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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: fiction, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 26 - 50 of 2,758
26. Seeking work inspired by the woods, its shadows

Bracken Magazine is open to submissions of lyrical fiction and poetry for its inaugural issue. Prefers lyrical over narrative poetry, and is biased toward magic realism. Payment is $0.02/word for fiction up to 2500 words; $15/poem under 100 lines. Deadline: January 29, 2016.

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27. Indie press seeks manuscripts

Unsolicited Press (US) is looking for poetry collections, poetry chapbooks, essay collections, memoirs, short story collections, lengthy journalism, and novels and novellas (popular fiction, literary fiction, and experimental fiction). Deadline: January 15, 2016.

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28. Review of Carry On: The Rise and Fall of Simon Snow

rowell_carry onCarry On: The Rise and Fall of Simon Snow
by Rainbow Rowell
High School   St. Martin’s Griffin   522 pp.
10/15   978-1-250-04955-1   $19.99
e-book ed. 978-1-4668-5054-5   $9.99

In Fangirl (rev. 11/13), protagonist Cath wrote fanfiction for the fictitious “Simon Snow” fantasy series. Now Rowell has written a novel set in Simon Snow’s universe and using many conventions of fanfiction, most notably “slash” (in this case non-graphic), usually defined as a wish-fulfilling relationship between two characters of the same sex who, in the original work, are not a romantic couple. Simon, the most powerful mage in centuries, uncovers secrets during his final year at Watford School of Magicks that call into question his long-held beliefs about sharp lines between good and evil. He also begins to realize that his obsession with his probably-a-vampire roommate Baz may not be purely antagonistic. The novel is longer than it needs to be — just kiss already, Simon and Baz — and the many alternating narrators are a little dense when it comes to solving several related mysteries. But there’s plenty to enjoy along the way, including clever names for spells (“These aren’t the droids you’re looking for” makes oddities like dragon parts on a human unnoticeable) and plenty of wit. Reading Fangirl first isn’t strictly necessary — the brief author’s note covers the basics — and the metatextual concept is somewhere on the spectrum between confusing and fascinating, depending on one’s perspective. A working knowledge of the Harry Potter books and other popular fandoms isn’t absolutely essential either, but it makes this send-up a lot more fun.

From the January/February 2016 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

The post Review of Carry On: The Rise and Fall of Simon Snow appeared first on The Horn Book.

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29. Interesting blog posts about writing: Jon's Pick of 2015

2015 was another great year for wisdomous words about writing. As always, I had a hard time narrowing the list of great blog posts down to just twelve, but I finally managed it.
Here's my personal selection of the best writing-related blog posts from 2015:

DECEMBER
Spinning Hope From Rejection (Larry Brooks)
https://killzoneblog.com/2015/11/spinning-hope-from-rejection.html

NOVEMBER
The Dark Side Of The Publishing Industry: How To Avoid Scams (Rob Hart)
https://litreactor.com/columns/the-dark-side-of-the-publishing-industry-how-to-avoid-scams

OCTOBER
Magnanimous (Donald Maass)
www.writerunboxed.com/2015/10/14/magnanimous-2/

SEPTEMBER
Don't be THAT Author Some Things I've Learned at Book Festivals (Alissa Grosso)
www.yaoutsidethelines.blogspot.com/2015/09/dont-be-that-author-some-things-ive.html

AUGUST
I Smell Your Rookie Moves, New Writers (Chuck Wendig)
www.terribleminds.com/ramble/2015/08/26/i-smell-your-rookie-moves-new-writers/

JULY
Surviving the Space Between: A Writer’s Journey (Heather Webb)
www.writerunboxed.com/2015/07/25/surviving-the-space-between-a-writers-journey/

JUNE
The 4 Hidden Dangers of Writing Groups (Jenny Nash)
www.janefriedman.com/2015/06/25/dangers-of-writing-groups/

MAY
Everything You Need to Know About Writing Successfully—in Ten Minutes
(Stephen King)
www.jerryjenkins.com/guest-blog-from-stephen-king/

APRIL
The 5 Essential Steps to Getting a Literary Agent (PeterHogenkamp)
http://querytracker.blogspot.com/2015/03/the-5-essential-steps-to-getting.html

MARCH
REAL TALK: $ix Figure Book Deal$
(Jennifer Laughran)

http://literaticat.blogspot.com/2015/02/real-talk-ix-figure-book-deal.html

FEBRUARY
Novelists: Two Empowering Little Mind-Models That Just Might Change Everything For You
(Larry Brooks)

http://storyfix.com/novelists-two-empowering-little-mind-models-just-might-change-everything

JANUARY
How Not to Fumble Your Social Media Presence
(James Scott Bell)

http://killzoneauthors.blogspot.com/2015/01/how-not-to-fumble-your-social-media.html

How about you?

