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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. 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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2. Off to the Highlights Foundation, then Denver!


Thursday I leave for Honesdale, Pennsylvania where I'll be a guest speaker at Highlights Foundation's "From Prose to Picture to Published: Writing a Marketable Picture Book 2014" from October 31st - November 2nd, with fellow picture book creators Candace Fleming, Eric Rohmann, and David Wiesner!!!!
     Then, for the first time in my career, I will leave immediately from Honesdale and fly to Denver, Colorado (back-to-back visits!), where I'll be a guest of the Denver Public Library, speaking to six elementary schools and one teen group about creating my books. Wowsa - I can't wait! Wish me good health and lovely weather!

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3. Coloring Page Tuesday - Pumpkin Pirate!

      Aaaargh! Two of my favorite things in one! I may have to cut my pumpkin to look like this, but where to find the hat. Hmmmm. Have a HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!!
     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...


     Click the cover to learn about my Halloween picture book - Lula's Brew. She's a witch who would rather be a famous chef!






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4. Vicky Alvear Shecter's HADES SPEAKS - a book signing party!

Last week I got to help celebrate the release of HADES SPEAKS, the latest in the "Gods Speak" series by my bud Vicky Alvear Shecter. She has such a perfect snarky voice for these awesome chapter books - kids eat 'em up!

     And at the launch party at Little Shop of Stories, they also ate up the pomegranate cookies! You know, because Persephone ate a pomegranate which doomed her to spend 6 months of the year in Hades - isn't that awesome? (The cookies, not the entrapment part.)

     Little did the kiddies know... they are now doomed to return to Little Shop again and again - Bwahahaha!!! *ahem* They LOVE going to our fave bookstore, so I don't think it will be a problem. :) Not to mention, they're all so knowledgable of their Greek lore, they know the significance. Did you notice the golden laurel crown on one of the listeners?
     I also found a lovely surprise while there. It's been five months since the release of my own novel, A BIRD ON WATER STREET, and yet, there it was face out with a lovely descriptor tag. How flattering! Gads, I was feeling the love for me and my friend! What a great night!

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5. Brian Froud's Faeries' Tales!


Brian Froud has a new Faeries Book out!! Are you as big a fan as I am? Brian's GNOMES is one of the reasons I became an illustrator! I actually made a little balsa wood bed for gnomes which I kept in my closet with a note: "If any gnomes sleep here tonight, please leave the bed unmade so that I know you were here." But dangit, they kept making up the bed. Hmf!
     Click the image to see the trailer on YouTube.

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6. Dori Hillestad Butler's HAUNTED LIBRARY series - Guest Post and Giveaway!

PERFECT for Halloween is the third installment in the HAUNTED LIBRARY series by Dori Hillestad Butler. She is visiting today to tell us the story behind the book...


      We all have that teacher in our past, don’t we? The one who made a difference…and started us down the path toward who we are today.
      Mr. Hartshorn was that teacher for me. He was my sixth grade English teacher. I wish I could say I was one of his best students, but I wasn’t. I was just your average “B” student.
      I was quiet and shy in sixth grade. And a little bit scared of Mr. Hartshorn. I was scared of him because he told it like it was. And because he made us give speeches.
      Let me be clear. We didn’t just have to get up in front of the class to give these speeches. There was a stage at the back of Mr. Hartshorn’s classroom. We had to go up ON THE STAGE, where there were bright lights and a podium, and give our speeches from there.
      Did I mention I was quiet and shy?
      I was also short. I was so short I couldn’t see over the podium. So I had to stand beside the podium…which was worse than hiding—I mean, standing behind it because then everyone could see my hands shaking as I read my speech.
      I didn’t do very well on any of my speeches. And I was in danger of getting far worse than a B in Mr. Hartshorn’s class that quarter, so I went to see him after school. I asked him if he’d give me extra credit if I wrote a novel for him. I don’t know what possessed me to ask him that. I’d never written a novel before. But I certainly wasn’t going to give another SPEECH for extra credit! What else could I do? I knew I had to do more than just write a short story or two to bring up my grade.
      He said, “You write the novel and we’ll see.”
      I worked on my novel every single day after school. I don’t remember how many pages the original hand-written version was, but the typed version was 42 pages. My mother typed it for me, which was nice considering it was about a girl whose mother dies!
     I felt really good about it when I turned it in. I couldn’t believe I’d actually done it! I’d written a whole novel (42 pages!). Just like real authors did. And I sooo wanted to be a real author when I grew up.
      I watched Mr. Hartshorn read my novel at his desk. It took him several days. At first I enjoyed watching him. But then I got worried. What if my novel wasn’t very good? When I was in fourth grade, a chorus teacher told me I couldn’t sing. I was devastated because I loved to sing, and I had no idea I had no talent for singing until that teacher told me. So now I was afraid Mr. Hartshorn was going to tell me I had no talent for writing, either.
      He didn’t say much when he returned my novel to me. Or maybe I just don’t remember what he said. But I’ve hung onto the note he stapled to the inside cover all these years:

     That note meant far more to me than all the extra credit in the world. If Mr. Hartshorn thought my story was “interesting, and basically very well written,” then it was. And maybe, just maybe, I really could be an author when I grew up.
      I kept writing because of that note.
      But Mr. Hartshorn’s influence doesn’t end there. I had him again for seventh grade English. We had a drama unit in seventh grade, and the play was “I Remember Mama.” While going up on the stage to give speeches in sixth grade was one of my most traumatic school experiences ever, I wasn’t nervous about being in the play. I wanted to be in “I Remember Mama.” And I wanted to play Katrin. Not because it was a lead role, but because Katrin was a writer.
      I didn’t expect to actually get the part. [See: quiet and shy] But Mr. Hartshorn did indeed cast me as Katrin!
      I don’t remember much about the performance itself (I’m sure I was fabulous! Haha!), but after it was over, I remember telling Mr. Hartshorn my secret: that I wanted to be a writer just like Katrin.
      He said, “Then you have to keep writing. You can’t give up when you get rejection letters. Katrin never gave up.”
      I never gave up, either, Mr. Hartshorn. I didn’t know it at the time, but you gave me the secret to becoming a writer when I was in seventh grade: Keep writing and never give up!
      The Ghost Backstage is book 3 in my new Haunted Library series. The Haunted Library is about a ghost boy and a “solid” girl who work together to solve ghostly mysteries. In this book, Claire is in the school play…and there’s a ghost wreaking havoc backstage. I didn’t have to think very hard about what to name the drama teacher.
      I never described Mr. Hartshorn in my text, but the very talented Aurore Damant drew him almost EXACTLY the way I remember the real Mr. Hartshorn. (He’s not wearing his glasses in this picture, but trust me: he had them!)

      I didn’t have to think very hard about who to dedicate this book to, either (click the image to see it larger in a new window, if you can't read it small):
      I’ve reread that novel as an adult. It’s NOT interesting. Nor is it particularly well written. Even when you take into account I was a sixth grader, it’s average writing at best. I know that. But Mr. Hartshorn made me FEEL like my novel was interesting and well written. He gave me confidence at a time I desperately needed some.
      I’ve thought of Mr. Hartshorn often over the years. Without his influence, I may not be an author today. Success as an author has very little to do with talent. It’s all about putting in the time (“Keep writing!” Mr. Hartshorn said) and never giving up. Maybe that’s true of anything in life?
      By the way, Mr. Hartshorn, if you’re reading this…I actually LIKE to give speeches now! Who’d have thought?

Read the first two books in the series!

GIVEAWAY!
     Penguin has kindly agreed to give away one free copy of THE GHOST BACKSTAGE - the 3rd installment in THE HAUNTED LIBRARY series! Must live in the US to win - enter below:

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7. Friday Linky List - October 24, 2014

From The Boston Globe via PW: Is Jeff Bezos really the bad guy?

Kristi Holl's Writer's First Aid, via Cynsations: A Writing Retreat Redefined.

At Bustle (via PW): 11 of the Most Chilling Book Covers Ever Published (several are children's books)

At ABC News via PW: 'Reading Rainbow' Host Debuts New Children's Book and Announces the Show's Online Return

The Guardian Children's Books (via PW): Children's Illustrators' Doodles: Watch Them in Action! (And send in your own!) - I might have to do this.

The History of Air Puppets (via BoingBoing)!!! Gads, I love those things. I can stare at them forever.

From PW's ShelfTalker: Kids Say the Darndest Things - so cute!

From The Guardian via PW: Frank Cottrell Boyce: schools are destroying the power of stories

From ABC News via PW: Jimmy Fallon's Picture Book Inspired by Daughter - I like to think he'll have a better chance than most at doing a good job with a picture book - we'll see.

At Rolling Stone magazine: Why Robbie Robertson's Son Wrote a Kids' Book About His Dad - illustrated by fellow PBAA member Adam Gustavson

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8. PUMPKIN TIME by Erzsi Deak and Doug Cushman - GIVEAWAY!


Two amazing talents have teamed up to create THE perfect harvest time book for this coming fall - Erzsi Deak (of Hen & Ink Literary Studio) and Doug Cushman (writer and/or illustrator of over 125 picture books!). The book is called PUMPKIN TIME! . It’s about Evy, who is a consummate gardener and very good pie maker! Erzsi and Doug both stopped by to talk about their book… and France, where they both live. (Paint me green with envy!)

Q. Erzsi - Congratulations on Pumpkin Time! This isn’t your first book, but it is your first picture book (yes?). How did it come to be?
A.
It was three years after PERIOD PIECES: STORIES FOR GIRLS came out when I met the wonderful Markus Zusak, author of THE BOOK THIEF among other titles, and his talk and the discussions with other attendees. Doug Cushman was there along with Ann Jacobus -- whose book, ROMANCING THE DARK IN THE CITY OF LIGHT comes out from SMP in 2015 -- and Bridget Strevens-Marzo, whose book, TIZ & OTT’S BIG DRAW comes out from Tate Publishing in 2015! Zusak’s talk was a reboot for me creatively. I started dreaming up a new book on a napkin and hotel stationery (like the best authors in recent bestselling history). This time with words and pictures. It’s actual debut, in a slightly different form, was performed during the very first Dueling Illustrators event at the SCBWI booth at the Bologna Book Fair between Doug, Bridget and Paul O. Zelinsky!

