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coloring page tuesdays, news and events, blog book tours, reviews, illustration and promotion, and general weirdness from a children's book author/illustrator.
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1. Lynn Cullen's MRS. POE - Guest Post and Giveaway

I have a surprise for you today - an adult book, MRS. POE by my dear friend Lynn Cullen. Lynn has also written books for the younger set, like I AM REMBRANDT'S DAUGHTER and MOI AND MARIE ANTOINETTE. So, I'm thrilled to have Lynn on today to help promote her latest book, although it's been selling gang-busters. Lynn shares a touching story with us about reading to her children. Take it away Lynn!


     I’m all about books. I read them every spare moment I have, which these days is generally only when I’m not writing them. I got my affliction from my dad, who so loved reading that he always kept a Reader’s Digest in the glove-box of the car, on the toilet, and in his coat-pocket, so he would never be caught without a story to peruse. My favorite activity as a kid was to ride my bike a couple miles to the library and load a paper grocery sack—the big size—with fictionalized biographies of Abe Lincoln, Helen Keller, and Daniel Boone, as well as every last book in the Little House on the Prairie series. I’m one of those people who cannot sleep without a nightcap of turning the pages of a novel before bed. Whenever I pass a bookstore, be it in an airport, shopping center, or strip mall, I look longingly at all the lovely spines and wonder what I’m missing. I’ll willingly sacrifice gazing at the scenery for reading while riding in a car.
     But as addicted as I am to consuming the written word, for a few short years there was time when reading was not quite a complete and utter pleasure. There was a time when I dreaded it almost as much as changing a tire: the years when my kids were small.
     Granted, this brief anathema to reading came only at their bedtime. And it increased with the ratio of kids to mom, especially after throwing the birth of three kids in four years into the equation. But after doling out three home-cooked meals a day, plodding along under the weight of kids and their bags of gear to the park, a museum, or the library, and then scrubbing three wiggling, chattering monkeys and pinning them down to brush their teeth, I was the one who was cooked.
A photo of Lynn in one of her fave writing spots and with her dog, Rosie.

     Yet I never considered the possibility of NOT reading to them. It was almost as if I thought their vulnerable brains might melt without a dose of nutritious reading each day. I knew how important infusing their minds with story construction and ideas and laughter had to be for them. What I didn’t know was how good reading to them would be for me.
     Now that my girls are grown, when I look back over their childhoods, what comes back to me most vividly is reading with them each night. I can still smell their damp hair, soap-scented skin, and young breath as they lie in the crook of my arm. I can still feel the delicate wings of their shoulders and the rise and fall of their narrow chests. I can hear their baby voices and the funny construction of phrases unique to each as we talked about the stories. More than the trips, the meals, the baths or anything else, I remember the bond with and the awe for each of these wondrous souls as we turned the pages together.
     Now when I read to my grandchildren, I notice my daughters hovering nearby, relieved to give up their duty for a switch but also not quite comfortable with resigning from their usual place behind the book. I understand. These precious moments are finite in their number. But little do my children know that even as I am delighting in their babies, I am savoring, oh, I am savoring, the sweet memory of cradling them.

     Lynn Cullen's newest novel, Mrs. Poe, examines the fall of Edgar Allan Poe through the eyes of his lover, poet Francis Osgood. A National Bestseller, Mrs. Poe has been named a Target Book Club Pick, a NPR 2013 Great Read, an Oprah.com "Books That Make Time Stand Still," an Editor's Pick at The Historical Novels Review, an Atlanta Magazine Best Books 2013, and an Indie Next Pick. Lynn is also the author of The Creation of Eve, named among the best fiction books of 2010 by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and as an April 2010 Indie Next selection. She has written numerous award-winning books for children, including the young adult novel I Am Rembrandt’s Daughter, which was a 2007 Barnes & Noble “Discover Great New Writers” selection, and an ALA Best Book of 2008. Her novel, Reign of Madness, about Juana the Mad, daughter of the Spanish Monarchs Isabella and Ferdinand, was chosen as a 2011 Best of the South selection by the Atlanta Journal Constitution and was a 2012 Townsend Prize finalist" and was just chosen as a "Book That All Georgians Should Read" by the Georgia Center for the Book. Her newest picture book for children, "Dear Mr. Washington" will be released by Dial/Penguin Books for Young Readers in early 2015 and is a Library Guild Selection. She is currently working on a novel about the women in the life of Mark Twain."

GIVEAWAY!
Simon and Schuster has generously offered to send a free copy of MRS. POE to one of my lucky followers. Must live in the US to win - enter below:

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2. Friday Linky List - November 21, 2014

Ferguson 'Hands' Together: Artist Aims to Unite Community at NBC. How's THIS for an argument to fund the arts? Art isn't just to make our world more pretty - it can be a movement for peace. YES!

From Emma Dryden's Our Stories, Ourselves: The Entrepreneurial Spirit: "Dare Greatly!" The Road from Reformed Lawyer, Investment Banker, and Mother of Three to Author and Publisher - the story of MY publisher at LITTLE PICKLE PRESS. (After you read, you'll understand why I chose to go with LITTLE PICKLE PRESS!

From Bustle: In Case You Forgot, William Steig is One Of Your Absolute Favorite Picture Book Authors From Childhood

From Pub(lishing) Crawl: A Reminder to Actually Write by Susan Dennard

Also from Pub(lishing) Crawl: Expectations vs. Reality by Jodi Meadows

At Emu's Debuts: So, how's the book doing? by Laurie Ann Thompson - fellow EMLA peep!

From BuzzFeed Books: 19 Unbelievably Laughable Book Fails - HA!

At the NY Times: On Elite Campuses, an Arts Race - and yet with no focus on the arts in the lower grades. Hm.

From PW: AAP, Authors Guild Discuss Author-Editor Process - interesting

Neil Gaiman via Shelf Awareness: 'Closing Libraries is Endangering the Future' (!!!)

At Nerdy Book Club: It's Okay to Write Terrible Stories by Julie Falatko - every beginning writer should read this!

From Forbes: 27 Pre-Written Templates For Your Toughest Work Emails - Hmmm! (Until they start showing up everywhere.)

In light of Tuesday's announcement, at Houzz: 10 Steps for Saying Goodbye to Sentimental Objects

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3. John Rocco's BLIZZARD - Interview and Giveaway!


John Rocco has a new book out called BLIZZARD - a mostly light book because of all the snow. It’s a wonderful follow-up to his Caldecott honor-winning, mostly dark book, BLACKOUT, which I also adored and talked to John about HERE. In BLIZZARD, John relays a story from his own childhood when forty inches of snow buried Rhode Island back in 1978. I can so relate to this story because of my own similar experience… an ice-storm in Georgia in the 70s that left me and my family sleeping by the fireplace where we cooked our food, boiled our water, and kept warm for days before things got back to normal. So, I’m thrilled to have John back to talk about his latest picture book...

Q. Hi John, You’ve done it again! You’ve taken a quiet little moment of life and made it big and beautiful - congratulations!
A.
Thanks so much Elizabeth! I think the quiet moments are the most interesting.

