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Viewing Blog: Elizabeth O. Dulemba, Most Recent at Top
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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. SOPHIE'S SQUASH by Pat Zietlow Miller - GIVEAWAY!

SOPHIE'S SQUASH written by Pat Zietlow Miller and illustrated by Anne Wilsdorf has set the entire kidlitosphere abuzz. So much so, SOPHIE'S SQUASH recently won the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators Golden Kite Award for best picture book text. Wowsa! It even has its own facebook page! And it deserves the attention for the spot-on humor and cleverness. Truly, half way through I wondered "How is Pat going to get herself out of this quandry?" And she did! In such a charming way. Sweet magic.
     I'm thrilled to have Pat on my blog today...

Q. Pat, SOPHIE'S SQUASH is your debut picture book - and what a debut it is! How long have you been writing and what's been your path to publication?
I have been seriously working on picture books for about six years. But before that, I was always writing something. Newspaper stories, magazine articles, corporate communications … But I can honestly say that writing picture books is the most fun, by far!
      My path to publication was like that of a lot of debut authors. Loads of rejections, a few close calls, many more rejections and then, a yes! I had almost given up on finding a home for SOPHIE when Anne Schwartz of Schwartz & Wade called.

Q. How did the idea for SOPHIE'S SQUASH come to you?
The initial idea came from something my daughter, Sonia, did when she was three. We were shopping for groceries, and I put a butternut squash in the cart. When it came time to check out, I couldn’t find the squash. That’s when I realized Sonia was rocking it like a baby. When we got home, she drew a face on it and carried it around like a doll. We never did eat it.
      So that got the story going. Then, I added a lot of things that hadn’t really happened to make it a better story. That’s the benefit of writing fiction. You can make things end the way you wish they would have in real life. (SPOILER ALERT: The parents in my book are much more patient than I was.)

Q. I love the humor in SOPHIE'S SQUASH. It's both for adults and clever children - for Sophie is indeed a bright little girl. The best picture books speak to all the ages that will be reading them (children and their parents). How did you nail that?
Well, my daughter, Sonia, has had a very dry sense of humor from an early age. So when I made the dialogue up, I wanted it to be something I could imagine Sonia saying. A few editors said they thought Sophie sounded too grown-up, but I think that’s part of her charm, and the humor.
      And, now that I’ve read this story out loud to lots of groups of people, I’ve noticed that adults and kids laugh in different places. I’d like to say I planned that, but I really didn’t.

Q. We always hear that children should solve their own problems in stories - it empowers them. Sophie definitely did that. But I wonder if that was hard to noodle out?
It was! My earliest drafts had the story ending with Sophie’s dad going to the grocery store to get her an acorn squash and a spaghetti squash. So Sophie didn’t solve anything. Then, the dad came home with Ace the goldfish after Bernice lingered and died. That didn’t work either. It was too sad.
      It took me a bit – and some good advice from my critique group friends – to have Sophie ask the farmer for advice and then plant Bernice in the garden.

Q. You received the Golden Kite Award for SOPHIE'S SQUASH!!! Congratulations!!! And how did that feel?
It was amazing. I had obviously heard of the award, but it was never on my radar that I might actually win it. So when my phone rang and the caller ID said “Lin Oliver,” I thought it might be an automated message about needing to renew my SCBWI dues.
      Instead, it was Lin herself, telling me I’d won. It was a very happy moment. I think I tweeted something like I was happy, just like Pharrell Williams, except he was a better dancer and wore cooler hats. Some spontaneous kitchen dancing may also have occurred. But there were no witnesses, so nothing can be proved.

Q. You have now become the Squash Queen! (I love this photo of the Dallas Arboretum somebody shared on Sophie's FB page as a perfect place to visit.) Are you having fun with it?
Oh, yes. I think the biggest change is that while I still eat squash soup and risotto, I now feel slightly guilty doing so. And I’ve received adorable photos and stories from readers. A few of my favorite moments are:
      • A girl who dressed up as Sophie and took her own Bernice to school. The kids were supposed to dress up as Dr. Seuss characters, but she wanted to be Sophie and Bernice.

     • A little boy who had a mini pumpkin he was treating like a baby. His mom read him the story so he’d know that it wouldn’t last forever.

     • A pre-school class that added a squash to its classroom, took great care of it and then planted it when it started getting soft. They sent me picture of it sprouting in a pot. The class also tied taking care of the squash to its kindness curriculum, which made me very happy indeed.

Q. I hear you're working on a sequel?
SOPHIE’S SEEDS, which should come out in 2016, follows Sophie to kindergarten. She brings Bonnie and Baxter with her, of course, but her classmates don’t immediately appreciate their value.
      And let’s just say Sophie doesn’t immediately appreciate her classmates either. But things eventually work out. (And again, I drew on one instance from my daughter’s pre-school days for the heart of the story.)

Q. I also heard you mention a new story inspired by somebody's Facebook post. How do you go from idea to finished story?
Oh, goodness. It really varies. I guess the common thread is that I hear or see some small nugget of something that I like – either because it’s nicely phrased, or odd, or silly or charming. Then, I work with it to see what it could become. Sometimes, the story falls into place fairly easily. Other times, it seems I struggle for every word.
     I have three critique groups I’m in where I get really good feedback, and that helps bring my stories together, too.

Q. Did you do anything special, or squash-related to celebrate the release of SOPHIE'S SQUASH?
I had a great book launch party with squash for the kids to decorate and temporary tattoos with designs from the book. But the coolest thing came from writer Lisa Morlock who’s in one of my critique groups. She sent me a beautifully painted, hollow gourd that now has a place of honor in my writing room.
      Lisa also sent me a card with some famous quotations she’d modified to make them appropriate for the occasion, like:
      “Well-behaved squash rarely make history.”
     “The earth laughs in squash.”
     “Hope is a thing with squash.”

Q. I can't wait to read more of your work Pat! Thanks so much for stopping by!
Thank you so much for having me!

Pat has kindly agreed to send one free, signed and dedicated copy of SOPHIE'S SQUASH to one of my lucky commenters! Must live in the continental US to win. Enter below!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

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27. My Best Friends Are Trees...

I'm a guest poster on the Little Pickle Press blog today, where I talk about how when I was a kid, My Best Friends Were Trees. I hope you'll GO READ!

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28. Coloring Page Tuesday - Tire Swing!

A special edition of Coloring Page Tuesdays and e's news went out today with BIG NEWS about my new historical fiction mid-grade A BIRD ON WATER STREET. CLICK HERE to go see.
     Read anywhere, read everywhere! Were you like me? Did you read even while walking down the sidewalk?
     CLICK HERE for more coloring pages and be sure to share your creations in my gallery so I can put them in my upcoming newsletters! (They don't have to be cards - I love scribbly kids art too!)
     Sign up to receive alerts when a new coloring page is posted each week and... Please check out my books! Especially...

my debut historical fiction mid-grade, A BIRD ON WATER STREET, available NOW in eversions! 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.
     **A SIBA OKRA Pick!**

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29. 2014 SCBWI Southern Breeze Illustrators' Day and Springmingle Wrap-Up!

