Tag - I'm it!

Well, I've been tagged twice now, by Laura at Wordy Girls and Kim at Stone Stoop, so I guess I'll play. Although I'm not going to tag anybody else because we all know the same people and it's turning into a whirlpool!

So, 8 habits/facts about me:
1) Hey Kim, I'm allergic to mangos too!! Yup, blow up like a balloon. Not pretty. It's a shame too, cuz I really like mangos.
2) I'm taking Spanish lessons so I can talk to my multi-cultural audience when my bilingual picture book, "Paco and the Giant Chile Plant" comes out in June 2008.
3) I tend to start singing songs from the broadway version of Peter Pan (Mary Martin style) if I've imbibed a bit too much. ahem.
4) Otherwise, I'm a tea-drinker. Make a pot in the morning and sip all day.
5) I love listening to audio books when I'm illustrating, but when I'm writing, it has to be dead quiet.
6) I used to hang-glide. Y'all know this, I've said it before. Now if I could just find the pictures to prove it . . .
7) I'm turning the big 4-0 this summer. Is it freaking me out? Nahhhhhh. Not at allllll..... yah, whatEVer!
8) I used to drive the coolest vehicle known to mankind: a 1978 Toyota LandCruiser - and this time I DID find proof!

Update! Ha! I did find proof. The top two are flying the shop's glider (notice the wheels) when I was first going off the top of the mountain. The third is me setting up my own glider. It was blue and white, so pretty. :)

Catching up & rearranging refrigerator magnets

     Yo ho! I'm back with the living, well sort of. I brought home a cold from my weekend in the mountains as a souvenir. Yuck.
     Anyhow! My Creating Picture Books class at John C. Campbell went well. I had six students of various levels and expectations which is always challenging, but exactly what I love about teaching. It's a constantly shifting puzzle to figure out how to relay the most pertinent information to each particular brain in the most effective way. It was also the first time I'd taught that information in such an intense environment. I've given my "Nuts and Bolts" of children's book publishing several times at conferences, but this was an entire weekend and added a lot of focus on writing. I believe we had some real successes with some of the students, so I was pleased.
     Speaking of writing, I've just sent out a revision of my novel, "A Bird on Water Street." Now, I love the internet, but sending a novel via email is so . . . anticlimactic. Where are the trumpets? Where's the mojo from my postmasters? Where's the ceremony? And what do I do now? I'm all wound up.
     So, I have created an "I just sent it out" ceremony in celebration . . . rearranging refrigerator magnets!
     Yes folks, it's all the rage. I grouped my take-out Chinese menus under one clip magnet and my pizza delivery menus under another. The classic monster cereal magnets are lined up in a neat, orderly row. OCD you say? No way. It's a ritual! It's a ceremony! And I somehow feel much better about sending out my manuscript.
     Oh, and just in case there is anything to that whole The Secret thing - my manuscript will be sold within three weeks. It will be fought over, a bidding war will ensue, and it will be purchased with a two book deal. Oh the glory.

Maura O'Connell!

     Hubbie and I went to see Maura O'Connell at Eddie's Attic last night. She's an Irish folk singer and wow, what a voice. Her singing is soulful, painful, beautiful and pure.
     I first discovered her about twelve (or more?) years ago in Chattanooga, Tennessee during the Riverbend Festival and became an instant fan.
     Turned out hubbie heard about her even earlier. When we married and combined our music libraries, we had several duplicates of Muara's music.
     I always get inspired during concerts like hers. Between the music and the people watching, I had to pull out one of my bookmarks and scribble down thoughts: "There's a hole in my pocket and I lost my rainbow. I lost my dog and my lucky penny but I kept my dime. . . . You make me matter . . . He was uncomfortable with the width that made him man. If he'd been born right, he'd have been narrow, petite, leaving little impact on the world . . . "
     What do these mean? I have no idea. And yes, a lovely buzz is probably due some of the credit.
     Hubbie and I are both out of town this weekend. I'm teaching "Creating Picture Books" at John C. Campbell (more on that later) and hubbie's out on his motorcycle again! (Apparently the eight day riding vacation last week wasn't enough.) So we celebrated date night a bit early. What a great evening!

Industry Sales Report

According to Shelf Awareness:
Net book sales last year dropped 0.3% to $24.2 billion from $24.26 billion in 2005, according to the Association of American Publishers. The estimates are based on sales reports from 81 publishers and data from the Bureau of the Census. For religious books and e-books, data includes sales information from the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association and the International Digital Publishing Forum, respectively.