Q. Truly, you’re creating a niche of pulling those odd little moments from life, a blackout, a snowstorm, and turning them into something magical. How do these stories develop for you?
A.
Well, with Blackout, the story was developed through interviewing many people in Brooklyn and New York City about their individual experiences during the blackout of 2003. What was interesting to me were how many of them had similar experiences, and that became the thrust of the book. Blizzard on the other hand had developed from my daughter continually asking for stories about my childhood. This was one of them. This book is almost a diary of that week when I was little. When I told my father about the new book I was working on, he shipped me all the newspapers from that week in 1978. He had actually saved them!

Q. I love the contrast of the dark book versus the light book. Was that intentional?
A.
Well, I guess I could have called it WHITEOUT, but I like the fact that they both begin with B. But yes, almost everything is intentional in my books. The things that aren't are usually the best. You know, those happy accidents? I do think they make a nice pairing for story time though. In Blackout, the main character goes through an emotional arc, from being bored, to scared, to curious, to surprised and happy. I tried to use color, and the lack thereof, to help amplify his emotions. With Blizzard I was dealing with an event that most adults at the time did not find fun at all. In fact, it was a pretty big ordeal. But us kids thought it was fantastic and magical and…and…THERE WAS NO SCHOOL FOR A WEEK!

Q. I’m sure the lighting in BLACKOUT was a challenge. Were there any particular lighting challenges in BLIZZARD?
A.
The biggest challenge for me with Blizzard was to figure out where and when to let the white of the paper feel like the snow, and where to use watercolor washes to indicate some atmosphere. I think finding that balance was the most difficult.

Q. Was it truly you who made the trek through the neighborhood on snow shoes fashioned out of tennis rackets to get to the store and purchase emergency supplies?
A.
Yes, it was. In fact I remember that my sisters racket was a white Christ Evert model, and mine was a light blue Bjorn Borg model. Recently, at a book signing in my old home town, the woman who owned that store with her husband came by and said hello. It was surreal. I screamed out, "I JUST PAINTED OF PICTURE OF YOU!" The one big change I had made was that when the snowplows finally came it wasn't hot chocolate everyone was drinking in the street, it was whiskey. My father had told me that when the snowplows finally started up our road, our next door neighbor ran out and planted a bottle of whiskey in the snow. They stopped the plow and everyone came out for a toast.

Q. What was your fondest memory from that time?
A.
I think building all the snow forts and tunnels in our front yard. My sister and I were like gophers, digging through that snow.

Q. Did working on this book bring up old memories for you? How was it to work with that?
A.
It's interesting you ask that. My parents separated when I was about 18. My sister and father both moved to California shortly after that. So now, almost thirty years later, I re-created the world where we were all together again. Drawing all the details of our living room; the wood stove, the conch shell on the mantle, the Andrew Wyeth print on the wall, my mom's rocker, my dad's chair…it's all there. It was strange and fun and a little emotional for me.

Q. I know you’ve shared before, but for my readers who don’t know, can you share your illustration method?
A.
First I create a tonal drawing, and then I scan it into the computer and color using a combination of digital paint and water color washes and textures that I bring in as well.

Q. We’re heading into the snowy season. Any words of wisdom to those who might have a similar experience?
A.
Most importantly, I would say, stay safe and enjoy the time you get to spend with your family.

Q. Thanks and I wish you much continued success, John!
A.
Thanks Elizabeth!!
Here I am with John (far right) at the Southern Festival of Books in Nashville this past October:


Check out this great book trailer for BLIZZARD! (The link will take you to Vimeo.)



GIVEAWAY!
Disney has kindly agreed to give a free copy of BLIZZARD to one of my lucky followers. Must live in the US/Canada to win - enter below.

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4. Picture Book Month!


Librarian Yvonne has been changing out her library display every day to go along with Picture Book Month. See my calendar hanging above? She's put it to work for her patrons!
     Picture Book Month has just passed the halfway mark. Around the world, schools, libraries, booksellers, and book lovers are coming together to celebrate the print picture book during the month of November. Now in its fourth year, the initiative is a viral phenomenon. How are you celebrating Picture Book Month?
      #PictureBookMonth
      @PictureBkMonth
      Facebook: Picture Book Month
      Website: http://www.picturebookmonth.com

More from the press release:
      New features this year include “Curriculum Connections” by Education Consultant, Marcie Colleen. Every day, a new activity and curriculum connection is posted based on the Author/Illustrator’s book. In addition, the multi-page Picture Book Month Educator’s Guide, correlating picture books across the curriculum, is available as a free download for educators and teacher librarians.
      We are pleased to also announce that Reading Rainbow has recently joined as a Picture Book Month partner. Support for the initiative continues with partners such as the American Booksellers Association, the American Association of School Librarians, the Children’s Book Council, Reading is Fundamental, and SCBWI as well as industry trade journals such as Hornbook, School Library Journal, and Publishers Weekly. New 2014 partners also include Live In a Story, The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, and Friends of Tennessee Libraries.
      A downloadable promotional kit is available as well as certificates, posters, and bookmarks created by Joyce Wan. Katie Davis’ Brain Burps About Books Podcast, the #1 kidlit podcast on iTunes, is dedicating the entire month of November to Picture Book Month with new episodes airing every Friday. The PBM calendar created by Elizabeth Dulemba lists all the Picture Book Month Champions as well as the daily theme. The daily themes are used to plan story times, book displays, and blog posts.

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5. University of Edinburgh here I come!


BIG NEWS! I have been accepted into the MFA in Illustration program at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland!!!! Class begins September 14, 2015, so between now and then our lives will be radically changing. We plan to get rid of most of what we own (be looking for eBay and Craigslist links soon), sell our house, and start shaping a new life in SCOTLAND!!!
     I'll still return to Roanoke, Virginia (US) each summer to teach Picture Book Design at Hollins University in the MFA in Writing and Illustrating Children's Books and Certificate in Children's Book Illustration programs - so I'll be in the US for 6 weeks each summer. But otherwise, it will take two years minimum to achieve my MFA in person in SCOTLAND!!!!!
     This is the achievement of two lifetime goals: to live in Europe and get my MFA before I turn 50. As it stands, I will graduate nearly on my birthday exactly! I'm doing it!!!
     I'll keep you updated as things come together. OMG!!!!
CLICK HERE and HERE to see some stunning photos of where we're heading!

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6. Coloring Page Tuesday - Quail!

     Q is for Quail... with a tardy book return. Doesn't he look guilty? Or is he too closely related to turkeys to feel comfortable?
     CLICK HERE for more coloring pages!! And be sure to share your creations in my gallery so I can put them in my upcoming newsletters! (Cards, kids art, and crafts are welcome!)
     Sign up to receive alerts when a new coloring page is posted each week and... Please check out my books! Especially...

my debut novel, A BIRD ON WATER STREET, coming out next week! Click the cover to learn more!
     When the birds return to Water Street, will anyone be left to hear them sing? A miner's strike allows green and growing things to return to the Red Hills, but that same strike may force residents to seek new homes and livelihoods elsewhere. Follow the story of Jack Hicks as he struggles to hold onto everything he loves most.
AWARDS
**A SIBA OKRA Pick!**
**A GOLD Mom's Choice Award Winner!**
**The 2014 National Book Festival Featured Title for Georgia!**
**eLit 2014 Gold Medal Winner in the Environmental/Ecology/Nature Category**

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7. My Art in the Reading Rainbow Calendar!


