Illustration Friday: Leap!

     It's Leap Year Day! So of course, we have an easy theme this week - LEAP!
     I think I can show this as it's a snippet from a book I have coming out in late May. I'll share more as we get closer.
     Do you have a leap year baby? Are you a leap year baby? Lots of fun stuff for you here! Like, why do we have leap year anyway? And when was it invented?

David Wiesner!

     How often do you get to meet one of your heroes? I'm bettin' not very. So what a great time when several writer/illustrator buds and I met for lunch then headed to the Decatur Library to see none other than Flotsam making, Tuesday creatin,' Caldecott winning, David Wiesner!!
     He gave a fantastic talk with images of his early years and influences. I especially enjoyed seeing his thumbnails and models he makes to get proportions just right (you know, like a giant head of broccoli laying in your back yard). What struck me most of all isn't how skilled he is as an illustrator (he's amazing), but how clever he is conceptually. Okay, this is no revelation, but truly, that seems to be the different between being so-so, and so VERY! Conceptually, his work is pure genius. Did you realize that's a reflection of the camera in the fish's eye on the cover of Flotsam? I didn't!
     I was also surprised I only had four books for him to sign (oh, and my book bag). I've bought and given away so many copies of his books over the years, I thought I had more. I suppose that was lucky for him, but he was incredibly gracious and signed everything.
     So here are the gals (in back), Liz Conrad, Ami Blackford, moi, and Joni Goldman (librarian extraordinaire); and in front, da man himself. Nathaniel Lachenmeyer was also with us, but didn't make it into the head-shot.

Coloring Page Tuesday - Gotta Go!

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     Today is just pure silliness. I did the opening skit for the SCBWI Southern Breeze Springmingle Conference this past weekend and I included a demonstration drawing to accompany a new story I'm working on, "Penny Had to Pee!"
     I had everybody strike a pose to help me figure out the drawing . . . a room full of adults. Like I said, pure silliness.
     So, have fun coloring Penny. Meanwhile . . . I gotta . . . .
     Click the image to open a .jpg to print and color. Send me your colored version (less than 1mb) to and I'll post it to my blog!
     For more coloring pages, go here.

Too funny - I love it when adults get involved! This rendering is by Frank Zieglar II who just bought a new Wacom tablet and was trying it out. Looks great Frank - thanks for playing!

OMG - Look what Annette did with my "Gotta Go!" image! This cracks me UP!

     Learn more about my fun picture book Glitter Girl and the Crazy Cheese - click the cover.

Look what Patty did!

And what Irene made!

Springmingle '08 - Roundup!

     It's catch-up day as I reel from my fantabulous weekend at the SCBWI Southern Breeze Springmingle Conference. I've been attending these long enough now, that I look forward to hanging out with my friends (and making new ones) more than anything else. Children's book people are so fun, and nice, and easy - we have a great time!
     I also volunteered quite a bit with this one, although my input was nowhere near the hard work by Jo Kittinger, Donna Bowman, and Robyn Hood Black who somehow manage to make it all look so easy - even when our editor's flights were grounded in New York because of the sudden blizzard. They pulled everything off beautifully. We are so lucky to have them in charge of our region - they keep Southern Breeze vibrant and strong.
     So, on to the embarrassing stuff. I was actually the opening act with my skit, "A Day in the Life of an Illustrator." Yes, I got on stage in my PJs and bunny slippers and acted completely silly. Luckily, I had a side-kick - Dwain Fleming played my FedUPs delivery guy and he was hilarious! (And yes, my skit was documented with photos, and no, I am not going to share. Allow me a sliver of pride please.)
     We have a great new tradition for opening night. Authors or illustrators with new books released in the previous year get five minutes to explain and pitch their latest creation, and then place it's corresponding kite into the collection of Southern Breeze member's published works. This year there were three of us: me (with Paco), Hester Bass (with "So Many Houses"), and Liz Conrad (with "The Witches' Ball," "The Bunny Ball," and "The Turkey Ball").

