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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.
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.
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 OxfordDictionary 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.
GIVEAWAY: Lizis excited to give away a free copy of the second edition of her just released book, Food Lover’s Guide to Portland, to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in the US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before.
The summers that I was 6 and 7 years old in early ’80s, I went to a day camp in the woods maybe 30 minutes or so from the suburbs of Cincinnati where I grew up. There were a lot of memorable things about that camp, as there tend to be, but without a doubt the most memorable was Mr. Brady—the camp nature guide whose office was the old barn across the way from the open-air dining hall—and his resident alligators. The seven or eight alligators ranging in age from a couple years to several years lived in a large, maybe 10-foot diameter, round metal trough topped with a piece of plywood.
One day, every summer, Mr. Brady would take the youngest, or maybe just the most docile, alligator out of the trough, put it in the bed of his old beat-up blue pick-up truck and drive it down the hill behind the barn to the creek, where 15 or so of us would be waiting with our counselor. What happened next is not a dream. I am still friends with one of the campers and can verify that Mr. Brady—longish white beard, rubber pants and suspenders, boots—would then spend the next 40 minutes or so of our nature session wrestling with the alligator in the murky creek. Our task: watch. And in the process scream, laugh and hug each other tightly.
I’m sure there were some teachable moments that I’m missing that occurred during the alligator wrestling. There might have been words about habitat and behavior in the wild and maybe even a little bit about how humans are not typically a part of the alligator diet. Of course, all I remember, and all I am sure that most campers remember, is an old man wrestling an alligator in the creek. By choice. He seemed to have no fear, and he seemed to genuinely love doing it.
Although I have changed the names and some identifying details of the alligators what follows is my own story of wrestling with alligators, except that the alligators are humans and the wrestling is being done with writing.
When I first started freelance food writing shortly after moving to Portland, Oregon, in my mid-20s, I said yes to just about anything work-wise that came my way, including waiting tables, nannying and working in a Montessori after-school program. I also covered a lot of writing territory. I wrote a corporate fitness manual without ever having worked in an office, smoking cigarettes and drinking most nights of the week and never setting foot in a gym. Clearly I was an expert. I also wrote website copy for a few hotel and hospitality companies, health and fitness articles for a smaller circulation magazine in Arizona and movie reviews for an online art and culture startup in New York.
I tried my hand at a lot of different types of writing and, in doing so, did the opposite of what most writing manuals tell you to do—write what you know. Instead, apropos of an ambitious 20-something-year-old, I wrote more often what I did not know.
I always brought my limited life experience and subjectivity to the page, of course, and I researched and dug as deep as my usually too-fast-approaching deadline would allow, but let’s just say I was in all of these writing endeavors far from an expert. And that lack of expertise led directly to lack of confidence. That first year of freelancing I spent a lot of time researching and educating myself, but my primary motivator was a little off. I wanted to know the right things that, in my 20-something year old mind, translated to all of the things that would make me not sound stupid.
Nobody likes a snoop and that’s exactly what I was that first year of freelancing. My regular gig was ghostwriting food and drink pieces for AOL Online. For that, I’d visit restaurants, bars, clubs and markets in and around Portland and then write short profiles of each. I took copious amounts of notes about menus, inventory, décor and service in my tiny black refillable notebook, and if I ever caught whiff that someone was on to me I’d commit the remaining visit to memory as best I could sacrificing any more documentation to save face.
I would only ask one or two questions per visit, and then only if I thought I could get away with it without revealing anything personal. I’d avoid eye contact. My heart would race and my palms would sweat as I took ridiculous notes under the table about things such as the microgreens topping my scallops (“What are the little purpley-green spade-like micros? Mustard?”). If you kicked all that fear-built subterfuge down, I wasn’t being Ruth Reichl-like, in disguise in order to maintain journalistic integrity. I just didn’t want to have a real conversation with anyone that might reveal all that I did not know. Instead, I would go home after dinner and suffer through mind-numbing Google searches of microgreens until I settled on the variety that looked the most similar before ultimately deciding not to use it in the profile anyway. No time wasted at all!
