Awesome Authors #9: Tom Perrotta

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Image Credit: AZ Quotes

I love so many podcasts, which is a great problem to have. Last month, I finally listened to the NPR Fresh Air interview with Tom Perrotta, which originally aired on July 31st.

I remember reading part of Election when I was younger, and I have seen parts of the movie. But, listening to the Fresh Air interview makes me want to re-read it, and read more of his work.


Born in August 1961, Perrotta was raised in New Jersey. His family roots are Italian and Albanian. He is one of three children. He decided early on that he wanted to be a writer. He wrote several short stories for his high school literary magazine. After high school, Perrotta went to Yale University for his bachelor’s degree, and then earned his master’s from Syracuse University. He married in 1991, and lives in Massachusetts, near Boston.

Since 1988, he has published seven novels, multiple short stories, two collections of short stories, two essays, and at least one ghostwritten novel. Several of his works have been turned into screenplays for film and TV. The most recent adaptation was The Leftovers, for HBO.


Election (1998)

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Image Credit: Wikipedia

The story involves high school and presidential elections in 1992. I look forward to reading this again, and then watching the movie (1999).

Little Children (2004)

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Image Credit: Wikipedia

This book is Perrotta’s most-lauded and praised books. This is definitely on my list. Like Election, it was adapted into a film (2006).

Mrs. Fletcher (2017)

Mrs Fletcher

Image Credit: Amazon

I look forward to reading this. The Fresh Air interview about this book was spellbinding. I wonder if this one will become a film?


What about you?

Have you read any of Tom Perrotta’s work?


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

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Commentary #62: “10-Year-Old Reporter, Once Told to Go ‘Play with Dolls,’ Publishing Six-Book Series with Major Publisher”

NY Daily News

Star journalist Hilde Lysiak. Image Credit: NY Daily News

Hilde Lysiak, at age 10, has already accomplished so many things! She’s an accomplished journalist, a newspaper founder, and now a published author!

I heard about Hilde last year, but A Mighty Girl profiled her this past week, lauding her for becoming a published author!

Way to go, Hilde!


Hilde started her own newspaper, Orange Street News, in December 2014, in her town of Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania. Her dad, Matthew Lysiak, is a well-known and recognized journalist. He has reported for the New York Daily News, among others. Apparently, journalism runs in the family – Big sister, Izzy, runs a kids’ advice column in the local paper, The Daily Item.

Her dad made her a deal – He agreed to do the typing, formatting, and printing. But, the reporting, writing, and photography – That was all on her. She ran with it, and hasn’t stopped!

On April 2, 2016, she broke the story of a suspected murder in Selinsgrove, and posting the story on the Orange Street News Facebook page caused a wave of criticism. Several people were critical. Only nine at the time, people remarked that she should be playing with dolls, not reporting on murders.

She responded brilliantly in a video message: “But if you want me to stop covering news, then you get off your computer and do something about the news.”

That is awesome!!

Her response was picked up by The Washington Post and The Guardian. Since then, she’s continued reporting, and given several interviews with other media outlets, including for The Today Show, and the Columbia Journalism Review.

She doesn’t want to work for a newspaper someday – She wants own her own newspaper.


Here’s a few of the stories that have been written about Hilde and her pursuits. Enjoy!

The New York Daily News first covered Hilde and her story on September 12, 2015: Kid presses on: Girl, 8, with own newspaper dreams of being bigger than The News

On June 30, 2016, a press release from Scholastic Media announced Hilde’s book deal: Scholastic Acquires Four Books by Nine-Year-Old Reporter Hilde Lysiak

The New York Daily News covered Hilde again on August 29, 2016: Ace kid reporter Hilde Lysiak, 9, to get her story told on the small screen

Check out this profile from The New York Times, recently published on October 31, 2017: Hilde Lysiak, Reporter, Author, 10-Year-Old


Her newest endeavor is a series of children’s books, published by Scholastic. The first two have already been released, and two more are scheduled to be released in December and January.


