, Chih-Hsuan. And thank you, also, to the good folks at Scholastic for still sending along those letters, long after the book’s been published.

My best,

JP

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8. Frankly: The 2014 Frankfurt, Germany International Book Fair by Irene Smalls

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Irene Smalls

In the middle ages, Gutenberg invented the printing press not far from where the Frankfurt Book Fair opens every year to about 7,300 exhibitors from more than 100 countries, around 275,000 visitors, more than 3,700 events, 9,000 journalists and over 1,000 bloggers. In October, Irene Smalls was one of those exhibitors. Irene is a multi-publshed author and creater of Literacise.

Why the Frankfurt Book Fair
Think of a foreign country with 230 million children under the age of 16 most of who study English. That is China alone. The International book market is worth $108,000,000,000 and counting. For authors and illustrators interested in expanding their sales and market my advice is to Go Global! The first stop to expanding your book brand globally is The Frankfurt Book Fair located in Frankfurt, Germany. With so many countries represented, it is diversity at its best.

Globe staff photo David L. Ryan

Literacise

 

 

How US Authors and Illustrators Benefit
Frankfurt is the world’s largest and oldest book fair. Frankfurt is a rights fair. Publishers go to Frankfurt largely to buy and sell international translation rights to their titles. For authors and illustrators this is lucrative. With international translations, you can sell your book potentially 120 times and receive royalties from all of your deals. This can be separate and apart from any from US publishing contracts.

 

 

 

 

Her Personal Stake
Seeing this huge book market opportunity, I had asked my publisher many times if my books were being presented for international rights sales. Repeatedly, my editors at a major publishing house, told me that there was no interest in my books globally. I decided to find out for myself. Indeed, in Frankfurt, I found the major American Publishers do not bring diverse books. An editor from a large trade publisher in the US when asked about the lack of diverse books represented, responded in very huffy tones. “We never bring those books to Frankfurt.” When asked why, the editor said, “All they ever write about is slavery, civil rights or struggling. Nobody is interested in reading about that.” It is ironic at the most diverse book fair in the world American publishers showcase their lack of diversity.

2GoGlobalMarketing
In 2014, I formed 2GoGlobalMarketing. Its motto is “Take Your Message to the World.” With the assistance of two book professionals, publicity guru Ayanna Najuma and Art Director/illustrator Cathy Ann Johnson we showcased 35 books in our booth for five days. It was a whirlwind experience. We met thousands of people from all over the world. Ten countries expressed interest in our titles: Saudi Arabia, Brazil, South Africa, Italy, UK, Taiwan, Poland, Nigeria, Finland, and Sweden. I am in talks with a UK educational publisher about creating a UK school version of one of my books. I am also in talks with another publisher about creating songs based on my books. My work is not finished. I will follow up with two contacts. For the authors and illustrators we represented one author/illustrator had three publishers interested in her title, another author had a publisher interested in expanding her book and her creating a teacher’s editions for his Arabian country. Cathy Ann Johnson found a business partner in Italy. She is preparing the European launch of her Soul Amazing children’s books starting in Italy.

My Nana and Me

My Nana and Me

The Take Away
There were lessons learned. Frankfurt is an appointment driven fair. Frankfurt is different from others book fairs where buyers browse through booths. At those fairs, it is important to have a booth to display titles. A booth is not essential in Frankfurt. What is essential is having appointments. The first three days of the Frankfurt Book Fair is to the trade only. The last two days are open to the public. Frankfurt Book Fair appointments are set up starting in August for the October fair with the book scouts, agents and book buyers from all over the world.

African-American authors and illustrators are not taking advantage of the Frankfurt Book Fair opportunity. In 2014, I was the first African-American female to ever exhibit in the 66 years of the Frankfurt Book Fair. Go Global. The world is diverse whether American publishers like it or not. The diversity that is embraced is high quality story telling with fully rounded characters. Most countries of the world are not interested in American history. These countries are interested in their own history and their own historical figures that tell a universal story. Authors must tell a great story of love, hate, and passion filled laughter and the world will want to read your words.

Who Qualifies
You need to have foreign translations rights to your book at a minimum. But, it is best in negotiating your original contract to retain as many rights as possible such as audio rights, video rights, etc. Also, try to limit the time a publisher has control of those rights. For an example, I had no idea when I went to Frankfurt that I would meet a publisher who was interested in creating songs of my books. Since I control the audio rights, it was not a problem. In addition, if a publisher has not sold any of your rights within a few years it is highly unlikely they will ever sell those rights. By limiting the time a publisher controls your rights once those rights revert back you can sell them yourself.

Ir

What Happens Next

Our first time at the fair we do initial follow-up with the publishers expressing interest in one of the books we showcased. After that, it is up to the author to follow-up and seal the deal.

Not an Easy Sell
It is difficult to make appointments. Most are long standing relationships. Rights buyers set appointments with familiar people and companies. However, in the course of meeting people and chatting, 2GoGlobalMarketing was able to make appointments during the fair. I do not recommend this approach. It worked but we were not able to meet with the top buyers whose calendars were completely booked. The appointments are set up in 30-minute increments. If you miss your appointment, you have to wait until next year.

Lesson Learned
I do plan to return next year. We will start recruiting authors in March. I will not get a booth. This time I will focus just on getting appointments with key people.
Knowing Irene, her appointment book will be filled. She constantly pushes and champions other authors and illustrators. If you want your book represented in 2015, contact 2GoGlobal Marketing. Her schedule will fill fast.
Keep up with Irene on Facebook , follow her on Twitter @ismalls107, and email: info@2GoGlobalMarketing.com.

Posted by Gwendolyn Hooks


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9. Celebrate Thanksgiving with: PUMPKIN BREAD

Here is an easy, nutritious recipe you and your children can make using the flesh of a whole pumpkin you’ve chopped and cooked, or a can of pumpkin puree.  Both work well. If you use the whole pumpkin, you can prepare it by boiling it in a large pot until tender and then scooping out the seeds before mashing the flesh.  You can also roast the pumpkin in the oven like a butternut squash until tender.   To save time and make it easier for children to do themselves, use the canned puree. NOTE: Cooked butternut squash can be substituted for the pumpkin in this recipe.

PUMPKIN BREAD

1 C flour (I like to mix white and whole wheat)  1 C. rolled oats (use quick or old-fashioned- NOT instant)

2 t baking soda      ¼ t powder     2 t cinnamon     ¼ t each of ginger, cloves, nutmeg

3 eggs          1 t vanilla     3/4 C oil ( I substitute applesauce or yogurt for half the oil)

1 C sugar      2 C pumpkin puree     1 C chopped walnuts

  1. Measure dry ingredients together.  Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, mix eggs, sugar, oil, applesauce (if using), pumpkin, and vanilla.
  3.  Beat until well mixed.
  4. Stir in flour until smooth.  Add nuts.
  5. Pour into 2 greased loaf pans and bake for 35-45 minutes.  Test with a toothpick to see if it is done.  It should be dry after inserting in the middle of the bread.

This recipe also can be used to make muffins.  Makes 24 muffins.  Bake muffins for 20- 25 minutes.  These breads freeze well and can be made ahead of time to give as gifts over the holidays.

For a festive way to serve this cake-like bread, add a scoop of vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt on  a slice and top with whipped cream.  It is also delicious spread with cream cheese.  HAPPY AUTUMN!


0 Comments on Celebrate Thanksgiving with: PUMPKIN BREAD as of 11/21/2014 3:42:00 AM
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10. Excerpt: Top 40 Democracy

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To follow-up on yesterday’s post, here’s an excerpt from Eric Weisbard’s Top 40 Democracy: The Rival Mainstreams of American Music.

