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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. Friends Visiting from Afar

One of the great things about Edinburgh is that it is a dream destination for many travelers, which means we have had a surprising number of friends come to visit us here! Our most recent visitors arrived back-to-back. First were Prescott Hill and Lisa Michaels fresh from a few days in Ireland. We went to Meze Meze for dinner on their first night in Edina - what a feast!

Prescott took over my position as Illustrator Coordinator for the Southern chapter of the SCBWI when I left Georgia. He is also famous for wearing a kilt back in Atlanta (he bought another one while visiting!), so it's been a life-long dream of his to visit Scotland. He and his wife finally made it and Stan and I had a blast showing them around Edinburgh. Here we are at dinner at Under the Stairs (one of my faves).
We also took them to the Whiski Rooms, which has become a mini-tradition for us. It's a high-end pub with a gorgeous view of the city, and if we can snag the table by the window, it's our favorite place to introduce folks to a flight of whisky (a must in Scotland). Here are Prescott and Lisa:
Ironically, the day P&L left, our friends Genetta and Greg arrived from Mississippi. Back to the Whiski Rooms!
Genetta and Greg are off in the Highlands for the week, but before they left to tour the rest of Scotland, they managed to fit a lot in. Before I caught up with them they'd already done the castle (totally worth it). Here they are at the Writer's Museum (which is not where Google Maps says it is and can be tricky to find).
We also did the Mary Kings Close tour together.
See, I knew I'd been saving that one for a reason! We did Rosslyn Chapel with P&L and the Close with G&G!
     Mary Kings Close is an old Edinburgh alleyway that has since been built over and on top of. Not much down there has changed except for the lack of light, which apparently wasn't all that different considering how closely together the buildings stood. It's a peek into what life was like here for hundreds of years, without plumbing, in horrid conditions, including the plagues. Ugg! It's very educational and definitely creepy. You can't take photos inside, but they do offer a red-light photo to purchase, which we did as a souvenir.
     The text reads:
Hidden deep beneath the Royal Mile
lies Edinburgh's deepest secret;
a warren of hidden 'closes' or streets
where real people lived,
worked and died.
For centuries they have
lain forgotten and abandoned...
...until now.
     Like I said, creepy!
     So, a week later, Genetta and Greg came back through town, after an amazing week in the Highlands. We got together one last time before they caught a sleeper train to London. First, cocktails at the Radisson and then dinner at our fave French restaurant, La Garrigue.

     I love it when friends come through. They have become my enablers to eat well and experience parts of the city we haven't discovered yet. They are also an excuse to PLAY! Happily, when I get back from Hollins this summer, we'll have lots more back-to-back folks visiting as that's the month of FRINGE. I can't wait!

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27. Friday Linky List - 20 May 2016

From Number Five Bus Presents (via 100 Scope Notes): Sydney Smith, illustrator of SIDEWALK FLOWERS

At SLJ: Children's Book Week Interview: Victoria Jamieson (creator of ROLLER GIRL)

From SLJ: Thrifty School Library Design Tips

At SLJs Fuse #8: Walking and Talking with Kate DiCamillo (illustrated interview)

From Janet Fox (via Cynsations): Getting To The Story Heart

The 2016 Arbuthnot Honor Lecture Pat Mora Bookjoy! (video on YouTube)

From Jane Friedman (via Cynsations): How to Use Guest Blogging to Promote Your Book

From Brain Pickings: Debunking the Myth of the 10,000-hours Rule: What It Actually Takes to Reach Genius-Level Excellence

From Picture Book Summit: Top 10 Takeaways from Picture Book Summit 2015 (Registration for 2016 is now opening)

From BNTeen: 11 Tips on Writing from I'll Give you the Sun author Jandy Nelson

From 100 Scope Notes: My (Censored) Caldecott Diary: Part 1 of 3 (really interesting!)

