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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. Simon & Schuster's Behind the Book video series

S&S has created an interesting series of videos called Behind the Book, of editors discussing the books they've worked on, because...

"Apart from the author, nobody knows a book as well as its editor, and our Behind the Book videos will share with readers some of the inside information and in-house perspective on a book's path to publication," Ellie Hirschhorn, executive v-p, chief digital officer of S&S, said.
     They're short glimpses behind the scenes - fascinating! I especially liked:
Behind the Book: Lynn Cullen's Mrs. Poe
Behind the Book: The Summer Wind - an actual discussion between the author and editor
     You may also want to check out the video commentaries by the authors, such as Terra Elan McVoy on IN DEEP (which I'll be featuring soon).

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27. The Theory of Everything

There's a new movie coming out documenting the life of Jane and Stephen Hawking. I've always been a bit of a science geek and a fan of Mr. Hawking's. I can't wait to see this. If the embedded video gives you any trouble, CLICK HERE to go watch the trailer.

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28. THREE BIRD SUMMER by Sara St. Antoine - Guest Post and Giveaway!


The seeds for THREE BIRD SUMMER were sown many years ago when my grandmother interrupted my television-watching to ask me what she should do about the little girl in her bedroom.
      I looked at her, stunned. I was the only little girl in the house. I accompanied her back to her room, where she pointed to a childhood photograph of my aunt, sitting framed on her dresser. “There she is,” she told me.
      My relief at not finding a strange girl in my house was quickly replaced by the realization that my grandmother had been talking to a photograph! From then on, her moments of clarity alternated with regular delusions—like telling the lady in her mirror that her bedroom was much nicer than her own. Years later, I drew upon these memories to write a short story about a boy whose confused grandmother leaves him love notes. This being a college fiction class, my story was a little raw and edgy. If you thought your grandmother was a bit of a dried-up prune, would it be intriguing or just disgusting to discover that she could still write an amorous message? If she complimented you on your biceps, would that be anything but very creepy?
      Over the next couple of decades, I kept thinking about that college short story. There was something there I wanted to get back to—about coming of age and waking up to the many layers of other people, not to mention yourself.
      And so began THREE BIRD SUMMER, the story of a 12-year-old boy named Adam whose bewilderment with the opposite sex is forced into sharp relief by a summer spent at a lakeside cabin with just his mother, addled grandmother, and boisterous new neighbor, Alice.
      Wildlife, I knew, would be an important part of my story, too, so I set it at the natural place I know best—the woods and lake in northern Minnesota where my husband’s family has for generations spent their summers, and where I’ve been lucky enough to enjoy long, sweet stretches of time outdoors.
     Like a lot of fiction writers, I created my characters with some sense of who they were and where they were going, but they then surprised me in countless ways. It turns out, for example, that if you take your grandmother—a petite citified Irishwoman—and set her down in northern Minnesota, she gets more physically robust and a little bit obsessed with birdwatching. You put an introverted boy next to an extroverted girl and just add water, and the next thing you know you they’re laughing and making up aquatic games you never played yourself.
      THREE BIRD SUMMER has a bit of a mystery in it that I planned from the outset. I knew how the mystery would start and I knew how it would be solved. But when I finished writing, I realized it had turned into something more: a metaphor for that increased awareness that I associate with growing into a more attuned and empathetic human being. It made me realize that a story is a bit like a baby—you may be responsible for bringing it into the world, but soon it’s going to assert itself in all sorts of unexpected, confusing, and occasionally magical ways.
      When THREE BIRD SUMMER appeared on the shelves of my local bookstore two months ago, I thought I’d reached the high point in any author’s career: a beautiful book in print. (Thank you, Candlewick!) But it turns out that a published book, too, takes on a life of its own. It speaks to readers in ways you didn’t anticipate. It opens up fresh conversations with friends and family members and gives you new insights into who they are. Apparently it gives them new insights into you, too (this part is a little bit scary). But the best part has been finding out that individuals—kids, teens, parents, and even grandparents—have read my book and found something they love: feisty Grandma, ebullient Alice, the animal “keepers of the lake” as one reader put it, or the reminder of a time when our days moved slowly enough to pay attention to ripples in the water or the birds perched overhead. Maybe a seasoned author gets used to that kind of feedback, but for me, it’s still a wonder.

Sara St. Antoine writes from her home in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where she lives with her husband, two daughters, and cat, Tapioca. In addition to writing fiction, she has edited the Stories from Where We Live series (Milkweed Editions)--anthologies of regional literature for young people. Sara's fave writing spot is at her local bookstore, Porter Square Books.

GIVEAWAY!
Candlewick has kindly agreed to give away one free copy of THREE BIRD SUMMER to one of my lucky commenters. Must live in the US or Canada to win - enter below.

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29. Friday Linky List, August 8, 2014

At The New Yorker: Amazon's Failed Pitch To Authors - still a muddly mess.

At The Wall Street Journal: The Power of the Doodle: Improve Your Focus and Memory. "Research Shows That Doodling Helps People Stay Focused, Grasp New Concepts and Retain Information.

From NerdyChicksWrite: Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich: Bring the Drama: Using Stage/Screen Techniques for Full-Bodied Characters

At PlayfullyTacky.com: Things You Should Know About Introverts - I can be one too. Seriously. Don't laugh. I'm a Gemini, I am half socialite and half introvert.