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“The Logic of Formats”

Nearly every history of Top 40 launches from an anecdote about how radio station manager Todd Storz came up with the idea sometime between World War II and the early 1950s, watching with friends in a bar in Omaha as customers repeatedly punched up the same few songs on the jukebox. A waitress, after hearing the tunes for hours, paid for more listens, though she was unable to explain herself. “When they asked why, she replied, simply: ‘I like ’em.’ ” As Storz said on another occasion, “Why this should be, I don’t know. But I saw waitresses do this time after time.” He resolved to program a radio station following the same principles: the hits and nothing but the hits.

Storz’s aha moment has much to tell about Top 40’s complicated relationship to musical diversity. He might be seen as an entrepreneur with his ear to the ground, like the 1920s furniture salesman who insisted hillbilly music be recorded or the 1970s Fire Island dancer who created remixes to extend the beat. Or he could be viewed as a schlockmeister lowering standards for an inarticulate public, especially women —so often conceived as mass-cultural dupes. Though sponsored broadcasting had been part of radio in America, unlike much of the rest of the world, since its beginnings, Top 40 raised hackles in a postwar era concerned about the numbing effects of mass culture. “We become a jukebox without lights,” the Radio Advertising Bureau’s Kevin Sweeney complained. Time called Storz the “King of the Giveaway” and complained of broadcasting “well larded with commercials.”

Storz and those who followed answered demands that licensed stations serve a communal good by calling playlist catholicity a democracy of sound: “If the public suddenly showed a preference for Chinese music, we would play it . . . I do not believe there is any such thing as better or inferior music.” Top 40 programmer Chuck Blore, responding to charges that formats stifled creative DJs, wrote, “He may not be as free to inflict his musical taste on the public, but now, and rightfully, I think, the public dictates the popular music of the day.” Mike Joseph boasted, “When I first go into a market, I go into every record store personally. I’ll spend up to three weeks doing interviews, with an average of forty-five minutes each. And I get every single thing I can get: the sales on every configuration, every demo for every single, the gender of every buyer, the race of every buyer. . . . I follow the audience flow of the market around the clock.” Ascertaining public taste became a matter of extravagant claim for these professional intermediaries: broadcasting divided into “dayparts” to impact commuters, housewives, or students.

Complicating the tension between seeing formats as pandering or as deferring to popular taste was a formal quality that Top 40 also shared with the jukebox: it could encompass many varieties of hits or group a subset for a defined public. This duality blurred categories we often keep separate. American show business grew from blackface minstrelsy and its performative rather than innate notion of identity —pop as striking a pose, animating a mask, putting on style or a musical. More folk and genre-derived notions of group identity, by contrast, led to the authenticity-based categories of rock, soul, hip-hop, and country. Top 40 formats drew on both modes, in constantly recalibrated proportions. And in doing so, the logic of formats, especially the 1970s format system that assimilated genres, unsettled notions of real and fake music.

Go back to Storz’s jukebox. In the late 1930s, jukeboxes revived a record business collapsed by free music on radio and the Great Depression. Jack Kapp in particular, working for the US branch of British-owned Decca, tailored the records he handled to boom from the pack: swing jazz dance beats, slangy vernacular from black urban culture, and significant sexual frankness. This capitalized on qualities inherent in recordings, which separated sound from its sources in place, time, and community, allowing both new artifice — one did not know where the music came from, exactly — and new realism: one might value, permanently, the warble of a certain voice, suggesting a certain origin. Ella Fitzgerald, eroticizing the nursery rhyme “A-Tisket, A-Tasket” in 1938 on Decca, with Chick Webb’s band behind her, could bring more than a hint of Harlem’s Savoy Ballroom to a place like Omaha, as jukeboxes helped instill a national youth culture. Other jukeboxes highlighted the cheating songs of honky-tonk country or partying &B: urban electrifications of once-rural sounds. By World War II, pop was as much these brash cross-genre jukebox blends as it was the Broadway-Hollywood-network radio axis promoting Irving Berlin’s genteel “White Christmas.”

Todd Storz’s notion of Top 40 put the jukebox on the radio. Records had not always been a radio staple. Syndicated network stations avoided “canned music”; record labels feared the loss of sales and often stamped “Not Licensed for Radio Broadcast” on releases. So the shift that followed television’s taking original network programming was twofold: local radio broadcasting that relied on a premade consumer product. Since there were many more records to choose from than network shows, localized Top 40 fed a broader trend that allowed an entrepreneurial capitalism — independent record-label owners such as Sam Phillips of Sun Records, synergists such as American Bandstandhost Dick Clark, or station managers such as Storz—to compete with corporations like William Paley’s Columbia Broadcasting System, the so-called Tiffany Network, which included Columbia Records. The result, in part, was rock and roll, which had emerged sonically by the late 1940s but needed the Top 40 system to become dominant with young 45 RPM – singles buyers by the end of the 1950s.

An objection immediately presents itself, one that will recur throughout this study: Was Top 40 rock and roll at all, or a betrayal of the rockabilly wildness that Sam Phillips’s roster embodied for the fashioning of safe teen idols by Dick Clark? Did the format destroy the genre? The best answer interrogates the question: Didn’t the commerce-first pragmatism of formatting, with its weak boundaries, free performers and fans inhibited by tighter genre codes? For Susan Douglas, the girl group records of the early 1960s made possible by Top 40 defy critics who claim that rock died between Elvis Presley’s army induction and the arrival of the Beatles. Yes, hits like “Leader of the Pack” were created by others, often men, and were thoroughly commercial. Yes, they pulled punches on gender roles even as they encouraged girls to identify with young male rebels. But they “gave voice to all the warring selves inside us struggling.” White girls admired black girls, just as falsetto harmonizers like the Beach Boys allowed girls singing along to assume male roles in “nothing less than musical cross-dressing.” Top 40’s “euphoria of commercialism,” Douglas argues, did more than push product; “tens of millions of young girls started feeling, at the same time, that they, as a generation, would not be trapped.” Top 40, like the jukebox before it and MTV afterward, channeled cultural democracy: spread it but contained it within a regulated, commercialized path.

We can go back further than jukebox juries becoming American Bandstands. Ambiguities between democratic culture and commodification are familiar within cultural history. As Jean-Christophe Agnew points out in his study Worlds Apart, the theater and the marketplace have been inextricable for centuries, caught up as capitalism developed in “the fundamental problematic of a placeless market: the problems of identity, intentionality, accountability, transparency, and reciprocity that the pursuit of commensurability invariably introduces into that universe of particulate human meanings we call culture.” Agnew’s history ranges from Shakespeare to Melville’s Confidence Man, published in 1857. At that point in American popular culture, white entertainers often performed in blackface, jumping Jim Crow and then singing a plaintive “Ethiopian” melody by Stephen Foster. Eric Lott’s book on minstrelsy gives this racial mimicry a handy catchphrase: Love and Theft. Tarred-up actors, giddy with the new freedoms of a white man’s democracy but threatened by industrial “wage slavery,” embodied cartoonish blacks for social comment and anti-bourgeois rudeness. Amid vicious racial stereotyping could be found performances that respectable theater disavowed. Referring to a popular song of the era, typically performed in drag, the New York Tribune wrote in 1853, “ ‘Lucy Long’ was sung by a white negro as a male female danced.” And because of minstrelsy’s fixation on blackness, African Americans after the Civil War found an entry of sorts into entertainment: as songwriter W. C. Handy unceremoniously put it, “The best talent of that generation came down the same drain. The composers, the singers, the musicians, the speakers, the stage performers —the minstrel shows got them all.” If girl groups showcase liberating possibility in commercial constraints, minstrelsy challenges unreflective celebration.