What were your favorite blog posts from 2015?

If you found these useful, you may also like:


My personal selection of the most interesting blog posts from 2014
My personal selection of the most interesting blog posts from 2013
My personal selection of the most interesting blog posts from 2012

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30. Review of City of Halves

inglis_city of halvesCity of Halves
by Lucy Inglis
Middle School, High School   Chicken House/Scholastic   361 pp.
11/15   978-0-545-82958-8   $17.99   g
e-book ed. 978-0-545-83054-6   $17.99

While on reconnaissance for her lawyer father in the City of London, sixteen-year-old Lily is viciously attacked by a two-headed dog and discovers the existence of the other half of the City she thought she’d known all her life. Tall, “eerily beautiful” Regan saves her life with a transfusion of his blood, which miraculously heals her wounds. Lily is plunged into the world of the City’s unseen, inhuman inhabitants, the Eldritche, at a dangerous time when young girls are disappearing and monsters are at large; an ancient prophecy concerning Lily and Regan is coming to pass. The historically distinct City of London, surrounded by an ancient Roman wall and gates, is a perfect setting for Inglis’s credible blending of the mythological and modern and her appealingly extraordinary protagonists. A deft hacker, Lily follows leads for the missing girls into dangerous situations, from which Regan, Guardian of the Gates, rescues her more than once. Slowly unraveling mystery, fast-paced action, and preternatural romance will leave readers eager for the clearly projected sequel.

From the November/December 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

The post Review of City of Halves appeared first on The Horn Book.

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31. Necessary Fiction on Eduardo Lalo’s Simone

Simone_Lalo6

 

Eduardo Lalo, as a review in Necessary Fiction notes, is a name familiar to very few English readers. “At the time of this review, a Google search of ‘Eduardo Lalo’ turns up very little in English—only a basic Wikipedia page. One hoping to read more about the author must brush up on one’s dusty Spanish skills.” The Cuban-born Lalo, however, began to gain more cosmopolitan acclaim with the publication of his book Simone, which won the Rómulo Gallegos International Novel Prize, an award that aims to “perpetuate and honor the work of the [titular] eminent novelist and also to stimulate the creative activity of Spanish language writers.” (The award is somewhat comparable, though much larger in scope, to the Man Booker Prize.) ” On the heels of the award, the the book’s first English language translation, by David Frye, has recently been published by the University of Chicago Press. The plot arc of the novel is complex, and the book’s narrative fealty vacillates between the subject positions of a self-educated Chinese immigrant, a jaded novelist, and the eponymous Simone.

From Necessary Fiction, which manages to condense the core of what is at stake for Lalo:

Just when we have uncomfortably settled into the doomed love story, the book takes a significant turn. Toward the end of the novel, the narrator and a novelist friend of his interrogate a visiting Spanish writer about the literature of the peninsula, and the lower quality work—in their opinion—that many Spanish publishers publish. (There may be some continental agreement to that, as Javier Márias has stated that he had no desire “to be was what they call a ‘real Spanish writer.’”) It is, at first, a strange shift. While the plot is held in abeyance, the book tries to make a larger point about the treatment of literature. In part, the point is that Puerto Rican writers have been unfairly ignored, while more maudlin and unoriginal writings from “real Spanish writers” have received outsized attention.

While the narrator obviously has significant pride in his Puerto Rico, it inevitably comes with a concomitant sense of resentment—part of the dark shadow that follows this novel sentence-by-sentence. Upon seeing the name “Colony Economy” on a carton of milk in a coffee shop, the narrator muses about how Puerto Rico’s history “overwhelms and defines” him. It is an apt lens through which to view Simone—characters who cannot quite escape the world they were born into, or the childhoods they were subjected to, a country shackled by the past and every extension of happiness undercut by sorrow. “What is left of the men and women of this country?” the narrator muses. “What remains but the coffee and the centuries, ground down and percolated, flowing through steel tubes, pouring from plastic spigots?”

To read the review in full, click here.

To read more about Simone, click here.

