Happy Easter!

I hope it's a lovely day for you and your family. CLICK HERE for lots of Easter coloring pages!

Coffitivity - Coffee Shop Background Noise

Love to work on your novel in a coffee shop, but can't afford the caffeine overload? Coffitivity lets you play the background noise of a coffee shop without leaving home! Hilarious! And oddly - it might be of value to some of my writer friends who like some white noise to focus through. (Click the image.)

Thanks to the SCBWI blog for the heads up!

Paper is not dead...

For all those who worry that digital is replacing paper... this is HILARIOUS!!! (Click through to play on Vimeo if it makes you - it's worth it.)

Le papier ne sera jamais mort / Paper is not dead on influencia.net ! from INfluencia on Vimeo.

Thanks to Patrick Girouard for the heads up.


Today I get to share a sweet story called CALL ME OKLAHOMA, written and illustrated by Miriam Glassman (Holiday House). I met Miriam at this year's Kindling Words conference and couldn't wait to feature her and her latest book on my blog!

Q. Congratulations on your newest book - a chapter book called CALL ME OKLAHOMA! I love the theme of trying to reinvent yourself - who hasn't ever wanted to do that? Did you? Where did the inspiration come from?
A. Thanks, Elizabeth! I always saw the start of a new school year as the chance to reinvent myself, even in subtle ways, like changing which side I parted my hair. The feel of a cool new pen in my hand also had the power to make me feel like a slightly cooler, more improved me.
      The seed of this story came from my younger daughter years ago when she referred to a friend at camp named, Oklahoma. “Hold on,” I said. “Her name is Oklahoma?” And my daughter said, “Of course not. That’s just what she told everyone to call her.” That got me wondering: Why would anyone choose to be named for our forty-sixth state? And could a radical name change bring about a whole new personality? Further more, what would prompt a person to want a new personality? That’s when Paige Turner stepped into my life.

Q. Oklahoma (a.k.a. Paige) is very superstitious - rubbing her light bulb eraser for luck. It reminded me of how superstitious I was at that age too. Do you think most kids are?
A. Yes, I think kids enjoy the thrill of superstitious thinking, of allowing the possibility that our actions have magical consequences, or that objects are endowed with magical properties.

Q. Truly, CALL ME OKLAHOMA! put me right back in my 4th grade shoes. How'd you get that mind-set so right?
A. I’m so glad to hear that it zapped you right back there! For me, that was the easy part. For some reason, I remember almost everything about my elementary school years. And fourth grade was an important year. On the first day, our teacher impressed upon us that we were no longer in the “primary” grades, and onto the road to Big Kid Land. It’s a turnstile age. Fourth graders straddle the comfort and familiarity of childhood and the excitement of the future. It’s still acceptable to think a rubber light bulb brings good luck. And at the same time, these kids are negotiating the complexities of relationships. The importance of friendship and compassion is stressed, and they’re beginning to define their identity to themselves and others. For me, this is what makes writing for the middle-grade audience so enjoyable.

Q. I love that Paige's teacher urges her to find the different people she is inside. How can kids find their inner stars?
A. I don’t know that I think of it so much as inner stars, as inner selves. We have different sides to us, and most of us wish we could beef up some and play down others. Or try on a slightly different persona. Often, people experience different parts of themselves depending on who they’re with. For kids to explore their different selves, it often takes an understanding adult in their lives--a teacher, relative, camp counselor, babysitter--someone who recognizes certain qualities and encourages those parts that might not initially reveal themselves.
      In my book, Paige is a somewhat shy, tentative kid who wishes to be to be gutsier, and a bit more flamboyant. In their own ways, her best friend and teacher help her explore these parts of herself. Later in the book, Paige encourages Viveca, who puts other kids down to make herself feel better, to refocus her energies on her artistic talent, a side that Viveca had been reluctant to value.