*Whew!* The whirlwind is over, I had my annual coma/nap/collapse upon returning home. All said, our 2014 SCBWI Southern Breeze Illustrators' Day and Springmingle Conference were great successes! Since ID is my baby (I'm Illustrator Coordinator), I'll start with that one...
     Our speakers this year were spectacular and complimented each other beautifully: Ruth Sanderson (award-winning illustrator); Loraine Joyner (Art Director for Peachtree Publishing); Cheryl Willis Hudson (Just Us Books); and Lucy Ruth Cummins (Art Director for S&S/Paula Wiseman Books).

     Ruth talked about storyboarding, which was basically a walk-through of how to create a book - fantastic! Loraine mentored twelve of our attendees on a three-month long project building up to ID and she went way above and beyond what any of us expected. Here's the gang with their finished products (click to see it bigger in a new window):
Cheryl talked about diversity in children's books, which was timely and something we all need to be more aware of. Lucy Ruth was hilarious as she walked us through the design process and gave tips for how illustrators can be on ADs radar more. I also gave my 15-minute soap-box about working with self-publishers - what to expect and ask for. We had a panel with our speakers, and once again did our Quickfire portfolio reviews, in which the panel spends two minutes on each portfolio giving knee-jerk feedback - SO informative and educational for everybody!
     I've been going through the comments people wrote on their name tags (which they then turned in for the giveaway - a free copy of Ruth Sanderson's kickstarter anthology of her work - a real treasure), and the response has been just gushing about how much everybody enjoyed the day and really learned a ton, which is the whole point!
     Springmingle followed Illustrators' Day right on its heels with a cocktail party to transition from one to the other. We moved our portfolios down the hall and had a well-deserved unwind. Sort of... It was time for the next party!
     Cheryl Klein (Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine) gave a writer's intensive while I was doing Illustrators' Day and I heard it was like attending a college class for six hours! She's really so good. Jo Kittinger gave a lovely speech about what SCBWI has meant to her, especially now that she's retiring from the Regional Advisor position after eleven years! Claudia gave her a great big hug onstage:

     Saturday morning Ruth gave a truly moving speech about her history and how it influenced her illustrating. It all tied together and made so much sense, but there wasn't a dry eye in the room. She's my boss at Hollins University in the MFA in Writing and Illustrating Children's Books - and even though I know her, she blew me away.
     Cheryl Willis Hudson's passion for getting books that reflect all races and cultures into the hands of readers was palpable. She was so inspirational and exactly what we all needed to hear, especially with the recent surveys about the dearth of diversity in today's books. (It's one reason I am so proud of my many diverse books.)
      The split session before lunch included Ammi-Joan Paquette of Erin Murphy Literary Agency (MY literary agency), Lucy Ruth, and Jo again. I went to see Lucy Ruth again (yes, it got a bit confusing with two Cheryl's and two Ruths!). I have to say - that girl is hilarious and so in love with what she does. She's really good - and I say this with a degree in Graphic Design under my belt and twelve years of Art Director experience myself). I mean, she's really, really good at what she does. And she has an adorable dog - Penny.
     Lunch was exciting as six of us got to talk about our latest releases for a few minutes. What fun to share my own good news with dear friends Robyn Hood Black (three poetry anthologies), Krista Russell (THE OTHER SIDE OF FREE), Susan Rosson Spain (THE DEEP CUT is now in paperback), Trisha Slay (NOT SO LONG AGO NOT SO FAR AWAY), Me, and Vicky Alvear Shecter (ANUBIS SPEAKS). People said I did a great job talking up A BIRD ON WATER STREET, and in fact, the bookstore (FoxTale Book Shoppe) SOLD OUT of it - at least two dozen or more copies!!!!! That's never happened to me before - wow!

     After lunch we had our choice of Cheryl K., Cheryl H., or Ruth. Since I missed out on Cheryl's writing workshop, I really wanted to get a little bit of time with her. She was incredibly informative as always. She's so good at breaking down what this writing thing is all about.
     Joan talked about wearing several hats as an agent, writer, and mom. Then there was the signing party where I got to sign all those lovely sold copies of A BIRD ON WATER STREET. Another first: I was signing the entire time!!!

Then we had a lovely dinner (I had a blast getting to know Lucy Ruth better - she is awesome!) and the First Looks/First 8 Lines panel, which is always interesting.
     Sunday, Lucy Ruth once again shared her hilarious brilliance, Cheryl shared more insight on what publishers want to see and we had another, especially good panel with all our acquiring speakers.
     After the giveaways and sad good-byes (and fuzzy hugs) the PAL members (traditionally published) had a lunch meeting to talk about how SCBWI might better help us promote our books and speaking engagements. I think that went very well!
     I drove Ruth to the airport and then, as I mentioned, fell into a deep sleep on the couch. Conferences are so invigorating, draining, fun, exhausting. I ate like a horse and actually lost three pounds - crazy.
     Thanks to our Co-Regional Advisors Claudia Pearson and Kathleen Bradshaw for doing such a great job, as well as our Assistant Regional Advisor Heather Montgomery (who actually does more than she lets on). And thanks to Lisa Stauffer for planning Springmingle - she's the duck - calm and cool on top and paddling like all get-out underneath. Now I get to dream about when I can next get together with all my writing buds - can't wait!

LINKS that were mentioned this weekend:
Corey Godbey
MFA in Writing and Illustrating Children's Books - Hollins University
The Cockeyed Caravan
Wes Anderson palettes
Brad Hill - Key Techniques (I couldn't find the one on changing points of view)

Photos by Prescott Hill, used with permission.

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30. Cute Bookseller Displays on COLOR

Shelf Awareness recently posted two bookseller displays. The first was at Blue Willow Bookshop in Houston, Texas. The second was a follow-up display at The King's English in Salt Lake City, Utah. Any other bookstores want to pony up? I'll add your photo to this post!

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I adored this book and am excited to have Leslye Walton here for a guest post today...

     Most are surprised to learn that my favorite book as a child was a small paperback bought at a neighbor’s garage sale entitled The Best Baby Name Book in the World. I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that I spent hours pouring over the pages of this book, starring my favorite names, highlighting those I found unusual or memorable. It drove my sister crazy that I spent most of our playtime choosing our Barbies’ names and recording them in thick yellow notepads. But it was important to me that I found the right name for each of them. You can learn so much from a name. This was never more apparent to me than when I started writing The Strange & Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender where Marigold Pie was the self-righteous neighbor with a passion for sweets and Satin Lush the smooth-talking bootlegger. And Ava, the girl with wings? Her name means “bird.”
      For me, writing always starts with the characters. I can’t begin to formulate a story before I know the people who will be living it. Plus, more often than not, it’s the characters that tell me the plot and not the other way around. It takes a while for me to get to know them. They’re like small children always wanting my attention, intruding my thoughts at the most inconvenient times. This is the stage of the writing process where I can be found muttering to myself while walking my dog, when I’m at the gym or grocery shopping. This is when I lose my keys in my own pocket, when I manage to trap myself in my own bathroom and escape only by unscrewing the hinges.
     Check out Leslye's cool writing space with her view of Seattle. She says she's on the 3rd floor and that if she looks down she has a not-so-glamorous view of a parking lot and dumpsters. I say don't look down!

