Template layout for a children’s book

This crude sketch is quite popular. A reader commented recently how the layout template helped his poetry book project.[1] The web site Moving Writers[2] posted “A Collaborative Writing Study That Will Rock Your Students’ World: Children’s Literature”[3] and linked to my rough layout template.

The origin of the drawing began at a local meet-up of illustrators and artists. The topic of children’s books came up. Several of the artists felt intimidated by the idea of creating a children’s book. As well they should. But it is not a path of labyrinthian impossibility. The big question is how to do it. At the time, I was a creative director for an international publishing company and had designed children’s books — specifically, picture books.

To encourage these artists and writers, here is a general anatomy of a children’s book:

  • 22 illustrations (five spreads)
  • 18 pages of text (51 lines to be specific) and
  • 32 pages (including title pages, front matter and back matter)
  • intro story and character on page four
  • intro dilemma on page 14
  • how to solve problem (pages 15 to 23)
  • problem solved on page 24 and
  • resolution on page 28

Several artists that night asked to take a photo of this sketch of an anatomy of a children’s book with their smart phones. Since then, several readers have expressed similar interest. So, I share this sketch again.

Like all recipes, what you do with the ingredients (i.e. text, words and pages) is up to the artist and writer. And, like any good disclaimer, results do very.

NOTES:
[1] “Anatomy of a children’s book,” coffeehousejunkie.net, December 10, 2012, accessed June 20, 2016 https://coffeehousejunkie.net/2012/12/10/anatomy-of-a-childrens-book/
[2] Moving Writers, accessed June 20, 2016 https://movingwriters.org/.
[3] Allison Marchetti, “A Collaborative Writing Study That Will Rock Your Students’ World: Children’s Literature,” movingwriters.org, May 30, 2016, accessed June 20, 2016 https://movingwriters.org/2016/05/30/a-collaborative-writing-study-that-will-rock-your-students-world-childrens-literature/.

Interview: Caleb Beissert on Beautiful translations of Federico García Lorca and Pablo Neruda

Reposting this interview. Enjoy!

Coffeehouse Junkie

Beautiful by Caleb Beissert Caleb Beissert is a poet, translator and musician. His published work appears in International Poetry Review, Tar River Poetry, Asheville Poetry Review and Beatitude: Golden Anniversary, 1959-2009.

This week, Poetry at the Altamont celebrates the release of Caleb Beissert’s first book, Beautiful, a selection of poems by Pablo Neruda and Federico García Lorca translated into English. During the last few weeks, Beautiful was well received by enthusiastic audiences at Montford Books & More and Malaprop’s Books & Cafe and is a Small Press Distribution best-seller.

The Altamont theater doors open at 7:00 P.M. for Poetry at the Altamont. Admission is $5 at the door. Beer and wine sold at the bar and lounge will remain open for drinks after the reading. Event link.

UPDATE: Caleb Beissert is the featured guest of the Coffee with the Poet Series, Thursday, February 21st at 10:30 a.m. at City Lights Bookstore. Event…

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Putting the finishing touches on a new book design

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Since the publisher posted the following on Facebook last night, I guess it is alright to unveil a new book I designed:

Jordan Rice’s debut poetry collection, CONSTELLARIUM, a finalist for the 2015 Orison Poetry Prize, is now available for pre-order at a discounted price! Order now and be among the first to receive the book when it’s released in April.

“Constellarium is a bold announcement of a new poetic voice to be reckoned with. These poems make us stare down shame and celebrate transition, celebrate the body inside. Jordan Rice does not flinch from what society would have us try to look away from, instead she carefully constructs a book in which we are forced to reckon, layer by layer, with her being. Let us be thankful that such a voice exists, that it is brilliant and shattering, and here to take us all on her journey.” –Fatimah Asghar

The process of cover design is exciting. Especially when the title of the project is constellarium.

