THE 13TH SIGN - Pre-order Contest and fundraiser for RIF!

Today I have the pleasure of hosting a great writer and friend, Kristin O'Donnell Tubb, as well as a great organization, RIF - Reading is Fundamental. Kristin's new book is called THE 13TH SIGN (which I can't wait to read) and she's holding a wonderful contest to help promote it - a contest which helps to raise money for this important foundation. I am thrilled to host day seven of the promotional tour! So, take it away Kristin...

Welcome to DAY LIBRA of 13 Days of THE 13TH SIGN Preorder Contest!
     LIBRA is traditionally considered to be the seventh sign of the zodiac. LIBRA characteristics include: charming, objective, agreeable, hesitant, indecisive, and warm. (Want to learn more about your 12-sign horoscope, your 13-sign horoscope, and which horoscope sign you ACT like? Take THE 13TH SIGN quiz!)

So. What is this contest all about?
     If you preorder a copy of THE 13TH SIGN by Kristin O’Donnell Tubb, you will be entered into a contest! Where you can WIN THINGS! And there are new prizes every day!
     And. EVERY preorder will be *matched* by a $1.00 donation to RIF, a literacy program committed to placing books in the hands of kids who need them most.

About the book:
      What if there was a 13th zodiac sign? 

     You’re no longer Sagittarius, but Ophiuchus, the healer, the 13th sign.

 Your personality has changed. So has your mom’s and your best friend’s.

 What about the rest of the world?

 What if you were the one who accidentally unlocked the 13th sign, causing this world-altering change, and infuriating the other 12 signs? 

     Jalen did it, and now she must use every ounce of her strength and cunning to send the signs back where they belong. Lives, including her own, depend upon it.

What can I win TODAY?
     If you preorder THE 13TH SIGN today, Thursday, November 29th, you could win:
     -zodiac charm - sign of your choice
     -signed THE 13TH SIGN swag
     -signed copy of SELLING HOPE by Kristin O’Donnell Tubb
     -a FREE 1-hour Skype session with Kristin with a school or writer’s group of your choice
     -signed paperback of AUTUMN WINIFRED OLIVER DOES THINGS DIFFERENT by Kristin O’Donnell Tubb
     -a 13th SIGN tshirt

How do I enter?
     Preorder THE 13TH SIGN! You can preorder it through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound, or through your local independent bookstore. Then email your receipt TO KRISTIN at You will be entered into that day’s drawing, the grand prize drawing, and your purchase will be *matched* by a $1.00 donation to RIF!

Are there other ways to enter the contest?
     Yep! You can be entered into the daily prize drawings by doing one or more of the following:
     -Each preorder of THE 13TH SIGN = 10 entries into grand prize drawing and 10 entries into that day’s drawing
     - Each person who blogs about the contest = 10 entries into that day’s drawing
     -Each person who changes Twitter or Facebook avatar to cover = 5 entries into that day’s drawing (for each day it is present)
     -Each Tweet or Facebook status mention of the book and contest = 2 entries for that day’s drawing (must include hashtag #the13thsign)
     -Each RT of book and/or contest = 1 entry for that day’s drawing

     You have to preorder THE 13TH SIGN to enter to win the grand prize and to have your purchase matched with a RIF donation.

     To make sure you get the correct amount of entries, please let Kristin know if you’ve done any of the above! You can email her at with everything you’ve done to enter.

What is the grand prize?
     A Nexus 7 ereader! BOOM. The grand prize winner will be announced on Kristin’s blog on Friday, December 7.