What do you think? Do you feel inspired by Hilde, like I do?


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Awesome Authors #8: Sharon M. Draper

I first discovered Sharon M. Draper in high school. I found The Battle of Jericho at the Russell Memorial Library in Chesapeake. She introduced me to a whole new world. Through her books, I quickly gained a better understanding of African-American teenagers and their lives. Draper’s writing is incredibly realistic, and I felt connected to many of the characters. I’m adding a few of her books to my TBR, also.


Sharon M. Draper was born August 21, 1948. Born in Cleveland, Ohio, she graduated from Pepperdine University. She’s married, and has two children, a son and a daughter.

She was named the 1997 National Teacher of the Year. She has received multiple national and international awards and recognition. Draper is a five-time winner of the Coretta Scott King Award. Several of her books have been listed on the New York Times Bestseller List.


Hazelwood Trilogy

I read this trilogy, one after the other, after reading The Battle of Jericho. It was so life-like, I needed a break after finishing the series. It shows the consequences of driving drunk, to say the least.

Jericho series

I read The Battle of Jericho first, and then I had to wait until November Blues was published in my senior year of high school. I remember feeling ecstatic when Just Another Hero was announced when I was in college. Like the Hazelwood trilogy, Draper covers many real-life topics in these books, including hazing, teenage pregnancy, tragic deaths, and school shootings, to name a few.

 

Romiette and Julio (1999)

Romiette and Julio

Image Credit: sharondraper.com

I don’t actually remember reading this, so I’m adding it to my TBR.

Double Dutch (2002)

Double Dutch - Simon and Schuster

Image Credit: Simon & Schuester

Like some of the other books, I don’t remember reading this one. This is also going on the TBR!

Copper Sun (2006)

Copper Sun

Image Credit: sharondraper.com

This is one of her historical novels. I remember reading parts of it, but I don’t think I finished it. I’m putting this one on my TBR.

Fire from the Rock (2007)

Fire from the Rock - Scholastic

Image Credit: Scholastic

This is one of my favorite books from Draper. I love historical novels, and this one is written in journal / diary-style. I definitely want to re-read it soon.

Out of My Mind (2010)

Out of My Mind - Goodreads

Image Credit: Goodreads

This is another book I’m adding to my TBR. It’s told from the perspective of a girl with cerebral palsy. I have deep appreciation for writers that respectfully approach and write about individuals with challenges.


I hope Draper will continue to write and publish! I look forward to reading and re-reading her books, especially her historical novels.


What about you?

Have you read any of Sharon M. Draper’s works?


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Commentary #61: “How To De-Objectify Women in Comics: A Guide”

De-Objectify

Image Credit: Renae De Liz

My good friend Michaela Leigh shared this with me several months ago!

Here’s the link to the original article:


This was a really interesting perspective on a common problem – Women and girls are objectified way too often.

Case in point: Consider the controversial dress codes that schools across the country have implemented or attempted to implement with tank tops, shorts, leggings, homecoming dresses, and prom dresses, among other things. That’s a whole other blog post to discuss, but I wanted to make that reference.

Here’s the breakdown of the above illustration, taken directly from the article:

  1. (Left) A common expression in comics. Eyes are lidded, mouth is pouty. It’s look to promote a sense of sexiness & lessens personality.
    (Right) Personality and uniqueness first. Think of distinct facial features outside the usual. Promote thought in eyes. What’s she thinking of?
  2. (Left) Commonly taught way to draw breasts (OR fully separated/circles/sticking out). The intent is to highlight sex appeal. It’s not realistic for a hero.
    (Right) What’s REALISTIC for your hero? Athletes need major support (i.e sports bra) which have a different look. Consider not ALL heroes have DD’s.
  3. Arms are closer to supermodel size on the left. What best fits your hero? If she’s strong, she’ll likely very built. Give her muscles!
  4. Hands on left are set in a way to promote the sense of softness, it lessens her power. Be sure hands are set in a way to promote strength
  5. (Left) It’s common to see “the arch n’ twist” in comics. A female arched and twisted to show both cheeks AND both boobs.
    (Right) Twists in the body are a powerful art tool but stick to what can realistically be done, and use arches w/o intent for “boob/butt perk.”
  6. One on left feels like she’s posing. The right feels like she’s standing heroically. Make her overall pose functional vs. sexually appealing.
  7. Heels! Modern heels are generally used to amplify stance & increase visual appeal. I like them, but if I were a hero, not too realistic.  Most important is what would your character choose? It’s very difficult to hero around in stilettos. Perhaps consider low/no heels.

