School is worth risking your life...

Did your child complain about going to school this morning? Maybe you should show them this post at Daily Dawdle: In Some Parts of the World, Kids Risk Their Lives to go to School Everyday. That's how important school can be - and these kids know it. The images speak for themselves. Click the image above to go see more.

22 Unbelievable Places...

That are hard to believe really exist. Like this image of the Hitachi Seaside Park in Japan by nipomen2...

CLICK HERE to see the entire collection - and keep scrolling. People are adding more!

Writing a novel, a love story

Writing a novel, a love story by Libba Bray (author of The Gemma Doyle Trilogy, Going Bovine, Beauty Queens, and The Diviners). It's got some cussing as you might expect, but is spit out your drink hilarious and spot on accurate, which you'll understand if you've ever tried to write a novel. Must read...

Trying new things at Hollins University

One of the perks of teaching at Hollins is each of the instructors is giving a workshop on their technique. I gave two days on Photoshop and digital media, which I thoroughly enjoyed doing. And today, Dennis Nolan (Professor at the Hartford Art School and faculty member, Lauren Mills' hubbie) gave a slideshow (sharing his new book which is SO FABULOUS I can't even tell you - it's not out yet), then he walked us through the beginning of working in watercolor.
     Here I am with Dennis from the back (his idea). :)

     And me and Dennis from the front (my idea):

     ALL of us were participating in the workshop (teachers too), and OMG I feel like a college student again. I tried to remember the last time I worked with pen and ink and well, it's long enough ago to be embarrassing. But as a true line quality geek, I was pretty happy with my results. This is my image in pen and ink with the first of what will be many color washes.

     Another perk of working here is all the people who just 'drop by.' It seems that once people have experienced Hollins, they can't stay away. (And boy, I get it!) Here I am with Tina Hanlon, Professor at Ferrum College and expert in all things folklore. We became friends via email when she included my book, Paco and the Giant Chile Plant, in her online listing of "Jack and the Beanstalk" stories.
     In fact, it was Tina who talked me into visiting last year to see the last performance of the Jack Tale Players and meet Anne Chase. Want to know what that's all about? Read about the amazing trip HERE. It's what led to me teaching at Hollins and I will forever be grateful!

     Otherwise, I have been busier than I've ever been in my life here at Hollins! It's one awesome thing after another from dawn until way after dark. It begins in the morning when Candice Ransom (yes, that Candice Ransom) and I walk the campus a few times round (two laps, which is 3.2 miles) and swing through the stables to say 'hi' to our favorite horses, doggies, and kitty cat. Then class, then more class, then freelance, then lectures, get-togethers, parties. I'm having a BLAST!!!

Hollins University Certificate in Children's Book Illustration

Here's our crew of folks in the program this year:

Click the image to see it larger in a new window.
     From the left is Cecilia Wyland, Laurie Edwards, Yours Truly (faculty), Julie Coyle, Michelle Meade, Rhonda Walter-Frojen, Ashley Wolff (faculty), Allison Scoles, Eileen Struble, Shawn W, and Ruth Sanderson (faculty). Not with us during the pot-luck party where this was taken were Lauren Mills and Dennis Nolan (both faculty). It's a good group!
     Here is a smattering of the picture books we're studying this term:

     Not included in this photo are the faculty books and lesson books. In other words, we are swimming in a sea of literary kidlit this summer and having a blast!!!

Coloring Page Tuesday - Cajun Angel

     I drew this lofty gator on a thank-you note for a friend a while back. She was from Louisiana, so it only seemed fitting I created a Cajun Angel for her!
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     Click the cover to learn about my newest picture book - Lula's Brew. She's a witch who would rather be a famous chef!

The ABC of It: Why Children's Books Matter

is a new exhibit in the New York Public Library's Stephen A. Schwarzman Building curated by Leonard Marcus. As one of the strongest proponents of children's literature, Mr. Marcus pulled together rare treasures that the most die-hard kidlit lovers will appreciate. I especially love this installation of a fuzzy crown-shaped wall with one of the Wild Things cut out from the middle.
     If you're in New York, I highly suggest you go see this as it will be a fascinating and entertaining learning experience!

     Read more about it and see more images from the exhibit at Publishers Weekly.

Bird's Nest for People!!

