Thursday, August 21, 2014

MADDIE'S FRIDGE by Lois Brandt, illustrated by Vin Vogel - GIVEAWAY!

There's a quiet problem in our country...hunger. What's a kid to do when she discovers her best friend's refrigerator is nearly empty, and that she doesn't drink the milk because she is saving it for her little brother? What's that same kid to do when she promised her best friend that she wouldn't tell anybody about it?
      MADDI'S FRIDGE written by Lois Brandt and illustrated by Vin Vogel addresses the issue in a light-handed way, through a delightful story of friendship. I'm thrilled to have Lois on my blog today to talk more about it...

Q. Lois - How did you first become aware of the hunger issue? What inspired this story?
I first became aware of the issue of childhood hunger the same way my character, Sofia, did.
      I was about 10 years old and was having a great playdate with my best friend. Do you remember those times, playing with your friends and sharing secrets, chasing grasshoppers, swinging on the swings? It was one of those days.
      I got hungry, ran into my best friend’s house, and opened her refrigerator door. It was empty except for condiments and one small carton of milk, the kind they gave out with school lunches. My friend had saved her milk for her little brother, who was too young to go to school.
      That image of my friend’s empty refrigerator has stayed with me my entire life.

Q. Lois - This had to be a tricky story to write without being too heavy with the message, yes? How long did it take you?
I might have written the first draft as long as ten years ago. Boy did I have angry kids in those early drafts. The girls were so mad that at one point they were throwing rocks at a dry creek bed. In another draft they were kicking soccer balls with a vengeance. Maddi and Sofia (and this author) were very upset that we have so many hungry children in our wealthy nation.
      At some point, after comments from editors (one editor called the story grim – something my husband still teases me about), I began to put some of the magic of best friends into the story. I asked myself: What do these girls like to do when they are having fun? How do they show each other that they care?
      When I focused on the girls’ friendship, I found the heart of this story.

Q. Lois - Flashlight Press always does such lovely, high quality books. How did you end up getting published by them?
After many many revisions, I began to get positive responses to MADDI'S FRIDGE and knew the manuscript was close to publishable quality. I reached out to my MFA adviser, Kirby Larson, and she suggested Shari Dash Greenspan at Flashlight Press.
      The first time I held a Flashlight Press book, Jodi Moore’s WHEN A DRAGON MOVES IN, was a wow moment. Flashlight produces stunningly beautiful books. I knew Maddi’s story was in excellent hands.

Q. Lois - A large part of this book seems to be to inspire action, like on your website MaddisFridge.com. How do you spread the word, and how can we help?
The first thing to do is talk about childhood hunger. Again and again people I meet are surprised by the numbers. 16 million children, 1 in 5, live in families without consistent access to food.
      MADDI'S FRIDGE is just one story of hunger. There are 16 million stories of childhood hunger happening at this very moment in the United States.
      We can beat childhood hunger, but we need to accept that this growing problem belongs to all of us. These are our friends and neighbors who are struggling to get food for their children.
      Find out the facts about hunger in your community and state. Share what you learn. A good place to start is my website or FeedingAmerica.org.

Q. Lois - This is your first book and wow, what a doozie it is! What's been your writing journey?
I’ve always loved to write, but didn’t get serious until my children forced me to.
      Like most parents I made up stories at bedtime. We’d read a few books and then I’d tell a story. There was a problem, though. I could never consistently remember all of the details of the stories I told. My oldest son, Alex, called me on it. I started writing down the stories in self-defense, so I could get my own details right.
      The more I wrote, the more stories bubbled up from inside of me. Many of them, like MADDI'S FRIDGE, came from places close to my heart.
      I took a class on writing for children from author Peggy King Anderson, formed a critique group with members from that class, and joined SCBWI. That path led me here.

