Quote of the Day

"Artists are a tough people in my experience. You have to be tough to create. Just ask God." - Tony Kushner, in his 2011 Columbia School of the Arts Graduation speech (33 minutes in).

Thanks to Lee Wind of The Official SCBWI blog for the heads up.

Sketch of the week - Reading Peter Pan

Okay - so I may not do this every week - but it's a good goal. This one took two evenings to create (I either draw or make trolls while we watch tv). I use a simple mechanical pencil (nothing fancy) and a pencil-shaped white eraser (it comes in a plastic dispenser thingie) on a nice drawing pad - paper that has a tooth to it. I sketch lightly, then go in with harder lines. I erase a lot. Then, once I have the drawing down, I start shading. I probably could have pushed this one even further.
  Now I've got it in Photoshop to color. I'm trying some new techniques, fiddling - fiddling. I'll show it to you when it's finished.

Books vs. eBooks

Book Patrol recently featured a great infographic by the people at TeachingDegree.org about the popularity of books and ebooks in today's reading environment. The good news? Surprise! E-Books & Print Books Can Coexist!
     People aren't reading fewer book because of ebooks - they're reading MORE - exactly what I thought might happen! And libraries? More needed/used than ever! And my passion - picture books? The real page-turning thing has yet to be replaced.
     So let's curl up with a good book!
     CLICK HERE to see the graphic larger on the Book Patrol blog.

Coloring Page Tuesday - Christmas Candle

     Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! Whatever you celebrate this time of year, I hope it brings your loved ones together, is filled with joy and laughter, and that the New Year brings peace and happiness to you and your family.
     CLICK HERE for Holiday images to color - Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Christmas and New Years. And be sure to share your creations in my gallery so I can put them in my upcoming newsletters! (They don't have to be just cards - share your kids' art too!)
     Click the image to open a .jpg to print and color. Post it to a blog, then share it in my GALLERY!
     Sign up to receive alerts when a new coloring page is posted each week and/or click here to view the entire Coloring Page Tuesday collection!

     Click the cover to learn about my picture book THE 12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS IN GEORGIA! Makes a GREAT teacher gift!
     Don't live in Georgia? CLICK HERE to see if Sterling has created one for your state yet (they'll each have one eventually), then ask your local bookseller to order you a copy!

All I Want for Christmas Is You

I've never been a big Mariah Carey fan, but I have to admit - this is awesome. It's Jimmy Fallon and friends with kids' musical instruments... and kids. And yeah - Mariah can sing.

Christmas Decorations

Christmas decorations are like smiles from complete strangers.      Seriously, think about it. Among those who celebrate Christmas, people without hope or no sense of joy do not hang Christmas decorations. No matter what they're going through or what life is throwing at them - a wreath on the front grill of a truck, glowing colored lights hanging inside a dormitory apartment, garlands on almost every house in your neighborhood (even the ones that could use some work) - decorations are exclamations of happiness and hope. Each and every little light makes me smile.
     Merry Christmas!

PublishersLunch Bookateria

I've followed the trade e-newsletter Publishers Lunch for years. It's a free daily e-newsletter sent out by Publishers Marketplace - a paid online resource of industry folks.
     In Publishers Lunch, they send out daily listings of book sales in various genres, often mentioning the purchasing editor, selling agent and price range. Each listing gives a quick blurb about the book (an elevator pitch, if you will). It's a great resource for studying the children's book biz, the key players in it, and how a good pitch sounds.
     Of course, a lot of those blurbs make you want to rush out to buy the book - which you could never do before today.
     I'm not sure how they'll work out the timing, as most announcements are made at the time of sale, not release - which can be months to years apart. But Random House saw an opportunity to use Publisher's Lunch already established market as a platform to offer books via indie-booksellers (Indiebound), publishing houses (not just Random House), etc. as a potential feel-good competitor to Amazon. They're trying to gain leverage and I think they might be onto something.
     Per their site:
     “[Bookateria will] provide the industry with a “store neutral” catalog of book product pages for linking as well as research/reference, as well an open place to comment on books … Publishers Lunch Bookateria also provides a complete private environment for searching books."
     Click the logo to go visit and look around. They seem to have brought together several different things which were never in one place before (award lists, store lists, latest releases, book sales, etc.). They even mention a social aspect - I'm wondering if it will be like Goodreads?
     They have most (not all) of my books in their system - so I think I'll be promoting sales through Bookateria now too. :)

The Perfect Bookstore Christmas Tree

The Sanibel Island Bookshop has the most perfect Christmas tree in their store this year - don't you agree?
Thanks to Lady Banks of SIBA for the heads up!


