Friday, March 30, 2012

Battle of the Kids Books - A Spectator's Commentary, Week 3

Judge: E. Lockhart
Review Excerpt from Chime: "And so for me, the incredibly romantic ending of Chime had great strength, because it wasn't a fantasy of a bad man tamed - it was the fantasy of loving a deeply good man, and how healing that can be."
Review Excerpt from Daughter of Smoke and Bone: "A terrific read that took me to several worlds I didn't want to leave. It is full of innovatively creepy monsters. The heroine, blue-haired and covered in tattoos, is satisfyingly violent and smart-mouthed."
Comments: I loved this review, from start to finish. E. Lockhart seems to share my views about this genre - "I like my men reasonably but not terrifyingly handsome, funny, and nurturing rather than powerful and remote. I am not interested in danger as an aphrodisiac. It quite turns me off." AND - she managed to completely change my opinion on Chime. It's gone from a book that I didn't care to read to one that I think I might be interested in. 

Purchase Now from Amazon: Chime
Purchase Now from Amazon: Daughter of Smoke and Bone

Review Excerpt from Drawing from Memory: "A full-fledged imaginative assault. Part memoir, historical narrative, graphic novel, Say uses drawings, photographs, and prose to express his journey from young boy to master artist, and how he immigrated to America and learned to "write a the language of the people who were bombing" Japan."
Review Excerpt from Inside Out & Back Again"Stunningly, it's Lai's precise language and characterization, which creates emotional restraint and makes an unbearably sad story, readable. Tragedy becomes triumph and I want Ha to tell me her story all over again." 
Comments: This battle is precisely why I can't take a back seat anymore. I pledge, here and now, to get my hands on and read ALL of next year's contenders so that I can properly comment. All I did with this one was race to the end of the review to see who'd won (had my heart set on Inside Out & Back Again). Drawing from Memory could have been the one that deserved this win, but I won't know until I read it. And until then, I'll keep being sad that I didn't vote for Inside Out to come back Undead.
Want to know the winner? Visit the SLJ Battle blog to read the full review and feedback from the Commentor, kid reviewers and other readers! 

Purchase Now from Amazon: Drawing From Memory
Purchase Now from Amazon: Inside Out and Back Again

Judge: Chris Lynch
Review Excerpt from Life: An Exploded Diagram: "The history of modern Britain, as it pertained to the regular Joe and Joan of rural Norfolk, is delivered with precision, exquistely judged detail, and above all sly, delicious humor." 
Review Excerpt from Wonderstruck: "Reasonably enough, the pictures take more time to accumulate as narrative, but they steadily gain in power and wind up having at least as much impact as the words." 
Comments: Again, I raced to the end of the review to get a glimpse of who won. And again, it isn't fair for me to throw a tantrum about Life taking the lead just because all I had time for this year was Wonderstruck. Still, Selznick's work is so unique and so impactful - I do hope it gets a chance to come back from the dead.
Want to know the winner? Visit the SLJ Battle blog to read the full review and feedback from the Commentor, kid reviewers and other readers! 

Purchase Now from Amazon: Life: An Exploded Diagram
Purchase Now from Amazon: Wonderstruck

Round Three! 

Review Excerpt from Between Shades of Gray: " about a collective power: how filling yourself up with personal identity can be armor against everything but death, which is only the most obvious of enemies." 
Review Excerpt from Chime"... is a personal sort [of power]: showing just how much damage we can do to ourselves." 
Comments: Poor Chime. It never stood a chance in this one, did it? I wouldn't be surprised if Between Shades of Gray won this whole battle. CALLING IT RIGHT NOW! Between Shades of Gray for the WIN. (Also, I've never read Maggie Stiefvater, even though I have all of the books on my shelf. I need to get on that.)
Want to know the winner? Visit the SLJ Battle blog to read the full review and feedback from the Commentor, kid reviewers and other readers! 

Purchase Now from Amazon: Chime
Purchase Now from Amazon: Between Shades of Gray

Judge: Ron Koertge
Review Excerpt from Drawing from Memory"...a real visual experience. But, man, as far as the story goes he is really reined in. How did he eat? Did he go shopping and cook for himself? was the only friend he had another cartoonist who worked for Noro Shinpei?"
Review Excerpt from Life: An Exploded Diagram"'Clem's father works for Frankie's father, so when the two kids fall in love and meet secretly they're playing with fire. If they're discovered, Clem's father is out of a job and Clem will never see Frankie again.' I finish with this, "And that's all set against the Cuban Missile Crisis. So Clem and Frankie's world is liable to explode and so is the real world."
Comments: Man-o, was this review interesting or what? Ron Koertge writes his review as a conversation between himself and two friends at the Turf Club. How refreshing! I mean, it's no real fault of the judges that many of their reviews start exactly the same - they are given two tough to judge books to pick from based on their own opinions - but still, this was a nice change right at the end of things. I want to read this guys books