Oh - I want!!! This awesome bird's nest is by California artist Jayson Fann. CLICK HERE to go see more photos of this awesome creation at Visual News: Back to the Nest: Artist Makes Human-Sized Bird Nests.

Very Semi-Serious - Kickstarter to celebrate the New Yorker cartoons.

This will be an offbeat documentary about humor, art and the genius of the New Yorker cartoon. I'd want to watch it!
Thanks to SwissMiss for the heads up.

More Illustrator Studio Tours!

This one is featured in PW Shelftalker by Elizabeth Bluemle (owner of the Flying Pig bookstore in Vermont): Illustrators Give the Best Studio Tours. Featured illustrators are Tad Hills, Betsy Lewin and Ted Lewin, and Katie Yamasaki.

Confessions of a DQ - guest post by Gail Karwoski and GIVEAWAY!

Today, I invited Gail Karwoski to drop by and tell us about her newest title, which I read when it was still a work-in-progress and I think you'll love. Take it away Gail!

It’s not my fault. Kid readers kept urging me so how could I resist? After all, I’m a DQ. (No, not Dairy Queen, Silly Reader … get your mind off dessert! DQ stands for Disaster Queen.)

Disasters have turned the plot of many of my books. For the sake of my readers, I’ve weathered shipwrecks and tsunamis, earthquakes and epidemics. So Hurricane Katrina was a natural event for me. I battened down my keyboard, and the result is here – and in time for hurricane season. My just-released novel, When Hurricane Katrina Hit Home, is being loaded onto the shelves of bookstores and libraries as heavy winds swirl across super-heated oceans.

Being a survivor of 17 years in the unpredictable publishing industry, I’ve gained both courage and chutzpah. This time, I put on my waterproof raincoat and experimented with the literary device of alternating narrators: Two New Orleans kids end up stranded on the same roof in a flooded street. One is Chazz Cohen, a teen from the well-to-do Garden District. The other is Lyric Talbert, a spunky girl from the Ninth Ward. The kids think they have nothing in common before the storm washes away surface differences. As both kids are tested to the limit of their endurance, they gain an appreciation for each other’s strengths. They come through the disaster with a new understanding of the richness of the place that they both call home.

This book grew like a well-watered weed. The first scene that popped into my head (and survived many edits and rewrites) was Chazz wading through a flooded house. Suddenly, he spots something swimming through the water and realizes … yikes, it’s a snake! With this eye-popping moment, I began telling Chazz’s story with my voice and my hands, in third person.

Then, without any planning, I began to write from a second point of view. Lyric, a level-headed, no-nonsense ten-year old girl wanted to tell her tale on her own terms, and she wasn’t gonna take no for an answer. So I gave in and alternated chapters, letting her tell it as she saw it.

But Chazz is a teenage boy, and he thought this was totally unfair – him being older, and Lyric having her own voice. So he humphed and he grumped until I gave in. “Okay, have it your way,” I told him. And he did. (I have to admit - even if it kills me to agree with a stubborn teen - that it’s a much tighter story now.)

Enough talking - the storm is on the way, and it’s time for you to get reading. If you act fast, you may be the lucky one to win a free copy. If not, go to your bookstore or library and put in your order. Remember: If you delay too long, you may find yourself stranded without a book to save you from disaster!

One lucky commenter will win a free signed and dedicated copy of WHEN HURRICANE KATRINA HIT HOME. (Must live in the continental US to win.) Sign up below:

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Pimping Our Office Space at Hollins

So the last three days have been a whirlwind of unpacking, setting up classes, hooking up computers, and decorating. Or as Ashley Wolff likes to say "pimping our spaces."
     See, there's a props closet in our art studio and we went a little... nuts. I used my personal color palette of orange, teal and lime green to come up with my office space...

     Ashley decided her personal color palette was primaries, so she came up with this:

     Ruth Sanderson said she usually doesn't do anything special. But since she's working on a Boroque, Royal book, we asked her "How do you like pink?" (We were thinking glitzy boudoir.) Luckily she said she liked it, because it was about the only color left.
     Here's what Ashley and I did to Ruth's space. (She loves it!)

     Hollins University also gave us formal office space in another building, but that seemed boring in comparison. (And did you notice our VIEW!?) And this way we can listen in on each other's classes which are just a movable wall away.
     Let the inspiration begin!!!

