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26. A Sunday Walk continued

So, two miles from our flat, on foot, we reach the Firth of Forth in Newhaven. Water!

The beach here is wild and rocky with black grasses, rocks, clams, and seagulls. A marina is off to the west full of boats sitting on their bottoms since the tide is out.
The air is thick with brine and waves lap against the rocks. The clouds are breaking up, illuminating the far shore which is quilted with various crops of brown, green, and chartreuse. An island sits in the middle of the Firth with enormous ships passing by it, sailing to who knows where.
      It takes us so little time to find ourselves in a completely different world here - I love it. We wandered west into Granton for a bit, but that will require more research as it seems to be a true working harbor. Anybody know of some good places to eat in Granton? Not finding one, we headed back east towards Newhaven in search of breakfast. We passed some interesting sites on the way. I loved this shell gargoyle. Anybody know what this thing on the right was?
     We passed an adorable pub (not yet open, although I'm not sure the owner had been to bed yet), and were directed towards The Haven for breakfast.
Stan is a fan of the breakfast rolls here and I did scrambled eggs, GF toast and roasted tomatoes. YUM.
     Refortified, and so much farther east than we'd expected, we went ahead to Leith to continue our path home. You remember Leith?
The trail picks up along the Water of Leith (a river), so we followed.
The river is full of swans and their babies.
Turning inland, we pass gardens. Folks rent plots of land where they grow flowers, vegetables, etc. And every single one has a shed. No two are alike so it ends up looking like a wildly eclectic and creative patchwork.
     We also pass birch trees. They remind me of Ruth Sanderson's illustrations.
As so happens, the trail leads back around to where we started and we go back through the long tunnel.
Up the hill and back to our quiet little street and our lovely little flat. Can you see our little pot of oregano? It's doing very well. I hope to have spilling flowers there next spring.
Stan says we walked about seven miles total, although it didn't feel like it. We meandered, I took pictures, we had a nice breakfast and we stopped to enjoy beautiful views, swans, and doggies. I can't think of a better way to spend a Sunday morning.

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27. Coloring Page Tuesday - Puffin Treasure

     It's back! Talk Like a Pirate Day is Saturday, September 19th. This year I give you a Puffin with a very interesting map. What do you think the X is for?
     CLICK HERE for more coloring pages!
     Sign up to receive alerts when a new coloring page is posted each week and... Please check out my books! Especially...
my debut novel, A BIRD ON WATER STREET - winner of six literary awards. Click the cover to learn more!
     When the birds return to Water Street, will anyone be left to hear them sing? A miner's strike allows green and growing things to return to the Red Hills, but that same strike may force residents to seek new homes and livelihoods elsewhere. Follow the story of Jack Hicks as he struggles to hold onto everything he loves most.
     I create my coloring pages for teachers, librarians, booksellers, and parents to enjoy for free with their children, but you can also purchase rights to an image for commercial use, please contact me. If you have questions about usage, please visit my Angel Policy page.

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28. A Sunday Walk

Edinburgh is full of layers. The castle was built on a dormant volcano, so you can imagine the labyrinth that lies underneath the city and the hills that lie on top. I can't tell you how many times I've thought I was at ground level only to cross a bridge and look down at a whole other city going on below. It makes for hidden treasures everywhere. It fun!
     Stan has gotten especially good at finding these hidden treasures. For instance, our new exercise path. You go north from our apartment to the bottom of the hill.

There, you find a winding path.
Which goes past an elaborate and sprawling playground.
And then enters a long tunnel which is impeccably kept up and well lit. At the other end, our path has begun. We choose to go to the right.

It reminds me of...
The Road Not Taken
By Robert Frost

TWO roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by
, And that has made all the difference.

The path is only for walkers and bicyclists (stay on the left here lest a bike bell will tell you to move over). And it is LOVELY.
The path leads through quiet winding woods, under several tunnels,
and let out in Newhaven. Yes, that is the Firth of Forth in front of us.
We haven't even walked two miles yet, and the walk just gets better.
To be continued...

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29. How Brian Selznick's Drawings Become a Book

Brian talks about his process behind his latest book, "The Marvels." Click the image to watch on WSJ Video.

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30. Illustration Challenge #16

Choose a drawing - doesn't matter if it's yours - and choose three colors to color it with primarily. (Make a copy of the image because you'll be working with it again next week.) You can use other colors, but not until after you've used those three colors extensively. They can be your favorite colors, or thematic colors (think, 1950s diner or some such). Your goal is to achieve a cohesive look overall.