Purchase Now from Amazon: Life: An Exploded Diagram
Purchase Now from Amazon: Drawing From Memory

Additional Comments Before the End: Well, tomorrow a book comes back from the dead. While I'm hoping it'll be one of the ones I read - Wonderstruck or Inside Out & Back Again - I'm going to guess that it'll be Okay for Now. And I'm still sticking to my earlier call on the winner - Between Shades of Gray. Again - Undead tomorrow. Then the whole battle comes to a head on Monday, April 2nd.

Happy Hunger Games! er... I mean.... Let the Battle Rage On? 

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Legend of a Suicide - David Vann

Rating: 4 stars

A series of semi-autobiographical short stories that surround a hauntingly dark and horrifyingly beautiful novella make up this exploration of David Vann's father's suicide via Roy Fenn and Roy's father, Jim. The short stories themselves were good - each a different story with the same cast of characters that seemed to be more autobiographical than fiction. However, it was the novella that really, truly knocked me off my feet.

In the author's notes at the end of the book, we find out that James Vann did actually invite David to live with him for a year on a remote Alaskan island. In real life, David - an eighth grader - turns his father down, with an already dreadful foreboding about what will happen. Two weeks later, James Vann kills himself during a phone call with David's stepmother. In the novella, David explores what may have come to pass had he agreed to his father's offer, with extremely grim results. It is, in short, a story of how suicide destroys more than just its immediate victim.

From the Blogcritics Books review:

"However, we cannot forget the truth that “Sukkwan Island” eviscerated, the truth that a suicide kills more than the person whose finger pulled the trigger."
Purchase Now from Amazon:  Legend of a Suicide

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Hunger Games on the Big Screen

It's 8:30am - I completed my viewing of The Hunger Games a mere 9ish hours ago. I've got bags under my eyes from a combination of tears and lack of sleep. My head hurts something fierce. And I'm having a very difficult time sorting through whether or not I actually liked this movie.

As the fog clears (it's now 10:30am) the more I think about it, the more I think that every emotion I had while watching the movie was associated with my memories of the book, rather than anything the movie was able to evoke. Actually, the movie was a pretty big MINUS when set against a book that drew me so quickly into a new world with characters who were well defined almost at the very start.

The movie loses all of that. We miss out on Katniss' internal turmoil as she begins to allow herself to care for Peeta,  because her only objective was staying alive for her sister. We miss out on the fact that Peeta had any edge to him at all, he is reduced to Katniss' love interest and only that. We miss out on who exactly is Effie Trinket and her motivations (in fact, another blog pointed out that no one ever says her name. Is that true???). We miss out on why the people in the Capitol are so ridiculous and how Cinna's minimalism is therefore a rebellion. We miss out on Rue's resourcefulness - we hardly get to know her at all. And most importantly, as many have already pointed out, we miss out on the hunger aspect of the games. The fact that the Capitol withholds so much from the districts that daily life in itself is its own Hunger Games. And there's just so much more that was missing.

Not to mention - I'm not sure anyone who hasn't read the books would fully grasp what the whole thing was even about. Poorly, poorly done.

That being said - stylistically, the movie was pretty gorgeous. And, I must absolutely give credit to ALL of the actors. They were each EXACTLY what I had in mind for everyone in the book. I just wish they'd been given more to work with.

Read this: Everything the Hunger Games Move Left Out (Contains Spoilers)

Monday, March 26, 2012

My First Playboy!

And I didn't get it for the naked chicks! (Which I was actually surprised that there are very few nude photographs. I thought it was only a joke that people bought Playboy for the articles.) Anyway, the latest edition of Playboy hit the stands (is that what we say?) on Friday. I had Matt go out and buy it for me - I wasn't buying that garbage for myself! - because The Walking Dead's Robert Kirkman released a six-page origin story for the fan-favorite character, Michonne. Her debut in the season 2 finale left me wanting more, so I jumped at the chance of reading the short comic.

Via: The Hollywood Reporter (they have a second page)

The six pages were worth the 7 bucks for the whole magazine. You find out who Michonne's zombie friends are and how she got hold of her awesome sword. 

