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jkrbooks August 20 2014, 19:27

New Fancy Nancy Books Bring Joy


The arrival of a box of new Fancy Nancy books generated considerable excitement in my house this week. My four-year-old daughter actually delayed her departure for her first-ever soccer practice (something that she was VERY excited about) to finish reading Fancy Nancy: Sand Castles and Sand Palaces.

Later, before she would go to sleep, we had to read the new picture book Fancy Nancy and the Wedding of the Century AND all six titles in Fancy Nancy's Fabulous Fall Storybook Collection, as well as the newest copy of Fancy Nancy and the Fall Foliage (which we already had a copy of). The only title that we deferred reading for was Nancy Clancy: Secret of the Silver Key, which was dismissed, rightly, as "too old" (but which I have saved for later). 

I did not object. My daughter's preferred format for books these days is paperback. You know the sort of books I'm talking about: Berenstain Bears, Little Critter, and various TV-spinoff books in thin, square packages. She especially likes it when there are stickers included in the books. But she'll read them anyway, without the stickers.Those that have pictures of other books from the series on the back cover are particular favorites - she is constantly bringing those to me to request additional titles. (Happily, these books only cost $3-$5 each, so I sometimes use them as rewards for aspirational behaviors). Paperback early readers are also favorites. 

BookRackPhoto2As a parent, I have come to appreciate these paperbacks. They are lightweight, and it's easy to take them on trips or in the car. Because they are inexpensive, I don't worry about them being damaged. And they fit quite nicely in my new breakfast table toast rack / book rack. However, I do (silently) lament the fact that by focusing on these titles, my daughter is missing out on the richer vocabulary of more traditional picture books. And this is why the arrival of new Fancy Nancy books brings joy to me, as well as to my daughter. Because the Fancy Nancy books are chock-full of rich vocabulary words, all defined in the text.

My daughter knows what "foliage" is because of Nancy. She knows what a "banquet" is, and what "translucent" means. She has learned these words painlessly, because Nancy uses them. And because Nancy is "fancy", delighting in swirling tutus, glittery Thanksgiving turkeys, and accessories of all colors, Nancy feels like a friend, not a teacher. The books are not didactic, though there may be a lesson or two to be absorbed here or there, and they often make my daughter giggle. 

I should also add that although the new paperbacks are destined to be read more in the short-term (taken on trips, etc.), the hardcover of Fancy Nancy's Fabulous Fall Storybook Collection is a particular delight. This is a compendium of six previously-published stories, at least one of which we already have. But the table of contents, from which one can pick which story to read first, makes my daughter feel grown-up. She refers to the stories as "chapters", and feel that she is reading a big girl chapter book. For those titles that don't fit into the format of this square book, there are wide patterned borders on each page, with sketches of leaves, and a foliage-friendly palette. 

A celebration of words, in a four-year-old-girl-friendly package, that's what the Fancy Nancy books are to me. To my daughter, they are just fun. And that's exactly what I'm looking for. 

© 2014 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).

slatts August 20 2014, 13:45

20 AUGUST 2014

YESTERDAY I dropped this painting off with Vicki Sutton, the oncology social worker at Baystate Franklin. As I posted recently, when it came to how best to donate the 10% commission of sales from my "Hospital Show," it was decided a painting would be a better gift.

I chose this one, in part, as it includes "many things" of Franklin County—me playing guitar, the brickwork of my fireplace, the sunset outside my window and the lilacs from my Northfield home AND, most recognizable to anyone who's driven north on Route 10 through Gill and Northfield, one of those "rusted trucks" at the intersection of Route 142.

I look forward to seeing this multi-media illustration in its new home!

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gclevineljf August 20 2014, 13:33

What's funny


On July 13, 2014, Writer At Heart wrote, I'm having problems with my MC. I feel as though she isn't very developed. How do I get around to do this? Maybe it's because I don't think that she has a great sense of humor.

carpelibris responded with these questions: Why doesn't she have a sense of humor? Is she overly serious? Socially awkward? Too literal-minded? The reason might give you clues to her personality.

Is she in a situation where humor's important? Why? How does she respond? What problems does this cause for her?

