Add a Comment
Viewing Blog: Outside of a Dog, Most Recent at Top
Results 1 - 25 of 68
We are a writing group that has been together since 2000. We work in picture books, middle grade and YA novels, and non fiction. Some of us have also done magazine work. We now have more than a couple of dozen projects under our belts as authors, illustrators, and author/illustrators.
Statistics for Outside of a Dog
Number of Readers that added this blog to their MyJacketFlap: 14
GHOST RANCH ABIQUIU NEW MEXICO was the inspirational location of the first Kindling Words West which lasted a full five days and five nights with an extra night (or two) in Santa Fe. This photo is typical of the scenery we were able to view everyday from our outstanding location in the desert. The elevation was about 6500 feet and the air was thin, hot during the day, windy most afternoons, and cold at night. The ghost ranch was once home to Georgia O'Keefe. Before she arrived, apparently a large group of mean horse thieves lived in the area. Box Canyon was perfect for their 'hot' ponies.
Hiking was one of our main forms of entertainment because we had no TV's, no phones in the rooms, no clocks anywhere, and no locks on the doors. Anywhere! The library was open 24/7 and guests were on their honor, having to fill out a form and then return the book when they were finished. Food was pretty darned good, healthy for the most part, and tasty, too. Special dishes were always available for vegetarians, which made it nice for the vegetarians (like me.) Our housing was varied and extremely spread out, ranging from very rustic with shared bathrooms (i.e. the Corral Compound) to pretty nice and quite fancy (i.e. the Tumbleweed building on the bluff--quite a climb to get there, too--see the photo below)
I loved the schedule because there was only one workshop per day for the writers and another for the illustrators. The instructor for the authors was Tim Wynne-Jones and for the for illustrators it was Mary Jane Begin. The workshops lasted one hour per day and the rest of the time we were free to write, meditate, walk through the lovely labyrinth (which had red ants in the middle so don't sit down!) meet with our peers. At night there was plenty of time to party.
My favorite activity was to attend the art workshop on the last day. Everyone was invited, authors, too. I was pretty burned out from writing, writing, writing. Mary Jane provided supplies and I sat a group of writers (so we wouldn't feel intimidated by the oodles of talent in the artist's corner.) This is what I came up with, an 'interpretation' so to speak, and very therapeutic, too.
I recommend this adventure to serious authors and illustrators who are not completely squeamish (previous camping experience might come in handy.) I plan to return next year and every year thereafter!
Gallop-O-Gallop, Dial Books 2007 Riding Invisible, Hyperion Books 2010
Blog: Outside of a Dog (Login to Add to MyJacketFlap)
JacketFlap tags: The stuff that art is made of...., Add a tag
People always ask me where ideas come from, for stories or illustrations. I usually give a variety of answers based in fact or fiction, but the real answer is ideas come from everywhere, and from nowhere. What makes an artist an artist, what gives them vision, is that they have trained themselves to investigate the nowhere to see and hear from all that surrounds them, to absorb it, and translate it back.
Suspense writer Stephen King, in his book “On Writing” says that ideas are constantly flying around in the sky, and it’s the writer’s responsibility to reach up and grab them. To illustrate that point further in terms of sketching characters to life, I had drawn a character called “Sister Cat” for one of my picturebook manuscripts about kid ghouls. Sister Cat is a sister to the main character, Velma the Vampire, although the biological conjuring of that relation is left a mystery. They are ghouls after all, and anything is possible. At first, Sister Cat looked like this…
Cute in pink, but a little too cat-like to be a real sister. So I waited for something to fly by..
Right before Valentines Day, during a break from the drawing board, I scanned a picture of a swan into photoshop, and did a little conjuring myself. The end result shown here is 2 swans forming a heart….and if you look long enough, a cat appears in the middle, a cat with wings. On Stephen King’s advice, I reached up and grabbed it…
Sister Cat came from nowhere, but there she was, staring at me all the while, waiting.
An aMUSEd vision…it doesn’t get better that that!
I'm so proud to share this fabulous drawing Kevin O'Malley did for me! Long story, but the short version is, I bought an extra copy of GIMME CRACKED CORN & I WILL SHARE, a book he had dedicated to me. (I had helped with the title.) Scheduling complications kept him from being able to autograph it at the Va. State Reading Assoc. conference, so -- LUCKY ME! -- he did a drawing for me instead. How cool is that?!