Q. Lois - How are you getting the word out about MADDI'S FRIDGE?
I visit schools, contact librarians and food banks, and do readings. This has allowed me to meet some of the wonderful people who are working hard in the fight against childhood hunger.
      The school visits are my favorite activity. Kids get MADDI'S FRIDGE. They get friendship, promises, and helping. If second graders were in charge of the world, there would be no empty refrigerators.
      When a school holds a food drive, I will Skype or come for a visit at the beginning or end of the drive. During my visit I have the children write or draw with me about a time they helped someone, or a time someone helped them. Their stories illustrate the web of relationships that we all live in – friends helping friends and neighbors helping neighbors.

Q. Vin - I love your characters big eyes and that happy yellow. What is your illustration method?
Thank you! In general, I make sketches with pencil on paper and scan them. As soon as they are approved, I start working on the final illustrations with a digital tablet. For this book I took photos and used Google Map for reference material. You can find more information about the process here: https://www.facebook.com/vinvogelillustration.

Q. Vin - This isn't your first book - by a longshot! How did you get turned onto Flashlight Press?
I have illustrated more than 45 books, mostly published in Brazil and Canada. Shari found my website and contacted me. When I read the story I was hooked! I admire Lois and Shari for writing and publishing a picture book about hunger. And discussing hunger in America is even more courageous!

Q. Vin - What was your path into the children's book industry?
I have worked as a journalist (because I also love writing), as well as a 2D animator and illustrator for advertising. My dream was to write and illustrate picture books. So I started to illustrate PB's in Brazil in 2005 and have never stopped. I have recently started to write my own PB's and my debut book will be launched by Dial in the Fall 2015.

Q. Vin - A you mentioned, you're originally from Brazil. What was the children's book market like there?
Let's say I wish kids read more in Brazil. Way more.

Q. Vin - Was it exciting to work on a book with such an important message?
Sure! As I have mentioned before, I was thrilled to illustrate a book about such delicate subject! Plus, the book carries a message of friendship and helping the ones in need. Many times simple solutions are right under our nose: Lois passed the message in a very sweet and effective way.

Q. Lois and Vin - have you met? Or will you be promoting the book together at all?
Not yet. Lois is promoting the book on the West Coast; I'm the East Coast branch!

Note: Feeding America has declared September as Hunger Action Month, so it's a great opportunity for my readers to get involved and make a difference!


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Chuck Leavell

Monday night, Stan and I went to see Chuck Leavell (keyboardist for the Rolling Stones, the Allman Brothers, Eric Clapton, and many more) speak at the Atlanta Botanical Garden.
     Wait... did I say speak? I did! Chuck is known for his strong environmentalism and expertise in responsible tree farming and land stewardship, and he's promoting his latest book, GROWING A BETTER AMERICA. Until that email from the Botanical Garden about him speaking, I had no idea!
     I started doing some research and discovered that he's a life long Georgia boy and even owns a tree farm in south Georgia. So what do I do? I email him! Why not? Even famous people are people after all. I told him about A BIRD ON WATER STREET and offered to send him a free copy. What better book could there be for a true tree-lover, after all? That was my reasoning at any rate.
     Dang if he didn't email me right back and offered a trade for a book of his own! Y'know why? Because he's just a darned nice guy. That's why. Fame can turn people into well... not nice, or it can bring out their humanity and kindness. After his kind email and hearing Chuck talk on Monday, I'm happy to say he is of the latter set.