On those rare occasions when I did find myself face-to-face and engaged with folks who I was interviewing or meeting with for some sort of professional reason, I showcased what I knew as best I could and tried to hide what I didn’t know. In other words, I was a bit like 20-year-old Ira Glass in his early interviews with members of the cast of MASH, which he talks about on the “Cringe” episode of This American Life. The worst is when Glass asks Harry Morgan, who played Colonel Potter, a series of needling questions about why he’s never been the lead on any show. So painful.
This sort of bravado is inherently juvenile, but we’ve all done it. Here’s how I got rid of being scared of not knowing: I stopped using my tiny black notebook to take notes in in public and I got a big notebook. I stopped sneaking away to the bathroom to take notes—I’m sure that a few waiters had me pegged as incontinent—and started writing them openly. I stopped muzzling my curiosity and ended more sentences with question marks. I had more and more face-to-face interviews that I needed to conduct for seasonal food stories with weekly deadlines that I was writing—more projects in general. I no longer had time to digest the latest study just enough so that I’d sound smart, to make obscure references that were only tenuously related to the subject at hand (references I’d secretly hope no one would actually try to turn into a real conversation). All of these things that we do from time to time to puff our feathers when we feel intimidated or unconfident, and as a result, hide our truer selves.
After a year of freelancing, I was too busy with assignments to keep up appearances anymore. The real, vulnerable, curious and often ignorant me stepped out into plain view. It turns out that first year of freelancing I’d wasted a whole lot of time getting in my own way. I simply got out of my way and the decade since I’ve been more than willing to often be the fool or even, from time to time, when it seems helpful to the interview and subject at hand, play the fool.
In general, people love to be asked questions—personally and professionally. Ask away. Be brazenly curious. Be proud of not knowing. The less you know means the more you have to learn and that’s a big part of what’s most fulfilling, fun and interesting about writing—the learning. Don’t be a bore and always try to prove yourself and outwit others. No one is impressed and it’s tiresome. Show how ignorant you are—we all are!—and you’ll have a lot more fun and be a much better writer as a result. The best writers are the most curious risk-takers who want to burn and learn and live
life to the fullest. Stop being scared and be one of them. In other words, wrestle those alligators in the creek. By choice. See, I knew I could bring it back to the alligators.
*No alligators were harmed in the writing of this essay.
Hi, folks! This month I'm calling the series Uplift. The idea of uplift is to improve socially, culturally, morally, spiritually, etc. We are all hungry, our hearts beating, struggling for contentment and a sweet spot to thrive. This part of my journey for uplift.
Short and sweet, this week, folks. I have to say that my imagination is my biggest gift. It bubbles around inside me. It is the best part of myself. I had a fun conversation with an imaginary friend this week, and bonus it was not my imaginary friend but Sam Garton's imaginary friend. Sam is the otter keeper of Otter. You might want to check out this blog: I am Otter. I followed Otter this week. You can too: Here is our conversation.
I have to say, my conversation with otter was one of my favorite things this week. Here's the deal. My capacity for play has never diminished. I still have my favorite doll from childhood. I still color and draw almost every day. I never stop making up stories. I love to imagine the possibilities. Even in my darkest days, the angel of my imagination stirs within me. There are journeys ahead, friends. Trust the infinite possibilities of your imagination. I hope that your are jazzed this week! Please consider letting your imagination run wild. Let it take you beyond the possibilities to the impossible. Open a new door. Turn a new corner. I will be back next week with the last in the series.
A doodle from me: Twos.
When you have exhausted all the possibilities: remember this. You haven't. Thomas EdisonAdd a Comment
Photo by Jason Dunn, courtesy of a Creative Commons 2.5 License (http://photos.jasondunn.com/Logan/Logans-First-Halloween/10187418_RKHXSx#!i=701471756&k=ZMKnkbp)
This is the first year my 3-year-old has really gotten Halloween, so we’ve spent October seeking out any excuse for him to wear his costume and spend the day yelling “Boo!” As a result, at an array of fall festivals, we’ve collected a countertop full of pumpkins of assorted shapes and sizes; a small glow-in-the-dark bucket of unhealthy snacks; and, for the writer in the household (that would be me), one great reminder about developing characters.
