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1. Changing Communities with Books: The Citizen Power Project


In November, First Book and its partners the American Federation of Teachers and the Albert Shanker Institute presented the Citizen Power Project; a challenge to educators nationwide to identify, plan, and implement a civic engagement project important to their students, school or community.

Fifteen projects received grants to help turn big plans into big impact.

The projects represent a wide range of civic engagement – from teaching empathy and healthy habits to supporting student voices and helping the environment.

So far, the civic impact of these projects has been phenomenal.

In Framingham, Massachusetts, middle school English teacher Lori DiGisi knows her students don’t always feel empowered. “They feel like the adults rule everything and that they don’t really have choices,” she explains. “The issue I’m trying to solve is for a diverse group of students to believe that they can make a difference in their community.”

Using the First Book Marketplace, Lori and her class chose to read books about young people who did something to change the world — books with diverse characters that each student could identify with. Through stories, Lori’s students have begun to understand that they too can make a difference.

From here, Lori plans to narrow the focus onto the issue of improving working conditions. Students will interview custodians, secretaries, and cafeteria workers in their school to understand what their working conditions are like and ask the all-important question: what can we, as middle schoolers, do to make your working conditions better?

claudine-quote_editMeanwhile in Malvern, Arkansas, middle school English teacher Claudine James has used the Citizen Power Project to improve upon an already successful program. In 2011, Claudine visited the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC and wanted to bring that experience back to her students.

That year her class studied the Holocaust and put together their own Holocaust Museum in their school and opened it to the public.

The reaction to the museum was something Claudine never expected.

“It was very well received by the community and in fact, we had an opening day reception on a Sunday afternoon and there was no room to even stand.”

Claudine has organized project-based learning initiatives like this every year since. The Malvern community has embraced them, and even come to expect them.

This year, powered by the  Citizen Power Project, Claudine and her class are planning an exhibit called, ‘Writers from Around the World’. They are reading books by authors from all over the globe. Her goal is to promote tolerance and understanding among her students and for them to promote those ideas to the community.

“When my students are presented with problems that other people from other cultures have to overcome, they see the world in a new light,” explains Claudine, “then they go home and spread the word.”


Artwork by one student in Racheal’s class depicting the negative impacts of climate change.

In Newark, New Jersey, kindergarten teacher Racheal Safier has her young students thinking globally. “We wanted to figure out what climate change is,” she explains, “they took a really big interest in how global warming affects animals.”

Racheal has been amazed by her student’s enthusiasm for this topic and the project, but she knows where it comes from. “Books have been the launching point for so many of the ideas generated in my classroom.”

Now that ideas are being launched, Racheal wants to show her class the next step: what actions do we take?

And they have many planned. There will be brochures distributed to parents, a table at the school’s social justice fair, maybe a video, and even letters to the President.

“I want it to be their project — and some of the things they come up with, I am really blown away.”

These three projects are just a snapshot of all the important work educators are doing around the country for the Citizen Power Project. Lori, Claudine, and Racheal are shining examples of the impact that educators can have on their students and their communities.

For educators to create change though students they need access to educational resources. First Book is proud to help provide that access for the Citizen Power Project.

When these 15 projects are completed in early 2017 be sure to check the First Book blog to see videos and pictures, and read more impact stories of impact from across the United States.


If you’re an educator serving kids in need, please visit the First Book Marketplace to register and browse our collection of educational resources. Click here to learn more about the Citizen Power Project.

The post Changing Communities with Books: The Citizen Power Project appeared first on First Book Blog.

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2. New Jersey - The 50 States Fun Fact Blog Extravaganza!

New Jersey knows that it's the butt of jokes throughout the nation, but we also know that we've got a great state with unique features that no other state can match.  From the mountains to the shore, from the cities to the Pines, we've got a wealth of natural beauty, history, and culture.  It's like a well-kept secret.  But now, The Fifty States: Explore the U.S.A. with 50 fact-filled maps, written by Gabrielle Balkin and illustrated by Sol Linero (Quarto, 2015) is bringing some of our secrets to light.

Take a peek at the New Jersey page, and then I'll share a few of my favorite NJ gems.

Three of my NJ favorites which are featured in The Fifty States: Explore the U.S.A. with 50 fact-filled maps:
 BRIGHT IDEA In West Orange you can visit inventor Thomas Edison’s lab and house.
Thomas Edison National Historical Park is a fascinating place to visit.  In my opinion it beats visiting Thomas Edison Center in Menlo Park, NJ and his winter estate in Fort Myers, Florida.  He didn't just invent the light bulb, he invented everything you need to use a light bulb - from the lamp to the power grid.  And of course, he invented much more than the light bulb.  Not a perfect man, by any means, but a perfectly brilliant inventor!
"Edison labs Main St Lakeside Av jeh" by Jim.henderson - Own work. Licensed under CC0 via Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Edison_labs_Main_St_Lakeside_Av_jeh.jpg#/media/File:Edison_labs_Main_St_Lakeside_Av_jeh.jpg

LUCY THE ELEPHANT In 1881 the U.S. Patent Office granted inventor James Lafferty the right to make animal-shaped buildings for 17 years. His first creation, Lucy, still stands in Margate, Atlantic City.
She's a whopping 6-stories high and 134 years old, and she sits right next to the beach.  And what a view from inside!  I'm not positive but I do remember that her interior paint color is "stomach," or something similarly intestinal.
By Harriet Duncan (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
FEBRUARY 1913: Silk workers in Paterson begin a six-month-long strike for better working conditions.
Paterson, NJ, may not be your first thought when seeking tourist sites, but it's well worth a visit.  Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park is one of the nation's newest National Parks. The falls (one of the largest in the nation) and park sit in the midst of an urban city of more than 145,000 people. The falls and the people of Paterson were powerhouses of the U.S. Industrial Revolution.
Photo by L Taylor (c)
If you want to know more great sites in NJ, you'll have to come see for yourself. (BTW, Come See For Yourself, was once our state slogan. I think they should have gone with the more popular, "New Jersey - You got a problem with that?")

Book images and quotes were provided by the publisher.  I have no publisher or bookseller affiliations and received no compensation.  I am participating for love of state.

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3. Atlantic City Boardwalk Con 2015: Inaugural Show Has Promise

Atlantic-City-Boardwalk-Con-370x260When I first heard of the Atlantic City Boardwalk Con, my gut had some trepidation:

  • A first-time convention, from a new company.  (A little research, and I discovered it was the company which builds and manages booths for various comic book publishers, as well as manages other consumer events.)
  • A first-time convention, in a convention center.
  • A convention in Atlantic City, which is a bit dogeared as tourist destinations go.  (The casinos are struggling, the city has not invested the gaming revenue wisely.)

Yet… the show managed to bring in a lot of comics publishers (Boom, Valiant, Aspen, Zenescope, Marvel, Top Cow), placing it ahead of many older, regional shows.

They have a decent guest list. While I have been to Atlantic City to gamble and hang out on the boardwalk, I have never been to the convention center.  Why not take a day trip to Atlantic City and check out the show?  I woke up at 5 AM Saturday morning, caught the 8:15 Greyhound, and arrived at Bally’s casino at about 10:30 AM.

(Note: if travelling to Atlantic City by Greyhound, they might give you a gaming voucher with your bus ticket. Otherwise, ride the bus to the casino, not the bus station, show ID, and you’ll get a gaming voucher. Free money! And they’ll have geeky slots, like Lord of the Rings, Iron Man, Wizard of Oz…  Then walk a few blocks to the convention center.)

I decided to experience the convention like a normal fan.  Buy the ticket, hang out, see a few panels, no agenda.  My only question to answer: How successful was the show?

ACBC-Convention-Map_5.5 2015

This map gives a sense of scale of how far one had to walk from the main entrance to the front of the show floor on the far left.

