Storystorm 2019 Winners, Winners, Winners!


Can you believe it? I finally have the opportunity to announce and congratulate all the daily Storystorm winners! And I could not have done it without the assistance of Urania Smith from KidLitNation.com. So please check her out!

Now, it’s time for my favorite GIF!

No, wait. I think this is my fave…

And away we go!

Storystorm 2019 Winners

Day 1:  Cathy Breisacher
Winner: Jennifer Phillips
Winner: Elizabeth Saba

Day 3: Tammi Sauer
Winner: Nancy Kotkin
Winner: Jen Bagan

Day 5:  Mike Allegra
Winner: Nancy Rimar
Winner: Gretchen Brandenburg McLellan

Day 7: Jen Betton
Winner: Kellie Nissen

Day 9: Nancy Churnin
Winner: Marty Lapointe Malchik
Winner: Kelly Conroy

Day 11: Shutta Crum
Winner: Carlie Cornell
Winner: Aileen Stewart

Day 13: Ashley Franklin
Winner: Becky Hamilton 
Winner:Tina Cho

Day 15: Andria W. Rosenbaum
Winner: Janie Reinart

Day 17: Nina Victor Crittenden
Winner: Carole Calladine
Winner: Kim Pfennigwerth

Day 19:  Trisha Speed Shaskan and Stephen Shaskan
Winner: Kim Pfennigwerth
Winner: Marsha Elyn Wright

Day 21: Chana Stiefel 
Winner: Johnell DeWitt

Day 23: Julie Segal Walters
Winner: Supermario6 (Dayann9)

Day 25:  Alli Brydon
Winner: Katie B

Day 27: Juliet Clare Bell
Winner: Heather Stigall 

Day 29:  Diana Murray
Winner: Jen Fier Jasinksi

Day 30:  Linsay Bonilla 
Winner: Laurie Bouck
Winner: Katy Tanis

Five Winners from the Posts of Storystorm Past:
(You will receive books, glorious books, from Tundra and other publishers.)

Tanya Konerman
Janet Al Junaidi
Genevieve Petrillo
Natalie Lynn Tanner
Debra K Shumaker

Post-Storystorm: Laurie Keller
Winner: Donna Marie (Writersideup)

Congratulations! You’re all winners! (But sorry, no chicken dinners to give away.)

I will be emailing you over the next week to arrange delivery of your prizes!

And that officially concludes Storystorm 2019. I hope you’re still brainstorming ideas, though! You can always come back here to taralazar.com to read the posts and get a little extra oomph for your imagination.

See you back here for Storystorm 2020!

 



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Philip Roth’s apartment is on the market – but his privacy shouldn’t be


With all his belongings still in place, the late author’s New York home is open to the public. His former neighbour reflects on the invasiveness of literary tourism

If you want to see Philip Roth’s toothbrush, get in line. The Pulitzer prize-winning author’s $3.2m New York apartment hit the market a couple of weeks ago, less than a year after his death. The Wall Street Journal reports that his belongings are still inside: “Mr Roth’s shoes were still at his bedside, his sweaters were neatly folded in the closet and his toothbrush sat in its cup on the bathroom sink.”

Roth was my next-door neighbour. Last Sunday, I watched as prospective buyers filed in and out of the building all afternoon. While people understandably need to see a property before they buy it, Roth was a private man and my guess is he wouldn’t have wanted complete strangers checking out his belongings. What do we get from knowing the dental hygiene preferences of the author of Portnoy’s Complaint? Is it anybody’s business?

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Narnia for ever: the internet age demands a copyright rethink


Writers get welcome protection through copyright and trademark law, but the system is a mess. Francis Spufford’s fan-fiction Narnia novel brings fresh impetus to reform

Francis Spufford has written a new Narnia novel: The Stone Table, set between the events of The Magician’s Nephew and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. I’ve read it and it’s marvellous – unsurprisingly, since Spufford of one of the best writers working today. But you’ll have to take my word on that. CS Lewis’s work remains in copyright, so unless Spufford can come to some agreement with Lewis’s estate the earliest he’d be able to publish it is 2034.