The lesson came at a children’s Halloween parade at a local park. Costumed kids and their parents congregated by the gazebo waiting for the festivities to start. An announcement was made that the kids were to march behind a giant basketball character named “Hoopster” (how or why Hoopster became the recipient of this honor remains unclear) into the center of town, where storefronts were offering trick or treating.
We were surrounded by princesses and Power Rangers, scarecrows and jungle animals. Many of the costumes were homemade, some looking a little haggard or missing accessories, but the kids wearing them were playing their parts. The ballerinas twirled and curtseyed. The transformers stomped and zoomed. The superheroes posed, karate chopped and kicked. My little guy beamed at all of them, his fire chief’s hat on his head and bullhorn in his hand, ready to come to the rescue at the first sign of smoke or a cat stuck in a tree.
And then, at last, the moment we’d been waiting for: Hoopster appeared.
The parade couldn’t start yet, though. The ball portion of his costume was still deflated, and he stood off to the side fiddling with the thing while the kids milled around restlessly. Hoopster couldn’t get his inflating tool to work, and began tapping parents on their shoulders asking if anyone had a coin to help get the thing going. Apparently Hoopster had not done a practice run before game time.
Finally, the giant basketball took its place at the front of the pack, and the children fell into line, excited for the parade. Then, my son looked up at me, frowning for the first time all day. He seemed skeptical.
“Basketballs don’t have legs,” he said.
“True,” I said slowly, looking around. What else was there to say? It hadn’t bothered him that transformers don’t wear sneakers or lions don’t carry blankies or scarecrows don’t lick lollypops. So what had changed?
Hoopster wasn’t really selling his costume, was he? He’d spent a pretty penny on an outfit that was actually a lot more over-the-top than anyone else’s. He’d probably felt like that was enough. But it wasn’t.
The problem wasn’t so much that Hoopster was having issues—most costumes have issues at some point, right? If he’d made a wisecrack about being left in the garage too long or even half-heartedly called out, “Oh no, how will I bounce now?” he probably could have saved face. But by letting the kids see that he was just a guy who couldn’t figure out how to direct the airflow into a big nylon sphere, he was inhibiting their ability to suspend their disbelief. His legs didn’t kill the authenticity; his lack of commitment to his character did.
What does this teach us about how to develop character? Well, a lot. Your character needs to be comfortable in his outfit from the very first scene. He needs to know how it fits, how it works, and who it makes him look like to everyone around him. And in order for him to pull that off, we as our characters’ creators need to know who they are, inside and out, from Page 1. We can’t let our own voices show through where we’re supposed to be writing as our characters. We need to commit to them, fully. We need them to commit to the story, fully. And only then can our readers commit fully, too.
Whether you’re writing a first draft or revising a complete story, as you work through scene by scene, make sure that your superhero has her mask tied tightly into place. Chapter 1 can’t show her off-kilter to the point that she hasn’t yet figured out that trick to keeping her cape from coming untied. And Chapter 10 can’t catch your cowboy without his hat or spurs because he got tired of messing with them and tossed them aside somewhere along the way.
You don’t want to let readers arrive for the parade to find that you haven’t yet fully inflated your lead characters. Make your characters sell the reality behind those costumes, however flawed they may be. If your characters truly believe that they are princesses, and behave as such, then your readers will be a lot less likely to notice—or care—that they’re wearing the wrong shoes or have lost the rhinestones out of their tiaras.
