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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. Coloring Page Tuesday - L is for Lemur

      Adding to my alphabet of reading critters, I give you a lemur! They're so cute with their long ringed tails. Do you suppose they like to read THE JUNGLE BOOK?
     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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2. Green Earth Book Awards announced...

This award list, sponsored by The Nature Generation, is especially on my radar since A BIRD ON WATER STREET has such a strong environmental message and this award is all about promoting environmental stewardship. Happily, ABOWS will be eligible for consideration for the next list (published in 2014). But for the 2013 books, the list has just been announced. And the winners are:

   Jennifer O’Connell – The Eye of the Whale a Rescue Story (picture book)
   Kathi Appelt - The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp (children’s fiction)
   Suzanne Goldsmith, Washashore (young adult fiction)
   Melissa Stewart and Higgins Bond - A Place for Turtles (children’s nonfiction)
   Teena Ruark Gorrow and Craig A. Koppie– Inside a Bald Eagle’s Nest: A Photographic Journey Through the American Bald Eagle Nesting Season (young adult nonfiction)

   And in celebration of their 10th anniversary, The Nature Generation donated 10,000 books to DC area schools and each of the authors met with students to talk about what they can do to be good environmental stewards. Very cool.

   AND THERE'S MORE!
   TeachingBooks.net has compiled all of the online materials about this year's winning books, authors, and illustrators - CLICK HERE.

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3. The Rainbow Connection

Need a cheer up? Can we ever tire of hearing Kermie sing The Rainbow Connection? Nope. Still makes me cry happy tears.


If you can't see the video in your feed, CLICK HERE.

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4. THE CURSE OF THE BUTTONS by Anne Ylvisaker - Guest post and GIVEAWAY!

Today, I'm happy to welcome Anne Ylvisaker as she talks about her new mid-grade...

     One of the joys of reading a novel is sinking into the setting, getting to know a distinct place at a particular time. As a writer, discovering the setting of a story is one of my favorite parts of the process.
      When I begin writing a novel, I have a who, and often a what, but finding the where and when usually takes some exploration. I try my main character in different settings to see what feels right. I pour over photographs, walk the streets where I live, and drop my protagonist into different time periods and places until I find their story.
      My middle grade novel The Luck of the Buttons (Candlewick, 2011) was originally set in 1970s Minneapolis, Minnesota until a Grant Wood painting inspired me to set Tugs Button’s story, and then her cousin Ned Button’s Button Down (Candlewick, 2012) in fictional Goodhue, Iowa, circa 1929.
      For my newest book, however, the setting came ready made. The Curse of the Buttons (Candlewick, 2014) is Tugs and Ned’s Great-granddaddy Ike’s boyhood story. Because bits of Granddaddy’s life slip into The Luck of the Buttons and Button Down, I knew his adventure would be set during the Civil War, and this time there was a real town I was anxious to use. My husband was born in Keokuk, Iowa, and from the first time I heard the name, I loved to say it out loud (KEY-u-kuk), and hoped to find a story to set there.
      I love river towns and Keokuk is the ultimate river town. Samuel Clemens, aka Mark Twain, one of my favorite river town storytellers, even lived in Keokuk for a time. Called the Gate City, Keokuk’s place at the confluence of the Mississippi and Des Moines rivers puts it on a line between north and south, east and west. This unique geographic situation made the city particularly valuable and volatile during the Civil War. Thousands of soldiers mustered in Keokuk. Freedom seekers crossed the Des Moines River and found their way north through the town. Sympathies were divided even among family members.

      I read Raymond E. Garrison’s Tales of Early Keokuk Homes, which is full of fascinating snippets of life stories, many from the 1850s and 60s; names, like Albirdie; and jobs people held, like boatman, carriage maker, and butter and egg man. I could imagine Ike’s adventures among those people, walking into Chatham Square Church to discover a clandestine meeting, running down to the levee when a steamboat arrived with the announcement that Iowa’s soldiers were being called up to war.
      While the main character births the idea of a novel, the setting unleashes questions that make the story unfurl. Questions I hope will propel readers through The Curse of the Buttons include: What was it like to live in a town between North and South at the dawn of the Civil War? How did children understand the issues of the war? What were towns like after the most of the men left? What if a boy in Iowa met a boy who was escaping slavery? What if a child was faced with having to make an ethical decision while the adults around him spouted conflicting beliefs? I am excited to share Ike and his summer of 1861 adventures in Keokuk, and hope that readers find as much satisfaction as I did in connecting character to setting, question to answer.

Anne Ylvisaker writes in a tiny cottage in a green belt ravine behind her house in Monterey, California. She is the author of five middle grade novels, all from Candlewick Press, including Dear Papa (2002), named a Booklist Top Ten Youth First Novel, Little Klein (2007), Midwest Booksellers Choice award winner, and three books about the comically unlucky Button family.

GIVEAWAY!
Candlewick has generously offered a free copy of The Curse of the Buttons to one of my lucky followers. Must live in the US or Canada to win - enter below.

