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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Growth, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 23 of 23
1. Why soil matters more than we realise

The soils surrounding the village where I live in the north west of England have abundant fertility. They mostly formed in well-drained, clay-rich debris left behind by glaciers that retreated from the area some ten thousand years ago, and they now support lush, productive pasture, semi-natural grassland and woodland. Although the pastures are managed more intensively than they were in the past, most of them are well drained, and receive regular dressings of manure along with moderate fertiliser, and are regularly limed, which keeps the land productive and the soil in good health.

The post Why soil matters more than we realise appeared first on OUPblog.

0 Comments on Why soil matters more than we realise as of 1/29/2016 8:10:00 AM
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2. Hike Salary of MLA

Hike Salary of MLA

cartoon aap salary by Monica Gupta


Hike Salary of MLA

सावधान .. अगर आप भी किसी विधायक के घर जा रहे हैं तो कृपया करके चाय वाय पी कर जाए अन्यथा … !!!! क्योकि  विधायकों का कहना है कि खर्च की तुलना में वेतनमान बेहद कम मिलता है, इसके अलावा महंगाई बहुत ज्यादा है। दिनभर मेल-मुलाकातों के दौरान चाय-पानी पर काफी खर्च आ जाता है। ऐसे में हमें बेहद दिक्कत पेश आती है। हम इमानदारी से काम करने वाले लोग हैं, इसलिए वेतनमान में इजाफा होना चाहिए। सूत्रों का कहना है कि आप सरकार वेतन बढ़ाने की मांग पर कार्रवाई कर सकती है।

‘ ‘ !

नई दिल्लीः घर चलाने के लिए आम आदमी पार्टी (आप) के कई विधायकों ने वेतन बढ़ाए जाने की मांग की है। विधायकों का कहना है कि उनको जो भी वेतनमान मिलता है वह उनके दफ्तर और उससे संबंधित व्यवस्थाओं में ही खर्च हो जाता है, ऐसे में वह अपना घर खर्च कहां से चलाएं। वेतन बढ़ाने के लिए कुछ इसी तरह के तर्क देकर आम आदमी पार्टी के बीस से अधिक विधायकों ने मुख्यमंत्री अरविंद केजरीवाल को पत्र लिखे हैं। इन विधायकों का कहना है कि खर्च की तुलना में वेतनमान बेहद कम मिलता है, इसके अलावा महंगाई बहुत ज्यादा है। दिनभर मेल-मुलाकातों के दौरान चाय-पानी पर काफी खर्च आ जाता है। ऐसे में हमें बेहद दिक्कत पेश आती है। हम इमानदारी से काम करने वाले लोग हैं, इसलिए वेतनमान में इजाफा होना चाहिए। सूत्रों का कहना है कि आप सरकार वेतन बढ़ाने की मांग पर कार्रवाई कर सकती है See more…


AAP MLAs demand a hike in their salaries from Arvind Kejriwal | Latest News & Updates at Daily News & Analysis

A delegation of 20 Aam Aadmi Party legislators on Friday met Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal demanding a hike in their salaries. Taking a clue from Parliamentarians in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha seeking 100 percent hike in their salaries, the AAP MLAs also decided to approach both Delhi CM and his deputy Manish Sisodia for a similar raise.

While speaking to dna AAP MLA Nitn Tyagi said that a team of 20 legislators had approached the CM, all the legislators unanimously agree that salaries must be raised.

“We get 53,500 in hand and it might sound a lot but we are not able to save a penny for ourselves. In fact I personally have on many occasions used money from my personal savings to work for the people of my constituency,” Tyagi said.

He added that not only him but other MLAs as well end up paying for the office, salaries of helpers, stationeries and so on, and that most of the previously lawmakers would also own business so had not much to rely on government salary.

“This is not the case with us. In a day, dozens of people from my constituency come to meet me with their problems. The people have to be served water, tea or snacks. This is basic courtesy but given the current salary even being courteous is turning out to be expensive for us.” dnaindia.com

तो इसमे गलत ही क्या है अभी नही कर सकते इतना खर्चा इसलिए तो अपने घर के बाहर बोर्ड लगा दिया है  jee …

The post Hike Salary of MLA appeared first on Monica Gupta.

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3. Call Me Tree/Llámame árbol – 2015 Diversity Reading Challenge

Today’s book recommendation has a multiplicity of diversity in it – the book is bilingual and has a non-gender specific protagonist. Title: Call Me Tree – Llámame árbol Written and illustrated by: Maya Christina Gonzalez Published by: Children’s Book Press, an imprint of Lee … Continue reading

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4. The economics of chocolate

Cocoa and chocolate have a long history in Central America but a relatively short history in the rest of the world. For thousands of years tribes and empires in Central America produced cocoa and consumed drinks based on it. It was only when the Spanish arrived in those regions that the rest of the world learned about it. Initially, cocoa production stayed in the original production regions, but with the local population decimated by war and imported diseases, slave labor was imported from Africa.