I'm proud to announce that my artwork was selected to grace the new calendar for Reading Rainbow as part of their Kickstarter campaign to bring Reading Rainbow back into the schools that need it most! What an honor! If you participated in the campaign, you should be able to read more about it here. (Cick the image to see it larger in a new window.)

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8. KidLitTV!


Wednesday evening was the launch for KidLitTV! It's about time we had our own network, don't you think? Katie Davis hosted the launch party on YouTube and there are plenty of videos to dive into including interviews from the red carpet at the Eric Carle Honors. There's already tons of fun content with more to come. Subscribe to the newsletter so that you don't miss a thing!
Read more about KidLitTV and it's host, Rocco Staino at School Library Journal where you can also access the first episode of "StoryMakers" with Roxie Munroe.

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9. Eugene Yelchin's ARCADY'S GOAL - Guest Post and Giveaway!

I'm thrilled to have a new friend on today, Eugene Yelchin, author/illustrator of the Newbery Honor winning BREAKING STALIN'S NOSE. He has a new book out called ARCADY'S GOAL and he dropped by to talk about it...


     Given the fact that I was born and raised in the former Soviet Union, and the even more unfortunate fact that I had to survive in that country until I finally left at 27 years old, it comes at no surprise that my books are a meditation on the unalienable rights — Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

      The pursuit of Happiness takes many forms in America. A current form that’s getting a lot of attention is soccer. Soccer is something I know about. My father was a fairly well known soccer player and captain of the Red Army Soccer Club. For years he trained me to become a soccer player until he realized that I would rather draw pictures on my soccer ball than kick it.

      In ARCADY'S GOAL, a Russian boy dreams of becoming a soccer champion. “The trouble with soccer,” says Arcady, “is you can’t play it alone. Soccer is a team sport.” Being a member of a team is a problem for Arcady, who has never been permitted to be a member of anything. As a child of the enemies of the state in the pre-World War II Russia, he is excluded not only from being on a soccer team but from what most of us take for granted—being a member of a family. Family, the most essential fabric of humanity, is torn apart by the Soviet state and remade into a highly politicized entity. As a result, for Arcady and the man who adopts him, creating a family of their own let alone a children’s soccer team is extremely dangerous.

      In this lies the paradox of telling young American readers stories about freedom. To them being a member of a family or a member of a sports team are basic unalienable rights. My hope is that in looking through the eyes of Arcady, they might view those rights in a slightly different light. They might become more attentive to what they inherited. They might consider that preserving those rights requires personal courage. They might not take the pursuit of Happiness so lightly. That in fact, as Arcady shows, Happiness is sometimes only achieved at great risk of both life and Liberty.


LISTEN TO AN AUDIO SAMPLE OF ARCADY'S GOAL - Click the image to listen on YouTube:


Here is Eugene with his boys:


And here are shots of Eugene's studio (click the image to see it larger in a new window):


LISTEN to a great interview with Eugene at LET'S GET BUSY PODCAST!

GIVEAWAY!
Macmillan has kindly agreed to give away a free copy of ARCADY'S GOAL to one of my lucky followers. Must live in the US to win - enter below:

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10. Friday Linky List - November 14, 2014

Kevan Atteberry and Patrick Girouard made some arts. Here's the link to their hilarious monsters and robots worked into vintage photographs - http://vaguelyneighbors.tumblr.com

At Boingboing: Molly Crabapple's 15 rules for creative success in the Internet age - for adults only! I don't like her prices on self-publishing projects - way too low - but I really like her numbered points.

At BuzzFeed: An Illustrated Guide to Writing People of Color

From Encurious: 20 Quotes From Children's Books Every Adult Should Know

At School Library Journal, Travis Jonker's syndicated 100 Scope Notes: Breakdown: The National Book Award/Newbery Overlap

At Huffpost: 18 Excellent Gifts for Kids That Aren't Even Toys

At SLJ: Two Teens Start "Coding for Kids" Program at Silicon Valley Libraries. I think this is such a good idea. One of the best things I ever did was teach myself html. It gives you so much more freedom online!

From The Atlantic Video: Gentrification 'Without the Negative' in Columbus, Ohio - Go Artists!

Katie Couric World 3.0: The New Face of Transgender Youth - What a brave girl. Education is SO important!!!

From The Daily Dahlia (Adler): It's Not Just You - good advice.

At EarlyWord (via 100 Scope Notes): The NYT Best Illustrated: A Judge's Experience

From The Culture Trip (via Shelf Awareness): The USA's 10 Most Beautiful Bookshops

From The Star (via Shelf Awareness): Train car converted to library a hit in Hamilton - What a GREAT idea!!!

Check out Darcy Pattison's 30 DAYS TO A STRONGER NOVEL workshop, now live on Udemy.com. And there's an early bird discount!

At SLJ: 2014 Jane Addams Book Awards Highlight Human Rights - a wrap-up of the awards ceremony. Lovely.

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11. THE KING OF LITTLE THINGS - Interview (with both the author and illustrator) and GIVEAWAY!


THE KING OF LITTLE THINGS written by Bil Lepp and illustrated by David Wenzel is a bit of a throwback to the sweet sort of folklore that I would have stared at for hours as a kid. A greedy king wants everything, while a humble king respects the little things in life. Eventually the two sensibilities come to a head. I’m thrilled to have Bil and David here today to talk about their creation…

Q. Bil - THE KING OF LITTLE THINGS reads like a classic. How did the idea come to you and how long have you been telling the story?
A.
I have been telling The King of Little Things for about ten years. The idea came from my son. One day he asked if I wanted to play Kingdoms. He then proceeded to collect his subjects- the Tonka Truck dump truck, the Tonka Truck firetruck, the T-Rex. All the big toys. He said, "I will be the king of big things." He then handed me a marble and a jack and said, "You can be the king of little things." I said, "What a great idea for a story! Play by yourself...cat's in the cradle..." and I went to my office and wrote the tale. The orginal version was closer to 2500 words then the 700 some words the story is now. I told that version for years before the book came out, so my oral version is a bit longer than the book version.
Click the image to see a larger version in a new window.

Q. David - What was your reaction when you read the manuscript for the first time? Did the images come to you easily?
A.
The artwork for King of Little Things was definitely in my wheelhouse. I have been recognized for my whimsical approach to many subjects, but particularly those with a Medieval theme. So envisioning the characters was very enjoyable. Once they were fleshed out, I developed the various concepts for each spread, and I had to give that some real thought. The book has a King character that conquers other lands and I wanted my art to not glorify that in any form, so I tried to think of visuals that implied rather then exemplified the military aspects of conquering. I still had plenty of chances to illustrate pompous generals and inept knights. A secondary theme of the story Bil wrote were the many small and little things that make up our world and I really enjoyed sneaking as many of those tidbits into the art as I could.