Today I have a very interesting book to share with you called THE GOON HOLLER GUIDEBOOK! Interesting because the creators - Parker Jacobs, Christian Jacobs, and Jon Barrett - are veterans of Nickelodeon, and they've taken their high content, highly engaging ways of thinking and put them into a BOOK! The fabulous book trailer (!!!) first caught my attention because I know I would have spent hours with a book like this as a kid.
     Co-creator Jon Barrett answered some questions about the project...

Q.     "Congratulations on the release of The Goon Holler Guidebook! This is not your traditional picture book with all the crazy things going on inside. There are jokes, mazes, comics, recipes, maps, and music lessons for a ukelele. (CLICK HERE to hear the songs.) It's a lot to put in one book - what made you think of it?
A.     Parker has always been an artist, and it was a natural fit to incorporate it into his parenting style. The stories that he started telling and illustrating for his girls are what became the present day Goon Holler.

Q.     Your history with Nickelodeon is obvious. The Goon Holler Guidebook feels highly interactive, almost like a cartoon. How did you get so much action to work in a static environment?
A.     I didn't want to tell just one A to B story. I wanted to establish a world; a setting with new characters to meet and a whole bunch of things to do. I wanted to create a place to linger for awhile, play around and then make a return visit.
For mazes...
and recipes (adult supervision required)...
and jokes...

Q.     There were several of you on this project - Parker Jacobs, Christian Jacobs, and you. Who did the artwork, writing, etc.? What was it like to collaborate on the project?
A.     Parker did all of the artwork and the majority of the writing, with a little bit of collaboration with Christian Jacobs and Amy Cook, the editor/publisher. Christian and Parker have collaborated on projects since they were kids. This carried over to their days with the Aquabats as a band and now television show, and with Yo Gabba Gabba as well. The balance between work and brotherly interaction always provides that adorable wackiness that we've seen on Yo Gabba Gabba and now Goon Holler.

Q.     I've never seen a picture book like this! Who is your ideal audience for this book?
A.     It's kids! We think the sweet spot is the 5-9 crowd, kids that are reading and discovering the world of pranks and fun.

Q.     You seem to be pushing the boundaries of new media with The Good Holler Guidebook. What's your overall vision for this and the future of books?
A.     We definitely want to take this to television or some equivalent media distribution platform, but decided to launch this as a book first to ensure that we preserve it's most important creative qualities. In a way, we've done the heavy lifting that comes with developing a property. We definitely see mobile apps, toys, additional book titles, games and many other Goon Holler products emerging in the near future. Kids are very proactive in adopting new technology, so instead of looking at it as traditional book distribution, which is a very static concept, we see this as being more interactive content delivery. We feel Goon Holler is a great candidate to pioneer the way kids interact with brands.

Must live in the continental US to win. The drawing will be held next Wednesday! (Review and giveaway copies provided by the publisher.)
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Meet my latest Love Troll - Maxwell

Now available in my Etsy store. Maxwell sits about 2" tall and loves to read poetry - when he's not reading a good fairy tale.
     Some people knit while watching television - I make trolls. :)


Coloring Page Tuesday - Christmas Mice!

Sign up to receive alerts when a new coloring page is posted each week and/or click here to view more coloring pages!
     Here's a big fuzzy hug to all of you - I wish you a very Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!
     CLICK HERE for Holiday images to color - Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Christmas and New Years. And be sure to share your creations in my gallery so I can put them in my upcoming newsletters! (They don't have to be just cards - share your kids' art too!)
     Click the image to open a .jpg to print and color. Post it to a blog, then share it in my GALLERY!
     Click here to view the entire Coloring Page Tuesday collection.

     Click the cover to learn about my picture book THE 12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS IN GEORGIA! Makes a GREAT teacher gift!
     Don't live in Georgia? CLICK HERE to see if Sterling has created one for your state yet (they'll each have one eventually), then ask your local bookseller to order you a copy!

