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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. Illustration Challenge #32

For this one, choose an object/person/thing and rather than sketching it with a pencil - cut it out of paper. See if you can get the silhouette down!

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27. Friday Linky List - 15 January 2016

From Dose: A map of the most famous fictional character from every U.S. state - funny!

From The Atlantic: Why the British Tell Better Children's Stories - bad title, fascinating article!

From The Read Quarterly: Come Home, Yeh Xian - Reclaiming Cinderella by Nury Vittachi

At PW: De la Peña, Blackall, Ruby Win Newbery, Caldecott, Printz - and the rest of the ALA award results

CLICK HERE for the full list of ALA Award winners

From Janice Hardy's Fiction University: What You Need to Know About Show, Don't Tell

At How To Be A Children's Book Illustrator - Children's Illustration: Completely Different - an article about Denise Fleming's pulp paper technique. Fascinating!

From The Telegraph: Who was Charles Perrault? Why the fairy tales you know may not be as they seem

From Historyextra: Supernatural stories: 9 amazing British folktales

At rfi: Angouleme comics festival faces boycott as no women nominated for prize (out of 30 nominees)

At Notes from the Slush Pile: The Ordinary World is About Context Not Setting

From The Writers Journey: Memo: "A Practical Guide to Joseph Cambell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces" by Christopher Vogler © 1985

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28. I'm giving a TEDx Talk!

Cat's out of the bag! I have been invited to give a TEDx talk here at the University of Edinburgh! It will be held at Central Hall on February 18th and tickets go on sale Friday. CLICK HERE or the image above for more information. (If you're a local friend, I sure hope you'll come and cheer me on!)
      Here's my blurb:
Is Your Stuff Stopping You?
     Award-winning author, illustrator, teacher and student Elizabeth Dulemba recently sold or gave away nearly everything she owned. And yet, she’s no minimalist. She’ll walk you through how she did it, and share how you too can open yourself to opportunities by evaluating your stuff – debunking the illusion of value we place on material possessions. Why do this? To answer the question "Is your stuff stopping you?"
     As part of the preparation for the day, I was given a one-hour-long training session with a professional speaking coach. WOWSA! I've been speaking publicly in front of all sizes/ages of crowds for over a decade, but I learned so much from Mel Sherwood of Grow-Your-Potential.com! I happily gave her a video testimonial when we were finished. Click the image to have a watch on Youtube.

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29. Robbie Robertson's HIAWATHA AND THE PEACEMAKER - Guest Post by David Shannon!


HIAWATHA AND THE PEACEMAKER - SYMBOLISM
by David Shannon

      When I was approached by Abrams about illustrating this book, my first inclination was to turn it down. I was in the middle of several projects and busy writing my own stories, but I agreed to meet with the author, Robbie Robertson. After all, it’s not everyday you get a chance to meet one of the rock ‘n’ roll’s greatest guitarists, and his telling of the Hiawatha story was very compelling. It reminded me of some of the first books I’d illustrated, particularly The Rough-Face Girl, by Rafe Martin.
      Robbie and I met at his recording studio, and he told me how as a boy he’d listened to an elder tell the story of Hiawatha in a lodge in Canada. Robbie is a very good storyteller - whether it’s in a song, a book, or just sitting in a room – and soon I was beginning to mentally re-arrange my work schedule. Then he played the song he’d recorded for the book and it was clear that working with him would be a unique experience. So, I agreed to illustrate Hiawatha and the Peacemaker.
      Anytime I work on a cultural folktale, it begins with research. Librarians use books like this as teaching tools, so I try to get the details as accurate as possible (it’s a great excuse to buy a bunch of books and visit museums). At the same time, I don’t want to just copy what I’ve found, so there’s some imagination involved as well. I also try to use clothing, artifacts, and setting to enhance the story through symbolism.
      Hiawatha is a big, dramatic story about war and peace, hate and righteousness. There are many symbolic elements of magical realism – a stone canoe, a villain with snakes in his hair, a solar eclipse – that needed to be front and center in the illustrations. It took a lot of work in both the pencil sketches and the finished oil paintings to make these pieces believable and yet maintain a feeling of “otherworldliness”.
      As with many Indian tales, Nature plays a large part and I tried to use trees, water, fire, and stone as secondary symbols to reinforce the spiritual side of the story.
      The theme that drew me to the story most, however, is the idea of healing through forgiveness. Hiawatha suffers a great loss at the beginning of the story – the murder of his family – and must heal himself while he seeks to bring peace to the warring tribes. He does this by forgiving his enemy rather than fighting him. By healing his enemy’s psychic wounds he heals himself. His enemy, the warlord Tadodaho, is physically corrupted by his own evil and power. His body is contorted and snakes slither in and out of his hair. Hiawatha gives him medicine and drives away the snakes – pretty clear symbolism there!
     But Hiawatha’s healing is more subtle and internal and is symbolized by a wound across his eye. As the story progresses and he learns to see things differently according to the teachings of the Peacemaker, the wound slowly heals. In the end, it is his act of forgiveness toward Tadodaho that breaks the cycle of war and allows all the tribes, and Hiawatha in particular, to embrace his own life again.

