readergirlz is a literacy and social media project for teens, awarded the National Book Foundation's Innovations in Reading Prize. The rgz blog serves as a depot for news and YA reviews from industry professionals and teens. As volunteers return full force to their own YA writing, the organization continues to hold one initiative a year to impact teen literacy. All are welcome to "like" us on Facebook!

Friday, July 31, 2009

Art Saves: Janine aka Jeanie

Click the thumbnail to see the full-sized image.

I've always found that the act of creating art is not only a way to express oneself, but a way to maintain a certain degree of sanity.

Sometimes the only way to filter through the "white noise" of everyday life is by sitting down with a sketchbook and a pen or pencil and just doodling.

Some of my favorite drawings have started with a random squiggly line and grown from there.

It's not so much the end product, but the act of creating said picture, painting, paper lantern, sculpture, story, song, dance... or other work of art that saves us.

...Well, it does for me, at any rate.

~ Janine Sebastian
aka: Jeanie Tortoisefly

Art Saves: Lauren

One of our adorable readergirlz-in-training, Lauren:

Click the thumbnail to see the full-sized image.

More about MINX

Our July 2009 pick, The Plain Janes by Cecil Castellucci and Jim Rugg, was our first graphic novel spotlight. It also was the first book published by DC Comics on its MINX imprint. Promoted as "the first graphic novel imprint designed exclusively for teenage girls" and featuring new works by a variety of artists and writers, Minx was launched in 2007...and, sadly, canceled in 2008.

Here's a list of all of the Minx titles in order of publication:
The P.L.A.I.N. Janes by Cecil Castellucci and Jim Rugg
Re-Gifters by Mike Carey, Sonny Liew and Marc Hempel
Clubbing by Andi Watson and Josh Howard
Good as Lily by Derek Kirk Kim and Jesse Hamm
Confessions of a Blabbermouth by Mike Carey, Louise Carey, and Aaron Alexovich
Kimmie66 by Aaron Alexovich
Burnout by Rebecca Donner and Inaki Miranda
Water Baby by Ross Campbell
The New York Four by Brian Wood and Ryan Kelly
Janes in Love by Cecil Castellucci and Jim Rugg
Emiko Superstar by Mariko Tamaki and Steve Rolston
Token by Alisa Kwitney and Joƫlle Jones

I've read them all. Which ones have you read? What were your favorites?

As we wrap up July and clean up our Art Saves easels, here are a few more things to consider from other sources:

Connect With Your Teens asks: Do teenage girls read comics? (YES!)

Is art vandalism? Shepard Fairey, the artist who created the "Hope" poster of President Barack Obama, plead guilty to three vandalism charges in Boston.

Google now offers iGoogle themes from daily comic strips, manga, comic books, and graphic novels. Superman, Mutts, Peanuts, Iron Man, Beat Girl, Robot Dreams, and more - take your pick!

Thank You, Cecil Castellucci!

Here's a big merci to the awesome Cecil Castellucci for joining us at readergirlz this month! The Plain Janes is a wonder of a book, and we've loved all the art it's inspired.

Having Cecil, and illustrator Jim Rugg, here this month has been way awesome. Thank you, C and J, for spending time with readergirlz!

July: Roundup of Discussion Questions

Just in case you missed any of the discussion surrounding The Plain Janes or Janes in Love, here's the complete list. Feel free to weigh in on any topic you might have missed!

Welcome, Cecil Castellucci!
Are you a misfit?
What has changed your world?
What is your favorite kind of street art?
Rejecting the cool kids
Art or vandalism?
Friends who are different
rgz LIVE! with Cecil and Jim
Which Jane are you?
What's your passion?
How do you extend a hand?

The LIAR Cover Controversy

Author Justine Larbalestier is in the middle of a cover crisis, and I just wanted to point anyone who hasn't read about the drama with her new LIAR cover, to her blog post about it.

Basically, Justine's US publisher chose a very white-girl image for the cover, although the main character in LIAR is black. (The Australian version is a more abstract cover--see behind the controversial US cover).

The party line is that it has to do with sales and marketing, but whatever the case, it's a whitewash, and I'm so glad Justine is talking about it. That takes a brave author.

