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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. Mem and Me - a Guest Post by Laura Ljungkvist

I recently had Laura Ljungkvist on to talk about her latest book, A LINE CAN BE. When I found out she had illustrated a book for Mem Fox - one of my kid lit faves - I asked her to please come back and tell us about it! So here she is again to talk about...

Mem and Me
This is the story of how I got to illustrate a children’s book written by Mem Fox
by Laura Ljungkvist

      After the publication of my first children’s book, I made a holy promise to myself I would never illustrate another author’s book. Being an editorial illustrator for many years, ”solving other peoples problems” by communicating their messages visually, I was finally “solving my own problems“. All of a sudden I was being called “author”, which is something I never really aspired to. I simply wanted to be able to follow my own narrative!
      For my 6th book, Pepi Sings a New Song, I had a 2 book deal with the publisher, Beach Lane Books, but unfortunately sales did not justify another book about Pepi.
      Then something happened that reinforced to me that I am so not an author, I got to meet a real one!
      I was at the time going through a very stressful and difficult time professionally and there was no way on this earth I was going to “spit out another idea” to fulfill my contractual obligations.
      My editor whom I loved, knew what I was going trough, so she sent me a manuscript to see if I would possibly reconsider illustrating somebody else’s story and take on a manuscript by Mem Fox.
      I asked if this author had published anything else because I didn’t think that a “semi known” illustrator (me) and a debut author would be such a good match.
      Her e-mail back to me said - Yes. Just a simple - yes.
      Now, here I have to explain something – what I do, I do because it’s a total love /passion/obsession of mine. I don’t get my inspiration from other people’s work (except in one case – thanx J.Otto!). I don’t really care, nor am I that interested in, “what’s out there”, “who’s who”, or “who does what."
      My inspiration comes from hardware stores, flea markets, packaging of all kinds, airline safety on-board brochures, street fashion, signs, menus, odd vintage stuff, tickets, NEW YORK CITY and every day utilitarian design that is just “there”.
     So when I asked my editor if this woman had published anything else, I really didn’t know who Mem Fox was!
     I read the manuscript. It was quite lovely. So I agreed, reluctantly….
      I started without great enthusiasm, but as my work progressed I lost my self in the work. I had a hard time turning the computer off at the end of the day and I immersed myself in the world of this book and it became a refuge from all my other worries. I didn’t have the responsibilities or pressures of “authoring” but could just focus on what I am most happy doing – illustrating!
      When my work was done, I did some research on this Australian woman with the funny name and I understood that I had just illustrated, as I explained to my daughter – “the Steven Spielberg of children’s literature’s” latest book, that I realized how hilarious my question must have been to my editor - Has she published anything else? Ha ha!!!
      And then to receive in the mail, a handwritten folded gift card from Mem, full of praise for my work, calling me a genius!!!
      I had the pleasure of meeting Mem when she came to New York one time. By now I knew what a gifted, successful author she is, but I learned over lunch that she is also generous, humble and wise. And on top of all that, absolutely hilarious!
      Although I will soon have published 10 books that I have written myself, I would never call myself an author in this woman’s presence!

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27. Coloring PageTuesday - St. Patrick's Day 2015

     Happy St. Patrick's Day! Did you know that St. Patrick wasn't Irish? Nope, he was Roman. At any rate, we still celebrate him today! Are you wearing green? Will you go after this Leprechaun's treasure? He might actually share his pot of gold, because good books are always better when shared!
     Heather Piercy, the librarian from Highland Elementary School recently emailed to ask me if I would mind her using my coloring pages to decorate the bulletin boards in her library. Did you know that I'm perfectly happy for school librarians and teachers to use my images in this way? All I ever ask in return is that you please "check out" my books to see if any might be a good fit with your young readers. And I love it when you share your creations with me to put on my blog! This makes me silly happy. :)
     CLICK HERE for more St. Patrick's Day 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. Another honor for A BIRD ON WATER STREET!