Q. Is this the first book you've illustrated too? How was that experience!?
A. This is the first book I’ve illustrated that isn’t for the educational market. When I first sent in the manuscript, I held back the sketches I’d done because for years, my focus had been exclusively on being a writer. But this story seemed to call for some humorous, visual extension of the text. I wanted most of the spots to represent Paige’s emotional state of mind rather than just a literal visual interpretation of the text. But it had been years since I’d illustrated, so I was feeling pretty insecure. At the last minute, however, I said, “What the heck?” and told my agent to send them along. The editor had already accepted the ms. but felt the drawings made it even stronger. When I sat down to do the art, I was very anxious about it, and don’t even want to say how much tracing paper I went through! But as I found the character's face, and the right medium to work in, it became enjoyable. For the jacket art, I learned how to draw digitally on a tablet, which opened up a whole new world to me. I love the little paint bucket that automatically “spills” color into a whole area!
(Photo of Miriam's office.)

Q. This isn't your first book. You also wrote BOX TOP DREAMS (Delacorte) and HALLOWEENA (Atheneum). Can you share your path to publication?
A. I started out working in children’s book marketing at Little, Brown. A lot of my work revolved around Marc Brown’s Arthur books, so I used to tell people I was Arthur’s personal secretary. During that time, I decided I wanted to create my own books, and began illustrating for an educational publisher. When my first daughter was born, I left publishing and reviewed picture books for Publishers Weekly. Around the same time, I got an idea for a novel. So I hired a babysitter to watch my daughter while I typed away in the basement. I sent the novel to a contest at Random House. It didn’t win, but it attracted the attention of editor, Wendy Lamb, and became BOX TOP DREAMS. At the same time, I sent out HALLOWEENA. It never even dawned on me to illustrate it, and I was incredibly lucky to be matched up with New Yorker cartoonist, Victoria Roberts. She had just the right whimsical, quirky sensibility for the book. Her illustrations are hilarious. After writing those two books, I decided I wanted to spend some time learning more about the craft of writing, and enrolled in the MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults at Vermont College of Fine Arts. For me, VCFA was a life-changing experience, and where I found a wonderful community of writers, many of whom became dear friends.

Q. Please share any special dates or events to celebrate CALL ME OKLAHOMA!
A. Wellesley Books in Wellesley, MA will be hosting my book launch party on April 4th at 7 p.m. There might even be a little lasso-twirling!

Sounds fun! Thanks for stopping by Miriam!

Miriam is offering a free, signed and dedicated copy of CALL ME OKLAHOMA to one of my lucky subscribers! (Must live in the continental US to win.) Sign up below...

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Novel Writing: My new editor!

I'm going to start a new feature here at dulemba.com and share with you what I can about the process of working on my middle-grade novel with my new publisher - Little Pickle Press. (They'll all be tagged under "method.")
     We signed the contract Monday and I was instantly adopted into the Little Pickle family. They shouted about the sale on Twitter and Facebook. I did too, and followed up on my blog as well. I use twitterfeed.com to allow the RSS feed from my blog drop into both twitter and facebook (one stop posting for me!), so social media is already an integral part of my book's creation - as are YOU! Want to join me on this ride?
     Today (Wednesday) - I just got off the phone with my new editor, Tanya Egan Gibson, and I am SO EXCITED!!! She'll be sending me notes soon but wanted to go over some key points (and say 'hi'). From what she picked out, things I knew about, things I didn't, comparisons/foils she picked up on (some which weren't intentional - how smart am I?), and investments she was making as a reader (and where), I could tell straight away that Tanya is going to be a fantastic editor for my book.
     And that, m'dears, is like a BIG 'OLE CHRISTMAS PRESENT!!!!
     With her help, I can already tell my novel is going to kick up to a new level of clarity, engagement, and overall awesomeness! I can't WAIT to dive in!
     So why do writers need editors? Because we have so much of the story in our heads, we lose our objectivity. It becomes impossible to tell how much is on the page vs. in our head. Have we built the scene enough, is the character likable, do the jokes go over, is the conflict feeling real - ARE YOU, the reader, INVESTED IN THE STORY? These are the questions a good editor can answer and guide you in fixing where fixing needs to be had.
     It's like having a collaborator, a team, a cheerleader, a hairdresser, and a bartender rolled into one - dedicated to improving your dream and your vision. Can you blame me for being SO EXCITED??!!!!

