First Draft Blues

There's a fantastic post at Heather Vogel Frederick's blog "Set Sail for Adventure" called First Draft Blues. Several authors gave their quick summation. For instance:
“Writing a first daft is like driving through a howling snowstorm. Your headlights pick out only a few feet of the snowy tunnel ahead of you. If you go slow, don’t stop, and keep just a bit of the edge of the road in sight, you might make it without slipping off into a ditch or crashing into something large right in front of you.” — Shutta Crum

There are tons more and they're all golden so go to the blog to read more.

Reading Rainbow at its End

'Reading Rainbow' Reaches Its Final Chapter - from NPR. I hate to see it go. And it leaves the question, what will take its place? After all, literacy training isn't just about teaching children how to read, it's about teaching children to enjoy reading. How can we best do that?

In Memoriam: Liz Conrad

I lost my dear friend, Liz Conrad, to cancer Wednesday morning. It was a shock to everyone. She’d been dealing with the cancer for a while, but everything was going so well - she never even lost her hair. Tests proved the cancer had been destroyed where it was first detected. Unfortunately, two weeks ago the doctors found out that it had moved. They planned an aggressive attack, but the cancer was faster. So very fast.
     We spent the most marvelous day together just a few weeks back. We went to Little Five Points, had lunch and meandered through all the shops. She helped me pick out the blue flapper dress that I wore in Los Angeles. I’m so glad we had that day. It was the epitome of everything I loved about spending time with Liz.
     We met years ago at an SCBWI Southern Breeze conference and ogled over each other’s work and our (at the time) mostly pre-published status. From then on, we attended and roomed at conferences together, had dozens of wonderful lunches and when I became Illustrator Coordinator for our region, Liz was my right arm (and creative cohort). She and Vicky Alvear Shecter are/were my posse. After so many lunches we started sharing our work with each other and became an impromptu critique group, based on friendship and extreme mutual respect.

     Liz was always the most positive person I have ever known. Her artwork was filled with such joy. You can see some of it here and here and here. I went to her for smiles and clear thinking. Next to my husband, she was one of those rare people whose moral compass points true north. Absolutely and perfectly.
     I had hoped we would grow old together. I had visions of us at the family cabin, grey beyond reason, and going over our latest manuscripts together. I’ve missed her so terribly in these two weeks as she declined, I know I will miss her forever. It’s hard to get my head around the fact that she won’t be here. The world needs more people like Liz in it, not less. I am heart broken.
     I’ll post funeral arrangements here as soon as I know them. Meanwhile, do something nice for somebody today and smile even if you don’t feel like it. That’s what Liz would do.

Update (Monday, August 31st): Liz's family is following your lovely condolences posted here - so please feel free to reach out to them as well - her husband Rick, and daughters Lauren and Caitlin. (And her dogs Gus and Dillon and Max the cat.) I've spoken with the family and Caitlin's wedding is still planned for September. Liz was cremated and they will have a Celebration of Life ceremony for her towards the end of October - I will post details as I hear.

Update (Wednesday, September 16th, 2009): I've spoken with Liz's husband, Rick, and the Celebration of Life Ceremony for Liz will take place:
     Saturday, October 24th from 2:00 pm - 5:00 pm-ish (est)
     at the clubhouse in Rivermoore Park (their neighborhood)
     in Suwanee, Georgia
     4720 Meadow Park Lane, Suwanee, Georgia 30024.

Directions: Peachtree Industrial Blvd. north from 285 (runs parallel to 85), left at Moore Road (north of 120), left at 3rd left - Meadow Park Drive, striaght to round-about (large Dovecote in the middle) and follow around to Meadow Park Lane.

At Southern Breeze, (our regional chapter of the SCBWI) we've also established a Liz Conrad Portfolio Critique Scholarship Fund in her honor. Click her image for details. Or, if you would like to make a donation (thanks so much to those who have donated already), send a check made out to Southern Breeze to:
     Southern Breeze
     PO Box 26282
     Birmingham, AL 35260

     The money collected will be used to award two free Portfolio Critiques at each Southern Breeze conference annually for budding illustrators in our Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi region. As Liz's daughter, Caitlin, said,
"Mom used the critiques to enhance her art and strengthen her confidence. Later, down the line, she was asked to actually do critiques for others...she was ecstatic! I just know how much it did for her and hope that it could help another aspiring writer/illustrator in the same way..."
     We feel this is a way our wonderfully supportive community of children's book writers and illustrators can honor our friend best.

     You can also send donations in Liz's honor to the American Cancer Society or the Humane Society.

     Along with this blog post, Liz's good friend (and Rick's cousin) from Grand Rapids, Michigan, Julie Metsker, has set up a Memorial Page for Liz at
     I'm collecting photos for a moving picture frame to be part of a memorial at our next Southern Breeze conference and to include on this memorial page. So please send your photos to me at elizabeth at dulemba dot com or upload them to the gallery below. (For those of you in the midwest you can also send photos to Julie at jmetsker at iserv dot net.) If your photos are large, please send them through
     Again, thanks so much. It's no wonder Liz was surrounded by such kind and generous friends as proven by all your wonderful comments - light attracts light.

Update - October 25, 2009: Many people expressed interest in having their own copy of the collected comments from this memorial blog post and the Memorial Page. (Two copies were floating around during the Celebration of Life Ceremony.) I've made the collection available through - click the cover.
Support independent publishing: Buy this book on Lulu.

PHOTO GALLERY: I've started a photo gallery and you should be able to upload your own photos to it at:

VIDEO TRIBUTE: We had a lovely tribute for Liz at the 2010 SCBWI Springmingle Conference in Atlanta. We officially awarded two scholarships to kick off the incredible fund now in place to honor Liz, and Rick was there as well. If you would like to see the video or purchase your own copy, it is online at ONE TRUE MEDIA.

Comments didn't come over when I moved my blog to a new URL, so I am listing them here - all of them...

 Sarah said...
I'm so sorry e-- She sounds like such a lovely person.
8:07 AM  

 Anni Matsick said...
So sorry to hear of Liz' passing. She will live on in your cherished memories.
8:23 AM
 Vicky Alvear Shecter said...
Beautiful. I'm glad you did this.
8:48 AM
 Michelle said...
Oh, e - I'm so sorry. Thank you for writing this lovely post about your friend.
9:07 AM  

 Kristi Valiant said...
So sorry to hear this. I only met her once, but she was so open and friendly. I know she'll be greatly missed.
9:18 AM
 K L Bradshaw said...
e, your post is beautiful and a wonderful tribute to Liz. When I got your email this morning, I was overwhelmed with sadness. I kept re-reading it, hoping to make it say something else. Liz was such a bright spirit, that I did not even know she was sick. Even though I only knew her through the Southern Breeze conferences, I was always drawn to her and appreciated her positive encouragement. Her illustrations are beautiful, entertaining, delightful and childlike without being childish. Her passing is a tremendous loss. A bright light has gone out.
9:19 AM
 Hardygirl said...
So incredibly sad. Such a loss.

