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Charlie and I had the FABULOUS opportunity to meet Ellie McDoodle, Mo, Ben-Ben, Josh, Lucy, Mr. Brendall, and many other Ellie McDoodle characters yesterday when we popped in to surprise the performers during the Tech Week rehearsal for the stage play at Binda Performing Arts Center on Kellogg Community College's campus. It was a thrill to see the characters alive on stage. I'm so excited about the performance this Saturday. If you're near Battle Creek, Michigan, come by and see it! Two performances Saturday April 21, 4pm and 7pm. Click here for all the official information for it or scroll down to the end of this post. Thank you SO much to Miller College Children's Theater Project and Jenny Andrews for making this happen. Thank you to the excellent script writer, Jack Wentworth. Thank you to the fabulous What A Do Theatre and Zac Thompson for directing and managing the play. And thank you to the performers and their families for making time in their busy schedules to take advantage of an opportunity to experience professional theater, with all its demands and rewards.
The best part of it all? The next Ellie McDoodle book, which I am writing right NOW, is about theater. This production is great inspiration and research!
Here are the performers for Ellie McDoodle: New Kid in School Adapted for stage by Lakeview High School student Jack Wentworth Directed by Zac Thompson.
The performance will be held at the Binda Performing Arts Center on Kellogg Community College's campus on Saturday, April 21, 2012, at 4:00 and 7:00 p.m. Tickets may be purchased in advance by calling Jenny Andrews at (269) 967-1374 or at the door prior to each performance. Adult tickets are $8.00; students K-12 $4.00; children 5 and under are free.
PiBoIdMo is Picture Book Idea Month -- join the group and commit to thinking up an idea per day for a picture book. Read the official blog for inspiration each day. At the end of the month, choose the ideas you like best from your collection of 30, and maybe finish one. Sell it, repeat.
The picture book has taken a bit of a beating lately in the press. Some e-book supporters are quick to say the paper book is a relic. An October, 2010 New York Times article claimed parents are pushing their kids to read more complex books, younger, and suggested parents don't find value in books that have to be read aloud to their kids, as picture books are meant to be shared. This set off a torrent of responses, including this charming one from an elementary school and this one in the Horn Book, more recently.
The truth is, the publishing world is changing (as is every other part of our world). To be alive is to change. I don't know where it's all going. Nobody does. Until we find out, I say we quit wringing our hands. Embrace your creativity, keep reading, keep writing, and keep encouraging kids.
I'm joining PiBoWriMo for several reasons: - I wanted to join last year but didn't because I was trying NaNoWriMo for the first time and didn't want to split my effort. That's National Novel Writing Month, also held during the 30 days of November, and it's the long version of PiBo: Write a 50,000 word novel in a month. Stephen King writes that fast (though I hope his editors don't). Last year I ultimately met my goal for NaNoWriMo -- I wrote an Ellie McDoodle book in a month. The hard part was achieving a 50,000 word count for a 17,000-word book. I counted edits and rewrites, of course. And since a picture is worth a thousand words, I should have been able to add 170,000 to my final word count. Since the work I do is often half art, half text, and I am often on deadline, it can't always be shoehorned to fit the NaNoWriMo parameters. But it fits PiBoWriMo. (Shutta Crum is doing both PiBoWriMo and NaNoWriMo this year. Cheer her on -- she'll need it.)
Why else I am joining PiBoIdMo:
- Before I started writing and illustrating Ellie McDoodle books, I tried creating picture books. I really thought that'd be my big mark on the world. Maybe it still will be. This is one way to find out.
- I have a neat idea for a picture book going right now. It'll take a while to write, edit and illustrate, but I'm excited about the idea and I figure, what better time to fire up the brain to think of more good ideas than when I'm already bogged down with something else? No, I meant, already stoked and paying attention to the sweet whispers of of the muse.
Are you thinking maybe you've got some picture book ideas that need corralling? Got a novel idea you'd like to explore? Push yourself to join PiBoIdMo or NaNoWriMo -- you won't know what you're capable of until you try.
(Hey, I just found out my writer husband Charlie has joined PiBoWriMo too -- awesome!)
2 Comments on It's PiBoIdMo time!, last added: 10/29/2011
Author Audrey Vernick is unflinchingly honest and gasp-for-breath funny, in real life and on the page. When I first met her we were at our literary agent's writer retreat in an idyllic setting near Boston, with a reservoir perfect for kayaking, woodsy paths ideal for writerly contemplation, tables on the patio just right for manuscript inspiration. And a wide, green lawn that I kept hearing hosts frolicking baby foxes early in the mornings -- but I never saw them even though one morning I did get up very early to jog. This was a lovely backdrop for meeting Audrey and other stellar members of our agent's client list. At such events my strategy is to memorize names and analyze people quickly. Instantly I pegged Audrey as sort of a sister. To me this means she can take endless ribbing (and get even) but she also has a huge heart. She's deep. Compassionate. She plays fair. By now she knows some of my worst faults and insecurities but never uses them against me.