I’m a writer myself, and appreciate the protection copyright law affords the small sums earned through my work. But how long after my death would it be right to maintain that protection? Back in 1998, the US Congress agreed to extend US copyright in a bill sponsored by Sonny Bono. Bono’s original proposal was that copyright should exist in perpetuity (so that his heirs going down to the crack of doom would all collect royalties from I Got You Babe). Nice for his heirs, bad news for wedding singers and buskers. But should we have to obtain permission from, and pay fees to, Shakespeare’s or Euripides’ heirs before staging performances of Hamlet or The Bacchae? In what sense have they earned that money?

Key Narnia terms have been trademarked, and since trademarks can be repeatedly renewed that might mean Narnia continues out of reach long after 2034

Related: Francis Spufford pens unauthorised Narnia novel

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Crescendo: A Watercolor Ode to the Science, Strangeness, and Splendor of Pregnancy


From sesame seed to selfhood, a lyrical serenade to the astonishing process by which we all enter the world.


Crescendo: A Watercolor Ode to the Science, Strangeness, and Splendor of Pregnancy

“Every man or woman who is sane, every man or woman who has the feeling of being a person in the world, and for whom the world means something, every happy person, is in infinite debt to a woman,” the trailblazing psychologist Donald Winnicott observed in his landmark manifesto for the mother’s contribution to society. Inseparable from the psychological role of mothering is the biological reality of motherhood — a biology almost alien in its otherworldly strangeness as a cell becomes a being, with a heart and a mind and a whole life ahead.

That glorious strangeness is what Paola Quintavalle celebrates in Crescendo (public library) — an uncommon picture-poem about the science of pregnancy, evocative of Ursula K. Le Guin’s lovely insistence that “science describes accurately from outside, poetry describes accurately from inside [and] both celebrate what they describe.”

Unfolding across lyrical watercolors by Italian artist Alessandro Sanna — who painted the wordless masterpieces Pinocchio: The Origin Story and The River — the story follows the growth of an almost-being inside a mother’s womb over the nine months of gestation. As small as a sesame seed, it soon sprouts the buds that will blossom into arms and legs, grows its first organ — the heart — and develops its first senses, smell and sound.

By the third month, the fetus gets its fur coat, known as lanugo, and the first fragments of its miniature skeleton begin to form. By month four, fingerprints are being carved onto its tiny digits.

Visual metaphors drawing on the lives of other beings — a bird, a horse, a flower, a school of fish — populate Sanna’s watercolor score of Quintavalle’s spare, poetic chronicle of becoming, their geometry cleverly mirroring the curvature of the mother’s belly that frames the story.

What strikes me is that each of us has undergone this absolutely astonishing process, with no conscious memory of it at all, and yet somehow we don’t walk around in perpetual astonishment that this is how we came to be. Perhaps we should. I am reminded of the great poet and philosopher of science Lewis Thomas’s words: “We forget that nature itself is one vast miracle transcending the reality of night and nothingness. We forget that each one of us in his personal life repeats that miracle.”

Couple Crescendo with Argentine artist, author, and singer Isol’s lovely picture-book about the mysterious and mystifying creature that emerges from birth, then revisit Amanda Palmer’s bold open letter to the BBC about the choice to become a mother as a working artist, and pioneering investigative journalist Lincoln Steffens’s playful, profound 1925 meditation on fatherhood.

Illustrations courtesy of Enchanted Lion Books


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Of Gardens and Writing, Perfection and Letting Go by Marsha Diane Arnold (plus a giveaway)


by Marsha Diane Arnold

Recently, I was sharing with students how writers rewrite and rewrite more, trying to get our books perfect for our readers. A first grader raised her hand and sweetly commented, “Everything doesn’t have to be perfect.”  What wisdom from one so young. This is exactly what Badger learned in Badger’s Perfect Garden.

As readers will discover, Badger’s garden might not have turned out as perfectly as his original vision, but it is spectacularly beautiful, thanks to serendipity, Mother Nature, and Badger’s initial work.