Earth Day is coming!

Does your school or pick-up team need a logo or t-shirts? I have the goods in my Zazzle store! Buttons, bags, t-shirts, all with my "Love the World You're On..." logo.

I also have several Earth Day Coloring Pages available for FREE. CLICK HERE to print them out on recycled paper to share with your kids and decorate!

Coloring Page Tuesday - Roly Poly Reading Bear

     What do you think bears do when they hibernate? Sleeping, sure. But maybe they're reading too!
     CLICK HERE for more coloring pages. 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!)
     Sign up to receive alerts when a new coloring page is posted each week and... Please check out my books! Especially...
     Click the covers to learn about my picture book, Soap, soap, soap and Soap, soap, soap ~ Jabón, jabón, jabón.

I've sold my first novel!!!!

Little Pickle Press is tweeting it to the world - so I suppose I can officially share... I have sold my first mid-grade novel!!! I'm a novelist!!! Wooohooooooo!!!!!! It's scheduled to release in Spring 2014, so more information will follow soon! :)

Quote of the Day - Tom Brokow on life

"You have been hearing all of your life that this occasion is a big step into what is called the real world. What, you may ask, is that real world all about? What is this new life? Ladies and gentlemen of the class of 2005 at Emory, real life is not college; real life is not high school. Here is a secret that no one has told you: Real life is junior high.
      "The world that you're about to enter is filled with junior high adolescent pettiness, pubescent rivalries, the insecurities of 13-year-olds, and the false bravado of 14-year-olds. 40 years from now, I guarantee it: You will still make a silly mistake every day. You will have temper tantrums and you’re feelings will be hurt for some trivial sleight. You’ll say something dumb at the wrong time. And you will wonder at least once a week, 'Will I ever grow up?' You can change that. In your pursuit of your passions, always be young. In your relationship with others, always be grown-up. Set a standard, and stay faithful to it."

Tom Brokaw -- Commencement Speech; Emory University, 2005

Bullies Called Him Pork Chop

Shane Koyczan created this powerful animation/poem about bullying and the effect it can have on people. Worth watching. Share to help combat bullying (you can share it via facebook and twitter from the website.
Thanks to Upworthy for the heads up.

Paper Roller Coaster!

Are your kids bored on a rainy or snowy weekend? How about you build a paper roller coaster for your marbles? This one was created by Andrew Gatt using only heavy paper. It's two stories tall and required some serious engineering. So cool!
     See how to do it yourself at paperrollercoasters.com!
Thanks to The Kid Should See This for the heads up!


Today is a straight giveaway since Candlewick sent me a luscious copy of OTTER AND ODDER by Chris Raschka to share with you.
     Otter is obviously, well, an otter who falls in love with... a fish. Otter eat fish ordinarily, but oh no. Not this time. Otter has to go and fall in love with his dinner.
The river sparkled the day Otter found love. He was not looking for it (love, that is). He was looking for dinner...

     Needless to say, the relationship has challenges. Friends tease, parents rebuke, and Otter and Odder both try to listen to their families and stay away from each other. But love has a sneaky way around what one should do, and this happy couple triumphs in the end. (And Otter becomes a vegetarian.)

     If you've ever needed to celebrate a love that society says shouldn't exist, this is a lovely segue into the idea. And Chris gave us many full, off page color spreads in palettes that are soothing and different from his brighter vignette styles. Luscious was my word and I stick by it.

     If you'd like a FREE copy of OTTER AND ODDER, register for my giveaway below. TWO copies will go to two of my lucky commenters! (Must live in the continental US to win. Review and winning copies provided by the publisher.)

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Children's Choice Book Awards

Voting is now open for the 2013 Children's Choice Book Awards! Go to www.bookweekonline.com. Voting ends May 9th and the winners will be announced on May 13th.
     And the COOLEST THING is that BIG MEAN MIKE is nominated! Remember when I interviewed Michelle Knudsen and Scott Magoon about that awesome book? CLICK HERE to read again.

