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901. 2014 Kidlitosphere Progressive Poem.12

I've peeked in on our poem as it germinated and sprouted, but I tried not to pay too much attention so I'd be ready with an open mind when my turn came. I think you'll be as surprised by my line as I was!

You can check the sidebar to learn which poet from around the Kidlitosphere wrote which line so far. Thank you, Irene (Live Your Poem) for organizing this fun collaboration!

The emotional roller coaster early in the poem seems to have leveled out. Our speaker seems more confident and ready for the journey. The journey of a lifetime, perhaps.

Without further ado, the poem with my line added:

Sitting on a rock, airing out my feelings to the universe
Acting like a peacock, only making matters that much worse;
Should I trumpet like an elephant emoting to the moon,
Or just ignore the warnings written in the rune?
Those stars can’t seal my future; it’s not inscribed in stone.
The possibilities are endless! Who could have known?
Gathering courage, spiral like an eagle after prey
Then gird my wings for whirlwind gales in realms far, far away.
But, hold it! Let's get practical! What's needed before I go?
Time to be tactical— I'll ask my friends what I should stow.
And in one breath, a honeyed word whispered low— dreams — 
Whose voice? I turned to see. I was shocked. Irene's?

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902. Writing for love

"Yes, but do you love your characters?'

It was my mother asking the question, over breakfast . I’d returned home for a weekend, just before my first book came out.  I’m not very sharp at answering direct questions over breakfast, so I think I mumbled something into my boiled egg about “I mean I like some of them, if that’s what you mean…”

But I don’t think it was.

Now my second novel has just come out, and I’m starting a third, her question has made me reflect on a broader point about writing.   

Of course I love my characters.  It would be much harder to write if I didn’t. I love the heroes, I love the villains. I love the characters that are a pleasure to write, the characters that take more work. I even love the characters that ultimately don’t quite cut it on the published page and the total failures lying lifeless and rejected in my draft folder.

The reason I have to is that, whilst I’ve brought in elements of observation from remembered encounters with real life characters, friends and strangers, real and fictional, every character I write is – in the end – only as revealing or engaging to a reader as I can make them. They are all, ultimately, nebulous and circulating thoughts deep in my subconscious given bones and clothes made of type.

So if I don’t lovethem, I don’t love my work.  And whilst I’m sure this view will change and evolve the more I write, I’m find myself more and more convinced that loving your work – is the only true motivator to sitting down in front of the screen each day.  Especially when you’re under pressure. Or not feeling remotely inspired. Or hungover.

And by that, I don’t mean a narcissistic self-absorption – although of course, a degree of that is almost impossible to avoid when you sit alone in front of a computer for hours with only Twitter and your thoughts for company.  I am also trying to avoid queasy self-help territory.

What I mean is that I’m learning to authentically love my work for itself, and not because of its subjective value for others. Love it when it's easy,  love it when you think you will never ever finish writing this book.

I want my books to be published and read. I want readers to enjoy them and critics to acclaim them. I want the ideas in them to provoke debate. Staying in print, on library shelves, hopefully inspiring or entertaining lots of young readers –  of course those things matter deeply.

But I've realized that ultimately I need to love my characters - the work of creating them -  as writing is the means to an end, that goes beyond all that.

Continued  publication  in some form permits me – just -  a daily existence where I have the freedom and time to work out what I think about the world. To read and read till the shelves collapse. To go for a walk in the park when I want.  To occasionally, just very occasionally, entirely escape from this world and lose myself completely in a fictional one of my own making.

So yes, Mum – I do love my characters. Because they allow me to do all that.

Piers Torday

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903. Future of Storytelling

Here’s a longer video from The Creator’s Project (a Vice and Intel collaboration), about the Future of Storytelling work that the USC School of Cinematic Arts World Building Media Lab has been doing with my Leviathan series.

What interests me about this project is that it’s a form of extreme rpg/fan fiction. They’re taking the raw materials of the world of Leviathan and building it into a digital environment that’s both interactive and useful for telling extended stories, often with different characters, altered timelines, and crazy new beasties. For me, it fires the same brain cells as when you guys write fan fic, that sense that my and Keith’s world keeps echoing out there somewhere in other people’s brains, where those characters (and new ones) get to have more adventures.

So thanks to the students at USC and their sponsors, and to all you guys who write fan fic and generally let your imaginations roam.

Here’s my previous blogpost about the project, and the post on The Creator’s Project blog.

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904. A Chat with Karen Benke : Author, Poet, & Creative Writing Instructor

It’s National Poetry Month this April and what better way to celebrate than a chat with author, poet, and creative writing instructor Karen Benke.

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905. Shit Rough Draft

I was sitting in a British and Irish romantic drama class my last semester in college when the idea for Shit Rough Drafts hit me. I was working through a humor piece for the school paper and was in the midst of a rough draft. My deadline was in a few hours, and instead of [...]

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906. Fog by Carl Sandburg

Fog The fog comes in on little cat feet. It sits looking over harbor and city on silent haunches and then moves on. -Carl Sandburg (photo found at five non blondes)

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907. Free Coloring Page Friday: Easter Bunny

Manelle Oliphant Illustration - Children's book illustrator and writer

It’s been great weather here, and my husband and I had fun buying fruit trees for our backyard. Comic con fanX is next week and I’m almost ready, and Illustrations for Just In Time book 4 are getting into full swing.  There are also some fun events planned for the launch of book 3. More info below.

This week’s coloring page is the Easter bunny. Easter bunny coloring page www.manelleoliphant.com

Click the link below to download, print, and color!

Easter Bunny (0)

Just in Time book 3 Signing and the Orem Library

Mark your calendars May 20th we’ll be signing books at the Orem public library in the Storytelling Room.

The Address is: 58 North State Street Orem, UT 84057

The authors and I will be there from 6:00 to 7:30.

Hope to see you there!


The post Free Coloring Page Friday: Easter Bunny appeared first on Manelle Oliphant Illustration.

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908. Up and coming, out of Russia ?

