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coloring page tuesdays, news and events, blog book tours, reviews, illustration and promotion, and general weirdness from a children's book author/illustrator.
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26. Where The Wild Things Are - Claymation

This is tres cool and a little bizarre - created at the University of Georgia (my alma mater!).

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

Thanks to 100 Scope Notes for the heads up!

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27. Todd Strasser's NO PLACE - Guest Post and Giveaway

Todd Strasser stopped by with his latest release, NO PLACE, to talk about breaking into children's lit back when it was considered a 'gentleman's business' with three-martini lunches - fascinating read - enjoy!!!



Learning to Write What Your Know
by Todd Strasser

      Between 1973 and 1977, toward the end of my sojourn as a college student, and then while working as a newspaper reporter, I wrote the first draft of a more-than- semi-autobiographical novel that would eventually become my first -- Angel Dust Blues, about a teenager on Long Island who, among other indiscretions, is arrested for selling drugs. Not aware at the time that there existed a genre of literature called Young Adult, I reread what I’d written and found myself concerned that my story about teenagers falling in love and getting in trouble lacked the action, excitement, international scope, and historical perspective necessary to catapult it onto the best seller lists. However, being youthful and resourceful, and naively believing that the answer to this problem could be found on a shelf at the local stationary store, I purchased a copy of Writer’s Digest to see if I could glean any advice as to how to transform my book into something with sales that would rival those of Stephen King and Robin Cook. And thus I learned that at that moment in literary history, at least according to the magazine, the two ingredients every book needed to insure vast commercial success were Nazism and cocaine (I have no idea where they got that idea. I’ve since checked the historical bestseller list and it appears that not a single book in the top 50 that year had anything to do with either).
      Nonetheless I got busy creating a new character, a Nazi, who had escaped from Germany in a submarine at the end of World War II and sailed it to Colombia, South America (right? Right?). From there he regularly smuggled cocaine, via his submarine, all the way to the north shore of Long Island, New York. And, to tie it into my story, I made this Nazi the uncle of one of my protagonist’s best friends.
      You might ask, why sail his submarine all the way to New York (2,300+ miles) when he could have much more easily traveled to the Florida Keys (1,200 miles) like legions of other drug smugglers? Because my story was set in New York, that’s why. I wish I could say that I’m pulling your leg about this, but I’m not. I was young, guileless, and ignorant.
      Thanks to a stroke of luck that will be saved for another blog, I was able to secure the services of a reputable agent who began to submit the manuscript to publishers. Rejections quickly piled up from the first dozen editors who read it. This was a tough time for me. Other than working as a part-time fact checker for Esquire Magazine, I had no income, nor any real reason to believe I could make a career of writing. I’d even given myself a deadline: if I couldn’t publish a book by the time I was 32, I’d chuck the whole deal and start over at something new, even if I couldn’t imagine what that would be.
      Then one day my agent called with good news: an editor named Ferdinand Monjo at a publisher called Coward, McCann & Geoghegan wished to have lunch with me. Was I interested? At the time I was so strapped for money that I was eating my way through a case of tuna fish that I’d purchased at a bulk discount. Of course I was interested in having lunch with him. I probably would have gone to lunch with Charles Manson if he’d offered to pay (and promised to come unarmed).
Todd's Favorite writing spot - Ditch Plains Beach in the evening.

     And so I went to my first literary lunch, meeting Mr. Monjo and his assistant, Jim Bruce, in the restaurant of a small, elegant East Side hotel. They were already seated when I arrived. Mr. Monjo was a refined, dapper man dressed in a sport jacket and tie. His wavy silver gray hair was combed back, his wire-rim glasses sparkled, and he smoked cigarettes in a long gold cigarette holder. Jim, with his blond hair and light blue crew neck sweater, was the very image of prep.
      This was to be an experience unlike any I’d had before. After rising and graciously thanking me for coming to lunch (shouldn’t it have been the other way around?), Mr. Monjo gestured for me to sit at the table set with linens, crystal, and silver. During the conversation that followed, the editor consumed two vodka gimlets while discussing theater, classical music, and opera with Jim (Clearly the least cultured person at the table, I mostly listened and sipped a Coke).
      Still, I suspected they were feeling me out, trying to assess my background and how much I knew about culture (not much, although I could sing some of the songs from My Fair Lady). Meanwhile, I nervously, yet hungrily feasted on a hamburger (my first in months!) and fries, and wondered when we’d get around to discussing my book.
      It turned out that this would not happen until after Mr. Monjo had consumed a red caviar omelet (I’d never seen one before, nor have I seen one since), as well as a third vodka gimlet. Finally, over coffee and dessert, Mr. Monjo got down to business. Would I, he asked, possibly consider rewriting my book? He asked this so apologetically that you would have thought he’d forgotten his wallet and needed me to pay for lunch. Fortunately this was the one question I was prepared for. My agent had already warned me that this query would be at the crux of the lunch, so I had an answer prepared. I would be glad to rewrite it, I said. And did Mr. Monjo have any suggestions as to just how he thought it could be improved?
      “Yes,” he replied, appearing pleased and relieved that I had asked. It quickly became obvious that he had prepared a small speech for the occasion. “In this business it is important to write about what you know, Todd. And it is obvious that you know a great deal about being a teenager in the suburbs.” At this point he paused to clear his throat and take another sip of his vodka gimlet. “However, I hope you will not be offended if I add that it is equally obvious that you know very little about Nazis, submarines, and cocaine smuggling. The important thing, Todd, is to write about what you know. Focus on the teenagers and make it a story about them.” I suppose all this transpired with a bit of temerity on his part. As genteelly as possible, he’d carefully tossed down the gauntlet without knowing how I’d react. Another author might have insisted that the cocaine smuggling uncle Nazi had to stay. Or, even worse, might have felt insulted that his knowledge of cocaine smuggling and/or Nazis had been challenged.
      Even though I already knew what my answer to Mr. Monjo’s request would be, I hesitated -- as if pondering all the ramifications of this suggestion -- when in reality there was only one: either I agreed to rewrite my novel or went looking for another publisher. Like the editors at the publishing houses that had rejected my manuscript, Mr. Monjo had found that the original story I’d created was neither plausible nor interesting. But unlike the others, he (perhaps because he himself was a writer) had detected a potential which, given the opportunity, might eventually develop into something decent.
      Today there are still many devoted and erudite editors around, but I wonder how many would be allowed to gamble on a brand new author and an unmarketable manuscript the way Mr. Monjo did.* The impression I have is that nowadays editors are rarely allowed to speculate on what a manuscript might become, and must instead base their decisions on the manuscript they have in hand (provided the marketing and sales departments give them the green light. Many books today are purchased by committee. I cannot imagine any marketing or sales department approving of the manuscript Ferdinand Monjo read).
      At lunch that day, I thanked him for his suggestion (and resisted the temptation to ask if I could possibly get yet another hamburger to go). Later, speaking to my agent, I learned that Mr. Monjo had offered a $3,000 advance to see if his hunch was correct. While small by today’s standards, in 1978 this was not an inconsequential amount to pay on an unproven first-time novelist with only the promise of a story. In the months that followed I would take his advice to heart and eventually produce a book that was driven much more by character, and much less by plot.
      Mr. Monjo (his full name was Ferdinand Nicolas Monjo III) was born into an old and well-to-do Connecticut fur trading family that, in the 1800s, had had sailing ships plying trade all over the world. In 1974 one of his books won the National Book Award – a tremendous achievement for any writer. Sadly, he died in October of 1979, just a few months before Angel Dust Blues was published, and never got to see the fruits of his sage advice (very good reviews and an auction for the paperback rights). I consider myself very fortunate to have caught the tail end of the era when publishing was called a gentlemen’s occupation. He was certainly a sterling example.
      * Among the other YA authors who got their start thanks to Mr. Monjo is Robert Lipsyte, whose wonderful YA novel, The Contender, came about when the editor wrote to him out of the blue and asked if he’d consider writing a novel about a teenage boxer. Before that, Mr. Lipsyte, a sports reporter for the New York Times, had never written fiction.