From PW ShelfTalker: Requesting Author Events with Grids by Josie Leavitt of the Flying Pig Bookstore in Vermont. Nice inside peek into how these things work...

At The Nerdy Book Club: The Phenomenon of the 100 Page Club by Stephanie Severson. Teachers - this is a must read!

Via Nathan Bransford's blog: 4 Tips On Creativity From The Creator of Calvin & Hobbes

Go Little Shop of Stories for being named one of The 14 Absolute Best U.S. Kids' Bookstores (As Chosen By Teachers)!!! at BuzzFeed

Do you know about the Publishers Weekly Kids Casts? Audio interviews with top children's book creators. The ARCHIVES are fantastic!

From PW: Four Questions for... Andrew Karre (on the acquisition and publication of the Carnegie-winning The Bunker Diary. That last line in the interview is priceless. Go Andrew!

At School Library Journal - Opinion: Dear Congressman, Research Shows Closing School Libraries and Cutting Certified Librarians Does Not Make Sense - YES!

From Slate: The Secret Rules of Adjective Order - GREAT! I might need to use this one in a writing class. (Thanks to the hubbie for this one).

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30. LATELY LILY by Micah Player - Interview and Giveaway!


If you read my blog, you probably know I love to travel (although I don’t get to do it as much as I’d like). Hubbie and I did a Safari in Africa for our honeymoon, and I was an exchange student in Paris during college. So, when LATELY LILY came across my desk - I flipped! Lily is a jet-setting young girl excited to see the world and make it her marble. The endpapers are suitcases - gotta love it. The author/illustrator, Micah Player stopped by to talk about it…

Q. Micah! I adore LATELY LILY! How did the idea come to you?
A.
I had been working on this series of little international characters for my Around the World Puzzle and would often think to myself that it would be rad if there was one kid that knew all these other kids. Some immensely connected, well traveled little person that happened to have friends all over the world at like ten.
      The thought stuck with me and later when my good friend (apparel designer and Lately Lily co-founder) Erin Nichols contacted me about collaborating on a line of teeshirts for little girls with an international element, I immediately thought again of that imaginary cosmopolitan kid. She would serve to connect all the different places we might use as inspiration for our apparel seasons. A Traveling Girl! Erin and I went around with a bunch of different names, but one day I spotted a “Lily’s Laundry” sign while driving home from a brainstorming session. We really wanted the name to have a “breaking news” sort of feel and sound a little old timey. So “Lately Lily” popped in my head and there she was!
      Lily’s unique situation is that her Mom and Dad are a writer and photographer for “The International Exposition” (in Lily’s universe it is nothing short of the “World’s Greatest Magazine”) traveling the globe on assignment. She lives out of a meticulously packed Sunny Yellow Suitcase and has pen pals and friends all over the globe. I love the idea that she writes letters and carries a notebook. Her very best friend and travel companion is a stuffed corduroy zebra named Zeborah, which she purchased early on in her travels at a thrift store in London. So, we’ve produced five Lately Lily apparel releases so far, each one is a short story “pulled from Lily’s Notebook” and told across a line of teeshirts.

Q. I’ll be using LATELY LILY in my Design class at Hollins University to talk about shape and color in book design. What was your approach to all that?
A.
Hmm... What a great question! Well, Lately Lily has a very specific palette because we make product and it has to be consistent. Having already done that work for the brand as a whole, I had a good starting point, color-wise. Lily has very particular blues and yellows and reds that are all pantone colors. If you look at Lately Lily’s teeshirt art, it’s super linear with alot of brushy lines in fluid thicks and thins. This works great for apparel because its easy to reproduce and doesn’t rely on a lot of color to be expressive. Lily’s face, which also acts as a logo for our company, is harder edged with more color. The art for the book is a blend of the two. Strong full color shapes with linear details and ink washes finishing the illustrations. There is almost no black at all in the book, except Lily’s eyes and Zeborah’s coloration.

Q. What is your method?
A.
I always start with a pencil drawing. Things change after that point depending on the final destination of the art. If its going to be one color or linear, I’ll do the pencil drawing on watercolor paper and immediately jump to ink and brush, erasing the pencil lines underneath when its dry. I use Speedball ink and Grumbacher Golden Edge brushes. For monochromatic art prints and whatnot, I use watered down ink to shade the finished piece and then I scan it in and do final cleanup.
      If the finished destination is screen printing for our tees, I will usually stick to simple line work and scan that in, leaving the shading for a separate layer on the light table so I can scan it in separate. That way I can adjust the dot density and stuff in a bitmap pattern to best preserve the washiness of the shading in the final print.

      For full color art, I scan in my pencil sketch and then open it in Illustrator. I make all my major shapes there, sort of like an underpainting. I leave out any details that are linear, like nose, mouth, freckles, eye lashes, fingers, zippers, hair, etc. Then, I print out the finished layout of flat colors and put it on a light table where I paint all those final details in ink on watercolor paper. Two layers, one for the fine details and another for the shading and washes. I scan that detail work and compile the underpainting and ink work in photoshop! Its sort of a long process on paper, but I prefer scanning details to working on a stylus. I feel like the paper and the inky water (with it’s little bits and grit) add something that would get lost if I did all the work in a digital medium. The finished art has a nice “is it digital or not?” feel to it, with super-saturated color that I like alot.