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5. Friday Linky List - September 26, 2014

From Terrible Minds: Ten Things To Never Say To A Writer by Chuck Wendig - Gads I love this, but it is definitely for adults.

At The Guardian: Decoding Russian Criminal Tattoos, in code - fascinating and oddly beautiful

From The Telegraph via PW: Ben Miller: Stopping children hearing scary stories is a 'big mistake'

From The Guardian via PW: Terry Pratchett: how I wrote my first stories as a cub reporter

From BuzzFeed via Shelf Awareness: 15 Hilarious Bookstore Chalkboards like this one from Kaleido Books & Gifts in Perth, Australia:


From The Bookseller via PW: Nearly three quarters of young people prefer print! (I added the exclamation point)

Via PW - MEET THE NEW AMTRAK WRITERS-IN-RESIDENCE - 24 of them chosen from 16,000 submissions.

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6. Aaron Becker's QUEST..


Aaron Becker's debut picture book, JOURNEY, took the kid lit world by storm and won a Caldecott Honor. So we've been anxiously awaiting his second, QUEST, which I have to say, is just as brilliant. They're both wordless, epic stories unlike anything the children's lit world has seen before. I am thrilled to have Aaron here today to tell us more about it...

Q. I’ve heard you used a 3-D program to get the castle and other landscape elements just right in QUEST, but there’s still a ton of atmosphere. How did you take a 3-D model and give it such life?
A.
I come from a film background and the 3D training I received was always just a means to an end - in other words, it’s a tool in the belt, but the danger is that things can end up looking computerized as you’ve suggested, just as they do in movies. So I’ve always been very aware of this tendency. By the time I do my watercolors, the information (perspective, lighting, design) I get from the 3D models is really just used like reference, almost like a photograph or scale model might aid an illustrator in their work. It was important to me that anything from the computer world didn’t end up in the final illustrations, so I tend to just work traditionally at that point with ink and watercolor. Occasionally, there’s a light printout of some of the lighting information from the 3D models, but this gets quickly buried underneath layers of paint.

Q. Even though QUEST has no words, the ideas are quite complicated. I love the magic crayons - can you explain the idea behind those a little further?
A.
There’s an entire mythology behind QUEST and the universe of the JOURNEY trilogy; I had to work out a large back story and the markers are an important part of it. In the end, you don’t necessarily find out about all of the myths that drive the adventure at hand, but the details are there and they support a sense of a larger world that’s quite important for fueling the imagination of the reader. In the wordless realm, this is especially important. Without details that are open to interpretation, the books would fall flat. All this is to say - yes, there’s more behind the markers, but no I won’t tell you! Like a magician and his tricks, knowing what’s behind it all ruins the fun!

Q. Is it the power of the rainbow, or simply the power of COLOR that holds the magic in the alternate world?
A.
What do you think? :)
ME: Oh dangit! Hmmm!

Q. I love the purple bird, a carryover from JOURNEY. Does it have special symbolism to you?
A.
I think of the bird as a sort of R2D2 character that knows everything that has happened, is happening, and will happen in this story. She guides the characters to where they need to be to help push their destinies along. In fact, if you look in the books, you’ll notice she’s always looking in the direction of where I want the reader to look. Sometimes she knows more than the girl and boy about what’s around the corner (or chasing them from behind!) Symbolically, the bird is a symbol of the freedom that comes with being unaffected as a child - the wonder that comes with believing in those magical corners of the world that we usually forget as grown ups. But perhaps I’m giving away too much here!

Q. You’ve been an “overnight success” with JOURNEY and now QUEST too, and yet I know there’s no such thing. What was your journey to publication?
A.
I went to my first SCBWI conference 15 years ago. In fact, I met my current editor at Candlewick at a retreat in 1999. We reconnected many years later, after I returned to art school to hone my skills and worked in the film industry for nearly a decade. So yes, it was a long road, but I wouldn’t have had it any other way. I think I needed all that time to figure out how I wanted to tell a story.
(Here's an image still in its 3-D mode...

And in watercolor...)


Q. What is your general method and how long does it take you to create a piece?
A.
The most time consuming part of any project for me is getting the story right. The sketches, the constant wrangling, editing, back-stepping - all of the normal trials and tribulations of any writer. By the time I’m ready to do my final artwork, the bulk of my “work” is done. But the paintings do take time. I take my rough sketches and make them tighter, print them out onto watercolor paper very lightly, then do the inking, and then the watercolor. Before any of this, each illustration is planned out extensively on the computer so that all of my compositional and color decisions are already made. At each stage of the process, I like to focus on only one or two things at a time, so with the watercolor, I’m just focusing on pigment and water and not story-telling or design. I’d say these books are taking me about a year and a half from start to finish, with the artwork taking about four and a half months of that.

Q. I know the publicity wheels are keeping you VERY busy, so I appreciate your time and wish you much continued success!!
A.
THANK YOU!