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31. The shipment

Our shipment finally arrived. 900 pounds of sweaters, boots, books, and art, which we sent off by boat way back in June. It sounds like a lot. It wasn't. We truly did sell almost everything we owned. But there were some things we couldn't part with and some things we truly did need. They've been sitting in storage in Leith waiting for our arrival and our new address, which we now have. So we were able to ask them to deliver it.
     But here's the thing, all that stuff got decided upon and shipped before we became nomads. From late June we were living out of suitcases, moving from one domicile to another. Our needs became extremely streamlined. So, we were actually somewhat nervous for our shipment to be delivered. We'd been without all that stuff for so long, we weren't sure what we'd packed anymore. What was so important?
     It didn't look like much when we packed it up - the shipping container was about the size of a large dining room table. And it didn't look like much in the back of the truck when it arrived:

Two movers carried the boxes up three flights of stairs into our tiny new apartment. And suddenly, it looked like an awful lot of stuff.
     We spent the day unpacking everything and trying to find homes for it all. Keep in mind, we basically have one closet here - ONE. And a nice set of drawers. Remarkably, they absorbed our clothes quite well. It's tight, but it works. The coats are another topic altogether. We'll be making a trip to IKEA soon for some sort of coat station in the hallway.
     And there are the keepsake boxes. Believe it or not, we do have an attic here. We just have to find a ladder to access it. Soon, soon. And my art supplies/drawings/books - gads. I don't regret sending them over - truly. But I have no idea where to put them. Maybe I'll have a designated area for my studies where they can go. I'll find out soon.
     Otherwise, I'm quite proud of us. We got pictures hung, clothes put away, the apartment vacuumed, and it's looking sane. Okay, not the guest room. It looks like a bomb went off in there. But we'll get that part figured out soon too.

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32. Friday Linky List - September 11, 2015

From PW: What Children's Publishers Read at Home with Kids

From The Scottish Book Trust: Creative Writing Masterclass with Phil Earle - videos

From Picture Book Builders: "Visual Inspiration," or "My Life as a Potential Hoarder"

When African Americans Came To Paris - six videos by Joanne Burke - dang, these look good!

From PW: Children's Books for Fall 2015: All Our Coverage

From the Scottish Book Trust: Scottish Children's Book Awards And CLICK HERE to watch the short list creators read their books!

From the Scottish Book Trust: Books Featuring Book Lovers - there are some classics in there including Michelle Knudsen's Library Lion

At Library Journal: Dover, Others, Cash in on Adult Coloring

From Helping Writers Become Authors: How to Write a Sequel That's BETTER Than the First Book

Via Stumbleupon: Artist attempts to create most frustrating products imaginable

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33. Pat Zietlow Miller's THE QUICKEST KID IN CLARKSVILLE - Guest Post

by Pat Zietlow Miller

      Maybe you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but there’s no question that people do. My 13-year-old, for example, browses the shelves at our local bookstore and only picks up books with covers that pique her interest.
      If I suggest one I’ve heard good things about, she gives the cover a cursory look and moves on if it doesn’t meet her standards – which currently seem to involve girls wearing long, flowing dresses.
      The cover of my upcoming picture book does not feature a girl in a long flowing dress, but I’m hoping it’s compelling enough to make people take it off the shelves.
      The book is THE QUICKEST KID IN CLARKSVILLE. It’s coming from Chronicle Books in January 2016, and it tells the story of Alta and Charmaine -- two girls living in 1960 Clarksville, Tennessee, who are huge fans of sprinter Wilma Rudolph, who won three gold medals in the Rome Olympics.
      They want to be just like her, and compete to see who’s faster. Alta and Charmaine share having Wilma as a hero. But they don’t initially seem to have much else in common. Charmaine has brand-new shoes, which she’s quick to talk about, while Alta’s sneakers have seen better days.
      The story is fiction, but Wilma Rudolph really did grow up in in Clarksville, Tennessee before achieving Olympic fame. And, Clarksville really did throw a welcome home parade for Wilma after the Olympics. And, Wilma really did say that she would only participate if the parade was racially integrated. The organizers agreed, and the event was the first non-segregated major event in the city’s history.
      Frank Morrison drew the art for this book, and his cover shows Alta with her worn-out shoes. Despite that, she looks downright confident that she can beat any comers in a race.
      I’ve admired Frank’s art in books like LITTLE MELBA AND HER BIG TROMBONE and I GOT THE RHYTHM. Frank illustrates children’s books and also creates gallery art. His bio describes him like this: “Frank Morrison was born in Boston in 1971 and moved with his family to New Jersey in 1980. A self-taught artist, he began his career as a pre-adolescent graffiti artist. As a member of a break-dancing crew, while touring Europe, he visited the Louvre museum in Paris and was inspired to choose painting as a career. His work is steeped in old world values of family, community and religion though typically rendered with mirth and high-spiritedness.”
      You can see all Frank’s amazing art at his website.
      THE QUICKEST KID IN CLARKSVILLE will be out in time to celebrate the ‎2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. And in time for the opening of the Smithsonian Museum’s National Museum of African-American History and Culture, which will debut in 2016 in Washington, DC. Wilma will be featured in exhibits. If you want to make sure you have the book the first day it’s available – Jan. 26 – you can pre-order a copy from Barnes & Noble or Amazon.