I don’t consider myself a good artist, especially when it comes to faces and characters. I struggle with proportions, and I’m a crazy perfectionist! I get so frustrated. So, I’m far better with landscapes!

Anyway, reading this article was eye-opening to me. I’m not trying to give comic book artists a bad rap at all – Many of them are very talented, and those who draw the famous characters typically put their own spin on the character’s original likeness.

With that said, I found myself nodding my head with most of her points. Female superheroes should be showcased for their talents and abilities, not because they are female. But, at the same time, I can see how sex appeal has been ingrained for years. I’m sure the artists (and the publishers) want / wanted to maintain a certain audience with comic books and other media, so certain standards / techniques were established in terms of female superheroes.

However, there’s also a delicate balance. Sure, you want to keep the guys interested in the comic books, but you want to appeal to the girls, too. I think objectification has been a years-long issue, and comic books and female superheroes are just one part of the complicated jumble. There’s no simple solution, unfortunately.

The author brought up some interesting points. Here’s my thoughts.

If I were a superheroine, I would want the best sports bra or support available, because I certainly wouldn’t want my boobs to get in the way of saving someone’s life, fighting a monster, or saving the Earth from a gigantic threat.

If I were a superheroine, I would want to be portrayed as someone who is strong, courageous, determined, and brave. For me, I wouldn’t want a face full of makeup while on superheroine duty. I want to look put together, but not look like a clown. I want to look strong and active – Not necessarily super buff, but enough to be convincing. A six-pack would be nice! My hair should be up and out of my face, not in the way!

If I were a superheroine, I would want to be functional in my costume / outfit. I mean, I’m trying to save people’s lives, much less the entire Earth, among other things! I don’t think I would be comfortable in something leather, skin-tight, and anything with heels! I struggle in heels in my everyday life – Give me comfortable / functional boots!

If I were a superheroine, I would want to be recognized as a female, but lauded for my accomplishments instead of my looks! Sex appeal is great for photography, romantic movies, and a few other things, but not superheroines!


I admire several superheroines.

Jessica Jones

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Image Credit: Wikipedia

I was first introduced to Jessica Jones with the Netflix series Marvel’s Jessica Jones. She’s a private investigator in Hell’s Kitchen, but she’s also a bad-ass. Plus, Krysten Ritter was an awesome casting choice.

Stargirl (Courtney Whitmore)

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Image Credit: Wikipedia

I didn’t know much about Stargirl until Tidewater Comicon in 2015. Granted, I first saw a “bombshell” figurine rendition of her, but I actually prefer her original costume. I love how her personality was based on one of the creator’s sisters, also named Courtney, who died in the TWA Flight 800 explosion in 1996. She’s young and strong!

Wonder Woman

Wonder_Woman

Image Credit: Wikipedia

I’ve always admired Wonder Woman. Now, I have a renewed interest and fascination since Gal Gadot debuted in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. She’s strong, courageous, and her outfit (at least in the most recent movies) is somewhat modest. She fights in boots, not heels!

I’m excited to see how she is portrayed in the upcoming Justice League movie, as well as the planned sequel to the box office smash Wonder Woman. Until then, I’ve greatly enjoyed researching how Lynda Carter portrayed her on TV, and others.


What about you? Do you have any favorite superheroines?