How long does the preorder contest last?
     13 days total! You can visit these other blogs for each day’s prizes:
DAY ARIES (Fri. Nov. 23): The Book Vortex
DAY TAURUS (Sat. Nov. 24): The Housework Can Wait
DAY GEMINI (Sun. Nov. 25): Magnet 4 Books
DAY CANCER (Mon. Nov. 26): Abby the Librarian
DAY LEO (Tues. Nov. 27): Mother Daughter Book Club
DAY VIRGO (Wed. Nov. 28) : S. R. Johannes/Market My Words
DAY LIBRA (Thurs. Nov 29): Elizabeth O. Dulemba
DAY SCORPIO (Fri. Nov. 30): P.J. Hoover
DAY OPHIUCHUS (Sat. Dec. 1): Young Adult Books Central
DAY SAGITTARIUS (Sun. Dec. 2): Bloggers [heart] Books
DAY CAPRICORN (Mon. Dec. 3): Middle Grade Mafioso
DAY AQUARIUS (Tues. Dec. 4): Smack Dab in the Middle
DAY PISCES (Wed. Dec. 5) : From the Mixed-Up Files of Middle Grade Authors

Jarrett Krosoczka on TED: Imagining Beyond Your Circumstances

Jarrett recently gave an inspiring talk on TEDx about how creativity can save you. Not only is it a lovely tribute to children's books, it's a powerful and inspirational story too. Click through to go have a listen. (You should experience it at his website.)

Coloring Page Tuesday - Gingerbread House

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     While at the Savannah Children's Book Festival, I had the happy experience of watching a chef make a full-sized gingerbread house in the lobby of our hotel. It reminded me how much I love these magical little creations. Did you ever make one? Did you wonder about the people (elves or fairies) who lived inside? I know I did!
     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!

John C. Campbell Folk School - Creating Picture Books 2012

Each year I truck up to Brasstown, North Carolina to teach Creating Picture Books at the John C. Campbell Folk School. I tend to teach this class in the Fall or near the Fireside Sale (which is an awesome annual craft fair). It makes for a lovely time of year to be in the mountains.
     This is the view out each side of our writing studio - early in the morning with the frost still burning off the fields...

     My time there was made even lovelier by a great group of students all ready to roll up their sleeves and get to work on their stories. And boy do we work! We attack the stories from every angle. We cut, we rearrange, we examine and reform. I'm often shocked at the radical changes the manuscripts make over the weekend.
     It can be hard work, but a positive and fun group of people can make it all worth while. Here they are - from left to right, back row first: Lynda M. who travelled all the way from Pennsylvania; Celia L.; Cathy W.; Teri D.; (front row) me; Christie R.; and Robert "Bob" L.

     They're holding up their mini-dummies, in which they illustrate the key components of their stories: 1.) the presentation of the problem or goal; 2.) the facing or escalation of obstacles; 3.) the climax; 4.) and the resolution.
     It's amazing how clear the challenges become when approaching stories in this way - it lends a visual element of "see, this is where the story is working great" or "this is where the story needs some work."
     They all did a fabulous job. And who knows, maybe a few of these stories will reach the hands of eager readers one day. I sure hope so!


“We have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down.”
― Kurt Vonnegut

I like this one.

Edible Books!

People come up with all sorts of creative ways to enjoy books... eating them, I mean. Mostly as cakes. (And I just know that after all that turkey you ate, you want to see more food - ha!)
      CLICK HERE for more wonderful story cakes at CAKE WRECKS.
     CLICK HERE to check out even more edible books on Pinterest. Although I don't usually like to share Pinterest links because the nature of the way it works makes it way too easy for people to share images and leave off the name of the creators. Pox on them!
Anyhow, thanks to Bookshelf for the heads up!

This holiday - give BOOKS!

From Chronicle Books:
     If it’s the thought that counts, then books truly are the perfect gift. Books are personal; they show that you really know the person receiving them. Books make you think. Books can transport you to another world. Books can comfort, and they can lift your spirits. Books will make you smarter.
     This holiday season, we’re launching a community-driven campaign to encourage people to Give Books. Driven by a shared love of books, reading, and a desire to support independent bookstores and local shops, our hope is that you all will join us in giving books this year!
     We’re partnering with some of our favorite authors, artists, and blogs to help spread the book love this season. Read on for a full list of participants, giveaways, and more!
I SO agree! CLICK HERE to learn more!

