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Results 26,701 - 26,725 of 148,621
26701. Blogging Your Way Boot Camp

77 GIrl on Book

I've been a huge fan of Holly Becker's for a long time now, and love her Decor8 blog, her personality and style. So when I decided that it was time my life, art, business and blogs needed a huge reorganization and revamp, I leapt at the chance to enroll in her Blogging Your Way Boot Camp online course.


Of course it's a bit insane that I decide to take these courses on when I have so much on my hands at the moment, but that's really the point -- as it's time I took everything, especially my art and business, up to the next level. And to do so I have to first make sure that all my foundations are firm and in place, which means shaking things up a bit, and getting them to fall back into their intended spots so that I can steer myself in the right direction (with fingers tightly crossed). So I'm really looking forward to inspiration and great tips from the class. I shall let you know how things go ...



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26702. Week-end Book Review: The Magic Formula by Ibrahima Ndiaye and Capucine Mazille

Ibrahima Ndiaye, illustrated by Capucine Mazille, translated by Rebecca Page,
The Magic Formula
Bakame Editions (Rwanda), 2011.

The Magic Formula is a retelling of an African folktale about a magic marula tree that won’t release its fruit until a certain long, complicated phrase is recited.  Set during a drought in the land of “Farafinaland” in the year “nobody-knows”, the animals have all come together in their suffering.  Nevertheless, their individual traits emerge in the course of the lively narrative: the lion is fierce; the hyena is sneering and excitable; and the elephant is wise.

One day, the elephant calls on the animals to journey together in search of food (also offering scope for the eye-catching illustration both within the story and spread across the book’s covers).  The insects provide an “aerial escort”, and the chameleon with his “special eyes” takes on the role of scout perched on the giraffe’s head.  Sure enough, he is the first to see the magic marula tree laden with fruit – and he also spots the old woman Mama Tenga under another distant tree.  She gives the magic words to first the elephant and then the hyena – but each is distracted on the way back to the marula tree and forgets them.  It is only when, at the elephant’s suggestion, they all work together in “solidarity” that they are able to remember the words and access the fruit.

Ibrahima Ndiaye’s retelling is slightly different from another recent version of the story from Tanzania, The Amazing Tree (North-South Books, 2009) by John Kilaka, whose work has also been published by Bakame Editions.  These two versions compliment each other with their different sets of characters and the chant in Kinyarwanda in The Magic Formula and in Kiswahili in The Amazing Tree, as well as the contrasting styles of the illustrations.  Here, Capucine Mazille’s watercolours add depth to the story with a wonderful mix of charaterful facial expressions.  As well as the key characters, the line-up includes an exciting array of  different African animals, including an aardvark and a pangolin – plenty to absorb young readers. The lively dialogue also makes this a great readaloud, and young listeners will probably soon pick up the magic formula quicker than the animals themselves, adding to their enjoyment of the story

The Magic Formula, under its Rwandan title Imvugo idasanzwe, is included in IBBY’s Honor List 2012, which highlights outstanding books from around the world.  This translation into English offers us the opportunity to share this wonderful story too.

Marjorie Coughlan
October 2012


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26703. Getting Your Story App Reviewed - Interview

I believe there are 3 main ways to get your new story app or ebook noticed and bought many times over. 1. Make something AMAZING - that changes the user/viewer/reader emotionally. 2. Tell your friends about it via social media and 3. Submit it to review sites. I strongly believe that advertising is for boring products so if the people you shared it with don't respond your time is probably better spent back at the drawing board. That's my plan anyway.

I'll have an app in Apple's app store in early November if all goes according to plan (and I'll be making tutorials on how I did it so check back soon) so logically I've wanted to get to know who and where I should submit my app to for review. Why mess around I thought - go for the most prominent children's story app review site and ask the reviewer directly. What I got was very unexpected. Straight talk. You guys know I love straight talk.

I love the answers Carisa Kluver of Digital Storytime gave me (some of her advice is what I've been preaching) and I'm so grateful that she was willing to give me her time. If you're at all interested in producing story apps you NEED to read this article

Will Terry: What do you review and how can someone get reviewed by you?

Carisa Kluver: When I began this site in late 2010, I would review things in the order they were submitted, but eventually got overwhelmed by the sheer volume of content coming into the AppStore (and my inbox), everyday. I decided it was better to continue to provide a solid resource for parents, teachers and librarians, than to cover everything. But that means some titles I enjoy, but don't love, may never get covered by my site. There is a sea of content out there, and it just seems to grow exponentially every six months.

I choose what to review a couple days in advance, giving me flexibility to cover whatever I'm most interested in at the moment. This helps me to be more engaged in the writing process, which is really important for good content. I'm particularly looking out for truly original stories and innovative use of the tablet medium. I'm also, personally, a sucker for gorgeous illustrations. I'm the daughter of an art teacher and really love the visual nature of picture books, which is probably why I'm reluctant to review for older readers.