The discussion is fast and furious--page through the comments for lots of insight, and add your own thoughts. If we keep talking about this, and blogging, and spreading the word, there may be hope for a more honest paperback cover.

PS-While you're on Justine's blog, check out guest blogging Ari Miss Attitude, of Reading in Color. She rules.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

July: How do you extend a hand?

The Janes invite James into their misfit group because he is alone. How do you extend a welcome hand to people who are left out or different than you?

Art Saves: Kiba Rika

Today's Art Saves creation and guest blog comes from my creative and crafty friend Kimberly Hirsh, aka Kiba Rika:

Click the thumbnail to view the full-sized image.

Here's a picture of a hat I crocheted. I wanted to take a moment to encourage people to participate in fiber art. It saves in many ways:

- It makes a statement in the form of guerilla yarn art

- It makes people feel better when they're sick

- It makes people aware of their consumption habits

- It makes people think about the amazing environment in which we live

I think The Plain Janes would be on board, especially with the guerilla yarn art.

Check out your local craft store or do a search online for "crochet" or "knitting" to learn one of these excellent arts!

- Kimberly Hirsh

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Art Saves: Sarah Stevenson

Sarah Stevenson, aka aquafortis, created this to save us:

Click the thumbnail to view the full-sized image.

Art Saves: Tanita S. Davis

Click the thumbnail to view the full-sized image.

This maybe isn't art... Maybe it's a Craft Saves Sampler. Or something. But then, who gets to decide what's art? This is just a random sampling of some of my artsy junk. A painted pillowcase (it got a stain, so the pair got a makeover), a gourd I grew and made into a birdhouse (the gourd tried to take over the yard. And REEKED. It was definitely a learning experience...that I would do again. Further from any plants I don't want strangled), some recycled jars that became gifts, some earrings I made out of shells I scavenged, some clay Kokopellis I sculpted, then painted and framed.

I didn't include my knitting, because...it's way too far from "art." As is most of my doodling/collaging/drawing. But these are the things that save my sanity, let my hands work and my mind go free to think up...other things. Thanks for asking me to play.

- Tanita S. Davis

Rgz Street Team: Vanessa Reviews Vacations From Hell

The rgz Street Team is a group of teens who bring YA reviews to our blog, led by Postergirl Miss Erin. Find out more.

Today, Vanessa reviews Vacations From Hell by Libba Bray, Cassandra Clare, Claudia Gray, Maureen Johnson, and Sarah Mlynowski:

"Not every vacation is just a walk in the park. We find that out firsthand with these tales of terror by five exceptional authors of today. Starting out with Sarah Mlynowski's "Crusin" -- a story of two girls on a cruise that is more than anyone bargained for -- this book dives in with a captivating opening. Convinced she is ready for big things this vacation season, Kristin asks her friend Liz to help her meet the perfect guy. Upon finding him, Kristin throws caution to the waves...

Meanwhile in "I Don't Like Your Girlfriend" Claudia Gray introduces us to Cecily Harper, a
young witch heading off for her annual family vacation with her mom's coven from college. Unfortunately, Cecily has to deal with her life-long enemy who has brought a surprisingly attractive boyfriend along this year. It's up to Cecily to decide what she's willing to risk for someone else's boyfriend...

In Maureen Johnson's "The Law of Suspects," sisters Charlotte and Mary Louise head to France to meet their mother's cousins. Unfortunately the cousins are nowhere to be found, leaving Mary Louise and Charlotte to fend for themselves in a quiet house in the middle of nowhere...

And these are only three of the five stories included in this terrifically terrifying anthology. With this book in hand, being bored on vacation is no longer an option this year. Let the summer begin!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Art Saves: Holly Cupala

Click the thumbnail to view the full-sized image.

Before I could write, I made stories with pictures. There have been times in my life when words were just not enough – through joy, sadness, and love – and my art has been there to convey what speaking could not. I made this painting years ago during a difficult period and kept it to remind me that there is a window of hope even through the darkest despair. We are beings meant to create, meant to express. Art is a gift to humankind.

~ rgz diva Holly Cupala

Art Saves: Shelf Elf

Shelf Elf, one of our postergirlz, sent in these beautiful photographs:

Click the thumbnail to view the full-sized image.

