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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: recap, Most Recent at Top [Help]
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1. Writing for a Diverse Audience: SCBWI NY 2015 breakout recap

Over the weekend (Feb. 7), I taught a breakout session at the Annual Winter Conference of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators here in New York, NY. We were discussing how to write for a diverse audience. My main focus was on helping the audience to remember that no matter what you’re writing, your audience will always be diverse. Too often, writers think that there’s a dichotomy–that there are “multicultural books” that are read by kids of color, and that “everyone else” (meaning, white kids) read “mainstream” (meaning, white) books.

This just isn’t the case. Readers tend to read widely, and kids of color are just like their white peers, reading the most popular books, the books assigned to them in schools, and whatever else they happen to come across that sounds interesting to them.

Writing for a Diverse AudienceBelow are the links and a few notes from the handout I gave to writers at the conference, with a few annotations to clarify what we were talking about. I hope it is a useful resource when you’re thinking of writing for a diverse audience (i.e., when you’re thinking of writing–period!). If you have any further ideas–or links where writers can go further in depth–please add them in the comments.

Other coverage: SCBWI Conference Blog

Other sessions on the same topic: Newbery Medalist Kwame Alexander’s breakout session on writing diverse books

Seven Essentials You Need to Know about Writing for a Diverse Audience

  1. Don’t feel “forced” to write diversity, but remember your readers are diverse
    • If your real-life world isn’t diverse, if you don’t know any people of color, if you don’t know how to write diverse characters without relying on stereotypes, you don’t have to feel pressured to do so.
    • And don’t feel like you need to come in and “save” anyone—come in from a position of equality and seeking equity.
    • However, your world is likely more diverse than you think.
    • Often, people of color and Native Americans are most hurt by passing comments in books that aren’t “about” POC at all. (Debbie Reese’s blog has many examples of this.)
    • Don’t be afraid to discuss race. If you’re new at this, do a lot of listening.
  1. You need to know about power dynamics
  1. Expand your definition of “diversity.”
  • Diversity is not just about race, religion, class, etc. It is often about how many different identity markers come together to create a specific experience. Here’s a basic definition of  intersectionality. Think about how it affects your characters.
  • Intersections happen across 11 lenses, according to Teaching Tolerance:
  1. race
  2. ethnicity
  3. language
  4. immigration  
  5. religion
  6. gender identification
  7. sexual orientation
  8. class 
  9. ability
  10. age
  11. place
  1. Social media doesn’t have to be a distraction.
  1. In your writing, seek both the universal & the specific.
  • Universal stories appeal to a broad swath of readers: characters dealing with parents, love stories, stories of loss—these are all stories of the human condition.
  • Specific details make your story richer.
  • If you are writing cross-culturally, do your research. Debbie Reese has an excellent guide on seeking a cultural expert in Native American issues. Look for similar information on the culture you’re writing about.
  • And write a good book:
    • the most important thing about a diverse book is the same thing as for all books. What matters most:
      • Characterization
      • Plot
      • World-building
      • Pacing
      • Age-appropriate content (though not shying away from edgy topics)
      • Concept
  1. Contextual clues are better than exposition of culture.
  • Show, don’t tell!
  • Remember that your audience includes cultural insiders and outsiders. Balance enough information for outsiders with the possibility of boring insiders with too much basic everyday information.
  1. School visits are a great way to reach diverse students.
  • At the beginning of your career, be willing to do school visits or Skype visits for a low honorarium, until you can build up your resume and network with more teachers.
  • Keep in mind that schools with a high percentage of diverse students are often the most underfunded. They may not have a budget for an honorarium, but may be able to purchase books for students to compensate.

Stacy Whitman is Editorial Director and Publisher of Tu Books, an imprint of LEE & LOW BOOKS that publishes diverse science fiction and fantasy for middle grade and young adult readers.

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2. AMS/SMT 2014: Highlights from the OUP booth

We had a great time at this year’s AMS/SMT meeting! Milwaukee was a bit chilly, but we drank lots of coffee, cozied up with thrilling new books, and listened to some fantastic presentations!

Weren’t able to make it, or just feeling nostalgic? Take a tour through the eyes of OUP music, and check out some memorable highlights from this year’s joint meeting:

You can find out more information about the AMS/SMT 2014 conference by visiting their website. We already can’t wait for next year!

The post AMS/SMT 2014: Highlights from the OUP booth appeared first on OUPblog.

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3. Monday Morning Edition

In case you missed it, a quick recap of the past week on WordPress.com, from new features to great blogs to discover.