About NO PLACE:
"Dan's family was middle-class ... until they became homeless." "This compelling social commentary challenges stereotypes about homeless people and offers a look at homelessness from the perspective of a middle-class teen... believable tension, and references to John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath fuel Strasser’s well-paced, engaging narrative." -- School Library Journal

GIVEAWAY!
Todd has kindly agreed to giveaway a free, signed and dedicated copy of NO PLACE to one of my lucky followers! Must live in the US/Canada to win - enter below!

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28. Friday Linky List - July 4, 2014

HAPPY BIRTHDAY U.S.A.!
(And to my sissie.)
Don't forget I have lots of patriotic coloring pages at Coloring Page Tuesday!

At the Association for Library Service to Children: The acceptance speeches for the 2014 Award Acceptance Speeches

The Guardian via PW: Writing Yourself a pen name: Authors reveal the different reasons they have adopted alternative literary identities.

At FacTank via PW: 7 surprises about libraries in our surveys. For instance, "younger Americans (those ages 16-29) are just as likely to be library users as those who are older"

From The Guardian via PW: Should Children's Books Have a Happy Ending? Should fiction protect children from a messy, troubled world - or prepare them for it?

From The Boston Globe via PW: Children's Books and YA Lit Quiz - fun!

At Shelf Awareness: Obituary Note: Walter Dean Myers - we've lost a great man.

At SchoolVisitExperts.com: Do School Visits Make a Difference? (I think so!)

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29. A conversation with Adam Rex on MOONDAY - Giveaway!


Some author/illustrators gush so much creativity into the kidlitosphere it's almost hard to keep up with them. Last summer I was lucky enough to meet one of them: Adam Rex. Not only is he one of the most talented illustrators out there, he's also a fabulous writer. In fact, his novel, THE TRUE MEANING OF SMEKDAY, is being made into an animated movie! Yet he still creates marvelous picture books like MOONDAY. Adam dropped to talk about it...

Q. Adam, How did the idea for MOONDAY come to you?
A.
I’m ashamed to admit it was a dream. Ashamed because I think this is the fanciful way a lot of non-writers think writers get ideas, and it belies the real work that goes into a good manuscript.
      But about fifteen years ago I had a dream that the moon was in my backyard, and I climbed up on it to explore. And for the next ten years or so I tried to write a picture book that felt the way the dream had felt. The first draft bears no resemblance to what I ended up with.

Q. I know what you mean! I’ve dreamed stories I thought I couldn’t use, because somebody else came up with the idea in my dream. I’ve had to remind myself, Hey, that was YOUR brain! But it does feel like cheating a little… until you start writing it down and making it really work. Has any story ever come easily for you?
A.
Yeah, and though I wonder if other picture book authors hate me for admitting this, I’ve written certain manuscripts in a day. Sure, they go through a little editing later, but all in all they don’t change much. So my personal range for writing a picture book is between one day and ten years.

Q. Ha! Well, you truly are prolific. You seem to just "get it" - that thing that makes a story work or not. What do you attribute that to? How did you acquire your storytelling chops?
A.
Oh, gosh–well, I don’t feel comfortable agreeing that I get anything. I should stress that those good days, when I sort of manage to write a whole picture book, generally start with a flash of inspiration that I don’t know how to propagate on command. And those flashes of inspiration are preceded by weeks or months of nothing, during which I wonder if I will ever have a good idea again.

      But if I do have any kind of natural sense of how to make stories work, it can only be because of a lot of reading and watching television. Reading and watching critically, which is something I had to learn to do better but which I think I’d always done naturally just a little bit.
      This is a weird example, but it’s the first that comes to mind: while watching a cartoon recently I mentioned to my wife how much it used to bother me as a kid when I’d notice that the scenery was all lush and painterly except for, say, one rock in the foreground. That rock would be drawn and rendered in the same flat manner as the animated characters, and this was and is a dead giveaway that one of those characters is about to kick the rock or pick it up or something similar. I understood, as a kid, that it was harder to animate something painterly and lush, but I still wished all the rocks could look one way and all the characters another.

      All this sticks in my mind because my wife then said, oh, I see what you mean–I never noticed that before. So it got me thinking that, even at a young age, I was always sort of deconstructing stories and noticing how they work. Not a lot, but maybe more than most? I don’t know.

Q. That makes perfect sense, and also proves what a visual person you are. Which leads me to my next question. I began this career as an illustrator, didn't you too? How have you reconciled these two Muses, the writer and the illustrator. Does one beg for more attention?
A.
I did begin as an illustrator–I was supporting myself for several years painting pictures for fantasy role-playing and card games before I got my break in kids’ books. And my first two picture books were written by Amy Timberlake and Jill Esbaum.
      I can’t think of two muses more easily reconciled than writing and illustrating, though. It’s not like I’m trying to freestyle rap and design sports pavilions. I’m very lucky to do both, because it’s meant that I haven’t had to wait for someone else to approach me with the right manuscript. I do find it interesting that so many people assume one begs for more attention than the other, though, and I find it even more interesting that those people are right–most of the time I’m drawing and painting I wish I was writing. It’s been like that for a few years now, though I expect it’ll flip the other way at some point.

Q. Amy is a friend and I adore THE DIRTY COWBOY! Were you miffed when it got banned? A. I don’t know if "miffed" is the right word. Making books for kids is my life’s work, so it hurts quite a lot when any person thinks of one one of my books as bad for kids. That said, what I really worry about are the quiet challenges–someone tells a librarian or school administrator that a book is bad, and that gatekeeper either agrees or just acquiesces to make his life easier. An entire community is deprived of a book because of the feelings of a single person, and they never learn what’s happened in their name.
      A public banning can be heartbreaking, but it always draws more attention than the book would have ever received otherwise.

