Coloring Page Tuesday - Fireworks!

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     It's our Nation's birthday this weekend! How will you celebrate? Are you going to go see fireworks?
     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!

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

Harold Underdown's Article on Publishing

He's done it again. Harold Underdown has once again proven why so many people turn to him for sound advice and a true gauge on the state of the industry. He's written a thorough article he's sharing for free on his website, which I highly recommend you read: "Working in Children's Books and the Recession of 2008-09".

Alice in Wonderland

     OMG is this going to be trippy! Tim Burton is doing a new Alice in Wonderland movie starring Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter, Anne Hathaway as Alice, and Helena Bonham Carter as the Queen. You gotta see some of these sneak release photos and read more - click here.
     (Thanks to Tracy Barrett from the MidSouth SCBWI board for the heads up!)

Crazy Idea #1 - Pufferfish Hair

I'm starting something new on I finally found a program that allows me to record an mp3 which I can then embed on my blog. It's called Audioboo and it's a cool new app for your iPhone.

So here's the reason why I wanted it - to share the wacky ideas I get sometimes that just don't fit into anything else and may have no purpose at all other than being wacky ideas.

Leave a comment and let me know what you think!


Audioboo test run

It's techno-geek-out Sunday at I'm messin' around, trying new things. Here's a new app for iphone that should let me upload audio to my blog. Let's see if this works:

Buffy vs. Edward (Twilight Remixed)

     This is awesome.
     I'll admit I got caught up in the Twilight phenomenon just like everybody else. I listened to the books on audio and it was fun - a lark. But the relationship between Bella and Edward was always disturbing. And I don't mean because he was a vampire. It was because their relationship was co-dependent, and identity-stripping to the max. Bella wasn't even interested in Edward until he displayed utter revulsion for her - or that's what she thought. Turns out he actually wanted to suck her blood, like really bad.
     So here were all these teenage girls gushing over Edward, learning all kinds of really terrible ideas about how a good, healthy relationship should function. (Stalking is not in the top ten of desirable elements.)      So, what to do?
     Turn Edward over to Buffy! She kicks... bum!!! She doesn't put up with his games, his need to consume and control - oh no. In fact, she puts it all in perspective - fantastic!! Go Buffy!!
     To read more about the creation of the video and its creators, visit rebellious pixels.

Twitterfeed test

I just signed up - here's my test run. (Click the logo to learn about this.)

Audiobooks on the Road

     Have I mentioned how much I adore audiobooks? I listen to them while I draw or color. It frees my hand to do what it needs to do without my silly brain getting in the way.
     Hubbie and I also enjoy them on road trips. During our recent trip to Tybee we enjoyed NATION by Terry Pratchett read by my favorite reader, Stephen Briggs. (We're not finished with the story yet, so need to hit the road this weekend too!)
     Well, Random House is embracing audiobooks too with a new campaign called Listen Up Florida! They're working with the state to advertise audiobooks on billboards, radio, etc. They're also working with bookstores across the state to promote audiobooks and make them available.
     All I can say is, How GREAT is that!? And how wonderful would it be to see a billboard advertising your favorite YA novel vs. a fast-food chain? Wowsa.
     They're also running a video contest for teens which you can learn about at Fantasy Road Trip Contest.
     Thanks to Publishers Weekly for the heads up!

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Take the Dare - Show You Care!

     Cynthea Liu has a new book coming out! It's called Paris Pan takes the Dare. To help celebrate - she's giving back. She's gathered some top people and creators in the children's book biz to donate books, services and art to an online auction. It's going on right now and continues through July 8th. Here's the official blurb:

     (Chicago, IL – June 24, 2009) In less than two weeks, the online event “Take the Dare: Show You Care” has far exceeded its original goal to support one classroom at Tulakes Elementary. As word spread among the children’s and teen book publishing industry, more professionals have joined, including literary agents from the nation’s top agencies as well as prominent editors from major publishing houses like HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster and Penguin, to name a few. The entire 3rd grade-five classrooms-at this Title I school will have new leveled readers for their classrooms and countless book boxes to store their new books. But according to author Cynthea Liu, the event’s organizer, “There is still work to be done. The 2nd grade isn’t any better off than the 3rd grade, and I’m determined to see them covered, too.” In addition to Tulakes Elementary, Ms. Liu has also chosen other Title I schools in her home state of Oklahoma to receive support through To learn more about “Take the Dare: Show You Care,” please visit or contact
Click here to see my prize pack for the auction!