CLICK HERE to buy the book.
Hiawatha and the Peacemaker by Robbie Robertson, illustrated by David Shannon, published by Abrams Books for Young Readers.

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30. The Fair Maid's Tresses

Remember when I told you about the filming done in our wee flat of three top storytellers each telling their version of the folktale, "The Fair Maid's Tresses"? Well, it is now live and available for your viewing pleasure on Vimeo. Click the image to go watch! How exciting to have been a part of this!

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31. Coloring Page Tuesday - Jack Tales!

     I'm declaring this week Unofficial Jack Tales Week at dulemba.com. I've been talking a lot about fun things that have returned to my life here in Edinburgh, and one of them is that wiley old Jack. I have a long history with Jack Tales, which you can read about HERE (scroll down to read from the beginning). Two of my picture books are Jack Tales.
And the main character in A Bird on Water Street is named Jack in honor. Basically, good things seem to happen in my life when I follow that boy, and lo' - I've run into him again here in Scotland! So stay tuned this week for some fascinating insights into Jack Tales!
     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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32. Taking the Train

Believe it or not, I had not been outside Edinburgh since we arrived here in August. Ironically, visiting friends from the states (hi, Kitty!) were doing a better job of seeing Scotland than we were!
     Why? School turned out to be more intense than I expected. It was fun work, I'm not complaining! But the assumption of long weekends traipsing off to exotic locales was not possible. Add to that, while we had originally planned to go to France for Christmas, Stan caught a bad flu bug which kept us here through the first half of winter break. He was really sick, poor guy.* (I know, I know. Get out your small violins...we had to spend Christmas in Edinburgh. Awwwww!)
     At any rate, all that changed on Thursday when we hopped the train down to Newcastle to visit Susan Gates and her husband Phil. You may know Susan as S.P. Gates, author of over 150 books and generous blurber for A Bird on Water Street.
     Susan and I met years ago when Lee & Low asked me to host Susan on my blog with her latest title, The Monster in the Mudball. Even via email across an ocean, we got along famously.
     Later, Susan read and loved ABOWS. She especially connected with the mining history because of a similar history in Newcastle. Pollution there was so bad in its hey-day, they actually filmed the movie ALIEN on a local, blackened beach. Of course, that's all since changed and the city is now a thriving and beautiful metropolis. And the land that was once so destroyed has now been saved. Read about that here.
     So when Susan emailed me with fun photos of their New Year celebrations in downtown Newcastle, we just had to go say 'hi'! I mean, how bizarre is life that we now live only one and a half hours apart? I wanted to go finally meet my friend in person. That meant taking the train for the first time...
     The train.
     The TRAIN!!!
     I am in love with all things train - the train station in particular. We bought our tickets a few days early, so found a deal of a trip. We walked the 12 minutes from our flat (seriously) to Waverly Station. Then we walked into this lovely, Victorian-era, atrium-like space, which is all at once buzzing and surprisingly relaxing.