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28. Rafael Lopez's MAYBE SOMETHING BEAUTIFUL - interview

I've been a fan of Rafael Lopez's work since it came on my radar several years ago, so I'm thrilled to have him on my blog celebrating his new picture book,

e: What is your creative process, can you walk us through it?
Rafael:This was the first time I had the opportunity to create a book based on my own experiences as a community muralist. I like to create mood boards where I paste imagery, textures and key words that might fuel the visual storytelling. I rode around on my bicycle and took photographs of neighborhood buildings, printed these out and put them up in my workspace. I sit with the text and begin sketching on tracing tissue, taking a long time trying to channel the spirit of my characters. It’s important to me to show a diverse group of characters because it authentically reflects the neighborhood. I also want children to see themselves on the pages of books I create. I then refine my characters into more finished sketches and begin to develop scenes for the spreads. I print these out into small books to check transitions and see how the visual structure of the story is flowing. I think making children’s books is like making a movie so I want the story to unfold, give it voice, form and viewpoint.
e: What is your medium?
Rafael: I really wanted to include the actual buildings from the East Village neighborhood where the story takes place. For this reason, Maybe Something Beautiful is a mixed media book that combines my original photography that was scanned, combined with construction paper and digital textures that I have photographed over many years. Characters were painted with acrylic on wood and for some of the background textures I used watercolor on paper.
e: What do you think makes an illustration magical, what I call "Heart Art” - the sort that makes a reader want to come back to look again and again?
Rafael:The illustration is a door, that readers can unlock and interpret in their own way. I want my children’s book illustrations to be conceptual, a clever interpretation of the text and not see-say where you read and see the same thing. To genuinely connect to readers I want each illustration to stand on it’s own but also work as a whole. There are many tools you can use to create a sense of wonder like color or texture but the idea always rises to the top.
e: This book is based on a real story - can you share?
Rafael:The story is based on the Urban Art Trail in San Diego, California that was created by my wife and I with the community. We bought an old warehouse in what was an edgy part of town that at the time had issues with crime and blight. We worked with community members to transform the neighborhood using art that included large scale murals, painted electrical boxes, sidewalk poetry, mosaics and sculpture. I developed a style of murals that made it possible for untrained artists and children to achieve a strong result. The collective act of making art brought people together and created a sense of place that improved the community. (This is Rafael's wife, Candice, painting.)
e: What is your favorite or most challenging part of being a creator?
Rafael:The most challenging part of being a creator is encouraging clients to break away from traditional solutions and try alternative ideas and techniques.
e: Is there something in particular about this story you hope readers will take away with them, perhaps something that isn’t immediately obvious?
Rafael:Everyone has unique abilities and ideas. We were originally advised that the best way to deal with crime and blight was to form a Neighborhood Watch. This was a good idea but just one approach. Through this experience I recognized the importance of using my own skills to make a difference. I also connected to others who had their own way of problem solving and brought those strengths to the collective table. I learned so much from them, am still learning and growing.

Here is Rafael's studio - click the image to see it larger in a new window.
Loved this? CLICK HERE to read Rafael's post about the illustration method he used in MAYBE SOMETHING BEAUTIFUL.

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29. The Union Canal

On the west side of Edinburgh begins the Union Canal.

This man-made waterway, a true engineering feat, flows from downtown Edinburgh all the way to Glasgow. It opened in 1822 chiefly as a way to ship fuel from the Forth & Clyde Canal. It has a small lock at Fountainbridge (Edinburgh) near Akva, a restaurant we frequent for our friend's Scran Salon (a gathering of foodies), but we'd never followed the path alongside it. The weather has turned gorgeous here, so we recently decided to go exploring.
One of the most noticeable things about the canal is the adorable canal boats. Many are available for hire, some are day trip excursion boats, and a few are actual homes. They are very steam-punk looking and I would love to live in one!
But the canal runs a long way, so you see lots of other things on the lovely walk alongside. Like the real swans who live there.
And the ducklings. I saw a muskrat or some such critter too, but he was too fast for me to get a photo.
The canal meanders by a church.
And a canoe center.
Where you can indeed rent canoes for the day. How fun—we'll have to come back for that!
Eventually, we left the path to get some lunch in Jashans Indian Restaurant. (There's a ton of Indian food in the UK.) Back to the path afterwards, we stopped at nearly every bench to soak up the sunshine. Truly, the walk back was just as lovely as the walk out, and we needed it after that enormous lunch. All said, we walked about 9 miles that day. The legs were sore, but it was worth it.