     It’s common—perhaps even acceptable—for children to get carried away with their imaginations. People find it delightful when my three-year-old niece launches into a tale about her make-believe friends. But adults, even creative ones, aren’t allowed this luxury. It’s not quite as adorable when I can’t pull myself away from these strange creations of mine. When ordinary tasks are overlooked; a heaping laundry pile neglected in the corner, social commitments and dentist appointments long forgotten.
      Perhaps this is why whenever someone asks my advice on being a writer, I always recommend that they do something else. Anything else. If they can find something to do other than write and still feel fulfilled in life, go do that other thing. It’s dreadfully difficult to muster up the self-motivation, determination, and, let’s face it, complete and utter delusion that such a job requires while still remembering to pay the rent on time. I wrote Ava Lavender not with dreams of success, not even with the idea that anyone else would ever read it, let alone enjoy it. I wrote it simply because I couldn’t not write it. These characters of mine weren’t going to let their story be untold, and they didn’t seem to care whether I had time for much else.
      I have to admit, I’m happy to be their vessel. It suits me quite well. And though these strange characters of mine will surely continue to distract me from the ordinary tasks of the day, I no longer feel embarrassed when I have to explain how I managed to lose my keys yet again, or why I can’t seem to remember the date regardless of how many times I ask. But, I am learning. If you peek just underneath the sink in my bathroom, you’ll see I’ve hidden a screwdriver. Just in case.

Candlewick has kindly agreed to give away one free copy of Leslye's THE STRANGE AND BEAUTIFUL SORROWS OF AVA LAVENDER to one of my lucky commenters! Must live in the US or Canada to win. Enter below.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

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32. Friday Linky List - March 28, 2014

At Route 19 Writers: "Why Don't Women Illustrators Win Caldecott Awards?" by Carol Baicker-McKee. Hmmmmm.

Neil Gaiman on Why Scary Stories Appeal to Us, the Art of Fear in Children's Books, and the Most Terrifying Ghosts Haunting Society at Brain Pickings

Nahoko Uehashi and illustrator Roger Mello are the winners of the 2014 Hans Christian Andersen Award.

Voting for the Children's Choice Book Awards opened Tuesday at http://ccbookawards.com/, but there's been a lot of debate around this year's choices because it includes Long Story Short, Rush Limbaugh's book. Read an interesting debate over the matter at Betsy Bird's Fuse #8 at SLJ: Press Release Fun: The CBC and the 2014 Children's Choice Book Awards.

At the Business Insider via SwissMiss - This List Proves You're Never Too Old To Do Something Amazing

The UpStanding Desk from Kickstarter - for those trying to get off their duff.

From PW: Bologna 2014: Realism Reigns (and mid-grade apparently)

At BuzzFeed via PW: 15 Breathtaking Illustrations of Fairy Tales From The 1920s

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33. PETER PANDA MELTS DOWN! illustrated by John Nez - GIVEAWAY!

I've been a member of the Picture Books Artists Association for many years now, and one of our most active and talented members is John Nez. He has a new book out, PETER PANDA MELTS DOWN! written by Artie Bennett. So I thought it would be a good time to invite him on to talk about making kids book art!

Q. John, you've been illustrating picture books for how long now?
I've been drawing and painting picturebooks for most of my life. Once upon a time, I ran away to New York City to become a book illustrator. I was inspired by my Uncle Edwin Scmidt, who was an illustrator from Philadelphia. He was very successful doing commercial work along with some Little Golden Books. I used to see his name in Little Golden Books at the supermarket and it made me feel like he was famous. A while back I was very proud that my name appeared in the Little Golden Book 50th anniversary catalog along with my Uncle Ed.

Q. How have you watched the business change over the years?
Everything has changed. I used to hand deliver my sketches to my art directors by walking through Central Park. Then I got an answering machine - then a fax machine - then FedEx came along so I could move back to Seattle. Next came computers and photoshop - and PDFs and e-books and the internet. Whew! Was it always this confusing? Starting out in New York City was the most exciting time of my life. But of course everything in book illustration has changed over and over since then. I think the trick is to try to stay new and keep a feeling in the work.

Q. I love your line and watercolor method - is that always how you've worked? How has your style changed over the years?
The style for Peter Panda is just one of many styles I work in. I always try for something different in each new book. My previous book, MOUSE'S CHRISTMAS COOKIE, is very elaborate in comparison. Often I get tired of doing one style and want to make something entirely the opposite next time. After I did the painterly realism of CROMWELL DIXON'S SKY-CYCLE, I next did a very bold and abstract digital style for THE DANCING CLOCK.
      The art direction for PETER PANDA MELTS DOWN! was very much 'less is more'. The art was done with simple brush-pen on watercolor paper and digital color. I also have colored line styles and more traditional watercolor styles. Working digitally allows a range of styles from traditional painting to hard edged design. I totally love photoshop and the other tools in the Creative Suite - they make my life so much better. With digital tools I can be my own art director and change anything about an image. I could go on for ages about how I make pictures. My method is a process that I'm always tweaking. Some day I'll have to write a book and reveal my secret techniques. (Some of them are way cool!) By the way, I still use real paper for drawing and painting.

Q. What was your process behind Peter Panda and nailing this sweet character even during a meltdown?
This book all came about from a chance meeting at ALA-mid-winter13, when I got to chat with Blue Apple Books. The publisher, Harriet Ziefert, (who has written 100's of amazing picture books), was looking for a panda character. So I went home and designed the tryout character in about 3 hours. Everyone loved it! It was exactly what they were looking for. And one of those first sketches later turned into the cover, since it perfectly captures the mixed up emotions that I was trying to convey. I had not even seen the manuscript at that point. It was hugely helpful to meet with the publishers so I knew exactly what they wanted.

Q. What was your path to publication when you first entered this business?
Originally I moved to NYC with a half scholarship from the Parsons School of Design. I even got to take a class from Maurice Sendak. But after one semester I dropped out because I already had a degree in English and I wanted to start freelancing. I had $300 in the bank and a huge portfolio that I'd worked on for years. So I schlepped my 30 pound portfolio all around Manhattan. My lucky break came one morning in the middle of a blizzard in February, where I found refuge in the office of Holt. The editor, Miriam Chaikin, paged through my portfolio and quietly said, "Well, we have a little book that you could do... but it only pays $800". My career was rescued! Suddenly my bank account doubled! I cancelled Plan B, which was to return to Seattle and find another career. I loved every minute of being a freelancer in Manhattan. It was so much fun as more and more jobs rolled in. It was all so exciting... meeting publishers. I was young and starting out in New York! And I've been at it ever since.