Coloring Page Tuesday - Fairy in the Moonlight

     Here's another of the former stamps which I'm now able to share with you as a coloring page. You like her?
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Learn about my Cinderella story picture book, The Prince's Diary, click the cover.

My 1st Morning at Hollins University

So the 7 1/2 hour drive from Atlanta went smoothly and felt faster than I thought it would. I was dancing like a teenager to the awesome playlist I'd put together, or listening to an audio book or satellite radio. I tell ya - crossing over the Virginia state line is like entering another planet - all rolling green hills. No, not hills - these are mountains. So lush, so gorgeous, with ramshackle homes buried in their nooks. Gorgeous.
     My room is on the first floor in an old home called Rose Hill. It's been updated, so is quite comfortable while still maintaining it's 1980s charm. And even though the air conditioning is down for the weekend, there's a big fan and windows which let in all the birdsong and night sounds. And the mountain air is plenty cool enough. Maybe they won't fix the air conditioning. :)
     This morning I went for a walk all around campus, including up to the horse stables. I may have to inquire about brushing them sometimes. They're gorgeous horses, by the way. All show quality. And the view they enjoy! Oh, to be a horse at Hollins...
     Ruth Sanderson got in late last night, so we'll set up our classroom/office space later today. In the mean time, I had breakfast (with a sliced South Carolina peach I purchased on the drive up) sitting on the porch while watching the bunnies hop around the boxwoods - a smell dear to me from when, as a child, I used to visit my grandparents who lived just one town over in Lexington. It's funny how life can come full circle sometimes.
     More soon...

Off to Hollins University!

Today I'm on the road... off to teach Design with Ruth Sanderson in the "Certificate in Children's Book Illustration" program at Hollins University in Roanoke, Virginia. What an inspirational environment - I can't wait to get there! Last summer (when Ruth hired me) I only visited for a few days and returned home itching to sculpt and paint (which I did): sculptures, paintings (browse for my name). Can you imagine what I'll be inspired to do after SIX WEEKS!?
     While I'm driving I'll be listening to Rick Yancey's THE 5TH WAVE and/or Maggie Stiefvater's THE RAVEN BOYS. Fun!

Teen Wolf

Teen Wolf
is now available on Hulu for free. If you haven't watched this show and you're a fan of paranormal Young Adult fiction - I highly recommend it!! Totally fun series - would have been exactly the sort of book I love to get engrossed in. Smart, well-written, complicated plot lines with a totally perfect geeky/handscome/vulnerable/sweet main character. Totally AWESOME!

Golden Dreams by Ruth Sanderson - Kickstarter!

Ruth Sanderson is the Program Director of the Certificate in Children's Book Illustration at Hollins University - and my boss this summer! Her work is in the top echelon of children's book illustration and now she's trying to produce a collection of her best work. This will be a treasure indeed. Want to join in? Click Here to visit her campaign on KICKSTARTER.

Kenn Nesbitt is the new Children's Poet Laureate!

From Kenn Nesbitt's author page:
Kenn Nesbitt is the author of several collections of funny poetry for kids, including My Hippo Has the Hiccups, Revenge of the Lunch Ladies, and The Aliens Have Landed at Our School! His poetry has appeared in many bestselling anthologies, including every book in the popular Kids Pick the Funniest Poems series, and anthologies from Scholastic with nearly 2 million copies in print. His works have been in dozens of school textbooks around the world, as well as national television programs, and numerous children's magazines. Kenn travels the country, visiting over 60 schools each year, sharing his wacky brand of poetry with kids nationwide, and helping to create a new generation of poetry lovers. His website,, is the most visited children's poetry website on the Internet.
Sounds like a good fit, eh? :)

Coloring Page Tuesday - Bee Ride

     I've been wanting to share this one with y'all forever. I created her a few years back for a stamping company. Well, she's no longer available for sale, so I'm free to share her for... well, FREE! I hope you enjoy her.
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Learn about my Cinderella story picture book, The Prince's Diary, click the cover.

LULA'S BREW in the SCBWI Bulletin!