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30. Coloring Page Tuesday - Cat Reads

     Cats read through osmosis - preferably when you're trying to read too.
     CLICK HERE for more coloring pages!
     CLICK HERE to 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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31. The other bear...

There's a new sculpture in the Prince's Street Garden by Alan Heriot...it's the new Polish War Memorial. At first I thought it was a tribute to the original Winnie the Pooh, the story by A.A. Milne based on a real-life story which happened during WWI. You can learn about that at CBS news. But no, this is another bear.
"Wojtek - dubbed the "Soldier Bear" - was adopted by Polish troops and helped them carry ammunition at the Battle of Monte Cassino. After the war he lived in Scotland at Hutton in Berwickshire, before ending his days in Edinburgh Zoo."
Apparently Wojtek loved drinking beer during his WWII days, when he helped carry heavy ammunition to the soldiers. You can read more about Wojtek and see actual photos HERE. But the story is also immortalized on the bronze relief behind him.

The placard reads "In Memory of the Men and Women Who Fought for Your Freedom and Ours." Not sure why it doesn't mention 'bears.'
     At any rate, I find it ironic that bears have shown up in war more than once. Winnie's story made it into FINDING WINNIE, the book written by Harry's grand-daughter, Lindsay Mattick. It was illustrated by Sophie Blackall and won the 2016 Caldecott Award. The story behind that story is fascinating. There was a real Winnie (Winnipeg) purchased by a Canadian soldier during WWI, Harry Colebourn, from the hunter who had shot the cub's mother. Harry was a veterinarian before the war and he raised the bear with the regiment during their training. She became their mascot. But when Harry had to go to the front, he sent her to the London Zoo for safe keeping while he was gone. Winnie was so tame, children used to go into her enclosure and play with her, including one Christopher Robin, son to A. A. Milne. Hence, the birth of Winnie the Pooh!
     Sounds like somebody needs to write a story about Wojtek too! Hmmmm.....

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32. Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

My wonderful speech coach for my TEDx Talk, Mel Sherwood, recently starred in a performance of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? at the Roxy in Edinburgh. She played the dynamic and very damaged Martha, a role made famous by Elizabeth Taylor in the movie version in 1966. Mel did it proud. The whole cast did. However, it is a very disturbing play.

      I'll admit, I did little research into the play before we attended. I had a feeling I knew what it was, but I wanted to support my friend, so I stayed open-minded to the experience. Not to mention, the play by Edward Albee won nearly every award possible when it was first released in 1962.
     It's a story of broken people in broken relationships, who have created twisted means of surviving their unsatisfying lives. It obviously struck a cord with a lot of people in the tumultuous 1960s when it was released around such events as the Medgar Evers murder in Jackson, Mississippi; the Viet Cong's first victory during the Vietnam War; Martin Luther King's 'I Have a Dream' speech; and the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
     While I so admired the performances, I have to admit, it was a very difficult play for me to watch. I came from an abusive background, and this play hit way too close to home for me. I was nearly in tears at several points during the performance.
     It had to be a very difficult headspace to exist in for the months of training it took for Mel and the rest of the cast to memorize the three-hour-long play, which is based completely on dialogue. It's an achievement for any actor - truly. They all gave amazing performances and deserved the standing ovation we gave them.
     It just speaks to the power the arts can have, the impact they can make. I don't think anybody who has ever watched the play or the movie walks away completely the same.

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33. Shiftwear

If these work the way they say they will, it will change everything! And I want a pair. Imagine being able to turn your shoes into a constantly changing canvas for your work. (Click the image to watch the Indigogo campaign.)

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34. Spring in Edinburgh

Okay, I'll admit, Spring here is different. Back in Georgia, the temperatures are already in the 80s. Here, we've still been wearing our hats, gloves and warm boots, longing for the 50s (10°c). Spring has been rather manic depressive. While eating lunch the other day, I watched the sky go from rain to sun to hail to sun again, all during one meal. It's tricky to dress for!
     BUT! In between those brief showers and fertilizer-sized hail, we got glimpses of the season to come.

