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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. Carmen Oliver's BEARS MAKE THE BEST READING BUDDIES


A BIG HEART = AUTHOR SUCCESS
written by Carmen Oliver
illustrations by Jean Claude

Elizabeth talks about “Heart Art,” the part that makes the illustration magical. For a writer. For me, “Heart Art” or “Heart Story” is author intention. My heart is in everything I write. I believe it’s in every author’s work.
      Embedded. Woven. Waiting to be discovered.
      The real reason behind why the author wrote the book. And when a writer tells a story with their heart stitched into the fabric of a manuscript well, then, success. Magic. Bliss.
      Donald Mass in his novel The Breakout Novelist said, “Success as an author requires…a big heart.” I agree.
      I think it takes a big heart to come back to the page, time and time again when things aren’t working. When you’re frustrated. When the doubts creep in. I think a big heart encourages the writer. Trust yourself. Begin again. You can do this. Go on, we’re in this together. A big heart can’t give up. It cares too deeply. About the story. About the characters. But most of all, about the readers. About delivering a story that matters to them. And yes, to you too.
      A big heart reaches out and extends a hand to fellow writers. Knowing helping them achieve success is a reward unto its own. By serving them, you receive something too. A big heart knows there’s room for everyone.
      I also believe a successful author is one that measures all the achievements, big or small. A page written today. A chapter finished. A novel outlined. It’s not always a book sold. #1 in sales. An award in your back pocket. Success comes from working day in and day out. Slow and steady. Writing when you don’t want to.
      A big heart is open to all possibilities. Knowing that there is more than one way to get to the destination. Knowing that failure is needed to get to success. Knowing that humility and humbleness make us do our jobs better. A big heart knows anything is possible. And we don’t have to step on people to get there.
      In my heart, I know there are no coincidences in life. That if you allow your heart to be open, big and wide, well there’s nothing you can’t do. So let the people in. Learn from whoever is willing to teach you. Love the work. Lift others.
      Don’t worry about success. It’ll find you. All you need is a big heart.
      If you’re in Austin, TX this summer, Carmen is teaching Perfecting the Picture Book I at The Writing Barn and later this September at Highlights with Don Tate’s workshop The Journey: Your Path to Publication with special guests, Alison Green Myers, and Kathleen Hayes.
Carmen's fave writing spot at a lake house...

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2. Coloring Page Tuesday - Millipede Read!

     I like to think that this millipede is reading "The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. Terwilliker." Do you remember that one by Dr. Seuss?
     CLICK HERE for more coloring pages!
     CLICK HERE to 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 - winner of six literary awards. 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.
     I create my coloring pages for teachers, librarians, booksellers, and parents to enjoy for free with their children, but you can also purchase rights to an image for commercial use, please contact me. If you have questions about usage, please visit my Angel Policy page.

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3. CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway!

The CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Children's Book Awards were announced today from an impressive shortlist:

And the winners are:
CILIP Carnegie for an outstanding book written in English: ONE by Sarah Crossan
Kate Greenaway for best illustrated book: THE SLEEPER AND THE SPINDEL illustrated by Chris Riddel, written by Neil Gaimen.
CLICK HERE to learn more about the awards.

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4. VIDEO: Grace Lin's TED Talk

Author/Illustrator Grace Lin gave a fabulous and important TED Talk which is worth your time. Click to have a watch on YouTube.

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5. Back to Virginia

As you read this, I will be on a plane heading back to the states to teach Picture Book Design and a Computer Workshop at Hollins University in the MFA in Children's Book Writing and Illustrating and Certificate in Children's Book Illustration programs. I'll be going from 50/60 degree weather to 90. From sweaters to tank tops. Culture shock? A bit. And yet, Virginia is beautiful too.
     So, join me for the next six weeks while I shift gears from Scotland and head to Appalachia!

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6. Going Away/Birthday Party

We have made so many good friends since arriving in Edinburgh (a year ago come August). I wanted the chance to spend time with every single one of them before I leave for the states for six weeks (to teach Picture Book Design at Hollins University). I didn't have enough time, of course, so the only solution was to have a party!
     Behind the camera is eight-year-old Pedro on his first photography gig. I think he did a pretty great job! Of course, I love seeing things through his eyes - which hit slightly above belly button level.