Q. Your work has such a consistent look to it (I know you’ve done work for Target). What is the philosophy behind what you do?
A.
Thank you! A couple thoughts... My philosophy is that anything that is made for kids should be thoughtful. Working on art, literature or product for children is such a privilege. Its an opportunity to connect with some of the most complete parts of your head. By the time you are in your thirties or so, the questions that came up for you as a kid are things you’ve been mulling over on some level for a very long time. Like, I only have a few years of perspective on what it is to live as a thirty something person, but I have more than thirty years experience being a kid. So, the fact that so much of what is made for kids is throwaway, thoughtless garbage is inexcusable.
      Art-wise, as I get older, I find that the amount of traditional media I use rises in relation to the amount of digital work, to where now almost all of the actual art making is on paper, aside from color. I’m just less and less impressed with digital art tools, which is weird because of course they are getting better not worse. Still, why do anything on a computer that can, objectively, be done better without a computer? Like, a fake ink brush in Photoshop or Corel Draw isn’t better than a real brush! The one thing that holds me back from just ditching all digital and handling my color completely with watercolors or acrylics is that handling color as a core digital element is just really great for consistency and reproduction. The graphic designer in me holds on to that. And, I’m not gonna lie, I do love the undo button!

Q. There is an entire website of fun stuff dedicated to LATELY LILY at http://latelylily.com. Did that come before or after the book? Was it a planned product line from the start?
A.
Because so much of what is sold for kids follows the pattern of “Oh! This is a popular character in a movie or a cartoon or a book, lets expand it into a bunch of stuff after the fact”, sometimes people get confused about a project like Lately Lily. From the first tee line we produced three years ago, people were like “This is so adorable, is this a book?” No, its a story told across teeshirts. Now that we’ve released a book I’ve seen people be like “This is so adorable, is it based on a cartoon?” There is no distinction for me. A Lately Lily teeshirt is as much a piece of literature to me as the book and of course Lily would make an amazing cartoon. The process is the same, the attention is the same. The amount of time I have spent with her as a character has been so awesome. You really sense that there is so much more to her than whatever you’re seeing at that moment. Erin and I are ridiculously ambitious in that way, we put easter eggs in everything and then make up what they reference later.

Q. What was your path to publication/journey with LATELY LILY and how’s it going?
A.
From the moment we started showing the early designs for Lily, people just took for granted that she was going to be in a book. Then, I sent it to a couple friends at Chronicle Books. That publisher is incredible. It is staffed, top to bottom, with people that absolutely adore books. Lily is the result of wishing everything made for kids could be as smart as great kids books, so it really appealed to my friends Naomi Kirsten and Amy Achaibou who just grabbed Lily and made her a part of their life. Everyone over there just embraced Lately Lily. Chronicle Books is very friendly territory for the Traveling Girl. She does that! Lily makes friends! Its been the same everywhere we take her. There is always someone awesome that falls in love with her and makes an opportunity happen.

Q. Will we see Lily again in future adventures?
A.
Lily is always having new adventures! There is always a new story to read in one way or another. One way is of course in our tee shirt line as well as a pretty constant stream of Lily art on Instagramand Facebook. In addition to the picture book, Travel Flash Cards, and Sunny Yellow Suitcase available now, there are two new Chronicle Books Lately Lily projects coming out next year that I’m extremely excited about. So much awesome stuff!

Q. How have you been celebrating the release of LATELY LILY and what are you cooking up next?
A.
Its been amazing seeing people react to the book, which turned out absolutely beautiful. We have a line of Lately Lily bedding that just came out through the Land of Nod, and have also just finished perfecting the first Lily plush doll, coming out this Holiday season!

Thanks so much for stopping by!
Thank YOU!! Such rad questions.

If you have trouble viewing the embedded video - CLICK HERE.

GIVEAWAY!
Chronicle Books is generously giving a free copy of LATELY LILY to one of my lucky followers. Must live in the US/Canada to win - enter below.

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31. Writerly Joke...

A writer died and was given the option of going to heaven or hell.

She decided to check out each place first. As the writer descended into the fiery pits, she saw row upon row of writers chained to their desks in a steaming sweatshop. As they worked, they were repeatedly whipped with thorny lashes.

“Oh my,” said the writer. “Let me see heaven now.”

A few moments later, as she ascended into heaven, she saw rows of writers, chained to their desks in a steaming sweatshop. As they worked, they, too, were whipped with thorny lashes.

“Wait a minute,” said the writer. “This is just as bad as hell!”

“Oh no, it’s not,” replied an unseen voice. “Here, your work gets published.”

Thanks to Jackie Urbanovic for the heads up...

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32. Coloring Page Tuesday - Paper Bird!

     Is there somebody who delivers the paper to your house, or is that an idea that doesn't really exist anymore? I still love wool, tweed caps!
     Can you believe that school is starting in some places this week? More reading-themed images on the way soon!
     CLICK HERE for more coloring pages! And be sure to share your creations in my gallery so I can put them in my upcoming newsletters! (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!**

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33. Home and books!

Well, the drive home from Hollins University on Friday turned out to be a doozie with a wreck on the highway that delayed my progress by over an hour, tons of rain, and big trucks driving too close. *Whew!* I'm glad to be home safe!
     Cool thing is, I returned home to a massive pile of packages, which I've just finished opening... Check out this awesome pile of books I get to share with all of you over the coming months!

     I'd best get busy!

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34. HURRICANE BOY by Laura Roach Dragon - Guest Post and Giveaway!


Twelve-year-old Hollis Williams endures Hurricane Katrina, then has to help piece his family back together in a drowned city.