And Writer At Heart answered, No, she's not overly serious or any of that other stuff you said. Like, she can be awkward at times or serious, it’s really just me. I can say a joke pretty well, but I just can't write it down on paper or on the computer. She's actually very outgoing. It's not only my MC who I want to be funny, but my MC's 'boyfriend.' I want him to be very funny, someone who can make a girl laugh. 

The school teacherish side of me has to say that if we’re not good at writing a particular kind of thing and we want to be, the remedy is practice. We can write down the joke that we told out loud, which had our friend clutching his sides and weeping with laughter. We can tweak it until we think it’s pretty good. Then we can show it to another friend and see what happens.

Not even a smile? Revise and repeat.

We may never cause the uproarious laughter that accompanied the spoken joke, because our timing, our inflection, our own suppressed hilarity will be missing, but we should be able to get a smile.

If this aspect of writing is as important to us as it is to Writer at Heart, we can read joke books and see which ones make us laugh and figure out how the effect was achieved.

So now I’m tempted. I recently heard a joke on the radio that I loved and want to share. (It’s not mean.) It’s also not funny to everybody. The radio person who told it said that the smartest person she knows didn’t get it. Here’s the joke:

I’m walking down the street and see my old friend, but, surprisingly, he now has a big orange head. I ask him what happened. He says he was in an antique store and bought an old lamp, which he cleaned when he got home and a genie appeared and offered him three wishes. His first wish, he says, was for a beautiful house. He points at an enormous, gorgeous mansion and says that’s it. His second wish was for a beautiful wife. He points at a stunning woman who’s pruning the roses along the fence and says she’s his wife. He goes on. “Then I made my mistake. For my third wish I asked for a big orange head.”

I'm laughing right now. My telling is nothing special. I just wrote it down more or less as I heard it. The surprise and the absurdity tickle me.

I want to assure you all that I’m not violating anybody’s copyright by telling this joke. When it was told on the radio, the person who heard it already knew it, so it’s out there. But we do need to be careful with jokes that come from joke books, which  probably are copy protected. We can repeat them to friends, but we shouldn’t include them in anything we hope to publish.

I adore funny books, plays, movies, but not everybody is into humor or is interested in writing it. Most writers, as far as I can tell, are, sadly (so to speak!), not funny. We can write a career's worth of serious stories, and that’s fine. It’s like some artists aren’t good at drawing hands but they’re great at other aspects of visual art.

So let’s work on making our MC funny, and let’s call her Marie, and let’s call her boyfriend Jonas. They can both be funny in the way that Writer at Heart would like, that is, they can be witty. In a social situation, people can wait for one or the other of them to make the remark that surprises and brings the smiles. Also, for them to be likable to the reader, they can’t be mean. Their jokes shouldn’t be at someone else’s expense.

Suppose they go together to a Valentine’s Day party. They make their entrance a little late, and everyone is delighted to see them, because they’re the life of every party. On the way in, Jonas picks up a big heart lollipop from a bowl. With everyone watching, he lunges like a fencer at Marie. She steps back smiling, instantly getting the joke. The two of them bow to everyone and say in unison, “Heart attack.”

Not sure how funny a heart attack is, but Marie and Jonas are clever. They’re witty, and no one’s feelings have been hurt.

How did I come up with the heart-attack joke?

It happened to come right away, but if it hadn’t I would have written some notes, which might have gone like this: They’re at a party. A theme party provides more opportunities and more interesting props, could be Halloween, a birthday, Valentine’s Day. Valentine’s Day. Which of them will make the joke?

Marie holds a heart doily to her ear. Jonas gets it and says loudly, “Heart of hearing!”

Heart is also hart. Can I do anything with a joke about the deer? No. Nobody will get it.

Something with endearments: sweetie, love, dear, darling, sugar, honey.

Stick with heart. I got it! Heart attack. How do I write it so it isn’t making fun of a terrible illness?

Or you may prefer heart of hearing. Or the endearments may have gotten you thinking.

In a story, a series of jokes will quickly grow tiresome. If Marie’s and Jonas’s repartee continue at length, the reader may stop reading and switch to something that has story momentum. So suppose we leave it at one joke in this moment, and suppose the reader knows that half an hour ago the lovebirds were arguing and even on the point of parting. They’ve made up, and the relieved reader sees that they’re back in sync. The joke isn’t just funny now, it also makes the reader feel good until the next crisis.

