ForeWord Magazine - on blogging

     How cool is this!?
     Librarian and fellow blogger Jackie Parker has been writing for ForeWord Magazine, and recently put out a call to bloggers on one of my message boards. She had lots of questions like:

     Were you already published when you started blogging?
     Why did you start blogging? Why do you continue?
     Has your blog changed over time?
     How has blogging affected your career?

     Several of us responded and she's collated our answers in "Let's Hand it to the Girls," her latest (and unfortunately last) Shelf Space entry.
     I loved reading the other responses, and found that we all seem to have similarities in the when, why, hows.
     So if you're thinking about diving into the blogosphere yourself - go have a read. Maybe you'll get some ideas. And if you already blog, maybe you'll see some similarities to your own journey. Fun stuff!

Coloring Page Tuesday - Big Cat, Small Puppy

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

     Still following the advice of the New York children's book editor, this week I include a cat and a puppy. Awwwww!
     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 good parenting picture books, Ready for Bed and Ready for the Day - click the covers!

1st Annual Children's Book Illustrator's Show!

     As part of ArtWalk, opening night for the Decatur Arts Festival, Friday evening was a HUGE success!! Honestly, it surpassed all my expectations (even with the torrential downpour during the first part of the evening).
     With my good friend Liz Conrad's help, the show came together more easily than I thought it would. More illustrators showed up for opening night than I expected. Even our SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators) Southern Breeze regional heads drove in to share the experience. Local children's book people came out of the woodwork to join in the celebration, and those who couldn't make it sent good wishes from across the country. The food was delicious (paid for by a grant from the SCBWI), the company was extraordinary, the crowd was consistent and full. All in all, it was a magical evening.
     One thing that quickly became apparent in pulling this event together was it was not my event. Illustrators don't often get to show their work in a fine-art, gallery-like setting, and it was a meaningful experience for everybody involved. So much so, that one artist came in from Mississippi and another from Savannah - this was a big, big deal. How wonderful to be a part of providing that opportunity.

     My friends at Little Shop of Stories (owners Dave Shallengberger and Diane Capriola are pictured above) were so incredibly supportive and appreciative to have another side of children's books displayed in their new space. Even though they are just 500 yards away from their old location, they have a completely new audience overflowing from the Starbucks next door, the Decatur square out front, and a hotel within walking distance. With the gallery space, they can appeal to art lovers as well as young readers and the response was tremendous.
     Something wonderful came out of this show that I never could have expected or planned. Little Shop has wooden stools they use for all kinds of kid events. Well, they made perfect display stands for the books which accompanied each piece of art. And because they were low to the ground, the books were accessible to the children. Kismet stepped in - the show ended up perfectly suited to adults as well as little ones. Scenes like these, of kids reading or parents sharing books with their children, repeated throughout the evening. Could you ask for a better introduction to art? Wow.

     I was thrilled when Jo Kittinger and Donna Bowman, heads of the SCBWI Southern Breeze region, walked into the show. Jo drove all the way in from Birmingham but said she "wouldn't have missed it for the world." Here they are with Peggy Shaw, Senior Editor at Dalmation Press (as well as the publisher of Jo and Donna's forthcoming books!)

     Along with the amazing crowd (this picture doesn't do it justice),

the support from the local children's illustration/writing community was wonderful. Here I am with award-winning author, Deborah Wiles, and Assistant Director of the Georgia Center for the Book, Joe Davich.

     Unfortunately, I didn't get a shot of award-winning illustrator (and illustrator of Danny Schnitzlein's, "The Monster Who Did My Math") Bill Mayer and his wife, Lee, or Vicky Alvear Shecter, author of "Alexander Rocks the World," or Jessica Handler, author of the forthcoming "Invisible Sisters." But here is Mark Braught with Art Director, Don Grant.