My "Author School Visits by State" website is growing by leaps and bounds! If you haven't checked it out yet, definitely stop by. Over 400 authors & illustrators are now listed nationwide, (Boy, that was a LOT of emails to answer!), and the site continues to grow every day. Click here: AUTHOR SCHOOL VISITS BY STATE!
Is that a great photo, or what? These are the wrists of 5th graders from Sedgefield Elementary School in Newport News, Virginia. Yesterday I spoke to them about writing, touching on skills they can incorporate into their SOLs (Standards of Learning tests) which are coming up next week.
While I love the sweetness of younger students, I also like working with older students like this because we can really get into details. So we did my "Verbal-loons" activity, (lots of laughs there while -- I HOPE -- learning the importance of choosing exciting verbs). They also enjoyed a peek at my Evil Inner Editor, and then they created wrist bands with the initials "WCTW," which stands for "Writers Choose Their Words."
And speaking of author visits, I've put together a new website to help educators find nearby children's book authors and Illustrators who do school visits. They're listed state by state, alphabetically. It's a work in progress, so if you're traditionally published and would like me to include you on the list, send me an email:
kimnorman (insert @ sign) charter.net
(No charge, by the way. The more listings I have, the more useful it will be to educators.)
Here's the site, officially titled AUTHOR SCHOOL VISITS BY STATE.Add a Comment
Amazon is always a good resource when researching any publisher. Just do an advance search and plug in the publisher's name. If they're a big publisher, it's better to select a limited number of years back you'd like to view. Five years or so if usually enough to give you an idea of the type of books that house publishes.
It's helpful when, say, you're researching picture books and you want to find out if they do lots of animal books, or books with cumulative structures. I'll often copy a chunk of a book's info page, including the cover art, then save it into a text file. I sometimes do that when I'm researching publishers who might be a fit for one of my manuscripts. You might not want to pitch to publishers who have produced a book which is TOO much like your current book, (say, a rhyming book about dancing kumquats), but if it's a publisher who does rhyming books, or books about anthropomorphic... er... fruits, you've got a better shot.
Sometimes it can be frustrating, finding a publisher which is a good fit without being TOO good a fit. In my crit group, we all laughed (instead of crying) over a rejection one of us received from Viking which said, "It's great, but we already have a book about blueberries."
Uh. Yeah. That would be Blueberries for Sal. Published SIXTY YEARS AGO. Seems like they could take a chance that kids who read it have moved on. Maybe when a book becomes an icon like Sal, publishers steer clear of ever touching such a subject again. Who knows.
But on the whole, it's a good thing to find houses which have previously published books similar to your own, and Amazon is a quick(-ish) way to do it. Once I've copied a few similar books into that text file, I store it in a folder with the manuscript, titled "Target markets for XYZ (title of the book.)"Add a Comment
I want to introduce you all to my friend and fellow Utah writer, Jessica Day George. We first met when I invited her to do a book signing and author visit at my school. She did this amazing thing. Working with 3 fifth grades, Jessica helped them compose class stories. They were terrific- and she balanced creativity with natural crowd control. You should have seen her.
Anyway today we have the author of Dragon Slippers and now Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow. Welcome Jessica.
1. First off, why do you write for kids?
Because they won’t let me write for grown ups. . . . Kidding! I write for kids because there is so much more room to let your imagination go wild in a so-called “children’s book”, and because I like having young characters who are still as brave and strong and intelligent as an adult character (as many young people are), and letting them be the focus rather than the “grown ups” in the story.
2. In Dragon Slippers, is your main character, Creel, like you? If so, how?
I’d like to think that if my family abandoned me, I’d have the guts to face the dragon and make my own way in the world. I think that she’s like me in that she’s practical, and she doesn’t sit back and let the boys do all the work, either.
3. What is your writing process? Do you outline, do research, jump right in, think about your story for a while before starting, interview your characters?
Jump right in! When I get an idea for a story, I just sit down and start typing with chapter 1. I do have a little ritual, though. I can’t get going until I’ve put my name and address on the top of the page, given it a title, and then saved the document. Then I get to work. I’ve had two books where I’ve written a later chapter first, and then gone back to the beginning. But outlining just frustrates me: I want to get going!