Badger is a perfectionist. He had planned long and worked hard for his perfect garden. He had a plan—a garden plan. But sometimes when we hold too tightly to an outcome, things take a course of their own, or in this case Mother Nature takes a course of her own.

Of course, Badger is devastated when his vision is destroyed. He does what many of us do or would like to do. He stays inside, “busying himself with this and that,” so he doesn’t have to think about his perfect garden ever again!

When Badger’s friends show him a garden surprise, Badger realizes the truth that “letting go” can be a celebration, full of jubilation. Once he lets go of the outcome of a perfect garden, he is also free to let go of worry and to enjoy “a hodgepodge of garden games, jumbly-tumbly dancing, and muffins and mulberry juice.”

Ramona Kaulitzki’s illustration of Badger as he embraces his mixed-up garden shows him caught in a swirl of flowers and vegetables. His expression is one of serene happiness. Indeed, Ramona’s art beautifully captures Badger’s feelings from beginning to end—from hopeful, studious, and excited, to dejected, to that tranquil contentment.

Writers must also learn to “let go” when a publisher purchases their story. They must surrender their story to an editor, an art director, and an artist who bring their vision to the story as well.

I sometimes use art notes in my manuscripts, but Sleeping Bear Press removes all art notes before giving a manuscript to an artist. This is part of the “letting go” and the trusting that authors need to accept. Ramona Kaulitzki understood so much of what I wanted to show. For example, I had written, “Red Squirrel helped Dormouse gather string,” with this art note: Red Squirrel and Dormouse tangle the string. With the art note gone, I prayed Ramona had a similar sense of humor to mine. She did. When the sketches arrived, I saw Red Squirrel and Dormouse tangled in string on the page and the following spread.

There are also times when the artist’s vision is slightly different from the author’s. I had written, “Weasel found twigs to make holes for the seeds,” as my original vision was for a couple of the animals to make holes. But the art only showed Weasel making holes and previously walking just one twig. When I received the art, I simply asked my editor to change the wording from “twigs” to “twig.”  Ramona’s art was perfect and it was a simple thing to let go of my illustration vision and an “s.”

I did a lot of research on seeds for this book; I wasn’t sure how much information I’d use. In case the editor wanted to name specific plants, I kept a list of possible plants for Badger’s garden and images of seeds. In all my research I learned a lot, like the names of five edible burrs. We didn’t use this research in Badger’s Perfect Garden, but who knows in what future manuscript my gathered “seeds” will ‘rearrange themselves,’ just as Badger’s did.

“They just rearranged themselves,” said Red Squirrel.

“If you hadn’t planted them over there, they wouldn’t be here.”

Thank you, Tara Lazar, for inviting me to visit your wonderful website and blog. May all your plantings produce beautiful gardens!

Thank you, Marsha, for blogging today and also giving away a copy of your new book BADGER’S PERFECT GARDEN!

To enter, please leave one comment below. A random winner will be chosen in “April showers bring May flowers.”

Good luck!


Marsha Diane Arnold’s award-winning picture books have sold over one million copies and been called, “whimsical” and “uplifting.” Described as a “born storyteller” by the media, her books have garnered such honors as Best First Book by a New Author, Smithsonian Notable, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library and state Children’s Choice awards. Recent books include Galápagos Girl, a bilingual book about a young girl growing up on the Galápagos Islands and Lost. Found., a Junior Library Guild book illustrated by Caldecott winner Matthew Cordell.

Marsha was raised on a Kansas farm, lived most of her life in Sonoma County, California, a place Luther Burbank called “the chosen spot of all this earth as far as Nature is concerned,” and now lives with her husband, near her family, in Alva, Florida. You can often find her standing in her backyard in the midst of dragonflies or purple martins swooping for insects. She can also be found at marshadianearnold.com.



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Slaughterhouse-Five blurs time – and increases the power of reality


Does Kurt Vonnegut expect us to believe his crazy story? This novel may be funny, but it’s still deadly serious

“After Trout became famous,” wrote Kurt Vonnegut in Breakfast Of Champions, “of course, one of the biggest mysteries about him was whether he was kidding or not.”