What Children (and Everyone Else) Need to Read

Famed children's book author Donna Jo Napoli recently gave a TEDxSwarthmore talk called What Children (and Everyone Else) Need to Read. It's worth your time...

     On a related note, David Almond, author of SKELLIG and other famous books, recently wrote an article for The Telegraph (UK) called Children's Books Shouldn't Sit Still and Behave. To give you a taste:
"Children's literature...tells tales of rabbits and ducks, of vampires and zombies, of ordinary kids in ordinary homes, of love and death, and explores the most profound, joyful and troubling aspects of human experience."
     People wonder why I read children's books, not adult books. Personally I find a story much more interesting when a character is still forming in their own lives, when even they don't know how they will react because they have no behavioral patterns defined in their lives yet. The questions of good or bad, right or wrong are still on the table, waiting to be decided. It's the stage of formation and we get to join in for a while. What an awesome thing.

Update: I wrote this post before the school shooting and believe, in retrospect, Ms. Napoli's points are even more relevant when you consider the tragedy.

Zombies for Christmas?

CLICK HERE to check out some weird holiday books that Publishers Weekly put together - like this one:
"It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Zombies!

The Hobbit Movie opens today!

Friday, December 14th, we get to see The Hobbit!
And there's a cool new book out to totally geek out on all things Hobbitom - TOLKIEN'S WORLD: A GUIDE TO THE PEOPLES AND PLACES OF MIDDLE-EARTH by Gareth Hanrahan and Peter McKinstry (Insight Editions). Per the publisher:
The unofficial and unauthorized guide to Tolkien's Middle-earth J.R.R. Tolkien is the beloved fantasy writer best known for The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. For generations, his awe-inspiring epics have mesmerized children and adults alike, and the fascination continues with two upcoming Hobbit films. Tolkien's World is a breathtaking illustrated book that brings to life Tolkien's cherished mythical characters.
     I think they go together well!

Review copy provided by the publisher.

SANTA'S HAT by Linda Bleck - giveaway!

There's a cute new Christmas book available this year called SANTA'S HAT, written and illustrated by Linda Bleck (Running Press). What is Santa to do when he can't find his hat? I asked Linda about her new book...

Q.     Linda, how did you come up with the idea for SANTA'S HAT?
A.     Santa's Hat was initially conceptualized from a piece of art I created to build my children's work portfolio about 10 years ago. The picture was Santa standing in front of a Hat shop and he is looking at a boy. There were all kinds of hats in the window. My agent informed me that the editor asked if there was a story. I never say no and quickly over the next year I attempted to write a story. It was rejected, but I didn't give up. I rewrote the story several times and Lori Nowicki from painted-words.com continued to show it around. Over time the story evolved and my writing became better. Marlo Scrimizzi form Running Press liked the story—and so there you have it, Santa's Hat.

Q.     I LOVE the endpapers - all the different hats. I would have stared at them for hours as a kid. How did you come up with so many hats and do you have a favorite?
A.     Oh I love those end papers too. I took some of the hats from the story and then I created several more as individual pieces of art. I love to design pages as my background was in graphic design initially. It took me about two days to compile the grid and get everything lined up so I was pleased how it looked in the cropped state. The page was assembled in Photoshop and I used several repeat and paste steps. It gave me an opportunity to introduce those hats I couldn't make pages for. Too bad picture books are not 64 pages. It is hard to choose a favorite but I think I like the one Mrs. Claus knitted for Santa. It was inspired from a hat that my sister Cathie had as a teenager except hers was fake fur. The other favorite hat is called a "Stormy Kromer" which is a regionally Midwestern-made hat. A good friend requested that I make that one in the book.

Q.     What is your medium? I'm guessing watercolor?
A.     My medium is an opaque watercolor called gouache. Many find the medium hard to control, but I have worked with the medium for almost 30 years and now understand how the paint reacts. You can make it more solid or transparent. It really is a wonderful medium. Interestingly many of the Impressionists used the medium for on sight color sketches, as they found the oil sketches hard to transport. 