Click the image for a larger version in a new window.
Daffodils are blooming, Cheery Trees are blossoming.
Gardens are filling with color and fun sculptures like baby chickens.
and sheep.
When the sun comes out, I am grateful to see my shadow. Well, hello there!
And the bowling greens eagerly await their happy players.
Best of all, everybody here revels in the crisp, blue sky and warm sun in true Edinburgh fashion. There's nothing like hanging out with a castle...

Click the image for a larger version in a new window.
And then, last weekend, it all changed. The weather turned GORGEOUS and Stan and I went out to wander on what felt like a true spring day. We meandered down to the Stockbridge Farmers Market where we purchased our first picnic of the year, which we ate on a bench overlooking the Water of Leith.
As we finished we ran into friends.
Together, we walked along the Water of Leith and the Colonies - an adorable set of flats originally built for and settled by artists.

We sat outside in a sunbeam and had the most lovely afternoon. I look forward to more days like this to come!

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35. Illustration Challenge #49

Flowers - today I suggest you draw flowers. Blossoms on trees or near the ground, whatever is blooming around you. You can pick an arrangement and bring it indoors, or take a blanket and find a spot to draw outdoors. Lovely.

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36. Friday Linky List - 13 May 2016

From AdWeek: How the Simpsons Won Our Hearts, Made Billions and Stayed on the Air for 27 Years

From PW: School & Library Spotlight: Two School Librarians Write a Publishing Wishlist

From SLJ: Beyonce's Lemonade Gets a LibGuide - good idea!

From Fast Company: TED Talk Masters Teach You How To Tell A Story That Actually Means Something

From PW: 2016 Children's Choice Book Award Winners

From The Bookseller: Publishing 'most robust' area of children's media

At Brightly: Jon Klassen talks about illustrating PAX

From Booooooom: Bicycles Based on People's Attempts to Draw Them From Memory - this is GREAT! Like this one:

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37. Keith Negley's MY DAD USED TO BE SO COOL

Keith Negley came on my radar with his first book, TOUGH GUYS HAVE FEELINGS TOO. So I'm thrilled to have him on to talk about his method with that and his latest book, MY DAD USED TO BE SO COOL.

e: What is your medium?
I’m always changing this up and tend to use whatever works for me in that moment. The end result is typically a combination of charcoal, tempura paint, pencil, cut paper, and then collage and manipulation in photoshop. It all ends up as a digital file when it’s done but has lots of hand made elements.
e: What do you think makes an illustration magical, what I call "Heart Art” - the sort that makes a reader want to come back to look again and again?
Heart Art, I like that! I think the viewer needs to see themselves in the piece. It needs to be relatable somehow. When the viewer can see themselves in the art that’s when they can feel empathy for the characters and create an emotional connection. I think how an image makes us feel makes a much longer lasting impression than how impressive the technique is (though technique is extremely important). The best way to create relatable work is to draw what you know, and work from your own personal story. Deep down we’re all dealing with the same joys, and insecurities.
e: Is there a unique or funny story behind the creation of this story?
Before I became a dad I played in rock bands and toured the country playing dive bars and house shows. I spent my money on tattoos and vintage scooters and skateboards. Then I became a dad and all that went on the back burner. Now my son is at the age where he’s becoming his own little rebel and really into things like music and motorcycles and skateboarding. For Father’s Day one year my wife got me a reissued vintage skateboard framed in a glass case to hang on my wall. My son saw it and was genuinely confused why I would want a skateboard in a glass frame. To him it was useless if he couldn’t ride it. I tried to explain to him that I used to skateboard a lot and I still love skateboards, but that I don’t ride them any more… and getting to see myself through his eyes was fascinating. To him skateboarding is really cool, and his dad used to do it, but doesn’t anymore and that means his dad used to be really cool. Hanging a skateboard on a wall and not riding is definitely not cool.
e: What was your path to publication?
I created a rough outline for the book with all the copy and art and sent it to a few publishers I knew. It’s not your traditional children’s book and I knew it might be difficult to sell it to publishers, but Flying Eye saw my vision for what it was and didn’t want to change it, so I was grateful to jump on board with them.
e: What is your favorite or most challenging part of being a creator?
Balancing life with work. Making a book takes an incredible amount of time and effort and writing in particular is time consuming even though when you’re doing it it doesn’t actually look like you’re doing anything. So it’s very hard to explain to my wife and son that I can’t hang out with them night after night because I’d rather sit in front my computer and stare at it. Creating something from nothing is my passion, I think I would shrivel up and die if I couldn’t create, whether that’s a kid’s book, a painting or a song. It’s almost not like work because I get so much pleasure out of it, but it can also be like heroin in the sense that I can loose track of everything else that’s important to me, including the people who are closest in my life. I have to be very careful not to lose site of what’s most important, my family… and that means putting projects down and taking breaks even when I don’t want to.
e:Is there something in particular about this story you hope readers will take away with them, perhaps something that isn’t immediately obvious?
Truth be told this book is just as much for dads as it is for kids. I want parents and dad’s especially to feel acknowledged for the sacrifices they made to be awesome parents. People think when you become a parent your priorities shift overnight, and maybe that’s true for some, but there are others who, while willingly, struggle to give up large parts of their identity in order to be the best parents they can… and that’s not easy. I wanted to make a book that gave a nod to those parents, and also had fun with the situation as well.
e:What are you working on next or what would be your dream project?
I’m going to start working on my third book that’s going to be a little different from the first two, I don’t want to give anything away but I’m really excited about it. It will be a kind of picture book that doesn’t really exist yet but desperately needs to. Wish me luck!

