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A friend alerted me to the fact that I no longer had a "subscribe via email" form on my blog. That has been remedied! If you look in the right sidebar, you'll see where you can input your email address. That way my posts will go straight to your inbox, rather than you checking my site each day.
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     SO! I have lots of ways for us to stay in touch and I hope you'll use them!

MAYA WAS GRUMPY by Courtney Pippin-Mathur - GIVEAWAY!

It takes a lot of hard work to break into children's publishing. But sometimes you run across a person for whom you know it will only be a matter of time. Courtney Pippin-Mathur is one of those people. I've long been a fan of the gorgeous color palettes and exuberant line quality in her work. Sure enough, Flashlight Press recently published her first picture book, MAYA WAS GRUMPY, and it's worth your time! I spoke with Courtney...

Q. Courtney - CONGRATULATIONS on your debut picture book, MAYA WAS GRUMPY! I've been following your career for a while now - rooting for you. What was your path to publication?
A. I had been in contact with Shari (the editor for Flashlight Press) for over 7 years! And, she had turned down “Maya was Grumpy” twice. It wasn’t until 2011 that the stars aligned and she had the time to help this first time author/illustrator and her imprint was looking for slightly younger books.

Q. I've always loved your energetic illustration style. What is your method?
A. I sketch and sketch till the composition seems right, then I create the drawing on a piece of copy paper. I then enlarge the drawing if needed and trace it onto vellum so I have a master copy. Then I trace it onto the watercolor paper. I ink over the lines, erase my pencil marks and (after the ink is dry) I paint.

I call it “going with the flow” and use my inherent messiness to instill a bit of spontaneity in my work. This often involves many, many revisions until the color combinations are right and the watercolor works. Then, I scan the painting into photoshop for cleaning.

Q. You wrote and illustrated MAYA WAS GRUMPY. How was it to write too?
A. This story was pretty easy to write. Shari suggested some great edits and tweaks. Some [[stories]] have been much harder. The most difficult point for me is getting started. Once I have the story on paper, no matter how horrible it is, at least I have something to work with and will fiddle and tweak and think for days, weeks, months or even sometimes years.

Q. I love Maya's hair - it seems to reflect her mood as it gets wildly out of control, and then back under control again. How did you come up with that?
A. It has been a part of the story since I first wrote it years ago. I love visual jokes in picture books and thought this was a golden opportunity to have some fun. It also might have had something to do with my daughter’s naturally curly locks.

Q. All the fun ideas Maya's Gramma comes up with are so wonderful! I especially love the idea of bathing baby elephants! Did these just tickle you silly as you came up with them?

A. They did! The baby bathtub one was original, but I had them sliding down a frumpy dragon at first and chasing baby chickens instead of tickling tarantulas. This is why editors are awesome!

Q. Do you have any special events going on to celebrate the release of MAYA WAS GRUMPY?
A. Yep. I had my release reading at my favorite local bookstore, Hooray for Books in Alexandria VA and my husband organized a great cocktail party a few weeks ago to thank all of our family members and friends who helped along the way. I also hope to visit more bookstores this summer!

Congratulations again!

A. Thank You! It is a thrill to be on your blog. I am a huge fan and have loved your work for years!

Courtney has kindly agreed to give a signed and dedicated copy of MAYA WAS GRUMPY! along with stickers to one of my lucky commenters! (Must live in the continental US to win.) Sign up below...
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What do frogs have to do with public health?

Frogs feature prominently in my new novel, because they are a warning flag for environmental damage. They breathe through their skin making them especially susceptible to toxins. And in our world where we keep using more and more chemicals, frogs are paying the price: "Study finds for the first time frogs and other amphibians declining around US at alarming rate."
     But so are people. Watch Tyrone Hayes, amphibian expert, and Penelope Jagessar Chaffer on "The Toxic Baby?"