Titles previously published in print are very popular, as are popular topics (like robots, princesses or dinosaurs) or titles from big media names. These reviews drive a lot of traffic to my site, so I try to sprinkle them in liberally as I'm reviewing. I make an effort to balance my readers general interests (everything in the top 200 book apps in the app store) with my own family's taste and a sense of obligation to the creative community. I'm also on the lookout for things that no one else is reviewing.

In addition, I find that authors and illustrators who were previously published in print are easier to review, since the job of 'vetting' indie work is very hard. People say such harsh things sometimes about the publishing industry, but they did set some pretty phenomenal standards for picture books. I didn't appreciate this well until there was no filter on my child's content.

Will Terry: How long does it take to get reviewed?

Carisa Kluver: I hate to say it, but the reality is that getting reviewed by my site

(or any decent sized site for app reviews) is one of those "6 months to never" situations, depending on the

app. It can range from as soon as the first week a book is out to 18 months after release, depending on the book and when I discover it for the first time.

I've had book apps that I've enjoyed for over a year before writing up a review, although I usually know within 90 days if I am eager to review something or not. Sometimes a new update or price drop will perk my interest, though. I keep everything installed on my iPad until it is either reviewed or previewed long enough to reject it as under 3.5 stars. I get a lot of app updates, since I have nearly 500 book apps I'm considering for review at any given time.

I do download and preview every app, when given promo codes with requests, within 30 days, so nothing is completely off my radar. I don't mind an email asking about a request, so long as people wait at least a month before contacting me. If I get a polite inquiry, several months after a request has been made, I will often respond personally and take another long look at the app.

Most people who submit to my site never follow-up in any way, even after I email a link to their published review, so if someone bothers to contact me, I will usually do my best to reply. I try to keep track of everything, but I discover gems on my own iPad that have been installed for months, without even being opened. This is the busiest business I've ever been in ... I try to sit and look at new books every few weeks to see if I've missed anything, but it's hard to fit everything into a 24 hour day.

Will Terry: If you don't like the app will you give it a bad review? Not review it at all?

Carisa Kluver: I don't enjoy giving bad reviews, but the term 'bad' is subjective. I find that some developers/authors have heard in the media that "nothing less than 5-stars" is acceptable if they want success in the app store. On my site, with over 600 book apps rated 3 stars or more, so far, fewer than 10% have gotten 5 stars, so that is not really true for my rating system. I consider a 3.75 to 4 star rating from my site, a solid minimum recommendation, with any reservations I had listed in the written review and/or reflected in the rating categories.

We have a range that allows for 0-5 stars with quarter star increments, but in reality we primarily use the range from 3.5 - 5, which allows for a lot of subtle gradations. This rating system simply wouldn't work if it wasn't 'graded on a curve', so to speak. I compare each app to the current market overall. But I won't bother giving a bad review for sport or money ... I would rather not write it, especially if no one will read it anyway (bad reviews are generally traffic killers for a review site - unless they are funny or grisly). Instead, upon request, I will offer private consultation by the hour for app developers and content creators that would like a written report about their app when it scores under 3.5 stars.

As a result, I rarely review apps that rate under 3.5 stars. There are exceptions, for instance, books I think are awful yet still rank in the top 100 on the iTunes charts consistently, or free apps that are particularly misleading or educationally unsound. For those apps, should I discover them, I will give a rating well under 3 stars and publish it, if I think it is a useful warning to consumers.

Will Terry: How would getting a good review from you affect someone's app sales?

Carisa Kluver: I think it varies a lot. I've heard that a good review from my site can 'make or break' a book app, but I have a hard time believing that. I think if a book app is exceptional, it will do well no matter what, but a temporary spike in sales is not unlikely with a stellar review from a decent sized review site. If I had to make a wild guess, I bet the spike is probably biggest for apps I rate over 4.5 stars that are new or were otherwise not getting traction/attention in the marketplace.

A review on my site also gets an app into consideration for a lot of other promotions, over time. Any review with a price drop will be featured on our deal page for several days, for instance, giving more long-lasting help with actual sales. I also do a number of Top 10 and category listings for apps I review, so getting reviewed on my site can open up a lot of other opportunities for unexpected attention. I do special posts about 5-Star apps at the end of the year, as well as a yearly "Best of the Best" list.

I think linking social marketing, advertising, reviews and other aspects of app promotion directly to sales can be very deceptive. Someone with a phenomenal new release that is unknown might see a huge spike in downloads after I give them a good review, but another title that is already doing well might not see any impact at all. It can be difficult, especially if you are implementing a lot of different kinds of marketing at the same time, to measure which has the most impact.