Things which impressed me:

  1. ACBC 2015 badgeThe badge.  The front had space to write your name! But even more impressive and “why wasn’t this done sooner?” mind boggling: the back had a matte finish, and a miniature blank comics page! Get autographs! Signatures! Take notes!
  2. Hall B was mostly empty. During the day, it hosted giant scenic backdrops for cosplay photos! The other half of the room was set up for a stage, and right after the show, from 8 PM – 2AM, hosted the Cosplay Ballroom Party.
  3. The middle aisle was divided into thirds (see map above). The middle row, it seems, was used for those with ADA needs. I didn’t see it used for that, but I wasn’t there when the show opened. Otherwise, that middle aisle was easy to navigate; few traffic jams. I had no problem moving around.
  4. One exhibitor was selling 3-D printer sculpts of cosplayers.  The process took about two minutes on a turntable, and the initial scan looked great! Six weeks for processing and printing.  The Jedi Knight I witnessed paid $100 for a six-inch model.
  5. Did you know that George Romero had planned to do a science fiction cyborg movie in 1984? Bob Layton explained the history to me.
  6. The Atlantic City Convention Center!  There’s a big, 90-foot atrium when you enter, with lots of natural light!  The exhibition halls are on the second floor, covering 486,000 sq.ft.  Above that, on both sides of the Atrium, levels three and four offer meeting rooms and large event spaces. (No ballroom, although Hall A can be used as such.) (Flat daily rate for that entire exhibition space? $45,000) Walking the length of the atrium wasn’t bad…about two blocks long.

Atlantic City CC atriumThings I noticed:

  1. There was a lot of space.  Even artists alley, the booths were “small press” size,  The rows were also short, perpendicular to the main aisle, so were more intimate than the typical AA layout which recedes into the vanishing point.
  2. I don’t know how they convinced the Convention Center, but there were a lot of food vendors on the show floor. Bulk candy, macaroons, pop corn, chocolate…  Next year, they should get Pez or candy licensees for comics properties to show up!
  3. The auto row was a nice idea.  Lots of Batmobiles, the Batcycle with sidecar, Dukes of Hazzard, Ghostbusters, Jurassic Park, Back to the Future… $10 a photo.  The added bonus: the curtain wall hid the bathrooms and concessions behind it. Shorter lines!
  4. miss america scepter tiara lee meriweather miss americaI wandered over to the convention hotel (the Sheraton) to scope out their event space. I discovered a small Miss America museum off the lobby!  Did you know that Lee Meriwether AKA Catwoman, was also Miss America 1955? She was the first to wear the current tiara. There’s also a costume display of famous winners. (Wouldn’t it be awesome to have her appear next year?!)
  5. There was a lot of cosplay! Lego Avengers (no Black Widow, alas), Inside Out, and what might be the most comfortable outfit: The Goon.
  6. Did the earlier Wizard World Philly drain off some excitement? Is the local demographic one which shops at conventions, or just site-sees?

Things to improve next year:

  1. From the entrance to the exhibit hall, one had to walk about 100 yards past the box office to turn the corner and enter the show floor.  That entrance wasn’t well laid out…  it required a 90-degree right turn, so you were bumping into people who were exiting.  Yes…  that was the only entrance/exit. Once the mass of humanity was let in, they should have opened a secondary entrance at Hall C or B.
  2. There was a lot of empty space unused, especially in Hall D.  While I understand the need for a big space to hold the early attendees before the show opens, Hall B, where the Cosplay Ballroom Party was held, could have been used instead. Or… line them up on the Third and Fourth floors, in the hallways outside the panel rooms.  Run the line down the open stairwells to the Second Floor and the exhibit hall.  Or, better yet… seat them in the film room, show ads while they wait, do some emceeing, then guide them downstairs in an orderly fashion.
  3. The floor layout was very confusing. I’m systematic when I hit shows, and I thought I had completed my first run in 90 minutes. After a panel, I took a second pass to do some shopping, and found even more booths I had missed. Then I deliberately did a third pass, and I still missed seeing the Aspen booth!  There were strange placements, triangular booths (a nice idea on paper, but not in practice), a bit hard to orient oneself, even with the banners overhead. I don’t think the booth islands were arranged well. (The parent company does 3-D booth design. Perhaps they should use that software to better layout the next show.) If Marvel returns, their booth should run parallel with the outside walls. Place the entrance to the show floor where Aisle 1100 is, make it lead directly to Marvel so that’s the first thing attendees see, and then run the long aisle both ways. That would avoid the narrow 1000/1100 booths seen on the current map, and makes circulation less complicated.
  4. The Cosplay dance party… it’s a good idea, but with regional pop culture cons, there will be other events in competition with whatever the show plans. It’s best to co-sponsor an off-site after party event with a publisher, as Aspen did with a local retailer at Bally’s. It also saves money, not just with the sponsorship, but also in hall rental and convention center expenses such as security.
  5. The convention center has a permanent box office, on the first floor.  It wasn’t used, instead, part of the show floor held the ticket booths. I described above how this created a big inconvenience for attendees. ACBC also needs to improve the Will Call process. It should be as simple as “scan printout barcode, hand attendee the badge”.
  6. There was good media coverage locally, but I heard and saw little here in the New York City area. I wonder if the same happened in Philadelphia?

The best cosplay?  This:

retired wonder woman com


I paid $35 for the Saturday ticket, $44 for the bus ticket, and $13 for lunch (hoagie and a bottle of OJ).  I spent less than $150 on merchandise, at five vendors.  I’m not a big spender at shows, unless I see original art that interests me. Also, I didn’t want to schlep something onto the bus and subway.

The scheduling of the show was good.  While there might be a ConWar with Wizard World Philadelphia (which is scheduled next year for early June 2016), there aren’t many other regional shows on the calendar in mid-May. It’s a nice counter-balance to the New York Comic Con in October, although I don’t see ACBC getting that large.

A bigger problem, which I don’t know how to solve: hotel rooms. Unlike Las Vegas, Atlantic City doesn’t have much weekday business powered by conventions. Thus, weekend hotel rooms, unlike every other hotel in the country, are in high demand and expensive. (Unless you have a car and can stay at one of the cheaper hotels far from the Boardwalk.) ACBC did offer hotel deals, as many shows do, but they weren’t available when I checked on Friday. ACBC should partner with one of the hotel casinos, offering a shuttle bus service, and hosting after parties. Then, you’ve got a captive audience, both for gambling and nightlife. (Were I a hotel manager, I’d advertise a drag queen revue to the cosplayers!)

There was a lot of posting on social media Monday, and generally, people had a good time.  I’ve heard that there will be another next year, so I hope it keeps improving and growing. The locale is good (between Philadelphia and New York City), the convention center can handle the growth (about the same size as Denver and Salt Lake City), there’s an audience hungry for this type of show, and enough retailers nearby to make this show work.  Of course, if the numbers get big, then national retailers will jump on the bandwagon.

Will I attend next year?  Sure, I’ll probably daytrip like I did this weekend. It had a good mix, and there was little stress.


4 Comments on Atlantic City Boardwalk Con 2015: Inaugural Show Has Promise, last added: 5/20/2015
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4. East Coast Comicon Has An Amazing Guest List!

So, over in the Meadowlands this weekend, there’s this little comic con going on… Nothing big… a few media celebrities, a few Silver Age greats, the up-and-coming talent with a few credit…

Ah… who am I kidding?!  I recognize almost every name teased below!  Every decade from the 60s to the 10s is represented with Hall-Of-Famers, seasoned pros, and future comics rock stars!

Sweet Christmas, that’s an all-star roster!

I admit… I’m terrible with names.  Heck, I have trouble recalling Neal Adams’ name! But dang…  this is a crazy amount of talent, with names well known to comics fans! There are animators, fanzine greats, cover artists (both comics and records!), writers, illustrators, comic strip creators, historians, and even some guy who was famous for making dinosaur t-shirts! Below is just a tease…   Visit their website for more information!

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5. Like Springsteen, Asbury Park Comicon Hits the Big Time in the Meadowlands!

Crucial Entertainment, best known for their amazing comics-focused comic cons in Asbury Park, New Jersey, premieres their inaugural East Coast Comicon in the Meadowlands this weekend!  10 AM – 6 PM Saturday and Sunday, just minutes from the New York City!

