Illustration Friday: Twist

     I know I've told you about this before, but I just dummied it up for the first time last week. It needs tweaking, but I have to say I am so pleased with the way this book is coming together.
     What book?
     Why, "Paco and the Giant Chile Plant ~ Paco y la planta de chile gigante," of course!
     It's a Latino TWIST on "Jack and the Beanstalk" and the main reason I've been taking Spanish lessons (okay, that and turning 40). I want to be able to speak to my entire audience when Raven Tree Press releases it next June. It seems like a long way off, but holding the dummy in my hands is getting me so excited!!
     Click the image to see it larger

Southern Breeze to the Maurice Sendak Show!

     Sunday, a group of writers and illustrators from the SCBWI Southern Breeze gathered at the William Breman Jewish Heritage Museum to see the Maurice Sendak exhibit.
     Wow. I already admired Mr. Sendak's work immensely, but I had no idea the history and depth in his art.
     Being a first generation Polish immigrant (like my hubbie's grandparents) during the depression and WWII, Sendak had a difficult childhood. Rather than fluff his work up into a fantasy world of lovely, skinny mothers serving pink frosted cupcakes, he told stories using what was familiar to him, children wise beyond their years, frustrated parents, and scary relatives who didn't speak English. Childhood was a terrifying place, and he introduced an escape, a way to deal with harsh realities.
     Perhaps that's what makes his work so memorable. His stories emit an honesty, sometimes a tough honesty, which modern stories often avoid. Heck, he was the first to do it in his day too.
     It was a wonderful exhibit if you can make it by, and we all reverted to our inner six-year-olds when faced with a giant bowl of chicken and rice soup!

the place where BIG and little art meet

     When Laura Zarrin and her son painted a birthday cake for me, they also posted it at this great new blog,, where kids and adults collaborate to create finished art.
     What a great idea!
     Participation is open, so if you have little ones in your life, you'll definitely want to check this out.

Illustration Friday: Camouflage

I created this a few years ago for my dummy, "Hyena Jo." (Click the image to see it larger.)
And by the way, the stripes really do work. I learned this during our honeymoon in Kenya. You can see pictures here (it's an old site so please forgive the clunkiness).

My Teleclass: The Nuts & Bolts of Children's Book Illustration

     Author, Suzanne Laurience, has started a fantastic organization to help beginning writers in the children's industry, The National Writing for Children Center.
     She has invited me to speak in a teleclass this Wednesday evening, June 20th, at 8:00 pm eastern standard time. You do need to be a member to attend, but membership is free for one month. Go to The National Writing for Children Center website to learn more details, and come join me for "The Nuts and Bolts of Children's Book Illustration".
     I'll cover how to prepare and create an online portfolio, how to create a mailing list and send promotional postcards. I'll discuss my path to publication and what makes the art form of picture books unique.
     Hope to see you there!

Blog Book Tour for Kim Norman!

Drum roll please . . . today I'd like to introduce Kim Norman, author of the newly released Jack Of All Tails (Dutton). Kim is a multi-talented gal with tons of energy to share. Enjoy her interview!

Kim, congratulations on your newest release, Jack Of All Tails (Dutton)!

Thank you!!

So much of your life is in the public eye (you're a born performer). What is your pull to write and why this story?

As I mentioned on Dotti's blog, it was a "found gem" of a premise that just stuck with me. I tried it about a thousand-and-one ways; my poor critique group read it SO many times. They are saints! Originally, it was plotless; just kind of a slice-of-life: "Here's my family; here's this odd thing we do, (impersonating pets); tra la, isn' t it funny; the end." It had a lot of humor at that stage, but I was worried editors would complain there was no plot or conflict. So then I tried cramming in all these plot twists, (mean dogs; a lost dad; I think there was even a monkey in there for a while!), but it just wasn't working. It didn't have the freshness and humor of the original.

By this point, Joe Kulka, one of my crit group members, was jumping up and down, screaming, (I'll paraphrase), "No No NO! These plots are terrible! You've got to take it back closer to the original." (Did I mention how much I love my critique group? We've developed close friendships, but the group would mean nothing if not for that kind of honesty.) So I finally followed Joe's advice, took it back closer to the original version, and he was right. I did eventually find my conflict, (Kristi, the main character, struggling to figure out what kind of pet she's good at), but it wasn't a forced conflict with a lot of running around the park. It was an internal conflict true to Kristi's character.

How long did it take you to write Jack Of All Tails and what was your path to publication?

Once I found an angle, that first draft went fairly quickly. In fact, I THINK the closing line of the book has never changed from the first draft to the last page in the finished, printed book. But with all those revisions and back-tracks, it was months and months, probably over a year, before I got it to a level that it was ready to submit. I queried it around a few places, got a few nibbles as I recall, but I'm really the laziest writer on the planet when it comings to putting things in the mail. In October of 2002 I met a Dutton editor at a Mid-Atlantic SCBWI conference who liked the manuscript; she even had a revision letter to hand me when we met. I revised it two or three more times for her and she bought it the following April.