My new ETSY store!

elmer     I've gone and done it! I've opened an Etsy store to sell my little Love Trolls. Each one is unique, like Elmer here, and there are only ten of them. I hope you'll check them out! (Click the logo or Elmer to visit my store.)

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving!
     Today, I'm thankful for YOU, my readers. I hope you have a wonderful holiday with friends and family aplenty!
     CLICK HERE (or the image) for lots of Thanksgiving coloring pages you can share with your little ones today.

Coloring Page Tuesday - Football!!!

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     Are you ready for some football!? A lot of people think of turkey on Thanksgiving. And then there are the football fans... Do you have a die-hard fan in your life?
     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? Check with your local bookseller - Sterling is working on a version for each state.

20 Stunning Book Illustrations

CB Creative Blog has a listing of some gorgeous artwork - some from people you know, some from people you may not, in "20 Stunning Book Illustrations."
     The illustration above is from Alison Jay's CLOTH FROM THE CLOUDS (written by Michael Catchpool). I adore Alison's work - have been a fan for a long time. Remember the cover of GOOSE GIRL? Yup, that was her.
     Check out her own picture book, WELCOME TO THE ZOO, which was on NY's Bank Street Bookstore's Best Books of 2009.
     And do CLICK THROUGH to see all the posted illustrations. They're all gorgeous, and so different - awesome eye candy.


What a beautiful kinetic installation by Charles Sowers! 612 aluminum weather vanes on the side of San Francisco's Randall Museum.
     Says Sowers: ”Windswept seeks to transform a mundane and uninspired architectural façade (the blank wall of the theatre) into a large scale aesthetic/scientific instrument, to reveal information about the interaction between the site and the wind.”
     They don't all go the same way! Instead they create beautiful patterns. Wish I could see this in person...

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

The Savannah Children's Book Festival

I can't tell you how tickled I was to be invited back to the Savannah Children's Book Festival hosted by the Live Oak Public Library again this year.
     It is such a treat for my husband and I to drive down, visit friends, and hang out with all the book-loving folks in Savannah! This year, I went down a day early to visit with three elementary schools! (Which I spoke about in yesterday's post.)
     Then Friday night, the library hosted its low-country boil with some of the best shrimp I've ever had! They encourage all of us to write on the walls of the library. This year, I added a dragon, hanging out near one of my earlier books, GLITTER GIRL AND THE CRAZY CHEESE.

     Saturday, the weather was absolutely perfect for the book festival. My bud Janet drove us over to Forsyth Park where the crowds gathered - 40,000 all said. They meandered about, listening, reading, laughing and playing. It makes for the most bucolic and relaxing atmosphere!
     I was "on" at 11:00 and 1:00 and got a nice-sized crowd each time. Heck, I was having so much fun, I think it was contagious. Every time I looked up, my crowds were bigger. They were each organic, happy affairs.

     Best of all, some of the kids from the schools I'd been to on Friday dropped by. They read right along with me, happy to know the inside track. So cute!
     And I loved it when they got interested in my drawing. They ooooed and ahhhhed and made me smile.

     After the appearances, I was asked to hang out in the signing booth with the other authors doing their thing that weekend. It was a nice group to be a part of!
      Book festivals are one of my favorite things about being a children's book creator, because it's not all about me. I get to hang out with my peeps - other authors and illustrators - like Daniel Powers (and his wife, Silke), Alan Katz, Carmen Deedy, Shana Corey, Michael White (and his wife, Tracy), and Victoria Kann (Pinkalicious).
      We did dinners, ate shrimp, bought pralines, and generally enjoyed the beautiful city of Savannah. What a TREAT!
      A great big thank you to the organizers of the festival - the great folks of the Live Oak Public Library and their volunteers. I hope to return soon!