Q.     Please share your path to publication with my readers - many who would love to write or illustrate books of their own!
A.     Oh my path to publication is a long one. This was my first picture book and my previous books were a series of pop-up books based on Pepper the Dog, printed in 2005 for Simon and Schuster. I started as an editorial illustrator in 1987, creating art for many types of publications, mostly business and science journals as well as corporate identity, packaging, exhibits, logos, and many other applications. My work was rather technical. The transition to the children's market was a challenge for me and for my buyers. I decided to try to break into the market around 1999, after the birth of my second child. My children were very inspiring and they had changed my artistic sensibilities. I wanted to create work that wasn't temporary. My work tended to be stilted and editorialized. Children's illustration requires many nuances, such as using strong characters, expressions, active based illustrations with lots of details, characters that interact. It's rather like setting a stage for a play. When I create my scenes I am always thinking in that way. How does this look as a whole? Will it stand alone without text? Does each picture tell its own story? But over the years I really worked hard at developing that craft and I continue to strive to be even better today.
     My biggest break was a series of books I created for Sterling Publishing in New York. I was asked to create a series of four books based on traditional rhymes, songs, lullabies, and prayers. It was so successful they asked me to do two more books based on poems and Mother Goose writings. It was in this series I really pushed and learned so much. I had no time to think; the images just flowed and I painted after a very short approval stage. I created four books in 5 months. My work has a somewhat “Little Golden Book” look which they found worked well. The series is called The Children's Treasury of Poems, Rhymes, Songs, Lullabies, Prayers, and Mother Goose.
     Over the last 4 years I created a few other picture books by other authors, Moon Shines Down by Margaret Wise Brown and The City Kid and Suburb Kid by Deb Pilutti. My ultimate goal was to do a picture book written and illustrated by myself.
     With my agent’s encouragement, I began working on the Santa's Hat book. I would guess the book evolved over a period of about 6-7 years until I felt it was worthy of showing. I had actually shelved the idea after the first round because I just did not have to time to rewrite. Lori (my agent) showed it to many editors and it was rejected. Some liked the concept, but they already had competing Santa stories so I was really glad Marlo liked it.

     I always accept criticism and try to use to my benefit. I ask many questions about why someone doesn’t like a book or what they thought was working in the story. I never give up! I keep a sketch book handy in case I have an inspiration. I am currently working on another pop-up book for Scholastic which I think is going to a nice addition to the collection. I just love what I do and when I see children happy when they read my stories or look at my pictures it makes me feel so wonderful inside. I love being a positive force. 
     My mother was my biggest advocate and she herself was a wonderful illustrator and writer, although her stories were never published. We lost her this year and she will be missed! She was my best teacher and always instilled in me that when you draw or paint make your pictures move.

Q.     Finally, this is a wonderfully festive book for the holiday season, and I love Bell and Bow. How's it feel to have a Christmas book? (And are those your dogs?)
A.     I do not have any pets, believe it or not. We live in the woods so we have many creatures outside. My husband’s family has pets and their dog’s name is Bow. I just thought the dogs were such a nice addition and allowed me to write in a visual subplot. I like to subtly layer my stories with extras.
     It feels fantastic to have a Christmas story! My mother was happy to see a Christmas story, too.

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Review copy provided by the publisher.

It's 12-12-12 at 12:12pm

Surely something magical must happen?


Did you know that my hubbie and I lived in a log cabin in the North Georgia Mountains for several years when we first got married? Yup. Then we moved to the big city... But we still go back sometimes to visit friends and remember what it was like to live in those beautiful hills.
     Recently we visited with our dear friend Doris who just turned 85-years-old and is sharper than most people I know (including myself); and bluegrass/folk musician Lisa Jacobi of Playing on the Planet. Turns out, the Christmas Parade was going on that very day in downtown McCaysville/Copperhill (the site of my first attempt at a novel). So after lunch at the Mexican restaurant, we all enjoyed the parade - mountain style.
     See, in the mountains, floats get pulled by tractors. Real working tractors - with tinsel on 'em. People on the floats threw out candy to the bystanders, which we all squealed for.

Santa doesn't have reindeer - John Deer took Rudolph's place.