ABOWS keeps winning over fans and I'm so honored! This one is the shortlist (12 chosen titles) for the Juvenile Fiction 2014 INDIEFAB BOOK OF THE YEAR. It's an award for books from smaller publishing houses like Little Pickle Press. As they say:

     "it's a joyous occasion because we get to share with the rest of the world something we've known since our magazine's founding seventeen years ago: Some of today's best literary voices can be found among independent publishers. It's our job to find those voices and amplify them."
     I just say, THANK YOU!

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29. 2015 Illustrators' Day Wrap-up

This past Friday, I attended the SCBWI Southern Breeze Illustrators' Day - for the first time as simply an attendee. I stepped down from the position of Illustrator Coordinator this past summer, handing the reigns over to the extremely capable Prescott Hill. He took on an enormous task and I have to say he did an amazing job.
     I was able to sit back and enjoy the fabulous speakers - Neal Porter of Neal Porter Books (Roaring Brook/Macmillan), Giuseppe Castellano (Art Director for Penguin Random House), Bill Mayer (illustrator), and Loraine Joyner (Art Director, Peachtree Publishing). They all gave fantastic and informative talks about their expectations and industry practices. Prescott enlisted the help of two volunteers for the Quickfire Portfolio Reviews and I have to admit, it ran better than ever.
     In fact, Prescott called me up on stage at the beginning of the day to thank me for creating Illustrators' Day and being a friend and mentor - so sweet. And truly - I found myself quite emotional over the fact that I had created this valuable resource for budding illustrators (some who were attending for the first time and had no idea who I was), that will now grow with new direction and live on without me. Isn't that the highest tribute of all?
      Do you volunteer for the SCBWI? Can I give you an insider secret to improving your career goals as a children's book author and/or illustrator? Volunteer! My years of service put me in an elite position to get to know our visiting speakers in a more casual and intimate way than simply being in their faces during the conferences. In fact, I picked up Neal and Giuseppe from the airport and took them to lunch, so had lots of time to get to know them as people - which was a treat. They're both great guys and I so enjoyed their company. So, VOLUNTEER and get so much more out of your own SCBWI!

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30. Helen Oxenbury

Enjoy this delightful little video of Helen Oxenbury's creative process:

Thanks to SCBWI Belgium's Facebook page for bringing this to my attention so that I could bring it to yours!

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31. Friday Linky List - March 13, 2015

From The Daily Mail (via PW): 'All children, except one, grow up': Peter Pan is the book with the nation's favorite opening line.

From The Booklist Reader (via PW): Publishing U: Whose Opinion Do You Trust? (Why Trying to Please Everyone Can Torpedo Your Book

From School Library Journal: Cartoonists Talk About "Charlie Hebdo"

From Lapham's Quarterly: Day Jobs: Authors and their employment

From Flavorwire (via PW): Read Two Never-Before-Seen Fairy Tales by the Grimms' Favorite Folklorist. Dark, very dark.

From Shannon Hale: No Boys Allowed: School visits as a woman writer - IMPORTANT READ!!!

From The Stranger: Things I Can Say About MFA Writing Programs Now That I No Longer Teach in One

From PublishingTalk: How to become a children's book illustrator - 7 secrets for success

On the travel front: From mas Edimburgo: 17 Things That Change Forever When You Live Abroad

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32. Illustrators' Day and Springmingle!

This Friday, March 13th, in downtown Decatur, Georgia, I will attend the 8th annual Illustrators' Day for the Southern Breeze chapter (Alabama, Georgia, and the Florida panhandle) of the SCBWI. This will be my first year attending as a, well, attendee after stepping down as Illustrator Coordinator. Prescott Hill now fills that position and I'm sure he's put together a fabulous affair, which I can't wait to attend!
     Illustrators' Day is followed up by SPRINGMINGLE, the annual regional Spring conference in Atlanta, which lasts through the weekend. It's going to be an amazing time - hope to see you there!