     Eight of the ten illustrators made it for opening night - amazing. We got pictures of each with their work. So here's the rundown starting from left and moving right through the show:

     Liz Conrad, the right arm of this operation, was joined by her husband Rick (from whom we "borrowed" the laser level while hanging the show). Liz displayed her cut paper work from "The Snow Ball" and "The Bunny Ball" - adorable board books in a series of many more "Ball" books, perfect for little hands. (Here are Donna, Liz and Rick.)

     Next was Ami Blackford's work from "Quest for the Dragon Stone" and "Quest for the Elfin Elixir" (which I need to add a photograph for). She was bummed she wasn't able to attend.
     Mark Braught's wonderful pastels were next. Mark displayed work from "Cosmo's Moon," "P is for Peach" and "T is for Touchdown."

     And here I was with the space next door. I shared images from "Paco and the Giant Chile Plant ~ Paco y la planta de chile gigante" and "Glitter Girl and the Crazy Cheese."

     Next was Rick Anderson with a prime location on the pillar that divided the display wall. (You can see his piece to Rick Spears' left below.) Unfortunately, he was our other illustrator not able to make it to the show.
     Rick Spear's wonderful creatures from "Tales of the Cryptids" were next. I actually had to grab my signed copy (written by buds Kelly Milner Halls and Roxyanne Young) to make sure I had his index cards placed with the correct cryptids! Rick gave away free monster masks to the kids - those were a hit!

     No surprise here, another BIG hit of the evening were Sarah C. Campbell's photographs from "WolfSnail." Did you know some snails hunt other snails? The kids couldn't get enough of Sarah's books and they actually sold out! She was our other long distance attendee, coming in all the way from Mississippi!

     Daniel Power's was next up with beautiful watercolors from "Take the Lead, George Washington." Daniel is a Professor of Illustration at the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) and also drove a long way for the show!

     Next door was another watercolorist with a completely different style, Karen Stormer Brooks. She showed art from "Dylan the Eagle-Hearted Chicken," "I Bought A Baby Chicken" (also written by Kelly Milner Halls), and "Piggy Wiglet."

     Karen's husband is also an illustrator. In fact, her entire family joined her for the evening - they were so cute!

     And finally for the finale was Laura Knorr's stunning work from "P is for Pelican," "The Legend of Papa Noel," and "A Isn't for Fox." I just love Laura's color palette and technique - seeing it in person was a treat. She also happens to be the wife of Mark Braught - what an amazingly talented couple!

     Lots of books were sold and signed, and we all got to hang out and get to know each other. Hubbie was with me too, but behind the camera, so please forgive me in all these shots . . .
     Donna, Dave, me and Diane's kids enjoying the books before the crowds showed up . . .

     Me, Karen, and Donna . . .

     And me with my good friends from Spanish class, Mark and Melissa. I was so glad they dropped by!

     Several of us went to a very late dinner to unwind afterwards and talk about our incredible evening. Sage was wonderful, although I was about to fall asleep in my pasta. The hard work was over, the show was a success. I couldn't stop grinning. I couldn't have wished for opening night to go any better - truly. I know Jo got lots more pictures, so I may post links soon.
     Thanks to everybody for helping to make the show such a huge success. Getting prints made, framed and shipped is no small undertaking and all the illustrators came through with shining colors. Thanks to Jo Kittinger and Donna Bowman as well as SCBWI National for funding and moral support. Thanks to the staff of Little Shop of Stories for providing the space and the grace of making it all look easy. Thanks to the City of Decatur, Georgia for providing the perfect excuse to show off our wares. Thanks again to Liz Conrad, who deserves equal credit for putting this on. Big fuzzy hugs to all!
     So that's the report for now. I can't wait for next year and our SECOND annual Illustrator's Show!

Update! The show has been picked up by the Southern Arts Federation to go on tour all over the South for two years! Read more - click here.

Illustration Friday: Worry

     This is from "Ready for the Day" written by Stacey Kaye, illustrated by Yours Truly. It's part of the ParentSmart series from Free Spirit Publishing coming out this June.
     Here, Maya is worried. She doesn't want to be separated from her Dad during the day.

