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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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1. Coloring Page Tuesday - Poe's Crows

     It's October! My favorite month of the year! Why? Because Halloween is at the end of it, of course! And I love the changing leaves too - which they are doing splendidly here in Edinburgh!
     CLICK HERE for more Halloween-themed coloring pages!
     CLICK HERE to sign up to receive alerts when a new coloring page is posted each week and... Please check out my books! Especially...
my debut novel, A BIRD ON WATER STREET - winner of six literary awards. Click the cover to learn more!
     When the birds return to Water Street, will anyone be left to hear them sing? A miner's strike allows green and growing things to return to the Red Hills, but that same strike may force residents to seek new homes and livelihoods elsewhere. Follow the story of Jack Hicks as he struggles to hold onto everything he loves most.
     I create my coloring pages for teachers, librarians, booksellers, and parents to enjoy for free with their children, but you can also purchase rights to an image for commercial use, please contact me. If you have questions about usage, please visit my Angel Policy page.

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2. To School - Through the Park

I love you guys, so I made a special trip through the park to get to school recently - camera in hand. It's another way to go, but you'll see why I don't go this way more often when we get to the end...

So, this is the Princes Street Garden.
I did not touch up these colors one bit, by the way. The garden runs along the north side of the castle and was once a moat. Here's the story:
It says, "During the reign of David 1st (1124-1153) this area was used for tournaments, hunting and hawking." Then they talk about the trees because this is posted in a wee forest... Then it says, "In the middle of the 15th Century this area was flooded to form part of the Nor'Loch and served as the northern section of the City's defense until the mid 18th Century. The area was drained between 1790 and 1820 and the Gardens constructed."
Nowadays, on a day like this, the open grassy areas (there are plenty) will be covered with blankets and sunbathers (no swim suits here) by lunchtime.
There's lots to look at in the garden, like the amphitheater. I haven't seen a performance here... yet. Hope to remedy that soon.
The WW1 memorial.
These odd pergolas that run along the path - they're painted bright red inside. I'm really not sure why they're there.
The Fountain.
That church that I usually see from the topside.
And of course, the roses! They are everywhere.
It truly is quiet, lovely and relaxing to walk through the park. But here's the prob. When you get to the other side, you have to go up these stairs, you see.
Oh, they keep going.
Yeah, we're not done yet.
So, by the time I get to school, I'm pretty hot and sweaty. Not ideal. Even so, for you, my dear readers, I make the sacrifice! Ha!

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3. Archie the Daredevil Penguin

I adore this little book trailer about a penguin who longs to fly. Has anybody seen the book yet? (Click the image to watch on YouTube.)

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4. Illustrator Challenge #19

Are y'all actually doing these? I'd love to hear! Leave a comment and let me know.
So today, take a painting - doesn't have to be yours and you can actually lay tracing paper over it. Create a line-art version of the painting. It can be super-simple, or complicated with cross-hatch shading. The trick is to get the key elements that give the piece life.

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5. To Days That Only Get Better

Last weekend Stan and I did a picnic in Inverleith Park because it was about the most gorgeous day I've ever seen in my life. We walked to the Tesco and picked up a few key items, wandered to the park and found a nice spot.

We watched children peddle on wee bicycles and doggies chasing each other through grass that is greener than any I've ever seen. There were funny crows and not a bug in sight. We enjoyed the cheese, the sammies, the wine, the Haggis-flavored crisps (potato chips in American-speak) and thought life couldn't get any better. Then we packed up and went over the hill...
We thought that sound we'd heard was a remote controlled airplane - turned out it was boats. The Model Boat Club to be exact.
They had set up courses in the pond. One club was primarily racing boats, while the other was battleships,
and sailing ships.
They raced them around the courses. Every now and then one would flip over and somebody would walk out in waders to set it to rights. It's a shallow pond.
      Down at the other end is a wetlands that have been set aside for wildlife. That's where all the ducks were hanging out - they wanted nothing to do with the boats! But that's also where we found the sign about the history of the Model Boat Club.
Turns out they've been doing that there since the 1800s. We just found out. What a cool thing to go watch on a beautiful day. We'll be back. And the menu need not change, although I think next time we'll do the mushroom paté instead of the smoked mackerel.

