Thursday, June 30, 2011

Poolside Picks

Hi all!

Becca Fitzpatrick here. I had every intention of vlogging my poolside picks today, but I'm training for a sprint triathlon and between evening swims, early-morning runs, and afternoon bike rides, it's very hard to find a time of day that I'm not sweaty and winded, wearing workout clothes, or sporting a ratty ponytail. This pretty much sums up what I look like: YIKES!

I write books for young adults, so as you might expect, I love the genre and most of what I read falls into this category. The following book recommendations are no exception. If you've never read a young adult book, consider this a challenge to broaden your horizons and try something new. If you're already a fan of teen fiction, pick up any of the books below, head to the pool (or if you're lucky--the beach!) and...ENJOY!

THE DAY BEFORE by Lisa Schroeder
A beautiful romance told in verse about living each day like it's your last. Amber and Cade have one day together, and they intend to make it the best one of their lives.

Belly has spent every summer since she can remember at the beach house, but this summer is different. She's falling hard for two boys, but how will she choose between them?

With her boyfriend off at Brain Camp for the summer, Macy learns to let go, comes to terms with her grief over her father's death, and all with the help of quirky, laid-back, and charming Wes.

MATCHED by Ally Condie
How will Cassia learn to trust her heart in a society that dictates everything from who she will who she will marry?

SUPERNATURALLY by Kiersten White
The highly anticipated sequel to PARANORMALCY comes out July 2011. Oh, bleep! (Had to say that.) What dangers will Evie face this time?

ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS by Stephanie Perkins
Anna is less than thrilled to be heading off to boarding school in Paris, but has a change of heart the moment she meets the gorgeous and unattainable √Čtienne St. Clair.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Family, Cruises and Stories

Laura Andersen here. Posting remotely since I am currently in the middle of the ocean, locked on a ship with my husband's family. Since I board this ship in a couple hours, my anxiety--sorry, I mean anticipation--precludes a generous introductory post. Rather, you get the rambling post that I hope I can figure out how to time-delay so it shows up on Monday.

Though frankly, the above paragraph is as good an introduction as any. It tells you that I'm married, that I travel, and that I am (somewhat) prone to exaggeration. I won't actually be in the middle of the ocean after all, more like hugging the Alaska coast. And locked up is rather melodramatic, since theoretically I could steal a life jacket and jump ship whenever I wish. Not that I don't love my husband's family. I do--extravagantly and gratefully. It's just that I am an oldest child with one brother who married a youngest child with six siblings. Yes, six. That's a lot. I remember being stunned to silence the first time said siblings and spouses and nieces and nephews gathered in one place. But they're such fun people--especially the nieces and nephews. Many of them are married and providing beautiful babies for the next generation and there's nothing I like more than babies to hold and buy presents for. (As long as said babies don't have to come home with me. Been there, done that. Four times.)

Speaking of which, my oldest son just turned eighteen. Eighteen!!!! Seriously, it's not possible. It was yesterday that I brought home a little blue-eyed, blonde-haired boy and now he's over six feet tall and heading to college. There is definitely some sort of paranormal influence going on in my life, because I. Am. Simply. Not. That. Old.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Stories. That was supposed to be the point of this post. Last Saturday I attended an author event featuring Heidi Durrow. She's the author of the debut novel The Girl Who Fell From the Sky, about a bi-racial girl growing up in a world of labels. It was a wonderful event, due to Durrow herself who is warm and funny and generous and, oh yes, drop dead gorgeous. This story is in some ways her own, being the daughter of a Danish mother and an African-American father. (When introduced, she was described as an 'Afro-Viking.')

What primarily struck me about her was her continual reference to stories. We are not labels, she said, but stories. We are not simply Afro-Vikings or soccer moms or disabled veterans. We are all the strands that go into those labels AND all the strands that weave a different web. We are contradictory. We are complex. We are human beings. And we are stories.

That is why I write--at least one reason. Because in the stories I write and read, I widen my experience to the complicated, breathtaking, fantastic variety of experience found in every single human being.

