Friday, June 12, 2015

List of Android Apps with Text-to-Speech Support

A few days ago I posted about the various Kindle devices and apps that support text-to-speech. That got me thinking it would be a good idea to put together a list of Android ereading apps that also support text-to-speech (TTS for short). Having ebooks read aloud is a handy feature to have sometimes, especially now […]

Who Needs a Publishing Slush Pile When There’s YouTube?

Image courtesy of LinkedIn

Image courtesy of LinkedIn

Once upon a time, the process of landing a book deal started with mailing sample pages of your manuscript to literary agents, hoping one of them liked your writing enough to be willing to represent you. When everything shifted to computers, that process didn’t change much (except now you email those pages). For clarification, perhaps it should be said that for most authors that process still hasn’t changed. Typically, the literary agent is the first gatekeeper you have to pass through on your way to being a published author.

In an interesting transition from the days when self-publishing was the tactic of the unloved and unaccepted, there has been a shift in self-publishing–even non-sale self-publishing, such as through reader/writer communities like Wattpad–that has made it the “slush pile” of publishing. After all, agents and publishers no longer have to sift through mountains of submissions from desperate authors if they choose not to. They can simply click the mouse and see who’s popular with readers, then strike while the fan base iron is hot. A growing number of titles have been released through traditional publishing houses after achieving widespread success through self-publishing.

Now, the publishing world is turning to YouTube stars to sift through the voices that are likely to sell. An article by Carolyn Kellogg for the LA Times outlines just how far the reach of some stars can go, and explains why publishers believe these internet sensations are a safe bet when it comes to investing in a book.

“What these YouTube stars share is an ability to connect with fans, usually teens but also older readers, who often can prove elusive to traditional publishers. The robust YA market has shown that young readers can be extraordinarily devoted, once they connect to an author. Or, publishing hopes, to a YouTube star.”

The publishing industry, often unbeknownst to authors who want to believe that a compelling story and great writing are enough, is a business; publishers can only publish books that they can sell. Having a built-in fan base of millions of YouTube or social media followers means an automatic audience of readers who are likely to purchase the book. Of course, it’s important to remember that the high-dollar sales of books like 50 Shades of Grey or anything written by a reality TV star (and “written” is used loosely here) bolster the publisher’s bottom line enough to be able to take a risk on unknown authors or books that are simply great but unheard of.

So what does that mean for self-published authors? Are they to drop everything and devote their time to trying to become YouTube sensations? Of course not. But the same thinking that makes a publisher offer a book contract to an internet comedian does speak volumes about how indie authors can work to reach new readers and build an audience that will buy their books.

Who Needs a Publishing Slush Pile When There’s YouTube? is a post from: Good e-Reader

An interview with Diane Lang & Mike Buchanan, authors of The Fat Boy Chronicles

As part of the OverDrive Summer Read program young readers at participating schools and libraries can read The Fat Boy Chronicles without waitlists or holds through July 9. Recently we spoke with the authors, Diane Lang and Mike Buchanan about their experiences writing this book.

Where did the idea for the book come from?

Diane: When Mike and I were at a book signing for another novel, a young teen approached us and asked if he could tell us his story.  At the time, Doug Hennig was a sophomore in high school, and seemed very athletic and fit, yet when he was in junior high he was very obese and bullied by his classmates, similar to Jimmy Winterpock in 'The Fat Boy Chronicles.' Mike Buchanan and I decided to tell his story to help kids who are bullied because of their weight, or because they seem different from others, and to help kids understand how much their bullied peers suffer. We hoped the book would be a starting point for conversations about bullying, and we hoped the book would create empathy in teens for others.


{51A5FFB8-2AE9-4E95-B44C-941FC0B764FF}Img400What was your experience like while writing this book?

Mike: Even though the story is fiction, there is still a lot of truth in it. Many of the scenes are borrowed from our own experiences as teachers and from our lives. When I would work on the more painful days of Jimmy's life, I would often reflect on my own school days. I would remember how it felt to left out because of being the smallest kid in class. And, regretfully, I would remember the days in which I was the bystander, the times in which I did nothing by watch the victim get bullied. Those days in particular haunt me still. But when I was writing about the entertaining part of being in school, there are many times I laughed out loud.


What do you hope readers take away from The Fat Boy Chronicles?

Mike: I hope the reader will gain a new confidence in themselves and an appreciation of how they truly can change the life of someone else. And "changing" can have two meanings. One is that through your actions, or lack thereof, you have the capacity for destroy a person's self esteem, restrict their potential as a human and sometimes even cost them their lives. On the other hand, you have within you the opportunity to be a hero for someone, to make a difference in their life that they will remember forever. And all is costs you is a few moments of sitting with them at the lunch table, a simple phrase of "how about leaving them alone?" or being a real friend when someone needs you.


What do you remember about your local library growing up?

Diane: As a child I loved browsing the library, and without the library, I would have never found such wondrous books as "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn," "Girl of the Limberlost," and "Anne of Green Gables."  Some of my other favorite books as a teen were "East of Eden," "The Pickwick Papers," and "Sister Carrie."   My all time favorite novel is "All the Kings Men" by Robert Penn Warren. 