       At Russia Beyond the Headlines Phoebe Taplin considers what she terms Future legends of Russian literature at the London Book Fair.
       A lot of names bandied about, and among the most interesting is Eugene Vodolazkin -- see also the Banke, Goumen & Smirnova information page, as well as Lizok's Bookshelf's review of his Лавр (apparently coming to English soon).
       Given that even what should have been a very impressive one-two punch by Mikhail Shishkin of Maidehair and The Light and the Dark barely seems to have even registered in the US/UK I think contemporary Russian fiction still has quite the uphill climb -- and I don't know that any of the authors mentioned here will help make much of a dent either.

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909. Children's Books Buzz: April 12, 2014

Ramona's World by Beverly Cleary - cover artThis week's news includes a special birthday and the question of celebrities writing children's books.

Celebrity Authors of Children's Books - Several years ago, when I did an interview with author Jane Yolen, she talked about the influx of celebrity authors of children's books and her concerns. I was interested to see an article on April 5, 2014 on the subject, Should celebrities stop writing children's books? in The Guardian. How do you feel about celebrity authors? Click on "Comments" below and share your views.

Happy Birthday! - Today is the 98th birthday of beloved author Beverly Cleary. For several generations, Beverly Cleary has delighted young readers, particularly 8-12 year olds, with her humorous, yet realistic, stories about the ordinary lives of children. Her popular young characters include Henry Huggins, Ramona Quimby, and Ramona's older sister, Beatrice "Beezus" Quimby. To learn more about the author, read my article about Beverly Cleary and watch the About.com video profile of Beverly Cleary.

(Cover art courtesy of HarperCollins)

Children's Books Buzz: April 12, 2014 originally appeared on About.com Children's Books on Saturday, April 12th, 2014 at 00:01:16.

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910. A publisher before wartime

This year marks the centenary of the start of the First World War. This cataclysmic event in world history has been examined by many scholars with different angles over the intervening years, but the academic community hopes to gain fresh insight into the struggles of war on this anniversary. From newly digitized diaries to never-before-seen artifacts, new stories of the war are taking shape.

Oxford University Press has its own war story. With publishing dating back to the fifteenth century, the Press also felt the effects of the war: the rupture of a strong community and culture in the Jericho neighborhood of Oxford, the broken lives of the men and women of the Press who enlisted, the shadow of the Press still operating on the homefront in Oxford, and the disastrous return home — for those who did. We present the first in a series of videos with Oxford University Press Archivist Martin Maw, examining how life at the Press irrevocably changed between 1914-1919. Here he sets the stage for life in Jericho before the outbreak of war.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Martin Maw is an Archivist at Oxford University Press. The Archive Department also manages the Press Museum at OUP in Oxford. Read his previous blog posts: “Jericho: The community at the heart of Oxford University Press” and “Sir Robert Dudley, midwife of Oxford University Press.”

In the centenary of World War I, Oxford University Press has gathered together resources to offer depth, detail, perspective, and insight. There are specially commissioned contributions from historians and writers, free resources from OUP’s world-class research projects, and exclusive archival materials. Visit the First World War Centenary Hub each month for fresh updates.

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Subscribe to only history articles on the OUPblog via email or RSS.

The post A publisher before wartime appeared first on OUPblog.

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911. ‘Steven Universe’ Recap: ‘Steven the Sword Fighter’

It’s been a few weeks but the last few times in Beach City we witnessed a lot of growth in the series. Steven had an anger revelation after he hung with the cool kids and really showcased the father-son relationship thanks to little Onion. Now we’re back and "Steven Universe" went and explored the maternal dynamic within their group after Pearl took a blade through the chest.

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912. Kamila Shamsie profile

       In The Guardian Natalie Hanman profiles Kamila Shamsie.
       Of particular interest:

She is scathing about what she sees as a lack of rage in the fiction coming out of the world's superpower, a country with such a tangled involvement -- both past and present -- in the region she comes from. "I am deeply critical of American writers for their total failure to engage with the American empire. It's a completely shocking failure, not of any individual writer ... but it's the strangest thing to look around and say, 'Where is the American writer writing about America in Afghanistan, America in Pakistan ?'. At a deep level, there is a lack of reckoning."

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913. The Taking by Kimberly Derting {Review}

The Taking (The Taking #1) by Kimberly Derting Print Length: 368 pages Publisher: HarperTeen (April 29, 2014) Sold by: HarperCollins Publishers Mark on Goodreads Buy the book: Amazon The last thing Kyra Agnew remembers is a flash of bright light. She awakes to discover that five whole years have passed. Everyone in her life has moved on—her parents divorced, her boyfriend is in college and

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914. London Doodles



Yes, I'm in London. Which is wonderful, especially as I'm with family, about to go on an amazing trip to celebrate my dad's 80th birthday ... yet a wee bit frustrating as well, as I'm missing two whole weeks of the e-course that I've been so thoroughly enjoying ... But yes, I am definitely counting my blessings.

I did manage to take some time off and doodle. We're having a few internet connectivity problems so I'll keep this short and sweet, and post it before I get cut off. Here's the black and white sketch:




I'm not sure if I'll be able to carry on blogging much till I get back home, but I'll be posting photos and updates over at the Floating Lemons Facebook page so pop by there if you'd like to accompany me to Istanbul ...

Have a wonderful day. Cheers.


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915. Science Poetry Pairings - Animal Dads

As a child I was enamored of the oceans and sea creatures. I was particularly fascinated by seahorses and the role males played in carrying eggs and giving birth. This interest led me to research other animal species in which males played a more traditional role in rearing young. Unfortunately, the only real resource for information when I was growing up was the encyclopedia! Young readers today are much luckier than I was,  you can find books on a myriad of subjects today.

Today's book pairing focuses on the important role a number of dads play in the animal kingdom.