With Halloween just one week away, we’re getting into the spirit of the season with these 13 quotes on the writing life from famous authors of horror, thriller and suspense:
1. “So where do the ideas—the salable ideas—come from? They come from my nightmares. Not the night-time variety, as a rule, but the ones that hide just beyond the doorway that separates the conscious from the unconscious.” —Stephen King, “The Horror Writer Market and the Ten Bears,” November 1973, WD
2. “The first thing you have to know about writing is that it is something you must do everyday. There are two reasons for this rule: Getting the work done and connecting with your unconscious mind.” —Walter Mosley
3. “I hope people are reading my work in the future. I hope I have done more than frightened a couple of generations. I hope I’ve inspired a few people one way or another.” —Richard Matheson
4. “When one is writing a novel in the first person, one must be that person.” —Daphne du Maurier
5. “When I write, I try to think back to what I was afraid of or what was scary to me, and try to put those feelings into books.” —R.L. Stine
6. “[Horror fiction] shows us that the control we believe we have is purely illusory, and that every moment we teeter on chaos and oblivion.” —Clive Barker
7. “Beauty is the sole legitimate province of the poem.” —Edgar Allan Poe
8. “I have always loved to use fear, to take it and comprehend it and make it work and consolidate a situation where I was afraid and take it whole and work from there.” —Shirley Jackson
9. “Writing is writing, and stories are stories. Perhaps the only true genres are fiction and nonfiction. And even there, who can be sure?” —Tanith Lee
10. “I always wanted to be in the world of entertainment. I just love the idea of an audience being happy with what I am doing. Writing is showbusiness for shy people. That’s how I see it.” —Lee Child
11. “I don’t think there is enough respect in general for the time it takes to write consistently good fiction. Too many people think they will master writing overnight, or that they are as good as they will ever be.” —Tananarive Due
12. “What I love about the thriller form is that it makes you write a story. You can’t get lost in your own genius, which is a dangerous place for writers. You don’t want to ever get complacent. If a book starts going too well, I usually know there’s a problem. I need to struggle. I need that self-doubt. I need to think it’s not the best thing ever.” —Harlan Coben, WD Interview, January 2011
13. “My reason for writing stories is to give myself the satisfaction of visualising more clearly and detailedly and stably the vague, elusive, fragmentary impressions of wonder, beauty, and adventurous expectancy which are conveyed to me by certain sights (scenic, architectural, atmospheric, etc.), ideas, occurrences, and images encountered in art and literature.” —H.P. Lovecraft
Famous time-wasters tend to fall into two camps: There’s the hedonistic band of enthusiastic lollygaggers, and there’s the anti-dillydallying brigade of outputters. The logic follows that non-famous writers follow the same pattern. For both sides, here are some thoughts and advice from the greats on the art and craft of wasting time—or not.
Mark Twain: “Never put off till tomorrow what may be done day after tomorrow just as well.”
Marthe Troly-Curtain: “Time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.”
Rita Mae Brown: “If it weren’t for the last minute, nothing would get done.”
Herodotus: “Some men give up their designs when they have almost reached the goal, while others, on the contrary, obtain a victory by exerting, at the last moment, more vigorous efforts than ever before.”
Douglas Adams: “I love deadlines. Especially the whooshing sound they make as they pass by.”
Ellen Degeneres: “Procrastination isn’t the problem. It’s the solution. It’s the universe’s way of saying stop, slow down, you move too fast.”
Dorothy Parker: “Live, drink, be merry, love the reeling midnight through, For tomorrow ye may die, but alas we never do.”
Jerome K. Jerome: “Why, some of the work that I have by me now has been in my possession for years and years, and there isn’t a finger-mark on it. I take great pride in my work; I take it down now and then and dust it. No man keeps his work in a better state of preservation than I do.”
Susan Orlean: I think of myself as something of a connoisseur of procrastination, creative and dogged in my approach to not getting things done.”
Auguste Rodin: “Nothing is a waste of time if you use the experience wisely.”
The Writer’s Digest Retreat on the Water is your chance to escape the demands of everyday life and immerse yourself in your craft for a few purposeful and peaceful days. Enrollment at this Retreat is limited—you’ll enjoy the close mentorship of the instructors and the attention to your individual manuscript that only an event this small and exclusive can provide.
Pablo Picasso: “Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone.”
Benjamin Franklin: “You may delay, but time will not.”
Charles Dickens: “Procrastination is the thief of time; collar him.”
Abraham Lincoln: “You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.”
George Bernard Shaw: “If you take too long in deciding what to do with your life, you’ll find you’ve done it.”
Oscar Wilde: “Hesitation of any kind is a sign of mental decay in the young, of physical weakness in the old.”
Victor Hugo: “Short as life is, we make it still shorter by the careless waste of time.”
J.R.R. Tolkien: “It’s a job that’s never started that takes the longest to finish.”
Martin Luther King, Jr.: “How soon ‘not now’ become ‘never.’”