     You check the board to see where you want to go. OH, the possibilities! Suddenly all of Europe is available to us. Ironically, in going to Newcastle, we looked for the line to Penzance. Yes, that Penzance!
     We got a cup of tea and a latte to enjoy while we waited at our platform (#3). And then came our train right on time - the whole system is extremely efficient. You don't want to be late!
     We tried out seats in what is equivalent to coach and it was perfectly comfortable. (Although upgrades aren't terribly expensive either.)
     The train ran down the east coast most of the way, and gads, the views were spectacular! I'm sorry the reflection made for not great pictures, but maybe these will give you an idea. We passed tiny villages interspersed with rolling green hills covered with sheep.
We passed rocky shores with frothy seas.
And we passed tiny fishing villages.
The one and a half hour trip sped by so smoothly with such stunning views. It could have been three more hours and I would have been happy. They even offer beverages and snacks during the journey. What an evolved way to travel!
     On the other end, we arrived in Newcastle where Susan and Phil were waiting for us in their equally lovely station.
And that was just the beginning of our adventure. Check back soon for Newcastle!

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33. Smoky Mountain Jack Tales

This week we talked with Rex Stephenson about THE JACK TALE PLAYERS. Well, Lew Bolton also has a dramatic troupe now in their 29th performance season over in Gatlinburg, Tennessee - the Smoky Mountain Jack Tales Storytelling Theater. And Lew has a new collection of Jack Tales out. Click the image to learn more and watch on YouTube.

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34. Illustration Challenge #31

In honor of my Unofficial Jack Tales week, choose a folk tale - preferably a Jack Tale (like Jack and the Beanstalk) and do an illustration for it. Maybe you'll use pen and ink, or maybe you'll create a folk-art piece. Whichever - feel free to link to it in my comments below!

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35. Friday Linky List - 8 January 2015

Check out my friend Lynn Salsi's Jack Tales! CLICK HERE

From SLJs and Travis Jonker's 100 Scope Notes: Gallery: The Art of the Picture Book Barcode

From SLJs and Betsy Bird's Fuse #8: 100 Magnificent Children's Books 2015

From YouGov: Bookish Britain: Literary jobs are the most desirable

At Publishers Weekly: Yang Named National Ambassador for Young People's Literature (He's the current writer of DC Comics' Superman series, winner of the Printz Award, and two-time National Book Award Finalist)

At SLJ's 100 Scope Notes: A Conversation with the Ambassador: Gene Luen Yang

From The Guardian: What's happening in children's books in 2016? A Literary Calendar

From HuffPost: Best Picture Books of 2015

The deadline for nominations for the Margaret Wise Brown Prize in Children's Literature hosted by Hollins University is quickly approaching - January 15th. CLICK HERE for more information!

From Wired via my EMLA board: Jack Dorsey explains lonogform tweet rumors with Twitter essay

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36. Interview with Rex Stephenson on The Jack Tale Players

I have something a little different for you today, dear readers - an interview with playwright Rex Stephenson!
     My friend Tina Hanlon is an Associate Professor of English at Ferrum College, occasional Lecturer at Hollins University, and expert on Appalachian Folklore with a concentration on Jack Tales. So it seemed appropriate to hand the reigns to her today as she interviews the creator of THE JACK TALE PLAYERS - a theatrical group performing Jack Tales since 1975, that just celebrated their 40th birthday! Enjoy!


The Jack Tale Players performing at Rooster Walk Festival in Virginia, 2012.

Tina: Did any experiences while you were growing up in Indiana influence you to become a playwright, actor, director, and teacher all rolled into one?
Rex: Luckily for me, I grew up with two grandfathers that were both wonderful storytellers and I could spend whole evenings listening to them recount tales of their youth.
      I wrote and directed my first show when I was in the 4th grade. It was a puppet play entitled, I think, “We Are All Here.” I’ve never forgotten the girl who improv’d instead of following my script. It was then I learned the value of being an autocratic director. I didn’t write another play until I was in college at Ball State University, where I imitated Rod Steiger’s style and wrote something about a Civil War soldier.