1 Comments on Monday Morning Edition, last added: 4/14/2014
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4. Monday Morning Edition

In case you missed it, a quick recap of the past week on WordPress.com.

11 Comments on Monday Morning Edition, last added: 3/18/2014
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5. Monday Morning Edition

In case you missed it, a quick recap of the past week on WordPress.com.

8 Comments on Monday Morning Edition, last added: 3/4/2014
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 COMIX! I'm on sabbatical for the year.  While I will be making various appearances in Europe and beyond, mostly I'll be spending time at the home base in Paris, France drawing and doodling.   You can check out my experiments over at Universal U-Click for a comic-strip-doodle-thingie called PARIS DOODLES . The strip runs drawings, dining room dinner doodles, and photos on weekdays.

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7. I'm back!

click to enlarge. I've just returned from a fun holiday.  While I was away, Universal Syndicate ran the comics I pinch hit for pal Richard Thompson's Cul De Sac.  It was great fun to play around with his characters.  You can see the work starting here (then click onto the arrow for the next day). Thanks again to Stacy Curtis for inking them. There's still as Sunday strip of mine coming

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8. Event Recap: Maggie Stiefvater & Corey Whaley at Burbank Public Libray

Hello, everyone! I had a really fun book event the other day at my very own local library. Burbank Public Library hosted Maggie Stiefvater Wolves of Mercy Falls series, Scorpio Races) and Corey Whaley (Where Things Come Back) for a talk on April 23, 2012. I've seen Maggie several times before but this was my first time seeing Corey whose book, Where Things Come Back, I've been dying to read. Both came to talk about their new books, read an excerpt and then answer questions from the audience. 

Maggie started the night off with a brief intro and read a passage from The Scorpio Races. Maggie said that she had always wanted to write a story about the mythical water horses that she had read about when she was a child. The story was of a beautiful but also deadly creature. The original myth was very strange and had all of these weird rules for the horses and it wasn't until she realized that she could get rid of the parts of the story that she didn't like was she able to finally write the story. She also likened her book to Top Gun but then said her editor didn't like that and switched to say that her book was like My Little Pony/Jurassic Park.

Corey read a bit from his book and then told us about how he had always wanted to write a coming of age story. He had written for awhile but he never felt like he had the right story to tell. One day in college he was driving and listening to NPR when a story came on about musician Sufjan Stevens. The story was about how Stevens wrote a song about an ivory-billed woodpecker after hearing about this rare bird being spotted in a small town. The town was all but dead but, after the sighting, people started to flock there in the hopes of spotting the bird. Corey realized that this town would be a great setting for his book and that's when the seeds of Where Things Come Back came from. 

On naming characters:
Corey was actually in his car when he came to a fork in the road leading in two directions to two different towns. The signs were close together and the names of the towns seemed like a fitting name and that name became the first character in his book. Later on, on a trip to his hometown he passed another small town whose name he also appropriated for his book. Then he decided to keep up the pattern and pulled the names of town from all over Arkansas and Louisiana and made names from those towns. One character, who is an outsider, did not get a town name. 

Maggie said that she believes that a character's name is a reader's first impression of them. Take any name and, when you hear it, you have an idea of that person. She thinks that people

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9. Event Recap: Shadow and Bone Launch Party

Guess what finally came out this week? You guessed it - Shadow and Bone! I've been waiting all year for this book to come out and I finally have it in my hands (insert evil laugh here). Alethea and I are lucky enough to live pretty close to Skylight Books where Leigh had her launch party on Monday night.

We arrived pretty early which was lucky because it got packed. Skylight did a fantastic job of organizing the party. Attendees were greeted at the door by a lovely candy and champagne table. There were all kinds of tasty treats including chocolate kisses, Jordan almonds, gumballs and cake pops. As you can see below, the tablescape was beautiful as well. We didn't get to eat too many snacks since we were staking out seats and later the food area was super crowded. But everyone else seemed to be enjoying their candy and champagne and it looked wonderful.

dreamy tablescape

all kinds of candy

alethea wants to live under this tree

After some mingling and hanging out the event officially started. Leigh got up and talked about the book. She actually started off with a story about how she found  part of a book that she had written when she was in junior high. It was about two fraternal twins, Jareth (sorry I don't know if I am spelling that right) and Blood. Of course, with a name like Blood, the girl could only be an assassin. Leigh talked about how Blood was a badass and how that's what she wanted to be like at that age. She also talked about her writing process and how she had to kind of trick herself into writing the book. She had that nagging inner voice telling her that the book wasn't any good and she agreed with the voice, telling it that she was just writing it for fun

9 Comments on Event Recap: Shadow and Bone Launch Party, last added: 6/10/2012
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10. Event Recap: Fierce Reads Kickoff

Hello again! I hope everyone is having a great week. Today I am going to recap that awesome event that was the first tour stop of the Fierce Reads Tour. We were lucky enough to be able to attend the kickoff at Mrs. Nelson's over in La Verne. The store is quite a bit of a trek but it's so worth it. The store is seriously stocked with all kinds of children's, MG, and YA magic. I wanted to buy at least half the store and only managed to refrain slightly. 