Read more about the author, Pat Zietlow Miller at her website, and read an interview with Pat when her smash hit SOPHIE'S SQUASH came out on my blog - CLICK HERE.

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34. Porty is full of surprises

We returned to Portobello Beach (called "Porty") this past weekend because there was an arts festival going on. And gee - twist our arms to go back to the beach again. Even so, the day turned out differently from what we expected.
     We're getting better at the buses, so that part was easy. 30 minutes and we're at the beach and on the most beautiful day! We went back to the Espy for lunch - our first repeat meal in Scotland.

     However, a woman at the table next to us had a medical emergency, which made for a scary and stressful situation for all involved. After a while, I'm happy to say, she walked out of the restaurant on the arm of an EMT. We were so impressed by how well the wait staff handled the emergency. We also learned an important lesson - in the US you dial 911, in the UK, you dial 999.
     Afterwards, we got back to our original plan and followed the Art Festival's map to a few artist's studios. Like this one where the artist works with found objects from the beach:
     We also walked on the beach for a while. There, we came across some of the happiest dogs on the planet. Flo was digging a hole. Her friend Mazie was also digging a hole - all I could see of her was her rump and her wagging tail sticking out of the hole. But I missed the shot. Oh well. I tell you, the dogs on Portobello Beach are the happiest dogs EVAH!
Afterwards, we stopped for a bit in a lovely pub called Foresters.
The doors were wide open to the gorgeous day.
They also had a secret in the back - the most adorable outdoor seating.
     We're discovering that a lot of businesses have secrets you'd never guess are there. We're getting good at finding the secret gardens and paths in Edinburgh. They're so lovely!
      But back to Porty. Our friend Louise Kelly told us about a festival going on in Porty and frankly, we never would have found it if she hadn't told us. We walked down a sweet little street, where we stumbled across a bowling club.
Further down the road we stumbled into The Portobello Village Show. Oh my!
     There was a brass band playing. (Can you see them in the center?) They played Willy Wonka - awesome. There was a juggler. A guy in tights riding a fake horse. Louise was working at a book sale raising money for their upcoming book festival, so we bought several. There was a baking contest, and a dog show. We got to pet so many happy doggies, including a Scottish Deer Hound. Ever seen one of those? They are HUGE!
     It was such a gorgeous day, do you see these blue skies? Stan and I laid in the grass and soaked it all in, the warmth (about 64°), the sounds, the music. I've rarely been so content.

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35. Coloring Page Tuesday - Drawing Mouse

     Soon, I'll be a student again - drawing and creating like crazy, like this little guy. I got my backpack and it's bringing back feelings of school oh so many years ago (not saying how many).
     CLICK HERE for more coloring pages!
     Sign up to receive alerts when a new coloring page is posted each week and... Please check out my books! Especially...
my debut novel, A BIRD ON WATER STREET - winner of six literary awards. Click the cover to learn more!
     When the birds return to Water Street, will anyone be left to hear them sing? A miner's strike allows green and growing things to return to the Red Hills, but that same strike may force residents to seek new homes and livelihoods elsewhere. Follow the story of Jack Hicks as he struggles to hold onto everything he loves most.
     I create my coloring pages for teachers, librarians, booksellers, and parents to enjoy for free with their children, but you can also purchase rights to an image for commercial use, please contact me. If you have questions about usage, please visit my Angel Policy page.

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36. Familiar Things That Aren't So Familiar

We ordered our first delivery meal last night - gluten free pizza and a salad. Pretty cool considering I couldn't order a gluten free pizza delivered anywhere in the US. We ordered one of their standards: ham, artichoke hearts, olives and mushrooms. And we were surprised when it was delivered... the toppings weren't mixed together like we expected. They each had their own little quadrant. Odd. So, a familiar night in with pizza and a movie had an overseas difference to it!

Lunch at a pub in Stockbridge on Saturday - gluten free Fish Pie!
     Have you ever noticed that people tend to look like each other? I think if somebody ever had the ability or time to do it, they'd be able to classify most humans into about ten groups of people who resemble each other - no matter the races.
     For instance, walking around on the sidewalks of Edinburgh. I can't tell you how many times I have seen somebody and caught my breath. OMG, what is Kathleen doing here? Or Jessica, or Marilyn, or... You get the idea. Of course, it's not them. It's just somebody who looks like them.
     It does make my heart pang just a bit to see my friends, though. Or it makes me want to be at the Decatur Book Festival, which happened this past weekend in Georgia. Don't get me wrong - I LOVE where I am right here, right now! But those people, events and places were a big part of my life for a long time. I'm feeling the change.