     Ironic for me was I had to present the dummy I'd made from the printer's proofs for "Paco and the Giant Chile Plant." Paco is so new, my free copies were delivered to my house after I'd already left for the conference. I had them for Saturday though and let Diane of Little Shop of Stories use them for stock since her copies wouldn't arrive until Monday. Amazingly, she almost sold them all and I was signing Paco all weekend - Woohoo! So, while I'd love to share that "cracking open the box, seeing the book for the first time" moment - I can't. It happened at about 11 o'clock at night in an exhausted haze.
     Saturday was filled with keynotes, seminars and critiques. Deborah Wiles proved her complete professionalism with one of the most polished and entertaining keynotes I've seen. Editors Jennifer Wingertzahn (Clarion) and Robin Tordini (Henry Holt) shared their insights into the business and new projects they are excited about. I especially enjoyed Jennifer's writing exercise to take the first line in your story and apply different approaches to it. (We rewrote our sentence with a change in tense, narrative voice, opposite point of view, added alliteration, etc...) Mucho fun! Martha Rago (HarperCollins) shared her obvious passion for design. With my background in graphic design I especially appreciated her images of the printing presses they use, work stations, print check areas, proofs, etc. I've worked with a select few truly talented designers over the years, and their passion for good design is infectious.
     I also had the great pleasure to meet and escort Kathy Landwher and Loraine Joyner of Peachtree Publishing on Saturday. Loraine stuck around for much of the day so we got to know each other a bit, and what a nice, nice person. I imagine working with Peachtree is much like being adopted into a big, happy family.
     I honestly forgot we had more activities on Sunday, so it was bonus time to my mind. After more great hanging out, Vicky Alvear Shecter and I invited Robin and publisher Peggy Shaw (Dalmation) to a true southern lunch at the Crescent Moon Cafe. (We couldn't let Robin's only southern experience be the hotel!)
     So, I finally returned home, exhausted and happy. Sarah Campbell was kind enough to share pictures since I didn't take a one - and what a photographer she is! Check out the gorgeous cover of her new book, "WolfSnails" which comes out this April. She also took what may have to become my new avatar, me with my favorite Marvin the Martian coffe cup. Thanks Sarah!

Blog Book Tour for . . . Me and Paco!!

     Several of my talented friends will be interviewing me on their blogs this week asking all kinds of questions about the creation of my newest picture book, "Paco and the Giant Chile Plant ~ Paco y la planta de chile gigante." A few are even adding fantastic recipes. So, check 'em out as they go live this week (I'll update the links):

Monday: Kim Norman's Stone Stoop!
     Kim is the author of "Jack of all Tails" and shares a great recipe for Tasty Tortilla Snowflakes!!

Tuesday: Barbara Johansen Newman's Cat n' Jammers Studio. Barb wrote and illustrated "Tex & Sugar."

Wednesday: Janee Trasler's Art & Soul. Janee's latest book is "Ghost EAts It All!"

Thursday: Ruth McNally Barshaw, creator of "Ellie McDoodle: Have Pen, Will Travel!" (If you like "Diary of a Whimpy Kid," you'll love Ellie!)

Friday: Kerry Madden, author of "Jessie's Mountain," the thrid installment in her Maggie Valley trilogy (read about it here.)

Saturday: Sarah Dillard, illustrator of "Tightrope Poppy" and author/illustrator of the forthcoming "Perfectly Arugula!"

Thanks so much to my awesome friends, and I hope y'all enjoy reading!
Want to visit some more Blog Book Tours? Go here.

Illustration Friday: Multiple

Back up a few months for this week's theme, "multiple," as there are multiple things going on in Santa's Workshop. Click the image to get a closer look.

Coloring Page Tuesday - Ski Bear!

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     I'm clinging to this idea of winter even though the daffodils are already blooming here in the south - doesn't it seem too early?
     Anyhow, I always loved that moment just before you dove over that lip to fly down a hill on skis!
     Click the image to open a .jpg to print and color. Send me your colored version (less than 1mb) to and I'll post it to my blog!
     For more coloring pages, go here.

     Learn more about my fun picture book Glitter Girl and the Crazy Cheese - click the cover.

Highlights - High Five!