Q. Bil - You are a well-known storyteller. Was it challenging to turn this story into book text?
A.
I was amazed by the editing process. I had, obviously, wonderful editors. There were times when lines were cut from the tale that I hated to see go, but I just kept telling myself that the folks at Peachtree know what they are doing. One of the most fascinating aspects was seeing, on certain pages, how the layout of text and the illustrations work in conjunction. For example, on the page where the big king is wearing all the hats and crowns and the text mirrors the movement of the hats.
Click the image to see a larger version in a new window.

Q. David - I’ve heard illustrators refer to some texts as “illustrator candy.” Were there lots of illustrator notes or was Bill’s text simply mental candy for you?
A.
I guess Bil's provided me with a small bowl of illustrator candy. I usually do a lot of preliminary character work on this kind of project. Between Bil, Loraine, the art director, and Margaret, the publisher, we had agreed on the two king characters before I started to develop the layouts. I was really free to interpret Bil's words and the suggestions I received on my sketches truly enhanced the final versions.

Q. Bil - What was the message you wanted to relay in THE KING OF LITTLE THINGS?
A.
I feel as if I say more here, I will take away from the point. :-)

Q. David - Most of the illustrations are loaded with tiny details. How long did each piece take you and what was your method?
A.
Thanks for noticing all of the"little things". I spend a lot of time developing the layout so each page works with the entire story. basic simple shapes at first. I compiled several lists of little things that I wanted to include and the sky was the limit since Bil had already designated items like rust, fungus and pickles as subjects of the King of Little Things. So I used my lists to plug in as many extra little things as I could. Once the sketch is done I do a value study in PhotoShop and then transfer the sketch to 330 lb. Fabriano soft press watercolor paper. I then go over the sketch in a black colored pencil and then watercolor it.

Q. Bil - What was your path to publication with THE KING OF LITTLE THINGS?
A.
I was very fortunate that Carmen Deedy heard me tell The King of Little Things at a storytelling festival. She asked if I would be interested in the story becoming a picture book and I think I responded with a resounding, "Duh, of course!" Carmen shepherded me through the process and I am grateful that her love of the story led to its eventual publication. I know I grew impatient at times during the process, but Carmen was there to assure me that the process worked. And, after earning all these great reviews, accolades and awards, I must confess, she was correct. When David came on board I was even more excited. Even his initial illustrations, rough drafts, were so delightful, and insightful, that I knew he was going to make the book a real success. I had been with the story a long time, and had grown used to it, but David's art helped me see the story in a whole new way. I have heard of writers being dissatisfied with the illustrations, but that is not the case here. David's devotion to the details and the illustrations turn a good story into a great book.
Click the image to see a larger version in a new window.

Q. David - You’ve been in the illustration business for a long time. Any advice for those struggling on a similar path?
A.
I guess all illustrators get asked this question. There is no easy answer. My son Brendan Wenzel has been carving out a great career in children's books and I think his path is more recent and more relevant then the one I started on many years ago. He has always had really great ideas for books and he had to work in several other illustration fields before he caught on with children's books. He worked doing story boards, making props, animations, and other art related jobs. He kept his eye on his goal and explored every opportunity to get his work out there. He put one of his pieces in an art show in California, it was seen by Angela DiTerlizzi, and she connected with him to illustrate her new book, Some Bugs. I think it's important for aspiring illustrators to understand you build a career piece by piece and always strive to move forward and try to think of set backs as inspiration to get you to the next level.
Click the image to see a larger version in a new window.

Q. Bil and David - Are you doing anything special to celebrate the release of THE KING OF LITTLE THINGS?
A.

Bil: I'm hoping that this book leads to more oppotunities for David and I to work together again. The book actually came out a year ago, but we are celebrating the anniversay by going to the PEN Awards ceremony to receive our PEN/Steven Kroll Award.

David: We've been together in NY a couple of times to promote the book and attend the Irma Black awards at Bank Street College. We would like to celebrate more with each other and libraries and bookshops that would like us to come by.

I wish you both much continued success!


GIVEAWAY!
Peachtree has kindly agreed to send one free copy of THE KING OF LITTLE THINGS to one of my lucky followers. Must live in the US to win - enter below:

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12. I'm doing NaNoWriMo...

Shhhhhh..... so far, so good.

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13. Coloring Page Tuesday - Grasshopper!

     G is for Grasshopper... You know the story of the Ants and the Grasshopper? It's starting to get colder outside (here in the south). Methinks it's time for Mr. Grasshopper to get to work saving up food for the winter!
     CLICK HERE for more coloring pages!! And be sure to share your creations in my gallery so I can put them in my upcoming newsletters! (Cards, kids art, and crafts are welcome!)
     Sign up to receive alerts when a new coloring page is posted each week and... Please check out my books! Especially...

my debut novel, A BIRD ON WATER STREET, coming out next week! Click the cover to learn more!
     When the birds return to Water Street, will anyone be left to hear them sing? A miner's strike allows green and growing things to return to the Red Hills, but that same strike may force residents to seek new homes and livelihoods elsewhere. Follow the story of Jack Hicks as he struggles to hold onto everything he loves most.
AWARDS
**A SIBA OKRA Pick!**
**A GOLD Mom's Choice Award Winner!**
**The 2014 National Book Festival Featured Title for Georgia!**
**eLit 2014 Gold Medal Winner in the Environmental/Ecology/Nature Category**

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14. THANK YOU DENVER PUBLIC LIBRARY!!

I recently had the great honor to be the guest author for the Denver Public Library by invitation of my kind hosts, Librarians Joan Vigil and Martha Garbison (lovely, wonderful new friends), as well as the behind-the-scenes Jeanine Haney.
     It meant flying to the mile-high city to visit six elementary schools and one teen group in two days (with a day on each end for travel). The only down side was, while I expect to get sick upon my return from intense public speaking schedules like this, I did not expect to catch a cold on the plane to Denver. Pah! Still, I'm proud of my extreme rallying skills, as apparently nobody could tell (except my kind hosts who were extremely understanding). I just slept like a coma in my room each night, which seemed to work, because I really did have a FABULOUS TIME!! I'll try to share some of it with you...
     Flying into Denver at sunset was remarkable. The sun made the mountains glow like solid gold. And I don't know what it is about the lights in Denver, they remind me of Paris - yellow, lovely, inviting. What a pretty city. The photo from the plane doesn't do it justice:

      Two awesome EMLA (Erin Murphy Literary Agency) Gangos met me for dinner on Sunday, my first night there - Jeannie Mobley and Tara Dairman. We've been chatting for ages online, so it was so nice to finally meet in person and talk shop, life, travel, you name it. What a great welcome to Denver! (They both have new books out, we clinked glasses at dinner, so I hope you'll click their names and check them out.)
     I also learned a very cool fact about my last name. Our waiter was from Malawi and commented. Apparently "Kulemba" (rather than "Dulemba," which is Polish) means "to write" in Chichewa, a Bantu dialect. WOW! How cool is that, and ironic? Zikomo! (Thank you!)