Friday, March 23, 2012

Battle of the Kids Books - A Spectator's Commentary, Week 2

Judge: Barbara O'Connor
Review Excerpt from The Grand Plan to Fix Everything: "So there you have it. Fascinating and unique subject. Indefinable genre. Sometimes lyrical. Sometimes campy. A Bollywood movie theme woven through ribbons of unbelievable coincidences culminating in an all-star cast of a scene worthy of the best fillum."
Review Excerpt from Drawing from Memory: "I don't feel as if I read it at all. I feel as if I experienced it...And the experience felt personal, intimate, and casual, as if Say might whip out a napkin and draw a sketch while talking, or pull out a few paintings tucked lovingly in a box from long ago."
Comments: It was amazing - the change in the tone of the review from one book to another. I knew who was going to win before I even reached the bottom. Though O'Connor gives The Grand Plan to Fix Everything a favorable review, it really does seem as though she feels rather 'meh' about it. It's incredibly apparent (to me, anyway) once you hit her review for Drawing from Memory - a book you can immediately tell she loved completely. I'm definitely looking forward to reading Drawing from Memory. 

Judge: Sarah Weeks
Review Excerpt from Heart and Soul: This book is a history not only of the Afican-American experience in our country, but of Mr. Nelson's family. Though [the] characters are not actually based on members of Mr. Nelson's family, we are told that the book was inspired by stories the author's relatives passed along to him. Aside from the masterful artwork, what sets this book apart from the traditional history books is the voice of the narrator whose folksy tone is woven throughout the text."
Review Excerpt from Inside Out & Back Again: "The choices the author makes as to which moments in this difficult journey to show, demonstrates what a truly gifted writer she is. Every word and every image is there for a reason."
Comments: When I saw that Inside Out & Back Again was going up against Kadir Nelson, I panicked. Mr. Nelson is an award-winning picture book author, and deservedly so! Still, I loved Inside Out and I desperately wanted it to win.
Want to know the winner? Visit the SLJ Battle blog to read the full review and feedback from the Commentor, kid reviewers and other readers!

Purchase Now from Amazon: Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans
Purchase Now from Amazon: Inside Out and Back Again

Judge: Lauren Myracle
Review Excerpt from A Monster Calls: "...Damn if Patrick Ness didn't surprise me in the end with how he pulled everything togheter. Huge weepy kudos for that, as the book's conclusion turned me inside-out, which - frankly- is exactly what I was hoping it would do."
Review Excerpt from Life: An Exploded Diagram: "I did not predict that Life would suck me in as hard and fast and with such slurpy ferocity as it did, especially not on the tail of Monster. and yet, it did. It blew me away in large part because of its characters (beautiful and quirky), its scope (epic), and its humor (both broad and sophisticated), but most of all because of the novel's tight, vibrant, crackling language."
Comments: Both of these sound fantastic! I'm sure this had to be a really hard pick for Lauren Myracle - it certainly sounds like it was. I've read more books than most people do in their lifetime, and so - I'm a sucker for the distinctly unique. The very well written. Both of these seem to be exactly that. So, I'm down.
Want to know the winner? Visit the SLJ Battle blog to read the full review and feedback from the Commentor, kid reviewers and other readers!

Purchase Now from Amazon: Life: An Exploded Diagram
Purchase Now from Amazon: A Monster Calls

Judge: Jeff Kinney
Review Excerpt from Okay For Now: "Fourteen-year-old Doug Swieteck's voice rings clear as a bell, and by the third page, I felt like I knew him. In some ways, Doug is your typical middle schooler. He can be sarcastic and he puts up a tough front for his peers and teachers, but it's easy to see through these defense mechanisms to the basic goodness right below the surface. It's Doug's vulnerability that makes him the most appealing."
Review Excerpt from Wonderstruck: "Wonderstruck is told in simple prose and charcoal drawings, but its emotional impact is visceral. It's not often that I'm moved by a book... that's what movies are for, after all... but Selznick has created a new medium and mastered it all at once. His book, in a word: "Wondrous.""

Comments: I just adore Jeff Kinney. Please, please go to the SLJ blog and read his full review. He writes so well... I wanted to quote the entire review. Anyway, I read and loved Wonderstruck so I was gunning for it to win. I even voted for it to come back in the Undead Round - I'm desperate for it to never go away. But Okay for Now sounds amazing as well. I'll have to add it to my ever-growing list.
Want to know the winner? Visit the SLJ Battle blog to read the full review and feedback from the Commentor, kid reviewers and other readers!

Purchase Now from Amazon: Okay for Now
Purchase Now from Amazon: Wonderstruck

Round Two! 