Here was the spread - at the bar, being enjoyed by Karin...

the salmon...
And the coffee table with its new glass top after the Donna Summer incident.
I was tickled by the friends who came, like Penelope and her husband Robert, Connie, Dick and those not pictured - Rosie, Jo, Catherine, and Pedro of course.

Shona and Marta

Mel and her boyfriend Eddie (not pictured)

C, Pedro's dad Ash, and Amandine
Stan got a chance to relax despite all his cooking. (He made vegan chili and Jamie Oliver's goulash - YUM!) Here he is with Paul.
And if there is any doubt to the budding skills of this young photographer - he got a photo of me which may become my new avatar. I look so happy! And I was, indeed. All my favorite people were in the same room together. They got to know each other's wonderful selves, to find out why I love them all so. What a fabulous send-off! See you all when I get back!

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7. Friday Linky List - 17 June 2016

LOVE this Literature skirt from Rooby Lane:



From The Artery: How The 'Goodnight Moon' Author and Collaborator Revolutionized Kids Books

From BuzzFeed: 34 Photos That Prove All Book Lovers Should Live In Hay-On-Wye (Thanks to Elizabeth W. for the link!)

From Bridget Stevens-Marzo: Katsumi Komagata at Foyles and ELCAF in London - and his transformative, transforming books

From Henry L. Walton: Writing Stories That Are Popular With Both Children and Adults

At 99U: Shantell Martin: A Creative's Guide to Changing Gears

From 99U: Javier Jaén - How one Barcelona-based designer is shaking up American culture

From Muddy Colors - have you seen this blog? It's great! Recent Magic: The Gathering Art

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8. Il Sung Na's THE OPPOSITE ZOO


Interview with Il Sung Na

e: What is your creative process, can you walk us through it?
Il Sung:
Ideas come first. I have sketchbooks and files on my computer where I keep all my ideas. An “Opposites’ concept was one of them and been in my folder for a long time. So, I made quick drawings of opposite animals. When I have a strong idea, which I think I want to do, then write a story down quickly. This is a hardest part for me. I spend quite amount of time to write it and revise it several times. Once I have a good shape of story, then it’s all about compositions and drawings. It’s included thumbnail sketches, study characters (or animals) and more drawings. I do some drawings before I have a finished story, but I normally wait until I write a full story (or at least 80% finished story) to play with. Then I make full sketches and colors. Coloring process is most fun part to me with less stress. Maybe I am more visual person than using text.

e: What is your medium?
Il Sung:
I used to use acrylic paint, soft pastel, oil pastel and color pencils a lot. But I wanted to illustrate ‘The Opposite Zoo’ in different way, not in the same way I have done so far. The risk I had was how to approach this story in a fresh manner. I tried mono-print, watercolor, ink and color pencils. I wanted more free-form lines and shapes in contrast to my previous illustrations. So using ink-my long time favorite materials- was a risk: the effects had the potential to go astray with this new method.

color sample_ mono print

color sample_ ink and color pencils


final illustration

e: * What do you think makes an illustration magical, what I call "Heart Art” - the sort that makes a reader want to come back to look again and again?
Il Sung:
I think that’s a power of illustration. When I was a college student, I always wanted to make illustrations that people look and look again. And I thought it has to be beautiful or artistically finished to achieve it. After I spent some good years, I have changed my mind. It doesn’t need to be beautiful or artistic, but good illustrations are that inspire readers’ imaginations. That way, reader want to come back to look again and again. So I would say ‘imaginative power’ or ‘spark imagination’.

e: Is there a unique or funny story behind the creation of this story?
Il Sung:
Well, unfortunately, there isn’t. But the process of making ‘The Opposite Zoo’ was a little different than my previous books.
      I normally spend a lot of time to write a story (or narrative), struggle to get it right. But I only spent three weeks from getting ideas to making a dummy book. When I figured how to start and end the story, that was the moment that my brain clicked. The middle parts followed naturally. I am not saying it was an easy one, but it was also a very unique experience to me.
e: What is your favorite or most challenging part of being a creator?
Il Sung:
My all time favorite part is coloring. Of course I make a lot of failures before I get a right one. But it’s all part of fun. However writing is my most challenging part. I am still learning from reading other good books. I haven’t properly trained or learned how to write a story, but I believe it’s ideas that count. It’s not about writing skills, but it’s what strong idea you have and how you tell it in your own way.
e: What are you working on next or what would be your dream project?
Il Sung:
I recently have finished my new title ‘Bird, Balloon, Bear’ (Alfred A. Knopf, 2017), which is about a friendship between Bird and Bear. This book has more storytelling than my other books, so I am excited about it.
      Currently I am discussing ideas with my editor. I have two or three ideas that I want to do, but let’s see how it goes.

e: Thanks for dropping by!