The pub's interior.
Change is exciting and awesome, but I figure, if you've been doing it right all along, every chapter is exciting and awesome. Which can make you a little nostalgic for the past chapters. I also figure if you're doing it right, chapters never completely close and instead, they get muddled all together into a fabulous thing called LIFE.

The back porch of The Star Bar on a beautiful sunny day.

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37. What It's Really Like to be a Book Nerd

I Love this new video by Barnes & Noble about loving books - spot on! Click the image to watch on YouTube.

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38. Illustration Challenge #15

Create a simple landscape drawing and color it with two different types of light. Imagine one light source in Arizona on a bright, hot day. Imagine the other light source in London on a cloudy, rainy day. How does it change your composition?

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39. Portobello Beach

We decided to take a small road trip while the weather is nice to Portobello Beach.

It's a 30 minute bus trip north east out of town to find the sea. Like a mini-vacation!
The air smelled like salt and seaweed.
There's a promenade which borders most of it.
It's surprisingly residential and not at all commercial. But families played in the sand and dogs ran with complete abandon everywhere.
It was truly beautiful and so relaxing.
     For lunch, we ate at The Espy, which we'd both heard good things about.
We were worried at first as we arrived a bit early and they hadn't completed typing up the specials menu. The main menu was mostly hamburgers (including a haggis hamburger) - not what we were hoping for. But then the specials menu came out and... oh, my!
     Stan had a fish pie (I've finally had fish pie - delicious!) and I had the tiger prawns:
What a lovely day, just a bus ride away! And ironically, we popped into a hardware store while waiting for the bus and ran into a new SCBWI friend, Louise Kelly. Talk about a small world! But that's what we're learning about Edinburgh... even at what feels like a world away (the beach), it's still a small town and you run into people you know. I love that!
     We hope to return next weekend for an art walk (weather depending), so more on Portobello soon!

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40. Friday Linky List - September 4, 2015

From The New York Times (via PW): Whose Side Are You On? Maile Meloy on writing for children without having them.

From BBC News (via my PBAA board) Aphantasia: A life without mental images

From The Science of Us (via PW): What the Science Says About Kids and Gender-Labeled Toys

From the Huff Post (via Travis Jonker): When it Rains, it Pours: 50 More Picture Books for a Stellar 2015

My former student, Laurie Edwards, hosted Rebecca Colby on her blog, who talked about Writing Humorous Picture Books

At Notes from the Slushpile from Candy Gourley: What We Authors Can Learn from Jackie Chan - GREAT advice!

From The New York Times (via PW): Stephen King: Can a Novelist Be Too Prolific?

From The Business Insider: 10 Popular Grammar Myths Debunked by a Harvard Linguist

From The Telegraph: Authors Patrick Ness and John Green raise more than £18,000 for refugees in four hours

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41. Cynthia Levinson's MY LIFE IN THE CIRCUS