Georgia Music Hall of Fame

     Did you even know about this? In honor of all the fabulous music and musicians that have come out of Georgia (it's an impressive list), the Georgia Music Hall of Fame was created in Macon, Georgia. And while it may seem like an odd idea going in, I challenge you to leave without a tear in your eye or a new sense of pride in the state of Georgia.
     We dropped by on our way back from Tybee Island - again for research. My main characters in "The Twelve Days of Christmas in Georgia" visit the kids section of the museum and I could find nothing online to help me figure out what it really looked like.
     It was a quiet Sunady and Hubbie and I walk in a little wary of what to expect.
     The main display is filled with era-replicas of cafes, diners, churches and other typical music hang-outs. In each are displays of guitars donated by their famous owners:

Actual outfits they wore onstage... (my fave was the B-52s - dang she pulled off something I never could!)

And old band posters. Stan even found one from his fave band in college - Dreams So Real!

     But what we really went to see was the Music Factory!

     This is where the kids can go wild and really experience music. There are booths where you can make and record your own music, become your own percussion/rhythm section, and play piano with your feet. There's a stage where kids can grab all kinds of instruments and become rock-stars (apparently adults like this too...)

     Stan really enjoyed the "Slap Organ" - an instrument made from PVC pipes and operated with flip-flops! It was AWESOME!!
     Best of all was the video the museum put together on the incredible music scene in Georgia over the last hundred years. I was blown away by its scope, and the pride of the musicians over being Georgians and Southern and being connected to all those ghosts and spirits that seem to weep their way into the music.
     But what really got me was listening to people passionate about what they do. It doesn't matter if it's hang-gliding, motorcycle riding, or creating picture books. A life given over to a passion is an awe-inspiring and incredible thing to see and/or experience. I think the hardest part for most people is figuring out what their passion is. But once that's down - the adventure is ON.
     They say success comes from one part talent plus ten thousand hours of practice (Stan worked that out to be about ten years) and the passion to stick with it for that long (I'm at year 8 with kids books). And there we were surrounded by the sights and sounds of people who were living proof of that theory being true.
     The chill bumps stuck with me throughout the museum - we were completely sucked in by its energy and ended up staying MUCH longer than we intended.
     If you can make the trip - even if you're not a crazy music junkie - I highly recommend it!

Tybee Island Research

     No really. We went for research. It had nothing to do with the view (click to see it bigger):

Or the sunset:

Or having dinner with fellow illustrator/SCBWIer Daniel Powers and his wife Silke

at A.J.s where Stan and I saw an enormous Manta Ray jump out of the water several times. (All you have to do at the coast is say, "Look!" and point and everybody within a 100 yard radius will stop and watch with you.)

And it had nothing to do with the pretty little light house at the north end of the island, or the shrimp salad and raw oysters at The Crab Shack:

     No. I was there for research... for that new picture book I'm illustrating for Sterling Children's Books - "The Twelve Days of Christmas in Georgia" (Christmas 2010) written by my friend, Susan Rosson Spain. (Sterling is doing one of these for each state and I'm honored to be the illustrator for Georgia!)
     I'm supposed to draw my main characters standing on the pier looking at ... something in the water and I really needed to get a feel for the place, y'know?
     It was a bit hard to do at first because they're filming a new Miley Cirus (Hannah Montana fame) movie right now. Can you believe they set up an entire carnival on the beach just for the movie?
     It was cool to see, but a little sad that they wouldn't let anybody in to enjoy the rides (and boy was there a crowd!) Miley is back there somewhere:

     Yeah, this is what we drove all that way to see - the pier

which was a really stunning architectural feat, must say. The pavilion had these gorgeous arched supports - how did they do that!?

     Y'know, all jokes aside, there is something about experiencing a place, the temperature, the light, the reflections and shadows, that you just can't get from simply viewing photos online. Did I have to do this to create this illustration? Maybe not, but boy am I glad I did. I now have a context against which to place my mind's eye as I draw and I'm certain my illustration will be stronger because of it.
     On the way back from Tybee we hit yet another destination for the book which I will write about tomorrow! (No hints...)