We drove for ice cream one night --
Erin Murphy, literary agent, and Audrey Vernick, literary author
and Audrey's group got lost. (Probably her fault.) We gave up looking for them and drove back to the retreat center, but I remember worrying -- not for their safety, but for us. Audrey's little, but she's a big part of any party.
You long to experience the world on your own terms. You are smart and brave, but you're a cheat. You have a chance to trade who you are for something better -- for a new life. New thrills. New fear. Do you do it?
If yes, you might be the subject of Chris Barton's new YA nonfiction, Can I See Your I.D.?: True Stories of False Identities.
It's a fascinating read, even if your story isn't in it.
Barton follows ten imposters from history, many of them teens, and he digs into their past and what got them to that point of taking on a false identity, and he doesn't disappoint -- he also tells how they were ultimately found out.
Read this book. You'll be hooked from the first story, where 16-year-old Keron Thomas steals a subway train. Publishers Weekly agrees: *Starred Review* [I]mpeccably crafted ... The use of second-person narration is very effective, allowing readers to assume the identities of each individual. Barton's prose captures the daring, ingenuity, and quick thinking required of each imposter.
(Below: sketches from my Gang of Erin retreat sketchbook)
Chris reads from his work in progress in April, 2011. You're in for a treat: this new book is AWESOME. And that's about all I can say about it, for
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Our kid's cleaning the basement, and she found a notebook from my confusion days of 1999 when I was working with a career coach to try to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. I'd quit my nice job at MSU to work at home 5 years earlier. Had a two-year-old who was a fearless painter (and hair-cutter). I was doing screen printing art and knew vaguely that it wasn't going to last. Design work was dwindling as desktop publishing became ubiquitous. Hence the career coach. It's funny to me how close my current life comes to what I was wishing for -- and couldn't put my finger on -- back then. The following angsty words are from the 1999 notebook, and I'll put an x in front of those in the list that are true of my career today, 12 years later (that's most of them). ------------------ I want to do fast sketchy art and some writing. Travel. Sketch journal. Publish/create books that matter. I will somehow, someday, build a studio that works. I think I know what I want to do (comic strip) but it has taken a year of self-discovery to get here. I need a backup in case the comic fails. Storyboarding?? Research it. I still have not put all my best abilities/wants/values/etc. together for one career. I want the comic -- but might there be something better out there? Most potent areas of interest and passion: x sketchy art x that makes a difference in the world earn $70,000 within 5 years x art I can do at home x seen by many x pen and ink, some color x some freedom, able to choose own subjects x editor help/bounce ideas off x some writing/editing x fun/funny x some poetry x Shel Silverstein-like x occasional presentations to groups and kids x travel well-known in my area (hmm. Tough to judge. I'm getting there...) x intelligent art -- witty x loving art x peaceful art x poke fun at people who have power but shouldn't x creative, lively x freedom in schedule x art I can do on the road sometimes x art I can do ahead and stockpile (to accommodate travel) x clear deadlines x No or only occasional freelance stuff licensing or merchandising x learn more x improve my art become a modern day master x have anonymity when I need it x able to do my art by myself x compatible with all lifestyles x compatible with kids of all ages x pays well from the start If I could do ANYTHING, what would it be? Interests: drawing/sketching, humor, writing, music, sewing, travel, history, costumes, kids, teaching, harmonica, humor, making presentations, debating, poetry, satire, tennis, skating, pets, family, publishing, book layout-design-typography, brainstorming, protecting kids, creativity, resourcefulness, organizing, library, parks, maps, event planning, being alone, being with people, don't help sell things that hurt, family parties, road trips, sketch journals, acting, chat host, html/websites, computer hardware/tech, embryology. ------------ That was 1999. In 2002 I entered the Simon & Schuster Margaret K. McElderry Picturebook Contest. I didn't win, but loved it so much I suddenly had a new career in children's books. My first book sold in 2005, to Bloomsbury. That's Ellie McDoodle, and I don't think it's possible to be happier with where I am in 2011.
In Michigan and other states in the Midwest (and elsewhere?), March is Reading Month. That means most authors I know are hitting the road, taking their presentation to schools and conferences far and wide.