My article "LULA'S BREW: From App to Print" just came out in the July/August SCBWI Bulletin and WOWSA! It's a fabulous, double-page spread with the cover of the book and the back cover illustration. It could not look any better and what fantastic exposure!
     If you're not familiar with it, the SCBWI Bulletin is the bi-monthly trade magazine published by the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators ( As the largest writing organization of its kind in the world, that's no small thing. The Bulletin is read by almost the entire industry, not to mention all the members (tens of thousands). So, this is tremendous exposure for my article and LULA'S BREW! (And more birthday weekend awesomeness.)
     You have to be a member of SCBWI to access the publication on their website (.pdf) or have it mailed to you. But I will also post it to my website after a few months have passed.


I can finally share!! The name of my mid-grade novel (ages 10-14) is A Bird on Water Street - the title all along! My publisher (Little Pickle Press) just called and the marketing team at Ingram's loved the original title! And Barnes and Noble already wants it, which will drive the print date... It will have a soft release as an e-book in October and a print release in March 2014!!! HERE is what it's about:
A Bird on Water Street is a coming of age story about Jack, the son of a miner growing up in a Southern Appalachian town environmentally devastated by a century of poor copper-mining practices. After a tragic accident and a massive company layoff, the miners go on strike. When nature begins to flourish as a result, Jack fights to protect it, but the cost could be the ruin of everything he loves.
     What do you think - sound good? WOOHOOOOO!!!!!
     Oh, I'm getting teary. What a great birthday present!!! There's a BIG reason this title means so much to me... but I'll write about that in another completely sappy post. Right now, I'm just celebratin'!!!! Snoopy dance, WOOT WOOT! :)

Quote of the Day - Umberto Eco

"And you'll not be required simply to gather documented facts, but (as you have done on previous occasions) to fabricate them when they are lacking." THE PRAGUE CEMETERY, Umberto Eco

Translation: Never let the truth get in the way of a good story.

Studio Tours

BEA did something cool this year. 23 book illustrators in the nearby New York area opened their studios to booksellers. This image is of a shared space: Sophie Blackall, Brian Floca, Ed Hemingway, John Bemelmans Marciano, and Sergio Ruzzier. Can you imagine working around such talented people every day!? Wowsa. CLICK HERE to find lots more great photos at Publishers Weekly.

Coloring Page Tuesday - Feasting on Cake!

     I'm sharing one more birthday images because, well, somebody has a birthday this week! And I can promise you that somebody will be eating cake... chocolate gluten-free cupcakes to be exact from Sally's Bakery. (Thank goodness its on the far side of town, otherwise this birthday babe would have quite the tire throughout the year!) But there's no guilt on a birthday - the calories don't stick! Right? RIGHT? I'll be diving in like this little kiddie.
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     Learn more about my fun picture book Glitter Girl and the Crazy Cheese - click the cover.


Friday I had a talk with my publicist at Little Pickle Press. (How fun is it to say THAT!?)
     Being a small publishing house run by a super-savvy business woman, they run things a little differently than most of the publishers I've worked with in the past. They approach things in a very smart and innovative way. AND everybody there has read my book and is trying to get to know it backwards and forwards so that they can do a good job selling it. (How many folks can say that about their large publishing house PR departments?)
      I feel like I am being taken very good care of - me and my book. And its got me positively giddy over the possibilities when my book finally comes out.
      Truly, after 12 years in the biz, I thought I had a pretty good idea of what it would be like to sell my first novel.
     Well, I had NO IDEA! It is such a thrill to have an entire team of people - strangers really - so invested in something that came out of my head!!!
     And the process that I've heard so many writers complain about... I have no complaints at all - just the opposite. Receiving my first editorial letter was like Christmas. Gosh, her suggestions have made my book better - GREAT advice and ideas! Talking to my publicist was like Christmas again. She is so sincerely invested! And knowing they all love and stand behind my book - it's like Christmas at 8-years-old when you got every. single. present. you asked for!!!!
     SO AWESOME!!!

The Prince's Diary in Singapore!!

Tarie Sabido recently tweeted me - my first picture book, THE PRINCE'S DIARY, was spotted at the Asian Festival of Children's Content in Singapore!!! Woosie!!

STRUCK by Jennifer Bosworth

How's THIS for a book trailer? WOWSA!

Thanks to SCBWI Blog on "The Power of Video as a Promotion Tool" for the heads up.