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9. Lunch by the Sea

Continuing my speed dating play date with author/illustrator Julia Patton, we popped in her car and headed down the east coast of Northumberland. This is a rocky shoreline, deep and dark with crashing waves. I have yet to see it in sunshine, although Stan recently did. And apparently it was a beautiful day for cricket just the day before. But I rather like a grey sky when you spot something like Bamburgh Castle for the first time. It's completely intimidating.

We continued down the coast to Craster where we had lunch at the Jolly Fisherman. Jolly indeed! This was our view during lunch.
Lunch itself was a feast of crab stew, pickled herring, smoked haddock (made just across the street), and various fish dips, which were positively heavenly.
Julia is very happy in Northumberland and its easy to see why. I caught her in a moment of reflection before we left.
On the way back to the train we had time for one last mini-adventure. We drove out to Holy Island. Like Mt. St. Michelle in France, this island is only reachable when the tide is out. Woes to those who don't time their day well!
From there we headed back to the sweet little train station (it only has two platforms - north and south). Julia and I hugged like old friends and yet, I know I've found a dear new friend. I can't wait to go back!

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10. Coloring Page Tuesday - Read To Your Children

     Scientific studies prove that reading to your children does all kinds of good for them. It's a triangle of love - you, your child, and a book. Do it today!
     CLICK HERE for more coloring pages!
     CLICK HERE to 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 - winner of six literary awards. 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.
     I create my coloring pages for teachers, librarians, booksellers, and parents to enjoy for free with their children, but you can also purchase rights to an image for commercial use, please contact me. If you have questions about usage, please visit my Angel Policy page.

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11. A visit to dear Julia's (Julia Patton)

A mutual friend and editor, Kelly Barrales-Saylor, recently introduced me to Julia Patton. She had a feeling we would get along famously. Oh my, was she right!
     The other day I took the train down to Berwick-Upon-Tweed (pronounced "Burrik"). It's about halfway to Newcastle, a stop I had previously passed right by.
Julia met me at the station with the warmest smile and friendliest wave. The station itself immediately informed me that I was in a much fought over territory between the English and Scottish.
     This was going to be fun. Julia called it a speed-dating play date. And that's exactly what it was. She first drove me around the town of Berwick (which takes about five minutes). I saw the old walls which kept out the English, French, or Scots depending on who occupied it at the time. Although my photos were lacking, take my work for it. It's an adorable little town. Absolutely adorable.
     Then we went to Julia's home. It is property of the Duke of Northumberland (as are all the buildings in Berwick), and is called "The Doll House."
     And it is obviously the home of an artist. Even the most utilitarian of things appear as still lifes waiting to be painted.
     Inside was equally as charming. Vignettes were everywhere and I went a bit nuts with my camera.

     Here's Julia in her sweet kitchen with a view to the outdoor fire pit, party area.
     To the left of the fire pit is her sons' treehouse. I'm not sure I've ever seen a more perfect one.
     Just behind the main house is a smaller one, Julia's studio where she can "get messy."
     And enjoy the view of her garden.
     Which is lovely, despite the slugs she is in constant battle with.
     I took tons of photos of Julia's work. But it occurred to me that most were from books that are about to come out. Publishers may not like the early releases. So, I'm sharing the image above and one of aliens from her "A to Zed" book of ideas and artistic style. It's become her working portfolio and is a diary of explosive illustrative genius.
     We sat at her farm table and had jasmine tea as we talked about finding one's illustrative voice. I'm in the thick of a struggle Julia went through several years ago. She shared how she got through it and found her very distinctive style. I learned so much from her!!!
     But this wasn't all about work - this was about PLAY. So off we went down the coast to lunch. More on that soon...

