Literacy Composed: Music and Book Pairs

As February draws to a close, we are gearing up to add a few more novels to our reading lists—and beaches to our desired set of destinations—as we near spring break vacation season. While the old reliable library-like atmosphere will always be a favorite of book lovers, we have rounded up a few fresh book and music pairings to create the perfect ambiance for some of our most recent favorites.


  1. Chanel Cleeton’s Next Year in Havana will have you craving some time on Cuba’s sandy shores through her vibrant depictions of Cuba from the 1950s to today. The vintage island feel of Cleeton’s work, mixed with political tension, romance, and a mysterious family history, beg to be paired with songs like Cover for Next Year in Havana. A Young woman in a pink, 1950s-style gown sits on a blue couch. This image fades into a city scene of Havana and the Cuban coastline underneath. “Havana” by Camila Cabello, a modern piece with classic Latin flair that plays on the romantic scenes in the book and matches the modern side of the work. “Cereso Rosa” by Perez Prado pulls readers into Cuba’s 1950s atmosphere and helps crystallize the image of this beautiful island country during its golden years. “Lucky” by Jason Mraz, bridges the old and new sides of Cleeton’s enchanting piece with its nostalgic melody, island vibes, and romantic lyrics. Variety reigns supreme as we explore the evolution of Cuba and its people in Next Year in Havana.


  1. Looking for a laugh to break up those lingering winter blues? Look no furtherthan Bill Bryson’s smash hit A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Cover of A Walk in the Woods, showing a scene of the lush green forest floor and the head of a brown bear peaking up from the bottom edge of the cover.Trail. Bryson’s true and hilarious account of his completion of the Appalachian Trail (AT) will both inspire and amuse through his truthful, elegant prose and unbelievably funny stories from his time on the AT. For this work, we suggest songs like “Brother” by Lord Huron, “The Wanderer” by Dion, and “Follow the Sun” by Xavier Rudd to enhance the feelings of awe and comedy produced by Bryson’s writing. Get ready to catch some wanderlust after experiencing this pairing!


  1. For a completely engrossing mystery thriller, be sure to pick up The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton. As Aiden Bishop scrambles to solve the murder of The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle book cover, black with geometric designs and red diamonds decorating the corners, the diamonds contain black illustrations of a chess piece, a gun, a compass, and a bottle of poison.Evelyn Hardcastle, he has more to contend with than a complex plot. Stuck in a time loop, Aiden must race the clock to inhabit the bodies of eight witnesses and figure out who killed Evelyn in precisely eight days, or be trapped in the loop. Intense, fast-paced, and wild to the finish, Turton’s debut novel has us on the edge of our seats as we wait for his next work. To enhance the mystery and intrigue of his current accomplishment, we suggest the classical titles “Dream Within a Dream” and “Rise” by Hans Zimmer and “In Control” by Anne Dudley.


  1. Run away and join the circus from the comfort of your own home with Sara Gruen’s beautiful Water for Elephants. Set during the Great Depression, Jacob Jankowski goes MIA from the Cornell Veterinary School after learning of his parent’s deaths in a devastating car accident, leaving him with nothing but Water for Elephants book cover, shows an image of a ringmaster in a sparkling red coat walking through a canvas tent flap.crippling debt. As he spontaneously lands in the train car of a traveling circus in need of a vet, he struggles to make sense of his life and what he has left. Jacob’s adventures with the circus unfold in a compelling story of danger, forbidden love, and second chances that can be paired excellently with songs like Iron and Wine’s “The Trapeze Swinger,” Lana Del Ray’s “Young and Beautiful,” and Riley Pierce’s “Brave,” which all contribute to the engrossing and atmospheric qualities of Gruen’s piece.