Q. Erzsi - Were you and Doug friends before PUMPKIN TIME!? Was it a collaboration?
A.
Doug and I have been friends ever since Peter Sis introduced us in Paris. He knew Peter who knew me through Barbara McClintock who knew me because of the SCBWI. Doug moved to France over ten years ago, but for the first five we only saw each other at exotic SCBWI venues (Madrid, Munich, Bologna). Since then, he has designed the Bologna logo, critiqued picture book projects at the Bologna stand and created Pencil Boy (an irregular feature on the Here, There & Everywhere page). Doug graciously listened to various versions of the text and then illustrated sample art. Last year in Bologna, over lunch, Steve Geck told me that what he really wanted was a pumpkin book. I said, "Shoot, Steve," (not my exact words, mind you), "I have a pumpkin book." And the rest, as they say is history. (For the ongoing inside scoop on how we work, I invite everyone to check out CHICKEN SCRATCHES, the regular comic Doug creates for http://henandink.com)

Q. Erzsi - You run the Literary Studio Hen & Ink. Is being located in Paris ever a challenge for you? (Personally, I’d love it!) And does being an agent inform your writing?
A.
I actually work out of the South of France in a field (last year it was... pumpkins, pumpkins everywhere!). With good internet, phone and postal/delivery service; a nearby airport and a high-speed train that can whip me off to New York, San Francisco, London, Paris, Bologna, Frankfurt and even further like Seoul this year, it's pure pleasure. Okay, the lightening storms kind of kill the internet fun, but other than that, we're good! For Hen&ink and Pumpkin Time!, I'm excited to be heading to Portland, OR, San Francisco, San Diego, Austin (for the Texas Book Festival -- yay!) and New York.
      As far as if being an agent informs my writing, I suppose a bit; I do more editing and letter and email writing than manuscript writing of my own, however. It's probably more correct to say that my writing informs my agenting.

Q. Erzsi - What was your writing process for Pumpkin Time!? Do you find the picture book format challenging? (CLICK HERE to read more about Erzsi's writing process.)
A.
I love (love!) picture books and the interplay of words and pictures. I wrote poetry from the age I could hold a stick in the sand; when I worked in a bookstore in Fairbanks, AK, I spent all my money on starting my children's book collection (I still have those picture books). In art school, I played a lot with text and looked at possibly becoming an art director so I could continue to play with words and pictures. All-this-is-to say, I find the picture book format a fabulous format to work in -- especially if one is visual. The perfect word. The perfect pause. The perfect picture. I like rhythm and repeat (What was Evy doing? for example!); call-and-response; gorgeous writing and funny writing. Succinct writing. I'm wary of one-note joke books and seek out richness in the story as well as the writing and illustrating. So, not challenging -- invigorating and exciting!

Q. Doug - I love all the energetic animals in PUMPKIN TIME! How do you come up with such fun characters?
A.
I love drawing animals (mostly they are more human and real than, well, humans). And of course Erzsi’s energetic text and humor was perfect for creating some wild animal characters. It wasn’t a chore at all, in some ways I had to hold back and not get too crazy for fear of straying too far away from the original intent of the story.

Q. Doug - What is your illustration method?
A.
I try to get the main character nailed down at the get-go, in this case it was Evy and Turkey. I saw Turkey as Evy’s counterpoint, he saw and reacted to everything she missed. Turkey is the flip side of the same coin, her “animal spirit”, if I may. I gave them both the same boots and hat to accentuate that idea. Once I have the main characters in my head I start to sketch each page and lay out the action and design. The ideal is to make each spread flow into the next one so the book works as a complete unit, like a little film.

Q. Doug - You’re in Paris now too. Does that affect your career or your approach to illustration in any way?
A.
Paris and Europe are very liberating. There are literally centuries of art all around—even up the street!— that I can draw from (no pun intended). My approach to books hasn’t changed that much but there is an atmosphere here where I feel I can push my art and ideas a little further to the edge. It doesn’t always work for the American market but it’s easier to pull back if I need to than try and push forward. I’d like to see the American market take a few more chances. Children can handle it. We could make some great books, I think.

Q. Doug - You’ve created over 125 picture books - wowsa! Do you ever slow down?
A.
It’s closer to 130 now. It doesn’t feel like work at all. I get up every morning and draw pictures. That’s all I do. But each book is different and has it’s own problems. In one sense, I’m a beginner with each book. Every project is a blank sheet, literally, where I have to create something logical, seamless and fun. The challenge is to do better than the last book. It doesn’t always work. But I keep trying.

Q. Doug - Had to add that I am now teaching with Ruth Sanderson at Hollins University in the summers in their MFA in Writing and Illustrating Children's Books program. She says ‘hi’!
A.
I knew Ruth way back in art school. She was a star even then. I was thrilled when she came to visit earlier this year. We had a grand time sketching outdoors…and eating snails. Ask her about THAT!

Q. Erzsi and Doug - Are you doing anything special to celebrate PUMPKIN TIME!?
A.

ED-I think we should break out the pumpkin pie, don't you?!
DC-Sounds good to me!
ED-In celebration, we are taking the pumpkin patch on-the-road! We've just about nailed down the schedule. Doug starts next week at The Hickory Stick Bookstore in Washington, CT, and will go to Boston and Bank Street in NYC as well. I start at the Book Been Bookstore in Portland, OR, on October 15th and then go to the Yellow Book Road and a school visit on the 21st in San Diego, drop into NCIBA in San Francisco and possibly a school visit and then it's Austin for the Festival and Books of Wonder in NYC. Details will be on pumpkin-time.com. Hope many of you can meet us on this pumpkin-infused journey!

Q. Erzsi and Doug - Do folks celebrate Halloween and harvest time in France like they do in the US?
A.

ED- Everyone loves pumpkins here -- especially pumpkin soup, so Doug may be illustrating a new spread for the rest of the world that doesn't "do" pumpkin pie! :) The merchants in Paris have tried to get Halloween going, but with All Saint's Day observed the day after Halloween, it's a tougher call to get everyone out in ghost and witch costumes for Halloween. But the harvest, definitely the harvest! Around here, in the SE of France, the hay has been baled and the pumpkins are lined up in the fields.
DC-All true. Halloween is practically unknown in France. But as Erzsi said, the harvest, especially the grape harvest, is big. I just returned from the grape harvest in Burgundy. Obviously France has no Thanksgiving holiday, which is huge in America, and in many ways symbolizes the great Harvest in the States.

