The Bird has flown the coup

     Just got an email from my agent. My first novel, "A Bird on Water Street," went out to publishers Friday. All I can say is, Weehaaa!!! And Ee Gaads. And I'm a nervous wreck!
     A friend said I shouldn't be a nervous wreck yet - more like a few weeks from now when we might actually start hearing responses.
     I tell ya - this business moves slower than molasses in winter. But once things are out there, it's like jumping off a cliff. Will you fly? Will you crash and burn? You just don't know. It's a heckofa ride.

Computers and Cats

Somebody sent this to me today - is this not the cutest?
Okay, my cat isn't quite this bad, but she's not far off. Most days she is either in my lap or on my desk between my keyboard and me, between my keyboard and my monitor, or trying to attack my cursor onscreen. The worst is when she sits on the buttons on my Wacom tablet or my keyboard and suddenly programs are opening and closing, everything is blinking and beeping, or I end up with a lot of +++++++++++s in whatever I'm typing. She has yet to actually destroy anything, although she does love to chew on the end of my Wacom pen. As Cartman from South Park would say, "BAD KITTY!!" Mostly it just cracks me up (unless I'm on deadline, of course). :)

Talking at SCAD (Savannah College of Art & Design)

     Yesterday, I had the pleasure of talking to children's book illustration majors and graduate students at the SCAD Atlanta campus downtown. Rick Lovell invited me and fellow children's book creator, Ami Blackford, to share our different perspectives of breaking into the industry and self promotion. We spoke to students from Rick's class as well as Jay Montgomery's and Julie Meuller-Brown's, all master illustrators themselves. It was so interesting discussing with them how the business has changed over the years, from the "golden days of illustration" to the present.
     I met Rick through Illustration Friday when he asked me to do portfolio reviews for the last graduating class of the Atlanta College of Art (which was absorbed by SCAD). There I met Ami, who was graduating and had already nailed her first book contract through Red Cygnet Press's student publishing competition. So, our perspectives were "starting out" and "been there, done that." Ami and I made a great team as we hopped back and forth on various subjects and answered questions. I truly love passing on information and experience to those starting out, so had a great time.
     Rick gave us a tour of SCAD before our talk, and I have to say I was impressed beyond words. In fact, my jaw scraped the floor through most of the building. Everything was so well designed, clean, and above all, professionally handled, I was blown away. This is a serious institution. The impression I got was they are not trying to turn out "just" artists, but working professionals who will be able to make a living with their crafts. In today's competitive illustration market, that is a directive of the highest standard. I was highly, highly impressed.

Illustration Friday: Red

I'm pulling another illustration from "Haley and the Big Blast" which was released from Amy Elise Press in November. Here, Haley gets to ride in her aunt's hot red convertible.

The 2006 Award Results are IN!!

     After several tries I finally hooked into the ALA webcast. It is so well done with the power point presentation of the books as the announcements are made.
     This year's CALDECOTT is . . . drum roll please . . . "FLOTSAM" by David Wiesner!! No surprise there.
     Two other big winners were "MOSES" illustrated by Kadir Nelson. It won the CORETTA SCOTT KING AWARD and was a CALDECOTT honor book - WOW!
     "Rules" by Cynthia Lord won the SCHNEIDER FAMILY AWARD for middle school and was a NEWBERY HONOR!! Wow, wow!!
Other winners were:
"Higher Power of Lucky" by Susan Patron won the Newbery (how was this not on my radar?). Congratulations to the illustrator, Matt Phelan!
"Small Steps" by Louis Sachar won the teen Schneider Family Award.
"Jazz" by Walter Dean Myers and Christopher Myers also won a Coretta Scott King honor - again, no surprise there.
Lois Lowry was awarded the Margaret Edwards Award.
"Octavian Nothing" won an Printz honor. (You can read my review here.)
Big shake-up: a graphic novel won the Prinz Award - "American Born Chinese." I gotta get my hands on this.
     Those were the biggies on my radar. You can read more about the awards at the American Library Association.
What a rush!

Here come the Awards!