Q. So what is your illustration method? I'm most fascinated by your combination of line and rendering. How do you know how far to take your rendering?
A.
Regarding my illustration method…mostly I’m oil painting, or painting digitally and trying to make it look like oil painting. I start with a lot of sketching, a lot of messy compositional thumbnails. I refine the sketch in stages and don’t start painting it until after it’s been approved by my editor. I’m not sure if that answers your question–maybe you can get more specific about what you’d like to know. But if anything I think I tend to take my renderings too far. I’d much rather paint like a Whistler or a John Singer Sargent, who could define large areas with a brushstroke. I have no interest in rendering every last hair on my subject’s head–I’d much rather paint a single stroke and let your brain trick you into seeing detail that isn’t there.

Q. The light in MOONDAY is amazing. How did you deal with the specific challenges in this book? (Including all those angles of the boy walking on the moon!)
A.
I think the biggest challenges in MOONDAY actually had nothing to do with the moon or the characters. Because I always shoot a lot of photo reference of friends and family when it will be helpful. That’s me as the dad in MOONDAY, and my wife as the mom. A friend’s granddaughter played the little girl.
      I’m not the best at drawing architecture, so creating a consistent setting for the moon was difficult–I ended up building a 3D model of the family’s building to help me with that.

Q. How long did it take you to complete the illustrations for MOONDAY?
A.
I don’t know–probably about four months? It’s always hard to do a real accounting because I’ll start sketching on a picture book, then maybe break to write something else, then come back to sketching, and submit a dummy to the editor, then work on something else for a few weeks while I wait for feedback, etc. But I usually say that I can manage a picture book and a novel each year. I’d like to slow down from that pace, but baby needs shoes.
      This is of special interest to me at the moment because I’ve been trying to advise a friend who wants to self-publish some picture book manuscripts he wrote, and he’s interested in hiring his own illustrator. This has led me to poke around online a bit, and I’ve discovered forums where people in similar positions are balking at the idea of paying an illustrator even a couple thousand dollars for a 32-page book.
      These are either terrible people, or (more likely), they’re people who have just never given any real thought to the work that goes into book-making. Because I can’t accept that they genuinely believe an illustrator deserves less than a hundred dollars per page, unless they think that entire page takes mere hours to complete. And I realize that it's possible that they do believe this–all my life people have been asking me to draw them birthday cards or student council campaign posters or whatever, and they often try to mitigate the imposition by telling me how easy it’ll be for me. "It’ll take you, like, five minutes,” they’ve told me, based on nothing.
      Anyway: it takes me at least a few months to illustrate a picture book, and maybe as many as six or seven if it’s especially complex. I think I’m considered to be pretty average in that regard–some illustrators are faster, and some can’t do more than one picture book a year.
See Adam's book trailer for MOONDAY:

Click here to see the trailer if the embedded video gives you trouble.
Q. You’ve got some exciting things going on with THE TRUE MEANING OF SMEKDAY. Can you share with my readers?
A.
You’re right that there’s a lot going on right now relating to my first novel, The True Meaning of Smekday. By the time this posts, your readers may have already seen the first theatrical trailer for the movie adaptation, HOME, that DreamWorks is making. Or the short film, Almost Home (below), that played before a couple of other animated films earlier this year. Anyway, HOME will be in theaters March 2015, and my own sequel to The True Meaning of Smekday will come out in February. That’s called Smek for President!, and I’m very excited for people to read it.
Here's the short film:

Click here if the embedded video gives you trouble.
And here is the official trailer!
CLICK HERE to see the trailer on YouTube.
This has been fun talking back and forth Adam! I wish you much continued success!

GIVEAWAY!
Disney has kindly offered to give a free copy of MOONDAY to one of my lucky followers. Must live in the US/Canada to win. Enter below.

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30. Our mantra this term at Hollins...

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31. Coloring Page Tuesday - PUPPIES!

     I'm in the thick of teaching at Hollins University in Roanoke, Virginia now (in the MFA in Writing and Illustrating Children's Books program). It's crazy fun and inspiring with stuff going on non-stop, which is why my blog posts may be a little less frequent than normal (although my giveaways and coloring pages will remain as usual). Meanwhile, I'm missing my doggie back home and his fuzzy love. Hence, this week I am sharing PUPPIES!!!
     CLICK HERE for more coloring pages! And be sure to share your creations in my gallery so I can put them in my upcoming newsletters! (Cards, kids art, and crafts are welcome!)
     Sign up to receive alerts when a new coloring page is posted each week and... Please check out my books! Especially...

my debut novel, A BIRD ON WATER STREET, coming out next week! Click the cover to learn more!
     When the birds return to Water Street, will anyone be left to hear them sing? A miner's strike allows green and growing things to return to the Red Hills, but that same strike may force residents to seek new homes and livelihoods elsewhere. Follow the story of Jack Hicks as he struggles to hold onto everything he loves most.
AWARDS
**A SIBA OKRA Pick!**
**A GOLD Mom's Choice Award Winner!**
**The 2014 National Book Festival Featured Title for Georgia!**

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32. Mem Fox at BEA

I adore Mem Fox. She is the author of my favorite quote: "Writing picture books is like writing 'War and Peace' in Haiku." Her brilliance is unquestioned and her recent speech at BEA was no less than one would expect:

CLICK HERE to see her talk on YouTube if the embedded video gives you an issue.
Thanks to Betsy Bird for the heads up!

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33. Candice Ransom's IVA HONEYSUCKLE MEETS HER MATCH - Guest Post and Giveaway!

Candice Ransom is my walking buddy at Hollins University each summer. We do three laps around the gorgeous campus almost every week-day. It got me in shape last summer! Let's hope it'll do it again this summer! Along with being the author of over 110 books, she's a fantastic photographer with a blog that inspires lovely sighs called "Under the Honeysuckle Vine"... Anyhow, I'm thrilled to have Candice on to talk about her latest novel, IVA HONEYSUCKLE MEETS HER MATCH! Take it away Candice...