Cynthia Levinson

      You might remember, from the wonderful Broadway musical “A Chorus Line,” the song called “What I Did for Love.” Now that my second middle-grade nonfiction book is out, I think, “Oy. What I did for research.”
      Watch Out for Flying Kids! How Two Circuses, Two Countries, and Nine Kids Confront Conflict and Build Community (Peachtree Publishers) tells the stories of nine otherwise normal teenagers who, when they’re not going to school and taking selfies with their friends, perform in the circus. Five of them are (actually, were, since they’ve graduated) members of the St. Louis Arches, the top performing troupe of Circus Harmony in St. Louis, Missouri. The other four tumble, acro, juggle, wire-walk, contort, and do other crazy things with the Galilee Circus in northern Israel. In addition to being professional-caliber performers, what makes these kids remarkable is that they’re about as diverse a group of young people as you could fit into a single ring, which is where you can regularly find them. (The image to the right is of Cynthia learning the ropes - literally.)
      The St. Louis Arches featured in the book include two black kids from Ferguson-like neighborhoods and three whites, two of whom live in the western suburbs. The Galilee Circus is composed of two Israeli Arabs and two Jews, who live in villages only three miles yet a world apart. Both programs call themselves “social circuses” because they pursue social justice through circus arts.
      Every other year, this mélange of Christian, Muslim, Jewish, secular, English-, Hebrew-, Arabic-speaking, and one fully covered, hijab-wearing contortionist get together in one country or the other. The circuses’ partnership goes back eight years, and, by now, the troupers are accustomed to learning each other’s tricks, and living together and communicating despite the lack of a common language or cuisine.
     For an aging nonfiction writer who likes to delve deeply into her subject matter, however, it’s been a different story. There were no secondary sources. So, through the three years it took me to research and write Flying Kids, I conducted over 125 hours of interviews, which entailed
• staying with families and relishing Middle Eastern hospitality in the two Israeli villages, Deir al-Asad and Karmiel.
• staying with the circus director and relishing Midwestern circus hospitality in St. Louis
• hiring Hebrew and Arabic translators
• working out which telecommunications technology—Skype, text, email, FaceTime, Facebook, or telephone—each teen preferred and could get access to
• calling Israel at odd wee hours Texas-time, often to find out that my source was unavailable for various reasons, including Facebooking with their friends, which I could watch in real time while they ignored my frantic posts to them
• calling St. Louis, often to find out that my source was unavailable for various reasons, including losing cell phone privileges
• trawling the kids’ Facebook pages and YouTube channels, and
• groveling for family photos.
     Most ridiculous of all was trying out circus tricks. You can watch me make a fool of myself falling off of both a mini-trampoline and a globe.
      Then, there was the matter of figuring out how to write a book with nine main characters, multiple secondary characters, and two settings, one of which was, apparently, exotic. When I asked writer friends who have kids what they know about the Galilee, one said,
“I asked my neighbor's daughter, who is 13. Said she, ‘Isn't that where Puff the Magic Dragon lived?’"
Me: "I'm fairly certain he frolicked in Honah Lee."
Her: "'Well I know it has to be a place. I just don't know where. Probably, far, far away, like Florida.’”
      Also, there were the tribal politics in Israel and racial politics in St. Louis. Weaving the line of fairness to everyone while not losing readers in a morass of despairing historical events was as tricky as wire-walking. I sent so many pathetic, whiny messages to my editor about why I couldn’t possibly write the book that she sent me a copy of The Little Engine that Could.
      But, ultimately, I did write Watch Out for Flying Kids. My short-hand synopsis goes, “Ferguson gets together with the West Bank—and they juggle.” I hope you’ll delve into it and see what that means.

Here's Cynthia's workspace. During this project she commandeered the dining room table.
Learn more about Cynthia and Watch Out For Flying Kids at her website: www.cynthialevinson.com.

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42. Farmers Market - Scottish Style

We found our new farmers market! And how spoiled are we that we have several to choose from? We know. It's a 15 minute walk from our flat to the Stockbridge Farmers Market. It's the closest we've experienced to the Blois Farmers Market. There are more vendors, it's crowded with local folks, and its a lovely destination if you want to pick up things for a few days or just have lunch. Here's the eye candy:

I can't do the gluten, but dang, I can drool...

If you ever wondered about Scotch Eggs, this is what they look like. Also not gluten free although I feel my resistance faltering...

Course, there are restaurants throughout the area that we also want to visit.
Choices, choices and only one stomach to hold them all! It's a good thing we don't have a car - we have to walk all this off!
     And then there's the excuses not to walk at all... Last night we ate at Pickles - a little underground dive which only serves wine, cheese and preserved meats - and why not, when they do that so well? This is within stumbling distance from our flat...
We didn't feel like cooking, but didn't want a huge dinner. "A charcuterie tray would be nice," we thought. Um, YUM!

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43. Coloring Page Tuesday - Bagpipe Playing Bear

     In honor of our new home, I give you the most traditional of Scottish traditions - a bagpipe being played by a bear. Okay, maybe the bear part isn't quite so traditional. But I sure have been hearing a lot of these lately!
     CLICK HERE for more coloring pages!
     Sign up to receive alerts when a new coloring page is posted each week and... Please check out my books! Especially...
my debut novel, A BIRD ON WATER STREET - winner of six literary awards. Click the cover to learn more!
     When the birds return to Water Street, will anyone be left to hear them sing? A miner's strike allows green and growing things to return to the Red Hills, but that same strike may force residents to seek new homes and livelihoods elsewhere. Follow the story of Jack Hicks as he struggles to hold onto everything he loves most.
     I create my coloring pages for teachers, librarians, booksellers, and parents to enjoy for free with their children, but you can also purchase rights to an image for commercial use, please contact me. If you have questions about usage, please visit my Angel Policy page.

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44. Mary Ann Fraser's NO YETI YET - guest post

It's the thick of summer so I thought I'd cool you off with a new book by Mary Ann Fraser!