Entertainment, as it grew into the brashest industry of modernizing America, fused selling and singing as a matter of orthodoxy. The three-act minstrel show stamped formats on show business early on, with its songand-dance opening, variety-act olio, and dramatic afterpiece, its interlocutors and end men. Such structures later migrated to variety, vaudeville, and Broadway. After the 1890s, tunes were supplied by Tin Pan Alley sheet-music publishers, who professionalized formula songwriting and invented “payola”— ethically dubious song plugging. These were song factories, unsentimental about creativity, yet the evocation of cheap tinniness in the name was deliberately outrageous, announcing the arrival of new populations —Siberian-born Irving Berlin, for example, the Jew who wrote “White Christmas.” Tin Pan Alley’s strictures of form but multiplicity of identity paved the way for the Brill Building teams who wrote the girl group songs, the Motown Records approach to mainstreaming African American hits, and even millennial hitmakers from Korean “K-Pop” to Sweden’s Cheiron Studios. Advertisers, Timothy Taylor’s history demonstrates, used popular music attitude as early as they could —sheet-music parodies, jingles, and the showmanship of radio hosts like crooner Rudy Vallee designed to give products “ginger, pep, sparkle, and snap.”

The Lucky Strike Hit Parade, a Top 40 forerunner with in-house vocalists performing the leading tunes, was “music for advertising’s sake,” its conductor said in 1941.

Radio, which arrived in the 1920s, was pushed away from a BBC model and toward what Thomas Streeter calls “corporate liberalism” by leaders like Herbert Hoover, who declared as commerce secretary, “We should not imitate some of our foreign colleagues with governmentally controlled broadcasting supported by a tax upon the listener.” In the years after the 1927 Radio Act, the medium consolidated around sponsor-supported syndicated network shows, successfully making radio present by 1940 in 86 percent of American homes and some 6.5 million cars, with average listening of four hours a day. The programming, initially local, now fused the topsy-turvy theatrics of vaudeville and minstrelsy —Amos ’n’ Andy ranked for years with the most popular programs —with love songs and soap operas aimed at the feminized intimacy of the bourgeois parlor. Radio’s mass orientation meant immigrants used it to embrace a mainstream American identity; women confessed sexual feelings for the likes of Vallee as part of the bushels of letters sent to favored broadcasters; and Vox Pop invented the “man on the street” interview, connecting radio’s commercialized public with more traditional political discourse and the Depression era’s documentary impulse. While radio scholars have rejected the view of an authoritarian, manipulative “culture industry,” classically associated with writers such as the Frankfurt School’s Theodor Adorno, historian Elena Razlogova offers an important qualification: “by the 1940s both commercial broadcasters and empirical social scientists . . . shared Adorno’s belief in expert authority and passive emotional listening.” Those most skeptical of mass culture often worked inside the beast.

Each network radio program had a format. So, for example, Kate Smith, returning for a thirteenth radio season in 1942, offered a three-act structure within each broadcast: a song and comedy slot, ad, drama, ad, and finally a segment devoted to patriotism —fitting for the singer of “God Bless America.” She was said by Billboard, writing with the slangy prose that characterized knowing and not fully genteel entertainment professionals, to have a show that “retains the format which, tho often heavy handed and obvious, is glovefit to keep the tremendous number of listeners it has acquired and do a terrific selling job for the sponsor”— General Foods. The trade journal insisted, “Next to a vocal personality, a band on the air needs a format —an idea, a framework of showmanship.”

Top 40 formats addressed the same need to fit broadcast, advertiser, and public, but through a different paradigm: what one branded with an on-air jukebox approach was now the radio station itself, to multiple sponsors. Early on, Top 40s competed with nonformat stations, the “full service” AM’s that relied on avuncular announcers with years of experience, in-house news, community bulletins, and songs used as filler. As formats came to dominate, with even news and talk stations formatted for consistent sound, competing sonic configurations hailed different demographics. But no format was pure: to secure audience share in a crowded market, a programmer might emphasize a portion of a format (Quiet Storm &B) or blur formats (country crossed with easy listening). Subcategories proliferated, creating what a 1978 how-to book called “the radio format conundrum.” The authors, listing biz slang along the lines of MOR,Good Music, and Chicken Rock, explained, “Words are coined, distorted and mutilated, as the programmer looks for ways to label or tag a format, a piece of music, a frame of mind.”

A framework of showmanship in 1944 had become a frame of mind in 1978. Formats began as theatrical structures but evolved into marketing devices — efforts to convince sponsors of the link between a mediated product and its never fully quantifiable audience. Formats did not idealize culture; they sold it. They structured eclecticism rather than imposing aesthetic values. It was the customer’s money —a democracy of whatever moved people.

The Counterlogic of Genres

At about the same time Todd Storz watched the action at a jukebox in Omaha, sociologist David Riesman was conducting in-depth interviews with young music listeners. Most, he found, were fans of what was popular— uncritical. But a minority of interviewees disliked “name bands, most vocalists (except Negro blues singers), and radio commercials.” They felt “a profound resentment of the commercialization of radio and musicians.” They were also, Riesman reported, overwhelmingly male.

American music in the twentieth century was vital to the creation of what Grace Hale’s account calls “a nation of outsiders.” “Hot jazz” adherents raved about Louis Armstrong’s solos in the 1920s, while everybody else thought it impressive enough that Paul Whiteman’s orchestra could syncopate the Charleston and introduce “Rhapsody in Blue.” By the 1930s, the in-crowd were Popular Front aligned, riveted at the pointedly misnamed cabaret Café Society, where doormen had holes in their gloves and Billie Holiday made the anti-lynching, anti-minstrelsy “Strange Fruit” stop all breathing. Circa Riesman’s study, the hipsters Norman Mailer and Jack Kerouac would celebrate redefined hot as cool, seeding a 1960s San Francisco scene that turned hipsters into hippie counterculture.

But the urge to value music as an authentic expression of identity appealed well beyond outsider scenes and subcultures. Hank Williams testified, “When a hillbilly sings a crazy song, he feels crazy. When he sings, ‘I Laid My Mother Away,’ he sees her a-laying right there in the coffin. He sings more sincere than most entertainers because the hillbilly was raised rougher than most entertainers. You got to know a lot about hard work. You got to have smelt a lot of mule manure before you can sing like a hillbilly. The people who has been raised something like the way the hillbilly has knows what he is singing about and appreciates it.” Loretta Lynn reduced this to a chorus: “If you’re looking at me, you’re looking at country.” Soul, rock, and hip-hop offered similar sentiments. An inherently folkloric valuation of popular music, Karl Miller has written, “so thoroughly trounced minstrelsy that historians rarely discuss the process of its ascendance. The folkloric paradigm is the air that we breathe.”

For this study, I want to combine subcultural outsiders and identity-group notions of folkloric authenticity into a single opposition to formats: genres. If entertainment formats are an undertheorized category of analysis, though a widely used term, genres have been highly theorized. By sticking with popular music, however, we can identify a few accepted notions. Music genres have rules: socially constructed and accepted codes of form, meaning, and behavior. Those who recognize and are shaped by these rules belong to what pioneering pop scholar Simon Frith calls “genre worlds”: configurations of musicians, listeners, and figures mediating between them who collectively create a sense of inclusivity and exclusivity. Genres range from highly specific avant-gardes to scenes, industry categories, and revivals, with large genre “streams” to feed subgenres. If music genres cannot be viewed —as their adherents might prefer —as existing outside of commerce and media, they do share a common aversion: to pop shapelessness.