Good luck, Keith! And thanks for stopping by!

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38. Picture Book Workshop

I recently gave a talk on creating picture books at the Edinburgh Central Library for the SCBWI British Isles Southeast Scotland chapter. It was a sold out workshop with 24 attendees. I really do love to teach, so I was happy in my comfort zone once again.

Here's what we talked about:
How does your picture book manuscript translate into the finished item that will be fully illustrated, enthralling readers whether they're opening your book for the first time or the fifty-first?

Award-winning picture book author-illustrator Elizabeth Dulemba offers an expert workshop in Edinburgh – including hands-on work with storyboards, four-panel and full-length "dummy" picture book prototypes – to help you bring your existing picture book text or well-developed picture book idea onto the page. This workshop intensive will help you get to the heart of the structure of your story, and think visually.

Perfect for picture book authors as well as illustrators looking for professional feedback on draft or finished sketches for a specific picture book project.
We covered a lot of territory in the short three hours and I loved the comments afterwards. It seemed everybody had a great time and learned tons - which is always my goal.
I'm so enjoying getting to know the warm and friendly children's book creators here in Scotland and the surrounds. It's a great group of people, especially my hosts Sheila Averbuch and Louise Kelly, and Sarah Broadley who took these great photos. It was also a nice warm up for this summer where I'll be heading to Hollins University to teach Picture Book Design in the MFA in Writing and Illustrating Children's Books. Looking forward to it!

Here are some more wrap-ups of the day:
SCBWI Workshop Report - Getting Your Picture Book onto the Page With Elizabeth Dulemba, by Claire O'Brien

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39. Coloring Page Tuesday - Reading Astronaut

     In honor of UK astronaut Tim Peake, who will be in space a few more weeks, I give you a reading astronaut!
     CLICK HERE for more coloring pages!
     CLICK HERE to 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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40. An evening in the ER...

If you follow me on FB, you may have already heard about our medical adventure the other evening. Here is the full story...
     My husband Stan is a wonderful cook. (I am a very lucky woman, I know.) Recently, he made us lamb chop (lollipops) marinated in cumin and served with a mint tzatziki sauce and mixed green vegetables sautéed in garlic and cherry tomatoes. It was sublime - one of the best meals he's ever made for us. We sat enjoying the meal, and the view out our big windows which framed a lovely sunset. Great music was playing and when Donna Summer's "Dim All the Lights" came on, we had to dance!
     My husband is a wonderful cook. He is not a wonderful dancer. But we tried anyway and we laughed...until Stan stumbled just so and landed with a spectacular and cinematic crash into the glass top coffee table shattering it completely. (This is the remains after I got the glass off the floor.)