Watch the official book trailer at VIMEO:

GIVEAWAY!
Candlewick has kindly agreed to send a beautiful, free copy of QUEST to one of my lucky followers. Must live in the US to win - enter below:



QUEST. Copyright © 2014 by Aaron Becker. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

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7. Sign up for my "Creating Picture Books" class at John C. Campbell!


I get lots of requests to teach what I do, so I wanted to give you a heads up... my class "Creating Children's Picture Books" at the John C. Campbell Folk School is coming up on December 3rd. Now's the time to sign up if you're interested! Here's where you can learn about the class at the John C. website: CLICK HERE. And you can read about past classes by clicking on the year: 2012, 2011, 2009, and 2008. It's a 4-day long intense class on a gorgeous campus in the North Carolina mountains with fantastic family-style meal times. Camp for adults! It's a small class, so if you want in, sign up soon - it fills up quickly!

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8. Coloring Page Tuesdays - Honey Biscuits

     Where's your favorite reading spot? This bear likes to munch on honey biscuits while reading a good book. Do you have a reading ritual?
     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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9. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Trailer

Again, this looks good! Click on the image to go watch the official trailer on YouTube:

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10. Banned Books Week

Sunday, September 21st kicks off Banned Books Week. Celebrate the right to read - fREADom!!!

Check out this great video by Books Inc. - Click the image to see it on Youtube:

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11. BE A CHANGEMAKER by Laurie Thompson - Guest Post and Giveaway

I've got a slightly different sort of book for you to learn about today... It's called BE A CHANGEMAKER by Laurie Thompson and it's about kids taking charge to change their worlds for the better - powerful stuff! And something I fully support, which is why I was thrilled Laurie wanted to stop by to talk about it...


     I started working on Be a Changemaker in 2004. At the time, I was working on another book about ordinary people who had done extraordinary things. This is a common theme in much of my work, probably because I yearn to do extraordinary things despite feeling so very ordinary myself!
      While researching that book, I came across David Bornstein’s How to Change the World: Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideas, which contains case studies of social entrepreneurs around the world who started innovative programs to solve various kinds of social problems in their local communities. I was so excited by Bornstein’s stories of individuals who had built lasting, meaningful organizations from the ground up and the myriad ways they had directly improved people’s lives. I remember shaking the book at my husband and saying, “You know who needs a book like this? Teenagers! If they knew they were capable of making the changes they care about, the world would be a better place for all of us. Why doesn’t someone write a book like this for them?” Obviously, that was a light bulb moment! I was someone, after all, so I would just have to write the book myself. With a new focus, I turned all my energies toward developing what would become Be a Changemaker.
      The people profiled in How to Change the World were all fellows in an organization called Ashoka, whose slogan is “Everyone a changemaker.” I soon discovered that Ashoka had a division called Youth Venture, which is specifically aimed at empowering young people to make positive changes in their communities, and one of their flagship offices was in Seattle, not far from my home. It felt like it was meant to be!
      Youth Venture invited me to attend a community workshop they were offering. The energy and enthusiasm there was infectious! The teens were thrilled to talk about the problems they saw in their communities and excited to work together to try to find solutions. Seeing them in action validated my ideas for Be a Changemaker. Everyone I met from the Youth Venture staff was supportive, too, despite the fact that I had never even written a book, much less published one! They knew that sometimes passion and persistence can be more important than experience, and their confidence in me was a huge boost.
      I got to work researching, drafting, and revising a proposal. I submitted the proposal for critique, got positive feedback, and kept going. I submitted again, got less positive feedback, and put it away. I learned more. I went back and started over again and again and again, round and round. After six years of this, I felt like I was finally getting somewhere and submitted the proposal to an agent. She liked it but wanted me to address a few issues. Feeling like I only had one chance to get it right, I worked on that revision for an entire year. It worked! Surely the hard part was over, right?
      Anyone who knows publishing knows it’s rarely that easy. It still took a while to find the perfect home for it, and then I had to finish writing it and go through the editorial process under tight deadlines and facing some unexpected medical challenges throughout. After all the initial waiting and painstaking refinement, I worried that the mad dash to the finish might cause me to lose sight of what I had been trying to accomplish and make me miss the mark I’d been shooting for all of those years.
      In the end, though, it turned out even better than I ever imagined. My family was behind me every step of the way. I was fortunate enough to work with a team of people who understood the vision and helped me nurture it all along the way. And, eventually, the process itself ended up coming full circle in the most fulfilling ways: I got to profile Divine Bradley, the inspirational guest speaker at that first Youth Venture workshop, in chapter two of Be a Changemaker; Bill Drayton, the founder of Ashoka, wrote the foreword; and David Bornstein read an advance copy and provided a quote. To an ordinary gal like me, that’s some pretty extraordinary stuff. And looking back on it now, it was worth every minute.

Laurie's favorite writing spot is her Treadmill Desk. Click here to learn more about it.