Coloring Page Tuesday - Magritte

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     I'm going surreal on you this week! Anybody recognize the inspiration for this week's coloring page?? Click here or HERE to learn more about René Magritte (and see the inspiration painting).
     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!

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

Illustrator Reps

Here's a good list of children's book illustrator reps at Writing and ILlustrating.

From the Publisher's Office

     Okay, Penguin is brilliant. Have you seen their new From the Publisher's Office? They have a "Screening Room," a "Radio Room," and a "Reading Room."
     You know we're all talking about technology and reading and where it's all going.
     I can't quite put it into words, but there is something about this site that feels so... RIGHT. Like this is where publishing is going - or this is what our stories could be. I keep looking at it and chewing on it and trying to come up with what a site like this can mean for me as an author/illustrator. How else could I be branching out and still be a story creator?
     Go visit and tell me this doesn't just get your wheels turning like all get-out. What do YOU think???
     (Thanks to Publishers Weekly for the link.)

Peggy Collins' IN THE GARDEN

     Today I'm interviewing fellow PBAA (Picture Book Artists Association) member, Peggy Collins, about her first picture book as both author and illustrator, IN THE GARDEN!

Q: Tell me a bit about your publishing history...

A:     Well, I graduated from Sheridan College in 97. I travelled and planted trees for awhile. In-between contracts I got a job as an in-house illustrator and designer for an upstart workplace magazine. It was great experience for me, a lot of on-the job learning and lots of published pieces and room to play.
     My big break came when we moved back to Ontario. I got a great job as a designer at a college, and there I got to meet the paper rep that changed my life. I had some illustration work on the wall and he was quite taken with it, and a few weeks later I was offered a contract with Fraser Papers to illustrate a promotion for the Pegasus Black and white line. It was a wicked job, won lots of awards and was so much fun. From there it snowballed, I got regular magazine work and then Scholastic hired me for 6 books in a row and my 3 for my UK publisher. It was wonderful, I took two years off from work when my son was born and this was the bread and butter I needed.
     In 2007 I met John Whalen, the Publisher of Applesauce Press. I was working on a project with them where my work was just a bit too young for what they wanted, but he wanted to work with me - and asked if I had any other projects I wanted to share... and you know what? I did. So I sent him the sketches and captions I had been doing of my little guy playing in the garden, and out of that grew this book. It was a lucky break for sure, and I am glad I was ready for it.

Q: Since you're in Canada, what is your window for growing a garden and what are your favorite things to plant?

A:     I am in eastern Ontario, where it gets pretty balmy fairly early on. We usually plant on the long weekend in May, sometimes we do have to madly run out to cover things if there is a frost warning, but generally it is ok.
     I love the things that grow underground.. it is like a treasure hunt - finding carrots that come from a tiny little seed or potatoes from table scraps... It is oddly thrilling. We are also very into berries, the strawberries are out now, and every night our son picks the 5 that have gotten ripe with the sunshine that day (I don't think I've eaten ONE in two years) but that is ok. And PEAS. We love peas. We sit in the garden and eat peas off the vine till our tummies hurt.

Q: I love that the main character is modeled after your son - how old is he now? Did he really plant trucks and buses and bulldozers in your garden? (I love that they grow too.)

A:     YES! He did (does), and we keep finding them all over the place. He is almost 4 now, eats all his veggies, no questions asked and is an amazing little helper in the garden. He rescues the earthworms and knows the difference between the weeds and our plants... getting your child into gardening has so many positives!

Click here to see some images and inspiration from the book!

Q: Your images are so big and vibrant and colorful. I love all the details as the garden fills in - lots for kids to look at and explore. What is your medium? How long did it take you to illustrate?

A:     Thank you. I used gouache and ink to begin with. After I sent in the scans of the final art they came back saying the dirt was TOO brown. Initially I was devastated, but I managed to hold it together, and in the end they were totally right, so I ended up using pencil crayon on top of everything.
     It took about 6 months from start to finish. The publisher (and me) really wanted to get it out as soon as possible. I work as a designer in my day job, so I got to design it myself as well, which is so much fun. It is nice to be able to see a project through like that.

Q: Since this was your first book as both author and illustrator, can you tell us a bit about your process as both?

A:     More pressure, more work, but much less guesswork. I knew exactly what my character looked like, and so it was more liberating. I find when illustrating other peoples writing, I spend a lot of time worrying about what they want, and in the end not liking it as much. But I am learning, every project is a new adventure, and a chance to get to another level.