Coloring Page Tuesday - Baby Fairy

     I received several requests for this image - a baby fairy. I hope I nailed it for you!
     CLICK HERE for more coloring pages. 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!)
     Sign up to receive alerts when a new coloring page is posted each week and... Please check out my books! Especially...
     Click the covers to learn about my picture book, Soap, soap, soap and Soap, soap, soap ~ Jabón, jabón, jabón.

Quote of the Day - Vonnegut

“Go into the arts. I’m not kidding. The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You wil get an an enormous reward. You will have created something.”
- Kurt Vonnegut

Thanks to Swissmiss for the heads up.

3D Printing Pen to create sculptures!

The 3Doodler is a new invention with so much promise! Can you imagine being able to DRAW a sculpture? Oh, the possibilities!

How A Book Is Born

How A Book Is Born
This is funny. I like (well, no, I don't like, but it's funny) that the "person is Stephen King, Lady Gaga, or reality show star" it goes straight through approval and to press.

(Click the image to go see it larger at the source: info graphics mania.)

Billy Joel still ROCKS

So, a college appearance recently took a completely awesome turn when a student (Michael Pollack) at Vanderbilt University asked if he could accompany Billy Joel on the piano to "New York State of Mind." And wowsa. The song still gives me chills, and I'll bet this guy will never forget this amazing moment in his life! Here's your smile for the day! (Be sure to watch to the end.)
Click over to JoshSpector.com for more.


Every now and then a non-fiction picture book comes along that you can just tell - the author had to write it. It's not just interesting facts, it's an obvious life passion, a story that has become as much their's as a part of history. For Jan Pinborough, this is that story: MISS MOORE THOUGHT OTHERWISE (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers). Today I have the rare pleasure of talking not only to the author, but also to the illustrator Debby Atwell.

Q. Welcome to you both and congratulations on MISS MOORE THOUGHT OTHERWISE!
Jan, this reads like a story that's been a part of you for a very long time. How did this story come into your life?

A.     It all started in 2004 when a dear friend of mine, Shauna Cook Clinger, was commissioned to paint a portrait of Anne Carroll Moore for a children’s library that Moore helped establish at Utah State University in Logan, Utah. “You need to write a children’s book about Anne Carroll Moore,” my friend kept telling me. I’m not a library historian, and I’m not from New York City, so I’d never heard of Moore.At the time I wasn’t even writing for children.But after reading Frances Sayers’s biography about Moore, I became convinced that children needed to know about this strong-minded woman who did so much to give the gift of books and libraries to children not only in the United States, but throughout the world—including not far from my home in Utah.

Q. Jan, it's difficult to take an entire amazing life and find a common thread that will tie it together in a literary form, but you did it with the line "Miss Moore thought otherwise." How did that line (and title) come to you. Was it like mining for gold, or a sudden lightning strike?
A.     It struck like lightning very early in the writing process. I had two goals in writing the book. The first was to let children know how they came to receive that indispensable yet much-taken-for-granted gift, the children’s library. Poet Walter de la Mare offered the best assessment of Moore’s towering contribution: “The children of this world will never be able to repay the debt they owe to [Anne Carroll Moore].” I thought that children deserved to know something about those whose vision and determination gave them the privileges of libraries and books.
     Today many libraries have fallen on hard times, and some people are questioning their continuing relevance, I hope my book will encourage people to rise up in support of libraries. In an increasingly digital age, we need once again to take up the cause of this great democratizing institution so that all children, not just the privileged, can continue to have access to the best books. To this end, people who visit my book’s website (www.missmoorethoughtotherwise.com) will soon be able to post their own memories of important books and libraries in their lives.
     My second, equally passionate, goal was to encourage “otherwise-thinking” children to value and pursue their own individualistic ideas––and thus to make their own unique contributions to the world. Anne Carroll Moore inspires me, and I hope she will inspire them!

Q. Debby, I love your almost folksy style - I think it is the perfect fit for this story. It struck a deep cord with me - reminding me of the great Grandma Moses and an old copy of The Night Before Christmas which I grew up with. What were your influences?
A.     Well, Elizabeth you have my number! I look at Grandma Moses when I need to remember to keep it simple. I also look at Currier and Ives for factual material, like a streetlamp or a train carriage. Finally, I look at Godey's Fashion plates for dress.