But I'm not The New York Times. I run a niche site with a very loyal following and have a relatively good reputation in a tight-knit but also 'emerging' industry. Direct sales are much more complex than 'get a review = downloaded apps'.

Will Terry: What is the biggest mistake you see story app developers making over and over?

Carisa Kluver: I wish I could tell every story app development team, before they get out of the gate and start working on a new project just three things:

1. Story is everything and for picture books, illustrations are part of the story. Start with a good story (written AND visual) - always start there. Period. But don't stop there. Integrate all the elements you decide to add. Storytelling in digital is a blend of elements and it is clearly an art, not a science. I have heard many 'experts' tell authors to just have the text for their picture book first and then find an illustrator after-the-fact, but I, personally, think these two need come together first before anyone can tell if it is a good idea for digital.

2. Consider your expenses versus realistic sales of an app book and don't 'over-enhance' your story (assuming it's exceptional already) with cheap or unpolished attempts to be what you think an 'app' should be. Stick to the story and under-produce it when in doubt. You can update later, but don't go bankrupt over a picture book.

3. Remember that kids are the readers ... and imagine a real child in a home or school setting with this app. If your book is full of lots of tappable animations and interactions that are fun, but totally unrelated to the story or plot in general (or go on indefinitely if tapped repeatedly), why would parents & educators choose this app over a kid's game or general entertainment app? This sort of thing makes me want to leave the room while my child is testing a app. Even if my child says he likes the story, he can't tell me a thing about it afterward, except, "It was fun, mommy!" I'd rather he play Angry Birds if there is no story comprehension.

Note: A lot of storybook apps are being bought to replace time reading print books, so the ability to experience the book with or without narration is important. Page-turning as a pause is also important, and anything that helps young readers focus on the text (like highlighting as narrated). These things matter a lot more than other kinds of enhancement. Often developers get focused on the 'wow' factor in an app, when much less expensive and more educational enhancements make sense, depending on the story itself.

Will Terry: Do you see any niches not being filled by story app creators?

Carisa Kluver: Books for older readers are in large need, especially for reluctant readers, who find many of the narrated picture books too 'babyish' for their interests. I also think non-fiction is still wide open for every level above preschool.

The toddler and preschool markets for almost every type of app are saturated, in my opinion. Moving up into the 6-12 market and even middle & high school non-fiction, especially for enhanced, text-book-style titles, is a smart move right now. Story apps aren't right for every title, though, so I would hate to see chapter books and leveled readers try to become overly enhanced. I'm actually rather fond of iBooks and other .pdf style formats, but they haven't resonated with consumers as much as the book app ... at least so far.

Will Terry: Do you see the story app market growing?

Carisa Kluver: Yes and no. Yes in that I see the actual market growing ... by leaps and bounds actually. But I also see the field of developers who are able to publish works successfully (independent of the authors/illustrators or creative folks behind the work) narrowing substantially.  It might be a number more akin to what we knew in publishing before digital ... not necessarily just a handful of developers, but maybe just several dozen small presses, instead of thousands of independent app developers.

I don't think children's books and children's software are the same for parents, educators or librarians. I personally doubt that there is room for thousands of small presses with limited credibility. I suspect children's librarians, in particular, will also have a lot more influence over time in this market. They need trusted sources of information about books to purchase for young readers. Mark my words ... bells & whistles are not going to sway this crowd.

Will Terry: Aside from submitting apps for review what other marketing strategies should creators take?

Carisa Kluver: I'm so glad you asked this question! I wish app developers and book creators, in general, were less dead set on reviews as a source of marketing. I actually think reviews can be good or bad for a story app, depending on the review. But getting a review, even a good one, isn't really marketing. It's useful to submit your story for to review sites, especially in digital, where it costs little or nothing to make sure a decent sized website actually gets a copy of the app to see for themselves why it's special.

This isn't a sure way to make sales, however, even if your review is published. Reviews, in my opinion, should be an 'examination or assessment' of a book, not a glowing source of marketing 'quotes'. For any title, it can be valuable to have a certain 'minimum' number of thoughtful reviews, but they don't guarantee direct sales. They are part of a bigger picture that includes building a brand or author platform, as well as creating AND understanding your audience.

Sometimes a tiny app review site can give a stellar review that helps a developer change or improve something vital to an app's success. Or maybe an app isn't visible to a certain group of users, like homeschooling families, where a specific review really makes a difference. It may also be useful to pay for professional consultation during the process of app creation and marketing a launch.

Marketing should be, on some level, built into every part of the process of development. There is nothing wrong with just 'telling a story' if you have one you are passionate about, but it is another thing entirely to expect people to pay for it ... you have to communicate to others why your story is special. This is essentially what marketing is about. You either have a product that fills a clear need or you create that need through buzz by stimulating curiosity. Creating 'buzz' is easier said than done, however.