Q. How do you advertise yourself nowadays?
I use online directories, social media and and postcards. The internet has changed everything, of course. I keep meaning to look for a literary agent, since I write lots of stories. I've been so busy working that I've scarcely had time this year. My degree was in English. I'm self trained as an artist. I also learned how to make interactive e-book apps for the iPad. I get to do everything in that case. I'm the publisher, actor, writer, producer, designer, choreographer and sound effects. That has been interesting and even a little bit profitable. But it's a different direction from print publishing and the marketing isn't much fun. Also there are no advances so the monetization is a slow steady drip rather than a big gush like with a book advance.

Q. This is how many books for you now?
Just like with birthdays... I kind of stopped counting.

Q. Will you do anything special to celebrate its release?
Actually I've never had a book launch for any of my books, and by now I don't think I'd even know how. Since I work entirely alone and only know three other people in Seattle who do books, it seems too daunting to organize a party in public. Probably about three people would show up. But I've had fun emailing the author, Artie Bennett, who forwards all the rave reviews to me. One new thing about the internet is that now I seem to meet all my authors with email. I know dozens of book artists online... but very few in person. Generally I find it's best to just get on to the next project. Making pictures is where I find the most fun.

Q. Thanks for stopping by dulemba.com!!!

John has kindly agreed to give away a free, signed and dedicated copy of PETER PANDA MELTS DOWN! to one of my lucky commenters. Must live in the US/Canada to win. Enter below.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

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34. Environmental destruction - it's still happening...

My forthcoming novel, A BIRD ON WATER STREET has a strong environmental message... Young Jack lives in a southern Appalachian mining town completely denuded by a century of poor copper mining practices. There are no birds, no bugs, no trees - the only living things in his world are the people in the community that he loves. And although I wish I could say it was completely made up, my story is based on a real time and place in 1986 in Copperhill, Tennessee near the Tennessee, North Carolina, and Georgia state lines. And while Copperhill went through an amazing reclamation, it's a story that could happen in many American towns and still does.
      Earlier today, a friend sent me an article at the News Observer: US House votes to allow dumping of coal mining waste into streams - posted March 25, 2015 - that's not 1986, that's yesterday. My friend said the article reminded her of A BIRD ON WATER STREET. And indeed it reminds me too.
     It's part of why I wrote the story. Because if the adults of today can still make such debilitating decisions towards our environment, maybe our children are our only hope. Maybe they will save us. Maybe they will read A BIRD ON WATER STREET and see how it relates to environmental issues in their own back yards - whether it be mining, fracking, waste disposal, clear-cutting, you name it. Because the story in A BIRD ON WATER STREET is symbolic of hundreds of stories just like it - of other areas that are still waiting for their revitalization - for their adults to wise up and do the right thing.
     Some of the reviews for A BIRD ON WATER STREET explain it best:

"Dulemba expertly weaves the strands of Coppertown's environmental, economic, and personal relationships and gives a life-affirming portrait of a Southern Appalachian town needing and ready for new life. Jack's story is set in the late 1980s, but could replicate the experience of countless miners' children in this country and the world, in the past century and the present."

"Important lessons for young people abound as it evokes the environmental and financial devastation a big industry and personal greed can have on the innocent lives of workers, their careers, and where they've chosen to live."

"Ultimately hopeful, this story will give readers a first look at the kind of environmental and social issues surrounding large industry that they'll encounter later in books like Upton Sinclair's "The Jungle.""
     Yes, mother nature is resilient. Yes, she can make a comeback. But we must never forget that our actions can make our earth uninhabitable for humankind. Mother Nature doesn't need us - we need her! It's a lesson we must learn for our own survival.
     CLICK HERE to learn more about A BIRD ON WATER STREET.

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35. Coloring Page Tuesday - Spring Chicken!

     It's Spring chicken! We just celebrated the Vernal Equinox. Hubbie and I have been searching out sunbeams to have lunch in - ahhhhhh! How about you? Are you glad spring is here? Does it look like spring where you live?
     CLICK HERE for more coloring pages and be sure to share your creations in my gallery so I can put them in my upcoming newsletters! (They don't have to be cards - I love scribbly kids art too!)
     Sign up to receive alerts when a new coloring page is posted each week and... Please check out my books! Especially...

my debut historical fiction mid-grade, A BIRD ON WATER STREET, available NOW in eversions! 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.
     **A SIBA OKRA Pick!**

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36. SCBWI Southern Breeze Illustrators' Day this Friday!

This Friday, March 28th, at the Marriott Century Center in Atlanta, Georgia, I host our 7th annual Illustrators' Day for the Southern Breeze chapter (Alabama, Georgia, and the Florida panhandle) of the SCBWI. It has been my pleasure to make this opportunity available for the up-and-coming illustrators in my area, and this year we have an amazing line-up. Our speakers are: Lucy Cummins, Art Director for Simon & Schuster, Paula Wiseman Books; Cheryl Willis Hudson, Vice President of Just Us Books; Ruth Sanderson, award-winning illustrator and my boss in the Hollins Universtity MFA in Writing & Illustrating program; and Loraine Joyner, Art Director from Peachtree Publishers, who has been our amazing mentor this year. CLICK HERE to see the details or register (late fees will now apply).
     Illustrators' Day is followed up by SPRINGMINGLE, our 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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37. Technical Difficulties

Dulemba.com is experiencing technical difficulties with our hosting company today. Sorry for the inconvenience! I'm trying to get it resolved asap!

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38. Divergent Trailer

It opens this weekend. Gosh, I hope it lives up to the book.

If the video above gives you any trouble, click the image below.

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39. Guest Post on Nonfiction Picture Books by Heather Montgomery - GIVEAWAY!

If you're looking for a speaker to invite to your school - Heather Montgomery is your gal. She is so animated, hilarious, and passionate about her subjects, you will be mesmerized by how fascinating she can make seemingly ordinary things! I am honored to have Heather here today to talk about her craft...

Writing Nonfiction that Speaks to a Child

      From dissecting a dead rattlesnake to painting my face with dirt, I’ll do just about anything to pass my love of science and nature on to kids. But when I started writing about nature, I hit some roadblocks. It wasn’t until I stepped back and considered lessons from my previous career – interpretation (not interpreting French, Spanish or even American Sign Language but interpreting nature or history) – that I “got it.” Ten books later, those lessons are still serving me well, so I thought I’d pass them along.
      In 1957 Freeman Tilden wrote the book INTERPRETING OUR HERITAGE which is, to this day, the fundamental text for both naturalists and historical interpreters. Freeman presented two principles that he believed were central to good interpretation. I believe they are also central to good informational texts.