We’ll have a teaser post momentarily about the amazing guests and exhibitors, but here’s the survival guide!  We know how easy it is to get lost in the wilds of the Jersey Meadowlands (just ask Jimmy Hoffa)!  Last summer, when Marvel had a special promotion with Wal-Mart, this intrepid reporter caught a bus from Mos Eisley the Port Authority Bus Terminal and ventured into suburbia.


The Show:

Official website  (We’ll have a separate post on the show itself!)

The Venue:



Meadowlands Exposition Center

For those keeping score at home:

The Meadowlands Exposition Center features:

  • 61,000 square feet of contiguous, obstruction-free, dedicated exhibition space with 20-foot high ceiling
  • 3,578 square feet of carpeted meeting space
  • Capacity: 365 10′ x 10′ booths; 398 8′ x 10′ booths; 3,500 seating – banquet; 5,000 seating – sports events; 5,000 seating – concert/theater style
  • Large multi-functional lobby may be used for registration, exhibit space or banquet area
  • Two drive-in doors and four loading docks on street level for easy access
  • Unique “flown from the air” electric simplifies floor plan and eliminates the need to carpet aisles to cover floor wires


The Meadowlands Exposition Center offers directions.

Take the bus! (Here’s the county bus map for the area!)

Bus stops near the Expo Center:

  • 85 Hoboken – Secaucus/Mill Creek (The other side of the shopping complex)
  • 320 New York City PABT – Secaucus/Mill Creek  (About fifteen minutes from NYC.) ($.3.95 one-way)
  • One stop away (400 feet) is the #78 bus departing from Newark Penn Station to Broad Street and then Harmon Meadow, which then connects at Secaucus Junction.

If you’re driving from Manhattan, take the Lincoln Tunnel and Route 3.  North or South, use the Eastern Spur of the New Jersey Turnpike (Interstate 95).  Click on the map above to figure out travel options.  If you’re taking public transit, I suggest the buses.  The ones from Port Authority are coach buses, similar to the shuttle buses you find at amalgamated-cons.  I suspect the other NJT lines are as well.

The Neighborhood:

Harmon Meadow
The Plaza at Harmon Meadow (Click to access the map key.)
plaza harmon meadow

Note that this map is somewhat out of date.  There is now a Red Robin restaurant across the street from L.A. Fitness.  Also, to the north is a Sam’s Club and a Wal-Mart.

Also note the ATM east of the Expo Center (#31 on the map). It is a Chase bank. (Want to save on bank fees? Buy something at the Wal-Mart with your debit card, and ask for cash back.) Also, there is no shortcut between the 400 and 500 Plaza Drive buildings. You’ll have to walk around to get to the restaurants to the south.

On the other side of the Interstate/Eastern Spur is The Mall at Mill Creek.  It’s a bit of a hike.

Home to Kohl’s, Toys R Us, A.C. Moore, two gas stations, a liquor store, and waterfowl.

Map: Mill Creek Harmon Meadow


ECCC dining

There’s also a McDonald’s in the Wal-Mart to the north, but if you’re already there, why not buy some real food instead?  (Maybe one of the employees will let you use their SNAP card.)

Hmm… with all of those office buildings nearby, I wonder if any of these restaurants deliver to the Expo Center?

Here’s the YELP search for the area.


The official con hotel is Embassy Suites.  [Please book here first.  It’s next door to the Expo Center, and if the hotel has a good weekend, then it makes things easier for the show next year.]

Here’s where to stay:

Online reservation here >>
Official hotel of East Coast Comicon is the Embassy Suites
Located right next to the Meadowlands Exposition Center

$169 per night. Includes breakfast.

Embassy Suites Secaucus – Meadowlands

455 Plaza Drive, Secaucus, New Jersey,07094, USA

TEL: +1-201-864-7300

There are other hotels in the area (due to the high concentration of corporate offices, the junction of Route 3 and the Turnpike, and the Meadowlands).

This is a great location for a show!  Easy access, affordable dining, emergency retail (or distractions for family members), lots of hotel rooms.  It rivals SPX!  Maybe not “Camp Comics”, but certainly a “Spring Break” experience!


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6. Legos! Space Telescopes! Sulu! Rutgers University Hosts “Geek Week” on Campus!

GeekWeekEp4Banner1Rutgers University, the state university of New Jersey, is hosting their fourth annual Geek Week on campus!

Yes.  GEEK.  Not “Greek”, but maybe Klingon…

As their website explains:

Geek Week is an annual week of events celebrating all things “geeky” at Rutgers University. From tabletop and video gaming, to music, cosplay, academic panels based on gender and ethnic diversity, and more, Rutgers Geek Week has been nationally recognized by organizations such as ACPA and San Diego Comic-Con, and featured guests such as Chris Hardwick, Nick Offerman, and Tory and Kari of Mythbusters. By focusing on the students and their passions, Geek Week seeks to make meaningful differences in students lives by providing opportunities for them to find community, be accepted, and gain exposure to non-familiar topics and experiences in geek culture.

There are lots of events scheduled!


Sunday – March 22

Knight Slash 10

It’s the tenth one! Going five years strong, Knight Slash is a semesterly tournament organized by the Underground Gaming Society featuring games such as Persona 4 Arena, Super Smash Bros Melee, Project M, and many others. If you feel like you’re the best of the best, here’s your opportunity to show it!

Location & Time: Livingston Student Center, 12:00pm

Monday – March 23

Rutgers University Art Library, Speakers, Snacks, and Legos for Geek Week.

Krista White, Digital Humanities Librarian at Rutgers University- Newark and Zara Wilkinson, Reference and Instruction Librarian at Rutgers University- Camden will be speaking at the Rutgers University Art Library. Please stop by the Art Library any time during open hours to create a model at the Art Library Lego Playing Station.

Digital Humanities Librarian Krista White will discuss her involvement with the small press, indie tabletop RPG gaming scene. Krista is the co-founder of Galileo Games, Inc., publisher of “Bulldogs!: Scifi that Kicks Ass,” “How We Came to Live Here,” “Mortal Coil” and “Shelter in Place.” Krista invented KristaCon, a LongCon format for playing robust, tabletop role playing games at conventions. She’ll be in the Art Library to talk about the indie RPG scene and answer questions about gaming and publishing.

Zara Wilkinson, Reference and Instruction Librarian at Rutgers University-Camden, will discuss the depiction of female characters in comics and comics adapted to other media.  In 2015, Zara was the co-organizer of Buffy to Batgirl, an academic conference devoted to women in science fiction, fantasy, and comics. Buffy to Batgirl was attended by over 150 scholars and students. Zara also organizes events at Camden Comic Con, Camden’s first comics convention, which is held annually on the Rutgers-Camden campus in Camden, NJ.

Location: Rutgers University Art Library
Time: 1:30PM

Geek Week Trivia Night : One Quiz to Rule Them All!

Come out and enjoy an awesome night of geeky trivia! We’ll have questions covering the wide breadth of geekdom, everything from Star Wars to Game of Thrones, tabletop gaming to Internet culture. Bring your friends and compete as a team (up to four members) or come to meet some fellow geeks! The top three teams will win some fun prizes! 

1st Place: Reserved Front Row Seats for George Takei’s lecture on Wednesday, Rutgers Cinema Movie passes, and Geek Week Prize packs for each team member!

2nd Place: Rutgers Cinema Movie passes, and Geek Week Prize packs for each team member!

3rd Place: Geek Week Prize packs for each team member!

To pre-register and reserve your spot, click here!

Location: Livingston Student Center, Coffeehouse
Time: 8:00PM

Tuesday – March 24

NASA scientist Dr. H. Philip Stahl Lecture

Prominent NASA scientist Dr. H. Philip Stahl will be presenting about the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), which will be the world’s largest telescope when launched. Dr. Stahl is the 2015 Immediate Past President of the International Society for Optics and Photonics (SPIE) Student Chapter and an Optics Lead for the JWST. The lecture will take place on Tuesday, March 24th at 5 pm in the Fiber Optics Auditorium on Busch Campus. There will be a “meet and greet” with light refreshments at 4:30 pm, and a sandwich dinner at 6 pm. The event is co-hosted with Rutgers SPIE Student Chapter and Rutgers SciFest, and is part of the Rutgers Geek Week itinerary.