  1. Last but certainly not least, we have Madhuri Vijay’s novel The Far Field, a compelling tale about a privileged young woman from Bangalore coming to The Far Field book cover, showing an off-white background with a close up of three orange illustrated flowers dominating the center of the cover.terms over her mother’s death while adjusting to life in the politically charged region of Kashmir. To enhance the tones of adventure and intrigue found throughout Vijay’s piece, we suggest the songs “The Stranger” by Lord Huron, “Heirloom” by SIAS, and “Long Nights” by Eddie Vadder. Raw, intense, and full of melodies that inspire travel to faraway lands, these songs are sure to awaken the inner adventurer in every reader as they journey through the complexities of gender, culture, and Indian politics in Vijay’s beautifully complex work.

How to Handle A Rejected Submission

As a writer, receiving a rejection is inevitable, but there is always a chance the text you have been working on still has opportunity at different publishing houses. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell and The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein were both rejected upon first review, and these two are not the only famous books thwarted by publishers. Sometimes you must submit to multiple publishing houses before someone can see the merit of your work, and that’s okay. We’ve compiled a list of helpful tactics to utilize your rejection to craft a stronger manuscript.

1) Don’t be Disheartened by Rejection

Rejection is always difficult to cope with, but the vast majority of books aren’t accepted in just one submission. As mentioned above, we are all fond of some books which faced rejection multiple times before being picked up by a publishing house. These books had authors behind them who believed in the importance of their works and so should you.

2) Don’t Stop Submitting

All publishing houses aren’t looking for the same types of works or even have the same types of people working for them. There are a vast number of publishers who specialize in different works, and you should explore all your options. Try to find publishing houses whose previous published books are similar to the book your submitting. Are you trying to publish a science fiction novel? Look for a publisher who specializes in everything science fiction. Rejection from one publisher, or even multiple publishers, isn’t a death sentence for your work. Keep submitting!

3) Listen to Feedback from Publishers

Publishers will occasionally tell you what they see as critical errors, and this can be a good opportunity to improve your manuscript. You shouldn’t expect feedback from the editors (they often don’t). If they do address problems within your manuscript, they will generally address global issues. Global issues can range from plot coherence to the constant misspelling of a word throughout your manuscript. Take it as an opportunity to improve your manuscript for other publishers, and don’t be afraid of submitting a revised manuscript to the same publishing house.

4) Objectively Edit Your Manuscript

As a writer, it can be difficult to look objectively at your work, but this is necessary to become a great writer. Try asking yourself why your manuscript was rejected. Is the writing appropriate for the intended audience? Are your characters believable? Did you follow the submission guidelines? Are you considering assumptions about shared knowledge? Look for plot holes and inconsistent formatting. These are all things to consider when receiving a rejected manuscript.

5) Don’t be Afraid to Ask for Help

A misconception about writing is that it’s a one-person job. But typically the best, most enjoyable works are produced when multiple people contribute to the production of a work. That’s not to say you need to rewrite with a co-author, but having a third-party proofread and suggest ideas can vastly enhance your manuscript’s readability. Because writers can become overly attached to their manuscript, a third-party allows for an unbiased opinion which can help find critical flaws within a work. Just be sure to find someone who is not attached to your work already.

It’s crucial to understand that rejection is a normal part of the writing process. Every writer has confronted rejection countless times. Embracing rejection is difficult, but can be one of the most helpful tools for a writer if utilized correctly. Often times, writers will submit their manuscript for years before a publishing house accepts it. But in the end, some of the most prolific, award-winning books are rejected dozens of times before being published. If you ever feel down about your rejection, take a look at this list of some of the most rejected books of all time and remember that you’re in good company.

Professionals in Motion: A Review of “Children’s Book Publishing from Start to Finish”

March 1 and 2 saw the annual Dahlonega Literary Festival grace our favorite mountain town with a fantastic selection of books, authors, panels, and workshops. This occasion marked the festival’s 16th year in Dahlonega and featured authors like Rebecca Wells, author of Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, Nayomi Munaweera, award-winning author of Island of a Thousand Mirrors and What Lies Between Us, and UNG’s very own Dr. Bonita Jacobs, author of the University’s first children’s book, UNG The Gold I See! Workshops and panels covered everything from memoir writing, poetry, screen writing, writing promotion, and specialized genre discussions. The literary festival’s strong turnout was bolstered by members of the local community as well as out-of-town visitors, cementing the vibrancy and importance of such events in the region.