Deconstructing genre ideology within music can be as touchy as insisting on minstrelsy’s centrality: from validating Theft to spitting in the face of Love. Producer and critic John Hammond, progressive in music and politics, gets rewritten as the man who told Duke Ellington that one of his most ambitious compositions featured “slick, un-negroid musicians,” guilty of “aping Tin Pan Alley composers for commercial reasons.” A Hammond obsession, 1930s Mississippi blues guitarist Robert Johnson has his credentials to be called “King of the Delta Blues” and revered by the likes of Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, and the Rolling Stones questioned by those who want to know why Delta blues, as a category, was invented and sanctified after the fact and how that undercut more urban and vaudeville-inflected, not to mention female, “classic” blues singers such as Ma Rainey, Mamie Smith, and Bessie Smith.

The tug-of-war between format and genre, performative theatrics and folkloric authenticity, came to a head with rock, the commercially and critically dominant form of American music from the late 1960s to the early 1990s. Fifties rock and roll had been the music of black as much as white Americans, southern as much as northern, working class far more than middle class. Rock was both less inclusive and more ideological: what Robert Christgau, aware of the politics of the shift from his first writing as a founding rock critic, called “all music deriving primarily from the energy and influence of the Beatles—and maybe Bob Dylan, and maybe you should stick pretensions in there someplace.” Ellen Willis, another pivotal early critic, centered her analysis of the change on the rock audience’s artistic affiliations: “I loved rock and roll, but I felt no emotional identification with the performers. Elvis Presley was my favorite singer, and I bought all his records; just the same, he was a stupid, slicked-up hillbilly, a bit too fat and soft to be really good-looking, and I was a middle-class adolescent snob.” Listening to Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones was a far different process: “I couldn’t condescend to him — his ‘vulgarity’ represented a set of social and aesthetic attitudes as sophisticated as mine.”

The hippies gathered at Woodstock were Riesman’s minority segment turned majority, but with a difference. They no longer esteemed contemporary versions of “Negro blues singers”: only three black artists played Woodstock. Motown-style format pop was dismissed as fluff in contrast to English blues-rock and other music with an overt genre lineage. Top 40 met disdain, as new underground radio centered on “freeform”— meaning free of format. Music critics like Christgau, Willis, and Frith challenged these assumptions at the time, with Frith’s Sound Effects the strongest account of rock’s hypocritical “intimations of sincerity, authenticity, art — noncommercial concerns,” even as “rock became the record industry.” In a nation of outsiders, rock ruled, or as a leftist history, Rock ’n’ Roll Is Here to Pay, snarked, “Music for Music’s Sake Means More Money.” Keir Keightley elaborates, “One of the great ironies of the second half of the twentieth century is that while rock has involved millions of people buying a mass-marketed, standardized commodity (CD, cassette, LP) that is available virtually everywhere, these purchases have produced intense feelings of freedom, rebellion, marginality, oppositionality, uniqueness and authenticity.” In 1979, rock fans led by a rock radio DJ blew up disco records; as late as 2004, Kelefa Sanneh felt the need to deconstruct rock-ism in the New York Times.

Yet it would be simplistic to reduce rockism to its disproportions of race, gender, class, and sexuality. What fueled and fuels such attitudes toward popular music, ones hardly limited to rock alone, is the dream of music as democratic in a way opposite to how champions of radio formats justified their playlists. Michael Kramer, in an account of rock far more sympathetic than most others of late, argues that the countercultural era refashioned the bourgeois public sphere for a mass bohemia: writers and fans debated in music publications, gathered with civic commitment at music festivals, and shaped freeform radio into a community instrument. From the beginning, “hip capitalism” battled movement concerns, but the notion of music embodying anti-commercial beliefs, of rock as revolutionary or at least progressive, was genuine. The unity of the rock audience gave it more commercial clout: not just record sales, but arena-sized concerts, the most enduring music publication in Rolling Stone, and ultimately a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to debate rock against rock and roll or pop forever. Discursively, if not always in commercial reality, this truly was the Rock Era.

The mostly female listeners of the Top 40 pop formats bequeathed by Storz’s jukebox thus confronted, on multiple levels, the mostly male listeners of a rock genre that traced back to the anti-commercial contingent of Riesman’s interviewees. A democracy of hit songs, limited by its capitalist nature, was challenged by a democracy of genre identity, limited by its demographic narrowness. The multi-category Top 40 strands I will be examining were shaped by this enduring tension.

Pop Music in the Rock Era

Jim Ladd, a DJ at the Los Angeles freeform station KASH-FM, received a rude awakening in 1969 when a new program director laid down some rules. “We would not be playing any Top 40 bullshit, but real rock ’n’ roll; and there was no dress code. There would, however, be something known as ‘the format.’ ” Ladd was now told what to play. He writes bitterly about those advising stations. “The radio consultant imposed a statistical grid over the psychedelic counterculture, and reduced it to demographic research. Do you want men 18–24, adults 18–49, women 35–49, or is your target audience teens? Whatever it may be, the radio consultant had a formula.” Nonetheless, the staff was elated when, in 1975, KASH beat Top 40 KHJ, “because to us, it represented everything that we were trying to change in radio. Top 40 was slick, mindless pop pap, without one second of social involvement in its format.” Soon however, KAOS topped KASH with a still tighter format: “balls-out rock ’n’ roll.”

Ladd’s memoir, for all its biases, demonstrates despite itself why it would be misleading to view rock /pop or genre /format dichotomies as absolute divisions. By the mid-1970s, album-oriented rock (AOR) stations, like soul and country channels, pursued a format strategy as much as Top 40 or AC, guided by consultants and quarterly ratings. Rock programmers who used genre rhetoric of masculine rebellion (“balls-out rock ’n’ roll”) still honored Storz’s precept that most fans wanted the same songs repeated. Stations divided listeners explicitly by age and gender and tacitly by race and class. The division might be more inclusive: adults, 18–49; or less so: men, 18–34. The “psychedelic counterculture” ideal of dropping out from the mass had faded, but so had some of the mass: crossover appeal was one, not always desirable, demographic. And genre longings remained, with Ladd’s rockist disparagement of Top 40 symptomatic: many, including those in the business, quested for “social involvement” and disdained format tyranny. If AOR was formatted à la pop, pop became more like rock and soul, as seen in the power ballad, which merged rock’s amplification of sound and self with churchy and therapeutic exhortation.

Pop music in the rock era encompassed two strongly appealing, sometimes connected, but more often opposed impulses. The logic of formats celebrated the skillful matching of a set of songs with a set of people: its proponents idealized generating audiences, particularly new audiences, and prided themselves on figuring out what people wanted to hear. To believe in formats could mean playing it safe, with the reliance on experts and contempt for audiences that Razlogova describes in an earlier radio era: one cliché in radio was that stations were never switched off for the songs they didn’t play, only the ones they did. But there were strong business reasons to experiment with untapped consumer segments, to accentuate the “maturation” of a buying group with “contemporary”— a buzzword of the times —music to match. To successfully develop a new format, like the urban contemporary approach to black middle-class listeners, marked a great program director or consultant, and market-to-market experimentation in playlist emphasis was constant. Record companies, too, argued that a song like “Help Me Make It through the Night,” Kris Kristofferson’s explicit 1971 hit for Sammi Smith, could attract classier listeners for the country stations that played it.