There are so many stories behind the cover design that would be fun to share. Like, for example, how the kidlingers enjoyed the image of cetus — how cetus does not look like any image of a whale they have ever seen in a picture book. And how the eldest kidlinger is writing a report about rhinos.

And how a species of rhino has been reported extinct. And we wonder if these old drawings are accurate. And that maybe the cetus represented in the book cover art is correct. But maybe that species of ceti (is that the correct nominative plural of cetus, Latin students?) is now extinct.

Maybe these behind-the-scenes stories are more interesting to me than you.

See if you can find cetus in the cover art by pre-ordering Jordan Rice’s Constellarium!

Best books read in 2015

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When reviewing the lists of top ten books of 2015 from The New York Times,[1] The Washington Post,[2] The Week,[3] The Guardian[4] or (when the editors get lazy and ask the reader to come up with a list) The Wall Street Journal,[5] I discovered that I did not read a single book on those lists. It is not that I did not read a book this year, but it appears that I did not read what everyone else seems to be reading this year.

The stack of books read during this year include, but are not limited to, the following: Meditations on the Insatiable Soul, poems by Robert Bly; The Moviegoer and Love in the Ruins by Walker Percy; True NorthThe Farmer’s Daughter, and Julip by Jim Harrison; Wise Blood by Flannery O’Connor; Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich; The Dharma Bums and Big Sur by Jack Kerouac; Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer; Sky Above, Great Wind and One Robe, One Bowl (translations of Ryokan’s poetry); and Rabbit, Run by John Updike.

Notable, these books have at least one thing in common: they were written and published prior to the internet. That is not to say that every book I read last year pre-dates the world wide web. For example, Nick Demske’s self-titled release is a modern poetry volume. But what intrigues me by some of these books is that they could never, ever possibly be published in today’s market.

I started reading one author because a writer I met in Racine encouraged me to explore fiction. One book lead to another which opened the door to a different author which lead to another book. And that lead to a year’s worth of following authors and their books.

Currently, I have at least a dozen books I am reading now that will begin the journey for next year.

NOTES:
[1] The New York Times
[2] The Washington Post
[3] The Week
[4] The Guardian
[5] The Wall Street Journal
[6] This whole reading/book list started with: The best books I should have read before 2013.
[7] And here is the best reads of 2013.
[8] The next year is more of a commonplace book list of best reads of 2014.

Book bundles available at the book fair

 

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Who doesn’t like a deal? This weekend only at the Racine & Kenosha Authors Book Fair (Saturday, May 23, 2015, 2-5 p.m., Rhode Center for The Arts), you can purchase copies of my books for special book fair price: four books for $16. Limited quantities are available. So come early. See you there.

“We need poets… to fill in the gaps…”

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Haitian author Dimitry Elias Léger, in a recent interview, said “We need poets, music, literature to fill in the gaps between news reports,…”

With that in mind, the Racine & Kenosha Authors Book Fair is next weekend, Saturday, May 23, 2015 at Rhode Center for The Arts (514 56th St, Kenosha, WI 53140). The book fair begins at 2 p.m. and concludes at 5 p.m. So you have plenty of time to do your morning errands or yard work,  join me and fellow authors and then spend the rest of the day enjoying Kenosha’s lovely lakefront area with an armful of books by local authors.

Copies of my books will be available for sale (and I will personally sign your copies) and I am scheduled to read at the event. Look forward to meeting you at the Racine & Kenosha Authors Book Fair nest weekend!

Best reads of 2014 (or what I found in my notebook)

BestReads2014_DSCN2263When I read and write, I connect dots. Maybe you do too. Earlier this month, I noticed — and commented on — a Facebook post that linked to an article on how writing thoughts, ideas and quotes into notebooks makes one smarter. That article reminded me of how commonplace books house many notes and quotes from books read. [Link to article on commonplace books] The art of notations in commonplace books has been a practice of mine for decades. Whether it makes me smarter is yet to be evident.

