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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. Friday Linky List - July 3, 2015

At Jane Friedman.com (via SCBWI British Isles): The 4 Hidden Dangers of Writing Groups (good advice!)

At Notes from the Slushpile (via SCBWI British Isles): There's a Ghost in my House

From the Scottish Book Trust: 21 Literary Tees To Wear This Summer

Click Here to read Dan Santat's Caldecott acceptance speech - really great!

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27. Gennifer Choldenko's PUTTING THE MONKEYS TO BED - Guest Post

by Newbery-Honor-Winning author of Al Capone Does My Shirts
Gennifer Choldenko

     The idea for Putting the Monkeys to Bed came while trying to get my son, Ian, to sleep. I wrote the first draft when he was three. The book came out in June, two months after his twenty-first birthday! Before this, my record for the longest gestation period for one book was five years for Al Capone Does My Shirts.
     When I speak to writers, I suggest they trust their inner monkeys. Then I tell them the cautionary tale of Putting the Monkeys to Bed.
     Some picture books come easily. Moonstruck: The True Story of the Cow Who Jumped Over the Moon, Louder, Lili and the upcoming Dad and the Dinosaur came to me in a semi-completed form. Yes, I revised them many, many times, but the revisions didn’t change the major arc of the story.
     This was not the case with Putting the Monkeys to Bed. Now that it’s finished, the story structure seems simple and inevitable and I have no idea why it was so difficult to nail. But was it ever! It was both challenging to write and challenging to sell.
     Early on in the process I had a lot of interest from a house I was dying to work with. The editor sent me a two-page editorial letter, which suggested a direction for the book that I knew in my secret heart of hearts was not right.
     But because I was dying to work with that editor, at that house, I rewrote the book exactly the way she wanted it. And when the revision was complete, I glossed over the fact that it didn’t work and sent it back to her with an over-eager, slightly sycophantic cover letter.
     That editor recognized how hard I had worked to do exactly what she wanted, so she sent me another long editorial letter detailing how I might change the story yet again. So, I rewrote the book the way she wanted and sent the revision back with another eager cover letter, but this time I could no longer hide from that sinking feeling. It wasn’t working and I knew it.
     I can’t say I was surprised when I received a kind, but clear rejection. That editor had realized, just as I did, that Putting the Monkeys to Bed was not working. After that, I put the book away for a few years and took it out again when I was working with another editor, the wise and gracious Nancy Paulsen. I sent Nancy the original book—before I made the revisions that I knew were wrong—and she and the talented Susan Kochan helped me find the right shape for Putting the Monkeys to Bed. Without them, the manuscript would still be sitting in my file cabinet.
     Writing picture books is a different kind of challenge from writing novels. Writing novels is like living alone in the jungle. All I have is my tree house, the teeming jungle and all of the intense research I do. Nothing else is allowed in the bush with me. I do exactly what I want with my novels. I follow my instincts. My inner monkeys are in their element with the great huge challenge of a novel to play with.
     But when I try to take a picture book on a safari in the jungle and spend all day on it, my inner monkeys begin to eat the manuscript. Swallow it whole. My picture books are more fragile than my novels. My picture books can’t take the long hours of intense work. For me, working on picture books takes a lighter energy. A brief visit to the jungle—not a year-long safari. One hour to two hours max of intense work, then I put the manuscript away and bring it out the next day and the next and the next. Picture books can take as long as novels to write, but writing them has to be in short bursts.
     What I really love is to work hard on a novel, send it off to my editor, and while the novel draft is sitting on her desk, work on a picture book. Novels are all consuming. Picture book writing is easier for me to slip in and out of and works well with the business side of my life. By this I mean: website revisions to make, blog interviews to write, fan readers to respond to, travel arrangements to make, a social media presence to maintain, presentations to prepare—the flotsam and jetsam of work that makes up an author’s life
     The second I send a novel draft off, I jump on my to-do list. Then for my treat I start playing around with a picture book. Writing is the wild joy in my life.

     Gennifer's favorite writing spot is next to her assistant. Shown here taking careful notes.

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28. Coloring Page Tuesday - Happy Independence Day!

     Happy Independence Day! The 4th of July is Saturday and I have to say, I am feeling especially proud to be an American this week!! Hope is in the air as is love! Here are two teddies to help you celebrate.
     CLICK HERE for more patriotic coloring pages!
     Sign up to receive alerts when a new coloring page is posted each week and... Please check out my books! Especially...
my debut novel, A BIRD ON WATER STREET - winner of six literary awards. Click the cover to learn more!
     When the birds return to Water Street, will anyone be left to hear them sing? A miner's strike allows green and growing things to return to the Red Hills, but that same strike may force residents to seek new homes and livelihoods elsewhere. Follow the story of Jack Hicks as he struggles to hold onto everything he loves most.
     I create my coloring pages for teachers, librarians, booksellers, and parents to enjoy for free with their children, but you can also purchase rights to an image for commercial use, please contact me. If you have questions about usage, please visit my Angel Policy page.