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32. Wanted: Writing for valvepunk anthology

Stories wanted for Valvepunk – the Anthology (UK). Looking for stories that explore strange discoveries, encounters with the unknown, alternate technologies and altered histories. Length: 7500 words max. Deadline: January 1, 2016. Guidelines.

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33. New press seeks resonant and relevant manuscripts

Tailwinds Press, a young New York City-based independent press specializing in literary fiction by new and emerging writers, seeks submissions for 2016. Publishes “intelligent work that is compelling, accessible, and relevant to the spirit of our time.” Manuscript length: 40,000 words or more. Deadline: Rolling. Guidelines.

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34. Review of A Song for Ella Grey

almond_song for ella greyA Song for Ella Grey
by David Almond
High School   Delacorte   268 pp.
10/15   978-0-553-53359-0   $16.99
Library ed. 978-0-553-53360-6   $19.99
e-book ed. 978-0-553-53361-3   $10.99

A celebration of the wonderful madness of youth, and of the bemusing, soul-confusing power of aesthetic experience, lies at the heart of Almond’s lyrical, contemporary-set take on the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice. Set on the northeast coast of Britain, Almond’s story echoes that of the myth: teen Ella falls in love with Orpheus; they’re wed; Ella dies; and Orpheus retrieves her from death only to lose her at the last minute. Almond’s narrator, Ella’s best friend Claire, takes up her pen to bring her “friend into the world for one last night then let her go forever,” recalling the spiky conversations, parental disagreements, and school assignments that are part of her life and Ella’s. But she strives most to convey the experience of hearing Orpheus’s music, the inchoate yearnings and ecstasy it evokes in herself and her friends: “It was like being blessed,” she writes. “Like truly becoming ourselves. Like being loved.” Almond’s prose has always been intense, sensual, and vivid: here his very subject matter is intensity of feeling with a capital F. Cumulatively, from one page to the next, physical, emotional, and aesthetic bliss becomes ever more potent: a foundation for adult awareness, for the joy that lies in art, nature, and love.

From the November/December 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

The post Review of A Song for Ella Grey appeared first on The Horn Book.

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35. Review of Flop to the Top!

davis_flop to the topstar2 Flop to the Top!
by Eleanor Davis and Drew Weing; 
illus. by the authors
Primary   TOON   38 pp.
9/15   978-1-935179-89-4   $12.95

Wanda is a superstar — in her own mind. Oblivious to her family’s dismay, she forces everyone within arm’s reach to endure invasive photos, rude orders, and diva-like dismissals. After posting a selfie taken with her droll and droopy-faced dog, Wilbur, she scores millions of online likes. Hordes of admirers fill her street, and Wanda receives her fandom, only to be swiftly snubbed by the crowd. They want “FLOPPY DOG!” Wilbur is swept away to party with the celebrity du jour, Sassy Cat, and Wanda, jealous, tails the duo. The blinged-out dog is offered a contract to leave his “old life behind,” but instead decides to devour the document after a heartfelt apology (of sorts) by Wanda. Wife-and-husband team Davis and Weing share author-illustrator duties (“Can you tell who drew what? They bet you can’t!”) for this expertly paced — and funny and topical — early-reader comic. The digitally rendered art is a departure from the pen-and-ink cartooning of Davis’s Stinky (a 2009 Geisel honoree) and more closely related to her Matisse-like work for adults. It is infused with so much warmth, color, and whimsy that young readers will gladly see this book through to its pleasing reversal of fortune.

From the November/December 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

The post Review of Flop to the Top! appeared first on The Horn Book.

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36. Seeking discourse on people & their environments

Online journal The Turnip Truck(s) seeks creative and critical submissions concerned with the dialectics of the human and its environment(s). Submit one essay/story or five poems. Deadline: Rolling. Guidelines.

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37. Submit your fearless, unpredictable works

great weather for MEDIA (New York) seeks poetry, flash fiction, short stories, dramatic monologues, and creative nonfiction for their annual print anthology. Focus on the fearless, the unpredictable, and experimental. Welcomes submissions from international writers. Deadline: January 15, 2016. Guidelines.

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38. Wanted: Writing that comments on today’s world

whimperbang (US), an online journal of artistic commentary, published three times a year, invites the submission of serious, directed artistic expressions that reflect or comment upon today’s world. All literary and visual genres will be considered. Deadline: Open. Guidelines.

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39. Wanted: Diverse poetry and prose

Polychrome Ink seeks submissions for Volume Three. Interested in diverse poetry, fiction, and non-fiction. Defines diversity as anyone who: does not consider themselves to be white, heterosexual, and/or cisgender; is Intersex; is neuroatypical, and/or who is physically disabled. Pays $15-$40. Deadline: December 27, 2015. Guidelines.