The UNG Press was honored to host a panel featuring the University’s president, Dr. Bonita Jacobs, and her most recent publication, UNG The Gold I See! Dr. Robinson, director of the Press, began “Children’s Book Publishing from Start to Finish” by introducing Dr. Jacobs and welcoming everyone to the panel before handing the floor over to the featured author. To start, Dr. Jacobs explained the University’s focus on creating scholarships for students, and how she hoped to continue creating such opportunities by directing all profits of her book to the school’s scholarship foundation. This work is very personal for the University’s president, who wanted to convey her love for UNG in a way that would strike a cord with both alumni and their children. Her sister, J’Nelle Short, illustrated the book with beautiful watercolor scenes of the Dahlonega campus, giving the work an added layer of special meaning for Dr. Jacobs.

After discussing the background of UNG The Gold I See! and answering a few questions, Assistant Managing Editor Jillian Murphy discussed the target ages for different forms of children’s books, from picture books to easy readers and chapter books, and the various plot and structural requirements for each. Next, Dr. Robinson spoke about the need for the Press to meet industry standards to ensure successful publication and marketability for Dr. Jacob’s book, focusing on book size and target audiences specifically. Managing Editor Corey Parson finished out the talk by explaining the storyboard process and the importance of designing a book’s layout with the specific audience in mind to enhance readability. They also discussed the process of finding the right illustrator for the book.

Audience members were attentive and interactive throughout the discussion, asking questions relating to marketing, the number of universities writing children’s books, writing for multiple genres, illustrator limitations, and the author’s influence over design. Currently, the University of North Georgia is the only public university to publish a children’s book about itself. They will continue the trend by publishing a book about each of their five beautiful campuses. Technological innovations are also in the works, with the Press looking into developing a virtual reality component for the book’s story.

University Press staff poured forth a fascinating and impressive amount of knowledge about the world of children’s book publishing, leaving a remarkable impression on festival-goers. Their passion for sharing knowledge and creating quality literature was clearly displayed through their eager interaction with the crowd and thorough presentation. Looking forward, the future of the UNG Press continues to shine brightly with a staff of highly-talented and knowledgeable professionals at the helm.

Missed the UNG Press’s panel? Don’t worry. All our resources and presentation can be found here: Children’s Books: Industry Standards and Resources

What is Open Education?

March 4–6, 2019 is Open Education Week. Organized by the Open Education Consortium (OEC), Open Education Week raises awareness about open education and shows how it’s important to teaching and learning. To really understand the impact, let’s first look at what open education is.

What is Open Education?

Open education refers to teachings, resources, and tools that are freely available to use and share. In addition, truly open materials allow people to modify or a adapt the original materials. These materials, referred to as open educational resources or OERs, have a specific license attached to it that outlines usage, distribution, and modification.

A chart showing the different versions of a CC license when combined with other license types.
A chart showing the different versions of a CC license when combined with other licenses.

The Creative Commons Attribution International (CC BY) license is one of the most common open source licenses. Under this license, you can share the resource in any format so long as you attribute the original creator and you use the resource for noncommercial purposes. (More details about the creative commons license can be found on the Creative Commons website.)

Open education can be taken one step further into the world of open pedagogy. Open pedagogy looks at teaching and learning from a theoretical viewpoint and works to develop open materials that other teachers can use. The world of open pedagogy is still young, but early efforts reveal a promising future.


Why is Open Education Important?

Education is the key to change and is central for improvement—as an individual, but also as a community. Open education provides access to education that people may not have otherwise. By gatekeeping education and limiting it only to those who can pay, we do a disservice to everyone. (Textbooks are marked up 400%. Trust us, education often costs more than it should.) Open educational resources help break those barriers, and Open Education Week helps draw attention to them.