Poetry Book
Just Us Two: Poems About Animal Dads, written by Joyce Sidman and illustrated by Susan Swan, is a collection of 11 poems on fathers in the animal world. In the About the Author section we learn a bit about the driving force behind these poems. It reads:

Joyce Sidman became interested in animal dads while reading to her children about the fascinating ways animals shelter, feed, and teach their young. As she watched her husband and sons at their home in Minnesota, she noticed many similarities between animal families and human ones! More study led her to the conclusion that many fathers in the wild are not the ferocious creatures we think they are. Like human fathers, they are protective, nurturing, and critical to the survival of their offspring.

The poems in the collection highlight the Emperor penguin, giant water bug, ostrich, Australian budgerigar parakeet, California deer mouse, two-toned poison arrow frog, Nile Crocodile, Arctic wolf, peregrine falcon, klipspringer antelope, and South American titi monkey.

Here's one of the poems from the collection.

Mouse Haiku

Blind and tissue-skinned,
tiny mice enter the world
in a nest of grass.

Hide-and-seek masters,
they will soon whisk, surefooted,
through the chill spring night.

Until then, Father
warms this fragile thimbleful
of fluttering hearts.

Poem © Joyce Sidman. All rights reserved.

The book concludes with back matter that provides additional information on each of the animals described in the poems.

Nonfiction Picture Book
Animal Dads, written by Sneed B. Collard III and illustrated by Steve Jenkins, explores that roles that fathers play in the animal kingdom. The book opens with the sentence "Dads do many things." Yes, they do! They build homes, bathe young, give birth, carry eggs, hunt, babysit, and so so much more.

Written in two levels of text, readers will find short simple sentences narrated by the offspring on one level, and a paragraph of informational text on another level. Together these components provide readers with a wealth of information. Jenkins' cut-paper collage illustrations offer beautiful portraits of the animal described.

Here's an excerpt.
They build us homes to live in. 
A stickleback dad builds a nest out of pieces of plants. The female stickleback lays her eggs in this nest. The male fertilizes them. Afterward, the male drives the female away—but his job isn't over yet. Dad continues to guard the nest from enemies, and he protects the babies after they hatch.
Text © Sneed Collard III. All rights reserved.

Included here are introductions to the seahorse, prairie vole, Emperor penguin, poison arrow frog, lion, tamarin, cichlid, and more.

Perfect Together
The animals presented in both of these books are diverse and offer answers to the question "What do animal dads do?" After reading the Sidman's poems and the entries in Collard's book, readers can answer, "Many of the same things human dads do!" Some of the animal dads in Sidman's poems are also highlighted in ANIMAL DADS, so consider pairing individual poems with the related text by Collard.

For additional resources, consider these sites.

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916. How's the Pain ? review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Pascal Garnier's How's the Pain ?.
       Gallic Books brought this out in the UK in 2012, and now it's finally also coming to the US -- and let's hope the flood of Garnier titles continues, because these are damn fine books.

       Also a nice touch: translator Emily Boyce is described as the: "in-house translator for Gallic Books". Every publisher should have an in-house translator !
       (Of course, less nice, still: the translation copyright is in Gallic Books' name, not Boyce's .....)

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917. Comment on Slithery Snakes – Perfect Picture Book Friday by Rhythm

I don’t like snakes. They smell bad. But kids seem to love reading about them, so over the years I’ve learned a lot about those slithery creatures. We actually have a big rat snake living in our barn right now. My Mom Person is happy about that, but I’m staying out of there! I think my reading buddies would like this book. I’ll have to look for it.

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918. PFAS: “This Week’s Weather” by Janet Wong

Tammy G. chose "This Week's Weather" by Janet Wong for her poem movie creation and even included a weather reporter!

Watch her movie by clicking here.

Check out The Poetry Friday Anthology for Science, Third Grade, Week 17.

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919. Illustrator Saturday – Christopher Denise

Christopher Denise is an award-winning children’s book illustrator and visual development artist. His first book, a retelling of the Russian folktale The Fool of the World and the Flying Ship, was pronounced “a stunning debut” by Publishers Weekly.

Since then, Chris has illustrated more than twenty books for children, including Alison McGhee’s upcoming Firefly Hollow, Rosemary Wells’ Following Grandfather, Phyllis Root’s Oliver Finds His Way, his wife Anika Denise’s Bella and Stella Come Home and some in Brian Jacques’ acclaimed Redwall series.

His books have appeared on the New York Times bestseller list and have been recognized by Bank Street College of Education, Parents’ Choice Foundation, and the Society of Illustrators Annual Exhibition.

Christopher Denise lives in Rhode Island with his family.

Christopher has two books coming out in the next few months. The first is SLEEPYTIME ME written by Edith Hope Fine coming out May 27th.

The second book, BAKING DAY at GRANDMA’S is written by his wife Anika and will be available in August.

christopherBaking Day_announcement500

Christopher gives us a sneak peek of some of the interior shots below, with his process pictures on how he did a double page spread for the book. (Please check back later today. Christopher and I got our wires crossed with the process text. He is at a book festival and will be sending it as soon as he can get to Wi-Fi)


Rough sketch


Adding more details


More details and first layer


Laying in some color


Refining details, inking in bark on tree, and deepening color of sky


Painting in color on clothes


Worked on background and more detail on clothes


Adding shadows and details on house


Continuing to deepen shadows and details


Adding highlights


Deepening colors



Adding color to tree.


Changed my mind about the color of the clothes and added for detail to the final illustration.


Above are the bears in this double page spread on their way to Grandma’s and below they are getting ready to bake.


When did you first get interested in art?

As a kid! All kids love art-I just never stopped. I never let anyone talk me out of it-it is too much fun.

christophersleepytime me jkt front

Why did your family move to Ireland from Massachusetts after you were born?

We moved to Ireland when I was six years old. My father had been working with General Electric and they offered him an opportunity to relocate and set up a headquarters in Shannon. He saw it not only as a great career opportunity but a chance to expose his kids to a very different way of life. This was in the early 70′s so Shannon was more like the States in the 50′s. It was an amazing place to spend some of my formative years.

christopherblog_site construction

What made you move back to the states?