Note: I also think app creators of all sorts need to embrace the 'google alert' and set them up for several phrases that might lead to their app ... then comment on articles/blogs when you have something relevant to add to the discussion. You can share about your new app, and in the process, you will come across blogs and sites you didn't know existed. There are a lot of online sites for specific topics that your book might fit well into ... including communities much less saturated by 'app' news than many app review sites.

Will Terry: What question(s) should I have asked you and what's the answer to it?

Carisa Kluver: One of the questions I get most often, is simply, "Who are you?"

People wonder what sort of background I have and what it takes to run a site reviewing digital picture books. I'm married to a programmer, who customized my site for me, which is no small part of why I am online. I'm not especially technically savvy, but really appreciated how well a database system can organize information over time, when I worked in research. I like to see numbers and move data around as a result, so my custom system allows me to see trends in my own reviews that would be hard to pick up without data to crunch.

I have a Master's degree in Social Work (MSW) from the University of Washington, and background working with youth and families in both direct services and research, but no formal training in early education, library science or literacy. I also have a BA in Anthropology, with a focus on cultural transitions in modern society, so the 'digital shift' spoke to my inner-anthropologist more than anything else, I suspect.

I am an avid reader and love the challenge that blogging and reviewing gives me as a writer, but other than that, I'm a mom who fell in love 'at first sight' with the picture book app in early April of 2010. But I sensed a huge gap online when I would try to find out more about these new apps. I guess I have been trying to bridge that gap between content creators and readers ever since.

Carisa Kluver is the the editor of Digital-Storytime.com, an iPad children's book review site and EdApps4Sale.com, a curated deal page for kids apps. She has a BA in Anthropology from UC Berkeley and an MSW from the University of Washington. Before starting this project, she was a school counselor, health educator and researcher in child & maternal health. She also has a blog, focusing on kid lit, technology and the app development world, called The Digital Media Diet.

21 Comments on Getting Your Story App Reviewed - Interview, last added: 10/12/2012
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26704. Part 4: Pteranodons / Hatchlings

(Continuing the Pteranodon series) I've often preached at art schools about how you should do plenty of research, and then do lots of preliminary sketches and not get to attached to any of them, because the idea is going to change.

Today's post is about the old man taking his own medicine.

With the first painting completed, the goal of second illustration for the Pteranodon article was to show a hatchling Pteranodon. If some dinosaurs nested in protected colonies, wouldn't Pteranodons, too? I reasoned that they would be so vulnerable after hatching that they would need to be looked after by their parents.

I did five little sketches of Pteranodons in a nesting colony. Here are my notes to the art director:
A. Tender scene with warm colors showing female with downy chick in nest build of dried ferns and sticks. The rest of the nesting colony visible out of focus behind.
B. Looking a bit upward at the female sternbergi on a mud nest. Edge lighting from sunrise.
C. Variation of B with front lighting and the single chick protected by drooping wings.
D. Closeup of heads and faces of both mother and chick.
E. Female guards hatchling. Communal nesting colony could be visible behind. Golden lighting from behind.

Unfortunately all these sketches were based on wishful thinking and a lack of evidence, something one has to guard against in science. I did more reading about pterosaur hatchlings in David Unwin's 2006 book "The Pterosaurs From Deep Time." The book described three major discoveries of fossilized pterosaur embryos in recent years, which is remarkable, since there hadn't been any comparable finds for 200 years.

The new finds showed that the eggshells were probably soft and leathery, and they gave no support to the idea that the young were altricial (requiring nourishment), as opposed to precocial (active and mobile at birth).

I did a new set of sketches. Here are my notes to the art director:
"The hatchling picture is vignetted so it will fit in the lower corner of the page. I gave the egg the appearance of a soft reptilian-type eggshell, and made the hatchling comparatively precocial. I followed David Unwin's summary of the recent pterosaur hatchling fossil discoveries, which suggests they probably didn't need much if any altricial parenting. Also, apparently they could fly quite soon after hatching. This affects the way I paint the little guy. I'll make sure to make him look more flight-ready than he appeared in the sketch."

Now that I had taken it as far as I could with book and internet research, it was time to show the sketches to a scientist in the field. The editors were already working with Christopher Bennett, one of the most knowledgeable experts on Pteranodons, especially their ontogeny.

Dr. Bennett replied:
"I have marked up the babies drawing. Yes, they look very birdy, and they shouldn't other than the rounded skull and the goggle eyes. First off, there would be no trace of a cranial crest. I erased the crests on the left two babies and X-ed out the crest on the right one. The crests did not begin to develop until large and size and the beginnings of sexual maturity were attained. Jaws should not have tip hooks so, I have just drawn straighter lines. I think that the body posture of the right baby is spot on. I have added lines to indicate a bigger hand with three walking fingers in addition to the flight finger. The last problem is the biggest and birdiest of them all. The lower left baby has a pelican head-neck-trunk posture, and there is no way a pterosaur could do that. Yes, there could be a bit of an angle between the front end of the neck and the head, but the neck could not be bent back on itself at all. What I would suggest is replace the pelican neck and trunk with a lizard neck and trunk."

