Illustration Friday: Vacant

Why are old vacant houses always so spooky?
Because they rarely are truly empty . . .
     Have a Happy Halloween!


     I received an invite the other day to give an interview in WhoHub. It's a new site with a pretty groovy idea - interviews with creatives. I'm not sure how they found me, or what their criteria of who they invite is - but I enjoyed answering the questions. They were thoughtful and made me think.
     You can read my interview here.
     I hope they add more children's book creators!

Can't afford Photoshop?

     In my recent talk about "Self-Promotion for Illustrators (on the Cheap)" I mentioned the need to be able to create one's own promotional materials. That means, even artists who work in traditional media need to be able to scan their images, size them, place them on a website, or use them for postcards or tear sheets.
     The best program to use to do all this? Photoshop, which is most definitely not cheap.
     But there are work-arounds out there. Art can be scanned or made into digital files at your local Kinkos. Images can be kept in accounts to be sized and used for blogs, online portfolios, and other applications. Or you can use one of the many Photoshop-like programs now available online.
     The latest is called Aviary, created by the founders of Worth 1000. It's a monthly or annual subscription service you use online and can run as cheap as $7.99/month. Or you can use the free trial to see if you like it.
     I have Photoshop, so probably won't try Aviary - but I'd love to hear from anybody who does. Also, if you know of other options online - please add it in my comments section. Let's make this a resource for illustrators who need to promote themselves - on the cheap!

Coloring Page Tuesday - Vampire

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     Where is your favorite place to hang out and read?
     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.

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Look what Sandra made!

Please follow my copyright policy when you use my images! And share your creation on the Coloring Page Tuesday facebook page!
Check out what Martha Steele created for the Missouri City Branch Library! (Click here to see all of the banners she created.)

A mountain getaway

     We headed to the mountains to hang out with friends this past weekend. The leaves are about two weeks away from perfect - almost to full bowl of Fruity Pebbles status - just beautiful. And it was cool enough to have the first fire of the season. Ahhhh.
     This is becoming the cabin photo - here are Jen and Adam with a foot in each state in downtown Copperhill/McCaysville (depends on which side of the line).
     Saturday we happened across a festival in downtown Blue Ridge - Paws in the Park - to raise funds for animal rescue organizations. What better way to raise money than to have a costume contest? There was the patriotic cool doggie with attitude...

And the pirate...

And then there was the pig . . . named "Forest" . . . dressed as a bat. The pumpkin didn't know what to make of him.

But of course Forest loved my husband and rolled over for him to rub his belly.

ALL animals love my husband. Especially those of the piggly variety for some reason. (And no, that is not a commentary on the wife!) Here he is with the orphan warthog, Digby, on our honeymoon in Africa.
     Anyhow - we carved pumpkins and roasted their seeds. Jen was a good sport about getting the seeds out of the pumpkin goo. (Like the design? Yes, I know we're geeks.) Adam did his biking thing and Jen saw deer while out running one morning. We bought apples at the orchard and made lots of good food. We positively pigged out . . . no pun intended.
     Yup. Fall is officially here in the South. Gotta love it!

Illustration Friday: Repair

     Sometimes Mom has to repair the attempts at proper pajamage. It's tricky getting all your arms and legs in the right tubes!
     This is an illustration from Ready for Bed!

Learn about proper parenting language and the power of choice in, Ready for Bed and Ready for the Day - click the covers!

John Green at Little Shop of Stories!

     Printz award winner, John Green, stopped by Little Shop of Stories Tuesday evening to celebrate his latest novel, PAPER TOWNS. I've never seen so many people squeeze into the store at one time! The signing line wrapped from the events balcony, down the stairwell, and into the main store area and man were there some excited fans!
     He was, of course, completely adorable and charming and brilliant which is part of why so many have become fans of his books and his vlog and social network: Nerdfighters. I also heard him speak at the SCBWI National Conference in LA two years ago - he was just as eloquent then.
     All I can say is - read his books, they deserve all the awards they win. And see him if you ever get the opportunity - you won't be disappointed!

Savannah Children's Book Festival 2008

     Yeah! I have been invited to be the guest speaker at the new Georgia Center for the Book tent at this year's Savannah Children's Book Festival! It will be November 15th in Forsyth Park - if you live nearby, I hope you'll visit and say 'hi'!