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6. Friday Linky List - October 2, 2015

From NPR: When It Comes To Book Sales, What Counts As Success Might Surprise You

From The New York Times (via PW): The Plot Twist: E-Book Sales Slip, and Print Is Far From Dead

From Pub Crawl (via Susan Dennard): I have not read your book, yet.

From Barking Up The Wrong Tree (via Susan Dennard): Secrets To Success: 6 Tips From the Most Successful People

From The Guardian: Northern Lights by Philip Pullman as a graphic novel - in pictures (teaser!)

Found by my awesome agent Trish Lawrence at the Institute for Humane Education: 14 Children's Books About Refugees

Free Scrivener Mini course

From Sub It Club: The Postcard Post: Alice Ratterree

At Words & Pictures: Picture Book Basics - Sketches and Layout by John Shelley

At NPR, Interview with Philip Pullman: The Golden Compass Turns 20 (Its Daemon Has Probably Settled)

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7. The Very Bad Picture Book

LOVE this cartoon by Grant Snider at the New York Times (brought to my attention by Travis Jonker). Click the image to go see the whole thing at the Times.

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8. Heather Montgomery's HOW RUDE! - Guest Post

Writing Real Books
by Heather Montgomery

      Thank you, Elizabeth, for asking me to drop by today. I love chatting about kids’ nonfiction! I thought I’d share a 2-minute conversation that changed the way I think about writing for children.
      When I started writing nonfiction books for kids, a friend asked me: “When are you going to write a real book?”
      Honestly, the question shocked me. “What!?!” I wanted to shout, how does she have the gall to put down my chosen profession?
      After a deep breath and a minute of thought, I realized that my friend could not have meant it as an insult. She’s just not that kind of person. So I asked her to clarify.
      “Well, I mean…” she rooted around in her mind for a minute, “The nonfiction books I love show me a new idea or new take on a topic – something that really excites me because I’ve never thought of it that way before. But kids’ books. . .” her eyes and her voice dropped away. “I mean, aren’t kids’ books just simplified versions of adult books?”
      She had a point. I’ve read children’s books that felt like watered down copies of an adult book. Or books that were just summaries of a well-known topic. But, don’t kids want books that stretch their minds, too. Books that present new ideas. Books that challenge the “what if’s,” the “why’s,” the “how come’s” of the world?

Illustration from HOW RUDE, illustrated by Howard McWilliam. Click the image to see a larger version in a new window.

      I chewed on my friend’s question for a long time. I looked for that kind of book in the children’s market. There were a few, but only a few. Would my next book be a real book? Would it point a flashlight down some dark unknown path?
      At that point in my career, I was trying to make my “bug book” work. I love bugs. You could say I’m ADDICTED to bugs. On any day of the week, you might find me nose-to-nose with a caterpillar, butt-up and staring down a cicada burrow, or tracking down a katydid from my tree-top writing spot. I had been trying to write a children’s book about bugs for years. Trying to put my passion into words.

Heather's outdoor workstation.

But, none of my manuscripts worked. They all forced a lesson down the readers’ throat. Dull. Dry. Boring.
      Like a bell in my head, I heard my friend’s words: “When are you going to write a real book?” Why wasn’t I trusting kids to be just as curious as I am about a weird, zany approach to looking at bugs?
      That was the genesis of my most recent book, HOW RUDE! REAL BUGS WHO WON’T MIND THEIR MANNERS. That’s right, a book about the “Bad Boys” of the bug world. I’m talking about bugs that slurp and burp and throw their poop. Bugs that are just plain rude. You won’t find any other book like it. No re-packaged encyclopedia entry here. A real book for real curious kids.
      Thanks to one question that shocked me, I’ve discovered something important – I like writing books that carve new paths across the land of information. I’m going to trust kids to take those paths. I’m going to trust them to launch out on their own from it. I can’t wait to see where it takes us!

Another of Heather's favorite workstations.