     Joan and Martha picked me up the next morning and off we went!
     It cracks me up when people refer to children's book visits as glamorous. There's a good bit of heavy lifting and punting involved. Joan, Martha and I got really good at quickly setting up my slide-show, drawing easel, microphone and such. Every school was different. We met in libraries and auditoriums, both formal (kids in chairs) and informal (kids on the floor) in groups of 60 to 90 2nd graders. And best of all, every single child got a free copy of SOAP, SOAP, SOAP ~ JABON, JABON, JABON. Wow.
     The first stop was Stedman Elementary School - mostly 2nd graders with a few 3rds scattered in. They were fabulous and it was a great kick-off to the tour!


     The kids at CMS made a lovely welcome sign for me. (I'll post more photos as I get them.) And it was so fun to hear so much Spanish in this dual-language school environment. (What a sweet little library too!)

     After a lunch of Pho Ga (basically, Vietnamese chicken soup with all kinds of fresh herbs - yum!) we visited the third school - McGlone Elementary. (Martha was taking pictures with her camera and I'll share as she shares with me.)
      What really made an impression on me was how involved and tight the local librarians were. The librarian from the nearest library was at each school and they knew their kids. They also knew and supported each other. I like to think that's how it works everywhere, but I'd never seen that before and was really quite touched and impressed by how proud they were of their libraries and connected they were to the school libraries and librarians and especially to the kids. Not to mention, many were bilingual - important in these highly Hispanic-populated schools. (It's part of why they invited me - two of my picture books are bilingual - what a treat!)
      After a successful day, I was feeling poorly, but still wired. Martha drove me by the Tattered Cover bookstore. I have a story about this store... When I lived in the mountains and didn't have a bookstore - any bookstore within 100 miles, I used to listen to the podcasts of authors visiting the Tattered Cover. It was before I was published and was such a dream of "what if..." So, it was a thrill to finally get to visit this bookstore with which I've always felt such a connection. Even better? They had two copies of A BIRD ON WATER STREET in stock!

     Then we stopped by The Bookies - an all children's bookstore which was so packed to the rafters I could have lost myself in there as a kid - oh! What a wonderful space!
     I was originally going to have dinner with more friends, but they were called away on a family emergency (sending love!). Perhaps it was for the best (not the emergency part), as I went back to my hotel, ordered take-out, and slept for 11 hours. Zzzzzz.
     The thing about being around kids is, they are incredibly energizing. When they are being attentive and participating, there is no better feeling in the world. And it's up to me to give them something to pay attention to - so it becomes a self-fulfilling cycle. Kinda cool.
      The next morning was a much prettier day - blue skies, green and golden leaves everywhere (this whole town seems gold to me) and the mountains can be spotted everywhere of course - stunning! We set off for Barnum Elementary and librarian Ms. Hungerford (who has already friended me on FB - hi!). Gads I love Smart Boards. Can I tell you how awesome those things are? Every school should have them, they make life so easy. We talked about the evolution of storytelling via the Jack Tales. Here, the kids are being mountains...

     The kids at Swansea Elementary liked being mountains too:

     Although the biggest hit was when my dog Bernie came up in the slideshow (wearing his glasses from ARLO NEEDS GLASSES by Barney Saltzberg. Can you see the slide? Huge screams and laughter!

     Joan, me and Martha grabbed lunch at a very funky and yummy Tex-Mex sort of restaurant:

     Our last school was Goldrick Elementary and boy do they have a dedicated teacher in Ms. Denise. It always amazes me how hard teachers work, in and outside of their regular work hours, to get what each child needs to move ahead. They should all be canonized (made into saints).
     This was the most formal setting of all the schools. Isn't it adorable seeing all those little heads poking above the seat backs?

     At each school, I do a demonstration drawing where the kids come up to help draw the basic shapes I'll work with. I have to say, the rubber duckie we ended up with at Goldrick was my favorite one ever! He ended up so wonky and happy with a huge head. We mostly did duckies, but I did a cow at Swansea. I let the kids shout their favorite color and whatever color I hear first or loudest ends up being the color of the cow. It's my own version of Andy Warhols. I dedicate any art we make to the schools, so they're all over the country now - that makes me happy.
     But we weren't done yet! For the cherry on top, we visited the lovely old Carnegie library of Park Hill where I shared A BIRD ON WATER STREET with budding teen writers while we ate yummy Chipotle - buffet style. (It was really good and worked well for those of you who need an idea for a similar event.) These were smart young women (+ one guy) and it was a thrill to share their brain-space for a little while.
     Okay, so after that I was done, fried, kaput. My now good friend Martha drove me to the airport the next morning. We saw fields of protected Prairie Dogs - I wanted to hug them all, and more of the gorgeous Denver landscape. The airport and flight were uneventful and direct - all good. And hubbie caught me when I landed. That night and Thursday were a bit of a boneless blur on the couch, must admit. But now I'm feeling better and going through the sweet thank you art and "I love this book" art students made for me. I tell ya, that's the best chicken soup of all!
     Thank you so much to Joan and Martha as well as the Denver Public Library system for making my visit possible. I know I love school visits, but I also think they're amazing for the kids (even when it's other authors). It helps them understand writing and the creative process and to see that all the books they love have real people behind them, and that they can do something like become an author too if they want. (Or a fireman, or a basketball star, or, or, or...) It's all about building exceptional futures and I'm proud to be a very small part of that.

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15. I was on TV! Atlanta and Company

Esther Levine of Booking Authors connected me with Channel 11's daytime show, Atlanta and Company, and I'm so glad she did! They invited me on recently to talk about A BIRD ON WATER STREET! Have a looksie - the image will take you to the show's website where the video is archived:

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16. Penny Warner's CODE BUSTERS - Guest Post and Giveaway!

I'm thrilled to help Penny Warner celebrate the 4th book in her CODE BUSTERS series today. Penny was a mentor to me in my early career and I actually did a mock cover for the series before it was sold. So, I have a special loyalty to it and its creator. So, welcome Penny!