Kilgore Trout is a recurring character in Vonnegut’s books and the author of many science-fiction novels. Breakfast of Champions is the first book Vonnegut (the author of many science-fiction novels) wrote after Slaughterhouse-Five had made him famous. And the question of how seriously to take him confronts all his readers.

“Listen:

Billy Pilgrim has come unstuck in time.

“Overhead he heard the cry of what might have been a melodious owl, but it wasn’t a melodious owl. It was a flying saucer from Tralfamadore, navigating in both space and time … The saucer was one hundred feet in diameter, with portholes around its rim.”

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Astrophysicist and Author Janna Levin Reads “Berryman” by W.S. Merwin: Superb Advice on How to Stay Sane as an Artist


Tonic for living with that sacred, terrifying uncertainty with which all creative work enters the world.


Astrophysicist and Author Janna Levin Reads “Berryman” by W.S. Merwin: Superb Advice on How to Stay Sane as an Artist

To be an artist is to live suspended above the abyss between recognition and artistic value, never quite knowing whether your art will land on either bank, or straddle both, or be swallowed by the fathomless pit of obscurity. We never know how our work stirs another mind or touches another heart, how it tenons into the mortise of the world. We never know who will discover it in a year or a generation or a century and be salved by it, saved by it. “The worthiest poets have remained uncrowned till death has bleached their foreheads to the bone,” Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote, not fully knowing — or perhaps not knowing at all — that she revolutionizing the art of her time.

This is the perennial problem of the artist, for the crown bestowed or denied by the fickle tastes of a contemporary public has little bearing on how the work itself will stand the test of time as a vessel for truth and beauty, whether it will move generations or petrify into oblivion. Walt Whitman nearly perished in obscurity when his visionary Leaves of Grass was first met with scorn and indifference. Emily Dickinson, virtually unpublished in her lifetime, never lived to see her work transform a century of thought and feeling. Germaine de Staël captured this elemental pitfall of creative work in her astute observation that “true glory cannot be obtained by a relative celebrity.”

In our own culture, obsessed with celebrity and panicked for instant approval, what begins as creative work too often ends up as flotsam on the stream of ego-gratification — the countless counterfeit crowns that come in the form of retweets and likes and best-seller lists, unmoored from any real measure of artistic value and longevity. How, then, is an artist to live with that sacred, terrifying uncertainty with which all creative work enters the world, and go on making art?

That is what W.S. Merwin (September 30, 1927–March 15, 2019) explores in a stunning poem celebrating his mentor, the poet John Berryman, published in Merwin’s 2005 book Migration: New & Selected Poems (public library). At its heart is the single greatest, most difficult, most beautiful truth about creative work, enfolding a soul-salving piece of advice on how to stay sane as an artist.

John Berryman (Photograph: The Paris Review)

Berryman had co-founded Princeton’s creative writing program and was teaching there when Merwin enrolled as a freshman in 1944. The thirty-year-old professor immediately recognized an uncommon genius in the seventeen-year-old aspiring poet, who would go on to win the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award — “the real thing,” Berryman’s then-wife would later recall his sentiment. Merwin himself would remember his mentor as “absolutely ruthless” — a quality he cherished. That constructive, edifying ruthlessness, for which Merwin was forever indebted, comes alive with unsentimental tenderness in this poem commemorating his formative teacher, read here by astrophysicist, literary artist, and poetry steward Janna Levin:

BERRYMAN
by W.S. Merwin

I will tell you what he told me
in the years just after the war
as we then called
the second world war

don’t lose your arrogance yet he said
you can do that when you’re older
lose it too soon and you may
merely replace it with vanity

just one time he suggested
changing the usual order
of the same words in a line of verse
why point out a thing twice

he suggested I pray to the Muse
get down on my knees and pray
right there in the corner and he
said he meant it literally

it was in the days before the beard
and the drink but he was deep
in tides of his own through which he sailed
chin sideways and head tilted like a tacking sloop

he was far older than the dates allowed for
much older than I was he was in his thirties
he snapped down his nose with an accent
I think he had affected in England

as for publishing he advised me
to paper my wall with rejection slips
his lips and the bones of his long fingers trembled
with the vehemence of his views about poetry

he said the great presence
that permitted everything and transmuted it
in poetry was passion
passion was genius and he praised movement and invention