GIVEAWAY!
Blue Slip Media has kindly agreed to give a free copy of BE A CHANGEMAKER to one of my lucky followers. Must live in the US to win - enter below:

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12. Friday Linky List - September 19, 2014

At Litreactor.com: 6 Tips for Troubleshooting The Novel by Susan Defreitas

Wow: by @donalynbooks No More Language Arts and Crafts: “We must advocate for children’s #reading lives, or they won’t have reading lives.”

Atlanta Magazine has the most thorough article I've ever seen about Pete the Cat: For Pete's Sake. Some of you may know that the line "They consulted local authors" means me. Little known fact that I helped with the first PETE THE CAT: I LOVE MY WHITE SHOES. My name is even in the back. Oh, to have asked for a percentage. *sigh!* At least I have a lovely Pete painting in my dining room as thanks...

From Entertainment Weekly via PW: On the Books: Jane Austen fans set new Guinness World Record when 550 fans showed up wearing full Regency regalia. Pop "Jane Austen Festival" into Google search for images - it's a hoot!

From Talks with Roger (Sutton), a really great interview with Marla Frazee about her new book THE FARMER AND THE CLOWN. From her website - "What is more important, style or concept?" Her reply, "I think the most important thing is emotional engagement."

At PW: Enchanted Lion: A Visit with the Brooklyn-Based Indie Publisher

From HuffPost via PW: Why Are Fairy Tales Universally Appealing?

From BookRiot via PW: 28 Books About Growing Up In America's Cultural Melting Pot

At PWs ShelfTalker by Elizabeth Bluemle: Help Shape the Diversity Evolution

From HuffPost: Why I Made a Documentary About What It Means to Be 11 - Gads, I want to see this!! Click the image below to watch the trailer on YouTube:


From The Telegraph via PW: Amazing Roald Dahl cakes that Wonka himself would be proud of - OMG.



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13. A CAT NAMED TIM by John Martz - Giveaway!


A CAT NAMED TIM by John Martz is sort of like Richard Scarry for the more mature set. It's a series of stories of adorable and endearing characters such as "Doug & Mouse, Connie (a girl with big glasses), Mr. and Mrs. Hamhock," and of course, "Tim" - all in one book. It also reminds me a bit of Hello, Mr. Hulot in it's mini-story, yet graphic style approach. John stopped by to tell us more about it...

Q. John, Congratulations on A CAT NAMED TIM! How did the book come to be?
A.
Thanks! I have illustrated a handful of picture books for kids, and Annie at Koyama Press told me she was interested in publishing comics for kids and young readers, and asked if I’d be interested in something like that. My kids books up to this point have all been written by someone other than myself, so I jumped at the chance to do a book for kids in which I was both the author and illustrator.
     Click the image to see a larger version in a new window.

Q. Koyama Press does funky graphic novels and artsy books for a wide age-range. Some of their work is definitely not for kids, while other works are for the kids at heart - like yours. How did you hook up with Koyama Press?
A.
I first met Annie at the Toronto Comic Arts Festival. We had emailed a few times before then, but hadn’t met. She expressed interest in my comics, and we’ve since worked on a few projects together, including The Big Team Society League Book of Answers, which is a collection of jam comics, and certainly not for young children. My style is heavily influenced by picture books and newspaper comic strips and Saturday morning cartoons, and while I don’t always do kid-friendly work, I do think I come somewhat naturally to it, and working with Annie and Ed Kanerva has been a joy.

Q. Who do you consider your target audience?
A.
I didn’t have a target audience in mind when I began working on the book. I wanted primarily to take the improvisational process I learned from working on both Team Society League and my comic strip Machine Gum, and apply it to a kid-friendly cast of characters. As the book took shape I saw potential to accommodate children who can’t yet read or are just learning; the scenarios and gags are fairly uncomplicated, and it’s mostly wordless. The minimal dialogue there is is more textural than textual, and I hope that the illustrations and scenes allow children to make up their own stories and explanations for what’s going on.
     Click the image to see a larger version in a new window.

Q. There are very few words in A CAT NAMED TIM, mostly series of illustrations with very clever twists. Can you describe your format?
A.
The book is primarily a series of double-page spreads, each one an independent gag or scenario. I don’t know if I can easily sum up the format other than to say that I enjoy playing with the formal elements of comics, and trying different panel layouts and different ways of directing the reader through an image or a series of images. I’m particularly drawn to the idea that comics don’t need to be read solely panel-by-panel, and that inviting a reader to examine the page as a whole, and see different moments in time simultaneously, is something unique to comics and illustration, and a fun thing to exploit.