Big Ideas
      The first of Tilden’s principles speaks to the purpose of our work. Effective writing “is the revelation of a larger truth that lies behind any statement of fact.” Think about it: why does a random list of facts not make a good book? Because it does not lead to the revelation of some greater truth, a “big idea.” Well-crafted writing guides the reader towards an “Aha!” moment, towards a greater comprehension of the way the world works, and/or towards an epiphany about themselves.
      How do you reveal such a big idea in a short piece for children? In writing WILD DISCOVERIES: WACKY NEW ANIMALS, I asked myself a series of questions: What? So what? Now what? Those simple questions became critical guideposts on the journey to writing the book.
     1) “What?” I found a jungle of amazing facts about a hot pink creature that had never been discovered before, a worm that shoots slime out of its face, a monkey that took 30 years to discover, … The torrent of information I collected was overwhelming.
     2) “So what?” I learned that important scientific discoveries are still going on today – every single day. WOW! That’s a big idea. The answer to this second question showed me that I needed to select only material which supported this point and cut material that did not. Suddenly my overwhelming pile of information was manageable. It helped me sequence that information so that my reader could experience the same “Aha!” I had. And, it allowed me to lead into the final question.
     3) “Now what?” Go outside and make your own scientific discoveries! Children everywhere are helping with the discovery of new species. My reader can too!
      Tilden’s second principle was that your work should “capitalize on mere curiosity for the enrichment of the human mind and spirit.” Curiosity, such a natural human drive, is stimulating and novel ideas or approaches please the human brain. The trick to successful nonfiction is to make use of that natural instinct to “enrich.”
      How do you write an article that reveals big ideas and enriches reader’s lives?

Principles to Write By (Adapted from Interpreting Our Heritage):
     • Writing that does not relate to the reader will be sterile. In WILD DISCOVERIES, I selected only new animals which were weird and thus related to a kid’s fascination with wacky animals.
     • Information, in and of itself, is not good writing. With every new animal presented in the book, I included some tidbit about the process of scientific discovery in order to move the reader towards my big idea.
     • Writing nonfiction is an art that incorporates many other arts. It took me much practice to artfully blend the scientific vocabulary and literary descriptions that would appeal to a broad audience.
     • Writing must speak to a whole as opposed to the parts. To make the most of this story, I had to address the whole concept of discovery and new species instead of focusing on one animal or aspect of the process.
     • Quality nonfiction for children is not a watered-down version of adult literature, but rather, it takes a different approach. I prioritized a child’s sense of adventure and humor in selection of animals and anecdotes so that I could appeal to their unique perspective on the world.
     • The main purpose “is not instruction, but provocation.” In this book, I could have presented only the fun, educational information about these newly discovered animals, but the power was in provoking the idea that a child, too, can make discoveries and add to our knowledge about the world.
      So, try these principals yourself. Appeal to your reader’s sense of curiosity, reveal big ideas and enrich lives with your writing. Then, thank Tilden for your successful submissions!
Heather's favorite writing spot.

Tilden, Freeman. 1957, Interpreting Our Heritage. Chapel Hill, North Carolina: University of North Carolina Press.

Heather has kindly agreed to give away a free, signed copy of WILD DISCOVERIES. Must live in the US/Canada to win. Enter below!
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40. Friday Linky List March 21, 2014

What Does 2 Billion Books Sales Look Like?: Infographic at GalleyCat

"How To Write Children's Picture Books" by Tara Lazar at writetodone via Nathan Bransford

From Writer unBoxed (via Cynsations): On the Care and Feeding of Writers by Julianna Baggott and her husband David G.W. Scott

10 Painful Refection Letters to Famous People Proving You Should NEVER Give Up Your Dreams at Distractify

From boingboing, "Mor, the ultimate villain-name syllable": Why so many villains have the syllable "mor" in their names

At The New York Times: "Where Are the People of Color in Children's Books?" by Walter Dean Myers

Followed up by "The Apartheid of Children's Literature" by Christopher Myers also at the New York Times. Please read both - this is an important topic.

"How Much Money Does a Writer Make" Laura Purdie Salas once again shares her income break-down from the past year (only in her newsletter - so subscribe if you'd like to follow). This is how it works - a little bit here, a little bit there, and the bottom line seems about right.

Finnish Education Chief: 'We Created a School System Based on Equality' at The Atlantic - interesting.

At The Writing Barn: "Rejecting Rejection, with author Sarah Aronson"

Jim Lee on How to Draw Hands (video)

At the Children's Literature Network: A Conversation: Why is Historical Fiction Important?

From Publishers Lunch: The shortlist for the Hans Christian Anderson Award is up at the International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY). The winners will be announced at the Bologna Children's Book Fair.

Children's Choice Award Finalist Stirs Controversy at PW. I'll say! *whew*

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I love books that celebrate various cultures around the world, such as AT THE SAME MOMENT AROUND THE WORLD written and illustrated by Clotilde Perrin. It's glorious in its simplicity and wow, what a talent Clotilde is! As so many of the creators I've been featuring lately (what is up with the French!?), Clotilde is French, so Chronicle is helping us talk to her via a translator...

Q. Hi Cotilde - as a francophile, I'd love to know where you live in France?
A. I live in Strasbourg, it’s in the northeast of France.

Q. Is the children's book market very different in France, or do you find yourself targeting the American or English-speaking markets specifically?
A. I work a lot in France at the moment but I’m absolutely ready to begin working in the American and English market. I think that my style will work very well for young American and English readers. I will be delighted to have this experience.
Click the image to see a larger version in a new window.

Q. What has been your journey to publication in children's books?
A. I’ve published around thirty books, four of which I wrote. My first book that I wrote and illustrated was LE COLIS ROUGE, published in 2007 by Editions Rue du Monde. It’s a wordless book where you follow a character on a bike with a hat and a red package. It’s a mysterious package, and my character travels across incredible universes—and at the end you discover what’s inside the package. This book was very important for me because I could draw whatever I wanted and whatever I wanted to pass on to my readers. My images were teeming, filled with little details.
     Next, I made TOUT AUTOUR DE MOI, a book for the very young, a book you can read with all your senses. I really wanted kids to have fun with the book, discover that they could look at it upside down, lying down, that you could read it repeatedly, wherever you felt like with whoever was with you. There too, I liked that my books allowed my reader to undertake his own storytelling inspired by my images.
     In 2011, I made AU MEME INSTANT SUR LA TERRE [what became At the Same Moment, Around the World in English]. In France, this book was published in an accordion format. It’s a book-object that you can read but also then stand up and turn into a globe so you can find your way to the center of the world and travel all around it.
     In 2012, QUI VOILÀ was a little book that told of the arrival of a baby, his first day on earth. Now I’m working on new books in a littler format, more intimate. To be continued . . .