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9. My walk to school

Our flat is one mile from my studio at the College of Art, so every day I take a little hike across town...a very pleasant little hike. Out the door I immediately go up a hill, which gets my heart pumping and warms me up quickly. From there I can choose two main directions - to go east or go west. Either way, I have to get around the castle. (You don't want to go over that hill, that is masochistic.) I tend to go west more often that east, as North Bridge can get pretty crowded, and I've gotten nailed on a few occasions - ouch! SO! At the top of the hill, I usually head through St. Andrews Square.

A very good friend of mine is the Green Man. He tells me when I can cross a street or not. Although, I have to admit, there is a very fun game here I like to call Road Pizza Pong. That is, trying to cross without the Green Man's help. I've gotten quite good at it. Still, I'm awfully fond of this guy:
From there, I cut down Rose Street.
This is a charming street that runs parallel to Princes Street - the big mall-like tourist draw. It's quieter, there aren't as many vehicles, and all the sweet restaurants and pubs are setting up for the day. I pass the french patisserie which makes this gluten free girl want to cry.
I swear, I must past at least two dozen pubs every day. I really should count.

Much of Rose Street is covered in banners. I don't know why, but they're always there. Along with the Rose crests in the pavement. On my way home, there are often street performers here too, which is lovely. But that's for another post. This is my walk TO school...
Where I cut south from Rose varies, but I like this road because it's cut off from traffic. The day I took these pictures, there was also a flower vendor.
I cross Prince's Street where I can either go down into the garden (knowing there will be stairs on the other side)
or cut down Lothian. Always in my view is the castle. And double decker buses - lots of those. (I almost forgot to include that - could it be I already take them for granted? Gads.)
And other random beautifulness.
Oh, there's that castle again.
This is already so many photos and there's so much more to share - like the random spotting of men in kilts, the sound of bagpipes, a graduation going on at the Traverse Theatre. There's also the normal city stuff like beggars, dog poop, crowds that don't make room for you - you have to stay on your toes. But all this takes me around to the little street that cuts up to the college.
I can take about a dozen different routes, but this is a good one and they all take me to my destination, where my day begins!
The University of Edinburgh College of Art, Evolution House, where all us postgrads hang out on the third floor. Joy!

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10. Coloring Page Tuesday - Fox Reads

     One of my classmates, Michal Szewczyk, is an amazing photographer. He shared some awesome photos of a fox, which I adored. So, I have a fox for you today! Add your own title - Aesop's Fables, Fox and Hound magazine? Your choice!
     CLICK HERE to sign up to receive alerts when a new coloring page is posted each week and... Please check out my books! Especially...
my debut novel, A BIRD ON WATER STREET - winner of six literary awards. Click the cover to learn more!
     When the birds return to Water Street, will anyone be left to hear them sing? A miner's strike allows green and growing things to return to the Red Hills, but that same strike may force residents to seek new homes and livelihoods elsewhere. Follow the story of Jack Hicks as he struggles to hold onto everything he loves most.
     I create my coloring pages for teachers, librarians, booksellers, and parents to enjoy for free with their children, but you can also purchase rights to an image for commercial use, please contact me. If you have questions about usage, please visit my Angel Policy page.

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11. Dinner Out - Scottish Style

I've taken to sharing pictures of my meals on Facebook. I don't mean to be so cliché, but truly, the food here is amazing! And Stan (the cook in our family) has hooked us in with the foodie community, so we've been learning about all the hidden gems in town. Not that good food is hard to find. There are no less than FIVE Michelin starred restaurants in Edinburgh alone. To put that in perspective for you - I believe there are 173 Michelin-starred restaurants in the entire USA.
     On the first night of school, we attended a Scran Salon (basically just a bunch of folks talking about food) over in Fountainbridge near the end of the canal (or the head of it, I'm not sure). It's a fun social gathering and we've been making nice friends through this group - and broadening our horizons.