Q. Debby, can you explain your general method?
A.     Well, I first figure what is going to be most helpful to the reader's understanding of the story. Then I look for photographs or period illustrations which are exactly what I am trying to portray Often that one image will lead to an archive of great richness that fills me with a sense of atmosphere. I make a sketch or ten. When I've got the sketch right, I begin to paint. I do indeed paint with the intention of looking like an American primitve painter from the early twentieth century. That's where Grandma Moses helps me. She naturally creates a sense of delight, because she loves to tell a story in paint.

Q. For both of you, what do your creative spaces look like?
Jan: I work in an office in my home, surrounded by books and art that inspire me. As I work at my computer I see in my peripheral vision a framed print of Audubon’s Blue Yellow-backed Warbler. On the bookshelf to my right, I have some little paintings of the school Anne Carroll Moore attended as a girl, her father’s law office, and the Baptist Church in whose cemetery she was buried--all souvenirs of my incredibly inspiring visit to Anne Carroll Moore’s birthplace in Limerick, Maine.

Debby: Well, I live in Maine, so my work space shifts with the seasons between the sunniest room with the woodstove to the open and airy barn studio.

Q. And again for both of you, what was your path to publication?
Jan: A year or so after I’d begun trying to write the story, an opportunity unexpectedly opened up for me to attend a writers’ conference. Sitting on the shuttle from the airport to the conference, I met one of the presenters, the talented and generous children’s author Mary Casanova. When I told her the concept of my manuscript, she was enthusiastic, offered to critique it, and even gave me the name of her wonderful editor at Houghton Mifflin, Ann Rider. After returning from the conference, I sent the manuscript around to several other publishers. I couldn’t even get an agent to return my emails. Finally, I gathered my nerve and sent the manuscript to Houghton Mifflin. After about seven months, Ann contacted me and said she’d be happy to look at a revision. After two more years, much more research, and too many more revisions to count, the manuscript was finally “final”—although many small changes came during the editing process. Then came the hunt for the perfect illustrator—Debby Atwell—followed by the year it took her to do the illustrations and the year after that it took for the book to be published. I was astonished at how long the path was, but all along the way I felt the presence of what Joseph Campbell called “a thousand unseen helping hands.” [[e here: I love that!]]

Debby: Perserverance.

Q. One last question for Jan. I believe every writer has a story in them that they are driven to tell, that they must tell. Is this yours? And how does it feel to have achieved that?
A.      Jan: Yes, I did feel driven to tell it. I’m not someone who writes for the sheer love of writing. In fact, it’s a bit of a torture for me. So I only write when I feel like what I have to say will really help someone or advance a cause that I feel is very important. If this book helps one child to believe that she, too, can make a difference in the world, it will have been worth all the work it took. If it only inspires a few people to value books, children, and libraries, it will have been worth it. I don’t feel this was my story to tell—only that somehow I was in the place where I could tell it—and surrounded by people who could help me do it.
     How does it feel? It feels very surreal. I really can't believe it has happened. Mostly, though, I feel very grateful--and hopeful that this "child" will go out into the world and make a difference.

Q. Please share any upcoming promotions you have for MISS MOORE THOUGHT OTHERWISE - perhaps one of my readers will be in your area!
A. Jan-
• Reading: March 23, 11 a.m., King’s English Bookshop, Salt Lake City
• April 13, 11 a.m. Barnes and Noble, Sugarhouse, Salt Lake City
• Speaking: September 19, Forum on Engaged Reading, Deer Valley, Utah (I’m very excited about this one. Inspired by our book, the Forum on Engaged Reading is creating an annual award for a librarian.)

GIVEAWAY!!! Houghton Mifflin Harcourt is generously giving away one free copy of MISS MOORE THOUGHT OTHERWISE to one of my lucky commenters - so be sure to get yourself in the drawing below! (Must live in the continental US to win. Review and award copies provided by the publisher.)