Q. AT THE SAME MOMENT AROUND THE WORLD is charming and seemingly simple. How did the idea come to you and how much research did you have to do to get it right?
A. The idea had been stumbling around in my head for a fair bit of time to tell a story about something happening at the same instant—this elusive idea that so many things could happen at the same moment. Then, the inspiration to take a journey around the Earth turned the idea into a coherent vision. I felt like I was travelling in my studio during the several months I worked on the book. It was very exciting to choose the countries that I wanted to show. I wanted readers to discover countries both well- and lesser-known, to show that at the same instant it could be beautiful and hot in one corner of the globe, and in another, it could be cold; it could be snowing. I didn’t want to make a book that was purely didactic, but rather to introduce in my paintings details that were poetic and cultural, little hidden gems that the reader could find. I really like when I can engage the reader in the experience of my paintings.

Q. The book has a narrow and tall proportion that's different from average picture books. Why did you choose that layout?
A. The object transformed itself. The choice of format allowed me to create a big frieze of all the countries in the book. Chronicle Books published it in a different format, more classic, but the pages stayed the same. All my paintings follow each other, so they are visually connected. The geographical map locating where the characters live was made especially for the English edition.

Q. Your illustrations are so engaging. What is your method?
A. My paintings tell a lot. I draw a lot of details as well, so my readers aren’t passive. You have to enter my world and read all the “winks,” the little gems, to understand the whole thing. I really like the work of Jerome Bosch, a Flemish painter of the 15th century. These paintings are filled with stories; they overflow with details. It takes a good amount of time to really read each painting, and that’s what I like. You travel in the image, you meet characters, ambiances, objects; you have fun there!

Q. Are you able to celebrate the release of AT THE SAME MOMENT AROUND THE WORLD way over in France? How are you celebrating your gorgeous accomplishment?
A. I would really like to, but here in France there is nothing planned. I would love to come visit you and drink champagne to this superb moment!

I would love that too! Thanks so much for visiting dulemba.com!

Chronicle is kindly giving away one free copy of AT THE SAME MOMENT AROUND THE WORLD to one of my lucky commenters. Must live in the US or Canada to win. Enter below...
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42. My favorite page in A BIRD ON WATER STREET

You'll find this page in the back of A BIRD ON WATER STREET. It tells you about how environmentally responsible the publishing process was for the book. See, my publisher, Little Pickle Press is a Certified B Corp (from the website):

Striving to be the change it seeks, Little Pickle Press has proudly become a B Corporation.
      B Corps are certified by the nonprofit B Lab to meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency.
      Today, there is a growing community of more than 600 Certified B Corps from 15 countries and 60 industries working together toward one unifying goal: to redefine success in business.
      We are thrilled to announce that for the second year in a row, Little Pickle Press has been named among the “Best for the World” B Corporations. The second annual “Best for the World” list recognized 66 companies across 20 countries and 25 industries, and we are honored to share this distinction with other dynamic, socially-responsible companies.
A BIRD ON WATER STREET takes place in the Copper Basin area around and in Copperhill, Tennessee - an area environmentally devastated by a century of poor copper mining practices. Back in the 1800s miners cut down every tree in site to fuel the smelting heaps, which ran 24/7. The sulfuric dioxide that billowed out of those heaps created acid rain, which killed off everything else. There were no bugs, no birds, no trees for 50-square-miles.
     Reclamation efforts began with the CCC and continue to this day, and my book centers strongly on the hopes of thirteen-year-old Jack who wants to see the land returned to its previous glory.
     So, as you can imagine, it was very important to me that my book be printed using environmentally responsible practices such as recycled paper and soy ink. And that's exactly what Little Pickle Press did, and does. They're a publisher for the future. And I am extremely proud to be a pickle!

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43. Coloring Page Tuesday - Frog and Bee

     Here in Georgia, the daffodils are blooming, the turtles are poking their heads above the water's surface, and I imagine frogs are hungry... But this frog should perhaps rethink his lunch. Eating this little buggie might be a bad idea. What do you think?
     CLICK HERE for more coloring pages and be sure to share your creations in my gallery so I can put them in my upcoming newsletters! (They don't have to be cards - I love scribbly kids art too!)
     Sign up to receive alerts when a new coloring page is posted each week and... Please check out my books! Especially...

my debut historical fiction mid-grade, A BIRD ON WATER STREET, available NOW in eversions! 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.
     **A SIBA OKRA Pick!**

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44. ABOWS is a SIBA OKRA Pick!

I am THRILLED to announce that A BIRD ON WATER STREET, my debut historical fiction mid-grade, is a Southern Independent Booksellers Association (SIBA) OKRA PICK! Per their website:

The Okra Picks are a dozen fresh titles chosen each season that SIBA Indie Bookstores want to handsell. These books should be southern in nature but can cover any genre, not just fiction. Southerners love their writers, and we want to be at the forefront of bringing them a strong selection of southern titles not to be missed each season.
     SIBA offers incentives to indie bookstores to feature and display Okra Picks in prime locations in their stores. In other words, this incredible honor means that when my book is officially released on May 7th, you will probably be able to walk into just about any bookstore in the south and find my book prominently displayed!
     If you're a book person, you know what this means. If you're not, I can't tell you how incredible this is! I was bouncing all over my house when my publisher called to tell me - I hardly believed it! How exciting that my book, my book, seems to be resonating - seems to be striking a chord with readers. It's what every writer dreams about. Wahooo!!

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45. Coloring Page Tuesday - Leprechaun!

     Happy St. Patty's Day (on Monday)!!! Don't forget to wear green! And remind your students/kids/readers, the treasure isn't gold - the treasure is in BOOKS!!!!
     CLICK HERE for more coloring pages and be sure to share your creations in my gallery so I can put them in my upcoming newsletters! (They don't have to be cards - I love scribbly kids art too!)
     Sign up to receive alerts when a new coloring page is posted each week and... Please check out my books! Especially...

my debut historical fiction mid-grade, A BIRD ON WATER STREET, available NOW in eversions! 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.
     **A SIBA OKRA Pick!**

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46. MY BLUE IS HAPPY by Jessica Young - GIVEAWAY!

When you work in kidslit, you get to know a lot of people on the same path - some who are published, some who still dreaming of the day, some who are well-published, and some who are celebrating their first publication after years of struggle. I LOVE celebrating my friends who I've watched work so hard finally be rewarded. Although really, we're the lucky ones to receive the gift of their wonderful books!
      Such is the case with Jessica Young's MY BLUE IS HAPPY (illustrated by Catia Chien - Candlewick Press). Jessica is a volunteer with the Mid-South SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators) and an art teacher too. I got to hear her read her new book at the Southern Festival of Books last October in Nashville, Tennessee and I'm just so happy for her, I had to have her on...