Thanks for posting such a loving tribute.
9:31 AM
 Rita Lorraine said...
My thoughts and prayers are with Liz' family, and with you. Take care of yourself.

Rita Lorraine
9:36 AM
 Mary Cunningham said...
You've not only given your dear friend a warm and loving tribute, you've comforted us all with your words. 

So sorry...
9:39 AM
 kristydempsey said...
Oh, Elizabeth. What a beautiful celebration of your friend's life. I hope you'll continue to find ways to celebrate her in the days to come. I'm so sorry.
9:42 AM
 Phyllis Harris said...
What a beautiful lady and tribute. My heart is so sad for this loss and I didn't even know her. Her art in the childrens books that she did will live on and give those who get to enjoy them much happiness.

I'm so,so sorry e.
9:50 AM  

 Shelli said...
Liz was adorable. she will be missed tremendously.
10:04 AM
 Doraine Bennett said...
I was Liz's angel at the last Springmingle. She was a lovely and delightful person. I am sorry for your loss of such a precious friend. Her gentle, sweet heart will indeed be missed.
10:16 AM
 Anonymous said...
I'm am sorry for the loss of your friend. Thank you for sharing her story with those of us who did not know her.
10:22 AM  

 mimi schroeder said...
Liz was a beautiful person, inside and out. She leaves behind a great example of how to treat your fellow men and women.
10:23 AM
 princesstomato said...
I'll be thinking of you and of her family. She will undoubtedly be greatly missed. Her work is a true joy, and it sounds like the friendship you shared is as well.

10:27 AM
 Robyn Hood Black said...
I'm still in shock and devastated. Thank you, e, for this tribute. The same image came to me as came to Kathleen - a beautiful light has gone out. I have a candle burning in my home for her right now. Her amazing positive energy will continue to cast its light...
11:10 AM
 Ramey Channell said...
Such a lovely and loving tribute to Liz. She will be greatly missed.
11:13 AM
 Laura Zarrin said...
I'm so sorry to hear that. Her work was amazing! It's such a gift to have a friend like that.
11:28 AM
 Terri Hoover Dunham said...
I'm so sorry, Elizabeth. So sad. Looks like she was a beautiful person and a wonderful artist.
11:29 AM
 Sarah Campbell said...
I had no idea she had cancer. I loved the time I spent with her, too. We will miss her in Southern Breeze. Thank you for writing a tribute. I am so sorry you will be without your friend and colleague.
11:40 AM
 Traci @ ITD said...
Such sad news. My heart goes out to you.
11:43 AM
 Paula Pertile said...
Oh, how terribly sad. I'm so sorry.
12:11 PM
 Peggy Shaw said...
Liz was one of the kindest, most vibrant and giving people I've ever known. She helped me after I was I was laid off from Dalmatian in several ways, one of which was a precious logo that I will always treasure. Liz said somewhere that she always loved a new box of crayons. Last night, through all of the sadness, I thought of her in heaven, delighted to have a box of crayons with colors she's never seen before. She blessed so many people with her life.
12:15 PM
 Laurie said...
K L Bradshaw expressed my feeling exactly. This is such a shock, since I had no idea she was sick. I last spoke with her in the spring, and now I am so sad I had not talked to her since. She was a huge talent and such a joy to work with. Thank you, Elizabeth, for such a warm and moving tribute. My deepest condolences to you and her family.
12:25 PM
 Janet said...
What joy she left behind with her art. We should all aspire to do as much. Condolences, e.
12:47 PM
 Jen Robinson said...
I'm so sorry about your friend, e. I'm glad that you had quality time together recently, to cherish.
12:53 PM
 Loreen Leedy said...
Thank you for writing this tribute to let us know about Liz. My best wishes go to her family and friends.
1:11 PM
 Leslie Muir said...
Oh gosh, I had no idea. I'm stunned. Just a couple of months ago Liz was sending me ecstatic, thrilled-beyond-belief emails after she'd signed with an agent. I can't believe it.

Such an amazingly talented and exuberant person. My heart goes out to her family and friends. Heartbreaking news.
1:39 PM
 winglessflite said...
I am so sorry to hear about Liz. You are as lucky to have had such a wonderful and dear friend as she was to have you. That is a loving and beautiful tribute. Jackie
2:24 PM  

 Joe Kulka said...
How incredibly sad. A sweet tribute by you, Elizabeth.
Liz is proud of you.
2:37 PM  

 Joe Kulka said...
How incredibly sad. A sweet tribute by you, Elizabeth.
Liz is proud of you.
2:38 PM
 Kristin Tubb said...
I didn't know Liz, but after reading your words, I sure wish I had. What a lovely tribute to your dear friend. My thoughts and prayers are with Liz's family and friends.
3:07 PM  

 Mary said...
Liz was one of my dearest friends....our relationship dates back to when our duaghters were toddlers together. She was a wonderful Mother, friend, wife, artist, and a not-so-good golfer! Your sentiments reflect what everyone that knew her feels....a great heartache.She will live on in our hearts and in great memories and in her two beautiful daughters. Thank you for such a lovely tribute to such a very special person. Mary
3:41 PM
 Rebecca McDowell said...
Thanks, Elizabeth, for letting us know. I remember a conversation I had with her at one of the B'ham conferences when she was excited about donating some of her work to decorate the children's ward at a hospital near her. That was Liz - generous and joyous. Her lively personality and her charming illustrations always made me smile.
3:42 PM  

 Deb Scott said...
What a tribute to Liz . . . she was loved and admired by everyone that knew her. There were no strangers to Liz! She touched everyone's life with her upbeat, fun outlook on life. I have been blessed with her friendship since high school and am so very sad to have lost such a vibrant and wonderful friend. She may be gone, but she will never be forgotten. Love to all the Conrads and Brookers!
6:45 PM
 Miller Illustration said...
She will be missed.
7:15 PM
 Ted Rogers said...
I am so sorry for your loss. Prayers are with you , Stan, and her family. By your description, I feel cheated that I did not know her. Peace to you and her loved ones.
7:19 PM
 azang said...
All my best to you and Liz's family.
7:21 PM  