Judge: Marc Aaronson
Review Excerpt from Between Shades of Gray: "... a novel, based on considerable research, which adds an important and tragic true story to the shelves of literature for young readers. Its power comes from bringing to light what has too long been hidden: Stalin's use of the gulag to crush the artistic and intellectual flower of Lithuania."
Review Excerpt from Amelia Lost: "...makes use of an innovative narrative structure more conventionally employed in fiction to retell the familiar story of the adventurous life and mysterious disappearance of Amelia Earhart.
Comments: An interesting round because, as Marc notes - "We have fiction whose largest claim is nonfiction, and nonfiction whose power comes from its resemblance to fiction." Wow, it's getting harder to comment in Round Two! I've already noted that I want to read both of these books. They sound fantastic. And Marc Aaronson's review makes them seem all that much better. Even without reading, I harbored a secret desire for Between Shades of Gray. I'm going to have to buy/borrow that one and read it sooner rather than later. It sounds like the kind of book that can put all other books to shame.
Want to know the winner? Visit the SLJ Battle blog to read the full review and feedback from the Commentor, kid reviewers and other readers!

Purchase Now from Amazon: Between Shades of Gray
Purchase Now from Amazon: Amelia Lost: The Life and Disappearance of Amelia Earhart

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Book Sleuth - Delirium(s)

Both of these came out of a lunch table discussion here at work. It went from the Student Loan Forgiveness Act, to large combined incomes that really mean nothing in the face of student loan debt, to not being able to stay home and raise children because a family can no longer survive on a sole income, to the adversities women still face in this society. Hence the first novel - Delirium: How the Sexual Counterrevolution is Polarizing America, about some crazy ass ladies who voted against women's rights and are actually the reason maternity leave was decreased from 1 year to a mere 3 months. 

In searching for Nancy Cohen's Delirium, I found Lauren Oliver's. Completely different, yet somehow not. A teen dystopian romance that is set in a world where a cure for love has been found and all citizens must receive this cure when they turn 18. A common theme - denying people their natural rights - and a common name contribute to today's books I need to read sooner rather than later. 

Purchase Now from Amazon: Delirium. Lauren Oliver

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

A Countdown to Hunger Games!

I finished re-reading Hunger Games over the weekend, after I'd given it to Matt to read and then promptly, greedily, snatched it away for myself. What a great, great book. I'm sure I'm only one of millions who are anxiously awaiting this movie.

Here's a snippet from my original review:
I can't even remember the last time I devoured a book with such voracity. I finished in less than a day, choosing to spend the entirety of one evening reading instead of cleaning/cooking dinner/watching any sort of TV like I normally do after work. It was all cereal, ice cream and HUNGER GAMES. I had to force myself to go to sleep and save the last bit for the next morning. And then, it took everything in me to keep from flipping the book back to page one and starting all over again. That's how good it was. 
In other Hunger Games news - have you seen China Glaze's ad for their Colours of the Capitol campaign? It features the one and only, Effie Trinket! I'm posting it extra large so you can see her fabulous butterfly eyelashes.

Lastly, I'll leave you with my favorite someecards. It basically sums up my reaction anytime the trailer is played on TV - minus the goosebumps and the tears. I've already planned my movie viewing attire: black hoodie with the hood up to hide my puffy face + pockets full of tissues. 

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Book Sleuth - Hope: A Tragedy

Via 52 Books
"This was sometimes LOL, sometimes OMG, but mostly a combination of both. I mean, it’s an interesting question: what if you moved into a house and found out Anne Frank was alive and living in the attic and that she was totally nuts? I loved it." 
Purchase Now from Amazon: Hope: A Tragedy: A Novel

Monday, March 19, 2012

Lump - Leena Luther

Rating: 4 stars

Definitely not your typical memoir - Lump is a series of monologues that can be read or performed. Either way, Leena Luther asks that the reader embrace the performance aspect of her work. I thought, at first, that this might be hard to do. But - and maybe having seen the Vagina Monologues about 4 dozen times helped - I found myself really getting into it, reading certain passages out loud, seriously feeling the spoken emotion behind each word.

Which was refreshing. And we're talking about breast cancer, here. Leena Luther approaches cancer in a very real way - sometimes with bitterness, sometimes full of humor, sometimes with fear or with sadness - and oftentimes with all of those emotions rolled into one. I found - even though I've experienced nothing like this in my life - that I was able to connect with Leena. That connection was created by her amazing ability to express her hopes, fears, insecurities, weirdness and strength on a human level.

Visit to learn more about her and the charities she supports.