Q. Jessica, what has been your path to publication?
A. I started experimenting with writing in 2004, after having my first child and reading picture books for the first time since I was a kid. I’d never taken a writing course, and I had no idea how the publishing process worked. For several years, I submitted pieces off and on, targeting publishers I thought would be a good fit. Thankfully, an author pointed me towards the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. At my first workshop in 2007, an agent critiqued several manuscripts, and she and I kept in touch as I worked on revisions. Although she wasn’t looking for new picture book clients at the time, her encouragement was enough to keep me going until I found my wonderful agent, Kelly Sonnack.
     I continued to revise after signing with Kelly, and we submitted My Blue to two editors who had seen previous versions of the story and given me comments. One of them wound up passing on it. The other offered some suggestions, and I started revising accordingly. I also got a critique at the Midsouth SCBWI conference. The critiquer, amazing Candlewick editor Kaylan Adair, gave constructive comments that resonated with me, but I didn’t think I’d be able to execute them. I sat in the hotel lobby after the conference was over and started pushing and pulling the text. About a month later we submitted it to her, and I was thrilled to accept an offer from Candlewick. Then I started revising again.
      Looking back, I counted eighty-nine revisions of My Blue. I’m so grateful for the help of my tireless critique partners and other readers who gave great feedback on the story, and my fantastic agent and editor who took a chance on it and guided its evolution, as well as Catia Chien, the wonderful illustrator who brought the text to life with her evocative, colorful images.

Q. As an artist myself, I understand how personal color can be. You're also an art teacher, how does color inspire you and this story?
A. I’ve always paid attention to colors. The roots of my ideas about subjectivity and asserting one’s individual perspective probably go back to when I was a kid, and so do my vivid memories of color – from foods, to fabrics, to the hues of the different landscapes I grew up in. More recently, I was thinking about paintings from Picasso’s Blue Period (after seeing them at an exhibit) and listening to blues music, contrasting them with my own blue associations. Those ideas sparked the title, and the rest of the story followed.

Q. Do you find yourself wearing certain colors or surrounding yourself with certain colors to influence your mood? (Or do you find your mood influenced when you see certain colors?)
A. While I’ve never tried to influence my own mood with color (though maybe I should!), there are definitely things I wear because of their color – my favorite jeans, like in the book, and a russet-colored corduroy jacket and hunter green cords. I love mossy greens, rusty red-oranges, and blues, but there are lots of other colors I appreciate. I’m drawn to certain combinations of color and texture as well. For instance, I might appreciate the bright red-orange of crepe-paper-y poppy petals, but that hue might be too loud for me in another form. I tend to gravitate towards saturated, rich color palettes like those you’d find in illuminated manuscripts or stained glass.

Q. I love the line, "...my gray is as cozy as a curled-up kitten | And the sound of soft rain on the roof." I feel the same way!
A. Thanks, and yes – yay for gray! As much as I’m drawn to saturated, intense colors, I also love more subtle neutrals like the grays, browns, rusts and pale green-golds in fall fields or feathers or birds’ nests. I especially like them when they’re paired with more vibrant hues.

Q. Do you have a favorite color? (Dare I ask!)
A. It’s so hard to pick just one, but I really do love blue.

Q. Have you been using MY BLUE IS HAPPY in any of your art lessons? Do you have suggestions for teachers on how they could use the book in their classrooms?
A. I’ve used it with all of my classes from preschool though eighth grade. At first I wasn’t sure how much the younger ones could absorb literary devices like alliteration and similes, but when I broke down the similes and had students construct them one step at a time, even the youngest were able to identify a color, generate a list of color associations, then come up with other adjectives to describe those things. Then they made their own color similes and illustrated them. We also talked about antonyms and adjectives. In the older grades, there are so many angles to take: color and art (ie – Fauvism, Impressionism, symbolic uses of color, etc.); individual differences and subjectivity; cultural significance of color; literary devices; the science behind color perception. I have a lot of Common-Core-linked teacher resources and activity pages on my website that I hope will be useful for teachers and librarians: jessicayoungbooks.com.

Q. How have you celebrated the release of your first picture book? (Did you have a party?)
A. My book launch was at our incredible neighborhood indie bookstore, Parnassus Books. We had bluegrass music and blue foods and color-based activities. I was so happy to celebrate the birthday of MY BLUE with family and friends, old and new. Reading the book for the first time with my kids was a real celebration, too.

Q. Are you writing more for us? (I hope so!)
A. Yes! Right now I’m working on a chapter book series – FINLEY FLOWERS, about a creative, crafty girl with a million ideas that sometimes get her into trouble. The first two will be published in Spring 2015 by Capstone Kids, and the next two in Fall 2015. My second picture book, SPY GUY, will be published by Harcourt in Spring 2015, and I’m really excited about Charles Santoso’s illustrations. I have a bunch of other picture books I’m working on as well, and a YA that’s a long-term project!

Thanks for stopping by dulemba.com!
Thanks so much for having me! I hope I can see you in person soon!

Candlewick is kindly giving away a free copy of MY BLUE IS HAPPY to one of my lucky commenters. Must live in the US or Canada to win. Enter below.
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MY BLUE IS HAPPY. Text copyright © 2013 by Jessica Young. Illustrations copyright © 2013 by Catia Chien. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

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47. Friday Linky List - March 14, 2014

All Things Children at ABA - from PW

At The Horn Book - An Interview with Neal Porter (who will be speaking at our 2015 SCBWI Springmingle conference in Atlanta!

Emma Dryden at Write For Kids: What Children's Writers Must Know to Succeed Today

Sarah Harrison Smith - Children's Book Editor for the New York Times interviewed at teenreads. Really interesting!!!

At The Guardian (via PW): "Parents push to end gender division of boys' and girls' books" - good!

Also from PW via the Toast: The Concise Roald Dahl - for instance: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is described as "A small boy becomes the owner of a multinational food and beverage conglomerate after witnessing the deaths of several children."

From Cynsations and Adventures in YA Publishing: What would make you [agents] stop reading when reviewing sample pages?

At Time: 8 Ways to Say No Without Killing Your Reputation

At Salon, "No one cares about your novel: So writers, don't be boring"

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48. NOTHING FANCY ABOUT KATHRYN & CHARLIE by Kerry Madden - Guest Post and Two Huge Giveaways Including a Writing Workshop!!

Kerry Madden is the author of some of my favorite books set in Appalachia (GENTLE'S HOLLER, etc.) and of southern creators such as Harper Lee. She has a lyrical soul when it comes to relaying the stories and relationships of southern folk. And Nothing Fancy is no exception. Kerry is here today to share her thoughts...