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29. I'm the Georgia Author of the Year!

Oh wow! I am the Georgia Author of the Year in the Young Adult category for A BIRD ON WATER STREET hosted by the Georgia Writers Association! Friends James Taylor and Lynn Myers were at the awards banquet and Facebooked this photo to me:

     What a bizarre feeling to learn that you were being talked about in such a public setting and with accolades! It does my heart good to know that A BIRD ON WATER STREET is slowly getting on more people's radar and gaining momentum among readers. I can't tell you how humbled and honored I have been to have my debut novel recognized with so many awards (this makes eleven!) and to have my decade of hard work on the novel validated. This book is a tribute to the Copperhill community and it's been my pleasure to get the word out about their history through my story of Jack. I've especially been touched by the warm response from my readers, colleagues and peers, like the Georgia Writers Association. THANK YOU!!!!!
     I believe this is what the new sticker will look like. Woohoo!
      Learn more about A BIRD ON WATER STREET - click the cover.

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30. New Peanuts Movie Trailer

Did you know I drew Charlie Brown and Snoopy for six years? I worked for Buster Brown Apparel and we had the Peanuts clothing line license. So you can imagine my skepticism at the announcement of a new Peanuts movie so long after Charles Shulz left us. But y'know what? This looks pretty good! Click the image to go watch the trailer on YouTube. The movie releases November 6th.

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31. Illustrator Challenge #6

Playing off of last week's challenge, this one is again about color. Draw something simple for you - a landscape, a thing, a pretty - it doesn't matter. Then color it using only two colors (using their full value range from pale to dark). Have a go!

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32. Friday Linky List - June 26, 2015

At Picture Book Builders: Building a Book — To the Printer We Go! Fascinating peek into the printing process!

At NPR: For Adults, Coloring Invites Creativity And Brings Comfort

From BookRiot (via PW): An Ode to School Librarians

From Everyday Reading (via PW): 100 Picture Books to Read This Summer

At School Library Journal: In Enthralling Speech, A.S. King Explores Feminism | Day of Dialog

From PW: Bay Area Spotlight 2015: The Wild West of Kids' Books (including my publisher, Little Pickle Press)

From PW: Trangender titles for young readers

From the Scottish Book Trust: Five things: Ways to Keep Writing (through the pain)

From Bustle (via PW): 30 LGBTQIA-Positive Children’s Books That’ll Teach Kids How Beautifully Diverse The World Is

From The Guardian (via PW): Elli Willard's top 10 re-imagined fairytales

At Mental Floss: 10 Cases of Extreme Writer's Block

From The Guardian (via PW): The 10 Best independent bookshops in the world - readers recommend

From Fortune (via PW): Amazon's new way of paying authors makes sense, and here's why

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33. SPY GUY - Jessica Young and Charles Santoso - Guest Interview

Spy Guy author Jessica Young and illustrator Charles Santoso had some questions for each other about their ideas for the book, their creative processes, and what's up next:

CS: Hi Jess. May I start with asking where and how did you get the idea for Spy Guy?

JY: Hi Charles! Originally, I'd been thinking about characters who have traits that make it hard for them to do the thing they want to do most—things that could work against them in a funny way. I'd also been toying with a concept about appropriate situations for being quiet vs. loud. So I tried putting those two ideas together. The first version I wrote was about a ninja (The Noisy Ninja), but eventually the story morphed into Spy Guy.
CS: Noisy Ninja sounds great! Maybe he'll meet Spy Guy one day?

JY: Haha—yes! They could go sneaking together!

JY: My first question for you is: When you read Spy Guy for the first time, what were your thoughts? Did you get ideas or images right away, or did you have to sit with the story for a while?

CS: The first thing that I thought was . . . fun! The big connection that I had with the story was how Spy Guy keeps trying his best to achieve his goal. This felt familiar when I compared it with my path of becoming an illustrator. After I read the text several times, characters and scenes started to fuzzily form. One thing I was sure I wanted was for the Chief to be Spy Guy's dad. I moved to do some sketching after that.

CS: Was the process in writing this book different from your other picture book My Blue is Happy (which is fantastic btw) and your chapter book series Finley Flowers? If so, in what way?