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40. Barry Deutsch on Hereville

deutsch_hereville how mirka caught a fishIn our November/December issue, reviewer Shoshana Flax asked Barry Deutsch about the third entry in his graphic novel series about “11-year-old time-traveling Jewish Orthodox babysitter” Mirka. Read the full starred review of Hereville: How Mirka Caught a Fish here.

Shoshana Flax: We hear more about the modern world in this third installment. What do you think the neighbors think of Hereville?

Barry Deutsch: I can honestly say no one’s ever asked me that before! The people in the next town over are pretty suspicious of Hereville. There are a lot of weird rumors flying around, as you’d expect. (The Hereville folks tend to be pretty insular.) But in real life, one of my neighbors has become a big Hereville fan! We sometimes talk about it on the bus.

From the November/December 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

The post Barry Deutsch on Hereville appeared first on The Horn Book.

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41. Review of Hereville: How Mirka Caught a Fish

deutsch_hereville how mirka caught a fishstar2 Hereville: How Mirka Caught a Fish
by Barry Deutsch; illus. by the author; backgrounds by Adrian Wallace; 
colors by Jake Richmond
Middle School   Amulet/Abrams   141 pp.
11/15   978-1-4197-0800-8   $17.95

Mirka is stuck babysitting her pesky six-year-old half-sister Layele while the rest of the family is away from their all-Hasidic community. Fruma, Mirka’s stepmother, leaves strict orders to stay out of the woods, where bizarre magic always seems to happen (Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword, rev. 11/10; Hereville: How Mirka Met a Meteorite, rev. 11/12) and where Fruma saw “things” when she was Mirka’s age. Of course, Mirka does go into the woods, dragging Layele with her, and before long she’s wheedled the troll from the first book out of a hair elastic with time-travel capabilities (the illustrations denote the time travelers by superimposing them onto the landscape in transparent purple and white). The girls encounter a wishing fish, the same one who lost a battle of wits with a young Fruma (then called Fran and dressed in modern garb) and who now has a wicked plan to gain power by controlling and kidnapping Layele. Though the expressive and often humorous illustrations in this graphic novel do much to convey each scene’s tone and highlight important characters and objects, words make the world go ’round here. (Check out Mirka’s punctuation-marked skirt!) Speech bubbles wind in and out of the variably sized panels, and the eventual solution involves verbal gymnastics as much as heroics and compassion.

From the November/December 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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42. Seeking writing about the craft of writing

Biannual magazine Compose: A Journal of Simply Good Writing seeks submissions for their Spring 2016 issue. Accepts fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, artwork, and feature articles and interviews about the craft of writing. Deadline: January 31, 2016. Guidelines.

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43. Review of The Emperor of Any Place

wynne-jones_emperor of any placestar2 The Emperor of Any Place
by Tim Wynne-Jones
High School   Candlewick   328 pp.
10/15   978-0-7636-6973-7   $17.99

“So much of grief is unlearning,” observes Wynne-Jones in this perceptive and 
multi-layered page-turner. When Evan’s single father, Clifford, dies suddenly, the high-schooler must work through his own grief while dealing with Clifford’s estranged father Griff, a military man who Clifford had claimed was a murderer. Griff’s also a control freak and is somehow tied to the strange book that was sent to Clifford just before he died. As Evan reads the book — the translated journal of a WWII Japanese soldier stranded on a mystical island with an American Marine plane-crash survivor — he experiences a strange sense of déjà-vu. Wynne-Jones skillfully weaves the World War II journal into Evan’s own story, building suspense and keeping Griff’s part in the proceedings just obscure enough to create a cracking mystery. The author’s conversational tone provides occasional comic relief when things start to get too sinister, and the immediacy of his writing leads to some evocative descriptive passages (such as when Evan and his father listen to Miles Davis: “A night breeze stole into the room and was doing a slow dance under the jazz. Evan could feel it on the back of his neck, the sweat on him cooling. He shivered”). There’s a whole lot going on here: Evan’s and Griff’s shared heartbreak, exhibited in very different ways, and their own increasingly complicated relationship; the stark contrast between the mainly nondescript “Any Place” of Evan’s suburban Ontario and the horror of the desert island; and the unlikely friendship between enemy soldiers in the story-within-a-story. All these seemingly disparate parts come together in fascinating ways, resulting in an affecting and unforgettable read.