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12. My square - St. Andrews Square

I am so lucky to walk an almost daily path through one of the most popular squares in Edinburgh - St. Andrews Square. I've talked about it before, when it was home to the Keyframes exhibit and the Christmas Village. But my favorite state for the square is when it has absolutely nothing going on... Nothing but sunshine.

     It's a lovely level ground with a Costa in the corner. You can go get a tea and a snack and then go find a spot. People melt like little dollops of pancake batter on the green expanse.
     I did it myself the other day. I wasn't quite ready to be inside, so I got a snack and sat. The crinkly sound of my wrapper soon drew a new friend.
I gave her a bit of gluten free brownie. I hope ducks can eat chocolate.
     I laid back and enjoyed the sunshine, the quiet clatter of people, the construction worker who lighted the sound of his occasional hammering by singing "DAY-OH!"
It was lovely.
     Of course, being one of the most popular squares means it won't stay still for long. In fact, I walked by the very next day only to find that the square had been transformed once again to show free movies through the weekend.
It's a nice line-up of movies. I hope I can steal a moment to take advantage.
But even if I can't, I know I'll be able to enjoy another sunbeam in the grass there soon.

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13. STUDIO GHIBLI

Enjoy this lovely animation by STUDIO GHIBLI. It's called "Adapt World’s Oldest Manga Into Short Film" I think. It's in another language! Click to go watch:

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14. Monoprinting Workshop

I told you one of the reasons I chose the University of Edinburgh is because of Picture Hooks. Well, Picture Hooks is offering several Masters Workshops through the year. One of them took place recently - Monoprinting at the National Portrait Gallery - which happens to be right at the top of my street. Even so, I hadn't been there yet. It was breathtaking.


George Douglas and Vivian French hosted a two-day workshop on creating simple monoprints. The concept was that not everybody has access to an amazing print lab like we have at the College of Art. No worries, you don't need all that fancy equipment. Our tools were simple. We used water-based inks, simple tools and everyday objects.

First George demonstrated how it all works.
Then he set us to it. It was mostly about simple mark making, which is exactly what I need right now. I'm really trying to go back to the basics in my quest for creating instinctually. Here I am making fun marks.
My results weren't pretty, but that wasn't the point. I was experimenting with pressure, inks, different ways of making marks, etc.
On day two, we took those pages and pages of marks and set to collage. Truly, there's nothing like pulling out the scissors and glue sticks to bring out your inner child. We had a blast.

And the nice thing is, we all signed up for these workshops at the same time. (They filled up in a matter of days.) So, this group of creative souls will come back together again and again. It's a fun bunch - I'm thrilled to get to know them better. And our results were amazing.

My collage turned out rather dark - I call it "Demons in the Forest."
Z'okay, I did a second piece that was a little lighter.
All said, this was a fabulous workshop. Will I do mono printing on my own in the future? Who knows. But at least I know how. And I'm pushing myself and learning - that's key. I can't wait for the next workshop!

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15. Friday Linky List - 10 June 2016

From Libba Bray: Your mileage may vary (good life advice)

From AllDay: 10 Slavic Spirits and Monsters You've Probably Never Heard Of

From Spoon Graphics: 35 Inspirational Typographic Quotes Designers Can Live By - like this one by Lindsay Letters:



From the BBC: Paul Simon on happiness, death and Donald Trump (good advice for writers in there)

From The Directory of Illustration: One-on-one with Brian Grimwood, Founder of CIA (the largest art rep agency in the UK)

From SCBWI: Portfolio Tips from SCBWI Mentorship Winners (There is some fantastic advice buried in here - follow the links!)

From The Booklist Reader: Regretfully Yours: 28 Writers on Their Biggest Mistakes

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16. Annabelle Fisher's THE SECRET DESTINY OF PIXIE PIPER


Why I Write “Funny”
Annabelle Fisher
Dear Annabelle Fisher,
      My class has been reading your book The Secret Destiny of Pixie Piper. We love it! It’s hilarious… The last book we read was kind of sad, so this is letting all the laughs out!”
                -- Emily, fourth-grader
     Like many writers for children, I might not remember what I had for dinner last night, but I can remember my ten year old self in great detail. Though I cherish that age, I don’t idealize it. Two memories from then capture my life at that time.
• A sunny summer day, walking the two blocks to my best friend’s house, feeling one of those little bursts of happiness particular to childhood that seemed to come out of nowhere. I was thinking ten was the perfect age and I wished I could stay there forever.