Have you heard of Highlight's new magazine for the younger set, High Five? I had the pleasure of creating a double page spread illustration for them recently. It's the March edition, so should in mailboxes soon - keep an eye out!

Blog Soup - bunch o' stuff

This was getting silly - I have mucho to share and only so many days in which to share everything, so here's a round-up!

     Horn Book is starting a new free e-newsletter beginning this March. It will cover children's book news and reviews (I imagine something similar to PW Children's Bookshelf), but these guys are top notch, so it's not to be missed! (Click the image to go sign up.)

     Hubbie and I saw Spiderwick last night - and buying our tickets through made it so easy. I didn't know theaters did this, but there were a bunch of free posters available at the will call pick-up counter. So I am now the proud owner of a Spiderwick poster! (I'll have to get Tony and Holly to sign it when they visit my local indie bookstore again.)
     The movie definitely kept me on the edge of my seat. And while I wasn't impressed by the acting, some of the imagery was stunning - especially at the very end. (Click the poster to watch a trailer.)
     But I really enjoyed following Holly's blog and Tony's blog surrounding the whole affair - what a complete wowsa!

     I've now been awarded the "You Make My Day Award" twice by fellow bloggers, Phyllis Harris and Kim Norman. Per the rules, I'm to award five of my spectacular friends. So here we go. These people Make My Day:

Kerry Madden - I know this is a second for her as well, but she had a big announce this week with the release of "Jessie's Mountain"!! And she's having this hilarious contest on her blog for people to send in their old school photos. (I'm in this round - can you pick me out without looking at the names? Gotta luv the teeth.)

Liz Conrad - illustrator extraordinaire. I got a peek at her upcoming books over lunch the other day and they are unbelievably adorable - so y'all keep an eye on her!

Diane Capriola of my favorite indie bookstore, Little Shop of Stories. They have a new blog which I'm having a great time following. Especially when they post my coloring pages or talk about new friends like:

Denene Millner (check out a review for her new YA novel (April), "Hotlanta")!

Sarah Dillard who was just such an awesome roomie at Kindling Words and who is just so danged clever, I can't get over it! She's also hosting me on her blog for my Blog Book Tour next week!

Janee Trasler who is an amazingly strong person and is also one of the awesome interviewers on my Blog Book Tour next week!
That's five, but since I was named twice, I think I get more!!

Barbara Johansen Newman, creator of "Tex & Sugar" - yup, she's interviewing me too!

Ruth McNally Barshaw, creator of "Ellie McDoodle: Have Pen Will Travel" - yup, her too!

Wowsa, I'm really looking forward to my Blog Book Tour next week (Kim Norman is hosting me too). What the heck is a Blog Book Tour? Check out my article about them from the SCBWI Bulletin. And y'all check back next week to join in!

     The Cybils were announced this past week. This is the first online book award and in its second year, is already getting some great notice. Click the award to go check out the winners!

     In celebration of the SCBWI Bologna 2008 Children's Book Festival, Cynthia Leitich Smith is focusing on the international scene this week. She's featuring interviews with agents, editor, authors, and illustrators about the US and international youth publishing scene. Cynthia's blog is a great one to follow any day of the week, but how about subscribing to her blog through They have a snazzy new design they just launched this week!

*Whew*!! I think that's all for now. See what I mean? Lots o' stuff to share - thanks for reading!

Paco and the Giant Chile Plant!!!

     I am thrilled to announce the birth of my latest book, "Paco and the Giant Chile Plant ~ Paco y la planta de chile gigante" (written by Keith Polette, illustrated by Yours Truly, Raven Tree Press).
     When I first found out about this project, I was excited for many reasons. First, it was a great excuse to finally take Spanish lessons (which I've been doing for over a year now). And second, it's a Jack Tale (which if you know me, you know I have a thing for Jack Tales). In fact, Paco takes the familiar "Jack and the Beanstalk" tale and gives it more than a few new twists. Told as a fractured fairy tale, our hero, Jack, is now called Paco, and the story takes place in a beautiful desert setting in the American Southwest. Could I ask for anything better than to introduce Jack to the Latino community in such a fun way??
     The story is presented as an English text with embedded Spanish in rojo. A vocabulary page is included to jump start learning in either language, so it's got a great educational angle to it as well.
     I am also so proud of my artwork in this book, and feel it is somewhat of an artistic debut for me, like I've finally found my illustrative "voice."
     So, without further adieu, please go see my announcement in its original formatting, CLICK HERE.
     Oh, and a nod to Illustration Friday visitors: It is my theory that Paco will do very, very well!!
written by Keith Polette, illustrated by Yours Truly (Raven Tree Press, February 2008 - TODAY!!!)
Hardcover ISBN# 978-0-9770906-2-4
Paperback ISBN# 978-0-9794462-3-8