     He was passionate about his topic, and of course shared stories of Mick and Keith and Charlie and Ronnie. And happily, he did play a few songs on his keyboard, ending with Georgia. *le sigh* 'Twas perfect.
     That man can TEAR UP a keyboard! Seriously, it's why I quit taking lessons oh so long ago. I knew how I wanted to play (like him) and I could tell after ten years of lessons that I didn't have the talent for it. His fingers are the conduit for the music that fills his head - without effort or thought, they sing through those keys. How amazing.
     Afterwards, I introduced myself. He's looking forward to reading my book although it hadn't arrived yet. And he asked me which of his books I'd like the most. I asked for his autobiography as I think Stan will enjoy reading it too, and then I purchased a copy of his picture book The Tree Farmer, which he signed.
     What a pleasure, what a delight, to meet such a great and talented man in the middle of one of the most beautiful gardens in the state. What a perfect evening!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Coloring Page Tuesday - Drawing Mouse

     Many of our little ones are heading back to school to read, write, and (I hope) draw a little bit too! The arts keep the brain elastic and flexible, open to new ideas!
     The original drawing for this mouse went to one of my students in the MFA in Writing and Illustrating program at Hollins University this past summer.
     CLICK HERE for more coloring pages! And be sure to share your creations in my gallery so I can put them in my upcoming newsletters! (Cards, kids art, and crafts are welcome!)
     Sign up to receive alerts when a new coloring page is posted each week and... Please check out my books! Especially...

my debut novel, A BIRD ON WATER STREET, coming out next week! Click the cover to learn more!
     When the birds return to Water Street, will anyone be left to hear them sing? A miner's strike allows green and growing things to return to the Red Hills, but that same strike may force residents to seek new homes and livelihoods elsewhere. Follow the story of Jack Hicks as he struggles to hold onto everything he loves most.
**A SIBA OKRA Pick!**
**A GOLD Mom's Choice Award Winner!**
**The 2014 National Book Festival Featured Title for Georgia!**
**eLit 2014 Gold Medal Winner in the Environmental/Ecology/Nature Category**

Monday, August 18, 2014

How's this for a sign?

Holy mackerel! Little Pickle Press said they were going to send A BIRD ON WATER STREET posters for it's feature as THE book representing the state of Georgia at the National Book Festival in Washington, D.C., and for my speaking gig at the Decatur Book Festival - both outdoor events over Labor Day weekend. I was expecting some sort of foam-core backed table topper or something. Nope! They sent this amazing metal and vinyl sign that can stand up to anything the weather might throw at it. See the stairs behind it? That will give you an idea how big this thing is. And those are all the awards it's won so far lined up at the top. The quote they used is:
"Hard scrabble living was never so enticing. In A BIRD ON WATER STREET, Dulemba seamlessly melds a coming of age story to the reality of life in a single industry town. A book that makes the leap from one era to another with ease…This is a book that sings."
– Betsy Bird, New York Public Library Youth Materials Specialist, author of Giant Dance Party and the blog Fuse #8
How awesome is THAT!? My publisher is taking care of me and A BIRD ON WATER STREET!!!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

WILD THINGS - Guest Post and Giveaway!

Two of my favorite librarians have teamed up to create what is sure to be the new must read in children's lit scholarly circles and I couldn't be happier for them. Julie (Jules) Danielson and Betsy Bird have combined their considerable talents with the new blog WILD THINGS and the new book, WILD THINGS: ACTS OF MISCHIEF IN CHILDREN'S LITERATURE. The journey has been bittersweet since co-author Peter Sieruta passed away before the book went to publications - but oh, what a tribute the book is! I'm thrilled that Jules and Betsy were able to stop by to talk about their collaboration...