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Reading Rainbow App Trailer and LeVar Burton

Somebody needs to put LeVar Burton in charge of US Schools! The man has ideas - wonderful ideas - of how to reach kids and turn them into readers. For proof, read this interview with LeVar at School Library Journal: Flying Twice as High: Reading Rainbow 2.0 | SLJ Talks to LeVar Burton.

Coloring Page Tuesday - Leprechaun Jig!

     Luck o' the Irish Be With Ya!
     Sunday is St. Patrick's Day and I had to share my annual Leprechaun! This year, he be doin' a jig fer us.
     CLICK HERE for more St. Patty's Day coloring pages. 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!)
     P.S. I've been getting some great requests from all of you lately for custom coloring pages - thanks for your ideas! Be looking for them in the coming weeks!

     Sign up to receive alerts when a new coloring page is posted each week and... Please check out my books! Especially...
     Click the covers to learn about my picture book, Soap, soap, soap and Soap, soap, soap ~ Jabón, jabón, jabón.

LATE BLOOMERS by Malcolm Gladwell

Full title: LATE BLOOMERS: WHY DO WE EQUATE GENIUS WITH PRECOCITY? by Malcolm Gladwell, The New Yorker October 20, 2008

     Gads I needed to read this! I bet you do too. Most of my writer/illustrator friends are not prodigies. They are not young. They are mid-something, struggling to get it right. Trying this, trying that, frustrated, giving up, starting over. Me too. Turns out - that's okay. There is nothing lost from not coming out of the box a formed genius. It is just the workings of a different creative mind - an experimental vs. conceptual mind...
     Galenson’s idea that creativity can be divided into these types—conceptual and experimental—has a number of important implications. For example, we sometimes think of late bloomers as late starters. They don’t realize they’re good at something until they’re fifty, so of course they achieve late in life. But that’s not quite right.
     The Cézannes of the world bloom late not as a result of some defect in character, or distraction, or lack of ambition, but because the kind of creativity that proceeds through trial and error necessarily takes a long time to come to fruition... ...Cézanne was trying something so elusive that he couldn’t master it until he’d spent decades practicing.
     And Gladwell backs up his argument with examples - tons of glorious examples - of the ages top creators made their masterpieces. Most were older than you'd think.
There's so much pressure in art to blow onto the scene as a young phenom, creators sometimes feel rushed to get it right and FAST. (I did, anyhow.) And phenoms do exist, which just nails the coffin all the tighter. But while these artists are profound and talented, their approach is one of conceptualization - finding. Whereas the experimental artist's approach is one of searching - which takes time. Neither is wrong or less valuable. They are completely different.
     Anyhow - I'm trying to summarize an entire article which may have just changed my life. Experimental vs. Conceptual. I know which one I am, how about you?
     (Click the title to go read the whole article.)

Pencil Sculptures

We all know beautiful art can be made with pencils, but have you ever seen the pencil become the art?
There's two places to see more at Daily Dawdle:

Awesome Book Light

This is an awesome cool light that's folds up like a book. When fully charged, it can stay lit up for 8 hours. It's called the Lumio designed by architect Max Gunawan and is currently a Kickstarter project (already 240% funded)!
Thanks to Colossal for the heads up.

Skype Visit with the International School!

For World Read Aloud Day on Wednesday I had the pleasure of speaking to students at the International School of Raleigh via Skype! All the students had read my bilingual picture books, Paco and the Giant Chile Plant and Soap, soap, soap and asked informed questions in a quite orderly manner.

     Apparently, they do Skype visits all the time - around the world! Because the students or their parents come from as far away as Japan, Viet Nam, Tanzania, Jamaica, you name it! What a fun mix of cultures and languages. And at their school they're also learning Spanish, hence the interest in Paco and Soap!
     I will forever prefer in-person visits, but Skype visits aren't bad when it comes to connecting with kids you wouldn't be able to otherwise. (And they're cheaper for the schools.) Still, I miss the hugs. Little wee ones give the best hugs. Even so, I hung up with a huge smile on my face.
     I love the questions that aren't questions. Y'know, like, "I have a dog who looks like Bernie but he's a Saint Bernard." Or the comments out of left field when you realize perhaps you weren't quite clear enough, "I'm not allowed to draw on the tv." No, no, you draw while you're watching tv. We learned how to be bunnies, crack an egg on our head, that climbing a jell-o tree would be very hard, and had lots of fun.
     Some days in this crazy career of mine are a little bit better than others...
     Here are the two groups of wonderful kids I got to spend time with in two sessions and their obviously enthusiastic and passionate teachers:

     Many thanks to Anne Aherne-Daly, the head of the school, for inviting me!