By Mary Ann Fraser

      For me, creating picture books is a lot like skiing. There’s the initial rush when you launch yourself into the project, followed by the silent screams when you realize that you may have taken the black diamond trail by mistake. You dig in your edges to carve around the twists and turns, dodge a few near collisions, and sigh in relief when at last you arrive at the end in one piece. But some books are more like the slow, steady slog down a bunny slope, so flat in areas you stall out and find yourself walking to the lift to go up and try again. Such was the case with NO YETI YET.
      The project had its roots in an earlier picture book that I sold years ago about a boy adopted by a bigfoot. Soon after completing all of the art, the publisher-who-shall-not-be-named abandoned the book. I tried to resell it, but with no success. Several years later, I pulled my sad, orphaned picture book from my “slush file” and showed it to my new agent Abigail Samoun with Red Fox Literary. We both agreed that the story was no longer viable for the market as written. She suggested I create a new story based on the bigfoot character. Fond of the abominable snowman in the Christmas classic, “Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer,” I quickly morphed the bigfoot into a yeti—sans sharp, pointy teeth but with a penchant for hot cocoa.
      As an author/illustrator, I have learned after many books that it’s best if I focus strictly on the text in the beginning. Leading with the pictures has often led to stories short on plot and shy on substance. Instead, I pay special attention as I draft to developing the characters, the rhythm of the words, and in creating a satisfying ending. In NO YETI YET, I wanted to capture the thrill of the hunt while playing with the notion that perceptions can be misleading. I was also interested in role reversals. When the two boys finally meet the yeti, it is the know-it-all older brother who panics and the younger, more anxious brother who is quick to recognize a friend.
      Once I had the basic story nailed down, I did a blizzard of character studies. The yeti went through several mutations before I was finally satisfied. The boys, with their skinny little legs poking out beneath their over-sized winter coats, were easier. They reminded me of Ralphie’s little brother in “A Christmas Story”—all bundled-up, arms scarecrow straight, hat pulled down to his eyes.
      During the sketching phase of the process, I expanded upon the story by adding small forest animals to follow the boys as they battled the elements in search of a yeti to photograph. Throughout, the brothers are completely unaware that a yeti is following right behind. With the help of the art, the reader is in on the joke from end page to end page.
      After more drafts and dummies than I dare to count, I was ready to paint some sample spreads—well, almost. In my mind, a picture book illustrator is never more than an indentured servant to a story. It is the tone and intent of the words that ultimately dictate the technique, medium, line, and palette. To that end, I experimented with several media but realized that acrylic on paper best captured the mood I was after and together with matt medium allowed me to build texture and translucency in a way that added interest. The next challenge was figuring out how to paint a white yeti against a snowy background under bright lights while avoiding the perils of “snow blindness!” (Snow goggles, anyone?)
Mary Ann's studio:
      There were the usual redo’s, the discarded “darlings,” (you know those bits that are too clever for their own good), and the near misses when the project makes it to acquisitions only to be shot down, but with the guidance of my patient agent, the project sold to Peter Pauper Press. My yeti had found a home. Mara Conlon, my wonderful, insightful editor, nurtured him, gave him a good dose of tough love, and in the end the book made it to the printer ahead of schedule. How often does that happen?
      Start to finish it was a great run. So, yeah, NO YETI YET, did not have the rush of bombing straight downhill, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t without its heart-pumping spills, chills, and thrills. So, back in line for the next chairlift to the top. I wonder which trail I’ll take next?
      To learn more about Mary Ann Fraser or NO YETI YET, visit maryannfraser.com.

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45. Traveling, Adaptability, and Groceries

One thing that has become abundantly clear to me during our months of living out of suitcases is how amazingly adaptable we are. After all, people need the same things - a place to eat, sleep, poop and bathe. That's it. How those needs are accomplished is where things get different. But I've discovered that when you stop worrying about what your silverware looks like, you realize that if you have a fork, a spoon and a decently sharp knife, you're good. Most beds are perfectly comfortable when you're exhausted. (And you don't notice most nighttime noises or lights for the same reason.)
     Here's an example... Stan is the cook in our family. Not only does he enjoy it, he's downright good at it. But the kitchens since we left Atlanta have been challenging. In Roanoke, we had a dorm-room-style kitchen. In France, we had a kitchen the size of a large closet with steep ceilings and a laundry drying rack in the center (laundry will be its own post). Here in our short-term flat, we have a nice, but small, galley kitchen.
     Add to that, grocery shopping in Europe is downright different. There are grocery stores everywhere, but they're small set-ups where you buy the basics (amazingly, many have plenty of gluten free options). They proudly display their produce outside as enticements to draw you in.