Or, suppose either Marie or Jonas is really not a nice person, and the reader is alarmed that they’re happily together again. The joke is still clever, but the tone is ominous.

Or, the reader knows somehow that they’re about to be separated forever, but the two of them are blissfully unaware. Now the humor is tinged with tragedy. The reader smiles through his tears.

Let’s consider other ways Marie and Jonas can be funny, and let’s reprise carpelibris’s questions: Is she overly serious? Socially awkward? Too literal-minded?

Writer at Heart said no, but a character’s foibles can help with the humor. Marie can be overly serious and too literal-minded. People are being witty all around her, and she doesn’t get it. The reader hears the soundtrack of her thoughts. She’s trying to figure out what’s funny, and she has a fake smile pasted on her face. Finally, she thinks she understands. She says, “I get it!” And she comes out with a wild interpretation that nobody meant. They laugh, and she’s mildly puzzled. The reader sympathizes and smiles. But if she’s really hurt it stops being funny.

Jonas can be socially awkward. He always says the thing everybody else is tiptoeing around. He means no harm, but he misses a lot of cues. There can be comic relief when he blurts out the obvious.

In both of these, unlike the witticisms, we’ve made our MCs vulnerable, which probably makes them more likable and certainly makes them funnier. If we think about stand-up comics, many present themselves as vulnerable, and there usually is a dark side to their humor. For example, I heard a comedian named Mike Birbiglia perform a piece on the radio about his sleepwalking. Part of the story involved him walking through the plate-glass window of his hotel room. It was very funny, since he’d lived to tell about it.

There are, of course, many ways to write humor. I suggest you also look back at my other two posts labeled "writing humor," and you can also check out the chapter “Writing Funny, Writing Punny” in Writing Magic.

These prompts are based on the post:

Jonas and Marie are going to be separated forever as soon as the party ends. Write the party scene with both at their wittiest, most charming, and most obviously in love. End with the tragedy that separates them.

Rewrite the scene, but make the romance ridiculously over the top. Their pet names for each other are embarrassing. Jason feeds Marie a heart-shaped cookie, and they’re both dusted with powdered sugar, which they don’t see. Marie is wearing a long scarf, which gets tangled in something while they dance. They’re not nearly as charming as they think they are, but they may be twice as funny. Then have the separation occur.

Let’s imagine that the story is going to turn sinister when two heavily armed men and one heavily armed woman crash the party, hoping for a place to evade the police. Make Jason and Marie laughable as they were in the last prompt, or make one socially awkward and the other overly serious and too literal-minded. Before the situation turns deadly they are vulnerable objects of fun. When these desperadoes come in, Marie and Jason accidentally notice the danger. They can’t tell anyone or the baddies will realize. (The phone lines have been cut, and cell phone reception is terrible here.) It’s up to our doofus duo to save the day. Write the scene, and use detail to make it funny. I’m rooting for a happy ending, but it’s up to you.

Have fun and save what you write!
stephanieburgis August 20 2014, 01:02

Being home (a rambling update)

So, it's been a pretty intense couple of weeks, in a lot of ways. This summer was the first time my brothers and parents and I have been all together in about 7 years, and the first time we've ever been together as a whole group with my children. It was amazing. But then, of course, I had to say goodbye to both brothers, one by one, and to my wonderful new sister-in-law, too, as they flew back to their two different homes around the world. It was hard.

Being back in Michigan for the first time in so long has been so fantastic and fun and enriching - and also hard, because of course it reminds me how much I love it here, something I'd forced myself to ignore or forget over the years because there was no point in remembering it when I couldn't afford (or couldn't manage, for other reasons) to visit. I'm crossing my fingers like mad that we'll manage to make this summer visit a yearly tradition. That would be wonderful for so many reasons, including my simple, selfish homesickness.

Being an ex-pat and a dual citizen is wonderful, and - I'm a repeating record here today! - it's hard, too. I truly love both countries. I feel at home in both places in different ways. We're settled and rooted in the UK now, but I'll never stop loving and missing America. I want to come back regularly, and I'm scared - no, honestly, I'm terrified, to the point where I feel sick whenever I let myself think about it - that that won't be possible, financially. Oh, this is where I curse our unreliable freelance income!

