Pigeon Presents!

Mo Willems has a new website for all his wonderful creations, and it is the CUTEST THING!!! You gotta go visit (click Mo's art). Make sure you roll over everything and prepare to laugh out loud!

Harry Potter cover Revealed!

     According to Publishers Weekly, this is cover for the last of the Harry Potter books, "Harry Potter and the Dathly Hallows," again illustrated by fabuloso Mary GrandPré.
     I love his serious, mature expression on this one. Of course, the big question is . . . will Harry survive? I can't wait to find out.
     Of course, I've got to say, the cover kind of reminds me of something . . . hmmmm.

Illustration Friday: I Spy...

"I spy . . . pepper juice in your eye!"
¡Aye caramba!

Oh, what a day! I have the windows open, the fan on, and a warm breeze is wafting in. Oh, and it's FRIDAY! Could things get any better? Oh yeah, hubbie's on his way home and we're going for Mexican food on a patio somewhere. I'm in heaven. :)

Hey guys, a lot of you leave me questions, but then use the "anonymous" or the "noreply-comment" setting. I can't talk to you when you do that! hint, hint.

New Feature - Shelfari!

     If you scroll down, you'll see I've added a new feature to my sidebar. This is Shelfari - a website where you can create a bookshelf of all the books in your library, your reading group collections, your favorites, you name it. I know there are other programs out there that do this, but I found this one especially easy to use. I'm slowly adding my children's book collection which will take a while, let me tell you!
     The cool thing about this feature is by clicking on the covers you can learn more about the books or even buy them. It also feeds into my Amazon associates account, which is a way to make pennies (or Amazon credits - woohoo!) off of referrals.
     Now I will always say you should go to your local indie bookseller first, but having lived off the grid in the north Georgia mountains, I know that just isn't possible for everybody.
     Anyhow, it is in beta so is a bit clunky in some browsers (and please tell me if it's made my blog go wonky in your browser, especially if you're running IE on a PC), but I think I've made a new friend.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!!

     My favorite memory of St. Patty's Day is the morning I awoke to my husband rattling off joke after joke in a thick Irish brogue. I don't think I've ever laughed so hard.
     So here's one for ye:

     Two Irishmen, Patrick Murphy and Shawn O'Brian were lifelong friends. But alas, Patrick grew sick and was dying.
     While on his deathbed, Patrick called to his friend, "Shawn, I 'ave a request for ye."
     Shawn walked to his friend's bedside and kneeled.
     "Shawny ole boy, we've been friends all our lives, and now I'm leaving 'ere. I 'ave one last request fir ye to do."
     O'Brian burst into tears, "Anything Patrick, anything ye wish. It's done."
     "Well, under me bed is a box containing a bottle of the finest whiskey in all of Ireland, bottled the year I was born it was. After I die, and they plant me in the ground, I want you to pour that fine whiskey over me grave so it might soak into me bones and I'll be able to enjoy it for all eternity."
     O'Brian was overcome by the beauty and in the true Irish spirit of his friend's request, he asked, "Aye, tis a fine thing you ask of me, and I will pour the whiskey. But, might I strain it through me kidneys first?"

Here's a coloring page too - click the image to download. (104k)
Luck o' the Irish be with ye!

Illustration Friday: Total

     Odd topic this week. It will be interesting to see how everybody translates it's meaning. For me, it immediately turns into "totally" as in "like totally" (said with a Valley Girl accent).
     With that in mind, this is a spot illustration from my first illustrated picture book, THE PRINCE'S DIARY (named No.1 2006 Valentine's Day Pick by Book Sense). This is when Lady Jane Prescott discovers she is like totally allergic to blackberry scones!

Illustration Friday: Wired

     I actually have a funny story behind this week's theme. In high school I went on one of those "see all of Europe in two weeks" tours.
     We had a great time, but I remember as we stood under the Eiffel Tower (and me a complete francophile - wow), a girl named Amy sat there plugged into her music with her eyes closed. I wanted to shake her and say, "Look up will ya?"
     So as I was sketching something for this week's theme, of course Amy came to mind. But instead of the Eiffel Tower I wondered, what if whatever was above her was something even more amazing? Something like a big pink dragon?
     This is a serious quickie - just a few hours.

We all scream for ICE-CREAM!

     Can you imagine this cruising through your neighborhood?
     This is the latest creation by Innocent to sell smoothies. I'd be all for it! I wonder what music they pipe out of those speakers though. I'm thinking "Green Acres." Hm.
     Anyhow, got this great image at The Cool Hunter, a great website for cutting edge and weird design.


     Hubbie and I saw blues artist Keb'Mo' at Symphony Hall last night.
     I didn't know that much about Keb'Mo' other than hearing some of his music on my fave station out of Chattanooga, 88.1 (I listen to my favorite D.J., Richard Winham, via streaming radio). Anyhow, I just had the feeling he would put on a great show, and boy was I right.
     Have you ever met somebody who opens their mouth and pure magic flows out? This lanky, unassuming guy is so full of talent he doesn't even have to think about it. (True talent vs. the American Idol variety.)
     He's actually going to make a great old guy. He's so laid back and casual as all this wonderful stuff pours out of him, but he has this smirk he flashes at the last minute letting you know you better not underestimate him. It's obvious he loves what he's doing, he just seems so darned content.
     And his blues style is remarkably accessible, even to those who aren't true blues fanatics. You can hear samples of his music at the Keb'Mo' website.
     If you get the chance to see Keb'Mo' in your town - don't miss him!

Free Photoshop!

According to this article, Adobe will be offering a free online version of Photoshop soon. For all those who have never been able to invest in the whole hog - keep an eye on this!

The Cat in the Hat 50th Birthday Celebration

was last Thursday. Everybody was talking about the milestone, and I didn't want to be redundant, but I can't pass up sharing this photo from PW Daily:

     "Last Thursday the staff of Random House Children's Books saluted The Cat in the Hat on his 50th birthday at a companywide meeting. Everyone attending got a hat."
     Is this not the cutest? Gotta love it.

SCBWI Southern Breeze Springmingle Conference

     Tired and Wired. That’s what I am. I just finished an intense weekend at the SCBWI Southern Breeze Springmingle conference.
     I don’t care where you are in your children’s book career, conferences are FUN. They are opportunities to hang out with lots of people who just plain “get it.” They get how difficult it is to break into this industry. They get the passion for children’s books, and they get the desire and work it takes to contribute.
     And we’re odd birds, y’know. I’ve never met a children’s book author or illustrator who wasn’t intelligent and curious about the world around them. It makes for easy and interesting conversations no matter who you end up sitting next to.
     Along with being an attendee this year, I also gave portfolio reviews, which is something I love to do. My history in graphic design and illustration makes this a fairly easy exercise, and the teacher in me loves to give what I hope is helpful advice and pointers. Some artists’ work I had seen before and I was happy to see growth in skills. Go illustrators!
     This year’s conference had some great speakers too.
     Gretchen Hirsch, Assistant Editor at Harcourt Children’s Books, shared interesting perspectives as an Assistant Editor who works with picture books. Especially helpful was her break-down of the hierarchy at Harcourt: Editorial Assistant > Assistant Editor > Associate Editor > Editor > Senior Editor > Executive Editor > Vice President and Publisher. She suggested targeting Assistant Editors with submissions as they are starting to acquire their own manuscripts (with guidance from their Editor) and are eager to establish their own list.
     Claudia Gabel, of Delacorte Press, has a background in book packaging and therefore presented a more formulaic approach to the structure of mid-grade and young-adult novels. She stated the importance of establishing a “hook,” an unusual twist in plot or structure of a book that makes it commercially viable.
     I found her advice of dealing with a plot driven story in three Acts extremely helpful. It’s based on the classic Shakespearean structure, but she shared page counts per section and what stage of a story should be happening where within that structure.
     In Act I set up the story and end with an inciting incident in no more than 50 to 70 pages. In Act II, the meat of the story, end each chapter with a mini-cliffhanger, something to make you want to turn the page, and end the act with a high stakes situation which is nearly impossible to get out of. This section should be about 100 pages. Finally, in Act III, resolve the story, but make sure the resolution is not by coincidence. Readers want heroes - give them one.
     She said your character should want something in the beginning, but by the end realize what they need is something else.
     Barbara Seuling, Grande Dame of children’s book writing and illustrating, was delightful. She was well-spoken and knowledgeable as she shared her thoughts on the business as one who is highly established. She never forgot her roots however, and makes a point to visit every region of the SCBWI and share her experience with beginners. What a generous spirit.
     And finally, Michelle Poploff, author, VP and Editorial Director for Random House’s Yearling and Laurel Leaf imprints and Executive Editor of Delacorte Press, a true heavyweight in the business. She looks exactly like you would expect an established editor to look, intelligent, sharp and comfortably confident.
     I couldn’t believe what I heard as she described what she was looking for, basically describing my book, “A Bird on Water Street,” until she mentioned she was currently working on a book about mining (my book centers around the closing of a copper mine). However, I was thrilled (notice that manic-depressive pattern I talk about in this business?) when she sat down with me and my new friend, Shelli Johannes-Wells, and said she had read my book.
     Turns out she was one of the editors to whom my agent sent my book (go Faith!). Ms. Poploff talked about my book and the characters and asked me about the setting (can I tell you what a strange experience it is to have your creation quoted back to you?). She mentioned it needed some work in places, which I expect, but said she didn’t think Faith would have trouble selling it.
     OMG. Do I need to explain how validating this was? Can you blame me for being a bit freaked out that one of the top editors in this business read, remembered and said kind things about my First novel which took me almost four years to write? Wow.
     So, along with getting to hang out with my buds Liz Conrad, Vicky Alvear Shecter, and new friends, I received some wonderful feedback, and much needed validation.
     Kudos to Jo Kittenger, Donna Bowman, Robyn Hood Black, and all the volunteers for pulling together yet another fantastic conference (and to Tina Bilbrey who created the great logo).

"How Writing for Kids Is Like American Idol"

     I'm mostly posting about this Great Article by Laura Salas at Wordy Girls because I want the link in my blog history.
     Laura breaks down the American Idol process equating the steps to the children's book industry. I completely agree with her assessment. I've been an American Idol fan since I first viewed the show and felt the obvious similarities. Lucky for us in the books fields, we don't have to put ourselves out there so visibly for all to watch us fall flat on our faces. It just feels that way sometimes...

Illustration Friday: Hide

Perfect! I just finished the next illustration for "Paco and the Giant Chile Plant" and it's a perfect fit for this week's IF theme! (Click the image to get a better look.)

Do you follow the biz?

     I try to as best I can even though I am so far away from the publishing hub of New York. I've been reading the publishing houses' financial summaries via Publishers Lunch and was a bit confused about the overall message. I want to know, "are children's books on the rise, on the fall, or somewhere in between? Which children's markets are strongest?"
     Well, PW came out with an article that everybody remotely connected with picture books should read, "Are Picture Books Back?"
     Do it. Go read it now.