Q. Erzsi and Doug - Do you think you’ll do another book together?
A.
ED & DC-Yes!!
DC- We’ve known each other for a long time and have planned many projects over the years. We hope to do many more books together...and not only pumpkin-related (though food is one of my favorite subjects to write, talk and paint).

Q. Thanks so much to both of you for stopping by! I wish you much continued success, and with any luck, I’ll be able to say that to you in person, in France, one of these days!!!
A. ED & DC- Great! The first glass of Burgundy is on us!
Me: Oh, you have SO got a deal!

CLICK HERE to download a free PUMPKIN TIME! Activity kit! .

GIVEAWAY!
Sourcebooks has agreed to giveaway a free copy of PUMPKIN TIME to one of my lucky followers. Must live in the US/Canada to win - enter below:

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9. Time again for LULA'S BREW!

Teachers, are you looking for a good Halloween book to share with your young gargoyles? Might I suggest my picture book, LULA'S BREW to get in the spirit?
     Lula's Aunties want her to be a witch like them. But Lula prefers to study cookbooks rather than spellbooks (and hates to fly on a broom). Lula wants to be a famous chef. In desperation, the Aunties insist she try to make one last potion. Lula secretly adds her cooking flair and in true witchy fashion creates a brew that bewitches the entire town, and her Aunties too!
     LULA'S BREW is available in hardcover from your local bookseller (they might have to order it, so don't wait!), and also on the iPhone, iTouch, iPad, Nook Color, Kindle, and as a .pdf. Visit the activity page for all options, to download free activities (and a recipe for the BREW), and to see some cool videos. Bwahahaha!

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10. Coloring Page Tuesday - BAT!

     Scree! Scree! I think bats are so cool - don't you? And this one is all dressed up for Halloween. (Bats don't have to wear costumes - just scarves to keep warm!)
     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...


     Click the cover to learn about my Halloween picture book - Lula's Brew. She's a witch who would rather be a famous chef!






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11. Auburn Writers Conference Wrap-up!

I'm exhausted but smiling after spending three days at the Auburn Writers Conference hosted by the amazing Chantel Acevedo and her supportive crew.
     Thursday morning, I drove over early from Atlanta to spend time with two classes at Loachapoka Middle School (7th and 8th graders).
They made some sweet signs to welcome me:

The first class had received a group set of copies of A BIRD ON WATER STREET from Auburn University's University Outreach program - how cool! And their English teacher (I'm sorry, I forgot her name) had them all fired up for my visit - fun!



     Here I am with LaDerrial, one of the students who wants to be a writer herself someday:

     The teachers were so kind to present me with a certificate of appreciation - how nice! Having teacher support means SO much!

Here I am with the English teacher and the Principal, Mrs. Kitt, who I saw at the writers conference later.


Friday I awoke early and walked the Auburn campus - so pretty. Then Mark Wilson, my schools escort and PhD Coordinator of community and civic engagement in the College of Liberal Arts at Auburn University, picked me up to head to Duke Middle School. I met with two classes there as well.



Mark's son was in one of them - HI! The kids asked fantastic questions and I wish I could have spent more time with them. Here I am with another budding writer.

     Thanks to Mrs. Laura Hardy, the Librarian for making me feel so welcome.

And thanks to Michelle Hopf, their teacher who was actually at the conference (we caught up later after years of talking online). She has some great students and they obviously love her! Here I am with Michelle and Angela Jordan (we talked Appalachia and could have gone on for hours if everybody wasn't so tired from the great weekend!).

     Saturday I once again walked around campus - what a nice way to start the day. Then I got ready for my workshop, "What to Do When the Story Finds You," this time with adults! I didn't get pictures this time, but several people thanked me afterwards saying how much they got out of my workshop. LOVE to hear that!
     All said, it was a fabulous time. I caught up with writer friends and met several new ones. I also got to reconnect with the kind folks in Alabama. Along with conferences and festivals, I do quite a few school visits over there and I'm sure they have a lot to do with that. So, THANK YOU to all for a lovely time! I hope I can return soon!

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12. Sam and Dave - Klassen and Barnett on TV

Jon Klassen and Mac Barnett were recently on The Morning Blend to talk about their new book together! Click the image to go watch on YouTube:

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13. Irene Latham's DEAR WANDERING WILDEBEEST - Interview and Giveaway!

I love poets and am lucky to have a few friends who are truly passionate about it. One is Irene Latham and I'm thrilled to help her celebrate her new book of poetry here today as she interviews the illustrator of DEAR WANDERING WILDEBEESTE, Anna Wadham.

     When I was a child writing my first books, I always illustrated them as well. To this day, I am a doodler, and a huge appreciator of art – not only was my first novel LEAVING GEE'S BEND inspired by art, but I have written many poems inspired by works of art that hang at the National Museum of Women in the Arts (Washington, DC). So, when my editor at Millbrook Press contacted me to let me know they had selected Anna Wadham to illustrate DEAR WANDERING WILDEBEEST, I was on her website within seconds.
     And I was thrilled! I love Anna's work, and I'm so honored to share a book with her. Anna will also be illustrating another book of mine – SUMMER IN ANTARCTICA, coming from Millbrook Press in 2016. From the grasslands to an ice desert... Anna is versatile, too!
     While Anna and I have never met – she makes her home in Norwich, England – we do keep in touch, and she was kind enough to answer a few questions for me to share with all of you. Thanks, Anna! And thanks, Elizabeth, for inviting us to your blog!

