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1. Register Now for KIDLITCON!

Here at the Cybils organization, we are big fans of the Kidlitosphere Conference (aka KidLitCon). KidLitCon is an annual conference for children's and young adult book bloggers (though anyone is welcome). KidLitCon is a much smaller conference than, say ALA or BEA. There are usually a few bookish giveaways, and a book exchange, but the focus of KidLitCon is not to be a swag-fest. The focus of KidLitCon is to give those of us who blog about children's books, sitting in front of our computers at home, a chance to meet, face-to-face.

KidLitCon includes conference sessions about topics like:

  • Diversity in Kid Lit: Nurture More, Blog More, Get More 
  • Critical Reviews & Why They Matter
  • Blogger Burnout: Suggestions for Getting Your Groove Back
  • Blogging the Middle Grade Books
  • and more... see this year's full schedule

KidLitCon is a great place to go to get reenergized about blogging, and to learn ways to take your blog to the next level. But the real reason to attend KidLitCon is to meet friends that you have up to now only known online. Many of the Cybils organizers have only met one another face-to-face at various KidLitCon sessions over the years, and we so value those opportunities. We highly, highly recommend that you try to get yourself to KidLitCon sometime, if at all possible. KidLitCon rotates across the country from year to year, to make it easier for people to attend at least once. 

This year, KidLitCon will be taking place in Austin, TX on November 8th (pre-con) and November 9th (the main event). The keynote speaker is the fabulous Cynthia Leitich Smith, YA author and blogger at Cynsations. The deadline for registration was just extended to November 1st. More details are in the handy flyer below: 

AustinKidlitFlyer

You can see a list of some of the people who are registered for KidLitCon 2013 here. And you can register yourself here. The registration fee, which includes Saturday lunch, is only $65. Particularly for those of you who are within driving distance of Austin, this is tough to beat.

Register now for KidLitCon 2013! We hope to see you there. We can talk about all of the amazing books nominated for this year's Cybils. 

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2. KidLitCon Session: Blogger Burnout: Suggestions for Getting Your Groove Back

KidlitCon2013I'm pleased to announce that I'll be presenting at this year's Kidlitosphere Conference (KidLitCon #7) in Austin, TX. Sarah Stevenson and I are hosting a session on Blogger Burnout: Suggestions for Getting Your Groove Back. 

Here's the overview that Sarah and I submitted: 

Anyone who has been blogging for a while has experienced occasional bouts of blogger burnout. Many of us put in an inordinate amount of time on our blogs, for which we are largely unpaid. And sometimes, we lose focus, or start to question what we're doing. In this presentation, we'll share our own recent experiences with blog burnout, and the suggestions that other bloggers made to help us to get our respective grooves back. We'll also seek other suggestions from the audience.

We've started making lists of:

  • Reasons that kidLit bloggers experience burnout (putting out content and not receiving any response, for example); and 
  • Things that bloggers have done that have helped to pull them out of a bout of burnout (refocusing on the reasons you started your blog in the first place, for instance). 

If you have any suggestions for us for either of these lists (or on this topic in general), please share (and we will of course attribute your input in our presentation). Or, if you're coming to KidLitCon in Austin, we hope that you'll share your thoughts during the presentation.

Still undecided about attending KidLitCon? The deadline for registration is this Thursday, October 24th. Here are three recent posts on other blogs that may help encourage you to attend:

  • Charlotte from Charlotte's Library is organizing a panel with Melissa Fox (Book Nut) and Katy Manck (BooksYALove) on blogging middle grade books. They'll be looking at things like "who are the various audiences for middle grade blogs, and how we can keep our blogs growing, extending their reach and their depth?". See this post for details. 
  • Leila from Bookshelves of Doom admits in this post to having been nervous about attending KidLitCon for the first time last year. But now she says, "It was like... the internet allowed me to Find My People and to get to know them, but it was at KidLitCon that they really became MY FRIENDS. There's just something about meeting face-to-face that makes the relationships more REAL, somehow." I know exactly what she means, and I can't wait to finally meet Leila in person. Do read the whole post
  • Greg Pincus from GottaBook will, sadly, not be able to attend this year. He says: "You should go! Seriously - hanging out with blogging pals is the best."  

Still need more? Well, a partial list of attendees has been posted. Click through to see some of the great blogs that will be represented. Have you always wanted to meet Kelly Jensen of STACKED or Maureen Kearney of Confessions of a Bibliovore? Now is your chance! Click through to see more names and blogs. 

We're finalizing a couple of details with the agenda, and will have that published shortly. But honestly, the reason to attend is to hang out with people who love blogging and talking about children's and young adult books. To find your peeps, and make them your real-life friends. Don't wait! Register now for the 7th Annual Kidlitosphere Conference, KidLitCon 2013

© 2013 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook. This site is an Amazon affiliate. 