JY: Thanks so much about My Blue is Happy! It seems like every book is different for me. Each one usually starts with an idea seed that I write down and come back to. Then it puts down roots and grows into a story, changing with each revision. Spy Guy and Finley Flowers both started with characters, and the stories grew from those. But My Blue is Happy started as a concept—that everyone has subjective color associations and sees the world differently.

JY: I really like the way you developed the father-son relationship in Spy Guy. I also love the classic-but-fresh-and-funny feel of the illustrations and how they bring Spy Guy's character to life. Can you talk a bit about your process and the media you used?
CS: I have different approach for each of my picture book projects. For Spy Guy, I wanted the look to be clean and modern as that felt more in line with the overall spy theme. I use Photoshop to do most of the work for this book but I use a similar approach to the traditional mediums to avoid creating work that is too ‘digital’ looking. This method along with the use of limited color palettes hopefully gives the book a more ‘classic’ feeling.
      The process of making the book itself involved lots and lots of sketching to get to know each character more, trying out different layouts and scenes, collaborating with my lovely editor to get maximum impact for each page spread, doing the final drawing, coloring and after several months of hard work. . . viola! Done! :-)

CS: Can I shuffle back a bit to the beginning and ask what inspired you to be a writer? Did you like writing since you were a kid? And was being an author your dream then?

JY: I did like writing, but it wasn't something I thought about as a career. When I was really little, I wanted to be a tap-dancing/flight attendant/veterinarian! I was a counselor and art teacher for a long time before I started writing picture books. That interest was sparked when my first child was born and I started getting books for him.
JY: Did you always want to be an illustrator? Or did that interest develop from other things?

CS: I've loved drawing since I was a kid but never thought that I could make a career as an illustrator. I studied design in university and went to work as a graphic designer for several years, mainly designing logos, websites and software interfaces. I was still drawing consistently on the side and tried to learn as much as possible through books and online tutorials after hours. I then got a break into the movie industry as a concept artist through my drawing portfolio, and six years later, a side adventure into the picture book world (which I totally LOVE). There were lots of ups and downs in the whole journey up to now, and there are still lots of things to learn, but like Spy Guy said the secret is to never stop trying!
CS: What’s your typical day like when you’re in the process of writing a book? Have you got a fixed schedule to write? In the morning or at night?

JY: I pretty much write whenever I can, day or night. I usually write from home, but sometimes a change of venue feels good, so I'll go to a café or park for a treat. I wake up early every day, as my kids have built-in alarms. Once they're at school, I get to work, and try to plow through the other work stuff and reward myself with writing time. I often work at night, but it depends how tired I am. I'm not as sharp then, even though it's peaceful and I love staying up late. This is the first year I haven't been teaching, so I'm getting more daytime hours in.

JY: What about you?

CS: I work at an animation studio by day, so the first 10 hours of my productive day are fully dedicated to whatever project I'm currently in.
      After that, I go home and spend some quality time with my wife (very important), have a quick nap and continue with the 2nd part of my day, drawing for picture books and other personal projects.
      I have more time on the weekends so I usually do more with the important parts of picture book making, which are researching, planning & experimenting. And as you mentioned, change of venue is definitely a good idea. I often wander around bookshops, cafés or parks to get more inspirations.

CS: What's next for Jessica Young? And any advice that you can pass on for students/aspiring writers?

JY: I have several picture book manuscripts I've been working on—one more conceptual and interactive, one that's evolved from its original form, and another I've been wrestling with for years. I'm also looking forward to starting something brand new. It's been really fun working on the Haggis and Tank Unleashed early reader series that's coming out next January from Scholastic. It has a lot of wordplay, and I've loved putting the same characters into different stories to see what they do (same for the Finley Flowers chapter book series—books 3 and 4 of those come out in August). So that's something I'd like to keep exploring.
      As far as advice, everyone's path is different, but the things that have helped me the most are reading a lot, writing a lot, surrounding myself with creative people (many of whom are critique partners), and trying to be flexible. Joining the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators was really important for me as well. The advice I try to remind myself of is ? and ! ? = be curious and ask questions, and ! = be fiercely enthusiastic and tenacious—like Spy Guy!

JY: What's up next for you? (I love your recent book I Don't Like Koala!) And what would you tell aspiring illustrators? Also, just curious if you have a favorite color/s?

CS: Thank you for loving Koala! For the future, I have some more picture books on the way. Another one will be released this year in August, called Peanut Butter & Brains, published by Abrams, and some books from Simon & Schuster that will be released in 2016. I will also try my hand into writing very soon. Wish me luck!
      Work hard, never give up and keep trying! Learn as much as you can and learn some more. Be honest with yourself and be kind to others.
      As for color, I used to love green for some reason. It changed to blue, yellow then grey. I keep changing my mind about this haha.
      Thank you for the fun and insightful conversations, Jessica!