IL: What draws you to a manuscript? What makes you say yes?
AW: To begin with I try to visualize how the finished book could look in my mind (roughly!) When considering a project it's important to me that my painting style "matches" the writing. With our new Antarctica book project on the horizon I'm imagining lots of painterly effects and stripy icebergs.
      When I read the manuscript for WILDEBEEST, I knew instantly it was a yes! I've really loved illustrating for poetry- it's not as repetitive as a traditional picture book but still has a sense of place and continuity, starting with morning- through to night in the African grasslands.

IL: Tell us about a challenge you encountered during your work on WILDEBEEST.
AW: “Triptych for a Thirsty Giraffe” was the most challenging, a giraffes legs whilst bending down are very hard to fit on the page- especially when considering space for text as well!
     Also, “Lioness, After the Hunt.” I wanted to make her look ready to pounce- even when asleep. I was also thinking of my cat Charlie. She always hears me enter the room when she's sleeping and has a sneaky look at me! I'm not sure it's totally realistic (or possible?) for a cat to have one eye open, but think it still works for the poem. (Click the image to see a larger version in a new window.)

IL: Which spread are you most proud of?
AW: My favourite at the moment is “Tree For All.” I also like “Says Nightjar to the Stars.” I like the little details and surprises in these pages for the reader to spot- little snails, anteaters and insects! “Oxpecker Cleaning Service” feels quite special to me, it was my first painting for the book and set the scene for others to follow.
(Click the image to see a larger version in a new window.)

Thank you, Anna! That lioness's one eye open is one of my favorite parts of the book. And “Says Nightjar to the Stars” is so gorgeous and resonates so deeply with me that I begged Anna to let me use it as a header for my email newsletter! So thrilled she said yes. :) Here's to many more books illustrated by Anna!

Thanks again, Elizabeth, for inviting us to your blog today. Your generous spirit shines! xo

Irene Latham was inspired to write DEAR WANDERING WILDEBEEST after viewing images from wildlife photographer Greg du Toit, who submerged himself in a Kenyan water hole in order to best capture the animals drinking. In response, she submerged herself in research and waited for these poems to arrive. She is also the author of three volumes of poetry for adults and two award-winning novels for children: LEAVING GEE'S BEND and DON'T FEED THE BOY. www.irenelatham.com

Anna Wadham is the illustrator of several picture books and has an MA in children's book illustration. She currently lives in Norwich, England, where she enjoys the city cafes and the rooftop views of trees, gardens, and chimney pots from her flat. Inspiration is drawn from many things - memory, great painters, pattern, and a bit of imagination. She loves to paint animals and create colorful landscapes for them to inhabit. www.annawadham.comThanks, Irene


GIVEAWAY!
Irene is generously offering a signed copy of DEAR WANDERING WILDEBEEST to one of my lucky followers. Must live in the US/Canada to win - enter below:

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14. Friday Linky List - October 17, 2014

From BuzzFeed via Shelf Awareness: 19 Magical Bookshops Every Book Lover Must Visit. OMG!

The Da Vinci Initiative - Online Skill-Based Art Classes - Kickstarter project. This is so incredibly important and yet doesn't exist in most if not all schools. Art ties together all the other course studies, so why it's deemed less important is beyond me.

From PW: Hachette Launches Author & Agent Portal: "The portal will provide self-service, updated information for agents and authors, including confidential sales data, for all titles published by HBG." What a GREAT idea!

Little Known Punctuation Marks: Infographic. Why can't I find these on my keyboard, hmmmm?

At lifehack: 25 Common Words That You've Got Wrong

At PW: The National Book Award Finalists have been named! I'm thrilled to see Deborah Wiles' REVOLUTION on there!

At The New Yorker (via PW): S.E. Hinton and the Y.A. Debate

Diversity in YA is hosting a Middle Grade Month Giveaway!

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15. ISSUN BOSHI by Raphael Urwiller and Mayumi Otero - Interview and Giveaway!

Little Gestalten (a German publisher) is bringing some very cool children's books to the US for us to enjoy. The first I'll share with you is ISSUN BOSHI written and illustrated (together) by Raphael Urwiller and Mayumi Otero. English is not their first language (they are from France), so I'm thrilled to have them both here today - what a treat!

Q. It seems every culture has a “Tom Thumb” sort of character. How did you become familiar with the story of ISSUN BOSHI?
A.
Issun Boshi is a Tom Thumb, but in its poetic own way, a naïve little boy walking through the wilderness with a rice bowl on its head.
      In fact Mayumi, who is one half of Icinori, is half Japanese, and it was one of her most beloved story that her mother was telling her when she was a child. The other part of Icinori, Raphael Urwiller, is fond of traditionnal tales, and we discovered that Issun Boshi was never well adapted in France as a children book.

      Then we made it, for all this good reasons !

Q. I know older tales often don’t fit well in modern sensibilities. How much adaptation did you have to do to make the story work for new readers?
A.
A children's book has its own constraints, the number of pages, size, color, printing technique, and each of these constraints are a creative challenge. The original story comes in many forms, some versions are like the Grail legend, never finding the end.

      Raphael cut the text and rewrote it in a very modern rhythm paced modern book of 32 pages. This text has been designed to be read aloud with parents, but also to be read by the child alone, with simple words and very understandable images to help reading. The original story contains quite violent actions, Issun Boshi attacks monsters, we decided to keep these moments but by approaching them in a thoughtful way, working the figures and innuendo.

      We were very surprised at the extremely positive way children greet the story we made. In fact we did this book for the two children we were.