So far this season (Feb-March) Charlie and I have presented at:
Averill Elementary in Lansing
Chelsea Library for a cartooning workshop (through Jerzy Drozd - went fantastic)
I have a new presentation with a story-creation workshop that is getting rave reviews from kids and teachers. It all started in Sparta, last November. Standing in front of a group of three year olds I suddenly realized they could barely hold pencils and thus would not benefit from the normal Pre-K program I did (using letterforms to make doodles).
So we improvised, on the spot.
The program was such a big success with the littlest kids that we tried it with the older kids. Again, great fun. We used it for all of the sessions that day, and again at the next Sparta school (we visited Appleview and Ridgeview), and at the Holt schools (Wilcox and Midway) and in three Indianapolis schools (New Augusta South Elementary, Eagle Creek and Fishback Creek Elementary).
By December we knew exactly what would make a great program for the spring author visit season.
Thank you to the schools, libraries and bookstores who hosted us (and who are bringing us in still).
Mr. Barshaw (the timekeeper and presenter of votes) and I have had a really great time getting to know students, librarians, teachers, media specialists, principals, support staff, families and bookstore people.
And thank you to our fellow writers, to teachers and librarians and booksellers and PTA/O members who have referred us to other schools for events.
More to come -- and pictures! But right now I have an a
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After spending many months with the next Ellie McDoodle book I can proudly say that I am done living in a fantasy world and am back to real life for a while. (until my editor's revisions notes arrive... then it's back to not-really-here-ness again).
The next book's about soccer. I learned a LOT about soccer while writing it. (Ellie learns how to properly kick the ball, for one thing)
I learned a lot about life, too -- like, for instance, email still comes even when I am not at the computer to answer it. (1347 in the in-box, right now. I'm starting to think I might not answer them all)
Here's a page from my rough art/rough writing for the book:
This picture has nothing to do with soccer but everything to do with teamwork. And there's a reason for the crazy hairstyles.
I hope this art will make it into the book. You and I will have to wait til next Spring to know for sure. :)
My life lately is a clown car: Distracting, too much crammed into an impossibly small space, entertaining but likely to crash and burn if someone isn't steering carefully.
A competition held by SCBWI (http://scbwi.org) ends this week and I desperately wanted to enter. The prize is hugely enticing. The judge is Tomie dePaola!!! The challenge: Draw the opening scene from HEIDI, a book written in 1872, subsequently replotted into films that etched their directors' visions on my brain. How to update Heidi and make her fun for today's kids? To really do well I had to start weeks ago -- which I did. Amid all my crazy deadlines and events in November, I sketched out a few ideas. Nothing seemed original and fun to me. I did some research. Sketched out a few more ideas.
One of my illustrator friends set the bar *very* high with her entry. I didn't have a shot at the prize, so why bother with an entry? Especially with my clown car life crammed with a zillion deadlines. It haunted me, though. I finished all the other deadlines (except the Ellie book 4 -- that's more long-term) and yesterday at 7 pm as Charlie and I sat in the warmth of a writers' cafe, getting ready for the drive home, I said to him I wanted to try to enter the contest. Even though it ended at midnight. And the drive home was an hour. And I only had parts of ideas that I liked.
Since I didn't have the supplies necessary to create the art at the cafe, we got into the car and headed home. On the way I was smacked by a flash of an idea. Charlie turned on the interior ceiling light so I could sketch.I protested -- the bright light was very distracting to drivers, not to mention to Charlie! But he insisted. And, amazingly, the sketches turned out pretty well. I'm used to sketching in the car -- I do it on almost every school visit trip we take. The ride was smoother than it's been, because we splurged on new tires a couple weeks ago (one tire had been egg-shaped; you can imagine the bumpety drawings that produced). I sketched a few versions of my brain flash -- I was excited because it seemed original and fun (my two rules for bothering to enter). The only question: Could I possibly get it colored and sent to the contest in time? In fact, might the contest have ended at midnight *yesterday*? My brain is good at playing tricks on me.
We arrived home. I gathered up my piles of papers and books, and raced to my studio. Pulled up the contest website. I still had time! Three hours and 40 minutes! I scanned in the art and tweaked it. Added the lettering. Tweak, tweak, tweak. Color. The phone rang. It was my mom. Charlie handed me the phone! Nooo!!! I have to work!!! Balancing the phone on one shoulder, talking to Mom, I colored the art. More tweaks. Scanned the final art into the computer -- Oh, no!!! It's garish!! The subtle art turned garish in my evil scanner! Tweaked it some more. Kept reducing the file size until it fit the contest guidelines, and emailed it to Charlie's computer to see if the garish was gone. It was! Victory dance!! Mailed it to the judges. I'm happy with it. If it doesn't win, I'm okay with that too -- I have already seen some uber-fabulous entries by other illustrators. May the best Heidi win!
