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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. NaNoWriMo!

National Novel Writing Month, a.k.a. NaNoWriMo! I'm doing it - are you? Yes, I'm out of town the first few days of November (school visits in Denver), but I've already got a few words down, so I'll claim those. My project? BLESSING JONES:

Blessing's family is falling apart, despite what her parents say. She knows the road trip to stay with family for the summer is more than just a visit. Why else would her mother be driving Blessing and her brother from California, across the country (in an old, used limo loaded with all their stuff in it) to stay with family Blessing has never met, during an oil spill when most people are heading away from the Gulf of Mexico and Mobile Bay?
Let's see how we do!

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27. It's Picture Book Month!!!

November 1st kicked off PICTURE BOOK MONTH! How to celebrate? CLICK HERE to check out the calendar I created. Each day features a different reading theme and different author. You can go read the author's thoughts about picture books ON THE BLOG. You can add this cool ambassador badge to your blog or website. You can also find suggested Story Time Activities and Common Core Connections for many popular books. Then, of course, read related books to the young ones in your life! Best of all, I have COLORING PAGES that also fit with many of the themes (you'll see hints of them on the calendar).
     I'm so proud to be a part of this exciting month dedicated to the books I love most! I hope you'll participate!

Also, check out this adorable comic strip from Debbie Ohi (shared with permission):

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28. Speaking at Highlights Foundation!


Here I am in Honesdale, Pennsylvania speaking at the Highlights Foundation's "From Prose to Picture to Published: Writing a Marketable Picture Book 2014" with this amazing faculty: Candy Fleming, Eric Rohmann, me and David Weisner! Gads, so humbling and cool! I'll post more as I have time. But for now, here we are (on Halloween):

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29. Shirley Parenteau's SHIP OF DOLLS - Guest Post and Giveaway


SHIP OF DOLLS by Shirley Parenteau
      When asked where I get ideas, the answer is easy. Although we have no grandsons, we have six granddaughters, four of them living nearby and currently between ages nine and thirteen. A few years ago, frogs croaking in the stream near our 100 year-old farmhouse made me think “counting book,” although I had been writing women’s fiction since our own three children grew older. After a number of rejections that turned out to be blessings, the book found a home with the publisher of my dreams, Candlewick Press. I was delighted when my daughter reported that her then two-year-old Elizabeth learned to relate written numbers to letter numbers through many re-readings of One Frog Sang.
      About a year later, I watched Elizabeth in a bookstore play area putting stuffed animals on small chairs. Bears on Chairs, a rhyming book on sharing resulted. Editors often warn against writing in rhyme, partly because rhyme can be hard to translate. Yet in Japan where rhyme is not used, a translation of Bears on Chairs has been so popular that the bears are now available there as plush animals, on notepapers and more. I have to credit David Walker’s irresistible illustrations for much of the bear’s success. Happily, the books became a series. Candlewick published the third, Bears in the Bath, this year and has scheduled Bears and a Birthday for next year.
      My son’s oldest daughter Michelle inspired Ship of Dolls, a middle-grade novel. When she was three, Michelle’s parents took her to Japan to visit maternal grandparents and take part in the traditional girl’s day festival of Hinamatsuri. (Later they took Michelle and her younger sister Nicole, above, to the festival.) They returned with photos that suggested ideas for a picture book.

In an online search for details of Hinamatsuri, I discovered an event in our history that was entirely new to me, the Friendship Doll project of 1926 when children across America sent more than 12,000 dolls to children in Japan in hope of friendship and peace. Japanese children sent back 58 exquisite dolls of gratitude, each about 3 feet tall, with many accessories and wearing kimonos in patterns by the Empress’ own dressmaker.
      I’ve visited one currently on display in a museum in Reno, Nevada, and fell instantly in love.
      I longed to tell the story of the dolls as a middle-grade novel and worked on it from time to time, setting the story in NW Oregon because I grew up on the Northern Oregon Coast. But I was absorbed in my picture book series. Somehow years swept by. Then a writing friend called to tell me about a newly published book, Kirby Larsen’s The Friendship Doll. My heart sank. Had I waited too long? When I read Kirby’s book, I found it far different than mine, featuring one of the lovely Japanese dolls. I stopped revising and proposed Ship of Dolls to my Candlewick editor. She loved the idea of the Friendship Doll Project and not only wanted the book, but suggested a second book, set in Japan to tell the story through the eyes of a girl there.
      Ship of Dolls saw publication this past August. Dolls of Hope will follow in 2015. Cover artist Kelly Murphy created a stunning cover using Japanese papers for waves and vintage clothing for the girl’s and doll’s dresses. And to my surprise and absolute delight, Lexie, as Kelly has painted her, looks very much like my now eleven-year-old granddaughter Elizabeth, something Kelly had no way of knowing.

      Reviews have been wonderful. I love the conclusion of a review in School Library Journal that says, “Fans of (Beverly Cleary’s) Ramona will have no trouble connecting with and rooting for lively and likable Lexie.”
      The most exciting news of all—the publisher of Japanese translations of my bear books has purchased translation rights to Ship of Dolls and Dolls of Hope. I’m especially touched that he plans to tie publication next spring to the 70th anniversary of the ending of the war in the Pacific. He believes the book will help express to young readers his company’s wish for world peace and friendship. I can’t think of a more gratifying reception for a story that came straight from my heart.
      My current writing spot is not yet a fave. In August, we moved from our old farmhouse to a more convenient single-story home. I prefer a desktop computer and have installed it on the former owner’s craft table while I research desks (and try to keep my calico cat, Folly, from the keyboard).


GIVEAWAY
Candlewick has kindly offered a free copy of SHIP OF DOLLS to one of my lucky followers. Must live in the US/Canada to win - enter below:

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30. Friday Linky List - October 31, 2014

Via Cynsations: Emma Dryden's I Want What She's Got: The Disastrous Comparison Game - a must read for all creators!