      Jules and I are very lucky. In promoting our new book Wild Things: Acts of Mischief in Children’s Literature (co-written with the late Peter Sieruta) we’ve gotten to field all sorts of interesting questions. One that we were handed recently concentrated on the subversive nature of our book. You see, in Wild Things we authors attempt to debunk the very notion that all things associated with children’s literature are fluffy bunnies and sparkly rainbows. I think Maurice Sendak said it best when he said “I think it is unnatural to think that there is such a thing as a blue-sky, white-clouded happy childhood for anybody. Childhood is a very, very tricky business of surviving it. Because if one thing goes wrong or anything goes wrong, and usually something goes wrong, then you are compromised as a human being. You're going to trip over that for a good part of your life.” With that in mind we set out to write a book that talks about the true stories behind children’s books and what they set out to do. It’s been arduous but fun and we’ve really enjoyed it.
      The question that I was recently asked that really caught my eye, however, regarded our favorite example of subversive writing in children’s books. And let me tell you, that is a hard thing to choose. Just one? Would you go with The Paper Bag Princess, written by Robert Munsch and illustrated by Michael Martchenko which turns princess-based tales turned on their heads (a perfect gift for baby showers, yes?). Or should it be the great Stinky Cheese Man himself, bacon smile and all? Should it be Uncle Shelby’s ABZs by Shel Silverstein (which wasn’t really for children anyway) or a more recent title like A Rule Is to Break: A Child’s Guide to Anarchy by John Seven and Jana Christy (a book that made the Tea Party go crazy not too long ago) or the upcoming Me & Dog by Gene Weingarten (which may be the first atheist picture book I’ve ever seen)?
      No. In the end my heart belongs to a boy with wild tangled hair and fingernails who has never seen a bath a day of his short life. Struwwelpeter by Heinrich Hoffman was subversive before there was subversion, and its lessons have fed the nightmares of parents world round for years (kids apparently take the “lessons” with a grain of salt and aren’t as affected). Hoffman wrote the tales as a reaction against the namby pamby didactic lesson books for kids that were coming out at the time. Read the right way, there’s a morbid humor to his style. Whether it’s a story about a rabbit taking revenge on a hunter or why you shouldn’t suck your thumbs (Scissor Man, anyone?) once you’ve read these stories you will NEVER forget them.
      The kicker is that the book wasn’t published in the last five years. It wasn’t published in the last ten years. It wasn’t published in the last ONE HUNDRED years even!
     Oh. And Mark Twain was a big fan. Even brought them to America from Germany where he’d found them.
      Basically if you’re looking for a book that gives you some insights behind-the-scenes to stories like this one and lets you know the true dirt behind books for the young, ours is the one for you. As Walter de la Mare is often quoted as saying, “I know well that only the rarest kind of best in anything can be good enough for the young.” Or, put another way by Maurice Sendak, “. . .from their earliest years children live on familiar terms with disrupting emotions, fear and anxiety are an intrinsic part of their everyday lives, they continually cope with frustrations as best they can. And it is through fantasy that children achieve catharsis. It is the best means they have for taming Wild Things.” Consider our Wild Things untamed.

Betsy Bird is the youth materials collections specialist for the New York Public Library and is the author of Giant Dance Party, illustrated by Brandon Dorman. In addition to writing for The Horn Book magazine, she is the creator of the blog A Fuse #8 Production.

Julie Danielson is a regular contributor to Kirkus Reviews, and in her blog, Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, she has featured and / or interviewed hundreds of top names in picture books. Julie Danielson lives in Tennessee.

Peter D. Sieruta (1958–2012) was an author, book critic, and frequent reviewer for The Horn Book magazine. His blog, Collecting Children’s Books, served as inspiration for his contributions to Wild Things!

Candlewick has generously agreed to send a free galley to one of my lucky followers. Must live in the US to win - enter below.

Friday, August 15, 2014

KMA FM Radio 99.1 out of Iowa!

I was just interviewed by Don of the Dean and Don Radio Show out of Shenandoah, Iowa for A BIRD ON WATER STREET! Thanks for having me on guys!
UPDATE!! - The archive of the show will be up for a week, so if you couldn't listen to it live, you can go listen to it, click the logo!

Friday Linky List - August 15, 2014

At Salon: Murakami’s understated triumph: What Japan’s most celebrated writer knows that American novelists don’t

Via PW and Omaha.com: Omaha Public Library debuts book bike, a library on wheels - awesome!

From PW via ShortList.com: Pop Culture Imagined As Children's Books. Just scary. But what a great way to get your portfolio out there!