Q. What is your illustration method and how do you conceptualize the stories behind your narratives?
A.
Each scenario started in my sketchbook as super-rough barely-legible-to-anyone-but-me thumbnail drawing. A sketchbook allows me to get ideas out my head quickly and with minimal fuss. These thumbnails are often only a starting point, and I like to save some of the final problem-solving, details, and specifics for when I’m working on the finished art.
      The illustrations for this book were drawn digitally in Photoshop. The process is similar to the way I learned to draw comics, in which I start with a “pencilled” line drawing of the page that acts as the skeleton of the finished artwork. I put together a palette of colours for the entire book, and I do a quick low-res colour study for each page before starting the final art so that the painting/colouring process itself, which is mostly done on a single layer, involves little to no thinking as all the planning has been taken care of.
     Click the image to see a larger version in a new window.

Q. It's truly an unusual book, and yet one that I think will really grow on people. Kids will love studying all the fun things you include in your illustrations. What were your influences with all the little details going on?
A.
You mention Richard Scarry in your introduction, and his books were a huge influence, of course. I loved his books as a kid, and I could spend hours poring over all the little details and miniature dramas in his busy pages. I have so many other influences, but for this book a short list would have to include Richard Scarry, Jim Henson, vintage Sesame Street, Sergio Aragonés, Where’s Waldo? books, Hanna-Barbera, Super Mario games, and Pee-Wee’s Playhouse.

Q. How are you getting the word out about A CAT NAMED TIM?
A.
The book debuts/debuted at the Small Press Expo in Bethesda Maryland, and I’m doing a joint launch party with Britt Wilson for her Koyama book Cat Dad, King of the Goblins at the kids comic store Little Island in Toronto on October 26.
      I’m grateful to be published by Koyama Press. Annie has fostered a lot of community and good will in the comics world, and that sort of thing (in addition to putting out good books) goes a long way in terms of generating buzz and support.
      You can also follow me on Twitter, @johnmartz, which is my social media platform of choice.

Q. I look forward to seeing more from you in the future!
A.
Thanks!

Enjoy this great video about John and his work (or CLICK HERE if the video gives you any issues):

John has also been very active with the TD Summer Reading Club in Canada.

GIVEAWAY!
Koyama Press has kindly agreed to send a free copy of A CAT NAMED TIM to one of my lucky followers. Must live in the US or Canada to win. Enter below:

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14. Dinner with a book club!

So for the last eight or nine years, my local postmaster, Stephanie Dover, has been waving her hands over my manuscripts for good luck when I ship them off from the post office. Needless to say, we've gotten to know each other and become friends. She's been so amazingly supportive, cheering on my publishing successes.
     So, I was so flattered when she said that it was her turn to choose the book for her book club and she had chosen A BIRD ON WATER STREET. I was even more flattered when she invited me to dinner to meet with her book club and talk about the book. What a sweetheart, what a sweet thing!
     From the left, Pat, Marie, El, Stephanie, (me), and Bernadette asked great questions - they even asked two stumpers which I have to research now.

     Truly, when a book heads out the door, it is no longer yours - it becomes the property of the reader. I love that, because I love hearing what parts of the story stand out to different people. It means they've made it theirs. They are relating to the story through their own experiences rather than mine. And it is so fun to watch that happen.
     What an absolute treat! THANK YOU Stephanie!!!

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15. Coloring Page Tuesday - Crows Nest

     Friday is Talk Like a Pirate Day! Methinks our young pirate might run the ship aground if he keeps his nose buried in Treasure Island instead of on the view in front of him. Arrrrrrr!
     CLICK HERE for more pirate-themed 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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16. Hispanic Heritage Month 2014

Today kicks off Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs September 15th through October 15th. Per the official website:

The observation started in 1968 as Hispanic Heritage Week under President Lyndon Johnson and was expanded by President Ronald Reagan in 1988 to cover a 30-day period starting on September 15 and ending on October 15. It was enacted into law on August 17, 1988, on the approval of Public Law 100-402.

The day of September 15 is significant because it is the anniversary of independence for Latin American countries Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. In addition, Mexico and Chile celebrate their independence days on September 16 and September18, respectively. Also, Columbus Day or Día de la Raza, which is October 12, falls within this 30 day period.
     Want to help celebrate? Learn or teach some Spanish using my bilingual picture books:

     Soap, soap, soap ~ Jabón, jabón, jabón and Paco and the Giant Chile Plant ~ Paco y la planta de chile gigante.

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17. Benn Tripp's THE ACCIDENTAL HIGHWAYMAN Trailers...

There's a new book coming out by Ben Tripp called Kit Bristol: The Accidental Highwayman, and the trailers for it are absolutely HILARIOUS! Click the image to see one, but GO HERE to see them all - it's worth your time. SO inventive!

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18. MIchelle Knudsen's EVIL LIBRARIAN - guest post and giveaway!

A dear friend of mine - Michelle Knudsen (of THE DRAGON OF TRELIAN, THE LIBRARY LION, etc...) has a new novel coming out called EVIL LIBRARIAN and it is a hoot! I'm thrilled she stopped by to talk to us about it today...