Location: Fiber Optics Auditorium, Busch Campus
Time: 4:30PM Meet & Greet, 5:00PM Lecture, 6:00PM Sandwich Dinner

Nerd Girl Panel

Join us at our annual Nerd Girl Panel where this year we are confronting misogyny in nerd culture with topics ranging from GamerGate to Cosplay is Not Consent. Come be a part of the conversation with panelists from across the nation bringing riveting stories related to their first-hand exposure to misogyny through their work as YouTube personalities, film director, and social justice and comics bloggers.

This year’s panel features panelists from the YouTube sensation Video Game High School, Rocket Jump Studios’ Lauren Haroutunian; Danni Danger of the The Valkyries and Weird Girls YouTube Channel; Mikki Kendall, founder of HoodFeminism.com; and Ivy Noelle Weir of The Valkyries and Women Write About ComicsClick here for more information on the panelists.

Location: Douglass Student Center, Trayes Hall
Time: 8:00PM

Wednesday – March 25
An Evening With George Takei [SOLD OUT]

2014 Sundance Film Festival - George Takei PortraitsOhhh Myyy! We are ecstatic to have the legendary George Takei as our keynote. With his work all over the spectrum from the sci-fi hits Star Trek and Heroes, his social media empire, LGBTQ activism, bestselling books, and a musical theater project on Japanese internment camps, he has a mega-ton to share!

Spend a captivating evening with the legendary George Takei. Hear how this award winning author, star of the sci-fi hits Star Trek and Heroes, an LGBTQ activist, and Japanese internment camp survivor uses his personal stories and social media empire to educate and inspire others. 

This event is free, but guests are encouraged to secure a ticket in advance by visiting rupa.rutgers.edu. Tickets will be available on Monday, March 2 at 2PM. This event is open to the public with a limited number of tickets available for non-Rutgers students. 

George Takei Event Ticket Policy:

Limit TWO (2) tickets per person.
There are a limited amount of guest tickets available for this event.
Guests DO NOT need to be accompanied by a Rutgers student.
Anyone under 18 MUST be accompanied by an adult.
Everyone should have some form of identification when checking in at the event.

Parking Information:
Visitors to the University may park in Lots 26, 30 (behind the College Avenue Gym) & College Avenue Deck without permits. Faculty, Staff, and Students must park only in lots they are authorized to park in.

This event is proudly co-sponsored by RUPA, Rutgers Geek Week, Student Life, SciFest, Center for Social Justice Education & LGBT Communities, and the Asian American Cultural Center.

This event is the keynote lecture for Rutgers Geek Week, GAYpril, and Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. For a full listing of Geek Week events, visit geekweek.rutgers.edu.

Location: College Avenue Gym
Time: 8:00PM

Thursday – March 26 
Movie Night!

Join us for a free movie with all your nerdy friends. Title TBD.

Location: Rutgers Cinema, Livingston Campus
: 8:00PM

Friday – March 27
Night of the Living Costume Dance Party, Part IV

As always,we try to pack as much geeky awesomeness as possible into one single night. Amazing musical guests, game swaps, gaming tournaments, a costume contest, geeky vendors, tons of food and so much more.

This year’s Night of the Living Costume Dance Party will feature live art performances from the nationally acclaimed Super Art Fight collective, as well as live music from Wizard Folk Rocker Lauren Fairweather, and nerdcore rap from Tribe One and Adam WarRockClick herefor more information on the performers!

We will also feature geeky vendors from Super Sox Shop, Sprites of PassageTwinny Shoppe, and Frosted Treats. Click here for more information on the vendors!

Harry Potter Alliance’s annual book drive, Accio books, will also be collecting books at the finale event to promote literacy all over the world. Last year alone, 53,000 books were donated, thousands of which were sent to an “Apparating Library” in Detroit’s Brightmoor Community Center. While we don’t yet know which community will be chosen as this year’s target site, Muggle Mayhem hopes to join in on the action, and we hope you’ll help us! You’ll even get a nifty pin in the process!

The Board Gaming Club will also be running their Board Game Appreciation Night with gamers of all experience levels. All are welcome, if you’ve never even played Monopoly or you’re the traitor snubbing, city building, dice rolling king of all things cardboard and plastic on a table!

It’s nerd nirvana! Don’t miss it.

Location: Busch Student Center, MPR
Time: 8:00PM

Saturday – March 28
RU SciFest

SciFest is an afternoon-long event celebrating the fun in science.  Our day starts with demonstrations by Mad Science in ARC 103, followed by an open series of interactive “sidewalk science” activities put on by a collaboration of Rutgers science clubs, held in the Life Sciences Building (with free food!).  Our finale in ARC 103 will feature the Chemistry Department’s own Bob Porcja in an explosive presentation.  At the end of SciFest, we will raffle off a variety of science-themed prizes!

Location & Times: Busch Campus

Allison Road Classroom Building (11:15AM-12:30PM)

Life Science Building Atrium (12:30PM-2:45PM, food served at 1:00PM)
Allison Road Classroom (2:45PM-5:00PM)

Rutgers eSports presents The Scarlet Classic

The Scarlet Classic is the first large-scale tournament held by Rutgers eSports. The tournament runs from the afternoon to the late evening and features 6 of the most prominent eSports in the Rutgers community and the world. These include: Super Smash Bros. Melee, Dota 2, League of Legends, Starcraft II, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, and Hearthstone. Attendees will participate and spectate at least one grand final set for each eSport. Anyone who is interested in participating or spectating at the event should visit esports.rutgers.io for more info.

Entry is open to everyone in the Rutgers eSports community. Prizes are the glory of winning the Scarlet Classic and possibly other prizes.

Location & Time: Livingston Student Center, 4:00pm


10994328_988761194487068_6777270603511126274_oRUPA is sponsoring a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society.

0 Comments on Legos! Space Telescopes! Sulu! Rutgers University Hosts “Geek Week” on Campus! as of 3/22/2015 9:56:00 PM
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7. Grumble grumble mumble.

I live near a NJ turnpike rest stop. It's a short walk from my house. Tonight I walked there to draw some folks because I'm angry, irritable and I love to do stupid things on Sunday nights I guess.

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8. Hiding Out at the Pancake Palace - a booktalk

Marino, Nan. 2013. Hiding Out at the Pancake Palace. New York: Roaring Brook.
(Advance Review Copy provide by NetGalley)

Due on shelves April 16, 2013

Hiding Out at the Pancake Palace 
(a booktalk)

Cecilia has no rhythm, and not too many friends; but she has something special - a story. A story of a song that connects her to New Jersey's wild Pine Barrens as firmly as the roots of its Pygmy Pines and Atlantic Cedars. Everyone in Wares Grove knows the story of the song played by the forest on the night of Cecilia's birth. Only the story of the Pineland's most famous inhabitant, the Jersey Devil, is known more widely.

But two unexpected things occur as Cecilia's 12th birthday approaches. Cecilia's mother begins to doubt the song, and a young boy, a boy who has perhaps lost a song of his own, has arrived in the middle of the night under suspicious circumstances - and he's hiding out at Piney Pete's Pancake Palace.

A song, a secret, and the legendary tale of the Jersey Devil are entwined in this imaginative story of discovery set on the fringes of New Jersey's Pine Barrens, a natural wonder.

Find out who's Hiding Out at the Pancake Palace.


Lest you think that the Pine Barrens is a made-up place, or that New Jersey is nothing more than exits off the Turnpike or Parkway, be assured that the Pine Barrens are in fact, one of the world's most interesting places. The Pinelands cover 1.1 million acres, or 22 percent of New Jersey's land area. (from the official NJ tourism site - see below)

Learn more about the Pine Barrens and other locations in Nan Marino's new book at these sites:

If I didn't have a sore throat, this one would have been a podcast.  Look for a podcast or video booktalk for Hiding Out at the Pancake Palace soon.