He had completed much of what he set out to do and my oldest brother was preparing to enter high school and my parents thought it best to return to the states.


Do you feel Ireland influences your illustrations?

Absolutely. In Ireland we kids had an amazing amount of autonomy and unstructured time. Broadcast television began after 6pm and there was very little programing geared at children so we spent our days outside exploring the countryside and creating our own adventures. I look at the art I created for The Redwall picture books and I see so much of those childhood days.


Do you still have an Irish brogue?

Only after a very long dinner party with old friends!


How did you decide to go to Rhode Island School of Design to study art?

After high school I was studying Art History and Archeology at St. Lawrence University. I was also spending a lot of time in art studio classes. It was fantastic and I was doing very well but I felt I needed more direction. My brother was studying architecture at RISD and after my first visit I knew that I needed to be there. While RISD students were dancing on the tables listening to The Talking Heads (very appealing to me) they were also having serious conversations about art and their own work.

christopherbiddy cover

What was the first piece of art that you sold?

I started freelancing for the Providence Journal in my Junior year at RISD. I created a series of black and white illustrations for a re-printing of A Child’s Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas.


I read that you started illustrating books for educational publishers while you were still attending RISD. How did you make those connections?

I did and internship at Silver Burdett and Ginn, an educational publisher just outside of Boston. I was in charge of opening the submissions from artists and filing their promotional materials. It was not long before I realized that I wanted to be on the mailing end of the equation. When the internship finished I created my own mailers, asked the art directors to look at the work and for recommendations about where I might send them.


Did you always want to illustrate children’s books?

I never had any intention of becoming a children’s book illustrator, I sort of fell into the career. I knew I liked making art, so I left St. Lawrence University and transferred to Rhode Island School of Design. I remember while at RISD I had an assignment to create this illustration using an animal of our choice doing something specific. I think my animal was racoons and the subject was things you do at camp. Honestly, I Bobbaton Questthought I was way too cool to do something like that. I had been painting these big abstract paintings and when making illustrations they were always very cool and smart. But animals with clothes on? Forget it. I never finished the assignment. Fortunately, the teacher stayed on me and gave me another assignment. This time she had me illustrating scenes from Wind and the Willows. Somehow the writing grabbed me and became something that I could sink my teeth into. I really thought about the characters and what they should look like, their clothes, their houses, how they would walk and stand, etc. Then I surprised myself by really enjoying the process of making the art and people loved it. I ended up using those images to start my professional career when I was still a Junior in college to get freelance jobs with educational publishers. The rest is history.



Were you continue doing freelance work when you graduated? Or did you take a job illustrating?

Since that day it has been all freelance work.



How did you connect with Philomel to illustrate your first picture book?

That was a friend of a friend situation. I heard that this person, whom I had met a few times socially, worked as an assistant editor at Philomel Books. She was incredibly generous and offered to look at my work. I don’t think she expected much but she actually liked my art and offered to take it down to the Art department. The Art Director promptly rejected it and told me to come back in a few years. Luckily she hung one of my mailers on her wall where it caught the attention of the esteemed editor Patti Gauch (Owl Moon, Lon Po Po). Patti called me up right there and asked when I could be in New York. I borrowed the cash for the train and within a week I was sitting in her office talking about books.



Your name is the only name for THE FOOL OF THE WORLD AND THE FLYING SHIP. Did you do the writing of the retold Russian tale?

Patti suggested that I consider illustrating the story of the fool and sent me on my way. The first edition I found was the Caldecott award winning version illustrated and retold by Uri Schulevitz. Lets not forget, that this is the guy who had literally written THE book on writing and illustrating picture books, Writing With Pictures. After being paralyzed with fear and then realizing there was no way out of this I started my research. I came across a wonderful version of the text by Petr Nikolaevich Polevoi published by St. Petersberg in 1874. Patti and I loved the language and just made a few minor edits. There is a note about the text on the last page of my edition.



What was the next book that you illustrated and how did you get that assignment?

My next book was The Great Redwall Feast by Brian Jaques. Patti was Brian’s stateside editor and had been hounding him to write a picture book. Brian saw The Fool and wrote The Feast for me to illustrate. We quickly became close friends and I had the pleasure of working with him for many years. He is missed and I think of him often.


christopherredwall convoy

Did anyone hire you just to illustrate a cover for a book?

Yes, I created the artwork for Brian’s Castaways of the Flying Dutchman. I created two paintings for the cover but ultimately they were never used.



Did anyone hire you just to illustrate a cover for a book?

Yes, I created the artwork for Brian’s Castaways of the Flying Dutchman. I created two paintings for the cover but ultimately they were never used.

christopherKnitty kitty cover


I see that your wife Anika is an author. How many books have you illustrated for her?

We have a really fun wintertime read-aloud book due out this August called Baking Day at Grandma’s (Philomel Books). That will be our third. Before that we collaborated on Pigs Love Potatoes (Philomel Books 2007) and Bella and Stella Come Home (Philomel, 2010). Both are still in print and seem to be popular!



Do you have any desire to write and illustrate a picture book?

Desire-yes but I have not felt like I have had the chops to pull it off until recently. Writing a solid picture book, as many of your readers know, is incredibly difficult. I have a few things on my desk that are showing some promise and with the help of my incredible agent and friend, Emily vanBeek at Folio Jr., I am sure that a few of them will come to fruition at some point. Recently, I came up with the initial concept and art for a book that I tried writing but it was terrible! Thankfully, Alison McGhee (Someday, Bink & Gollie, Shadow Baby) came to my rescue and penned a gorgeous novel called Firefly Hollow that I am working on right now.



How and when did you get involved in visual development work for animated feature films?

A RISD alumni who knew my work called me to work on a project that was in development with Blue Sky Studios ( Ice age, Rio, Epic). I was part of a very small team of artists all outside the film studio creating images for what the film might look like. I ended up staying with the project for nearly a year. Its a beautiful story that I hope they make into a film someday!



christopherbella and stella

Which animated films did you work on?