ONE CAME HOME by Amy Timberlake - GIVEAWAY!

ONE CAME HOME by my bud Amy Timberlake is a powerful story about loss, working through it, discovery, and a natural phenomenon that will blow your socks off! Amy is the author of such classics as THE DIRTY COWBOY (you may recall the recent controversy) and THAT GIRL LUCY MOON. I'm thrilled to have Amy stop by to talk about her latest book...

Q. An obvious question first - HOW did you learn about the amazing pigeon migrations?
A. I'd heard about the passenger pigeon migrations from someone (or somewhere) much, much earlier in life. I actually don't remember when I first became aware of it, but once someone tells you about passenger pigeons the stories stick with you. I mean, billions of birds flying in formation? Flying so close together that they sometimes blocked the sun? Add to that the size of the bird (crow-sized) and the speed at which they flew (60 mph) and it'll leave you slack-jawed. So I guess I've thought about, wondered about, mused about passenger pigeons on and off for at least a decade.
      But ONE CAME HOME was written years and years later after that initial knowing (whenever that happened). So years later, I'm reading A.W. Schorger's history, The Passenger Pigeon, and I literally turn the page of this book and there before me is a map of my home state of Wisconsin. Smack dab in the middle of Wisconsin is this crazy blob shaped like a tipped over letter 'L.' The crazy blob? A plotting of an 850 square mile passenger pigeon nesting that happened in Wisconsin in 1871. (For comparison, Rhode Island is 1033 square miles.) Schorger says in the history that it's possible nearly all the passenger pigeons in North America nested in this nesting. He doesn't say how many that it is, but it could be a billion or maybe more birds . . . Once again -- the size of crows, flying at 60 mph in big, big groups... What?!?! In my home state? Why didn't I know about this?
      Frankly, this sounded more like science fiction to me than actual history. But I liked the challenge of trying to imagine it. So I made the nesting the setting of my story. Plus, I thought it was a great fun to write a historical setting, which sounded (for all the world) like science fiction. There's some weird stuff in the historical record, and I think we writers should make more use of it!

Q. The pigeons are such powerful symbolism in the book - can you explain how they tie into and reflect the plot?
A. Hmmm. I'm not sure I'm the best person to answer this question. Readers could give you a better idea of it, because if I create symbolism I do it on a pretty subconscious level. I will say that this setting felt right, it seemed to be a good landscape for the story I was trying to tell and I trusted that. That said, migration, nesting and moving on is something I was thinking about as I wrote the book. People migrate in and out of lives just as birds do. I also think there was something that felt right about the chaos that the birds created. Also, the mess the birds leave behind after the nesting breaks up felt significant too. But overall, I feel that writers only know part of what of they're doing when it comes to symbolism and that it's the reader that's the expert.

Q. Georgie is one determined young lady, and a sharp-shooter at that. Are there any similarities to her character/hobbies to you?
A. Ha! I hope so!
      I'm not as brave or as stubborn -- though I suppose it takes some determination to try to be a writer. Other things? My dad tried to get me to learn how to shoot a rifle as a child at the local 'Rod & Gun' Club, but I didn't take to shooting. I called that place "The Rotten Gun Club." And my family is filled with business people on both sides. My maternal grandfather started his own company. When he died, my grandmother took over. She ran that company for over thirty years, and she was no nonsense -- she knew what needed to be done and did it. She wasn't a come-over-and-bake-cookies kind of grandmother -- she was a businesswoman, a mover and shaker, a woman with a closet full of pastel-colored power suits and sensible shoes. She got things done. Having Georgie Burkhardt being a young businesswoman seemed natural to me.