You're Invited to the Children's Book Illustrator's Show!

You are cordially invited to the
1st Annual
Children's Book Illustrator's Show
Opening Reception

Friday, May 23rd from 5:00 to 10:00 pm
hosted by
Little Shop of Stories
new location: 133 East Court Square, Downtown Decatur, Georgia - to the right of Starbucks
and the
Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI)
Southern Breeze Region
as part of the
Decatur Arts Festival opening night

     Come enjoy a leisurely stroll through downtown Decatur as local galleries open their doors to share work by talented local artists.
     At Little Shop of Stories, ten local children's book illustrators will share artwork from some of their latest creations. Featured illustrators include:

     Rick Anderson
     Mark Braught
     Ami Blackford
     Sarah Campbell
     Liz Conrad
     Elizabeth O. Dulemba
     Laura Knorr
     Daniel Powers
     Rick Spears
     Karen Stormer Brooks

     Each piece of art will be accompanied by its corresponding picture book
(available for purchase), and some of the illustrators will be there in person to sign a copy for you. Many of the illustrators will also have limited edition prints available for order so your family can own a treasure from your favorite book.
     The show will remain on display from Friday, May 19th through June 8th, 2008 as well as during the Decatur Arts Festival, May 24th and 25th.
     We hope to see you for what promises to be a magical evening!

     Contact Elizabeth O. Dulemba at elizabeth at dulemba dot com, Southern Breeze Illustrator Coordinator, among other things...

SCBWI Southern Breeze Illustrator's Show!

     As some of you know, I recently took on the role of Illustrators' Coordinator for my region of the SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators), Southern Breeze. As the first event in this new role, I've created the 1st Annual SCBWI Southern Breeze Children's Book Illustrator's Show! (Your invite is HERE!)
     Of course, before it could happen, we had to actually hang the show. My wonderful, awesomest, fantabuloso friend Liz Conrad helped hang it. Without her, I'd still be curled into a small non-communicative ball somewhere. Neither of us had ever done anything like hang an art show before (remember, we work in books), so we had to figure out a method.

     First, we leaned all the art against the gallery wall (did I mention the show is in a great space in our local independent children's book store, Little Shop of Stories' awesome new location?). We arranged the art trying to mix art styles, medias, frames, etc. That took a while.
     Once we had that figured out, we laid the art on the floor in the arrangement we hoped to duplicate on the wall. (See above.)
     Then we started the hard part, actually hanging the art. Liz bought a great laser level for her hubbie (sorry Rick, the package may be a little ripped up) which became our lifesaver. See Liz with her new toy:
     One by one, we measured and hung each piece. This was tricky. We measured, and marked, and nailed, and leveled. And then we did it all over again for the next piece, and the next piece, and so on...
     Know what happens when two right brained thinkers (whose left brain's have shrunk to the size of prunes from disuse) try to do math? It ain't pretty.
     Hey all you budding artists out there who think you will never use math - trust me, you will!
     Anyhow, the show slowly came to life and I have to say it is stunning. Truly. Styles range from oil paints to pastels, digital to cut paper. Looks go from young and colorful, to mature and deep. All the pieces are already published in currently available picture books which will sit on the stools in front of their corresponding art. Here it is almost finished (two artist's work aren't up yet in this pic).

     Opening night is this Friday during the Decatur Arts Festival opening night ArtWalk I can't wait (and I hope to have recovered by then). (I'll post the actual invite with the list of participating artists next.)

Coloring Page Tuesday - Rooster

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     So, according to a top New York children's book editor, your portfolio should include the following: a dog, a cat, a dinosaur, a cow, a pig, a chicken, a duck, a horse, a rabbit, a wolf, an elephant, a mouse, and a tiger. So today I give you a male chicken - a Rooster in the extreme. *bicack!*
     To learn more about setting up your portfolio, read my article.
     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 bilingual picture book Paco and the Giant Chile Plant ~ Paco y la planta de chile gigante - click the cover.