So we showed up and the store had a whole wall dedicated to the tour. Books from all 6 authors (Anna Banks, Emmy Laybourne. Jessica Brody, Marissa Meyer, Leigh Bardugo and Jennifer Bosworth) filled the walls. 

We sat way in the back like the troublemakers that we are. :) The picture above was early on and it filled up considerably before the panel started. Let me just say right now that this is probably going to be mainly a recap told with pictures because, bad blogger, I didn't take any notes and I can't remember too much of what was said. Needless to say though, it was highly entertaining and fun. 

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11. Event Recap: Marissa Meyer at Once Upon A Time

Yes, yet another recap. Promise it's the last one for this week. Last week just happened to be an insane week for author events. Right after the Fierce Reads Tour, Marissa Meyer had a date at one of our fave indies, Once Upon A Time. Even though I had just seen Marissa at Fierce Reads (I'm not stalking her, I swear!) I was excited that she was getting her own date the OUAT.

Marissa started the event off by talking about how she got into writing. She wrote fan fiction for Sailor Moon for a long time (maybe 10 years) before she decided to tackle a full blown novel.  Someone asked Marissa if  she would ever take one of her old fan fics and re-write it into something new and she said no, but that they were still available on the internet for anyone who wanted to read them. 

Marissa let slip a few details about book 2 of The Lunar Chronicles. It's going to be the story of Red Riding Hood (yay!) and Cinder will appear in all four books. Also, the character of Wolf sounds super dark and sexy. Swoon.  I really, really can't wait to read Scarlet. 

I can't remember what Marissa was talking about here but it's pretty cute. After more questions Marissa got down to business and started signing books. I had my copy of Cinder signed the last time Marissa was in town so I just said hi and fangirled a bit. Marissa is so cool and nice. I had a great time at the event.

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12. Update & Mo'!

It's been a crazy month of pals, work, appearances, family, & holiday. ALA was great fun. I always enjoy seeing old pals, authors, editors, librarians, and their ilk on the floor.  This years Caldecott & Newbery speeches were excellent and this years Geisel Medalist, Josh Schneider, knocked it out of the park. I was honored to receive my honor for Elephant & Piggie's I BROKE MY TRUNK! and to be

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13. Event Recap: Girls' Nightmare Out Tour + Giveaway

raffle table

Hello. friends!  Last week I was able to go to the Girls' Nightmare Out Tour with Kendare Blake (Girl of Nightmares), Marta Acosta (Dark Companion) and Lisa Desrochers (Personal Demons) that was hosted by Mrs. Nelson's Books. I always love going to Mrs. Nelson's because they have a great selection of books and the staff is always super nice. I left pretty early for this event because it's not very close to my house. I made good time and got there about half an hour early. It gave me some time to check out the decor of the store.

lovely display

Then the authors arrived and the panel started. Each of them started out saying a bit about their books. Marta Acosta wrote Dark Companion as an homage to Jane Eyre. She was inspired by Jane's strength and perseverance. Kednare Blake said that though Anna is the catalyst in her books, the journey is for Cas. Lisa Desrochers said that she had a lot of fun writing a book about an angel and a demon named Lucifer and Gabriel. She wanted to use the obvious names because, if someone named Lucifer told you he was a demon, would you believe him?

contemplating their answers

When asked whether any of them had ever had any backlash for their books, all of them answered in the affirmative. Lisa said that she's been criticized for many things in her books. She said that people criticized her for letting her heroine kiss both an angel and a demon. She has also been criticized for giving her a heroine the power over both heaven and hell. Her books have been called cliched, but Lisa doesn't mind and has lots of fun playing with those cliches. Kendare has been called both anti-feminist and racist (whoa!). Marta says that people have told her that her heroine is a terrible role model. But Marta said that Jane isn't meant to be a role model. She's a real teenager who isn't perfect and makes mistakes. 

Asked which character they liked writing best:
Marta: Mary Violet
Kendare: She knows Cas best but has the most fun writing Thomas.
Lisa: Grandpa

Then it was raffle time!

sadly, i did not win.

haha - authors with the raffle winners.