I clearly remember that final revision: I sat down on the couch with the manuscript in my lap and printouts of all my group's critiques fanned out around me, highlighted in a rainbow of colors. I especially liked Terri Murphy's suggestion that, each time Kristi is "fired" from a pet job, the customer would say, "No, No! Bad kitty/doggie/pig/whatever." That strengthened the story with repetition. I'd also had a lot of good council from my editor, who helped me with the pacing of the story, encouraging me to make a "turning dummy," to make sure all the funny, surprise elements landed on a left-hand page, after the page-turn.

It was April, the height of allergy season when I got up one morning with a migraine, popped a couple of extra-strength Excedrin, then stumbled to my computer (ever the junky) where I found my editor's offer to buy the manuscript. With that darned headache, I surely couldn't leap of joy! That would have to wait. I dug out a book I'd bought a beforehand on negotiating contracts. Thumbed thru it and could see that it was a good offer for a first-time author, so I emailed my acceptance.

You were the illustrator of The Museum Duck (Pearl Line Press). Was it hard to let somebody else illustrate Jack of All Tails?

Not at all. If you ever got a peek at The Museum Duck, you'd see that – while I'm a perfectly skilled graphic artist – I'm just not a strong illustrator. Not like pros such as you, Elizabeth! I have no strongly defined style, and I'm a bit too literal when envisioning scenes. I love how you guys add to the story with elements in your illustrations. I always point that out to kids during my school visits, noting how this or that detail is nowhere to be found in my text.

The Museum Duck is a nice little book for what it is: a local book which raises funds for our county museum, but I'd have to study and practice long and hard to reach the level of you pros! I enjoy composition & layout and adore typography, so I'm happy enough as a graphic artist, but I think I'm a bit misplaced as an artist. I think my true calling is as a writer.

As good as you are onstage, I know you must have exciting events planned with the release of Jack Of All Tails. Can you share?

Well, there was the launch party. Glorious! And so kind of my boss and his wife (the owners of The Smithfield Times, our local weekly newspaper where I have worked for 12 years), to host it for me. It was in the garden at the beautiful, historic Smithfield Inn.

I've got a busy summer of signings lined up, several around town, and also one in the library in Lovell, Maine, near Kezar Lake where I wrote (if I may say so) astrong revision of The Crocodaddy a few summers ago. So if you're anywhere near Lovell, Maine in early August, look me up!

Then, in the fall, it's back to school visits & educator conferences, which I've been building for a few years now. I started kind of early with the school visits, with nothing but an appearance in a Meadowbrook anthology as a credit, (a nice, dust jacketed hardback which I always donated to the school libraries) but I figure what I lacked in publication credits, I made up for in stage experience. I mean, how many authors can sing and tap dance for you? (Okay. I'll admit, I have never tap danced yet for a school performance. Those tile cafeterias are slippery. I'd fall and break my Jack of all TAILS!)

Now you've got me thinking I need to do something really zany! I am planning on creating my own Standee-type sign to put near my signing tables. My skills as a graphic artist go that far, at least. That has been a real savings for me, in fact. I can create press-ready layouts for postcards, brochures, etc., with my own equipment.

This was fun, E! Thanks for having me in for a chat!

Thanks back Kim!
Check out Kim's blog at, and follow the rest of Kim's tour as she visits:
Monday - my blog
Tuesday - Dotti Enderle's blog
Wednesday - Kerry Madden's blog
Thursday - Barbara Johansen Newman's blog
Friday - Karen Lee's blog
Saturday - Ruth McNally Barshaw's blog

Illustration Friday: Rejection

I haven't posted anything from Glitter Girl and the Crazy Cheese in a while. This is the closing illustration. You know you've got it bad when you're cat won't even stick around for you.

Another Young Author/Illustrator Opportunity

I love posting these when I come across them:

CONTACT: Virginia S. Grenier
Editor, Stories for Children Magazine

For Immediate Release

Stories for Children Magazine Is Looking for Young Writers!

Stories for Children Magazine, which debuted April 1, 2007, is
looking for stories, articles, and poems written by young writers
ages 17 year old and younger.

VS Grenier, editor of Stories for Children Magazine stated: "Stories
for Children Magazine is not only for adult writers. One thing that
makes us who we are is that we also publish stories by children and

After writing for magazines I noticed that there were only a handful
that allowed underage writers. I couldn't believe it. How could the
writing world not embrace the young it already writes for?

I decided to change all that with Stories for Children Magazine. My
goal is to have at least one story, article, or poem written by an
underage author.

After all if we don't help embrace the future writers how do we
expect children to love the world of ink?"

Stories for Children Magazine is a free monthly on-line magazine for
children ages 3 to 12 years old. Children will journey into the
imagination with short stories, articles, crafts, puzzles, and so
much more. Each issue also features a Children's Author and/or

Now come enter into the World or Ink at Stories for Children

View guidelines at:


Full Media Kit, Magazine Cover Art, and more are available upon
request electronically.