0 Comments on Hiding Out at the Pancake Palace - a booktalk as of 3/11/2013 10:40:00 PM
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9. Affected by Hurricane Sandy? First Book Can Help You Get New Books.

First Book and Hurricane Sandy relief

Click here (or on the flyer above) to sign up! Feel free to share this link, or download the graphic and share.


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10. along the canal, in Lambertville, New Jersey, early this morning

Every now and then we get away, just for an evening and a morning. This morning we were here, along the canal, in Lambertville, New Jersey. A town of poets (Gerald Stern) and people who take the time to talk over coffee.

1 Comments on along the canal, in Lambertville, New Jersey, early this morning, last added: 2/15/2013
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11. New Books for Victims of Hurricane Sandy

You can help provide new books to children affected by Hurricane Sandy.As first-responders are working to provide these families with electricity, water, and other critical resources, First Book—in partnership with our local volunteers and partners—is raising funds to restock school and home libraries. After distributing more than 5 million books in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, we know new books can be valuable lifelines for those whose worlds have been turned upside down.

Your help will ensure that children in need will have new books — stories at bedtime, the chance to be transported to another world, and the opportunity to return to normalcy.
Click here to donate
Every $2.50 you contribute will provide a new book to a child affected by the storm.

Your impact will also be DOUBLED as each gift of $2.50 will be matched by an additional book from First Book’s publishing partners.

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12. In today's Philadelphia Inquirer: remembering the Jersey Shore

This past Monday, my son and I traveled to the Jersey Shore—Stone Harbor—to see my brother, his wife, and their two children.  They've been renting a place there for a long time now, and barring unforeseen circumstances, I join them for a day each year.  I took some photographs on Monday for an essay Avery Rome had invited me to write, and today I'm privileged to have the piece appear here, in the Currents section of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

I share the first paragraph of my remembrances of, and nostalgia for, Stone Harbor, below.  But before I do, I'd like to share this—a photograph of my brother and sister, sand sculpture-ers supreme, taken years ago. 

In the same way that I believed in black raspberry ice cream, blue-fingered crab, and the pink sheen of a flipped shell, I believed, as a kid, in the Jersey Shore, specifically Stone Harbor.  It possessed me and I possessed it those two weeks of every year when our parents would pack the caroming car with suits, rafts, shovels, pails, rusty-bottomed beach chairs, crab traps, tangled reels, and (where there was still room) my brother, my sister, and me. 

4 Comments on In today's Philadelphia Inquirer: remembering the Jersey Shore, last added: 9/8/2012
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13. Rutgers University Council on Children’s Literature One-on-One Conference 2012

In 2008, I had the most nerve-wracking 20-minute drive of my life. My knuckles paled, my stomach gurgled, and my thoughts raced faster than the 35 MPH I could manage to clock on the highway. I was on my way to my first kidlit conference ever: the Rutgers University Council on Children’s Literature One-on-One Conference. AHHHH! Somebody help me!

Thanks, Ryan. I know you would have, honey. But I digress…

I knew practically nada about writing for kids. I had slipped the first three pages of my middle grade novel into an envelope earlier that summer and waited patiently for the response. Thankfully, I was on vacation for two weeks of the final countdown. It made my vacation go by much more slowly. I recommend this tactic to anyone who needs to wait—go to a beach, plop a lounge chair in the sand, facing the ocean. Or facing Ryan Gosling in surfing trunks.

But when the vacation was over and the car hit our driveway, I jumped out and dashed to the post office. Awaiting me was a thick envelope, and remembering the drill from college admissions, I knew this meant a “yes”!

So off I went. I was so green. (Although I wore a cute purple top.) But when the event was done, I blogged all about it. Hopefully my notes help prepare you for this year’s conference. You can review them all here: RUCCL 2008.

But Tara, what does this all mean?

It means that the RUCCL 2012 Application is now available!

And guess who’s your morning “Success Story” speaker?

As Miss Piggy would say, “MOI!”

Yeah, I was pretty floored they asked me. Trinka Hakes Noble sent me an email saying, “I hope you don’t mind, but I put your name forward as our Inspiration Speaker for the mentee breakfast.  Would you be interested?”

Would I be interested? Are you kidding? Of course I am! Wow! Whoopee! Holy macaroni! Keeno Yaccarino!

Wait a second, what did I just agree to…? Pale knuckles and gurgling stomach again?

Well, I am hoping many of my blog readers will be accepted to the conference this year. Because not only do I want to see you succeed, I’ll need your help during my presentation. (Details to come. No, you won’t need to hold a barf bucket. Well, maybe. OK, don’t quote me on that.)

So polish up those manuscripts! You’ve got until July 2 to postmark them.

And if you have any questions about the conference, please ask away in the comments!

10 Comments on Rutgers University Council on Children’s Literature One-on-One Conference 2012, last added: 4/9/2012
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14. How to Organize a Blog Tour

Here's the thing, 'Hidden New Jersey', which I illustrated and is published this month is a book about another state. I live in Maine. It's a fair way to New Jersey. I don't have a lot of money available for big launches and travel.

I wanted to help with promotion ... but to be frank, I live in a very rural area of Maine, there are limited resources and limited opportunities to promote. And it's a hard sell ... a book about Maine will draw some people to book store signings - but a book about a state outside New England? NOT so easy.

This is not a huge book and the publisher had limited resources for it.

The answer for me FIRST was a BLOG TOUR. Like a book tour, but in virtual space. There are all sorts of sites out there to help you set one up, but here's what I did:

 One of the most fun things about the blog tour was that Simon and Schuster illustrator, Debbie Ohi,
 created this fun sketch for her blog interview with me! Thanks Debbie!

I have, over the last couple of years, built up contacts with a good network of writers and illustrators who blog. So where better to start? I put a post on Facebook /Twitter/Google/SCBWI listserv asking for anyone who would be interested in taking part in my virtual book tour.  To my surprise I got quite a few takers.

Next I drafted an email to all of them with details about my book, a press release from the publisher, a PDF copy of the book, links to my website, the book trailer I created and email for the author so that they could ask her questions to. (I let her know first!)

I also sent high res jpegs of the book cover, me and a couple of images from the book if required.

I asked bloggers to schedule a date during the month of promotion (so they wouldn't all get clumped together). I also asked if they would be interested in doing a giveaway on their blog, which most took advantage of. It's a great way for them to get people to their blogs too ... a good deal for both of us.

Most of the bloggers sent me questions to answer as part of the review.  I didn't send back standard answers - it was more fun and more interesting to answer individually and if people read the different interviews, they would find out something new each time. Anyway, it seemed like courtesy to me.

I did approach some of the bigger blogs, and was happy that a few of them took me up on reviewing the book. Although I didn't do a giveaway on these blogs, the exposure was invaluable. With the bigger review blogs you have to dig some times to find the info to submit your book ... and some require you to send a physical copy. Some big blogs only review books that they are personally interested in and specifically do not want submissions, and some only from the publisher themselves.

I kept my publisher's marketing contact at Charlesbridge informed of activities and that they complimented what they were doing. They were happy to send review copies to many of the bloggers, which then were used as the giveaways on the blog. A couple of the bloggers were

7 Comments on How to Organize a Blog Tour, last added: 2/20/2012
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15. The Epic Interview with Josh Berk, author of GUY LANGMAN, CRIME SCENE PROCRASTINATOR

Josh Berk and I went to college together. Drew University, class of 1998. It’s a tiny liberal arts college in the monied wilds on New Jersey. We did not, however, know each other back then. Our ignorance is well documented.