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33. THE LITTLE MOUSE SANTI by David Eugene Ray - Guest Post

Going the indie route to publishing a children’s book
By David Eugene Ray, author of The Little Mouse Santi

      In one way, the story of The Little Mouse Santi struck like a bolt of lightning. I made up the story in November 2013 for my then-two-year old son, Louis. I sat in the rocker spinning the tale while my wife held him. I often make up animal stories, and this story about a little mouse who dreamed of being a cat flowed easily. At the end, we all had a good laugh. When we walked out of the room, my my wife said, “You need to write that one down.” Once on paper it seemed to hold up, so we fussed with some of the wording until we were satisfied. I thought that was that, but my wife, who writes children’s music, had other ideas. While working on another project for a children’s music video, she had run across an artist named Santiago Germano whose work she loved. After showing me his portfolio, she laid out her plan to bring my story into full bloom as a children’s book. We contacted Santiago and he delivered a beautiful preliminary sketch of a mouse looking out of a mouse hole, with perfectly expressed longing in his body language. It was a rear view, with light streaming in casting the shadow of a cat. We knew we had the right artist.
      Creating the book was a painstaking, detail-oriented (but fun!) process that took 11 months from the time the story was told for the first time to the day we were holding the book in our hands. Santiago lives in Uruguay, and just 20 years ago working with someone that far away would have been nearly impossible. But technology now allows connections between creators around the world. Sketches came, discussions took place, and the book came to life (a great deal of this life came from Santiago’s vision and how he made the mouse “real”.) We learned a lot about layout and structure as well as trusting our illustrator’s talent and knowledge. We forged a friendship, and even named our little mouse after Santiago.
      This next bit will come as no surprise to any creative type: The biggest challenge to this process has been figuring out the business side, printing and distribution. We pitched the completed manuscript, with illustrations, to several carefully researched children’s book publishers, but only have had two responses to this day (and both were kindly worded rejections). After talking with other children’s authors we know who’ve done it, we decided to form our own LLC and publishing company to get our book out there, Confetti Park. Again, in 2015, technology makes this possible, when only a decade ago, obstacles would have been insurmountable. (It certainly is key that my wife is already plugged into children’s entertainment, media, and marketing.)
      Several of our associates have recommended crowdsourcing to generate the funds to print a book… the recommended route is to create a video showcasing the completed book, then pre-sell it on a site like Kickstarter, Indiegogo or Patreon to generate the funds. This time around, we used our own savings to pay for printing, with the knowledge that recouping expenses will be an ongoing process.
      The book was released in January 2015 and now, the real work begins. Promotion and distribution continues and will be for years to come, I expect. But, we are committed! We are always looking for creative ways to promote the book. My wife, as I mentioned, writes children’s music and directs a children’s choir. We co-wrote a song for the little mouse, called “Dream Big, Little Santi,” that will appear on a CD she is releasing in April 2015 through our publishing company, Confetti Park. We hope follow up books and musical projects will all cross-promote and help keep a little mouse named Santi relevant.
      It’s been a wonderful ride so far. We’re having fun and being creative. Whatever comes is welcome. Funny that, for me, this all started simply as a project to get a little boy to go to sleep.
David Eugene Ray lives in New Orleans and is an educator at the Audubon Nature Institute. The Little Mouse Santi is his first published children's book.

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34. Coloring Page Tuesday - Winter Doves

     Here are two winter doves all puffed up and trying to keep warm. I hope you're keeping warm wherever you are!
     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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35. Edinburgh - Pictures 6

Yesterday, we explored the Stockbridge/Dean Village area. It's a slightly quieter part of town towards the north. Lovely. Here are some images:

     Golden Hare Books is in this neighborhood and it is CHARMING - tons of picture books. In fact, I saw several friends represented - Molly Idle, Kate Messner, a book I'll be featuring soon, etc. It's like being surrounded by friends.

     Along the river, we headed to Dean Village. Some of the most picturesque shots I've seen of Edinburgh were taken in Dean village - although we didn't go far enough up the trail to see the spectacular shots. Next time. This time, we did see this lovely door in this odd little pergola building...