 Christina E. Rodriguez said...
You are so lucky to have known her on a personal level. I've been a fan of her work for years. It is such a shame that the world is without such a talented, generous person.
7:28 PM  

 mary ann rodman said...
When I saw the message line about Liz in my email, I knew it wouldn't be good news, but I was not prepared for this. Like everyone else, I never had a clue she was ill. Although I only saw her once or twice a year, she always made a point of coming over to talk, and was one of the first people to make me welcome in Southern Breeze. Such a lovely and loving person is such a loss to us, but how lucky we are to have known and loved her. Somehow, after talking to Liz for a few minutes, I felt as if I had a little sunshine thrown my way. 
Elizabeth, thank you for doing this for her, and for us.
7:47 PM
 Sarah said...
When I left my comment this morning I didn't even realize that this was the Liz I knew through PBAA. Her work is so vibrant and fun. And her last blog post was so full of hope and wonderful things for the future. So sad.
7:49 PM
 Debbie Meyer said...
I'm so sad to hear of Liz passing. I didn't have the pleasure to know her well, but I did have the pleasure of hiring her to illustrate a couple projects for Harcourt School Publishers a few years ago. When her artwork arrived, it was like Christmas in our office. The work was AMAZING! It was packaged in hand-made boxes, that protected the treasured illustrations she sent us. We oohed & ahhed over them all day, trying not to drool oon them and ruin the paper! I think I hired around 250 illustrators that year, and I can tell you that Liz's work was one of my favorites. The detail, the humor, the love she put into it . . . simply amazing. I was thrilled to be able to hold the original artwork and see her process from sketch to finals. She was one talented lady who will be missed a great deal. Big hugs to her family, and also to you, Elizabeth.
7:49 PM
 Amy Baskin said...
I'm so sorry for your loss. She sounds like the kind of person who left the world a better place than when she first arrived. 

Sending you my thoughts and love,
7:56 PM  

 Amy C. Moreno said...
Just reading your words and seeing her work and face says it all. You must miss her deeply. I am so sorry for your loss, and her family's loss of her. I know that she has made an eternal impact in many lives. My thoughts and prayers are with you and her family.
8:00 PM
 Debra said...
Liz was an uber talent and such a professional. As the former Publisher of Piggy Toes Press, the Creative Director and I always seemed to gravitate towards Liz's illustrations. The work she created for us was spectacular and among some of my favorite.
I send strength to all her friends and family,
Debra Mostow Zakarin
8:11 PM
 Tink said...
I am so sorry for your loss.
She must have been a Wonderful person, She has left footprints on your heart and they will always be with you..
8:27 PM
 gail said...
My heart sank when I read this. I'm so sad for your loss, and her family's. I love looking at her bright and beautiful art.
8:39 PM  

 Vicky Alvear Shecter said...
Knowing that Liz's family is following these comments, I just have to add that I am deeply, deeply grateful to have known Liz. When I first saw her at a SCBWI conference several years ago, I remember thinking, "Wow, she is so beautiful and put together! I bet she's from New York!" Then I met her through Elizabeth and I was stunned and delighted to learn how sweet and down-to-earth she was. It usually takes me a while to get over being intimidated by someone but Liz's enormous smile felt like sunshine reaching into my bones and warming me from the inside out. She talked about her daughters all the time and was a great source of hope and inspiration to me when I turned to her with "being-a-Mommy" troubles. Knowing that I was/am on an insulin pump like Rick, she would sometimes take me aside and check to make sure I wasn't going too low or that I felt okay. A true nurturer. I have been drinking in her art since I received the news. Joy and exuberance radiates from her work just as it did from her very center. I am, like everyone else who knew her, heartbroken.
9:10 PM  

 Shauna said...
Your words make me wish I had known her myself, but knowing she was dear to you and Stan, I know she was an amazing person. I am sorry for your pain and want you and her family to know that you will be in my prayers.
9:32 PM
 Jody Langley said...
My deepest sympathy and prayers go out to Liz' family and friends. I first met Liz about 15 yrs ago when she was still living in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She worked on several projects for us over the years at Zondervan and they were all AMAZING. She's a real gem. She'll be greatly missed. I am so very sorry.
10:12 PM
 kom said...
Maddie loves the book that Liz signed for her...the snow ball! xoxo
10:22 PM
 Barbara Lanza said...
What a great friendship you shared, e, and what a fitting tribute you have written for Liz. I am so sorry for your loss and for Liz's loved ones.
Her art sparkles with joy which could only have come from her loving heart.
10:31 PM
 Donny Bailey Seagraves said...
I remember Liz from Southern Breeze conferences and now I feel that I know her from your heart-felt, well-written tribute, Elizabeth. What a blessing she was to everyone around her, family, friends, Southern-Breezers -- everyone. And what a loss. My condolences go out to her husband, Ric, and her daughters Lauren & Caitlin (and yes, her dogs Gus and Dillon and Max the Cat) and to her friends. I guess the thing to hold onto at a time like this is the memory of what a wonderful gift Liz was while we had her.--Donny
8:09 AM
 powers-studio.daniel said...
Oh, Elizabeth — It broke my heart to hear that Liz died. I couldn't believe it and was convinced you must be talking about someone else. I had no idea she was ill. I'm really sorry for you as well as her family. And I'm sad, too, because I was just getting to know Liz and recognized that she was a special person I'd enjoy spending time with, talking art and books. What sad news. I'm really sorry.
9:14 AM
 Anonymous said...
What a lovely tribute to Liz! She was one of my best friends in high school, room mates after college, etc. I was so shocked to hear of her death, also. Words can't describe how I feel now. She was that special type of person that was always "up", even during her treatments. A very sad day for the family & friends she left behind. Moe Cotter-Cook,Medina, OH
9:30 AM  

 Jo said...
Liz's personality was reflected in her art-style -- full of brightness, fun, exuberance, light. I'm glad that we have her art as a visual remembrance of her beautiful life.
She and I were both looking forward to meeting future in-laws of one of our kids on Labor Day. My heart breaks for Liz's family and for all of us. She will be dearly missed and oh, so fondly, remembered.
9:30 AM
 jenniferjabaley said...
What a beautiful and moving tribute for a beautiful lady. I'm sad that I never had the fortune of meeting Liz, but just one look at her illustrations and her exuberance and positivity shine. What a terrible loss. Her spirit will live long as each new person discovers what a talented artist and kind person she was.
10:02 AM
 Ginger*:) said...
Truly a loss. I am so sorry for her family and hope that all her work will still bring comfort and joy to those who cherish it and her.

You are such a good friend to remember her and create such a loving post.
10:21 AM
 Karen Strong said...
I'm so sorry to hear this. I just found out today. This is really sad news. 

I met Liz at this year's Springmingle and looked at her artwork. She was truly a talented artist and a really nice person.

Thanks for posting this memoriam. It is so unfortunate that such a beautiful person was taken so soon.

Much love from my heart goes out to her family.
10:28 AM
 Susan Spain said...
What a lovely tribute to Liz, Elizabeth, made even more meaningful with all the sentiments here from her friends. Liz's art reflected her life in so many ways--with humor, openness and joy. You can't help but smile when you see it. I admired her tremendously, and looked forward to our luncheon meetings so much because business didn't seem so much like business when you gather with friends. I love Vicky's idea of the candle burning for her, and I'm doing the same today. While the rain cries down my windowpanes, her light her light glows throughout my house. Thank you, Liz, for being a bright light in all our lives for the time you were here. We will not forget you.
10:30 AM
 Diana Black said...
Elizabeth, I can't imagine how you're feeling right now. Or the shock and pain of Liz's family.

Just looking at her work, and how much joy it inspires, and reading these comments, I wish I'd at least have met Liz.

She leaves an amazing legacy of art and love.

10:42 AM
 Anonymous said...
To all the Brooker's and Conrad's. I am so sorry to hear about Liz. I always thought that Linda & Liz could have been sisters in their Medina cheerleading days. They both had that long, straight, blonde hair, petite little bodies, and brilliant smiles. She will be missed by all who were fortunate enough to know her.

Linda is waiting with open arms.

Amy Miller Bartlett
10:46 AM
 nancy said...
I only met Liz once at a Southern Breeze conference. She signed a book for my grandson and we chatted for a few minutes. She left such an impression because of her friendly manner that I felt like I lost a friend when I heard that she had passed away. I am thankful to have her autograph and some of her work. Her family and friends are in my prayers.
11:27 AM
 Deanna said...
This is truly heartbreaking news.

Liz was a wonderful artist, of course; she was also a terrific writer, and was poised for a breakthrough as an author/illustrator. Most of all, though, she was one of the sunniest, most delightful, fun, generous, all-around wonderful people I've ever known.

Some of the most fun I've had as a writer was working on Riddle, Diddle, Dumplings with Liz (and Diane, of course!)

What a sad loss for all who know her . . . and for those who never got that chance.
11:46 AM
 Wendy Edelson said...
oh I am so sorry to hear this sad and terrible news. I never met her personally, only knew her through her beautiful and vibrant work and her post on the PBAA list...but it is obvious that she was a wonderful and well loved artist, friend, mother, wife and daughter, a bright and shining light that is gone too soon, and will be greatly missed.
12:41 PM
 Jodi Wheeler-Toppen said...
What a loss. She had such wonderful enthusiasm and her art just shouted, "fun!"
12:48 PM
 edna said...
Hi e, So sorry to read of Liz's passing. What dear friends you were. My sincere condolences to her family. May Liz's wonderful art bring comfort and loving memories. With Aloha, Edna
12:54 PM  

 BJ Schneider said...
A few years ago, several of us crammed into Vicky's van for the trip to and from Birmingham. That was the first time I met Liz. She was just the right size for the back seat, but her laughter filled the space. I'm as stunned as the rest of you. Light seems the word to describe her gift. Thanks for lighting the candle for her, Vicky.
1:14 PM
 Anonymous said...
My heart goes out to all of Liz' family & friends. What a terrible loss.
Margo Miller Potts
2:05 PM
 Anonymous said...
I am so deeply saddened and heartbroken by this news. I knew Liz from our cheerleading days together in high school. Liz was such a lovely person inside and out! She will be greatly missed by everyone who knew her! My sincere sympathy to the Conrad and Brooker families and to all of Liz's friends who were so blessed to know her. Liz certainly touched many lives with her great smile and laughter, her sense of humor and positive attitude, her generous spirit, and her talent and beauty. Her loving memory will always live on. 
Carole Koenig-Nowak
4:40 PM  

 Jennifer B. Bailey said...
I am so sorry to hear this. I didn't know Liz personally, but saw her at many conferences and always admired her poise and presence. Thank you for writing this post.
4:45 PM
 Lori Calabrese said...
I'm so sorry for your loss. At least you had that quality day together--that means so much! My thoughts and prayers are with her family!
7:23 PM
 Anonymous said...
We simply cannot believe this--to Marge, Jim, Halle and all the Conrads, you are in our thoughts and prayers. It is wonderful to read how many lives her sunny spirit touched. Our love from Barbara and Don Gilbert
9:58 AM
 Katie said...
Oh my gosh! I am so devastated! This is horrible news. 

Please pass on my sincerest condolences to her family. She was a lovely and talented person and I feel honored to have met her.

I am so sorry for your loss.
1:03 PM  

 Anonymous said...
To Jim and Marge-Stan informed us of the sad news and I have notified Ron and Charlie. We all are thinking of you this evening. Don Gilbert
8:05 PM
 Barb Cole said...
Thank you for the beautiful tribute to Liz, my former neighbor in Grand Rapids. With Liz across the street, the sun was always shinning and laughter ringing.Many fond and funny memories will keep her close to my heart. She will be missed more than one can imagine.
9:27 PM
 Julie Metsker said...
Liz and I were best friends for that time in our life when our kids were little and we had no money and we could have coffee (only with real half and half!) every morning and talk on the phone…..that time seems far away and yet right now. She was always available and ready to help re-arrange the room – moving couches and tables..picking colors ..helping to paint. 

One of my favorite memories is when we were both pregnant (with Hilary and Caitlin) – about 6 months along and we needed to wallpaper the ceiling in my kitchen. At least I had decided that it was the best and cheapest way to cover all the cracks. The ceilings in that kitchen were 10 feet high – so picture 2 very pregnant ladies on ladders trying to get plain white wallpaper straight on the ceiling. We worked for an hour on one strip. Laughing, frustrated …then sat down at the dining room table – so discouraged, but I’d spent $70 on wallpaper – what were we to do. I remember we drank coffee – is that possible? – at any rate – we re-grouped and actually got the project done that day. What a victory and what laughter!

Another time we decided that we had to pierce a second hole in our ears – again the kids were little – we probably decided while drinking coffee. Get the needle – get an apple – get the ice! Ok – which ear means that we are gay? We don’t care – just get it done – and we did! I’m not sure how Rick felt about it, but my husband was underwhelmed with what we did that day.

We went to Chicago for our first big outing since having kids – we really needed to see Crate & Barrel. We high fived after we checked into the hotel “all by ourselves” without our husbands, shopped so much that it took 2 bell carts to get all our purchases down to the car and then we even were able to drive ourselves home without a hitch. Amazing how that seemed so grown up!

I got out of the shower this morning and realized that Liz helped pick the colors and that she consulted on the choosing of the tile, the placing of the random black and white. Her art is placed above my mantle – 2 pieces of cut paper and stamping – one for me with a half and half woman – the working side and the mother. Her special piece created after our trip on the Boundary Waters – the Big Dipper sits on my desk and has since that adventure in 2003. 

She helped create every invitation for the annual big homebrew party, the logo for P & J Brewing Supplies. We had to drink wine to “brainstorm” those invitations and we did it during the day…when the kids were little and we tired of coffee.

As I write this, the hole in the world gets bigger and the globe tilts on its axis. She was an incredible friend, cousin-in-law and person. The world is dimmer without her light. 

We have a permanent memorial page set up at
10:47 AM  

 Juliann said...
I am so shocked and saddened to hear of her passing. Liz was so full of life and happiness, it showed in her illustrations and design work. I didn’t know about graphic design until I met Liz, in the late seventies, she inspired me to become a graphic designer. Her work early on, was so clever and innovative, I just aspired to be half that good. Liz gave me a direction in life and I will always be grateful.
12:33 PM  

 C. M. Fleming said...
I have struggled to find words to express my feelings for Liz and the deep hole that has been left in all of us who knew and loved her. I met Liz when I was the Illustrator Coordinator for Southern Breeze. She popped up at the portfolio table and greeted me with that dazzling smile. In the years I knew her, I never heard her utter a negative word. 