Hurricane Boy by Laura Roach Dragon
Inspiration and Path to Publication

      Living in the New Orleans area, I’ve experienced many hurricanes in my life. My first, in fact, was Hurricane Betsy in 1965. My parents, new to the hurricane South, did not evacuate prior to the storm. They’d been advised by neighbors not to. There hadn’t been a particularly bad storm in New Orleans for 38 years. In the middle of the storm, my parents and many of our neighbors, wound up evacuating due to tornadoes in the area. I was 9. I remember being in parking lot traffic the whole way to the shelter and the wind shaking the poles, bringing power lines down around us. When we returned home, we found that a tornado had hit the neighborhood, picking up a neighbor’s roof and depositing it into another neighbor’s back yard several blocks down. Our house had minimal damage but the experience made hurricanes bogeymen I would nervous about for the following years of my life.
      So 40 years later Katrina hit. Those of you reading this who live here will understand the shock and grief at the devastation of the entire greater New Orleans area. I evacuated with my work. We left with the certainty we would be back in three to five days at the most. Like always. We took little with us. It was three weeks before we returned and we considered ourselves lucky to be able to come back so soon.
      Stories of the storm were universally horrifying and sad. Almost 2000 people were verified as casualties, the property damage was unbelievable and a large chunk of the population was stranded far from home for several years. And I thought three weeks was devastating. Anyway, it’s difficult to find anything other than tragedy and trauma in all that. But I’m a psychotherapist and that’s always something I want to do.
      Among the stories was one about 5000 children along the gulf coast, being separated from their families. This was due to the suddenness of Katrina’s arrival and the ferocity of its assault on the area. An organized rescue would take days. So rag-tag groups of people swept in to help, some of whom were victims of the storm themselves. In the resulting melee of rescue attempts by stressed and devastated people, children were separated from their parents and sent, well, everywhere.
      This was the story I chose. My work with children also made it closer to my heart. I created a family who was separated by the storm.
      Pelican, our local, very respected publisher, was my first choice. I sent to them. They kept the story for a year and then turned me down. I didn’t have any idea why so I poured over the story, rewrote and got my courage back up and sent out again. And again. And so forth. I found in my efforts four kinds of rejections. 1) The Nothing Response. You don’t hear nuttin’. Sometimes they warn you that this is their style on their website. Don’t call us child we’ll call you. I got several like this. 2) The Form Letter. Thank you for thinking of us. It doesn’t fit our list. I got a couple of these. 3) The Personal Comment on the Form Letter. Not for our list but I liked it. Friends of mine have gotten this. 4) A letter that is entirely personal with some insight as to what you’re doing wrong. I got this from Adams Literary and it made all the difference.
      All along I’d been rewriting. I removed characters, tightened the writing, killed whole sections that I feared were irrelevant to the story. As I learned, I revised and saved. I have 60 rewrites on my computer over 6 years. After I got Adams comments, I made another set of changes, this time targeted and prepared to send it out again.
      In the meantime, a friend Mary Fauchaux, a woman I met through one of my critique groups, attended a writers conference where a representative of Pelican was presenting. Upon being told her story didn’t fit their list, she pitched mine. The woman, Kathleen Nettleton said she remembered the story. When Mary told me that, I emailed a request to re-submit saying I had made several changes.
      Ms. Nettleton agreed.
      They kept it a year.
      Again.
      And took it.
      The book came out March 15, 2014, about one year before the ten year anniversary of Katrina with the coolest cover ever, in my opinion.
      I took Mary out to dinner.

Bio: Laura Roach Dragon lives in the New Orleans area of Louisiana. She works with children at a local hospital and has just released her first book, a middle grade novel called Hurricane Boy about a family's ordeal after Hurricane Katrina. Next year is the tenth anniversary and the city has come far with her recovery. It was a long difficult journey. Visit Hurricane Boy's facebook page.
Laura Roach Dragon Blog
Amazon Sales Page
Book Trailer


GIVEAWAY!
Laura has kindly agreed to give a free, signed and dedicated copy of HURRICANE BOY to one of my lucky followers. Must live in the US to win - enter below.

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35. Friday Linky List, August 1, 2014

I'm on the road today, driving from Hollins University back to Atlanta. I'm sad to be leaving this wonderful bubble that is Hollins, but I'm also eager to get home. To make the ride easier, I'm listening to The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker. I'm anxious to hear how it ends! And I'll stop in Gaffney, South Carolina for peaches, of course. Meanwhile...we've been caught up in final projects and graduation, so my links list is a little slim this week, but nonetheless, interesting! Teaching Teachers at the New York Times - interesting!

From PW: Middle Grade and YA: Where to Draw the Line? Interesting!

A novel from Lane Smith!? PW says it's so: Picture a Novel from Lane Smith. I can't wait to read it!

From SLJ: We Need Diverse Books has Incorporated! The viral twitter hashtag is upping their game!

From Betsy Bird (Fuse #8) at SLJ, via Bookish Shoes... Oh yes, please!!! CLICK HERE to see them all - worth your time! I should make some of these...

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36. GHENGDU by Barney Saltzberg - GIVEAWAY!