My wish list for gifts: - a little booklight to keep in the car, for sketching - a better scanner - art supplies! - a little more confidence, please
I should be writing the next book, because I am on a tight deadline. And that's when my most interesting and amusing ideas come -- when I should be doing something else. Here's the latest: Ellie McDoodle typography personalities. :) Note: these are done in Arial; some fonts work better than others
Ö-Ö... Ellie likes
. : c :.
Ö-Ö... Ellie surprised
. : c :.
Ö-Ö... Ellie perturbed
. : c :.
Ö-Ö... Ellie vampire
. : c :.
Ö-Ö... Ellie questions
0 Comments on Ellie McDoodle Typography Fun as of 1/1/1900
Hey, I'm as insecure as the next artist. I used to be far more insecure than anybody I knew. My sister-in-law said her husband felt guilty for even being born. Move over, brother-in-law: I did too. And nobody gave me enough reason to feel otherwise until I turned 40. That's pathetic -- The great Scarecrow might have said: I should've thought of it for you. The Tin Man might have rejoined: I should have felt it in my heart. But apparently, like Dorothy's return home, this is one of those things one must find alone. It's still a struggle. I still think I sometimes don't deserve good things. (When my kids were little I used to cry at night because things were so good -- my kids were wonderful and healthy, I had a good job... and I was sure it couldn't last. I cried over what might happen. As my kid would say, that's messed up)
The best way to get rid of the insecurity is to do something you love -- and keep doing it, and do it so well that others notice. Suddenly you have an excuse to still be alive.
I've done it. My Ellie McDoodle books are a modest success. Thank you, Universe and everyone in it, especially my fans, my agent, the wonderful people at Bloomsbury, handsellers at bookstores, and all the writers and illustrators who nudged, pushed, yanked, prodded, bumped me up along the way. And the teachers who didn't write me off as an insecure mess, which surely I was.
So now I am happy.
But now I get these fellow illustrators and kids' book writers bawling in my ear, "We don't get any respect for what we do! The world despises us! We're not real writers!" Well, speak for yourself. At this point in the game I'm calling it artificial insecurity. If someone's not respecting the hard work and education it took to get to the skill level you're at, then 1) they have an axe to grind (a spouse wishing you'd bring in more money, perhaps?) 2) they are jealous, wishing they could do what you do, better than you or 3) they are ignorant and in need of a whack on the side of the hea-- no, a little education.
So what's your answer to them? Here are some responses you may use, free of charge. - I'm sorry honey that my work in this field didn't pay off yet. Disrespecting my work and my goals isn't going to bring you and me closer together and it's not going to help pay the bills faster. - I deserve a shot at a career that makes me happy. So do you. This is mine. Find yours. - Children's books teach our next generation. Don't even suggest that's not a worthy and honorable goal.
But please don't tell me and your fellow creatives that this constant insulting of our industry means the crabbers are right. Because they aren't, and I refuse to be brought down by ignorance. When you walk around with a "Kick Me" sign on your back, people will gladly kick you. They think you want it, so they're just being helpful -- and besides everyone's got a little bit of a sadistic streak aching to come out in socially-acceptable ways. Just don't extrapolate your personal insecurity onto everyone else in the profession.
My work pays my bills. Nobody gets hurt from what I do. I'm breaking no laws. I'm not inspiring evil, or even bad manners. Some schools and libraries treat me very well. From reading my books, some kids are inspired to write and draw and read more, and to sketch in nature. Some adults are inspired to find a new career or create something unusual. That's impressive. You can't tell me kids' book writing and illustration is an inferior profession. I just plain don't believe it.
I know you're concerned, now. Just my raising the issue makes you wonder if I am truly at peace with this. Well, I'm developing the
I just got back from a writer retreat with my critique group. Four days away from family in a city far away. Four days of potentially uninterrupted writing time.
It was a hassle getting ready and coordinating schedules for my family, and of course it doesn't cost the same to live in a Bed & Breakfast as to live at home. And there's the issue of sharing a room -- Do I snore? Do I snore loudly? Do I snore so loudly as to make me an unpleasant roommate? And would you tell me if the answer was yes? I'm always nervous that I'll forget something important at home (last year it was suddenly cold outside. I forgot a sweatshirt). Plus, with my head in my books, and all my angsty issues that seem to rear their ugly heads in the days before any big event, how much good company can I possibly be?
And -- I was waiting to hear back at any minute from my agent about a novel and an Ellie McDoodle proposal I'd sent her. The editor was 2 weeks late with novel feedback -- never a good sign.
Two days before the retreat I wasn't even sure what I was going to write about at the retreat. With two projects up in the air, not knowing which was a priority (if either), and a third very vague idea of three sisters and some dark stuff, I didn't know how I was going to make my time at the retreat worth the cost of attending.