Left Tern (Blue Sky studios), Beasts of Burden (ReelFx), a bit of work on Rio (Blue Sky studios) after it was already in production, and a few others that have not yet been made and I am not supposed to talk about!

christopherblog_bella copy


What is involved in visual development in animation?

Visual Development artists are called in to work with a director and/or production designer to help envision the look and feel of a film. You need to check your ego at the door, stay flexible, and work very, very quickly. I would turn out 20-30 paintings a week. Many loose, some more finished. Sometimes your paintings would be sent off to another artist to paint over and then sent back to you for work again. Often there is not a solid script and you are flying by the seat of your pants with a story summary and a few story beats (moments in a film) that you need to nail down. I love the collaborative aspect of the work and the idea that it is all about the story-not just making one or two pretty pictures.



I noticed that you used pastels on one of your illustrations. Is that your favorite medium?

I love pastel work but really I love whatever is working for that particular book. Its always about the book on my desk and what it needs from me. I do enjoy the flexibility and speed of photoshop. I am impatient with my work and want to get to the good stuff as soon as possible. I need to get in there and start painting and changing things. Acting and re-acting. Photoshop is a wonderful tool for that type of work.



Has your style changed over the years?

Sure, with every book and the demands of each manuscript. Writing is hard and I think it would be a great disservice to the author and the story for me to impose a particular style on a book.


How did you connect with the lovely agent, Emily van Beek?

How long have the two of you been together? Emily and I met when I signed on with Pippin about 5 years ago. I was thrilled to re-connect with her later on when she started Folio Junior.



What do you think has been your greatest career accomplishment?

Wow. Tough question. Ask me again in about twenty years! A Redwall Winters Tale and Oliver Finds His Way would both rank pretty high up there for different reasons but I always think that I am only as good as my last book. I feel pretty good about the last year. I completed two books that I am VERY proud of. Sleepytime Me by Edith Fine (Random House, May 2014) and Baking Day at Grandma’s (Philomel, August 2014)



How many children books have you illustrated?

About twenty two I think. A few of the titles were created for educational publishers then re-published for the regular trade market.


How did you get involved in illustrating the Redwall series of books?

Patti Gauch was responsible for showing Brian Jacques my work. Thanks, Patti!


How many of those books have you illustrated?

I illustrated three books for the the Redwall picture-book series. The Great Redwall Feast (Philomel 1996), A Redwall Winters Tale (Philomel 2001), and The Redwall Cookbook (Philomel 2005)


It looks like you have done a lot of books with Philomel. How many books have you illustrated for them?

Nine books with Philomel so far.


OLIVER FINDS HIS WAY was published by Candlewick. How did that contract come about?

Chris Paul at Candlewick called me up out of the blue one day and said she had a project that she would like me to consider. They are just up in Somerville so I drove up for lunch and met with Chris and the wonderful Mary Lee Donovan. I knew right away that I wanted to work with them. Candlewick is a fantastic house, beautiful books, super nice people.


I think Jane Yolen lives near you. Did you know her before you illustrated THE SEA MAN? Was that the only Merman you have illustrated?

I did not know Jane before I illustrated The Sea Man, but of course I knew Jane’s work. We just saw each other at Kindling Words in January and since then have talked about the possibility of working together again. Yes-that was the very first Merman I was asked to illustrate.


Do they have a studio in your house?

My studio is about 15′ from my back door in a separate building that I re-built just three years ago. For years I had studios in Providence. Downtown is only about twelve miles away from the little beach-side community where we live but the drive home, late at night if I was working on deadline or a film project, was not fun. It was convenient when I was teaching at RISD but I was also missing my wife and the kids. I like to be able to quit at 4:00, spend some time with my family, have a glass of wine, dinner, read to the kids, and put them to bed. After that I walk back out to the studio for another session. Making books is hard work but my family life and walks on the beach keep me anchored and very happy.


I was able to see some of your wonderful black and white interior drawings that did you do for Rosemary Well’s book, FOLLOWING GRANDFATHER. How many did you do for the 64 page book?

Gosh, I don’t remember-quite a few! I loved working with Rosemary and since then we have become good friends.


Have you done illustrations for any children’s magazines?

Yes, I think I did work for Ladybug magazine. I may have done work for Cricket.

christopherbig view

Your new book coming out in May titled, SLEEPYTIME ME is beautiful. How did you get that contract with Random House?

I was working with Elena Mechlin at Pippin and she brought the manuscript to me. Edith’s (Fine) writing is so wonderful. That was another fantastic project. Random House gave me lots of support and complete freedom.



How long did you have to illustrate that whole book?

I created that suite of images in about six months. They were long days but I loved the work.



What types of things do you do to find illustration work?

Not so many things personally. Emily, my agent, makes sure that I have plenty on my plate. I work closely with her making sure that we have a plan and chart out the production schedule. Our biggest challenge is leaving some blocks of time off-especially in the summer


What is the one thing in your studio that you could not live without?

My sketchbook-no doubt.


Do you try to spend a specific amount of time working on your craft?

I do try to take some time in the summer to go landscape painting. But in truth I work on my craft every single day. I try to start each session as a novice.



Do you take pictures or do any types of research before you start a project?

I do take some pictures. I browse books ( fine art, photography, other picture books) from my own shelves and the library-seeing what comes to me. The internet, of course, is amazing.



I notice that you are doing the illustrations for Betsy Devany’s debut picture book, SMELLY BABY. Both of you are represented by Emily van Beek. I can’t wait to see the illustrations. Great match-up! How was Emily able to get you two together?

This is one of the great things about Emily. We were talking about what I wanted to work on, scheduling and such and she was already thinking way ahead of me about what would serve us (because we are most definately a team) professionally but also allow me to stretch artistically. She called me up a few days later and asked how I felt about working on something funny and emailed Betsy’s manuscript for Smelly Baby. I read it through and forced my self to wait for ten minutes before I said YES!



Have you won any awards that you are particularly proud of?