It's Almost Here! . . .

(start the drum roll...)

Valentine's Day Candy!!

How cool is this!? You can make your own Valentine's Day candy for your sweetie - awwwww!!!
(Click on the hearts to go make your own.)
Happy luv day to all!
(Thanks to Cynthia Lord for the link.)

Coloring Page Tuesday - A Cumfy Chair . . .

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     and a good book. Isn't this what winter makes you want to do? I just want to curl up with a good book, a cozy blanket and some hot chocolate . . . ahhhhh.
     Um. I'll be back later...
     Click the image to open a .jpg to print and color. Send me your colored version (less than 1mb) to and I'll post it to my blog!
     For more coloring pages, go here.

     Learn about my Cinderella story picture book, The Prince's Diary, click the cover.

Springmingle '08!!

     The Spring Conference for the Southeastern region of the SCBWI (Southern Breeze) is quickly approaching. I am actually going to do a skit for the opening entertainment - gads! (Hence the purchase of the lovely bunny slippers.)
     Anyhow, there are still a few openings left. (Shocking, as the last few years were sold out!) So here's the info if you know anybody who may be interested – maybe YOU!

Book Writing & Illustrating Seminar!
Springmingle ‘08 • February 22-24
Sponsored by The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators

This is sure to be a spectacular seminar! The publishing houses represented acquire everything from picture books, MG books and YA novels, to poetry written by adults for kids – and they are looking for new talent!

Featured SM08 speakers include:
- Editor Robin Tordini of Henry Holt (NY)
Ms. Tordini acquires genres from picture books to young adult novels. She says, "Naturally, I’m always looking for interesting manuscripts and illustrations, too."

- Editor Jennifer Wingertzahn of Clarion Books (NY)
Ms. Wingertzahn acquires picture books, novels and poetry for all ages. She "hopes to find new talent" at SM08!

- Art Director Martha Rago of Harper Collins (NY)
This company and its many imprints publish 600 titles per year in various genres. HarperCollins is a CLOSED house, but Ms. Rago will accept illustration submissions from SM08 attendees! Illustrators – get those portfolios ready for display!

- Deborah Wiles, Award Winning Author and Keynote Speaker (Atlanta, GA)
She’ll share her winning inside story. Visit her website – just look at that list of awards!

- Diane Capriola, co-owner of the bookstore Little Shop of Stories (Decatur, GA)
This bookstore has been nominated for several awards. Hear inside tips from a successful bookseller’s perspective!

Registration information at Hurry – space is limited. Our last three seminars SOLD OUT!

Jessie's Mountain by Kerry Madden

     Wippee!! Today I'd like to announce the release of Kerry Madden's latest novel, "Jessie's Mountain!" Go Kerry, go Kerry!
     "Jessie's Mountain" is the third installment in Kerry's Maggie Valley trilogy which began with the hauntingly lovely "Gentle's Holler." Read my interview with Kerry after the release for the second in the trilogy, "Louisiana's Song."

Illustration Friday: Choose

     Well, it's slim pickens around here. Once again I had the most perfect art to share for this week's theme, but it hasn't been published and I can't show it yet. So I'm reaching into the archives. This is from a dummy I created a while back.
     Faced by a herd of water buffalos, what would you choose to do?