Tomorrow I'll show the final picture incorporating these corrections.

Part 1: Pteranodons / Thumbnails
Part 2: Pteranodons / Maquette
Part 3: Pteranodons / Step by Step

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26705. From the Job Board

design jobs

Senior Designer - Hatch Design (San Francisco)
Designer/Illustrator- PennyPop (San Francisco)
2D Artist/Illustrator - Big Viking Games (London, Ontario)
3D Artist - Big Viking Games (London, Ontario)

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26706. "Getting the Setting of Story"

"Researching the story's environment"
By happy accident, I discovered the  way to travel interstate, overseas, inter-culturally  and explore the  ambience of remote towns, cities, country lanes and outback outposts. Air tickets - well that's the ideal, but no, I used Google Earth.
It started with trying to locate a lovely country home in West Hougham, Kent, England by using aerial satellite and 'street view'. It was featured in Country Life for September 7th, 2000, and was the
Inspiration for "The Dolls' House in the Forest"
inspiration for my story "The Dolls' House in the Forest". 
West Hougham, Kent, country road, travelled via Google Maps street view.
I didn't find the house, but I had the most wonderfully inspiring time wandering down country lanes that were little more than wagon tracks, great boughs canopying overhead and wildflowers dotted in the fields...
Now, if I need to capture something of the 'feel' of an area. I seek out an address. Then in I go.
Exploring the Realtor advertisements in the research area gives insight into the lifestyle and inhabitants of the town. Many homes  give a slideshow or even a video tour online.  
Visualising Story
Other ways to 'get in the setting' for free include YouTube clips. This is even a Youtube video clip on West Hougham, Kent. Sadly, it doesn't feature that house...
Other ways to 'get in the setting' for free include Flickr, photographic collections held in State Libraries and on places like Pinterest. For historical setting, try online Heritage listings and databases for Australia and UK.
An example of other useful research sites  for historic buildings in Australia -
International settings - the virtual tour
Aside from a drop in to street level via Google Earth, many online sites feature virtual tours of historic settings, buildings, rambles around towns, cities and country areas. A few examples -
Castles -
Eilean Donan, the iconic Scottish Castle on Youtube Clips.
Neuschwanstein - site tour;
International Cities
A walk around Paris by video [not signposted but a good  overview of  everyday life on Paris streets];
Whatever the historic building or the town, you are quite likely to find a youtube clip or at least flicker photos, then there is always Google Earth! Have fun!

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26707. /Sponsor/ Depositphotos

A Huge thanks to Depositphotos for sponsoring this week’s RSS Feed!

Depositphotos, headquartered in Florida, the US, is the most rapidly growing stock agency in the world. It currently offers more than 9 mln stock photographs and vector images sold under royalty free license. In addition to that, Depositphotos accepts videos for sale. All the files submitted for sale are carefully checked and selected by the agency’s moderators. With its user friendly interface, a generous promotion programme, flexible payments options and efficient client services, Depositphotos is one the most attractive market places both for those in need of high-quality files for their projects and those, who would like to sell their images and video.

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26708. UMIGO – Wild Brian’s New Educational Videos

I wish I could have seen stuff like this when I was in school. Check out this sample of Wild Brain’s new series of animated videos, aimed at kids, which teach math basics. Called UMIGO (“yoU Make It GO”), they were directed by Dave “Pez” Hoffman (The Ricky Gervais Show), with an animation team that includes Jim Smith, Mike Bell, Carey Yost, Miles Thompson, Adam Rosette and Art Director Rae McCarson (Billy and Mandy) among others. A government grant is paying for production (“you tax dollars at work!“) so every aspect of this Flash animation production was done in-house at W!LDBRAIN in Sherman Oaks, CA. Eleven music videos and one eight-minute short were produced. The first three are online now, available on You Tube and iTunes. They’re lively, good looking and I suspect will be very effective in their goal to teach.

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26709. Fall

This fall has been beautiful.

Everyone is talking about it.

But we know it is not going to last.

Tonight a cold wind is going to blow.

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26710. The Haunted Ghoul Bus is back!

I'm so happy to see that The Haunted Ghoul Bus in which I illustrated is back on the shelves at Barnes and Nobles this year. If you need a Halloween book for your little one, it is a great sturdy book with thick and embossed pages. Check it out (it is at a great price right now at BN.com for $5.76!)