I think parents should take their children to the library as soon they are old enough to walk.   My dad loved to read, and he was the one that took me to library before I was old enough to put sentences together. My dad turned me on to "Little Women" and "Ivanhoe," among many other well-known books.


Any Advice to young writers?

Diane: My advice to young writers is to READ, READ, and READ.  Almost through osmosis, a person who reads a lot of books learns the structure and the nuances of good writing.

Mike: No matter what it is you write about-write! Even if you just write about your day at school, each time you put your words on paper, you get closer to learning your own voice.

Sandra Dallas on her book Red Berries, White Clouds, Blue Sky

Ed. Note: What follows is an essay by author Sandra Dallas about her book Red Berries, White Clouds, Blue Sky which is part of the OverDrive Summer Read program. Students at participating school and public libraries can borrow this title through July 9th without any waitlists or holds. Learn more about the program here.


As a girl I learned western history from children’s novels.  I read the Little House books, Smiling Hill Farm (my older sister’s favorite,) and the stories of Florence Crannell Means.  They awakened my interest in the settlement of the West and its rich diversity. They led to my career as a writer of books set in the American West.

When I decided to write middle-grade books, I remembered how the writers who came before me not only told stories but taught me about my country.  I hoped to do that, too. I wanted to write books that would entertain but would teach readers about subjects I cared about.  That’s why I wrote Red Berries, White Clouds, Blue Sky.

{9A4DB1A4-CB4F-4819-99C1-4FDE3EBCD514}Img400I first learned about the World War II relocation camps shortly after I graduated from the University of Denver, when I went pheasant hunting with a friend in eastern Colorado.  He told me he’d show me something he bet I’d never heard of and took me to the site of Amache, the camp I renamed Tallgrass in Red Berries.  When I researched the camp, I found out I had a connection with it.  After the war ended, some of the Amache barracks were sold to DU, and my journalism classes were held in one.

The United States declared war against Japan in 1941, and just weeks later, President Franklin Roosevelt issued an order to round up 100,000 Japanese who were living on the West Coast and send them to camps in the interior of the U.S. The government feared they would aid the enemy.  The internees were allowed to take with them only what they could fit into suitcases.  Most sold their other possessions for less than they were worth or just walked away from them.

Many of the people sent to the camps had been born in America and were U.S. citizens.  They didn’t even speak Japanese. The order to relocate them violated their civil rights, but Americans were so afraid they were spies that they didn’t care. Only a few courageous Americans stood up for these Japanese-Americans.  One was Colorado’s governor Ralph Carr, who welcomed them to the state.  But Coloradoans didn’t agree with him, and they never again elected Carr to a public office. By the way, not a single instance of espionage was ever proven against a Japanese-American.

We don’t like to admit what they’ve done wrong, so until recently, most Americans didn’t know about the relocation camps.  The Japanese internees, too, wanted to move ahead and put that unpleasant time behind them.  But today, many former internees believe that the stories of the camps should be told so that we would never again take away the liberty of loyal Americans and American immigrant, just because of their ancestry

That was why I wrote Red Berries.  I wanted readers to know about the camps, but more than that, I hoped they would learn that the Japanese who lived in them were no different from people living outside the camp, that the children went to school and played baseball, made dolls and built snowmen.  As my main character, Tomi, says, they were loyal Americans.


Sandra Dallas is an award-winning author, dubbed as “the quintessential American voice" by Jane Smiley, in Vogue Magazine”

Announcing Picademy USA

Picademy_USA_TRANSPARENTI’m often asked when Picademy, our teacher professional development program, is coming to the United States. It’s been an incredible success within the UK and there’s clearly huge demand for it within the US. Today, we’re happy to announce a new partnership with the Computer History Museum to launch a pilot of Picademy in the United States. Located in Mountain View, California, The Computer History Museum makes an incredible partner and we’re excited to incorporate their educational content into the program.

We’re piloting Picademy USA with 4 sessions starting in early 2016. Our goal is to give 100 US-based educators free, hands-on experience with Raspberry Pi and induct them into a growing group of Raspberry Pi Certified Educators worldwide. The first Picademy in the US will take place at The Computer History Museum. Exact dates and locations for the workshops are being confirmed. To express interest in an upcoming Picademy, please complete this form. It will help us get a sense of where in the US there’s demand for professional development and you’ll be signed up to receive updates when venues and dates are confirmed.

We’re especially proud to announce this pilot in response to President Obama’s call to action to create a Nation of Makers. Since a major focus of this call to action is in the realm of STEM education, it was a natural fit for Picademy to be our commitment to supporting efforts to use computers in the classroom for tinkering, coding, and project-based learning. I’ll be with Computer History Museum’s Kate McGregor at the White House for a kick off event this morning. Keep an eye on @Raspberry_Pi for ongoing updates and check back here later in the day for photos from that event.

Click here to express interest in Picademy USA and to find out more about the program.

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