I had hardly begun to read
I asked how can you ever be sure
that what you write is really
any good at all and he said you can’t

you can’t you can never be sure
you die without knowing
whether anything you wrote was any good
if you have to be sure don’t write

Nearly three decades after he mentored Merwin, Berryman would encapsulate his advice to young writers:

I would recommend the cultivation of extreme indifference to both praise and blame because praise will lead you to vanity, and blame will lead you to self-pity, and both are bad for writers.

Complement with artist Ann Hamilton’s lovely notion of “making not knowing” and this collection of timeless advice from some of humanity’s greatest writers, then revisit Levin’s gorgeous readings of Ursula K. Le Guin’s hymn to time, Maya Angelou’s cosmic clarion call to humanity, Adrienne Rich’s tribute to the world’s first woman astronomer, and W.H. Auden’s elegy for unrequited love.


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Tips, links and suggestions: what are you reading this week?


Your space to discuss the books you are reading and what you think of them

Welcome to this week’s blogpost. Here’s our roundup of your comments and photos from last week.

Let’s start with the pleasures of binge-reading. Incorruptible, the latest in the Çetin Ikmen series by Barbara Nadel has given storm46 the feeling of “meeting up with old friends”:

Over the years, the series has reflected the changes in Turkey and this last one echoes the present darkness in Turkish politics. What fascinates in her books is the sense of history, going back hundreds of years, as it is reflected through the different ethnic and religious groups that make up the melting pot of Constantinople: the varying degrees of Muslim religiosity and how it manifests in the Turks, other Muslim groups such as Kurds, Jews, Armenians, Greeks, Levantine, Syrians … Nadel blends these groups seamlessly into fascinating murder mysteries, and shows different facets of the ethnicities and everyday life of modern Turkey, every page shot through with the consequences of history.

I recommend starting at the beginning so you can revel in the prospect of 20 Inspector Ikmen novels to read. Pour yourself a strong Turkish coffee, arm yourself with some honeyed baklava, and set off for the backstreets of Istanbul.

I first read the series in the early nineties, and very much enjoyed them. Recently, a friend reminded me of them, and I decided to go back and read them again. Now that I’m older and wizened, sorry, wiser, I’m still enjoying them, and I get more of the references than I did back in my twenties. When I first read them, I’d never even heard of Quaaludes, let alone have any idea of what they were, or how to pronounce the word. I originally read them out of sequence, as I had them from the library, and had to take what they had. Now, I’m reading them in sequence. I enjoyed the first one so much, I’m going straight on to the second, the imaginatively-titled More Tales of the City.

All three books were riveting, although the first was about such a strange event that it really took the cake. May’s evocation of the islands, descriptions of the landscape and the connections between all the island characters who had known each other since childhood were all really thrilling.

The first, Savage Season, was a rip-snorting thriller. Which, for a very short book, introduced Hap & Leonard and their friendship beautifully. It moved at a hell of a pace, but had humour and tension throughout – a great read. So, I’ve steamed straight into Mucho Mojo.

It’s melancholy, funny, weird, confessional. I’m even enjoying the astrology stuff. It helps the more philosophical elements of the novel. It’s setting is superbly created, right on the cusp of the frozen, snowbound Poland & Czech Republic (aka Czechia)

Of course the topic of trees, forests, their significance for the earth is immensely current and appealing and most of the characters come to life – in my opinion the best part of the book is the first section where the characters are introduced with their backgrounds. This part reminded me a bit of a condensed version of Jane Smiley’s US trilogy. As the book went on and the characters’ lives started to merge, I began to find the fantasy elements a bit much – they weakened the book, despite its many qualities and its resonance with a lot of current news reports

I read all four in about four weeks which is pretty good going for me. Although I got a bit annoyed at one point where it seemed like every male character had to declare their undying love for Lila, in general I loved it. It felt like a very real depiction of people and place and didn’t shy away from unresolved or difficult endings. So now I’ve just got that classic end-of-book sadness.