Though Liz was (so hard to use past tense) petite, usually the tiniest person in a photo, she was the one that all eyes couldn't help but focus on. How could you not be drawn into her joy of life. 

“ not say a little in many words, but a great deal in a few.” Author Unknown

Though our world is dimmer because of our loss, heaven is all the brighter. 
Connie (C. M.) Fleming
10:50 AM
 Anonymous said...
I was so sorry to hear this news. Liz was loved by so many and went far too young. My deepest sympathy to her parents and Rick and the girls. Molly Miller
5:37 PM  

 amy Timberlake said...
Oh man, I am sorry. Thanks for posting this tribute. I KNOW her work -- beautiful, great colors, and with such a sense of humor. Thanks for posting this.
9:15 AM
 Roberta Baird said...
My condolences to Liz's family for their loss and to you for the loss of a dear friend. While I didn't know Liz, I was very familiar with her work. Her art will continue to bring much joy.
12:01 PM
 Anonymous said...
This is such a shock. We know Liz and Rick and their beautiful girls Lauren and Caitlin from their Lexington days. What fun we had. We enjoyed getting the original designed Christmas cards each year and hearing how life was going. We are deeply saddened about this loss. Our thoughts are with you all. Nellie and Harvie Wilkinson
4:09 PM  

 Ruth McNally Barshaw said...
Oh, E. I'm so sorry. I knew Liz online... I'm sorry for your loss. Deepest condolences to her friends and family. She was a special lady.
Your post and the scholarship fund are a lovely tribute.
1:20 AM  

 Helen Dooley said...
I know this is late and I am sorry for that. I read your tribute to your firend- you loved her so much. By the look of her, her art and your words, you were very lucky to have such a lovely lady in your life. Best friends don't come along often. Especially someone who is a true friend. I see in her art the love you spoke of. I wish for you that time will make Liz a wonderful memory that in times when you need her, she will be there. I am truely sorry for your loss.
12:59 AM  

SOAP, SOAP, SOAP arrives and a giveaway!

Look what my very favorite man brought me! (That would be the UPS man of course - ha!) These are my creator copies of SOAP, SOAP, SOAP!! I received 30 of the bilingual hardcover, all-English hardcover, and bilingual paperback!
     It seems like a lot, but I'll run through them quickly. Family and writing buddies and giveaway winners... But for now, I get to enjoy this enormous pile of SOAPy wonderfulness!!! Mmmm, I can still smell the ink...
     Want to win a signed copy?? Go check out my book trailer (yup, that means you have to visit my blog and scroll down) and leave a message THERE. Your name will go into a hat for a drawing on the official release date, September 25th. If I draw your name (don't sign anonomously!), I'll ask you which version you would like (bilingual or all-English) and what happens at the very end of the book trailer - so go check it out:!!!

Coloring Page Tuesday - Birdsong

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     I write poetry, but I'm no expert. I just know know when a poem sounds good to me. Kind of like birdsong - a good poem makes your soul sing.
     Do you have a favorite poem? Which poem is like birdsong for you? (Feel free to write one and share in the comments!)
     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! Click here to find more Back to School themed coloring pages.

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

A Schmoozy Good Day in Decatur

Sunday was a happenin' day in Decatur, Georgia. At 3:00 Sherri Dillard hosted an SCBWI Southern Breeze Schmooze at Little Shop of Stories. A good crowd showed up of budding and established children's book writers and illustrators, and we settled in for a great program.
     Shelli Johannes Wells of Market My Words spoke first about social networking for authors. With her marketing expertise we all learned bunches, including me - thanks Shelli!
     Then Nathaniel Lachenmeyer spoke about his method of writing picture books. Nathaniel has several books out (I interviewed him about THE ORIGAMI MASTER in July), five more under contract and even more about to be, so I was especially interested to hear him speak. His method is quite different from anybody else's and almost completely counter to the reported "rules" so it was an enlightening talk.
     Afterwards, Shelli, Sherri, Nathaniel and I grabbed some dinner at Leon's Full Service (awesome) and talked more on the subjects. Great time!
     We returned to Little Shop at 7:00 to help friends Jennifer Jabaley and Ginger Rue celebrate the release of their new books LIPSTICK APOLOGY and BRAND NEW EMILY (respectively). Remember I interviewed Jennifer a few weeks ago?
     They did a back and forth Q&A format which I thought worked especially well and it was wonderful to help share in their debut glow! Woosie. Here we are, Me Ginger, Shelli, and Jennifer:

     If you get the chance to attend some of these smaller gatherings, it can be a wonderfully intimate, educational and fun thing to do. Most of all, I love how supportive our children's book writing community is. Not only do we have some great talent, but we have some great friends.

The Birth of an Idea

Authors are always asked, "Where do you get your ideas?" Well, did you listen to my last post, "Crazy Idea #3?" That's it. That's where ideas come from - that's how they're formed. (And of course, they don't all come from my ink-eating printer, but you get the idea.)
     Because you know what? I haven't been able to get that little Octopus out of my head. Nope. Today while walking with my dog, that little Octopus informed me his name is "Ohi." And yup - he's afraid of everything - pointy coral reefs, slippery schools of fish, but most especially, he's afraid of the dark. Which is inconvenient considering he creates the very thing he fears the most whenever he squirts ink!
     And maybe Ohi has a friend... What would be the most unlikely type of sidekick - horrible and wonderful all at the same time? How about an Angler fish? They are very, very scary... but they create light. So what if this very, very scary angler fish was named Annabelle? And what if she was also afraid of the very thing she created - light?
     So, we have two characters. They are as different as can be, but with a lot in common on a deep, philosophical level. Somehow, they will have an adventure and help each other out. But how, what's their story? This is my job. I must figure it out. Can I do it?
     I hope so, because Ohi and Annabelle have something to say...

Read more about developing ideas: The Life Cycle of an Idea: From Concept to Reality - Thanks to Anastasia Suen for the link!

Illustration Friday - Caution

Hugo is very cautious on his way home - he doesn't want to get into any more trouble.
     I'm not able to post to Illustration Friday as often these days, but this week's topic was an easy fit. This art is from my forthcoming picture book, my first as both illustrator and author, Soap, soap, soap ~ Jabón, jabón, jabón (September 25th!). Check out the book trailer I made for SOAP just the other day!

Crazy Idea #3 - Inky Idea

(Pardon the squeals.)

The Acquisition Process

Yet another fabulous article by Harold Underdown on the inner workings of the publishing world. Click to read "The Acquisition Process". The article originally appeared in the 2010 Children's Writer's and Illustrator's Market which is chocked full of good information like this. Every writer should have a copy.

Book Trailer for SOAP, SOAP, SOAP!