All those who weigh in on the best children's books are currently at the mid-winter American Library Association conference in Seattle, and once again, they will be doing a live webcast as they announce the winners. I watched last year and enjoyed it immensely. It's like watching the Oscars when you actually know some of the stars (and without the great dresses). So fun! You can watch it LIVE at 10:45am est (7:45am in Seattle) HERE.

Illustration Friday: Super Hero

Here's a quickie I did last night. It's not "Mighty Mouse," it's "Super Rat!" Or so he likes to think...

Hand Painting - How Cool is That!

Remember drawing a face on your hand as a kid? Artist Guido Daniele took it to the next level. Check out the rest of his hand paintings on his WEBSITE. So very cool!

I was a reading FOOL!

   This past week. I read four Fabulous books I have to share with you.

   The first was "How I Live Now" (or "how i live now" if you have the hardcover) by Meg Rosoff.
   It deserves every bit of praise it is receiving. What an amazingly talented writer – and this is her first book! Not a word out of place, every idea was perfectly formed. Her pacing was perfect. I was truly awestruck. I HIGHLY recommend it if you haven't had a chance to read it yet.

   Next was "Millicent Min Girl Genius" by Lisa Yee.
   I hung out with the bright kids in school (I guess I hoped it would rub off). Actually, I love geeks, always have. But consistently, truly intelligent people have a hard time interacting socially.
   Millicent is off the charts intelligent. This is the funny story of how she learns to interact socially and find where she "fits."

   "Walk Two Moons" by Sharon Creech.
   Wow do I need to read more by this author. "Walk Two Moons" won the Newbery in 1994/5 (?) and I'm sorry I've only just now read it. It's a wonderful story. Funny and moving - the voice is fantastic. Yes, it has a dead mother, but wow is it handled well. It's a story of personal growth as Salamanca, "Sal," and her father heal from their loss.

   "The Rules of Survival" by Nancy Werlin.
   This is a disturbing book to read. These kids are stuck and leaning on their big brother who is really too young and stuck himself to know what to do about their abusive and dangerous mother. Until he sees Murdoch, that is.
   It's a well-written book and probably very important in the hands of the right child.

   So, all in all, I recommend these books highly. And what a great few days I had gobbling them up!

The Oracle@WiFi

     I had lunch with a friend the other day, and a friend of hers, Beth Lilly, joined us. Beth is a photographer and is the creator of what verges on performance art, "The Oracle@WiFi."
     Every Sunday, peole call her cell-phone and say "I have a question." (They don't tell her what it is.) She then takes three photographs and emails them to you. After she's sent you the last one, you send her your question. (It's funny how similar so many of the questions are.)
     Simple, right? Well, what is freaky weird is how often the images answer the question, I mean REALLY answer the question.
     I called last Sunday and you can can see my result above. We agreed that this was a very good reading. The three cups translate to all kinds of positive things (she sometimes refers to Tarot card information for the meaning of symbols), such as exuberance, friendship, cups to be filled with largesse. The second image I took as "I'm being watched" (in a good way), but it could also mean that I need to be vigilant pertaining to business, protecting my interests. The third image is just so obvious it's funny - the classic "climbing the career ladder."
     All in all, I concluded I am on the right path, and need to keep doing what I'm doing, which is: work hard, stay productive, keep networking, and enjoy the ride.
     Is there anything to this? Any cosmic truth that comes through the Oracle? I don't know, but it sure is fun, and what a great idea. Look through the history of readings - they're a trip!

Illustration Friday: 80's

     The first thing that popped to mind was doing a charicature of Boy George, or somebody wearing jeans so tight, you can read their credit card number through their back pocket. And then I thought, do I really want to go there? I lived through it, that was enough.
     So, I'm going for the more serious side of the 80's and sharing something I've not done much of so far here. This is an image I created for "A Bird on Water Street" back when it was still a picture-book, or a chapter book (it's now a full blown novel and with my agent as I type).
     The story centers around the closing of the local copper mine through the eyes of 13-year-old Jack. And, even though my story is fiction, it's based on a real event in 1987. The coppermine was in Copperhill, Tennessee, and it's closing crushed the local economy.

     This image is of Jack and Piran watching a slag dump. The waste from separating copper from the rock left a sludge that, when molten hot, was poured down the sides of the company land (which sat on a mountain of the hardened stuff). It was like watching a fireworks show as the lava spit and sparked while it cooled.
     You can read a snippet of my epilogue describing the complicated history of the region HERE. But be prepared - it's kind of shocking.

What kind of Reader are YOU?

What Kind of Reader Are You?
Your Result: Dedicated Reader

You are always trying to find the time to get back to your book. You are convinced that the world would be a much better place if only everyone read more.

Obsessive-Compulsive Bookworm
Literate Good Citizen
Fad Reader
Book Snob
What Kind of Reader Are You?
Create Your Own Quiz

     Found this on Stacy Whitman's blog today - and it's a fun thing to do. I've often wondered if I read more than the average person. Well, probably, but how much is that compared to the grand scale of things? Go find out for yourself!
     Oh, and btw, Stacy got "Obsessive-Compulsive Bookworm." She reads more than I do, but c'mon - she's an editor after all! :)

A friendly get-together and "The Zone"

     "Come meet us for breakfast," my friend said.
     "But I just ate," says I.
     "You need to get out, c'mon," says my friend.
     But I was already "in The Zone."
     What exactly is The Zone? It's this strange, otherworldy place my brain goes to when I'm creating - and I must admit, it's not a completely comfortable place to be. It's a release of myself and everything around me. In the zone, time flies quickly and very little can pull my attention away. I can go into the zone at 11:00am and come out at 4:00pm wondering, "What just happened?" It's a little weird.
     The more I write and illustrate, the more I realize how necessary it is to let The Zone take over. I've discovered that reading emails and checking blogs isn't just procrastination - it's how I slowly wind into The Zone. It's an important part of how I work.
     However, I'm also starting to realize that I have to balance it with a bit of real life. See, the The Zone is slightly addictive. It sucks me in and would really like to keep me there. It wants to rule me - scary!
     But if I let it keep me, I can stay holed up for days without any human interaction, and my social skills really do suffer.
     So this morning I said yes to my friend and I met her and her daughter at Thumbs Up Cafe. I got a take-out salad for lunch and caught up on what she's up to, as well as some other friends who I haven't seen in a bit. And y'know what? I feel better, I feel more human. I am a social creature after all.
     And now that I'm a functioning, interactive part of society, I am once again ready to sit down and go into The Zone.

Illustration Friday: Buzz

Buzz? How easy is that!? Well, I have to show something from my story "Queen Bea" - duh! I don't think I've shown y'all this one yet (I hope). This is Bea guiding her Grandpa as he backs up his truck to get the bees (who have inconveniently relocated to the school playground) into a hive (see them on the branch?).
Click the image to get a closer look.

It's a Dinosaur? No, it's a DRAGON!!

Scientists have discovered a new dinosaur that looks so much like a dragon, they actually named it "Dracorex Hogwartsia!" J.K. Rowling is said to be thrilled by the honor. You can read more about it (and see pictures) HERE.

Word Meter - groovy

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
3 / 50

     Just found this groovy word meter tool via Candie Moonshower's Blog, via Revelda's Journal. You can keep track of how far along you are on your latest writing project.
     I'm going to keep track of my newest novel, "Goldrush" (working title), although as I mentioned earlier, I already had to put it aside to get back to edits on "A Bird on Water Street." Still, these things take time and it will come, but now I can "see" my progress!

A bloggy THANKS for the New Year!

     THANK YOU!! to all you wonderful people who comment on my blog. I try to respond when I can, but with bloggers new settings, most of the comments come in without an email address to reply to these days.
     But, I want you all to know how much I appreciate your kind words, encouragement, and general silliness. Your comments often arrive right when I'm in need of a pick-me-up and make me smile. So, thanks to all, and I wish all of us a peaceful, successful, and happy New Year!!
     Okay 2007 - I'm ready for ya - let's see what you've got in store for us this year!