I had a really fun time. Thank you, Mrs. Nelson's for another wonderful event. If you want to see a few more pics, feel free to visit our Facebook album for the event.

And since we love you, dear readers, we're going to give you a chance to win and ARC of Dark Companion signed by Marta Acosta. I will also throw in some really cool iPhone decals of each author's books. I am too lazy to take a pic but you can kind of see them in the raffle table pic at the top of this post.

  1. No purchase necessary. None of the entries are mandatory, but you have to do at least one to enter.
  2. Open to people with mailing addresses in the United States and Canada. 
  3. One set of entries per household please. 
  4. If you are under 13, please get a parent or guardian's permission to enter, as you will be sharing personal info such as an email address. 
  5. Winner will be chosen randomly via Rafflecopter widget after the end of the day on July 31, 2012. 
  6. Winner(s) will be contacted by email within 24 hours after the giveaway ends. 
  7. Check out our Policies page if you have any more questions or feel free to shoot us an email - readnowsleeplater@gmail.com

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Thanks to the crowds who came out for the GOLDILOCKS & THE THREE DINOSAURS tour last week. My cousin dropped by in Salt Lake City... Check out the video below: The Pigeon wants a Tattoo! Every show was a sell-out and I met some hilarious kids, nice teachers, and passionate booksellers. The crowds at the wonderful Seattle Public Library a picture of people taking

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15. I'm back!

Thanks to everyone who came out to the appearances in New York (including pal Julianne Moore who read an Elephant & Piggie book with me) to celebrate the Pigeon's 10th Birthday. It was also great to bump into, play petanque with, then do an appearance with Herve Tullet in the NYC. The workshop for Elephant and Piggie's WE ARE IN A PLAY! at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC was great

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16. A Look at Children’s Nonfiction Conference

lionelmugshotIn June 2012, at the New Jersey SCBWI conference in Princeton, NJ, I had Lionel Bender, cofounder of the U.K. packager Bender Richardson White, and author Sally Isaacs do an intensive workshop on writing. It was there that Lionel approached Isaacs with putting on a Non-fiction conference focused on opportunities for writers in children’s nonfiction publishing.

Lionel Bender, explained his two-fold mission to Publishers Weekly: “There are plenty of conferences that focus on the nuts and bolts of creating your work. That is not the purpose of this conference,” he said. “I want to open people’s eyes to the opportunities nonfiction can provide, and I want attendees to understand the various publishing models that exist.” Since I had promoted this conference on my blog, I thought you would be interested in hearing about the final results.

The conference focus was to attracted a core audience of professionals already working in the field rather than aspiring writers hoping to break in. A major draw was the caliber of the faculty, which included high-ranking staff from Lerner, Pearson, Cobblestone, Highlights, National Geographic Children’s Books, and Time Home Entertainment, as well as highly regarded authors and illustrators.

Johanthanimage001Jonathan Sprout attended and said, “I had a great time. There were, I’m guessing, about a hundred participants, so we all got to know each other in various degrees. Many of the paid participants are successful already-established writers. I made many new friends, including several people who have each written over a hundred books. Faculty and paid attendees mingled often throughout the weekend.

“I learned a lot. There was a good deal of emphasis on technology – apps, eBooks and web presence, as well as submission tips – which I especially appreciated. Strange to say, I don’t believe I saw anyone at the NF conference who had also attended our NJSCBWI conference the weekend before. There was very little, if any, information overlap between the two weekends. Each conference provided its special lessons and friends/contacts.

“When I performed at the faculty dinner at the 2012 NJSCBWI (at your request), Lionel and I discovered a common love for The Beatles (although it was Steve Meltzer that night who played one of the best versions of “Norwegian Wood” I’ve ever heard!) So I was asked to perform a song from my forthcoming album the first night of the NF conference. I’ve already committed to returning to the June 2014 NF conference (same location: New Paltz, NY). In anticipation, Lionel and I are sketching out a couple of Beatle melodies that I may perform to a new set of “nonfiction lyrics” that promise to be very funny.”

Faculty member Roxie Munro, author-illustrator of more than 35 books said, “There are other conferences that have a lot to offer beginners, but this one was much better for midlist writers; it was more meaty, more sophisticated.”

Lionel said in his opening, “I see the digital revolution as an opportunity to reinvent kids’ illustrated nonfiction. And the icing on the cake is the Common Core standards, which are making nonfiction important, and making nonfiction writers finally feel like fiction’s equals.”

Science writer, Melissa Stewart said,“There is a revolution going on in nonfiction right now. In this climate, the role of nonfiction is to delight as well as to inform.”