     This is why I stand against Monsanto. They are rampant users of atrazine (click here for proof) and are one of the main reasons our world and our food is poisoning us. And yet, they have such sway with our congress, there is no legislation trying to stop or regulate them: Senate GOP Quashes attempt to overturn 'Monsanto Protection Act.'
     As I revise my novel, I'm trying to stay on top of environmental issues that I may get questions about when my book is released. It's disturbing to learn that such obvious harm is being committed without check, even when the results of these damaging products are staring us in the face.

Coloring Page Tuesday - Speed Reading Turtle!

     Will you be participating in a reading program this summer? Wonder how you'll get through it all? You could take up speed reading like this guy!

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Learn about proper parenting language and the power of choice in, Ready for Bed! , Ready for the Day!, and Ready to Play! - click the covers!

Happy Memorial Day!!

For those who are curious - this was at a state park less than an hour outside of Atlanta. Ahhhhh!

2013 SCBWI Southern Breeze Gallery Show

Friday night was opening night for our 2013 Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators Southern Breeze (Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi) Gallery Show hosted at the Decatur Library by the Georgia Center for the Book during the Decatur Arts Festival opening ArtWalk. We had ten artists showing their work in this year's show: Prescott Hill; Jill Dubin; Yours truly, Elizabeth Dulemba; Laura Freeman; Mark Braught; Laura Knorr (Braught); Bill Mayer; Susan Nees; and Sarah Frances Hardy.
     Many of the artists and their spouses were in attendance for opening night. (Click to see larger.) From the left is: Scott Nees; Susan Nees; Lisa Michaels - wife to Prescott Hill; Laura Freeman; me; Joe Davich of the Georgia Center for the Book; Bill Mayer; Amy Schimler; Lee Mayer, Mark Braught; and my hubbie Stan.

Each art piece was accompanied by its corresponding book title and it came together beautifully...

     Our opening night was a blast, catered by Badda Bing. We did a sketch challenge - each illustrator draws a few lines adding to an illustration that ends up being... well, that's anybody's guess!

When we finished with the challenge, two young attendees decided to do their own challenge... so cute.

I tried to do a better job with photos this year—so here are the illustrators with their work...
Amy Schimler...

Bill Mayer (who apparently always takes photos like this...)
Laura Freeman...

Mark Braught... (Unfortunately, his wife Laura couldn't make it to pose with her pieces...)

Prescott with his wife, Lisa...

Susan, celebrating her first time in the show...

And me, who apparently can't stay still long enough for her picture to be taken...

Not that I was the only goof that night...

     Afterwards we went to Colbeh Persian restaurant for a fun-filled fall apart. What a great time! Peeps, good art, good food, and general mayhem - what could be better?
     The intent of the show is to impart the idea that book art is art and that the children's books you enjoy are indeed works of art—performance art, which is not fully realized until being enjoyed by a reader.
     And while opening night is a blast - the real treasure is after we leave and the show is enjoyed by thousands of library patrons as they wander through. Stan and I went back the next day and were privy to some of the wonderful comments and interest in just the short time we were there.
     We're so grateful to the Decatur Library and the Georgia Center for the Book—the library is the perfect place to host our show!

Decatur Arts Festival

Hubbie and I just got home from enjoying the Decatur Arts Festival put on by the Decatur Arts Alliance. The weather was PERFECT, the crowds just right, and there were tons of new artists' works to enjoy. We purchased an interesting textural piece of a crow in a tree called "Sky High" by Lynn Reeder. It was hard to choose which piece to buy this year—there were so many we liked! But the one pictured above went home with us and joins our growing art collection.
     We had lunch at Out of the Pan, which was delicious southern fare - BBQ chicken and southern veggies - yum! We walked all the booths twice - trying to decide. We stopped by the new Hola! Cantina to chill out with a frozen margarita. And then we hung out around the gazebo listening to Shawn Mullins. What a wonderful day!!!
     To top it off, we're about to grill brats and a "pillow o' joy" - that'd be onions and peppers steamed in tin-foil on the grill - yum! What a nice way to celebrate this holiday weekend!