The ‘First Great Chocolate Boom’ occurred at the end of the 19th and early 20th century. The industrial revolution turned chocolate from a drink to a solid food full of energy and raised incomes of the poor. As a result, chocolate consumption increased rapidly in Europe and North America.

As the popularity of chocolate grew, production spread across the world to satisfy increasing demand. Interestingly, cocoa only arrived in West Africa in the early 20th century. But by the 1960s West Africa dominated global cocoa production, and in particular Ghana and Ivory Coast have become the world’s leading cocoa producers and exporters.

Not surprisingly, given the growth in trade of cocoa and consumption of chocolate, governments have intervened in the markets through various types of regulations. The early regulations (in the 16th–19th centuries) focused mostly on extracting revenue from cocoa production and trade through, for example, taxes on cocoa trade and the sales of monopoly rights for chocolate production.

 The world is currently experiencing a ‘Second Great Chocolate Boom.’

More recent regulations have focused mostly on quality and safety. With growing demand for chocolate in the 19th century, chocolate producers substituted cocoa with cheaper raw materials, going from various starchy products and fats to poisonous ingredients. Scientific inventions of the 18th and 19th centuries allowed better testing of the chocolate ingredients.  Public outrage against the use of unhealthy ingredients (now scientifically proven), led to a series of safety regulations on which specific ingredients were not allowed in chocolate – and in countries such as France and Belgium also in a legal definition of ‘chocolate’.

Chocolate consumption has many fascinating aspects. It is bought both for the pleasure of consumption and as a gift. It has been considered a healthy food, a sinful indulgence, an aphrodisiac, and the cause of obesity.

For much of history, chocolate (or cocoa drinks more generally) was praised for its positive effects on health and nutrition (and other benefits for the human body). As people were poor, hungry, and short of energy, chocolate drinks and later chocolate bars became an important additional source of nutrition.

In recent years, chocolate consumption is often associated with negative health issues, such as obesity.  Recent research has shown that its health potential is closely linked to the composition of the final product and, not surprisingly, to the quantity consumed: darker, lower-fat, and lower-sugar varieties, consumed in a balanced diet are more likely to be healthy than the opposite consumption pattern.

Fresh Cacao from São Tomé & Príncipe, by Everjean. CC-BY-2.0 via Flickr

In today’s high income societies where hunger is an exception, food is cheap, and obesity is on the rise, systematic overconsumption of chocolate – often associated with impulsive consumption and lack of self-control – is more associated with health problems. New research in behavioral engineering is targeted to help consumers deal with situational influences, and change behavior in a sustainable way, i.e. by ‘nudging’ them to change their consumption behavior and resisting the lure of chocolate.

One of the intriguing aspects of chocolate is its ‘quality’. Different from many other foods (such as cheese or wine) perceived chocolate quality is not related to the location where the raw material is grown or produced, but to the chocolate manufacturing process and location.

Some countries, such as Switzerland and Belgium are associated with prestigious traditions of chocolate manufacturing. However, perceptions do not always fit reality. ‘Belgian chocolates’, such as pralines and truffles, are now world famous but until 1960, Belgium imported more chocolate than it exported. Since then its “Belgian chocolates” have conquered the world – while the world has taken over the Belgian chocolate (companies). Most “Belgian chocolates” are now owned by international holdings – and a sizeable amount is produced outside the country.

Moreover, consumer perceptions of ‘quality’ are strongly influenced by consumer experiences with their local chocolate – this includes the smoothness of Swiss chocolate from long conching, the milkiness of British chocolate, and the preference of American consumers for chocolate that Europeans consider inferior.

In fact, the integration of the UK, Ireland and Denmark into the (precursor of the) European Union, which included France and Belgium in 1973 resulted in a ‘Chocolate War’ which lasted for 30 years. Disputes between the old and the new member states of the definition of “Chocolate” (and its ingredients) made that British chocolate was banned from much of the EU continent for three decades.

Ethical concerns about chocolate have been triggered by the specific structure of the structure of the global cocoa-chocolate value chain. For most of the past century, the value chain was characterized by a South-to-North orientation, with most of the raw material (cocoa beans) produced in developing countries (‘the South’) and most chocolate manufacturing and consumption in the richer countries (‘the North’). Another characteristic is that cocoa production in the South is almost exclusively by smallholders, while cocoa grinding and (first stage) chocolate manufacturing processes are often dominated by very large companies.