Yes but it has nothing to do with publishing! I was nominated for the Frazier award in teaching at RISD. That nomination was particularly meaningful to me because it is the students who vote for the few nominees that make the cut. That was such an honor because I loved working with such wonderfully talented young artists and I put my heart in soul into teaching those classes. Of course I am grateful and honored when any of my books receive recognition.



Out of all the books you have illustrated, do you have a favorite?

Another tough question. The books are like my girls, they are all my favorites for different reasons. If I had to choose I would choose four. Pigs Love Potatoes (Anika Denise) Oliver Finds His Way (Phyllis Root), Sleepytime Me (Edith Fine), and Baking Day at Grandma’s (Anika Denise).


Do you use Photoshop or a graphic tablet when illustrating?

I paint and draw in Photoshop using a medium size wacom intuos tablet and pen.


Do you have any career dreams that you want to fulfill?

I am in the process of doing just that! I spend my days drawing pictures and coming up with stories. How great is that?!


What are you working on now?

Firefly Holly ( Simon & Schuster) an illustrated novel by Alison McGhee, and Betsy Devany’s picture book Smelly Baby (Henry Holt & Company)


Do you have any material type tips or software type tips you can share with us? Example: A new product that you’ve tried – A how to tip, etc.

I think my breakthrough with digital tools came when I stopped trying to “learn” the software and started to think of using photoshop to replicate my traditional process. To use the program in the same way as I used my traditional tools. Same layering process, same ways of applying color. Make the digital tools work for you-mistakes and all. In the end you have more flexibility and can change things. Also-be brave and create your own brushes to get the effects that you want.


Any words of wisdom on how to become a successful writer or illustrator?

Trust your instincts. Do what you need to do to get by but after that point do not be afraid to say no to something if your heart is not in it.


Thank you Christopher for sharing your talent, process, expertise, and journey with us. Please keep in touch and let us know all of your future successes. We would love to hear about them.

You can visit Christopher at: http://www.christopherdenise.com You can link over to his blog and his Etsy shop where he sell original artwork.

facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Christopher-Denise-Illustrator

I really appreciate it when you leave a comment, so please take a minute to leave Christopher a comment. Thanks!

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: authors and illustrators, demystify, illustrating, Illustrator's Saturday, inspiration, Tips Tagged: Anika Denise, Baking Day at Grandma's, Christopher Denise, Patty Gauch, Sleepytime Me

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920. Kennedy Ryan, Author of When You Are Mine on Autism Awareness Month and Giveaway


A Message From Kennedy Ryan

April is Autism Awareness month. That might not even register on some people’s radars, but my family has lived with Autism for the last 11 years, since my son was diagnosed. My book WHEN YOU ARE MINE releases June 17 and provides a unique opportunity for me to combine my passion for writing and Autism advocacy. I’m donating 25% of my royalties from this book to resourcing families living with Autism.

Learn more about Autism and the 1 in 68 children diagnosed from my charitable partner, Talk About Curing Autism (TACA).

Celebrate all the gladiators out there – kids, adults, families, siblings – living with Autism by entering the Autism Awareness Giveaway! Great cause! Great prizes!

Thank you!

Kennedy Ryan

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Forever is a heartbeat away . . .
Kerris Moreton knows how to make things work. Bounced from foster home to foster home as a kid, she adapted; when opportunity arose, she thrived. Now, about to open her own business and accept a marriage proposal, Kerris is ready to build the life she’s always wanted. The only thing missing? A passionate connection with her would-be fiancé, Cam. Kerris wants to believe that sparks are overrated-until Walsh Bennett lights her up like the Fourth of July.
. . . but what about love?
As one of the East Coast’s most eligible bachelors, Walsh enjoys financial independence, fulfilling work with his family’s nonprofit, and plenty of female attention. But lately he’s been distracted by the one woman he can’t have. Lovely to look at and even sweeter to know, Kerris is the soul mate Walsh never thought he would find. The problem is, his best friend found her first . . .

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921. PFAS: "Discovery/Descubrimiento" by Margarita Engle

I am so pleased that several bilingual poems (in Spanish and English) are featured in The Poetry Friday Anthology for Science. And I was so gratified that Patrina G chose one of those bilingual poems for her poetry movie project,"Discovery/Descumbrimiento" by Margarita Engle. Plus, she even offers a reading of the poem in both English and Spanish in her video.

Watch it by clicking here. 

Look for this poem in The Poetry Friday Anthology for Science, Second Grade, Week 4.

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922. Overcoming everyday violence [infographic]

The struggle for food, water, and shelter are problems commonly associated with the poor. Not as widely addressed is the violence that surrounds poor communities. Corrupt law enforcement, rape, and slavery (to name a few), separate families, destroys homes, ruins lives, and imprisons the poor in their current situations. Gary A. Haugen and Victor Boutros, authors of The Locust Effect: Why the End of Poverty Requires the End of Violence, have experience in the slums, back alleys, and streets where violence is a living, breathing being — and the work to turn those situations around. Delve into the infographic below and learn how solutions like media coverage and business intervention have begun to positively change countries like the Congo, Cambodia, Peru, and Brazil.

Infographic Locust Effect

Download a copy of the infographic.

Gary A. Haugen and Victor Boutros are co-authors of The Locust Effect: Why the End of Poverty Requires the End of Violence. Gary Haugen is the founder and president of International Justice Mission, a global human rights agency that protects the poor from violence. The largest organization of its kind, IJM has partnered with law enforcement to rescue thousands of victims of violence. Victor Boutros is a federal prosecutor who investigates and tries nationally significant cases of police misconduct, hate crimes, and international human trafficking around the country on behalf of the U.S. Department of Justice.

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923. Making without a Makerspace

What?! Makerspaces again?! No, not really. Though makerspaces in libraries has been a seemingly ubiquitous topic of conversation and debate the past several years, building one at your library is for another post on another day. Still, you’ve probably heard of all sorts of program-based maker ideas being implemented at libraries across the country, or maybe designed a few programs yourself (see Andrea Vernola’s recent post on Exploring Tech with Kids, which is full of great links and program ideas). But these programs can be expensive to run, the technology can become obsolete quickly, and the staff effort involved can be significantly greater than with other kinds of programs.