Coloring Page Tuesday - Fairy Poetry

     It's been a while since my last reading-themed coloring page, which I remedy with this absorbed fairy and her lovely book of poems.

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Learn about proper parenting language and the power of choice in, Ready for Bed! , Ready for the Day!, and Ready to Play! - click the covers!

The next draft of my novel...

is OUTTA HERE!! Off to my editor!! *Whew!!*
      I took that upside-down, inside-out puzzle and slicked it up tight! At the last minute I spoke to some more experts from the area/era which filled in some fact gaps and lent more validation to the story. I wrapped up my dedications, and went through edits from my two readers for any obvious errors.
     All said, I am SO PROUD of this novel!!!! Is it too big-headed of me to think I may have created something important? I hope not. I think this book can/should be the beginning of many important conversations in schools and society. I so hope it will be...

Decatur Focus

Remember when I told you about the Sidewalk Saturdays in Decatur when I did sidewalk chalk art? Well, they had a professional photographer running around documenting all the performers and artists. He got a great photo of me with a bunch of kids and... it made the cover of the Decatur Focus magazine. Wild, eh?

What Most Schools Don't Teach...

And why the heck not?
It's amazing that computers have become so pervasive in our society and yet coding is not being taught in schools. I taught myself html during a slow time at one of my graphic design jobs before I got into children's books. And yes, it is intimidating, but it IS learnable!! And I use those skills almost every day on my blog and website, when I created LULA'S BREW, in my volunteer work - you name it. It's a necessary skill. "I'm a luddite" shouldn't be an acceptable excuse anymore.

Thanks to SwissMiss for the heads up. is a Top 50 Book Blog!

According to Cisionblog, is rated about dead center on the list of Top 50 Book Blogs! I have no idea what this is, but I'm thrilled to hear it! Woohoo!

Tedd Arnold's DIRTY GERT - Giveaway!

What an honor to have Tedd Arnold on my blog today. He is the creator of such classics as PARTS (and the following PARTS books); HI! FLY GUY and the rest of the series; HUGGLY's series of books; the list goes on!
     His latest is DIRTY GERT about a little girl who loves to eat dirt. What are her parents to do when her feet take root and her hair sprouts leaves? The rhymes are hilarious and the art is classic gorgeous Tedd Arnold style. I asked him about his latest creation as well as his trade...

Q. Hi Tedd - Thanks so much for dropping by - as a fan, I'm honored! You've been in the children's book business a long time now. How did you get into it?
A. Hi, Elizabeth. I'm glad to be able to visit. Yes, I've been published for more than 25 years. And it was all inspired by my wife, Carol, who was a kindergarten teacher. I was doing advertising and graphic design while she was collecting picture books for her classroom. I began noticing her books that I hadn't paid any attention to since I was a child. I loved them and joined in the collecting. And a seed of a dream was planted--that one day, maybe I too could illustrate a picture book. I had always been an artist and a cartoonist. Back in middle school I did a lot of comics inspired by Mad Magazine. I began to realize that the close collaboration of words and pictures in children's picture books was actually similar to the words and pictures I had doodled with in my grade-school comics.

Q. Which book was your big breakthrough to the big-time? How did that change things for you?
A. NO JUMPING ON THE BED was my first full-blown picture book. I hadn't intended, at first, to be an "author". But I didn't know how else to break into the business as just an illustrator. I needed SOMETHING to illustrate. So I wrote. That was the hard part--figuring out how to put together and write a good story. It took 6 years. So when NO JUMPING ON THE BED came along, it changed my entire life. I quit my day job! We had some hungry years. But I always approached my picture book work as a full-time job, not a sideline interest.