From Slate.com via Nathan Bransford: Very Good Advice From Bill Watterson (of Calvin & Hobbes fame), In Comic Strip Form

At PW: Children's Book Output Dipped Slightly in 2013 - What's most interesting about this article is the graph of books produced each year since 2002!

From NPR: Scientists Say Child's Play Helps Build a Better Brain. Duh!

At Sunday Review: Hit The Reset Button In Your Brain - how and why to compartmentalize your activities.
,br> At The Daily Beast: Dumps and Death Threats, Hecklers and Vindication: True Tales from Today's DIY Book Tour

From Science Daily: Can Fiction Stories Make Us More Empathetic?

From School Library Journal: Chickens in the Stacks, and Other Strange Tales from Public Librarians

Thursday, August 14, 2014

SIMON'S CAT by Simon Tofield - interview and giveaway!

I can't tell you how tickled I am to have Simon Tofield on today, talking about his wildly successful "Simon's Cat." It began life as a YouTube viral phenomenon, and quickly grew into a beloved character ingrained in our lives. Because, who hasn't known a cat like Hugh, after all? He reminds me so much of my own cat, and I'll bet he reminds you of yours - or a cat you know. Let's get a peek behind the curtain of Simon's success...

Q. Simon, I was teaching at Hollins University in Roanoke, Virginia this summer, so I asked some of our students to provide some of the questions along with my own... here's one of mine: I'm such a geek for good line quality and you have it in spades. Did you stumble into it, or are you a geek for line too?
I have several clean up artists that work in my animation team now and it is important to make sure that the 'life' of the line is still maintained in the animations, as this is one of the things that makes Simon's Cat so special.

Q. Some of the students wanted to know your cat's name! It's "Hugh," right? Is there anything you haven't shared about him yet?
Well I have four cats, Hugh is the cat that my film Cat Man Do is based on, not many people know that Hugh comes to see me every morning and tries to suck my ear, he does this because as a kitten he wasn't weened off his mother, and he thinks I have become her replacement! It can been cute sometimes, but often it is very painful!

Q. What percentage of the antics are real versus made up?
I get my inspiration from my four real life cats, I like to keep the majority of the animation purely observational as this is where most of the charm lies. However the made up elements are where some of the funniest gags lie eg the baseball bat in Cat Man Do.

Q. What software do you use to create your animations?
My animators and I have been using Adobe Flash as that is the software I originally learnt digital animation on, however we are now experimenting with using a TVPaint which is another 2D animation program.

Q. Was working in a book format a challenging difference for you?
I had never made a book before but I really enjoyed the process. Now I love making books as it allows me to include a lot more ideas and gags than I can in the short films.

Q. I've always thought drawing and coloring were two different skills. Did you find working in color, rather than in straight black and white, to be challenging?
Yes it was very different, I kept the cat white and coloured the background to make the cat stand out against the detailed background. Working with colour does allow me to include more detail in my work however it does have it's own set of challenges in comparison to Black and White, such as deciding on tonal perspective.

Q. SIMON'S CAT has become a major licensing success - congratulations! How do you maintain the integrity and original intent of your creation?
I go through all new product prototypes and proofs personally and carefully make sure that the integrity of the Simon's Cat brand and the quality of the product is maintained.

Q. Can you think of your proudest moment or more transformative moment in your journey with SIMON'S CAT?
Seeing my first book being published and hitting the shops was a very proud moment for me. It was always a dream of mine to create a book and I never thought it would come true!

Q. It seems you've created a character who will be around for a very long time. What hopes or ambitions do you have for SIMON'S CAT?
I would like to make a television series one day. Keeping the same short snappy format and experimenting by having some fun with developing other characters in the Simon's Cat universe.

We all here at Hollins wish you much continued success!!!

This is a great video from 2009 in which Simon talks about the invention of Simon's Cat.