By contrast, the logic of genres —accentuated by an era of counterculture, black power, feminism, and even conservative backlash — celebrated the creative matching of a set of songs and a set of ideals: music as artistic expression, communal statement, and coherent heritage. These were not necessarily anti-commercial impulses. Songwriters had long since learned the financial reasons to craft a lasting Broadway standard, rather than cash in overnight with a disposable Tin Pan Alley ditty. As Keightley shows, the career artist, steering his or her own path, was adult pop’s gift to the rock superstars. Frank Sinatra, Chairman of the Board, did not only symbolically transform into Neil Young, driving into the ditch if he chose. Young actually recorded for Reprise Records, the label that Sinatra had founded in 1960, whose president, Mo Ostin, went on to merge it with, and run, the artist-friendly and rock-dominated major label Warner Bros. Records.

Contrast Ladd’s or Young’s sour view of formatting with Clive Davis, who took over as president of Columbia Records during the rise of the counterculture. Writing just after the regularizing of multiple Top 40 strands, Davis found the mixture of old-school entertainment and new-school pop categories he confronted, the tensions between format and genre, endlessly fascinating. He was happy to discourse on the reasons why an MOR release by Ray Conniff might outsell an attention-hogging album by Bob Dylan, then turn around and explain why playing Las Vegas had tainted the rock group Blood, Sweat & Tears by rebranding them as MOR. Targeting black albums, rather than singles, to music buyers intrigued him, and here he itemized how he accepted racial divisions as market realities, positioning funk’s Earth, Wind & Fire as “progressive” to white rockers while courting soul nationalists too. “Black radio was also becoming increasingly militant; black program directors were refusing to see white promotion men. . . . If a record is ripe to be added to the black station’s play list, but is not quite a sure thing, it is ridiculous to have a white man trying to convince the program director to put it on.”

The incorporation of genre by formats proved hugely successful from the 1970s to the 1990s. Categories of mainstream music multiplied, major record labels learned boutique approaches to rival indies in what Timothy Dowd calls “decentralized” music selling, and the global sounds that Israeli sociologist Motti Regev sums up as “pop-rock” fused national genres with a common international structure of hitmaking, fueled by the widespread licensing in the 1980s of commercial radio channels in countries formerly limited to government broadcasting. In 2000, I was given the opportunity, for a New York Times feature, to survey a list of the top 1,000 selling albums and top 200 artists by total US sales, as registered by SoundScan’s barcode-scanning process since the service’s introduction in 1991. The range was startling: twelve albums on the list by Nashville’s Garth Brooks, but also twelve by the Beatles and more than twenty linked to the gangsta rappers in N.W.A. Female rocker Alanis Morissette topped the album list, with country and AC singer Shania Twain not far behind. Reggae’s Bob Marley had the most popular back-catalogue album, with mammoth total sales for pre-rock vocalist Barbra Streisand and jazz’s Miles Davis. Even “A Horse with No Name” still had fans:America’s Greatest Hits made a top 1,000 list that was 30 percent artists over forty years old in 2000 and one-quarter 1990s teen pop like Backstreet Boys. Pop meant power ballads (Mariah Carey, Celine Dion), rock (Pink Floyd, Metallica, Pearl Jam), and Latin voices (Selena, Marc Anthony), five mellow new age Enya albums, and four noisy Jock Jams compilations.

Yet nearly all this spectrum of sound was owned by a shrinking number of multinationals, joined as the 1990s ended by a new set of vast radio chains like Clear Channel, allowed by a 1996 Telecommunications Act in the corporate liberal spirit of the 1927 policies. The role of music in sparking countercultural liberation movements had matured into a well-understood range of scenes feeding into mainstreams, or train-wreck moments by tabloid pop stars appreciated with camp irony by omnivorous tastemakers. The tightly formatted world that Jim Ladd feared and Clive Davis coveted had come to pass. Was this true diversity, or a simulation? As Keith Negus found when he spoke with those participating in the global pop order, genre convictions still pressed against format pragmatism. Rock was overrepresented at record labels. Genre codes shaped the corporate cultures that framed the selling of country music, gangsta rap, and Latin pop. “The struggle is not between commerce and creativity,” Negus concluded, “but about what is to be commercial and creative.” The friction between competing notions of how to make and sell music had resulted in a staggering range of product, but also intractable disagreements over that product’s value within cultural hierarchies.

To read more about Top 40 Democracy, click here.

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11. The Mayflower And The Pilgrim’s New World

As I am writing this blog post, I am fully aware that Thanksgiving is only a few days away. Plans still need to be made to get the turkey in the oven at the right time, what side dishes need to be prepped (including my corn cake stuffing!) and the pumpkin pies still need to be baked. I can picture in my head what my soon-to-be food ladened table will look like with tidy napkins held by pilgrim-shaped napkin rings and a cornucopia sitting in the middle of the table to symbolize the abundance this year’s harvest has brought.

As lovely as these traditions are, it is far from the truth about what actually happened those many, many years ago in our nation’s history. Who were the pilgrims? Why were they traveling on a ship called the Mayflower? Is Plymouth Rock really a rock ? To find the answers to these questions and the truth of our long celebrated Thanksgiving dinner we happened upon a book which not only shared the story of the Mayflower and the Pilgrims but inspired us to pack our suitcases and head to Massachusetts to have a look at the famous ship and the colony which was founded by the pilgrims.

The Mayflower And The Pilgrim’s New World

Nathaniel Philbrick, who is a New York Times Bestselling author and National Book Award Winner for his book Mayflower. When I first read Mayflower I really felt it was an important book that I wished they would teach it in schools. Shortly after that thought, The Mayflower was adapted for young people. I quickly got a copy and we started reading it as part of our family book time.

The Mayflower ~ The Ship

Why the Mayflower and not some other ship ? The Mayflower was a merchant vessel which made frequent journeys across the channel bringing English cloth to France and returning to England with French wine. The Mayflower was 100 feet in length and rated at 180 tons which meant she was capable of holding 180 casks of wine. Wine ships like the Mayflower were also known as “sweet ships” because the wine which spilled out of the casks helped to dispel the horrible stench from the ship’s bilge.

The master of the Mayflower was Christopher Jones who was also part owner. He was a very skilled sea captain and along with merchant voyages he also did some whaling excursions up in Greenland. The Mayflower and her captain were very capable of sea voyages.

The journey was long. Setting sail in September, they finally arrived in the New World November 9th 1620. For the pilgrims the journey was very dark and they were housed on the tween decks on the ship. The provisions were kept in the hold, the lower half of the ship. Life on the Mayflower was dark, dank and airless with a length of only 75 feet and 5 feet high. To create privacy, the pilgrims built thin walls making little cabins. In and outside of those little cabins were all of their possessions they needed for the journey.  The tween decks overflowed with people, clothing chests, barrels of food and drink, chairs, pillows and blankets. It was very cramped . The passengers were not allowed on deck and so this was their home for 60 days.

As I read selections from the book The Mayflower, my young boy sat and listened imagining what life was like on this vessel. The re-enactors are brilliant and go about the ship in their 17th century life. They interact with visitors and one can get a good glimpse of life on the Mayflower.

 

“Ahoy Land Ahead.” After being ship side for awhile I could easily imagine the sweetness of those words after a harrowing 60 day journey across the Atlantic. This brings us to our 2nd question, “Is Plymouth Rock real? ”

Yes it is. The first place they arrived on land, they named after the place they had departed from, Plymouth England. From here on out the spelling of the word Plymouth changes to Plimouth. I’m not sure why but that’s how it is. Creative spelling is now accepted.