Especially in myself.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Dr. Seuss, Caterpiller Tanks and Writing From a Place of Wonder

I think it was Dr. Seuss who said, “Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living, it’s a way of looking at life through the wrong end of the telescope.” I love that quote, and it sounds like Dr. Seuss. So what does it mean to look at life through the wrong end of the telescope? As a writer, I think it means more than just making something big, changing its color or making it small. I’ve done that–and love it–but simply super-sizing the critter or creature will only take the story so far. I like to play with the creature's purpose. Its sense of self. Take this guy*, for example:

He looks reasonably well-armored, so if I were to super-size him I’d make him a tank. In fact, I’m hoping I’ll have a tank just like him if there’s ever a sequel to 13 Demon Days. It seems like just the vehicle for a super-subversive mission into a demon world, don’t you think? And I believe this little white grub would be pretty happy with his new role as a tank, too. Maybe that’s what Dr. Seuss meant by fantasy being a part of living. That there’s more to seeing than just sizing a thing up and slapping on a label. There’s also the need to make a leap from our limited set of experiences to that of those creatures or things which brush elbows with our lives. And in doing so, the parameters of our understanding are pushed out a bit. Which is pretty fantastic, when you think about it!

*Thanks to Homeschooling Happy Honeybee for the found pic!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Curious Interview: Ginger Churchill

Cabinet of Curiosities plans to bring you monthly fun and informative interviews. Ginger Churchill, a Cabinet contributor, is honored to be the guinea pig and do our first.

Ginger has five rambunctious children and thus the obligatory sense of adventure, humor and the tendency to lock herself in a closet from time to time on purpose. She is the author of Carmen's Sticky Scab--a ripping good picture book told with depth and sharks and also a Humpty Dumpty Magazine "Choice book" (Tanglewood 2008). Another picture book, Wild Rose's Weaving, is due out this October, also with Tanglewood. Wild Rose's story weaves together themes of creativity, the interplay of art and life, and the important gifts that are handed down through generations of women. Though Carmen and Wild Rose are artistically different, Ginger insists they are inseparable friends.

CABINET: Nature plays an important role in the picture book you have coming out later this year. If you go outside right now and look up--what do you see?

Ginger: Potential...and questions. How deep into space can you actually see out here under the blazing sun? Is a star right in front of me staring back? If I squint just right, could I see it? And how much hope does it take that cottonwood tree to send out these thousands of seeds? Will any of them grow? Potential. And questions.

CABINET: What website (apart from email or Facebook) could you not do without?

Ginger: Easy! My Writing in Depth online writers group. Friends, fun, laughs, tears, success, cyberhugs and writing. Absolutely indispensable.

CABINET: Could you explain to us the relationship between outhouses and spiders?

Ginger: Ha ha! No. I've blocked it out (although I do remember it was a monstrously huge Black Widow spider, and that it visited me more than once). If I manage to break through my psychological barrier, I'll post a link to it on my personal blog.

CABINET: Many of the characters in your stories get in trouble at school. Were you the teacher's pet or a fixture in the principal's office?

Ginger: Wow, that's tougher to answer than you might think. Both actually, but much more the pet than the fixture. In high school the principal kept calling me in to chat about personal issues--hers not mine. And then there was the time my dad gave the vice principal a ticket for running a red light (YES, Mr. Ardema, I KNOW you think it was yellow!!) I was always getting called in for something or other but not usually my behavior.

CABINET: If you could be any superhero or cartoon character, who would you be and why?

Ginger: FIRESTAR! I had the hots for Peter Parker in that afterschool Spider Friends show in the eighties. I used to try and heat up the water from my faucet like Firestar could. I swear it worked a time or two.

CABINET: Thanks, Ginger, for being a good sport and picking which of our many curious questions you wanted to answer and post yourself.

Ginger: Why you're welcome. Pleasure being here with all of you!

CABINET: No, no. OUR pleasure to be here with you, Ginger. OUR pleasure.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Review: The Last Dragon by Jane Yolen and illustrated by Rebecca Guay

I’m excited to have the honor of posting the first review on Cabinet of Curiosity. First, let me introduce myself. I’m Pat Esden. I’ve had short stories published in Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show, George Scithers Cat Tales (Wildside Press), Challenging Destiny and Mythic Circle .  I’ve completed several young adult manuscripts and am currently seeking representation. But enough about me, let’s get on to the review.

Graphic novel review: THE LAST DRAGON written by Jane Yolen and illustrated by Rebecca Guay. Published by Dark Horse Comics

Master storyteller Jane Yolen (Owl Moon, Sword of the Rightful King) and celebrated fantasy artist Rebecca Guay (Swamp Thing, Magic: The Gathering) weave a textured and lyrical tale of adventure, homelands, and heroism the hard way.