     Afterwards, we went to dinner at what has become my favorite Italian restaurant, Bar Italia. Gaspar already recognizes us and gives me a big kiss on each cheek. What's not to love? Fresh seafood with gluten free pasta - to die for!
     The other night we attended a tasting dinner for one of our new favorite restaurants, the Apiary with two local food critics - the stars of Lunch Quest. The food there is SO inventive and delicious, we passed the plates around so everybody could try everything. (Duck and veal - although they had lovely veggie options too.)

     But last night, Stan blew them all out of the water (ha!) with Under the Stairs. It was just a short walk from the end of my first week at the College of Art, past Grassmarket and down a side street. It truly is under the stairs with very little signage. I don't know how he ever found it, but people do. We were only able to eat if we promised to be done by 8:00 when our table was reserved (and there was nothing else available). So, we had celebratory drinks in the lounge, then moved to our sweet little table.
     Surrounded by rock walls, I felt like I was in an ancient tavern. And then the food arrived...
     All I can say is...OMG. If you know me well, you know I used to make bread. It made me feel like the ghosts of all past bread makers were watching over my shoulder. It made me feel connected, like this meal did.
     For starters we had cauliflower with tahini sauce and pickled, roasted chestnuts - WHAT? Delicious. For dinner, I had the venison. Don't judge, people eat every sort of meat here, as they've done for thousands of years. I am embracing the local culture (except for gluten, which I just can't do.)
     With every bite, I was thrust back into what must have been past lives for me. I felt layers of fabric around my legs from my thick skirts. I felt the sting of a warm fire on a cold night, leaves under my feat and my backside cold against a fallen log. I enjoyed the bounty of the day's hunt as I smelled wet leaves and tinder. I tasted Mead and heard the clinks of metal mugs. I don't know how to explain it. Is it some sort of synethsesia? I didn't know food could trigger such thoughts. The meal made me feel connected to thousands of years of history and stories. It was probably the best of my life. No lie.
     But eventually our plates were empty, we were full. And the table was no longer ours. So we walked out into the cool night for our leisurely walk home. Edinburgh loves to play with colored lights, so this was our view. Because, why not?

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12. Pen & Paper, Craig Fazier

This intimate portrait video is drawn from a conversation between distinguished illustrator/designer Craig Frazier and Chris Harrold, Creative Director of Mohawk. This short reveals some of Frazier's thought process behind his sketches, providing a unique insight into his creative process. Click on the image to go watch the video.

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13. Illustration Challenge #18

Try to draw something in a completely different style from how you usually do. If you draw tightly, draw LOOSE! If you draw sketchy, draw with long continuous lines. Get the idea?

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14. William Shakespeare turns 451 this year...

Shakespeare in Pop Culture
Source: SuperScholar.org

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15. Friday Linky List - September 25, 2015

From The Guardian (via SCBWI Belgium): Pete Kalu's top tips for writing non-cliched multicultural characters

From Quartz: The complete guide to having a creative breakthrough

From BuzzFeedBooks: I Gave A Speech About Race To The Publishing Industry And No One Heard Me

From PW: Nielsen Summit Shows the Data Behind the Children's Book Boom

From PW: A Celebration of Seuss (interesting article)

From The Guardian: Seven YA novels that show the lives of teens across the world

From DailyNews (via PW): Famous children's authors who disliked kids

From The Guardian: The best recent fantasy novels - review roundup

From The Guardian: Where the magic happens: children's illustrators open up their studios - in pictures

From Interview Magazine: Ursula K. Le Guin

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16. Jill Esbaum's ELWOOD BIGFOOT - Guest Post