Iva Honeysuckle: Made-up Character or Me in Disguise?
Candice Ransom

     I’ve written a lot of books with a lot of characters, but Iva Honeysuckle takes the cake. She isn’t me, but she lets me be my nine-year-old self again.
      Iva’s story began when I was driving home from a conference. Suddenly this character, her entire family, and a town full of people boiled into my head. The character told me her name was Iva Honeycutt, that she was almost nine, and that she had a tattling, sneaky, lying double-first cousin named Heaven, who was clearly no angel.
      She said she lived in Uncertain, Virginia, and she wanted to be a great discoverer. (As a great discoverer, she called herself Iva Honeysuckle so she wouldn’t be just another Honeycutt sister or cousin.) She was friends with Euple Free, owner of the third-fastest pickup in town, and Swannanoah Priddy, who ran the town dump, and Swannanoah’s parents who owned a taxidermy/cake decorating business in the same shop, but had not spoken a syllable to each other in thirty-five years.
      Iva told me she was suspicious of Cazy Sparkle, who threw yard sales any old day of the week, but loved Walser Compton, the Sunday school teacher and the only person who really understood Iva and who served preacher cookies with unsweetened cherry Kool-Aid on her front porch while she was understanding her.
      I moved into Iva’s town, Uncertain, a place that suited me right down to the ground. The people in that town were my people. Although the characters and the town are fiction, the place they came from was very real. The characters spoke the language I grew up hearing (and still speak myself), language salted with idioms and poor grammar, interesting talk.
      The events in Iva Honeysuckle Discovers the World (Hyperion) are based somewhat on my own life, but Iva had a life of her own to live and she roared like a freight train in her story.
      She didn’t shut up until I wrote another book about her. In Iva Honeysuckle Meets Her Match (Hyperion). I cast back to all those day trips to the beach with my cousins, fighting for the “best” window, dropping Planter’s peanuts in a bottle of R.C. Cola and then shaking the bottle with disastrous results, falling out over something before we’d backed out of the driveway, then making up, and then falling out again.
      Stingray Point, a real place, is not a little beach town. I combined all the little gimcrack beach “resorts” we frequented—Widewater, Fairview, Colonial Beach, Breezy Point—to give my fictional version of Stingray Point a little life. And I dreamed myself back to those days when the sun blared in the hazy sky, the rough sand promised buckets of fossil shark’s teeth, and jellyfish dotted the beach like giant loogies.
      I remembered floating in tractor tire inner tubes, hanging on until my armpits ached, and when the black rubber got too hot, I’d dip down, the sides of the inner tube blocking all sounds except my own breathing and laplets of greeny-gray water, and flip the inner tube to the cool wet side. I remembered half-running, half-walking over scorching gravel—Oooch, eeech, ouch!—in a bathing suit stuck damply up my butt crack. I remembered cotton candy that wisped to nothing in the seaside air. I remembered tuna fish sandwiches and ice tea on sandy porches. If those exact things aren’t in Iva Honeysuckle Meets Her Match, the nine-year-old feelings of being at the beach with extended family are.
      Do we write for ourselves or for readers? People who write for children have to be aware of their audience. But we also have to tap into our pasts. It doesn’t matter if we have children, or teach children, or are around children. What matters is that we were kids once. We can observe children, but we only know the feelings we experienced as a child.
      No, Iva is not me, not entirely. But I love her more than any of my characters. I love how she looks at the world around her in all its particularness and peculiarness, sort of the way I did. She makes me feel I’m back home again with all my cousins, falling out and making up again, the sound of ice cubes clinking in glasses of cherry Kool-Aid.

     Bio goes here....

♥ GIVEAWAY! ♥
Hyperion has kindly agreed to give a free copy of IVA HONEYSUCKLE MEETS HER MATCH to one of my lucky commenters. Must live in the US or Canada to win. Enter below!

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34. Friday Linky List - June 27, 2014

This is cool. Use Namez.com to record how your name is pronounced to share with people who might have trouble with it. CLICK HERE to hear mine.

At Huff Post: 7 Skills Your Grandparents Had That You Don't

From Bookshelf Blog - Leawood man faces citation for putting Little Free Library in his front yard - really?

At PW ShelfTalker: How to Talk About Amazon

On Three Ways of Writing for Children at Catholic Culture - thanks to the hubbie for this link!

From NPR via PW: Librarian Nancy Pearl Maps Out A Plan For Your Summer Reading

From PW - Obituary: Nancy Garden, author of Annie on My Mind, which I think I'm correct in saying is known for being the first LGBT novel for young adults (1982). Read more here.

From Bustle via PW: 19 Classic Picture Books You Should Still Have On Your Shelf As An Adult!

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35. BEN & ZIP: TWO SHORT FRIENDS - illustrated by Tom Goldsmith - Interview and Giveaway!


It’s no surprise that the latest book from Flashlight Press is awesome. Shari Dash Greenspan (publisher) has excellent taste, and I adore her books! The latest is no exception: BEN & ZIP, TWO SHORT FRIENDS written by Joanne Linden and illustrated by Tom Goldsmith. We’re lucky to have Tom here today to answer some questions…

Q. Hi Tom! Congratulations on BEN & ZIP! It’s absolutely adorable!
A.
Thanks so much. I have to say though that many hands are involved in pulling a book like this together. If Ben and Zip is a success, it has as much or more to do with Joanne Linden, the author and the leadership of Shari Dash Greenspan the editor at Flashlight Press, as it does me.

Q. I have to ask about the boardwalk, with the storm coming. Were you at all reminded of Hurricane Sandy when you were working on the book? (If so, was that an intentional reference?)
A.
Oh absolutely. As I watched the news and saw the devastating effects of Sandy on the boardwalks and amusement parks of New Jersey. I was struck by all the memories of good times that so many children and adults must have had at such a place. I wanted to celebrate those memories and pay homage to the way of life that was so devastatingly effected by the storm.

Q. I always tell my students to remember the point of view of their main characters, and boy, do you do a wonderful job with that! Ben is short, so all he sees is knees. (Or when he gets up a little higher - tummies.) Was that fun to play with? (It sure is fun to read!)

A.
In fact, those were the spreads that jumped out at me right away. As a humor illustrator at heart, I always gravitate to those images were I can play around and have some fun.

Q. The crowd scenes are so wonderfully full of stuff going on. Did those pieces take you forever to do?

A.
Yes, they take a while but they are always a treat to do. I love being able to tuck little things in here and there. For example, I’m a dog nut. I own three and each of them make an appearance in those beach scenes.

Q. What is your medium?
A.
I am hopelessly a traditionalist. I love the tactile nature of inks, quill pens and watercolours.

Q. Without giving away the book - there’s a twist from the cover to the end that I didn’t see coming and was delighted when I realized it. Did you awwwww as much as I did when you read the manuscript for the first time?
A.
Truthfully, my editor Shari Dash Greenspan discussed the “twist” with me before I had even received the manuscript. When I read it though it became clear how it could be cleverly accomplished in my illustrations.

Q. How did you break into the biz and how did you and Flashlight Press connect?
A.
I have done editorial illustration for books and magazine for years but I always had an eye towards picture books. They are a great vehicle for doing exactly what I love to do. I love developing a relationship with the characters and getting them involved in the story. A far cry from the quick turnaround, one-off nature of editorial humor illustrations.
      As for Flashlight and I getting together - it was as simple as Shari seeing my online portfolio at www.tomgoldsmithillustration and giving me a call. I’m glad she did. Working with an editor that thinks and talks in pictures makes an illustrators job so much easier. I learned a lot from Shari. My future work with Flashlight, or anyone else for that matter, will be better for knowing and working with her.

Q. I hope you have more children’s books in the works? Can you share?
A.
Sure, I have just completed all the images for a new Book by Scholastic Canada called “We’re All Friends Here”. This one is based around separate and opposing points of view of two boys. A unique and challenging job for an illustrator, but the finished illustrations are very rewarding.

Thanks so much for stopping by, Tom!

GIVEAWAY!
Tom has graciously agreed to send a free, signed and dedicated copy of BEN & ZIP to one of my lucky commenters. Must live in the US or Canada to win. Enter below.