Tina: How did you get started dramatizing Jack Tales?
Rex: When my daughter Janice was in the 4th grade, she brought home a copy of Richard Chase’s Jack Tale book and wanted me to read it to her. I recognized the value of these stories and believed that Virginia children should be exposed to these stories of their culture. I went searching for scripts and could find none, so I wrote a grant to the Virginia Commission of the Arts to allow me to research and dramatize these wonderful stories in Virginia. I’ve been doing that since Dec. 11, 1975, performing with more than 400 college students and professional actors.
      Because Chase’s publisher was reticent about allowing me to adapt his tales, I searched the Library of Congress and then luckily, discovered the lost Virginia WPA files in Wise County, with 13,000 typed pages of southwestern Virginia folklore. Some of them are the same tales Chase collected and edited. These resources have allowed me to publish a number of scripts of Jack Tales that have enjoyed more than 3300 performances, all over the United States and in several other countries.
Here is Rex Stephenson with Richard Chase when Chase visited Ferrum College as a consultant in the late 1970s.

And with one of his performers and Anne Chase, Richard Chase's daughter, performing at Hollins University in 2012 (which I attended).

Tina: Why did you start branching out to tales with girls as heroes?
  Rex: My colleague Tina Hanlon [YOU!] encouraged me to look at Appalachian tales with young girls as the driving force of the story. I first dramatized “Ashpet” (the mountain version of “Cinderella”) in 1998 and then later adapted “Mutsmag.” Both these tales were resounding successes with young audiences and teachers. They have been published together in a play about storytelling called Grandmother Tales. Another story in the same vein is “Catskins,” which utilized actors’ bodies for scenery in a way that surprised even me.
      I like these tales because a father of girls is always interested in strong female characters. You hope all your kids would turn out like Mutsmag, would stand up to people and make right decisions based on what they want out of life rather than what is expected of them.

Jack Tale Players performing “Mutsmag” in Rocky Mount, VA, in 2011, using story theatre method to depict two-headed giant talking while Mutsmag and her sisters sleep.

Tina: Why would Elizabeth’s new friends in Scotland be interested in the tales you dramatize? Where did these Appalachian folktales come from?
Rex: The Jack Tales, while truly American, trace their origins to the British Isles as well as the Grimm Brothers. Excellent examples of Scottish Jack Tales are found in Duncan Williamson’s books, such as Jack and the Devil's Purse. “Mutsmag” has roots in Scotland in tales known as “Maol a Chliobain” and “Molly Whuppie.”

Jack sees Death threatening the princess, in a televised production of "Soldier Jack," about 1980. Dean Gates, the student playing Death, won an Emmy for his makeup work for Star Trek later in his career. 

Tina: What is one of your most memorable experiences with dramatizing folktales?
Rex: When I first started to book the Jack Tales, many principals were reticent about having Appalachian folklore in their schools, saying that the children don’t need to see a bunch of hillbilly plays. So I had to prove to administrators that these wonderful stories of a young man taking on challenges, and through his quick wit and dumb luck always succeeding, had a value far beyond what they expected. We originally played shows in the round, seating children on the floor with four aisles for us to make our entrances and exits. In the first couple of shows, I noticed the children were so excited that they closed up our aisles in their enthusiasm to get close to the action. It was then that I knew I had a hit. After a Richmond reporter printed an article with the headline “Simple Jack Tales Educate,” I had no trouble booking shows.

Rex Stephenson with Summer Enrichment Camp kids acting out “Jack and the Hainted House,” Ferrum College, 2015.
Letter from a 4th grader who enjoyed the first Jack Tale show at Callaway Elementary School. (That child is now high school teacher Tammy Knick.)


Tina: What else have you written besides folktale dramatizations?
Rex: While I started scripting Jack Tales, I later wrote history plays and adapted many well-known classic novels for young people, including Treasure Island, Tom Sawyer, and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. I have published 25 scripts that are available from Eldridge Plays and Musicals, Dramatic Publishing, and Leicester Bay Theatricals.

