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1. Monkey Mod! Fan Art

After seeing some fan art in a comic book, I decide to do some of my own of the Kevin Cross' character Monkey Mod.

via Studio Bowes Art Blog at http://ift.tt/1OxCYr0

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2. Wizarding World of Harry Potter in One Day

In anticipation of Universal Orlando’s Celebration of Harry Potter weekend and upcoming vacation season, my sister has written a special touring report for witches and wizards heading to the Wizarding World this year.

Now that the lines have died down slightly, it is completely possible to follow in Harry’s footsteps and experience all that Universal Orlando’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter has to offer in one day.

I come from a family of theme park vacation planners and our typical plans aim at maximizing fun while minimizing walking and lines. This is not that plan. This plan attempts to fully immerse you in the wizarding experience the way it unfolded for Harry. You should get to everything you want to do, but wear comfortable shoes and bring ibuprofen because you will spend some time on your feet.

Logistics

First, you will need to invest your child’s college savings in a single day 2-park ticket that includes access to both Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. It is a lot to spend on one day, but it is the only way to experience the Hogwarts Express ride between the parks. I justified to it to myself that I could always go to one park or the other on a subsequent trip and my sister really needed me to write this report. Do whatever it takes to relieve your guilt and purchase this ticket. To whoever is reading this, thank you for your part in clearing my conscience.

You may have heard about Universal’s locker policy for certain rides. They are free for the duration of the rides that require them and we did not face much frustration, so feel free to bring whatever you want to carry to the parks – including lots of snacks and toys for the kids. Just kidding. We all know you have to be eleven for admission to Hogwarts and that is about the age required to get through this single day plan successfully.

I do recommend bringing as many photo-taking devices as possible. Feel free to dust off your old point and shoot if you don’t want your phone to die before the galleon shot.

One word of warning is regarding the security “process” recently instated. Unless you want to wait in a long line walking in place on a mobile walkway, I suggest parking at least 45 minutes before opening. After getting through, head right and enter through Universal Studios.

London

Your Wizarding World journey will begin as it did for Harry – in London. Take a brief look around the telephone booths (dial MAGIC for a message from the Ministry) and cabbies’ shelters. You can also try asking an employee where you can find Diagon Alley. I overheard one who responded they had “no idea” – silly muggles.

Diagon Alley

When you reach jolly good status, head “through” the brick wall into the most magical theme park land I’ve ever experienced. Join the group of people standing right inside and take it all in. You will be annoyed by these people later, but for now – enjoy the view.

Diagon Alley in Daytime

So much traffic being blocked for this.

Just like the first time Hagrid brought Harry to Diagon Alley, your first step is to get proper wizard currency at the Gringott’s Money Exchange. If you know you will buy something later or you like making poor souvenir investments, you can purchase wizard notes in $10 or $20 increments. Even you don’t want to exchange, it is worth checking out.

Gringotts Money Exchange

Now with pockets full, it is time to shop! Begin at Ollivander’s Wand Shop and experience the wand selection process before choosing one of your own. Universal now has the option of interactive wands that allow you to “cast spells” with certain wand movements that is very fun.

Wand in Action

At mid-morning, make your way to King’s Cross Station.

Kings Cross

It is time to enter your first year at Hogwarts, but don’t worry, the school year always has a pesky way of ending, and you will be back to explore more of Diagon Alley later. Watch fellow classmates head through the wall to platform 9 ¾ before you find your compartment and enjoy the ride.

Platform

Compartment

Hogsmeade

Hogwarts

Ride Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey and then head to the Three Broomsticks for lunch.  Be sure to have some Butterbeer – available hot, cold or frozen. Then catch the last two attractions in Hogsmeade, Flight of the Hippogriff and Dragon Challenge, before taking in the shops.

Flight of Hippogriff

Hogsmeade

With all of your Hogwarts hijinks behind you, it is now dark times for Harry Potter– and you must once again board the Hogwarts Express, this time without the anticipation of return– as you seek to destroy Voldemort.

Return to Diagon Alley

Upon your arrival back in London, stop for a conversation with the Knight Bus driver and head back to Diagon Alley through those pesky bystanders I warned would eventually annoy you.

Knight Bus

Take a detour through Knockturn Alley to feel the gravity of the situation before proceeding to Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringott’s.

Kockturn Alley

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The line will be horrible, and I might recommend going the single rider route for this one as they seemed to be able to peek in for the interesting parts of the queue, but I don’t know for sure.

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Part of said line.

What I do know is that this ride is a fantastic pinnacle to a great day and is worth any amount of time your body will allow.

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After saving humanity you deserve to tuck in at the Leaky Cauldron. We tried Bangers and Mash and the Pie Combo, and both were delicious. Also, props to Universal for their efficiency with this restaurant. They direct those from a single line to the next available register and find you a seat, which really took away the stress usually involved with theme park dining.

Bangers and Mash Pies

Finally, finish up your shopping and explore Diagon Alley, which is really a different experience at night. Here are some of the great products available.

Product1 Product2 Product3 Product4 Product5 Product6 Product7 Product8 Product9 Product10

On your way out, feel free to block the entrance of Diagon Alley one last time for that goodbye shot to last you until you can save enough sickles to return.

Goodbye Shot

See here to learn more about the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando Resort and start planning your own adventure.

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3. Tuesday's Question: "What Would You Like Me To Know About You,?" and, "What Would You Like To Know About Me?"



Hello, welcome to Tuesday's Question. I've been searching for a question all day that I haven't already asked since I began posting Tuesday's Question in 2007.

Over the years, and stretches between posts, I've tried to ask original questions, (If there is such a thing.) in an effort keep the questions fresh, as well as authentic.

Hence today, in keeping with that tradition, instead of answering my own question, I'm going to answer your questions and vice-versa. Make sense?

I hope so...'cause here goes...

Alright, let's see how well I do at clarifying this...here's the first question: "What Would You Like Me To Know About You,?"and, "What Would You Like To Know About Me?"


These questions were hard to phrase, for one thing they include personal pronouns which are tricky and hard to clarify, especially, when there are two questions for each of "us" to ask one another.  

Basically, all of us can ask whatever question we wish, of course that's not to assume that your inquiry will be answered, but I will certainly give you my best answer.

And now, when I think about it, I suppose I should answer the first question:

"What Would You Like Me To Know About You?" 

I would like you to know that I love people, to write, and to laugh, but many of you already know this about me. I'm sure you may have more questions, because whereas I'm open, I'm also intensely private. But, do not let this detour you; ask away, o.k.?  

I hope these questions will be fun to answer and will help create and enrich friendship. 'Cause, what would we do without friendship, and if it isn't fun, why do it?

Thanks for visiting, and I hope you will return often. :))))

Brag tag.
Feel free to copy, paste, and link a "Tuesday's Question" Brag Tag your favorite Tuesday's Question on your blog/website.

(Note:) Your answers may appear within a post with a link to your blog or website. This is to help promote the blogs/websites who participate. If you do not own a blog or website or for any reason do not wish your answer to appear in a post, please inform me by e-mail, or in your comment. Your wishes will be respected.)
Please know that, every word of every comment is greatly appreciated. :)))))    




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4. Selection Committee to Choose Members of U.S. National Quidditch Team

A U.S. Quidditch team has been designated by a selection committee for the International Quidditch Association’s World Cup, to be held this summer, reports examiner.com.

The selection committee was chosen by U.S. Quidditch staff “from a pool of applicants who were required to submit an essay about their interest in the committee and its responsibilities, experience with Quidditch, and vision for the team.”