Art Saves, every day, in a million different ways. Download the template, decorate it with your photographs or artwork, and post a comment below with a scan or a picture of your creation!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Diva Review: Brushing Mom's Hair, by Andrea Cheng

Sometimes a book will rest in your palm, and you know you've found a kindred spirit. That happened to me recently when Andrea Cheng's Brushing Mom's Hair crossed my path.

This special work teeters between a novel in poems and a verse novel. Each entry is titled, and the majority could stand alone as individual poems. Yet, united they tell a beautiful story about Ann, coping with her mother's recent breast cancer, mastectomy, and treatments. It is through Ann's art and dance that she finds moments of peace and control. The reader joins her as she moves through worry, embarrassment, a diminished appetite, the waiting, and finally joy.

Andrea Cheng's attention to detail brings rich life to the collection: beans, a fluorescent smiley face, warm bricks, and striped leg warmers. Each grounds the poems and makes tangible connections to the reader. Andrea bravely relays the truth of the breast cancer experience.

Nicole Wong has contributed delicate pen and ink and wash drawings and spot illustrations to every page. The line mimics the tenuous state of the characters at times and then the rising hope at other moments. There's a beautiful dance between line, text, and negative space on each spread. It is a welcome aid to the reader working through the difficult subject matter.

Personally, I feel close to this work as it seems to dance between my own novels Loose Threads and On Pointe.

Brushing Mom's Hair is accessible to tweens, teens and adults. Share it with your loved one upon its release in September. Give it to another this October for Breast Cancer Month.

Brushing Mom's Hair
by Andrea Cheng
illustrated by Nicole Wong
Wordsong, September, 2009

My website

Art Saves: Liz Gallagher

Liz Gallagher, our Seattle rgz host and author of The Opposite of Invisible, one of this month's recommended reads, sent in this picture and personal story:

Click the image above to see the full version.

I am not a visual artist. I don't even consider myself a visual person; I think more spatially than visually. During an elementary school writing lesson, I was asked to close my eyes and see a tree, then to describe the tree in words. I couldn't. While classmates raised their hands to talk about knot holes and birds' nests, I wondered why all I saw was black. When I read, I don't see scenes and characters; for me, I take in a mood more than anything else. Movies are about atmosphere. The same is true when I write.

Still, art is very important to me. I love color and texture. I'm inspired by the work of certain artists: Picasso, Matisse, van Gogh, Degas. I know the difference between Monet and Manet. I'm interested in the mind of Marcel Duchamp.

Art is a part of my life even though I'm not an artist. The most obvious way it's with me is in my tattoo.

This is a Picasso drawing. It's on my lower back (well, a version translated by a tattoo artist in Scranton, PA, is on my body). I had it done when I was twenty-two, and I'd recommend waiting at least until your twenties if you plan on getting a tattoo. For me, choosing something that had already stood the test of time—as an image I liked and as one that the world at large regards as art—was the right choice.

I plan on getting a new tattoo. Next Friday! This one won't be an image from a fine artist. It'll be a rose in deep pink, which stands for gratitude. I'm getting it with and for my mom, whose middle name is Rose. She's getting one, too.

Both tattoos will remind me of certain times in my life. Both represent visuals that I'm drawn to. And both are a way for me to make sure I don't forget to stop and see the beauty around me, and to remind myself that I am beautiful, too.

- Liz Gallagher

Art Saves: Beth Kephart

Beth Kephart sent in this photograph, along with the special story behind it:

Click the image to see the full size.

Want to help save the world with your art and your words? Know that you can. YOU CAN.

Learn more about Art Saves and The Plain Janes in this month's issue of readergirlz!

July: What's Your Passion?

Cecil says, "All the Janes have a specific passion for something: art, theater, science, sports. Do you have a passion for something? What is it?"

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Art Saves: Piper

You're never too young to create and appreciate art! Piper's proud mama sent this in:

Click the picture above to see Piper's full-sized art.