Henry Ford: “It has been my observation that most people get ahead during the time that others waste.”
Which camp do you fall into? For myself, I’ll only say that this post was supposed to run yesterday.
What’s on my mind?
Indigenous peoples and their worry about being over run by other populations I guess could sum it up.
I suppose if cougars, wolves, elephants and such learned to shoot guns or band together better they would kick out the human populations who have transgressed on their land but as people go I believe we need to understand the reason for others unlawfully entering areas already overpopulated.
Overpopulation where they come from, economic despair, greed, the making of money into a God and the lust for power over others seem to be good places to start .
Seems to me that as people from a planet with finite resources we need to try to make all places a good place to live so people want to stay where they are. Make everywhere a good place to be.
Sharing with others does not have to mean give away my happiness but it could mean helping you gain yours. I hope I can do that with more than one other and if we all did it for just two other people it would cure the problem in my mind at least.
Poet, playwright and novelist Oscar Wilde was born October 16, 1854 in Dublin. While his most famous works, The Picture of Dorian Gray and The Importance of Being Earnest, live on, Wilde is most frequently remembered for his wit. Here are 15 of his best quotes for writers, readers and artists in honor of his 160th birthday.
1. All bad poetry springs from genuine feeling.
2. I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train.
3. If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all.
4. There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written.
5. The good ended happily, and the bad unhappily. That is what fiction means.
6. An idea that is not dangerous is unworthy of being called an idea at all.
7. The books that the world calls immoral are books that show the world its own shame.
8. I put all my genius into my life; I put only my talent into my works.
9. A poet can survive everything but a misprint.
10. Actions are the first tragedy in life, words are the second. Words are perhaps the worst. Words are merciless.
11. In old days books were written by men of letters and read by the public. Nowadays books are written by the public and read by nobody.
12. I was working on the proof of one of my poems all the morning, and took out a comma. In the afternoon I put it back again.
13. With freedom, books, flowers, and the moon, who could not be happy?
14. The imagination imitates. It is the critical spirit that creates.
15. A writer is someone who has taught his mind to misbehave.
If yours isn’t listed, share your favorite Wilde bon mot in the comments!
Do you ever have those days when nothing goes right? When everything you try does not work? That was my day today, accompanied by a doozer of a headache. Photoshop just quit on me. I could not open CS5 or CS6. Finally at the end of the day the Adobe Twitter Support came through! Hooray! It works!!
While I was waiting for support to write me back I was able to begin writing my stories for Burt ad Briley, my new characters. Their conversations made me smile. All’s well that ends well. I will post another picture soon.
Aussie kids love stickers, and I’ve pulled together a collection of sticker books to delight all ages. And the best thing? They’ve all been selected from the Boomerang Books Australia’s Top 1000 Bestselling Books list, which means you save 20% off the RRP. Great stuff, hey? First up is from the increasingly popular character, Peppa Pig in Peppa […]
Mix it Up! by Hervé Tullet Chronicle Books, September 16, 2014 review copy purchased for my class library
Even fifth graders LOVE Hervé Tullet's Press Here, a book that seems magically interactive.
In Mix it Up, readers will explore color mixing without ever getting their fingers dirty. By following the directions in the book, colors are made to appear, disappear, smear, drip, blend, lighten and darken.
Inspired by Kenn Nesbitt’s, “My Brother’s not a Werewolf”. Hope you enjoy. Tale of the WeirdoWolfBy Donna Earnhardt He transformed in the daytimeavoiding moonlit nightsHe cringed at his own shadow,fear brought him no delight He was a vegetarian.He loved to draw and paint.And when he howled,No one was cowed*,Except for him… He’d faint. …
This is the kind of mentor text that makes you want to try writing this way...right NOW.
Here's a taste:
"Without the A the BEAST is BEST.
Without the B the BRIDE goes for a RIDE.
Without the C the CHAIR has HAIR."
See what I mean?
I wish you could actually see the book, because the other part of the fun is finding the duck, the mice, the octopus, the monkey, and the cats in spreads other than their own throughout the book.