Coloring Page Tuesday - Reading Witch

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     So how does a witch curl up with a good book? On her broom of course!
     Have you ever done that? You're so in to what you're reading, you just can't put it down, no matter what your doing?
     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.

     Click the iPhone to learn about my new app - Lula's Brew!

Please follow my copyright policy when you use my images! And share your creation on the Coloring Page Tuesday facebook page!

SCBWI Southern Breeze Fall Conference '08

     Wow, what a fabulous weekend. Roomie, traveling buddy, and fellow illustrator, Liz Conrad, and I kept running through the experience on the ride home and all we could say was how perfect it had all been.
     The drive to Birmingham was rainy, but warm smiles met us upon our arrival. We've been doing this for a while now, so the conference has become an excuse to hang out with wonderful friends.
     The Friday night parties were a fun kick-off. There we met our visiting speakers: Martha Mihalick, editor from Greenwillow; Andrea Welch, editor from the new Beach Lane Books; Laurent Linn, Art Director from Simon & Schuster; Paul Fleishman, award-winning author; Harold Underdown, author, editor and mentor to so many; and Lindsay Davis, agent at Writer's House. I had the great pleasure of getting to know them as the weekend progressed, and found them all to be such warm, intelligent, and talented people. I wish I lived in New York (or California) so I could actually hang out and get to know them better!
     Since Liz was Laurent's angel for the weekend, we especially got to spend a good amount of time with him and I feel like I made a new friend - what a genuinely kind and wonderful person!
     I didn't take ONE picture - gads! (If anybody else did - please share and I'll post links!) So, I hope you'll enjoy a quick video of Feist on the Sesame Street set - home to Laurent for many years. (Click the image.)

     My talk, "An Illustrator's Guide to Self-Promotion (on the Cheap!)" went well, as did our informal portfolio critiques. I was also able to enjoy several other sessions...
     Paul Fleischman equated writing to creating found object sculptures - another of his passions - during his keynote address. Two great quotes: "Serendipity is one of the four food groups"; and "Readers don't realize when they're picking up a book, they are just picking up the tip of the iceberg." So true!
     Laurent talked about the various categories of picture books, focusing on GLASS SLIPPER, GOLDEN SANDAL, (written by Mr. Fleischman, illustrated by Julie Paschkis). This is a Cinderella story told by tying together the various versions from all over the world. Did you know that every culture in the world has a Cinderella story? If you follow my blog, you probably know how fascinated I am by folklore history like this - it's part of why I was so excited to illustrate my first picture book, THE PRINCE'S DIARY, a Cinderella story from the Prince's point of view.
     Laurent also focused on LOS GATOS BLACK ON HALLOWEEN, written by Marisa Montes, illustrated by Yuyi Morales. This is currently my favorite picture book - I keep it on my desk for inspiration while working on my next picture book, "Soap, soap, soap!"
     Martha Mihalick talked about "Worlds within worlds" and also referenced several of my favorite books. It always amazes me to learn new things after attending so many conferences - but sure enough, Martha gave me a new way to describe setting through the people within it. I also enjoyed learning more about Greenwillow (one of my favorite houses). They take chances and turn out some of the best work out there. They also like author/illustrators, so of course I'm a bit biased!
     Andrea Welch gave tips for following up on sent manuscripts and also talked about her new company, Beach Lane Books, headed up by Allyn Johnston. When Harcourt was purchased by Houghton Mifflin, and the west coast office shut down, everybody worried about the future of Allyn Johnston and her talented team of people. From the outside, it was obvious they wouldn't be allowed to fade, but from the inside I'm sure it was an incredibly stressful time. Happy to say, they did indeed land well. Simon & Schuster offered Allyn her own west-coast imprint and Beach Lane Books was born. Keep an eye on them as they will be doing great things!
     An unexpected treat of the conference was to discover three of the students from my "Creating Picture Books" class at the John C. Campbell Folk School were in attendance. It was one of the best classes I ever taught and to see Emily, Dale and Brooke following up on their new found passion made me feel like a proud Mama!
     In fact, illustrator, Brook Lauer is somebody to keep an eye on. Her 3-D style is completely unique and wonderful and I'm certain we will be enjoying her creations in book stores before long.
     Another illustrator to keep an eye on is Anthony VanArsdale. Anthony got in touch with me about a year ago, and I've been a fan ever since. This was his first SCBWI conference and he actually won the illustration contest - what a start! It's been a joy to talk to Anthony and sort of take him under my wing. Many authors and illustrators did this for me when I was starting out, and I always try to pay it forward. Of course, I find this is common in the world of children's lit - we are a highly supportive bunch!
     Claudia Pearson hosted the Fall-apart party this year and we had intriguing conversations about the subtle meanings some creators hide in their works (or not so subtle). What a great philosophical finish to a great day!
     Thanks to all the volunteers who kept the conference running smoothly, but especially to our Southern Breeze heads Jo Kittinger, Donna Bowman, and to Richelle Putnam, who's tireless efforts continue to make Southern Breeze the BEST region of SCBWI!