You probably already know I’m a fan of Barney Saltzburg’s work. I interviewed him when ARLO NEEDS GLASSES came out. And I’m thrilled to have him back for yet another adorable creation: CHENGDU COULD NOT, WOULD NOT FALL ASLEEP (Disney-Hyperion). (As somebody with occasional insomnia, I can so relate!) Truly, this is a perfect night time read for a parent trying to put their little one to bed. Barney dropped by to tell us more about it…

Q. Barney, you’ve done it again! CHENGDU is adorable!!!
A.
THANK YOU!

Q. How did the idea come to you? Are you also an insomniac?
A.
The US State Department sent me to Russia and China to speak about my creative process. While in China, my wife took a 24 hour trip to Chengdu to see the pandas. After seeing her photos and hearing about one that couldn't sleep, I knew I had a book! As far as being an insomniac, I am far from it. I fall asleep very quickly and sleep through the night.

Q. This is a very different color palette for you. How did this book challenge you?
A.
My editor and art director really pushed the look of this book. I had made the dummy in black and white. They had me draw (pencil sketches) half the size of the final art so that when the artwork was enlarged there is a toothy, grainy quality that I had never achieved before. I wanted some limited color with the bamboo so the green would pop against a completely black and white book.

Q. There are fold out (and down) pages in this book, and short, shorter pages - how was it to work with those?
A.
I am a huge fan of Emily Gravett. She has opened my eyes to books that have the ability to surprise us. I find that having pages to unfold just adds to the rhythm of reading a book. I was thrilled Hyperion was open to these interactive flaps in a picture book.

Q. I adore the pages with the eyes - like great big Yin/Yang signs. Did that presentation idea come to you easily?
A.
I honestly never thought of Yin/Yang signs until you asked that question. I think of my drawings from the perspective of how I would approach a scene with a camera. Zooming in and out, etc; We open with the long shot and see different pandas in the tree. When we hear that one panda couldn't sleep, it seemed like an obvious shot to zoom in tight.

Q. You are so prolific as a children’s book author/illustrator… This isn’t your only book coming out this year. The other is TEA WITH GRANDPA (Roaring Brook Press). I’m starting to believe you know the secret formula to creating great picture books (and selling them)! Can you share? :)
A.
I'm lucky enough to have receptive publishers. I do seem to be exercising the creativity muscle more and more as the years pass. I'm delighted there is an audience for my work! Next year I have three books coming out!

Q. I’m positive you have more in the works… what’s next?
A.
Speaking of three books. I have two board books coming out with Workman publishing. They approached me to create a series. In my book, Beautiful Oops, there are some red birds. My editor said she thought I could develop one into a character. REDbird was hatched! I also was concerned with contributing more 'concept' books to the world. There are so many. It took a really long time to find a different approach. I'm excited to have these books come out. I also used a different style of illustration for these books. Given the age of a board book reader, I knew I wanted bold lines and color. I painted pages of colors in acrylic paint, blending and mixing colors. I scanned the pages into the computer, drew the images on a Wacom Centiq monitor and dropped the color in. It was quick and I think a perfect medium for this series. The two books are, REDbird Colors, Colors Everywhere and REDbird Friends Come in Different Sizes. As a follow up to my Abram/Appleseed book, Andrew Drew and Drew, I have a new book called Inside This Book. It's loosely Russian Dolls in books. There's the book, and inside are three books, each about two inches smaller than the one before it. Three siblings are given blank books that their mother made them and we see how each child filled their book and what they ultimately do with them.
     Thanks so much for the visit.

Thanks so much for stopping by!

GIVEAWAY!
Hyperion is kindly sending a free copy of CHENGDU by Barney to sign for one of my lucky commenters. Must live in the US to win - enter below!

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37. Walking at Hollins University


I LOVE this picture! This is me (in the back) with my walking buddies. Every morning at 6:30am, Candice Ransom, Claudia Mills, Ashley Wolff (taking the photo), Tula (doggie) and I walk the perimeter of the Hollins campus. Twice around is about 3.5 miles. Three times around is over five (we do that on the days we aren't teaching). We do it every day except Sunday, and sometimes even then. The light at this time of day is stunning, like liquid gold gilding the edges of trees and hills and slowly melting across the landscape as the morning rises. It's a magical way to begin each day. This is the part of Hollins I miss the most when I'm away.

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38. Talk With Hollins Girls

Each summer a group of high school students come to Hollins to scout it out for their potential university. We call them the "Hollins Girls" and they stay for about a week and drop into some of our classes. Some of us give them talks. I had the pleasure of sharing A BIRD ON WATER STREET with the group, and I do mean pleasure. These are bright girls, the top of their classes. They are attentive, engaged, and ask great questions. I love speaking to this group and hope to every year!
Click the image to see a larger version in a new window.

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39. Coloring Page Tuesday - Peace Between Beasts

     There are a few scenes that I love to draw again and again, like this one. I love the idea of peace between beasts. I think it embodies my hope for the future - not just peace between beasts, but peace between people and countries too.
     CLICK HERE for more coloring pages! And be sure to share your creations in my gallery so I can put them in my upcoming newsletters! (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!**

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40. A BIRD ON WATER STREET has won another award!

The e-version of ABOWS is the eLit 2014 Gold Medal Winner in the Environment/Ecology/Nature category!!! How awesome is THAT!? YAYYYY!

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41. Highlights Foundation!