BIO:
      R. Rex Stephenson earned his Bachelor’s degree in middle and secondary education at Ball State University. Upon graduation, Stephenson taught at Bayshore Middle School in Florida and Redkey High School in Indiana. He received his M.A. from Indiana State University in theatre and later accepted a position as drama professor at Ferrum College in Virginia. In 1984, he received his Ph.D. in educational theatre at New York University. Stephenson has had 13 plays for children and adults published: The Jack Tales, The Liberated Cinderella, Treasure Island, Galileo: Man of Science, The Jungle Book, A Christmas Carol, Connecticut Yankee, and Glorious Son of York. Stephenson has been a winner in two major playwriting contests: The American Alliance for Theatre and Education 1995 for Too Free For Me (Published by Encore), and he was awarded the IUPUI National Youth Theatre Playwriting Competition “Excellence in Playwriting” for Jack’s Adventures with the King’s Girl. In 1996, he received an Appalachian College Association, “Faculty Research Fellowship,” to research and write The World is My Parish, a drama about the life of John Wesley, the founder of Methodism. Stephenson lives in Ferrum, Virginia and he has three daughters, Janice, Jessica, and Juliet.
      December 11th was the 40th anniversary of the Ferrum College Jack Tale Players’ first performance at Callaway Elementary School. From that day to this, Rex Stephenson (professor emeritus of drama) and over 400 students and professional actors have performed his adaptations of Appalachian folktales and songs several thousand times for audiences of all ages--around the mountains, across the country, and in England. In 8 nationwide USO tours they performed at 60 VA hospitals.

Photo of Jack Tale Players during one of their 8 nationwide USO tours to VA hospitals between 1978 and 1982, with Rex Stephenson on the floor in center.

Links and Contact Information:
The Jack Tales on Facebook
The Jack Tale Storytellers/Jack Tale Players web site
AppLit Bibliography of Dramas and Tales by Rex Stephenson Follow Rex Stephenson on Facebook and LinkedIn.

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37. Jack Tales in Edinburgh

Have you read my history with Jack Tales? (If not, CLICK HERE and scroll down to read from the beginning.) I find it amazingly ironic that Jack has once again returned to my life here in Edinburgh. In fact, so many previous elements in my life have come back around here, it's getting downright bizarre - music, storytelling, and now Jack!
     For my MFA in Illustration here at the University of Edinburgh, I've created a thesis project for myself: Tricksters. I chose it because I really want to learn about all cultures and mythologies, but that is too tremendous a project for one lifetime. So, I narrowed it down to one character within each storytelling and cultural mythology to act as a window into each world - Tricksters. You know Tricksters - Loki, Coyote, Bre'r Rabbit, Robin Goodfellow, Anansi, etc. Every culture has one. Or so I thought.
     There seems to be some debate as to Scottish Tricksters. Some claim there is no Scottish Trickster! (And wow, that doesn't help my project along!) But some say Broonies are Tricksters. Others claim The Devil is the Scottish Trickster. And then some claim Jack.
     The first time someone mentioned Jack to me (without any prompting from me), I about fell over. He's in my life again! (And if you read my history linked above, you'll truly understand how bizarre that is.)
     But truly, one of Scotland's most famous storytellers, Duncan Williamson, was a Traveler and he told lots of Jack Tales. In fact, I just finished reading his Jack and the Devil's Purse, edited by Linda Williamson.
     I've also heard it said that Jack is simply a common name, a medieval derivation of "John" and therefore lots of cultures have Jack Tales under names such as Jacque, Jankin, Yannis, Jean, Jehan, Ivan, Jowan, Jan, etc. That may be true, but there does seem to be a structure to certain stories which are defined as Jack Tales. He is either lazy or industrious, but he usually ends up with what he wants through clever means - hence, the Trickster moniker.
     Needless to say, I need to learn more about this Scottish Jack. And considering that whenever I follow that boy, good things seem to come of it, I'm looking forward to my research!

Illustration by Berkeley Williams Jr. for Richard Chase's JACK TALES

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38. Coloring Page Tuesday - TEA!

     I'm a tea drinker, whether it be the sweet (cold) tea I grew up on in the south, or hot tea all day long. So one of the things I've LOVED about living in Scotland is all the tea! It's a cozy treat and it makes this lady very happy as we head into the New Year.
     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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39. New Years Resolutions?