JY: You, too! It was great getting to know you better and learning about your process.

About Spy Guy the Not-So-Secret Agent:
     Spy Guy is a spy—but not a very good one. He’s too loud, too squeaky, and in need of a good disguise. All Spy Guy wants is to figure out the secret to spying. But as the Chief says, that he must discover for himself.

Fluffy fun that promotes visual literacy and will make a positive addition to interactive storytime collections. — School Library Journal

Children who love to play at being spies in their own homes and neighborhoods will appreciate the question posed by this hilarious and heartening book . . . Santoso’s wonderfully noirish illustrations make this book fun and engaging, as do Young’s rhyme schemes and wordplay. — Booklist

Santoso’s art conveys broadly comical action, and his slightly retro palette and exaggerated cartoon style are well-suited to the undercover prowess Spy Guy seeks. — Kirkus

Santoso’s crisp images and liberal use of white space keep the focus on domestic comedy . . . but it quickly turns into a tribute to savvy parental mentoring. — Publishers Weekly

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34. ABOWS on the Georgia Reading List!

My cousin texted me recently... A BIRD ON WATER STREET is on the Georgia Suggested Summer Reading Middle & High School list for 2015! How exciting is that!? The list is handed out by both school and branch librarians all over the state. Wouldn't it be wonderful if new readers discovered ABOWS and the story moved them as much as it moved me? I can only hope. Click the image to learn more about my debut historical fiction novel...

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35. Coloring Page Tuesday - Badger!

     Badgers! We don't need no stinking badgers. They're too busy reading anyhow... This one is reading my book, Oscar the Badger (out of print).
     CLICK HERE for more coloring pages!
     Sign up to receive alerts when a new coloring page is posted each week and... Please check out my books! Especially...
my debut novel, A BIRD ON WATER STREET - winner of six literary awards. Click the cover to learn more!
     When the birds return to Water Street, will anyone be left to hear them sing? A miner's strike allows green and growing things to return to the Red Hills, but that same strike may force residents to seek new homes and livelihoods elsewhere. Follow the story of Jack Hicks as he struggles to hold onto everything he loves most.
     I create my coloring pages for teachers, librarians, booksellers, and parents to enjoy for free with their children, but you can also purchase rights to an image for commercial use, please contact me. If you have questions about usage, please visit my Angel Policy page.

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36. The Hollins Rock

There is a rock that sits near the entrance to the Hollins Campus. It is tradition for folks to spray paint messages on it to welcome speakers, or special programs. In fact, its had so much paint on it over the years, an enormous chunk broke off last summer. Everybody thought the rock had broken, but it was simply decades of paint!
     At any rate, this year we decided to paint the rock with a big welcome to all our ChildLit Graduate programs students - people in the MFA in Writing and Illustrating Children's Books, Certificate in Children's Book Illustration, Children's Literature MA and MFA programs.
     A cow jumping over the moon has become a symbol we use quite a bit here, so I thought it would be a great image for the rock. I bought paints a few weeks ago and waited for faculty to arrive. Sunday morning was the day! I told Ashley Wolff my idea, she did the actual drawing, and then we executed it together. Poifect!
     First we had to cover up what used to be on the rock (a sign from a writing workshop held over the summer).

Then we applied a gradient sky background.

Then the moon.

And then more details. I don't know how graffiti artists do it - spray paint is not an easy medium to work with!

But it worked out okay, and voila! Here is the rock (with the original sketch).

And the rock with Ashley and me, proud as clams, with spray cans in hand.

     So, welcome, welcome students and faculty! I'm looking forward to a great summer term!
     Meanwhile, we'll see how long the design lasts before somebody else paints something new on top!

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37. Gerald McBoing-Boing

Travis Jonker of SLJ's 100 Scope Notes recently turned me onto this awesome video of Gerald McBoing-Boing, which Dr. Seuss wrote and won an Academy Award for. Click the image to watch it on YouTube:

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38. Illustrator Challenge #5

This one has to do with color. Create a design or a scene (like a bedroom or still life) and use variations of only one color to color and shade it - like blue or red. It's called monochromatic. Because color has value just like black and white, it's just a little trickier to nail down.

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39. Friday Linky List - June 19, 2015

From The Guardian (via my awesome agent): Library cards around the world - in pictures

From 100 Scope Notes: At The Slate Book Review: Why So Poky? The scourge of terrible canonical children's books

From The New York Times: Transgender Children's Books Fill a Void and Break a Taboo

From the Directory of Illustration: Christina Tugeau on the Importance of Character Development

At Mondays with Mandy or Mira, Mira Reisberg talks about A Lesson in the Pleasures of Plot - great advice

At Salon (via PW): Write an essay, get... a goat farm? The bizarre new literary economy that's matching real estate with gifted writers

From the BBC (via PW): The dark side of nursery rhymes

From BuzzFeed (Via my awesome new Southeast Scotland SCBWI group): If Jane Austen Got Feedback From Some Guy In A Writing Workshop

From The Guardian (via PW): RJ Palacio: what is kindness?