Which was topped by this:

The day ended with a lovely dinner at a Thai restaurant downtown with some new friends I met in a pub the other night (an expat couple from Chicago). We were having a great time until I came down with a very fast moving bug. Pah! It was a rough night and I'm in bed today. (Happily, it's a very comfortable bed.) Stan is going to do today's exploration and bring me some soup to heal me. What a good egg.
      And then tomorrow we catch an early flight home.
     Home - funny word. This place already feels so familiar, I think it will fit us very well!

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36. Edinburgh - Pictures 6

So, today we went to Leith - the port town east of downtown Edinburgh. It takes all of 30 minutes by bus to get there, so we braved the double decker beast for the first time.

On the top layer of the bus, you can sit at the very front, with the enormous windows turning the world into a giant, sight-seeing fishbowl. Here's the view as we rolled along...

It was a beautiful day and the first thing we saw in Leith was the Royal Yacht Britannia - used by the royal family for getaways:

On to Leith. It really is a working port town with rivers cutting through it every which way and ducks and enormous swans a-plenty:

The town itself is SO charming (you can click on this photo to get a larger version if you'd like to use it as a screen saver):

We wandered around a bit and stumbled across Water Street. Had to take a pic of course! I love the little pink owl that made a guest appearance:
It started to rain a bit, so we ducked into a restaurant for some hot tea - served in the most civilized manner:

One thing I've noticed here is folks don't walk around with cups of coffee or bottles of water like in the US. If they're thirsty, they pop into a cafe (or pub) and sit and enjoy a sippa. And nobody frowns upon it - even if it's a simple, inexpensive cup of tea. I like that.
      Back outside, we came upon Wisharts - one of the town's Michelin-starred restaurants.

Edinburgh has FOUR Michelin-starred restaurants and two of them are in Leith. To put the level of dining here into perspective, most of the restaurants here seem to be working towards just one star, which is an enormously big deal in the restaurant world. We have had amazing meals here! In fact, it's one of the reasons I wanted to come to Europe. For restaurants like THE SHIP ON THE SHORE, where we had lunch. Not only was the atmosphere absolutely charming:

The food was out of the ballpark amazing. Stan had a seafood chowder:

And I ordered the seafood platter:

We enjoyed our meals at the most adorable little table surrounded by art, wine-box-paneled walls, and a gorgeous view of the water. It all made us both very happy.

You should check out Stan's Tumblr Page (or FB page) - he is posting some great photos from our day too. But it wasn't over yet.
     We needed to take the bus back (we could have walked, but it was 3 miles). We're not very good at the buses yet, so ended up with some time to kill. It was too unpredictably windy/cold/rainy to wander (although it was mostly sunny), so we ducked into Mimi's. There are a few of these around town and they are THE hot spot to gather for high tea. No wonder. Okay, so I got hot chocolate:

Afterwards, our bellies were full, our smiles were big, and we were grateful for the relaxing bus ride back to our flat. Where we napped until dinner (the lovely Italian place - Bar Italia - one block away with tons of gluten-free options). Gads! You'd think I'd be big as a house with all this eating, but we've been walking so much, I think I've actually lost a pound or two! LOVE this town!

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37. What Pet Should I Get?

Have you heard about the new Dr. Seuss book coming out this July? It was an old, almost completed manuscript found in a box in a closet. Here's a feature about it (click the image to watch on Good Morning America):

Thanks to Travis Jonker at SLJ for the link!

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38. Edinburgh - Pictures 5

I promised more from today and here you go...
Just across from Hollyrood Castle sits the Parliament building (seems appropriate). It's modern architecture stirred some debate when it was first built, but I think it's grown on everybody:

     And just south of both lies the infamous Arthurs Seat:

     A new friend, Blythe, mentioned how hard it is to get lost in Edinburgh because of the enormous landmarks - the castle, Hollyrood, Arthur's Seat, etc. We will walk to the top one of these days, but gads, we need to get our legs in slightly better shape first. (And I say that after almost a week of solid walking... on cobblestone streets and slate sidewalks.)
     Instead of the mountain, we walked up a road that ran parallel to The Royal Mile and also turned into Grassmarket eventually (a central area for us). Before long we found ourselves back at a restaurant where we met friends for a foodie event at the beginning of our visit - Hemma, so we stopped in for refreshments. We had no idea we were as close as we were - but that's been true of the entire town. It's just not terribly huge. In fact, we headed south towards Newington (not the same as New Town) to check it out, and ran into Blythe on the sidewalk! This is a SMALL town and I love it! Alongside the sidewalk was this scene - a hillside of budding white, yellow and purple crocuses

growing against the

In Newington we again cut north through the heart of the University of Edinburgh campus. Many buildings here have iron boot scrapers set into the rock beside the front doors:

On the other side of the Uni, we once again found ourselves in The Meadows - the lovely park we hope to live alongside when we move here. A violinist serenaded us as we walked. Actually, we stopped to rest for a moment and listen. He was marvelous. That was when I noticed the murals (click the images to see them larger in a new window):

The sign that described the murals had a QR code so I was able to access the website that got into more detail (brilliant!). CLICK HERE to read more about them. Gads, I adore that bear!
     We continued along the park path and were joined by friendly doggies. (Leash laws, if any, are rarely followed here - but the dogs are SO well behaved.)
     From there we went to the International Pub on the south end of Lothian Road (we're staying farther north), which was awesome. We didn't take any photos because it would have been weird. This place was the real deal - a billiards table, old men playing dominoes, horse races on the televisions (and a bookie in the corner), everybody knew everybody and I had a hot toddy. This may end up being our neighborhood hangout.
     But yeah, we were pretty exhausted after a great day, and DAYS of walking. So we headed back to our flat and now you're all caught up! Stan is making me a fabulous home-cooked meal in our wee little AirBnB kitchen. It smells so good in here!

Oh, and I almost forgot... They really do have these here:

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39. Edinburgh - Pictures 4

Today we did the Royal Mile and I made a point of taking more pictures for you guys. But before we went, we ran up to Castle Terrace where they have a Farmer's Market every Saturday. We bought wild venison and wild garlic sausage to use for tonight's dinner. (The woman selling it said she'd harvested the garlic from the fields around her farm the day before.)

Yes, it was a rainy, windy morning (although not cold). Many folks just forego umbrellas because the wind either turns them inside out, they become dangerous weapons which might put out an eye, or the rain comes in right under them anyhow. But it's still bearable. ALL of the weather is bearable here, despite it's reputation.
     We also picked up one carrot, one parsnip, two potatoes, two onions, four mushrooms, and one wee head of cabbage (everybody says "wee" here and it is my new favorite word - like in "The Wee Free Men"!). Stan is making me a hearty stew as I type - so I have more time to share some details with you.
     SO! Back out, we headed to The Dogs for lunch - which was FABOO! It's up in New Town. We really like that part of town, but have decided it may be too far from the College of Art to be our residence. At any rate, after lunch, we headed for one of the main tourist destinations here - The Royal Mile - THE hot spot during The Fringe Festival in August...

No, it's not just a pub. It really is a mile - High Street or Canongate, as a matter of fact. And most of the partying centers here. The Royal Mile is a true tourist destination, so the local businesses play up everything Scottish, like Rabbie "Robert" Burns, a poet and local hero from the 1700s (author of Auld Lang Syne -

For auld lang syne, my dear, For auld lang syne.
We'll tak a cup o' kindness yet, For auld lang syne.

And Robert Ferguson Scots...

With whom I had a lovely conversation whilst walking...

Despite the touristy nature of the road (which really isn't too over-the-top), there are some very cool random things to spot...

Including the John Knox House, which is the oldest house still standing on the Royal Mile:

(Did you notice the subtext on The Royal Mile pub window? "John Knox probably drank here." HA! Not.)
     At then end of The Royal Mile sits Hollyrood Castle - it's where the British Royal Family stays when they're in Scotland:

From there, we headed south a wee bit (ha!), then west. I'll make that another post...