Q: I know you're in Canada, but where can people find IN THE GARDEN in the US?

A:     As far as I know it is in all the major bookstores, on amazon, B&N etc... heck I even saw it on ebay!

Q: What's next for you?

A:     Well, IN THE SNOW comes out in November, I am working on a book set in the Gambia for my UK publisher that is super challenging - real people, real places. I am out of my comfort zone, but it is making me better because of it. Also trying out some new media - funky papers for the beautiful clothing all through the book.

Congratulations and thanks Peggy!

Thank you so much Elizabeth...

Your Digital Wish List

     I told you I am now available for Virtual School Visits, right? (Read about my first one here.)
     All you need is two laptops with internet access (one with a video camera), projectors, screens, and a Skype account. Sounds easy enough, right?
     But what if you don't have the tech gear? Per School Library Journal, there's a new non-profit group trying to help. They're giving grants to get the technology into your schools. So visit Digital Wish to learn more.
     To read more about my Virtual Visits, click here.

CRITICAS is back!

     YEAH!!! Criticas is back!!
     According to School Library Journal, popular demand was just too strong to let it go! They are now sponsored by Baker & Taylor, one of the top book distributors in the country. They'll be reviewing children's titles every other month. Things are lookin' up - Yeah!

e's News - June 2009

     The latest edition of e's news went out yesterday. If you haven't subscribed yet, you can view the issue HERE.
     And if you'd like to subscribe to receive e's news, in which I talk about all the fun stuff going on in my corner of the children's book world (and which only comes out a few times a year), CLICK HERE! (You can also click to read past issues.)
     And remember, the 1,000th person to sign up will receive a copy of Soap, soap, soap! when it comes out this Fall!

Why You Really Don't Want to Get Published

     A post from the blog THE INTERN: Why You Really Don't Want to Get Published. The blog is written by an intern at an unnamed publishing house. It's definitely PG rated, but pretty darned funny. Have a look around.
     Thanks to Peggy Collins for the link.

Coloring Page Tuesday - Reading Troll

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     Don't you love a book you can really sink your teeth into? This guy does!
     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!

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

Habitat for Humanity - Global Village

     Hubbie and I have begun a new adventure - exploring our own state of Georgia. Why? I'm illustrating a new picture book for Sterling Children's Books - "The Twelve Days of Christmas in Georgia" (Christmas 2010) written by my friend, Susan Rosson Spain. Sterling is doing one of these for each state and I'm honored to be the illustrator for Georgia!
     Despite living here most of my life, I'm learning tons because I need to visit several of the sites to be able to accurately illustrate them. For instance, Saturday we visited the Habitat for Humanity Global Village in Americus, Georgia to see examples of the houses they build all over the world as well as the bricks that make them possible.

     The first part of the tour is an example of the typical shanty towns found throughout the world. And although it's not supposed to be specific to any one region, it looked exactly like what Stan and I saw in Nairobi, Kenya during our honeymoon. The example is quiet and clean, but it's not hard to imagine the noise , smells, and lack of water and privacy people have to deal with.
     What struck me strongest was the school:

     Can you imagine the dedication it would take to try to learn in this environment? A friend of mine who works with CARE (with offices here in Atlanta) mentioned another concern students hit - there will often be a bathroom nearby for the male students, but not the females which keeps many of them away for obvious reasons.
     Also humbling was how it doesn't take much to elevate the conditions for people. Most of the houses we saw had no electricity or running water. The connection to the outdoors was much more tangible. For instance, here is a typical school in Africa:

     The homes Habitat for Humanity creates in other countries are not luxurious by American standards, but they can be life-changing for the people who receive them. Hand-made bricks are a big part of that. This is what I needed to see:

     They pack a slurry of ground and water and pack it down into the cavity then use an arm (not showing) to press it down into a brick . . . one at a time. It's hard work and can take two people several weeks to create enough bricks for one home. But the bricks have an interlocking design that makes them much easier for novices to use. In other words, they work.
     Want to help? You can buy a personalized brick at the Global Village for a donation of $100.
     All said, it was a wonderful Saturday bimble. Americus is charming. We ate at a new restaurant (Sue Baby's?), bought fresh veggies at their farmer's market and enjoyed the scenery all the way down and back. Mostly, we returned home with a humble feeling of how incredibly lucky we are to live where we do.