Thanks from Gayle. :-)

PLEASE NOTE: Stories for Children is closing submissions on June
24th (youth can submit any time) and will not open again for
submissions until September 1st; however, there WILL be a magazine
coming out online for July, August, and September during this
time. :-)

     Ain't technology grand? This is why I try to stay on top of things.
     So I'm listening to a podcast from BEA on "Free Lunch." And it's several top guys talking about the whole "free content/information" movement on the internet, including the Editor-in-Chief of Wired magazine, Chris Anderson. Sounds kind of boring for a children's book creator maybe?
     Well, Chris goes on to announce the brand spanking new site he's made available called (you can see my listing here). It's a site for authors to post their upcoming book tour events. As a user, all you have to do is plug in your zip code to find out about upcoming signings/events in your area.
     Not too long ago, I actually wondered why there wasn't something like this in existence. It would seem great ideas hang out in many heads (which is why you should always jump on yours). I do wish they would make classifications for illustrators and genres, but it's in BETA, so this could very well be in its future. In the mean time, I'm listed, and I'm keeping an eye on this baby!!

The Big 4-0

     I don't feel any different. I haven't sprouted scales or turned a grotesque shade of peuce. Hubbie gave me a pretty necklace this morning. And I've asked the Oracle @ WiFi a question which received (what I translate to be) a favorable response.
     Hm, maybe I'll survive this.
     Y'know, I've been awfully reflective this past week. I suppose the big 4-0 will do that to you. (Driving said hubbie crazy in the mean time.) I even wrote an essay which I won't bore you with.
     Bottom line is, I did a pretty darn good job of living out loud during the first forty years. I'm really looking forward to seeing what I pull off in the next forty.
     Click the cake to help me celebrate. Once again, if you color it, I'll post it!

     And here come the cakes! This one was sent in by Casey Girard - thanks Casey!

Here's another cake by illustrator, Laura Zarrin, and her 6-year-old son, Josh. So cute!

and here's a lovely ditty by Neil Ornstein. It says, "He dreamed of heaps of schlag. Of the satisfaction of every human desire." - Thanks Neil!

Yet another cake has come in - this one by Martha White. Thanks Martha!

And one from Antje from Germany!

Illustration Friday: Suit

     I created this for a publisher of chapter books. I ended up illustrating "Haley and the Big Blast" rather than this story, so this illustration never made it to the public.

     On another note, thanks for all the birthday wishes everybody! Y'all go color a cake!

Just finished a good one: Rules by Cynthia Lord

     Okay, no big surprise here because Rules has won countless awards, but don't you love it when the awards are well-deserved?
     Rules is about a young girl, Catherine, trying to be a normal kid while dealing with her younger autistic brother. I'll admit the subject is daunting when you first pick up the book, "am I going to enjoy this?"
     Well yes, you will.
     Catherine is an amazing protagonist. She has been forced to grow up quickly as much of the burden of caring for her brother falls on her. She is savvy, aware, and especially bright. Her vigilant (and necessary) attention to the things in her life, always watching out for potential difficulties for her brother, give us a strong vision of her world while showing just how mature (and naturally artistic) this young girl is. But she's also going through the typical angst of boys and new friends. The juxtaposition of these traits makes her one of the most multi-dimensional characters I've read in a long time. I was completely inspired by her bravery.
     The relationship she develops with Jason, a wheelchair bound boy who's normal mind is trapped in a body that doesn't work, is heart-warming. It develops with ease and a reality that makes any relationship with somebody different more accessible to all of us.
     In the end of the story, I do wish I knew if the new friend stepped up to the plate, it was the only thread that left me hanging, but maybe that's for the best. We are forced into the friend's shoes and left to wonder, would we step up to the plate with such grace and courage if we were in Catherine's situation?
     Wonderful, wonderful story. Beautifully written. I highly recommend Rules!

Hey Kids - Young Authors and Illustrators Wanted!

Are you a kid? Do you know a kid? I had to share this Call for Submissions:

Become a Published Young Author or Illustrator!
Launch Pad: Where Young Authors and Illustrators Take Off! is now accepting fiction, nonfiction, poetry, book reviews, and artwork by children ages 6-12. We are looking for creative works about the following themes:
The Ocean
Fairy Tales & Fantasy
Launch Pad: Where Young Authors and Illustrators Take Off! is scheduled to debut with a January/February 2008 print issue. Please visit to review our submission guidelines!
Paul Kelsey
Editor and Publisher
Launch Pad: Where Young Authors and Illustrators Take Off!

Illustration Friday: My Paradise

     I get to post what is currently my favorite piece of art for this week's theme.
     This is what Paco finds at the top of the giant chile plant in "Paco and the Giant Chile Plant ~ Paco y la planta de chile gigante."
     It's my paradise to be able to create it for him. (Click the image to see it larger.)