Purchase Now from Amazon: Lump: 19 Monologues from a 27-Year-Old Breast Cancer Survivor

Friday, March 16, 2012

Battle of the Kids Books - A Spectator's Commentary

Judge: Matt Phelan
Review Excerpt for Amelia Lost: "As I read the perfectly balanced alternating chapters detailing Amelia Earhart's life up to the last flight and the tense hours after she vanishes, I felt the book pulling me along, leading me on her journey and then placing me in the search." 
Review Excerpt for Anya's Ghost: "[Vera Brosgol's] drawing delivers everything you need to know, every beat, every mood. She doesn't merely draw, she acts with her brush. If that weren't enough (and in graphic novels, it actually isn't), Brosgol can write. Her dialogue is sharp and funny and is always in service of moving the story forward." 
Comments: Both of these books seem incredibly read-able to me. I wasn't so sure about Amelia Lost prior to this review though. I understand the importance of interactive books in today's reading climate - but do I, as an already avid reader that doesn't need to be tricked into it, need that? However, it seems like avoiding this book because of that would be like cutting off my nose to spite my face, or whatever that old saying is. 

Purchase Now from Amazon: Amelia Lost: The Life and Disappearance of Amelia Earhart
Purchase Now from Amazon: Anya's Ghost

Judge: Gayle Forman
Review Excerpt from Bootleg: " much of Blumenthal's lively and often-funny book is about how everyday folk skirted Prohibitions strictures and how hifalutin folk didn't have to (during the height of Prohibition, upstairs at the White House was lousy with whiskey). Rule-breaking and hypocrisy? A glossary that includes terms like blind pig? What's not to love?"
Review Excerpt from Between Shades of Gray: "...a harrowing, page-turner of a novel that shines a light on a piece of history too long shrouded in the darkness." 
Comments: I want to read both of these! I've got the adult non-fiction novel Last Call sitting in the TBR pile on my nightstand. Pairing it up with the YA Bootleg might be a great activity. And Between Shades of Gray is a no-brainer, isn't it? Go read the full review - it sounds utterly fantastic. 

Purchase Now from Amazon: Between Shades of Gray

Review Excerpt from The Cheshire Cheese Cat: "Which is what brings [Skilley] to Ye Old Cheshire Cheese, a popular London inn frequented by, among other characters, Charles Dickens (who we learn from excerpts from his diary, is having a dickens of a time writing the first lines of A Tale of Two Cities.) Skilled parodies of his writing, scenes taken right out of Dickensian London, and even names taken from characters of his novels make The Cheshire Cheese Cat even more fun to read."
Review Excerpt from Chime: "But when we meet Briony, she is suffering a fate worse than death. She's drowning in guilt and self-loathing. She thinks she caused the flood that nearly destroyed her minister father's house. She believes she set fire to her family's library. She's sure she killed her beloved step-mother. Her self-imposed sentence for all these sins? A lifetime of caring for her screaming, damaged sister while remembering, always, to hate herself."
Comments: I have to admit that I had no inclination to pick these two up before I read the review and still have no inclination afterwards, through no fault of the reviewers. Perhaps I'm doing what no one is supposed to do and judging the books by their covers. But, I'm not a Dickens fan (I know, right?) and I'm not a fan of talking animals. And, I'm getting really tired of paranormal teen romance. Nothing about it gushes - unique! I've already read the ones I like and I'm ready to get out of this genre-rut. Maybe I just need some more convincing. 

Purchase Now from Amazon: Chime

Judge: Sara Zarr
Review Excerpt from Daughter of Smoke & Bone: "It's a book for lovers of lush language and exotic locales, a velvet sofa of a book, something you sink into. Karou is a compelling heroine and the stakes for her story are high."
Review Excerpt from Dead End in Norvelt: "The book has a lot of charm, true laugh-out-loud hilarity, and is full of enough historical detail and information to keep any teacher or librarian happy. And I'm sure boy readers especially appreciate the thorough descriptions of Jack's chronic nosebleeds and his dad's cool World War II stuff, not to mention how he manages to save a deer in one of the funniest scenes in the book."
Comments: Again, I'm kind of done with the paranormal teen romance, the star-crossed passionate, eyes met across a classroom love. And again, Daughter of Smoke & Bone, from this review, really doesn't scream UNIQUE at me. But Dead End in Norvelt sounds like a book I could really get behind. I'll have to add it to the list. 

Purchase Now from Amazon: Daughter of Smoke and Bone
Purchase Now from Amazon: Dead End in

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Read Aloud Time - Famous Dead Authors Read Their Work

From the Grave!

Just kidding.