Sales of adult and children's trade books rose 2.9% to $8.3 billion. In this category, sales of adult paperbacks rose 8.5% to $2.3 billion and sales of adult hardcover grew 4.1% to $2.6 billion while sales of children's/YA hardcovers fell 2% to $2.1 billion and sales of children's/YA paperbacks slipped 0.6% to $1.3 billion.

Good news for picture books. I wonder if these means the demographics are starting to shift again?

A Door for the Decatur Arts Festival!

     Have I been quiet lately? Seems like it from this side. Why? Because I've been incredibly, insanely busy of late (14 hour work days, no lie). I won't bore you with the details but I do want to share one of the projects I just finished.
     Diane at Little Shop of Stories roped fellow illustrator, Liz Conrad, and me into painting a door to be auctioned off at this year's Decatur Arts Festival. This turned out to be quite the project when the old, stripped, mission-style (aka heavy) door arrived. It took five coats of primer and paint to cover each side - no small task!
     After days of prep, it was time for Liz to come over. We set up a great work space in the garage with hubbie's stereo blasting awesome tunes (yes, it's his favorite room). The weather was beautfiul and our supplies were plentiful. Now, what to do?
     We decided to lean on the bright colors both our illustration styles share and created a rainbow palette on the inset panels. To those we added cut-outs from our books (the galleys and such). Here's Liz doing her amazing cutting thing (cut paper is her preferred medium, so she's a whiz).
     We ended up using a combination of paint, collage, decoupage, 3-D, you name it. Here's me painting antennae on one of the carrot butterflies from Glitter Girl and the Crazy Cheese.
     The cool thing was, collaborating and working with paints and modge podge was something neither Liz nor I had done in a long time. We worked well together and it ended up being a fun break and a wonderful creative exercise. We really enjoyed it.
     It took two days to complete and we were pretty darned pleased with the finished door, must say. We both agreed it would be a fun, colorful addition to a child's bedroom. (Hope the purchaser sends a pic if they come across this blog post.) Here's the finished product:

     It will be included with the other colorful doors around the gazebo downtown during the arts festival. I'll be teaching Creating Picture Books at the John C. Campbell Folk School, so won't be there to hear the oohs and aahs, but Liz promises to share pictures. In other words, more to come!

Blog Book Tour for Kerry Madden!

Today, I am pleased to introduce Kerry Madden, author of Gentle's Holler and the just released follow-up, Louisiana's Song. Kerry and I have much in common including a mutual love for all things Appalachian. In Gentle's Holler I love the strong sense of place Kerry portrays, transporting you to the beautiful smoky mountains and Maggie Valley with all their charms and spirit. I'm thrilled to be able to revisit in Louisiana's Song.

Congratulations on the release of "Louisiana's Song" (Viking), the follow-up to "Gentle's Holler" (which I loved). In this second book, we follow the story of Livy Two. Is this eleven year old shaped after you or somebody you know?

Thanks, Elizabeth! Livy Two was inspired by my sister-in-law, Tomi Lunsford, a Nashville songwriter, and the third oldest of thirteen children. I tried to imagine what it was like for her to grow up one of thirteen kids and be a songwriter. Livy Two is also a little of my love of books…

Now, I know you’re based in California. How did you come to write about the Smoky Mountains?

I lived in ten states growing up…and I lived in North Carolina as a small child and later moved to East Tennessee in high school when my father started coaching for the Tennessee Volunteers. I soon learned that kids always went mountains for everything – hikes, retreats, romance, field trips. I fell in love with the mountains – and in 2001, at a dark and desperate writing time (ghostwriting, penning shadow soap operas where I had to write garbage like “My, that bathrobe looks very familiar” …I was also writing health articles like “how to stay healthy if you sell insurance”) Anyhow, I made a decision to write a children’s novel and set it in the most beautiful place in the world just to save my sanity. I also wanted to write it with love...

You catch the flavor of the area so well. What do you especially love about the region and try to portray in your books?