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40. Edinburgh - Pictures 3

More photos of our adventure! So when you walk to Queens Street - you look down and there is the Firth of Forth. It's sort of on the other side of the town from where we're looking at apartments. Lovely, but a little far to walk from the College of Art every day.

Random lion:

Bulbs are coming up everywhere - purple crocus' mostly. So lovely!

Here they are blooming in the Princes Street Garden:

Right next to the monument for Sir Walter Scott:

(And yes, there is a bag-pipe player in full regalia playing nearby.)
That's it for now. We're off to "Burger" for their first anniversary party this evening. We've totally hooked in with the foodie scene here and have already made friends. Fun!

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41. Edinburgh - Pictures 2

Random shots while wandering about town...
There are bookstores EVERYWHERE!!!

And this is the square where the annual book festival is held:

The pubs really are stunning...

Stan had a meeting here:

And here he is at the Bon Vivante (a French restaurant on Thistle Street):

This is across from an apartment we're looking at - it's being refurbished:

Random clock tower:

On the higher street of Victoria Street:

And Stan looking over, facing the other way, up Victoria Street:

We really haven't been doing the touristy stuff. We've mostly been walking - trying to get to know the neighborhoods and get our bearings. Truly, everything is within walking distance in Edinburgh, but there can be some tremendous hills from point A to B. Everywhere, we're surrounded by ancient and old architecture butting up against the new. And everywhere, people smile. This has got to be the friendliest town I've ever been to - hands down.
More coming soon!

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42. Georgia Children's Book Award Finalists Poster!

Oh my!! A friend shared this with me on Facebook!

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43. Friday Linky List - March 6, 2015

Because I'm in Edinburgh right now, I had to share this article from BuzzFeed (via Shelf Awareness): 15 Charming Edinburgh Bookshops You Must See Before You Die

From The Artery (via PW): Ed Emberley Won Kids Books' Highest Honor, Then He Taught Us All To Draw

From The Guardian (via PW): Why are so many adults reading YA and teen fiction?

From Salon (via PW): Down and dirty fairy tales: How this rediscovered stash of darker-than-Grimm stories destroys our Prince Charming Myths

SCBWI debuts the new Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award (via PW)

From Writer's Digest: Why Every Writer Should Keep a Travel Journal

From BoingBoing: M.T. Anderson, sci-fi author, accidental prophet, and nice guy

From BuzzFeedBooks (via PW): The 19 Funniest Neil Gaiman Tweets Of All Time

From literaticat (Jennifer Represents...): Real Talk: $ix Figure Book Deal$

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44. Making Viva Frida

By Yuyi Morales - fascinating!

With spare, polished text and luscious illustrations, award-winning author/illustrator Yuyi Morales explores the passionate, imagination of the incomparable Frida Kahllo. Video with Music by Miguel Martinez.
Click the image to watch the video on YouTube.

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45. ABOWS nominated for a SIBA Book Award!!!!

OMG! I opened my computer today and there are dozens of "Congratulations"! Turns out A BIRD ON WATER STREET has been nominated for a SIBA Book Award! ABOWS is up against some very strong competition, so I'm just so honored to have it nominated!!! WoW! Truly, it just keeps plugging along getting such great attention. I am so pleased with how my debut novel has done!

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46. It's Dr. Seuss Day!

Did you know that? It is. A.K.A. Read Across America Day.

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47. We're in Edinburgh!

This is our first trip over and we're scouting out all sorts of things. Stan has interviews lined up. We'll be meeting with various realtors. AND I finally got to tour the College of Art in the University of Edinburgh where I will be studying an MFA in Illustration!