Anyway. I don't want to ramble too much, but you get the idea...and also, I feel a bit odd about only posting the fun publishing stuff when there have been such complex emotions shifting around inside me as we approach the end of our visit.

(Also, Baby X is teething like mad - he's popped out three new teeth in the last few weeks and is still NOT done - so I'm really exhausted, which is more than enough to make me melancholy.)

But! There have also been so many great moments, even in the time since my wonderful brothers and sister-in-law all left. I've spent time with some of my oldest and closest friends from childhood; I got to catch up with the woman who was one of the most important mentors of my life; I've been sharing my kids with my parents, which is such a genuine treat for all of us.

I haven't been doing much writing, unfortunately, because Patrick has a big deadline for his upcoming novel (which is available for pre-order at The Book Depository, Books-A-Million, B&N and elsewhere NOW! Soooooo awesome!), so I'm finally getting the chance to pay him back for all the times he supported me during my own book deadlines by shifting into being the main childcare person for the duration. (Luckily, that job is made SO much easier for me since we're currently staying with my parents!)

However, I did draft a new short-short story one evening earlier this week, when I fled to a coffee shop for an hour, and I'm in the middle of another new story, which I'd love to finish sometime in the next week or two, so those small projects are keeping my writer-self mostly balanced. But of course I am SO looking forward to having more writing time so that I can really sink into bigger projects again.

And I can't possibly end this entry without saying: thank you SO MUCH to everyone who's signal-boosted, read or reviewed Courting Magic over the past week. I can't tell you how much it means to me. I love, love, love hearing that it's connected with readers. Thank you.
professornana August 19 2014, 21:47

random musings

I see a lot of folks talking about how hard it was to take their kids to campus for college. Mika from Morning Joe even had a videotape of getting her daughter settled in to the dorm. Two observations here: I rejoiced when the former residents settled into their dorm rooms. I was excited for what was ahead of them both. BH and I rejoiced when the youngest settled in. We were an empty nest and we were loving the extra freedom. Of course, that might be due to the fact that we had been rearing kids for a lot longer than most of our friends. You see, we got to do it twice: once for our daughter and then for her daughters. Basically, I spent my 30s, 40s, 50s, and part of my 60s with kids and teens in the house. Now, I am enjoying their absence. That does not mean I do not love when they visit or when College Girl calls to ask a question or Career Girl meets us for lunch.

The other observation, though, has to do with privilege. I never had the chance to live in a dorm. I worked my way through my first two years. Then, I married and continued to work and commute until graduation. I am not asking for sympathy. I just want to note that dorm life is not something all of us had the chance to experience. Ditto summer camp and lots of other "extras." Do not assume we have all had the same opportunities or privileges. BH and I have done all we can to ensure the former residents of the back bedroom DID have some privileges. We were happy to do so; we know their importance.

I guess this niggles at me because it is the beginning of the school year. Not all of our kids will have had the privileges some of us take for granted. I remember one student tell me she did not have a TV at home when I asked the class to examine some commercials for propaganda. And I recall how many times our own kids had to surf the net for an assignment or produce a project or use a computer program. Yes, BH and I made it happen. But I cannot help but think of those kids who do not have access. Access to infinite supplies, access to internet at home, access to books, access to the public library, access to the privileges.

How I wish all kids had all the privileges they need. How I struggle with the fact that ed deformers somehow manage to keep their blinders on so they never see that they have privileges that so many others do not. I am angered by the denial of the role poverty (lack of privilege) plays on the part of these reforministas. I am appalled that so many of the talking heads in education elect to place their own kids in more privileged settings, too.

As the new year begins, I hope we all take some time to think about the privileges we will extend to all our kids.
slatts August 19 2014, 20:15

19 AUGUST 2014

AS I SAID in yesterday's post, I was rather pleased with the progress I made on SAINT RINGO while on my vacation in Maine.

I even found time to do a "vacation diary" image. A 20th anniversary piece. "It was twenty years ago today..." was the line that went through my head as I set about to capture some of the highlights of this and most of the other vacations spent in Burn's Cottage.

"I hope you enjoy the show!"