Q. I adore the art style - it’s both retro and so fresh - what is the method?
A.
We are engravers, screenprinters and strange book publishers (unique popup books and more) , we made this book using our printing techniques (screen printing is an ancient technique invented by the Chinese to work very accurate and efficient color), which we adapted to the constraints of traditional offset printing, allowing this book to benefit from these very beautiful colors. (Click the image to see a larger version.)

Q. Were there specific challenges to making this style work for ISSUN BOSHI?
A.
We admire many popular old images and ephemera, as well as the current underground art, the two share a wonderful and colorful graphics generosity power. We much inspired by old Japanese prints that contemporary artists. We try to follow the course huge illustrators, Sendak, Ungerer, Gustave Doré, Topor, etc. The challenge was to find the balance between all of this influences and our own wills!

Q. The story was originally published in France. How did it make it to the US?
A.
Gestalten – a great book publisher for designers and artists – made us the great possibility of being published in its first collection of books for children, translating the book in german and english! The book was also published in many countries (spanish, italian, chinese, dutsch etc.) and had a price in Bologna, the biggest children books festival. It's great, we don't realize the meaning of all of this but it's great!

Q. Neither of you live in the US. How is it to have a book launching in America and how have you celebrated the release of the book in your home towns?
A.
Yes, we opened a bottle of wine from Napa valley. For us, french peoples, it's a strong symbol!

GIVEAWAY!
Little Gestalten has generously agreed to send a free copy of ISSUN BOSHI to one of my lucky followers. Enter below!

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16. Reading Rainbow Calendar Art - Go VOTE please!

I submitted an illustration for consideration for the Reading Rainbow calendar and voting is now open! (It closes Sunday.) I hope you'll check it out! You do have to be a Reading Rainbow backer to be able to vote, but try this link: CLICK HERE!

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17. Auburn Writers Conference!

Thursday morning I head out to speak at the Auburn Writers Conference in Alabama and to speak at two schools. It's been several years since I last spoke at this event. Chantel Acevedo puts on a class act, so I'm really looking forward to it!
     Here's a peek at one of the classes I'll be visiting: Students at Loachapoka High School in Lee County, Alabama received a classroom set of A Bird on Water Street, courtesy of Auburn University’s Office of the Vice President of University Outreach and the Auburn Writers Conference. I can't wait! (Click the image to see a larger version.)

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18. Coloring Page Tuesday - Vulture

     V is for Vulture! Halloween creepeth closer. It's time to pull out the pumpkins and creepy coloring pages! My favorite time of year!
     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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19. Coloring Page Tuesday - Gorilla

     Yes, I have a lifeguard gorilla image too. But really, can you ever get enough gorillas? That's what I thought.
     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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20. ABOWS is a GOLD Moonbeam Children's Book Award Winner!

I returned from vacation to some GREAT news! A BIRD ON WATER STREET won the GOLD Moonbeam Children's Book Award in the Pre-teen Historical/Cultural category! You can read all about it HERE. Here's what this award stands for:

“Celebrating Youthful Curiosity, Discovery and Learning through Books and Reading”
and
"The Moonbeam awards are dedicated to the notion that reading to and with your children will inspire them to become lifelong readers and learners."
and
"The Moonbeam Children's Book Awards are intended to bring increased recognition to exemplary children's books and their creators, and to support childhood literacy and life-long reading. The Awards recognize and reward the best of these books and bring them to the attention of parents, booksellers, librarians - and to children themselves."
Such an honor - thank you!!!!

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21. TELEPHONE illustrated by Jen Corace - interview and giveaway!


Remember how you played "Telephone" as a kid, and how messed up the message could get from one end to the other? Well, there's a new picture book about it called, what else, TELEPHONE! It's written by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Jen Corace. Jen stopped by to talk about it...

Q. Jen, you're no stranger to illustrating great picture books. In fact, you've illustrated some of my faves: LITTLE PEA, LITTLE HOOT, and LITTLE OINK. How did you get into this business?
A.
It all happened like a big organic snowball. I had been interested in working in children’s books but didn’t really become serious about an illustration career until I was 27. It just clicked. I created an online portfolio and sent out promotional postcards and packets to publishers and art directors I wanted to work with.
      And then I waited.
      While I waited I became involved in the DIY movement and started doing fine art shows with galleries that worked with illustrators. By the time I started to create a name for myself in that field I was approached by Chronicle Books, who had had me on file for the past two years, to work on Little Pea.
      By the time they asked me to work on Little Hoot I had been approached by Steven Malk for representation.

Q. Your first books work strongly with white space, where as TELEPHONE is fully saturated. Did this feel different to you?
A.
It doesn’t feel different, it feels like a natural progression.
      On the one hand, TELEPHONE is the culminating marriage of the more spare, negative space-aware work I’ve done in the past and the more detailed, fuller style I work in for fine art and even titles like SWEET DREAMS and STEADFAST TIN SOLDIER.
      On the other hand, there still is a lot of negative space encompassing the characters, it just happens to be clouds and sky. I think that there is still that sort of shape on shape breathing room going on. It’s just disguised in a bit of blue.

Q. You're obviously a very talented designer as well as illustrator. I love the wires on each spread. Were they problematic to work with?
A.
Oh! Thank you!
      The wires weren’t problematic for me as I put them in last. I was worried that they would smudge and I was hesitant to use something like fixative to set them in place, not knowing how it would interact with the combination of watercolor, ink and gouache I was using. The only other concern that I had, which I also had with I HATCHED! … which also uses a fair amount of pencil … that in the scanning the work the scanner might pick up some shine off of the graphite. So far I haven’t run into that problem.