For a list of qualifications and to apply to be part of the team, visit the IQA website. The next application deadline is for coaches and is on Monday, Jan. 11 at 11:59pm EST.

The IQA’s World Cup will be held in Frankfurt, Germany, on July 23rd and 24th, and will host Quidditch teams from all over the world.

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5. Naming Emma Watson’s Book Club

Emma Watson is asking her Twitter followers to help her name her feminist book club.  As we reported here at Leaky, Watson has recommended several titles to fellow readers over the years.  It’s exciting to find that she’s going to share future reads on a whole new level!

There have been several creative suggestions, from “Watson Your Bookshelf” to “Read for She.”   Whatever she calls it, we really want an invitation to join!

What would you name Emma Watson’s feminist book club?  To see the suggestions and add your own, visit @EmmaWatson on Twitter.

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6. A Harry Potter Yule Ball Party!

Members of the Leaky community sometimes ask us if we have any tips for throwing a Harry Potter party. Since I recently had one with some family and friends, I thought I’d share a few photos and ideas! The second annual Harry Potter Book Night is Thursday, February 4th, if you’d like a reason to start planning your own party–not that one ever needs a reason!

First off, the invitations. We gathered wax seal supplies, cream envelopes, and special paper that resembles a roll of parchment from a local craft store. This is what they looked like once finished (the front of the envelopes weren’t anything special):

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There are all sorts of templates on the web for Harry Potter party invitations, from acceptance letter-style invites to Yule Ball invites, and even printable Platform 9 3/4 tickets, which we also included in the envelopes. Click here for a good, comprehensive resource.

Those Platform 9 3/4 tickets came in handy once our guests arrived, because the first step was getting past the barrier!

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Click here for instructions on making the brick wall entrance. We printed and framed the Platform sign, but you could also paint it on. Alternatively, craft and fabric stores sometimes have plastic or fabric sheets that already have a brick pattern on them.

It also makes for a fun photo op! Here’s Bellatrix, Professor Sprout and Pigwidgeon (with Dobby peeking from behind):

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Of course, we had to include the night sky! The “sky” was achieved by splattering white paint onto a black sheet to create the look of stars, but you could also probably find fabric at a fabric store that already looks like a star-strewn sky. The candles were created by using paper towel rolls as the base. We then dripped a hot glue gun down the sides of the rolls to give the effect of dripping wax, and once they were dry, we painted them white. Small pieces of styrofoam were used for the tops and bottoms of the candles so they would look solid (and hold the tea lights). We then placed LED tea lights in each candle, which is completely safe (using tea lights with a real flame is a serious fire hazard, so please don’t attempt it!) Finally, we suspended the candles from the ceiling with fishing wire, which is almost completely invisible and very lightweight. The photos don’t fully capture how spectacular it looked, especially with the lights off.

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We had S.P.E.W. posters about (found on Pinterest) which we framed, and attached clothes pegs and socks to. We also had some owls on high window sills (which were difficult to photograph). You can buy owls at craft and home décor stores, and you can also see one of them below, perched on my shoulder.  I was Hermione, so it felt appropriate to take a photo with one of the S.P.E.W. posters!

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A very talented artist and family friend also created a beautiful, detailed piece of chalk art on our chalkboard so that it looked as if we were looking out of Hogwarts onto the wintery castle grounds:

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There were even adorable Christmas lights and wisps of snow in the trees! And if you look at the previous photo, you can see a patronus behind my shoulder, posed majestically. The chalkboard art made for a lovely backdrop for both the party and pictures. You can very easily make your own chalkboard wall with chalkboard paint, which is widely available wherever you can buy paint.

We also made the Monster Book of Monsters using some thick faux fur, an old belt buckle, some googly eyes and plasticine for the mouth. There are lots of tutorials online, but you can pretty much just wing it without one!

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We took a cue from the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and had Moaning Myrtle lurking in the bathroom (via an iPod dock stored in the cabinet beneath the sink). We kept the lights off and had candles to create a bit of an eerie atmosphere:


And of course, every Harry Potter party needs wands! We made them for our guests using surprisingly few materials, like chopsticks and a hot glue gun. Click here for the super easy tutorial.

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We made sweet and savoury nibbles for our guests, but the sweets were the only thing that we made themed. We found confection labels on Pinterest, and the “stone” castle wall covering you can see in this picture was found at a party store. We made (bug-free!) cockroach clusters (fair warning: making these was quite a labour-intensive project because of all of the little pieces you have to delicately attach. I had no idea it would take so long to make them. Also, I couldn’t find yellow sprinkles, so I used yellow icing instead), chocolate frogs (using a frog-shaped chocolate mold from a craft store), acid pops, and we actually found packs of Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans at a local discount store! We also made Butterbeer, of course! Dark cream soda (or root beer) works best, and we used Marshmallow Fluff whisked with cream soda to create a foamy topping, but whipped cream would work perfectly well. We made an alcoholic version, so we also added butterscotch schnapps, but you could add butter and vanilla extract if you wanted to make a non-alcoholic version instead.

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“We’ll take the lot!”

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Both the cup and Marauder’s Map were purchased at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

Our party was a costume party, with “no muggles!” designated on the invites. Everyone looked so wonderful and it was evident that a lot of thought and effort was devoted to all of the costumes. Because it was Christmastime, we made a Christmas “photo booth” with wrapping paper as the backdrop and some fun props. We also set up a camera on a tripod. Here are a few of the snaps:

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Winky, with the villainous Dolores Umbridge looming in the background. Isn’t Umbridge’s pink outfit perfect?

Dobby and Winky toiled away at their costumes, of course, and they looked amazing. This is the how-to for one house elf costume: Gather, tie, and sew a queen-size bed sheet and drag it through the garden (everything from tea bags to coffee grounds were initially used, but it turns out that dirt works the best). The headpiece was a basic rabbit-style cap made of tan-coloured vinyl with pointy ears sewn into the side seams, both of which you can find at costume stores. The noses were purchased from a dance shop and brown stage make-up was rubbed all over them to make them look filthy. The large anime-style eyes were achieved with stage make-up, but Winky’s final word is that real cosmetics would have worked best.

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“What quirks lurk beneath those rosy cheeks? What mysteries do the muscles mask? Does courage lie beneath those curls? In short, what makes a champion tick? Me, myself and I want to know. Not to mention my ravid readers. So, who’s feeling up to sharing? Shall we start with the youngest? Lovely.” Our Rita Skeeter also looked incredible and instantly recognizable. She managed to find the most Rita-esque dress at a thrift shop!

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If you’re looking for some costume ideas that require just a few common supplies, going as a fantastic beast is a good idea! My friends were very creative. Buckbeak was achieved using a mask, a piece of styrofoam carved into a beak shape, paint, feathers, and a hot glue gun, as well as a grey cardigan. Pigwidgeon was achieved using a fur vest and some face paint, and mini buns to mimic owl ears. I also wore Hermione’s time turner, and I used Hermione’s wand from Ollivander’s Wand Shop at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. I added the spell effect using the magic of pixlr :)

We didn’t plan any activities, mostly because all of our attendees were adults, and we thought we’d just let everyone mingle. The most themed activity we did was when a few of us took a sorting hat quiz on my phone, but click here for an amazing article from Buzzfeed, which has all kinds of ideas for décor, food, and activities. From organizing a backyard game of quidditch, to playing “Pin the Glasses on Harry,” to hanging a dementor piñata, there are so many cool things you can do. Looking at that list makes me want to plan another party!