From the November/December 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

The post Review of The Emperor of Any Place appeared first on The Horn Book.

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44. Review of The Rest of Us Just Live Here

ness_restofusThe Rest of Us Just Live Here
by Patrick Ness
High School   HarperTeen   320 pp.
10/15   978-0-06-240316-2   $17.99   g
e-book ed. 978-0-06-240318-6   $10.99

Ness’s latest offering is a fantasy novel — and simultaneously a fantasy-novel send-up — whose true focus is on its cast of innocent bystanders. Mikey’s town is “just like your town,” except that every once in a while impossible things (the undead, vampires, soul-eating ghosts) invade it and are driven out by the heroic “indie kids with unusual names and capital-D Destinies.” This time, the invaders are Immortals with a mission to select someone as a permanent Vessel for their Empress in preparation for taking over the world. Brief chapter openings encapsulate these details, but the rest of each chapter tells what’s happening to ordinary Mikey. He and his siblings and friends sometimes cross paths with the hero indie-kids but rarely take part in their adventures, which the main characters brush off as just another one of their crazy sagas. The novel’s tone, with its ripped-from-current-YA-fantasy indie-kid names (two Finns; a heroine named Satchel; lots of Dylans), encourages readers to view the Immortal invasion the same way. The narrative’s real weight is attached to the mostly realistic events surrounding Mikey: the “loops” that his OCD traps him in; his sister Mel’s severe eating disorder; the outside attention on the family because of his politician mom; a love quadrangle involving longtime friends and fluid sexualities. In this often-hilarious (and just as often poignant) parody of fantasy stories from Harry’s to Buffy’s, not everyone is a Chosen One, but “everyone’s got something”; everybody matters.

From the September/October 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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45. Review of The Hired Girl

hiredgirl_210x300star2 The Hired Girl
by Laura Amy Schlitz
Middle School   Candlewick   392 pp.
9/15   978-0-7636-7818-0   $17.99
e-book ed. 978-0-7636-7943-9   $17.99

In 1911, spirited fourteen-year-old Joan, the only girl in a family of three boys plus a verbally abusive father (her weak-of-constitution mother has died), musters her courage and leaves her rural Pennsylvania home for Baltimore, the final straw being her father’s burning of her few precious books. Once in the city, and with no real plan for survival, Joan is fortunate to be taken in by a kindly, well-to-do Jewish family, the Rosenbachs. She’s employed as their “hired girl,” acting as assistant to longtime (and grumpy) domestic Malka and serving as the observant family’s “Shabbos goy,” performing household tasks forbidden to Jews during the Sabbath. Over the course of the story, Joan, wide-eyed and open-hearted: meddles in the eldest Rosenbach son’s love affairs (luckily, it all works out); very ill-advisedly attempts to convert the family’s young grandson to Catholicism; makes something of an enemy of the lady of the house; and falls helplessly in love with the Rosenbachs’ younger son, an artist who persuades her to pose for him…as Joan of Arc. The book is framed as Joan’s diary, and her weaknesses, foibles, and naiveté come through as clearly — and as frequently — as her hopes, dreams, and aspirations. The pacing can be a little slow (she doesn’t even get to Baltimore, where the bulk of the story takes place, until almost eighty pages in), but by the end readers feel as if they’ve witnessed the real, authentic growth of a memorable young woman.

From the September/October 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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46. The North Coast Writing Retreat: Grande Riviére, Trinidad, 7-10th January, 2016



The course is a three-day intensive which will include master classes in life writing, with Monique Roffey, and poetry, with Loretta Collins Klobah.

Held on the Caribbean island of Trinidad, the retreat is for writers who have experience of work-shopping their work, and have either been published or are working towards publication. Morning workshops will be given over to poetry and afternoons will be centered on life writing. The two strands of writing workshops are intended to weave together and complement each other. There will also be time to work on your own writing, and evenings will feature readings from students and discussions about the creative writing process. The course is open to 16 participants.

APPLICATION GUIDELINES

To apply, 1) submit either two poems or 2000 words of life writing (or both) and 2) a short resume of your writing experience to date to moniqueroffey@gmail.com Once your application has been accepted, booking is done via Mt. Plaisir Estate Hotel, Grande Riviére at maktoub@mac.com. You will need to liaise with Piero Guerrini at Mt. Plaisir Estate Hotel, for transport from Piarco International Airport, Trinidad, to Grande Riviére.  A welcome dinner at the hotel is at 7 p.m. on Thursday night, 7th January, and we will start out first informal session at 8:30 pm. Please aim to be at the hotel in time for the Thursday night dinner.