School Visits in Savannah

Last Friday I had the pleasure of visiting three - count 'em - THREE elementary schools in one day in Savannah, Georgia - all second-graders.
     John T. of the Live Oak Library kindly invited me down a day early as a drum-up to my engagement at the Savannah Children's Book Festival. I don't have a picture of my gracious hostess, but Jessica G. drove me from school to school and also treated me to an awesome lunch at Sweet Potatoes (highly recommend). Thank you Jessica! But first, we stopped by East Broad Street Elementary School:

     Media Specialist Bridgett C. had me SET UP with awesome signs advertising my visit and a gluten/dairy free gift bag of goodies as a thank you. How sweet is THAT???
     My second visit was to the awesome J.G. Smith Elementary School. We got along famously well. I wish I'd know before-hand so I could have filmed it.

     My hosts were Media Specialist, Darlie Logan (on the right), and her assistant Victoria (hope I got that right) who had decorated the library with wonderful artwork.
     At each school, I drew a witchie hat. The color is always different - chosen by the kids - my own Andy Warhol tribute. I used to do the same thing with the cows I drew from Paco and the Giant Chile Plant.
     (I really need to follow my own advice and get my hair out of my face!)

     Lastly, I visited Heard Elementary School and their Media Specialist, Jessica Olliff. That was the largest group of all, and in a gymnasium to boot. So, as you can imagine, I was a little horse by the end of the day. Naaaay.

     Each group had some stars in them - budding artists and writers. They came up and asked me questions and gave me hugs. That's the best part of school visits.
     And of course you get the doozies - kids do say the darnedest things. Like the one who saw my bio photo at the end of LULA'S BREW and said, "That must have been when you were a lot younger!" Ouch. Or the girls who asked me how I did my demonstration drawings. Then, as they were walking away, one said to the other, "So the color didn't come out the end of her finger!" Gotta luv it.

     Many, many thanks to my kind hosts. What a great way to kick off a great weekend!!!
     Click here to learn more about my school visits.


Today I have the pleasure of interviewing Jim Averbeck, author of the Charlotte Zolotow Honor Book, IN A BLUE ROOM (Harcourt, 2008), about his latest picture book, OH NO, LITTLE DRAGON! He's kindly offered to give away TWO signed/dedicated copies of OH NO, LITTLE DRAGON - so read on!

Q.     Welcome Jim! I adore Little Dragon. It's so sweet and seemingly simple, how did the idea come to you?
A.     I think like with most stories, a few things were brewing in my brain and they came together in an "aha!" moment. I'd been wanting to do a story about a boy - a rambunctious, destructive boy - that showed that underneath it all, boys really do have deep emotions and a need for love. Then I was in China and my guide's name, in Chinese, was "Little Dragon" and I thought, "that sounds like a nice destructive little character." Then I thought about what a little dragon might treasure most- his flame, of course. And I decided to make him lose it. I like to be mean to my characters.

Q.     The illustration style is made up of bold shapes and strong lines - except for the fire, which looks rather complicated. What is your illustration method?
A.     For OH NO, LITTLE DRAGON! I sketched out the general body gestures and expressions I wanted. Then scanned those sketches and changed the line work to blue in Photoshop. These scans I printed multiple times on textured paper, then "traced" quickly over them, again and again, with an oil pastel. By doing many quick "tracings" with the sketches as a guide, I hoped to capture the vibrancy and life that sketches always seem to have. I chose the best oil line work and scanned that in. Then I scanned in textured, colored papers and electronically cut them to fit behind the line work. The fire, on the other hand, was made completely in Photoshop. I created brushes from photographs of flame and shapes of smoke and sparks. Then I painted layer after layer in Photoshop using these brushes. I think each fire image has around 15 layers. Oddly enough, one of those layers is green. But Photoshop allows you to tell the program how to mix the layers. So even though I was painting with green, it came out a bright yellow. Then I added some glow and blur through the program. I really liked the contrast between the simple lines and the complicated fire, which pops off the page.