Weird thing, it worked out, as things usually do. My husband called the first night with agent news: They're using the Ellie 4 proposal to fulfill a contract's second half-- no more sleepless nights. I wrote a good first chapter to the novel. (This is I think the 7th try). I have a future.
So why go to the fall SCBWI-Michigan conference in October? I can't sell Ellie McDoodles to the editors there. I don't need a new agent. What's the point, then?
It's this: The mix of inspiration and information you get from being immersed in the craft with other writers stays with you for months afterward and it often regenerates into motivation. For me, it *always* does. I have never left a conference thinking I knew all there was to be known. Never left without seeing and hearing something new. Sometimes when I leave the conference I'm in disrepair, broken down, dismayed that I wasn't "discovered." And then I realize, it's up to me to make the discovery. I can follow up on tips heard at the conference. I can check out the URLs and the books and software and concepts mentioned.
The conference doesn't exist to pair me up with an editor and marry me off to an agent. The conference exists to expand my brain -- and it does that every single time. Even if I already knew the speakers, memorized their presentations and had read every book they edited, I still could get something out of the questions my fellow writers and illustrators asked.
There's a dynamic component in the conference that you won't get from reading articles online.
As long as I am able, I will attend writer conferences and retreats -- even if it's expensive, even if it's inconvenient, even if I feel dark and scared and uncreative. For inspiring and moving me off center, writer events are batting a thousand. I have no reason to think this upcoming Michigan SCBWI Fall Conference won't do the same. And -- bonus!!! -- I get to see dear friends at the same time. How much better can life get?
Ebersole is a nature preserve owned by Lansing (Michigan) School District. All four of my kids (and my husband and I, as chaperones) enjoyed camping there and communing with nature in extended outdoor science lessons led by smart teachers. It's a great resource -- a reason to remain in a school district that sometimes feels too big to care about our kids, and a perk from living in Lansing that families in other districts envy. (At most of my author events I show my sketchbook from Ebersole. It's also on my website. Some people are in awe)
And now the Lansing School Board is planning to sell Ebersole. It's not far from Lake Michigan. This prime, beautiful land will probably become condos. A petition has been started with the goals of raising awareness and saving Ebersole. I signed it and commented.
Here's my comment: "The Lansing schools and I are playing a game of chicken. They're cutting programs and resources I consider important, and I'm defiantly standing my ground, refusing to move my last kid out of Gardner into a nice school in the suburbs (where many of our good friends flocked over the years).
"I watch Lansing Schools decimate their best programs and pink slip wonderful teachers (how could they let Darren Webb go? He would have brought more kids INTO Lansing schools!) and I wonder who will keep their kids in Lansing -- and what will be left for those who stay.
"As a parent whose 4 children adored Ebersole, as a chaperone and resident artist for a couple Ebersole camping trips, and as an author who featured Ebersole lessons in my Ellie McDoodle books so that kids outside of Lansing could benefit from nature contact, I ask that the School Board reconsider: Don't sell this resource which benefits our children so greatly.
"If Lansing Schools must cut something, cut the buses that pick up students less than a mile* from the middle school; there are too many mostly-empty buses and too many kids riding instead of walking. Or -- better -- brainstorm with us on ways to save or raise money. The school board hasn't even tapped its largest resource, caring families. Bake sales, garage sales, book sales, car washes -- surely we can raise a lot of money if we work together.
"Don't cut Ebersole, one of our brilliant gems that opens minds and connects our children with science and nature. Read Last Child in the Woods, about nature deficit disorder -- and be glad our kids don't suffer from that because they have Ebersole... for now." ------------- *Some will argue that only kids further away than one mile are picked up. This is technically true. But if Gardner unlocked the northwest gate and cut down the blocking poles at the southwest end, students wouldn't be forced to walk around to the front of the school. This would cut a half mile off my kid's route. And -- here's a radical thought: What if we encouraged kids to ride bikes to school?
The petition is here. If you're a Lansing Schools parent, teacher, student, former student or former parent, please pass the word, and please sign the petition. Maybe this is one bad decision that we can prevent.
Sometimes I answer an email to a writing group and what I wrote seems worth saving in case my kids decide to become kids' book writers. I'm going to start pasting some of them here. They're 100% opinion which means you may not agree at all. And they're tweaked to make sense in the context of this blog. Here is the first.