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3. Time is Running Out: Kidlitosphere Edition

Cybils2013SmallThere are two important deadlines in the Kidlitosphere today. First of all, nominations for the 2013 Cybils close tonight, October 15th, at midnight PST. This is your last chance to give props to the well-written children's and young adult titles that you think will most appeal to kids. Don't know what to nominate? Bloggers from all around the Kidlitosphere have been publishing lists of titles that they would like to see nominated. Start here and here for links. Many thanks to everyone who has nominated, suggested titles, and/or generally spread the word about the Cybils this year!

KidlitCon2013Second of all, today is the deadline to obtain our group discount for the KidLitCon hotel (the Sheraton in downtown Austin). You can still register for the conference until October 24th, but you may find it harder to find a hotel nearby. MotherReader (who negotiated our hotel discount) adds:

"Yes, other hotels around will be cheaper but this one is about .5 miles from the conference site, and is between the conference and dinner location. It looks lovely and has a lounge where we can hang out! I'm sorry, I mean where we WILL hang out." 

I have to tell you that one of my very favorite parts of KidLitCon is sitting around a hotel lobby or lounge late into the evening, with a glass of wine in hand, talking with my peeps about all things books (and life). If you'd like to join us, today is the day to sign up, and lock in the discounted hotel rate. Contact me if you need more details. 

We've also finalized some details about the conference, and the Friday pre-conference event. See the beautiful flyer below for details (with thanks to Tanita Davis and Sarah Stevenson). 

Kidlitaustinflyer2

In case you're having trouble viewing images, here is some of the key information in text form:

Join keynote speaker Cynthia Leitich Smith, readers, bloggers and friends at the 2013 Kidlit Con at Austin. Kickoff meetup will be held Nov. 8 at the UT-Austin iSchool Campus, Tocker Lounge 1-4 p.m. The main conference will be held November 9, with coffee starting at 9:15, and the keynote at 10 a.m. Rekindling Your Love of Blogging. Panels and discussion, catered luncheon. Round out the day with a buy-your-own group meal at Scholz Beer Garten in downtown Austin. Conference Fee: $65. Registration deadline: October 24. See Kidlitosphere Central for more information. Register here.

So, get your Cybils nominations in, and book your hotel room for KidLitCon today. And don't delay registering for KidLitCon, because that deadline is approaching soon, too. I hope to see you there. 

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4. Register Now for the 7th Annual KIDLITCON!

Kidlitosphere_buttonIt's official. Here is the announcement from MotherReader at the KidLitosphere Central website:

The seventh annual KidLitCon on November 9th in Austin, Texas is officially accepting registrations!

While we would love to be ahead of schedule with well, a schedule, we invite you to register now to help your organizers plan for attendence. Registering early will also give you a chance to suggest topics that YOU would like to see at KidLitCon 2013. Register before October 11th for $10 off the registration fee and a chance to win a prize package of books and goodies!

Once you register, you will receive a confirmation email with instructions for sending your check or money order. Hotel information will also be available, hopefully with a discount for our group. 

We are still accepting proposals for workshops and panel discussions. Past KidLitCon sessions have included topics such as ethics of reviewing, diversity in children/teen literature, effective marketing, kidlit social media, and online community building. If you are interested in presenting at KidLitCon, please submit a proposal soon. 

Look to this website for updates to the schedule, including our Friday evening event. 

Lots more info to come. For now, start spreading the word! Be a fan on Facebook! Follow us on Twitter! And best of all register to attend KidLitCon 2013.

And now back to me. Why should you sign up now to attend KidLitCon 2013, when there isn't even a schedule posted yet? Because attending KidLitCon is one of the most rewarding things you can do as a children's and/or young adult book blogger. KidLitCon is not like other big, monetization-focused, swag-focused conferences that you may have heard about. KidLitCon is a small conference (between 50 and 100 attendees), populated by children's book bloggers and authors. KidLitCon is:

  • A chance to meet face to face people you have interacted with only online, and confirm that yes, you are really friends. 
  • A chance to be surrounded by people who share your passion for children's literacy and literature. 
  • A chance to learn more about blogging if you are new, and to recharge your energies if you've been doing this for a long time. 
  • A chance to talk about things like the ethics of blogging, the relationship between authors and blog reviewers, blogging new releases vs. backlist titles, and much more. (If you register now, you can give your input into which specific topics should be discussed this year). 

I wasn't able to attend last year's KidLitCon due to illness, though I had attended the prior five. I missed it terribly. KidLitCon is where I connect, face-to-face, with my peeps. It's a place where everyone around me knows what the Cybils are, and when the next Divergent book comes out, and who the National Ambassador for Children's Literature is. KidLitCon is home. 