• Being handed a pamphlet by the same friend’s mother, who told me to read it but not to show it to my mom. It was about how I needed to accept Jesus or spend eternity crawling through a burning desert without a drop of water to drink. As a Jewish child, I felt shame and worry. But I was sure if I told my mom, I’d never see my friend again -- and so, I lived with that secret.
     I doubt the child I was then is much different from a 10-year-old today – at least on the inside. Children have a great capacity for joy, but they also have lots of worries. And no matter how wonderful their relationship is with parents or other caregivers, some of that anxiety stays inside.
      Reading a scary or sad book can help a child prepare for the difficult challenges of real life experience. Such books show kids ways to handle serious problems or even overcome them. But the same can also be true for the stories that make young readers laugh. A humorous book doesn’t pretend that danger, anxiety, or trauma doesn’t exist. But it gives readers a safe distance to laugh at life’s difficulties – and in that way to take the monster down a peg or two. Both types of books can help young readers develop resilience, which child psychologists believe is essential in coping with the hardships and adversities life brings.
      My new book, The Secret Destiny of Pixie Piper, is a humorous fantasy. Ten-year-old Pixie just wants to be a normal fifth-grader (not some poetry whiz kid), live in a normal house (not a cottage shaped like an acorn), with a normal family (not hers!) But then her mom reveals that Pixie has some unusual secrets in her past – she turns out to be a descendant of Mother Goose – and that this heritage will change the course of her future, too. Pixie will need to accept who she is, in order to face what’s coming.
      The story takes a darker turn when the evil Raveneece Greed, a sinister relative of Mother Goose, arrives. Pixie has something that Raveneece wants, but neither readers nor Pixie know what it is until Pix is lured down to her creepy “aunt’s” underground lair.
(Check out Annabelle's fave writing spot - her Acorn Cottage.)
      Now the reason Pixie goes down there is important. Raveneece has Pixie’s beloved gosling, Destiny trapped in a cage. It’s the kind of situation that has kids shouting, “Don’t go down there!” even though they know she will – and they sort of want her to.
      As the author, it was my job to provide a satisfying chill without scaring the pants off my 8-12 year old readers. After all, the thought of a lone kid out in the woods, climbing down a dark hole in the middle of the night might keep a young reader up for years -- which was why I turned to humor for the solution.
(Okay, this is her real studio, with her book.)
      In one of the book’s scariest and funniest scenes, Pixie must teach Raveneece to rhyme if she ever wants to get out of that hole. But in spite of Pixie’s earnest efforts, Raveneece is a terrible student. She’s so bad at rhyming that readers can’t help but laugh at her cluelessness.
      Here’s where the scene begins. Pixie is the narrator:
“Okay, I think we should start with word families. This one is called AT.”
“Never heard of them,” grumbled Raveneece. “Are they part of the secret of rhyming?”
“Oh, yes,” I said, as I wrote a list. AT: cat, bat, pat, mat, rat, hat, sat. “These words sound alike,” I explained. “You can use them to make a simple rhyme. Try this one: “The cat sat on the…?”
“Couch,” said Raveneece.
“No, you have to pick a word from the list. Try again.”
“Cat.” Raveneece crossed her arms over her chest.
“The cat sat on the cat?”
“Sometimes they do!” she snapped.
     As Pixie attempts to take Raveneece further through the rhyming word families, Raveneece’s choices get even wackier. Using humor reduces the fear factor and yet, I don’t think the scene loses impact. The reader gets to giggle, at least for a while. I did, too.

The Secret Destiny of Pixie Piper
by Annabelle Fisher
Greenwillow Books, An imprint of HarperCollins Publishers
ISBN 978-0-06-239377-7

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17. Rosie's Ride Back

After an amazing lunch we continued our journey around the Scottish countryside. A picture I'm sorry I missed was the great yellow expanses of yellow rape fields (used to make rape oil). They looked like gold painted sunlight on the rolling hills.
     As a reminder, this was the path Rosie followed:

We went a different way for the return ride, past Loch Earn.
What was especially lovely about the ride was the stories Rosie shared from her childhood growing up around the very roads we traveled. What a gift. We drove through Comrie, Quoig, and Crieff (I'm not sure I have these in the right order).