Q.     I love how he tries to relight his fire. Was this perhaps inspired by a wicked night of Mexican food?
A.     No kidding! As I get older I find I need a good 12-hour head start on a piece of pizza before I go to bed. Unlike Little Dragon, I'm usually looking for a way to put out the spark in my heart.

Q.     You're promoting OH NO, LITTLE DRAGON by joining Dashka Slater, author of DANGEROUSLY EVER AFTER, in a "Dragon and the Dangerous Princess" blog tour. How did the two of you come together and then come up with this idea?
A.     It was Dashka's idea. We've known each other for a few years. We met when we were both presenting at Kidquake, part of the Bay Area's Litquake literary festival. She recently approached me at one of the many elegant kidlit soirees around here and asked if I wanted to team up to do our marketing for the two books we had coming out around the same time. I had decided earlier in the year that 2012 would be "the year of yes" and I would accept all offers that came my way. So I said "yes" and here we are. It's been great for me, because having someone counting on me to do my part means I can't skip the whole marketing phase all together. Thanks Dashka!

Q.     Finally, what was your path to publication? And do you have any advice for my readers?
A.      I guess the first thing I did on my path was to learn to write for children. For me, the best way was to take a class. Too many beginners, I think, skip this step. They do themselves a great disservice. Writing for children has certain rules and you need to learn them. You can break them later, but learn them first so you can break them with intention. The second thing I did was join a great critique group. Find one you click with and commit to it. The third thing was to join SCBWI and volunteer. Doing this gave me face time with editors, agents, writers and illustrators that I wouldn't have otherwise had. Your first book is often the result of "who you know" in this business. So get to know people. Be nice to everyone (except your characters).
     So my advice to your readers is- follow that path. Join SCBWI. Learn. Oh- and ALWAYS submit your manuscript for review at conferences. If you get an editor or agent, celebrate because they may help you get that book published. And if you get a fellow writer, listen closely. They will give you the advice which will get you an editor next time. Commit and expect it to take a while. Good luck!

     Must live in the continental US to win. The drawing will be held next Wednesday!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Creating Picture Books at the John C. Campbell Folk School

     This coming weekend I will teach CREATING CHILDREN'S PICTURE BOOKS at the John C. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown, North Carolina. I teach this course there about once a year. It's a beautiful campus in the Appalachian mountains with small class sizes, home-cooked meals, and lovely paths to meander about. I'm not sure who enjoys it more - my students or me!

Coloring Page Tuesday - Puppy Love

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     It's getting close to that day when we give thanks for the precious things in our lives. For me, a biggie is my dog Bernie (who makes a cameo appearance in all my books). He's eleven-years-old now, but never grew out of being a puppy at heart. I miss him when I'm apart from him and cuddle like crazy when I return home.
     Do you have a fuzzy you love?
     Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa are coming soon. Start getting your holiday art together now! CLICK HERE to find Holiday images to color. And 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? Check with your local bookseller - Sterling is working on a version for each state.

Alliance for Literacy Read-a-Thon

Recently, I was proud to participate in the 2012 Make a Difference Day Reading Marathon at Hall Book Exchange in Gainesville, Georgia - sharing LULA'S BREW.
     The Alliance for Literacy made a video to promote the event and I show up with my friend, fellow author Robyn Hood Black, at about 1:03, talking about - you guessed it - literacy!

     Sincerely, literacy has long been a soap box of mine. Way back when I lived in Chattanooga, Tennessee, I worked with READ, an adult literacy foundation (now called re:start). I got hooked up with them through the United Way, which my company strongly supported (Buster Brown Apparel). Even then I was giving talks to fellow employees during our charity drives.
     So many of us take for granted the ability to read - not just for the sake of functioning in our text-driven society, but for the sake of enjoying a good book. Can you imagine not having that in your life?
     So how about it. Is there a literacy program near you that could use your help?