The registration fee is $65, plus $20 for the Friday precon. This is a very reasonable conference fee indeed. If you can at all swing travel to Austin in early November, and you love blogging about children's books and encouraging kids to be readers, you should come. You won't be disappointed. Submit a proposal if you like, but no pressure on that front. The important thing is to come. Register now! The dealine to register is October 24th. 

I hope to see you all there. 

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5. Austin Sketching II

Sketch of the Driskill Hotel where the Anniversary Party was held
As promised, more sketches of Austin.

Our purpose for the trip was for our friends' Bob and Maureen's 20th anniversary party at the Driskill Hotel. It was a lovely bash. This sketch is our gift to them.

Congress Street leads to the capitol building...

Troy and I walked from our hotel to the capitol building on Saturday. It was only in the 60s but so humid. I can only wonder what it is like when it is actually hot.

The Frost Bank Building AKA the Nose Hair Trimmer Building...
On Sunday, Troy and Bob hung out and I went to the South Congress Bridge to sketch. It had cooled down quite a bit and I got a bit chilled sketching. I should have brought my fingerless gloves...

My next post will have a couple pictures of the city (We also spent a bit of time shopping on South Congress street.) as well and a bit about the BBQ in Lockhart.

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6. Austin, Texas and an Ode to Grackles

The view from the patio of our hotel in Austin.
Our hotel was very clean, meticulously so. It was odd to me then when I went to sketch on their lovely patio, it was covered in Grackle droppings... I had to cover my chair in a towel as a protective barrier.

I was later informed by our friends that grackles are the bane of outdoor eating and patios and keeping areas "poo free" is very difficult.

I suspect that these are the birds that Hitchcock was depicting in his movie...

So I did this:


On the last evening of our vacation, we had another encounter. We went to see Django Unchained at the insistence of our friends at the Alamo Drafthouse. After, we got dinner at a Chili's at one of those fancy outdoor malls they have been building.

The trees were so covered in grackles that you could hear their calls in the car. Even to me, who is hard of hearing, they were loud. As we left, Troy had to dodge poop.

NOT an exaggeration...
It reminded me of Walton Ford's painting of carrier pigeons...

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7. Conscious Collaboration.


I'm currently collaborating with author Brion J. Shreffler on a non-fiction travel/food blog called, "I'm Only Conscious of the Rush." The illustrations are way out of my norm in their looseness and painterly style so it is pretty fun for me. I hope you'll join Brion on his adventure to the South by Southwest (SXSW) Music Festival in Austin. A more detailed description is below.


In Brion's words:
"Based on my trip to Austin,TX for SXSW back in March, 'I'm conscious only of the rush' is an adventure story that blends together food & music narrative journalism.

Featuring illustrations by Philly artist Chuck Dillon, the project is ongoing, with me soon to return to Austin for an epilogue. I also plan to revisit several other cities along the route I took from Philadelphia, in addition to visiting new cities in order to catch up with musicians and artists I came into contact with at SXSW. The thing that keeps Austin weird (a self-applied badge of honor) is the same DIY mentality that turns a little Texas town into the center of the music universe for 1 week in March. Bands from Berlin, London, Tokyo, Portland, Sao Paolo, NYC, and Brisbane descend on Austin along with music fans the world over. It.is.[cussing].nuts. But the DIY mentality isn't just for music--it permeates Austin culture, with a robust food truck scene and entrepreneurial spirit (everything from designer t-shirts + clothing, craft goods, metal works, bicycles, and more) that's evident on every street thankfully devoid of a national chain presence (only in Austin will you find a shop that is a bike repair/dealer, coffee shop, and art dealer all in one). In a sense then, SXSW is an argument for culture, a statement about what America should be, about the beauty of art, of what we can make our world when we create--music, food, business, etc--rather than follow."

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8. KID REVIEW: Austin enjoys “Gentleman Bug”

Austin and The Gentleman BugMeet Austin.

He’s a boy with a book. And the book is called The Gentleman Bug (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2010) by Julian Hector.

The book is about a quiet, refined, small-town bug who loves reading. When a beautiful lady bug comes to town, she doesn’t seem to notice the gentleman bug. So he tries to spiff up his style to gain her attention.

Of course, things go horribly wrong. But then, they both discover that they have a love of books in common. And that’s all it takes for their friendship to be sealed.

Austin says it’s important for people to be gentlemanly toward each other. He says he is a gentleman because, “I help people. When other people make fun of them, I stick up for them.”

Austin also says that it’s important for people to be themselves and not to try and change just so they fit in better with others.

Here’s what else he had to say about this book:

Our reviewer: Austin

Age: 8

Things I like to do: Lift weights, read, play basketball and skateboard.

This book was about: A bug who was a gentleman and liked to read. Everyone made fun of him, but he didn’t care. Nothing could bother him when he was reading. Then he met a lady bug. She liked to read too, but didn’t tell him. Then, they read together every time they met.