Need a quote for a slide in your word study/vocabulary presentation? From the press release:
"Since we are really only able to think about the world, ourselves, and the nature of life itself (along with everything else) within the vocabulary that is available to us, the richer and more nuanced our language is, the richer our possibilities for thinking and understanding become. From this point of view, the ethical, political, cultural and intellectual imperatives for deepening a child's sense of language and its possibilities are profound. Giving them the idea that language is a vital material with which they can make and build and shape their world is so clearly of vital importance."
Today marks the 115th anniversary of Ernest Hemingway’s birth. In his lifetime, Papa had quite a lot to say about writing. Here are 18 of our favorite quotes, in no particular order.
1. I learned never to empty the well of my writing, but always to stop when there was still something there in the deep part of the well, and let it refill at night from the springs that fed it.
2. If a writer knows enough about what he is writing about, he may omit things that he knows. The dignity of movement of an iceberg is due to only one ninth of it being above water.
3. For a long time now I have tried simply to write the best I can. Sometimes I have good luck and write better than I can.
4.That is what we are supposed to do when we are at our best – make it all up – but make it up so truly that later it will happen that way.
5. Writing and travel broaden your ass if not your mind and I like to write standing up.
6. My aim is to put down on paper what I see and what I feel in the best and simplest way.
7. When writing a novel a writer should create living people; people not characters. A character is a caricature.
8. Prose is architecture, not interior decoration, and the Baroque is over.
9. All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.
10. There is no rule on how to write. Sometimes it comes easily and perfectly; sometimes it’s like drilling rock and then blasting it out with charges.
11. To F. Scott Fitzgerald: “Write the best story that you can and write it as straight as you can.”
12. Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now.
13. All stories, if continued far enough, end in death, and he is no true-story teller who would keep that from you.
14. A serious writer is not to be confounded with a solemn writer. A serious writer may be a hawk or a buzzard or even a popinjay, but a solemn writer is always a bloody owl.
15. It’s none of their business that you have to learn how to write. Let them think you were born that way.
16. To an aspiring writer: “You shouldn’t write if you can’t write.”
17. After writing a story I was always empty and both sad and happy, as though I had made love, and I was sure this was a very good story although I would not know truly how good until I read it over the next day.
18. My training was never to drink after dinner nor before I wrote nor while I was writing.
What’s your favorite writerly quote from Ernest Hemingway? Share it in the comments!
Generating good, usable ideas can be difficult for any writer, new or established. While John Steinbeck may have been exempt (he famously compared ideas to rabbits, saying “You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen.”), we are not all on Steinbeck’s level. To those of you who can come up with something new and interesting at will, I commend you. For the rest of us, here are 31 prompts for the month of August.
Interpret these in whatever way works best for you. Do each one, or two per week, or five per month, or any number that feels productive for you. If you’d like to, share your links or short-short stories in the comments.
1. You have two characters. One is trying to convince the other that he is telling the truth, but the second character knows the first character is lying. How does this scene play out?
2. Write a short story in which a pill is an object of importance.
3. Tell a story using only letters your characters have written to each other.
4. Use these words: spider, lump, magazine, bread box, asbestos.
5. Sylvia Plath once write that “everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it.” Use your outgoing guts to tell a difficult story.
6. A local woman has just had her first baby. She is on the news because her baby is __________. Fill in the blank and then tell this story.
7. Your first line is: “In this town, everyone is named after an object.”
8. You’ve inherited enough money to retire. What do you do now?
9. A group of friends are walking down the street. They see something unexpected.
10. Your new neighbor introduces himself as La Bamba Flambeau. He is a mild-mannered, middle-aged man.
11. Fill in the blanks to create a piece of dialogue; then, use the dialogue in a short story: “If it weren’t for _________, I would never have _________.”
12. Your character wakes up very late. He thinks it is Monday, but it is only Sunday.
13. Write an optimistic character who is placed in a hopeless, unfixable situation.
14. Two characters discuss their hobbies. Neither is comfortable being friends afterward.
15. Use these words: frenetic, business card, notepad, bagel, walrus.
16. It is 10 years in the future. Write a scene about your character’s everyday life.
17. A poet is in his car when he realizes the lyrics of the song on the radio match the piece he wrote last night.
18. Winston Churchill said “History will be kind to me for I intend to write it.” Write a kind history for a no good, very bad character.