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26711. tiny treasures :)

i wanted to share a custom painting i did for one a girlfriend of mine's little girl, emie. this girl is seriously one of the cutest, sweetest, most precious little girls in all the world.

so...little miss emerson has a *thing* for chasing fireflies. i did this sweet little 5x7 painting for her for her 3rd birthday in august and i've decided to sell prints of it in my etsy shop found here

love this girl!:)

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26712. To fellow Canadian writers out there: Happy Thanksgiving weekend!

0 Comments on To fellow Canadian writers out there: Happy Thanksgiving weekend! as of 10/6/2012 8:38:00 PM
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26713. 2012 Highlights Illustrators' Party

After all the prep work of designing and making our Superhero costumes, updating my book, and illustrating the superhero page, I was ready to go to the Annual Highlights Illustrators' Party. Sort of. On the day of departure, my daughter was getting over a nasty bug, my sister was suffering from a nasty bug, and I was turning into a nasty bug after a good, long, 3.5 hour night sleep, and I saw that my lovely weekend was quickly fading into a lovely dream. My Plan B for help in the child-care department, my illustrator friend, and her husband, who was also to attend, was sick. 

So Plan C was in motion. Now post lunchtime, daughter was doing well, no symptoms, energized and playful. There was still hope. I called Highlights to find out what other options there might be for an attendee with a little one. "Why not bring her to the conference?" The idea was ludicrous to me, but it was like an official stamp of approval, and I thought, "what's the worse that could happen? If she decides to have a meltdown, I could just leave." I had nothing to lose. So I geared up.

Simultaneously, I put a call in to my friend via voicemail, at the off-chance I might still get some help. I offered the opportunity for a getaway, but with a childcare clause in the deal. By some miracle, my friend called back just in time with an "OK!" That's when everything fell right into place. 

When I and the little one arrived in Honesdale, we headed straight to our assigned quarters: the cabins at Beach Lake. It was perfect—two bedrooms and a living room—home away from home. We had the trademark, homegrown, gourmet dinner at The Barn that evening, on the Boyds Mills farm. I caught up with an old friend and wonderful illustrator Laura Jacques, and headed back to the cabin to await my friend's arrival. Thanks to the separate rooms, the little one got to sleep while I waited to greet my friend. 

At the conference in The Barn on Saturday, we were presented with the company's rich history as a family company, philosophy, and plans for growth by Editor-in-Chief, Chris Cully, and a few of Highlights' Editors and Art Directors. They proposed numerous opportunities for work and made us Illustrators feel pretty special. We did a bit of sketching for auction, portfolio sharing, greeted more familiar faces, all of us gushing over each others' work. The food was stellar as usual (truly one of the biggest selling points of the weekend, not that they really have to sell us on an all expenses weekend). 

The little one and my friend were off at a local farm enjoying chickens and songs and painting pumpkins. She was so exhausted by nap time, she didn't nap. So she burned that overtired energy as a superhero, having a blast kicking around in her boots, flapping her cape, and running every which way. The day was concluded by dinner and the traditional square dance. And dance we did.

Sunday brought a horse-drawn carriage ride, another glorious meal, and more delightful conversations.  By the end of the weekend, the nasty bugs were history and I was motivated to work. We came away receiving a refreshing, optimistic message, from a company worth cheering for in a downturn economy. After years of enthusiastically cheering us on, we thank you, Superhero of Illustrators and children everywhere! 

2 Comments on 2012 Highlights Illustrators' Party, last added: 10/8/2012
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26714. You & Me

I will have prints and cards of this in my Etsy shop soon. 

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26715. Look what the SCBWI Head Office sent me by snail mail...


As some of you already know, I've been hugely grateful to the SCBWI for the career-changing opportunities that have come my way as a result of attending their events.

I sent them a thank you letter back in May, and SCBWI President Stephen Mooser replied as follows:

 Hi Debbie—Wow and Congratulations—we keep a file and a posting of SCBWI Success Stories, and not only is yours one of the best, but it may also be the most entertaining of all time---you have made our day and we are so happy for your well deserved success—looking forward to seeing you again soon—all best wishes from all of us here at the office, Steve

Then in mid-September, The New York Times Sunday Book Review ran a very nice review of I'M BORED, and I sent out a public request for extra copies of the review, if anyone had it. 

Today I came home from the cottage to find a copy of the review and a nice note from Steve on behalf of the SCBWI waiting for me.


I continue to be so grateful to the SCBWI for its continuing support of children's book writers and illustrators. THANK YOU, SCBWI!!

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26716. Story Structure Diagrams

Yes, it’s true, I’ve had story structure on the brain. I’ve also recently joined pinterest (of which I immediately became addicted). But there’s a happy side effect of these two obsessions… this post! I love visual representations of novels and narrative structure, and pinterest gave me a place to collect all these fascinating, beautiful, funny, and brilliant story diagrams.