Much credit is due to my mum, who poured a lot of time and love into making sure the party was the great success that it was.

If you’ve thrown a Harry Potter party, do share your tips in the comments section!

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7. What Emma Watson Reads

It’s no surprise to anyone that the highly educated Emma Watson loves a good book.   She has touted several favorites in interviews and on social media pages in the last few years.

This month, Harper’s Bazaar published a list of Emma Watson’s recommendations.  It was originally compiled by Hello Giggles, with Harper’s Bazaar adding a few more titles from other sources.

The list is mostly novels but also includes singer-songwriter Patti Smith’s memoir, Just Kids.  Two authors are listed for multiple books, Cheryl Strayed and Stephenie Meyer.  Watson read three of Strayed’s books in three weeks, and she admitted that Meyer’s Twilight series was a guilty pleasure.

Other titles on the list include John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, which Watson stayed up until the wee hours of the morning reading, and A Thousand Splendid Suns, by Khaled Hosseini, which is also one of Malala Yousafzai’s favorite books.

Erika Johansen’s The Queen of the Tearling made the Emma Watson book list.  This novel’s film rights are now owned by Warner Bros., and Watson has been slated to both produce and star in the production.

Harper’s Bazaar includes Emma Watson’s mention of Roald Dahl’s The BFG in a Time magazine interview, but, surprisingly, Le Petit Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, is not listed.  Watson tells Time it is her favorite book, because, like The BFG, it takes her back to her childhood.  “I like books that aren’t just lovely but that have memories in themselves. Just like playing a song, picking up a book again that has memories can take you back to another place or another time.”

Who understands this better than a Harry Potter fan?

For all 16 titles on the Emma Watson list from Harper’s Bazaar, see here.

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8. “Strictly Come Dancing” Christmas Special Features Great Hall set

The highly acclaimed British dancing show, Strictly Come Dancing, features the Great Hall set from the WB Studio Tour London in this years Christmas Special.

BBC One posted photos of the episode, revealing details of where the show, and its behind the scenes content was filmed. Much of the episode has been filmed with the usual Strictly Come Dancing studio, with a live audience and judges. However, many behind the scenes photos reveal the final contestants dancing in the Great Hall, peaking through the Great Hall doors, posing in front of a Wizarding Christmas Tree, and boarding the Hogwarts Express at the Making of Harry Potter: Warner Bros. Studio Tour London.

Some of these photos can be seen below:

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Visit BBC One for more!

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9. Winter Wonderland sketches - preschool book that celebrates the wonder of winter for young and old....





Sketches from "Winter Wonderland"  written by Debbie Estrem.
This is the third book in a nostalgic series for parents and 
grandparents to share with little ones, celebrating 
the best memories of every season. 

The first two books in the series are now available!




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10. Aww... Monday's: Drive Carefully

Welcome to Aww...Monday's. The only rule of Aww...Monday's is to post a picture that makes you say Aww...and smile.
Created by Sandee of Comedy Plus who has the Mister Linky's link to join in the fun. Here's the link to Comedy Plus   where you can read her post, add the link to your post, and meet other bloggers.

Aww..is indeed a great way to start the week.



                                               
Drive Carefully, because you never know who is sharing the highway.
                                                             
I'm going to get some Tuna Fish


Image Credit Google images

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11. Tuesday's Question- What's In Your Purse, Wallet, Handbag, Computer Bag, Etc, Today?


Hello, and welcome to Tuesday's Question. Today's question is, well, I know you read the title, but I'll ask it again, and answer it: What's In Your Purse, Wallet, Handbag, Computer Bag, Etc, Today? 



I carry a purse and sometimes a book bag, but I'm just going to list what's in my purse. So, pardon me while I crawl into my bottomless bag let's see,  

The first thing I see is a small bag of scramble rubbish, mainly make-up, (Most of which I do not use.) mixed with pens, a little notebook which I bought to write down idea's and notes, receipts, a little purple rock to remind me to be grateful, band-aids, my wallet, a hair brush, three pairs of sunglasses, two pairs of reading glasses, perfume, small coins with a drawing of President Lincoln on them, a variety of mints, Stephen King's new book about time travel, entitled, 11/22/63, and I could go on...it's ridiculous. I clean my purse out at least once a week, but it's an endless chore. 

Alright, now it's your turn. I will reply to each comment, and remember to answer carefully because sometime in the near future I'm going to post my readers comments to Tuesday's Questions. Because I've read some of the comments in the past that are hilarious, touching, kind, and well just plain good.   

If you are a blogger, I will link your comments back to your blog, but if you do not have a blog you will still remain a part of Tuesday's Questions. 

Which reminds me, I've received a few e-mails from readers who aren't sure how to leave a comment.  

If you do not own a blog and aren't sure how to leave a comment, just hit the comment button at the bottom of the post, and a box will pop up, then just follow the directions. It's easy and fun.    



I hope Tuesday's Question's, and this question will encourage everyone to begin conversations by responding to each others comments. Plus, it's a way for all of us to have fun. But, if you are more comfortable just reading comments that's fine too.

O.K. finally it's your turn, What's In Your Purse, Wallet, Handbag, Computer Bag, Etc, Today? 



Link to title image http://www.oliobymarilyn.com/2012/12/lose-weight-forever-50-habits-of.html



Image of "I answered Tuesday's Question was drawn by my son, Taylor McCrary. 

I forgot how to insert the link to the image, but feel free to copy it and brag about the fact that you answered the famous Tuesday's Question. :))

Thank you for visiting A Nice Place In The Sun, and have a spectacular day!    

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12. Mermaid Illustration

mermaid 2

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13. Our Top 25 favourite J.K. Rowling tweets!

Recently, J.K. Rowling took to Twitter to give us the news that there will not be a Harry Potter TV show, nor will there be a ‘Potter-on-Ice’. But rather than crushing our dreams (well, it did a little, if we’re honest), the hilarious ‘image of Ice Voldemort performing the triple salchow’ perfectly depicts Jo’s mastery of Twitter.

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She sure knows how to use those 140 characters; thankfully, her early Twitter days of saying ‘you won’t be hearing from me very often’ didn’t last long. Her social media presence has become prevalent and powerful. She tweets for any occasion and cause, but most importantly, just to connect with her fans. As she answers fans’ questions, or stands up for what she believes in, Jo’s humour never fails to draw media and fans’ attention, love, and favouritism.

Without further ado, here are 25 of our favourite (and most hilarious) J.K. Rowling twitter moments – enjoy!

1) Her continued rage at desktop printers:

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2) The time we had no idea what was going on:

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Maybe a reference to Stephen Hawking’s ‘Zayn Malik in a parallel universe’ theory, but either way, it’s brilliant.

3) When #AddGoatRuinAQuote was used and responded to perfectly:

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Ah, of course, the wise words of Aberforth Dumbledore, the goat charmer.

4) When she ‘Can’t decide whether touched or scared’ by our loyalty:

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5) Behold, the flugly owl:

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The perfect gift for a Hogwarts first year. If it can actually carry letters and fly.

6) The time Jo cleared up that issue with the names of Harry Potter’s kids:

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7) Proof that Jo is, indeed, hardcore:

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8) We thought she’d never answer this question… 

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…And she didn’t, until very recently:

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9) And this question, well:

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10) In a parallel universe, Harry Potter doesn’t exist. Not because Jo is Zayn Malik, but because she’s an otter-weigher: 

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11) We can all agree on this one:

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12) Jo may not kill off as many characters as George R.R Martin, but she still feels bad about the ones she does kill:

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13) The only way to celebrate Ireland’s victory:

ireland gay marriage

14) Followed by the only way for such a brilliant author to slam the haters:

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15) This is possibly our favourite burn of all time: 

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Especially seeing as Jo seems to be one of the biggest Serena Williams fans out there:

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16) Then there was that time that the world nearly broke her:

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Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is set to come out next year, and is most definitely not a prequel. You can find more information on the play’s website, and read more from playwright Jack Thorne here.