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40. BIRD & DIZ - Guest post with Gary Golio and Ed Young!

I am honored today to have two picture book heroes on to talk about their new release, BIRD & DIZ. Author Gary Golio and Caldecott Medalist Ed Young interviewed each other about this jazzy new book. I saw Ed speak at the Society of Illustrators in New York many years ago and he made a lasting impression on my art and how I teach illustration. Gary is husband to Susanna Reich, who I've hung out with many times at Kindling Words in Vermont. In other words, I am ticked beyond belief to have them interview each other on my blog today. Take it away guys!

Tossing Notes Back and Forth Between Ed and Gary...
GARY: The reason I showed you my text for Bird & Diz was because of your love for gesture and facial expression. In fact, you were my T'ai Chi teacher for 10 years. Were Bird and Diz doing bebop T'ai Chi with their bodies and instruments? Is that what we see in your artwork for the book?

ED: T'ai Chi is a dance and a conversation between inner body parts extended to the player's outer realms. In this fashion you could certainly find that in Bird & Diz between both their sounds and their facial and bodily expressions. I experimented by translating their sounds into colors and their rhythms into lines for the unique Bebop exchanges. What made you write Bird & Diz?

Click the image to see a larger version in a new window.
GARY: I love all kinds of music, but in jazz there's so much variety. I'd written a book about John Coltrane, who was very influenced and inspired by Charlie "Bird" Parker. So one day I watched the only known footage of Charlie and Dizzy playing together, and I could see they were just grown-up kids, using music as an excuse to have a lot of fun with each other. In my mind, they were like jugglers tossing notes band forth, trying to challenge and top each other, using their bodies (eyes, eyebrows, arms) to send signals and keep the chase moving along. For them, bebop was pure joy!

ED: The best books are made that same way. In the old days, Author and Illustrators of any given picture book met only on paper. The three-way dance was largely that with the editor. Today we still dance with the editor, but it's extended into a four-way dance with the art designer. More open-ended and fun. In our case, since we're already friends, it was pure joy.

GARY: So among the two of us, who's Bird and who's Diz? My cheeks are fatter than yours, so I could be Diz. But they both had hair, and neither of us does. ; ]

ED: Yul Brynner was ahead of his time--not many followers but Ed and Gary. But if you must be cheeky Diz, I'll be dancing-brows-and-rolling-eyes Birdman! : )

Click the image to see a larger version in a new window.
GARY: And were you surprised when Candlewick took your original 25-foot-long illustrated scroll and turned it into an accordion book? We weren't expecting that.

ED: Yes, very much so. Almost all my work starts with a scroll, as a story told orally has no interruption of turning pages. (Reading, on the other hand, does.) An accordion format is a compromise, but this way at least the reader has options to experience seeing the flow beyond two pages at a time. So I was pleased with Candlwick's decision. It takes courage and conviction to be innovative in this world governed by regulations.

GARY: You are a rebellious soul, old friend -- true to the spirit of Bird and Diz! I think we made some beautiful music together. ; ]

About the book:
A bold new picture book by New York Times-bestselling author Gary Golio and Caldecott Medalist Ed Young tells the story of Bebop's creators as they juggle notes and chase each other with sounds. In a remarkable format that mirrors its subjects' innovative style, Bird& Diz can be read page-by-page or unfolded accordion-style and enjoyed as a 12-foot-long scroll. A tribute to friendship as well as creativity, Bird & Diz is a work of art created by two modern friends that will leave young readers hankering for a listen.

Gary Golio has been interviewed on NPR’s Weekend Edition and Michael Eric Dyson show, and featured on CBS-TV in New York City. He is the author of JIMI: Sounds Like A Rainbow – A Story of the Young Jimi Hendrix (Clarion), When Bob Met Woody – The Story of the Young Bob Dylan (Little, Brown), and Spirit Seeker – John Coltrane's Musical Journey (Clarion). Golio is a clinical social worker/psychotherapist and visual artist who lives in the Hudson Valley with his wife, author Susanna Reich. He is available for interviews.