Q. My favorite spread is the one with the turkey. I laughed out loud at the idea of a turkey sitting on a telephone wire! Did you have fun coming up with all the birds you used?
A.
I had the best time thinking about just the right birds and just the right impossible birds to put up on the wire. My art director, Kristine Brogno, was a great sounding board to navigate all the options we had at hand. She’s the best.

Q. It seems that Mac gave you some great words to play with. Did the visuals come easily or did you have to work at them?
A.
I was thrilled to work with Mac. I was very excited to work on TELEPHONE.
      Typically, when I get a new manuscript, I print it out, read it several times over, make notes. When I printed out the manuscript for TELEPHONE I experienced, for a brief, few days, the “fear of the blank page.”
      More often than not manuscripts have context clues to point an illustrator in a direction. TELEPHONE, for the most part, is wide open. Outside of birds and a telephone wire it’s pretty wide open … Montana skies open. My only in was what these amazing, succinct, spare lines said about personality.
      That degree of play is a lot of power. And me being me who is at the start, extremely literal but excited to play, was very conscious about balance. Balance between everything that could possibly be with what specific, right visual voice I could bring to the book.

Q. What is your illustration method?
A.
I have all the usual steps … pagination, character design, sketching stage back and forth with my art director and editor. The one thing that is key in how I come around to solving visual problems or find my way in a project … a fair chunk of thinking and staring.
      Usually I say thinking, sitting and staring … but more often than not I am lying on the floor, staring at the ceiling.
      It’s a good quiet time. Loosely holding onto the project at hand and letting my mind free associate a path into a solution. It gives me an opportunity to see a piece or a book as a whole. I love it.

Q. How are you celebrating the release of TELEPHONE?
A.
How aren’t I celebrating it?
      On September 9th we have primary elections in Rhode Island. And I LOVE to vote. LOVE IT. On the same day I fly out to Portland, Oregon so that I can attend the opening of my solo show on the 11th. I will definitely get a cocktail onboard and if there is an inflight cheese plate … I will eat it.
      When I arrive in Portland I will be staying with my friend, Amy Martin, who has been boasting about her stew prowess on Twitter. I am imagining that I will be eating stew she makes and she will be drinking the manhattans I make.
      TELEPHONE’s release is gonna rule!

Q. What's next in line (get it - ha!) for you?
A.
Well, I have two solo shows that are back to back. September 11th at Land Gallery in Portland and October 11th at Art Star in Philly. After that I will be designing a new game with my brother, Jason. Last year we worked on Lords & Ladies … a game about building a status hungry family via Edwardian societal rules … the next game is a real juicy one and I can’t talk about it much right now.

Q. Thanks for stopping by!
A.
High fives!

Check out this cute book trailer on YouTube!


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

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22. Friday Linky List - October 10, 2014

Egmont USA is for SALE! Read about it at Shelf Awareness

At the New York Times: 'The Giving Tree': Tender Story of Unconditional Love or Disturbing Tale of Monstrous Selfishness?

From the New York Times: What Kids Around the World Eat for Breakfast

At PW ShelfTalker: Bookseller Blind Spots - funny! :)

At Bookshelf via Ulule - La Bibliambule - what a great idea!


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23. David Zeltser's LUG: DAWN OF THE ICE AGE - Guest Post and Giveaway!

Have you ever felt like an artist in a world full of cavemen - where nobody appreciates what you do? Enter LUG: DAWN OF THE ICE-AGE. David Zeltser stopped by to talk about his debut mid-grade...


      Hey there, Elizabeth and Dulemba blog readers!
      Like you, I love middle grade and picture books. More specifically, I gravitate toward anything with a strong visual element. LUG is an illustrated middle grade book series where the main character is a cave painter. My next book out will be a picture book. No matter what the genre, I want both kids and adults to experience and enjoy my books.
      In Lug: Dawn of the Ice Age, Lug is a boy who loves something that is forbidden by his clan. Here’s a taste of his clan’s rules: The Macrauchenia Clan’s Official STONE REGISTRATION SYSTEM All privately owned stones must be registered as one of the following:
     o Stone good for bashing someone because easy to hold
     o Stone good for bashing someone because easy to hide
     o Stone good for bashing someone in eye socket
     o Sleeping slab
     o Dining rock
     0 Boulder in front of cave (aka door)
     0 Boulder not in front of cave (aka obstacle)
      You’ll notice that “Stone good for art” is not listed. The Clan Council considered making art to be uncavemanlike behavior--a waste of time when you could be bashing perfectly good heads with perfectly good stones. So Lug has to keep his cave art a secret.
      Q&A
Why Lug can’t share his art - what was your motivation behind this idea in the story?
     Part of it is Lug’s relationship with his father, Big Lug, who is a much more traditional caveman. Unlike Lug, the father hunts well, loves to bash things, and is very good at a game called Headstone—a game that their clan plays against their rival clan every year.
     (Here’s an excerpt of Lug talking about Headstone:
     “No one else in my clan seemed to care that it was getting colder. All they ever cared about was playing in the next big headstone game against the Boar Riders. Headstone is a game where you bash the opposing players’ heads with stones. In order to increase the risk of major injury, all players are also required to ride large animals while doing their bashing.”)
      Of course, like any of us on some level, Lug wants his father to be proud of him. So he hides the fact that he has no interest in hunting and Headstone and would be much happier cave painting all day. Another motivation I had for this approach--and the book in general—was satirizing our culture. I enjoy playing sports, but I feel like American culture overly emphasizes and overfunds competition, and greatly undervalues--and underfunds--creativity in its kids. Competition is very important and definitely has its place, but I think we are losing sight of other just as crucial activities that aren’t so win-lose. When two kids are engaged in something creative, it’s a win-win situation for them and the culture. Of course, it’s one thing when a kid chooses to be competitive, and another thing when he or she is pushed into it. Lug is definitely in the ‘pushed’ group.