I've finally done it - I've created a book trailer for my first picture book as both illustrator AND author, SOAP, SOAP, SOAP ~ JABON, JABON, JABON! This is my first attempt so I'd love some feedback. Does the music work for you? How is the color? Does it make you want to rush out and buy the book!?

Speaking of which - SOAP will be officially released on September 25th and I am busy putting together promotions to get the word out! I'll have a Blog Book Tour, and am reaching out to librarians, reviewers, and bookstores. (Something new: I can send reviewers and book buyers an e-galley if you like!) I'm also thinking of other media like radio, tv, etc. Do you have any contacts you wouldn't mind sharing? Oh - and feel free to forward this link, link to the book trailer, and/or embed it in your own sites if you like. Thank you in advance for any help you can offer in getting the word out about my first picture book as both author and illustrator! Woohoo!

Coloring Page Tuesday - Studying Mouse

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     So I guess most kids are back in the thick of school now, yes? Studying away, filling their brains with good and valuable information? Mice do it too (we just rarely see them doing it).
     Look familiar? You may have seen this little guy in the recent SCBWI Bulletin.
     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! Click here to find more Back to School themed coloring pages.

     Learn about my Cinderella story picture book (with lots of mice in it), The Prince's Diary, click the cover.


I want on of these fabulous treehouses for my office!!! I can't read about them (the site is in a language I don't understand), but I sure can enjoy the great pictures!
Thanks to Sharon Creech for the heads up!


This is our cat, Boots - or Bootsie or Bootsie-ootsie as she is often called. She has this thing about getting under the covers lately and couldn't resist the unmade bed - ha! Had to take a pic.


What an interesting idea. Ripple is in process of creating a website where a visitor can choose a book, record themselves reading it, and send it to somebody. Like say, a soldier overseas or a parent away on a business trip. Rights sound a bit tricky, but it also sounds like they're getting some good support from the publishing world. Read more about it at PW: Ripple Connects Families with Recorded Children's Books.

Book Returns, etc.

As a book creator and volunteer in my local chapter of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, I try my best to support my local independent children's book store, Little Shop of Stories. But some of the inner workings of a book store are a mystery to me, especially book returns, which can make it difficult to understand how to best to help my friends when dealing with festivals, school visits, etc.

Well, Josie Leavitt of The Flying Pig Bookstore wrote a great article on her syndicated PW blog called To Return, or Not to Return, in which she breaks down the process and the cost of returns. It's considerable and I'm so glad to know about this essential part of running a bookstore!

SCBWI-LA 2009!!

OMG - Where to begin? How do I describe an experience as intense and creative and communal and inspiring as the SCBWI National Summer Conference? It's hard to do, but I'll give it a shot.
     The trip out was uneventful, which is exactly what you hope for when being shuttled like cattle through our national transit system. The taxi ride to the hotel proved I wasn't in Georgia anymore... the trees turned to palms and the greens turned to browns. The hotel is luxurious and a prime location for star-spotting (and tv shoots as we discovered on Sunday - they filmed "Lie to Me" on the lenai).
     I was honored to be one of two recipients of this year's Volunteer Scholarships. Much to my surprise, my Southern Breeze RA's (Regional Advisors) nominated me for the honor, and even more surprising, I was selected for my volunteer activities as our region's new Illustrators' Coordinator. The only caveat was the two selectees needed to share a room. Allyson Valentine Schrier and I got along just fine...

Allyson is awesome in the 'I wish she lived closer so we could hang out' sense. But no, she hails from Washington State where she has some great friends who were also in attendance. Together, during the Blue Moon Ball, they took it literally...

Photo from the SCBWI blog - check it out!
     The party was already in full swing when I arrived - the hotel lobby was the meeting place throughout the weekend, and an easy place to find friends:

     This image was taken by David Diaz (I think) and posted to Margaret O'Hair's facebook pics. (David was in the next shot - anybody have it?)
     It was also where writers, illustrators, bloggers and tweeters gathered to put faces with names and catch up with the faces we already knew.
     Thursday I had dinner with the publisher of my very first book, The Prince's Diary, Renee Ting of Shen's Books. She was just as charming as I knew she'd be and it was wonderful to finally meet face-to-face. Of course, I was still operating on East coast time, so ran out of steam pretty fast.

     A coma later, and on Friday the conference began! Everybody saves seats for their friends in the initial rush into the large ballroom and it becomes almost assigned seating for the rest of the conference - or at least the general area you know you'll be able to find people. (After four days, there were still people I had hoped to talk with who I never even saw!) So festivities kicked off with a keynote by Sherman Alexie. I've heard him talk before, but he is truly powerful as he shares the story behind The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. He was followed by one of my reasons for being in this business, David Wiesner. So, with that modest kick-off (ha!) we headed to our break out sessions. How to decide!? I ended up in Frank Portman's "Cultivating Your Teen Voice." I interviewed Frank a while back for my SCBWI article Blog Book Tours and he was just as nice in person. Played his guitar too - what a treat! (He's a professional musician first, leader of the pop punk group the Mr. T Experience.) I had lunch with Susan Simon, Co-Illustration Representative for Arizona.
Then headed to an editor panel on "Distilling the Secrets of a Successful Book." I had to miss out on the next round of sessions as I was having my Video Shoot! Woozie. Yup. Lights, Camera, ACTION! Very bizarre. I'll share the link as soon as I can. Betty Birney spoke next about serial fiction, and then we headed to the Book Sale/ Wine and Cheese Party where I remembered I hadn't taken any pictures yet!! I am with...
Edna Cabcabin Moran (Fab author/illustrator and hula dancer!)

Holly Black (such a nice person!)

Hope Anita Smith (I was with her to celebrate her Coretta Scott King honor last year - what an...Honor!!) Luv her!

Jay Asher (Got to hang with Jay at the Alabama Book Festival - great guy!)

Jessica Lee Anderson (Look for her new book, Border Crossing, coming this Fall!)

Tracy Barrett (She's got some cool stuff coming too - stay tuned!)

Cheri Williams, Margaret O'Hair, me with my eyes closed (at least everybody else looks good), and Susan

and me with Gregory Pincus - being serious and silly. Greg is the master behind our twitter chat #kidlitchat, has a new blog called The Happy Accident and is an all around great guy!

     I joined Holly Black for dinner and we were soon joined by Lee Wind and his critique group as they tried to figure out some key plot points of his wip. Fun! (Lee is an awesome guy if you don't know it yet.)
     Then I ran off to our Illustrators' Social, which was more formal than I expected, but lots of fun. Had to give a quick bit of advice as an Illustrators' Coordinator too! (Note to self - limit public speaking after two glasses of wine. Hm.) Caught up with some friends from my PBAA (Picture Book Artists) group too: Mary Peterson and Erin Eitter Kono; and more like Patricia Cantor. Thanks to Prescilla Burris for organizing all us right brainers! More parties in the lobby - twitter group #kidlitchat - and then off to bed.