The cocoa-chocolate value chain has undergone significant transformations in recent years. First, in the 1960s through the 1980s the cocoa production and marketing in developing countries was strongly state regulated, often dominated by (para-)statal companies and state regulated prices and trade, etc. In recent years there has been substantial liberalizations of these sectors and the market plays a much larger role in price setting and trading, often resulting in new hybrid forms of ‘public-private governance’ of the world’s cocoa farmers.

Second, these new regulatory systems are reinforced by consumer awareness around labour conditions and low incomes in African smallholder production related to structural imbalances in the value chain. Consumer concerns and civil society campaigns around poor socio-economic conditions of producers (such as child labor) have affected companies’ strategies and responses. These involved (a) sustainability initiatives with civil society and governments, (b) certification initiatives including Fairtrade, Rainforest Alliance and Utz, and (c) various forms of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities.

The world is currently experiencing a ‘Second Great Chocolate Boom’. Rapidly growing demand is now not coming from ‘the North’, but from rapidly growing developing and emerging countries, including China, India and also Africa. The unprecedented growth of the past decades, the associated urbanization, and the huge size of their economies have turned China and India into major growth markets for chocolate. While consumption is highest in China, and the growth is strong, the country with – by far – the highest growth rates in chocolate consumption is India. In addition, significant African growth of the past 15 years is now also translating into growing chocolate consumption on the continent where most of the cocoa beans are produced.

Headline image: Fresh Cacao from São Tomé & Príncipe, by Everjean. CC-BY-2.0 via Flickr.

The post The economics of chocolate appeared first on OUPblog.

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5. Taking Flight

For years I have felt clipped down. 

Every time I jump to fly I get cut down by my circumstances and emotions.
I have allowed them control of my life...ALL aspects of my life. As an artist this gives me a lot of substance to work with, but it also holds me back. Way back.

I prelude this post with that because I want you to understand where I'm coming from. As a wife to an amazing man (they're rare and I was blessed with one!); a mother to a baby girl who loves to make you laugh and smiles so bright; a homemaker with a solid, strong house we just can't believe is ours; a gift that I truly just adore, drawing truly is my soul; but I've been depressed, unhappy, at my ropes end over and over again, and I'm beyond tired.

I have talked about this before in past posts, it's not a secret that I keep, and I willingly share it because I know I AM NOT ALONE. Especially as a woman. We all suffer greatly with the multitude of responsibilities gifted to us. And I use the word gifted, because I now remind myself "I GET to be his wife, I GET to be her mom, I GET to do what I love for a living!". Wow, amen to that!

Back to what I'm saying...
my point is I'm done trying. I'm finished. Ta ta, bye bye, no more. It's over.

What better time to say that than the beginning of a new year! Here are some highlights of "wow" moments for me about this year:

15 years ago I graduated high school.
I am 33 this year, the same age Jesus was when he sacrificed his life for mine.
My daughter turns one January 28th.
My husband has been supporting us for 5 years.

I am at a place where I know now is the time to just stop. Stop trying to take control, stop making excuses, stop thinking so darn hard about what to do, and instead DO IT. Commit to my life.

Commit to my life.

I want to fly. I realized after years and years, the truth behind why I paint fairies, angels, and mermaids (thank you Kelly for helping me get there). It's because they are free, or at least symbolize freedom. For a mermaid there is no ground and sky, they roam all of it. For a fairy there is not ground or sky untouched, they grace all of it. Angels can transcend time and realms between earth and heaven. Freedom. Flight. I'm inspired and take a deep breath. Amazing.


I purchased the abilities to have a shop on my website, and the whole site will be changing in the next couple of months. I am so excited to see the support from you, my followers, on Etsy, but to be honest the fees are starting to wear at the income I need to bring in for our family. Plus I will be able to offer so much more on my site, including my book, coloring book, and more. I can't wait!

I also purchased my first e-book, Flying Lessons, by Kelly Rae Roberts. I must say, I'm floored by how spot on she is as a teacher and coach. She's very airy, in depth, and in tuned with her creative spirit. I had mentioned her in the past ( read Life Inspired post here ), and how she inspires me....oh buddy does she inspire me. Her words, colors, textures, and how she shares being a seeker of Joy, filled with light, hope, and possibilities. As an artist I truly believe there are those of us who are called to be artisans of light. I KNOW I am one of them. I KNOW who I want to be, deep down inside, just waiting for the permission to FLY.

Her e-book not only helps the business end of things (which she lays it all down and hides no detail from you), she goes deep into facing your fears, finding your inspiration, your passion, your quiet whispering voice just waiting to come out. And then asks you to commit to your creative business. Merging both. Being both. Living with the joy it brings. Loving YOU.