Whimsical Fairy Garden...

     Remember I told you about my awesome birthday present? At the time, I didn't know anything about the creator of my wonderful bird house. Well, now I do, and he deserves a post all his own!
     His name is Arthur (Art) Millican, Jr. and he used to work as a Disney artisan. He now lives in North Carolina and creates wonderful whimsies big and small, and they are completely magical. Visit his website, and have a fun look around! (Dig deeper than just the main links - there are treasures all through this site!)

Art Demo with Bill Farnsworth

     Fabulous painting demo by the illustrator of Louis Sockalexis: Native American Baseball Pioneer - one of the first Native American baseball players. (Click the image.)
     (Thanks to Anastasia Suen's Children's Book Biz News for the link!)

Alliance Theatre, Institute for Educators

     Yesterday I had the pleasure of speaking to about 30 Early Education Teachers and Teaching Artists about Paco and the Giant Chile Plant and my forthcoming picture book, Soap, soap, soap ~ Jabón, jabón, jabón! (my first book as both illustrator and author)!
     Education Director, Nancy Meyer invited me after seeing a dummy of SOAP in my portfolio at our last SCBWI Springmingle Conference. She came running to me asking, "What is this and when is it coming out!?"
     I soon learned that Nancy had been reading through dozens and dozens of bilingual picture books looking for one that would fit the educational needs of their program. It needed to have several elements which were apparently very difficult to find in any one book. SOAP was her answer!
     One problem, SOAP doesn't come out until this Fall and their planning needed to happen now.
     We spoke with my editor and arranged to have dummies made through for use during their planning sessions (the program goes live this Fall) and Nancy put together a Teacher's Guide on how to use the story in classrooms.
     Yesterday, it was presented to the Teachers and Teaching Artists. Nancy invited me to open the session by talking about my process and journey into picture books (along with the evolution of stories and finding that unifying thread/style in one's life). Then I got to sit back and see what they had put together for SOAP. And can I tell you, I got all choked up, I really did.

     Nancy read the story using her theatre experience with lots of fun voices and dramatic effects thrown in. I had to join the crowd on the floor - these are mostly Kindergarten teachers after all (that's me in the shawl). It was SO FUN to hear SOAP in somebody else's voice with their own interpretation.
     I've always said picture books are like performance art - art that is not complete until it is being shared. And I don't mean shared by me, I mean shared by people who have their own stake in the story - sharing it with people they care about. It's an awesome thing to see your book come to life like that.
     And the program! I would have so loved to be a kid with these visiting Teaching Artists. They are completely engaged and make sure the kids are too. In fact, they just completed a three year study of their efforts and kids who experience Teaching Artists come back with highly improved numbers in all areas.
     No surprise there - art and music stimulate the brain to do everything better! I just wish ALL kids could experience this.
     Many thanks to Nancy Meyer for introducing me to this fine group, Kim Bowers-Rheay for so enthusiastically explaining everything to me (we have a mutual friend from my college days - Hi Mark! It's been great to reconnect), and to Carol Jones, the Director of the Alliance Theatre Institute for Educators and Teaching Artists. (And thanks to 'Juanita' for taking great pics!) It's obvious you all have created a wonderful thing that is really making a difference in children's lives. I am SO THRILLED that SOAP will be a part of that!!!


     After so many layoffs in the publishing industry, it was such a nice surprise to open Publisher's Lunch today and see jobs for editors and publishers. Might things be turning around?
     Click the image below to go see more job postings...

But Who Will Bell the Cats?

     Wow. Go visit the blog But Who Will Bell the Cats and prepare to have your mind blown. The author and . . . visual creator is Cynthia von Buhler and she creates models, 2 and 3-d settings, buildings, texture, lighting. I just don't even know how to describe everything she does. But the end result is truly stunning - something you can't stop staring at. Take the time to scroll all the way through - it just gets more amazing.
     The book will be out this Fall and announced at the forthcoming official website: Lucky us, she created a blog to show her behind the scenes methods.
     Thanks to illustrator Philomena O'Neill for the link.

Coloring Page Tuesday - Reading Octopus

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     So the kids are out of school - now what? Reading of course! And there are so many good books to choose from - dive in and wrap your arms around them!
     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!

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

Look what Rufus made for Operation Write Home: