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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Coloring Page Tuesday - Multicultural Children's Book Day!

     Today is Multicultural Children's Book Day! The organizers asked me if I'd come up with a coloring page for the event, which I was very happy to do as I've strived throughout my career to show diversity in the books I create.CLICK HERE to read more about it!
     CLICK HERE for more coloring pages!
     Sign up to receive alerts when a new coloring page is posted each week and... Please check out my books! Especially...
my debut novel, A BIRD ON WATER STREET - winner of six literary awards. Click the cover to learn more!
     When the birds return to Water Street, will anyone be left to hear them sing? A miner's strike allows green and growing things to return to the Red Hills, but that same strike may force residents to seek new homes and livelihoods elsewhere. Follow the story of Jack Hicks as he struggles to hold onto everything he loves most.
     I create my coloring pages for teachers, librarians, booksellers, and parents to enjoy for free with their children, but you can also purchase rights to an image for commercial use, please contact me. If you have questions about usage, please visit my Angel Policy page.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Scott McCloud's THE SCULPTOR


You may have heard of Scott McCloud because of his landmark books, UNDERSTANDING COMICS, REINVENTING COMICS and MAKING COMICS - all great resources for illustrators in any field and some of which I use in the classes I teach. Considering his philosophical expertise, I am extremely excited that his first graphic novel, THE SCULPTOR, is about to come out. You can have a peek (not safe for work or kids) at it at NPR - Exclusive First Read: Scott McCloud's 'The Sculptor.'

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Flying and the creative path - Part 3

After months of training on the bunny hills, I finally graduated. I equate this to getting published. First it was magazines, then picture books and finally a novel was in the works. Staying with the flying analogy, it was time for me to fly off the top of Lookout Mountain. I wasn't nervous at all. (Yeah, right.)

     I usually flew as the light was fading and the sky calmed. Just like in publishing, in flying there are levels of degrees. We called these later flights sled runs, and wow, were they a rush. And what fun to overhear the onlookers whisper, "It's a girl!" as I leaped off the ledge. I loved it. I felt all-powerful! Unstoppable!
     After college... I would chug up to Chattanooga in my '78 Land Cruiser, my dream vehicle, to camp in the LZ - with my own tent. Part of being on the journey is slowly collecting the skills and tools you need. Nothing happens all of a sudden. I slowly created the lifestyle I wanted.

     For many years, my life was about flying, which is why I eventually moved to Chattanooga full-time. (My job at Buster Brown Apparel, drawing Charlie Brown and Snoopy, funded the adventure.)

And I flew!

     Eventually I even bought my own glider - a beautiful one with a cobalt blue edge.

     Many people thought I was crazy. Some admired how I chased my dream. Some focused only on the end result of these years of steady learning and growing to become the hang-glider pilot I was.
     It's so similar to writing and illustrating.
     People see me published now, with so many picture books and a novel under my belt. But to only see the end result is to make incorrect assumptions. Chasing dreams isn't easy - they take work. But there are steps you can take to achieve even the wildest dreams. The first step is deciding what that dream is and moving your life in that direction. Small decisions feed into the path from then on. And eventually, you will be ready for the mountain.
     I still dream about flying sometimes, and would never put it past me to take it up again someday. But for now, I am a children's book writer and illustrator. And as I say on my bio page - sometimes this business can feel just as crazy as jumping off a cliff with a kite tied to your back. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't jump!

Saturday, January 24, 2015

National Readathon Day!

January 24th is National Readathon Day! Make #timetoread and CLICK HERE to learn more about it!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

NEW! Margaret Wise Brown Award!

You may know that I teach at Hollins University in the MFA in Children's Book Writing and Illustrating as well as the Certificate in Children's Book Illustration programs every summer.
     Well, we are thrilled to announce that Hollins has received a gift of $60,000 from James Rockefeller, Margaret Wise Brown’s (a Hollins alum) fiancé (at the time of her death), to establish the Margaret Wise Brown Award for the best published picture book text, with the first award to be given at the Francelia Butler Conference in 2016, for a picture book published in 2015.
     This annual award will carry a $1,000 cash prize plus travel to Hollins (in Roanoke, Virginia) to accept the award and give a reading, and a bronze medal with a portrait of Ms. Brown on one side, and the recipient’s name and year awarded on the reverse.
     There is no comparable award for picture book writers. The Caldecott is for illustration, the Newbery rarely (although occasionally) goes to picture books, and the Charlotte Zolotow, and other awards for picture book text, do not include monetary winnings. So we are very proud of this new award!
     Publishers - if you would like your picture books to be considered, please contact Amanda Cockrel, founding director of the children's literature graduate program at Hollins University for further details.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The World of Dr. Seuss - behind the scenes

I was first turned onto this fantastic video about Theodore Geisel and his process behind the creation of the works which became Dr. Seuss by Travis Jonker over at 100 Scope Notes. It's worth sharing to make sure it goes viral. You'll see early works and hear stories seldom told about Seuss. Worth your time. Click the image to watch the video.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Coloring Page Tuesday - Sledding Penguins!

     Ping, Pong, Pepe and Pip are taking the sled out for the day. Although Pip can't get his beak out of a book.
     CLICK HERE for more coloring pages!
     Sign up to receive alerts when a new coloring page is posted each week and... Please check out my books! Especially...
my debut novel, A BIRD ON WATER STREET - winner of six literary awards. Click the cover to learn more!
     When the birds return to Water Street, will anyone be left to hear them sing? A miner's strike allows green and growing things to return to the Red Hills, but that same strike may force residents to seek new homes and livelihoods elsewhere. Follow the story of Jack Hicks as he struggles to hold onto everything he loves most.
     I create my coloring pages for teachers, librarians, booksellers, and parents to enjoy for free with their children, but you can also purchase rights to an image for commercial use, please contact me. If you have questions about usage, please visit my Angel Policy page.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Book-o-Beards

Just when you didn't think there was such a thing as a better mousetrap... Capstone Young Readers has come out with a line of WEARABLE BOOKS - BRILLIANT!! Check out the trailer, it's adorable...(the image will take you to the Capstone page with the trailer).

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Flying and the creative path - Part 2

After that first taste at hang-gliding, I couldn't wait until I turned eighteen - old enough to fly. Time to chase my dream.
     My first real experience came through the University of Georgia. I was a senior (majoring in Graphic Design, focusing on illustration) and found out about a trip to a hang-gliding school at the last minute. I rented the last tent available through the rec center - it didn't have a fly cover, but I made do. I was on an adventure!

     I set it up in the LZ (landing zone) in the shadow of Lookout Mountain in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

     The first step to learning how to fly was to stay on the ground. We learned how to run with the glider. At the time I didn't understand this, but that nose up position is all wrong. It basically puts the wings in stall mode - it's how you land, not how you fly. It's your instincts saying 'but I want to go UP!' A sure sign of a beginner, but I was learning nonetheless.

     Just like writing or illustrating, I was laying the groundwork, learning the rules on which to build my structure, so that I could soar.
     After that first weekend, I saved every dime I could to go back and move further along in my training. Being a broke college student, the weekends were too few and far between, but I didn't give up.
     Equate that to learning how to write or illustrate - going to conferences, reading 'how to' books, taking classes and learning the in's and out's of the industry. Maybe you don't have the resources, so it seems to be a slow-moving process, but you're still on the journey.
     The next time I went up to Chattaboogie, we climbed a small hill (the bunny hill) with our gliders on our shoulders. We took turns running off the hill, trying to hold the glider in the correct position to fly. I've got it right in this photo, which is why I'm off the ground!

     It wasn't easy to do. Everything in my subconscious said, "I want to FLY!" Which made me push out on the bars, placing the glider in stall mode. And when it stalled, the glider would come crashing down, dragging me with it down the hill and... through the cow patties. Did I mention the bunny hill was in an active cow pasture? Yup. A victorious day of flight training ended with a harness covered in cow manure.
     This is a lovely analogy for writing and illustrating. There are the rejections, the failures, the jealousies, the general feelings of trying to do the impossible. Becoming a writer/illustrator is a mental game with yourself. It's can be so tempting to quit, but as they say, that's a sure way to fail.
     So I didn't care about the cow patties - literally being dragged through the muck - I was flying!

     Just as with publishing credits, eventually I graduated to the larger bunny hill.

After buying some new shoes which actually fit me and let me run better (appropriate tools), I mastered that hill too.

     And that led to the mountain...
     Keep reading to find out what happened next!

Saturday, January 17, 2015

The Cosmobiography of Sun Ra by Chris Raschka


Candlewick Press just sent me a copy of THE COSMOBIOGRAPHY OF SUN RA by Chris Raschka and I think they might have another Caldecott on their hands. Not only is the cover visually stunning and intriguing (reminds me a bit of his Mysterious Thelonious, which I also love), the writing is superb. I adore the opening line,
"Sun Ra always said that he came from Saturn.
Now, you know and I know that this is silly. No one comes from Saturn.

And yet.
If he did come from Saturn, it would explain so much."
     It tells place, character, pulls the reader in. The illustrator is a genius with words as well.
     The book describes key moments in Sun Ra's life and what music meant to him and what his music meant to the world. It's all surrounded by Chris' lush artwork, so full of movement. (Click the images to see them larger in a new window.)


Of course, it would be cruel to tease with all this artistic expression of music without including the music, so here is Sun Ra's Sun Song (the image will take you to YouTube):

THE COSMOBIOGRAPHY OF SUN RA. Copyright © 2014 by Chris Raschka. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Friday Linky List - January 16, 2015

At PW: 2015 Sendak Fellow Announced - How cool would this be?

From Variety (via PW): 2014 Top 10 Books: Film Adaptations Fuel Young Adult Novel Sales

From the New York Times (via PW): Why Do We Hate Cliché?

Terri Windling talks about perfection at her blog Myth & Moor: When Every Day Is Judgement Day. There are lovely photos of her studio and a great video too.

From Red Lemon Club: Why No One Likes Your Art: 26 Reasons - good advice!

On the same note at 99U: This Is Why You Don't Have a Mentor

At BuzzFeed: If Superheroes Were From The Elizabethan Age - great images!

At PW - Illustrators Say: 'Nous Sommes Charlie'

At Mental_floss via PW: 15 Gorgeous Little Free Libraries

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Clearing the Creative Cells

Author Kim Siegelson and I went hiking the other day. She's a member of a hiking club in Atlanta and knows all sorts of fun, unknown gems. She goes regularly as she says it clears her head and calms her nerves. It used to do that for me too when I lived in Chattanooga, but I haven't been hiking in ages. (Not since my woodsy excursion at Highlights Foundation at Boyds Mills.) In fact, I was thrilled to pull out my old hiking boots - the ones I wore on our honeymoon, hiking through Kenya. As you'll see, those didn't work out so well.
     Kim and I used to have a critique group together - the Cheese Whizzes. We met for a few years before graduations, colleges, moves and general mayhem made it like herding cats to get together. Some of us meet up for stuff now and then, but I miss my cheese whizzes.
     It's winter here in Georgia, which means drizzly, gray and dreary cold. But I love winter hiking. Your body warms up quickly, you seldom run into other hikers, there are no bugs or snakes, and the views go on forever. In no time, I was back into the swing of it. We saw deer (who ran across our path), a great blue heron, cormorants, ducks, and beautiful scenery!


It's wasn't sunny when we got to Laurel Creek, so Kim shared a photo from a previous hike:

     While we hiked, Kim and I talked about writing, of course, about retreats and goals and challenges. We've both reached most of our publishing goals (except for the BIG awards), so it's a matter of 'what now?' Kim likes to challenge herself with different writing styles like flash fiction and such. I like writing and illustrating without tremendous pressure - everything is gravy from here on out! But we both agreed we want folks to enjoy our work, for our peeps to respect what we create, to do a good job with our craft.
     We stopped at a bluff overlooking the Chattahoochee River to soak in the view - Atlanta is in the background.


     Writing isn't just about the act itself, it's also about the life that surrounds it. I've found that most writers are very interested people - all sorts of topics fire up their brains. So they are interesting people to be around. They also tend to have flexible schedules for the most part (when not on deadline, at which point you won't see them for months). I love getting together with my writer and illustrator friends - they keep me sane and feed my soul!
     Click the image to see a larger version in a new window of this panoramic shot:

     Speaking of soles (not souls)... yeah. The old hiking boots didn't hold up so well. The soles started coming apart a few miles in and just disintegrated from there.

     I guess they won't be going to Edinburgh with me after all. *le sigh*
     After our hike, we had lunch at Arepa Mia near Agnes Scott - delish. Then we popped into the bakery and a dress shop next door. Kim bought cupcakes, I bought a new dress. Truly, we did it all in a few short hours! What a fun get-together!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Peachtree Publishers Preview Party

I was invited to the loveliest get-together Sunday. Margaret Quinlin, publisher at Peachtree Publishers invited librarians, teachers, creators, influencers, and me to her lovely home in Atlanta, where Peachtree editors, publicists and art directors showcased and talked about their new book releases for Spring 2015.

It was fascinating hearing the background behind the creation process and lovely to see everybody's passion for their work. I took some truly candid photos of the event (shared with Margaret's blessing). Here's Stephanie Fretwell-Hill talking about STANLEY THE FARMER and SPECTACULAR SPOTS by Susan Stockdale:

Tom Gonzalez gave a fascinating talk about his process for TOAD WEATHER:

Vicky Holifield talked about the latest book by Adrian Fogelin, SOME KIND OF MAGIC.

Also, Loraine Joyner (art director) talked about P. ZONKA LAYS AN EGG by Julie Paschkis, and Kathy Landwehr talked about RODEO RED, written by Maripat Perkins and illustrated by Caldecott Honor-winning Molly Idle (who has visited my blog a few times). All said, it was a fantastic glimpse into these great new books and the journey behind them.
Some of the original pieces form the books were showcased in Margaret's dining room:


It was so nice to be invited to this party as I have several friends at Peachtree. I couldn't help grabbing selfies with several of them. Like...
Kathy Lanwehr (editor), Me, and Christine, the former New York librarian and newest publicist has been doing a great job reaching out to help spread the word about this fresh crop of fantastic books.

Here I am with Loraine and Stephanie:

And me and Mia Manekofsky, Decatur children's librarian and awesome person.

Tom and me.

Thanks to Margaret, Christine and everybody at Peachtree. It was a great party and introduction to Peachtree's lovely new books as well as a fascinating glimpse into the tight team you have there. It's no wonder Peachtree has gained such a strong reputation for great books in the kid lit world.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Coloring Page Tuesdays - Storytelling Snowman

     Storytelling Snowman shares his tales with the wee fuzzies of the forest, to keep them warm in winter.
     CLICK HERE for more coloring pages!
     Sign up to receive alerts when a new coloring page is posted each week and... Please check out my books! Especially...
my debut novel, A BIRD ON WATER STREET - winner of six literary awards. Click the cover to learn more!
     When the birds return to Water Street, will anyone be left to hear them sing? A miner's strike allows green and growing things to return to the Red Hills, but that same strike may force residents to seek new homes and livelihoods elsewhere. Follow the story of Jack Hicks as he struggles to hold onto everything he loves most.
     I create my coloring pages for teachers, librarians, booksellers, and parents to enjoy for free with their children, but you can also purchase rights to an image for commercial use, please contact me. If you have questions about usage, please visit my Angel Policy page.

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