And to finish it off - people ride their horses down main street. I imagine the scene wasn't all that different 100 years ago.
Of course, after the horses went by, we didn't go for the candy anymore. Um...
     All said, what a special treat to just happen in on THE DAY when that small town shines! And even better to spend it with friends.

Coloring Page Tuesday - Groovy Christmas Tree

Sign up to receive alerts when a new coloring page is posted each week and/or click here to view more coloring pages!
     Sometimes a pretty Christmas Tree just makes me want to dance with happiness. So here's a dancing tree!
     CLICK HERE for Holiday images to color. And be sure to share your creations in my gallery so I can put them in my upcoming newsletters! (They don't have to be just cards - share your kids' art too!)
     Click the image to open a .jpg to print and color. Post it to a blog, then share it in my GALLERY!
     Click here to view the entire Coloring Page Tuesday collection.

     Click the cover to learn about my picture book THE 12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS IN GEORGIA! Makes a GREAT teacher gift!
     Don't live in Georgia? CLICK HERE to see if Sterling has created one for your state yet (they'll each have one eventually), then ask your local bookseller to order you a copy!

How to Visit a French Bakery

When I was in college, I spent one summer as an exchange student in Paris. I went to La Sorbonne for French lessons with several students from around the world. We all had two things in common: we all spoke English (so, no practice), and we loved pastries.
     Many a morning we would decide to indulge (we were doing all that walking after all) and purchase a pastry. My weakness was the Religieuse. It was like a double stacked eclair in either chocolate or caramel with bavarian cream inside. Dang.
     One day, we all decided to indulge for breakfast. Then after school, I was feeling really bad (I must have had a poor translation day with the teacher, who we later learned did indeed speak English after all), so had another. I then returned home to the flat of my host family where Monique proudly announced, "Look what I bought for you today!"
     You guessed it - another Religieuse. Of course I ate it. But by then, I must admit, I was kind of over the experience. *burp*
     Ah, the memory!

Thanks to The Kid Should See This for the heads up!

Happy Hanukkah!

Hanukkah, a.k.a the Festival of Lights, began last night. CLICK HERE for some Hanukkah coloring pages!
     And for your listening enjoyment - Adam Sandler singing his Hanukkah Song:

Dumb Ways to Die

Catchy tune and um... cute animation as a public safety message about trains... It's both grotesque and awesome:

Have you done any of these?
Thanks to The Guardian and Betsy James for the heads up.

Travis Jonker's Caldecott Medal Infographic

Do you follow 100 Scope Notes? Travis Jonker is an awesome elementary school librarian with a great blog. Recently he created an infographic about the Randolph Caldecott Medal.
     For those outside the industry - it's sort of like the Oscar Award for best picture book illustrations. And if I ever win one - you will hear me screaming from wherever you live - no matter how far.
     Click the image to go see the full-sized graphic at Travis' blog - now syndicated at School Library Journal (SLJ). Go Travis!

DANGEROUSLY EVER AFTER with Dashka Slater and Valeria Docampo - GIVEAWAY!

Today I have the rare treat of talking to both the author, Dashka Slater, and the illustrator, Valeria Docampo, of the new picture book DANGEROUSLY EVER AFTER (Dial). Valeria's native tongue is Spanish (she's from Buenos Aires, Argentina), so while she asked for forgiveness on any translation errors - I think her English is quite good! Take it away ladies...

Q.     Congratulations to you both! DANGEROUSLY EVER AFTER has got to be one of the most beautiful and unique stories I've ever read. Dashka, how did you come up with the story?
A.     Thanks so much!
     I stole the idea from a small child, actually. One day my son came home from first grade and announced he was going to write a story about a queen who tried to plant rose seeds but accidentally planted nose seeds. I couldn’t wait to read it! But days went by, and then weeks, and he never wrote it, so finally I decided that the only way I’d ever get to read it is if I wrote it myself.