19. A spaceship has landed safely in the Pacific Ocean and the beings that step out look exactly like all humans… except for one disturbing difference.
20. 100 years ago, medical science eradicated all virulent disease. What is the world like now?
21. In this scene, a phone call derails a quiet dinner at home.
22. You’re a contestant on Jeopardy! Write the scene in which you win the game. Include the topic, answer and question.
23. Write a short story in which a painting is an object of importance.
24. Your theme: Nothing is free.
25. Your character must mail something today, but the universe is conspiring against his success.
26. Use these words: tin, monkey wrench, banner, water damage, award.
27. Your character did something embarrassing in college that her family does not know about. What happens when her teenage daughter finds out years later? When her husband finds out? When the local gossip hears about it?
28. A character is caught stealing. a) Make your reader feel sorry for the thief. b) Make your reader angry at the victim.
29. “This is not what I ordered. It’s moving.”
30. Today is someone’s birthday, but you forgot until just now. This person is very important to you.
31. Write a survival story.
Adrienne Crezo is the managing editor of Writer’s Digest magazine. Follow her on Twitter at @a_crezo.
Have you ever had to tell an editor you wouldn’t be meeting your deadline? That’s an uncomfortable conversation for any writer. But for Dorothy Parker—one of America’s greatest literary wits—it was so excruciating she simply couldn’t face it, and the consequences were nearly devastating.
In 1929, Harold Guinzburg and George Oppenheimer—the young entrepreneurs who founded Viking Press—convinced Parker to sign a contract for a novel, and deliver it in under a year. That’s high pressure for most writers. But for Parker, who often took six months to complete a short story, it was shooting for the impossible. Indeed, she was so slow and cautious in her fiction writing that she once remarked, “I can’t write five words but that I change seven.”
Still, she was determined to join the ranks of the contemporaries she so admired, such as Fitzgerald and Hemingway, and left for Europe to work on her book. By the end of 1930, her deadline had passed and she had nothing to show for it except one long (and often hilarious) letter she had written to her publishers over the summer. (Complete letter available as an ebook from Penguin Classics with an introduction by Marion Meade. See Alpine Giggle Week: How Dorothy Parker Set Out to Write the Great American Novel and Ended Up in a TB Colony Atop an Alpine Peak.)
And so she sailed back to the U.S. to tell the young Viking founders in person that she had failed. The conversation, however, never happened. Too distressed to face them, she attempted suicide by swallowing poisonous shoe polish. Fortunately for those of us who cherish the stories, essays, poems and reviews she wrote in the years that followed, Parker only succeeded in making herself terribly ill, and several months later she recovered.
She never did deliver on the manuscript. In the 1970s, Viking reported that their agreement with Dorothy Parker was the longest unfulfilled contract in the company’s history. In the intervening years, however, they contracted with Parker to edit a collection of works by her friend F. Scott Fitzgerald. She struggled writing the introduction and simply couldn’t complete it. It was 1945, and facing her editor with this failure wasn’t any easier than it had been fifteen years earlier.
Fortunately, however, Parker found a less dangerous way to avoid the confrontation: she sent him a telegram. And while most of Parker’s papers were destroyed, this small treasure (complete with a spelling error that is probably the teletypist’s), still exists to remind us that even our literary heroes struggled putting words on a page.
PASCAL COVICI, VIKING PRESS 1945 JUN 28 PM 4 37 18 EAST 48 ST
THIS IS INSTEAD OF TELEPHONING BECAUSE I CANT LOOK YOU IN THE VOICE. I SIMPLY CANNOT GET THAT THING DONE YET NEVER HAVE DONE SUCH HARD NIGHT AND DAY WORK NEVER HAVE SO WANTED ANYTHING TO BE GOOD AND 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 INCOMPETANT.
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 over 130,000 followers. Her novels include Farewell, Dorothy Parker (Putnam 2013) and The Other Life (Putnam 2011).