Flavorwire has a new list, comprised of famous authors and links to audio of them reading short stories or sections of their books. So far I've listened to Kurt Vonnegut, Ernest Hemingway and Truman Capote.

Beware the Ides of March!

I AM the girl who celebrates the Ides of March every year. I also celebrate May the Fourth be with you and the Fifth of November. I can't help it. I'm a nerd.

We're just having some fun.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Inside Out & Back Again - Thanhha Lai

Rating: 5 stars

Written in prose, Inside Out & Back Again is the story of 10-year-old Kim Ha, who escapes Saigon during the Vietnam War and moves with her mother and her three brothers to Alabama. Ha poignantly describes a war-time Saigon - her home, filled with family, photographs and plenty of papaya - and a peace-time Alabama, where she is bullied by her American classmates just for being Vietnamese.

I'm not typically a fan of poetry and prose, but I found myself sucked into this almost immediately. The sights, smells, tastes, and colors of Saigon are vibrantly brought to life by this innocent and matter-of-fact 10 year old. And then to juxtapose that war torn city with Alabama - a place that is relatively safe yet strange and unwelcoming... it was so incredibly beautiful.

One of my favorite passages is from the Alabama section of the novel, in which Ha is trying to ask their American sponsor, whom she refers to as "Cowboy", if he has a horse:

"To make it worse,
the cowboy explains
horses here go
neigh, neigh, neigh,
not hee, hee, hee
No they don't.
Where am I?" 
It's so simple, that passage - but speaks volumes. And that is what Thanhha Lai is able to do throughout this wonderful book.

Purchase Now from Amazon: Inside Out and Back Again

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Write Here: An Albany Writer's Conference

Last Saturday, I attended the Write Here! conference at The Arts Center. Attending these events always sparks crazy creativity. I was disappointed in myself for not bringing my laptop - all I wanted to do while I was there was write. There's just something about being around local talent that makes you want to just jump right in and start - start writing, start creating.

The sessions were great - advice from writers and teachers that was absolutely invaluable. In this post, I hope to share the knowledge I learned from the sessions I attended, as well as point you guys to several different resources and local writers.

Session 1 - Submittors & Rejectors
Panelists: Daniel Nestor, David Holub, Nancy White, Rob Arnold, Matthew Klane, Chloe Caldwell, Benjamin Harris

This session was primarily about the several different literary journals and small presses that you can submit to as an author.

  • Editors are looking for reasons to reject a piece. Let's face it, there's so much work out there. I know that, in my own work as a Reader, or even for what I do within educational publishing - if you've submitted something unpolished, or that didn't follow my directions - I won't bother to follow up with you. There are too many other writers who are willing to take the time to do it right. 
  • On that note, make sure you look at the guidelines set forth by journals, small presses, publishing houses, and/or agents. 
  • Same note - make sure you know the specialty of what you're submitting to. Even with agents - some agents focus on specific genres. One of the gentleman on the panel today runs a Literary Humor journal and he actually said that sometimes he'll receive pieces that definitely aren't humor. 
Kuglemass - A journal of literary humor
The Word Works - a small press
flim forum press - another small press
Duotrope - allows you to track submissions and search for literary journals that are within your own genre. 
Submittable - another submissions manager.
Thoughtsmith - an online literary journal

Session 2 - The Writing Life
Panelists: Amy Halloran, Elaine Handley, Robyn Ringler, David Goldschmidt, Dan Wilcox

I found I got a lot more out of this session than the first. The panelists discussed their writing routines, sources of inspiration, revision process, and their thoughts on writing groups. 

Writing Routines: The processes varied for each panelist, which was actually pretty relieving. I thought I was going to be told - wake up early and write! But, one of the panelists actually admitted to the fact that he hasn't written a word in two months, because it just hasn't been there for him. One panelist had this to say though, and I thought it was good advice: 
"Show up at the page." 
That's it. Just show up there. Make a date and show up. 