The best part was when: The gentleman bug and the lady bug met.

I smiled when: The gentleman bug was all dressed up and looking in the mirror.

I was worried when: The gentleman bug bumped into someone else at the restaurant and everything spilled all over.

I was surprised when: The lady bug arrived.

This book taught me: To read and really not care what other people might say. I should say, “I don’t care what you think. This is me and nobody can change me.”

Three words to describe this book are: “The.” “Gentleman.” “Bug.”

My favorite picture in the book was: The last page where they are reading books together.

Other kids reading this book should watch for: How to be a gentleman.

You should read this book because: It’s a nice book. And you can learn a lot from it.

Thanks, Austin!

Julian Hector wrote the text and drew the illustrations for this book. Want to learn more about him? You can:

Official disclaimer:

Oh, by the way, I won this nifty book in a giveaway sponsored by Mike Jung, a book blogger whose own book – Geeks, Girls, and Secret Identities – comes out lat

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9. Texas Library Association Conference

Around the office, we refer to this time of year as “Conference Season”.  You’ll see why – here’s the schedule:

April: Texas Library Association Conference
May: International Reading Association Conference
May: SLJ Day of Dialog/BEA
June: ALA Annual Conference

It’s crazy…but we also have lots of fun.  First up is TLA in Austin where we have a phenomenal line-up of authors signing with us:

Wednesday, April 13th
10:15 am – 11:00 am Pat Mora (author aisles)
10:15 am – 11:00 am Rafael Lopez (author aisles)
11:30 am – 12:30 pm Lauren Oliver (author aisles)
12:30 pm – 1:30 pm Will Hobbs (author aisles)
12:30 pm – 1:30 pm Bettina Restrepo (author aisles)
1:30 pm – 2:00 pm Crystal Allen (Harper booth 1824)
2:00 pm – 2:30 pm Sophie Jordan (Harper booth 1824)
2:30 pm – 3:00 pm Tera Lynn Childs (Harper booth 1824)
3:00 pm – 3:30 pm Suzanne Harper (Harper booth 1824)

Thursday, April 14th
9:00 am – 10:00 am Diane Stanley (author aisles)
11:30 am – 12:00 pm Jason Henderson (Harper booth 1824)
2:00 pm – 2:30 pm Jennifer Archer (Harper booth 1824)
2:00 pm – 3:30 pm Kevin Henkes (author aisles)
3:00 pm – 3:30 pm Don Tate and Audrey Vernick (Harper booth 1824)

And don’t miss JAMIE LEE CURTIS as the Keynote Speaker on Wednesday, April 13th at 9:00 am!

Aside from our outstanding authors, we’ll have galleys galore at our booth (#1824) and we hope you’ll stop by to say hi to Patty, Robin, and me!

See you in Texas!

~ Laura

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10. BROTHERS, BOYFRIENDS, AND OTHER CRIMINALS


Coming this February to the ZACH SCOTT, performed by the ZACH SCOTT's "youth pre-professional troupe," a musical based on April Lurie's young adult novel, BROTHERS, BOYFRIENDS, AND OTHER CRIMINAL MINDS:

"At first glance, April Lundquist seems like your average high school freshman in 1970s Brooklyn. She's sporting bellbottoms and dancing disco like all of her friends. But when the Mafia shows up on her doorstep--literally--April finds herself confronted with some tough choices to make. Will she be able to save her brother, navigate boyfriends, and capture the perfect kiss, all while keeping her cool? Find out in ZACH's world premier production of this new musical for the whole family!"

Saturdays February 5, 12 and 19 at 1pm & 4pm
and Sundays February 6, 13 and 20 at 6:30pm on ZACH's Kleberg Stage.

Click here to buy tickets.

Cynthia and I had the pleasure of attending a read-through a few months back. Even at the rough draft script stage and without all the songs, it was hilarious and engaging. Can't wait to see it!

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11. Austin Dinosaurs: Sarahsaurus, the Dino Pit, and the Hartmann Prehistoric Garden

Last October, I ran a post about the Texas Memorial Museum, UT's natural history museum. But that's not the only place in town for dinosaur-related activity:


The Hartmann Prehistoric Garden (Austin, TX) is an entire garden in Zilker Park devoted to Mesozoic plants that have survived to the present. You can get up close to cycads, gingkos, magnolias, cypresses, dawn redwoods, and more ferns than you can shake a stick at.


The Garden was inspired by the discovery of ornithomimid footprints on the site in the early 90s, so they decided to run with it (pun intended). It's a pretty spectacular experience, beautiful and oddly strange, when you think about the fact that these plants have been around for hundreds of millions of years. Also, the pond you see above has gar and other fish that trace their ancestry back to the Mesozoic, as well.