How Can You Help Open Education?

The first step to supporting open education is to support organizations and business that contribute to the OER world. In addition to the OEC, Affordable Learning Georgia (ALG) is working to create more OERs and even includes open courseware on their website. The UNG Press has partnered with ALG and e-core and now offers 18 OER textbooks, each with a free digital copy available on our website.

Encourage people around you to learn about and share open materials. OERs aren’t limited to the teaching world. Open sourced programs like Inkscape and Scribus are alternatives to Adobe Illustrator and InDesign. Even Google Docs is an example of an open source alternative to Microsoft Word.

No matter what, don’t gatekeep education. It doesn’t help anyone and only restricts what people can learn. Open education is the forward trend in the academic world and is a welcome addition to fields of teaching and learning.

Children’s Books: Industry Standards and Resources

Children’s books can be a confusing genre. The notes below explore genre standards among different children’s books and provide resources for further research. These notes were created for UNG Press’s panel, “Children’s Book Publishing From Start To Finish” at the 2019 Dahlonega Literary Festival.

Print Version: Children’s Book Industry Standards (PDF), Children’s Book Sources (PDF), Powerpoint Presentation (Google Slides)

General Info

  • Children’s is a genre that relies on gatekeepers, even for young adult books. Teachers, parents, librarians determine what children read.
  • The Golden Rule: Children want to read stories about other children who are a little bit older than themselves. (Jenny Bowman, children’s book editor, creative writer, and specialist in Children’s Literature)
  • Children’s books are exploratory in nature

Board Books

Age: prereaders
Word Count: 300 words or fewer, may only have 10-20 words max
Page Length: 10 pages or less

  • Designed to be read by an adult to a child
  • Covers early learning concepts such as colors, counting, letters, etc.
  • Light on text, heavy on illustration
  • Made from thick cardstock or cardboard

Example: First 100 Words

Picture Books

Age: 2-7
Word Count: 500 words or fewer, max of 900
Page Length: 32 pages standard, but can be 40, 48, or 56 (at max)

  • Designed to be read by an adult to a child
  • Short on text; rely equally on illustration
  • Introduces universal theme that are approachable
  • Features one main character, one plot or idea, and one storyline
  • Should offer a (simple) question and provide the answer at the end

Example: A Bad Case of Stripes, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs

Easy Readers/Beginning Readers

Age: 5-8
Word Count: 750 – 1,500 words
Page Length: 32 – 64 pages, depending on the reading level

  • Written for children learning to read on their own
  • Introduction of chapters
  • Short sentences with limited vocabulary
  • Simple, repetitive text with simple sentence structure
  • Slightly more text than in an average picture book
  • 2-5 sentences per page
    Every page or every other page has an illustration
  • Topics and themes are lighthearted and usually explore one idea, subject, or theme

Example: Elephant and Piggie, Henry and Mudge

Chapter Books

Age: 7-10
Word Count: 4,000 – 12,000 words
Page Length: not typically longer than 100 pages

  • The first “real” book for children
  • Written for children becoming fluent readers
  • Protagonist is around 8 or 9 (the upper age range of the readers)
  • Contains a plot with setbacks
  • Start to see subplots and more complex story lines
  • Few to no illustrations
  • More complex sentences and plot development
  • Paragraphs are still short, about 2-4 sentences each

Examples: Magic Tree House, Charlotte’s Web

Middle Grade (MG)

Age: 8-12
Word Count: 20,000 – 40,000 words, depending on publisher
Page Length: over 100 pages

  • Longer chapters than found in chapter books
  • Often no illustrations
  • Content categories similar to adult fiction
    • mystery, adventure, humor, historical, fantasy, etc.
  • Series are popular
  • Plot lines directed to 10-12 year olds because kids read above their age
  • Intense subjects may bump the book into an older age category

US bookstores don’t differentiate between levels; must choose between MG and YA or YA and Adult. UK bookstores do differentiate and have a “between” category.