The world spins as the world spins and it spun us both into the “billionaire’s game”–aka writing novels for young readers. And that’s how we finally met. It’s a good thing we did, at least for me. First off, Josh was kind enough to interview me when my latest book came out. Second off (is there a second off?), Josh is a master of teenage persiflage and tomfoolery, as well as murder mystery and general pathos. I have much to learn from this man. In pursuit of that knowledge, I turned the interview tables and we talked about his latest novel Guy Langman, Crime Scene Procrastinator (in stores on March 13!). It’s a rollicking tale of girls, grief and gold, and it stars a slacker, his thinly mustachioed best friend, a high school forensics squad, and a couple stiffs.  The unedited, no-holds-barred chat about it is featured below.

But I issue this warning: Some of the content is a bit ribald. If you do not know what ribald means, please stop reading now. And if your parents do not know what ribald means, please turn off the internet now and take a family trip to the library.  As for the rest of you? Enjoy!

AARON: Knock knock

JOSH: Who farted?

AARON: Cool it Berk! I’m the one asking the questions!

See what I did right there? That’s what detectives call the old Sandusky Switcheroo. Get a perp thinking he’s in charge of the situation, then BAM, turn the tables. Of course, you know that. Because when you wrote Guy Langman, Crime Scene Procrastinator, you must have studied a bit of police work, right? Tell me about some of the weird and amazing things you discovered regarding forensic science. What made it into the book? What didn’t?

JOSH: Well I did spend a few years on the force in Allentown, cracking skulls and chasing perps. OK really I watched a lot of CSI reruns. And Law & Order reruns. And I literally did read Forensics For Dummies, which I probably shouldn’t admit… I also did a lot of online research, including the scoping out of high school forensics clubs web pages to see the type of work actually being done by high school kids in their forensic science clubs these days. Lots of it is quite amazing! Most everyone in high school I knew was interested in committing crimes, not solving them, so I don’t know why people say they have no hope for this generation.

Amazing fact: If you lose your arms and have to learn to write with your mouth, eventually your mouth-writing will closely resemble your hand-writing. That’s a fact! It’s in the book. You can look it up. Also, try it at home. (Writing with your mouth I mean, not losing your arms.)

Something that didn’t make it into the book was a w

0 Comments on The Epic Interview with Josh Berk, author of GUY LANGMAN, CRIME SCENE PROCRASTINATOR as of 1/1/1900
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16. A CALL FROM JERSEY Paperback Out Next Week, P.F. Kluge Interview

<!--[if gte mso 9]> Normal 0 false false false EN-US X-NONE X-NONE MicrosoftInternetExplorer4 <![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]> Normal 0 false false false EN-US X-NONE X-NONE MicrosoftInternetExplorer4 <![endif]-->Many may know New Jersey as the setting of popular TV shows such as The Jersey Shore, The Real Housewives of New Jersey and The Sopranos, or for it's famous musicians including Bruce Springsteen and Jon Bon Jovi, but New Jersey has more to offer than

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17. PiBoIdMo Cafe Press Shop is Open for Charity!

I’m so pleased to bring you the PiBoIdMo Cafe Press shop this year!

There’s mugs, t-shirts, journals and totebags with Bonnie Adamson‘s adorable firefly logo, and every purchase earns $3.00 for two charitable causes: RIF and Mount Prospect Elementary School library.

RIF has lost its federal funding grant, and Mount Prospect’s library budget has been slashed by 80% over the last 2 years. (I volunteer there once a week.)

Proceeds from the shop will be evenly split between these two charities.

So if you need a hot cup of java to get your creativity flowing, what better mug than this one?

10 Comments on PiBoIdMo Cafe Press Shop is Open for Charity!, last added: 11/2/2011
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18. Small Damages: The Jersey Shore Excerpt

Tomorrow morning, I'll take care of a little business, wrap up the final chapter of my Dangerous Neighbors prequel, and then pick up my father for a Jersey shore adventure; we're going for the day to visit my brother and his family.  It's a spur of the moment thing, but not really—my family has been visiting Stone Harbor for as long as I can remember.  Here, in fact, is my brother, sister, and me.  I don't know why, but I always loved that red suit and its fashionable collar.

I have spoken about Small Damages, due out from the incredibly terrific Tamra Tuller of Philomel next summer, as my Seville novel, and that is true; much of it takes place within a cortijo outside the city, and memories of the Spanish Civil War are resonant and haunting.  But Small Damages is built on flashbacks, too, some of which reach back to a certain Philadelphia suburb and the nearby shore.

I am thinking about tomorrow as I post this excerpt, then.  I am thinking about all the memories I have that led me toward this passage:

Ellie is wearing her same orange bikini from the ninth grade. She’s slicing the beach air with her skinny bones. She’s the first thing you see, across the wooden planks, over the sand dunes.
You don’t see ocean or umbrellas or sock kites let up into the sky. You see Ellie—the dark black fringe of her hair, the Popsicle orange of her bikini, the bright Barney flip-flops on her feet. You see the spinning disk of the flopped gold hat she’s been wearing since she was twelve. You see Ellie, beach artist, carving out her sculpture of the day, finding her spot at the high-tide line, where the sand goes from wet dark to light. She tests her mix, crumbles fistfuls, gets the sand all clumped together. “Oh, my precious mortar sand,” she says, and she shovels that sand out and piles it high, digging trenches all around so that she can win against the sea, and making you guess, making you wait, and you go out into the ocean and sleep on your raft, or you play horseshoes and Frisbee or toss, or you fall asleep beneath the tent of a paperback book, and all along, Ellie is working on her sculpture, like it is the most important thing there ever was, like she will never ever have to decide what to do with a baby she didn’t expect to have too soon.

“I need clamshells,” Ellie says. “I need those little twiggy sticks.” Whatever. Ellie is a sand sculpture rock star—carving out sand cars you can practically drive, packing out mini roller coasters, tattooing the beach with these funny cartoon faces, and going at it all afternoon. You can never leave the beach until Ellie is done. You can never see what is coming. You will never know where her ideas came from, or how she figures out the physics of the sand.

6 Comments on Small Damages: The Jersey Shore Excerpt, last added: 8/31/2011
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19. Meadowlands: A Wetlands Survival Story

It's Nonfiction Monday and I'm pleased to be today's host location!
Yezerski, Thomas F., 2011. Meadowlands: A Wetlands Survival Story. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux.
From the top of the Empire State Building in New York City, you can see a flat, wet place in New Jersey.  Some people think it's just smelly swamps.  Others think of it as where the airport or malls or stadiums are.  Most people think it's not much of a place at all.  This place is called the Meadowlands.
Though the word meadow conjures thoughts of an idyllic landscape, to many New Jerseyans and nearby New Yorkers, the word Meadowlands does not.  Instead, thoughts of Giants Stadium, Super Fund sites, and, according to the governor, the state's ugliest building come to mind.  But as New Jersey resident Thomas F. Yezerski points out in Meadowlands: A Wetlands Survival Story, the Meadowlands is and always has been a changing place.
Yezerski begins the Meadowlands' story several hundred years ago when the Meadowlands was "20,000 acres of marshes, swamps, and bogs that were home to many different plants and animals," as well as the native people, the Lenni Lenape. Throughout the 1960s, 70s, and 80s, the area went through various changes - most of them for the worse.  Landfills, chemical dumping, noxious smells, overcrowding, filthy water - the picture looked grim, and the Garden State's new reputation as a smelly place along the Turnpike was fixed in the nation's consciousness.
But even after being dug out, filled in, run over, and dumped on, the wetlands still showed signs of life.  The Hackensack River still flowed south.  The tide still rose north from the Atlantic Ocean.  The river and tide still met in the Meadowlands twice a day, as they had for 10,000 years.  Because they did, the ecosystem had a chance to recover.
Meadowlands is a hopeful story. A story of the return of fish, birds, and even the marshland itself.  It's a story of possibility, of the positive effect that people can have when they are so determined.  Yezerski's love for the area is apparent. His pen and watercolor illustrations show that he has spent many hours and days in the Meadowlands, capturing its essence. Realistic detailing is present throughout, particularly in the birds, which approach guide book quality.  Each double spread features a rectangular painting set in a frame of white space.  Related icon-sized images surround the main illustration. Text appears plainly at the bottom of each page - no more than 4 lines per page.
The final pages show the fragile combination of a now bird-filled marshland located within one of the nation's most densely populated urban areas. The cover art, featuring a snowy egret in this urban wilderness is stunning.