His rear end landed right on our copy of CLEOPATRA'S MOON (sorry, Vicky Alvear Shecter, the author!), which seemed laughingly appropriate - moon, meet Moon.
     Of course, he tried to catch himself on the way down, slicing open the ring finger of his right hand. It wasn't terribly deep, but it was full of glass and bled like crazy. Later, we discovered he had injuries elsewhere as well — a badly bruised ankle and several other cuts, but the finger stole the show. All said, it could have been much worse — he was lucky.
     Along with 999 (the equivalent of 911 in the US) the UK has a fantastic helpline you can call 24/7 - 111. We spoke with the folks there and they suggested we get him to the ER, except that's not what they call it here. They call it A&E (accident and emergency) and we hadn't dealt with it before—didn't even know where it was. What do you do for a semi-ish emergency? You call a cab. Turns out they know how to get to the A&E asap.
     The emergency room seemed like any other in the world, although they saw us rather quickly to assess Stan's condition. They sent him in for X-rays to see how much glass was in the wound.
     After that we waited. And waited. I worried that we had finally hit that problem people say you have with socialized medicine. But y'know what? I've been to ER rooms in the US, and you wait there too. What's different about it in the UK is the priorities - and they really do feel different. (Click the sign to read it larger in a new window.)
     The core belief here is that everybody has a right to good health and happiness. It seems so subtle, but it changes everything.
      Finally, Stan was called and a doctor gave him a local so that he could dig the glass out of his finger. He wrapped him up tight with a butterfly and sent us home...without charging us a dime. We even asked. "Do we owe you anything?" "No, you're good."
     So, now we know how to deal with medical emergencies. Hopefully, it won't come up again, but considering this is the second time I've been to the ER over one of Stan's digits, I'm not holding my breath. (He tried to cut off his pinky finger one Thanksgiving - but that's a story for another day - and a good one!) Stan is healing well, doing fine —thanks so much for all the well wishes. And I'm doing the cooking for now.

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41. I Quit My Job After Watching This

YES! Trust me and just watch this.

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42. End of Semester

It's hard to believe, but I'm reaching the end of my first year in my MFA in Illustration at the University of Edinburgh College of Art. All us students gather our projects on our desks to present for our End of Semester Review. It's a stressful time as we get everything just right, but it's also an amazing opportunity to see everything we've accomplished since January. And wow, we have done SO MUCH!
     Here's the view of my desk set up for examination. To the left is my desk. Here you can see my Gallery Show submission (more on that soon, I hope), my materials for the Bologna Children's Book Fair, my "Animal Alphabet" project, my own summary, my Context paper, my hand-made book dummy, and two wood-cuts for two workshops.

To the right of my desk are my side cabinets. On tope of those are my Grant Applications, Conferences, my TEDx Talk, another book dummy I'm working on, the Watercolor Workshop, two Gallery Show that did accept my artwork, my PhD mentorship, and a book cover design project.
And finally, the wall behind my desk holds the processes, the works-in-progress, including a Picture Book Workshop, life drawing, and my screen printed quotes project.
Gadzooks! I'm proud of it all and my fingers are crossed for good grades. Wish me luck!

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43. Edinburgh City of Literature

How nice to find today's workshop featured on the Edinburgh City of Literature site! I'll be talking about creating Picture Book Dummies to a sold-out group of attendees at the Edinburgh Central Library on the George IV Bridge. Can't wait! (Click the image to read more.)

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44. Genius - Movie Trailer

Seldom do editors get the appreciation they deserve, but they do in the new movie about Thomas Wolfe and his editor Maxwell Perkins. Looks interesting! Click the image to watch the trailer and learn more about the movie.

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45. Picture Hooks Conference 2016