17) Perfect use of sarcasm:

secret keeper

We also think that #fideliuscharm has got to be one of the best hashtags around.

18) The time Matthew Lewis (aka, Neville Longbottom) appeared on the cover of Attitude magazine, and was too hot for Jo to handle:

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jkr

19) Sometimes Tumblr knows her answers: 

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20) But, let’s face it: at the end of the day, Jo Rowling knows all:

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21) … Even if she can’t play tennis: 

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22) This one got us wondering just how many of these budgies she sees: 

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Almost as cute as these Potter-themed dogs:

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23) NOBODY TWEETS IN CAPITAL LETTERS AND GETS AWAY WITH IT.

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24) We’ve decided that pseudonyms work best when J.K. Rowling uses them:

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And we definitely have to agree with Chris Rankin (aka Percy Weasley) on this one!

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Insulting your literal other half isn’t fair, Jo!

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This recent one gave us a laugh – we can only imagine the struggle of faux-quarrels with your writing partner:

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25) And finally, the reason we’re all here after all. 

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Not only has J.K. Rowling (and Robert Galbraith, of course!) given us books and films we know and love, but her sense of humour is absolutely spot on. Harry had to get his sass from somewhere!

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Make sure you give her Twitter page a visit, if you haven’t already!

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14. First Quidditch European Games to be held in Italy

As some will recall from our World Cup 8 report, the IQA (International Quidditch Association) dissolved in  2014, after many non-US Quidditch teams refused their bids to the 7th annual Quidditch World Cup. The IQA was then split into national associations (i.e. USQ, QUK, etc.). US World Cup 8 was hosted by USQ, while European Quidditch Associations promised a combined regional Cup was in the works. The European regional tournament is finally here.

For the first time, European Quidditch games will be held in Tuscany, The Telegraph reports.

According to the article, the real-life version of Quidditch, which was invented in the USA in 2005,  is popular in Italy. There are an estimated 6,000 Italian players. This year marks the first  that squads from all over Europe will take part in games held in the 2,000 year-old town of Sarteano. Players from the UK, Ireland, Germany, The Netherlands, Norway, Belgium, Catalonia, France, Poland, Spain, and Italy will compete in the games, which begin this Friday. The Telegraph reports that Sarteano will be transformed into a “mini Hogwarts” for the games:

The Quidditch teams will be greeted by a Harry Potter-themed party in Sarteano Castle, which dates from the 11th century. Market stalls will be set up to resemble the fictional Diagon Alley, where young wizards and witches come in search of their wands in the JK Rowling books.


Alas, flying on broomsticks isn’t exactly a possibility; however, real-life Quidditch reportedly closely mimics the original wizarding sport:

Each of the seven players in a real-world team must hold a broomstick between their legs at all times and the game comes to a close only once the snitch – which comes in the form of a human with a tennis ball suspended in a sock between their legs – is caught.


You can read the rest of the article here.

 

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15. Tuesday's Question: What Song Brings Back Nostalgic Memories?

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Hello, and welcome to Tuesday's Question. Today's question is, well, I know you read the title, but I'll ask it again, and answer it: 

 What song brings back nostalgic memories?

 For me, it's I'm A Believer by The Monkees, which is odd because they were not my favorite band, although I did love them.

I'm A Believer pulls me back to a time in my life when the world was simple and friends were plentiful. When I was seventeen our lives and town were different; living was still and easy, yet loud and joyful. But the main reason the song brings back nostalgic memories is because my sweetheart at the time hid his Monkees 'eight-track' tape from me because I constantly played the song.
When I think of him hiding his tapes it makes me laugh, because he taught me how to play the song on the guitar, a deed I think he probably regretted. 

I hope Tuesday's Question's, and this question will encourage everyone to begin conversations by responding to each others comments. Plus, it's a way for all of us to have fun. But, if you are more comfortable reading comments that's fine too.  Alright, now it's your turn: What Song Brings Back Nostalgic Memories for you?








I've received a few e-mails from readers who aren't sure how to leave a comment.  

If you do not own a blog and aren't sure how to leave a comment, just hit the comment button at the bottom of the post, and a box will pop up, then just follow the directions. It's easy and fun.    




Thank you for visiting A Nice Place In The Sun. I hope you had a good time, and will return for the next Tuesday's Question.


Feel free to copy Tuesday's Questions logo drawn by my son. Eventually, I will relearn how to add my link to the picture, and post my favorite bloggers logos as well.

Have a super happy day everybody! 

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And by the way, What song is in your head today?









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16. #708 – National Geographic Kids Almanac 2016 by Nat. Geo Society & Nat. Geo Kids Magazine

cover2
National Geographic Kids Almanac 2016
National Geographic Society & National Geographic Kids Magazine
National Geographic Society        5/12/2015
978-1-4263-1921-1
352 pages         Age 8—12
.

“This New York Times bestseller is packed with incredible photos, tons of fun facts, crafts, activities, and fascinating articles about animals, science, nature, technology, and more. New features include a special section on animal friends; an updated “Fun and Games” chapter filled with all-new games, jokes, and comics; a new “Dino Myths Busted” feature; all new weird-but-true facts, crafts, and activities; a new special “15 Facts” feature in every chapter; updated reference material, and much more! And, this is the only kids’ almanac with mobile media features that allow kids to access National Geographic videos, photo galleries, and games.” [publisher]

Review
National Geographic Kids Almanac 2016—Wow, where do I start? Color blasts out from every page. The photography is as spectacular as National Geographic photography has always been—brilliant, intimately detailed, knock-you-off-your-feet fantabulous. Divided into ten sections, the Kids Almanac 2016 begins with a section on interesting things happening in 2016, and then it explores the usual topics of history, culture, science, geography, nature, and animals. The almanac also includes a section on green technology and its effect on Earth, and a section about exploration and survival. Most likely, a favorite for kids will be the section on games. Actually, the Kids Almanac 2016 contains a game throughout the entire 350 pages. In each chapter is a clue. Find all ten clues and you can open up digital extras.

dino mythsIn reading the Kids Almanac 2016, I think National Geographic has covered all the subjects kids will find interesting and all those they need to know about. Adults can get a lot out of this almanac as well. There is a tremendous amount of information in this relatively small book. I loved the animal topics, of which there are many. Kids interested in dinosaurs will find a prehistoric timeline, nine “Bet you didn’t know” facts, and myths. Each section ends with a quiz on that section’s subject. When you cannot get to a place, or want to know what is happening in different places around the world, the Kids Almanac 2016 is a tremendous aid. Kids can also dig a little deeper in subjects they love and learn about subjects they never thought about or thought were dull. There is not one tedious word or picture in the Kids Almanac 2016. Here are a few subjects I found to be amazing:

“Secrets of the Blue Holes”
Animal photography and how to get the shot.
“The Wonders of Nature: the Oceans”

Worlds Wackiest Houses”

“Worlds Wackiest Houses”

“16 Cool Facts about Coral Reefs”
The jokes and comics in Fun and Games
Orangutan to the Rescue (Survival Story)”

What would a National Geographic book be without its gorgeous maps? The Kids Almanac 2016 has plenty of maps and flags. I think the National Geographic Kids Almanac 2016 is a must read, if not a must have, for kids, especially middle graders who will learn a lot without realizing they are learning. The Kids Almanac 2016 is fun, exciting, and interesting. The pages are colorful, the photographs and images extremely detailed, and the subject matter is diverse.

volcanosThough kids are just now beginning to enjoy their summer school breaks, the Kids Almanac 2016 will keep them reading through the summer, which will help kids during their next school year, make them more informed about their world. Parents concerned about the books their kids read will have not one worry about this almanac. Every word, every subject, and every article is kid-friendly. The National Geographic Kids Almanac 2016 is an interesting read that will keep kids hooked long past summer vacation.

NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC KIDS ALMANAC 2016. Text and images copyright © 2015 by National Geographic Society. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, National Geographic Society in partnership with National Geographic Kids Magazine, Washington DC.

Purchase National Geographic Kids Almanac 2016 at AmazonBook DepositoryNational Geographic.

Kids! Join the National Geographic Kids Book Club HERE!
Teachers and Librarians can find additional information at: http://www.ngchildrensbooks.org
National Geographic Educational site is HERE.

Learn more about National Geographic Kids Almanac 2016 HERE.
Check out the National Geographic Society website: http://www.nationalgeographic.com
Find other National Geographic books at: http://www.nationalgeographic.com/books
Learn more about the National Geographic Kids Magazine at the website: http://www.kids.nationalgeographic.com

Kids Almanac 2015 
.
Copyright © 2015 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews. All Rights Reserved

Review section word count = 496

nat geo kids almanac 2016


Filed under: 5stars, Books for Boys, Children's Books, Favorites, Library Donated Books, Middle Grade, Series Tagged: and animals, culture, fun, games, geography, going green, history, liss instructive information, maps, National Geographic Kids Almanac 2016, National Geographic Kids Magazine, National Geographic Society, nature, science

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17. “The Story of the Fisherman” Sketches and Video

During the course of working on "The Story of the Fisherman" I've generated many many sketches, here are just a few. I hope you enjoy them.



via Studio Bowes Art Blog at http://ift.tt/1DeDbsU

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18. Dorothy Parker’s Lessons in Self-Doubt

Ellen Meister author photo low resBY ELLEN MEISTER

When my adult writing students confess their struggles with self-doubt, they usually look panicked. I can’t possibly be a real writer, their eyes seem to say. I’m just never sure what I’m doing is right.

That’s when I explain that self-doubt is the fuel that drives us forward. Show me a writer with unshakable confidence, I tell them, and I’ll show you a lousy writer.

No one proves this more than Dorothy Parker. Though arguably the greatest literary wit of the twentieth century, she battled those demons of doubt every day.

In 1956, when interviewed by Paris Review and asked about the period in which she wrote poems, Parker replied, “My verses. I cannot say poems. Like everybody was then, I was following in the exquisite footsteps of Miss Millay, unhappily in my own horrible sneakers. My verses are no damn good. Let’s face it, honey, my verse is terribly dated—as anything once fashionable is dreadful now. I gave it up, knowing it wasn’t getting any better, but nobody seemed to notice my magnificent gesture.”

No damn good? I beg to differ. Dorothy Parker’s poetry still resonates with freshness and wit. Even her darkest verses, such as Resumé, have legions of modern fans.

But her self-deprecation didn’t stop there. In a 1945 telegram to her publisher at Viking she wrote: ALL I HAVE IS A PILE OF PAPER COVERED WITH WRONG WORDS. CAN ONLY KEEP AT IT AND HOPE TO HEAVEN TO GET IT DONE. DONT KNOW WHY IT IS SO TERRIBLY DIFFICULT OR I SO TERRIBLY INCOMPETENT.

The telegram referred to an introduction she had agreed to write for a collection of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s work. And it followed on the heels of an even more painful period of inertia, as she had been unable to fulfill her contract to write a novel. This was a lifelong thorn in her heart. Parker wanted desperately to write a novel, but couldn’t seem to get out of her own way. Her perfectionism may have been the culprit, as she was a relentless self-editor. In that same Paris Review interview she explained that it took her six months to write a short story, saying, “I can’t write five words but that I change seven.”

Clearly, she found the process more filled with despair than joy. It’s no wonder then, that she offered up the following advice: “If you have any young friends who aspire to become writers, the second greatest favor you can do them is to present them with copies of The Elements of Style. The first greatest, of course, is to shoot them now, while they’re happy.”

If that gives you pause, consider an even more famous quote from Parker: “I hate writing, I love having written.” Even if your feelings aren’t quite that extreme, the message is clear—the doubt isn’t going anywhere, so you may as well put away the panic and get to work.


 

Ellen Meister is a novelist, essayist, public speaker and creative writing instructor at Hofstra University (Hempstead, NY). She runs a popular Dorothy Parker page on Facebook that has almost150,000 followers.

Her fifth novel, Dorothy Parker Drank Here, is in stores now. To connect with Ellen, visit ellenmeister.com, and for daily quotes from Dorothy Parker, follow her Facebook page.

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19. A laughing etymologist in a humorless crowd

I have noticed that many of my acquaintances misuse the phrases a dry sense of humor and a quiet sense of humor. Some people can tell a joke with a straight face, but, as a rule, they do it intentionally; their performance is studied and has little to do with “dryness.” A quiet sense of humor is an even murkier concept. What is it: an ability to chuckle to oneself? Smiling complacently when everybody else is roaring with laughter? Being funny but inoffensive? Sometimes readers detect humor where it probably does not exist.

For example, in the Scandinavian myth of the final catastrophe, the great medieval scholar Snorri Sturluson noted that the lower jaw of the wolf, the creature destined to swallow the whole world, touched the ground, while the upper jaw reached to the sky. If the wolf, he added, could open its mouth wider, it would have done so. For at least two hundred years scholars have been admiring Snorri’s dry sense of humor, though there is no certainly that Snorri had any sense of humor at all. What we read in his text is an accurate statement of fact, a description of a monster with a mouth open to its full extent.

Fenrisulfr tied up, a river flows from his mouth. From the 17th century Icelandic manuscript AM 738 4to, now in the care of the Árni Magnússon Institute in Iceland. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.
Fenrisulfr tied up, a river flows from his mouth. From the 17th century Icelandic manuscript AM 738 4to, now in the care of the Árni Magnússon Institute in Iceland. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

In Europe, if we disregard the situation known form Ancient Greece and Rome, the modern sense of humor, which, first and foremost, presupposes laughter at verbal rather than at practical jokes, hardly existed before the Renaissance. (Practical jokes seldom thrill us.) The likes of Mark Twain and Oscar Wilde would not have had an appreciative audience in the Middle Ages. A look at the words pertaining to laughter may not be out of place here. The verb laugh has nothing to do with amusement. Its most ancient form sounded as khlakhkhyan (kh, which, as the above transcription shows, was long, stands for ch in Scots loch and in the family name MacLauchlan). If this word had currency before the formation of the system of Germanic consonants, its root was klak, which belongs with cluck, clack, click, clock, and other similar sound-imitative formations. The most primitive word for “laugh” seems to have designated a “guttural gesture,” akin to coughing or clearing one’s throat. Chuckle, a frequentative form of chuck, is a cousin of cackle. Giggle, another onomatopoeic verb, is a next-door neighbor of chuckle. The origin of Latin ridere (“to laugh”: compare ridiculous, deride, and risible) is unknown.