Rather than talking about what I want to do in 2016, I'm embracing what Julie Hedlund calls the "Anti Resolution Revolution."
     As she says, "Let’s first celebrate success and then determine how to carry that forward into the New Year rather than berating ourselves for what did not get done."
     I also like what Joe Jacobi (Olympic Gold-medalist) says in his article "Don't Be A Goalie - Why Goal Setting Doesn't Work For Me":"The problem with goals is that you focus on what you don't have now. The skinniness you don't have now. The increased income you don't have now. The freedom you don't have now. The friends and relationships you don't have now. The life you don't have now.
      That's too much "don't have now" and a complete energy suck away from what you DO HAVE right now.
      Goalies block shots. I want you to take shots. Shots on goals. Shots that score momentum, not points."

     With all this in mind, I am not setting any new goals for this year. Instead, I'm focusing on goals I've already accomplished. I recently found a list of goals I wrote for myself when I was about 25-years-old. I keep it in my personal treasures box. I was amazed at how my goals haven't changed. And while it took me a little longer to achieve them than I'd hoped, I've checked almost everything off of this list. Here is it:

     I've begun my MFA in Illustration. I'm married to an awesome man. I teach in the MFA in Writing and Illustrating Children's Books program at Hollins University (Virginia, US) every summer. I have over two dozen books published. I volunteered for an adult literacy program in Chattanooga. And I now live overseas in Scotland! I'm not fluent in French or Spanish yet, but I'm working on it and getting a lot of practice in this multi-cultural city. So, just like my other goals, I sincerely believe it's just a matter of time.
     Pretty cool, eh?

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40. David Hockney Painting 'November Tunnel'

What a treat this is! Click the image to watch on YouTube...

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41. Illustration Challenge #30

This one I learned from a PhD student studying "Automatic Drawing." Basically, grab a surface (paper or whatever) and a drawing tool, and then give yourself a timed window - like an hour. And just draw all over that page. Start at one side and work your way to the other. Make it detailed. LOSE YOURSELF in the process. Enjoy!

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42. Hogmanay in Scotland!

The Scots word for the last day of the year is "Hogmanay" and it is a huge celebration here in Edinburgh, lasting for three days. On the 30th is one of the biggest events - the Torchlight Parade. Torches are free, but do have to be reserved beforehand. Last year there were about 30,000 of them!
     I'm so proud of me and Stan. For our first Hogmanay, we really did it right! We walked down to Princes Street about a half hour before the parade started over on the George IV Bridge. We ended up in a great Chinese restaurant on the second floor with a spectacular view looking straight down Princes Street. (That's it over Stan's shoulder.)

We were about fifteen minutes into our meal when we spotted the procession heading our way.
Everybody ran to the windows to watch. In the front of the parade was a troop of bagpipe players followed by Viking soldiers followed by tens of thousands of happy folks with torches meandering through the city.
There were so many torch bearers, we had time to finish our leisurely dinner and slowly make our way down to the crowd, and there were still thousands of torches behind us. Down in the street, we were in the thick of it! The air smelled like beeswax and paraffin.


We enjoyed bagpipe players (notice the Christmas lights on the instruments).
They really are stunning with great outfits.
The Viking soldiers were awesome looking too.
To top it off, they had fireworks over Calton Hill - stunning!
After all that, we went to the smaller of the two Christmas Villages in St. Andrews Square, the one near our home, and had some hot chocolate and mulled wine at the pop-up pub, while we watched the ice skaters go by.
What an awesome, awesome way to bring in the new year in our awesome new home! Happy New Year!

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43. Friday Linky List - January 1, 2015

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

From the Scottish Book Trust: 10 Things Every Writer Needs

From BuzzFeed: 17 Of The Most Beautifully Illustrated Picture Books in 2015

From School Library Journal: Syrian Refugees Welcomed to Canada with an SLJ Best Book Sidewalk Flowers - now this is how you say welcome!

From SLJ: Behind the Scenes with SLJ's "Best" Cover

From Debbie Ohi: Free Picture Book Thumbnail Templates for Writers and Illustrators

From Men with Pens: How To Spot, Fix and Eliminate Passive Voice In Everything You Write

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44. Illustration Challenge #29

Change up your tools. This is your week to try something new - pastel, paints, crayons, charcoal - it doesn't matter. Be sure to get some nice big paper so that you go big with the new feel. It doesn't matter if you're terrible. It will be a new thing - what would you expect, to master it in the first try? The point is to allow yourself to have fun and mess up!