One of the stunning things about the drive was the rhododendrons and azaleas.
The rhodos in Scotland grow as big as oak trees and the blooms are the most amazing colors - colors I've never seen in the US. Of course, with all that driving, we eventually had to stop for a bathroom break - which we did at the Creif Hydro. It was a lovely old hotel that had been updated during the Victorian era, and again more recently to handle large numbers of guests and conferences.
The sunny day eventually turned cloudy, but the timing was good - we were reaching the end of our journey. We drove in on the north side of Edinburgh where I finally saw the amazing bridges that cross the Firth of Fourth. There was the Forth Bridge.
And the new one under construction.
And the one we were on - the Forth Road Bridge.
Since Stan and I don't own a car anymore, the day was a wonderful gift. we are so grateful to have such amazing new friends here in Edinburgh, who love their country and us enough to bring them together in such a gracious and generous way. We are lucky indeed.

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18. Coloring Page Tuesday - Birthday Brownie!

     It's rare that my birthday falls exactly on Coloring Page Tuesday. So we're celebrating with my absolutely favorite sweetie - a chocolate brownie with ice-cream and hot fudge spilling over it all! Won't you join me? YUM!
     CLICK HERE for more coloring pages!
     CLICK HERE to 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 - winner of six literary awards. 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.
     I create my coloring pages for teachers, librarians, booksellers, and parents to enjoy for free with their children, but you can also purchase rights to an image for commercial use, please contact me. If you have questions about usage, please visit my Angel Policy page.

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19. Rosie's Ride - The Scottish Countryside

My first year of school turned out to be more intense than expected (I got A's!), so we didn't get outside Edinburgh to explore very much. We made it to Newcastle Upon Tyne, I did a conference in Glasgow, and Stan made it to Fife and Falkirk, but that was about it. Our friends Rosie and Dick generously decided to do something about that.
     Of course, their free weekend was the weekend of my Picture Hooks workshop (more on that soon), so Rosie decided to take us on a weekday outing herself. Here is our gracious hostess behind the wheel:

We had no idea where she was planning to take us - it was a surprise as it unfolded. But here is the route as it ended up (click the image to see it larger in a new window):
We went west out of Edinburgh towards Falkirk. We passed The Kelpies which tower over the main road, although I didn't grab my phone in time to snap a pic. Phone now out, we continued along A84 into The Trossachs National Park, through Callander, Strathyre, with a left turn at Balquhidder. That took us down a country road along Loch Voil - my first big Loch (!!) -
and the road to Mhor.
We never would have found this place on our own. It was truly way, way out of the beautiful way.
Rosie made reservations for lunch at the lovely restaurant there.
We arrived a bit early so sat outside and enjoyed the view before lunch.
It was such a perfectly gorgeous day, we wandered the grounds. They were lovely too.


See the dog sleeping in the sun? That's Tinker. Tinker became my bud after a happy belly rub. The other one pretty much never moved.
And lunch? Lunch was so good, some people arrived by helicopter to enjoy it.
Yes, it was amazing and we were so grateful to Rosie and the beautiful weather. Scotland is truly gorgeous and we got to see some of it in its best light!

The ride home was also picture-worthy, but in a different way. Coming soon...

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20. OKGo - Upside Down and Inside Out

This video was filmed in a no-gravity flight. How cool! Click the image to go watch:

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21. Arthur's Seat - oh my!

As Robert Louis Stevenson said, "[Arthur's Seat is] a hill for magnitude, a mountain in virtue of its bold design." What it is is an old dormant volcano, right in the heart of Edinburgh. Between the Castle (also built on a volcano), Calton Hill (yup - volcano) and Arthur's Seat, it's very hard to get lost in this city. They give you your bearings.
     Arthur's Seat is GRAND. We've been staring at it since we moved here, wondering when we would make the hike up it. A recent sunny, beautiful day became the moment. We took layers, just in case, water bottles and cameras and started our trek.