by Jill Esbaum

      Bigfoot wasn’t a Thing when I was a kid. That’s probably good, since my family did a lot of camping in remote forests in Wisconsin and Minnesota. Even during our summer, “explore-America” vacations, we always stayed overnight in National Parks, National Forests, etc. There were often bear sightings nearby, but bigfoot? Nope. The only thing I really worried about were vampirous ticks.
      Now, of course, bigfoot is hot. And the idea intrigues me. I mean, what if…? Three years ago I watched a few episodes of Finding Bigfoot, and something started to bother me about reported sightings: Most people claimed to have seen “a” bigfoot. I searched the internet (who knew there were so many sites devoted to bigfoot encounters?), and found the same thing.
      “…saw a manlike creature on an island in a bog. Tracks seen … deep snow conditions and temperatures no human could survive.”
      “…this creature … was covered in dark brown fur and was 6-7 ft tall. It had a broad nose with little hair on its forehead or cheeks.”
      “…We were scared. I had worked as a wilderness guide, and this was nothing that I had ever seen before. It walked on 2 feet and stood AT LEAST 7 feet tall.”
      Hmm. If bigfoot were real, wouldn’t life be a little lonely? Once that thought entered my head, I had to write about a desperately lonely bigfoot.
      In ELWOOD BIGFOOT, Elwood longs to befriend his neighborhood birdies. Unfortunately, he’s so BIG and BOISTEROUS that he has trouble convincing them he’s harmless. He knocks himself out trying, though (sometimes literally). Does he learn what it takes to make friends? Eventually, yes. But easy, it ain’t. And because he’s had to work so hard to succeed, Elwood finds these new friendships all the sweeter.
      My Sterling editor found the perfect illustrator in Nate Wragg. Type Nate Wragg into Google images, and you’ll see that he’s a bigfoot guy from way back. Lucky Elwood!
      Nate was kind enough to answer a few questions for this post.

1. How did you get into children’s book illustration?
      I actually kind of fell into it several years back when I was working on the Pixar Film Ratatouille. I was developing an artistic look of our characters from the film for marketing purposes, and they thought the artistic style might be something to consider for a book. Long story short, they decided the style I created would be great for a hard cover cooking/rhyming/counting book Disney was publishing for the film, and so I went ahead and illustrated the book. After that great experience, illustrating picture books was something I hoped to continue doing, and started to pursue.

2. As a non-illustrator, I’m always interested in how an artist goes about devising the physical layout of a story to control pacing. What was your biggest challenge in story boarding Elwood Bigfoot?
      I always try to focus on how the illustrations can support the story, and tell the story without words. I really try to identify with the key ideas that are in the writing, and try to bring visuals to those first. It's always fun to play with page turns to reveal punchlines to jokes, or unexpected turns in the story, so I always try to spot those opportunities as well.

3. Do you have multiple projects going at once? Could you tell us what’s coming next?
      Yeah, I have a few projects that are slated to come out soon. "Monster Trucks" written by Anika Denise; and "10 Little Ninjas" written by Miranda Paul are the ones that are coming down the line next.

Other books illustrated by Nate:

You can learn more about Nate on his blog: http://n8wragg.blogspot.com

      Please check out my website (www.jillesbaum.com) for a free, downloadable (and adorable) Elwood Bigfoot Activity Kit.
      And if you love picture books, please visit my group blog, Picture Book Builders (www.picturebookbuilders.com), where a group of picture book authors/illustrators blog twice weekly about our favorite topic.

      Jill Esbaum is the author of many picture books. In addition to Elwood Bigfoot: Wanted: Birdie Friends!, she wrote I Am Cow, Hear Me Moo!, which won a 2015 SCBWI Crystal Kite award. Also in print are I Hatched! (Dial, 2014), Tom’s Tweet (Knopf), and Stanza (HMHarcourt). In the publishing pipeline are Teeny Tiny Toady (Sterling, 2016), and If a T Rex Crashes Your Birthday Party (Sterling, 2016). She also enjoys writing nonfiction books for National Geographic. Her latest is Animal Groups, featuring the stunning photography of Frans Lanting. Jill lives on a farm in Iowa. Jill’s recent books:
Illustrations reprinted with permission from Elwood Bigfoot ©2015 by Jill Esbaum Sterling Children’s Books, an imprint of Sterling Publishing Co., Inc. Illustrations by Nate Wragg.

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17. My new desk

One of the advantages to being a slightly older student is knowing when and how to make things work for you. I've already had meetings with my Illustration professors to learn how to best take advantage of the opportunities available to me at the University of Edinburgh. One small part of that is where I'll be spending most of my time - at my new desk.
     I asked permission to go ahead and claim a spot in the studio space I'll be sharing with fellow Illustration MFAs and Design MAs. The studio was a bit crude when I first got there, they hadn't finished preparing the space (it's a new one for the department), but I could see what would be important to me.