Plimouth Plantation is a few miles up the road from where the Mayflower is docked. We spent the day hearing from the pilgrims themselves and even partaking in some of the daily work.

My sweet boy is always up for a little carpentry work. He loves wielding an ax and can be found often cutting firewood around here.

 

Nathaniel Philbrick is a masterful storyteller and brings to life the time and creation of the first Pilgrims and Plimouth Plantation. We often romanticize the first Thanksgiving by mentioning how the Native American’s saved the pilgrims from dying that first winter from the food they brought them. Nice adaption but it isn’t true. The truth is that the first Thanksgiving happened at the end of their first year at Plimouth after the harvest. It was also the time of year when all the migrating birds and deer were arriving and could be hunted for meat. The Native American’s arrived with deer and birds and provided a harvest feast that we still take part in. Those first 11 months the pilgrims had spent angering the Native Americans and it was a miracle that they could say they survived that first year. Is what “saved” the pilgrims was Massasoit, a Native American elder, offered to assist them. Also in the pilgrim’s defense they behaved appropriately by paying back corn that was given, sending envoys to keep channels of communication open and proclaiming their loyalty to Massasoit. This fragile peace lasted for 50 years until the next generation took over. Together Pilgrims and Native Americans shared a successful cooperative balance in community.

It is this part of the story I like the most. The part where everyone works together to create their community to live in. For that I am always grateful. In thinking about those first pilgrims and the beginnings of our annual feast, I am truly thankful for this journey back in time to know the true story. We feel a connection now to Thanksgiving like never before.

This book is an incredible read and great way to study the 17th century. Below are links to the Mayflower and Plimouth Plantation. It’s about an hour outside of Boston and really worth the visit.

Plimouth Plantation

The Mayflower II

As always, I’m very thankful for the book adventures we’ve shared throughout the years. Here’s wishing you a happy and abundant holiday season.

Would you like to see all of Jump Into a Book’s Booklists all in one handy place? Please follow my new Pinterest Kidlit Booklist Board HERE:
Follow Valarie Budayr @Jump into a Book’s board Jump Into a Book Kidlit Booklists on Pinterest.

The post The Mayflower And The Pilgrim’s New World appeared first on Jump Into A Book.

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12. 2014 Gift Guide: Call for Submissions and Sponsors

We are in the process of putting together our annual gift guide and are currently seeking submissions and potential sponsors. If you have a product that is a good match for our audience, contact us with the details.

Thanks to this week's Sponsor // Retro Font Bundle






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13. Indications of Growth and Progress in Dreamwork

When my students do dreamwork (the recording and working with dreams to learn something from the dreams) on a regular basis, what I sometimes get asked is this: How do I know I am making progress in working with dreams?

This is a good question, because unless I am working with someone who knows a lot about dreamwork such as a dream mentor, the answers may not be all that apparent, especially in the beginning. However, in the long run, progress will definitely become more obvious because of the positive changes the dreamer will see in his or life.

Indicators of progress in dreamwork can be seen in the following:
  • Dreams become more vivid and easier to remember. A beginner usually has difficulty remembering dreams. Just having the intention to remember dreams will often prompt the dreamer to remember his or her dreams. Need help in remembering dreams? See Tried and True Tips to Better Remember Your Dreams at http://wp.me/p45aiq-5B
  • Dreams seem to “come” when one needs or wants them. Just making the intention to do regular dreamwork or participate in a dream class will often encourage the psyche to offer the dreamer a sudden outpouring of dreams.
  • Discovering that dreams do respond to requests for information and wisdom with appropriate insights. Asking for a particular dream (Dream Incubation) and getting a helpful answer is truly empowering for the neophyte starting the study of dreams. It’s like meeting a powerful helper for the first time. This experience gives the dreamer confidence to ask for more help from dreams. For information on incubating a dream see Ask and You Shall Receive: Incubating a #Dream at http://wp.me/p45aiq-71
  • Experiencing a lucid dream. A lucid dream is one in which the dreamer feels like he or she is awake and aware in the dream, all the while knowing it is a dream. Conscious choices can be made within the dream.  One feels one can create the dream.  Like dream incubation, this is an empowering to the dreamer.  Lucid dreams can be also be requested for or intended in order to heal, problem solve or gain information.
  • Experiencing healing, a solution or guidance in a dream or through information received in a dream.
  • Discovering and evaluating what contributions dreams have made. After recording dreams for a significant period of time, one can go back and review dreams to find how they related to events and experiences in waking life during that time. This can be an eye-opening experience of discovery when one sees that many dreams do come true, show the processes and transformations one is going through in life, and support and nurture the dreamer from a deeper source.

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14. Hello World!

It’s been a while. What’s been going on in the past year? Well, there have been developments in my personal life (yes, even children’s book authors have personal lives!) that have kept me super busy. However, now I am back... Read the rest of this post

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15. No one came to your Sensory Storytime. Now what?

This is not an uncommon situation.  I’ve had many conversations with librarians who share similar stories.  “I did all this research and developed this awesome new Sensory Storytime program…but no one came.  I want to draw new families to the library, but I don’t know how to reach them.  What should I do?”  My response if often much longer than the inquiring librarians ever intended, but that’s because it’s a multifaceted issue.  There are many different things to consider when hosting a program for children with special needs.  So, if no one is coming to your Sensory Storytime at your library, here are a few things you can do:

  • Cultivate Partnerships: Partner with local organizations to help spread the word.  There are many places in your community that serve families with children with special needs, including hospitals, health centers, therapy centers, doctor’s offices, park districts, and museums.  Contact your local chapter of state-wide and national disability related organizational groups.  Consider hosting a special needs resource fair at your library, like Evanston Public Library did just this month, and invite these organizations to present at your library.  Otherwise, ask if you can attend one at a local school or community event.  Many organizations are looking for free recreational opportunities to share with families, and Sensory Storytime would be just the kind of program they might be willing to help promote.
  • Rebrand: To keep a program fresh and appealing to our communities, sometimes we need to repackage and rebrand it. Maybe the name “Sensory Storytime” is not a draw to families.   Consider changing the name to “Special Needs Storytime,” or use more inclusive language like “Storytime for Children of All Abilities.”  Maybe your program is being offered on a day of the week or a time of day that doesn’t work for families in your community.  Switch it up and change the day and time, but don’t forgot to ask families first what works best for them.  Here are also 10 Quick Tips for Marketing to this audience.
  • Focus on Inclusion: The reason your library is receiving low attendance–or none at all–could be because a storytime program specifically for children with special needs doesn’t work for your families.  It can be hard to attend a program for one child, when there are two or three other younger or older children that don’t fit in the correct age bracket for that program.  Consider a more inclusive approach and develop programming that is open to the entire family, including siblings.  There are many benefits to having the family attend as a unit, including the fact that it is a lot easier for families to attend together.
  • Try a Different Program: You could switch gears and focus on developing a completely different program all together.  Perhaps you might want to target a different age group, offering Sensory School-age Programming for older children or Sensory-Friendly Films for the whole family.  You might even want to host a Board Game and Pizza Night for Tweens of All Abilities, like Deerfield Public Library did.  For whatever reason, a storytime program may not be a draw in your community, but there are many other things you at your library can do to offer programming for this audience.