The cost of the retreat is $TT 900 per day (including tuition, accommodation and meals) or $TT2700 for three days (£280 British pounds or USD $420 in total). Accommodation is shared and en suite. Single occupancy will be available at an added cost.

About the tutors:

Both tutors have many years of teaching experience.


Loretta Collins Klobah is poet and professor of Creative Writing and Caribbean Literature at the University of Puerto Rico in San Juan. She has published poems in many regional and international literary journals. Her poetry collection, The Twelve-Foot Neon Woman received the 2012 OCM Bocas Award for Caribbean Literature in the category of poetry (Trinidad and Tobago). It was also one of five books shortlisted for the 2012 Felix Dennis Prize, offered by Forward Arts Foundation in the UK. She has received a Pushcart Prize and the Earl Lyons Award from the American Academy of Poets.


Monique Roffey is a writer and creative writing tutor, who has taught at COSTAATT in Port of Spain, Goldsmiths College, London, for the Guardian/UEA Master classes, The Arvon Foundation and privately in Trinidad. She is the author of four novels and a memoir. Her third novel Archipelago won the OCM Bocas Award for Caribbean Literature in 2013. She has also been short-listed for the Orange Prize, the Encore Award, the Orion Award and the Costa Fiction Prize in 2015. Her work sells in the UK, Caribbean, USA and has been translated into five languages.


Mt. Plaisir Estate is a world-renowned eco-lodge on the north coast of Trinidad. Behind the hotel, there is a small village and rain forest and in front of the hotel is a half-mile of white beach, the nesting destination of thousands of leatherback turtles every year. For more see www.mtplaisir.com


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47. Review of All American Boys

reynolds_all american boysstar2 All American Boys
by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely
High School   Dlouhy/Atheneum   316 pp.
9/15   978-1-4814-6333-1   $17.99
e-book ed. 978-1-4814-6335-5   $9.99

Teens Rashad (who is African American) and Quinn (who is white) are high school classmates and not much more — neither even knows the other’s name. But when a quick stop at the corner store for a bag of chips on a Friday night suddenly escalates into a terrifying scene of police brutality, the two boys are linked and altered by the violence — Rashad as its victim and Quinn as its witness. During the week following the incident, and in alternating voices, the teens narrate events as Rashad deals with his injuries and the unwanted limelight as the latest black victim in the news; and as Quinn tries to understand how a cop he considers family could be capable of such unprovoked rage, and where his loyalties are now supposed to lie. Faced with an all-too-common issue, both narrators must navigate opposing views from their friends and families to decide for themselves whether to get involved or walk away. Written with sharp humor and devastating honesty, this nuanced, thoughtful novel recalls the work of Walter Dean Myers and is worthy of his legacy. Reynolds and Kiely explore issues of racism, power, and justice with a diverse (ethnically and philosophically) cast of characters and two remarkable protagonists forced to grapple with the layered complexities of growing up in a racially tense America.

From the November/December 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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48. Lights, camera, chapter books!

These lighthearted outings for early primary readers offer adventures both everyday (a run-in with a teacher, a classmate rivalry) and extraordinary (a dog’s rise to superstardom and…a ghost raccoon sighting).

davis_flop to the topIn Eleanor Davis and Drew Weing’s Flop to the Top!, young Wanda is a superstar — in her own mind. After posting a selfie taken with her droll, droopy-faced dog, Wilbur, she scores millions of online likes and hordes of admirers fill her street. But instead of Wanda, the crowd wants “FLOPPY DOG!” Wife-and-husband team Davis and Weing share author-illustrator duties for this expertly paced — and funny and topical — early-reader comic, with digitally rendered illustrations infused with warmth, color, and whimsy. (TOON, 5–8 years)

potter_piper green and the fairy treePiper Green, resident of Peek-a-Boo Island, Maine, and star of Ellen Potter’s Piper Green and the Fairy Tree, is about to start second grade. For her, this involves taking a lobster boat to school and insisting on wearing green monkey-face earmuffs. Her new teacher looks like a princess, so Piper assumes she’ll have a tinkly voice and won’t mind about the earmuffs; but Ms. Arabella does not live up to expectations. Very brief chapters and frequent illustrations by Qin Leng advance the story, as does Piper’s spunky first-person narration. How the standoff is resolved makes for a satisfying, funny early chapter book. (Knopf, 5–8 years)