People often want to know the story behind a story — where the idea came from, what the process was from blank page to publication. The later stages are usually easy to talk about, but the beginning part is always hard for me. I try to pay attention, when I first start to get an idea, because I know people are going to ask me about it later ... but I’m usually just so excited to feel an idea coming together that I don’t want to think too much about where it came from and risk messing it up. Ideas can be fragile things when they first begin to materialize. And then of course once it feels solid enough to hold up to more intense scrutiny, often I’ve forgotten what the initial moment of inspiration actually was.
      Here is what I do remember about the very beginning of Evil Librarian: I wrote the first draft of the first chapter in late March/early April 2009. I was in my second semester at the Vermont College of Fine Arts, working toward my MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults, and needed a break from the heavier fantasy novel I was focusing on as my main project. I seem to remember starting it while on a plane, but I may be making that up. It was only the second time I’d attempted a novel in first person (the first being my other VCFA novel-in-progress, started a few months before). I’d been purposely choosing first person at school because it was hard for me; close third person was my go-to POV, and I wanted to push myself to try different and more challenging things. It had been a real challenge with the first novel, slow and sometimes painful, but Cyn’s voice in Evil Librarian came so quickly and naturally to me that writing her story was a pleasure. I had no idea what the story was going to be about when I began. I just started writing. And then I liked it, and I kept going.
     I kept working on Evil Librarian throughout my MFA program (along with my other novel, various picture book drafts, critical essays, etc.), and by the time I graduated I had about 80 pages. I sent those to my editor, who liked them (yay!) and then worked on a synopsis to show her I could figure out where the story was going to go. And then I wrote another, longer synopsis, and then a chapter-by-chapter outline (another first for me) and then eventually I had the whole novel, which went through another couple of revisions under my editor’s guidance and then a lot of last-minute tweaks and fixes until they finally made me stop touching it and it was done.
      One of the hardest things about this book, other than eventually trying to figure out what was actually going to happen in the story, was getting past my fears of trying to be funny. At the beginning, I could see that at least some of the initial pages I’d written were funny; my advisors at school thought they were, and when I read little parts out loud at occasional writerly gatherings, the people listening laughed in all the right places. That was nice. When you read something serious to an audience, even if it’s great, the most reaction you get in the moment is sort of a hushed “hmmmm” sound. But when you’re funny, people laugh. Sometimes a lot. And it feels like very honest feedback — there they are, in the moment, reacting with pleasure to your work. It was amazing. But then I realized I had to keep being funny. On purpose. How could I manage to be funny for an entire novel? What if I couldn’t? What if only the beginning was funny, and then everyone kept waiting for the next funny part and it never came?
      One of my MFA advisors wisely advised me to stop worrying about it. I had enough other stuff to worry about; the plot, for example, since in the beginning I wasn’t sure what was going to happen. And I had Cyn’s voice, and Cyn was funny. So if I just kept going, it stood to reason that more of her humor would come across, and I could trust her to keep my readers engaged and laughing. So that is what I tried to do. And of course there was a lot of other stuff to focus on: not just the plot, but what I wanted the book to ultimately be about, the themes underneath the story, the relationships among the characters, the pacing and the (hopefully) exciting or scary parts and the integration of all the musical theater elements that Cyn and I both loved so much. It ended up being a story about a lot of things, I think, and also brought back a lot of my own high school memories, which were wonderful to re-experience. My high school friends are still some of my best and closest friends today, and although none of them actually make a specific appearance in the book, all of them influenced my take on this story and my vision for what Cyn’s high school experience was like.

BLOG BOOK TOUR!
Visit other blogs on Mikki's tour for EVIL LIBRARIAN:
WhoRuBlog, http://www.whorublog.com/ - 9/9/2014
Elizabeth O. Dulemba, http://dulemba.com - 9/13/2014
Random Chalk Talk, http://randomchalktalk.blogspot.com/ - 9/10/2014
Books 4 Your Kids, http://www.books4yourkids.com/ - 9/11/2014
Green Bean Teen Queen, http://www.greenbeanteenqueen.com/ - 9/12/2014
Katie's Book Blog, http://katiesbookblog.com/ - 9/15/2014
Word Spelunking, http://www.wordspelunking.blogspot.com/ - 9/16/2-14
Book Chic Club, http://www.bookchicclub.blogspot.com/ - 9/17/2014

GIVEAWAY
Candlewick has kindly agreed to give away one free copy of EVIL LIBRARIAN to one of my lucky followers. Must live in the US to win - enter below.

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19. A FALLING STAR by Chantel Acevedo - Guest Post and Giveaway!

Chantel Acevedo will once again be my kind host at the Auburn Writers Conference in November. She's so generous to other writers, so it is my great pleasure to help her celebrate the release of her latest book, A FALLING STAR. Take it away Chantel!