At Writers Helping Writers (via Cynsations): How Image Systems Can Supercharge a Novel by C.S. Lakin - interesting!!

From Flavorwire (also via Cynsations): 50 Best Films About Writers, Ranked. I've seen many of them but for the rest - hulu here I come!

From School Library Journal: Hostile School Environments the Norm for LGBTQ Youth, Says GLSEN Report - education is KEY!

At PW: Children's Sales Stay Hot in July!

From Bustle (via PW): 11 Reasons Why Young Adult Fiction Is Even Better When You Read It As An Adult

From the New York Times: The 10 Best Illustrated Picture Books of 2014

At PUB(listing) CRAWL: Holding Yourself Accountable & Staying Motivated by Susan Dennard

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!
CLICK HERE to find more Halloween-themed coloring pages!

At The Onion: Author Promoting Book Gives It Her All Whether It's Just 3 People Or A Crowd of 9 People - HA!

At Wild Things! Sneaky Peeks Video #21: Candace Fleming discusses THE FAMILY ROMANOV and writing talismans - what a great idea!

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31. Billy Collins' and Karen Romagna's VOYAGE - Interview and Giveaway!


I had the great honor to hear Billy Collins, US Poet Laureate 2001-3, speak when he came to my home town. His poems are truly brilliant and engaging. Then one day he wrote a poem for the Director of the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress, John Y. Cole, to celebrate his 25th anniversary in office. (I am a Board Member for the Georgia Center for the Book, so it’s an organization close to my heart.) The poem was called “Voyage.” And Bunker Hill Publishing turned it into a lovely picture book with illustrations by Karen Romagna. They do the poem justice and I’m thrilled to have Karen on today to answer some questions…

Q. Hi Karen, Congratulations on the publication of VOYAGE! How did this project come to you?
A.
Hi Elizabeth, Thank you. I know this sounds crazy, but it sort of just came out of the blue. I received an email from Ib Bellew, the publisher of Bunker Hill Publishing. He asked if I would be interested in a collaboration with the poet Billy Collins. After sending off several manuscripts of my own with dummies and receiving the initial rejections (of course), this email just seemed a little far fetched! What the heck? Really? I was sure it was some sort of bizarre mass email sent to hundreds of illustrators. My illustrator friends convinced me not to delete it and find out a little more.
     It turned out Billy Collins had requested Bunker Hill contact me about doing the illustrations. Billy likes to find the illustrators to work on his books. He went online, poked around the children’s illustration world and came up with me!
     I was up against one other illustrator and needed to submit a sample piece and thumbnail sketches of how I might handle the illustrations. Before submitting a sample I asked the publisher exactly which illustration made Billy Collins decide that I should illustrate “Voyage”. He said “Oh sure, it’s the one of the boy and the boat.” That isn’t one of my illustrations. Billy found a painting I had done years earlier of my son at the age of three. So, I submitted the sample with Tim as the boy. When I received word that they wanted me to illustrate “Voyage” there was a message from Billy saying the child in the illustration was “just the kind of boy I had in mind.”

Q. Were you aware of who Billy Collins was when you got the contract and were you at all intimidated?
A.
I did recognize his name. However, I had absolutely NO idea just how big Billy Collins actually was. I have become a complete Billy Collins groupie.
      Intimidated isn’t the word I would use. There was more a feeling of not wanting to disappoint him. I wanted more than anything to have my illustrations convey the message and meaning Billy was expressing in the beautifully lyrical words of the poem. Sheesh! No pressure!

Q. The words created some very abstract ideas - were they tricky to visualize?
A.
I had the manuscript for a few days and had read it over and over. It seemed so confusing at first. I think I was in panic mode. A friend called and asked me to read the poem to her. I remember sitting at my drawing table reading the poem. It just came alive and suddenly made perfect sense. I hung up and read it out loud again. It was right there. I just hadn’t opened my eyes to it. Of course I went back and forth with different ideas, but the images were all there.

Q. I love your wide open watercolor spreads in the book - they truly give me the sense of beach and water. What is your method?
A.
I typically paint with oils. However, I had recently been doing a lot of work with watercolor. The essence of this poem seemed to call for the light touch watercolor could give the poem. I worked at 100% on 140 lb. Arches Bright White WC paper. Voyage has only 100 words and is one sentence. I painted each page in watercolor as a double page spread which I hope gives the sense of the vast ocean and the feeling of the hugeness that becomes the experience of reading and the worlds it can lead you to.
      The publishers were great. As I was beginning the rough sketches I spent a weekend with Carole and Ib, the publishers, at their home in New Hampshire making revisions to the drawings. It was decided then that I should illustrate everything, end papers and all! The story begins as soon you open the book when the boy is wandering along the beach. “Voyage” ends on the back end paper with the boy on the beach looking up at the moon... at the end of his voyage.

Q. How long did it take you to complete the book?
A.
One full year! I received my first email from Bunker Hill the first week of April, 2013 and I delivered the illustrations to Ib Bellew on March 31 of 2014. I began painting the final illustrations in November and completed them at the end of March. I have a feeling my next book will not take quite so long!

Q. Have you and Billy done anything special to celebrate the book’s release?
A.
Yes. VOYAGE had its big kick-off at the National Book Festival in Washington, DC on August 30. Billy and I, along with John Cole, who VOYAGE was written for, Ib and Carole Kitchel Bellew presented VOYAGE in the Children’s Pavilion. Billy and I followed up with a book signing later in the day. It was a pretty magical day for me. Billy Collins is as wonderful as his poetry.

Q. Anything else in the pipeline?
A.
At the moment I am working on a picture book about a young family waiting for their dad to return home. I was also recently commissioned to paint a portrait. It will be fun to get back to oil painting again!
      I am SCBWI's Illustrator Coordinator for New Jersey. Earlier this year I began a year-long mentoring program for our illustrators, Evolution Resolution. A year of setting goals and bringing them to fruition. NJSCBWI is also in the thick of putting together our Fall Craft Weekend scheduled for the first week in November.

I wish you much continued success!!
Check out this lovely book trailer (the image will take you to YouTube):


GIVEAWAY!
Bunker Hill Publishing has kindly offered to give one free copy of VOYAGE to one of my lucky followers. Must live in the US/Canada to win. Enter below.

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32. Off to the Highlights Foundation, then Denver!


Thursday I leave for Honesdale, Pennsylvania where I'll be a guest speaker at Highlights Foundation's "From Prose to Picture to Published: Writing a Marketable Picture Book 2014" from October 31st - November 2nd, with fellow picture book creators Candace Fleming, Eric Rohmann, and David Wiesner!!!!
     Then, for the first time in my career, I will leave immediately from Honesdale and fly to Denver, Colorado (back-to-back visits!), where I'll be a guest of the Denver Public Library, speaking to six elementary schools and one teen group about creating my books. Wowsa - I can't wait! Wish me good health and lovely weather!

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33. Coloring Page Tuesday - Pumpkin Pirate!

      Aaaargh! Two of my favorite things in one! I may have to cut my pumpkin to look like this, but where to find the hat. Hmmmm. Have a HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!!
     CLICK HERE for more Halloween coloring pages!! And be sure to share your creations in my gallery so I can put them in my upcoming newsletters! (Cards, kids art, and crafts are welcome!)
     Sign up to receive alerts when a new coloring page is posted each week and... Please check out my books! Especially...


     Click the cover to learn about my Halloween picture book - Lula's Brew. She's a witch who would rather be a famous chef!






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34. Vicky Alvear Shecter's HADES SPEAKS - a book signing party!

Last week I got to help celebrate the release of HADES SPEAKS, the latest in the "Gods Speak" series by my bud Vicky Alvear Shecter. She has such a perfect snarky voice for these awesome chapter books - kids eat 'em up!

     And at the launch party at Little Shop of Stories, they also ate up the pomegranate cookies! You know, because Persephone ate a pomegranate which doomed her to spend 6 months of the year in Hades - isn't that awesome? (The cookies, not the entrapment part.)

     Little did the kiddies know... they are now doomed to return to Little Shop again and again - Bwahahaha!!! *ahem* They LOVE going to our fave bookstore, so I don't think it will be a problem. :) Not to mention, they're all so knowledgable of their Greek lore, they know the significance. Did you notice the golden laurel crown on one of the listeners?
     I also found a lovely surprise while there. It's been five months since the release of my own novel, A BIRD ON WATER STREET, and yet, there it was face out with a lovely descriptor tag. How flattering! Gads, I was feeling the love for me and my friend! What a great night!

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35. Brian Froud's Faeries' Tales!


Brian Froud has a new Faeries Book out!! Are you as big a fan as I am? Brian's GNOMES is one of the reasons I became an illustrator! I actually made a little balsa wood bed for gnomes which I kept in my closet with a note: "If any gnomes sleep here tonight, please leave the bed unmade so that I know you were here." But dangit, they kept making up the bed. Hmf!
     Click the image to see the trailer on YouTube.

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36. Dori Hillestad Butler's HAUNTED LIBRARY series - Guest Post and Giveaway!

PERFECT for Halloween is the third installment in the HAUNTED LIBRARY series by Dori Hillestad Butler. She is visiting today to tell us the story behind the book...


      We all have that teacher in our past, don’t we? The one who made a difference…and started us down the path toward who we are today.
      Mr. Hartshorn was that teacher for me. He was my sixth grade English teacher. I wish I could say I was one of his best students, but I wasn’t. I was just your average “B” student.
      I was quiet and shy in sixth grade. And a little bit scared of Mr. Hartshorn. I was scared of him because he told it like it was. And because he made us give speeches.
      Let me be clear. We didn’t just have to get up in front of the class to give these speeches. There was a stage at the back of Mr. Hartshorn’s classroom. We had to go up ON THE STAGE, where there were bright lights and a podium, and give our speeches from there.
      Did I mention I was quiet and shy?
      I was also short. I was so short I couldn’t see over the podium. So I had to stand beside the podium…which was worse than hiding—I mean, standing behind it because then everyone could see my hands shaking as I read my speech.
      I didn’t do very well on any of my speeches. And I was in danger of getting far worse than a B in Mr. Hartshorn’s class that quarter, so I went to see him after school. I asked him if he’d give me extra credit if I wrote a novel for him. I don’t know what possessed me to ask him that. I’d never written a novel before. But I certainly wasn’t going to give another SPEECH for extra credit! What else could I do? I knew I had to do more than just write a short story or two to bring up my grade.
      He said, “You write the novel and we’ll see.”
      I worked on my novel every single day after school. I don’t remember how many pages the original hand-written version was, but the typed version was 42 pages. My mother typed it for me, which was nice considering it was about a girl whose mother dies!
     I felt really good about it when I turned it in. I couldn’t believe I’d actually done it! I’d written a whole novel (42 pages!). Just like real authors did. And I sooo wanted to be a real author when I grew up.
      I watched Mr. Hartshorn read my novel at his desk. It took him several days. At first I enjoyed watching him. But then I got worried. What if my novel wasn’t very good? When I was in fourth grade, a chorus teacher told me I couldn’t sing. I was devastated because I loved to sing, and I had no idea I had no talent for singing until that teacher told me. So now I was afraid Mr. Hartshorn was going to tell me I had no talent for writing, either.
      He didn’t say much when he returned my novel to me. Or maybe I just don’t remember what he said. But I’ve hung onto the note he stapled to the inside cover all these years:

     That note meant far more to me than all the extra credit in the world. If Mr. Hartshorn thought my story was “interesting, and basically very well written,” then it was. And maybe, just maybe, I really could be an author when I grew up.
      I kept writing because of that note.
      But Mr. Hartshorn’s influence doesn’t end there. I had him again for seventh grade English. We had a drama unit in seventh grade, and the play was “I Remember Mama.” While going up on the stage to give speeches in sixth grade was one of my most traumatic school experiences ever, I wasn’t nervous about being in the play. I wanted to be in “I Remember Mama.” And I wanted to play Katrin. Not because it was a lead role, but because Katrin was a writer.
      I didn’t expect to actually get the part. [See: quiet and shy] But Mr. Hartshorn did indeed cast me as Katrin!
      I don’t remember much about the performance itself (I’m sure I was fabulous! Haha!), but after it was over, I remember telling Mr. Hartshorn my secret: that I wanted to be a writer just like Katrin.
      He said, “Then you have to keep writing. You can’t give up when you get rejection letters. Katrin never gave up.”
      I never gave up, either, Mr. Hartshorn. I didn’t know it at the time, but you gave me the secret to becoming a writer when I was in seventh grade: Keep writing and never give up!
      The Ghost Backstage is book 3 in my new Haunted Library series. The Haunted Library is about a ghost boy and a “solid” girl who work together to solve ghostly mysteries. In this book, Claire is in the school play…and there’s a ghost wreaking havoc backstage. I didn’t have to think very hard about what to name the drama teacher.
      I never described Mr. Hartshorn in my text, but the very talented Aurore Damant drew him almost EXACTLY the way I remember the real Mr. Hartshorn. (He’s not wearing his glasses in this picture, but trust me: he had them!)

      I didn’t have to think very hard about who to dedicate this book to, either (click the image to see it larger in a new window, if you can't read it small):
      I’ve reread that novel as an adult. It’s NOT interesting. Nor is it particularly well written. Even when you take into account I was a sixth grader, it’s average writing at best. I know that. But Mr. Hartshorn made me FEEL like my novel was interesting and well written. He gave me confidence at a time I desperately needed some.
      I’ve thought of Mr. Hartshorn often over the years. Without his influence, I may not be an author today. Success as an author has very little to do with talent. It’s all about putting in the time (“Keep writing!” Mr. Hartshorn said) and never giving up. Maybe that’s true of anything in life?
      By the way, Mr. Hartshorn, if you’re reading this…I actually LIKE to give speeches now! Who’d have thought?

Read the first two books in the series!

GIVEAWAY!
     Penguin has kindly agreed to give away one free copy of THE GHOST BACKSTAGE - the 3rd installment in THE HAUNTED LIBRARY series! Must live in the US to win - enter below:

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37. Friday Linky List - October 24, 2014

From The Boston Globe via PW: Is Jeff Bezos really the bad guy?

Kristi Holl's Writer's First Aid, via Cynsations: A Writing Retreat Redefined.

At Bustle (via PW): 11 of the Most Chilling Book Covers Ever Published (several are children's books)

At ABC News via PW: 'Reading Rainbow' Host Debuts New Children's Book and Announces the Show's Online Return

The Guardian Children's Books (via PW): Children's Illustrators' Doodles: Watch Them in Action! (And send in your own!) - I might have to do this.

The History of Air Puppets (via BoingBoing)!!! Gads, I love those things. I can stare at them forever.

From PW's ShelfTalker: Kids Say the Darndest Things - so cute!

From The Guardian via PW: Frank Cottrell Boyce: schools are destroying the power of stories

From ABC News via PW: Jimmy Fallon's Picture Book Inspired by Daughter - I like to think he'll have a better chance than most at doing a good job with a picture book - we'll see.

At Rolling Stone magazine: Why Robbie Robertson's Son Wrote a Kids' Book About His Dad - illustrated by fellow PBAA member Adam Gustavson

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38. PUMPKIN TIME by Erzsi Deak and Doug Cushman - GIVEAWAY!


Two amazing talents have teamed up to create THE perfect harvest time book for this coming fall - Erzsi Deak (of Hen & Ink Literary Studio) and Doug Cushman (writer and/or illustrator of over 125 picture books!). The book is called PUMPKIN TIME! . It’s about Evy, who is a consummate gardener and very good pie maker! Erzsi and Doug both stopped by to talk about their book… and France, where they both live. (Paint me green with envy!)

Q. Erzsi - Congratulations on Pumpkin Time! This isn’t your first book, but it is your first picture book (yes?). How did it come to be?
A.
It was three years after PERIOD PIECES: STORIES FOR GIRLS came out when I met the wonderful Markus Zusak, author of THE BOOK THIEF among other titles, and his talk and the discussions with other attendees. Doug Cushman was there along with Ann Jacobus -- whose book, ROMANCING THE DARK IN THE CITY OF LIGHT comes out from SMP in 2015 -- and Bridget Strevens-Marzo, whose book, TIZ & OTT’S BIG DRAW comes out from Tate Publishing in 2015! Zusak’s talk was a reboot for me creatively. I started dreaming up a new book on a napkin and hotel stationery (like the best authors in recent bestselling history). This time with words and pictures. It’s actual debut, in a slightly different form, was performed during the very first Dueling Illustrators event at the SCBWI booth at the Bologna Book Fair between Doug, Bridget and Paul O. Zelinsky!

Q. Erzsi - Were you and Doug friends before PUMPKIN TIME!? Was it a collaboration?
A.
Doug and I have been friends ever since Peter Sis introduced us in Paris. He knew Peter who knew me through Barbara McClintock who knew me because of the SCBWI. Doug moved to France over ten years ago, but for the first five we only saw each other at exotic SCBWI venues (Madrid, Munich, Bologna). Since then, he has designed the Bologna logo, critiqued picture book projects at the Bologna stand and created Pencil Boy (an irregular feature on the Here, There & Everywhere page). Doug graciously listened to various versions of the text and then illustrated sample art. Last year in Bologna, over lunch, Steve Geck told me that what he really wanted was a pumpkin book. I said, "Shoot, Steve," (not my exact words, mind you), "I have a pumpkin book." And the rest, as they say is history. (For the ongoing inside scoop on how we work, I invite everyone to check out CHICKEN SCRATCHES, the regular comic Doug creates for http://henandink.com)

Q. Erzsi - You run the Literary Studio Hen & Ink. Is being located in Paris ever a challenge for you? (Personally, I’d love it!) And does being an agent inform your writing?
A.
I actually work out of the South of France in a field (last year it was... pumpkins, pumpkins everywhere!). With good internet, phone and postal/delivery service; a nearby airport and a high-speed train that can whip me off to New York, San Francisco, London, Paris, Bologna, Frankfurt and even further like Seoul this year, it's pure pleasure. Okay, the lightening storms kind of kill the internet fun, but other than that, we're good! For Hen&ink and Pumpkin Time!, I'm excited to be heading to Portland, OR, San Francisco, San Diego, Austin (for the Texas Book Festival -- yay!) and New York.
      As far as if being an agent informs my writing, I suppose a bit; I do more editing and letter and email writing than manuscript writing of my own, however. It's probably more correct to say that my writing informs my agenting.

Q. Erzsi - What was your writing process for Pumpkin Time!? Do you find the picture book format challenging? (CLICK HERE to read more about Erzsi's writing process.)
A.
I love (love!) picture books and the interplay of words and pictures. I wrote poetry from the age I could hold a stick in the sand; when I worked in a bookstore in Fairbanks, AK, I spent all my money on starting my children's book collection (I still have those picture books). In art school, I played a lot with text and looked at possibly becoming an art director so I could continue to play with words and pictures. All-this-is-to say, I find the picture book format a fabulous format to work in -- especially if one is visual. The perfect word. The perfect pause. The perfect picture. I like rhythm and repeat (What was Evy doing? for example!); call-and-response; gorgeous writing and funny writing. Succinct writing. I'm wary of one-note joke books and seek out richness in the story as well as the writing and illustrating. So, not challenging -- invigorating and exciting!

Q. Doug - I love all the energetic animals in PUMPKIN TIME! How do you come up with such fun characters?
A.
I love drawing animals (mostly they are more human and real than, well, humans). And of course Erzsi’s energetic text and humor was perfect for creating some wild animal characters. It wasn’t a chore at all, in some ways I had to hold back and not get too crazy for fear of straying too far away from the original intent of the story.

Q. Doug - What is your illustration method?
A.
I try to get the main character nailed down at the get-go, in this case it was Evy and Turkey. I saw Turkey as Evy’s counterpoint, he saw and reacted to everything she missed. Turkey is the flip side of the same coin, her “animal spirit”, if I may. I gave them both the same boots and hat to accentuate that idea. Once I have the main characters in my head I start to sketch each page and lay out the action and design. The ideal is to make each spread flow into the next one so the book works as a complete unit, like a little film.

Q. Doug - You’re in Paris now too. Does that affect your career or your approach to illustration in any way?
A.
Paris and Europe are very liberating. There are literally centuries of art all around—even up the street!— that I can draw from (no pun intended). My approach to books hasn’t changed that much but there is an atmosphere here where I feel I can push my art and ideas a little further to the edge. It doesn’t always work for the American market but it’s easier to pull back if I need to than try and push forward. I’d like to see the American market take a few more chances. Children can handle it. We could make some great books, I think.

Q. Doug - You’ve created over 125 picture books - wowsa! Do you ever slow down?
A.
It’s closer to 130 now. It doesn’t feel like work at all. I get up every morning and draw pictures. That’s all I do. But each book is different and has it’s own problems. In one sense, I’m a beginner with each book. Every project is a blank sheet, literally, where I have to create something logical, seamless and fun. The challenge is to do better than the last book. It doesn’t always work. But I keep trying.

Q. Doug - Had to add that I am now teaching with Ruth Sanderson at Hollins University in the summers in their MFA in Writing and Illustrating Children's Books program. She says ‘hi’!
A.
I knew Ruth way back in art school. She was a star even then. I was thrilled when she came to visit earlier this year. We had a grand time sketching outdoors…and eating snails. Ask her about THAT!

Q. Erzsi and Doug - Are you doing anything special to celebrate PUMPKIN TIME!?
A.

ED-I think we should break out the pumpkin pie, don't you?!
DC-Sounds good to me!
ED-In celebration, we are taking the pumpkin patch on-the-road! We've just about nailed down the schedule. Doug starts next week at The Hickory Stick Bookstore in Washington, CT, and will go to Boston and Bank Street in NYC as well. I start at the Book Been Bookstore in Portland, OR, on October 15th and then go to the Yellow Book Road and a school visit on the 21st in San Diego, drop into NCIBA in San Francisco and possibly a school visit and then it's Austin for the Festival and Books of Wonder in NYC. Details will be on pumpkin-time.com. Hope many of you can meet us on this pumpkin-infused journey!

Q. Erzsi and Doug - Do folks celebrate Halloween and harvest time in France like they do in the US?
A.

ED- Everyone loves pumpkins here -- especially pumpkin soup, so Doug may be illustrating a new spread for the rest of the world that doesn't "do" pumpkin pie! :) The merchants in Paris have tried to get Halloween going, but with All Saint's Day observed the day after Halloween, it's a tougher call to get everyone out in ghost and witch costumes for Halloween. But the harvest, definitely the harvest! Around here, in the SE of France, the hay has been baled and the pumpkins are lined up in the fields.
DC-All true. Halloween is practically unknown in France. But as Erzsi said, the harvest, especially the grape harvest, is big. I just returned from the grape harvest in Burgundy. Obviously France has no Thanksgiving holiday, which is huge in America, and in many ways symbolizes the great Harvest in the States.

Q. Erzsi and Doug - Do you think you’ll do another book together?
A.
ED & DC-Yes!!
DC- We’ve known each other for a long time and have planned many projects over the years. We hope to do many more books together...and not only pumpkin-related (though food is one of my favorite subjects to write, talk and paint).

Q. Thanks so much to both of you for stopping by! I wish you much continued success, and with any luck, I’ll be able to say that to you in person, in France, one of these days!!!
A. ED & DC- Great! The first glass of Burgundy is on us!
Me: Oh, you have SO got a deal!

CLICK HERE to download a free PUMPKIN TIME! Activity kit! .

GIVEAWAY!
Sourcebooks has agreed to giveaway a free copy of PUMPKIN TIME to one of my lucky followers. Must live in the US/Canada to win - enter below:

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39. Time again for LULA'S BREW!

Teachers, are you looking for a good Halloween book to share with your young gargoyles? Might I suggest my picture book, LULA'S BREW to get in the spirit?
     Lula's Aunties want her to be a witch like them. But Lula prefers to study cookbooks rather than spellbooks (and hates to fly on a broom). Lula wants to be a famous chef. In desperation, the Aunties insist she try to make one last potion. Lula secretly adds her cooking flair and in true witchy fashion creates a brew that bewitches the entire town, and her Aunties too!
     LULA'S BREW is available in hardcover from your local bookseller (they might have to order it, so don't wait!), and also on the iPhone, iTouch, iPad, Nook Color, Kindle, and as a .pdf. Visit the activity page for all options, to download free activities (and a recipe for the BREW), and to see some cool videos. Bwahahaha!

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40. Coloring Page Tuesday - BAT!

     Scree! Scree! I think bats are so cool - don't you? And this one is all dressed up for Halloween. (Bats don't have to wear costumes - just scarves to keep warm!)
     CLICK HERE for more Halloween coloring pages!! And be sure to share your creations in my gallery so I can put them in my upcoming newsletters! (Cards, kids art, and crafts are welcome!)
     Sign up to receive alerts when a new coloring page is posted each week and... Please check out my books! Especially...


     Click the cover to learn about my Halloween picture book - Lula's Brew. She's a witch who would rather be a famous chef!






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41. Auburn Writers Conference Wrap-up!

I'm exhausted but smiling after spending three days at the Auburn Writers Conference hosted by the amazing Chantel Acevedo and her supportive crew.
     Thursday morning, I drove over early from Atlanta to spend time with two classes at Loachapoka Middle School (7th and 8th graders).
They made some sweet signs to welcome me:

The first class had received a group set of copies of A BIRD ON WATER STREET from Auburn University's University Outreach program - how cool! And their English teacher (I'm sorry, I forgot her name) had them all fired up for my visit - fun!



     Here I am with LaDerrial, one of the students who wants to be a writer herself someday:

     The teachers were so kind to present me with a certificate of appreciation - how nice! Having teacher support means SO much!

Here I am with the English teacher and the Principal, Mrs. Kitt, who I saw at the writers conference later.


Friday I awoke early and walked the Auburn campus - so pretty. Then Mark Wilson, my schools escort and PhD Coordinator of community and civic engagement in the College of Liberal Arts at Auburn University, picked me up to head to Duke Middle School. I met with two classes there as well.



Mark's son was in one of them - HI! The kids asked fantastic questions and I wish I could have spent more time with them. Here I am with another budding writer.

     Thanks to Mrs. Laura Hardy, the Librarian for making me feel so welcome.

And thanks to Michelle Hopf, their teacher who was actually at the conference (we caught up later after years of talking online). She has some great students and they obviously love her! Here I am with Michelle and Angela Jordan (we talked Appalachia and could have gone on for hours if everybody wasn't so tired from the great weekend!).

     Saturday I once again walked around campus - what a nice way to start the day. Then I got ready for my workshop, "What to Do When the Story Finds You," this time with adults! I didn't get pictures this time, but several people thanked me afterwards saying how much they got out of my workshop. LOVE to hear that!
     All said, it was a fabulous time. I caught up with writer friends and met several new ones. I also got to reconnect with the kind folks in Alabama. Along with conferences and festivals, I do quite a few school visits over there and I'm sure they have a lot to do with that. So, THANK YOU to all for a lovely time! I hope I can return soon!

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42. Sam and Dave - Klassen and Barnett on TV

Jon Klassen and Mac Barnett were recently on The Morning Blend to talk about their new book together! Click the image to go watch on YouTube:

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43. Irene Latham's DEAR WANDERING WILDEBEEST - Interview and Giveaway!

I love poets and am lucky to have a few friends who are truly passionate about it. One is Irene Latham and I'm thrilled to help her celebrate her new book of poetry here today as she interviews the illustrator of DEAR WANDERING WILDEBEESTE, Anna Wadham.

     When I was a child writing my first books, I always illustrated them as well. To this day, I am a doodler, and a huge appreciator of art – not only was my first novel LEAVING GEE'S BEND inspired by art, but I have written many poems inspired by works of art that hang at the National Museum of Women in the Arts (Washington, DC). So, when my editor at Millbrook Press contacted me to let me know they had selected Anna Wadham to illustrate DEAR WANDERING WILDEBEEST, I was on her website within seconds.
     And I was thrilled! I love Anna's work, and I'm so honored to share a book with her. Anna will also be illustrating another book of mine – SUMMER IN ANTARCTICA, coming from Millbrook Press in 2016. From the grasslands to an ice desert... Anna is versatile, too!
     While Anna and I have never met – she makes her home in Norwich, England – we do keep in touch, and she was kind enough to answer a few questions for me to share with all of you. Thanks, Anna! And thanks, Elizabeth, for inviting us to your blog!

IL: What draws you to a manuscript? What makes you say yes?
AW: To begin with I try to visualize how the finished book could look in my mind (roughly!) When considering a project it's important to me that my painting style "matches" the writing. With our new Antarctica book project on the horizon I'm imagining lots of painterly effects and stripy icebergs.
      When I read the manuscript for WILDEBEEST, I knew instantly it was a yes! I've really loved illustrating for poetry- it's not as repetitive as a traditional picture book but still has a sense of place and continuity, starting with morning- through to night in the African grasslands.

IL: Tell us about a challenge you encountered during your work on WILDEBEEST.
AW: “Triptych for a Thirsty Giraffe” was the most challenging, a giraffes legs whilst bending down are very hard to fit on the page- especially when considering space for text as well!
     Also, “Lioness, After the Hunt.” I wanted to make her look ready to pounce- even when asleep. I was also thinking of my cat Charlie. She always hears me enter the room when she's sleeping and has a sneaky look at me! I'm not sure it's totally realistic (or possible?) for a cat to have one eye open, but think it still works for the poem. (Click the image to see a larger version in a new window.)

IL: Which spread are you most proud of?
AW: My favourite at the moment is “Tree For All.” I also like “Says Nightjar to the Stars.” I like the little details and surprises in these pages for the reader to spot- little snails, anteaters and insects! “Oxpecker Cleaning Service” feels quite special to me, it was my first painting for the book and set the scene for others to follow.
(Click the image to see a larger version in a new window.)

Thank you, Anna! That lioness's one eye open is one of my favorite parts of the book. And “Says Nightjar to the Stars” is so gorgeous and resonates so deeply with me that I begged Anna to let me use it as a header for my email newsletter! So thrilled she said yes. :) Here's to many more books illustrated by Anna!

Thanks again, Elizabeth, for inviting us to your blog today. Your generous spirit shines! xo

Irene Latham was inspired to write DEAR WANDERING WILDEBEEST after viewing images from wildlife photographer Greg du Toit, who submerged himself in a Kenyan water hole in order to best capture the animals drinking. In response, she submerged herself in research and waited for these poems to arrive. She is also the author of three volumes of poetry for adults and two award-winning novels for children: LEAVING GEE'S BEND and DON'T FEED THE BOY. www.irenelatham.com

Anna Wadham is the illustrator of several picture books and has an MA in children's book illustration. She currently lives in Norwich, England, where she enjoys the city cafes and the rooftop views of trees, gardens, and chimney pots from her flat. Inspiration is drawn from many things - memory, great painters, pattern, and a bit of imagination. She loves to paint animals and create colorful landscapes for them to inhabit. www.annawadham.comThanks, Irene


GIVEAWAY!
Irene is generously offering a signed copy of DEAR WANDERING WILDEBEEST to one of my lucky followers. Must live in the US/Canada to win - enter below:

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44. Southern Festival of Books - "All About the Books, No Trouble"

Today I head out to speak at the Southern Festival of Books in Nashville, Tennessee (always a blast). But unlike previous years where I visited the children's stage, this year I'll be on a mid-grade novelists panel for A BIRD ON WATER STREET! No costume! I can't wait! I'll be on Sunday at 2:00 with the illustrious Deborah Wiles, "Gonna Build A Better World: Coming of Age and Taking Action." Hope to see you there!
     To get fired up about the festival, Librarians at the Nashville Public Library came up with their own version of "All About the Bass" (one of my favorite walking songs). Brilliant! Click the image to go watch on YouTube:

And maybe I'll get to congratulate them on their great job since I'm in their town!

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45. So Fest of Books - Wrap-up!

Hubbie and I scooted on up to Nashville for the Southern Festival of Books on Saturday. I've spoken at this festival several times now, and it's one of my faves. Happily, we got there early enough to say 'hi' to Betsy Bird and Julie Danielson who were there to talk about their new book, WILD THINGS (I featured them recently on my blog). And we were there on time to see Susan Eaddy and Julie Hedlund talk about their latest creation, MY LOVE FOR YOU IS THE SUN. (I featured them when they started their journey on Kickstarter HERE.)

I also saw John Rocco and Kristy Valiant speak! I'm a huge fan of John's work - interviewed him HERE and HERE. And I've been rooting for Kristi since before she was published - so nice to finally meet her in person! I interviewed her HERE and HERE.

     The weather was horrible and I didn't pack well for it - pah! So, it was nice to see there were still large crowds and my peeps at the SCBWI Midsouth tent were all smiles. I LOVE my Nashville peeps!!!
     That evening there was a lovely party for all the invited authors and illustrators to mingle and chat. Here was my gang: Susan Eaddy, Julie Hedlund, Eugene Yelchin, John Rocco, and moi:

Afterwards, several of us met up at Susan's house for a casual barbecue among children's book peeps. Her hubbie, David (also an artist) even broke out the champagne to help celebrate all our latest successes (book sales, awards, new releases)! Here we are having one of those magical, wish it could go on forever, sort of evenings: (in front) Casey and Kristi Valiant, (in back from left) Susan, David, Julie Hedlund, Me, Mary Uhles, and Jessica Young.

     Truly, that was a special night!
     The next day Stan was able to catch Vicky Alvear Shecter talk about her latest books, POMPEII and HADES SPEAKS right after Kimberly Cross Teter talked about her fascinating book ISABELLA'S LIBRETTO. (I had to meet with Sharon Cameron, author and moderator for my panel, which was right after.)

     I had the distinct honor of being paired with National Book Award Winner (and friend) Deborah Wiles (author of REVOLUTION, which is getting lots of Newbery buzz). She's supported me since the early days of my career, so it was so humbling and flattering to sit beside her and talk about A BIRD ON WATER STREET:



     Even the signing wasn't too painful this year - I had some very nice, interested readers ask me to sign books. One was a young boy, right about Jack's age. Gads, do I wish I could be a fly on his wall to see how he reacts to the book!