mills_izzy barr running starIn Izzy Barr, Running Star, Izzy’s passion and dedication have made her the fastest runner in the third grade. That is, until classmate Skipper — whose dad is their P.E. teacher and the coach for Franklin School’s Fitness Club — beats her. Author Claudia Mills presents and resolves problems in a winning story, the third installment in the Franklin School Friends series, with friendly illustrations by Rob Shepperson. (Farrar/Ferguson, 5–8 years)

dicamillo_francine pouletFans of Kate DiCamillo and Chris Van Dusen’s Mercy Watson books will remember Francine Poulet, the animal control officer who tried to net Mercy in Mercy Watson Thinks like a Pig. In Francine Poulet Meets the Ghost Raccoon, Francine — fearless, and with an impressive resumé — receives a call about an unusual raccoon (“He shimmers! He screams like a banshee!”) on a roof. When the shimmery raccoon screams “Frannnnnnnnnnnyyyyy!” and hurtles toward her on the roof, she loses her confidence, and then her balance. The wacky plot comes smartly together with humorous insights and lively illustrations. (Candlewick, 5–8 years)

From the November 2015 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.

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49. Boys to remember

Four novels featuring teenage boys — in both contemporary and historical settings — take on big issues, with memorable results.

reynolds_all american boysAll American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely is a ripped-from-the-headlines story written with nuance, sharp humor, and devastating honesty. When a quick stop at the corner store suddenly escalates into a terrifying scene of police brutality, two high school classmates are linked and altered by the violence — Rashad (who is African American) as its victim; Quinn (who is white) as its witness. The authors have brought together issues of racism, power, and justice with a diverse cast of characters and two remarkable protagonists forced to grapple with the layered complexities of growing up in racially tense America. (Atheneum/Dlouhy, 14 years and up)

leavitt_calvinThe seventeen-year-old star of Calvin by Martine Leavitt believes that his life is inextricably linked to the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes — a belief reinforced by the constant presence of the voice of tiger Hobbes in his consciousness. Recently diagnosed with schizophrenia, he’s convinced that if he can persuade the famously reclusive cartoonist Bill Watterson to draw a final cartoon of a teenage Calvin without Hobbes, he himself will be cured. On a pilgrimage to find Watterson, Calvin sets off across frozen Lake Erie, accompanied by old flame/current frenemy Susie. Along the way, Calvin and Susie examine — sweetly and humorously — their relationship and ponder the big existential questions of life. (Farrar/Ferguson, 14 years and up)

quintero_show and proveIn the summer of 1983, best friends — and alternating narrators in Sofia Quintero’s Show and Prove — Raymond “Smiles” King and Guillermo “Nike” Vega are working as camp counselors at a summer enrichment program in their South Bronx neighborhood. Smiles is crushed when he loses out on a promotion to senior counselor; Nike thinks that winning a break-dancing competition will impress his crush. As the summer goes on, neighborhood tensions and secrets are revealed, from the camp’s budget concerns to racial and religious conflicts among black Caribbeans, Puerto Ricans, and Palestinians. The novel features two vibrant, fully realized narrators with complex lives, a memorable supporting cast, and a complete immersion in the zeitgeist of the eighties, from music to politics. (Knopf, 14 years and up)

schmidt_orbiting jupiterIn Gary D. Schmidt’s Orbiting Jupiter, sixth-grader Jack’s family fosters a fourteen-year-old boy with a troubled past. Joseph attacked a teacher, was subsequently incarcerated at a juvenile detention center, and has a baby daughter whom he’s never seen. Jack and his parents gradually peel away Joseph’s protective veneer, but the teen’s single-minded desire to parent his daughter — and then the arrival of Joseph’s violent father — leads to strife. The book’s ending is bittersweet but as satisfying as a two-box-of-tissues tearjerker can possibly be. (Clarion, 11–14 years)

From the November 2015 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.

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50. Five questions for Tim Wynne-Jones

Tim_Wynne-JonesAt the start of Tim Wynne-Jones’s The Emperor of Any Place (Candlewick, 14 years and up), Evan, reeling from the death of his single father, has no choice but to contact his paternal grandfather, Griff — whom Evan’s dad called a murderer. A gripping story-within-the-story unfolds about a WWII Japanese soldier stranded on a haunted island. How Wynne-Jones weaves these strands together is elegant, surprising, and exhilarating.