     To get there, you head for Holyrood Palace, hook a right at Parliament, enter the park and cut up at the ice-cream truck. The trek begins immediately. Hoo boy. We had to stop for pictures on the way up. Uh-huh, just pictures... okay, and to catch our breath.
     The trail goes up, up, up, then wraps around the cliff faces. It's incredibly beautiful and STEEP. This is looking straight down.
     Here's Stan standing at the edge with a view of Newington (on the south side of town) and the Pentlands beyond. That's a sheer drop right behind him. There are no fences, and it is indeed dangerous. In fact, a hiker fell to her death a few days after we were there.
     Turning around, we faced an incredible rock wall.
I have a bad knee from an old skiing accident, but I was determined to get to the top of that wall. Heck, tourists were hiking up wearing purses and cute shoes. If they could do it, so could I. And we did. The view from up there was amazing. That's the trail we came up running on the left.
     From up there, we could see all the folks climbing and bouldering up the cliff face, some all the way up - no ropes. I used to do that - with ropes. These Scots are made of hearty stuff.
     I'll admit, I had a wee bit of height fright up there. Yes, I used to hang-glide. But back then I had something attached to me that kept me aloft. I didn't have anything holding onto me that day, and the wind was whipping.
     And yet, we hadn't reached the summit. Maps told us it only took two hours to reach the top. Hm. We looked at the trail - see the tiny ants zig-zagging up the side? Yeah, those are people climbing to the top. We would have to go down and then back up again. Up THAT. Yeah, no.
     My knee was already starting to freeze up on me, it just refuses to bend anymore. When my knee starts doing that, it's actually worse going down than it is going up. Even if I did make it to the top, coming down would be pure pain. *le sigh*
     So, we hooked a left. On the back side of the cliff, we discovered a valley. I suppose it was formed from the lava blowing out the side of the hill, like Mt. St. Helen's (there are a lot of similarities between the two mountains). It's formed so perfectly. Here it is from the top of that cliff.
     I'm glad we got to see the views from the cliff face, but the valley was so much more our speed. Dogs ran up and down the sides with unbridled joy. Scotch broom bloomed everywhere creating wind breaks. And there was a wee pond at the bottom. We headed that way. Stan then surprised me with a wee picnic. He'd brought stilton, crackers, and an apple - so perfect! We found a little hidey hole from which to enjoy it and the sun.

     We just laid there for a good hour or more - we both got tans. Gads, it was a beautiful day.
     When it was finally time to leave (to go meet friends for dinner), we headed down the gentle slope. My knee had indeed locked up, so I was limping pretty badly. PAH! I suppose it's good to know my limits - so that I can predict the price of going past them. (I did indeed pay - lots of ice and aspirin afterwards.)
     At any rate, on the way out we passed a lovely, and still operational old well.

     And then again past parliament, where children and dogs played in the water feature out front.
     All said, we have done Arthur's Seat. Obviously, it's a dangerous place. But it's also a stunningly beautiful place that feels like another planet even through you're right in the city. Will I go back? Oh yes. But perhaps I'll keep to the valley next time. Ahhhhh.

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22. Friday Linky List - 03 June 2016

From Chronicle - Book Love: Perfumes that smell like old books

From 99U: How To Work Alone

From The Guardian: Simon Cowell gets star advice on plan to write children's book

From Upworthy: Ever wish you could live inside your favorite book? You can at this incredible new place - The Rabbit HOle!

From The Scottish Book Trust: More Ways to Creatively Recycle Your Books

From Candy Gourlay.com: "Candy was one of the best authors that we've ever seen. She never stopped talking." Plus: How not to take photos of children

At HubSpot: 5 Quirks of the Human Brain Every Marketer Should Understand

Want to see what's considered the best of illustration right now? The AOI (Association of Illustrators) just released this year's SHORT LIST for their World Illustration Awards.

From Grow Your Potential: 5 Ways to Appear More Confident When Presenting (from my fabulous TEDx Coach, Mel Sherwood).

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23. Megan Wagner Lloyd on FINDING WILD