Loving me as ME.

My spiritual path has started this year with a bang of AH HA, it's so much more than the e-book. We found a new church home we are so at peace with, the new messages being given, new tools handed to me, and renewed, meaningful relationships. It's all falling together amongst chaos, and I give all of the credit to Jesus. It's scary to say that in the open because I know what is attached to that in so many ways, on so many levels, but as a former practicing witch, spiritually seeking wanderer, and a highly curious person, it is by his grace I am where I am today. I have to squint to stay focused, but I'm committed. Committed to him and my life.

There is so much more for my business, and to share. Changes are coming visually for the blog (it will most likely be moving) and website, my approach, and you may even see just a tad bit of change in how I paint. Look for it, and let me know what you think. I hope you're just as excited as I am.
Happy New Year everyone!

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6. Starting Next Week: Blogging 201

Blogging 201: Branding and Growth starts Monday, October 20. If you’re a recent alum of Blogging 101 looking to build on the skills you’ve developed so far, or a blogger looking for new ways to grow your site and its audience, this is the course for you.

What will Blogging 201 cover? We’ll introduce tools to increase your traffic within WordPress.com as well as through other platforms, discuss ways to develop a coherent, effective brand for your blog, and show how to use your archives and your site’s stats to build your readership.

During this two-week course we’ll give you a daily task and provide you with all the necessary resources and information to complete it (there will be no new tasks on weekends, to give you time to explore more on your own, or just publish a post or two). You’ll also have access to The Commons, a private, staff-moderated space where you can chat with other participants, ask questions, and give feedback.

Ending right before NaNoWriMo and NaBloPoMo kick off in November, Blogging 201: Branding and Growth will help you get your site ready for a new wave of viewers — as well as to keep them coming after their first visit.

Like all Blogging U. courses, there are no prerequisites for Blogging 201 (if you’d like to follow the courses in sequence, though, that’s fine: Blogging 101: Zero to Hero will be back in November!). Self-hosted blogs and blogs from other platforms are just as welcome to participate.

If this sounds like something you’d be interested in trying, sign up for Blogging 201: Branding and Growth using this form:

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7. Starting Next Week: Blogging 201

Blogging 201: Branding and Growth starts Monday, October 20. If you’re a recent alum of Blogging 101 looking to build on the skills you’ve developed so far, or a blogger looking for new ways to grow your site and its audience, this is the course for you.

What will Blogging 201 cover? We’ll introduce tools to increase your traffic within WordPress.com as well as through other platforms, discuss ways to develop a coherent, effective brand for your blog, and show how to use your archives and your site’s stats to build your readership.

During this two-week course we’ll give you a daily task and provide you with all the necessary resources and information to complete it (there will be no new tasks on weekends, to give you time to explore more on your own, or just publish a post or two). You’ll also have access to The Commons, a private, staff-moderated space where you can chat with other participants, ask questions, and give feedback.

Ending right before NaNoWriMo and NaBloPoMo kick off in November, Blogging 201: Branding and Growth will help you get your site ready for a new wave of viewers — as well as to keep them coming after their first visit.

Like all Blogging U. courses, there are no prerequisites for Blogging 201 (if you’d like to follow the courses in sequence, though, that’s fine: Blogging 101: Zero to Hero will be back in November!). Self-hosted blogs and blogs from other platforms are just as welcome to participate.

If this sounds like something you’d be interested in trying, sign up for Blogging 201: Branding and Growth using this form:

Take Our Survey
Filed under: Better Blogging, Community, Resources

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8. Times are a changing (along with the name)…

I am there honestly, right behind the tower of mini prints.

Hiding behind the tower of mini prints.

This has been on my mind for awhile and on the long road trip I had more time to think about it. The business has grown so much in the past couple of years and the direction I want to take it has altered slightly too. The upcoming year there will be some changes, expanding products offered, a book in the works (Shawn get back to writing!), plus some creative, weird stuff from Shawn (I said get back to writing!), along with first and foremost a change in the name of the business.

There are many reasons for the name change, some minor, but  the major one has been growth. I use to share a six foot table with my friend Koko Candles and now I can barely contain everything on an eight foot table, much less a six foot table (which is why I am exploring having booths at certain cons next year). This rapid rate of growth could not have happened without someone very special in my life, Shawn. He has been supportive of me through all of this; he has given me creative ideas, does a lot of grunt work for me, and as he says his official title is, Lifter of Heavy Things. He is very much my partner in this business and I am appreciative of his contributions to the growth of it.

Shawn thinks he is in the new Mad Max movie.

Shawn thinks he is in the new Mad Max movie.