  • Look for it in anything out there in the world. Anything. Politics, nature, love. Anything. 
  • Read a lot of books, all different kinds. It's a great way to expand your mind, but also a great way to get to know your market. 
  • Life events. Be it memoir or fiction - the next action your character takes could form around something that happened in your life.
  • Read out loud. If you stumble over a line, your readers are going to as well. 
  • Leave something and then come back to it later. Allows you to actually be the reader. 
  • Write fast! Get it all out before you stop to revise.
  • Use different colored highlighters to highlight the senses. This is something I've never thought of before, but was such a cool suggestion. Assign a color to each sense and highlight as you go. If you see a lot of one color, maybe it's time to go back and insert some touch or smell to the descriptions in your work to bring it to life a bit more. 
Writing Groups: 
  • One of the panelists doesn't like writing groups. Instead, he likes to attend events because he's more interested in the people in this community. 
  • When in a writing group - look for consensus. 
  • Even when looking for consensus, remember that YOU are the author. 
  • Choose the right people who can give you positive, but also honest, feedback. 
  • Try to remain non-competitive with the group members. 
The Synonym Finder / Family Word Finder: A New Thesaurus of Synonyms and Antonyms in Dictionary Form - both are apparently better sources than your normal thesaurus.
Hudson Valley Writer's Guild - along with a lot of great resources, you can easily search for or start your own writing group (if you're in the area)
From Where You Dream: The Process of Writing Fiction - this book was referenced pretty often by all of the panelists. It's about writing from dreams and/or finding that dreamlike state when writing.

Also, a great quote from this session:
"Beware of advice, even this." John Steinbeck
Session 4 - Social Networking for Writers*
Presenter: Carolee Sherwood

An awesome quote from this presentation:
"Many of us became writers because we were silenced in some way, and the written self on the page speaks more authentically than we do as individuals." Polly Clark
  • Find someone doing something well that you'd like to emulate. 
  • Use some commonly searched words for your blog genre either withing the title or the first few lines of your post to increase searchability. 
  •  Don't violate blog manners and etiquette. 
Klout - a way to measure your own influence on social media. 
The Writers Network - for connecting with writing assignments and other writers. 
Inked-In - like LinkedIn for writers. 
Editorial Freelancer's Association - for job listings. 
Winning Writers - resources for writers and poets

There were so many local writers represented here, but these are the books that really caught my eye. I either purchased these, or will purchase them in the future. 

Lump: 19 Monologues from a 27-Year-Old Breast Cancer Survivor, by Leena Luther - I started this while I was in between sessions, and it's wonderful. I should have a review up by the end of the week.
What Time Do the Crocodiles Come Out? A Travel Memoir of Mexico, by Kathe Kokolias
How to Be Inappropriate, by Daniel Nestor - the cover for this is hilarious and it just seems so good!
The Death of Pringle, by Justin Katko - about a pringle that comes to life, I think he does some singing, before he meets his untimely end in someone's stomach. 

*Yes - I skipped Session Three because it was all to do with poetry, and I don't really like that stuff. 

Monday, March 12, 2012

Nigger - Dick Gregory

Rating: 3 stars
Shelf: 2012

Published in 1964 - a year after the church bombing in Birmingham - Dick Gregory's memoir was one about civil rights before civil rights was even fully realized. 

Broken into three parts,  Gregory begins at the beginning, his life as a 'broke, not poor kid' on relief with an absent father and a mother who works herself to her death to keep her children well. It's very clear just how much of an impact Gregory's mother had on his life - her positive attitude in the face of many adversities and her insistence that she and her children face every day with a smile certainly made Dick Gregory into the man that he was. 

From a kid on relief, to a track star, to a famous comedian - Dick Gregory dreamed big. Growing up and leaving him forced him to face his black and segregated reality. He was no longer a kid on relief - a problem that had a solution, however far away - he was a black individual - a problem that shouldn't have been. In the last part of the novel, Gregory talks about his work with the civil rights movement. He talks to his long deceased mother at the end - "We thought I was going to be a great athlete, and we were wrong, and I thought I was going to be a great entertainer, and that wasn't it, either. I'm going to be an American citizen. First class." 

Unique because it was written in the midst of change rather than after it, Nigger ("When we're through, Momma, there won't be any niggers any more."), captures the raw emotion and unbelievable inequalities that were America's past. It isn't an historical account, yet it is. "This is a revolution. It started long before I came into it, and I may die before it's over, but we'll bust this thing and cut out this cancer. America will be as strong and beautiful as it should be, for black folks and white folks. We'll all be free then, free from a system that makes a man less than a man, that teaches hate and fear and ignorance." 

I didn't know Dick Gregory, prior to picking up this book and reading it. Though, to do a quick search shows that he's still incredibly active and is often interviewed concerning political matters. He was the first black comedian to entertain an all white audience and he was known for his ability to joke, yet also speak intelligently, about politics and racial inequalities without coming off as preachy or bitter. I actually like the man a lot more watching him through the clips I was able to find, watching him speak - seeing how engaging he was. How quick witted he was. And there were moments in his book when I loved him - found him to be earnest and endearing. But there were also moments when I didn't understand and didn't agree with his actions.