My Path to Publication
by Megan Wagner Lloyd

      I'm one of those authors who always wanted to be a writer. When I was little I would go around with tiny Sanrio notebooks and compose poems and (very short) short stories, mainly about animals and my family. I was a hopeless bookworm and writer all growing up.
     In 2003 I wrote my first (attempt at) picture book. Then in 2004, I wrote my first (attempt at) a kid's novel. And my writing was just SO terrible! I had read enough that I could recognize good writing. And I knew mine was awful! It was very disheartening. I wish I had come across this quote from Ira Glass at the time (I found it many years later, and it's one of my all-time favorites):
“What nobody tells people who are beginners — and I really wish someone had told this to me . . . is that all of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, and it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase. They quit...It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions...It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”
     Despite my disappointment in my own writing (or maybe because of it), I kept writing. In 2008, I was able to join a wonderful weekly critique group. Having my work critiqued on a regular basis definitely made me progress as a writer much faster than I ever did on my own.
     I wrote many novels. I wrote many picture books. Gradually I started noticing that I was getting a lot of promising feedback on my picture books...maybe even more than on my novels. Could it be that I could get an agent and be published through my picture book work? It was a strange idea for me to get used to, because I had always thought of myself as primarily a novelist.
      But I adored picture books, both reading and writing them, so once I adjusted to this unexpected twist in my writing journey, I decided to see what I could do with my picture books. I queried agents from about 2012-2013 (I had queried a few times before that, but not much--I knew my work wasn't ready).
      In April of 2014, it happened! Ammi-Joan Paquette of the Erin Murphy Literary Agency became my agent! I'm using lots of exclamation points, because they accurately represent how it felt to get some a wonderful agent! I was (and am still) so excited about this!!!!!!
      And then, in November of the same year, my debut picture book, FINDING WILD, sold to Knopf/Random House.
      More exclamation points!!!!!!! (Megan's fave writing spot is anywhere her laptop is...)
      FINDING WILD, illustrated by Abigail Halpin, was released on May 10th of this year--thirteen years after writing my first attempt at a picture book. I feel so incredibly lucky to have been matched with such an amazing illustrator!
     And now I have two more picture books coming out: FORT-BUILDING TIME, in the fall of 2017 (also from Knopf and illustrated by Abigail Halpin) and PAPER MICE, in the spring of 2018 (from Paula Wiseman Books and illustrated by Phoebe Wahl).
      My path to publication took me on a journey different than the one I expected back in 2003. And even though it was often discouraging at the time, now I'm glad for the ups and downs, because I'm so happy with where I've ended up.
     Learn more about Megan Wagner Lloyd at her website.

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24. Talented Friends

We have made some wonderful friends here in Edinburgh, and if there's anything that sets them apart, it's that they are all brilliant and enormously talented in unique and wonderful ways. For instance, my friend Amandine. She's a publicist during the day, but with her free time, she loves to sing. Not just any singing - she sings in choral groups and ensembles, like the one we went to see recently. Amandine is in the front row on the far left.

The performance was held in Reid Hall, a beautiful building that I haven't seen much of because it's been surrounded by construction since we arrived. It was hard to find the back entrance (the only way in right now), but was worth the hunt. It was stunning.
The unique thing about this ensemble is the music selections were all by female composers, conducted by Caroline Lesemann-Elliott (a UoE student!). You may recognize some of the last names, although probably not the first ones:
Key to this performance was to place the music in context. Women musicians have not been taken seriously throughout history. Heck, even today, you rarely hear about female composers, which is part of why this performance was so nice. Look at the dates on some of the last performances - the music was wonderful! But this quote from the program is indicative of what female composers were and often still are up against...
Of course, that didn't and doesn't stop them. The first piece we heard was proof. O Virtus Sapientiae by Hildegard von Bingen. She lived from 1098 to 1179. Yes, you read that right - the 11th century. We may not have any audio recordings from that time, but we can still hear the voices - harmonies written long before America was discovered (by white folks), even before Edinburgh was officially established (although people have been living here since the Mesolithic era). CLICK HERE to have a listen on Youtube.
     It reminded me of the female singer and composer, Barbara Strozzi, who came into popularity in Venice during the Baroque era. She was generally thought to be a courtesan - her only 'in' to the music scene, which is why she is always rendered half clothed. Although, it's possible the lens of her life was painted and recalled through jealousy, as she was one of the most talented musicians of her time. Click the image to listen to her YouTube channel. And ENJOY!

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25. Coloring Page Tuesdays - Bear Surfs

     Kowabunga dudes! It's summer - surf's up! Go catch a wave.
     CLICK HERE for more coloring pages!
     CLICK HERE to 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 - winner of six literary awards. 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.
     I create my coloring pages for teachers, librarians, booksellers, and parents to enjoy for free with their children, but you can also purchase rights to an image for commercial use, please contact me. If you have questions about usage, please visit my Angel Policy page.

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