Paragliding Above Extreme Desert Sands

Wow - just wow. Photographer George Steinmetz has flown over some of the most extreme and beautiful deserts in the world - a fifteen-year-long adventure. They can be viewed online or in his new book Desert Air. How's that for a Christmas table topper?

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

Gluten Free, Dairy Free Bread

I used to make homemade bread all the time. I started with a bread machine and finally broke it from overuse. So then I moved onto kneading by hand. Then to a big fancy mixer with a kneading hook. I got pretty good at it.
     THEN we moved to the big city. And bread - amazing, wonderful, melt in your mouth bread - was everywhere. It was silly for me to make my own when I had such wonderful bread available to me.
     THEN I had to change my diet. Gluten and dairy free. No bread. Not for a very long time. Yes, there is tapioca loaf and brown rice loaf and stuff like that, but they are poor substitutes.
     So as I've gotten more used to this new diet, I finally decided to take on making my own bread again. The ingredients are a little different, some are a little strange - can you say Xanthum Gum? But I recently made my first loaf...
      The verdict? WAY better than any of the bread I've been able to purchase commercially. It's got great flavor and is a little spongy with a good crust, like bread should be.
     But I think I'd like to make a few tweaks. It was a bit wet and very dense. I'll post my recipe once I nail it. Meanwhile, pass the apple butter, will you?


Today I have the great pleasure of talking to David Ezra Stein about his newest title BECAUSE AMELIA SMILED. David's name may sound familiar because of his picture book INTERRUPTING CHICKEN, which won a 2011 Caldecott Honor and was a New York Times best-seller - woosie! Or maybe you're a fan of David's debut picture book - the awesome COWBOY NED & ANDY - or his many books since then. Let's get a peek into his brilliance...

Q.     It's hard to believe you've only been in this business since 2006 with the release of COWBOY NED & ANDY. Obviously this was the right career choice for you! Do you mind sharing your path into children's books?
A.     Sure! I was always a bookish kid, and adored picture books. I’ve written for myself and drawn for fun my whole life. I ended up going to art school for college. I was essentially training to be an editorial illustrator (magazines, posters, etc.). By sheer chance, in senior year, I chose an elective in children’s book illustration. I brought in a story that I had written that summer. You may have heard of it: It was called Because Amelia Smiled!
     My teacher, Pat Cummings, pulled me aside and said she loved the story and did I want her to try to sell it to an editor. I said yes. A few days later an editor emailed me. I met with her and it all went great. Except, when I presented the collages I had created in class to illustrate the story, she said they weren’t really working. I went home and tried, and tried, and tried, to find a new way of working. But it wasn’t to be. I was still finding my voice as an artist, and that could not be rushed. After 5 or 6 visits to the publisher, the deal fell through.
     I put the story aside. But for the next 4 years or so, I kept at it. I wrote stories every day. I drew every day. I painted. I got other illustration work. I did puppetry in Central Park. I did set-design illustration. Finally in 2005, I sold my first book, Cowboy Ned & Andy, to Simon & Schuster. I sat down with an old brush and a pot of ink and went to town drawing the pictures, freehand and without a sketch underneath. It was loose and gestural. It was fun! I had found a voice for my artwork. In the next 6 years, I’ve come out with 8 other books. They all have my “hand” in them, but they each use a style that suits the story. To me, story is still king. And my latest book, my ninth, is Because Amelia Smiled. After all those years, I was finally ready to tell such a huge story!

Q.     Rather than ask you where your ideas come from, I wonder if you have the same problem I do - that you have more stories in your head than you could ever get on paper? Do they start as seeds or come in as full-blown ideas?
A.      Oh, I have all sorts of stories and ideas in my notebooks and sketchbooks. Every day brings new ideas. I try to live in a river of life, so that ideas will practically wash up onto my feet. Some ideas are just a tiny spark. Some are a pretty good fire. Sometimes it all comes at once. Sometimes I just have a character waiting for a story to be in.