One of the weekend’s highlights was Saturday afternoon’s publishers panel, in which seven faculty members discussed The Future of Children’s Nonfiction. Responding in turn to questions posed by Bender in advance, each panelist offered insight into their company’s approach to the challenges of modern publishing today. Andy Boyles, science editor at Highlights magazine, said he foresees Highlights remaining “ink on paper for the foreseeable future.” But, he added, “Ink and digital can play nicely in the same sandbox. The big question is: How can you make digital pay the bills?” Participants echoed this question throughout the weekend.

Robin Terry Brown, senior editor at National Geographic Children’s Books, described her company’s “sneak-attack approach to learning – draw them in with high-interest topics, vibrant photography, and design” - and shared its formula: “photos, facts, and fun—and all things animal.”

charlesbridgeAlyssa Mito Pusey, senior editor at Charlesbridge said, “Nonfiction has always been our core, but as far as our digital strategy the goal is to put its books onto as many platforms as possible. Intellectual property will become king as publishers seek to engage their audience through transmedia storytelling. Print will become a single star in this constellation. Digital is fun, but print is not dead.”

Click this link to read about it in Publishers Weekly.

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: authors and illustrators, Conferences and Workshops, How to, inspiration Tagged: Bender Richarsdon White, Children's Non Fiction Conference, Lionel Bender, Recap

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17. Downton Abbey Season 4, Episode 1: Don’t Mess with Thomas. But Please, Please, Do Mess with Mary.

Downton Abbey Season 4, Episode 1

This two-hour episode took me a few nights to get through. All the time I was watching it, I was thinking, am I going to recap it this year? I’ve recently stepped away from GeekMom to take a new position as editor at DamnInteresting.com (a site that more than lives up to its name, and one Scott and I have enjoyed for years), so I won’t be recapping over there this year. I loved writing those posts last season, but I admit it’s a bit of relief to let go of the self-imposed pressure to get a recap up the night an episode airs. Those were some late nights I was pulling, for a while there!

But I’ll miss the conversation, and since I’ve been getting a lot of email inquiries about the recaps, I thought I’d open the topic for discussion over here. As always, this is an open thread, not a sequential play-by-play of plot points. So I’ll throw out a few things, and you can all chime in as you wish.


Once again PBS is conflating two one-hour British episodes into one long one for the American audience. Honestly, I don’t think this serves the show very well, nor will, I’d hazard, binge-viewing it on DVD. We have too many repetitive conversations in these two hours. A week’s space between them would have rendered the repetition less obvious. How many times must we listen to Lord Grantham orate that Mary must be kept wrapped in cotton-wool? How many times must Mrs. Hughes harangue poor Carson in one night of television viewing? It’s rather amazing, actually, that with the quantities of plotlines being unfurled here (I’ll attempt a tally in a moment) we wound up with so many repeated conversations. By the end, my head was smarting from all the hammer-blows.

Now, plotlines: let’s see.

1) Mary is very sad, and not terribly interested in her baby.

2) Lord Grantham wants to sell land to pay the death duties on the estate, and while he’s at it unravel most of the work Matthew did to save said estate’s bacon.

3) Tom and the Dowager Countess are united (among others) in wanting Mary to play a more active role in estate decision-making, and they’re annoyed with Lord Grantham’s reluctance. (See above, cotton-wooling.)

3b) Matthew left a will of sorts after all! Should we let Mary read it?

3b.1) Also, the stuffed doggy. ::sniffle::

3c) Mary owns half of Downton. Stay tuned for epic showdowns. Will there be anything left for wee George but rubble?

4) Carson’s shady old theater chum wants to see Carson to set things right, and also wants help climbing out of the pit he’s in. From the moment Mrs. Hughes digs through Carson’s trash, this becomes her mission in life.

4a) Said mission dovetails nicely with a push to snap Isobel out of her own grief-induced apathy. (I enjoyed that bit very much.)

5) Everyone’s got a Valentine! Who gave whose?

5a) Belowstairs love triangle continues from last season with no apparent progress. Daisy likes Alfred likes Ivy likes Jimmy likes messing with people.

6) This week’s special guest: new-fangled electric mixer, aka the worst thing to happen to Mrs. Patmore since presbyopia.

7) Nanny DARES to tell Thomas not to touch the baby? Beware his diabolical machinations.

7a) Oh but wait! Turns out Nanny’s a horrible person. Hooray, Thomas!

8) Boo, Thomas. Saucy former-housemaid-turned-lady’s-maid Edna fills all vacancies left by O’Brien’s departure, especially Co-Conspirator of Thomas. Watch your back, Anna. That’ll learn you to be nice.