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jkrbooks August 19 2014, 17:18

Small Blue and the Deep Dark Night: Jon Davis


Book: Small Blue and the Deep Dark Night
Author: Jon Davis
Pages: 40
Age Range: 4-8

Small Blue and the Deep Dark Night by Jon Davis is a cozy picture book that presents a practical solution to night-time fears. Small Blue is a little, floppy-eared rabbit. When she awakens during the night, she imagines that all sorts of "creepy" things lurk in the darkness. Big Brown, a big, cozy bear/parental figure brings safety and reassurance. He patiently offers up cheerful alternatives to Small Blue's imaginings. Eventually, Small Blue is able to imagine cheerful things in the darkness, too. 

Davis' text is full of rich, descriptive vocabulary. Like this:

"Small Blue thought of creepy things.
She thought of sneaky things.
She thought of gnarly snarly teeth,
boggling goggling eyes,
and a sniffly snuffling nose."

Big Brown's alternatives are delightful, as are the interactions between the two. Like this:

"Perhaps," said Big Brown. "But couldn't it also be
a smiley spacemen's zero-gravity birthday party?
"Well, maybe," said Small Blue.

Clearly, this is a book that is going to be fun to read aloud. I mean, who wouldn't want to read about "warty witches and clackety skeletons, sniff-sniff,sniffing"?

Davis' digitally painted illustrations are set mainly against a deep, purplish-blue background (like the cover), conveying the darkness in a relatively warm way. The creepy things that Small Blue imagines are shown with ever-so-slightly fuzzy edges, a visual cue that they are not real. Big Brown's imaginings, while more cheerful, are also faintly blurred, compared to the crisp lines that he uses for the main characters. A couple of page spreads in which the light is turned on are bright and detail-filled, reminiscent of Kady MacDonald Denton's cozy settings. 

But the heart of Small Blue and the Deep Dark Night lies in the warn, trusting relationship between Small Blue and Big Brown, conveyed via words and pictures. This is a perfect book with which parent and child can curl up in bed, staving off night-time terrors. This one is going on our keep shelf. Highly recommended!

Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers (@HMHBooks)
Publication Date: August 26, 2014
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

FTC Required Disclosure:

This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).

© 2014 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook

kellyrfineman August 19 2014, 17:00

Julia's House for Lost Creatures by Ben Hatke

Dear Readers,

You really should get your hands on this graphic novel for the younger set, which is, for all intents and purposes, a most excellent picture book (there, I said it). It includes multiple panels on some pages, but nothing that's difficult to follow, and it should therefore not deter a single soul that it is technically a graphic novel and not a picture book.

The plot is adorable. The art is adorable-er. Julia moves to town (her house, it should be noted, moves with her on the back of an enormous tortoise, which is never mentioned but can be seen on the interior title page), and settles in, and finds that things are a bit too quiet. So she does what anyone might do, and puts out a sign that reads "Julia's House for Lost Creatures".

The first to arrive is an adorable patchwork kitty named "Patched Up Kitty". It has odd behaviors, but is excellent company. Next comes "a very sad troll", followed by a host of creatures, most of them mythical in nature.

Don't you just love it?

Needless to say, things go terribly wrong before they get set right again by use of another sign - this one establishing a variety of chores for the house's many inhabitants. Julia makes one final sign at the end of the book, this time seeking someone for repairs, odd jobs, and plumbing. The call for help is answered by someone(s) who look a lot like Hatke's Little Robot.

If you are looking for fun or whimsy, this is your book. If you are looking for a great bedtime story or a rollicking tale, this is also your book. If you are looking for a (gentle) lesson on cooperation and possibly delegation of tasks, guess what? That's right - this is your book. If you are looking for a not-Halloweeny Halloween-like title, this is also your book. If you like mythological creatures like mermaids and trolls and folletti, . . . well, you already know what I'm going to say.

It is magical and adorable and special and I am only sad that I am in possession of an Advance Reader's Edition (thanks to the good folks at :01 First Second), and not a finished copy of the book, because the ARC isn't holding up to repeated hugging the way I believe the final, hardcover edition will when this book goes on sale in mid-October. (The 14th, to be precise, but perhaps it will be available early? Because really, you want this book. Stat.) I know that I'm putting the date on my calendar because I really need to replace this advance copy with the real thing.