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45. Illustrator Sydney Smith

I was so captivated by Sydney Smith's unique style, I had to try it. Its so fun making stencils and spattering paint. Maybe you should try it too? Watch: How Illustrator Sydney Smith uses his own stencils to paint beautiful kids' books:

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46. Holiday Friends!

The holidays here in Edinburgh have meant getting together with friends - how nice! To kick it all off, fellow MFA student and my good friend Catherine - we had our own private 'fall apart' party at the semester's end over wine and mussels!

Some friends came from out of town - Jen, Adam and their sweet daughter Josie who moved from Atlanta to London about six months before we headed to Edinburgh.
They came north to explore our fair city for a long weekend. We went to dinner at L'escargot Bleu - fabulous! And to "The Whiskey Experience," which, I must say, you have not truly experienced until your friend adds a little water to her whisky (as you should) from a sippy cup!
Then there were the parties! Fellow MFA student Chiho invited some of us over for a Japanese feast. And what a great mix of people it ended up being, with Uni students from all over campus, some former roommates, and some travelers from around the globe.

The apartment has been home to students for many years, so musical instruments are scattered around in various stages of disrepair. Some of the guys, Daniel, Hijo (did I get that right?), and Chiho tried to tune a broken guitar to no avail.
Graham from California made beautiful music for us on his kevlar (?) violin. Here he is playing Bach. What a treat!
And last night, we attended a party at Rosie and Dick's (didn't get any photos there, but had a blast). And today, we'll catch up with some friends traveling from the states. What a nice way to say HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

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47. How to do Yoda-Speak

We went to see Star Wars the other day (really good!), so I thought this would be appropriate to share...
Yodify your Grammar Infographic
Created by Grammerly, shared with permission.

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48. Coloring Page Tuesday - Happy 2016!!!

     I wish you a new year filled with your definition of success and happiness, but mostly good health, good living and peace. Cheers!
     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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49. I have a GUITAR!!!!

Here is my Christmas present!!! (Photo taken in Grassmarket, outside Red Dog Music, where we bought my guitar.)

     Before we moved to Edinburgh, Stan promised to get me a guitar for Christmas and he came through!
     Just as storytelling has returned to my life here in Edinburgh, so has music. It used to be a big part of my life... I sang in chorus through school, even nailed some solos. (Although I always seemed to come down with a bad cold when it came time to actually perform.) I took piano lessons for ten years as a kid, so I can (could) read music and all that. And although I loved playing, I wasn't a natural talent. When I went off to college, I took a guitar with me. But that was pre-internet and I never had formal lessons. I taught myself a bit by ear and enjoyed it, but I didn't know how to take it further. Not really. I had a wall piano for a while in Chattanooga. And I played guitar when we lived in the mountains. I would join in during 'Pickin' in the Park' - a massive weekly jamming session by the river. There, I collected some great folk-song lyrics, because I ended up singing more than playing. But for some reason, when we moved to Atlanta, music faded from my life.
     Fast forward to today, and music has returned! My new friend is a Gretsch "Jim Dandy" Flat Top Parlour Guitar.


     It's 3/4th the size of a standard acoustic - a nice size for me. And it has a great, bluesy twang to it. I was originally looking at a standard acoustic, which had a deep, traditional sound, but out the corner of my eye, I saw one of the music store employees walk by with the Gretsch. I said, "WHAT is THAT!?" and pursued him. He was showing it off to a fellow employee, and it sounded so great! I have been on a blues kick since arriving in Edinburgh and the twang of this little guitar was so unique, it spoke to me - truly!
     I can't tell you how thrilled I am to have this little guy in my life! I spent all evening taking online tutorials (god bless the internet!) and learned some great new guitar riffs. AND, I finally remembered a sweet little song I wrote in college, which I'd been trying to recall for months!
     It will take a while to build up some decent calluses, but I'll do it. Because I have a date one year from now... Several friends (who are also trying to learn instruments - one, an accordion, and the other, the trumpet) and I have agreed to go busking. (If that's a new word to you, it means playing on the street for money.) We have to be good enough by then to actually make money instead of having tomatoes thrown at us. I have no idea what songs will sound good between an accordion, a trumpet, and a guitar, but we'll figure it out. The goal is to earn £20 - enough to go grab a round of celebratory drinks. I can't wait!
     Of course, first, I have to get my guitar back from Stan.