I read CHRISTY by Catherine Marshall in high school, and that inspired me to go teach English in China in a very remote village after college. Then I read Lee Smith as a young mother, and her books were a huge comfort and inspiration – FAIR AND TENDER LADIES and ORAL HISTORY, especially. I married a man, Kiffen Lunsford, whose great uncle was a songcatcher in the Smokies, Bascom Lamar Lunsford, and I have to say COALMINER’S DAUGHTER broke my heart, too, so it was a culmination of so many things. I also grew up drawing pictures of big families. I love the language, the music, the way folks talk – my ears perk up in the mountains, and I just want to soak up the words. I miss in living in the South. I ran away from it (Knoxville) and went as far away as I could – all the way to China with my husband our first year of marriage – and yet, I go back to the South every day in my writing.

Do you think growing up as the daughter of a football coach (but not that football coach) and moving around so much, contributed to you being a writer now?

On each moving day, I was the kid who went kicking and screaming to the new football town, but I know now it was my training to be a writer. My father would order me in the car (I was sulking on the curb or crying in the empty house), “Cut the dramatics! You’ll forget all about these people! You want to stay in the same town your whole life? What kind of life is that?” Out of pure defiance, I vowed I would never forget and my childhood became my football novel, OFFSIDES, about growing up a freak on the gridiron – a little like THE GREAT SANTINI with a football backdrop. We had to dress in team colors and we were Panthers, Demon Deacons, Volunteers, Cyclones…but my dad always did say, “Follow your dream!” and my mother got us library cards and told us things would be great because we were the children of a football coach. And sometimes, they were…
Read Kerry's beautiful essay I AM NOT JOHN MADDEN’S DAUGHTER.

Do you have any book signing tours planned for the release of "Louisiana's Song?"

Yes, I’m doing lots of reading and signings here in Southern California this month with mountain music and story-swapping. Then later this summer and again in the fall, I’ll be going to back to North Carolina and Tennessee to do writing workshops with kids. I set up my GENTLE’S HOLLER tour as writing workshops for kids, and I met some wonderful young writers and teachers and librarians. Thank you for these great questions, Elizabeth!

Go read more about Kerry and Louisiana's Song during her blog book tour this week. She's with me today, Dotti Enderle tomorrow, Alan Gratz on Wednesday, Kim Norman on Thursday, and Ruth McNally Barshaw on Saturday.

Illustration Friday: Sign

     I've posted this on my blog before, but not for Illustration Friday. This was an illustration for my dummy, "Hyena Jo."
     He wanted to be a graffitti artist, but lived on a vast African plain with no walls on which to paint. So he "signed" (tagged) the animals instead, especially the big ones with their big wide sides so similar to subway cars.

Book Expo Podcasts!

I clued into this last year and had to share. Book Expo has a podcast series of authors and people in the biz during and around Book Expo. You can subscribe to the email newsletter alerting you to what's available with links to listen. Easy peasy! Click on the logo to learn more.

Kick-off Summer Reading at River Eves Elementary!

     In April I had the pleasure of addressing a room full of readers dressed in grass skirts and hawaiian shirts. It was the "Kick-off Summer Reading" party for River Eves Elementary School hosted by my favorite Barnes & Noble in Alpharetta.
     The kids had a blast coloring, playing limbo, and helping me draw Glitter Girl. Can you see the two girls catching the pastel dust as it fell while I colored? It was like rainbow rain. How cute!
     I sold mucho books to kids who just looked like readers. What does a reader look like? Intelligent, interested, engaged. I'm telling you, it was a bright crowd.
     And once again, B&N Northpoint came through like champs. I've learned that it's not always about the store or even the chain, it's about the people. The north side of town is lucky to have the vibrant store they do. I've started to keep a short list of bookstores run by passionate children's book buyers. They always make my events such a joy.
     So, in the spirit of things, I hope you get lots of time to read this summer. What are some of your reading goals?

Blog Book Tour for Barbara Johansen Newman!

     No personality here. Nope, nada, zip. Whatever!
     This week I would like to introduce you all to a talented and crazy lady, Barbara Johansen Newman. She's been an artist since day one, and a highly successful children's book illustrator as her latest artistic incarnation. And now she's a writer too. Her first book which she both wrote and illustrated has just been released by Sterling Publishing, and it's a hootenany of a humdinger!
     Barbara's book tour took her to Dotti Enderle's blog yesterday, mine today, Ruth McNally Barshaw's blog Wednesday, Kim Norman's on Thursday, and Karen Lee's on Friday. Read my interview with Barbara, then visit the other blogs to learn more. Click the cover to buy a copy of Tex & Sugar.

After an impressive lineup of books illustrated by you, congratulations on your first book with only your name on the cover! Tex & Sugar, written AND illustrated by YOU has just been released by Sterling Publishers! Give us a quickie about the story.

     Thanks, Elizabeth, for nice words and the congratulations!
     The story of my first book as author and illustrator is a saga.
     Tex and Sugar began as a little poem written in 1983, called Tex Mex Rex. It was part of a collection that I had written about work-a-day cats called, “Seven Working Kitty City Ditties.” Each cat had a different job.
     On a trip to NYC to show my portfolio to publishers, one art editor, then at Knopf, came downstairs to meet me, pointed to Tex Mex Rex and said, “Turn this into its own book.”
     I made plans to do that, but life came along. I got busy with editorial work, buying a house, and adopting our first child. And I continued to be sidetracked with more magazine work and two more sons, not to mention extended family. Seventeen years passed by before I pulled that old collection of poems out and started working on Tex.
     Eventually I had a story for him, and the first publisher I sent it to was one I was working with. They were interested in the story but not with me as illustrator. They wanted to “stardust” the story with a big name illustrator, since I was unknown as a writer. I said no. Not that story. Too personal. I was told I was crazy, but I just could not part with the character.
     The manuscript went through rewrites and revisions, in between my illustration jobs and family life. It came close to being sold, and then not. But every time I pulled it out for rewriting, it got better.
     Finally, in in the spring of 2005 I committed myself to working on getting this story published. I sent it out simultaneously to about 7 places, and Meredith Mundy Wasinger at Sterling loved it right away. Sterling made an offer and I withdrew it from consideration at the other houses. I was thrilled because it meant I would be able to work with Meredith again.
     So there you have it: 22 years from first draft to sale! A long time to cook on the stove. I tell this story because I think people should never give up on dreams.

You have such an energetic colorful style. How do you achieve it?

     During the only year in college that was of any value to me, a professor looked at some of my work and said: “Barbara, draw from your head.” I think he realized that the work I did that was purely drawn from my heart and not from life was so much better because it was intuitive, as opposed to tightly rendered. When I want to work on a project, I need to get to the part of me that draws by instinct, instead of by replication. I try NOT to plan, but work instead from that subconscious place that does what needs doing without thinking too much about it. You know – like when you doodle while talking on the phone. Those drawings are always so pure and fresh.
     Color is important to me. I love color and always have, but I worked for many years with a lack of it. Not sure why, except I was drawn to line, with color being secondary. I needed to become a colorist. I learned to work with color in the last few years I made the dolls. And then, once I started illustrating I found such pleasure in color.
     And here is something else: my house has gotten more and more colorful, too.

How was writing different for you? Was it a completely different way to work?

     I have to remind myself that I need to write the way I draw – like a stream of random thoughts and ideas that I will make sense of later. “Just get those ideas down,” I have to repeat over and over to myself. It is not easy for me to do this, but I think I write better stories when I write with my own voice, from “that” place, like finding my own style of drawing. I am still working on that.

You have an extensive history in puppetry and soft figure sculpting. How does that influence your style today?

     Making dolls and puppets is all about being character driven and finding those nuances in the details of dress and behavior that make protagonists who they are. When I write, I work from the character and the setting, because that is what I like: portraits full of details that paint the picture and tell you who this person is. I worked that way as a puppeteer and I worked that way as a doll maker.
     It is a bit of a struggle for me though, because characters alone do not make a plot. I can create great characters and very detailed, believable settings and situations. Plot is much harder. It is my biggest challenge.

I love the boots you wear while promoting Tex & Sugar. Where'd you find them?

     I love cowboy boots and have many pairs in different colors. But when Tex and Sugar came out I decided I needed a genuine, custom pair of cowboy boots to celebrate. I went on line and found Rocketbuster Boots in El Paso, Texas. How perfect was that? Sugar leaves El Paso to hit NYC! The styles they showed on line knocked my socks off! I told them what I was looking for and they customized their design for me. BTW, one of the owners of Rocketbusters left NYC for El Paso. I found that little twist to make the whole thing even more interesting and maybe ...even...of ....cosmic significance.........
     Here is a big problem, though: I think I would like more pairs of boots from Rocketbusters.

Me too! Thanks Barb!

Illustration Friday: Citrus - 100th IF Post!

Sign up to receive alerts when a new coloring page is posted each week and to view more coloring pages - click here!

     Wow! Today I celebrate my 100th post on Illustration Friday! Don't believe me? Check out the IF Gallery I've put together.
     Ironically, with today's subject, I'm posting what I consider to be one of my first truly successful illustrations. I did this . . . about nine years ago, and it was probably the first piece I ever did that made me think, "hm, I might be able to play with the big dogs!" It was quite an accomplishment for me.
     Help me celebrate my 100th IF post! Download and color my birthday bear:

Thanks for all the great comments y'all! If you color 'em - I'll post 'em! This one is by "kinT."
You guys are so awesome. This second birthday bear is colored by "Cat."
The bears keep coming! This one is by Mark Korbieh - a friend from Spanish class!

And another bear! This one colored by Scott Cuzzo. :)
This is Dora Agius' pretty card creation:

Blog Book Tour for Ruth McNally Barshaw!

     Today's blog book tour is for Ruth McNally Barshaw and her new release, Ellie McDoodle: Have Pen, Will Travel. Ruth's story is an inspiring one, so enjoy reading my interview with her today and visit the other stops on her tour. Dotti Enderle on Monday, Karen Lee on Wednesday, Kim Norman on Thursday, Alan Gratz on Friday, Barbara Newman on Saturday, and Greg Fishbone on Sunday!

     Ruth, Congratulations on the release of your first book "Ellie McDoodle" (Bloomsbury), written And illustrated by YOU!! The story of how you sold your first book is truly magical. Can you share?

     Thank you! I could not be more thrilled. It's still hard to believe it's all for real.
     Harken back to October, 2004. I'd been studying and creating picturebook dummies for two years and loved it, and was at the personal rejection stage. That's where the editor says, "Nice, no thanks, but send us something else you've done."
     I met my idol, Tomie dePaola, at a local bookstore (and incidentally had declared on a few email lists that if I ever met him in person I would wash his feet. I did remember to offer but he declined politely). I stood near his snaking booksigning line and drew him a few times, laughed at all his jokes, and when it was finally time -- two hours later -- to get his autograph he treated me like an old friend. Bear in mind I had my squirmy toddler grandson on my back and my 8-year-old daughter at my side the entire time. I was desperate to get a few minutes with Tomie.
     What he said ended up changing my life: "Come to New York for the annual SCBWI Conference in February; we're doing more for illustrators this time." I said I would go.
     All the way home I beat myself up for it. I had no money, no means to go to New York. But I felt he meant there were specific opportunities for me.
     Well, magically the money materialized -- a cartooning job, and reimbursement from a cousin for art done many months earlier. Suddenly I could go. But I was scared, so a friend arranged to go with me, splitting the cost of transportation and covering the cost of the hotel. The friend backed out at the last minute, and I couldn't just write off that $400 in tuition. We were broke!
     I begged the bank for a $500 loan to cover the train and hotel (showed them a painting I planned to display at the conference), and I went. I had no hotel room for the first night. Had never been to New York, never been on a train. It was a total leap of faith, and somehow it all worked out.
     While there I drew everything, like I always do.
     I came home discouraged. I'd put myself "out there" and nobody discovered me. Although it was a glorious and inspiring time, I wondered when I would finally get my work published. I vowed to improve it until they HAD to hire me. (In fact I read books on color theory on the train home).
     On a lark, I put my sketchbook online, and sent the link to a few writer/illustrator groups and was deluged with email.
     They convinced me to do a kids' book in that style. A week later, an agent found me. We signed and she sold the book to Bloomsbury soon after.
     My life completely changed, almost overnight.
     My agent and the staff at Bloomsbury are so brilliant and wonderful to work with. I feel very lucky. And my writer friends have my undying gratitude. I've come to realize conferences aren't about the editor or agent connections you make. They're about the other writers and illustrators. My peers helped get me published, and they have mentored me and nurtured me through every step in the process.
     My family didn't understand what I was doing -- in fact they actively opposed it. But my writer and illustrator friends -- gosh, what truly great people they are. The book is dedicated to them.

     Wow! Some story, eh? To see Ruth's SCBWI-NY sketchbook for 2007, go to: http://www.ruthexpress.com/sketch/nyc07/001.html. To see the sketchbook that started the whole thing, go to: Ruth's 2005 NY-SCBWI sketchbook.

     Thank you! The link for the original sketchbook, from '05, is on my website, too. And the one from '06. Each one has almost 200 pages of sketches and conference notes.

     They're worth the look-see too - I've enjoyed every page!
     So tell us the story of Ellie McDoodle!

     Ellie is almost 12, and she gets stuck going camping with relatives she cannot stand, and she writes and draws all aboutit in her sketchbook. She always has a sketchbook handy. Eventually she discovers things aren't always as they first seem, and there's more good to her relatives than she originally thought.
     That's the surface stuff. Deeper, Ellie is about loss and despair, and hope and how things eventually work out ok. Most especially it is about living in the moment: Inventing fun, sharing, noticing small things, and enjoying whatever path you're on.

     This is your first book, but you've already lined up the sequel for 2008. A two book deal! What's that been like? Did you already plan to create a second book?

     When I was writing Ellie I kept thinking this could be a series, but it wasn't pitched that way to the editor. I kept squirrelling away ideas for a sequel but it wasn't until the revisions stage that I realized Bloomsbury was looking ahead also. My editor said something like, "Can you make this character her little brother instead of her cousin, so he can be featured in future books?" I felt like I had hit the jackpot.
     A few months later my agent returned from an editor meeting saying they wanted a book every year for a while. I don't think I will ever forget that day.
     I'm working on the sequel right now. It wasn't hard to write the synopsis, but sitting down to do the writing was daunting. I procrastinated for weeks. I was scared to even try to produce something better than the first book. I know it has to be great for people to want to read it. What a huge challenge. And the deadlines are extremely tight because it's such a complicated book to produce, both on my end and the publisher's. It's a big, intense job.
     Staring down all that hard work is not easy. I'm learning to pace myself, though. Last year during the revisions I either got very sick or attended a funeral every single time I took a break. I'm determined to make it go better this time.

     You are just now starting to kick-off book signings and events for Ellie McDoodle. What do you have on the docket and what are you really excited about?

     I'm deliriously excited about a few things:
     - book 2, which is almost ready to hand off to my editor,
     - working on a picturebook project which is very funny,
     - seeing my book in stores, and hearing when it has sold out,
     - getting Ellie into the hands of people who love her.
     Yesterday a family strolled down my street, and I paid particular attention because their girls looked to be Ellie's age. My grandson ran after them yelling, "Hey! This is about Ellie McDoodle!" (he had a flyer about the Book Launch Party in his hand) and I'm afraid I didn't stop him. I want as many people to know as possible. The family thought we were weirdos at first but they eventually lost the deer-in-the-headlights look.

     Again, congratulations. It's been so fun to watch your success!

     Thank you! It's been fun living it.
     I remember when my kids were babies I used to sometimes cry myself to sleep, just certain that my extreme happiness couldn't possibly last. But it did. Similarly, I sometimes feel this, today, is too good to last. But it's one heck of a thrill ride in the meantime.

     Here's to Ruth's (and Ellie's) continued success!

May Day and Drawing at John C. Campbell

     I taught my annual Beginning Drawing class at John C. Campbell Folk School in North Carolina this past weekend. Being around May Day, we were treated to Garland, Maypole and Morris Dancers. These are images from the website as it was rather drizzly weather during the performance.
     I especially liked the Morris Dancers. They had bells on their legs, clacked sticks together, and their faces were covered with blue paint. The story is, if you were kissed by one, you'd be pregnant before the year was out. Well, these are all fertility rites anyhow. Much fun to see.

     I also had a great group of students. All claimed to be beginners, but I was so impressed with the drawings they created. I'll post the final gallery show as soon as I can figure out how to get the images off our new camera.

     I'll be teaching Creating Children's Picture Books at John C. in two weeks. There's still time to sign up if you'd like to join us. What an inspired and beautiful place to hang out. I'm looking forward to going back.

Illustration Friday: Neighbor

     This is a spread from Glitter Girl and the Crazy Cheese as the cheese dances back to the neighborhood - see it back there doing a jig?
     Oh, and the dog? That's Bernie, my dog, yup. He's in all my books. I have the kids wave and say, "Hi, Bernie!"
     So . . . go ahead. Say it . . . "Hi, Bernie!"

Coloring Pirates!

     A local credit union recently used my "Pirate Treasure" coloring page in a promotion for their bank. Kids colored tons of my art and the bank had a contest. Here are the three winners: 1st Place, 2nd Place, and 3rd Place.
     Are these not the cutest? This is when being an illustrator is really fun, things like this just make me smile!
     I'm going to draw a new pirate image for "Talk Like a Pirate Day" in September. This one has been so hugely popular!
     Oh, if you'd like to color my "Pirate Treasure" yourself, click on the black and white version.