One of the deciding factors in choosing the University of Edinburgh was Picture Hooks. While not run through the Uni, several tutors from the Uni are heavily involved with this illustrator-focused children's books mentoring scheme. When I learned about it, I knew these were my peeps. So, I was thrilled to be able to attend the recent Picture Hooks Conference in Glasgow.
     Glasgow is a train ride away to the west. It takes about 1 1/2 hours give or take, so the day began early. I walked to Waverly Station, which is about five minutes from my flat. From there, the whole world opens to you.
Several of us met up to ride the train together - a gang of children's book enthusiasts. From the left are fellow classmate (fc) Nadee, Nancy French, (fc) Catherine, our hosts, author Vivian French and Lucy Juckes of Jenny Brown Associates, and (fc) Boris.
Once in Glasgow (my first time!) we made the quick walk from the train station to the CCA - Glasgow Center for Contemporary Arts. It's a groovy industrial building that has been converted into a creative space full of galleries, lecture halls and a delicious cafe.
Truly, there wasn't much time for sight seeing, but I did get a shot of this cool art deco building on the way there.
The lecture room filled quickly with friends from the UoE College of Art, and other interested folks. Lucy and Vivian gave a warm welcome, and the day began.
The first speaker was Tessa Strickland of Barefoot Books. She gave great, practical information on publishing, including numbers and the variations in the US vs UK markets, which I found fascinating.
     She was followed by author/illustrator Joel Stewart, who discussed his process and the animation project The Adventures of Abney and Teal. I especially enjoyed his Q&A when our tutor, Jonny Gibbs, asked him about his struggle between Observational and Imaginative drawing. This is something I struggle with as well, so I listened closely.
     Next up was Andrea McDonald, Editorial Director at Penguin Random House UK. She also gave a great talk, yet with a completely different focus from Tessa's. She talked about the work that went into editing and rounding out storylines. I found her insights completely enlightening, and learned a lot from her. One of my biggest take-aways was when she suggested to "Write a book that makes the parent seem like a really good actor and hero for their child." Makes sense.
     The last speaker was Nicki Field of Jelly London, illustration/animation representatives. She spoke at ECA recently, but her message was still strong - do lots of things if you want to make a living at this!
     I enjoyed hanging out with friends and making new ones.

Photo © Astrid Jaekel
And the train ride home was fun as well. Although we were a bit more tired this time. This photo shows Lucy, (fc) Sara, our tutor Astrid, (fc) Boris, and (fc) Catherine.
And apparently Vivian and her daughter Nancy are famous for having their photos taken in this pose. Cute!
Didn't get any photos of me this time - Ha!
     At any rate, it was an illuminating day filled with like-minded peeps, good food, and Glasgow! I've since signed up for all the upcoming Picture Hooks Master Classes and look forward to those. I'm also excited about the mentoring scheme. I'm not sure I'll get in, but I look forward to trying!
     Meanwhile, you can read a great wrap-up article of the day at the Society of Young Publishers Scotland - CLICK HERE.

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46. Coloring Page Tuesday - Piggie and Charlotte

     What is a piggie's favorite book? Charlotte's Web of course! (Well, maybe not the opening.)
     CLICK HERE for more coloring pages!
     CLICK HERE to 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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47. Beltane on Calton Hill

Scotland is fascinated by fire. Several traditions and ceremonies involve it in very old ways, for instance during the torch parade for Hogmany, Samhain, and the celebration of Spring or Beltane (always on April 30th), with the symbolic joining of the May Queen and the Green Man, who dies and is brought back to life each year. (Click the image to see the website and learn more about the tradition.)

I was very excited to see this so we bought our tickets early. Stan jogs up Calton Hill several times a week, but for Beltane, the hill was restricted to manage the enormous crowd. Gates opened at 8:00. We bundled up and began our journey, which became more and more magnificent as the sun set over New Town and the Firth.
And we saw some hints of what was to come.
This was going to be interesting.
The ceremony doesn't begin until the sun goes down, so you walk around for a while, listening to the story of Beltane and admiring the amazing costumes. It makes you think an alternate reality isn't that hard to believe.
When it's completely dark, the ceremony begins. By then, it was very crowded and very cold.
The May Queen is introduced and the procession begins...
With the Green Man just behind. (I'm so sorry I didn't get a better photo of him - he was grand!)
Behind them, follows the court.
With their drums. Click the image to go watch and listen on YouTube.
We followed the procession for a bit and saw the fire arch and dancing birds, but I have to admit, by then I was cold to the core and we went back down the hill in search of hot toddies (which we found). It took me until the next afternoon to warm up, but I'm happy to say that according ancient tradition, Spring is officially here. More on that soon...