Feast your eyes!

Three Act Plot Structure:


Four Act Structure:


Freytag’s Pyramid:


Swooping Character Arcs:


The Hero’s Journey:


Branching Structure:


And Just For Fun:

Check out more charts on my Pinterest Page!

Happy structure dreams everyone.

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26717. A Bit of an Odd But Necessary Thing...

...which is this: 87MRZE2NN5JF

...which is a bit of administrative weirdness.

...which you can ignore, Dear Readers.

But, so this awkward bit of a post isn't wasting your valuable web browsing time, how about a trio of quick book recommendations?

Have you read these books? I have, and they're just wonderful! Hopefully, you'll see full reviews here at Bugs and Bunnies for each of these sometime in the coming months, but until then, go find them and read them. It will be time well-spent.

Splendors and Glooms, by Laura Amy Schlitz
Ages 9 and up

The Crowfield Curse, by Pat Walsh
Ages 8 and up

The Giver, by Lois Lowry
Ages 12 and up

1 Comments on A Bit of an Odd But Necessary Thing..., last added: 10/9/2012
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26718. Special Columbus Day Promotion: Free Kindle Days for “Reckless Rudy and the Green Vase”

Announcing a special promotion for Reckless Rudy and the Green Vase: On Columbus Day and the day after (October 8-9), Reckless Rudy and the Green Vase will be available as a free Kindle download from Amazon through the KDP Select Program. If you have a Kindle, here’s your chance to try out Reckless Rudy as a Holiday gift, or to add the book to your collection of Kindle eBooks absolutely free. Mark your calendar! Reckless Rudy makes a wonderful gift for any early reader of easy reading chapter books.

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26719. Fishing

 I kind of have a weakness for giant stores like Costco and IKEA and Home Depot.  There's really nothing wrong with the world if you can buy pringles in cans the size of grain silos.

Anyway, a couple of weeks ago I went to one of those home improvement stores.  Like always, I had to ask for help...

ME:  So, I'm looking for a tool box.  Or actually a tackle box maybe.  You know, like something with small adjustable compartments for sorting, you know, little tiny things that you want organized.  Um, you know?

I must have let my Girl show, because he was like:

 "Hobby Lobby has bead organizers next door."

And I was like:

ME:  So does this mean I can't use the forklift?

I left broken-hearted and empty-handed.  (Apparently you need a license to run a forklift?  WTHeck?)

As I was leaving, I was stopped at the entrance by a couple of eager boy scouts...

I couldn't say no.  They were too cute.

Ok, they weren't that cute.

...but their reaction was priceless.

They were still scuffing the ground when I left the parking lot.  All I can say is, I envy the scout leader who's taking them fishing.  He's going to be majorly entertained.

7 Comments on Fishing, last added: 10/26/2012
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26720. A Colorado Color Ride

Like we do most years, for my birthday weekend, we took a drive up to see the amazing colors of the aspen, cottonwoods and oak brush.

This year we stayed close to home and went up river through the Dolores canyon, over Lizard Head Pass and then down towards Telluride on the other side, but before getting there, we took a detour, to the high mountain town of Ophir...
Situated in the San Miquel Mountains, Ophir sits at just over 9,600 ft.
See the white line across the mountains in the back, that is Ophir Pass, a thin little road, over a shale slide and down the other side of that mountain is Silverton and Ouray. We have driven that, me closing my eyes, while Jon very expertly drives over the shale which makes a horrid sound under the tires, but today we stayed on this side and only looped around the little town...
 It's really pretty in the summer and fall, but in the winter, snowed in with four or five feet of snow and a snowmobile the only way to get to the highway, "housewives might be looking for butcher knifes!"
Just kidding.... Ophir is a very well organized community and the road is open most days, after the plows go through, here is a run down of their population and stats...
Okay, the avalanches would get to me, not so much that I would be afraid of them burying the town, you can see the chutes where on the side of the hill below the town there is a stream of rocks and just little trees, cause they never get a chance to grow very tall, being stuck on one side of a snow slide for days, that would bother me...
It bugs me enough, here, down the mountain, when the grocery store shelves are getting empty because the trucks haven't been able to get through. But the population of Ophir and Silverton are use to that and have big freezers to freeze milk and bread, though on occasion the National Guard does fly in supplies.

2 Comments on A Colorado Color Ride, last added: 10/9/2012
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26721. Original Art Show Official Mailer

I just received the general announcement for the opening of The Original Art Show for the Society of Illustrators in New York later this month. Did you? Here's a shot of it so maybe you might like to attend. Look for me and my piece from No Dogs Allowed! Hope to see you there!