If you have already tried these tips and still aren’t reaching families, perhaps library programming is not what your community wants.  And that’s okay.  Many families with children with special needs are over-scheduled with doctor visits, therapies, parent/teacher conferences about IEPs, and play dates.  Instead, here are some other things your library might want to consider to expand services to families with children with special needs:

  • Focus on Outreach: Instead of trying to invite kids to the library, make trips to the local schools and make visit their classrooms.  Bring Sensory Storytime on the road, or even consider asking if their class would be able to do a community outing to visit the library.  There is a lot you can do to make these visits meaningful.  Here are just a few ideas, including curriculum on life skills teaching manners, as well as some general tips about visiting classrooms.
  • Develop Your Collections: Don’t forget about your library materials!  You can serve the needs of families with children with special needs by developing your existing collections, or creating new ones.  You may want to consider Early Literacy or Sensory Kits, connecting with your local Braille and Talking Book Libraries or ordering more books in braille, offering more hi-lo reading material, or developing your parent/teacher collection to include more books on special needs related topics.  Don’t forget about the Schneider Family Book Award, which recognizes books that highlight the disability experience.  Just as we work to make our programs and services more inclusive and diverse, we shouldn’t forget that our collections should represent and reflect the diversity in our communities as well. 
  • Train Staff:  Even if your library has the best new program or service, it won’t matter if other library staff members in other departments are not committed to serving families inclusively.  This could be a huge deterrent for some families.  Disability Awareness Training is necessary for us in libraries to make our libraries more accessible and friendly for everyone. No matter what your library does to welcome children with special needs–whether it is programming, outreach, services, or collections–it’s important that your entire organization is on board with inclusive customer service.

 

What are your ideas for welcoming families to your Sensory Storytime programs?  Feel free to share below!

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16. Garth Stein Preview

SuddenLight-198x300Join us on Monday, November 24 for our last 2014 Fall Evenings with Authors event. Coming all the way from Seattle, Garth Stein will be at the Columbus Museum of Art to discuss his newest novel, A Sudden Light. The novel centers in on a young boy, who in attempt to save his parents marriage, opens doors that let out years of buried secrets. During the separation, the family’s estate becomes a potential hot spot for making money, but something supernatural within the house has a different plan. Throughout his career Garth Stein has created a documentary, written multiple plays, and written six novels, including the international bestseller, The Art of Racing in the Rain. Stein’s love of writing stretches beyond his career, as he is also the co-founder of Seattle7Writers, a non-profit organization dedicated to energizing readers and writers, along with providing funding, programming, and free books to those in need.

We hope to see you at the event! Click here more information or to purchase a ticket.

If you would like a more personal experience with the author, consider attending The Authors Table and having dinner with Garth Stein. Please contact Anne Touvell at 614-464-1032 x 10 by Thursday, November 20 to reserve your meal ticket.

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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17. My Chapter 16 chat with G. Neri …



 

Over at Chapter 16 today, I talk with author G. Neri about his new picture book biography, Hello, I’m Johnny Cash, illustrated by A. G. Ford.

That Q&A is here.

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18. We Like What We Like

When he was little, one of my husband’s favorite Christmas movies was “Santa Claus Conquers the Martians.” I laughed out loud the first time he told me the title, sure he was making it up. But no, it’s a real movie starring a young Pia Zadora as a martian child. The acting is terrible, the […]

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19. Free Fall Friday – Two Book-Give-a-Ways & Poem Winner

darlenebeckjacobson:

For a chance to win one of these great new books, go to the website and leave a comment.

Originally posted on Writing and Illustrating:

OPPORTUNITY: TWO BOOK-GIVE-A-WAYS

greaterthangoldGayle Aanensen’s new 88 page novella, GREATER THAN GOLD hit the book shelves this week. It is now available on Amazon and will appeal to anyone who celebrates Christmas.

Greater than Gold is the story of two troubled boys and their two Christmases—Oscar in the present day, and Omar way back in biblical time. A good description would be The Polar Express meets The Book of Luke. After all, if a magical train ride can restore a boy’s belief in Santa Claus, why can’t an angel time-travel Oscar back to Bethlehem, where he discovers the peace, joy (and danger!) of the very first Christmas. Twelve-year-old Oscar Olsen is missing his soldier Dad, and he wants nothing (repeat, nothing) to do with Christmas this year! He acts out his anger on his Mom, his friend, Melissa, and even the strange new kid in church, Albert. A young, inexperienced…

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20. Magic Lightbox

Dear Lucas,

One full year has passed since I wrote you. You fantastic little shit.

My best friend’s son is growing up before my very eyes. Six years old now. I think of you every time I spend time with him, and I spend time with him often. I wonder what it will feel like to love a child more than I love Finn. I wonder if love can expand that wide.

fetal imageThis week I took Finn to see the prenatal exhibit at the museum of science and industry. Positioned behind looking glass, there were so many tiny embryos and fetuses, each prevented from surviving by natural causes or accidents.

I thought of Seamus, another friend’s son who was born to the world but died just before turning two. And the twin babies that came later from Seamus’ mother, the two who just turned two. So many tiny children, awake, asleep, alive, dead.

My capacious ability to love children—to love humans—bewilders me.

Today is my mother’s birthday. Her alive self would be 66 years old. Her dead self is almost two years old. My time without her in the world has been so difficult, and it has also been sublime. When every cell of your body is entwined with another from the moment you are conceived, it is complicated love.

I did not write to you this past year because there were no easy words to convey. People look to me for answers about parent loss, caregiving, early onset Alzheimer’s disease, and holding on to your partner during the years when you are caring and losing and grieving. I say there are no answers. I say you should feel everything. I say you should feel nothing. I say I am better, and they will be too, and then I dream nightmares, and I am not better. None of us can ever be better when there is so much loss.

I did not write to you this past year because everything did get better. I stopped numbing myself with alcohol. I stopped terrorizing myself with memories of moments that were terrifying. I drove around the western states for three months until I remembered I could be alone with my own mind again—and not be frightened.

desert road

I did not write to you this year because I was watching for myself to come home again. I pressed my eyelids closed with the palms of my hands, and I remembered that it was all true and it is all over. I remembered that I cannot go back and alter one single moment. I cannot make my mom alive when she is dead. I cannot be someone other than me. There is only now and forward. This is nothing and everything.

And, I did not write to you this past year because I was watching for your other mother—she who occupies the most tender eyelets of my heart—to come home again. I stopped locking my elbows, and I let the damp space evaporate. I stopped worrying about drowning in the grief, because I knew I would not. I was, in fact, simply moving through the current, finding my way back to the person—to the love—by which I remain utterly transfixed.

She waited, Lucas. She waited for me.

Now we are waiting for you.

Happy birthday, Mum.

me


Tagged: Alzheimer's, death and dying, letting go, maddening grief, mother loss, prenatal entanglement

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21. The Book With No Pictures – but much hilarity

My son Carl gave me this remarkable book. Let me tell you about it. B.J. Novak had an insidious plan. Write a book that begins innocently enough, with a statement hinting at the unusual format for this picturebook…wait…IF are no pictures, is it still a picturebook? It’s shaped like one and has pages, text, a […]

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22. Character Skills and Talents: Astrological Divination

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. 

astrology Description: exploring the study of the placement of stars, planets and constellations, to determine how astrological structure can affect personality and influence life events. A character who has studied astrology extensively can chart an individual’s celestial path by using the date and hour of their birth. This information can offer unique insight into their personality traits, relationships, and how certain planetary movements may be influencing their lives. This in turn can give greater context to past events, the present, and possibly open a window into what the future may hold.