DREW’S CLUES TO CREATIVE WRITING
By Penny Warner for Elizabeth Dulemba

      I always wanted to be Nancy Drew. She’s the one who set me on the path of writing mysteries. In fact, everything I know about writing, I learned from reading Nancy Drew mysteries. I thought I’d share her writing tips with you today.
1. Create unforgettable characters: “You know Nancy.” All agreed she possessed an appealing quality, which people never forgot. ~ Clue in the Diary
      All stories are based on interesting characters—there are no exceptions. Introduce us to your character a little at a time, using action and dialogue (showing), rather than a thumbnail sketch (telling). Create realistic characters without using stereotypical traits, and include some surprises about the character that are believable. Finally, give the characters conflict—happy characters make dull characters.
2. Use dialogue: Suddenly the young sleuth snapped her fingers. “I know what I’ll do! I’ll set a trap for that ghost!” ~ The Hidden Staircase
     Dialogue makes a story come alive. It also helps move the story along, increases pace and creates drama. Listen to real conversations for realism, then edit and tighten them to make the dialogue readable. Keep attribution simple—use action or “said,” rather than adverbs and euphemisms for “said.” Finally, read your dialogue aloud.
3. Set the scene: Many Colonial houses had secret passageways. “Do you know any entrances a thief could use?” ~ The Hidden Staircase
      A vivid setting pulls the reader into the story. It also intensifies suspense and becomes a character in itself. Show the setting through the character’s eyes and include all five senses, telling details, and occasional metaphors.
4. Add mood and atmosphere: Nancy had heard music, thumps and creaking noises at night, and had seen eerie, shadows on walls. ~ The Hidden Staircase
      Give a sense of foreboding through description. Mood and atmosphere give the story depth and stimulate the emotions of the readers. Use foreshadowing to give the reader a feeling of unease.
5. Outline your plot: Ellen was alarmed. “We must do something to stop him!” “I have a little plan,” Nancy said. ~ Quest of the Missing Map
      Before you begin writing, outline your plot so you know, generally, where the story is headed. You can keep it simple and just jot down the major plot points of the story—where the story takes a surprising turn and how it ratchets up the suspense. Or you can write a detailed chapter-by-chapter outline, with the option of veering off if the story requires an alteration.
6. Start the clock ticking: “Hurry, girls, or we’ll miss the train to River Heights!” Nancy knew being on time was important. ~ Secret of Red Gate Farm
      Begin with the inciting incident, which starts the clock ticking. Include not only the situation, but where it takes place, and who’s involved. This is where you ask the story questions: What if….? Think about your goal as you start the story and where it will lead.
7. Create conflict: Nancy struggled to get away. She twisted, kicked and clawed. “Let me go!” Nancy cried. ~ Secret of the Old Clock
      There is no story without conflict. The protagonist must come up against an antagonist, which can be a person, an idea, a corporation, or some kind of evil. Conflict helps reveal the protagonist’s needs, values, and fears, and causes her to confront her demons, challenge herself, and become a hero of sorts.
8. Pack it with action: “How do we get in?” “Over the top, commando style,” George urged. “Lucky we wore jeans.” ~ Clue in the Crumbling Wall
      Today’s reader wants action, so give your protagonist opportunities to do something physical. Give her a choice between fight or flight, and when she fights—make her strong but still vulnerable.
9. Spark reader’s emotions: Nancy was too frightened to think logically. She beat on the door, but the panels would not give way. ~ Secret of the Old Clock
      Crank up the reader’s involvement but increasing the character’s emotional risk. This way the reader will care about the story. If she can relate to the protagonist’s emotional jeopardy, she’ll be hooked on finding out what happens.
      And there you have it—The Mystery of Writing Children’s Mysteries, solved, by the Girl Sleuth herself!

      Penny Warner is the author of the award-winning series, THE CODE BUSTERS CLUB, and the award-nominated guide, THE OFFICIAL NANCY DREW HANDBOOK. She can be reached at www.pennywarner.com and www.codebustersclub. Here is her favorite writing spot:

GIVEAWAY!
      Egmont has kindly agreed to give the whole set of THE CODE BUSTERS CLUB books (#1-3 in paperback and #4 in hardcover) to one of my lucky, lucky followers! Must live in the US/Canada to win - enter below!

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17. Friday Linky List - November 7, 2014

At BuzzFeed (via PW): Who said it? Katniss or Buffy?

At PW: Q & A with Chris Van Allsburg

PWs list of best books of 2014

From PW: A Lion-Sized Leap from Art Director to Author - GO Lucy Ruth Cummins!

Picture Book Month got some love in Seattle PI!

Vote in the GoodReads Choice Awards!

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18. David Ezra Stein's I'M MY OWN DOG - Interview and Giveaway!


You know I’m a fan of David Ezra Stein (Caldecott Honor winner for INTERRUPTING CHICKEN), who I interviewed a while back for BECAUSE AMELIA SMILED . Well, David has a new one out which every dog owner can relate to. It’s called I’M MY OWN DOG. I’m thrilled to have David back to talk about his latest creation!

Q. David - Congratulations on I’M MY OWN DOG! You seem to be constantly playing with your illustration methods. How did you come up with this lovely style of thick and thin lines and vibrant color washes?
A.
Thanks, Elizabeth! The art for a book stems from my explorations as an artist in my daily life, as well as what I’ve been doing in previous books. It’s very wonky. Maybe I’m excited about putting two colors next to each other, or about a certain order of layering crayon with pencil or paint. When I have a book I’m going to the final art on, I am looking for the best way to tell the new story with pictures. This usually means sitting down with all my art supplies around, and for lack of a better term, messing around. It takes a lot of courage to make room for this messing, and I can easily become discouraged and want to give up. But I keep on going, and after a while (usually a month or so) I use the right kind of line on the right paper, and the right colors, and it’s like a door opens into the world of the book.

Q. Truly, how do you know when you’ve ‘hit it’ on a style? Does something click for you? (I ask this because I’m currently trying to switch up how I work.)
A.
I get this warm feeling in my gut when something is working well. During my messing around, I look at the paper and I think, “Well, that looks like something!” Sometimes I have been working a long time, and feel like it’s not going well. Then I go out and do something else for a while, and come back. My eyes hit the work, and I know. Either it’s there or it isn’t. But I usually feel like it’s not as bad as I thought, in fact maybe it’s great!

Q. Was this story inspired by a dog you know?
A.
Well, the look of the dog is based on my cousin Madelyn’s Boston Terrier. I had chosen a bulldog for the role, but I wasn’t happy with his coloring. Not graphic enough. I was procrastinating on FaceBook and saw photos of my cousin’s dog taking a walk. He has a beautiful black and white coat. I decided to use his coloring. Thanks, cuz!
      The story itself comes from, I think, a basic human quandary of wanting independence but needing to have companionship in life. Kids feel this as they begin to socialize, and also as they interact with their immediate family.

Q. How long does it take you to complete a picture book?
A.
Once it is in the docket and it’s the main thing I’m working on, under a year. But I have taken up to 13 years (Because Amelia Smiled), or as a little as a month (I did a book called Tim & Sam for Hooked on Phonics in a month, from text to finished art.)

Q. What’s the most wonderful thing about being a full-time children’s book creator?
A.
The possibilities of exploring funny ideas and making art. You never know what will come along out of the ether, that can be captured on paper. That sense of discovery is what keeps me ticking along.

Wishing you much continued success!!

David Ezra Stein is the creator of many award-winning picture books, including Interrupting Chicken, which was awarded a Caldecott Honor, Because Amelia Smiled, and Dinosaur Kisses. He lives with his family in Kew Gardens, New York.