Illustration Friday: Wide

          I created these wide elephants several years ago when I was first figuring out my medium. It was an early digital experiment which accompanied my dummy, "Hyena Jo." I liked the direction, one friend called it "glowy," and it's how I've worked ever since.

TOT LOL - online videos for kids!

     This is cool - it's kind of like UTube but for the smaller set. No worries running across something inappropriate here. As they describe on their website (click the logo to visit):
     Totlol is a brand new community-moderated video website designed to be enjoyed by those between the ages of 6 months and 6 years.

Coloring Page Tuesday - Sandcastle

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     I don't know about you guys, but I am just aching for some beach time!! Toes in the sand, tip-toeing in the surf, looking for shells, and building sandcastles. Ahhhhh. Well, at least I can draw it!
     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.

It's Children's Book Week!

     Yup! Hosted by the Children's Book Council, Children's Book Week has occurred annually since 1919. Learn all about it at their website.

Publisher Day after IRA

     My publisher for Paco and the Giant Chile Plant, Dawn from Raven Tree Press came to town for the International Reading Association (IRA) along with Dick, the owner of their parent company, Delta Systems. They treated me to dinner on Cinco de Mayo where we talked about fun project ideas. Then Thursday Dawn and another Raven Tree author/illustrator, Sheila Jarkins (check out her new book coming soon - Marco Flamingo), and I took a day to talk to some important people here in Atlanta.
     First were my friends at the Latin American Association, where I take my Spanish lessons. Since Delta Systems specializes in ESL materials for all ages, and Raven Tree specialized in bilingual picture books, they were a natural fit. Our meeting was enormously successful and we were able to enjoy lunch at the Cuban sandwich restaurant across the street afterwards.
     Our second stop was to a new bilingual bookstore and educational facility in Alpharetta, My Spanish Workshop. I was thrilled to find out about this local resource.
     Third was The Reading Tree, our latest independent children's bookstore in Alpharetta. There we talked to friends, Cindy and Martha about exciting happenings in the independent children's book business.
     And from there we headed to my extended home, Little Shop of Stories.
     Of course, we were also exhausted, so hung out at The Brick until Sheila's son picked her up and Dawn left on Marta for the airport. But we got some great time to sit and try to digest all the information from the day and talk the biz. (Here's Dawn squinting in a sudden wind gust, Sheila, and me.)
     Do all creators get opportunities like this? To show off the places where the magic happens in their cities to the people who make the magic happen with their books? I hope so, because it was a wonderful experience for me. And I loved putting faces with the people I email with. Bonus was they are wonderful people and we all got along so well (and had a lot of surprising things in common), I know I have new friends.