I was so flattered that the head of the illustration department, "Johnny" Gibbs accompanied me, Stan and Lecturer/artist Mike Wendle all around the art school. I even got to see the graduate student studios. The whole thing was so inspiring, I was completely wound up after we left! I cannot wait to get over here full time and get to WORK!
     Of course, we're also running on very little sleep. We flew from Atlanta to Amsterdam, then Amsterdam to Edinburgh. It was Sunday when we started and sometime Monday when we got here. But that's the best way to adjust to a new time zone (5 hours ahead) - just go-go-go until you fall over at a normal local time.
     So far we are in love with this city. Everybody is SO friendly here - and that's coming from a Georgia girl. Peaches - the south has nothing on the Scottish - no lie! And yes, the weather is a little crazy - we've already experienced sunshine rain, snow, sunshine again, snow again, and lots of wind. But it's been so much fun to walk around like a bobble-head, admiring everything, we really haven't noticed that much. Tonight we meet up with a foodie group - chefs and the like. Stan's been plugging us in with the gastronomic crowd, so we are already eating well. But I am becoming a bit sub-verbal and will fall over soon...

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48. Coloring Page Tuesday - Snow Dog

     This was a sketch hiding in my archives - a snow boarding dog! Kowabunga!!!
     CLICK HERE for more coloring pages!
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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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49. Edinburgh - Pictures 1

Crazy busy here, so not much time to write. But I will share some photos. Quiz: Anybody know the significance of The Elephant House? (Hint: Look at the next photo.) And why am I touching the nose of a dog statue? (Hint: Look at the next photo.)

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50. MY GRANDMA'S A NINJA by Todd Tarpley

I have such a fun book to share with you today: MY GRANDMA'S A NINJA by Todd Tarpley and illustrated by Danny Chatzikonstantinou (NorthSouth). Todd stopped by to tell us more about writing children's books...

Everything I Know About Writing Kids Books Conveniently Condensed into 5 Bullet Points
by Todd Tarpley

      I've been writing kids manuscripts for ten years. My Grandma's a Ninja, just published by NorthSouth Books, is my third book. I have two more coming out in the next year. So consider this advice as coming from someone who's not a complete rookie, yet isn't a jaded veteran either.
• The most important line of the book is the title. An editor told me this. Makes sense, but not always true, of course. Knuffle Bunny? Eh, not the greatest title ever. Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus? Yep--good. Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site? Definitely. (My Grandma's a Ninja started as a title, in case that wasn't obvious.)

• The second most important line is the opening line. You stunned them with the title, now go for the knockout punch with the first line. I really have no idea if this is actually good advice, but it sounds like good advice, and it was suggested by the same editor who offered up the first bullet point. I have no examples whatsoever. Take it for what it's worth.
• The best way to bypass the slush pile is by attending writers' workshops. For some reason this is the best-kept secret in the universe. Why would you rely on the lottery ticket of someone pulling your manuscript from the slush pile when you can sit eighteen inches away from an actual editor who has taken the time to know your name and critique your manuscript? Yes, it costs money. I get it. But...just think about it for ten seconds. It's like having lunch with Steven Spielberg. This should be number one on the list, but I'm too lazy to re-order my bullet points.

• Have five flawless manuscripts written before you start submitting. When I started submitting I had ONE. I thought I only needed one because it was the most brilliant manuscript ever written. But you know, if an editor says, "This is not quite right for us, but please feel free to submit more to me," you can't say, "Sorry, that's all I got--take it or leave it." My "brilliant" first manuscript remains unpublished, btw.
• Don't think editors are stupid. You may think they're stupid because they rejected your first five manuscripts or--if you're lucky--because they've asked for changes on your sixth, and how can you possibly be asked to improve on perfection? Here's a secret: editors are generally quite intelligent, good at what they do, and sometimes even NICE. Chill out and pretend to be a team player. My first book was originally titled Do You Like to Kiss a Dog? When the contract came, it said Do You Like to Kill a Frog? I thought, "Hmm, that's odd. Well, they're the experts," and I signed it. Turns out it was a typo. So, okay, sometimes the interns in the legal department are stupid. But not editors.

      Okay, that's the best I've got. I suppose if it were such great advice I'd have eighty books instead of five. If Mo Willems gives you different advice, take it.
      My Grandma's a Ninja is available at Amazon, B&N and local booksellers. Todd's blog is at toddtarpley.com.

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