GIVEAWAY!
Candlewick has kindly agreed to send a free copy of I’M MY OWN DOG to one of my lucky followers. Must live in the US/Canada to win - enter below.



VISIT THE OTHER BLOGS ON THE BLOG TOUR FOR I'M MY OWN DOG:
11/3/2014 - Smart Books for Smart Kids
11/4/2014 - Read Now, Sleep Later
11/5/2014 - Cracking the Cover
11/6/2014 - Elizabeth Dulemba's blog
11/7/2014 - The Fourth Musketeer
11/8/2014 - Picture Book Palooza
11/9/2014 - Randomly Reading
11/10/2014 - Children's Corner
11/11/2014 - Flowering Minds
11/12/2014 - Teach Mentor Texts
11/13/2014 - KidLit Frenzy
11/14/2014 - Literacy Toolbox

I'M MY OWN DOG. Copyright © 2014 by David Ezra Stein. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

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19. Billy Collins' and Karen Romagna's VOYAGE - Interview and Giveaway!


I had the great honor to hear Billy Collins, US Poet Laureate 2001-3, speak when he came to my home town. His poems are truly brilliant and engaging. Then one day he wrote a poem for the Director of the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress, John Y. Cole, to celebrate his 25th anniversary in office. (I am a Board Member for the Georgia Center for the Book, so it’s an organization close to my heart.) The poem was called “Voyage.” And Bunker Hill Publishing turned it into a lovely picture book with illustrations by Karen Romagna. They do the poem justice and I’m thrilled to have Karen on today to answer some questions…

Q. Hi Karen, Congratulations on the publication of VOYAGE! How did this project come to you?
A.
Hi Elizabeth, Thank you. I know this sounds crazy, but it sort of just came out of the blue. I received an email from Ib Bellew, the publisher of Bunker Hill Publishing. He asked if I would be interested in a collaboration with the poet Billy Collins. After sending off several manuscripts of my own with dummies and receiving the initial rejections (of course), this email just seemed a little far fetched! What the heck? Really? I was sure it was some sort of bizarre mass email sent to hundreds of illustrators. My illustrator friends convinced me not to delete it and find out a little more.
     It turned out Billy Collins had requested Bunker Hill contact me about doing the illustrations. Billy likes to find the illustrators to work on his books. He went online, poked around the children’s illustration world and came up with me!
     I was up against one other illustrator and needed to submit a sample piece and thumbnail sketches of how I might handle the illustrations. Before submitting a sample I asked the publisher exactly which illustration made Billy Collins decide that I should illustrate “Voyage”. He said “Oh sure, it’s the one of the boy and the boat.” That isn’t one of my illustrations. Billy found a painting I had done years earlier of my son at the age of three. So, I submitted the sample with Tim as the boy. When I received word that they wanted me to illustrate “Voyage” there was a message from Billy saying the child in the illustration was “just the kind of boy I had in mind.”

Q. Were you aware of who Billy Collins was when you got the contract and were you at all intimidated?
A.
I did recognize his name. However, I had absolutely NO idea just how big Billy Collins actually was. I have become a complete Billy Collins groupie.
      Intimidated isn’t the word I would use. There was more a feeling of not wanting to disappoint him. I wanted more than anything to have my illustrations convey the message and meaning Billy was expressing in the beautifully lyrical words of the poem. Sheesh! No pressure!

Q. The words created some very abstract ideas - were they tricky to visualize?
A.
I had the manuscript for a few days and had read it over and over. It seemed so confusing at first. I think I was in panic mode. A friend called and asked me to read the poem to her. I remember sitting at my drawing table reading the poem. It just came alive and suddenly made perfect sense. I hung up and read it out loud again. It was right there. I just hadn’t opened my eyes to it. Of course I went back and forth with different ideas, but the images were all there.

Q. I love your wide open watercolor spreads in the book - they truly give me the sense of beach and water. What is your method?
A.
I typically paint with oils. However, I had recently been doing a lot of work with watercolor. The essence of this poem seemed to call for the light touch watercolor could give the poem. I worked at 100% on 140 lb. Arches Bright White WC paper. Voyage has only 100 words and is one sentence. I painted each page in watercolor as a double page spread which I hope gives the sense of the vast ocean and the feeling of the hugeness that becomes the experience of reading and the worlds it can lead you to.
      The publishers were great. As I was beginning the rough sketches I spent a weekend with Carole and Ib, the publishers, at their home in New Hampshire making revisions to the drawings. It was decided then that I should illustrate everything, end papers and all! The story begins as soon you open the book when the boy is wandering along the beach. “Voyage” ends on the back end paper with the boy on the beach looking up at the moon... at the end of his voyage.

Q. How long did it take you to complete the book?
A.
One full year! I received my first email from Bunker Hill the first week of April, 2013 and I delivered the illustrations to Ib Bellew on March 31 of 2014. I began painting the final illustrations in November and completed them at the end of March. I have a feeling my next book will not take quite so long!

Q. Have you and Billy done anything special to celebrate the book’s release?
A.
Yes. VOYAGE had its big kick-off at the National Book Festival in Washington, DC on August 30. Billy and I, along with John Cole, who VOYAGE was written for, Ib and Carole Kitchel Bellew presented VOYAGE in the Children’s Pavilion. Billy and I followed up with a book signing later in the day. It was a pretty magical day for me. Billy Collins is as wonderful as his poetry.

Q. Anything else in the pipeline?
A.
At the moment I am working on a picture book about a young family waiting for their dad to return home. I was also recently commissioned to paint a portrait. It will be fun to get back to oil painting again!
      I am SCBWI's Illustrator Coordinator for New Jersey. Earlier this year I began a year-long mentoring program for our illustrators, Evolution Resolution. A year of setting goals and bringing them to fruition. NJSCBWI is also in the thick of putting together our Fall Craft Weekend scheduled for the first week in November.

I wish you much continued success!!
Check out this lovely book trailer (the image will take you to YouTube):


GIVEAWAY!
Bunker Hill Publishing has kindly offered to give one free copy of VOYAGE to one of my lucky followers. Must live in the US/Canada to win. Enter below.

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20. Friday Linky List - October 31, 2014

Via Cynsations: Emma Dryden's I Want What She's Got: The Disastrous Comparison Game - a must read for all creators!

At Writers Helping Writers (via Cynsations): How Image Systems Can Supercharge a Novel by C.S. Lakin - interesting!!

From Flavorwire (also via Cynsations): 50 Best Films About Writers, Ranked. I've seen many of them but for the rest - hulu here I come!

From School Library Journal: Hostile School Environments the Norm for LGBTQ Youth, Says GLSEN Report - education is KEY!

At PW: Children's Sales Stay Hot in July!

From Bustle (via PW): 11 Reasons Why Young Adult Fiction Is Even Better When You Read It As An Adult

From the New York Times: The 10 Best Illustrated Picture Books of 2014

At PUB(listing) CRAWL: Holding Yourself Accountable & Staying Motivated by Susan Dennard

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!
CLICK HERE to find more Halloween-themed coloring pages!