What I've learned about speaking engagements

     Well, Paco has been properly celebrated with awesome kick-offs at the Alabama Book Festival, Cedar Valley Arts Festival, the Georgia Center for the Book, Mami y Yo, Barnes & Noble, The Reading Tree, and Little Shop of Stories. I finally get to sit back and relax (HA!). I tell you - with having to be at so many engagements, sometimes back to back, I have developed a system for creating a smooth presentation, so I thought I'd share my method.
     First is the bag. I use my SCBWI Southern Breeze tote to carry a copy of all my picture books, book marks, signing pens, a bottle of water, my camera, my drawing supplies (black pencils and pastels), publisher catalogues and postcards, and the folder. I keep it together so I can just grab it and go.
     The folder (which goes in the bag). I bought a bunch of yellow school folders and printed stickers with my name to adhere to the front. In the pockets I include a bio page with photo, a list of my books with a quick summary of each, information on school visists, master copies of my coloring pages and word find puzzles, bookmarks, and my invoice with a feedback form and a self addressed stamped envelope (if it applies). Most of these items are available for download beforehand on my Media Page (even how to pronounce my name), but I like to make sure I have a hard-copy with me. Loosely I include google maps if I'm driving to a destination which I'm not familiar with, and a print out of the contact information for all the key people I will be dealing with (including phone numbers in case I should become unexpectedly delayed). If I'm meeting with new people, media specialists or people who may be interested in inviting me to future engagements - I pull out the maps and info page, and give them the folder for future reference.
     Next, the illustration demonstration supplies. Having been to a few book signings early on where they didn't have an appropriate (or easy) easel, I finally bought my own. I converted a fold up chair nylon bag thingie with a handle into my over the shoulder easel carrier. I also have to carry a large drawing pad - again because I never know what they might supply me with and it's a variable better left figured out. I am probably going to reassign one of my big old portfolios to carry the drawing pad, as it's awkward and unruly (especially in wind or rain).
     In my purse I make sure my cell phone is fired up (but off during my presentation). I also keep book marks and signing pens in my purse at all times.
     The bod. It's ironic what you have to think about when you'll be in front of a crowd, but here you go. I dress casually, but ironed, clean and put together. I tend to dress a bit more colorfully than I do in my daily life. I also watch the neck lines - we tend to lean over a lot with kids - I don't need to make it a ride for the parents. And not that I wear short skirts anymore, but that could also cause trouble when your audience is at coffee table level (and I often end up on the floor with the kids). I have also figured out I have to have my hair held back in some manner, dangit. I have long hair, it falls in my face. Fine for every day, but not when a crowd is trying to fallow along with you and it's important you stay connected with them.
     Finally, the presentation. I end up speaking to all different age groups, so I have a library of activities in my head appropriate for each. The littlest ones are good with a reading, a demonstration, and coloring pages. A little older, and you can play some games too. The main thing is to keep them involved to hold their attention. For even older (4th grade and up) I have a slide show about what it's like to be an illustrator. Now I know a lot of people carry around projectors and laptops with power point and the like, but I'm not a good trouble-shooter and those things can have LOTS of problems at the last minute. What's worked for me lately is I have a slide show, created through my .mac account, hidden in my website. I share the link if I'm going to be using it, then I let the venue worry about getting it set up. They know what works best for them, so I let them handle it and they can get any kinks worked out long before I get there. So far, it's worked beautifully. (It does require they have internet access at the venue, but these days that is becoming more and more common and has not been an issue.)
     Giveaways - yup. Good idea. I've given away everything from coloring pages and bookmarks to maracas and sombreros (ordered from the Oriental Trading Company). The sombreros were a bit big and unruly, but when I saw the look in the eyes of the kids who won them (during a quick Spanish quiz after reading Paco) it made it worth it. Giveaways don't have to be expensive, so get creative!
     If books will be available for sale, I let the booksellers handle that end. (Hopefully we've been in touch beforehand and I've supplied them with all the ISBN #s and the title of the book I'll be featuring.) I just keep my pens handy. It does help if they supply sticky notes for people to write the names for the dedications. It's amazing how creative people can get with the spelling of some of the most common names and you don't want to get it wrong! I also have tag lines I use for signing each book. After a while, your hand will write it without a lot of thinking which is important because people always want to talk to you while you're signing - you need to be able to multi-task.
     And speaking of being in touch beforehand, most events are scheduled months in advance. I touch base as we get closer (in time for books to be ordered if necessary), and again a week before and the day before the event so I know they are expecting me and everything will be in order. It also helps to drum up excitement and get me focused on what's coming. It's also important to have one main contact person for this - this is often the same person I hand my camera to before I speak. I ask them to please try to include the audience in the pictures (as a picture of me alone is purty darned boring and doesn't share the feel of the venue). And I make sure to let everybody know I'll be blogging about the event and have free activities on my website.
     So that's it. This is my method for making sure my presentations go smoothly, that I have everything with me, and that I can leave fun things behind for the audience to remember me. But even with everything in place, it's important to remain flexible. You can't control the size of the crowd (which will vary wildly) or their moods (expect that you will sometimes have kids who misbehave). And you need to be creative on the fly. But that's part of what makes speaking engagements so enjoyable - they're a constant puzzle of how best to entertain the audience you have and they can be lots of fun to do!