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48. Deborah Marcero's URSA'S LIGHT - Guest Post

Ursa’s Light
by Deborah Marcero

      I have always loved writing and drawing. My love of making art took me to art school, then to New York City for a few years, which then led to me to an MFA in Poetry.
      In all those years of my twenties I collected many tools, but even after my MFA, I still wasn’t sure how I was going to use all that I had learned to build a creative life. After a few years of freelancing, I decided to take another turn altogether and dedicated myself to teaching.
      I worked in the Chicago Public Schools as a reading and writing lead teacher for three years. This job, with all its rewards and hardships, gave me an incredible gift: it re-introduced me to the books I fell in love with as a kid, and showed me NEW books I wished were around when I had been in fifth grade.
      I led enrichment programs, one of which was “Young Authors," where I stayed after school and helped my students publish their works as authors and illustrators. Working with them, made me realize, I want to do this. For real. That was 2009.
      In between then and now, I stopped teaching, started my own photography business, moved to a small city in Michigan and began to dedicate half or more of my time to writing and illustrating. In Ursa’s Light, my debut picture book, so much of my journey to publication is in her story. Ursa is a dreamer and a scientist. She embodies one of my favorite quotes from Thoreau:
“If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.”
     It is through being a dreamer and a pragmatist, that I found my path. And like Ursa, I have failed many times. Each of those failures shaped my journey and forced me to be even more determined, creative and patient.
      Ursa’s victory isn’t just that she becomes a shooting star in the play. It’s more than that. Her dream, her amplified study of the world, her taking risks and making embarrassing mistakes and ultimately being brave enough to be HERSELF in front of everyone - is her shining moment. To be her true self, to be seen, to be vulnerable – flaws, oddities and all – to follow the beat of her own drum, to forge her own path is Ursa’s journey, and it’s mine too.
      I am now writing and drawing every day. I wake up every morning to a life I am truly grateful for. I am still failing and learning and growing. But all those tools I’ve picked up along the way, from 1000 hours of figure drawing in art school to studying poetry, to teaching narrative writing to my fourth graders – all those tools are on my table now. They are in use, and helping me build the creative life I have always wanted.

      Once the manuscript was approved, I composed and paced all the spreads in detail with a very fine pencil (2H 0.3 mm lead).
      Once the sketches were approved, I inked in all the lines with Black Cat India ink and a dip-ink pen.
      Then, before I moved to color, I decided on a color palette for the entire book (this is the MOST important part!). I was also given the option to create a font for Ursa (which, consequently is one of my favorite things to do) so of course, I said YES.
     Ursa’s palettes of rusts, mossy greens, sometimes-heavy blacks, brick red and navy anchor the story in a gritty pull-yourself-up-with-your-own-bootstraps kind of tone, and avoids (for example) saccharine pastels, which could have turned Ursa’s tale into something different altogether. Not that I don’t love pastels – I DO! Just not for Ursa.
      After I established the palette, I created a stack of potential textures – woodblock cuts, ink lines, watercolor, gouache, etc. on my drawing table. Then, finally, I digitally layered, pieced and collaged them into the ink line-work.

     A little more behind the scenes development of my illustration style for Ursa’s Light can be found on my blog here: http://deborahmarcero.com/coming-soon-ursas-light/.
Website: deborahmarcero.com
Twitter: @deborahmarcero

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49. Friday Linky List - 6 May 2016

From The Read Quarterly: So why don't children read the classics anymore? (Written by a 14-year-old - and she hits it home!)

From PW: Children's Editor Dick Jackson Turns Author - inspiring read!

From LiteraryHub: On the heartbreaking difficulty of getting rid of books

From SYP Scotland: Picture Hooks: Getting the Hang of Illustrating Children's Picture Books

At Cynsations: 2016 SCBWI Bologna Illustrator Interview: Paul O. Zelinsky

Chris Cheng's Bologna Wrap-up

From Write4Kids: The Adventures of Dan Santat: A Conversation with the Caldecott-winning Author & Illustrator

From SLJs 100 Scope Notes (by Travis Jonker): 2016 Preview Interview: Flying Eye Books

From BuzzFeed: This woman painted the first page from Harry Potter on her wall!

From PWs ShelfTalker: Beyond Bookmarks: How Publishers Can Help Authors and Booksellers

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50. Illustration Challenge #48

Draw something that feeds your soul - something that makes you just so darned happy to create it, you can't help but smile. Let your hand GO!

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