4. What happened when you got "the call" from your publishing house?
First off, it was well after noon and I was still in my bathrobe. I always have to confess that. My little boy was not even one year old yet, and there were so many days where I didn’t get dressed until he was napping. Anyway, she called, and I tried to be all casual and professional, but at the end of the phone call I suddenly blurted out, “I will leave my husband and child and come be your maid if you want me to!” And she paused, and then started laughing and said, “Well, that won’t be necessary.” After we hung up, I started crying and called my husband . . who was on his way home from work early because he had the flu!
5. How did you celebrate your book sale?
I went to Barnes & Noble and bought myself a stack of books! That weekend we got a babysitter and went out to eat, too, which is pretty big for us.
6. What is your earliest book memory?
Being scared of Good Night Moon. My mom loves that book, and she would read it in this sort of stage whisper that she thought was soothing, but actually freaked us all out. I also remember tossing aside Cinderella and various other girly books inherited from my older sister, and asking my mom to read me only books about horses.
7. Did you need to do any research for Dragon Slippers?
Nope. I’m such a slacker. Just made it all up.
8. How did you know when you were done?
Dragon Slippers sprang into my head fully formed, beginning to end, and so I just had to type fast enough to keep up! I knew what I was aiming for, even knew the last line, and just went for it.
9. What has surprised you the most about publishing?
Why does it take so loooong? I signed the contract for Dragon Slippers in January of 2006, and it didn’t come out until April of 2007. I’m a very impatient person. I think the day I finish a manuscript, they should fire up the presses!
10. I notice that you have an agent. Did you have one before you were published? Did this make a big difference? How did you get your agent?
I had met this agent at a conference, but she said she didn’t do fantasy (which is kinda hilarious, because she used to rep Shannon Hale). I asked if she would be available to read a contract for me, should I get one, and I could pay her by the hour. (David Farland had recommended the unagented try this, so that you have some help with contracts.) She said that was fine, so when I got the Dragon Slippers contract, I called up Amy and asked if she had some free time. She read it, I paid her, and then she offered to represent me because she’d been impressed by the description of the story and the publisher’s enthusiasm. I think it made a huge difference, because I couldn’t understand one word in three of that contract! I never would have known what was going on. She had to explain it to me one section at a time. And since then she’s been wonderful: she reads rough drafts and gives great editing advice, she’s a rock hard negotiator, I’d be lost without her!
11. Also would you like to tell your readers something about your new book?
>Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow is a book that's very close to my heart. All my life I've been fascinated with Norway, and desperately wanted to live there. I also loved the Nordic folk tale "East o' the Sun, West o' the Moon," and
planned from a young age to write my own novel-length version. This is that very book, and I tried to throw all my love for Norway and it's culture into one of the greatest stories that has ever been told. It's got polar bears,
wolves, trolls, romance, fighting, magic, adventure and even humor. Enjoy!
12. There will be the sequel to Dragon Slippers coming out this spring. How about a sneak preview?
>In April, the sequel to Dragon Slippers will be on the scene. Is Shardas alive? Find out in Dragon Flight, as Creel travels to far off Citatie to investigate a rumor of an entire army . . . mounted on dragons!
Now readers, go visit Jessica's website at <http://www.jessicadaygeorge.com>
Imagine playing a vocabulary game and at the same time donating food to hungry people of the world. This is better than Solitaire! And it is not an Urban Legend. The food really goes to those who need it. For every correct answer you make in the vocabulary game, the United Nations World Food Program donates twenty grains of rice. Visit the web site at www.freerice.com
The brainchild of a computer programmer named John Breen, the site was developed for his teenage son who was studying for the SAT. This was a fun and philanthropic way to improve his score. Free Rice started out giving 10 grains of rice for every correct answer in the game. Sponsors advertise at the bottom of the page and they are paying for the rice. Now 20 grains of rice are purchased with each correct answer. On the opening day of the site, October 7, 2007, there were 830 grains donated. As of this writing, 9,123,269,430 have now been "earned."
I received an email about Free Rice, visited the site, and now everywhere I turn I see references to it. No one needs to convince writers that a good vocabulary is helpful. So spread the word and maybe we can make a difference while we play and learn. The more you play, the better your vocabulary gets, but also the more people are fed. What a great idea!