Q. You have a wonderful walk through of your method on your website , but how did you come up with the scribbles that are so indicative of your work?
A. My early books were somewhat realistic and smoothly rendered. My book, Green Wilma, changed all of that. I experimented with my art style for that story. I wanted Wilma to look frog-ish. (Is that a word?) So I drew her with large froggy eyeballs. To go along with the eyeballs, I began drawing the rest of the bodies more loosely and cartoony. I was literally drawing faster. So, instead of rendering the shading slow and smooth, I was scribbling the tones in quickly. Suddenly I liked the energy of the scribbles and worked with it until the scribbles became a nice jazzy texture.

Q. You're a prolific creator - do you ever run out of ideas? Are you booked ahead?
A. I think most creative people occasionally feel like, YIKES! What am I going to do now??? But I tell kids I can only do two or three books a year because the drawing part takes a long time. Two or three ideas a year? Not too tough. I've been blessed with an abundance of ideas. One frustrating thing is to get an exciting new idea, then have to put it in a waiting line behind ideas that came before.

Q. Can you imagine yourself ever doing anything other than children's books?
A. Nope! I'm kinda out of touch with any other life-skills by now.

Q. How did the idea for DIRTY GERT come to you?
A. It came from simply playing with names. Gert and dirt rhymed. The original Gert rhyme grew out of a never-completed collection of silly rhymes I attempted to create long ago. But I was told by publishers that collections of poetry often started out with hundreds of rhymes that would then be winnowed down by editors to 30 or 40 of the best, to fit into a 32 or 48 page picture book. I am pretty good at coming up with ideas, but that became too much for me. So that book project got filed away in my REJECTED folder. More than a decade later, in my home town, I put up an art show of my career work at the local museum, and my Holiday House editor, Grace Maccarone drove all the way from New York City to Elmira, New York to attend the opening. On one wall of the exhibition, I had put up a few images labeled REJECTED IDEAS. Grace spotted Gert and said, "You never sent me this!" I replied, "" in my typically articulate way. "Send it to me," she said. And that's that!

Q. DIRTY GERT actually has a lovely environmental angle to it - have teachers been using it that way?
A. I fully expect that to happen. I love to see how teachers and librarians use my book. I say to myself, "Oh! That's what my book is about!" At this interview time, DIRTY GERT is so new that at the schools I've visited recently, the librarians are just now getting their Gert copies. But I was impressed by one very nice Kirkus review that taught me a new word. "Gert likes dirt to the point of geophagy...", geophagy being the practice of consuming soil. Apparently a modicum of soil consumption strengthens immune systems and lessens allergies! I don't want to be seen as encouraging kids to literally eat dirt, but it is definitely not a bad thing for children to play outdoors and get dirty. Soil becomes "internalized" by accident from dirty hands or inhaled as dust and it is indeed good for young growing bodies!

Q. Do you mind sharing a photo of your studio space?
A. My studio was formerly the attic. It's all fixed up now. I work at one table with watercolors and color pencils and at another table on the computer. Dirty Gert was entirely illustrated using Photoshop software and a Cintiq monitor.

Q. Thanks so much for stopping by. I wish you much continued success!!
A. Thanks. You too, Elizabeth!

Holiday House is giving away one free copy of DIRTY GERT to one of my lucky commenters! Sign up below. (Must live in the continental US to qualify.)
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Coloring Page Tuesday - Balloons!

     Congratulations to Heidi who won a signed/dedicated copy of one of my books last week. (She chose The 12 Days of Christmas in Georgia.) I guess I'm still feeling a little celebratory - hence the balloons!!! Are you celebrating anything special? I hope these come in handy!

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     Going on Vacation? Want to take Coloring Page Tuesdays on the road? The Coloring Page Tuesdays collections, "I Love to Read!", "Fun Stuff!", and "Holidays!" are now available as bona fide coloring books with over 20 coloring pages in each. Click the cover to buy a copy through for $7.50 plus shipping or $5.00 to download as .pdf's.
     "I Love to Read!" covers book-themed and back-to-school subjects. "Fun Stuff!" is all the general stuff like happy animals, robots, ballet, etc. And "Holidays" covers all major holidays and some minor ones, including birthdays, Talk Like a Pirate Day, and Earth Day. Enjoy!