Q.     Which comes first for you, the writing or the illustrations? A.      Usually the idea—the situation that I think is funny or interesting—comes first. Then I find out who the best character is to “star” in the story. Sometimes the image comes first, as with my book Monster Hug! (which basically started as a picture of Godzilla hugging King Kong), but usually the writing does.

Q.     BECAUSE AMELIA SMILED is so densely beautiful - with tons of details to keep young readers glued for hours. What is your medium and how do you attack a spread with so much going on? (And how long does it take you?)
A.     Thank you! I love the way it came out. (After all that time, it should be nice, right?) I invented a technique I call Stein-lining to create the art in the book. You can watch videos of it on youtube or other places online. Just search for Stein-lining. I apply crayon to special, smooth paper and then press on the back with a pen to make colored lines. This creates a very interesting, crackly line that looks like an etching. I used this technique over patches of soft color that I created with blurred crayon.

     I tried many, many approaches before I discovered this one. I was playing with art techniques for about a month and a half before I began to illustrate the book. Each spread took about a week to paint. I started with thumbnail sketches, then larger ones. I did color sketches using marker, too. Then I went ahead with my watercolor paper and crayons. There are 40 pages in the book, plus covers and jacket flaps. It all took about 5 or 6 months to complete. My next book, Ol’ Mama Squirrel, coming in the spring, is a lot simpler, believe me!

Q.     One of my favorite things about BECAUSE AMELIA SMILED is all the different countries and cultures you include in the story. Did you have a driving reason for this?
A.      Definitely. I wanted to show how we are connected to so many people we’ll never even meet. What each of us does, really does matter. Believe it or not I had even more places in the story originally. Alas I had to cut some out. But that doesn’t mean your smile won’t go there.
     I loved drawing the people, architecture, and fashions of the different places. And when you read it, it’s like taking a vacation without leaving the library! A lot of these places are places I’ve been. Some are places I’d like to visit someday.

Q.     The characters in your stories are so vivid. Are they adaptations of people in your life?
A.      Thank you! I bet they are, although I don’t consciously mean them to be. They are all partly me, and partly people I know best. Everyday life is what feeds an author.

Q.     It seems ironic that your middle name is Ezra - especially considering your recent Ezra Jack Keats Award for LEAVES! Is it pure coincidence?
A.     Just a coincidence. I wasn’t named after Ezra Jack Keats. I wish I had been. I love his work! 

Q.     I wonder what a regular day in the children's book biz looks like for you, and are you booked up for a long time to come? (Hope so - we can't wait to see more of your work!)
A.      Every day, I do some writing, some drawing, some doodling, some scheming, some dreaming. Sometimes I write haikus. I’ve been working on three books in a row this year, so every day I do some character design, painting, or whatever I need to do for the books.
     I also make sure to spend time with my family (I have a son who’s three). And I go running in the woods. That’s where I get lots of great ideas.
     And yes, I am “booked” for a good while. Look for Ol’ Mama Squirrel and Dinosaur Kisses next year! They are both really funny.

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My pleasure!

Check out this adorable book trailer:

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Two of my novels were born from National Novel Writing Month, so I figure I'm an every other year sort of participant. (This being a year of editing rather than raw writing.) But for those of you who need to just dive in and DO it - NaNoWriMo is a fantastic way to get the ball rolling, or the fingers typing.
     Here's a sweet inspirational video from Alan Silberberg - via Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations.
     Happy writing to all!

Coloring Page Tuesday - VOTE!!! (and how the Electoral College works)

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     It's Election Day! Whichever way you vote, please be sure to do it! And talk to the kids about our hard-won right to do so!
     This year, I've made a point of trying to understand how the Electoral College works. This is a great tutorial: THE PURPOSE OF THE ELECTORAL COLLEGE.
     Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa are coming soon. Start getting your holiday art together now! CLICK HERE to find Holiday images to color. And 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 covers to learn about my picture book, Soap, soap, soap and Soap, soap, soap ~ Jabón, jabón, jabón.