I am honored to be the Network Rep in one of the most active artists' group in the SCBWI organization. The Illustrators Network in Illinois holds monthly meetings, engages guest speakers, has group portfolio shows for art directors, illustration critiques and social events. We also invite writers into the fold and give initial visual impressions on picture book manuscripts. And now, we've ventured into another new territory, our first gallery show. The Chesterton Gallery in Chesterton Indiana has teamed with SCBWI-IL and is showcasing our artists from Illinois and Indiana for the entire month of October. We learned a new term at the show's opening on October 7th...we are all really from "Illiana." Here is our postcard announcing the event: In addition to the 50+ framed pieces of original art, we are having a month-long silent auction of alphabet letters, with proceeds divided evenly among gallery, artist, and future programming for SCBWI. For a peek at those letters, matted 11 x 14, and instructions to bid, here's a link... alphabet auction
And if you're in a clicking frenzy and want to vicariously visit the Chesterton Gallery's opening day for SCBWI Illinois Illustrators Network, here you go! gallery opening
SCBWI-IL Illustrators Network Rep
I recently purchased a very cool book called THE VEIN OF GOLD by Julia Cameron, who also wrote THE ARTIST'S WAY (which is wonderful for recovering creative types.) I haven't actually read much of THE VEIN OF GOLD, but I did flip to one page that has a great idea. She says to buy or make a God Jar (or box, or whatever.) You should write down your wishes, prayers, problems, etc. and put them in the jar. The jar should have a magical feel to it, I guess. It should be special. So I went into our small town where there are a few touristy antique shops, bound and determined to find my special God Jar. It would need to 'speak' to me. The first two places had nada. The third really didn’t have much either, just a small redwood burl vase that was cool, but it had such a small opening at the top I didn't know how I'd be able to get my wish papers crammed in there. And what if I wanted to retrieve one? Well, I'd never be able get it out. Finally something caught my eye in that last shop. It was a bowl, propped up in a china cabinet. Actually, it was an amazing bowl! With fishes swimming in circles and golden glints in the glass, an incredible edging, three round balls at the bottom as a base., swirling leaves and carvings, too. The color is cobalt blue, see through, and incredible. Very amazing, with intricate designs inside. So I checked out the price. $275!! Unbelievable. But, hey, I'm a Pisces. The bowl spoke to me! Fish. Swimming in a circle. Apparently this is a 'carnival bowl,' made by Fenton glass, between the years 1915 and 1921. The pattern is called 'Little Fishes.' I'd never heard of Fenton glass, but I decided to splurge and buy it anyway. Plus there was a sale going on, so the total came to $250 with tax, which is absolutely ridiculous, way out of my league, but I’m worth it. Right?
So now I’ve owned the bowl for over two weeks, and some of my dreams and wishes and requests have come to pass. It was definitely worth the investment. I call it my Fish Wish Dish. Sandra Alonzo, Gallop-O-Gallop
I had not written a word in 6 weeks. Then I went on a great trip to Paris with my husband to celebrate our anniversary. Surrounding myself with impressionist paintings started me thinking artistically. Walking the paths around Monet's farmhouse and studying his gardens plunged me into creative reverie. Now home, I've made some resolutions. I had never tried the 500 words a day habit. So many people have suggested it. After two days of major procrastination, I sat down. I wrote and then checked how much I had accomplished…2,127 words! And it was easy. Now I have been doing it for four days and every day I have exceeded the goal. It gives me such a feeling of accomplishment and this story I have been wandering around is finally moving forward. After I have done my 500 words each day, I feel free to do other things without that nagging thought…I should be writing. Now I feel like I am accomplishing my writing goals AND I can enjoy the rest of my life.
Maybe these pictures from Monet's gardens can inspire you too!
Did anyone else go to the book release parties around the country?