I'm thrilled to announce that I will be a guest speaker at Highlights Foundation's "From Prose to Picture to Published: Writing a Marketable Picture Book 2014" in Honesdale, Pennsylvania, on October 31st - November 2nd, with fellow picture book creators Candace Fleming, Eric Rohmann, and David Wiesner!!!! Wowsa - I can't wait!
     Highlights Foundation hosts workshops like this one throughout the year on what I'm told is a gorgeous campus with sweet cabins and fabulous food. The tag line is "Intimate & inspiring workshops for children's authors and illustrators," and the line-up of options is impressive. CLICK HERE to check them out!

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42. Bob Staake for Intel!

Oh my! Children's book author/illustrator Bob Staake is the new spokesman for Intel computers!!! A children's book creator as star!

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43. THE TIME FETCH by Amy Herrick - Guest Post and Giveaway!


Amy Herrick On writing THE TIME FETCH,
her first book for young readers

      I’ve always wanted to write about the end of December when the wheel comes around and the old year reaches its end. We modern guys, we tinsel up the streets and devote ourselves to jollification and fail to notice that the days are growing shorter and shorter and something dark is moving toward us. With the passing of the years we have allowed ourselves to be lulled into forgetfulness. But the ancients knew what was happening when they sat around their fires in caves, when they erected their great watching circles of stones. They felt the implacable turning of the earth and the cold wheeling of the stars, and they stood together and pushed valiantly back against the darkness. What came would be terrible. Or wonderful. For a long time I’d been searching for a way to tell a story about this, but I could but never find my handle. It wasn’t until right in the middle of one of our December holiday parties that an idea came to me. We’ve been throwing this party for years. It’s a tradition that has been passed down from my side of the line. My mother threw such a party and her mother before her. For our family, it has grown into a reckless mix of Christmas, Chanukah, and Saturnalia celebrations. Every year we sit down in November and make a reasonably sized guest list, and in the following weeks my husband and my sons, without consulting me, invite everybody else they run into. It’s true that lots of people will bring food, but each day in the weeks preceding the party, the guest list swells. I come right up to the brink of losing my mind. There will not be enough time to get it all done. Now I must add to the multitude of everyday chores and interruptions all the sugar plum fairy tasks of holiday schlepping and cleaning and baking. There will be reindeer cookies and six-pointed star cookies, latkes and a gingerbread house, spinach pies and lasagna, a turkey and a ham and smoked fish. I will decorate every doorway and window, inside and out, with lights and evergreens. The menorah’s candles will burn bravely against the ticking of the clock. Our tree will look out upon the street, hung to within an inch of its life with birds and bells and chocolate Santas and the little blown-glass carousels passed down to me from my mother.
      A few years ago, at the very topmost moment of the turning of the year, smack in the middle of one of these parties, I sat down for the first time in weeks. Slightly delirious, starving, and victorious. As always, I had no clear idea how I had gotten it all done in time. Outside, the cold and the dark pressed their faces to the window, but in here was light and warmth and everybody I loved. Over on the other side of the room, musical instruments were being toodled and tuned and tapped, an electric piano, a guitar, a violin, a set of bongo drums. Someone handed me a plate of food and a glass of wine, and my oldest friend, Kate, took a seat by my side. I’ve known her since we were six. Our moms were pals. “I swear,” she said, “it comes around faster and faster every year. I don’t know how you get this all done.” (Photo Credit: Breukellen Riesgo)
      I laughed. “I was just thinking the same exact thought.”
      “Doesn’t it seem to you our mothers had more time in their days?” she pondered. “More hours?” It was true. Our childhoods had felt so much roomier. It was then that the thought popped into my head and I said it out loud.
      “Wow. Wouldn’t it be weird if it turned out that something had gotten into our world and was stealing our time? I mean, what if all our minutes are just a little bit shorter than they used to be, and we just haven’t noticed it yet?”
      She looked at me nervously. She is easily spooked. “Who would do that? Who would steal time? What would they do with it?”
      Those questions, of course, I had no ready answers for, but I knew I had the beginning of my winter solstice story, the turning of the wheel, a time thief, and a gathering of friends to fight off the darkness and the cold.

Bio: Amy Herrick is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Every morning, she and her dog take a long walk in Prospect Park in Brooklyn, New York, looking for adventure. They’ve seen and heard many wondrous things there, some of which have served as inspiration for this story.

GIVEAWAY!
Algonquin Press has kindly agreed to send a free copy of THE TIME FETCH to one of my lucky followers. Must live in the US to win - enter below.

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44. This Makes Me Happy! At the Mansfield/Richland Library

Children's Assistant Abby Lowe recently asked to use my Science Bear for their summer reading program. "Of course!" I said and asked her to send me a photo of their creation. Well, this is it... Every single one of those beakers has a child's name on it signed up for the summer reading program. How awesome is that!? Happy reading guys!

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45. The Remarkable True Story of the Shopping Mall Gorilla

The Remarkable best-selling book THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN by Katherine Applegate has been adapted into a picture book illustrated by G. Brian Karas and it looks just as amazing. I dare you not to get chill bumps:

Click here (or the static image below) to see the video on YouTube if the embedded version doesn't come through for you.

Read a great article about the book at The Nerdy Book Club.

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46. Judy Schachner at Hollins University!

I love Judy! You probably know her as the creator of Skippyjon Jones. She visited Hollins this weekend to give the most hilarious author talk I've ever heard and do a workshop with our students. But before the hubbub, a gang of us went to dinner at Wildflour Cafe. We are Ashley Wolff and Ruth Sanderson in front and Rhonda Walter-Frojen, Me, Lauren Mills, Judy Schachner, and Michelle Meade in the back:

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47. Coloring Page Tuesday - Gone Fishin!

