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Results 1 - 6 of 6
1. Firebird

Firebird by Misty Copeland and Christopher Myersby Misty Copeland and Christopher Myers (Penguin Young Readers Group, 2014)

Firebird by Misty Copeland and Christopher Myers

When you open a book to sweeping, fiery endpapers, it’s almost as if you can hear the symphony begin. The author, Misty Copeland, is a principal dancer with the American Ballet Theater. The illustrator, Christopher Myers, is a Caldecott Honoree for Harlem and the son of the legendary Walter Dean Myers.

We are in stellar storytelling hands.


(image here // Copeland dancing the Firebird)


(image here // Copeland dancing the Firebird)

Firebird by Misty Copeland and Christopher Myers

Christopher Myers’s art captures the lines and shapes of a dancer’s movement. Intricate, suspended, and dizzying.

Firebird by Misty Copeland and Christopher Myers

Misty Copeland’s words are fire and poetry to a timid youngster’s soul.

Firebird by Misty Copeland and Christopher Myers Firebird by Misty Copeland and Christopher Myers

I adore the anticipation in this spread, the dancer waiting for the curtain to rise, and I imagine a lump in her throat and a belly full of as many swoops as the folds in the curtain.

Firebird by Misty Copeland and Christopher Myers Firebird by Misty Copeland and Christopher Myers

Each page turn reveals a composition that is even more striking than the last. This is a pairing of musicality, movement, and a jaw-dropping array of colors and feelings. The way her words and his pictures create an animated harmony is exactly how music and movement do the same in the ballerina’s world.

A perfect pas de deux.

Firebird by Misty Copeland and Christopher Myers

For more on Misty Copeland, take a look at this. She is a lovely storyteller, both in her books and with her body.



Firebird by Misty Copeland and Christopher Myers


Review copy provided by the publisher.

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2. Why literary genres matter


By William Allan

One of the most striking aspects of classical literature is its highly developed sense of genre. Of course, a literary work’s genre remains an important factor today. We too distinguish broad categories of poetry, prose, and drama, but also sub-genres (especially within the novel, now the most popular literary form) such as crime, romantic or historical fiction. We do the same in other creative media, such as film, with thrillers, horrors, westerns, and so on. But classical authors were arguably even more aware than writers of genre fiction are today what forms and conventions applied to the genre they were writing in. All ancient literary texts are written in a particular genre, such as epic, tragedy, or pastoral. This doesn’t mean that one genre can’t interact with another, and they often do, as in ‘tragic history’, that is, history written in the style of tragedy, as when Thucydides presents the Athenian empire’s disastrous attempt to conquer Sicily as a typically tragic story of hybris and ruin. Some modern theorists would argue that every text belongs to a genre and that it is impossible not to write in one: thus even those nifty writers who try to break free of convention and write the wackiest stuff are still caught up in ‘experimental’ literature. The invention of the major literary genres and their norms is the most significant effect of classical literature’s influence.

But what is a genre? The first thing to observe is that a genre is not a rigid mould which works must fit into, but a group of texts that share certain similarities – whether of form, performance context, or subject matter. For example, all the texts that make up the ancient genre of tragedy share certain ‘family resemblances’ (they are theatrical texts written in a particular poetic language, they reflect on human suffering, they show gods interacting with humans, and so on) that allow us to perceive them as a recognizable group. But although certain ‘core’ features characterize any given genre, the boundaries of each genre are fluid and are often breached for literary effect.

As can still be seen in modern literature and film, a genre comes with certain in-built codes, values, and expectations. It creates its own world, helping the author to communicate with the audience, as she deploys or disrupts generic expectations and so creates a variety of effects. Genres appeal to writers because they give a structure and something to build on, while they offer audiences the pleasure of the familiar and ingenious diversion from it. The best writers take what they need from the traditional form and then innovate, leaving their own imprint on the genre and changing it for future writers and audiences. In other words, genre is a source of dynamism and creativity, not a straitjacket, unless the writer is rubbish, i.e. unimaginative and unoriginal.

Tragic Comic Masks Hadrians Villamosaic

All ancient writers had an idea of who the top figures in their chosen genre were (Homer and Virgil in epic; Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides in tragedy, and so on), and their aim was to rival and outdo their predecessors. The key ancient terms for this process of interaction with the literary past are imitatio (‘imitation’) and aemulatio (‘competition’). ‘Imitation’ doesn’t mean slavish copying, but creative adaptation of the tradition; creative writing today still involves the reworking of previous literature, since writers are usually enthusiastic readers too. Of course, competing with the great writers of the past is a risky business – as Horace puts it, ‘Whoever strives to rival Pindar exposes himself to a flight as risky as that of Icarus’ (Odes 4.2.1-4, paraphrased) – but what characterizes the best writers of antiquity is their response to the great works of the past in the light of the present.