Nowadays, few words turn up in our speech more often than fun. Fun is the greatest attraction of everything. On campus, after the most timid souls get out of the math anxiety course, they are assured that math will be fun. A popular instructor is called a fun professor; students wish one another a fun class. Fun is the backbone of our education, and yet the word fun surfaced in texts only in the seventeenth century, and, like many nouns and verbs belonging to this semantic sphere, was probably a borrowing by the Standard from slang. Its etymology is disputable; perhaps fun is related to fond, and fond meant “stupid.” Joke, contemporaneous with fun, despite its source in Latin, also arose as slang.

We seldom think of the inner form of the word witty. Yet it is an obvious derivative of wit. One could expect witty to mean “wise, sagacious,” the opposite of witless (compare also unwitting), and before Shakespeare it did mean “clever, ingenious.” In German, the situation is similar. Geistreich (Geist + reich) suggests “rich in spirit (mind)” but corresponds to Engl. “witty.” Likewise, jest had little to do with amusement. Latin gesta (plural) meant “doings, deeds” and is familiar from the titles of innumerable Latin books (for example, Gesta danorum “The Deeds of the Danes”). Apparently, in the absence of the concept we associate with wit speakers had to endow the existing material with a meaning that suddenly gained in importance or surfaced for the first time. “The street,” where slang flourished, reveled in low entertainment and supplied names for it. Sometimes the learned also felt a need for what we call fun but were “lost for words” and used Latin nouns in contexts alien to them.

Jest is by far not the only example of this process. Hoax, which originally meant “to poke fun at,” is an eighteenth-century verb (at first only a verb) derived from Latin hocus, as in hocus-pocus. By an incredible coincidence, Old English had hux “mockery,” a metathesized variant of husc, a word with a solid etymology, but in the remote past it may have meant “noise.” When the history of the verbs for “laugh” comes to light, it often yields the sense “noise.” Such is Swedish skratta (with near identical cognates in Norwegian and Danish). People, as rituals and books inform us, laughed on various occasions: to promote fertility (a subject I cannot discuss here), to express their triumph over a vanquished enemy, or to show that they were happy. Noise sometimes constituted part of their reaction. None of that had anything to do with our sense of humor.

German Scherz “joke” first denoted “a merry jump.” Its synonym Spaß reached German from Italian (spasso; in the seventeenth century, like so many words being discussed here), but German did not remain a debtor. It “lent” Scherz to Italian, which returned it to the European languages as Scherzo, a musical term. The origin of Dutch grap “joke” is uncertain (so probably slang). Almost the entire English vocabulary of laughter and mockery is late: either the words were coined about four hundred year ago, or new meanings of old words arose. It is as though a revolution in attitudes toward laughter (or at least one aspect of it) occurred during and soon after the Renaissance. People felt a need for new terms expressing what we take for eternal impulses and began to promote slang and borrow right and left.

Below I will list a few verbs with their dates and some indication of their origin. The roman numbers refer to the centuries.

  • Jeer (XVI; “fleer and leer have affinities for form and meaning”; so The Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology),
  • fleer (XV, possibly from Scandinavian),
  • sneer (XVI; perhaps from Low German or Dutch),
  • flout (XVI, possibly from Dutch),
  • taunt (XVI, from French),
  • banter (XVII, of unknown origin).

Only scoff and scorn are considerably older, though both also came from abroad. To be sure, the picture presented above is too simple; it does not take into account the history of people. New words were borrowed, while old ones fell into desuetude. The formula “of unknown origin” does not mean that no suggestions about their etymology exist. They do, but none is fully convincing.

Our ancestors laughed as much as we do, but we have added a new dimension to this process: we can laugh at a witty saying (when they spoke their native languages, this was, apparently, a closed art to them). Strangely, the educated “barbarians” enjoyed Roman comedies, but laughing at Latin witticisms taught them nothing and did not become a transferable skill. The Europeans who descended from those “barbarians” needed a long time to catch up with their teachers. A study of laughter is not only a window to the development of European mentality. It also sheds light on popular culture. We observe how the slang of the past gained respectability and became part of the neutral style. Here etymologists can make themselves useful to everyone who is interested in how we have become what we are. Enjoy yourselves, friends, but don’t be always the last to laugh.

The post A laughing etymologist in a humorless crowd appeared first on OUPblog.

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20. Two Middle Grade Books 2014

Middle Grade Readers

1) One Dog and His Boy- Written by Eva Ibbotson, Published by Scholastic Inc. New York, NY 2014. Hal is just an ordinary kid with a large dream of owning a dog. On his birthday Hal is allowed to choose a pet that is when Fleck becomes a part of his life and an adventure begins after Hal finds him gone on Monday. Together with a girl named Pippa Hal rescues Fleck and running away is his only option, made trickier when Pippa announces that she and the other dogs want to come along. It not only teaches your children about the power of friendship and love  but it takes them on a journey through life. I highly recommend this book for your middle graders. Get out and pick up a copy today.

2) The Path of Names- Written by Ari Goelman, Published by Scholastic Inc. New York, NY 2013. Dahlia Sherman loves magic tricks, math and video games. She is not so found of campfire songs or lighting storms or mean girls her age. When she is placed in a sleeping camp strange things start happening like ghosts of little girls and an ancient maze guarded by a mysteries caretaker. This books take her on a journey through the past to discover what all this means. It is a mystery based on ancient Jewish scripture that is much better suited for your older middle grader. The book is a fun read and has a very strong connection to Jewish traditions and mystical culture.     


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21. January Blues…

I love January, but my sweet homeschool kiddos don’t seem to love it quite as much. Thus, a blues poem for my girls and all the students who wish they were still on  Christmas vacation…   School is in session Equations are flying Students are moaning Brain cells are frying Reading and painting Dividing and…

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22. Writing the Unlikable Character (and Why You Should)

reilly

Ignatius J. Reilly

We talk a lot about the importance of writing characters that readers like or can relate to—and by “we” I mean anyone who feels strongly about books, regardless of profession. It’s nice to know when the good guy is good and when the bad guy is bad. That’s what you expect from a story. You want a hero, right?

Nope. Not this reader.

I love unlikable characters. It’s fair to say that if there’s a no-good, dirty, rotten scoundrel in the lead, I am 100 percent on board. But it seems incongruous, doesn’t it, that a character who is wholly unappealing—repulsive, even—should be something readers might seek out. And one step further, it seems counterintuitive to recommend that you write characters that readers will rightfully dislike. And here, I think, is where unlikable and uninteresting are confused.

Be they bad apples or good eggs, a character needs to exhibit enough agency to earn a reader’s attention—regardless of whether that attention is positive or negative. And herein lies the key: You can make your protagonist as low-down and dirty or as mindful and generous as you please, but she has to be the engineer of her own conflict to earn readers’ interest. A character—good or bad—must be an active participant in her own story. And if you want a character with a built-in conflict machine, you should go low-down and dirty.

Some characters are difficult to connect to simply because they do little to engage a reader. A character who lets the world act upon her and doesn’t influence a change in her situation could be unlikable or lovable, but either way she’s uninteresting. She’s too passive to warrant concern. You can’t care about this character, and as a result you can’t care about her story. You’ll lay the book aside and tell your reader-friends that the character is unlikable. But a more accurate sentiment might be that the character isn’t interesting or compelling—all things that even a good-girl character needs to be if she wants readers to care about her enough to finish the story.