If you're a kid or a teen and you have younger siblings or baby-sitting clients, or if you're an adult and you have children or work with kids, you should download the Art Saves template, print out copies (use recycled paper or scratch paper), and encourage the kids to sketch, paste, or stamp something on their sheets. Let them have fun with this project - and feel free to post links to pictures of their completed artwork in the comments below!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Little Willow's Book Bag

This Week's Picks
The Good Girl by Kerry Cohen Hoffmann
The Treasure Map of Boys by E. Lockhart (the third Ruby Oliver book)
Girl to the Core by Stacey Goldblatt

For Your Younger Sister
Brushing Mom's Hair by Andrea Cheng, illustrated by Nicole Wong
Catmagic by Holly Webb
The Amazing Days of Abby Hayes #19: All That Glitters Isn't Gold by Anne Mazer

This Month's Spotlighted Title
The Plain Janes by Cecil Castellucci and Jim Rugg

Art Saves: Ellen

Here's a contribution sent in by Ellen:

Click the thumbnail above to see Ellen's artwork in real size.

Why and how do you think Art Saves? Download the Art Saves template from this month's issue of readergirlz and decorate it to your heart's content!

Friday, July 24, 2009

So You Think You Can Dance, Melissa and Ade

Did everyone see this? I had missed it. Thanks so much, Beth Kephart! Share it with those you love who have been touched by cancer. The piece is just beautiful.

My website

July: Which Jane character are you?

Which Jane character do you think you are most like: Theater Jane, Main Jane, Brain Jane, or Sporty Jane?

Which Jane has the most awesome shoes?

Art Saves: Lorie Ann Grover

Lorie Ann Grover created this beautiful image for Art Saves!

Click the image to see the full size.

Download the Art Saves template, decorate it, and post it in the comments below.
Learn more about Art Saves and The Plain Janes in this month's issue of readergirlz!

rgz Street Team: Miss Erin Reviews Same Difference by Siobhan Vivian

The rgz Street Team is a group of teens who bring YA reviews to our blog, led by Postergirl Miss Erin. Find out more.

Today, Miss Erin reviews Same Difference by Siobhan Vivian, which is a postergirlz recommended read this month:

"Same Difference centers around the main character Emily's adventures at a summer art camp in Philadelphia. It's a coming-of-age story in the true sense: throughout the book, Emily undergoes a complete transformation of self, the way she sees the world, and the way she sees the people and world around her.

"This book started off a little slow for me, but I'm so glad I stuck with it, because I enjoyed it a lot. Just as with the author's first book, I loved and was grateful for the focus being on the friendship vs. romance. Yeah, there was a romance, but it wasn't the sole defining experience of Emily's time at the art program.

"The best thing about Same Difference was all the wonderful themes it explored. For instance, it showed that transitional time of being a teenager; the defining moment when you realize that your world is a slate that you can experiment and draw on, and if you don't like what you are right now, you can erase and start over. But you also realize that even if you want to start completely over, there's stuff you can't simply make go away. You can change yourself, but you can't (as much as you might want to) make the people around you change. Sometimes you can't even make them realize that you've changed.

To read the rest of Miss Erin's review, click here.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Art Saves: Siobhan Vivian

Today's Art Saves contribution and guest blog comes from Siobhan Vivian, author of Same Difference, one of this month's recommended reads.

Click image above to view full size in a new window.

For my book, Same Difference, I researched a ton of artists. I knew I wanted to include some of the more famous ones by name, but I was also hoping to be inspired with ideas for how my characters could both experience and make art.

It was during that research when I first became aware of Andy Goldsworthy, who then became a huge influence on my book. There's a really cool documentary on his work called his work called RIVERS AND TIDES. If you are AT ALL interested in art, watch it. You will be captivated!

The best way I can explain Andy Goldsworthy's work is to call him a Nature Graffiti Artist. He painstakingly collects found objects and uses them to make sculptures in their natural surroundings. I'm talking rocks, flowers, twigs, leaves, icicles. Crazy.

And here's the absolute coolest thing -- many of his pieces are temporary. He gives his work back over to nature, to the environment, like a sacrifice. The flowers die, the sticks break, the leaves blow away. And then, it's over. This gives his work a real immediacy, a specialness. If you see it, great. If you miss it...too bad. It's gone. I was really amazed by that kind of artistic process. To invest the time and care it takes to create something and then to not know low long you have with it before it disappears.