What are your thoughts on objectifying women, girls, and superheroines?


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Commentary #60: “This American Town Was Left to Die, and Suddenly Economists Care”

South Boston

South Boston Historic Downtown – South Boston, Virginia. Image Credit: Virginia Is For Lovers

Back in August, one of my friends shared this article on Facebook. Immediately intrigued, I clicked on it, curious about what context the headline gave.

Within seconds, I couldn’t believe which town they were referencing.

South Boston, Virginia, is just a few miles away from where my in-laws have their farm. It’s a beautiful town, formerly Boyd’s Ferry, first established in 1796. There are multiple places in the town that are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Here’s the link to the original article:


I’m definitely not an expert in economics, although I did take ECON 111 at Longwood and got quite an education during that semester. However, I’ve always admired small-town America, and I find myself researching different towns, counties, and rural areas, particularly in Virginia. I wrote several research papers on Appalachia between high school and college, and have always been fascinated with the tragedies and triumphs of the vast region.

South Boston is one of the towns in Halifax County. Like many small towns, there’s been what referred to as a rolling recession in the town since the 1990s. The town has about 8,000 residents, and the workforce has decreased by about 25 percent in the last two decades. This particular article discussed the effects of free trade on the U.S.

Two particular movements devastated Halifax County and its workforce: The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1994, and then when China entered the World Trade Organization (WTO). While the unemployment rate in the U.S. was trending toward historic lows, the unemployment rate in Halifax County surged. The highest rate recorded in the county was 13.9 percent.

Many towns like South Boston experience a domino effect. Once manufacturing jobs dry up or leave, other businesses, seemingly unrelated or connected, also start to fade away. The dominoes keep falling, until something happens to make them stop. In South Boston, there are shells of car dealerships, empty downtown storefronts, and other evidence.

Fortunately, in South Boston, conditions have improved. The unemployment rate has held steady around five percent, far better than nearly 14 percent. A few manufacturers call South Boston home, not textiles or tobacco, but sports cars, robotics, power, and heavy electrical equipment.

Sprawling brick buildings that were once tobacco warehouses are now apartments. Two of them are now the home of the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center, where students can become certified in a number of disciplines, thanks to schools such as Longwood University, Old Dominion University, Danville Community College, and Southside Virginia Community College.

IT certificate holders have been hired at Microsoft’s data center in a neighboring county. Other certifications include nursing and welding. The massive investment is paying off.

I’m glad that South Boston is becoming a success story. However, I think of many areas of Appalachia where coal mining jobs, among others, have been automated, and there aren’t enough jobs in the area to make up the difference.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Commentary #59: “Once Teased For Her Love Of Bugs, 8-Year-Old Co-Authors Scientific Paper”

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Sophia Spencer and Morgan Jackson co-wrote a scientific paper on Twitter, entomology and women in science, after a tweet about Sophia’s love for bugs went viral. Image Credit: Nicole Spencer

I stumbled upon this NPR piece last week, and thought it was awesome!

Here’s the link to the original article:


It’s such a shame that bullying is still so prevalent in our society. However, this story shows that something good can come out of it!

I’m in awe of Sophia Spencer. At 8-years-old, she already doing amazing things! She loves bugs, and she’s a co-author of a scientific paper. Wow!!

I felt tears in my eyes as I read this quote from her:

“‘Before … I really thought loving bugs wasn’t the best hobby,” Sophia told NPR. “But after I realized bugs are for girls I thought to myself, ‘Well, I think I should start loving bugs again, because just because people say they’re weird and gross doesn’t mean I shouldn’t like them.’ ”

How many kids — How many adults — can say that?

I’ll admit, I wasn’t a big fan of math or science as a kid. I was a bit more interested in science, mainly because of The Magic School Bus and Bill Nye The Science Guy.

Sophia’s passion will carry her far in life. She’s already changed the world of Morgan Jackson, and all the entomologists who responded to her mother’s pleas for support and encouragement!