      One of the questions writers are often asked has to do with inspiration, and the places where ideas come from. I thought I’d share with you where the idea for A Falling Star came from.
      First, you need to know that it was an idea twenty years in the making. Second, you need to know that A Falling Star is set against the backdrop of the Mariel Boat Crisis of 1980, and the Cuban rafter crisis of 1990—two massive Cuban exoduses ten years apart, with enormous consequences for the island and for South Florida. In the story, Daysy, a 14 year old girl who arrived in Miami as a child as part of the Mariel boatlift, discovers that her parents have been keeping a very tragic secret from her. So, Daysy goes on the hunt for answers to her past.
      The story is inspired by the very true Mariel story of my childhood friend, Arlenys Casanova. She was five when she came to the U.S. with her parents as one of over 100,000 Cubans who sought exile on our shores over the course of one spring. Upon disembarking in Key West, she was lost for hours among so many thousands who milled about the docks. Her parents, panicked, inhibited by the language barrier, searched and searched, exhausted by the boat ride, terrified that after everything they’d gone through, they’d come to a new country only to lose their daughter. Arlenys was found, eventually, in the arms of an elderly blind man, who huddled with her in the shade, waiting for someone to come and claim her.
This is a photo of my favorite writing spot, which is in my living room, beside my colorful bookshelves, with my grandparents' engagement photo from Cuba looking on. My grandmother, who is still with us, is a wonderful story, and I feel as if I owe my artistic sensibilities to her.

      Arlenys gifted me with this story when we were fifteen, sitting on the sidewalk waiting for another friend to emerge from her house. She told it casually, softly, and I always remembered it.
      When I sat down to write a story about the many ways that Cubans have come to the U.S., Arlenys’ story bubbled up in my imagination, and I found myself asking, “What if parents never found her? Or worse, what if she’d been lost at sea?”
      Those are the horrifying and gripping questions that novels are born out of, and so Daysy came to be. I will be forever grateful for that afternoon in Miami, when Arlenys told me her story, for her enduring friendship, and for her parents, who had the courage to seek a better life for their little girl and brought one of my dearest friends into my life.

Bio: Chantel Acevedo has received many awards for her fiction, including the Latino International Book Award and an Alabama State Council on the Arts Literature Fellowship. A Cuban-American born and raised in Miami, Florida, Acevedo has spent time in Japan and New Zealand as a Fulbrighter, and currently resides in Auburn, Alabama with her family, where she is the Alumni Writer-in-Residence and Coordinator of the Creative Writing Program at Auburn University. Acevedo’s fiction and poetry have appeared inPrairie Schooner, American Poetry Review, North American Review,and Chattahoochee Review, among others. She is the editor of theSouthern Humanities Review, the founder of the annual Auburn Writers Conference, and the author of two additional novels, Love and Ghost Letters (St. Martin’s Press) and A Falling Star(Carolina Wren Press), as well as a novel for young adults, Song of the Red Cloak. A new novel, THE DISTANT MARVELS, is forthcoming from Europa Editions. She holds an MFA from the University of Miami.

GIVEAWAY!
Chantel has generously agreed to give an autographed copy of A FALLING STAR to one of my lucky followers. Must live in the US to win - enter below.

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20. Lois Lowery and Jeff Bridges on Colbert

Via Salon - "Watch Lois Lowry and Jeff Bridges explain what a dystopia is to Stephen Colbert":


Click the image below if the embedded video gives you any trouble.

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21. September is Child Protection Month


During the month of September, my publisher for A BIRD ON WATER STREET, Little Pickle Press will donate 25% of all book sales made on our website if the purchaser applies KidpowerSafe as the promo code at checkout. Very cool! I hope you'll help!

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22. Coloring Page Tuesday - E is for Elephant!

     As a continuation of filling in my alphabet gaps, I give you an Elephant! Okay, okay, I've drawn elephants for you before. But they're just so danged cute and fun to draw!
     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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23. Picture Book Month Calendar Now Available

I'm proud to once again be involved with Picture Book Month in November hosted by Dianne de las Cassas. Every year I create the calendar which lists all the participating authors, a theme for each day, and lots of my coloring pages (some which you haven't seen yet). Teachers and librarians need a little time to organize their plans for the month, so the calendar is being released early. You can download the full color or black and white version to print out at the Picture Book Month website (CLICK HERE). Of course, I have coloring pages available for most of those themes, so I hope you'll take advantage!

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24. FLASHLIGHT by Lizi Boyd - GIVEAWAY!


FLASHLIGHT by Lizi Boyd is a fascinating book. As a teacher of Design in the picture book MFA program at Hollins University, I often talk to my students about directing the reader's eye - usually through the use of light, contrast, saturation, etc. FLASHLIGHT hits all those buttons and more! With strategically located cut-outs and the flashlight beam highlighting small mysteries, I kept flipping back and forth through the book to catch vignettes I'd missed, like babies in a nest, or bugs in a bush. Truly, the book is brilliant. I'm thrilled to have Lizi here today to ask her about it!