     It was late when we finally left, late when we stopped for dinner in Chattanooga (my old stomping grounds), and even later when we got home waaaay after dark. But it was all worth it.
     I love Nashville, I love my creative friends and my Midsouth family (I haven't even named half of them), and I ADORE finally meeting people in person who I've emailed with for years (there were a lot of them at this event). SUCH a treat!
     Thank you to Lacey Cook, Serenity Gerbman and all the volunteers for making this such a fantastic event, rain or shine! I'm always thrilled to come visit your neck o' the woods!

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46. Coloring Page Tuesday - Vulture

     V is for Vulture! Halloween creepeth closer. It's time to pull out the pumpkins and creepy coloring pages! My favorite time of year!
     CLICK HERE for more Halloween coloring pages!! And be sure to share your creations in my gallery so I can put them in my upcoming newsletters! (Cards, kids art, and crafts are welcome!)
     Sign up to receive alerts when a new coloring page is posted each week and... Please check out my books! Especially...

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

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47. Reading Rainbow Calendar Art - Go VOTE please!

I submitted an illustration for consideration for the Reading Rainbow calendar and voting is now open! (It closes Sunday.) I hope you'll check it out! You do have to be a Reading Rainbow backer to be able to vote, but try this link: CLICK HERE!

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48. Auburn Writers Conference!

Thursday morning I head out to speak at the Auburn Writers Conference in Alabama and to speak at two schools. It's been several years since I last spoke at this event. Chantel Acevedo puts on a class act, so I'm really looking forward to it!
     Here's a peek at one of the classes I'll be visiting: Students at Loachapoka High School in Lee County, Alabama received a classroom set of A Bird on Water Street, courtesy of Auburn University’s Office of the Vice President of University Outreach and the Auburn Writers Conference. I can't wait! (Click the image to see a larger version.)

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49. ISSUN BOSHI by Raphael Urwiller and Mayumi Otero - Interview and Giveaway!

Little Gestalten (a German publisher) is bringing some very cool children's books to the US for us to enjoy. The first I'll share with you is ISSUN BOSHI written and illustrated (together) by Raphael Urwiller and Mayumi Otero. English is not their first language (they are from France), so I'm thrilled to have them both here today - what a treat!

Q. It seems every culture has a “Tom Thumb” sort of character. How did you become familiar with the story of ISSUN BOSHI?
A.
Issun Boshi is a Tom Thumb, but in its poetic own way, a naïve little boy walking through the wilderness with a rice bowl on its head.
      In fact Mayumi, who is one half of Icinori, is half Japanese, and it was one of her most beloved story that her mother was telling her when she was a child. The other part of Icinori, Raphael Urwiller, is fond of traditionnal tales, and we discovered that Issun Boshi was never well adapted in France as a children book.

      Then we made it, for all this good reasons !

Q. I know older tales often don’t fit well in modern sensibilities. How much adaptation did you have to do to make the story work for new readers?
A.
A children's book has its own constraints, the number of pages, size, color, printing technique, and each of these constraints are a creative challenge. The original story comes in many forms, some versions are like the Grail legend, never finding the end.

      Raphael cut the text and rewrote it in a very modern rhythm paced modern book of 32 pages. This text has been designed to be read aloud with parents, but also to be read by the child alone, with simple words and very understandable images to help reading. The original story contains quite violent actions, Issun Boshi attacks monsters, we decided to keep these moments but by approaching them in a thoughtful way, working the figures and innuendo.

      We were very surprised at the extremely positive way children greet the story we made. In fact we did this book for the two children we were.

Q. I adore the art style - it’s both retro and so fresh - what is the method?
A.
We are engravers, screenprinters and strange book publishers (unique popup books and more) , we made this book using our printing techniques (screen printing is an ancient technique invented by the Chinese to work very accurate and efficient color), which we adapted to the constraints of traditional offset printing, allowing this book to benefit from these very beautiful colors. (Click the image to see a larger version.)

Q. Were there specific challenges to making this style work for ISSUN BOSHI?
A.
We admire many popular old images and ephemera, as well as the current underground art, the two share a wonderful and colorful graphics generosity power. We much inspired by old Japanese prints that contemporary artists. We try to follow the course huge illustrators, Sendak, Ungerer, Gustave Doré, Topor, etc. The challenge was to find the balance between all of this influences and our own wills!

Q. The story was originally published in France. How did it make it to the US?
A.
Gestalten – a great book publisher for designers and artists – made us the great possibility of being published in its first collection of books for children, translating the book in german and english! The book was also published in many countries (spanish, italian, chinese, dutsch etc.) and had a price in Bologna, the biggest children books festival. It's great, we don't realize the meaning of all of this but it's great!

Q. Neither of you live in the US. How is it to have a book launching in America and how have you celebrated the release of the book in your home towns?
A.
Yes, we opened a bottle of wine from Napa valley. For us, french peoples, it's a strong symbol!

GIVEAWAY!
Little Gestalten has generously agreed to send a free copy of ISSUN BOSHI to one of my lucky followers. Enter below!

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50. Friday Linky List - October 17, 2014

From BuzzFeed via Shelf Awareness: 19 Magical Bookshops Every Book Lover Must Visit. OMG!

The Da Vinci Initiative - Online Skill-Based Art Classes - Kickstarter project. This is so incredibly important and yet doesn't exist in most if not all schools. Art ties together all the other course studies, so why it's deemed less important is beyond me.

From PW: Hachette Launches Author & Agent Portal: "The portal will provide self-service, updated information for agents and authors, including confidential sales data, for all titles published by HBG." What a GREAT idea!

Little Known Punctuation Marks: Infographic. Why can't I find these on my keyboard, hmmmm?

At lifehack: 25 Common Words That You've Got Wrong

At PW: The National Book Award Finalists have been named! I'm thrilled to see Deborah Wiles' REVOLUTION on there!

At The New Yorker (via PW): S.E. Hinton and the Y.A. Debate

Diversity in YA is hosting a Middle Grade Month Giveaway!

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