So is making, especially high-tech making like you see featured in all those library publications, out of reach for your financially-strapped or short-staffed library? Not necessarily. By reaching out to nearby private makerspaces and maker organizations, libraries who would like to try out a maker program or who cannot afford to offer access to more expensive maker equipment on their own can start to participate in this movement.

For instance, in the Baltimore and D.C. area a special company has popped up to provide kid-centric maker programs and activities to local libraries, schools, and other organizations. FutureMakers, founded in 2010, provides a wide assortment of maker projects and exposure to advanced tech equipment for kids ranging from first grade through early high school. My library system has had FutureMaker coaches come with 3D printers, vinyl cutters, MaKey MaKeys, miniature robot electronics, sewing machines, laptops, LEDs, electric drills for hacking Legos…they’ll bring pretty much anything that you can think of that involves making and can be transported in a van. The focus is on allowing the kids access to these great tools and giving them the creative space they need to make something uniquely their own.

FutureMakers logo

FutureMakers logo, attributed to https://kidsmakethingsbetter.com/

A few years ago, FutureMakers had been primarily working with local schools to bring the maker philosophy and technology into the classroom. By reaching out to them, our library was able to tap a ready-to-go resource that made maker programs almost instantly available to us for a per-program fee, which was not too much more than other performers we contract with regularly. Library staff who are supervising the programs are also encouraged to learn and even participate with the kids, which has been an easy and informal way for staff to learn more about making and about using maker tools and technology.

Collaborating with FutureMakers has been a great experience for my library, but not every community has a company like it to draw from. Other collaborators could be nearby private makerspaces or local vocational schools looking for a way to reach out. Those avenues might require a bit more effort, but could become valuable partnerships that could relieve some of the administrative and cost burden from library staff and library budgets.

Do you have tech or maker programs at your library resulting from collaboration with a local business or organization? How did that work out for your library? Any lessons learned or best practices? List them in the comments!

Rachael Medina is a Programming Coordinator at Baltimore County Public Library. She is a member of the ALSC Children and Technology Committee.

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924. Latino authors - NYRB's white-washed Children's Classics

This is our third post about New York Review of Books' omitting latino books from their Children's Classics list. Several authors from the Latino and Latina Writers Group(LinkedIn) commented and are excerpted below.

When we contacted NYRB, their response was that they didn't know of any latino children's books that should be on their list. That ignorance resulted in a white-washed list. By their definition, there are no latino classics in this category.

Comments by latino authors:

Kathleen Alcala, Permanent Faculty at NILA and Author:
I don't write children's books, but some of the best I have come across are now published and distributed by Lee and Low Books. Many of our top-notch Latino/a writers have also written children's books. NYRB could probably take the time to do the research.
Maria Victoria, Bilingual Author, Editor & Ghostwriter
I do write children's books, I have written them for years for my sons and now for my grandchildren, but only now I am starting to self-publish those stories via Createspace (Amazon). I don't have the time to wait for the industry to embrace our diversity. When I tuck my little ones in bed, I want them to be proud of their Mexican heritage and who they are: beautiful bilingual and bicultural children.

Mona AlvaradoFrazier, Independent Writing and Editing Professional:
Latinas for Latino Lit started last year in response to articles such as NYRB's. Pat Mora has a large list on her website and Reading is Fundamental has a list of multicultural books.

I blog about multicultural books because I believe it takes Latinos supporting Latinos to make these books visible; there are other bloggers doing the same. I beta-read for Latina/o authors because I want to help get them published. We all can do something. Currently, I have two Young Adult novels completed and am looking for an agent. I have one manuscript (protagonist is Mexican,17-year-old mother in prison) with Amazon's Breakthrough Novel competition. They had 10,000 entries, and whittled this to 2,000 (I made this round). On April 14th, Amazon will again cut 1500 entries. I'm hoping my YA novel makes the next round and that I can attract an agent.

Maria Victoria [above] is so right; it's difficult to continue to wait for "the industry" and the "literary gatekeepers," but it also takes funds to publish your own novel (approx. $2,000 to 5,000). I may take that route soon.

Lucha Corpi, Independent Writing and Editing Professional
I've written stories and poems for children, and a couple have been published in the Houghton Mifflin Spanish elementary series, for example, and other pubs. I've also written bilingual picture books--one published by Children's Book Press in S.F., now an imprint of Lee & Low's in NY, another by Arte Publico Press Piñata imprint.

When writing for a classroom series, you're given a list of rules/taboos as to what you can and cannot do or say, i.e. working in the fields OK, but you can't mention of La Migra or living conditions for children of migrant families, etc. After a while, I wasn't willing to write for hire when major publishers dictated what I could write or not about. I can control when and where I publish to make sure my books outlive me.

As a translator of stories for children, however, I had a chance to read English texts of world oral and literary traditions. I confirmed that in all the stories chosen for certain grades, there were common threads that made the stories "universal" and which I call the "human element," in general. We can't deny ourselves our rightful place in this universal culture. Perhaps in some honest and sincere way, a few major publishers want stories that can be sewn together into the larger tapestry of human experience. I don't find anything wrong with showing all the ways in which people from all cultures are simply human, whose literatures have many points of contact along those "universal" lines.

I also believe that as Chic@nos/Latin@s, we are part of a second universe--Mexico and Latin America, and of Latin@ culture. Each is unique in its own historical and cultural way, but socio-politically regarded as disposable once our use to White America is no longer important, desirable or necessary. Major publishers are not willing to publish literature that is "in their face," (about La migra, children of migrant families, etc.) that mirrors all the ways in which they have failed one of the culturally and linguistically richest and most diverse groups in the U.S.