Q.     Valeria, were you completely stumped as to how to approach the illustrations when you received the manuscript, or did images immediately start popping into your head?
A.     When I read the manuscript for the first time, of course I was surprised by some fantastic elements of the story, such as the plants that sting and stink, the grenapes and the nose roses. Since all imaginary things come from an unknown combination of known elements, I started by entering the world of botany and studying centuries-old illustrated books on flowers and plants.
     Starting from this scientific and literary background, I began to play, combining it with very different elements such as swords, grenades, and armour to create a new botany for the particular world of this book.
     This is how the first studies of new plants and species began. Once I had defined each one, I started to design the garden where the story would take place and placed the plants there, tracing out the map that appears on the title page. That is, the first step was to create this new botany and the scenery.
     Then I started to imagine Amanita, a character that also contains very dissimilar elements such as her care for flowers and her passion for danger. Since Amanita continued to be a princess in spite of loving knives and thorns, I imagined her with sumptuous clothes and elaborate hairstyles. The first hairstyle and outfit that I imagined brings to mind a scorpion. The editor saw this first character study and suggested that Amanita wear different outfits and hairstyles in the different stages of the story; because of this we see her later with caterpillar, spider, and mushroom suits (her cat also wears coordinating clothing). Amanita’s different outfits also served to expand on the development of the character. For example, on the final page, when Amanita falls in love, we see her with her hair down and in a jellyfish outfit, which is much more romantic and delicate than the armour-like scorpion outfit on the cover. [[Click the image to see a larger version in a new window.]]

     After I had the species, scenery, and wardrobe, I worked on the characters and the general atmosphere of the book. From the beginning, I very much liked the role reversal that the story proposed. It is for this reason that Amanita is a blue princess instead of pink, and Florian is dressed in warm tones. I was also interested in toning down the danger in the images, taking a bit of the drama out of the relationship with the swords, thorns, and knives, because no one is completely bad or good, and I believe that the richness of the story lies in this ambiguity. [[Click the image to see a larger version in a new window.]]

Q.     Dashka, Are you a gardener - why plants?
A.     I had a lush and enticing garden filled with artfully-arranged sculptures, secret bowers, tinkling fountains and a writing desk shaded by a grape arbor. Unfortunately, it was stolen in the dead of night by some cruel prankster who replaced it with a couple of sickly roses that get eaten by deer every time they flower and a lot of blackberry brambles and poison oak.
      Perhaps you can see now why Amanita has a dangerous garden rather than a pretty one.

Q.     Valeria, How did you approach creating the "nose roses"? That must have been challenging!
A.     It was very interesting and fun! I looked at many pictures of exotic flowers until I ended up with a flower that had a shape similar to a nose. Starting there, I tried to create a “nose rose” that had expressive characteristics, because these flowers are really an additional character in the story. Since the text talked about new flowers, the second challenge was to give a unique character to each one and show them in different postures and situations. Therefore, the next step was a study of each “nose rose” and its different positions.

Q.     Dashka, You have some other impressive titles under your belt, like THE SEA SERPENT AND ME illustrated by Catia Chien, FIREFIGHTERS IN THE DARK illustrated by Nicoletta Ceccoli, and BABY SHOES illustrated by Hiroe Nakata. What's it been like to work with so many talented illustrators and see their adaptation of your words for the first time?
A.     It’s a humbling experience. With every book I write, I have vivid illustrations in my mind and there’s always a moment before the first sketch dummy arrives that I wonder how the real illustrations will possibly measure up to what I imagine. And then I see the illustrations and discover that the images I’ve imagined are awfully limp and ordinary when compared to the work of a real artist. Valeria’s nose flowers are so wonderfully botanical, like fleshy orchids that you might discover blossoming in a remote crocodile-infested swamp. They’re not at all what I pictured when I was writing the book, but once I saw them, my own mental nose flower picture just kind of covered itself with a towel and ran out of the room in shame.
     Could there be anything better than having an artist whose work you adore make paintings based on the ideas floating around inside your head? I’m pretty much the luckiest person on earth to have had that experience four different times with these four amazing illustrators.

Q.     Valeria, Can you describe your illustration method to my readers?
A.     The illustrations for Dangerous Ever After were painted by hand in gouache on paper and then digitally retouched.