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olmue August 19 2014, 16:39

Things that make good writing

I've been trying so hard to write lately, and I have ideas crowding my head and rising up in my insides and wanting to get out. But at the same time, it's that pre-school runup where schedules are insane and each kid has a unique time and date for registration, dentist, etc. Add in tons of cross country practice and a track meet to the schedule, my own scout committee meetings, startup events for my husband's department (as in social events we should make an appearance at), and basically, I am losing my mind. I just have a hard time writing something intimate and personal (or funny and adventurous--whatever it is, it comes from that quiet whisper in my mind that I need alone time to process) when I'm sitting RIGHT next to someone in the waiting room and they are looking over my shoulder. So I brought a book to read and ended up taking notes. And thinking about not only this book, but others I've read that are particularly strong in something. So here are a couple of things I've learned from books that are especially well-written:

1. I think I have a fairly well developed sense of justice. So one thing that makes me really like a character is if they are essentially decent people in a world that isn't. If they quietly do their good thing without complaining, and let me, the reader, complain about injustice on their behalf, I'm hooked. Arthur in Kevin Crossley-Holland's books. Sam in Maggie Stiefvater's Shiver. Harry against the Dursleys or Umbridge or Voldemort or Snape. I'm pretty sure this is a personal thing, but I am much more sympathetic to these kinds of characters than the Bad Person Who is Misunderstood/aka Hot Bad Boy. Regardless which kind of character you like, though, standing two very different characters against each other can help saturate their colors a bit, and make them for vivid and memorable.

2. The use of weaknesses to solve the ultimate problem. I like a character with weaknesses. Someone likeable who still has something to struggle against. And I love it when they find a way to use what seemed a weakness as a strength. Brandon Sanderson's characters do this quite a lot. And even if it's not exactly a weakness, I notice this kind of "seeding" happening in other books, where the pieces crop up as the book goes along, seemingly unconnected, and then--the final piece falls into place and the MC realizes that this--THIS--is how to solve the unsolveable problem. There's a fantastic kickboxing scene at the end of The Knights of Crystallia (Alcatraz) that pulls a bunch of threads together quite awesomely. No less interesting is the way the ultimate solution in Shiver is laid out. I like this sort of thing because I like to be able to be surprised and at the same time reread and see how it was inevitable.

3. Nouns and verbs. Specific nouns and verbs that show what kind of thing your focal character pays attention to and cares about. I still remember wanting to eat Elizabeth Bunce's book A Curse Dark as Gold when I read it the first time. I'd spent nearly two years in Germany, and while I speak Germany, my reading lags. Being me, I had a library card and checked out books all the time in German. But it was still slow going. To get a book that was in my own language, and to have such LOVELY language...well, I didn't eat it, but I came close. :) The thing with language is, it doesn't have to be all sunsets and purple. It just has to fit the character, be specific, and surprise your reader with new ways of looking at things.

4. Just as you lay in the pieces of the plot solution, you should lay in reasons for meaning. In The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, by Jennifer E. Smith, the actual on the ground plot is slight. Two people get on an airplane. They talk. They get out at the other end, and one goes to a wedding and the other to...well, not a wedding. The thing that makes the book work is all of the investment the author made so we know the meaning of the events. The MC is scared to fly. Her dad was the one who helped her over that fear. Except it's her dad's wedding she's going to--to a new wife, the woman he left their family for. So when this total stranger (but very nice! See #1) helps her through her flying fears, the whole action takes on tons more meaning. In Shiver, we get a bit of backstory about something the characters went through earlier in life. Then in the Now, we get a similar situation--only, the stakes are higher this time. We already have a clue how that character will react, which heightens the tension, because we know how much more is at stake in the Now. In Harry Potter, we have been amply shown--over pages and volumes and bucketloads of story--everything Harry stands to lose if he acts. But we've also been shown why he can't NOT act when he walks into the forest.