Meadowlands should be required reading for all New Jersey schoolchildren, but it has value beyond New

10 Comments on Meadowlands: A Wetlands Survival Story, last added: 5/10/2011
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20. Early Bird Flying Away

If you were thinking of attending the New Jersey SCBWI Conference being held in Princeton, NJ this June 3rd – 5th and you like to save money, then need to make sure your registration is postmarked by tomorrow, March 1st.  The manuscripts for one-on-one critiques are not due at this time. 

Here are the links to answer all your questions:

Registration Form and Pricing

Detailed Conference Information (including manuscript instructions)

Workshops and Pre-Conference Intensives Descriptions


We have reserved a block of reduced rate rooms ($90 a night – single or double) at the Princeton Wyndham.

Faculty Members:

Holly McGhee, Agent Pippins Properties (Sunday Keynote)
Edward Necarsulmer, Agent, McIntosh & Otis
Scott Treimel, Scott Treimel Literary Agency
Molly Jaffa, Agent, Folio Literary
Marietta Zacker, Agent, Nancy Gallt
Mary Kole, Agent, Andrea Brown
Elena Mechlin, Agent, Pippin Properties
Natalie Fischer, Agent, Laura Bradford Literary
Christina Hogrebe, Agent, Jane Rotrosen Agency
Caitlyn M. Dlouhy, Editorial Director, Atheneum BFYR
Steve Meltzer – Associate Publisher/Executive Managing Editor, Dial, Dutton, & Celebra
Krista Marino, Executive Editor, Random House
Regina Griffin – Senior Editor Egmont USA
Kristin Daly, Sr. Editor, Balzer & Bray
Carolyn P. Yoder, Editor, Calkins Creek Books, Senior Editor, History, HIGHLIGHTS
Rebecca Frazer, Editor, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
Alvina Ling, Sr. Editor, Little Brown & Co.
Eve Adler, Associate Editor, Henry Holt BFYR
Anna Bloom, Editor, Scholastic
Susan O’Keefe – Editor, Paulist Press and Author
Eileen Robinson, Editor and Consultant at First Pages
Harold Underdown, Editor, The Purple Crayon
Martha Rago, Executive Art Director, HarperCollins CB
Patti Ann Harris, Art Director, Little Brown

Authors Giving Presentations

Grace Lin, Author, Where the Mountain Meets the Moon
(Newbery Honor Award, Geisel Honor Book, Saturday Keynote)
Ellen Jensen Abott, author, YA Fantasy
Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen, Author
Charlotte Bennardo, Author, YA Paranormal
Ann Bonwill, Author, PB
Irene Breznak, Author, PB
Felicia Chernesky, Author/Poet
Barb Eveleth, Author/Illustrator, PB
Lisa Falkenstern, Author/Illustrator, PB
Alison Formento, Author, PB
Alissa Grosso, Author, YA
Tiffany Strelitz Haber, Author, PB
Leeza Hernandez, Author/Illustrator, PB
Eileen Kennedy-Moore, Author, PB
Ann Malaspina , Author, PB
Keri Mikulski, Author, YA
Anita Nolan, Author/Sprouts Magazine Editor
Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich, Author, MG
Kathy Temean, Author/Illustrator
Audrey Vernick, Author, MG & PB
Nancy Viau, Author, PB & MG
Tim Young, Author/Illustrator
Natalie Zaman, Author, YA Paranormal

Hope to see you there.

Talk tomorrow,

4 Comments on Early Bird Flying Away, last added: 2/28/2011
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21. Atlantic City: Empire or Fantasyland?

A new HBO series, Boardwalk Empire, premiered this weekend. Worlds away from what we see on Jersey Shore, it has reignited interest in New Jersey history and culture. Bryant Simon (author of Boardwalk of Dreams: Atlantic City and the Fate of Urban America and Professor of History at Temple University) has been interviewed for the accompanying HBO documentary, and here we ask him some questions about the “dreamlike” place that is AC.

You’ve described yourself as a native of South New Jersey. What drew you to writing the history of Atlantic City?

When I was growing up in the 1960s and 1970s in Vineland, Philly was not the place that drew us; it was more Atlantic City. That was where we went for splurge meals, special occasions, amusement parks, parades, and shopping. In fact, that’s where I got my bar mitzvah suit! Years later, my family moved just outside of Atlantic City and I watched, while riding my bike in the morning on the Boardwalk, as gambling woke the place up and irrevocably transformed it. I was transfixed by the city, by people’s nostalgia for it, by its nervous energy, and its aching sadness and painful poverty in the midst of plenty. Really, it had everything I wanted to write about it – it was like a Springsteen song, a place that could be mean and cruel, but a place of romance and possible redemption. How could I resist?

Compared to places like Las Vegas or Coney Island in its heyday, how did/does Atlantic City epitomize the urban playground?

All of these places share something in common – they are each the tale of two cities. They are places built in the interests of visitors, not necessarily residents; they sell (or sold) fantasies – fantasies that put tourists as the center of the narrative and allowed them to slip their daily skin and imagine themselves not as they were, but as they wanted to be. That is what people paid for when they went these places – they paid for fantasies.

As you researched the book, what memorable anecdotes did you come across that really captured the heart and history of Atlantic City?

One of the first things I learned about Atlantic City stayed with me throughout the project. I remember looking at a postcard from the 1920s or so. In it, the benches on the Boardwalk were pointed away from the beach. I asked if this was a mistake. “No” an expert on the city told me, “That’s how it was.” That was my first lesson that Atlantic City was essentially a stage and the visitors were both actors and audience.

You’ve been interviewed for a documentary that’s set to run in conjunction with the HBO series, Boardwalk Empire. What do you make of the series’ take on Atlantic City, and what to your mind does it say about public perception of the city?

If the show is a success, it will no doubt draw tourists to town, looking for the romantic, if still violent, past the program surely mythologizes. Yet the real Atlantic City Boardwalk of today has little relationship to the past except its common geography. Most of the dreamlike hotels – buildings that looked like French chateaux and Moorish palaces – have been torn down. The amusement piers are long gone or covered up and turned into air-conditioned malls. The crowds of people dressed in their Sunday – really their sleek and elegant Saturday night best – have been replaced by people in t-shirts and flip flops. Except for the ocean and

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22. Interviews and more with P.F. Kluge for A CALL FROM JERSEY!

Recently, it seems that New Jersey's place in popular culture has been solidified by the TV popularity of shoes like Jersey Shore and The Real Housewives of New Jersey.

But for New Jersey native P.F. Kluge, now a professor and writer-in-residence at Kenyon College in Ohio, it's the place where he grew up, and a perfect setting for a novel about how the American dream has changed through generations.

The Newark Star-Ledger and Cleveland Plain Dealer both reviewed Kluge's new novel, A CALL FROM JERSEY, this week.

The Star-Ledger's interview offers more insight into the creation of this literary novel and the thought processes Kluge had while writing. Read the full article here, but our favorite excerpt is below.

"The book is really about conversations with my father I never got to have," Kluge said. “I have tried to imagine his experience as an American, and as a German in America, especially between the two world wars."
The son, too, is culturally adrift. He is a second-generation American, suddenly trying to understand his parents’ life and re-connect with their lost old-world ways.

“As I grow older, and the number of years since my parents have died grows larger, I grow closer to them,” Kluge said. “As I get older, I miss the sound of their voices, the sound of German being spoken around me, and the stories they told. I miss the beer parties and German songs sung into the night. I miss mother’s potato pancakes.”

The book’s sense of place is authentic. Kluge writes about “13 Bumps,” (Johnston Road in Watchung), which climbs the mountain above Route 22 and has been a teenage makeout place for generations, from Model As to Mitsubishis. And Snuffy’s in Scotch Plains, gone from “roadhouse to Parthenon.” Old Hans even recalls Madame Bey’s, the old Passaic-side boxing training camp on River Road in Summit, where Schmeling once trained.