     Inside, you're most likely to find what you need, but there won't be many choices. You know that overwhelming aisle of various toilet paper brands you're used to? I used to have melt-downs trying to decide if I need soft or two-ply or recycled or, or... Well, not here. They offer one kind, that's it. In France, it happened to be pink. And it was fine.
     I've actually been thinking about that a lot. Pardon the toilet paper analogy, but it works. In America, we have the wonderful option of choices. So many choices! But maybe that's not always such a great thing. I have wasted so much brain time on what type of toilet paper to buy. I just don't care! And yet, the American commercial engine used commercials, ads, billboards, packaging, etc. to force me to care about the silliest minutia - which brand, style, 2-ply, 3-ply. After all, when several yards of grocery store floor space and shelves upon shelves are dedicated to the various papers you use for the most base purpose, it must be important - right? Hm.
     Anyhow, you get the picture. Not having all those choices over mundane products has freed my brain to think about the choices I do care about. Like, which wine or cheese to buy.

Gruyere from an Italian vendor in Grassmarket - displayed proudly in our little short-term let kitchen, which also has a steep ceiling.
     If you want specialty items, you have to remember which stores carry what. And while there are some amazing produce stands and specialty stores like the boulangerie, fish monger, butcher, etc., the most fun shopping options are the weekend farmers markets. Here was the market in Blois:

With bubbles from the adjacent toy store!
    It's where people gather, catch up with friends, and enjoy a festival atmosphere for a day. Edinburgh has them too (more pictures soon). Between Saturday and Sunday you can find farmer's markets at Castle Terrace (the foot of the castle where J.K. Rowling's husband reportedly shops), the Grassmarket, and Broughton. On Sunday, you can find them in Stockbridge and other areas. Stockbridge and Broughton will be our closest ones.
    So rather than climb into a hot car, fight traffic, and load up with everything you might need for the apocalypse, here, you walk to a nearby specialty shop, farmers market, or small grocery store (with your own bags - they charge for them here), and you see what looks good for the next day or two.
     Last weekend, we headed to a few of the Saturday farmers markets and purchased amazingly fresh produce. Most had been grown, butchered, fermented, or aged nearby. Stan made an amazing soup with all of it in this tiny kitchen. More proof that he can create miracles in any kitchen. But truly, it's all he needed.

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46. Friday Linky List - August 28, 2015

From The Guardian (via PW): From Harry Potter Latin to Hunger Games Rome: the classical jokes hiding in your favorite children's books

From Brightly (via PW): 26 Picture Books You Won't Want to Miss This Fall

At Picture Book Builders - Lisbeth's Colors (Lisbeth Zwerger - LOVE her work!)

At School Library Journal, Travis Jonker's 100 Scope Notes: It Ain't Easy (Books on waiting)

From The Picture Book Den (via SCBWI British Isles): What's in it for the Adults? (on Picture Books)

At Michelle4Laughs - It's In The Details (via SCBWI Belgium) Editing Tip: Compound Adjectives

At H20 (via Bookshelf: Roundup) An interesting architectural remodel for book lovers in Paris

From Justine Musk's Tribal Writer: You are the power you don't give away

From PW: Hobbies & Crafts 2015: Adult Coloring Books

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47. The New Flat

We're finally in to our home for the foreseeable future! We're exhausted from days and days of walking marathons all over the city, so we're tucking in and enjoying our new pad. Stan made us our first meal (lentil and spinach soup - to die for) and we sat and sat while enjoying it. Neither one of us wanted to get up, we were so happy right there.

And the light was amazing. Watching it climb up the sides of the buildings was a spectacular show. And the windows are so tall, we see so much sky! One of the views we're most excited about is our long view towards Broughton Street.
We slept like coma patients on our first night. Here is the morning view (taken later in the day).
Any my new office. (Don't expect it to look this neat for long.)
And Stan's new office with the 'welcome to your new home' bouquet we purchased at the most picturesque florist in the world - which happens to be at the end of our street, Narcissus.
But back to the views and the light... Because truly, watching the light do it's tricks in Edinburgh is absolutely stunning. Here's some eye-candy from the other evening, walking home from the Book Festival where we had drinks with David Almond and his family. This is Calton Hill, which is near our new flat, but which we have yet to explore.
What I love about this city is nobody takes it for granted, even the locals. This will be one of the main bridges I cross everyday to get to class.
When we got to the other side after taking this picture, a group of people had stopped, tourists and locals alike, all with their cameras raised. Why? This is why.
The sun had turned the city and the sky to gold. My photo doesn't do it justice. And no, we haven't tried the Ferris Wheel yet, but we will!
     Back to the flat... We're going through those little things you do when you're settling into a new home. Buying essentials, finding homes for things, writing lists of what we need, and trying to figure stuff out. Like this, for instance.
I couldn't for the life of me figure out what it was for, I just knew it had something to do with the clothes drying rack. After much debate on Facebook, it has been determined to be a stockings dryer - tuck the toes/legs through the holes and let the panty side hang down to dry. (Thanks, Lisa Jacobi!) So there!
     More soon!