As I was reading the article, I couldn’t help but think of two of my friends – Melissa and Brittany – who are both passionate about science, physics, STEM, etc., and how they’re changing the world in their own ways. Brittany has two adorable girls, and I love how she is teaching them about science (among other things) every single day!

Thank you, Sophia, for inspiring me! You’re gonna be a great entomologist someday!


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Awesome Authors #7: Veronica Roth

Veronica-Roth-Quotes

Image Credit: Logical Quotes

I first discovered Veronica Roth in 2011, when I heard the buzz about her debut novel, Divergent.

In my Book Review at the end of 2014, I liked Divergent, loved Insurgent, but Allegiant was disappointing, to say the least. It took me several months, from July through December, to finish the trilogy.


Veronica Roth was born on August 19, 1988. She was born in New York City, but raised in Barrington, Illinois, which is 32 miles northwest of Chicago. She has an older brother and sister. Her parents divorced around 1993, but her mother eventually remarried.

She graduated from Barrington High School. She initially studied at Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota. After one year, she transferred to Northwestern University to study creative writing. She graduated from Northwestern in 2010. She married Nelson Fitch, a photographer, in 2011.

Roth wrote Divergent while on winter break during her senior year at Northwestern.

She has received several awards. She received the Goodreads 2011 Choice Award. In 2012, she was recognized as the Best of 2012 in the category of Young Adult Fantasy & Science Fiction, as well as Best Goodreads Author.

The publishing rights for Divergent were sold before her college graduation. The film rights were sold before the novel’s printing in April 2011.

By fall 2013, Divergent and Insurgent had sold more than five million copies.


The film adaptation of Divergent was released in March 2014. The film adaptation of Insurgent was released on March 20, 2015.

Initially, the third book, Allegiant, was scheduled to be split into two films. The Divergent Series: Allegiant was released on March 18, 2016. The former Part 2, re-titled as The Divergent Series: Ascendant, was released on March 24, 2017.


The Divergent trilogy:

  • Divergent (2011)
  • Insurgent (2012)
  • Allegiant (2013)

Image Credit: en.wikipedia.org

Image Credit: en.wikipedia.org

Image Credit: en.wikipedia.org

The cover art for these books is gorgeous. It’s one of the things that attracted me to the trilogy. As I mentioned in my 2014 book review, I loved the first two books, particularly Insurgent. However, Allegiant was a huge turn-off for me. In my opinion, Roth could have made both Divergent and Insurgent a little bit longer, and wrapped up the series with those two books.

The World of Divergent: The Path to Allegiant (2013)

The World of Divergent'

Image Credit: Amazon

Roth also published a companion book / guide to the Divergent trilogy, around the time that Allegiant was published. To be honest, I haven’t read this, and I’m not sure if I ever will.

Four: A Divergent Story Collection (2014)

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Image Credit: Wikipedia

In addition to the Divergent trilogy, Roth wrote four short stories from the point of view of Tobias Eaton.

  • The Transfer
  • The Initiate
  • The Son
  • The Traitor

The stories have been sold separately, but also packaged together.

We Can Be Mended (2017)

We Can

Image Credit: Goodreads

An epilogue to Divergent, titled We Can Be Mended, was announced in December 2016. I’m willing to give it a shot, although I immensely disliked Allegiant as a whole. Maybe Roth can redeem herself with this one.

Carve The Mark (2017)

Carve The Mark

Image Credit: Goodreads

Roth’s latest young adult book, titled Carve The Mark, was published on January 17, 2017. I actually didn’t realize she had written a new book until researching her for this specific post, so I plan to add this book to my TBR. It looks like a completely new, completely different story, and I’m excited to try it out. To the library!


I’ve really enjoyed following Roth’s journey into writing, so far.

As critical as I’ve been about Allegiant and the film adaptations, I plan to add Carve The Mark and We Can Be Mended to my TBR. We shall see!


What about you?

Have you read any of Veronica Roth’s works?


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