     Kicked off with a panel with Melinda Long, Eve Bunting, Kadir Nelson and Arthur Levine. I mean, they spare no expense at the National conferences - this was a PANEL for gosh sakes! Anyhow, then Karen Cushman before more breakout sessions. This time I headed for Jenn Bailey's Social Media 101 (yes, I learned a few things!).
The Protrack luncheon was interesting. Sat with Greg while we ate our very expensive turkey sandwiches and listened to Kris Vreeland of Vroman's Bookstore head off with Jon Fine of Amazon (I'm guessing you know the link) and Ed Masessa of Scholastic Book Fairs. Not sure it was worth that much of an investment, but it was a VERY interesting conversation. They all have very different audiences, needs, and approaches to bookselling. Then Ellen Hopkins, and a panel with woosie agents Brenda Bowen (newest agent at MY agency!), Sarah Davies, Stephen Fraser, Dan Lazar, Kelly Sonnack, and Marietta Zacker. This was one of the most entertaining and informative panels. Out of all the breakout session workshops I chose to go to Krista Marino and Anica Rissi's. Anica held up Terra McVoy's PURE as an example of a book she loves - go Terra! Then Wendy Loggia who gave a very honest and enlightening talk on why some wonderful (and some not) manuscripts still don't make it through. Then was THE PORTFOLIO SHOWCASE - my favorite thing. Unlike the 2007 Portfolio Show, this time I made a point of seeing ALL the portfolios and wow do we have some amazing talent around us!

And then there was... drum roll please....
The Blue Moon Ball!
     Yes, I wore a blue flapper dress - yes I did. And I think every woman should own one of these. I felt so... kinetic!!

You can see this picture and more on Lee Wind's blog.
     We danced our tushies off - that's all I'm sayin' - the rest needs to stay in LA!
     Although here's a little peek. Here I am with Katie Anderson and Shelli Johannes Wells. (Sarah Frances Hardy is the background - can you see her?)

And other great costumes...

The contest winner....

     Okay, okay, but in all seriousness...
     Sunday started off with Dan Yaccarino - very charismatic guy, and Holly Black who gave some of the best advice I'd ever heard. It was about dual arcs of plot tying together in one story - illuminating! For this breakout session I went back to Betty Birney. I must say, I was hoping to hear about the difference of writing animations vs. books, but instead got how to break into that business. I know many of the attendees enjoyed that, so maybe there's room for both next year?
The Golden Kite luncheon was amazing as usual. All the awards were given, (Allyson and I had got to stand up as scholarship winners), and Richard Peck gave us all chills as he is wont to do. I sat with some of my MidSouth faves - Genetta Adair and Sharon Cameron who was nominated for a Sue Alexander award! Go Susan! Then back to Frank, just can't get enough - his voice is one of the best I've read. This time he was with his editor, Krista Marino, and agent, Steven Malk. What a fairy tale. Elizabeth Law had us in stitches before we were free to play once more... For dinner, members of Southern Breeze and MidSouth headed for the Santa Monica Pier in what has become a wonderful tradition of chilling out at Bubba Gumps for some good food and a sunset to knock your socks off. (That big shrimp was kinda scary.)

     Nope, not done yet! (Although my rear end was tired of sitting.)
Editor Dinah Stevenson shared her 4 C's: An Editor Suggests Strategies for Hard Times. Then Ingrid Law talked about Writing Magic (I missed that one but can't remember why). Next I went to Sarah Davies, owner of the new Greenhouse Literary Agency. Yes, I already have an agent, but Sarah was so well spoken and I probably learned more about writing from her than anybody else the entire trip. She's incredible! For lunch I met Tracy Grand from Jacketflap. I don't know what you'd call it, but we get together and have these brain storming sessions sometimes - very exciting stuff. After lunch I ran off to see Ari Lewin. Had to. We hang in Vermont and I hadn't seen her all weekend. Her talk was fantastic too - about the editing process. Kathleen Duey spoke next and gave us all great advice on how to stay in touch once we got home. Great lady, that Kathleen. The book signing party followed - I bought two books (no more room in my suitcase): Down Sand Mountain by Steve Watkins; and Always Lots of Heinies at the Zoo written by Ayun Hallaiday and illustrated by the awesome Dan Santat.
     And that was it. The faculty headed off for their party at Lin Oliver's and the lobby grew incredibly quiet after that. But I wanted to chill and luckily I was able to catch up with some illustrators I hadn't had a chance to yet: Natalia (send me your last name and link!); Mark Selander, Jeff James; and Stephanie Ruble (oh, and Greg again!). Monday I bunked with Hester Bass (be looking for The Secret World of Walter Anderson in a few weeks). I'm sure I hung out and talked with a million more people - I remember such great conversations and warm smiles. Love you all - truly!
And Tuesday I returned to the cattle sorter to head home...

     I can't believe I didn't get a picture of me with all my Southern Breeze RA's - but here I am with Heather Montgomery and Donna Bowman. Jo Kittinger is not in this shot.

And here they are saying their "word" onstage:

     I can't thank my RA's enough for nominating me for this scholarship. But more than that, I can't thank them enough for all the tireless work they do as volunteers to make our region so incredibly vibrant and fun to be a part of. Thanks also to all the staff of SCBWI for such a fantastic conference and to Stephen Mooser and Lin Oliver especially for their generous gift to attend. (Aaron Hartzler - I wanna be a beta tester!) Big fuzzy hugs to all of you.
Didn't get enough info? Head to the SCBWI Conference Blog for even more details! Team Blogger did a great job of covering every facet of this year's conference!

Oh, and be looking for my first picture book as both author and illustrator in a few weeks: Soap, soap, soap ~ Jabón, jabón, jabón!

Kseniya Simonova - Sand Animation

Coloring Page Tuesday - Giraffe

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     Are you ready to go back to school? Stick your neck out and have a GREAT year!
     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! Click here to find more Back to School themed coloring pages.

     Make learning Spanish a priority this year in Paco and the Giant Chile Plant ~ Paco y la planta de chile gigante - click the cover.

LIPSTICK APOLOGY by Jennifer Jabaley

I recently finished the fantastic debut novel by Jennifer Jabaley - LIPSTICK APOLOGY. Think Gossip Girl but through the eyes of a believable, likable, not overly mature teen. I laughed out loud (and cried) in several places - truly enjoyed it. This is one of those books you will finish with a satisfied 'that was awesome!'
     Today, I talk with Jennifer about her new book which comes out THIS WEEK!

Q. I think most people will be surprised to hear that you are actually DR. Jabaley - an Optometrist. How did your interests turn to writing?