It's kind of a nice way to live life. You make something beautiful and accept that it might not be appreciated, it might not last. But that's not what matters. What matters is that you keep making beautiful things.

- Siobhan Vivian

Visit Siobhan's website and journal.
Read Little Willow's interview with Siobhan.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

July: rgz LIVE! with Cecil Castellucci and Jim Rugg

Join the rgz divas, Cecil Castellucci, and Jim Rugg at 6:00 Pacific to chat about The Plain Janes and Janes in Love. Get ready to go graphic, rgz!

Chat with Cecil Castellucci and Jim Rugg TONIGHT!

Come back here to the the readergirlz blog TONIGHT, Wednesday, July 22nd at 6 PM PST/9 PM EST for a live chat with author Cecil Castellucci and illustrator Jim Rugg!

See you at the chat tonight!

Art Saves: Realm Lovejoy

This contribution and guest blog comes from Realm Lovejoy, author of the forthcoming illustrated novel Clan. She created this Art Saves piece for a very special reason - and then received some news about a loved one. The rest of this post is in her own words.

Art Saves: Realm Lovejoy thumbnail
Click here for larger view.

This Art Saves piece was inspired by the news story about Colby Curtin, whose dying wish was to see the movie UP by Pixar before she passed away. It's an example of how much artistic creations can mean to us. During hard times, sometimes we just hold onto the simple and happy things in life.

Shortly after I started this painting, I received news that my grandmother has cancer and may only have a few months left to live. It would mean a lot to me if I could dedicate this painting towards collecting what she loves most.

I am offering to send a signed print of this piece. Instead of paying me for the print plus shipping, all you have to do to get a print is to buy a ten stem bouquet or a Pinky Tree on-line and have it sent to my grandmother. (She misses gardening very much.) One can never have too many flowers!

If you are interested or have questions, just give me an email at rtlovejoy (at) yahoo (dot) com

I'll accept requests up until August 10th of this year. Thank you!

- Realm Lovejoy

Visit Realm's website and blog.

Cover Stories: Gentlemen by Michael Northrop

toetag.jpg Today's Cover Story is a really fun one from my friend Michael Northrop (his blog is hilarious--go there). Gentlemen is his debut novel and he shared this story on my blog this spring. Enjoy:

"Gentlemen is my first published novel, but it is the fourth book I've written. (The fourth book-like thing, anyway, as the first was barely 30K words, and the second was a plotless mess.) Of the four, I only had a real cover idea for one: the plotless mess. It was called Connecticut Penal League and the hypothetical cover involved a sleek, predatory looking state police cruiser and would have been the coolest thing about an awful book.

"I don't know why I don't think of covers as I'm writing. Part of it is that the books seem so complex and shifting as I'm working on them that trying to distill all that into a single image seems daunting and maybe a little counterproductive.

"I knew that I should think about the cover once Scholastic bought Gentlemen, but all I could think of were my all-time favorite covers and none of them seemed to pertain at all. watership.jpg I mean, I've always loved the cover of Watership Down, but a silhouette of a rabbit has absolutely nothing to do with a gritty mystery about a missing boy.

"So, like a rabbit, I was all ears when my editor called and said, 'We have an idea for the cover.' It seemed like a good one: three boys, representing the main characters, standing in a mock police lineup and holding up a signboard with the title of the book on it.

"My initial input on the cover wasn't a suggestion or a probing question, which makes me feel like a bit of a slacker compared to many of the Cover Stories I've read on here. It was just me agreeing, and it included an exclamation point or two, 'That sounds great! Yeah!' Something like that.

Gentlemen_Comp.jpg The process began. Models were cast and put in appropriately distressed jeans and hoodies. Everyone loved the first mockup, myself included.

"And for a long time, that was going to be the cover. Some tinkering would be done with the fonts and such, but basically, it was good to go. And then it wasn't. There'd been a meeting: People had fallen out of love with it. It was too 'pretty' for a gritty 'boy book,' too soft, not tough enough.

"I looked at it on the screen as my editor relayed this by phone. Now that she mentioned it, it did kind of look like a GAP ad. I figured we'd discuss new ideas, but she told me they already had one. And not only that, they'd already made a new mockup, something tougher, something darker.