     It's starting to get to the dog days of summer. Have you grabbed some check out time? Maybe bring your copy of Huckleberry Finn along.
     CLICK HERE for more coloring pages! And be sure to share your creations in my gallery so I can put them in my upcoming newsletters! (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!**

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48. CAT SAYS MEOW by Michael Arndt - Interview and Giveaway


I’m teaching Design in the MFA in Children’s Book Writing and Illustrating program at Hollins University in Roanoke, Virginia this summer. Since I began this venture, I’ve been paying more attention to really well-designed picture books, like CAT SAYS MEOW by award-winning graphic designer, Michael Arndt. He took a break from his busy schedule to answer some questions…

Q. Michael - Can you explain your love affair with design?
A.
Hi Elizabeth, or should I say "Meow"? Thank you for having me here. How much time do you have?
      I have always liked to draw. I am the youngest of 5 children. My grandfather was a sign painter and would hand letter all his work with sable brushes and paint. My dad was a landscape architect and 4 out of we 5 kids studied design. Whether nature or nurture, we all liked to draw. I wanted to be an illustrator but through a series of circumstances ended up majoring in Graphic Design instead at the University of Cincinnati. Unfortunately they didn't have an illustration program so the first couple years there I spent trying to transfer to a school that did offer illustration. My design professors at UC campaigned for me to stay, saying that Graphic Design was a perfect foundation from which to go on to do several things in the visual arts field, even illustration. It turns out they were right! By the time I graduated I was hooked. Friends call me the consummate designer because I eat, drink and breathe it. It really is a love affair. Architecture, package design, interior design, furniture design, you name it. I love it; I surround myself with it; I search the world for it; and love to create it. I've been known to search for months for the perfect food and water bowls for my dog and cat (of course they ate and drank in the meantime!) I happen to be one of those people who believes that good design enhances our quality of life and our environment has a profound impact on our life experience. For a designer that is even more so. Beauty in, beauty out. And let's face it, who doesn't like to be surrounded by things that they find beautiful AND that function well?

Q. I like to think I’m a type geek, but I have a feeling your passion is above and beyond. What are your thoughts on type?
A.
Graphic designers are communicators. I am fascinated by all things visual and all things relating to communication and so type falls perfectly in the overlapping middle area of this Venn diagram. I also love and respect words and language (my own native English and foreign languages). Type, in our culture at least, represents individual letters and sounds (the components of both written and spoken language) and therefore a method of writing and reading. Type makes thoughts and speech visual and tangible. It is also an entity unto itself with its own history. For example, it reflects the medium which created it (serifs come from the process of chiseling stone as well as painting with brushes). The form type assumes I believe can even reflect the sound that it makes. The sinewy curves of the letter "S" somehow mimic the "S" sound itself. The rounded curves of a lower case "m" almost seem to be an illustration of the two lips that in fact create the "M" sound when they force air out of the mouth. Type also has it own visual character derived from size, proportion, weight, color, texture, and shape. There is an inherent beauty in all its varied permutations. Type even reflects trends and time periods. Most interesting and fun to me is the fact that each letter, and in turn each typeface, has personality! I don't think it is a coincidence that the individual letters are called 'characters' as I see the characters in the Roman alphabet as being almost anthropomorphic. Their proportions approximate human ones and therefore there is a pleasing familiarity to them. Not only does type represent the denotative meaning of a word, i.e.: the letters C-A-T arranged in that order represent a feline animal in English, but the typefaces are definitely connotative as well; that is, their visual form suggests different attributes and personalities. The possibilities to then use this to communicate a message are endless. They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Type to me is really just shapes or pictures and therefore the visual iteration of them tells its own story. I always like to say, the style of a typographic message should by itself communicate its content, even if you cannot the read the language in which it is written.

Q. You combine the sounds each animal makes to come up with the shape of the animal. You’re dealing with design and human senses on so many levels in this book. How challenging a project was this?
A.
The designs weren't as challenging as you might think as that is what I do on a daily basis: use type and image and juxtapose them or even combine them conceptually and physically to create a synthesis of image and meaning. What WAS and continues to be challenging is coming up with which animals to feature and deciding what their sounds are! Not every animal makes a sound and if it does, it is not necessarily easy to transliterate that sound into human speech and then into letters that can be readily agreed upon. In fact, some of the animals in the book "go" instead of "say," meaning their sounds comes from their body like the rabbit thumping (its foot) or the squirrel chomping (on an acorn) whereas the others "say" things with their voices. Interesting anecdote, some animals had to be changed in the editing review process to conform the spelling of their sounds to traditionally agreed-upon spellings in English of what their sounds are. For example, I originally had the horse NAAYing phonetically. I then agreed to change it to say NEIGH based on historical precedents in children's literature. In the case of animalopoeia, this meant not just changing the copy but redrawing the corresponding animal itself from scratch. Luckily my editor, the designers at Chronicle, and I all were happier with the new horse. The "I" supplied a nice white blaze and the "H" became a tasty piece of hay. We also modified the hummingbird and rabbit due to changes in spelling. This resulted in the hummingbird gaining a flower and the rabbit losing a set of whiskers!