1. How much did you know about WWII Japan and Japanese folklore before writing this book?

TWJ: Very little! I’ve had the good fortune to travel in Japan, and loved it, but I cannot claim any particular prior knowledge of Japanese culture or folklore. For years I had wanted to write a World War II book to honor my father, whose experience of the war in Europe scarred him. What we would call PTSD now, but which he did not acknowledge as more than “shell shock,” haunted him and had an effect on us, his children. War does that: spirals down the years and decades, affecting generations. Whenever I tried to write myself into the war, so to speak, I found it impossible, and only after a great deal of time did I come to the realization that the European war was my father’s war. Which left me with the “Other War,” in the Pacific Theater, the one I knew next to nothing about. That gave me the freedom to research deeply, to dig and imagine and finally find a corner of the war that I could inhabit, fictionally.

As I was getting to know Isamu Oshiro, I realized he would have grown up with the folklore of his people just as I have grown up with the folklore of mine. And as soon as I started reading up on that, I knew it would be an integral part of Kokoro-Jima. I have played with the idea of the jikininki, giving them a unique back-story. This is what Bram Stoker did with Dracula: take an existing folktale and breathe new life into it. It has happened down the ages and was one of my favorite parts of writing this book.

2. Did you write the different threads of the story one at a time or were you working on them all at once?

TWJ: Oh, the threads. The threads were a complete schmozzle! There were so many threads — far more than made the final cut. At one point I had thirteen point-of-view characters all clamoring to tell their stories. “Me, me!,” they shouted until my head hurt. What really came first was the story-within-the-story, that of Isamu’s adventures on the island of ghosts and monsters. Then there was the very lengthy task of finding out who else was going to make their way to that mysterious place and how it would all play out and how those people were related to the contemporary characters. I drew a whole lot of family trees!

wynne-jones_emperor of any place3. Did you make Griff up? Or is he based on someone you know?

TWJ: Griff grew out of my research and wide reading about the war, but with aspects of various people I’ve met, including my father. War shapes a man, whether he wants it to or not. A lifetime of fighting wars has shaped Griff. There was a whole novella-length part of the book that I eventually took out, about when Griff was a young man, Evan’s age, stationed in Iceland, before he was shipped over to the Pacific after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. It was, among other things, a love story. He alludes to that in the novel, but originally I had the whole story as part of this book. That was when the novel was over six hundred pages long and…well, something had to go. But I’m so glad I wrote his story. It really helped me to get to know him and see that he wasn’t always like he is now. Once he was young and in love, with his whole life before him.

4. This book is: realistic family story; fantasy; mystery; ghost story; historical fiction; war story; contemporary fiction; story-within-a-story; and more. How’d you make that all work?

TWJ: Phew! Put that way, I’m not sure! It took a long time, I’ll say that much. I usually spend a year or so writing a novel. This one took more than three and a half years. There were so many parts of the story I wanted to tell, and I juggled all that in such a way that there were many, many versions. Gradually, the stories that needed to be there stayed and the other parts fell away. Along with the Griff novella, there was another whole novella telling us Hisako’s story as she lived through the invasion of Sampei. I think it was only when Evan rose to the top as my central character that I knew what I could include and what had to go, no matter how interesting it was to me in and of itself. This is, in the end, Isamu’s and Evan’s book, and there is nothing in it now that doesn’t shore up their stories and, hopefully, weave them together: the Emperor of Kokoro-Jima and the Emperor of Any Place.

5. Do you believe in the afterlife? (Or the beforelife, in this case?)

TWJ: Do you want the long answer, the short answer, or the truth? The afterlife has been a part of human culture — the Human Mind — for so many millennia it’s not something one can simply dismiss. I don’t believe in heaven as a place, per se, so much as a deeply rooted concept, but I do believe that the idea operates on us and through us while we are alive. So in a way it does exist as we live in a world with this unanswered and persuasive question hanging over our heads. It was only after a long time of writing this novel that I came up with the idea of preincarnation, and I loved the poetry of it. I quickly learned that there are other definitions of this word out there, but my own definition and its appearance on Kokoko-Jima captivated my imagination. I love the idea that there was — is — this magical island in the largest of our oceans where the future waits in ethereal form and recognizes us for who we are, if we happen to wash up on the shore there. I suppose that even if heaven is only a metaphor, it’s a particularly powerful one. And I take metaphors very seriously. A metaphor is how we describe something we have no description for. Sounds like heaven to me!

From the November 2015 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.

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