Caldecott Medalist Ed Young is the illustrator of over eighty books for children, and finds inspiration for his work in the philosophy of Chinese painting. In 1990, his book Lon Po Po was awarded the Caldecott Medal. He has also received two Caldecott Honors – for The Emperor and the Kite and Seven Blind Mice – and was twice nominated for the Hans Christian Andersen Medal, the highest international recognition given to children's book authors and illustrators who have made a lasting contribution to children's literature. Young lives in Westchester County, New York, with his two daughters and two cats.

Be-bop-a-skoodley Doo-wa!

BIRD & DIZ. Text copyright © 2015 by Gary Golio. Illustrations copyright © 2015 by Ed Young. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

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41. My Office This Summer

This is the first year teaching at Hollins University that I'm in a real office. Usually we set up a station in or near our classrooms on the 3rd floor in the Visual Arts Building (the VAC). (HERE was last year's office.)
     This year, Ruth Sanderson and I will be sharing an office on the 2nd floor with a locking door and everything! I wasn't sure I was going to like being away from my students and the hubbub of the classrooms, but since Stan and I arrived on campus about a month early, I've been able to settle in and really enjoy this space. It's so quiet in here and I absolutely LOVE having a cork board wall (on the right) to pin up my works in progress!!! I've dubbed the space my "focus module" and I have gotten a TON of work done in here.
     It will be interesting when Ruth gets here. We teach on opposite days, so there won't be much overlap on office use. I bet she finds it just as quiet and comfortable as I do!

Photo ©Stan Dulemba, used with permission.

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42. Coloring Page Tuesday - Drawing Mouse

     Next weekend students will start arriving for the summer term Certificate in Children's Book Illustration and MFA in Children's Book Writing and Illustrating programs. The art supplies are out and eager to be used and I can't wait to see my friends and colleagues again. It's going to be a great term! CLICK HERE to learn more about the programs.
     CLICK HERE for more coloring pages!
     Sign up to receive alerts when a new coloring page is posted each week and... Please check out my books! Especially...
my debut novel, A BIRD ON WATER STREET - winner of six literary awards. Click the cover to learn more!
     When the birds return to Water Street, will anyone be left to hear them sing? A miner's strike allows green and growing things to return to the Red Hills, but that same strike may force residents to seek new homes and livelihoods elsewhere. Follow the story of Jack Hicks as he struggles to hold onto everything he loves most.
     I create my coloring pages for teachers, librarians, booksellers, and parents to enjoy for free with their children, but you can also purchase rights to an image for commercial use, please contact me. If you have questions about usage, please visit my Angel Policy page.

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43. Smith Mountain Lake

I've been to Roanoke four years now and never made it to the nearby resort lake community. Sunday, we remedied that! Stan and I went to hang out on the public beach at Smith Mountain Lake. It was lovely:

There were plenty of lifeguards on duty, and a waterslide platform for kids to swim out to. The sand was soft on my feet:

We swam and ate lunch and got very, very hot. It was 91° (32°c)!! Meanwhile, a crew of teenagers flopped their blankets right near us. Can you say eavesdropping? It's how you mine for true YA voices!
     At any rate, I can't take the heat like I used to. So we only stayed for a few hours before bimbling about the roads that surrounded the lake. It was a nice mini-adventure for the day.

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44. Artwork to the De Grummond

Recently, my friend Lynn Salsi (Pulitzer nominated author) dropped off a bunch of my artwork to the De Grummond Children's Literature Collection in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. She was heading that way to do some research and loved an excuse to meet Ellen Ruffin, the wonderful and supportive Curator. The De Grummond already houses some of my work, but with the move, I had a whole bunch more to share - so this worked out perfectly!
     See all the boxes in the photo? Those are full of sketches, drawings, and rendered artwork. None of it could go to Scotland with me, so it ended up being a win-win!

     THANK YOU to both Lynn and Ellen for being so supportive and giving my art a good home!

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45. Coloring Page Tuesday - Ice Cream Cone

     It's still too close to my birthday to be giving up on the treats just yet. Especially since I learned that my birthday takes place on National Chocolate Ice Cream Day! (How appropriate.) Besides, all those kids getting out of school for the summer need a treat too!
     CLICK HERE for more coloring pages!
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my debut novel, A BIRD ON WATER STREET - winner of six literary awards. Click the cover to learn more!
     When the birds return to Water Street, will anyone be left to hear them sing? A miner's strike allows green and growing things to return to the Red Hills, but that same strike may force residents to seek new homes and livelihoods elsewhere. Follow the story of Jack Hicks as he struggles to hold onto everything he loves most.
     I create my coloring pages for teachers, librarians, booksellers, and parents to enjoy for free with their children, but you can also purchase rights to an image for commercial use, please contact me. If you have questions about usage, please visit my Angel Policy page.