At The Onion: Author Promoting Book Gives It Her All Whether It's Just 3 People Or A Crowd of 9 People - HA!

At Wild Things! Sneaky Peeks Video #21: Candace Fleming discusses THE FAMILY ROMANOV and writing talismans - what a great idea!

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21. Shirley Parenteau's SHIP OF DOLLS - Guest Post and Giveaway


SHIP OF DOLLS by Shirley Parenteau
      When asked where I get ideas, the answer is easy. Although we have no grandsons, we have six granddaughters, four of them living nearby and currently between ages nine and thirteen. A few years ago, frogs croaking in the stream near our 100 year-old farmhouse made me think “counting book,” although I had been writing women’s fiction since our own three children grew older. After a number of rejections that turned out to be blessings, the book found a home with the publisher of my dreams, Candlewick Press. I was delighted when my daughter reported that her then two-year-old Elizabeth learned to relate written numbers to letter numbers through many re-readings of One Frog Sang.
      About a year later, I watched Elizabeth in a bookstore play area putting stuffed animals on small chairs. Bears on Chairs, a rhyming book on sharing resulted. Editors often warn against writing in rhyme, partly because rhyme can be hard to translate. Yet in Japan where rhyme is not used, a translation of Bears on Chairs has been so popular that the bears are now available there as plush animals, on notepapers and more. I have to credit David Walker’s irresistible illustrations for much of the bear’s success. Happily, the books became a series. Candlewick published the third, Bears in the Bath, this year and has scheduled Bears and a Birthday for next year.
      My son’s oldest daughter Michelle inspired Ship of Dolls, a middle-grade novel. When she was three, Michelle’s parents took her to Japan to visit maternal grandparents and take part in the traditional girl’s day festival of Hinamatsuri. (Later they took Michelle and her younger sister Nicole, above, to the festival.) They returned with photos that suggested ideas for a picture book.

In an online search for details of Hinamatsuri, I discovered an event in our history that was entirely new to me, the Friendship Doll project of 1926 when children across America sent more than 12,000 dolls to children in Japan in hope of friendship and peace. Japanese children sent back 58 exquisite dolls of gratitude, each about 3 feet tall, with many accessories and wearing kimonos in patterns by the Empress’ own dressmaker.
      I’ve visited one currently on display in a museum in Reno, Nevada, and fell instantly in love.
      I longed to tell the story of the dolls as a middle-grade novel and worked on it from time to time, setting the story in NW Oregon because I grew up on the Northern Oregon Coast. But I was absorbed in my picture book series. Somehow years swept by. Then a writing friend called to tell me about a newly published book, Kirby Larsen’s The Friendship Doll. My heart sank. Had I waited too long? When I read Kirby’s book, I found it far different than mine, featuring one of the lovely Japanese dolls. I stopped revising and proposed Ship of Dolls to my Candlewick editor. She loved the idea of the Friendship Doll Project and not only wanted the book, but suggested a second book, set in Japan to tell the story through the eyes of a girl there.
      Ship of Dolls saw publication this past August. Dolls of Hope will follow in 2015. Cover artist Kelly Murphy created a stunning cover using Japanese papers for waves and vintage clothing for the girl’s and doll’s dresses. And to my surprise and absolute delight, Lexie, as Kelly has painted her, looks very much like my now eleven-year-old granddaughter Elizabeth, something Kelly had no way of knowing.

      Reviews have been wonderful. I love the conclusion of a review in School Library Journal that says, “Fans of (Beverly Cleary’s) Ramona will have no trouble connecting with and rooting for lively and likable Lexie.”
      The most exciting news of all—the publisher of Japanese translations of my bear books has purchased translation rights to Ship of Dolls and Dolls of Hope. I’m especially touched that he plans to tie publication next spring to the 70th anniversary of the ending of the war in the Pacific. He believes the book will help express to young readers his company’s wish for world peace and friendship. I can’t think of a more gratifying reception for a story that came straight from my heart.
      My current writing spot is not yet a fave. In August, we moved from our old farmhouse to a more convenient single-story home. I prefer a desktop computer and have installed it on the former owner’s craft table while I research desks (and try to keep my calico cat, Folly, from the keyboard).


GIVEAWAY
Candlewick has kindly offered a free copy of SHIP OF DOLLS to one of my lucky followers. Must live in the US/Canada to win - enter below:

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22. Speaking at Highlights Foundation!


Here I am in Honesdale, Pennsylvania speaking at the Highlights Foundation's "From Prose to Picture to Published: Writing a Marketable Picture Book 2014" with this amazing faculty: Candy Fleming, Eric Rohmann, me and David Weisner! Gads, so humbling and cool! I'll post more as I have time. But for now, here we are (on Halloween):

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23. It's Picture Book Month!!!

November 1st kicked off PICTURE BOOK MONTH! How to celebrate? CLICK HERE to check out the calendar I created. Each day features a different reading theme and different author. You can go read the author's thoughts about picture books ON THE BLOG. You can add this cool ambassador badge to your blog or website. You can also find suggested Story Time Activities and Common Core Connections for many popular books. Then, of course, read related books to the young ones in your life! Best of all, I have COLORING PAGES that also fit with many of the themes (you'll see hints of them on the calendar).
     I'm so proud to be a part of this exciting month dedicated to the books I love most! I hope you'll participate!

Also, check out this adorable comic strip from Debbie Ohi (shared with permission):

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24. NaNoWriMo!

National Novel Writing Month, a.k.a. NaNoWriMo! I'm doing it - are you? Yes, I'm out of town the first few days of November (school visits in Denver), but I've already got a few words down, so I'll claim those. My project? BLESSING JONES:

Blessing's family is falling apart, despite what her parents say. She knows the road trip to stay with family for the summer is more than just a visit. Why else would her mother be driving Blessing and her brother from California, across the country (in an old, used limo loaded with all their stuff in it) to stay with family Blessing has never met, during an oil spill when most people are heading away from the Gulf of Mexico and Mobile Bay?
Let's see how we do!

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25. Coloring Page Tuesday - Scarecrow!

     Scarecrow - um, not. He's trying to be scary, really is. But the crows seem too interested in that bowl full of apples. Hm.
     CLICK HERE for more Halloween coloring pages!! And be sure to share your creations in my gallery so I can put them in my upcoming newsletters! (Cards, kids art, and crafts are welcome!)
     Sign up to receive alerts when a new coloring page is posted each week and... Please check out my books! Especially...

my debut novel, A BIRD ON WATER STREET, coming out next week! Click the cover to learn more!
     When the birds return to Water Street, will anyone be left to hear them sing? A miner's strike allows green and growing things to return to the Red Hills, but that same strike may force residents to seek new homes and livelihoods elsewhere. Follow the story of Jack Hicks as he struggles to hold onto everything he loves most.
AWARDS
**A SIBA OKRA Pick!**
**A GOLD Mom's Choice Award Winner!**
**The 2014 National Book Festival Featured Title for Georgia!**
**eLit 2014 Gold Medal Winner in the Environmental/Ecology/Nature Category**

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