     I chose a desk at an end, in a corner, where I can keep my picture books without anybody tripping over them, with a little bit of wall space, room to spread out, and a view. OMG, the views.
      In one direction, I'm looking down a road that leads to the castle.
In the other, I'm looking down a road that leads to the Grass Market - both are exceptional.
And I'm already pulling some serious hours. We've already got two homework assignments and I still have my other book stuff going on.
But what I love most is my classmates. To my left is Mahmoud from Quatar. In front of me is Catherine from Chile. Two over is Michael from Poland. Across the way is Thor from Canton. Etc., etc. As our program director said on the first day - the undergrads are usually from the UK, but the Postgrads are usually from all over the world. He wasn't kidding!

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18. Coloring Page Tuesday - Back To School!

     I know most of you are already in school, but for me, school started YESTERDAY! I'm not telling you how long it's been since I was a student, but I am SO EXCITED!
     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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19. A Sunday Walk continued

So, two miles from our flat, on foot, we reach the Firth of Forth in Newhaven. Water!

The beach here is wild and rocky with black grasses, rocks, clams, and seagulls. A marina is off to the west full of boats sitting on their bottoms since the tide is out.
The air is thick with brine and waves lap against the rocks. The clouds are breaking up, illuminating the far shore which is quilted with various crops of brown, green, and chartreuse. An island sits in the middle of the Firth with enormous ships passing by it, sailing to who knows where.
      It takes us so little time to find ourselves in a completely different world here - I love it. We wandered west into Granton for a bit, but that will require more research as it seems to be a true working harbor. Anybody know of some good places to eat in Granton? Not finding one, we headed back east towards Newhaven in search of breakfast. We passed some interesting sites on the way. I loved this shell gargoyle. Anybody know what this thing on the right was?
     We passed an adorable pub (not yet open, although I'm not sure the owner had been to bed yet), and were directed towards The Haven for breakfast.
Stan is a fan of the breakfast rolls here and I did scrambled eggs, GF toast and roasted tomatoes. YUM.
     Refortified, and so much farther east than we'd expected, we went ahead to Leith to continue our path home. You remember Leith?
The trail picks up along the Water of Leith (a river), so we followed.
The river is full of swans and their babies.
Turning inland, we pass gardens. Folks rent plots of land where they grow flowers, vegetables, etc. And every single one has a shed. No two are alike so it ends up looking like a wildly eclectic and creative patchwork.
     We also pass birch trees. They remind me of Ruth Sanderson's illustrations.
As so happens, the trail leads back around to where we started and we go back through the long tunnel.
Up the hill and back to our quiet little street and our lovely little flat. Can you see our little pot of oregano? It's doing very well. I hope to have spilling flowers there next spring.
Stan says we walked about seven miles total, although it didn't feel like it. We meandered, I took pictures, we had a nice breakfast and we stopped to enjoy beautiful views, swans, and doggies. I can't think of a better way to spend a Sunday morning.

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20. Rana DiOrio's WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE KIND - guest post