Q.     Dashka, How do you come up with ideas - what makes one stand out to you? And how did you break into children's books?
A.      Idea generation is the least of my worries –my brain tends to turn anything that happens to me into a story. Turning those squirming, irregularly-shaped ideas into finished manuscripts – that’s a different kettle of fish altogether. The ideas that stand out – that feel worth trying to wrestle into submission -- are the ones that surprise me. A surprising idea feels like being goosed -- I think I literally hoot with pleasure when I think of something unexpected. This is why I don’t write in cafes, by the way. Nothing like hooting with pleasure at your own idea to make the other patrons grip their laptops firmly and edge toward the exit.
      I started out as a poet, then became a journalist, and then published a novel, all before attempting my first children’s book. What brought me to children’s books was publishing a book for adults and having to field that favorite interview question: “Which writers influenced your work?” I found that the writers I wanted to talk about were children’s writers, which I thought showed that I wasn’t actually a very serious person. Then I gave birth to my first child and had an excuse to start reading children’s books again. I felt like I was returning to my first love. Because I had started my writing career as a poet, the economical language of picture books felt very natural to me and I loved writing something that was meant to be read aloud.

Q.     Valeria, You also have a slew of books under your belt in Argentina and around the world. How did you get into children's book illustration?
A.     I started painting as a child and then studied Fine Arts. I graduated in Graphic Design and made commercial illustrations for magazines and packaging. But my passion for painting, cinema, and literature soon brought me into children’s territory. In illustrating children’s books, I found a fascinating language where all at once a story is told, characters and scenes are created, contrast with the text is made, and an entire universe unfolds with the tools of painting: light, shadow, colour, and composition.

Q.     Thanks guys!
A.     Thanks for having us, Elizabeth!

DANGEROUSLY EVER AFTER is on tour with OH NO, LITTLE DRAGON which I featured on November 15th - CLICK HERE for the interview with Jim Averbeck. (Review copies supplied by the publisher.)

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Capozzi's and random acts of joy

My hubbie and I have a favorite Italian restaurant called Capozzi's. The manager knows which wines we like, the place has an awesome vibe, the portions feed us for days... we love it. But then, about a year ago I quit gluten. *sigh* Which means pasta, which meant Capozzi's. *sniff* :(
     So, imagine my delight, when we heard they had a gluten-free pasta! Wahooo!
     We went and were seated right underneath a gorgeously framed image of... a dragon that I drew back in 2010! Beware handing an artist crayons and a paper table-cloth in a restaurant. Lo and behold, they had my doodle framed!!! (I only had blue, yellow and red - if you can't see it, it's a dragon flaming a pizza and says "Bon Appetit!") What a total trip and surprise to see it there!
     But there's even more special to add to this special night... The Agnes Scott Chorale stopped by (all 50 or so of them) for a holiday dinner before their evening performance. And they used us as a warm-up audience.
     We were treated to three amazingly lovely songs... To give you an idea - all these normal looking girls were giggling, telling jokes, and THEN! It was as if all the molecules in the room froze - waiting, allowing no oxygen to flow, until they were finished. They brought tears to my eyes - seriously. As hubbie said on his facebook page:
The Agnes Scott Chorale reserved the entire middle of the restaurant we enjoyed tonight, for their Christmas dinner. They broke into hymns and carols several times, spontaneously, and then sang happy birthday to a guy in a booth who was delivered a slice of cake with a candle. Right before I was escorted out by the police, I held up my lit Bic and screamed "Freebird!"
     Whatever. It's a joke this new generation doesn't get anymore - we learned that the hard way recently.
     But seriously, wow. I've never heard "Happy Birthday" sung like that!!!
     This is what I love about where I live - these random magical happenings. It sets a high bar for the rest of life!

Coloring Page Tuesday - Tired Elf

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     Are you ready for the holidays? Have you hung the decorations, decorated the tree, bought the gifties, baked the cookies... Or are you a tired elf too?
     The holidays are here! And so are holiday coloring pages - CLICK HERE. Share your Holiday creations in my gallery so I can put them in my upcoming newsletters! Kids' art is welcome - they don't have to be cards!
     Click the image to open a .jpg to print and color. Post it to a blog, then share it in my GALLERY!
     Click here to view the entire Coloring Page Tuesday collection.

     Click the cover to learn about my picture book THE 12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS IN GEORGIA! Makes a GREAT teacher gift!
     Don't live in Georgia? CLICK HERE to see if Sterling has created one for your state yet (they'll each have one eventually), then ask your local bookseller to order you a copy!