Sarah C Campbell took some great pics you can see here!

Illustration Friday: Late

I think I showed a portion of this piece once before, but here's the whole thing. Dad is running late, but luckily he applied good parenting language he learned in Ready for the Day! (part of the ParentSmart/KidHappy series written by Stacey Kaye) and everything went smoothly!


I only include the videos that make me laugh out loud. Well...

Thanks to Cute Overload for the morning smile!
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Paco is a Moonbeam Children's Book Award Semifinalist!

     Paco and the Giant Chile Plant, written by Keith Polette, illustrated by Yours Truly, Raven Tree Press March 2008, has made the short list - it's a semifinalist for the 2009 Moonbeam Children's Book Awards (out of 1,085 entries)!! The announcement was made through Independent Publisher - THE Voice of the Independent Publishing Industry. (Click the announcement and scroll down to category 9 - "Picture Book - 4-8 Year Old").
     What is an Independent Publisher? Wikipedia says this. It's basically a small publishing house (not a self-publisher) that isn't part of the giant conglomerate world of publishing houses. They make up about 50% of the overall publishing industry and often specialize in niche markets.
     My publisher is Raven Tree Press, specialists in bilingual picture books and an imprint of the ESL publishing company Delta Systems. They have been enormously supportive of me, my career, and Paco, and will publish my first picture book as author/illustrator in late 2009 or early 2010, "Soap, soap, soap! ~ ¡Jabón, jabón!"
     I've really enjoyed working with Raven Tree - so I'm thrilled for all of us! Y'all keep your fingers crossed Paco goes all the way!

     Learn about my bilingual picture book Paco and the Giant Chile Plant ~ Paco y la planta de chile gigante - click the cover.

   Update - Paco is a bronze medalist - woohoo!!

Coloring Page Tuesday - Pumpkiny Ghost!

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     Have you figured out your costume yet? Tell me what you're going to be this Halloween!
     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.

     Click the iPhone to learn about my new app - Lula's Brew!

Ooooo pretty!! Look what Diane Ward sent in! How'd you get those cool light dots Diane?

Southern Festival of the Book

     I was invited to speak at the Southern Festival of the Book in Nashville, Tennessee this past weekend - what a treat!
     When I lived in Chattanooga, I occasionally had to travel to Nashville for business and always enjoyed the town. It's architecture is early 20th century - completely charming. The town is clean and kept up with flowers everywhere and so much is right downtown in walking distance, Hubbie and I were really looking forward to the trip. (Here he is being goofy...)
     The drive up was stunningly beautiful of course, and the venue for the book festival was literally right across the street from our hotel. So, we parked the car and walked everywhere - nice. Here's the venue before the crowds arrived - pretty.

     My first gig was Saturday morning on the children's stage. It was still nice and cool with a huge fountain right next door. Fabulous author/illustrator/designer Linda Ragsdale worked her magic to create the most perfect children's stage I've ever seen.
     I read Paco and the Giant Chile Plant and everybody had fun saying "¡Aye Caramba!" Of course, I quizzed the kids on the Spanish they learned during the reading and gave away sombreros to those who answered correctly. Here I am with the sombrero winners.

And here I am signing art, books, and sombreros...!?? (never done that before!)

     The SCBWI Booth looked great, and I stopped by to say "hi" to my friends in the Mid-South region, Tracy, Candie, and Patricia.
     I then participated on a panel of authors and illustrators with various ways into the business. Friend and author of the ParentSmart/KidHappy series (I illustrated) was there with me, which was lots of fun. Stacey is so cool. Several audience members asked me questions after the session which I enjoyed.