We had a blast at our local B+N...check it out here:
Potter Party over at ChatRabbit
Some folks were having trouble with my "mac friendly" podcast, so I've uploaded my new song parody to YouTube. This is one you'll want to share with your editors -- a dialog between an overworked editor and a pushy, eager new writer. Folks tell me it's my funniest yet! You can watch it right here! (Sorry about the video quality. Hey, it's a song, not a video. Click the video window below to listen. Warning: one teensy naughty word at the end of the song.)
today we have a new song!! Your editors are going to love this one. A
dialog between a harried editor and a pushy newbie writer. Listen here to my newest song, You won't accept "no!" here:
Maybe this will be a fun activity to join in on. I'm participating in an Artist's Way group, which is a recovery program for artists and writers. One of our assignments this month: If you had five other lives to lead, what would you do in each of them? Here are my five:
1. House sitter for a very wealthy person who's never home (a possible setting is in the photo. I would be lounging on the mansion porch drinking pineapple champagne when I took that shot.)
2. An ice cream taster!!
3. Travel book writer for five-star hotels on tropical islands.
4. A person for a masseuse to practice on.
5. Caretaker for a wild horse preserve in a remote area where I live in a warm, cozy house (once again, the photo would work just great as a setting.)
Anyone else with imaginary lives? It's fun. Try it!! Sandra Alonzo Gallop-O-Gallop Dial Books for Young Readers.
For the first time that I recall, I came up with a story idea in a dream last night. In my dream, I watched this little boy singing a song that sounded like a nice premise for a picture book. I even began scribbling the idea down in my dream -- with the usual plot twists and interruptions. Does everybody dream like that, with lots of obstacles in the way of their intentions, or is it just my cluttered life that makes me dream that way?
Within the dream, as I wrote down the story idea, I suddenly thought, "Wait a minute. What if that was a real, copyrighted song he was singing?" Because when I first heard him, I was sure it was original. You know, one of those tuneless, chant-like songs children sing when they're busy doing something else. But as I wrote down the idea, I began to worry maybe he was just tone deaf.
Before I had a chance to finish writing down the idea, I woke up coughing. Makes me wonder: was that a real cough, or my body trying to wake me to write down the dream? Of course, I always have allergies, but no cold or cold "remnants" right now. Curious.
And then, of course, out for my morning walk to think about it. Snapped a few photos along the way, including one of my favorite subject, that old farmhouse which is bound for doom with developers encroaching. Sigh.
Add a Comment
It was fun doing all those interviews last week. A form of self-analysis. I was embarrassed at how nebulous I had to be about my next project. Also was dismayed at how long it has been since I had a good, solid habit of early morning walks followed by journaling. (Which I always find to be a good way to "center" myself for the day.)
So, even if NOBODY read the interviews, I got something out of them. Have started back my early morning walks, have started a new journal and have gotten a solid start on that revision I've owed one of my editors for way too long!
Thank you thank you to everyone who hosted me, forcing me to take a look at myself.
Here's a recap of the blogs I visited last week:
Here are some views I enjoyed on my sunrise walk this morning near the marsh, including the photo at the top...
And here's where I journaled when I got back... my new gazebo!
My book launch party was lovely. It took place June 14th
in the garden at The Smithfield Inn. The weather was perfect, (67
degrees in the summer!); the company was delightful; the crowd size was
Aside from delighting in celebrating the long-awaited release of my book, it was also gratifying for me to see that people looked like they were having a really good time. Many thanks to John and Anne Edwards of The Smithfield Times for generously hosting the party. And of course, to my family and friends who came out to celebrate with me.
(Shown here -- seated -- with my friend, "Miss Becky.")
Add a Comment
How did you spend your first book or illustraion check? Joe just suggested to Liz that with her new book check she should be sure to spend some of the money on herself. My question? How did you all spend your first check?
I had been threatening to get a second dog. I already had a lovable black lab, but I wanted another puppy. My husband was not too eager. I LOVE McDuff in Rosemary Wells and Susan Jeffers' books.So when I had that book money burning a hole in my pocket, I went hunting for a Westie and bought a 6 week old pup. When I came home, my husband just shook his head. That dog is so naughty still and she is now 4 years old. I figure that if she weren't so cute, she'd probably be dead. Not really, but she is naughty. It's all Rosemary Wells' and Susan Jeffers' fault. ....but don't think that I regret that purchase, no, not one bit. And she has my husband wrapped around her paw too!
Add a Comment
So how did you spend your first check?
If a horse has shoes
Do the shoes have laces?
Or buckles? Or velcro?