Two hundred years ago, humans drove the dragons from the islands of May. Now, the last of the dragons rises to wreak havoc anew-with only a healer's daughter and a kite-flying would-be hero standing in its way.


I requested an ARC of THE LAST DRAGON through NetGalley because of the author’s reputation and the cover illustration. I was hoping for a great dragon story with the feel of a traditional myth, but with new twists—and for illustrations which had a classic beauty.

I was not disappointed.

The story began with sepia toned art work and pages framed in a battered-brown. This combination created the appearance of an ancient book. It was so well done that, at one point, I thought if  I touched my computer screen I’d feel worn leather (much like the ancient books which are mentioned in the story). As I read on, I didn’t notice when the ancient-look gave way to a more conventional comic book form. What I did realize was that the illustrations varied from textured and beautifully detailed to more simplistic, in a rhythm which seamlessly matched the needs of the story.  Overall the illustrations were wonderful. They had an oriental flair and at the same time were reminiscent of the Golden Age of illustrations.

The written story was equally as wonderful. At first, some of the characters seemed like standard fairytale creations. But they didn’t always do what I expected or wanted them to do—which provided tension and made me read THE LAST DRAGON in one sitting.

The world building was extensive and never interfered with the story. Secondary characters and plot threads worked well and expanded the story to a point where I felt like I was experiencing an epic instead of a single graphic novel. There was humor and action, romance and adventure . . . Okay, it was just plain great. I recommend THE LAST DRAGON for anyone who loves fantasy, whether you’re a graphic novel fan or not. In fact, I’m planning on ordering copies as gifts for people who are not fantasy fans, but are art lovers. I’m quite sure they’ll love everything about it.

Publication date: September 21, 2011

If you’d like to  see examples of  Rebecca Guay’s stunning art work check out her website:

And here’ s a link to Jane Yolen’s website which has tons of information about how her stories can be used for teaching and interviews about writing for children and more:

Here’s a link to Dark Horse Comics if you’d like to check out their other comics and graphic novels :

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

All of These Things are Not Like the Other . . .

Exhibit A: corals, herbarium, clockwork automata, Scythian lamb, stuffed alligator, unicorn horn

Exhibit B: Clash of Kings; Mad, Bad, and Sad; Russian Winter; clock, 1940s photo, and an African statue

Exhibit C: contacts, Facebook, messages, games, MyNetDiary, yoga, Twitter

Exhibit D:  1: "As Josh backed up, the beetlebum stepped forward. It rattled its carapace, rubbing its wings like a lion licking his lips before he pounced on his prey."
                  2: "See the sparks like birds turning into stars--like souls flying to heaven."
                  3: "Kings are true believers--in themselves. And true believers are always dangerous."
                  4: "Don't pick it," Molly said. "If you bleed, sharks will eat you up."
                  5: "You can see who I was, or you can see who I am now. I'm not good," he said, piercing me with eyes that absorbed all light but reflected none, "but I was worse."

Challenge: Find the thread in each exhibit that ties it together.


Although I imagine there are multiple ways to tie each exhibit together, I will give you mine (since I am the one writing this post.)

Exhibit A: typical contents of an historical Kuntskammer or Wonderkammer--known more generally in English as a Cabinet of Curiosities

Exhibit B: items on my nightstand

Exhibit C: home screen of my iPhone

Exhibit D: favorite lines of the five friends, writers, and founding members of the new blog Cabinet of Curiosities

Laura Andersen, Ginger Churchill, Pat Esden, Becca Fitzpatrick, and Suzanne Warr write (have written, are writing, will write) everything from picture books to short stories to mid-grade fantasy to historical fiction to YA paranormal. Despite that variety--and like the typical exhibits of a historical Cabinet of Curiosities--we are tied together not only by friendship but by a certain sensibility that sees wonder in every aspect of the world.

To learn more about us, click on a name at the top of the blog page to read our bios. We will also be introducing ourselves in many and varied ways as we post here, but the one thing we want everyone to know is this: We love stories. Across genres and styles and forms, we value complicated characters, twisty plots, and compelling tensions and stories that make us remember that we are all human.

We're delighted to come together to share stories with all of you--but this is one story we haven't outlined to the end. It will change along the way, and we hope our readers will contribute to those changes by sharing your stories with us.

Now widen your eyes, open your mind, and welcome to our Cabinet of Curiosities.