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36. John Green on Colbert

Recently, Stephen Colbert interviewed John Green about his book, now hit movie, THE FAULT IN OUR STARS. And John did alright! He held his own and was able to be the funny guy he is - no small task with Stephen who said, "As far as I can tell, a young adult novel is a regular novel that people actually read." And well, now we all know what it takes to get a gig on The Colbert Show as a Young Adult author! Click the image to go check it out:

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37. Coloring Page Tuesday - Beach Reading!

     Reading at the beach, is there anything better? What are you reading this summer?
     CLICK HERE for more coloring pages! And be sure to share your creations in my gallery so I can put them in my upcoming newsletters! (Cards, kids art, and crafts are welcome!)
     Sign up to receive alerts when a new coloring page is posted each week and... Please check out my books! Especially...

my debut novel, A BIRD ON WATER STREET, coming out next week! Click the cover to learn more!
     When the birds return to Water Street, will anyone be left to hear them sing? A miner's strike allows green and growing things to return to the Red Hills, but that same strike may force residents to seek new homes and livelihoods elsewhere. Follow the story of Jack Hicks as he struggles to hold onto everything he loves most.
AWARDS
**A SIBA OKRA Pick!**
**A GOLD Mom's Choice Award Winner!**
**The 2014 National Book Festival Featured Title for Georgia!**

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38. Settling in at Hollins...

I arrived in Roanoke, Virginia, home to Hollins University, on Saturday... stopped in Gaffney, South Carolina on the way to pick up a bag of peaches from Abbot Farms. (This is my new tradition as they are THE best peaches on the planet!)
     Saturday was mostly unpacking and hauling supplies up stairs and elevators. Sunday was my inaugural walk around the gorgeous campus. (I do 5 miles with Candice Ransom every morning.) I purchased incidentals and got set up. Monday has been orientation and more nitty gritty stuff like getting internet to work, etc. And I'm finally settled in. Here's my office this year:


     I teach Design in the MFA in Children's Book Writing and Illustrating program as well as the Certificate in Children's Book Illustration program, so I'll be here for the next six weeks. It's a small class this year, so I'm really looking forward to digging in and helping my students with their specific needs.
     Tonight is the welcome party and then classes begin tomorrow. We're off and running!! It feels SOOO good to be back at Hollins - almost like I never left. It's great to be back with my fellow instructors - Ashley Wolff, Lauren Mills, and Ruth Sanderson (on the illustration side). What a treat that this is a regular part of my life now!

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39. Alexandria Still Burns...

Librarians & the Fight for Knowledge. This Kickstarter project is a continuation of the viral video about "What Librarians Look Like" by Kyle Cassidy. It was such a hit, he's wanting to take more photos, do more interviews, and turn it into a photo book. He's already doubled his asking pledges to get him to the American Library Association conference in Los Angeles this summer - an obvious message that librarians are important to our society! The video touches on why (click the image to watch on Kickstarter):

Thanks to Betsy Bird and Jules Danielson for the heads up!

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40. Anna Staniszewski's THE PRANK LIST - Guest Post and Giveaway!

Anna Staniszewski is a fellow EMLA sibling (Erin Murphy Literary Agency). I'm happy to have her on to talk about...


THE HIGHS AND LOWS OF WRITING A TRILOGY
by Anna Staniszewski

     I used to think that writing the first book in a series would be the easiest since the premise and the characters are still fresh and exciting. But now that I’m almost finished writing/publishing my second trilogy (in fact, I’m revising the third Dirt Diary book at the moment) I’ve learned that writing the second book is the most fun for me. The experience is like reuniting with an old friend. It might feel a little stiff at first, but once I hang out with the characters for a day or two, it’s like no time has passed.
      Since I already know the world of the story and its inhabitants, I can play around and see what else I can do with them, what other misadventures I can set into motion. Often, this comes from the characters’ flaws, ones that might have been present in the first book but were more in the background. Now it’s time to dig deeper and figure out how those other quirks and flaws might lead to conflict and action.
      If you know that the series is going to have three books, the second book also gives you the luxury of being able to explore new threads without needing to completely wrap everything up. Of course, you want the second book to have a satisfying arc so that readers don’t feel frustrated or cheated, but knowing that you still have one more book left in the series means that the second book can leave certain things open.
      Perhaps that’s why I find third books the most challenging; everything needs to feel even bigger and more exciting than in the other two books, and there are also lots of threads to wrap up in a satisfying way. Plus, you need to show how the character has continued to change and grow from the beginning of the series. We want to feel like we’ve lived through something with the character and evolved along with her. No pressure, right? Honestly, getting it right can often feel like pulling teeth and having your teeth pulled at the same.
      Do I enjoy the process of writing a trilogy? Absolutely. It’s amazing that one tiny idea--e.g. a story I heard on NPR about a girl cleaning houses with her mom--can lead to multiple books, and I love getting to explore the characters by putting them into different scenarios. But I’ve also gotten a little smarter about how I plan out a series. Since I know that third books are the most difficult for me, my plan for my newest trilogy is to keep that in mind while I’m writing the first two installments so that by the time I’m ready to write the last one, maybe it won’t be so painful.
      Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some teeth to pull...

      Bio: Born in Poland and raised in the United States, Anna Staniszewski grew up loving stories in both Polish and English. Currently, she lives outside Boston with her husband and their crazy dog. When she’s not writing, Anna spends her time reading, daydreaming, and challenging unicorns to games of hopscotch. She is the author of the My Very UnFairy Tale Life series and the Dirt Diary series. Her newest book, The Prank List, releases on July 1st from Sourcebooks. You can visit Anna at www.annastan.com.

♥ GIVEAWAY! ♥
Anna has generously agreed to send a free, signed and dedicated copy of THE PRANK LIST to one of my lucky commenters. Must live in the US/Canada to win. Enter below!

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41. Friday Linky List - June 20, 2014

17 Bookstores That Will Literally Change Your Life at BuzzFeed - you've probably seen some of these before, but some are new. (The children's section of "Cook & Book" in Brussels is pictured below.)

Via PW and The Hollywood Reporter: 'Fault in Our Stars' Ripple Effect: Success Breeds New Rush of 'Grounded' Teen Movies - Move over vampires and wizards: The new IT genre is "grounded" young-adult book adaptations. (I like this - it bodes well for A BIRD ON WATER STREET!)

Matt Faulkner was the other creator tagged by Mary Jane Begin in last week's blogtour. It's worth the read:

Via PW at Washington CityPaper: Rush Limbaugh Attacks the Bookstore at Busboys and Poets - um. Donations to the store and the organization that hosts it, Teaching For Change, can be made HERE.

Via PW at BuzzFeed: How To Get Published: Four debut novelists on elevator pitches, getting an agent, and writing your first book (adult authors)

Tu Books is once again hosting their New Visions Award to "writers of color who are residents of the United States and who have not previously had a middle grade or young adult novel published."CLICK HERE to learn more.

Reading is Fundamental (RIF) and Macy's have released a disturbing survey - Only 17% of Parents Believe Reading is Top Priority During the Summer; Kids Spend Nearly Triple the Time Playing Video Games or Watching TV - Click here to read the story.