     During our book signing, I ended up sitting next to an adult author with an enormous signing line (intimidating), but being children's book people, we had no idea who he was so looked him up in the program guide. Well, geese. It was Richard Price, creator of The Wire, for which he won the 2007 Edgar Award. I heard him a while back in a great interview with Teri Gross. He seemed like a nice guy - uber successful, and exactly what you expect a wildly creative writer to look like.

     Afterwards I enjoyed Sherman Alexie's talk. Diary of a Part-Time Indian is truly one of my favorite reads of the year.
     I caught up with Hubbie who was watching our Georgia Bulldogs kick Tennessee's ... anyhow.
     I left at halftime to attend a talk on writing mysteries by Alan Gratz and Tracy Barrett. Alan's mysteries are modern-day adaptations (sort of) of Shakespearean plays, and Tracy's books are play-offs of Sherlock Holmes. They're both so talented, is was fun to hear their obvious confidence with a subject matter they love. It was also good to see Alan and his wife Wendi since they've now moved to the mountains of North Carolina.
     I was pretty wiped out by the end because I'd actually been fighting a cold most of the weekend, so Hubbie and I decided to skip the author party and headed to a local, famous Italian restaurant - Dimo's. It was wonderful!
     Sunday we had a quick breakfast in a local diner, and hit the road. We took a quick detour in Chattanooga to see my old house (hasn't changed much) and have lunch in my old stomping grounds. I had to call my girlfriend who I used to hang with back them and tell her where I was. She asked if all the same old people were hanging around. "Of course," I said, "and none of them have aged. (Not!)" It's so funny - when I see somebody from my past, I always want to say, "You aged too!? I thought I was the only one!"
     Anyhow - it was a great weekend. Thanks to Hester Bass for putting me on the SFB radar, Emily Masters for organizing the event and Linda for a wonderful children's venue. I'd love to visit again someday!

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Hoberman new Children's Poet Laureate!

Mary Ann Hoberman has been tapped by the first ever US Children's Poet Laureate, Jack Prelutsky, to carry the mantle forward for the next two years. You can read more about it at Publishers Weekly.

e's news - October 2008

I just sent out the latest version of my newsletter "e's news" - are you subscribed? Maybe you read my blog through facebook, jacketflap, or some other blog reader? Well, just for you, here's a run-down:

     If you'll be in Nashville this weekend (October 11th), I'll be speaking on the children's stage at 9:30 am during the Southern Festival of Books. I'll also be on a panel discussion at 12:30 pm. (Click the banner for details.) There will be lots of great speakers, and the festival is FREE to the public, so I hope you'll stop by!
     Next weekend (October 18th) I'll be talking about "Self-Promotion for Illustrators" at the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) Southern Breeze (Southeast region) Fall Conference in Birmingham, Alabama. If you're interested in creating children's books yourself, the SCBWI is a great place to start - this is the organization that ties us all together.
     I'm having a great time in my new role as SCBWI Southern Breeze Illustrators' Coordinator. Read about our first ever Portfolio Workshop last weekend - it was a huge success. Meanwhile, planning for our Illustrators' Showcase which was picked up by the Southern Arts Federation to travel the South for two years is moving forward smoothly - more on that soon!

A shout out for the new All-English and All-Spanish versions of Paco and the Giant Chile Plant

Big wahoos for Ready for the Day!:

Ready for the Day! named an Association of Booksellers for Children's (ABC) Top Title for Back to School in their 2008 ABC Toolbox!

Ready for the Day! has been selected as an iParenting Media Awards Outstanding Product for 2008!

     The Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance (SIBA) has made it easier to find authors available to speak in your area through their new SIBA STARS site. I'm proud to be one of their beta testing authors, so check it out!
     An author or illustrator visit can be a profound experience for students, and grant money is often available, so if you would like to invite me to speak at your school or event, learn more at
or email me at
     If your school still can't afford the whole-hog affair, I am now offering Virtual Visits using Skype! Let's make technology work for us in an interesting (and less expensive) new way!

And of course I talked about all the freebies I give away at like Coloring Page Tuesday. Hope you subscribe to get this info first-hand!