What about you? What have you learned about writing from reading good books?
deenaml August 19 2014, 14:07

Run for His Life (119)

BREATHE, ANNIE, BREATHE by Miranda Kenneally
High school senior Annie, who hates to run, spends the summer before college training for a marathon in honor of her boyfriend who died last fall, and on the trails she tries to move on from her guilt especially when she meets someone new who makes her feel happy again. Watching Annie follow her training schedule exhausts the reader on her behalf in a good way; it feels completely realistic. Her adrenaline junky love interest is not a classic stereotype at all. Overall, this upper-YA is completely enjoyable, a little bit sexy, and a lot satisfying. (Sourcebooks Fire, 2014)
carriejones August 19 2014, 12:06

My tweets

  • Mon, 17:09: RT @malie129: @carriejonesbook Hi, nice to meet you. I'm trying to turn collab writing into a fun game. Playful, challenges creativity. pls…
  • Mon, 18:54: Overheard quote - people think I am so serious, but I just made up four songs changing the word heart for shart.
  • Mon, 18:54: RT @NYTArchives: 94 years ago today, with ratification of 19th amendment, US women gained federal right to vote http://t.co/dsIrpNlcPZ http…
annastan August 19 2014, 11:55

Vacation Reading Highlights

If you’re in the Cambridge, Mass. area on Sept 6, stop by Porter Square Books at 3pm for a “Middle Grade Mavens” event with yours truly and fellow children’s book authors Jen Malone, Dana Levy, and Jennifer Mann. It should be a great time!

I’m back from my cruise, and I must say that it was fantastic. We snorkeled and ate (and ate and ate) and managed to survive a whole week without internet access! I also got a bunch of reading done. Here are some highlights:

Loop by Karen Akins

Since I’ve been tinkering with a time travel book of my own, it’s been interesting to check out other titles in the genre. While the time travel details left me a little confused at times, I really enjoyed the voice and the fast-paced nature of the story.

Famous Last Words by Katie Alender

I’m usually not a big fan of murder mysteries, but if you throw in a ghost, I’m sold. This book really sucked me in, to the point where I spent the last day of our cruise in my cabin, frantically reading. I’m very curious to read other books by this author, particularly Marie Antionette, Serial Killer, which has one of the best titles I’ve heard in a long time!

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North

When I first heard about this grown-up book about time travel, I knew it was a story my husband would enjoy. Sure enough, he devoured it on the cruise and strongly encouraged me to read it. I’m about halfway through and fascinated by the premise and the characters. Honestly, some of the philosophical stuff about the nature of time makes my brain hurt, but I’m still enjoying it!

What have you been reading?

Now that I’m back in town, it’s time to ease into the real world again. I’m working on first pass pages for THE GOSSIP FILE (my absolutely last chance to make changes to the manuscript before it hits stores in January!) and working on prepping for the fall semester. The weather has turned decidedly fall-ish, so I guess I can’t be in denial about the end of summer for much longer. :-)

Originally published at www.annastan.com

writerjenn August 19 2014, 00:52

In obscurity, butterflies

"Not even the splendor of the Nobel Prize made a lasting difference. My royalty checks fattened surprisingly for one payment period following the prize and then returned to the under-$10 payments they had always been. In Stockholm, I had asked Karl Otto Bonnier about the next Oe book he was planning to publish and was surprised when he told me his company had no further plans for Oe. 'This Nobel excitement is just a blip, it won't last long,' he explained, and he was right."

That is John Nathan, a translator of Kenzaburo Oe's work, writing in Living Carelessly in Tokyo and Elsewhere about the effect of Oe's Nobel Prize on book sales. Or rather, the lack of effect. This passage came to mind again recently because I've requested one of Oe's books from the library. Not only is it proving scarce and difficult to find, but the librarian who helped me with my request didn't seem to be familiar with Oe.

Writers know how hard it is to find and keep a readership, let alone any sort of longevity, but one would think that at least a Nobel Prize for literature ought to ensure some measure of fame, at least within literary communities. It has only been twenty years since Oe's moment in the Stockholm sun. I suppose this brings home the reality that the audience for literary fiction is small, and in the US, the audience for translated fiction appears to be even smaller.

One could find this disheartening, in a we're-all-destined-for-obscurity sort of way, or strangely heartening, in a well-if-greater-writers-can't-stay-in-the-limelight-that-sure-takes-the-pressure-off-me way. On Twitter, Anne Lamott often comments that we and our works will be quickly forgotten. A glance at the bestseller lists of yesteryear shows us that--how few books from even five years ago are still widely read and discussed, let alone twenty years, or fifty.