A. I am an eye doctor - and so many people find it interesting when they learn that I have written a novel. It's true that people in the medical field tend to be very left brained, but I've always been split down the middle - part logical and analytical, but equally creative and (as my husband says) melodramatic.. As soon as I graduated from optometry school I really began nuturing my creative side. I took a lot of painting classes and tried different craft projects, but the thing I wanted to do most was write. It scared me, to be honest, this desire to write a novel because I felt so ill prepared. But I just thought, hey, nothing ventured, nothing gained. And the whole experience has been wonderful. My optometry career gives me stability and precision and socialization, but the writing lets me be fun and creative and full of emotion. It completely balances me. Of course time management is an issue. . . :)

Q. Can you share your journey to publication?

A. I toyed around with the idea of writing for quite awhile before I actually committed to it. When I stumbled across the idea for LIPSTICK APOLOGY I finally made the resolve to complete a manuscript. From start to finish it took me about a year. It was the fall of 2007 when I felt my manuscript was ready to submit for agent representation. When researching literary agents my methodical side kicked in. I pulled books off my shelves that I loved or that I felt were similar in tone to my manuscript. I searched the acknowledgement section to see if the author thanked their agent. Most often they did. Then I checked to make sure that agent represented young adult and if they did I sent out a query letter mentioning which book it was that they represented that I loved. I think this method worked very well because it narrowed my target search. I was prepared to wait, but within days I had several requests for manuscripts. Then, I had several rejections, but also several of the agents gave lengthy revision notes and wanted to see the manuscript back. So over the winter I revised then resubmitted to some of the same agents and a few new agents. In March I received a call from Tricia Davey of Sanford J. Greenburger with an offer of representation. Within a month we had the manuscript out to nine publishing houses and in May I received an offer from Lexa Hillyer at Razorbill. I feel so fortunate that my journey to publication was pretty smooth.. From the time I submitted to agents to the time LIPSTICK APOLOGY hits bookshelves is 21 months - and that, for the publishing world, is pretty fast.

Q. What was the inspiration for Lipstick Apology?

A. My sister inspired this story. Several years ago she and her husband took their first trip without their children and she was a nervous wreck. Being that I'm their designated legal guardian in the event of an untimely death, and being that at the time of her trip I was single with no children of my own, I think she was beginning to panic, thinking I would have no clue what to do with her two sons. The night before her flight she kept calling giving me updates in the event of a plane crash. She told me where the safety deposit box was, where the will was, where the spare key, the car key, the kids baseball uniforms, her son's special toy - it was getting comical. After the seventh or eight call I turned to my husband (boyfriend at the time) and said, "The plane would be going down and she would whip out her lipstick and start outlining the boys bedtime routine on a tray table." And my husband said, "That would be a great book." So I wrote down "lipstick on a tray table" on a post it note and stashed it away. Three years later when we were moving I came across that note and the inspiration was born.

Q. In Lipstick Apology you describe New York like a native and yet I know you call the North Georgia Mountains home. What's the connection and how did you get it so right? (This coming from a non-New Yorker.)

A. Thank you for that - I've never lived in New York and worried the setting would not come off as authentic. I grew up in New Jersey about an hour from Manhattan and I would spend summer vacation with my Nana who lived in Queens. She would take us into the city often. But when I originally wrote LIPSTICK APOLOGY I had the story set on the Upper East Side - the area I was most familiar with. After Razorbill acquired the manuscript they requested I change to a different location in Manhattan because Gossip Girls was set on the UES and they were afraid it would be too similar. My editor suggested the West Village. I had no experience with the West Village so I was worried. My mother works in lower Manhattan, so she did some research for me - sent me the subway schedules, sent the Village Voice, and I did a lot of research online. I submitted my final revisions to my editor in October then that December I flew home for the holidays. I went into the city and walked all the streets I wrote about and stopped at all the places featured in the book and felt like I had such intimacy with each place after so much research.

Q. You did such a wonderful job of creating characters I absolutely fell in love with - I wanted to hang out with all of them! Okay, well, most of them. Some of them were pretty snarky too. But that Anthony - what a hottie! Is he inspired by anybody you know? And his family's bakery - does it actually exist somewhere? (Because I really want to try those croissants.)

A. Originally I think Anthony was inspired by my brother in law because he is Italian and grew up working in a deli. But as I wrote him, Anthony just sort of morphed into his own, sweet character. Most of the places in the book are real, but Anthony's family bakery is made up.

Q. You created such believable characters. Emily seemed spot on for her age - not the over-mature teen we sometimes hit in Urban YA. So many of your characters were just plain good people at heart - truly. Did you have an idea of what you wanted to achieve with them when you were writing?

A. Oh thank you. You know, sometimes I watch T.V. or movies now and the teenagers seem so...mature to me. When I was sixteen I was still so impressionable and naive and unsophisticated. Life at sixteen was about wanting good friends, wanting to fit in, wanting a boyfriend, wanting your family to be normal and not embarrass you. When I first started writing this story I really paid attention to the teenagers I saw as patients at work. And the thing was, they may dress more sophisticated and wear more make up and carry fancy cell phones, but deep down when you talk to them - those simple basic wants are still all there.

Q. I have to say, when I turned the last page, I was so happy for where Emily ended up in her life. And I was convinced she would eventually meet some of the other pivotal characters. But I was sorry to have to say good-bye for now. Any chance of a sequel? And if not, what's coming next?

A. Hmm, not sure. I've talked to my editor about not necessarily a sequel, but a maybe a spin off. But we're still just talking. Right now I'm at work on my second book - I'm branching into adult fiction - writing a story about a college age girl who has a quarter life crisis. It's been really fun.

Q. Jennifer, it was hard to believe this was your first novel. You sucked me in with skill and humor and I look forward to more of your work in the future!

A. Thank you so much, E! I appreciate all your kind words and support! Thanks for the opportunity to have this chat! Jen

Strawberry Swing by Coldplay

OMG - I just don't even KNOW how they did this! I mean I do, but WOW!!!!

Click the YouTube logo to see it larger.
Thanks to Ian Sands for sharing!

Sara Zarr on being a Star

Book Trailers and author interviews have become all the rage in the children's book marketing world. I've signed up to have one made while I'm in LA (a Pro-Track author bonus). So, my mind is on how to be an entertaining subject - ha!

Sara Zarr recently went through this and filmed some of the behind the camera glamour. Have a looksie:

Sara's video isn't live yet, but you can see others like it at LB-Teens.

14 Cows for America

14 COWS FOR AMERICA, written by Carmen Agra Deedy, collaborated on with Kimeli Naiyomah, illustrated by Thomas Gonzalez. I have to say, I am very excited about this book.
     I haven't seen it yet, but Carmen has proven time and again that she can pick out the best stories like diamonds in a rain storm. And since my husband and I spent our honeymoon (old pics on an old website) in Kenya and got to know some of the Masai people first-hand, I can attest to their warm hearts and generous natures. Their kindness after our disaster doesn't surprise me and after seeing a few of the images in this book trailer, I think this book is going to feel like a warm hug from those remarkable people.

I'm off to Los Angeles! - tweet tweet!

Today I leave for the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) Summer Conference. Ever wonder what a national writing conference is like? You can follow along on
twitter at or follow the hashtag #scbwi09.

Of course, I'll do a big wrap-up on my blog upon my return too. And in the mean time, I have some fun posts set to go live while I'm gone. So stay tuned!