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46. Graffiti at Hollins

During the summer term MFA in Children's Book Writing and Illustrating program, Hollins University is co-ed. However, during the rest of the year, the undergraduate studies are for girls only - for some very smart girls.
     There are two tunnels I've discovered on campus. One I use almost daily to get from my apartment to campus underneath Lee Highway. It's where the swallows nest and the creek cuts through. The other is a tunnel which runs underneath Highway 81 to the Tinker Creek Greenway-Hollins Trailhead. Stan and I hiked it recently and were tickled to discover something unique about Hollins and both of these tunnels... The graffiti here is not your normal graffiti. In fact, it's downright inspired. Here are some examples:

They're even in other languages:

And while this last one isn't especially profound, it does speak to the age of the students here. I liked it!

Photos ©Stan Dulemba, used with permission.

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47. Lou Anders - NIGHTBORN - Guest Post

A Series of (Fortunate) Events
by Lou Anders

      When I started the manuscript that would become Frostborn, the first book in the Thrones & Bones series, I began with the setting. I had an idea that I was going to write about a half-human, half-giant girl struggling with her dual heritage, but I really didn’t have much beyond that. I needed to know a lot more about where she came from if I was going to understand her. So I did something crazy. I took a full three months to create the world before I even let myself think anything further about plot.
      Looking back, I’m kind of in shock at the blind faith (or sheer arrogance?) that it took to devote so much effort to world-building when I didn’t have a story. At the time, I had the idea that I would design an entire planet and make it big, varied, and rich enough that it could be the setting for any fantasy story I might ever choose to tell, whether a children’s book, young adult, or adult fantasy.
      I started out by playing in a mapmaking software program I found called Fractal Terrains 3. I spent three weeks just hammering out the geography. After massaging the land masses into the exact shapes that I had in mind, I selected a spot in the upper northwest corner of one continent and began to work on a culture. My half-giant girl’s father is a frost giant, a particular type of being from Norse myth, so I set about building the Norwegian-inspired lands of Ymiria and Norrøngard. This being my first fantasy foray, I wanted to start with the roots of the western fantasy tradition and work outward. I confess I also somewhat naively thought that I could tell a simple story in a remote and snow-bound land and save the heavy lifting of less-isolated countries farther inland for later books. But as I researched the historical Vikings, I quickly realized how wrong I was. Those guys went everywhere! They raided the British Isles, sacked Paris, visited Constantinople—they even warred with Inuits and Native Americans. In plotting the history of my analogous northern peoples, I inadvertently had to work out the history of their neighbors and their neighbors’ neighbors and their neighbors’ neighbors’ neighbors. The result was that I ended up with about sixty thousand words of notes on the world before I ever started outlining plot. It was a crazy way to do things. But it paid off.
      For starters, I really knew the world. This meant that my characters could live in and react to it in a credible, convincing way without the need for a whole lot of “info-dumping.” Whole pages of world-building showed up in simple asides in their conversation—throwaway lines that hinted at, rather than stated, aspects of their history and culture. As the plot grew, a second character was introduced, a boy who loved strategy board games and wanted to see the world. I didn’t initially intend for them to continue together past the end of Frostborn. I imagined they could have separate follow-up adventures after they had learned from each other and parted ways. My wife and my (then) agent both informed me in no uncertain terms that Karn and Thianna had to reunite. My vote in the matter didn’t count. So much for my previous ideas! Now I needed new stories that accommodated both of them. And this is where the world-building really paid off.
      Looking at my maps, I saw so many interesting and cool things that were going on in countries across the continent. It wasn’t hard to come up with ideas. Just the opposite—it was an embarrassment of riches. As I studied region after region, thinking about what was going on where, additional adventures for Karn and Thianna began to take shape. Dozens of them!
      I settled on the idea of doing a sort of James Bond/Da Vinci Code–style globe-trotting quest, one where our heroes would have to race against a secret society (or two) to be the first to find a magic item of world-shattering power. But as important as the physical journey is the emotional journey, the growth that the characters experience by undertaking the action of the novel. In Frostborn, two very different people learned to appreciate each other’s strengths and work together. In Nightborn, I wanted to take Thianna out of the equation (at first) and force Karn to discover whether he could still be a hero when he didn’t have a seven-foot-tall girl backing him up. And whereas in book one they went from being strangers to being the best of friends, in book two I wanted to test their friendship. I also introduce a new character, a dark elf named Desstra whose journey is at cross-purposes with Karn and Thianna’s. The result is a book that shows a good deal more of the world, while it deepens Karn and Thianna’s characters and introduces new people into the series as well.
      As my world continues to expand, more and more story ideas vie for my attention. By taking the time to lay all the—ahem—groundwork at the start, the potential fodder for future books just grows and grows. For me, writing a series is possible because the novels are underpinned by a world that lives and breathes beyond the pages that my readers see. I feel I’m part author, part tour guide, and I hope you’ll take the trip with me!