Beneficial Strengths or Abilities: Strong reading skills, a background in psychology or working knowledge of the personality basics, being a people-person, having an investigative nature, a willingness to help others, an interest in other cultures and their beliefs, being strong in mathematics

Character Traits Suited for this Skill or Talent: open-mindedness, studious, intelligence, pensive, inquisitive, disciplined, patience, curiosity

Required Resources and Training: A character would have to dedicate significant amounts of time to the study of the stars, constellations (birth signs), cultural mythology (pertaining to astrological beliefs), and spiritual beliefs. Having a mentor or attending programs that focus on astrology and its teachings would fast track one’s knowledge. The character would also need significant practical experience in creating charts and learning the right questions to ask so that one’s advice addresses the specific areas the subject will find the most useful.

Associated Stereotypes and Perceptions:

Many believe that astrology is not a valid discipline, while others place weight on what celestial influences are interacting with their star/sun sign at different points of their lives. Most see astrology as being no more than computer generated horoscopes that run in newspapers and magazines, but in reality, it is a philosophical study of finding meaning in the stars.

Scenarios Where This Skill Could be Useful:

  • Choosing the right time to have a family, take financial risks or make bigger changes in one’s life by seeing if the influences in the stars are currently favorable or not
  • Understanding the traits that pair with Zodiac signs to determine if a friendship or other relationship will be a strong match, and if not, how best to work with a specific sign based on the traits that present typically with someone of that group
  • Increase awareness of upcoming planetary shifts that may present challenges, so one can work towards minimizing them before they occur
  • As a form of entertainment at parties
  • As a way to secure one’s place as an adviser or trusted supporter (provided the person in power believes in Astrological influences)
  • As a method to introduce a fictional prophesy or predict a major event

Resources for Further Information:

Understanding Astrology

First Steps in Astrology

The Personalities of Astrological Signs

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: Kaz @ Pixabay

The post Character Skills and Talents: Astrological Divination appeared first on WRITERS HELPING WRITERS.

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23. Chronicle Books #GiveBooks 2014

chroniclebooks-givebooks

Adorable #GiveBooks illustration by the super talented Lisa Congdon.

I am super proud and excited to be a part of this campaign. What’s the deal, you ask? It’s as simple as that: #GiveBooks.

Pledge to promote literacy, support your local bookstore, and spread the joy of reading this holiday season. For each tweet, pin, pledge, and share, Chronicle Books will donate a book to a child in need through First Book. Can we help get them to a 10,000-book donation?! Take the pledge here.

I picked some favorites to kick off my own #GiveBooks season, and here’s the greatest thing: you can win this crazy beautiful stack. All of them. And even if you don’t, perhaps they will be a good start to your shopping list this year? Stay tuned to the end of this post for more details.

For now, the books:

Flashlight #givebooks Flora and the Flamingo #givebooks For Just One Day #givebooks

1 // I chatted here with Lizi Boyd and am just head over heels over the way she views the world as one sublime story.

2 // Flora and the Flamingo won Chronicle’s first Caldecott, and this book is a fragile dance of friendship. It soars. Plus, Molly Idle is perhaps the most adorable illustrator that exists in this world, right?

3 // Remember when I wrote for Design Mom? This was the book that I first wrote about for her, so it’s got a mini-grip on my soul for starting such a fun celebration of picture books. And, that cover. Laura Leuck and Marc Boutavant spin a lovely dance here.

Good News Bad News #givebooks Open This Little Book #givebooks

4 // Jeff Mack’s book lets even the littlest read along, both to its simple text and rich-in-story pictures. A favorite about friendship and looking on the bright side of things (even when you get chased out of a bear cave by a swarm of bees.)

5 // If you’ve not flipped through this one, you are missing not one great book, but a whole handful. Want to see the magic of books at work? Flip through this one. Jesse Klausmeier and Suzy Lee made a little masterpiece.

Ivy + Bean #givebooks The Meaning of Maggie #givebooks

6 // These two. (Ivy and Bean.) Those two. (Annie Barrows and Sophie Blackall.) The perfection of this series is out of this world and the sweetest intimacy all at once. (Side note: When my editor at Chronicle first told me how much she loved my book, she said it felt like the type of book that Ivy and Bean would hold dear and spark one of their epic and messy adventures. There aren’t words for how much I love that thought.)

7 // Have you met Maggie yet? Megan Jean Sovern crafted one of the very best books of this year (or any of them, for that matter.) Just open this thing. Like yesterday. Honestly.

Shadow #givebooks Sky High #givebooks Josephine #givebooks

8 // Suzy Lee showed up a bit earlier, and here she is again. Shadow is light and dark and adventure and imagination. For curious minds everywhere, any age.

9 // This is one of those oh yes and hmm and whoa kind of books, from the design to the story and the spare to the rich. Germano Zullo and Albertine are one genius duo, much like the dueling neighbors at the heart of this tale.

10 // Well, Josephine. What a way to wrap up this bunch, right? Patricia Hruby Powell is the rhythm and Christian Robinson is the tone and the whole thing is the loveliest book of 2014. Truly.

A good stack, right? And here’s how you can win them, thanks to the fine folks at Chronicle Books. In February, the sweetest little Valentine is arriving: I’m going to be an aunt! Tell me: what is your top pick for a baby’s first bookshelf? I’ll pick a random commenter a little bit into December, and this haul will be on its way to you.

Want even more great news? From now until the end of the year, Chronicle is offering you 30% off and free ground shipping (excluding personalized products) at chroniclebooks.com from now through the end of the year. Just use this offer code: GIVEBOOKS.

Get over there and #GiveBooks!

ch

P.S. – Check out these other bloggers for their #GiveBooks picks! Brooklyn Bride, City Sage, Design Milk, Everyone is Gay, Jason Good, Micah Player, SF Girl by Bay, The Sophisticated Gourmet, The House that Lars Built, and The Jealous Curator.

 

 

 

 

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24. The Value of Handselling

by

Rachel Seigel

In my world, November means display month. We, and the other companies like us spend approximately 6 weeks lugging a truck full of books to different locations across the province where we participate in book fairs for the major school boards. We set up on average 30-40 tables stacked high with our newest fiction & non-fiction pics for the season, and work one-on-one with the Teacher Librarians to recommend books to purchase for their libraries.

While the whole process is physically exhausting, (it really is comparable to a whirlwind trip where you are in a different city each day) my favourite part is having the opportunity to handsell books. In the digital age, where so many people are purchasing books online, the value and importance of handselling books can often be lost.

Take for example the new picture book I Am JazzJazz This is a wonderful & uplifting story about the now 12-year-old Jazz Jennings, a Transgender girl. With the timeliness of the topic, I naturally assumed that the book would fly off my table. Little did I realize that from the cover & the first few pages, people were not guessing what this book was about. One customer told me that she glanced at it, but thought it was just another girly book about the colour pink & mermaids.

Another great book that I discovered required some explanation is Hello from 2030: The Science of the Future and You. Hello from This is a seriously cool book. Narrated by a robot, it makes some predictions about what the world might look like in 15 years from a science point-of-view. It looks at medicine, technology, environment and more, and it’s well-written, colourful & interesting. For most of a day it sat on our table and nobody was even picking it up. But as soon as I took a few copies over to my feature area and started suggesting it to customers, the book started flying. (Too bad I didn’t do it sooner)

What I’ve discovered over and over again is that despite what we might think, (established, popular series & authors notwithstanding) few books sell themselves. It doesn’t matter how many starred reviews the book has received, or how good the cover or blurb on the back might be- most books (children’s books especially) still need someone to champion them & tell someone how amazing they are to make them successful.

Rachel Seigel is the Sales and Selection Strategist for EduReference Publisher’s Direct Inc. in Ontario. She also maintains a personal blog at http://readingtimbits.blogspot.com and can be found on Twitter as @rachelnseigel.

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25. November Quote of the Day #2

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