But the opposite—a character who sets himself up for conflict and consequences through the dastardliness of his doing—is surely unlikable, yes, but also magnetic. You want to watch him ruin his life. He repulses you in the same way a car accident is simultaneously disturbing and hard to look away from. This character is a train wreck, and it is glorious to behold. Every time he does something unwholesome, immoral, felonious or just, like, super-rude, he creates a conflict. The anticipation and delivery of that consequence is deeply satisfying for a reader, and by their very nature, not-nice characters create these conflicts almost constantly.  In the words of Oscar Wilde, “The suspense is terrible; I hope it will last.”


charactersOne of the most important steps to writing a book is crafting characters that pull readers into the story. From concept and naming to choosing point of view and writing convincing dialogue, it takes skill to write characters that come to life on the page. Creating Characters collects the best instruction on how to write a novel with compelling and significant characters. The featured essays and articles compiled by Writer’s Digest editors will help you make the right choices when building characters for your stories.


Think about this: You have an idea for a novel. You’ve been working on it for quite a while now, but something isn’t clicking. Your protagonist is a woman who’s down on her luck. She is now in a bind and needs some help. She’s lost everything: her boyfriend, her house, her job. Even her cat disappeared. Man, what a mess.

In Scenario A, your protagonist asks her parents for money, but they can’t give her that. So Instead, they let her stay in their home until she can get back on her feet. Maybe she doesn’t love living with her mother. Maybe she never finds a job. Maybe she’s camping out in the basement for so long that her parents leave and tell her to keep the house. Win-win, and your character is still a nice girl. That was easy, right? Yep, and honestly, pretty boring.

In Scenario B, no one can (or will) help her out. Your protagonist is living in her car and yet no one is there to lend a hand. Why not?, you’re asking. Good question. If she’s a good person and her circumstances truly are outside of her control, then surely someone can give this nice lady a hand. But lets pretend she’s not a nice lady. Maybe she kicks puppies on her lunch break. Cheats on her taxes. Kidnaps kids for ransom. Kills her boss in a fit of rage and frames her coworker (the nice guy, of course). What if we find out, for example, that her house and boyfriend and even her cat are gone because she’s a manipulative sociopath who tied the guy to the bed and then burned the place down so he couldn’t leave her? That is much more interesting than a girl who needs to sofa-surf at Mom’s until that next job interview.

The character from Scenario A may well be the sweetest, kindest woman who ever existed in print. In fact, I’d put money on it. Poor girl just had a bad week. But the protagonist from Scenario B is going to be infamous, and even if we hate her (and we will, that murderous wretch), we’ll still think about her after the book is back on the shelf. (Both Senarios were made up on the fly as I typed this; if they resemble actual works of fiction, my apologies. If not, those ideas are free to use.)

Let’s look at some fictional characters who are generally considered unlikable.

Rabbit Angstrom, the protagonist of John Updike’s Rabbit, Run and its sequels, is a (slightly) less sadistic character who manages to ruin the lives of every woman he meets. And as often as he isn’t doing the hard work of being gainfully employed or staying faithful to his wife, Rabbit is no slouch when it comes to creating an avalanche of consequences for himself. He’s an aimless, unkind, jealous cheat, and watching him scramble to avoid the falling walls of his life is as entertaining as a story gets.

Lolita‘s Humbert Humbert is a monster by every definition, a “detestable, abominable, criminal fraud” according to his wife (and Dolores’ mother), and a “vain and cruel wretch” in Nabokov’s own words. The reader understands that he’s both human and inhumane, and because he chooses to give in to his baser instincts, he earns both the consequences of such and the dislike of readers.

Frank and April Wheeler, the lead characters in Richard Yates’ Revolutionary Road are unbearable, conniving snobs. Their shortcomings and pettiness and self-righteousness and backstabbing create every major plot point in the story. Yates’ debut novel remains among my favorite because I’d never want to know them, but it’s not very difficult to imagine the Wheelers living next door, driving each other insane.

Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl features two of the most despicable characters to ever grace the page. I stayed awake reading through the night to find out who I was supposed to be rooting for, and in the end I hated Nick and Amy Dunne equally and fully and I loved every word of it. Unlikable? Absolutely. Uninteresting? Not for a second. The novel could accurately be retitled Two Cats, One Bag.

The compelling unlikable character exists in every medium. Books, film, TV, plays, you name it. Add Joffrey Lannister (Game of Thrones), Javert (Les Miserables), Yvonne “Vee” Parker (Orange Is the New Black), Alonso Harris (Denzel Washington’s character in Training Day), Ignatius J. Reilly (A Confederacy of Dunces), the Narrator in Fight Club (or more broadly, possibly every character in every Palahniuk novel), Holden Caulfield, Jack Torrance … there’s no end to this list.

But in every case, the unlikable character who earns our attention is generating problems that require resolution—problems that carry the plot forward in a logical, organic way. The unlikable character is a one-man plot-building machine, and I wholeheartedly encourage you all to try it at least once.


Adrienne Crezo is the managing editor of Writer’s Digest magazine and a freelance writer and editor. Follow her on Twitter @a_crezo.

 

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23. Illustrated Quote: Journey of 1000 Miles

Here's a fun illustration I did to go with one of my favourite quotes: "A Journey of 1000 miles begins with one step", attributed to Confucious.

 

A-Journey-of-1000-Miles-by-Floating-Lemons

 

I'm offering it as the first free printable for 2015, to the subscribers of the Floating Lemons monthly newsletter. Last year I managed, by some minor miracle, to create an illustrated affirmation a month for those who signed up - despite the huge changes going on in my life. I was determined to keep my promise and I did it. Yay me.

This year, however, I'm going to be a bit more sensible as I know I'll be moving house again, and I will have assignments to complete for college ... so I'll illustrate favourite quotes whenever I can, and offer those as free printables, as well as intersperse that with a few giveaways throughout the year for all you wonderful friends who have signed up. A bit less stress and pressure until I find someplace to settle down in, eventually.

If you'd like to join in and receive a surprise gift or illustrated quote once a month, please do sign up, HERE.

Hope you're having a wonderful start to 2015. Wishing you infinite possibilities for the year ahead. Cheers.

 

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24. 7 Things I’ve Learned So Far, by Eric Smith

Inked by Eric SmithThis is a recurring column called “7 Things I’ve Learned So Far,” where writers at any stage of their careers can talk about writing advice and instruction — by sharing seven things they’ve learned along their writing journeys that they wish they knew at the beginning. This is installment is from Eric Smith, author of The Geek’s Guide to Dating and the young adult novel, Inked.


1. Editing? Cut the Parts You Find Yourself Skipping. When I’m finished writing something, and it doesn’t matter what it is, a chapter in a book, a new essay, a blog post, whatever… I like reading and re-reading it, often times, reading out loud. And almost always the same thing happens. I find myself skipping over parts because I’m a.) way too excited to get to the next paragraph or b.) find that I’m tired of that particular section.

Usually, that means it’s time to make some cuts.

If you can’t even get excited about a bit of writing you’re working on, if you’re tired of that passage already… there’s a solid chance your reader will be too. You should be excited about everything you’re hammering down on the page. Leave no room for skipping. Unless, of course, it’s a victory skip in your backyard. Then, by all means, go forth and frolic. You earned it.

2. It’s Okay to Take a Break. When I wrapped up the rough manuscript of Inked, I immediately dove into working on a sequel idea while researching agents. Immediately. I got lucky, signed with a fantastic agent (hi Dawn!), and shortly after, the opportunity to work on The Geek’s Guide to Dating came up at my publisher. I worked on that book, and when that was done, went back to the sequel concept, worked on some essays, and started adfjdfgdfgsdfkl CRASH.
Burned. The. Hell. Out.