David says helping with the veterinary care of a newborn rhino at Fossil Rim Wildlife Center also eventually led to him writing LUG.

How does Lug fight against the powers that be to express himself and why is that important?
      Lug’s clan is dominated by a bullying leader called Boulder and Boulder’s son, Bonehead. Lug’s journey is not to fight them physically, but to stand up for what he believes in and become a natural leader in his own right. While there is a good deal of action in the book around a particularly nasty group of saber-toothed tigers, I wanted to avoid the typical mano a mano approach when it came to the main conflict. Despite what Hollywood feeds our kids, most of the important conflicts they’ll face in life won’t be resolved by physical violence. The powers that be in this story are defeated through all kinds of other interesting means. I hope you’ll read LUG to see how!

      To learn more about all my upcoming books, as well as the LUG book trailer here: http://davidzeltser.com/books/lug-dawn-of-the-ice-age


Bio:
      DAVID ZELTSER emigrated from the Soviet Union as a child, graduated from Harvard, and has worked with all kinds of wild animals, including rhinos, owls, sharks, and ad executives. He is the author of Lug, Dawn of the Ice Age, the first book in a satirical series about the world’s inaction on climate change, for ages 8-12. He also has a forthcoming picture book, Ninja Baby, with Caldecott Honor illustrator Diane Goode (Chronicle Books). David lives with his wife and daughter in Santa Cruz, California. He performs improv comedy and loves meeting readers of all ages. His second book about Lug is scheduled to publish in Fall 2015. Visit David’s website at www.davidzeltser.com. He’s also on Twitter: @davidzeltser


CLICK HERE to visit other blogs on David's blog tour!

GIVEAWAY!
Egmont has kindly agreed to give a free copy of LUG: DAWN OF THE ICE AGE to one of my lucky followers. Must live in the US to win - enter below:

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24. Southern Festival of Books - "All About the Books, No Trouble"

Today I head out to speak at the Southern Festival of Books in Nashville, Tennessee (always a blast). But unlike previous years where I visited the children's stage, this year I'll be on a mid-grade novelists panel for A BIRD ON WATER STREET! No costume! I can't wait! I'll be on Sunday at 2:00 with the illustrious Deborah Wiles, "Gonna Build A Better World: Coming of Age and Taking Action." Hope to see you there!
     To get fired up about the festival, Librarians at the Nashville Public Library came up with their own version of "All About the Bass" (one of my favorite walking songs). Brilliant! Click the image to go watch on YouTube:

And maybe I'll get to congratulate them on their great job since I'm in their town!

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25. So Fest of Books - Wrap-up!

Hubbie and I scooted on up to Nashville for the Southern Festival of Books on Saturday. I've spoken at this festival several times now, and it's one of my faves. Happily, we got there early enough to say 'hi' to Betsy Bird and Julie Danielson who were there to talk about their new book, WILD THINGS (I featured them recently on my blog). And we were there on time to see Susan Eaddy and Julie Hedlund talk about their latest creation, MY LOVE FOR YOU IS THE SUN. (I featured them when they started their journey on Kickstarter HERE.)

I also saw John Rocco and Kristy Valiant speak! I'm a huge fan of John's work - interviewed him HERE and HERE. And I've been rooting for Kristi since before she was published - so nice to finally meet her in person! I interviewed her HERE and HERE.

     The weather was horrible and I didn't pack well for it - pah! So, it was nice to see there were still large crowds and my peeps at the SCBWI Midsouth tent were all smiles. I LOVE my Nashville peeps!!!
     That evening there was a lovely party for all the invited authors and illustrators to mingle and chat. Here was my gang: Susan Eaddy, Julie Hedlund, Eugene Yelchin, John Rocco, and moi:

Afterwards, several of us met up at Susan's house for a casual barbecue among children's book peeps. Her hubbie, David (also an artist) even broke out the champagne to help celebrate all our latest successes (book sales, awards, new releases)! Here we are having one of those magical, wish it could go on forever, sort of evenings: (in front) Casey and Kristi Valiant, (in back from left) Susan, David, Julie Hedlund, Me, Mary Uhles, and Jessica Young.

     Truly, that was a special night!
     The next day Stan was able to catch Vicky Alvear Shecter talk about her latest books, POMPEII and HADES SPEAKS right after Kimberly Cross Teter talked about her fascinating book ISABELLA'S LIBRETTO. (I had to meet with Sharon Cameron, author and moderator for my panel, which was right after.)

     I had the distinct honor of being paired with National Book Award Winner (and friend) Deborah Wiles (author of REVOLUTION, which is getting lots of Newbery buzz). She's supported me since the early days of my career, so it was so humbling and flattering to sit beside her and talk about A BIRD ON WATER STREET:



     Even the signing wasn't too painful this year - I had some very nice, interested readers ask me to sign books. One was a young boy, right about Jack's age. Gads, do I wish I could be a fly on his wall to see how he reacts to the book!

     It was late when we finally left, late when we stopped for dinner in Chattanooga (my old stomping grounds), and even later when we got home waaaay after dark. But it was all worth it.
     I love Nashville, I love my creative friends and my Midsouth family (I haven't even named half of them), and I ADORE finally meeting people in person who I've emailed with for years (there were a lot of them at this event). SUCH a treat!
     Thank you to Lacey Cook, Serenity Gerbman and all the volunteers for making this such a fantastic event, rain or shine! I'm always thrilled to come visit your neck o' the woods!

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