Most of us will have an indirect effect on the wider world of literature. We will not be read by everyone at once. We will be read by, and perhaps influence in some small way, a few people who will in turn influence other people, and these multiple influences will ripple through the community. We flap our butterfly wings and never know exactly how far the resulting breezes reach.
robinellen August 18 2014, 21:16

Weekend Roundup...

...D had a great campout with his four closest friends. It rained a bit, but I think that just added to the fun. :) It was a nice 'good-bye' as they move on to middle school.

...DH took the kiddos to our neighborhood's 'Turtle Fest' (there's a green turtle in one of the neighborhood parks). I got to stay home and relax, and they got to eat tons of good food, listen to music, and play frisbee. ;)

...my FIL came over yesterday afternoon. He went to Spain recently, so he shared his pictures. Sounds like he had a wonderful time! (Almost makes me want to travel...ha.)

...I just heard today that my cousins' dad is in a coma (and is expected to die soon). :( Apparently, he has dementia, which is something I didn't know. He and my aunt were divorced when I was in high school, so I've only seen him at my cousins' weddings since then. He was always one of those people who brimmed with life...my thoughts and prayers go out to my cousins today!

Hope things are good in your neck of the woods!
professornana August 18 2014, 21:14

Wise advice

Jon Scieszka has some terrific advice for parents here: http://parnassusmusing.net/2014/08/17/jon-scieszka-on-how-to-get-kids-to-read-tip-stopping-telling-them-how-important-reading-is/.

I think each and every teacher needs to take this advice to heart as well. Take this wonderful set of instructions: "Do not insist they read “classics” because you had to. Do not refuse to get a book for them because it isn’t up to their reading level. Do not tell them (or me, or anyone) that they are “reluctant readers.”

My friend Paul Hankins wrote about AR on his blog on the same day Scieszka's piece pub bed. Here is the link to Paul's blog: http://paulwhankins.edublogs.org.

Let us PLEASE stop dealing with numbers and concentrate on the WORDS and THOUGHTS and EMOTIONS instead.
jennifer_j_s August 18 2014, 17:21

For your listening pleasure: The Girl Who Has Everything

Last Friday, the audiobook of my middle grade novel, The Girl Who Has Everything
was released. It is now available for purchase from Audible, Amazon, and iTunes. You can listen to a free sample at any of these sites.

The audiobook is narrated by Miranda Stewart, and no, it’s not a coincidence that she and I share the same last name. She’s my daughter. Miranda is a director/model/actor/website designer living in downtown Los Angeles, and now she’s making use of her voice talent, too. She uses professional level equipment for recording and editing.

It is so much fun to hear my characters come to life!

It couldn't have been an easier set-up on my end, as I signed up to have the audiobook produced through www.acx.com, and then chose Miranda to narrate the audiobook. I approved samples along the way and modified my book cover to fit the square format display (think: CD case). Every time I am forced to use photoshop I practically get hives, but with technical assistance (my husband), I was able to get the cover uploaded, and it really wasn't all that hard.

This is Miranda's first audiobook production, but it won’t be her last, as she has already gotten another gig, based on the work she did for me.

Thanks, Miranda!
slatts August 18 2014, 15:59

18 AUGUST 2014

I WAS RATHER PLEASED with the amount of work I got done on SAINT RINGO while I was on vacation for two weeks. Yes, before you overreact to the improper use of WORK and VACATION in the same sentence, understand it was work I wanted to do. It rarely took priority over the more important vacation-items at hand, like kayaking and drinking, but I did manage to put those creative urges to good use when the Muse hit.

I'm still in re-entry mode, here, so, I have no artwork to share at this post. But note, I also managed to knock-off one "vacation-diary" entry as well.

Yes, those of you familiar with my MO know that I often spent all my drawing time just chronicling the events of the vacation in some humorous form. I lamented in a recent post about the backlog of such vacation diary entries that never got posted. And with my new "art form" taking shape as annual self-publications, I spent the last two vacations working on them instead of diary work.

But as I said, I was quite pleased with the progress I had made, so I took a "day off" and created a 20th Anniversary piece. Yes, it was 1994—many, many years before I would start doing drawings on vacation—that I first took my family to this favorite cabin on the lake.

And that's how I spent my summer vacation!

Stay tuned for the art...

kslatts logo
about kevin slatts slattery kevin slattery art kevin slattery's journal shop at kslatts.com contact kevin slattery

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