The central role of ‘imitation’ in classical literature also helps explain why ancient authors allude so frequently to other texts. With ‘the death of the author’ in postmodern thought, the wider term ‘intertextuality’ is now trendier than ‘allusion’, referring to the interconnections between texts, deliberate or not. Be that as it may, deliberate allusion is an important part of the writer’s meaning in classical literature, and the ideal reader of Virgil’s Aeneid, for example, an epic that draws on a variety of other genres (including tragedy, history, and love poetry, among others), will be able to appreciate how Virgil alludes to, and reworks, earlier texts in order to create his own meaning.

Mention of epic reminds us that classical literature is characterized by a hierarchy of genres, ranging from ‘high’ forms such as epic, tragedy, and history at one end through to ‘low’ forms such as comedy, satire, mime, and epigram at the other. ‘High’ and ‘low’ relate to how serious the subject matter is, how lofty the language, how dignified the tone, and so on. Many of the genres lower down on the hierarchy define themselves polemically in opposition to a higher form: thus writers of comedy, for example, poke fun at tragedy, presenting it as unrealistic and bombastic, in order to assert the value of their own work, while satire mocks the claims of epic and philosophy (among other genres) to offer meaningful guides to life. Finally, it is striking that some genres endure longer than others: Roman love elegy flourished for only half a century, while epic was always there, and always changing.

In conclusion, then, we can understand an ancient literary text properly only if we take into account where it comes in the evolution of its genre, and how it engages with and transforms the conventions it inherits. The same is true of our literature too, of course, not least because classical works, with their highly developed sense of genre, form the foundation of the Western literary tradition.

William Allan is McConnell Laing Fellow and Tutor in Classics at University College, Oxford. His publications include Classical Literature: A Very Short Introduction (OUP, 2014).

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Image credit: Theatrical masks of Tragedy and Comedy. Mosaic, Roman artwork, 2nd century CE. From the Baths of Decius on the Aventine Hill, Rome. Capitoline Museums. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

The post Why literary genres matter appeared first on OUPblog.

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3. Poem A Day Challenge for April 12

April 12—And just like that, we're already on to our second "Two for Tuesday" prompt of the challenge. I know this is a prompt that some poets have been craving, while others probably not so much. Regardless, I did this one on Tuesday to provide some options:

1. Write a form poem. This could be a sonnet, pantoum, lune, or even something as sinister as a--dare I say it--sestina. If you need a list of poetic forms and there rules, click here.

2. Write an anti-form poem. Just as there are poets who love playing with forms, there are poets who think they are the worst thing ever. That's fine. Express (in either free verse or a prose poem) your feelings on writing in traditional forms.

On Formlessness
By Bill Kirk

Could it be some days the poetry
Will be less well formed than others?
I’d have to say, it’s true.
Tonight, my brain itself is a formless blob.
Thus any attempt at poetic form
Will likely have scant chance at success.

Yet, I suppose the very capture of
Any thought or idea takes on
A certain structure, even if drawn
From wordless mush—much as
An artist’s blank canvass will
Eventually move toward an
Expression of artistic form,
Even if very sketchy.

Far be it for me to
Squeeze, mold or force
These words into a shape
They have no interest in taking.
Perhaps words on a page
Will somehow find their natural form
Much as water seeks its own level.
Might formelessness be its own reward?

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4. Formalist?

David Smith, untitled
I have to admit that while plenty of Damien Walter's "Weird Things" columns at The Guardian are interesting, and it's really wonderful to see a major newspaper paying regular attention such stuff, and Walter seems like a passionate and thoughtful person ... the latest one, titled, "Should science fiction and fantasy do more than entertain?" pretty much made me gag. Mostly it was that headline that caused the coughing and sputtering; the piece itself isn't terrible, is well intentioned, and seems primarily aimed at a general audience. I'm not a general audience for the topic, so in my ways, I'm a terrible reader for what Walter wrote. Thus, I'll refrain from comment on the main text.

But there's a statement he made in response to a commenter that didn't make me cough and sputter, it just made me question something I hadn't really questioned before: the term "formalist" and its relationship to criticism within the field of fantasy and science fiction.

In his comment, Walter stated, "The Rhetorics of Fantasy is a formalist approach."

I wonder, though. I haven't read The Rhetorics of Fantasy, so I don't really want to comment on it too much, since my perception is based on reading a few reviews, what some folks have told me, and glancing at the Google Books preview. So it's entirely possible that my question here has nothing to do with that book. I mention it only because it's the book Walter calls "a formalist approach".

What I wonder is how it's possible to have a formalist approach to fantasy or science fiction that is not also perfectly applicable to other sorts of writing. Is there a specifically formalist approach to SF?