Marlon James on Desert Island Discs.

Lavinia Greenlaw on Pamela Hansford Johnson, described when she died in 1981 as “one of England’s best-known novelists” and now… well…

Amazon’s problems with books selling health misinformation.

“The emperor Galerius… was said to enliven mealtimes by feeding criminals to his pet bears as he ate.” Roman Emperors definitely had their own style.

“My mother told me not to be too nice. That was a liberating idea. I had been trying too hard to please my characters, I think.” Twenty Questions with Tessa Hadley.

Scathing reviews of classic books from the New York Times archives. (Hard to disagree about Henry James, mind you.)

Continue reading…



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Art and the Nocturnal Imagination: Painter, Poet, and Philosopher Etel Adnan on Dreaming and Creativity


“The logic of dreams is superior to the one we exercise while awake. In dreams the mind at last finds its courage: it dares what we do not dare.”


Art and the Nocturnal Imagination: Painter, Poet, and Philosopher Etel Adnan on Dreaming and Creativity

Nietzsche saw dreams as an evolutionary time machine for the human mind. Dostoyevsky discovered the meaning of life in one. Mendeleev invented his periodic table in another. Neil Gaiman dreamt his way to a philosophical parable of identity. We are born dreaming. As we go through life, dream-sleep plays plays a major role in regulating our negative emotions.

When we dream, we are our most essential and sovereign selves — our shadows the starkest, our creativity the wildest, and all of it, crucially, ours alone. We build and unravel entire worlds, answering to no one but ourselves — and even that, only hazily. Graham Greene celebrated this sovereignty when he observed in his dream diary that “it can be a comfort sometimes to know that there is a world which is purely one’s own — the experience in that world, of travel, danger, happiness, is shared with no one else.”

Illustration by Tom Seidmann-Freud from a philosophical 1922 children’s book about dreaming

We still don’t know exactly why the human animal needs to sleep, much less to dream. But we do know that the mechanism churning our nocturnal fancies is closely related to the faculty we call creativity. Dreams may be the most populist art there is and the wellspring of our most visionary masterpieces.

That is what the Lebanese-American poet, painter, and philosopher Etel Adnan (b. February 24, 1925) explores in a few meditative passages from Journey to Mount Tamalpais (public library) — the 1986 treasure that gave us Adnan on time, self, impermanence, and transcendence.

Adnan writes:

I always thought that dreaming was the honor of the human species. The logic of dreams is superior to the one we exercise while awake. In dreams the mind at last finds its courage: it dares what we do not dare. It also creates: from nightmares to fantastic calculations… and it perceives reality beyond our fuzzy interpretations. In dreams we swim and fly and we are not surprised.

[…]

Dreams spill over on our days. For some people they never stop spilling: the visionaries, the hobos, and all those who speak to themselves, aloud, in the big cities.

Illustration by Judith Clay from Thea’s Tree

Adnan considers the parallels between dreaming and creative work:

Sometimes, while painting, something wild gets unleashed. Something of the process of dreams recurs… but with a special kind of violence: a painting is like a territory. All kinds of things happen within its boundary, equal to the discoveries of the murders or the creations we have in the world outside.

We translate our dreams on paper and cloth, subduing them, most of the time, fearing that moment of truth which has energy enough to blow up the world.

Couple with Adnan on the self and the universe, then revisit Mark Strand’s stunning poem about dreams and Billy Hayes on the science of sleep and sleeplessness.


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Bringing you (ad-free) Brain Pickings takes me hundreds of hours each month. If you find any joy and stimulation here, please consider becoming a Supporting Member with a recurring monthly donation of your choosing, between a cup of tea and a good dinner.


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Brain Pickings has a free weekly newsletter. It comes out on Sundays and offers the week’s most unmissable reads. Here’s what to expect. Like? Sign up.



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