My response: Very interesting article, Harold! (As usual)
I remember at my first SCBWI regional conference, wayyyy back in 2003, an agent stood on stage and told us all the reasons we didn't need an agent. Her talk was much like what Harold wrote, only a little more pessimistic. ;)
I thanked her personally, took it to heart and resolved to not waste her time, but to come up with something so great that an agent couldn't resist it. (I figured it would take five years)
What this whole learning process has taught me: - When it's a good idea to have an agent, it'll probably be very easy to get one. It's a lot easier to get an agent if you have a contract in hand, a very marketable manuscript or a body of strong work (several manuscripts) ready for minimal tweaking and submitting. If you have all these things and agents still decline representation then I don't know what's wrong. How do you know if your manuscript is highly marketable? Show it to a few established writers. If their eyes pop while reading it and they encourage you to finish it and SUBMIT!!, it's probably very marketable. - Just because someone stands on stage and says everyone needs an agent doesn't make it true. They might
I'll use the feminine for this, because my editor is a woman. But please substitute if yours is a guy. I know some great guy editors.
How do you know if your editor is fabulous? Answer these questions.
1. Is she supportive when things aren't going well? My editor has always been unfailingly patient during my rough times. I have a big family; I have a lot of rough times (deaths, illnesses, weddings, angst). She's also patient during my rough writing, first drafts, awkward prose and obvious mistakes.
2. Are her edits heavy handed? Or does she leave room for your own voice in your own writing? When my first book copies arrived, back in 2007, I was astounded to see how many of the copy-edits that I had suggested were ultimately adopted. My editor acted surprised at my surprise; "of course we'd try to accommodate every request; you're the author!" whereas I'd been led to believe, by other writers, that your vision for your book is abandoned once you sign with a publisher. I'm learning from her editing -- it's making me a better writer (thank goodness). 3. Does she respond to your emails? And is she warm in her notes to you? My editor doesn't always write back as fast as I'd like her to. She's the publisher, besides being an editor. She works with very famous authors. I can't fault her for not coddling me and my author angst 24/7 (author angst is legendary; my insecurities are legion). But she does always sign her notes affectionately and she does always respond quickly on important matters. I feel if we weren't working together, she'd be a fascinating friend who I'd love to get to know better. 4. Does she edit other work besides yours? Are those books critically acclaimed? Every publisher has a different sort of feel. And not all books are good for all people. The list at one house might not appeal to a particular reader, even if the books are critically acclaimed and the reader is brilliant. We all have different tastes -- and thank goodness for that, because as an artist I can't imagine anything more drab than a world where everyone agreed on everything all the time. I am not the biggest fan of each of my publisher's books, but I'm a big fan of a lot of them. Ellie McDoodle is not the top book in the catalog (though I hope it gets near). Like not wanting to own the best house on the block, I don't think I want to create the best books in my publisher's catalog; I want something to aspire to, a reason to always try to do better. My publisher puts out enough great works every season that I am proud to be part of their list.
5. Do you get paid on time? Royalty statements arrive unprompted? I don't know. My agent takes care of this. I do know there have been a couple times when we asked my editor to intercede and she did. My family hit tough times last month, and my editor helped me get paid faster than normal. It was a kindness, something I will never forget. 6. Does she buy every book you write? Mine doesn't -- and if she did she probably would not be a good editor. Ha! I've pitched a couple books that were stinkers (you know, in a meeting when I should have bitten my tongue instead). My agent has pitched a few that I still believe in, that my edi
My husband found this for me today. It's the rough draft of a Mother's Day poem written by my son, Joey, when he'd just turned 11. I will leave the punctuation, spelling and capitalization as in its charming original. -------------- marvolous is she M - mom qualities that she has a lot of O - other stuff she's good at ^ outstanding mom that she is T - taught me how to live teacher of me H - ha ha is her laugh happiness she brings to me E - ever forgiving, she is eternally grateful am I R - Ruth is her name reluctant she is not
M - moron, she is not mother of my lifetime O - ouchies she makes better our love will never end M - merturnity clothes she wears my great mother she is
I love you
--------------Joe is a songwriter today. I bet he's writing songs and sweet poems for his wife, now.
We don't know, sometimes, the seeds we sow, in the daily work we take on. We can't tell if they're pretty weeds or heirloom roses until time has passed.
Sometimes our good ideas take root and blossom into beauty that changes others at the same time it helps us. Sometimes our ideas are seeds that fall on rocky ground -- they can't take root without help from others.
Books are like that. They spring from a germ of an idea, but they need nourishment to grow into a full book. So many hands take part in bringing up a book, and it's not just the obvious, the author, the long-suffering partner/spouse of the author, the critique group, the editor, agent, designers, copy editors, publicist, salespeople, librarians, teachers, booksellers, various specialists, the reviewers, the discerning readers...
Books need communities in order to grow.