To write criticism about SF is almost always to be stuck in content, not form. (We could, and perhaps should, argue about the soft borders between the two terms, the limits of the terms, the fact that content and form don't really exist outside of the words of the text, what that binary hides, etc. — but at the risk of inaccuracy, let's save such an argument for another time.)

There is nothing I can think of at this moment that formally differentiates SF from not-SF.

The most formalist approach I know of to SF is something like Delany's The American Shore, and were I to think of a formalist approach to SF, I'd think of Delany, though I think such a term for his work is pretty reductive. It's formalist, yes, often, but seldom only formalist. How and why depends on what we mean by "formalist" and "formalism".

Of course, "formalism" is not a term that lacks history or context or, quite often, an initial capital. Once we get beyond the most linguistically-based sorts

5 Comments on Formalist?, last added: 3/31/2012
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5. Design is a Dandelion

by Janice Lovoos

{published 1966, by Golden Gate Junior Books}

I was in Seattle a few weeks ago. You remember the library, right?

I went to Pike Place Market, because of course, but also because flying fish and dudes in galoshes are a spectacle worth checking out. And I also wanted to get up close and personal with some bluefin tuna eyeballs.

There’s a real reason for that, trust me. But they didn’t have any tuna, so this happened: Screen Shot 2013-05-17 at 11.51.46 AM

There’s not a real point to that story except that I adore that tweet (and those two Favoriters) and it’s what I did just before I wandered into Lamplight Books.

It’s like I stole something. Fifteen dollars? Sixty quarters? It still has that magical, musty smell of hidden secrets. And it was mine in a fraction of a split second. That fast.


 I’m in love. From the texture of a porcupine, to the form of mountains and weeds, to the repetition inside a squash, design is everywhere.

Design is a Dandelion ends like this, with truth and a charge:

Design is everywhere. It is for everyone. All you have to do is to learn to see it. Open your eyes and take a big, long look.


Tagged: design, form, line, nature, shape, space

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6. Author Webiste Content: CONTACT page

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Abayomi, the Brazilian Puma by Darcy Pattison

Abayomi, the Brazilian Puma

by Darcy Pattison

Giveaway ends March 21, 2014.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter to win

This month-long series of blog posts will explain author websites and offer tips and writing strategies for an effective author website. It alternates between a day of technical information and a day of writing content. By the end of the month, you should have a basic author website up and functioning. The Table of Contents lists the topics, but individual posts will not go live until the date listed. The Author Website Resource Page offers links to tools, services, software and more.

Yes, I Want to Talk with My Readers and Fans!

WWW under construction building website
You are going to all the trouble of putting up an Author Website so readers can find you. PLEASE make it easy for them to have a conversation with you. You need to decide how you want people to contact you. Do you want to connect on a social media platform ONLY? That may sound ideal, but what if your reader doesn’t use this platform or that one. Do you make them come to you, or do you make it simple for them? Of course, I think you should make it simple for them and provide an email address. (If your site is targeted at children at all, please read and comply with all COPPA regulations–the Child Online Protection Policy Rule. Also see a later post on Privacy Policies.)

Do you want them to email you directly or use a contact form? It’s personal preference. I’ve never had problems with having my email on the site, but you may not want to do that. Fortunately, there are simple, easy ways to provide contact info.

Social Media Links

To provide social media links, either find a theme that provides them as part of the design or use a WordPress plugin.
The theme I use on this site is WPAttorney and it includes those icons you see at the top of the page and a way to link each to my various social media pages. There were more options than you see, I just used the ones I needed.

Here’s a list of 10 social media plugins and another list of 8 recommended plugins.

Email link

You can also use the linking icon on the editor of your WordPress post/page. It’s the small chain icon. Just add this as a link: Mailto:Famous@FamousAuthorWebsite.com (Of course, fill in your email address!).
Put this text link where ever you like.

Contact Forms Plugins

For those who prefer not to have direct mail links, you can use a contact form. This presents a form that readers fill in with their contact information and a message. The Contact Form plugin then emails you the info and you can respond as you like. Contact Form 7 by Takayuki Miyoshi is often mentioned as a strong candidate for this function. Search for it in Plugins/AddNew.

Do you Need a Separate Contact Page?

On this site, I’ve chosen to include the social media icons at the top of every page/post. Do I need a separate Contact Page? I decided not to do that. I include contact info on the ABOUT page, and those persistent icons, and feel that’s enough. But you might want a separate page with its own link on the HOME page. For example, if you do school visits or lots of speaking, you may want to explain your services and provide contact information in that context. You’ll need to decide how and where to put CONTACT links, but I highly recommend that you put them somewhere! And don’t make readers hunt for it.

How do you like readers to contact you? Social media–what platform? Email? Contact form? Or have you found a different way? You can Tweet me @FictionNotes! Or use the icons at the top of the page to connect on YOUR favorite platform. Of course, commenting on this blog is also contacting me. I’d love to hear what you’re doing with your Author Website.

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