I see NO traces
Of ties or fasteners,
Not even a bow.
If a horse has shoes, then
Why don't they show?
(photo of my horse Sandy getting shod when I was about 14 years old)
If a Horse Has Shoes is one of the poems that was not included in the final cut of twenty-one horse-related poems in my new book, Gallop-O-Gallop. It was released last week.Yahoo! The art in the book is fabulous, done by Kelly Murphy, a talented children's book illustrator. Gallop-O-Gallop is for the 4-8 age group, especially the girls. The many topics in the poetry range from horse colors and breeds to bucking broncos and stampedes. It's my first, and I'm thrilled! Sandra Alonzo www.sandraalonzo.com
Ordered 100 books in preparation for my book launch party on June 14th. So kind of my boss and his wife to offer to hold this party for me. It will be in the beautiful outdoor gazebo of The Smithfield Inn, covered & cozy no matter what the weather. (But we're hoping fo r a gorgeous June evening, of course!)
Time to start addressing invitations!
Kim NormanAdd a Comment
Speaking of the thrill of finding your very own books on your doorstep, I recently had the thrill of celebrating these new books with two authors. At the LA Book Festival, I saw Sandy, author of "Gallop-O-Gallop" (Dial), doing her first-ever book signing. She was decked out in a snazzy red cowgirl outfit befitting the beautiful poetry inside her book.
A few weeks later, I attended a "coming-out" party for Becky's new book, "Morris and Buddy-The Story of the First Seeing Eye Dog", (Albert Whitman). Becky looked snazzy too, and it was exciting to see her books on display as you walked in the door.
Every newly published book deserves a celebration, whether it's your first or your tenth, (let us keep our fingers crossed).
Congratulations one and all!
In honor of my new Jack of All Tails blog, here's the video I just uploaded to the blog. My first ever Youtube upload!! It's a 30-second "movie" of my famous dog, Anna, retrieving the morning paper. It was a lot of creative fun making the movie in that cool iMovie program on my Mac. Anna is famous because she's mentioned on the jacket flap of JACK OF ALL TAILS as the pet in our household who has a job of her own.
(In case you're not familiar with the premise, JACK is a book about a nutty human family who makes a living pretending to be pets. Dogs, cats, pigs, lizards, you name it!)
Anyway, here's Anna on the job! Look at 'er go!...
Enjoyed a fabulous visit to my local elementary school yesterday. What a great group of enthusiastic kids! So much for the old saying about a prophet not being accepted in his own land. (Or however that saying goes!) My hometown kids at Hardy Elementary treated me like a rock star. Because they're so nearby, I had stopped in to meet the lovely librarian some weeks ago to give her an advance CD of my song, "The Storytime Boogie." By the time my visit rolled around, the kids were familiar with the song. (A big thanks to my friend Mrs. Chapman, the music teacher, for taking the time to introduce the kids to the song.)
What a great audience! (Both groups, K & 1st and 2nd & 3rd.) The younger ones worked themselves into a cheering frenzy as I pulled stuffed "pets" from my big bag -- culminating in that huge crocodile I found in a 2nd hand store a few weeks ago. The older kids were equally entertained by my photos of my Evil Inner Editor. But they never got out of control. They'd quickly quiet with a simple "shhh" into the microphone so I could bring up the next image. You couldn't ask for a better audience!
Both groups laughed in all the right places when I read Jack of All Tails. I don't usually give out postcards to the entire student body, but I happened to have a batch of 1000 "free" postcards because my printer messed up my order a few weeks ago. The full-color front showing the bookcover looked fine, but the back side was unacceptably light. So they reprinted and shipped new ones, leaving me with a box of 1000 extras. So I put stickers on the back announcing my booklaunch party for any kid who can talk his/her parents into bringing them. (This, since the book isn't being released for another two weeks, so I couldn't sell them during the visit.)
I closed with "The Storytime Boogie" at both presentations as kids clapped along. Hey! Hardy Elementary has rhythm, too! All in all, a very fun afternoon.
(Jack of All Tails published by Dutton Children's Books - Illustrations copyright ©2007 by David Clark)
Check out some of the sights, sounds and high spirits of Barb's book release party!
Liz Goulet DuboisAdd a Comment
View Next 25 Posts