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48. Swarming Mayflies

While we were in Blois, we experienced a natural phenomena - swarming Mayflies. I'd never seen anything like it. The swarms were as thick as snow, but more like a blizzard because they flew every which way, including into your hair. ACK! They only live for a day and fell to the ground in drifts of white, which crunched when you walked over them (or drove over them as you'll hear in the video). The next morning, they all lay dead with their little white wings sticking up to the sky. What a sight! CLICK HERE or the image to go see the video on YouTube.
I also found this lovely poem by George Crabbe...

In shoals the hours their constant numbers bring,
Like insects waking to th' advancing spring;
Which take their rise from grubs obscene that lie
In shallow pools, or thence ascend the sky:
Such are these base ephemeras, so born
To die before the next revolving morn.
—George Crabbe, "The Newspaper", 1785

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49. The New Screen Savers - featuring Stan!

Recently, Stan was a guest on The New Screen Savers. It's a show about computers and technology which used to be the headline show for cable's Tech TV channel. Since the channel's demise, the show has gone live online. If there's a geek in your life, you can be sure he or she knows about it. Stan has been an avid fan of the show since it's inception.
     Stan had a question about saving my enormous art files to the Cloud - something we've been trying to figure out for some time now. I work digitally and my illustration files are enormous - often about a half meg each. I can't keep them all on my laptop because it has limited space. So we've been employing external hard drives. It works, but it's not ideal from an access or safety standpoint. Cloud storage is available out there for average-sized files, but we've not found an affordable service available for files like mine.
     Stan turned to the experts. He submitted his question earlier in the summer and the show's producers got back to him a few weeks ago. The show is filmed live in California and now that we're in Scotland that meant an 8-hour time difference in screening. So Stan set up Skype to talk to Leo and the guys at our new kitchen counter and was filmed at about midnight.
     The show is now archived online and you can see Stan do his bit. Stan comes on at the 57:00 mark. CLICK HERE to go see it, and Go Stan!

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50. The humbling side of living overseas

I've received so many nice notes from you guys. You tell me that I'm living the dream you wish you could and you are living vicariously. Thank you for your sweet and inspirational notes, I'll keep the posts coming as this has become my diary of sorts. This experience is truly wonderful. However, today I want to share a more emotional side of this change...
     This move to Edinburgh has been amazing, and overwhelming, and humbling. We take for granted the knowledge we have when we live in a certain place - the contacts, the awareness, the sense of direction. Part of all this walking is to become familiar with these new people, new customs, and to discover where everything is.

The hedge at the Royal Botanic Garden.
     This new home is fabulous and challenging. For instance, I don't know where to go to buy the simplest things. What stores sell back-packs? Where do I buy new lingerie? If I need a rubbish bin (trash can), where do I get one? And even if I did know, where do you find the deals? Do I need to take a bus to get there? I'm not terribly good at those yet. But, I'm learning - slowly.

Randomly spotted sign on Thistle Street.
     And then there's the accent. In the middle of Fringe, my American accent marked me as a tourist. I heard a lot of, "Enjoy your holiday!" But now that Fringe is ending, people are starting to question why I'm still here. It's making for more interesting conversations. "We just moved here." "Really? Oh, wow!"

A pub near our new flat.
     I'm a bit of a mimic, so I imagine I'll pick up the accent soon - much to the annoyance of my friends in the states when I return, I'm guessing.

A miniature of the real ones - The Kelpies.
     I've heard people make fun of folks who pick up or adopt accents after a short time away. But now that I'm here, I get it. It's not that you're trying to be charming or cute, it's that you're simply trying to fit in, to be accepted, to not have your nationality bias the opinions of those with whom you're speaking. And while it can be fun to be different, there are times when you just want to be anonymous, to be a part of the crowd.
     So, how long does it take to feel embedded in a new place? Will being a student help me feel more a part of the heartbeat of this thriving city? How long before I know people by name and they know me? Before I'm saying 'hi' to folks on the streets?
     Ironically, Edinburgh is actually a small town and it's already happening. I'm beginning to know folks - the man who sells us our meat, our wine, our cheese. The waitress from the local pub. Last night we went to hear a band at our nearest and new favorite pub, The Barony.

Our pub.
I already know the names of two of the bartenders and they recognize us and smile warmly when we come in. (Keep in mind - pubs here are not just about drinking - these are the community gathering places.) The band was fantastic and even played Little Feet - blew our minds! It was so fun to feel a part of a local crowd in our new neighborhood. In fact, it's one thing I love most about Edinburgh, it truly is a small town despite its largesse. And while I still pinch myself over how lucky I am to be here, I have a long way to go before I feel at home. Even so, I can feel it happening bit by bit, friend by friend. Love it!

Princes Street Gardens.

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