And it sits in the shadow of Mopac Expressway. Although you can't see the cars, you can hear them, which makes for an interesting juxtaposition.

Right next door is the Austin Nature and Science Center, which has its own Dino-Pit, an outdoor paleontology exhibit where kids can "dig" for their own fossils. They'll "find" casts of fossils from the Pleistocene, the Cretaceous, and the Permian.

Oh, and what's a Sarahsaurus? It's this guy:


It's a sauropodomorph found by University of Texas paleontologist Tim Rowe in Arizona. It's from 190 million years ago (early Jurassic), when dinosaurs were just getting started...And it's named after Sarah Butler, the Austin philanthropist who was instrumental in raising funds for the Dino Pit.

Here's a nice article in the Statesman. And here's a link to a PDF of the official paper, from the 0 Comments on Austin Dinosaurs: Sarahsaurus, the Dino Pit, and the Hartmann Prehistoric Garden as of 1/1/1900

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12. Goodwater Trail



It's crazy to think it was warm enough for short sleeves this past weekend after it had just snowed the Tuesday before. I was grateful for the warm weather though. Between work, chilly weather, and allergy season, it seems like forever since we've spent any meaningful time outdoors. So taking advantage of the pleasant weather before it changes again, we got in a long-desired and much-needed hike this past weekend, this time at Good Water Trail in Georgetown.



The trail is apparently a whopping 25 miles long and encircles Lake Georgetown. Being much out of practice with hiking and in far less than tip-top shape, we did only a very short segment of the trail. The trail follows along the edge of the lake, but at enough of a distance that we couldn't see the water during most of the hike which we found a bit disappointing. Even so, the weather could not have been more ideal for a hike. I'm hoping for more of this perfect weekend weather in the coming months...

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13. Snow in Austin!

It's been so long since I've lived anywhere that gets regular snow that I can't help but get excited when we have even a little. Yesterday I sprang out of bed when my husband said, "Hey, it's snowing!" I threw on some clothes, grabbed the camera, and ran out into the cold to take a good long walk around the neighborhood. For the first hour or two, this snow-storm was pretty steady with those big tissue-paper flakes. After it tapered off we had a sprinkling of flurries throughout the afternoon.





The unusual weather seems so strangely appropriate to me since the painting I'm working on at the moment happens to be a snow scene. I'm grateful for the reference and inspiration (and that I didn't have to drive anywhere in it)!

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14. McKinney Falls

The rains finally came to quench our parched land here in Texas. The air cooled, and by the time the weekend rolled around I thought how wonderful that it's finally cool enough to go outside and do a little hiking. So on Saturday, which was quite cloudy in the morning, we drove down to McKinney State Park to finish up the trails we hadn't yet hiked. After about ten minutes on the trail, the sun came out from behind the clouds and that nice cool hike I'd been looking forward to for so long became a hot, sweaty hike. Even so, it was good to get outside for a while.


The longer trails were a bit ho-hum, walking through the same landscape for a long time without many points of interest aside from the remnants of an old homestead and grist mill. But the trails around the water were quite picturesque.







It seems that the butterfly migrations are beginning again. There were so many butterflies fluttering along the trails, especially this kind. I'm not sure what type it is, but they were everywhere.

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15. Little Lost Squirrels

It's been a while since I've posted anything, much less a new piece of art, but I'm finally back with a new illustration. This painting was a private commission. As I worked on it, I was reminded of one of my old favorite picture books, Owl Babies in which three baby owls await nervously for their mother to return home. I love the simplicity of the characters in the book and am amazed at how much expression the illustrator was able to convey almost entirely through the eyes and subtle gestures. I'm hoping I was able to similarly capture some of the sense of relief and recent distress the two little lost squirrels are feeling as they run toward their mother's outstretched arms:


On a personal note, a dear art school friend came to visit last week and we took a few days to explore Austin and get in a dose of adventure, trying out some new activities, among them river tubing and ziplining through the trees. Following are a few pictures of our hike around Hamilton Pool - we first hiked along a trail that followed a creek all the way to the Pedernales river:
Due to drought conditions, the river was quite low. I'm quite tempted to go back and hike along the dry parts of the riverbed to see what there is to see before the rains come and fill the river back up.



We then took the short trail to the pool itself which is partially sheltered in a large grotto. According to texasoutside.com, "The preserve's pool and grotto were formed when the dome of an
underground river collapsed due to massive erosion thousands of years ago." It was such a striking and unusual setting, that it almost looked like a man-made resort. The water looked so inviting on such a hot day, but sadly, we didn't have time to go for a swim. Perhaps another day...

More art soon...

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16. VCFA in the Lone Star State

Okay, I may not be heading to SCBWI but I am, in October, going to the VCFA event in the Lone Star State.

Anyone else going?