And another from 2010 when the licensing really started taking off:


Simon is also celebrating the release of yet another new book - SIMON'S CAT IN KITTEN CHAOS. Here's a little about it...
     Half the size, double the trouble. Simon’s cat has a new little friend who may be even more accident prone.
      With over 200 million hits on YouTube, Simon’s Cat is a genuine word-of-mouth phenomenon. Fans from all over the world have fallen for this adorable but anarchic feline who will do just about anything to be fed. Simon Tofield’s beautiful drawings and warm humor come alive on the page in this irresistible humor book—an outgrowth of the enormously popular short films featured on YouTube.
      Like all great cartoon creations, from Peanuts to Asterix, from Garfield to Tintin, Simon’s Cat has continued to evolve by introducing new characters and new story lines. After the runaway success of the first two books (Simon’s Cat and Simon’s Cat: Beyond the Fence), Simon welcomes a cuddly new addition to the family in the form of Simon’s Kitten, who is sure to delight Simon’s millions of fans.
Akashic Books has generously offered, not just a free, signed copy of SIMON'S CAT VS. THE WORLD, but also a signed copy of SIMON'S CAT IN KITTEN CHAOS - Wowsa!! Must live in the US to win - enter below.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Call Me Ishmael

This is such a cool idea! Call Me Ishmael is a service where you can leave a message about your favorite book and the impact it had on you in your life. It's sort of like NPR's Story Corps, but instead of recording life moments, Call Me Ishmael records book moments. Although, from the recordings so far, it's obvious that books change lives. Really moving.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014


What a nice honor to be alongside so much local talent in the online magazine ATLANTA Intown - Read This: A Roundup of Books By Local Authors! YAY!

Coloring Page Tuesday - Under a Tree

     I'm not sure why the newsletter went out Monday, but any rate... What is your favorite spot to read? I used to love the woods, or a hanging swing. School has already started in some places and will start soon in others. Grab those delicious moments reading in your favorite spot while you still can!
     Can you believe that school is starting in some places this week? More reading-themed images on the way soon!
     CLICK HERE for more coloring pages! And be sure to share your creations in my gallery so I can put them in my upcoming newsletters! (Cards, kids art, and crafts are welcome!)
     Sign up to receive alerts when a new coloring page is posted each week and... Please check out my books! Especially...

my debut novel, A BIRD ON WATER STREET, coming out next week! Click the cover to learn more!
     When the birds return to Water Street, will anyone be left to hear them sing? A miner's strike allows green and growing things to return to the Red Hills, but that same strike may force residents to seek new homes and livelihoods elsewhere. Follow the story of Jack Hicks as he struggles to hold onto everything he loves most.
**A SIBA OKRA Pick!**
**A GOLD Mom's Choice Award Winner!**
**The 2014 National Book Festival Featured Title for Georgia!**

Monday, August 11, 2014

I'll be on WCHE 1520 outside Philadelphia Today!

If you are near Philadelphia, I hope you'll listen in at 12:15 on WCHE 1520 - I'll be interviewed during the News at Noon with Frank McCloy on Libby's Luncheonette (serving up local sustainability) for A BIRD ON WATER STREET in the theme "Turning Today's Youths Into Tomorrow's Activists." Their listenership lies just south of the coal-mining town of Allentown, Pennsylvania, so I imagine ABOWS will be relevant to many folks up there. I'm looking forward to talking to them!
     I'll also be interviewed this coming Friday at 9:45 EST on KMAland 960 FM on the Dean and Don Radio Show out of Shenandoah, Iowa. I hope you'll listen in!

Simon & Schuster's Behind the Book video series

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

Sunday, August 10, 2014

The Theory of Everything

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

Saturday, August 09, 2014

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

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

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

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

Friday, August 08, 2014

Friday Linky List, August 8, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, August 07, 2014

LATELY LILY by Micah Player - Interview and Giveaway!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Writerly Joke...

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks to Jackie Urbanovic for the heads up...


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