So on a long trip through the desert night of Arizona, Shawn and I started kicking around different names… some good, some hilariously bad. During the banter we had going back and forth it got me thinking; I love the darker side of things and Shawn loves horror (he always disappears from the booth during horror cons to spend money), and we always seem to be on the road lately. The name crystallized in my mind and it just seemed so appropriate. Without further ado I present the new name of the business…

Gypsy Ghouls

This will not be an immediate transition, so Diana Levin Art will still exist. I will still be creating new art and jewelry to have at the shows as these will be the cornerstone of the business as it expands.

More dark things to come...

More dark things to come…

And finally lest I forget to thank the people who also have made this growth possible, the fans of my art. Thank you so much for your support and love, I could not do it without all of you.

Keep dreaming and creating…


The post Times are a changing (along with the name)… appeared first on Diana Levin Art.

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9. The Enemies of Growth

Over the years I have encountered a few creatures dwelling in my mind that can impede growth. Fortunately, these critters can be trained and kept in check. Below are my field notes from my experiences with the three most common species.

Ego1The Ego (Vanus Fragilis)

Habitat: Your mind
Diet: Flattery and attention
Habits: Strictly solitary

The Ego is a sensitive soul. It craves reassurance and takes failure quite personally. Desperate to convince itself that it is valuable, the Ego and will avoid situations where failure might occur. “Don’t enter the contest, don’t send the manuscript!” the Ego will plead, because it’s easier to say I didn’t try than I didn’t succeed.

Unfortunately for the Ego, failure is a necessary part of growth. We learn the most when we push ourselves out of our comfort zones and try new things. The best way to succeed is to increase our failure rate, and the best way to learn is to face our failures head on and look at what worked, what didn’t, and why.

Tips for Tempering an Ego:

  • Avoid overfeeding. Egos gorge themselves on attention.
  • Cultivate gratitude.
  • Remember: The Ego is not you—it just lives in your mind.
  • Set up a nice little Ego-cage in the back of your mind where it can stay out of the way.
  • Stay away from junk foods like flattery, which lead to a bloated and irritable Ego.

Critic1The Critic (Incuso Virosa)

Habitat: Your Mind
Diet: Negativity
Habits: Venomous. Often nocturnal, brings up worries at bedtime.

A wild Critic can lash out at your work (or life in general) with potent venom. “You aren’t talented enough,” the Critic will whisper in your ear. “Look at this other person’s work. It’s so much better.” The Critic will dredge up your mistakes and mockingly parade them before your eyes at your moment of greatest weakness.

As terrible as it sounds, A Critic can be helpful if it is trained to come out only when needed. The Critic is handy when deciding which thumbnail composition is better and why, or editing that manuscript in the second draft. But if it starts telling you that everything you make is garbage or that you’re not nearly as good as so-and-so, it’s time to go back in the kennel.

Tips for Coping with a Critic:

  • Use a muzzle to keep it from biting
  • Feed it as little negativity as possible.
  • Don’t let the Critic’s words become your own.
  • It’s okay to tell it to settle down. (Yes, out loud. Try it, I dare you!)
  • Critics shy away from laughter and fun. Remember fun?
  • Surround yourself with positive, encouraging people.

Sloth1The Sloth (Choloepus Languidus)

Habitat: Your Mind
Diet: Inactivity
Habits: None

The sloth really wants you to succeed. It does. But it would rather not give up its Netflix marathons and surfing Facebook on its phone.

The Sloth is the creature that will tell you that your first thumbnail is good enough. Why bother trying other compositions? It will discourage you from taking those figure drawing classes you need, because that sounds like a lot of work after all. If you have a feeling that you need to work on your craft but you never seem to get around to doing it, you might be contending with one of these creatures.

Not to worry! Sloths can be trained. When properly employed, a Sloth can stop you from becoming a perfectionist, particularly on the projects that just aren’t worth the time. If you’re getting paid a pittance for an illustration, it probably isn’t time to make the Mona Lisa. All it takes to train a Sloth is a little bit of priority shifting and the adoption of some new habits.

Tips for Training a Sloth:

  • Track your time and identify distractions.
  • If online distraction is a problem, you can use LeechBlock (Firefox) or StayFocused (Chrome) to limit the sites you can visit during specific times.
  • Put your phone out of reach and turn off notifications.
  • Force yourself to work on a project for just 20 minutes. Chances are good that the Sloth will slink away as you start to have fun with the project.
  • Work at a consistent time. Find a schedule that works for you.

In a Nutshell:

If you have a Critic, Ego or Sloth, don’t beat yourself up over it. It’s normal! Identify the species that is impeding your growth the most, and take a small step this week to help tackle it.