Authors need friends, connections with humanity that sprout ideas and inklings and what-if's. Writing can be a lonesome career, but no writer writes alone. Display CommentsAdd a Comment
This is a busy time of year for many authors. In the Great Lakes area, it's Reading Month. Here's my author visit schedule:
March 5 Fri Lone Pine Elementary in West Bloomfield March 1-4 Charlie jury duty (whew. Called in every day but he didn't get a trial) March 10 Wed E E Knight Elementary in Ovid Elsie March 11 Thu Hillside Elementary in Harrison (Clare County) March 15 Mon Central Academy in Ann Arbor March 17 Wed Vowles Elementary in Mt. Pleasant March 18 Thu Elmhhurst Elementary in Lansing March 20-22 Michigan Reading Association Conference at Cobo Hall in Detroit March 24 Wed Horizon Elementary in Holt March 27 Sat 4 to 6 pm Michigan Author Day at Barnes & Noble in Grandville March 30 Tu Family Lit Night at Holly Academy in Holly April 1 Thu Bartlett School in South Lyon April 6 Tue 2pm Ann Arbor library - Pittsfield branch April 11 Sun fly to Texas April 12-13 MonTues The Woodlands school visit April 14-16 Texas Library Association conference in San Antonio April 25-28 International Reading Association Conference in Chicago April 29-May 2 Thu-Sun Agent's writer retreat in Chicago May 11-12 Tue-Wed Battle Creek schools
We're halfway through March already, and so far my author visits are going well. The kids are enthusiastic and attentive, the teachers and staff are helpful and friendly, and the school walls are decorated with fabulous student art.
I'm juggling a few other things, too: I'm working on a novel about a girl who likes to read and am playing with a picturebook about a mischievous cat. (Mostly it's the novel. I promise, Erin. <- agent who asks, at the end of every email, "So how's that novel?") The novel is going pretty well. It's a little scary because the process is very different from writing the Ellie McDoodle books. I'll be seeing Erin next month, so I don't really have a choice: I have to have a lot done before then. Yikes.
Besides being an author, I'm also busy being a mom. My daughter's middle school volleyball team has its last game on Thursday. Charlie and I have managed to go to most of the games. It's been fun cheering for the team and learning the girls' names and embarrassing our kid (by cheering for the team and learning the girls' names... sometimes I think just the fact that I exist embarrasses her). We're off to see The Lightning Thief movie pretty soon because I managed to squeeze into this busy month the task of reading the first book in Rick Riordan's series. It's our daughter's favorite book, and I feel generally compelled to read whatever impresses her. Very good book, worth giving up a little sleep. (Maybe I can learn a few things from Riordan)
And now, I'm off to catch a favorite tv show and then to bed. Gotta get up early; it's a long drive to Mt. Pleasant in the morning. :)
Be creative! Have a few laughs! Win a free book! My pal Debbie Diesen is celebrating the birth of her new book, The Barefooted, Bad-Tempered Baby Brigade, with a Funny Fake Children's Book News contest. Check out the contest and some very funny entries here.
Ryan's one of those big teddy-bear guys who does both cute and scary with complete finesse.We spent a bit of time together at the Michigan Reading Association conference this past weekend in Detroit. I encouraged him to get Patricia Polacco's signature in his Author-Illustrator Autograph Book, and he in turn encouraged me to show Patricia the quick sketches I did of her. This one of Patricia's back is my favorite sketch in the whole sketchjournal: The whimsy of it inspired me to draw a couple other famous people from the back, too, including Christopher Paul Curtis (who I didn't show a sketch to because I haven't read his books yet. Bought them ages ago but didn't read them yet. I am a slow reader, better suited for picturebooks).
I thought Patricia was very gracious to sign my book and Ryan's. She added this happy note to my second drawing: Ryan and I are also in a critique group together. Sometimes this job is solitary and the only friend I have is the character in my head whose adventures are directing my imagination. Other times this job brings me close to lots of great people who remind me of all that is good in the world. School visits and teacher/librarian conferences do that -- they're a lot of work to prepare for, but such amazing fun in their process of unfolding, and even more fun as I visit more schools, get to know more teachers and librarians, and then see them again at conferences. Could this life be any better? I think not. :)
Will you be home during Spring Break? I'll be at the Ann Arbor Library, Pittsfield branch, on Tuesday, April 6, 2 til 3pm, for a program on journaling, cartooning and whatever else the audience throws at me. Come join us - we'll make sketchjournals and draw in them together.I promise it'll be great fun!