I am registered and now entering the "how do I decide which hotel to stay at" phase. This phase is soon to be followed by the "ohmygosh how am I going to get from point A to point B and everywhere else phase" which is also known as the typical (for me) transportation panic phase. Other phases soon to follow will include the "what if I have forgotten how to do the chit chat in person networking phase," the "everyone will be younger or skinnier or more talented than I am phase" and then of course the "is it too late to change my mind and cancel phase." Oh, and let's not forget the "I have nothing to wear phase" which I'm sure I will pass through several times.

I kid you not.

Yes, I am an introverted wimp but I am really going to try and break out at least a little bit.

I think I am going to go a day early on the chance that I can have some time to meet some local friends. So if you live in the area, please let me know because otherwise I will go early and then sit in my hotel room playing the stupid bubble game on my phone until the battery dies.

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17. Sqiurrels & Stick Insects

They say everything's bigger in Texas - and when it comes to the local bugs, they weren't kidding. This little (or not so little) guy was hanging out in front of my neighbor's front door for about a day:He's a giant stick insect. It's probably hard to tell from the picture, but he was about 5-6 inches long. Seems he wandered a little too far away from his forest home where I'm sure he's most excellently camouflaged. Hopefully he's since found his way safely back to the trees following his little adventure amongst the man-made.

Realizing I hadn't posted anything in such a long time, I scrounged around a bit for something and came up with this drawing:
This was an unused drawing for a private commission. We opted for something larger and with more characters, which I'll post in the near-future. I still like this drawing and I've got the color well-visualized in my mind for it, so maybe I'll come back to it some day...

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18. Mexican Hats & Indian Blankets

The wildflowers are still exploding here and the blues and pinks seem to have given way to yellows and reds. I don't remember them being quite so spectacular last year. Perhaps the weather conditions are more favorable this year? Or maybe I just wasn't getting out much around the same time last year. On a morning walk, I stumbled across a steeply sloping field of Mexican Hats:
Indian Blankets quite literally blanket the ground along my husband's drive to work. He also located another large field of the flowers on a different road much to my delight:













I can't think that I've ever lived somewhere where I could walk through such a picture postcard flower-scape until we moved here to Texas. Scattered throughout the dominant Indian Blankets are various other flowers. I think these are coreopsis:

Sadly, my very amateur photography skills fail to do the landscape justice. But flowers always brighten my day, so maybe they'll brighten yours too.

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19. Amongst the Mangroves

At long last I have a new finished piece of art to post:

I suppose I'm reasonably satisfied with this piece. It seemed like it went a little smoother than usual and I managed to keep the paint fairly thin on the background which helps to cut down on time spent on the piece. What bothers me a bit is this isolated pool of red-orange that is the squirrel/boat. The warm yellow of the dragonflies was intended to balance out the orange of the squirrel, but I think they are too small to be as effective as I'd like. I did push some orange-ish color around in the background, but maybe not enough... All the same I think it came out okay.
Prints are in my Shop.

Not only have I finally gotten back to painting, but we've also gotten back to our frequent weekend hiking. We had a good long walk at nearby Bull Creek this past weekend. This trail was about three miles one way meandering back and forth across the wide creek. Where in LA we could clearly see the extremely parched condition of the land in the form of dry creek-beds and trickling waterfalls, here we could see the opposite - an abundance of water. We've heard the reason for this is that the soil's quite thin and underneath lies a layer of rock, so the water can't really soak into the ground and therefore channels into the many waterways that wind around the hills here. You can see how rocky the land is around the water in these pictures:

The trail came to an end in a small dog park. I have never seen so many happy dogs together in one place at the same time. It was fun to watch them splashing around in the water so exuberantly. I think they had the right idea too - it was surprisingly warm that day and the water looked so inviting!

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20. Bookstore People: Topher Bradfield

We spent Memorial Day in beautiful Austin, Texas at the Texas State Solo & Ensemble Contest at the University of Texas. There were hundreds and hundreds of high school kids from all over Texas there, giving up their holiday weekend to perform. Small ensembles dotted the benches and walls outside the music building. They were warming up and practicing. I got chills listening to a trumpet trio play Bugler's Holiday.

One of the benefits of an Austin excursion is fantastic food (yummm...Trudy's) and the opportunity to visit Book People Bookstore. We had acquired a friend of Entling no. 2 at the store and she cheerfully tagged along with me upstairs to the kids' section. (My own kids speed away from me in a bookstore as fast as their winged feet can fly them.) We were perusing the shelves when a Book People person came by to offer his help. He told us he had not read ALL the books ther but he had read a lot of them and if we had any questions, just ask.

Hey, I thought, that is MY usual line.

Then it hit me.

That was TOPHER!

I know about Topher Bradfield because Rockstar Rick Riordan raves about him on his blog. Topher was a force in the creation of Camp Half Blood and a children's book evangelist at local schools and literary events in our capital city and beyond.