Teatrio Children's Book Int'l Competition Exhibition

     I've been invited to attend the opening reception for the 30 winners of the 2007 Teatrio Children's Book International Competition Exhibition at the Savannah College of Art and Design (Atlanta campus) tonight.
     SCAD students participate in this competition every year and this year not only are twelve of the 30 winning pieces by SCAD students or recent alumni, but the Grand Prize Winner is also a SCAD illustration graduate, Suzy Maier. Even better, the opening show is in America this year at SCAD-Atlanta.
     The artwork for this competition is always fresh and cutting edge, so I'm really looking forward to seeing what these new talents have come up with.
     I'm also happy to see several of my friends (Rick Lovell, Julie Mueller-Brown, and Jay Montgomery), the illustration teachers who have invited me back again this year to speak to children's book illustration undergraduate and graduate students (March 3rd).
     This is my favorite age group to talk to as I feel they can best use the practical, real working advice I can give them. At this stage, they are bundles of potential bursting to discover what creative voice they will shout to the world - it's an exciting time.

Coloring Page Tuesday - eBeary Vote Counts!

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     For many states, it's Super Tuesday!
     I just voted - how about you? Next to our presidential election, this is the biggest impact you can have on who will be our next President. It's a big deal - and one you can explain to the kids as they color my Voting Bear.
    Thanks to Deborah Wiles at One Pomegranate for reminding me of this great quote by Robert F. Kennedy:
     "Few will have the greatness to bend history; but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total of all those acts will be written the history of this generation ... It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is thus shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance." - Robert F. Kennedy
     Click the image to open a .jpg to print and color. Send me your colored version (less than 1mb) to and I'll post it to my blog!
     For more voting-themed coloring pages go here. For other coloring pages, go here.

Learn about my good parenting picture books, Ready for Bed and Ready for the Day - click the covers!

Send your love to the NY Public Library Children's Room

     What we do know is that the New York Public Library sold the building housing the Central Children's Room, otherwise known as the Donnell Library Center.
     What we don't know is the future of the Central Children's Room. So, librarian and blogger extraordinaire, Elizabeth Bird (of Fuse #8, syndicated on the School Library Journal website) has put out a call for your good memories of this famous library location.
     I have to say I am completely bummed that I don't have any memories of the library, only hopes for the future. Since diving into this business I have dreamed about sharing my books with children at the Donnell Library Children's Room. It is the heart of the New York children's publishing world, and I sincerely hope that heart keeps beating for a very long time.

Writing a novel . . .

     You know, one of the reasons I keep a blog is so I have a place to store links to things I don't want to forget. Today, I'm saving a link to an article by Jeff Vandermeer, "HOWTO Write a decent novel in two months." Hubbie sent it to me from boingboing of all things. It's short, but shares some great secrets to staying focused on the task at hand.
     I think his best bit of advice was to "Make sure you know what kind of novel you're writing." It helps you add necessary scenes, cut unnecessary ones, and keep the pacing true to the genre. Some of his advice is 'in the back of your brain you know this, you just never put it into words' type of advice. It's part of what I love about teaching. When you verbalize why you do what you do, you learn too.
     So, I promised to share a bit about my writing process as I work on my second novel . . . All I can say is, wow. And I thought getting into "illustrator mode" was hard! Still, I've done it once, so I know I can do it again. And now that I know what I'm writing (an actual novel), I don't think it will take nearly as long as the first foray did.
     This story takes place in the 1850s, so perhaps it takes me longer to travel back in time, but once I'm there, I have a hard time getting out! I love the research. I'm discovering so many stories and cool facts. I constantly stumble across examples of 'fact is stranger than fiction' and end up in amused shock throughout much of my day. I'll never include everything I learn, but I need to know enough to make my writing believable.
     For instance, Chapter Two has a lot of travel logistics in it. So the other weekend, I went to hang out with the Little Old Lady who helped me so much on my first novel. She actually had documents from her Great Grand-Mother travelling to America - even the name of the steamship. So, I spent some quality time on her floor, learning how to get around in 1850. What an interesting time it was. They were practically laying down railroad ties in front of moving trains! And how do you suppose they took baths? Well, I need to find that out...
     The writing is coming along well too. Once I get in the zone, my fingers can't seem to type fast enough. It's a great feeling, truly.
     Anyhow, more soon!