Example: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Holes

Lower Middle Grade

Age: 7-10
Word Count: 20,000 – 35,000

  • Themes will be complex but approachable: no kissing, no gory violence, subtle politics, if any at all
  • Have a subplot or two
  • Uses elements like humor, fantasy, or magic realism, or explores factual, science-based ideas and historical events
Upper Middle Grade

Age: 10-13
Word Count: 45,000 – 55,000

  • Themes are more complex and mature, explored in an age-appropriate way from the protagonist’s point of view
  • Still not as detailed or ‘angsty’ as young adult
  • Sometimes referred to as “tween” especially if the themes explicitly explore pre-tween issues

Young Adult (YA)

Age: 12 to adult
Word Count: 40,000 – 75,000 words
Page Length: varies

  • Content categories similar to and read like adult fiction
    • mystery, adventure, humor, historical, fantasy, etc.
  • Explore issues and topics that teens can relate to
  • Heavy with “Firsts”
    • First kiss, starting high school, entering the adult world, etc.
  • Characters must be 13+ for Barnes & Noble to shelf it under Young Adult and not kids
  • Includes more adult content (such as sexuality, mental illness, politics, etc.)
  • How explicit/what the message is depends on the publisher. Some publishers seek these topics out, others avoid them.
  • Emerging category of New Adult that targets readers between 18-30

Examples: The Book Thief, The Hate U Give, The Fault in Our Stars, Ready Player One


Writing Magic by Gail Carson Levine, ISBN: 978-0-06-236717-4

Writing Picture Books: A Hands-On Guide From Story Creation to Publication by Ann Whitford Paul, ISBN: 978-1-58-297556-6

Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market 2019 by Writer’s Digest, ISBN: 978-1-44-035440-3 (Updated yearly)

Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI)

Getting Started:


SCBWI is the only professional organization specifically for individuals who write and illustrate for children and young adults. Our mission is to support the creation and availability of quality children’s books in every region of the world.

We give established writers and illustrators the tools and resources to manage their careers, as well as educate those just starting out. SCBWI is also proud to serve as a consolidated voice for our members within the publishing industry.

Membership in SCBWI is open to anyone with an active interest in children’s literature, from picture books to young adult novels. We welcome aspiring and published writers and illustrators, as well as librarians, educators, artists, students, dramatists, musicians, filmmakers, translators, and others. A passion for children’s literature is our number one criterion.


Advice for Young Writers and Illustrators from Children’s Book Creators

Debbie Ridpath Ohi is the author and illustrator of Where Are My Books? and Sam & Eva (Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers). Her illustrations also appear in books by Michael Ian Black, Judy Blume, Rob Sanders, Lauren McLaughlin, Aaron Reynolds and Colby Sharp. For more info about Debbie and upcoming projects, see You can find Debbie on Twitter at @inkyelbows and on Instagram at @inkygirl.


Writing World

Rachelle Burk’s Resources for Children’s Writers

Children’s Book Insider (Monthly Magazine)

Ellen Jackson, author of over 60 children’s books

Summer Edward, Children’s Literature and Publishing Consultant

Lessons Learned from Dr. Seuss

For literary fans across the nation, March 2nd is a glorious day for two reasons: It’s the National Education Association’s Read Across America Day, and it’s the birthday of our favorite children’s author, Dr. Seuss. Students young and old can recall enjoying Dr. Seuss’s quirky and enchanting books when they first began to read, and they carry a fondness for his work well after moving on to the more challenging sides of literature. Because of that continued love for Dr. Seuss and his books, we commemorate his inspiring life with Read Across America Day, meant to celebrate the pure joy of reading and sharing that happiness with young readers throughout the country. As we enter into this time of literary promotion and celebration, let us also reflect on some of the lessons left to us by the man whose unique perspectives on art and literature have left an unmistakable mark on the world of children’s books.