Coloring Page Tuesday - Sun

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     I've been seeing a lot more of this guy around lately and it just feels so good. Color him up and spread some sunshine of your own!
     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 bilingual picture book Paco and the Giant Chile Plant ~ Paco y la planta de chile gigante - click the cover.

Feliz Cinco de Mayo!

     Despite what most people think, Cinco de Mayo is not a celebration of Mexico's independance from Spain. That's September 16th. Cinco de Mayo is instead a celebration of the victory of the Mexican militia over the technologically advanced French army. It's also not celebrated as strongly in Mexico as it is in the US where Cinco de Mayo has become a day to embrace Mexican culture. I know I plan to over some kickin' enchiladas tonight!
     Read more about the history of Cinco de Mayo here.

Kick off Fiesta for Paco at Little Shop of Stories!

     Wowsa, I'm still trying to recover. Yesterday was just over the top wonderful! All my favorite people showed up and lots more that I didn't know. We had the kick off party for Paco and the Giant Chile Plant in Little Shop of Stories's shiny new events space which has a lovely balcony overlooking the store. It was truly the first time they used it, so a great test. And wow did it work out well. We set up a table for food (see Liz and Ami in the background?), another for giveaways, and another for me to sign books. (I signed a LOT!) We set up my easel at the end of the space and everybody sprawled on the floor and leaned against the walls. There was plenty of room, but we filled it UP! And I was just having a ball. We handed out sparkly chile stickers and moustaches and gave awaysombreros during the Spanish quiz . . . the kids were thoroughly decked out!!
We played telephone, and limbo! (Kids can get really low!)

     Thanks so much to my good friends at Little Shop of Stories for hosting the party and being so supportive of my career. I moved to Atlanta almost the same weekend they opened, and they have had my back from the start. (Here's Diane with her daughter. The mustachio'd amigas!)
     Thanks so much to my family and good friends who came to support me. I am a lucky, lucky girl to have such fun and beautiful people in my life. I was feeling way loved - you guys ROCK!!

     Here I am with Mark and Raquel, friends from Spanish class, and Rosebud the vaca who turned out orange this time!
     So, Paco and the Giant Chile Plant has been properly introduced to the world. The story is a blast to read (thank you author Keith Polette!) and a wonderful teaching tool as well. It's also been a project that finally gave me an excuse to learn Spanish which has tied me in with the Latin community here in Atlanta in a way which I will forever appreciate.
     I know being published is an enormous milestone in itself, but sometimes a particular book can change your life too. Paco has done that for me and I am exceedingly proud of it and thankful for the opportunities it has opened to me. Thanks to Raven Tree Press for asking me to illustrate such a special, special book. (Could I smile any bigger?)

     So Paco, meet the world! Let's see how you do!

The Reading Tree loves Paco!

     My second visit today was to the new independent children's bookstore in Alpharetta, The Reading Tree. You have stopped by, right? It looks straight out of "You've Got Mail" - warm fuzzies all over.
     And I got a bonus, Stacey Kaye, the author of the ParentSmart series (which I illustrated and which comes out in June) stopped by with her entire family - that's her standing to the left in the background. (Watch a great TV interview with Stacey as she talks about the new books - click here.) Her daughters sat in front, and what cuties - they made great side-kicks!
     Turns out the slightly older kids love helping me draw the shapes just as much as the younger ones. And with the older kids, we get to play telephone.
     The kids chose green for Rosebud this time, so truly, she has become a cow of a different color . . . many different colors. And I remembered her ears this time.
     Thanks to my friends Cindy and Martha (feel better soon!) for inviting me for my first book signing in your wonderful new store!!