     I came to write Nothing Fancy About Kathryn & Charlie by accident. To put it very simply, Kathryn Tucker Windham was a white storyteller, and Charlie Lucas was a black folk artist, and they were best friends who lived next door to each other in Selma, Alabama. They met when Kathryn was 81 and Charlie was 49. I’d given my UAB students an assignment to write a picture book about friendship. We’d been reading James Marshall’s George & Martha stories, and Kathryn and Charlie reminded me of George and Martha in their playful silliness, curiosity about the world, and deep respect and affection for each other. And since I was making my students write a picture book, I figured I should try to write too – maybe even show them it was done. Ha.
     Charlie under a portrait he did of Kathryn

     It took me two years to shape the story, long after that class ended and many more drafts. It also took taking a picture book/storyboarding workshop with my daughter, Lucy, from the wonderful picture book writer, Ann Whitford Paul, in Los Angeles, whose book, Writing Picture Books, is the text I teach with regularly. Eventually, I wrote the book, and Lucy illustrated it in the garage that my husband, Kiffen made into her art studio. One of my favorite illustrations of Lucy’s is the Spanish moss page when Kathryn and Charlie go for a drive in the cemetery. She cut up an old green sweater to create the Spanish moss hanging from the trees and used real bark from our tree outside. She wanted to shape all her illustrations the way Charlie approached his sculptures and painting – finding art in all kinds of places and materials.
     But to go back to the very beginning, I met Kathryn Tucker Windham when I was writing the biography of Harper Lee (Viking) and here is a little of that story when I visited her at her home in Selma, Alabama in 2007 with my husband, Kiffen, that was published in Five Points: A Journal of Literature & Art in 2008. That visit planted the seed because I just loved her on sight.
     I ask Kathryn about Harper Lee and when she read To Kill A Mockingbird, and Kathryn says, “She’s delightful. Fun to be with. . . I don’t remember when I read it, but it’s a wonderful book. When she nominated me to the Alabama Academy of Honor, I was shocked. I still am shocked. I met her when I was inducted, and we’ve been friends for about five years. She’s so much fun. Nobody knows this. Her sister, Miss Alice Lee, is a lovely woman.”
     I tell her the story that I had heard about Miss Alice Lee when she was on the committee to select a minister for the Methodist Church. One man’s name came up and all Miss Alice said to the committee was, “I’m too old to be preached to by a fool.”
     Kathryn bursts into laughter, and we stand up to stretch. It’s been an afternoon of stories and sweet tea. We go outside to visit Charlie Lucas’s art in her backyard. Charlie is Kathryn’s best friend, and he lives next door and together their two backyards have bloomed into his sculpture garden. His work is everything from wheels to ironing boards to shovels shaped into faces and bodies with secrets and stories behind each piece. On the garage hang four long ironing board faces, all coveting something. Kathryn says, “One of those ironing board sisters has had a baby, but they’re not saying who. There’s the baby above them. The judge will decide.”
     We take some more pictures of the sculpture garden, and soon it is time to say good-bye. Kathryn says with a big smile, “Come on back anytime! And bring your mother too.” She addresses this to Kiffen as we’d told her what a storyteller she was after raising thirteen children. She waves until we drive out of sight.
     The red Alabama sun sinks in the sky behind us, and I recall the storyteller’s Donald Davis’ quote: "How do you kill Grandma? Don't tell any stories about her. If one generation passes without telling and hearing stories about family, it's as if those people and events never existed." I think of the story Kathryn told us of an old man who was listening to her storytelling at the National Storytelling Festival, and how it brought back so many memories of his own boyhood. He had been estranged for years from his brother, but after listening to her he called his brother right there in the storytelling tent. I think of her how she described her father, a man who told her when she was growing up, “Don’t you ever get involved with things – it’s the people in this world who are important.” He told her it wasn’t the “three R’s of reading, writing, and arithmetic” that mattered. He said, “You need the 4 L’s. Listening, learning, laughing, and loving.”
     So Kathryn was irresistible to me as a subject. I kept visiting her after I moved to Alabama, and I met Charlie too. I sent her drafts of my storybook, and she gave me notes to fix what I’d got wrong. Eventually, Mockingbird Publishers published Nothing Fancy About Kathryn & Charlie in 2013.
     And in the summer of 2013, I traveled with my daughters, Lucy and Norah, (and dog, Olive) to rural Alabama libraries across the state to offer art and writing workshops for children with creative grant from UAB to cover travel expenses. We took Lucy’s original art from the book to share with it to the young artists, and together we read them the story of the friendship between storyteller, Kathryn Tucker Windham and folk artist, Charlie Lucas of Selma, Alabama.
     Kerry and Lucy
     In addition to Lucy’s art and our combined storytelling, we also brought our own found objects – buttons, strings, twine, material, markers, glue, shells, sticks, paper bags, popsicle sticks, art paper – and we encouraged the kids to make their own art. Much the way Charlie Lucas makes art out of objects found in dumpsters, trashcans, and fields, we suggested to the children that they look around at everyday objects and see the potential of making art.
     Kathryn's tomatoes by Lucy
     From our workshops, the children made trees out of all the found objects. Some made cherry, plum apple trees with red, purple, and green buttons while others made coconut trees with little brown buttons and strips of material. Some kids built popsicle-stick tree-houses in the branches, while others made tire swings out of twine and rubber bands. We talked of how trees carry stories, and we asked them to share their stories and look for art and stories in unexpected places just like Kathryn and Charlie did. Other kids drew their hearts, and some of even drew hearts in trees. We hung some of the children’s in the libraries we visited.
     Charlie by Lucy
The most challenging workshop was in Monroeville, Alabama when 100 kids showed up to the workshop. The librarian, parents, and volunteers jumped in to help us get the art supplies to each kid, which meant two buttons per kids instead of a seemingly endless supply. The librarian, Bunny Hines, declared it “a goat-roping,” and later, the children’s author, Eve Bunting, told me that should be my next storybook. It was a magical time traveling around Alabama with my girls meeting young artists and librarians all over the state from Trussville to Birmingham to Scottsboro to Greensboro in Hale County to Selma to Gadsden to Choctaw County to Fairhope to Monroeville to Dothan ending in the summer in Alabaster.
     Here are more links to the trip and how the story came back to be written, but it was a magical summer to get to travel with my girls and my dog to these wonderful old libraries all over Alabama and get kids to make trees and tell and write stories. I also felt like Kathryn was there in the face of every laughing kid, since she passed away before the book was published. I miss her everyday.
     Mockingbird Publishing
     A Tale of Two Friends
     The Storyteller and the Artist
     Professor spent summer sharing lessons of friendship
     Nothing Fancy Blog Tour (with pictures)
     Kerry's writing nook...

We have TWO giveaways with three potential winners this week! Kerry is generously giving away two copies of NOTHING FANCY along with a copy of GENTLE'S HOLLER Must live in the continental US to win - enter below!
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Kerry is also offering a SKYPE writing workshop. WOW! Please only enter this one if you are a writer and can put a small workshop together! Since it's via Skype it can happen anywhere!
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49. Almost Home!

Meet our future friends from Adam Rex's THE TRUE MEANING OF SMEKDAY, which is being turned into a movie by Dreamworks! Can't WAIT!

If the above video gives you any trouble, click the image below.

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50. ABOWS reviewed at ForeWard Reviews

ForeWord Reviews is one of the preeminent reviewers for new books and I'm thrilled that A BIRD ON WATER STREET got a good one!!! They said...

"...trees come to symbolize a coveted life. A Bird on Water Street unfolds as a lucid, matter-of-fact account of the environmental toll wrought by the mining industry, and of Jack’s decision to search for a different future."
"Dulemba ably captures the scarred community in grief and celebration."
"A one-company town falters, and amid the human drama, nature begins to reclaim what had been lost."
     CLICK HERE to read the entire review! YAYYYYY!

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