Q. How do you typically write? In other words, how did the story build for you?
A. I try to write regularly, particularly when I'm working on a novel so I don't lose the threads of the story. If I don't work regularly, I tend to forget what's happening and then I get frustrated -- which quickly becomes a downward spiral ending in regrets, recriminations, and a good wallow into my fantasy of a self-sufficient, log-cabin life in the Adirondacks. (Have you ever read Woodswoman? It's my escape fantasy of choice.)
      I write awful first drafts. Awful! I cannot emphasize 'awful' enough and expect that you won't believe me. Proof? Dialogue like this: "Wow," said Laura. "That's just... wow," said Joel. "Oh wow," said Michele. "Let's go to the top of the hill, shall we?"
      Yeah, you write that and you think, ' It's true -- I am NOT a writer. I should DO something with my life. And who in Wisconsin would ever say 'shall we?'"
      But by powering through that first draft (and all the 'wows'), I get a better feel for the story I'm trying to tell. Out of that first one hundred (or so) pages, I may find a basic-ish story, characters that interest me, an opening event, and if I'm really lucky, a first line. So I'll salvage twenty pages or so from that first draft. I may write an outline then, but I'll give myself permission to veer off it in the next draft (because it'll only be draft two and it's likely that something interesting will happen in a second draft and I need to make room for that). Then I start again. I do lots and lots of drafts. I don't know how many drafts I do, but I'd say seventeen drafts isn't unusual. My best writing appears in revision. I wish it were different -- it's so inefficient -- but it's the way novel-writing seems to work for me.

Q. I always ask... what was your path to publication and are you doing any special promotions for ONE CAME HOME?
A. I read five minutes of my first book, The Dirty Cowboy at an open mic event at an SCBWI-Illinois Retreat Weekend. An editor named Robbie Mayes walked up to me and said he wanted me to send it to his publishing house. THAT was my start. The book was published by FSG in 2003. The illustrator for that book was Adam Rex. It was Adam's first book too -- and he was the perfect illustrator for that story. (That book still sells well, by the way!)
      Before that, I'd been writing creatively for awhile. I took creative writing in high school and college, and I had earned an M.A. in English/Creative Writing. But I'd been focussed in writing for adults. Then I got a job as a children's bookseller and I discovered all those beautiful kids books . . . That's when I started to write for children.
      Special promotions? The Pig & Weasel!!! I am having a local book event in a house-concert venue -- which means, in this friends' home. It is NO ordinary home though -- they've put a stage in their living room. And so, we're throwing a big party for the book and inviting every family and friend we can think of to come. Besides doing a reading and showing this super cool video of bird flight, I'm also going to be baking (best biscotti ANYWHERE, plus some gluten-free baking), and friends are going to play songs they've written. . . My husband is going to sing and play his ukulele and banjo-uke! So it's going to be a great time. You can come too! Want to? [[e: I wish I could!!!]]
      It's going to be Saturday, February 23rd at 2pm. It's in Evanston, Illinois. Here's the link to the Facebook Event Page: http://www.facebook.com/events/206800062798736/
And here's the Pig & Weasel website: http://www.thepigandweasel.com
Yay! Thanks for this interview Elizabeth -- this was fun!

GREAT answers Amy!!!

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World Read Aloud Day!

March 6, 2013 is World Read Aloud Day! It's hosted by LitWorld where they have lots of info and activities. How will you celebrate? Tell me in the comments!!

To help celebrate World Read Aloud Day, I'll be visiting an international school in North Carolina via Skype! More on that Friday!

Coloring Page Tuesday - Keeping Dragons

     It takes some homework to keep a dragon correctly. Or is it that it takes some homework to keep and train a human? Either way, these two friends are trying their best for each other! Update: Click here to see how the Glendale Public Library Youth Services program used this image for their 2015 Summer Reading Program!
     Click the image to open a .jpg to print and color. CLICK HERE for more coloring pages. 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 cards - share your kids' art too!)
     Sign up to receive alerts when a new coloring page is posted each week and... Please check out my books! Especially...

     Click the covers to learn about my picture book, Soap, soap, soap and Soap, soap, soap ~ Jabón, jabón, jabón.