With one manuscript being shopped around and another on its way to publication, I took a breath. I went on a vacation. Not any place special. A little place called Tamriel. Lush wilderness, rushing streams, and tons of dragons. Oh, Tamriel is a place in a video game called Skyrim. I was on my couch. It was great.

Listen: It’s okay to take a break. Whether you’ve got something on submission, a book on its way to publication, or you’re just working on a bunch of fun ideas and drafts. Don’t burn yourself out. You’re no good for anyone like that. Plus, you need your energy for all that dragon slaying, Dovohkiin.

3. Save Your Darlings. I say this a lot, but when you’re busy editing and cutting, whether you’re making cuts on your own, with your peers, with your editor… save those darlings. Avoid that “kill your darlings” cliché, and open up a Word .doc, and stash those little gems off to the side.
Look, you might never use them. They might be the bits you cut out because they were boring you (remember #1?). Those couple of pages you sliced out of that manuscript, you probably cut them out for a good reason. Your agent, your editor, your writer friends… they’re a smart bunch, otherwise you wouldn’t be working with them, right? But down the line, when you’re working on a new story or idea, click on over. See what’s in the scraps. You might find something that sparks an idea, which you might have otherwise deleted.

And if not, whatever. How much space does a Word document take up? Like, a gig? Maybe? Who cares how many gigs? You have lots of gigs.

4. If You Must Read the Reviews, Learn From Them. I have a sign on my desk at work and at home that says “Don’t Read the Comments” in big bold letters. I bought it on Etsy in a fancy frame, because in my mind, an artisanal frame made out of reclaimed wood would make it work.

I never listen to it. No one does.

Look, if you’re going to read the reviews (you’re gonna), don’t lash out, don’t get upset, don’t get angry. Instead, see what you can learn from them. I love book bloggers. Love them. I follow tons of them on Twitter, read a lot of their blogs, and go out of my way to say hi to my favorites at conventions at BEA.

Because they are book lovers. They are my people.

And yes, when they write about my books, I read their reviews, the good and the bad. Why? Because these are the smartest consumers of books out there, and you can actually read what they think about your book! Your book! And if they care enough about your book to talk about it, that’s freaking awesome.

Reading reviews isn’t for everyone. Even I’m aware that I shouldn’t do it. I KNOW I shouldn’t do it. But I do. And when I do, I see what there is to learn. And I’m grateful that someone took the time to actually read my wild button mashing in the first place.

5. Find Your Soundtrack. I have a lot of friends who go running and hit the gym, and when they are busy doing this thing called exercising, they often rock out to music that gets them in the mood. Pumps them up. Gets them excited for the work they are about to do. Because hey, working out? That’s work. And so is writing. It’s just a different kind of work, with an equal amount of tears.

Writing at home? Find your soundtrack. For me, it depends on the kind of work I’m doing. Fussing over a Young Adult novel idea? I turn on the music of my youth, lots of pop-punk, power chords, and acoustic guitars, music by New Found Glory, Fall Out Boy, Punchline, Something Corporate, Saves the Day. An essay? Something that’ll calm me down. The Fray, Dashboard Confessional, Sherwood, Gin Blossoms.

Please note, I listen to my pop punk and emo on a regular basis too. Sing it, Motion City Soundtrack!

6. Find Your Peers Online As Well As Off. Thanks to the magic of Twitter, I’ve met more authors I admire and adore than… well I’m not quite sure how to finish that sentence. I’ve met so many. And the great thing about the online literary community (or “bookernet”), is that everyone supports one another. Be genuine, be kind, be excited. Find the authors who write books you deeply care for, find the writers you yourself admire. Connect with them on Twitter. Celebrate their success. You’ll learn so much from them. I absolutely have, and wish I’d been more active in seeking out writerly peers earlier on.

7. Surround Yourself With Supportive Friends. Team! Team, team, team, team, team. I even love saying the word, “team.” Having an awesome team backing you up is so very important, and I’m not just talking about professionally. Close friends that can network you, will blast your message out there… those friends are awesome, don’t get me wrong. But friends that will give that crappy rough manuscript a looks over, who will join you for coffee and listen to you ramble about an idea you haven’t quite thought out yet, friends that will look over your under-construction author website full of Geocities era animated .gifs… those are the supportive friends you need around you at all times.

Real friends. The friends that will give you a kick in the pants when you’re down and troll you a little bit when you’re doing too well. Who will keep you level. Surround yourself with those kind of friends, and it’ll certainly help your writing career.

Good luck!


Eric Smith is the author of The Geek’s Guide to Dating (December 2013), which was an Amazon Best Book of the Year in Humor and has sold into five languages. His debut young adult novel, Inked, comes out January 2015 with Bloomsbury’s digital imprint, Bloomsbury Spark. He is represented by Dawn Frederick of Red Sofa Literary. He can be found blogging for BookRiot and The Huffington Post, and when he isn’t busy writing, he can be found tweeting and marketing at Quirk Books. Visit Eric’s website to learn more, and follow him on Twitter (@ericsmithrocks).

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25. What Would Garrison Griswold Do?

BookScavenger3d(This post is cross-posted from EMU's Debuts)

I've been in the midst of making promotional plans for Book Scavenger. I've sought out advice from other authors on what they recommend and don't recommend for your debut book, and the only bit of advice that everyone seems to agree on is this: The best thing you can do to promote your first book is write your next book.

Okay, cool, I'm doing that! I have two more books scheduled to come out in 2016 and 2017, and I'm currently working on both simultaneously. One is in the outline/first draft stage, and the other is nearing the end of its second revision. (I feel like those last two sentences make me sound very organized in my writing process. I am not. I wrote "working on two books simultaneously" but really it feels more like spinning in circles while juggling cats.)

But still, even if everyone agrees the best thing you can do is write the next book, I can't do nothing for my debut. If for no other reason than I'm excited about it! I want people to hear about it. So many people have had a hand in shaping the book--early readers and critique partners, teachers, my agent, my editor, the art director, production editor, copyeditor . . . And the illustrations! Sarah Watt's work is so freakin' cool and takes the book to a whole other level. The book that will be in bookstores and libraries has been a team effort, and I'm proud of it. Even if readers hate it, I want Book Scavenger to have a fighting chance of surviving in the retail world, and that won't happen if readers don't hear about it in the first place.

So I wanted to do something fun to celebrate Book Scavenger and spread the word about its existence. What to do, what to do? That's where Garrison Griswold comes in.

Illustration by Sarah Watts
Garrison Griswold is a central character in Book Scavenger. He's this larger than life, eccentric book publisher who's a huge game and puzzle fanatic. He thrives on thinking up elaborate games and making them happen--something that has earned him the reputation of being "the Willy Wonka of book publishing." A reputation, by the way, that he loves to play up. Book Scavenger is one of his game creations. It's a website and a real world book hunting game where players hide used books in public places and then upload clues to the website for other book scavengers to solve in order to seek out the books. (Kind of a mashup of Book CrossingGeocaching, and Little Free Libraries, with a dash of influence from video games I played as a kid.)

I wanted to do something in the spirit of Garrison Griswold, but I couldn't go all out Garrison Griswold because that guy has resources that I do not. (He rented out the San Francisco Giants stadium in order to break the Guinness World Record for largest group Bingo game, for example. I can't do that.)

But I did come up with something that's big, by my standards at least, and fortunately my publisher was on board. I hope it will be fun and will make Mr. Griswold proud. I'll be putting this plan into action on Wednesday and will update here with the info, but for now here's a teaser video (which offers a clue--something I know Mr. G would approve of):



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