I chased after him.

"Are you Topher?"
He agreed that he was and asked (probably nervously) who I was.

He must have decided I did not pose an overt threat because we then spent a splendid chunk of time talking books. We share a grand enthusiasm for all things Percy Jackson. He pointed us toward a table of his current picks and we were treated to a series of wonderful booktalks that had passers-by stopping in their tracks to listen (and then pick up the books to buy.)

Then he began to read the first chapter of Skulduggery Pleasant: Playing with Fire aloud to us. Wow! There is nothing like hearing a gifted reader share a book they love.
Topher performed the book with enthusiasm and a whiff of James Joyce in his delivery.

As I left the store with my new stack of books, I was reminded of the famous last words I had uttered an hour earlier, "I'm not getting any books today."

I did not know I was going to meet Topher.

8 Comments on Bookstore People: Topher Bradfield, last added: 6/10/2008
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21. Sneak Peek

Well, after a blistering summer it's finally starting to cool down around here. It still gets a bit uncomfortably warm around mid-day, but mornings have actually been a bit chilly. So the past couple weekends, we took advantage of the pleasant mornings and went out for a bit of hiking. First stop was McKinney Falls - three miles on the Onion Creek Trail ending at the falls which were more of a trickle, but with very neat rock formations.


And last weekend we hit three really small parks that all happened to be in the same area. The tower in the picture was at Mayfield Park which seemed to be a popular site for weddings. A young brood of peacocks occupied the grounds. The males seemed to revel in practicing displaying their tails which were not all that grand yet since they were still quite young, but that didn't discourage them in the least.

And the last picture is a view from the top of Mount Bonnell which seems to be something of a tourist site.















Lastly, for the sneak peek of what I'm working on - a couple character design sheets for my current book projects - a follow-up to What's Your Angle, Pythagoras?:

Octavius is only twelve, but he is very big. He's a nervous, worrying type.

Amara is nine years old and somewhat bossy. Her name means "eternal."

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22. Autumn Migration

We must be in the flight path of the monarch migrations to Mexico here in Austin because I have seen so many of them over the last few weeks! A couple weeks ago we hiked Commons Ford park which is west of the city and everywhere I looked I'd spot a monarch. They seemed especially fond of one particular type of flower which were quite plentiful in the park. I've seen a a good number of the other 'big butterflies' around too, swallowtails and such. Monarchs are a real childhood favorite of mine!

Every so often I discover that my husband has, unbeknownst to me, lent his hand to my work. Sometimes his little additions go unnoticed for days or weeks until I've come back to the drawing for reworking or reference. I always get a good laugh from these unexpected contributions:
And so I continue to labor under his corrupting influence... Read the rest of this post

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23. Take a Chance on Art (Disaster Relief For Texas Libraries) and Royal Bats


 

duke_ellington_by_don_tate

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 The Texas Library Association  (TLA) has been raffling a chance to own this beautiful original art piece by children’s book illustrator Don Tate. 

The $5 you spend for your raffle ticket will go to the  TLA’s Disaster Relief Fund, which will go to help libraries hit hard by Texas storms along the coast last year. The Rosenberg Library in Galveston lost its entire children’s book collection (it was on the first floor) in the flooding that followed Hurricane Ike. (Most of Galveston Island went under water.) It was one of many libraries along the Texas coast that suffered damage.  

The TLA Disaster Relief Fund auction has been helping Texas libraries contend with natural disasters since it was started by Jeanette Larsen and Mark Smith in 1999 –  always with original art donated by children’s book artists. 

Read an interview with the co-founder Jeanette Larson by Cynthia Leitich Smith in Cynthia’s blog Cynsations here.

Tate, of our Austin chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) joins the ranks of  renowned  
 illustrators such as Rosemary Wells and Diane Stanley who have furnished paintings for the fund. 

The winning raffle ticket will be drawn at the TLA annual conference, held this year, appropriately enough,  in storm-pummeled Houston March 31 - April 3.   You can buy as many as you want. Go here, print your raffle tickets and mail them (with your check, of course) to the TLA office  at 3355 Bee Cave Road, Suite 401, Austin, Texas 78746-6763. Straightout donations to the Relief Fund are also accepted of course.

The Duke Ellington piece is for a book Don is illustrating by musicologist Anna Harwell Celenza, about how the young Ellington and composer/arranger Billy Strayhorn collaborated on their own version of Tsaichovsky’s Nutcracker Suite.

Publisher Charlesbridge is said to be looking at a 2010 publication for the nonfiction work tentatively titled Duke Ellington’s Nutcracker Suite.

There’s also an interview with Tate on his illustrations for the Ellington story in Cynsations here.  (Cynsations and Don’s blog, Devas T. Rants and Raves!  are on this  blogroll.)  