Chicano/Latino publishers have been publishing that literature of resistance and protest, talking about taboo subjects to the extent they can. They have had to battle constantly to remain and help our literatures grow. However we may feel personally about them, we have to remember that theirs hasn't been a road paved with gold, either. So we need to support their efforts and buy their books directly from them instead of Amazon, etc. Most of the time, all we do is criticize them or tear them down, not realizing that when we don't buy their books, we are also hurting the same writers we're talking about here.

As a student of "classic" literature and the literary establishment throughout the ages, one last point about the word "classic" in literature or any of the arts. Ironically, the classics are those works, which were "popular" when their creators were alive, though they made no money from their popularity. They became "classics" when their creators had been dead at least 50 years.

I follow two rules: I do my job as a writer, and write, regardless of criticism or circumstance, and I make sure I publish with publishers who may not pay big bucks in royalty, but who will keep my books in print long after I depart this vale of literary tears. I buy and read books published by Chican@/Latin@ presses, and in general support writers and poets this way.

Who knows? One of these years, one of your poems or a story for children, or one of your books might become a classic. True that, if what I say is right, you won't be here any longer to enjoy the renown and the rewards and fruits of your labor.

Felipe de Ortego y Gasca, Scholar in Residence, Western New Mexico University:
It's not just the NYRB (with whom I have a long-standing peeve--since 1973 when it rejected my piece about Chicanos in favor of an Anglo piece about Chicanos by John Womack).

The real problem, however, is with the American Library Association and its annual awards for children's literature. Talk about a dearth! Armando's commentary should be a clarion call for American publishers.

Thanks to Arte Público for the children's books they've published.

Ideologically, we should not expect écrit oblige [great works] from myopic American publishers. Just as the history of the lion hunt will always favor the hunter until lions have their own historians, publishing will always favor the dominant group until Latinos have their own publishers. Hasta la victoria!

Armando Rendón, Editor of Somos en Escrito Magazine:
I gather we’re not getting too agitated about the NYRB list--Rudy has hit the main points in his response to Sara Kramer. My take is that we consider the context, a bastion of white privilege revisiting its own past, but largely unaware and painfully unconcerned with the present reality of millions of Chicanos and Latinos preparing to make our future. If any of us expect entities like the NYRB to empower us to advance in our art and yet maintain our integrity, that’s barking up the wrong ancestral tree.

We as American writers of a certain perspectiva must move on, concern ourselves with writing for the present generation, but having in mind the needs of millions of Latino youth to come. I refer to the critical need for us as writers to provide literary sustenance for the Latino and Latina youth who have already become the majority of first to 12th grade populations in New Mexico (57%), California (51%), Texas (51%), with Arizona (43%), Nevada (40%), and Colorado (30%) not that far behind. The number of literary works written each year for Latino youth is dreadfully low, maybe 2 to 3 percent of children’s books published each year in the U.S.

One cause we can address directly: Latina and Latino writers, established and aspiring, should direct some of their time and talents to writing for young people. My focus as a newcomer to writing for young people is on middle and high school youth because I can craft stories for them of my own recollections. Others might have the insight and mental dexterity to fashion those delightful little tales that can help form the imaginations and identity of toddlers and early school children.

Which causes me to reflect on an important insight that I read in one of the letters to the editor that appeared on 3/23/14, after the NYRB published its 100 best list. The correspondent, who hailed from the Bronx, wrote that a “well-written book …should represent humanity, and readers should be able to find something of themselves in it – no matter the protagonists’ background or color.” A fine point, one that exemplifies the finest literary works anywhere.
However, this notion taken to its logical extreme suggests that all books could be about white Anglo Saxon men, and that would be okay as long as we others could find “something” of ourselves in the text. That’s exactly the attitude that led to the present “lack of diversity,” or to be explicit, the racism by omission in children’s literature.

What I’ve come to realize is that writing for children today is a political act. Taking the word, political, to its ancient Greek root, polis, which stood for the state, the confluence of people who together make up a society. It follows from the converse reality that teachers, librarians, scholars, and parents face: the absolute dearth of books written for and about Latino boys and girls in the U.S. Thus, limiting the presence of Latino and Latina children in books for school kids is a political act, driven by generations of discrimination, oppression and racism.

Final point: while we need more books for Latino youth, we need to set and uphold certain literary standards. Is anyone taking on the task of drafting a set of guidelines appropriate to writing aimed at Latino children, a gathering of Latino writers, educators and librarians with an understanding of the pedagogical, emotional and intellectual/creative needs for these ages? Such a document could be a useful guideline for all of us, even eye-opening for the gatekeepers over at the NYRB.

More salient comments, Lucha. To pick up on one of the things you said, about writing for posterity. When you consider, for example, that in Texas, my home state (no apologies), the school population in 2050 if not earlier will reach 9 million and 6 of those millions will be Latino, we have to think for the future: what we write today will impact millions of kids, and not just Chicanitos but any child from the standpoint of opening up a vision of the world that's multicultural and multicolorful. Adelante!

(Rendón is also the author of the young adult novel, Noldo and his magical scooter at the Battle of the Alamo, which was just named a finalist for an International Latino Book Award.)

Barbara Renaud Gonzalez informed us about her book, The boy made of lightning, the first interactive book on the life of Voting Rights pioneer Willie Velasquez, independently published by AALAS, 9/2013. Original narrative, art, music, sounds and written in Tex-Mex, with pop-ups and translation; it was nominated for a Tomas Rivera Prize.

Also pertaining to this discussion, see Matt de la Peña's thoughts in the article, Where's the African-American Harry Potter or the Mexican Katniss?

Acevedo strikes again

Good Money Gone, a novel co-authored by Mario Acevedo, is a finalist in the International Book Awards. Also, Mario’s essay, "Love Between the Species", has just been published in Now Write! Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror (L. Lamson, edit.), a rare and revealing look at the writing secrets of speculative genre masters.

Es todo, hoy,

Author FB - rudy.ch.garcia
Twitter - DiscardedDreams

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925. Have a great weekend!

This map of the Imperial History of the Middle East is endlessly fascinating.  You might have to log in to StumbleOn to see it, but it's well worth it.

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