At PW: "Wedding and Funerals and Everywhere in Between" - Editors talk about the strangest places they've been pitched a book!

At Teenreads: Barbara Marcus, President and Publisher of Random House Children's Division - a three part interview

From PW and Bustle: 5 Favorite Children's Books Turn 50 This Year (And Now Everyone Feels Old)

"Professor Storytime" Karyn Tunks wrote a lovely review for A BIRD ON WATER STREET on her blog. :)

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42. TAP TAP BOOM BOOM by Elizabeth Bluemle - GIVEAWAY!


Today I'm thrilled to have Elizabeth Bluemle visiting. She is the author of TAP TAP BOOM BOOM and the owner of the Flying Pig Bookstore in Vermont. We've also long kidded that she is my message board doppleganger. For some reason, whenever she and I are on the same message board, people confuse Bluemle and Dulemba and think we are the same person. It happened so often it became a long-running joke. Well, Elizabeth is indeed her own person and a wonderfully talented picture book writer. I'm thrilled to help her celebrate her latest achievement...

Q. Elizabeth! I LOVE this book!!! It's definitely an urban story. But you're from Vermont? How did the idea of getting out of a storm in the subway come to you?
A.
I'm so glad you love the book, Elizabeth! I lived in New York City for many years before moving to Vermont, and wrote this book on a trip back to Manhattan, when I got stuck on a subway platform during a downpour on my way into town. I saw so many great exchanges between New Yorkers during that half hour. All of the vignettes in Tap Tap Boom Boom actually happened: the big guy with the tiny yellow umbrella, the fancy girl who dashed out into the pouring rain, the lady handing off her umbrella without a word to a student heading up the stairs. I was so amused and touched by the wonderful way people in cities befriend one another in these small moments, I had to write the book. Those moments of kind connection between strangers are one of the things I miss about life in New York, although it happens in different ways in Vermont, too.

Q. I so badly want to hear you read this story aloud with your own rhythm and style. I imagine with different readers it would sound differently (each stressing different words). Have you experienced that?
A.
YES! I definitely have my own internal rhythm, and it's a very jazzy, dancy kind of thing that doesn't always translate instantly to other people. Since picture books are meant to be read aloud, I always make it a point during the revision process to have people do "cold" readings of my manuscripts in progress, to see where they stumble, where my internal rhythm isn't communicating itself on the page. And then I try to address those places. Different stories call up different rhythms, though; the manuscript I'm working on now has a much more regular rhythm than Tap Tap Boom Boom, which needed to follow the pacing of a building and diminishing storm.

Q. I love the illustrations by G. Brian Karas - he captured the mood perfectly. Did you squeee when you saw them for the first time?
A.
G. Brian Karas did such a beautiful job capturing the palette of the city and the colors of a storm, as well as populating the book with the most delightful cast of irrepressible little people! Yes, I was absolutely delighted when I saw the first round of artwork. It's magical to me how you illustrators bring words to life, and so often in ways I would never even think of. I've been very, very lucky with all of my illustrators; I have Candlewick to thank for those perfect matches.

Q. You love to write with alliteration. (I'm thinking of HOW DO YOU WOKKA-WOKKA?) Where does that come from?
A.
Hmm. I haven't thought about my alliteration as much as I do about cadence and rhyme and near-rhyme. But I love wordplay and lively language, and I suspect any alliteration in my writing has to do with fun. I'm also a big fan of assonance. I keep waiting for someone to tell me they like my assonance....

Q. As a children's bookseller, you read tons of children's books and read them to kids as well. How has this influenced your writing?
A.
I think all of that reading has had many effects on me as a writer. My bar is high; I have read so many gorgeous books, memorable books, funny and haunting and sparkling books for children that I have the deepest respect for the craft -- not to mention a LOT of humility. There are geniuses out there whose work just lights up the universe, and I marvel at that work. So I am always striving to live up to what children deserve in a book. That can be as intimidating as it is inspiring, of course. I do think this perspective allows me to throw out manuscripts of mine that I like quite a bit but are, at the end of the day, not quite there.

Q. I'd love to hear about your writing process - do your stories come easily to you or are they a ton of hard work?
A.
The stories themselves tend to come on me in a burst. Sometimes in two or three bursts. And then I spend more time than I care to think about tinkering and tweaking and reworking that piece. Once in a while I have to "break the spine" (Kate DiCamillo's phrase) of my manuscript and completely restructure it to get it right. Most often, though, it's a matter of cutting bloat and adding texture, shaping the pacing, and looking hard, many many many times, at each word in its place. My editor--the fabulous Joan Powers, who has worked with me on all four of my books--would tell you she pretty much has to pry my manuscripts out of my hands to send them to press.

Q. CONGRATULATIONS on a wonderful, sweet book perfect for sharing!
A.
Thank YOU so much for inviting me to your blog, Elizabeth! Thanks for all you do to promote children's books, authors, and illustrators. It's such a generous use of your time.

GIVEAWAY!
Candlewick has generously agreed to give a free copy of TAP TAP BOOM BOOM to one of my lucky followers. Must live in the US/Canada to win. Enter below!


TAP TAP BOOM BOOM. Text copyright © 2014 by Elizabeth Bluemle. Illustrations copyright © 2014 by G. Brian Karas. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

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43. Off to Hollins University!


Saturday, I leave once again for Hollins University to teach Design in the first and only MFA in Writing AND Illustrating Children's Books in the country. This is in conjunction with the already established MFA in Children's Literature and Certificate in Children's Book Illustration programs (which I co-taught with Ruth Sanderson last year).
      The program is six weeks of crazy busy, wildly inspiring and creative learning for the students and the instructors. You can read my wrap ups from last year by clicking the "Hollins University" tab in the sidebar, or going here. I'm so looking forward to getting back!! I highly recommend this program and can attest to the intellectual, inspiring, and magical environment that Hollins creates each summer on the pristine campus in Roanoke, Virginia - right in the heart of the Appalachian Mountains. It is where my brain goes to expand and play among peers who happen to be some of the most successful names in children's literature. Will you join us?

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44. My Writing Process...

I've been invited to participate in a tour that's making the rounds in the kidslit world by the amazing author/illustrator Mary Jane Begin. (Thanks!) Mary Jane gave some great answers to the questions, which you can CLICK HERE to go read. My answers to the questions are below!

What am I working on?
     I just finished up the book tour for A BIRD ON WATER STREET and am off on my next adventure as I prepare to go teach "Children's Picture Book Design" at Hollins University in their MFA in Children's Book Writing and Illustrating and Certificate in Children's Book Illustration in Roanoke, Virginia through the summer. It's strange to live away from home for six weeks each summer now, but its so crazy busy and fun up there, the time flies!
     I just put aside a fantasy novel that's nearly, but not quite there. I think it needs some drawer time. So, I'm working on a new mid-grade, which I suppose could be described as a bit of a road trip with some shocking environmental and relationship stuff happening along the way. It's been stewing for a while and I'm anxious to really get going.
     I'm doing some freelance work on picture books for Children's Healthcare of Atlanta. This is a series of feel-good books given out to new parents for free by their doctors. They cover topics like proper nutrition, exercise, etc. I'm very proud to be a part of this project!
     Our SCBWI Southern Breeze Children's Book Illustrator's Gallery Show is about to wrap up. It's such a perfect fit having that at the Decatur Library each year. The patrons love it and we get to share our passion with them. (CLICK HERE to see photos of opening night.)
     And my agent is shopping several PB manuscripts around - so keep your fingers crossed!