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50. Ronald Kidd's NIGHT ON FIRE - Guest Post


Night on Fire
by Ronald Kidd

      It started with a bucket of water, a stack of Dixie cups, and the girl who carried them.
      Her name is Janie Forsyth, and she appeared in Stanley Nelson’s magnificent documentary, Freedom Riders. Her family owned a neighborhood market on the outskirts of Anniston, Alabama. On Mother’s Day 1961, a group of African American and white students calling themselves Freedom Riders came to Anniston on a trip through the South to challenge segregation practices. As Janie looked on, a mob forced the bus off the road right in front of the market. They set the bus on fire, and when the riders came stumbling out, the mob beat them. A crowd watched. No one did anything to help the riders.
      Except Janie.
      She got a bucket, filled it with water, took some Dixie cups, and went among the riders, offering them water and comfort. Someone filmed the scene, and I saw it fifty years later in Nelson’s documentary. I was so moved by Janie’s courage that I decided then and there to write a book about it. At first I thought I might tell Janie’s story. Then I decided to create a fictional character who knew Janie and lived in her neighborhood. That character is thirteen-year-old Billie Sims, who, along with her family and best friend, Grant McCall, lives up the hill and is at the market on that terrible day.
      That night, Billie asks herself some tough questions: How could people do such a thing? How could others stand by and watch? How could I stand by and watch?
      To answer the questions, Billie goes on a bus ride of her own with Jarmaine Jones, a new friend who is the daughter of her family’s maid, Lavender. Jarmaine and Billie decide together that there are two kinds of people in the world: watchers and riders. They want to be riders.
      The bus takes them to Montgomery, where the Freedom Riders had been attacked and a rally to support them would be held at First Baptist Church. Attending the rally are Civil Rights leaders Ralph Abernathy, James Farmer, Diane Nash, Martin Luther King Jr. The church filled, a mob surrounded it, and the night burst into flame.
      Billie and Jarmaine are there. They see what fear can do and how freedom could overcome it.
      “I thought freedom was just a word, but it’s not,” says Billie. “My friend Jarmaine taught me that. Freedom is hands and feet, bodies and faces, wounds and scars. It’s a bell, and I rang it. It’s a bus, and I climbed on.”
      Billie’s journey was my journey too. My family is from the South, and, like all Americans, we have been infected by racism. As Lavender Jones says, prejudice is a disease. You catch it from your parents and friends. The question isn’t whether you have it, but whether you’ll pass it on.
      I don’t want to pass it on, and neither does Billie. I am grateful to her, as I am grateful to all my characters for allowing me to walk alongside them.
     It’s why I write. In my reading, I search for a time and place where important things were bubbling up and about to burst, then I imagine what it would have been like to be there. I’m in Anniston with the Freedom Riders. I’m in Dayton, Tennessee, to witness the Scopes Monkey Trial. I’m in Memphis when Elvis Presley cuts his first record. I’m in Sierra Madre, California, to watch the filming of The Invasion of the Body Snatchers. I’m in Bristol, Tennessee, to meet the Carter Family and see the birth of country music.
      My characters grow from the soil of these places, and important things are bubbling up in them as well, things that spill over into my world and the world of my readers. Racism in Anniston. Doubt in Dayton. Identity in Memphis. Paranoia in Sierra Madre. Faith in Bristol.
      I sit in a chair in Nashville, Tennessee, and I travel across America, dipping down when something grabs my attention. It’s a big, rough, troubled, beautiful country, and I am eager to explore it.
Ronald's fave writing spot:
     Learn more about Ronald at http://www.albertwhitman.com/author/ronald-kidd/.

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