Planning to go somewhere else? Bring a journal with you! I still have my sketchjournal from my high school Spring Break trip to Mexico. I was 15 -- what an amazing trip. I swore I'd go back every year, but in 35 years I never got a chance to revisit Mexico. Life interfered. But I still have my sketchbook from that trip, so I can go back in time and feel what my 15-year-old self felt, and it's like being in Mexico all over again. This is a page out of my sketchjournal from when I was 15. It's one of my favorite parts of Acapulco, the market. I bought one of those white blouses with colorful trim -- mine was white with green embroidery. It's long gone, but the picture of it survives. :)
Next week on Sunday I am flying to Texas to visit John Cooper School in The Woodlands, and then I'll travel with the librarian there to San Antonio to sign books at the Texas Library Association conference. I'm so excited about visiting Texas! I was afraid, nervous, at first. I'm always nervous to go on stage, and always nervous to travel a long distance for a book event. It's not that I'm worried about my safety; I am a neurotic person, angsty and self-doubty about performance, not about flying. I worry about giving the audience the best possible event. Maybe I figure if I blow it locally, I can always go back and do another presentation later, to mend things. But out-of-state travel is a bit more expensive. To my credit, I haven't blown an event yet. They've all gone very well, and there have been hundreds. (wonder when I'll hit the thousand mark? should I pay attention to such things? hmm. I vote no.) The teacher in charge at my last event called my presentation "Phenomenal." (I should get that in writing; the one thing I neglect to do is get testimonials...) Phenomenal is a nice word. I'm going to try to hold onto that as I prepare for the Texas presentations. Phenomenal. :)
Ahh, Texas. I've been there twice before. Once as a layover on my trip to Mexico when I was 15, and once with my youngest when she was 9 months old, for Chickapalooza, a trip of moms and babies visiting moms and babies in Austin, Post and Altus, Oklahoma. Our babies are turning 13 this spring. I should dig up that sketchjournal...
Of course I'll bring a sketchjournal with me on this new trip and draw the whole time. Here are some sketches from the air from recent trips. The first is on the way to Boston (maybe I was hungry?). Second spread is take-off from Lansing heading to Santa Fe. Third spread is that same trip, heading home again, flying over Colorado.A couple weeks ago while sorting stuff from my mom's attic, I found my wings -- the pin I got when flying for the first time. They were from the Mexico trip, 35 years ago. American Airlines. Now the airlines give stickers to first-time flyers. I found all the papers from that trip, all the pre-planning, even my luggage tags. And a ribbon rose with 16 streamers, from a Tuna -- a traveling band of boy musicians. Our Spanish teacher told us ahead of time that Tunas travel around Spain (sometimes Mexic
Exactly 21 years ago doctors were telling me I was not in labor, go back to sleep and wait for induction in the morning. The baby was two weeks overdue and I was anxious to hold her. But they were wrong. I was in labor, and the baby came so fast she caught everyone by surprise, especially her daddy who was running down the hospital corridor toward our delivery room when he heard a baby cry... his newborn daughter. Katie has been surprising us ever since. When she was three, she was that kid who'd take all her clothes off and dance on the picnic table at camp. She chewed out Santa Claus, telling him he was too fat. She helped unpack Christmas ornaments, held up a cherub ornament and called it a "kid butterfly with no clothes on." I captured all these moments in cartoon cards I sent to my ailing grandpa. He died when Katie was four, and the family gave me the big box of cartoons I'd been sending him since Katie was a tiny infant. There it was, all of it: Katie's hilarious early childhood in cartoons. I thought this meant I had a future in comic strips, but after two particularly heart-rending rejections I gave up and tried kids' books instead. That worked out better. Maybe someday those letters to Grandpa will be a book. I'd also like to do a book just on Katie. Here's one idea that hasn't panned out yet:
There will be more; Katie's a very colorful character. For fans of Ellie McDoodle, Risa is absolutely Katie (right down to one of the surprises in book three, coming out in August, where Risa sneaks an evil pet into the house). Happy Birthday, Katie!
If I don't answer your call, if I'm late getting back to you in email, if you don't see me at events around town, it's because I am writing. I'm working on my fourth book, a novel about a girl who loves to read. I owe three chapters to my agent and editor as soon as I can get them done. I traveled a lot in the past month and a half -- a week in Texas, a week in Chicago, a couple days in Grand Rapids and then Battle Creek -- and while I tried to work on the novel while on the road, it turned more into thinking and analyzing than actual writing. I was afraid to start writing when I got home, but now I've started and it won't stop until it's done. That's the way it usually works. I'll tend to the important things (MRA paperwork, Gango sketchbook uploads, Elliot and the Goblin War by Jen Nielsen, protecting Ebersole, school events in Bloomfield Hills and Farmington, a few other things), and will concentrate on getting this book into shape. Here's one of the characters:
So if you see me in the bookstore, say hello but don't ask what I've been up to -- it's too long an answer! ;)