1. Black and white picture of Dr. Seuss holding a copy of The Cat in the Hat at a desk, with many of his other children's books scattered around him.Perseverance is Key: Before Dr. Seuss became the literary giant we all know and love today, he was known as Theodore Seuss Geisel, or Ted for short. Ted received his bachelor’s degree in English in the 1920s from Dartmouth, and moved to New York City shortly after in an attempt to start a career as a cartoonist. After being tossed out of numerous ad agencies, production companies, and magazine offices for three months, he landed his first job as a freelance cartoonist with The Saturday Evening Post. Years later, his first children’s book, And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, was born. Geisel had to withstand 27 rejections of his manuscript before it was accepted for publishing. His distinct style wasn’t for everyone at first, but his determination and commitment to his goals are core factors of his eventual success.

2. Forge Your Own Path: Ted Geisel’s artistic style was entirely his own from the very start, a mixture of surrealism and pure fantasy that made his work unique. Because of this very distinctive style, publishers were hesitant to produce his pieces. Despite the seemingly endless bouts of rejection, Geisel stayed true to his personal style, and held on to his artistic identity even in the face of consistent negative feedback from others. Now, his work is admired by millions and considered properly and perfectly Seussian.

3. Humility Is the Best Policy: While the work of Dr. Seuss became quite successful even while Geisel was alive, he never let the fame and recognition affect him negatively. Ted was known as someone who could light up a room and add laughter to any situation. His fame was simply a part of what he did, not who he was. Geisel’s ability to remain true Black and white picture of Dr. Seuss sketching characters for a book or himself through the flood of success also allowed him to become one of the biggest philanthropists in Dartmouth’s history. He and his wife were some of the school’s most significant donors on record, and the Audrey and Theodore Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth was named in their honor.

4. Shine a Little Light: Soon after the publication of his first book, World War II broke out. At that time, Ted served in the military as a captain, attached to Frank Capra’s wartime documentary filmmaking unit. His scripts focused on the morale and principles maintained by troops, and he later received the Legion of Merit for his efforts. Geisel also created military cartoons to boost the men’s spirits while he served, creating laughter with his zany character Private Snafu during one of the darkest moments in the world’s history. With nothing more than a pen and a little imagination, Geisel was able to spark happiness in an environment where joy was extremely scarce.

5. Use Your Talent to Help Others: One of Seuss’s landmark works is the classic and wildly popular The Cat in the Hat, which used an anapestic tetrameter structure meant to help children learn how to read through the use of cadence. With the emergence of this achievement, Geisel founded Beginner Books, a publishing company focusing on creating books for children. His company was soon absorbed by Random House Publishing and is still one of the most successful branches of the company today, creating books to be used as tools to help children unlock the gift of reading.

How did Dr. Seuss influence you? Let us know in the comments below! Interested in more great content? Follow us on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram and find our complete catalog on our homepage.

“Hello Springtime” Writing Contest

“Nothing is so beautiful as spring…”

—Gerard Manley Hopkins, “Spring”

It’s finally springtime in Georgia, and we want to celebrate. Think you can write a winning story about spring? Then enter the “Hello Springtime” Writing Contest from the University of North Georgia Press.

The rules are simple:

  • Story must involve the theme of spring
  • Story must be 1,000 words or fewer

Email your short story to by 11:50 pm Sunday, March 31, 2019. Your story must be in a Microsoft Word document with the story title, author name, and total word count at the top of the document. All submission emails must be titled “Hello Springtime Story Contest.” If the email isn’t titled correctly, we won’t look at it. We’ll announce the winner early April.

The contest is open to anyone, but you must reside in the U.S. to be eligible to win the prize. We will contact the winner by email. The Press asks for permission to publish up to one paragraph of the winning stories to our blog. Authors retain full rights to their story. All entries are eligible for future resubmission when we put a call out for a literary anthology, with the winning entry given priority. By submitting your story, you agree to these terms and conditions.

Prize: The winner will receive one book of their choice published by the UNG Press.

We can’t wait to read your submissions. Best of luck!

Read the full terms and conditions below:

Continue reading “Hello Springtime” Writing Contest