"They weren't kidding:

Gentlemen_Revised_Cover.jpg When I clicked on the image for the first time, I literally gasped. Look what they've done to my beautiful cover! And then I thought about it. I thought about what the characters in my book would have thought of the first version and what they'd think of this new version.

"The new cover matched what I was trying to do with the text: to create a book that boys and reluctant readers could read and pass around without being embarrassed, like the Hinton and Cormier books I read at that age. I began to think about how this macabre black cover would stand out in the forest of pastel and glitter of the YA section.

"The more I thought about it, the more I liked this cover. Pretty soon, I was raving about it. I still am. The overall effect is really striking, and if you look closely, there are a lot of clever little touches, like the dull plastic color of the zipper and the fake toe tag on the back for the barcode (MW note: see top photo of Michael reading).

"Here is the final version:

"So that's my cover story. I wasn't exactly driving the process. I was in the backseat pretty much the entire time, but I love where we wound up."

I agree! I liked that first cover when I saw it, but the second cover is way more arresting. All that black? Very cool. What do you guys think?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Make Your Own Superhero!

Hey, readergirlz - in this month of JANES and heroes, try making your own superhero at the Superhero Factory!

I made a readergirlz superhero...The Impossible One-Eyed Lash, who lashes her way through awesome YA books in a single sitting!

If you make one, post a link!

Interview: Jim Rugg

Jim Rugg, the artist behind a multitude of comics, newspaper graphics, and book and magazine covers, is possibly best known in the YA book blogging community for his artwork for The Plain Janes and Janes in Love, this month's featured titles at readergirlz. I recently had the opportunity to interview Jim one-on-one.

How did you come to know Cecil, and get involved with Minx/DC Comics?

We met through our editor at DC Comics, Shelly Bond. Shelly and Cecil began working on the PLAIN Janes, and when they started looking for an artist, my work was among the samples that Shelly showed Cecil.

How long did it take to complete The Plain Janes?

I think it took me about 6 months to draw.

How did you divvy up the work? Was your contribution strictly art and hers the text, or did you share various duties?

For the most part, this is how my involvement went: Cecil wrote the script, our editor went over that with her, when they were happy with it, our editor would send it to me. I would do small drawings of each page, send those small, rough drawings (called breakdowns or thumbnails) to Cecil and Shelly. We would all talk about them, make revisions if necessary, and then I would draw the final artwork.

Sounds like a good process, where everyone was informed and involved. What does ART SAVES! mean to you? Do you consider yourself to be an activist?

I'm not an activist. However, I believe that having an outlet to work out personal problems is essential. I wouldn't say it has to be art, but throughout my life I definitely relied on comics and movies and books and drawing to help me cope with emotional difficulties.

Which of the Janes is the most like you?

I think Main Jane is the most like me. When I was in high school and college, I began questioning the values I grew up with.

Who is the least like you?

The least like me is probably Theater Jane. She's a lot more demonstrative and outgoing than I tend to be.

When did you decide to do Janes in Love? Did you and Cecil pitch a second volume, or did Minx ask you to write another one?

Shelly began talking about it while I was drawing the first one.

Do you have plans for future volumes?

Not at this time. We had begun work on volume 3 [Janes Go Summer] before the Minx line was cancelled, and we had discussed a volume 4, but that looks unlikely now.

What was your first published work?

The first graphic novel/comic book series I did was a book I co-created with Brian Maruca called Street Angel. Slave Labor Graphics published it. Through that book, I met the Minx editor that I worked with.

How have you changed as an artist since that publication?

I'm sure I have, but I'm not sure how I'd articulate those changes.

You've been tapped to create artwork for book covers, magazine covers (most recently, that of LA Weekly), newspapers, even something special for the commencement exercises of Center for Cartoon Studies. What type of commission project do you like most of all?

My enjoyment of a job usually depends on 2 things – my schedule and whether I can comfortably fit the job into it (unfortunately, jobs come up when they come up, not when it would be most convenient), and the vision of the editor/art director. If the person with whom I'm working has a clear idea of what they want, it makes my job much easier. As for subject matter, I tend to like drawing a lot of stuff from animals to sci-fi, action, romance, girls, caricatures, still life. So the subject's pretty wide-open.