Each year for one week, The Discovery Channel takes over the airwaves with a seven-day onslaught of movies, documentaries, survivor tales and semi-factual mockumentaries about sharks. As fascinating as it all is, readers are left high and dry—where are all the books about sharks? I’ve rounded up several—some classic, some campy, some for kids, some nonfiction—for those of us who want all the thrill of Shark Week, but with somewhat less screen time. (Or supplement your Discovery marathoning. There are no rules in Shark Week.)
It wouldn’t be a list about shark books without the one that started it all. Peter Benchley’s classic inspired Steven Spielberg’s film, and 40 years later it’s still deeply, relentlessly terrifying. Hank Searls’ followup novelizations of Jaws 2 and Jaws: The Revenge and Benchley’s The Deep are also highly encouraged reading for the week.
2. The Old Man and the Sea
Hemingway’s tale of a Cuban fisherman going head-to-snout with a marlin is remembered for many reasons, none of which pertain to Shark Week. We should change that. The Nobel Prize in Literature is nice and all, but this week is a big deal right now, and an entirely unscientific survey I just conducted reveals that only one in several readers outside of high school has bothered to pick up The Old Man and the Sea, except when rearranging bookshelves. (That one is me. This book is worth reading any week of the year.)
3. The Meg series
You don’t have to be an especially well-read fan of megalodon lore to enjoy Steve Alten’s bestselling undersea thriller series featuring the rediscovery of the largest shark species in history. Begin at the beginning with Meg: A Novel of Deep Terror, then dare yourself to tear through the next five Meg novels (The Trench, Primal Waters, Hell’s Aquarium, Nightstalkers and Origins) before you have to enter a body of water larger than a bathtub.
4. In Harm’s Way: The Sinking of the USS Indianapolis and the Extraordinary Story of Its Survivors
Technically, Doug Stanton’s harrowing story of the 317 men who survived the sinking of the USS Indianapolis isn’t specifically about sharks. But it’s damn good reading, and a sufficient quantity of sharks are involved in the story to include it on this list.
5. Sharks! by National Geographic Kids
Sharks are scary, but they’re also super-cool. If you have a small person who enjoys reading, consider picking this title up on your next trip to the library. Or check it out for yourself—no one dislikes 32 pages of cool facts about sharks.
6. Nugget and Fang: Friends Forever–or Snack Time?
So maybe stories about vicious attacks or details about shark migration are a little too advanced for some kids. Fortunately for them, there is Tammi Sauer and Michael Slack’s adorable little story about vegetarian sharks who make friends with a school of minnows.
7. Shark Girl
Kelly Bingham’s debut young adult novel chronicles the life of a girl who has lost her arm to a shark attack, and then must return to high school with a prosthesis to face the potential mockery of her fellow classmates. Shark Girl is less shark-centric than, say, Meg, but more personal and introspective than most other books on this list. And as a young adult novel in verse, it’s possible that Shark Girl is the only book (so far) about a shark-attack-survivor in high school that also rhymes. (Joking aside, Bingham’s work here is impressive and award-winning, and worth reading even outside the brief moment that is Shark Week.)
If you put four drug addicts on an island, heroin on a nearby island, and a shiver of sharks between, what happens? This is the premise of J. Kent Messum’s award-winning first novel, Bait. You’ll have to find out for yourself what happens after that.
9. The Secret Life of Sharks
For every myth Jaws perpetuated, Pete Klimley debunked three in his celebrated collection of real facts about sharks—what they eat, when, how they raise their young, when and how they migrate. From hammerheads to great whites, there are few books as full of firsthand data on shark behavior.
10. Shark Fin Soup
There are few books more appropriate for this week than Susan Klaus’ thriller about a man who avenges his wife’s murder at the hands of shark finners by becoming an ecoterrorist called Captain Nemo. Nemo’s methods may be suspect, but his heart is in the right place.
There’s no way to include every book about sharks on this list. What are your favorites?
Adrienne Crezo is the managing editor of Writer’s Digest magazine. You can follow her on Twitter @a_crezo.
I was just thinking that it’s not the perfect flower I look for in my photography, it’s the perfect feeling, same with my friends, they all have little flaws just like me but when I close my eyes and think of them I only know the sweet essence of their perfection and see how wonderful life is to let me see them … Love you all !