8a) Really? REALLY? Lady Grantham is that ready to believe Anna would vandalize a garment out of spite? Has she MET Anna? Not buying it. Nor the dispatching of Lord G. to have Mr. Bates bring his unkind wife in line. I MEAN COME ON. (Sorry, that was the one that really got to me.)

9) Young Rose wants adventure, and what’s more adventurous than posing as a housemaid and half-falling for a winsome young under-gardener or whatever he was. Sorry, it was noisy in that dance hall.

10) Oh, Molesley. Poor Molesley. Chucked out of Downton, no new prospects. Pounding tar. Racking up debt. Pitied by all.

10a) Just because the Dowager Countess thinks highly of her butler doesn’t mean he is above petty jealousies and sabotage. Sorry, Mose.

10b) But if your plight makes Anna sad, you’ll be okay, because Mr. Bates won’t stand for that. In prison they teach you how to sneakily give money to people.

11) You didn’t think I’d forgotten Edith, did you? What am I, her mother? I adore Edith. She’s blooming with love, wearing fabulous garments, and gearing up to shock the bluebloods with her impending nuptials to a divorceé and (even worse) voluntary German national.

Plotlines I’m really invested in: 3c. I’m sorry Lord Grantham has become so insufferable, but in a way I think his character arc is the most realistic. A decade-long series of tragedies, shocks, and disappointments has left him insecure, vulnerable, and obstinate. He has felt powerless ever since losing his wife’s fortune and imperiling the estate, and his WWI chapter (here, be a jolly good figurehead, old sport) didn’t help. The more the women and former chauffers in his life berate him for his bad behavior (and it IS bad), the more stubbornly he digs in. He’s the 85-year-old who refuses to give up his driver’s license even after the fourth time he’s backed into the mailbox.

So I may not like his character, but I buy it, and I buy Mary’s too. She prophesied her position at the end of last season and reiterates it here: Matthew brought out a side of her (I smiled at “soft”—not a word that describes even happy-bride Mary) that was buried deep before, and has gone more deeply dormant now. What she needs is a good fight, and who better to clobber than Papa? Much better him than poor old Carson. The scene between Mary and Carson when she chided him for his familiarity broke my heart—and that’s how I know it was a good scene. It was one of the few where I had a genuine emotional reaction instead of a distanced, analytical one. And the thing is? I’m a viewer who wants to be drawn in and emotionally manipulated. Really. If I’m outside the story, picking, then your story hasn’t swallowed me. And I’m sorry to say that very little in this two hours truly swallowed me up. But it’s early days yet. We’ll see where things go.

Mrs-Hughes-Downton-AbbeyWhat did you think? Favorite & least favorite bits? For once I’m not giving Best Line to the Dowager. It’s Mrs. Hughes, in response to Isobel’s “It’s none of my business”: “I never thought I’d hear you say that!”

Related: my Season 3 recaps at GeekMom

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18. Downton Abbey Season 4, Episode 2: I don’t even know any more, you guys


Spoilers below.

I don’t have the heart to do a full recap right now. That was a horrible turn of events, wrenchingly depicted, and I’m upset on about fifty different levels, not least of which is a fear that this plotline is being played for drama only and won’t succeed (even if it wants to) at taking a really meaningful look at that issue, which ought never never never to be played for drama only.

I will say this: even before we arrived at that terrible point, I was frustrated as all get-out by the way Anna and Bates were being made to behave. I say “being made to” because their interactions felt absolutely contrived, not organic. His cantankerous jealousy, her obliviousness to the villain’s obvious flirting. (And what are we to make of THAT? The price of friendly banter? Infuriating, and treads perilously close to suggesting her behavior played a role in what happened next.)

I set too much stock in TV relationships; this is a running joke between Scott and me. For a couple of seasons of The Office, I took it very hard if there was any whiff of trouble of a certain kind between Jim and Pam (after they were together). I welcomed organic challenges to their relationship—smooth sailing does not gripping viewing make—but I wanted believable challenges, not manufactured ones. And for many seasons, that show was remarkably successful in placing organic obstacles in their path. It was fun and refreshing to see them as allies and co-conspirators. So often, television seems to feel that as soon as the long-yearned-for romance is realized, it must Get Rocky and Face Threats. The Office accomplished something unusual in presenting us a strong Jim-and-Pam team that endured many years before a writerly wedge was thrust between them. (And for the record, during that final season, I kept hollering at Jim to SHOW PAM THE FOOTAGE. It was all there, his dogged devotion. My satisfaction when he finally listened knew no bounds.)