Q. Lizi, congratulations on such a lovely book and all the fantastic praises it's receiving, like "This is creative genius at work" from Kirkus! How did the idea for this book come to you?
A.
My black labs, Zuli and Olive, went out for an evening ramble. I was working and suddenly realized they’d been gone for a long time. It was late fall, pitch black outside, so I took along a flashlight. I could hear them in the apple field below our house and when I caught them in the beam of light; their eyes, collars, the apples, field grasses were all in color. It was so utterly cool and simple. At that moment it became the idea for a book. My theory about ideas is that they’re all only ten feet off the ground and whomever reaches up and plucks it down gets to do it. I was excited this one was mine.

Q. This is a wordless picture book. How did you get the idea of it across to Chronicle Books?
A.
At the time I was working on INSIDE OUTSIDE, another wordless book so It wasn’t surprising to Chronicle. The next day I prepared a black paper mock up book and starting sketching it out. My mock ups are pretty tight and they have a somewhat finished feel and look, although they're not elaborately done. When I’m presenting an idea it seems best to show a mock up where there isn't a need for a ‘visual leap’ between a rough rough sketch and a finished piece. The closer the idea looks when it's presented the easier it is to ‘see’ where it can go.

Q. You must have dummied this up a million times to get it all to line up just right, yes?
A.
Thank you for appreciating how many go arounds one might need for such a seemingly simple book. Luckily it wasn’t even close to a million. I did do several rounds of mock-ups and many ideas for possible die cut shapes. Sara Gillingham, brilliant art director, did plenty of thinking too and Binh and many others in the production at Chronicle. It was truly a collaborative work.

Q. What is your illustration method?
A.
I used designer’s gouache on 100% cotton rag.The paper was quite unforgiving so it was very careful work and because it was rag I had to do several coats of the gouache to get the colors to pop.The die cuts were not part of the finishes so I used templates to trace out the reveals. There was a bit of reconfiguring of the die cuts by Sara Gillingham once all the paintings were done. Sara has a great eye and sensibility and knows all the computer tricks which I don’t know... here in a studio surrounded by two hundred plus paintbrushes.

I did most of the gray line illustration while I was at our summer house on Lake Sunapee. This is where I met the Luna moth, the tiny white spiders who crawled onto my paint tray one night and the small white moths. Our house sits by the water on one side and the woods on the other. I’d hop up, go hunt for some little forest greens, mushrooms i.e. and bring them back to the table. I finished the book in Vermont but needed to make a terrarium to remind myself of the Sunapee woods and all the smells.

Q. I love how the boy is curious, but when he loses his flashlight, it quickly turns to the animals being curious about him! How did where you live influence the story?
A.
Living in the country influences my work in many different ways. I take long walks with the dogs everyday so I‘m always seeing ideas along the way. And any work that’s going on in my studio is encouraged by these walks; the road, the quiet around me, subtle changes always help me to imagine different possibilities and directions.

Q. How are you celebrating the release of FLASHLIGHT?
A.
I had a wonderful launch party at our house/studio in collaboration with The Norwich Bookstore. We had a basket of little gray or black flashlights. I’d never done a launch party so it was really fun to celebrate this book.

Q. What's next in the works for you?
A.
The next project is different and has a bit of text. It’s working title and likely it’s final title is The Big Little Book. I’m in the midst of the sketches so I don’t want to talk too much about it because it’s still changing and showing me new directions. It’s a skinny, tall book, so look for it in 2015.

I will! Wishing you much continued success!
Check out this lovely book trailer!

CLICK HERE if the embedded video gives you any trouble.


GIVEAWAY!
Chronicle is generously offering one free copy of FLASHLIGHT to one of my lucky winners. Must live in the US/Canada to win - enter below:

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25. Friday Linky List - September 12, 2014

From The Guardian - Margaret Atwood's new work will remain unseen for a century - Must read this, it's really interesting!

From PW via The Telegraph: Should Writers Be Paid To Read? Hmmmm!

Via PW: Nielsen to Hold New Children's Book Summit. Interesting.

From Mashable via PW: Sleep in the Homes of These 8 Literary Legends. (I want to live in Steinbeck's studio - how adorable!!)


From This Picture Book Life: Fashionable Picture Book Characters (and no, Fancy Nancy is not among them!)

From Forbes via Publishers Lunch: Forbes has released their annual list of guesses at what the top-earning authors made. Please don't think this is anywhere near what the rest of us make! This is so outside my realm of reality I can't even imagine!

From NPR via PW: How 'Gatsby' Went From a Moldering Flop To a Great American Novel - fascinating look at how the book caught on after the author's death

From PW: A Hot Summer For Indie Stores... "PW’s informal poll of nearly two dozen indie bookstores found that many overcame a tough winter and are, in fact, up for the year. Some are way up. Parnassus Books in Nashville is one of several stores to report double-digit sales." Gads, I love to hear that!!

At Brain Pickings via PW: Maurice Sendak's Darkest, Most Controversial Yet Most Hopeful Children's Book

At BoingBoing: Great Childhood Books of Yesteryear (for adults only)

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