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Speaking of the storm ravaged Texas coast, I just got back from there last night. I was a guest children’s author at the Victoria Public Library’s 2009 Victoria Reads community reading program, and spoke at the library and a stunning historical museum, the Museum of the Coastal Bend on the Victoria College campus, where I saw Native American decorative pieces — scrimshaw-like carvings and patternings on oyster shells dating back 5,000 - 8,000 years  B.C. 

The region surrounding Matagorda Bay apparently teemed with First Americans. Victoria County was a crossroads of Indian trade routes (not more than well travelled Indian trails, really), which explains why various spearpoints and arrowheads on display at the museum can be traced to South America, Mexico, and Canada.
It’s like NAFTA existed back then. 

I had a great time talking with museum director Sue Prudhomme, volunteer archeologist Jud Austin and many other supporters of the museum.
                                                                       * * * * *

Returning home from that trip, I saw a blog post that I wish I’d alerted  you to earlier — about your chance to win, among other goodies, a T-shirt with one of the coolest YA  novel logo designs ever! 

Logo for "Eternal"

Logo for "Eternal"

You have a chance to win a shirt sporting  the impossibly elegant Princess Dracul logo (designed by Gene Brenek), a book,  a finger puppet, a signed bookmark,  stickers and more – well, just look at all the loot.

It’s the Eternal Grand Prize Giveaway  – a contest celebrating the   release  on Tuesday of the second novel (Eternal) in the Gothic YA fantasy trilogy by Austin author Cynthia Leitich Smith, who has been called “the Anne Rice for teen readers.”

Eternal is preceded by Tantalize, which is set in Austin and features vampires and assorted were-folk. (Austin is kind of a bat capital of the South, in truth. ) Eternal also has vampires and other new characters you can sink your teeth into — wait, I mean it the other way around — and one of these in particular, Princess Dracul  inspired the great glyph by artist-author Brenek (also of our Austin SCBWI chapter!)  It’s one of  many supernatural/regal emblems he’s designed for the book. (They convey such a  spooky verisimilitude. ) See for yourself and enter the Eternal Grand Prize Giveaway.  But go quickly. The give-away cutoff is Tuesday, February 10, when Eternal goes on sale!

Cynthia interviews Gene here.

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Author-illustrator Sarah Ackerley, a member of our SCBWI chapter’s Inklings illustrators group  who now lives in San Francisco sent a link to  this funny video about a year in the life of children’s book author-illustrator Jarrett Krosoczka. It features guest appearances by Jane Yolen, Tomie dePaolo, Mo Willems, Jon Scieszka and some of the  Blue Rose Girls .

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You can get some free lessons on color and a group of surefire palette strategies here They’re from  my online course about how to illustrate a children’s book,  Make Your Splashes; Make Your Marks!   

Northern California artist Susan Sorrell Hill  wrote me Thursday about how  these lessons helped her:

“In all of my research (on-line and in books) in the last several 
years, I have never come across a clearer, more work-able approach to color that can be applied practically to a painting…and I have 
looked far and wide for this information, recognizing that it was of 
major importance…. The need for a sustainable, predictably 
successful approach to color, for illustration as well as fine art, 
became crystal clear to me when I switched from oil painting to 
watercolors…the old ‘keep messing with it until it’s right’ approach 
just was NOT working with watercolor…

“As you predicted, the results are immediately recognizable. I heave a huge sigh of relief!”

You’ll find the signup for the free lessons here

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24. SXSW bound? Me too!

For any librarians attending SXSW — which I’m gathering will be at least a few judging from the chatter I’ve been hearing — I’ll be there starting tomorrow night. Here is the short list of events I’m committed to

  • Librarian meetup at the Iron Cactus on Saturday at 12:30 - more details, or here
  • MetaFilter meetup Saturday at 6:30 at Mother Egan’s - more details
  • The panel I’m on about community moderation — with folks from Flickr and YouTube and Etsy and CurrentTV — Sunday at 3:30
  • Fray Cafe Sunday night from 8 - midnight. I’m a featured performer, come hear my crazy story.

I leave on Tuesday. Monday is an open day and I may go to the Ransom Center to see what’s nifty there.

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25. Field of Flowers

I'm just wrapping up on the tail-end of my book project, so hopefully I'll have some art to post soon. In the meantime, more photos...

It's wildflower season here again in central Texas and although I really haven't had much time to get outside lately, we did take a quick jaunt a couple of weeks ago to shoot a field of pink evening primrose. Chris happened to spot this distant field as we were driving on the elevated highway you can see in the background and figured out how we could reach it using back-streets.





















The ground was a bit marshy, but well-worth the mud to take some good reference photos.

Hopefully we'll get outside for a bit this weekend before the summer heat sets in. We've already had some uncomfortably warm days this spring - just a prelude to what's coming...

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