Written by Rana DiOrio
Illustrated by Stephane Jorisch

      Strangely, or serendipitously, I have not previously been asked to reveal the story-behind-the-story of What Does It Mean To Be Kind? So, what you are about to hear is known only to me and my Cowboy, Reg.
      I met Reg 21 years ago when he was selling financial printing services and I was a young corporate securities lawyer (aka “deal jock”) during the Tech Boom in Silicon Valley. I was working 80–100 hour weeks and many of those were attributable to all-nighters at the financial printers, babysitting revisions to pages in registration statements bound for the Securities and Exchange Commission. Fun times.
      During one of those long nights when I was proofing pages alone in a big conference room at 2 am, I started to sob softly. I was lonely, burned-out, and, well, feeling sorry for myself. Much to my surprise, Reg walked in and sat down next to me placing a box of tissues in front of me, “Here you go, RaneDear.” That's all he said. And I proceeded to unload my misery on him. I told him that this wasn’t the life I had imagined for myself. He listened patiently for quite some time. Then he encouraged me to maintain perspective and to persevere. He left me to get my work done as he got some work done himself, then he walked me to my car as dawn broke. He was kind to me.
      I was also friends with Reg’s wife, Elise, and they invited me to work out with them at their gym on Saturdays. Reg and Elise worked out five days a week, and I had never seen the inside of a gym before that point. You can only imagine the patience required to incorporate a newbie into their training regimen. But Reg wanted to make sure I had a good time, so he really took care of me. He was kind to me.
      We maintained our friendship through his two and my three marriages. During that time he had two children and I had three. In March 2013 he reached out to me from Denmark where he was living and working. He was raising capital for his company and wondered if I could help him. I said, of course. While on Spring Break with my family we Skyped to brainstorm potential investors. It was then we realized that for the first time in twenty years neither of us was married or in a relationship. We hatched a plan to meet in London in September 2013—what’s another 6 months when you’ve already waited twenty years, right?
      In September, I flew to London to visit friends. Reg and I made plans to have dinner on Friday night. I had not seen Reg in person for 10 years. Reg is not on any social media, so I had not even seen a picture of him during that time. As the cab drove me through the rain to the restaurant, I had butterflies in my stomach like a teenager heading to a first date.
      When I arrived at the restaurant, I got out of the cab with my big umbrella and approached the windows slowly. There he was, sitting at the front corner table looking down at his phone. He was wearing a suit and tie. He had a full beard that I could tell had just been trimmed and a new haircut. He looked magnificent. I stared at him for at least five minutes, smiling, before I lightly tapped on the window to get his attention. He met me at the entrance of the restaurant. As the hostess waited, he said, “RaneDear, you look as lovely as the last time I saw you.” Then, he put his hands on my face and said, “So there’s no question about whether this will happen tonight . . .” and he kissed me slowly and tenderly. He was kind to me.
      We enjoyed a memorable dinner. We shared stories and laughed. We caught up on a decade of life. We talked a lot about our children. We shared pictures on our phones. We discussed what it is like to be a parent today and how it was different for our parents. Then Reg asked me, “What is the single most important thing you want to teach your children?” I answered, “To be kind.” He responded, “That’s your next book.”
      I started to write the manuscript on my long haul flight back to San Francisco. Reg and I began seeing one another every five or six weeks. I shared my drafts with him and continued to refine the manuscript whenever I was at 35,000 feet. Truth is, I have written all of my titles on long haul flights. As a former investment banker, I’ve always associated long flights with uninterrupted time to get work done. Almost two years from our first date when the inspiration hit, we published What Does It Mean To Be Kind?

+ + + + + + + + + + + +

Press release announcing title and #BeKind campaign
Early reviews of the title Here and Here

Rana’s bio:
      Rana has written her way through life—as a student, a lawyer, an investment banker, a private equity investor, and now as an author and publisher of award-winning children’s media. Her interests include practicing yoga, reading non-fiction and children’s books, dreaming, helping entrepreneurs to realize their dreams, effecting positive change in the world, and, of course, being global, green, present, safe, and kind. She lives in San Francisco, California with her Cowboy and three Little Pickles. Follow Rana DiOrio on Twitter @ranadiorio.

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21. Friday Linky List - September 18, 2015

From Tales from the Slush Pile (via SCBWI British Isles) Keeping the Darkness on the Page - a Writer's Guide to Building Resilience

From Jane Friedman (via SCBWI British Isles) - 2 Stammer Verbs to Avoid in Your Fiction

From CandyGourlay.com What is the Future of Children's Books? Interesting post!

From SLJ and Travis Jonker's 100 Scope Notes: Come With Me Down the Picture Book Parody Rabbit Hole

Drom Digital Book World: Spotlight on Understanding Audiences: Why Facebook Cannot Help You Sell Books by Michael Alvear!

From Noblemania: Proust Questionnaire: Kidlit Edition, round 1 (Fun!)