Only one of Kluge’s previous seven novels was a Jersey story, and it was his most famous.
“I set ‘Eddie and the Cruisers,’ in South Jersey. I spent the summer of 1962 working as a college intern at the Vineland Times Journals, and I found South Jersey so fascinating, and so different from here I was from. You could smell whatever they were canning that day in the air.”

The Plain Dealer's article,

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23. Jean Blum: Finger in Goliath’s Eye - Part I

© Cecile Pineda 11 22 09

Cecile Pineda traveled to the East Coast to interview Jean Blum. Blum is a Holocaust survivor whose memories of being hidden from the Nazis and living her early years as a traumatically displaced person motivated her to start ALAFFA, an organization devoted to helping immigrants incarcerated in the immigrant detention centers of Passaic and Monmouth Counties in New Jersey, who are held in “administrative detention” a provision of a 1996 law which deprives them of the right to legal representation. Below begins the first segment of her report to appear each Saturday.

Immigrant detention centers, now over 300, are located throughout the United States--federally run jails, county facilities, some run by private operator Corrections Corporation of America and Wackenhut, doing business under the sanitized name the Geo Group. They house more than 400,000 persons, almost all immigrants, and with few exceptions, people of color.
Her hands working constantly, Jean Blum loops yarn over the pins of her knitting bobbin; the spool pays out the makings of a fashionable red scarf. Behind her as she talks, a conservatory of exotic plants catches the sunlight, bouncing it off an abstract painting on the wall. Jean Blum is a short woman, standing barely five feet tall, with a sharp mind, given to rich imaginings.

Her photograph, taken against a backdrop of the Monmouth County Correctional Institution in an article dated April 3, 2009, by Nina Bernstein of the New York Times, shows a forlorn looking woman, a woman identified as a Holocaust survivor, founder of an immigrant detainee advocacy organization American Liberty and Freedom for All, or ALAFFA.

On a first viewing, I wondered who she was. What drove her to engage for many months in such discouraging and thankless work? Was it her memories of her World War II experiences as a displaced person? Had those memories been put aside as she lived an early life described in the article as closely modeled on the American Dream? Did love have anything to do with it?

“When I was maybe six years old, my mother warned me, ‘you have to go away for a while, but you must never forget that you are a Jewish child. You must remember not to tell anyone, because if you do, terrible things will happen to you and to your parents.’” Jean Blum pauses to unravel the tangling red scarf before continuing with our interview.

“The next day my teacher—one of the unsung heroes of the French Resistance—spirited me away to a convent where I lived with other girls whom I discovered much later were also Jewish.” When Blum’s mother came to take her back, although Blum failed to recognize her--“I never thought I would ever see her again,” she explains--the gravity of her mother’s admonition never left her.
Jean Blum in her living room
photo credit Janice Weber
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24. Author Carol Plum-Ucci Needs Help from Jersey Teens

Author Carol Plum-Ucci needs help from teens in New Jersey! From her most recent email newsletter:

"I wanna post on YouTube a couple eerie trips into the Pine Barrens and onto the barrier isles where I'll be pointing out some of the spots where CREED and my other books actually took place. Moss Mill Road, Jersey Devil homestead (alleged), Batsto, some old cemeteries in the Barrens. I'm looking for some teenagers who are fans and who would like to be in those clips, especially if they're not electronically challenged. Bring your own v cam, and we can upload with lots of cuts that way. Pizza afterwards and credits given. A great activity for college apps!"

For more details, contact Carol at [email protected]

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25. Tips for RUCCL First-Timers

Last year I attended the Rutgers University Council on Children’s Literature One-on-One Plus conference. (Phew! That’s a mouthful. How ’bout I just say RUCCL from now on?)

It was my first big conference. It was my first conference, period. I thought I was prepared. I don’t get nervous in large crowds of people, nor do I find it difficult to go right up to someone and chat. And I love public speaking and performing. I’m not easily intimidated.

But, when I arrived, I realized it. I hadn’t fully prepared myself.

The day went by quickly. Those organizers pack the event chock full of excellent speakers and interesting topics. (See my post-conference notes from last year.) The time you have to meet people is the time it takes to walk from one presentation to another.

I didn’t get the opportunity to talk to many editors or agents. True, I had only just begun to write for children, and thus, I didn’t know who I should be chatting with anyway.

So I decided that I would try to help other first-timers. Here’s a list of lessons I learned last year. I hope they help you make the most of your day.

1. Research the faculty in advance.


2008 RUCCL mentors arrive

Find out which editors and agents are interested in the kind of work you produce. Make a list of their names, and if possible, look up their photos online. No, I’m not encouraging anyone to be a stalker! There are 80 professionals mixing it up with 80 attendees, all wearing name tags. If you don’t want to squint at people’s chests all day trying to figure out who is who, go online and see if you can find a photo to recognize people by sight.

Approach editors/agents only during appropriate moments. Don’t interrupt another attendee or tap the editor’s shoulder while they’re taking a big honking bite of sandwich. You should know that the restroom is a no-no! The best time you’ll have to approach professionals is between sessions. Another good time is when they announce where mentors and mentees should meet. (They will announce pairings via alphabetical order and ask “A-F” to meet in a specific area, like near the fireplace.) When I went to find my mentor for my 45-minute session, I didn’t immediately see her…because another attendee had already pulled her aside to talk.

And I’ll say it: lunch is a good time to talk. They will seat mentors at numbered tables that correspond with the five-on-five assignments. Although not everyone sits in the right place, it will be easiest to find people during lunch. But again, if someone is chomping on chicken salad, it’s probably not a good time to interrupt.

Why is it important to talk to the faculty directly? Because they may not accept your submission post-conference if you don’t make contact. Now that’s contrary to what I had heard about conference submissions, but I did get one submission returned after RUCCL, citing that they don’t accept unsolicited manuscripts. (Yes, RUCCL was clearly marked on the envelope and in the cover letter.)

So find editors. Ask if you may submit. Ask for a business card. Don’t give them yours unless they ask. Be professional, courteous, polite and to the point! There’s not a lot of time, so don’t ramble. Which brings me to my next lesson…

2. If you know your manuscript needs direction, say so.

My submission last year was a novel I had only recently begun. I was not yet clear on the plot or direction. But when my mentor asked me about it, I meandered. I had two general ideas of the possible direction in my head, but I wasn’t certain which path I should take. Instead of asking my mentor what she thought, I tried to make it sound like I was clear. And I obviously was not.

Another attendee had it right. She told me, “I explained to my mentor that I had started the novel but stopped because I was stuck. I told her I wasn’t sure the direction it should take. She then gave me some very good ideas and we brainstormed the possibilities.”

3. Don’t be afraid to speak up and ask questions.

During the five-on-five, the mentees had an opportunity to ask questions of the professional panel. But our discussion leader asked questions off a prepared, suggested list of topics. They weren’t necessarily the questions I wanted answered, but I didn’t speak up and ask what was on my mind.

Remember, this is your day. The conference is arranged to help you, the mentee, take the next step in your career. So if you don’t find the topics to be of interest, speak up. Politely interject and ask if you can introduce a question instead.

Mixing it up at lunch

Mixing it up at lunch

4. Prepare a list of questions.

Questions about your submission, questions about the market, questions about the publishing house, questions about your other manuscripts. Whatever questions you have, take them with you. Refer to them. If there’s information you want to collect, this is the place to do it.

Another good idea is to bring a list of your manuscripts with one-line descriptions. Even if you just have ideas, ask if they’re good ones. A mentor might tell you to pursue idea A and D but not B or C because of current market dynamics, competition, or other factors (remember, one of those factors might be personal taste).

5. Have fun!

This is your day. It’s a step forward in your career. Enjoy it, use it to your advantage, learn from it. Congratulations and have a great day!

And if you have any tips to share, please do so in the comments. Thank you!

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