Lou's fave writing spot - his dining table.

      Lou Anders drew on a recent visit to Norway along with his adventures traveling across Europe in his teens and twenties to write Frostborn and Nightborn, combining those experiences with his love of globe-trotting adventure fiction and games (both tabletop and role-playing). However, he has yet to ride a wyvern. With the addition of characters Desstra and Tanthal, Anders hopes that his second book in the Thrones and Bones series will continue to appeal to boys and girls equally. Anders is the recipient of a Hugo Award for editing and a Chesley Award for art direction. He has published over five hundred articles and stories on science fiction and fantasy television and literature. A prolific speaker, Anders regularly attends writing conventions around the country. He and his family reside in Birmingham, Alabama. You can visit Anders online at louanders.com and ThronesandBones.com, on Facebook, on Tumblr, and on Twitter at @ThronesandBones and @LouAnders. Also at Pinterest: pinterest.com/louhanders/; Instagram: instagram.com/thrones_and_bones; Goodreads: goodreads.com/author/show/61741.Lou_Anders

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48. Friday Linky List - June 12, 2015

From Mental_floss (via PW), and especially relevant since I am now at Hollins University in Roanoke, Virginia, Ms. Brown's alma mater: 11 Fascinating Facts About 'Goodnight Moon'

From School Library Journal: Fuse #8: What Makes a Picture Book Mega-Hit?

From PW: James Patterson Debuts New Children's Imprint

From The Guardian (via PW): Dear Librarian: New York Public Library's quirkiest inquiries

From Forbes: How Successful People Handle Stress (relevant to all of us!)

Jeff Kinney's store is finally open! 'Wimpy Kid' author opens bookstore in downtown Plainville

From Masterclass: James Patterson Teaches Writing

From the Scottish Book Trust: 12 Picture Books for Adults

From BuzzFeed (and SCBWI!): 30 Copy Editors Tell Us Their Pet Peeves

From Mental_floss (via Shelf Awareness): 13 Bookstore Cats

From Refinery29 (via PW): 30 Young Adult Books Every Actual Adult Should Read - interesting list

At HuffPost (via PW): Literary Landmarks: 7 Famous Authors' Homes You Can Visit

From New Republic: Breaking the Boundaries Between Fantasy and Literary Fiction: A conversation between literary heavyweights Neil Gaiman and Kazoo Ishiguro

From Radio Boston: The Educational Impact of 'Sesame Street'

From PW: #We Need Diverse Books Announces Internship Project Recipients - and their good works begin!

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49. Minor League Baseball

For all the things you may complain about in America, there's one thing we do right—minor league baseball. For part of my birthday weekend last week, we went to a Salem Red Sox game. There was a 100% chance of rain, but we decided to give it a go anyhow. We parked insanely close to the stadium:

And bought our tickets for the Red Sox vs. the Potomac Nationals without standing in line and for close to the price of a movie:

Despite the last minute ticket purchase, we were able to get seats near third base right over the home team's dugout. (That would never happen at a major league game!) And oh, what a view of the mountains beyond!

We were optimistic. Here's Stan:

It was a beautiful little stadium. That's what I love about minor leagues, the stadiums are so intimate. We ended up sitting just outside the netted area. And with the way the balls went into the stands during the game, we may rethink our seats next time.

There was a small rain delay, but soon the game was underway:

What a wonderful relaxing time as Stan taught me the tradition of "Mound ball" and taught me what "Park it!" means. It was "Harry Potter" night, so the game promoters were all in costume. The music was the soundtrack from the movies. And they hid 'snitches' throughout the stadium, which they gave hints for every half hour or so. It was so fun watching the kids running across the stadium (with more freedom than kids usually have these days) once they'd figured out what the clue meant. Buying popcorn, Cracker Jacks and cider were easy - again, no lines. We were having so much fun!

The rain finally did come, right as the fireworks show was about to start. (They do fireworks for every Friday home game.) But even the rain was fun. The fireworks were longer and more impressive than I expected. After it was over we made the short walk to the car and headed home with enormous smiles on our faces. We had experienced a bubble of American perfection. Have you been to a minor league game lately?

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50. Plant a Book!

When I sign copies of A BIRD ON WATER STREET, I always write something along the lines of "Plant a Tree!" But a publisher in Argentina has taken that idea to a whole new level. They've created a book that when planted, will actually grow into a tree! FABULOUS! Click the image to watch and learn more about it at Huff Post.

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