This post was also published on the Kidlit Artists blog.

The post The Enemies of Growth appeared first on .

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10. Spring into Multicultural Children’s Books!

While it may not feel like it, today is the first day of spring! We’re very excited for our forthcoming spring titles, which you can check out here. To kick off the spring season, here’s an image and poem from Laughing Tomatoes and Other Spring Poems/Jitomates Risueños y otros poemas de primavera, written by Francisco X. Alarcón, and illustrated by Maya Christina Gonzalez, published by Children’s Book Press, an imprint of LEE & LOW.


the hills

are starting

to crack

a green smile

once again



las colinas


a sonreír

muy verdes

otra vez

Filed under: Art, Celebrations, Holidays, Musings & Ponderings Tagged: Children's Book Press, flowers, green, growth, poetry, seasons, spring

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11. Franken-Piggy

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12. Cow-Boy Kitten

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13. Animal Orchestra

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14. Ferret Ballet

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15. Welcome, Spring!

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16. Flower Kitten

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17. What I'd Like To Do, When I Have Time

- Read the complete results of the latest ABACUS Survey from the ABA -- those stats from indie bookstores nationwide were a big factor in my business plan

- Read bookseller Tova Beiser's account of WI3

- Catch up with my Brooklyn blog reading! I just met Myka of MotherSister Brooklyn this weekend (look for a chronicle of meeting with the amazingly wonderful Fort Greene Association soon), and I think I have a lot of back posts to read. There's always Louise Crawfords indispensible Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn, which will also lead you to almost every other Brooklyn blog worth reading (and she also had a supernice congrats on my PowerUp win). And I've recently discovered Brooklynometry, and specifically the write-up of a new Brooklyn bookstore practically in my backyard that I didn't know existed: Babbo's Books on Prospect Park West. Exciting news!

- Post book reviews! Here's what I read in January but haven't yet found time to write about (and they're all GREAT, in different ways):
THE BOOK OF OTHER PEOPLE, edited by Zadie Smith
A GOLDEN AGE by Tahmima Anam
THE ESCAPISTS by Brian K. Vaughan
LAIKA by Nick Abadzis
and currently reading MUDBOUND by Hillary Jordan, which has now officially made me miss a subway stop -- the sign of an irresistibly great read.

- tell you lots of details about the TitleWave event I've beeen working on putting together that BookStream is hosting on February 27, with Richard Price, Steve Toltz, Hillary Jordan, and sales rep extraordinaire Ken Abramson. If you haven't heard the details in Publishers Weekly, Shelf Awareness, Bookselling This Week, the NAIBA and NEIBA newsletters, or the blogs, then email me or Carolyn Bennett and we'll tell you all about it. Remember, it's free, but you DO have to RSVP!

- find out if I can vote in the primary on Tuesday even though I'm registered as an independent... when my sweet mom, who's a Republican from California, and New York City bookish type like me can agree on a candidate, it's clearly a good time to vote.

What's hanging over your head, dear readers? There are always too many books to read -- but that means we'll never run out!

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18. More Than Genes: An Excerpt

Dan Agin is Emeritus Associate Professor of Molecular Genetics and Cell Biology at the morethangenesUniversity of Chicago.  His new book, More Than Genes: What Science Can Tell Us About Toxic Chemicals, Development, and the Risk to Our Children, Agin marshals new scientific evidence to argue that the fetal environment can be just as crucial as genetic hard-wiring or even later environment in determining our intelligence and behavior.  In the excerpt below, Agin illustrates his premise.

During the next few decades, Americans and others in the industrialized world will learn that the psychological destinies of their children are often shaped and mangled by man-made environmental effects that begin not with birth but with conception.  This is an idea that has been quietly gaining momentum in science for some years now, occasionally leaking into the popular press.  As it becomes increasingly established, it will challenge the very fundamentals that govern the way we see ourselves and our society.

How will we deal with these effects?  Are they real or mere speculation?  When and how do they happen?

The origins are beyond what most people imagine.

On the morning of September 11, 2001, some 3000 people died in front of our eyes in a crazy scene of airliners crashing into skyscrapers and of those skyscrapers crumbling within minutes.  Anyone downtown in Manhattan that day, or anyone anywhere in front of a television screen who watched the collapse of the twin towers of the World Trade Center, has the memory of it seared into the psyche.  The entire appalling event – from Manhattan to the Pentagon to a small field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania – sent political shockwaves across America and around the world that have not yet subsided.  We now call that day “9/11″ as a signature shorthand for the catastrophe, a logo for an event whose details quickly occupied the mind of nearly everyone on the planet.

But like many catastrophic events, there was more to 9/11 than most people realize.