Connecting some dots. Last week I came across a tweet that read:

“Ranking artists and making lists is a dead culture’s version intellectualism.”
@marcmaron

Considering this originated on twitter, I am inclined to disregard it. Yet, oddly, it resonates with me on some levels. Maybe it is because of the blogs I follow that list and present authors’s reading statistics (examples here and here).

Connecting dots. Over a year ago, sitting in front of the large windows of the Pack Library, I pondered the best of lists of 2013. My response is documented in this post. In brief, I listed my best books I read during the year — that were not printed in 2013.

Should I do a list for this year, 2014? The Seattle Times published their 2014 list. The Economist presented their austere list of best reads of 2014. Of course, the New York Times presented there top books of the year as well as a number of other publishers and blogs that try to capitalize on the posting their lists in time for holiday purchasing.  

For 2014, allow me to open up the pages of my commonplace book — a thick red daily reminder journal used for both a calendar of events and appointments and day book — and share with you some of the notes and quotes found therein. Starting in March there is an entry on the following book:

Nobel Lecture: Czeslaw Milosz by Czeslaw Milosz

Found a hardcover, bilingual edition at the public library. That edition appears to be out of print based on internet searches. (If you find a first edition, hardcover edition please let me know.) Here are a line I wrote in my commonplace book/day journal:

“Two attributes of the poet, avidity of the eye and desire to describe that which he sees.”

And this one:

“In the minds of modern illiterates, however, who know how to read and write and even teach in schools and at universities, history is present but blurred, in a state of strange confusion. Moliére becomes a contemporary of Napoleon.”

Crediting Poetry: The Nobel Lecture by Seamus Heaney

“Ahistorical, pre-sexual, in suspension between the archaic and the modern, we were as susceptible and impressionable as the drinking water that stood in a bucket in our scullery: every time a passing train made the earth shake, the surface of the water used to ripple delicately, concentrically, and in utter silence.”

This Year You Write Your Novel by Walter Mosley

“The first thing you have to know about writing is that it is something you must do every day — every morning or every evening, whatever time it is that you have.”

And…

“The process… is… a journey by boat…. If you get distracted or allow yourself to drift, you will never make it to the destination…. The journey is your narrative.”

A Region Not Home: Reflections from Exile by James Alan McPherson

From the opening paragraph, this book drew me in:

“In 1974,… I lived in San Francisco, California. My public reason for leaving the East and going there was that my wife had been admitted to the San Francisco Medical Center School of Nursing, but my private reason for going was that San Francisco would be a very good place for working and walking.”

What other reason is there to move, right? Here is another selection:

“Friendships grounded in mutual alienation and self-consciously geared to the perception of others are seldom truly tested. They lack an organic relationship to a common landscape, a common or ‘normal’ basis for the evolution of trust and mutual interest.”

More along the theme as well as reference to Ralph Ellison:

“It was Aristotle who thought the most deeply about friendship as a moral virtue. He [referring to Ralph Ellison] distinguished between friendships grounded in pleasure and utility, which friendships last as long as pleasure and usefulness last. These two grounds of friendship are common. For Aristotle, the best of all grounds for friendship was what he termed ‘perfected friendship.’ This degree of friendship obtains when one person wants for the other what is good for him simply because it is good for him. He believed that only people with comparable virtues could sustain this kind of friendship. Aristotle did not mean equality of virtue; he meant proportionate virtue. He meant that each is prepared to render to the other what the other deserved.”

Somewhere More Holy: Stories from a Bewildered Father, Stumbling Husband, Reluctant Handyman, and Prodigal Son by Tony Woodlief

There are so many selections written in my journal that I turned it into a book review and later featured it in a podcast. Listen to it here.

One for the Rose by Philip Levine

This is another jewel found in the public library. Again, it appears out of print according to online retailers and first editions seem to be rare. (Contact me if you find a first printing of this one.) Here are two excerpts of poems from this collection of poems:

“I was born in Lucerne
I faced the longest night
of my life with tight fists and closed eyes
beside a woman of independence and courage
Who sang the peasant songs of her region.”