In Downton, I’ve taken a similar pleasure in the Anna and Bates relationship. They’ve weathered trials together, united. And now, even before the rape (it pains me to write that word so casually, as a plot point, which is my much larger problem with this episode than the subject of this paragraph), we’re shown little tendrils of doubt and discord coiling between them, and I don’t buy that for a second. Not to go all Kathy-Bates-in-Misery on Julian Fellowes, but, well, Annie Wilkes, whatever else her failings, did have a sound understanding of story.

Kathy Bates in MiseryMr. Bates would never embarrass his wife in public!

But even that, the hamhandedly portrayed strife between Anna and Bates, seems almost inappropriate to complain about after what happened next. As for everything else that happened in this episode, I hardly know how to feel about any of it. I mean, how can there be a rest of the episode after what happened to Anna? I’m supposed to care about Jimmy’s sprained wrist and his oddly ambiguous behavior toward Ivy? About Robert’s deep discomfort over dining with a (gasp) world-famous opera singer?

I liked Lord Gillingham but am, like Isobel, not quite ready to watch Mary edge toward a new romance. Two episodes on, perhaps. I did enjoy their conversations and was happy to hear the tartness return to Mary’s voice. Much better than Zombie Mary.

Boy, the good doctor hovers mighty close to Isobel’s side these days, doesn’t he?

Does anyone who talks to Tom remember that he, too, has lost a cherished spouse?

Molesley. I just. He’d be much less pathetic if he’d stop talking about how pathetic he is. But it rings true to character, at least. Molesley never has done himself many favors. Grumping aloud to the Dowager while serving dinner was a bit of a stretch, however.

I cared a lot about the Edith and Mr. Gregson storyline, until I didn’t. Trouncing the card sharp might have been an entertaining thread in another episode, but the show’s final moments retconned the rest of it for me, rendering all the mini-dramas frivolous.

Someone who’s seen the rest of the season, tell me it’s worth hanging in there for.

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19. Citizen Marketers recap

Ben McConnell of Church of the Customer, Creating Customer Evangelists and now Citizen Marketers fame came and spoke to OCLC staff and area marketers on Thursday, Feb. 22. I've been slow to post my notes from his talk--but here we are, finally:

There are 48 million content creators out on the Web. (That is like the population of all of South Korea.) Most of these are amateur content creators. Meaning--they are not being paid to create this content. So when this creative group of people connects with products, they become "Citizen Marketers." It's the idea that your brand reputation is in the hands of a customer, for good or ill. Anyone who interacts with you has the power to praise you or to vilify.

More stats:

  • 55% of kids aged 12-17 use social networks.
  • 84 million households have broadband.
  • There are 1 million new broadband subscribers per week, worldwide.
The democratization of access to information is spreading like wildfire.

An example: my.Barackobama.com is the Barack Obama for President community. The tagline--"This campaign is about You." You can join in, find other supporters, create a blog, learn more about the senator's stance on issues and more. In the first week it was launched, it gained 700,000 members. Those members in turn created 40,000 blogs and 2,400 groups. (Alice editorial note: Who says youth don't want to be engaged in the political process? They just want it on their terms!)

The Control of the Message (previously the realm of marketers and strategists) is now totally Out of Control. And if you give people a voice, a vote and a vocation--they can influence your brand in today's culture.

What are the top 5 most influential media?
5. Articles
4. Newspaper inserts
3. coupons
2. TV
1. Word of Mouth

Ben and Jackie have separated the Citizen marketers into four broad categories: Firecrackers, Filters, Fanatics and Facilitators. They've got great examples for each type--and each type is someone to encourage, be ready for and respond to--immediately.

One ominous note: You are your Google results!! Ignore natural search engine rankings at your peril, because for many people that's the only way they see you.

Ben and Jackie also brought up something they call the 1% rule. And it's that a whole multitude of people may READ or WATCH stuff--but only 1% of people will be motivated enough to create something. So how do you work with those Citizen Marketer 1%ers?
  • Enable co-creation: Ben's example is Shakira's fan-only "Hips Don't Lie" video--Shakira used all the home video segments on her real video. It was co-created by her and all her fans.
  • Enable community: The Discovery channel formalized their evangelist network of 1%er educators to help train one another. (And sure enough, usage skyrocketed...)

In marketing traditionally there are 4 Ps: Product, Price, Placement and Promotion. Ben posits that in today's world, there is a 5th: Participation.

So how do we integrate the 5th P into our libraries?
  1. Blogs
  2. Reaching out to your 1%ers: your advisory boards/teen panels/Friends of the library groups and empowering them even more to take the message out
  3. Lay the foundation for social networks. (Alice editorial: Alane and I are part of the last week next week of Five Weeks to a Social Library!)