Not long afterward, a few miles north of “Ground Zero” – the empty ground where the World Trade Center once stood – a pediatrics group at the Mt. Sinai School of Medicine, together with others there and at the Bronx Veterans Affairs Medical Center, began to ask a simple question: Was it possible the shock of the 9/11 catastrophe had caused effects in the fetuses of pregnant women who lived close to the disaster?

The Mt. Sinai research team went on a hunt for pregnant women who had been in the vicinity of the World Trade Center at 9 a.m. on the 11th of September 2001. They published advertisements in local newspapers.  They distributed flyers in lower Manhattan.  They sent letters to 3000 obstetricians in the greater New York City area.  They found 187 women who had been pregnant and present in any one of five exposure zones around Ground Zero, including 12 women who were in the towers at the time of the attack.  As a comparison group, they used 174 pregnant women who had been nowhere near the World Trade Center on the morning of the catastrophe.

The researchers analyzed every piece of relevant information available about the pregnant women in both groups and about the infants born to them in subsequent weeks or months.  On August 6, 2003, they published a short letter in a medical journal.  The concluding paragraph of the letter had no ambiguities

We found an apparent association between maternal exposure to the World Trade Center disaster and intra-uterine growth retardation, suggestion that this event had a detrimental impact on exposed pregnancies…Possible long-term effects on infant development are unclear and will require continuing follow-up.

Two years later, the Mt. Sinai research group published three papers on their findings in three different medical journals.  To sum up their conclusions: The cause of intrauterine growth retardation in the infants was apparently not dust and smoke inhaled by the pregnant mothers, but maternal psychological stress and cortisol secretion effects, as indicated by measures of below-normal cortisol levels in their infants.

The findings of the Mt. Sinai research group are not isolated.  Since the late 1990s, fetal effects have been found from earthquakes, ice storms, and floods, with varying later outcomes for the children: childhood verbal deficits, depression, schizophrenia, and so on.

Do we know the mechanism for these effects?  There’s more than one possibility, but consider the following: On 9/11, when a pregnant woman was close enough to experience the traumatic World Trade Center event, her adrenal glands secreted the powerful stress hormone cortisol.  Her cortisol entered the placenta.  Not all of her cortisol was broken down by the placenta, and some of it got through to the fetus and increased the fetal blood cortisol level.  Recent studies in fact show a positive correlation between maternal and amniotic fluid cortisol levels.  On 9/11, to compensate for increased local cortisol, the fetal adrenals reduced their own cortisol secretion to keep the total level down.  But since that happened while the fetus itself was developing, the result was fetal production of cortisol that might not have been just transiently reduced, but permanently reduced.  One effect could be retarded intrauterine growth.  Another effect would be low cortisol levels in infancy (as found by the Mt. Sinai group) and later consequences difficult to assess.  In other words, during development the fetus adapted a new environmental condition as if that condition would be permanent.

In modern pediatrics and developmental psychobiology, this adaptation is called “fetal programming” or “prenatal programming.”  It’s a new concept.  The general idea is that during development important physiological parameters can be reset by environmental events – and the resetting can endure into adulthood and even affect the following generation – in this case, producing a transgenerational nongenetic stress disorder.

So what are the consequences?  Researchers have already correlated heart disease and diabetes with prenatal growth and apparent fetal programming.  But “intra-uterine growth” is only what you can see and determine by measuring an infant’s head circumference and body length at the time of birth.  What you can’t see are the subtle effects on various physiological systems, for example, on the developing central nervous system – on the developing brain.  You can measure behavior later on, but it’s not that easy.

What is certainly true is that you don’t need great drama – earthquakes or flood or terrorism – to affect the prenatal environment.  Far subtler events can have an impact on that environment as well.

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19. Life Resolutions

While everyone else seems to be making those pesky resolutions for the New Year, I'm working on some life resolutions instead. It's just going slightly slower than I expected. I have some good reasons for this but then everyone usually does because they generally fall into the category of life happens.

Mine include an unexpected business trip, my 16 1/2 year-old dog is ill and may not recover, the pace at work seems to continue to increase, and - well, you get the point. Life Happens!

I did write down some goals, or resolutions, such as: write more, travel more, better organization at work and home, yoga everyday, enjoy life wherever possible, and so on, and so on. I've come to the conclusion, however, over the many years of making New Year's resolutions that what I need is Life Resolutions - in other words, add/subtract things from my life that make sense for the rest of my life.

One of those "things" is yoga. I like the philosophy of yoga and the opportunity for growth and awareness. With New Year's resolutions, a very small percentage, including me, are able to keep them. I've always felt like a failure by February because for the most part, the resolutions weren't reasonable and didn't take into account that life happens.