And

“and I could sit for a moment
remembering what it was
to rise slowly to a world
that seemed at peace on the long
Sunday mornings of lonely first manhood
when I knew nothing
except there was no work that day”

Scrambled Eggs & Whiskey: Poems, 1991-1995 by Hayden Carruth

This book drew a lot of ink into my daily journal. Here are two samples I wrote during the summer:

“and I still cannot believe you wouldn’t
give me a job when I needed one so badly”

And

“Old men converse across the abyss of time
on a hot evening in elusive light—”

Okay, one more…

“Somehow his eyes get lost
in the words and the snow”

Pigafetta Is My Wife by Joe Hall

This is a book I struggled with. A lot. Eventually it won me over and — ahem — became my wife. You will have to read it to understand the allusion. Here is a couple lines to entice you:

“I need to stop imagining that
some straight lines connect us”

Finding the Islands by W. S. Merwin

At some point in autumn, I realized I had written down some many lines from this book I practically transcribed the book into my journal. One day, during the noon meal I quoted a few lines from the book. Everyone at the table went silent. Here is an excerpt that still haunts me:

“How time disappears
while we live under
the big tree”

The Name and Nature of Poetry: and Other Selected Prose by A. E. Housman

What can I say about this book? Well, read some of the things I copied into a commonplace book:

“We should beware of treating the word poetry as chemists have treated the word salt…. If we apply the word poetry to an object which does not resemble, either in form or content, anything which has heretofore been so called, not only are we maltreating and corrupting language, but we may be guilty of disrespect and blasphemy.”

And

“Man had ceased to live from the depths of his nature; he occupied himself for choice with thoughts which do not range beyond the sphere of the understanding; he lighted the candles and drew down the blind to shut out that patroness of poets, the moon.”

There are more notes and books referenced in my commonplace book/day journal that are not included. May this inspire you to connect dots, make notes and start a commonplace book of your own.

Which book best represents you this year?

Hemingway - bookIf a book could represent your year, this year, what would it be?

Every year, like Christmas, booklists appear like neatly wrapped gifts in heritage and new media outlets. They announce the top ten books published during the calendar year. You are familiar with the practice. A year ago I was employed at an international publishing house and had learned that the one of the best things to happen to a book title is to be on one of those lists.

Last year, during a particularly awful time, I was sitting at the Pack Library in downtown Asheville, North Carolina. It was a December afternoon and I was working on a book design project. And I was thinking about work and life and money and decisions that required answers — and I had just finished reading For Whom the Bell Tolls. Why haven’t I read this book sooner? I asked myself.

In a dismal mood, I wrote a blog post about the best books I should have read before 2013. Later, I thought of the books that stayed with me that year. Like friends. And wrote another blog post featuring the best books I read during during that year.

Today, I am sitting in another library hundreds and hundreds of miles from that place a year ago — both physically and metaphorically. Which books have befriended me this year? How about you? If you could sum up your year as a book, which book — or books — might it be?

Photos from last weekend’s Racine and Kenosha Authors Book Fair

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Kelsey Harris reading her poem “Pinkest Thoughts.”

 

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Dan Nielsen reading is (in)famous five-liners.

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Nick Demske reading from his celebrated book Nick Demske.

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Marcia Eanes reading from Passion’s Zest.

 

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Kelsey Hoff reading from her recently published Sad Girls Poems.

 

Banned Book Week

Something is missing. If you haven’t already noticed, Banned Book Week 2014 is celebrated September 21 to September 27.

Powell’s Books presented a catalog of banned books to purchase. CNN reported the top 10 books banned in 2013. The Huffington Post features a great infographic on banned books in America.

But one book, banned in 52 countries, is not listed in the Banned Book Week stories. Banned from Banned Book Week?