Q. Did some of the animals come more easily than others?
A.
Definitely. The dog was the very first animal I came up with as anybody who knows me personally knows how much I love (read: am obsessed) with dogs, especially my own dog Clooney, who for the record—since this is an interview—is the cutest and best dog in the world. The cat was next and he/she (I haven't assigned it a gender) was very easy, perhaps the easiest. Cats say meow and "M" is a perfect set of ears, "E" and "O" are nice, round, eye-like characters, and what better letter for feline jowls than a "W"? The cow was likewise fairly easy and quick to come to life. The most challenging from a design standpoint were probably the chick, the rabbit, and the turkey. And in case anyone was wondering, the frog is my personal favorite illustration, just because I like the range of fonts used.

Q. This isn’t your typical picture book - what was your journey to publication with CAT SAYS MEOW?
A.
Thank you, Elizabeth. A lot of reviewers have in fact called it unique-and I think they mean it as a compliment! I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that I am neither a writer nor a traditional illustrator. As a Graphic Designer I naturally come to this with a different perspective and approach I suppose. animalopoeia (lower case intentional) started as just a cat and dog from which I had planned to create a small line of letterpress cards that I had planned to market by myself. After drawing the cat, the cow came to me fairly quickly and once I had expanded beyond pets to then farm animals, it was fun to see how many I could do. I quickly had 6, then 12, after a while 18, and by the end of about three months, a nice round number of 24. At that point I realized that both the number of animals and the format (Cat says meow, Dog says woof...) easily lent themselves to a familiar children's book format. I figured I had nothing to lose by putting together a prototype using an online book printing and binding service, and mailing it off to Chronicle Books along with a brand presentation, something I also do routinely in my 'day job.' I only sent it to one publisher, Chronicle Books (and told them such in my cover letter), as not only have they been my favorite publisher for years but I thought they would be the right ones to publish it if anybody were to. Luckily they agreed! I fully realize how truly lucky and unusual my story is (first book idea, first proposal sent, only one publisher submission) and live every day in gratitude and a bit of residual disbelief!

Q. Graphic design covers so much in our world - why did you concentrate on a picture book?
A.
Yes! Graphic Design is EVERYWHERE in our world and the kids of today are more visually savvy than ever due to exposure to well-designed, smart visual interfaces from companies such as Apple Computers, apps, websites, etc. Why did I concentrate on a picture book? In a way it naturally evolved from the greeting card idea, but truth be told, deep down inside I suppose I always wanted to be an illustrator and in the end do a children's book as it is such an ideal project! The soul's desires have a way of rising to the surface! With picture books I get to be (actually am probably required to be!) fun, imaginative, simple, creative, different. Best of all children's book creators get to create a piece of someone's childhood and even learning experience. Librarians and teachers (our unsung heroes in my opinion) have been without doubt the biggest supporters of "Cat Says Meow and other animalopoeia" for its educational aspects. At first that surprised me (after all, I have no formal experience in childhood education) but on further thought, I realized that educators and designers have actually the same mission at the end of the day. To communicate information in a way that is simple, clear, interesting, and ultimately... memorable. When viewed that way, it starts to make sense that a graphic designer could, would and maybe even should do a children's book. Actually, there is long tradition of graphic designers who have done children's books from Saul Bass to Paul Rand to Bruno Mari so I am in illustrious company and honored and humbled to be so.

Q. Have you caught the bug? Will we see more fun works like this from you?
A.
The bug has caught me and swallowed me whole! It is a dream from which I hope to never awake! Yes, with any luck you will see more. I already have more in the animalopoeia series in various stages of design and proposal and several more books, most of them—but not all—for children. Ideally any book I might do would be enjoyed by people of all ages as many reviewers are saying "Cat Says Meow" is. The common threads I aim to incorporate in future books are my love of design, animals, language, philosophy and desire to create something different, meaningful, and educational. The work that excites me most and that I admire from others is potent in concept and content but clean, clear, and minimal in its execution.
      Thanks for the interview, Elizabeth. This was fun! That's all for meow...

CLICK HERE to follow Michael on Facebook.

GIVEAWAY
Chronicle (with Michael) has kindly agreed to give away one free, signed copy of CAT SAYS MEOW to one of my lucky followers. Must live in the US/Canada to win - enter below.

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49. Word Crimes by Weird Al Yankovic - GREAT!

It's about time somebody did a spoof slamming texting word usage! Because, y'know, it's a CRIME!

Thanks to my friend Glenda Rogers for the heads up!

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50. Friday Linky List - July 25, 2014

At Wild Things! - "You're Dead Meat, Mr. Lewis" - authors talk about school visits gone awry

At BuzzFeed via Nathan Bransford - 21 '90s Book Titles That Should Actually Exist... like this one:


Also from Nathan at FastCoDesign: 4 Tips on Creativity from the Creator of Calvin & Hobbes

From Nathan Bransford: Advice for Young Writers - good!

Considering I'm teaching at Hollins University, home of Margaret Wise Brown, I'm interested in this article from Opinionator: "What Writers Can Learn From 'Goodnight Moon'."

From Flavorwire via PW: Should It Matter Whether 'To Kill a Mockingbird' Is Young Adult Fiction?

Oh gads! Did y'all see this!? HMH Strikes Deal with Cricket. Achievable only because they demanded owning their creators' copyrights? *blech*

At Travis Jonker's 100 Scope Notes: The Wildest Children's Books of 2014 - I want them all!

From Conde Nast Traveler via Shelf Awareness: 12 Beautiful Bookstores That Are Worth Traveling For

The 2nd Annual Chapaqua Children's Book Festival will take place September 27th with 80 children's book authors speaking - WOW!

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