Can you tell us anything about your upcoming comic in Dark Horse Presents?

It's written by Zack Whedon. It features Penny, from Dr. Horrible. And it takes place before the events of Dr. Horrible. It's featured in July's Dark Horse Presents. You can read it at the Dark Horse MySpace page.

That must have been a fun project to work on. Which classical or modern artists inspire you?

I haven't been following anyone specific for a while. Over the years I've gone through a lot of phases from Frank Miller to Jack Kirby to Dan Clowes, lately I've been reading manga a lot. I enjoy film as well, Martin Scorcese, Wes Anderson, Hitchcock . . . the usual candidates.

What are your ten all-time favorite books?

American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis
Eightball by Dan Clowes
Acme Novelty Library by Chris Ware
The Getaway by Jim Thompson
The Coffin Jones and Gravedigger detective series by Chester Himes
Deadeye Dick or Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut
Sideswipe or the Shark Infested Custard by Charles Willeford
Yummy Fur by Chester Brown
Woman in the Dunes by Kobe Abe

Jim was kind enough to share a great deal of artwork with me, including never-before-seen pages from Janes Go Summer, along with panels from The Plain Janes and Janes in Love. View the complete gallery in the July 2009 issue of readergirlz.

Visit Jim's website and LiveJournal.

Do you have your own questions for Jim? Next week, you may chat live with both Jim Rugg and Cecil Castellucci right here at the readergirlz blog TOMORROW, Wednesday, July 22nd, 2009 at 6 PM PST / 9 PM EST. The chat is open to the public and will last for about an hour.

Art Saves: Tom Sniegoski

What inspires author Tom Sniegoski? Take a peek:

Click the image above to view it full-size in a new window.

Visit Tom's website.

I (Little Willow) talk to or about Tom so much at my blog that he has his own tag there!

Learn more about Art Saves in this month's issue of readergirlz.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Art Saves: Lisa Ann Sandell

Today's Art Saves contribution and guest blog comes from Lisa Ann Sandell, author of A Map of the Known World, one of this month's recommended reads.

lisa ann sandell
Click image above to view full size in a new window.

"...[A]ll beauty in animals and plants is a quiet enduring form of love..." Rainer Maria Rilke wrote this line in a letter to a young poet (you can find the whole collection of his letters in Letters to a Young Poet), as he tried to let his correspondent, a young and aspiring writer, know that he could look to nature - plant and animal life - for inspiration and fodder. There is great beauty to be found in the world all around us. And for as long as art and artists have existed, they have tried to capture that beauty and to reflect it in their artwork. It serves as a reminder to all people that there is joy to be found in the world, that even the smallest things, from the tiniest hummingbird to the wispiest blade of grass, are important and enrich our life experience.

My father's father was a wonderful artist. He painted and took photographs, he drew and he sculpted. I feel incredibly lucky to have some of his work in my apartment now. He always took inspiration from the world that lay out of doors. A black and white photograph of a wooden fence post is so simple as to be terse. But it speaks volumes about the boundaries that we draw for ourselves, the way we carve up the earth and our lives, as well as the bleakness and the simplicity of life in the country. A sculpture of two polar bears, a mother and her baby depicts a stark iciness, but there is a warmth in the white marble figures, as a protectiveness and watchfulness of the mother is captured in the depth of her eye and the twist of her body.

When I look at these polar bears or at the photograph of the fence post, or any of his and may others' pieces of art, I remember that I should step outside and walk in the park, take time to be alone and think and treasure the great outdoors. For it was the intoxicating scent of a jasmine blossom that stirred me to write my first book, The Weight of the Sky, and the warbling song of a sparrow that brought me to my second, Song of the Sparrow. Thinking about land and animals and the spicy scents of exotic herbs took me to my most recent novel, A Map of the Known World.

Art and the world outdoors go together, and it's up to us to explore - and find joy in - both.

- Lisa Ann Sandell

Visit Lisa Ann Sandell's website and journal.
Read Little Willow's interview with Lisa Ann Sandell.

July: Friends Who Are Different

Cecil says, "The Janes don't seem like they are going to be friends at first, because they are so different. Do you have friends that are very different from you? What do you love most about them?"