With yoga and it's many forms of practice, the fact that life happens is part of the process. Besides, it's more workable to fit my goals above into the rest of my life instead of a year.

Happy writing everyone.

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20. Soul Searching

After much soul searching, I can finally answer the question in my previous post. I write because I have to. I don't know why I have to, I just do.

Something else I've  learned. I'm selfish. (I did know that already, but....)

You see, I am afraid to speak in public (I mean deathly afraid), so I have always thought that if I did sell books, I would do bookstore signings, but no school visits. Then in church today, as an illustration for his class, the preacher was talking about being 8 years old, elementary school art class, and play doh. It made me think about the author and the illustrator who visited my class when I was that young. They showed slides of their book (a beach book I recall), and how the illustrations were made, and how they came up with the text, and all that writerly stuff. I remember being so enthralled. They made such an impact on me that I decided I wanted to be an author/illustrator too. And that was 45 years ago.

Then it hit me. I discovered just how selfish I really am. If I should ever be so blessed as to have the opportunity to reach just one child... then who am I to run and hide.

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21. Sketchbook Project —A Collage

In between all of my nursing efforts this week, I've been busy filling my sketchbook. Since collage has been such an important part of my life this past year, I knew I had to include it. I've painted one collage in the actual book, but this one I created on a separate piece of watercolor paper. I plan to glue it onto one of the pages. The problem is I love it so much that I want to keep it.

I saw the above quote on someone's blog (so sorry I forgot whose). It's the Oregon state motto, apparently. It holds so much meaning for me this year as I try to grow my business.  This morning I read a blog post by Kelly Rae Roberts that goes along with this quote. It seems I'm being given signposts lately (from Oregon). I want to lighten my husband's load financially, so growth is very important.

I've been trying to come up with a word for this year. Last year's was 'Simplicity'. I didn't achieve that in quite the way I was expecting, but I did find myself letting go of a lot of things that weren't so important. I'm wishing housekeeping wasn't one of them, though;-) This year, the word isn't coming to me so easily, but I think it's going to be 'ACTION'. I'll let that sit for awhile and see how it feels.

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22. Burning Questions Answered

So... On Thursday last week I asked what you wanted to know. Right away I saw a theme emerge. FEAR. 

Dean K Miller asked: How do you deal with, or feel about, the fears associated with writing a book, or other piece? Where do you go (internally or externally) to calm those demons? Or do you even have them?

Barbara Watson said: I love reading about writer's struggles. Not because I want writer's lives to be hard but because writing is.

Susan Kaye Quinn asked: 1) What's the scariest thing you've ever thought about writing (not paranormal scary, emotional scary)? Did you write it?
 2) What's the one thing you want to write one day, but don't think you're ready to yet?

See here's the thing, we (writers) have so much in common. And one of those things, for better or worse, is overwhelming fear and doubt. I've blogged about it before, and that's fine. But what I'm going to do here is relate it to myself on a personal level for you. It's something I don't often do, but since you're curious, maybe it will help someone. Maybe it will give you encouragement. Maybe you'll see yourself in me, or say "Gee, other people go through this too."

What am I afraid of when I write a book? What do I struggle with? Lots of things. I've written *counts* 6 complete YA manuscripts. You'd think after the first it would get easier, right? I'd think, hey, my critique group likes my writing overall (i.e., they didn't toss me out of the group). I have an agent, and he likes it. But still. STILL there's that voice saying, what if this one is ridiculous? What if it sucks? What if my characters aren't believable? What if the plot doesn't make sense? What if I'VE GONE TOO FAR? (I'll get to that in a minute) 

How do I deal with those demons? I remember that it doesn't change the fact that I HAVE TO WRITE. I

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23. Before and After: Reveal Character

IN the on-going series of Thinking Like a Writer, everyone can recite the plot diagram of rising action which ends in a climax and denouement. But writers can’t just recite the particulars of a diagram; instead, we must create a plot that changes a character in some way.

One way to get at that change is to start by writing the Before and After character sections. Where is the character at the beginning of the story and how have they changed by the end.

For example, in the Before section of “A Christmas Carol,” Scrooge is miserable and miserly in three ways: toward the poor, toward his nephew, toward his employee and his family. He meets three ghosts, which leads to the After section, where he is kind and generous in three ways: toward the poor, toward his nephew, toward his employee and his family.

You may have a character moving from shy to bold.
What scene, description, and/or character set-up will Show-Don’t-Tell that this character is shy? How can you contrast that with the After scene?

First, identify the character arc for your character.
Then write a Before and an After.

How to Write a Children's Picture Book by Darcy Pattison


Available on
For more info, see writeapicturebook.com

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