The book has lots and lots of examples and stories. It's a quick read with lots of YouTube clips mentioned.
One parting question: How recommendable is your product?

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20. Poetry in the Classroom - Week 3 Recap

Here is recap of last week's poetry in the classroom posts.
  • April 14 - Reaching for the Moon, including the titles Blast Off! Poems About Space, compiled by Lee Bennett Hopkins and illustrated by Melissa Sweet, Comets, Stars, the Moon, and Mars, written and illustrated by Douglas Florian, and Space Songs, written by Myra Cohn Livingston and illustrated by Leonard Everett Fisher.
  • April 15 - Through the Year, including the titles A Child's Calendar, written by John Updike and illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman, Turtle in July, written by Marilyn Singer and illustrated by Jerry Pinkney, Thirteen Moons on Turtle's Back: A Native American Year of Moons, written by Joseph Bruchac and Jonathan London and illustrated by Thomas Locker, and Calendar, written by Myra Cohn Livingston and illustrated by Will Hillenbrand.
  • April 16 - Poetry Aloud, including the titles Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices, written by Paul Fleischman and illustrated by Eric Beddows, Big Talk: Poems for Four Voices, written by Paul Fleischman and illustrated by Beppe Giacobbe, and Math Talk: Mathematical Ideas in Poems for Two Voice by Theoni Pappas.
  • April 17 - Mud, Stone and Fossil Bones, including the titles Earthshake: Poems From the Ground Up, written by Lisa Westberg Peters and illustrated by Cathie Felstead and Footprints on the Roof: Poems About the Earth, written by Marilyn Singer and illustrated by Meilo So.
  • April 18 - School Daze, including the titles I Thought I'd Take My Rat to School: Poems for September to June, selected by Dorothy Kennedy and Illustrated by Abby Carter, School Supplies: A Book of Poems, selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins and illustrated by Renée Flower, and Do Buses Eat Kids?: Poems About School, by Laura Purdie Salas.
  • April 19 - Animals Abound, including the titles Eric Carle's Animals, Animals, illustrated by Eric Carle, Animal Poems, written by Valerie Worth and illustrated by Steve Jenkins, and Just Us Two: Poems About Animal Dads, written by Joyce Sidman and illustrated by Susan Swan.
  • April 20 - Books and Reading, including the titles Please Bury Me in the Library, written by J. Patrick Lewis and illustrated by Kyle M. Stone, Good Books, Good Times, written by Lee Bennett Hopkins and illustrated by Harvey Stevenson, and Wonderful Words: Poems About Reading, Writing, Speaking, and Listening, written by Lee Bennett Hopkins and illustrated by Karen Barbour.

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21. Thanks to you...

My last week in NYC was a blast.  Besides readings (thanks for showing up, Brooklyn!) and work, I was able to reconnect with a bunch of pals, neighbors, and a good chunk of the crew of Codename: Kids Next Door, where I served as head writer for 4 seasons.  Everyone is scattered to the cartoon winds, making cool shows or books and stuff.  It was fun to see. I even got to get a game of pentanque

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22. Event Recap: Sara Etienne Wilson at Children's Book World

We're back with another event recap. It seems like we've been going to a lot of events lately and we love it! Authors, please come to Los Angeles. We love you and will come see you. :)

Last Saturday Children's Book World hosted Sara Wilson Etienne's book release party for Harbinger. Alethea will be able to tell you that I've been waiting for this book to come out. I don't know what it was, but something about it just called to me and I've been waiting for baited breath for its release. 

We arrived just in time and the store was packed. Lots of people showed up for the event. There was a good group of YA authors in attendance including Gretchen McNeil and Jessica Brody. I saw a few other familiar faces though I couldn't place them. Alethea also ran into Kazu Kibuishi at the store who was there with his family hanging out and signing Amulet for the store. This was my first time at Children's Book World and I have to say that it was awesome. I really wish it was closer to my house because I would be going there a whole lot. When we got there the first thing I did was get in line to buy my own copy of Harbinger! Yay! Then we all filed into the smaller side room to hear Sara talk a bit about her book.   

the crowd
the setup
Note from Alethea--you can't see from the photos, but it was *packed* in that room--I couldn't even get inside. I

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23. Dubia-Bye!

As those of you who visit my FAQ site know, my schedule no longer allows me to do school visits, with the exception of the occasional chat with kids at Title 1 schools.  But when the American School of Dubai contacted my publishers to see if I'd be amenable to drop by, the opportunity was too great to pass up. Firstly, Jack Gantos had a great time there.  Secondly, while much of my favorite

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