From Seven Scribes: Writing Begins With Forgiveness: Why One of the Most Common Pieces of Writing Advice Is Wrong

Anne Marie Perks on the Illustration Masterclass photo montage (at Amherst)

Via StumbleUpon: There's a Word for That: 25 Expressions You Should Have in Your Vocabulary - I am feeling very numinous! :)

From The New Yorker: The National Book Awards Longlist: Young People's Literature

From Babbel: How Learning 11 Languages Taught Me 11 Crucial Lessons - and watch the video!

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22. Welcome Week at the Uni

Welcome week is also known as Freshers Week at the University of Edinburgh, and it has been packed with activities to make any lonely new student feel at home with everything from horse-back rides, to hikes up Arthur's Seat, to Ceilidhs, to a Harry Potter sorting hat ceremony. Most of it was geared to Undergrads, but there were plenty of events targeted to Postgrads as well.
     Along with a Ceilidh (pronounced Kay-lee), and a folk music party, I attended no less than three induction meetings. One was in the College of Art with all my new Post Grad compadres. They were all too insane to take photos, so you'll have to go with me in my mind's eye...
     The school of Landscape Design and Architecture has the largest student body of all the arts this year. And while the majority of students seem to be Asian, students have come from all over the world to attend one of the best schools in the world. This school is incredibly competitive which makes for a very enlightened and inspiring student body!
     The most impressive induction meeting was held for all the Postgrads (in all the various colleges) at Assembly Hall on the Mound.

     I've learned not to trust google when it comes to mapping how to get around in this city because it doesn't take altitude into account. One of the most difficult treks in this city takes you DOWN into the Prince's Street gardens and then UP again to the mound where the castle resides. But there was no avoiding it for this meeting, because that's where Assembly Hall looms over the city. To give you an idea, here was the view of the city from the front door.
Inside was just as impressive. We entered an amazing courtyard. Not at all intimidating.
I got there early, which is why I was able to get this shot. But it soon filled up with Post Grad students and we gathered in line to go in.
     Inside the building at last, we heard from the Vice President and heads of various departments about all the resources available to us. All this while we sat in a building that dates back to 1858 for a school that began in 1582. Yes, you read that right - 1582.
     After the meeting, we were served coffee and tea in a gathering room. I've been loving these opportunities to meet my fellow Post Grads. I actually met a Creative Writing MFA from Washington, DC (hi, Calder!), an Interior Design student from Shanghai (hi, Gloria!), and a Linguistics student from Greece (hi, Katriana!). On the way in, I met an Art MA from Ireland (hi, Naeve!). It's been like that all week. And everybody speaks English (a requirement to attend here), granted at various levels of proficiency. So there's been lots of opportunities for me to practice my Spanish and French. In fact, the girl sitting across from me in our new studio space is from Spain (hi, Catherine!). More on that soon. Meanwhile, more eye candy:

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23. Illustration Challenge #17

Remember the image you colored last week? Take the copy you made and choose one point in the illustration where you want the viewers eye to go. Use your most saturated colors and highest contrast in that spot before you color the rest of the image. You have the power!

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24. Reading Gives You Super Powers by Dav Pilkey

It speaks for itself. Click on the image to go watch the video.

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25. Campus Tour

During Freshers Week, I took advantage of a Campus Tour. Well, the George Square Campus Tour - a small part considering the campus sprawls over the entire city of Edinburgh. It was very helpful and I saw some lovely eye candy along the way.

I don't remember what building this was, but please notice the blue sky. All this talk of bad weather has been just that. I'm convinced Scottish people are all storytellers, and we all know how storytellers like to embellish things. Let's hope I think that two months from now.
     At any rate, George Square is gorgeous, with a large green space in the center surrounded by the very new library and row upon row of very old town homes which are now the centers for various studies and disciplines on campus.
In fact, Sir Walter Scott lived in one of them for a time, and you can actually stay in his old apartment.
Beyond the square, we also saw the medical building.
And here's the law school. If I graduated from here, I'd believe I was worth $350/hour too.
This was the library in the religious studies building.
What I haven't yet shared is a photo of the very modern and enormous main library and the myriad of buildings around campus. But stay posted, I'll get there...

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