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26722. Story Structure Diagrams

Yes, it’s true, I’ve had story structure on the brain. I’ve also recently joined pinterest (of which I immediately became addicted). But there’s a happy side effect of these two obsessions… this post! I love visual representations of novels and narrative structure, and pinterest gave me a place to collect all these fascinating, beautiful, funny, and brilliant story diagrams.

Feast your eyes!

Three Act Plot Structure:


Four Act Structure:


Freytag’s Pyramid:


Swooping Character Arcs:


The Hero’s Journey:


Branching Structure:


And Just For Fun:

Check out more charts on my Pinterest Page!

Happy structure dreams everyone.

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26723. At the chalk face

Ten hours at the chalk face to produce a 6 minute quasi-animation. Three hours just to set up the lighting, for godsakes. Fingers crossed it works out.
Click to enlarge.

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26724. September in South Luangwa

So this is my first proper post from Africa! I have been in Zambia for two months and I’ve been keeping myself busy! August was taken up with buying a capable 4×4 and moving into our new house in Katete. Once set-up I was then able to get on with the important task of photographing some wildlife!

In my car, under a sausage tree, on the banks of the Luangwa River!

In September I was able to make several trips up to South Luangwa National Park, courtesy of two of Zambia’s leading safari operators – The Bushcamp Company and Norman Carr Safaris. My aim for this year is to document the changing face of the park through the seasons. September is the height of the dry season. Animals are forced to congregate near the permanent water sources such as the Luangwa River and the few remaining waterholes. As a result, the pickings for the predators are plentiful.

A female leopard, South Luangwa.

The Luangwa Valley is well known as one of the best places in Africa to see the elusive leopard and it wasn’t long before it had lived up to its reputation; on my first visit to the park, I came across a mother with two 9-month-old cubs in daylight. This was the first time I’d had the opportunity to photograph a leopard with BeetleCam so I immediately deployed it.

The first leopard ever photographed by BeetleCam!
A curious leopard cub checks out BeetleCam.

The leopard cubs responded rather like the lion cubs from previous encounters – they were bold and inquisitive. Fortunately, they were slightly more respectful than their lion counterparts and I was spared the sight of my BeetleCam being carried off into the bush or up a tree!

A lioness in beautiful ebony grove.

On my next visit to the park, I headed further north. There I found some incredible old ebony groves. The towering black trunks, green canopy and carpet of fallen leaves reminded me of an enchanted forest rather than a habitat I expected to find in Africa. By a stroke of good fortune, I came across a pride of lions in one such grove and used BeetleCam to take the image above of a lioness in this unusual habitat.

A yawning lioness photographed with BeetleCam.
A pair of affectionate lions.

Next, I ventured further into the interior of the park, to a camp on the seasonal Luwi River. Here there is a permanent lagoon, which is the only source of water for many miles. This lagoon is stuffed full of crocodiles and hippos. During the day, the crocs haul themselves out of the water to bask in the sun. I decided to try and get a BeetleCam perspective of a croc emerging from the water. This turned out to be more difficult than expected… the crocs were very wary of BeetleCam and refused to come anywhere near it. Eventually, after several days of perseverance, I managed to the shot I wanted using a camouflaged remote camera.

A croc photographed with a remote camera.
Crocodile feeding on a dead hippo.

September is the month that thousands of carmine bee-eaters arrive in the valley to start building their nests in the banks of the Luangwa River. They form large, vibrant colonies, which add a dazzling splash of colour to the muted tones of the dry season.

Nesting carmine bee-eaters on the banks of the Luangwa.

Over the final weekend of the month, I headed down to a remote camp on the banks of the Kapamba River. Here the local pride of lions consists of two lionesses and five large cubs. At this time of year herds of buffalo, puku and impala have no choice but to congregate near the river and the lions take full advantage of the situation. In one afternoon I watched them take down two impala in the space of a minute. It all happened less than 50m away and it wasn’t long before BeetleCam was on the scene, inching towards five ravenous cubs and the rapidly disappearing antelope.

Lion cubs feeding on a fresh impala kill.

September flew by and was full of excitement and photographic opportunities. I have really been enjoying the freedom that comes from having my own vehicle and exploring the vast African wilderness on my own. It is also very refreshing to have the luxury of time to really become familiar with an area and its wildlife.

As September progressed, the days grew hotter and hotter, a trend that will continue through October until the first rains bring some relief at the end of the month. After the first downpour, the valley will change completely, almost overnight; the air will clear, dramatic skies start building up overhead and everything will turn green. The impalas will all give birth in the space of a few days and migratory birds will start to arrive from far and wide. I can’t wait to document the transition into wet-season. If you would like to follow my year in Zambia, please subscribe to my email newsletter. I am also regularly posting my latest photos on Facebook, if you would like to receive my updates, please “like” my page.

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26725. Illustration Friday - mirror

I'm playing with Sketchbook Pro on the iPad and having fun with the mirror option.

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