How does my work differ from others of its genre?
     I suppose that depends on if your talking PBs or MG novels. For the novels, I suppose I'm adopting an environmental edge that I hope will make my books popular in schools and libraries. (I also think I've found my sweet spot with mid-grades.)
     For picture books, I like to think that each of my creations is the next best thing since swiss cheese and sliced bread - let's hope the editors agree!

Why do I write what I do?
     Mostly because I can't not do it. They come to me in dreams, in meetings, at the grocery store... pretty much everywhere I go, I stumble over stories begging to be told. Some just yell louder than others!

How does my individual writing process work?
     I don't know that I have an actual process. Every story seems to come out a different way. Some of the PBs are jotted down first thing in the morning - complete (that doesn't necessarily mean ready to go). Others take years to finesse. My first novel took ten years from inception to publication. My second took four, my third, about two years (so far). I don't like how little time I have for writing these days. It's been an unbelievably busy year and my writing hasn't been able to get proper attention as a result. That said, I can only write about four hours per day even when I do have the time. It's just too intense an activity to carry on for much longer than that. Although right now, I'd love to have those four hours! So I've been writing my next novel while sitting on the couch in the evenings. (I love my new laptop!) I need to do some interviews for it, so need to make some phone calls...

Well, I hate to say it, but the tour has reached an end with me... Out of a dozen requests, many of my writer friends have already done this one, don't blog, or are just too busy. I am too, so I think that was a valiant effort to keep it going, but I am also willing to admit defeat under obvious circumstances. If you'd like to follow some of the other folks from the tour, go to the twitter hashtag: #mywritingprocess at . Cheers!

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45. Sarah Frances Hardy's PAINT ME! - GIVEAWAY!


I remember attending the SCBWI national conference in Los Angeles many years ago and being welcomed at breakfast by Sarah Frances Hardy (and Katie Anderson) with a big hug. Considering I knew nobody else in the room and was destined to eat alone, I was so grateful. We’ve been friends ever since.
     Back then, Sarah Frances wasn’t published yet. So I’ve been thrilled to watch her career take off, first with PUZZLED BY PINK (click here to read that interview) and now with her latest, PAINT ME! (Sky Pony Press). She and Katie even gave a great talk about breaking into the industry at the recent Fay B. Kaigler Children’s Book Festival in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. It’s always my honor to celebrate my friend’s successes, like today. SF (her email nickname) dropped by to talk to us about her latest book…

Q. SF - I know you puzzled over PUZZLED BY PINK for years. How long did it take you to come up with PAINT ME!?
A.
There were lots of false starts after PUZZLED BY PINK, and the idea for PAINT ME! came to me in a funny way. I was talking to someone at a party who said, "I love your book PINK ME!" ... which of course wasn't the name of my first book. But he got me thinking along the lines of "pink me, green me, yellow me ..." Of course, I still had to come up with a story and sketch out the illustrations, but that was the jumping off place. Once I got going, it only took a couple of months (with some encouragement from my agent).

Q. It’s been so fun to watch you grow in your knowledge and skills, and turn around and share that with other budding creators. What did you learn between PUZZLED BY PINK and PAINT ME?
A.
When I started my first book, I was still figuring out how to make the shift from fine art to illustration which was hard for me. With fine art, I can leave in mistakes and ambiguity as part of the finished artwork. With illustrations, I'm confined to the narrative and "happy little accidents" don't always work. I learned so much from working with Denise Cronin, the art director at Viking. She really pushed me to make each illustration as good as it could be, and she taught me to question every little detail that went into the pictures. The illustrations have to tell their own story, but they also have to be supported by the text. Now I try to imagine Denise looking over my shoulder while I paint to get me in the right frame of mind. I've also started digitally editing my paintings which has been a huge timesaver. I used to redo every single painting if something wasn't working. Now, I play with color and change things up on Photoshop after scanning in my original artwork. The only downside to this is knowing when to call it a day--it's tempting to keep editing forever and ever and ever.

Q. Is this an autobiography? (I suspect it is.) And what about the cute doggie with the purple beard?
A.
Absolutely! I was just like that crazy, messy little girl. I dedicated this book to my mom "who cleaned up lots of spilled paint," and the dog in the book is based on my childhood pooch named Tam. [I've included his picture!]

Q. I love the joy of all the colors - the rainbow especially. It looks like it was a blast to illustrate, yes? What was your method?

A.
I had so much fun illustrating this book. I mean, how often do we as adults get to sling paint around and call it our job?? I paint on Strathmore illustration board. It's wonderful and thick, so it doesn't warp, and it makes the colors really pop. For the color, I use a combination of gouache, watercolor pencils, watercolor crayons (these are my new discovery and they are yummy!), and pen. My favorite brush is a Winsor Newton #8 sable for big washes of color. I have a smaller sable brush for details.

Q. Sky Pony Press is a rather new player in the publishing world (an imprint of Skyhorse Publishing). How did the two of you come together?
A.
My agent found them for me, and I have to say, my editor Julie Matysik has been fabulous. Plus, I'm thrilled with the way the physical book came together.

Q. How have you been celebrating the release of PAINT ME!?
A.
I crammed in some school visits before school ended last month, and I've had several book signings at my favorite indies and paint parties (of course). My next book signing will be at Parnassus in Nashville on June 28th at 10:00.

Q. I hope you have more in the works… what’s next in line for you?
A.
My next book DRESS ME! which is a companion book to PAINT ME! is coming out in the spring of 2015 from Sky Pony. I've also got several other books kicking around in my head, so we'll see ....

I wish you big fuzzy hugs and much continued success, SF!!

GIVEAWAY!
Sarah Frances has generously agreed to send a free, signed and dedicated copy of PAINT ME! to one of my lucky commenters. Must live in the US/Canada to win. Enter below.

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46. Friday Linky List - June 13, 2014

At Nerve: A Young Adult Author's Fantastic Crusade to Defend Literature's Most Maligned Genre

At ChildrensIllustrators.com - an interview with S&S Associate Art Director Lauren Rille

At the Nerdy Book Club: Pushing Through Writing Failure with the Help of a Lost Horse by Heather Mackey

From Epic Reads - Videos - How To Be A Princess? Cute!

From School Library Journal - Climbing the Shelves | Library By Design - cool!!!

At PW - R.J. Palacio Fulfills Michigan Girl's Make-A-Wish Dream - wow. So very awesome.