For example, he writes about losing his infant son. On the night before a protest, Gregory had a premonition of death, and, since he was going into "battle" he was sure it was his own. Instead it was his son's. To shock his wife out of her grief, that very same night, he explains to her that perhaps God wanted it this way, because Dick Gregory got to go on and fight another day for equality. And if she had to choose, him or the baby, to die - who would she have chose? 

That just seemed horrible to me. And there were a few other strange, grand-stand-y type admissions from Gregory throughout the memoir. I couldn't help but wonder if the tone at these moments was there to cover up his own grief and guilt. 

In the end, I think, this is probably one of the most important books I'll have read this year. The most important book I think anyone could probably read. To be shown a glimpse of what was as if it currently is. To be reminded to behave as an American. First class. 

Friday, March 9, 2012

I Been Everywhere - Oklahoma

This month's travel brought me to Oklahoma - Tulsa and Woodward, to be exact!

Sunday: Inspired by this post - I'm a Guest Blogger - on fellow blogger Hanna's blog... well, actually. It was more like reading this post alerted me to the fact that Hanna lives in Tulsa! Where I was going to be! Hanna and I met through the interwebs when we both agreed to write for the ill-fated Pretty Little YA Books. Though the website failed, the wonderful world of blogging and facebook kept us in contact. And so I got to meet her! Sunday, after I landed, I met Hanna for dinner. She's even more awesome than I'd imagined - we talked about books and writing and Harry Potter. We mostly talked about Harry Potter.

Monday: Two schools to visit - Oklahoma State Unversity in Tulsa, except this girl drove an HOUR out of her way to Stillwater, OK only to find out I was at the wrong OSU campus. Wonderful. Drove back, had my meeting and another before meeting Hanna again for lunch. Where we... can you guess? Talked about Harry Potter some more. I may have also gotten some pretty awesome gifts.

After leaving Hanna, I drove 3.5 hours to Woodward. It was probably one of the most amazing drives I've ever taken. Oklahoma is a beautiful state. I passed through the Painted Desert. I tried to take pictures with my Blackberry as I was driving, but that thing sucks. Here they are anyway. I recommend Googling the desert.

Somehow, the clearest shot was through the rear view mirror
Tuesday: Met with some amazing instructors at High Plains Technology Center. I met the Director and lead instructor on a flight last year on the way back from an Energy Conference. They invited me to come out to Oklahoma and climb their campus wind turbine. That's not something you say no to. Who, besides wind technicians, gets to climb a wind turbine? 

On the "small" side, their turbine stands 125ft tall. I got a safety lesson and then suited up in my harness and was hooked up to 30lbs worth of safety equipment. Then the climb. It was - terrifying and incredibly hard. With each step I thought - What the heck am I doing? But I did it and it was definitely worth it. 

 View from the top of the turbine
Me, terrified at the top of the turbine
Straight down the turbine. NOT taken by me

 Wednesday: Really, that was all the fun stuff. Except for the dinner that the instructor's cooked for me. It was a great time - and I got some business done too. Wednesday morning, I woke up incredibly early to make it back to Tulsa for a 9am appointment, which only last 30 minutes. Allowed me six wonderful hours at the airport! Yaaay....

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Things Jonathan Franzen May NOT Hate

Via Flavorwire:

Franzen doesn’t just love birds — he loves the fact that it’s not cool to love birds...

Plus a few other things.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Wonderstruck - Brian Selznick

Rating: 5 stars
Shelf: 2012 

Described as, "A Novel in Pictures and Words," Wonderstruck tells the story of Ben and Rose, two children living fifty years apart, yet both secretly wishing their lives were different. Ben's story is set in 1977 and is told in words. Ben journeys from Gunflint Lake, Minnesota to New York City after his mother's death in search of the father he never knew. Rose's story is set in 1927 and is interwoven with Ben's though illustration. She runs away from her home in Hoboken in search of a mysterious actress that she follows through film and magazines. How their stories eventually intertwine will definitely surprise you.

With this book and Selznick's other novel The Invention of Hugo Cabret, I found myself wondering if I was taking anything away from the illustrated parts of the text, which contain illustrations only and no text except for that which fits in with the picture - street signs, ads, etc. The reader is left to gather what they can from the motions and expressions of the characters. It's a strange experience, to look and flip and hope you're absorbing the story the author hoped to tell. And then you turn a page - the next drawing is just a face - and you find yourself so moved there are tears in your eyes...

Brian Selznick's mixture of words and pictures certainly has an effect beyond what you would imagine. It is masterful and incredibly moving.

Purchase Now from Amazon: Wonderstruck
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