And I'm not going to link to the flood of articles over the Slate article (no link) against YA being read by adults. I not only proudly read YA, I read MG and PBs and everything in between. Because I don't see what's so great about adult stuff anyhow. Adults are idiots (me included). They should know better but still screw things up. At least in kidslit, the kids don't know better yet. They're still forming and therefore represent and have HOPE. Also, I'm a tender soul and I don't need to read/watch porn or extreme violence to feel grown-up. My genres are plenty complicated with nuances of life on all levels. And yes, the books I read tend to have happy endings. In a world that oftentimes doesn't - I'm good with that.

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47. Jackson Pearce as M. Nelle Patrick on TSARINA - Guest post and Giveaway

I'm always amazed at how much talent lies just in my back yard. Here in Georgia, we're proud to claim Jackson Pearce as a local literary star. In her latest book, TSARINA, she used the pseudonym J. Nelle Patrick - but we still know who she really is! I'm thrilled that Jackson stopped by to chat...


      This February, my seventh book came out—a historical fantasy called TSARINA, which I wrote under the pen name J. Nelle Patrick. TSARINA is set in Imperial Russia; it’s about a young noble named Natalya who must find and use a magical Fabergé egg to save both the love of her life and her country.
      It’s something of a far cry from my other books—which are a series of retold fairytales, a contemporary story about a girl losing her virginity, and a story about a girl falling in love with the genie granting her three wishes. I’ve also got a middle grade spy series coming out next year.
      So, what I’m saying is: I write a pretty wide variety of stuff! For this post, I thought it might be fun to discuss the challenges—and the pleasures—of writing somewhat up and down the kidlit spectrum.
      Let’s go ahead and discuss the good stuff first. The number one advantage to casting your genre net wide? Never feeling hemmed in by a “brand”.
      My first book was AS YOU WISH (the genie one). My second was SISTERS RED (a darker fairytale book). And then I wrote PURITY, the contemporary. I often wonder if I would have been able to sell PURITY with a long-established reputation for fairytales or paranormal fantasy. I’m really glad that from the get go, I committed to writing the books I wanted to write rather than writing the books I thought best fit the market/my name. I’m by no means saying I can write and sell whatever I want, whenever I want, but rather that any restrictions I may face exist because of the market or the quality of the book, not because of a pre-conceived notion of what type of book I write.
      Secondly, writing such different stuff means I always feel challenged. That’s not to say writing ANY book isn’t a challenge in and of itself—but it’s sort of like working out, I guess. You work out different muscles in different ways, so that your body doesn’t get used to the activity. Writing TSARINA was hugely different than writing the books that came before. I felt an obligation to and sense of stewardship for the real people of Imperial Russia. I didn’t want to mess with their lives for the convenience of a story if it could be avoided, which meant lots of long nights studying the layout of the Winter Palace, reading biographies on each of the Romanovs, and deciding what was flexible and what was sacred. I wasn’t always able to take the most obvious path, plot-wise, if I didn’t feel that path meshed with the history. Similarly, writing PURITY was very, very different than writing retold fairytales. For starters, I couldn’t drop a werewolf action scene in to spice things up; all the motion had to come from my very-not-magical protagonist. But secondly, PURITY is probably more “me” than my other books, which meant writing it forced me to address some personal demons rather than address the demons of fictional characters. I felt like I emerged from both projects a stronger writer for being forced outside of my comfort zone. It’s nice to look back at a project and feel proud not only of the final product itself, but of how you changed and grew through writing it.

      So, what’s the big downside? It’s not having a “brand”. I know, I know, this is the exact opposite of the first thing I listed as one of the “best things”. But the truth is, there are huge benefits to having a brand—Sarah Dessen is an excellent example. Her books have the same look, the same feel…when I see a cover with a certain layout/typeface/type of image, I KNOW it’s a Dessen book. And readers do too—so when they grab one of her books, it’s easy for them to find all of them instantly. With my books? Not so much. TSARINA is under a pen name. PURITY is often stocked on in “Teen” while my fairytale series is stocked in “Paranormal Romance”—except for the first one, which is sometimes in “Teen”. I also had a cover redesign halfway through that series, which complicated things a bit further. AS YOU WISH has appeared in both the aforementioned sections, and my upcoming middle grade series will be on another shelf entirely. It’s flatly hard to find my books sometimes.
      Despite all that, at the end of the day, I’m glad that I have a wide variety of books out. I’m glad that that I feel like I can show my publishers anything I want without hearing “But your brand!”. My advice? Write the books you love, and if they fall into a handy dandy brand, woohoo! If they don’t? You’ve still written books you love.

Visit Jackson's website: Jackson-Pearce.com

GIVEAWAY!
Jackson is generously offering a free, signed and dedicated copy of TSARINA to one of my lucky commenters. Must live in the US/Canada to win - enter below!

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48. SCBWI Southern Breeze Sketch Book Event - Train Museum!!!!

Saturday, a group of illustrators from Georgia gathered at the www.SoutheasternRailwayMuseum.org in Duluth, Georgia. What a great place! There were antique trains, pullman cars, bullet trains, Amtrac cars, you name it. So fun to explore and check out the digs inside. Two birthday parties were being hosted in train cars while we were there and the kids were so excited! They even got to take a real (albeit short) train ride on a real train. It was great to draw, but man, if you've got kids, you really need to check this place out!!!
      Afterwards we went to lunch in historic downtown Norcross (adorable!) at Mojito - an authentic Cuban restaurant with music on the weekends (I have to go back to hear it). The food was FABULOUS and of course I had to have a mojito, which was truly the best I've ever had.
     
Illustrator Michael A. Austin organized the event for us, and did such an amazing job tying in John Rocco's How To Train Your Train and Brian Floca's Locomotive along with fun exercises like, draw a train but don't use any straight lines, or, draw a train feeling anger, euphoria, loneliness. Here are mine. The dude is from a lantern that looked like the head of some sort of underwater sea adventurer to me:


But maybe the photos were better.







I don't know what was more beautiful - the trains still in good shape, or the old rusted out ones:



     Michael has arranged six of these events for us now, and they are such a blast every time. What a treat for our illustrators! Thank you Michael!

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49. 47 Charming Facts About Children's Books by John Green

Video of the week! You might have to watch this twice to keep up!

If the embedded video doesn't work for you, click the image below to go to the video on YouTube.

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50. Coloring Page Tuesday - Cannonball!

     Do you have a pool near you this summer!!! Oh how I love to be in water!! Do a cannonball for me, okay?
     CLICK HERE for more coloring pages! And be sure to share your creations in my gallery so I can put them in my upcoming newsletters! (Cards, kids art, and crafts are welcome!)
     Sign up to receive alerts when a new coloring page is posted each week and... Please check out my books! Especially...

my debut novel, A BIRD ON WATER STREET, coming out next week! Click the cover to learn more!
     When the birds return to Water Street, will anyone be left to hear them sing? A miner's strike allows green and growing things to return to the Red Hills, but that same strike may force residents to seek new homes and livelihoods elsewhere. Follow the story of Jack Hicks as he struggles to hold onto everything he loves most.
AWARDS
**A SIBA OKRA Pick!**
**A GOLD Mom's Choice Award Winner!**
**The 2014 National Book Festival Featured Title for Georgia!**

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