FALLOUT by Todd Strasser - Guest Post and GIVEAWAY!

by Todd Strasser

     At a gathering recently someone asked me what I did for a living. I said I wrote books for young people. What followed was a conversation every writer of picture, middle-grade, and YA books has probably had many times. He asked if I had ever thought about writing for adults? I said I had and I have. He asked if I’d ever thought about writing for TV. Again, I had not only thought of it, but had done it. Then he asked if I’d ever thought about the big time? For a moment I thought he meant trying to write a best seller, but it turned out he meant writing for film.
      There too, I had both thought about it and done it, although I’ve never had anything more than the script for a made-for-television movie produced. In fact, in more than forty years of writing there probably isn’t much I haven’t done. Newspapers, magazines, advertising, public relations, poetry, song lyrics, short stories, novels, book series, TV and movie scripts, even fortunes for risqué fortune cookies (those were actually my first best sellers).
      In the process I have worked alone, in collaborations, and with teams of writers. And, as I’m sure many others have, I’ve pictured myself in “the big time,” writing bestsellers and blockbuster movies, giving lengthy interviews on radio and TV, appearing on the covers of magazines, and sitting at tables in book stores while long lines of fans waited for my autograph.
      Now that I’ve reached my 60s most of those fantasies have passed. These days, the idea of writing a movie script, of going Hollywood, and all that implies, doesn’t hold much appeal (except for the medical benefits offered by the Writer’s Guild of America). A bestseller would still be wonderful, of course, but in the meantime I find I’m content to work quietly and by myself in my “workshop,” feeling the way I imagine a craftsman must feel. Mostly, what I dream about now is producing a really good piece of work.
      Something akin to a handcrafted desk or dresser…
      Please allow me to explain the non-sequitur. For most of my life I didn’t pay a great deal of attention to furniture. It was there to put things on, or in, and I used it like everyone else. Even antiques and museum pieces held little fascination for me. After all, it was just … furniture.
      Then one day my wife and I took our children to colonial Williamsburg, Va. In one of the old shops I watched a cabinetmaker work on a replica of an antique desk, complete with inlay and beveling and all the other carefully added flourishes that perhaps only a handful of craftsmen have time for anymore.
      After a while the kids got impatient and my wife took them to see the wigmaker and the blacksmith, but I stayed and observed the care and precision with which this craftsman went about his work, the ultimate reward not being the opportunity to give an extended radio interview, nor appear on a magazine cover, but the simple pride and satisfaction that comes with having produced a really solid, sturdy, well-crafted piece.
      Even then I didn’t give up my fantasies right away. I had to sign books for long lines of fans, only to see some of those autographed books appear for sale on eBay the very next day. I had to give some long radio interviews and appear on television a few times to realize that so many people do these things now that it hardly makes a difference. I had to walk down the red carpet at the premier of a movie made from one of my books to find out that unless you are J.K. Rowling the paparazzi has no interest in the novel’s author.
      I’m glad I had those experiences, because – and I know this will sound clichéd – they helped me to focus on what I now believe are the important things in life: family, friends, and working patiently to produce something solid, sturdy, and lasting.

Please visit the new FALLOUT site: http://hisheulb.wix.com/fallout
"Exciting, harrowing ... Superb entertainment ... It thrums along with finely wrought atmosphere and gripping suspense." -- The New York Times

Todd has kindly offered to send a free signed and dedicated copy of FALLOUT to one of my lucky commenters. (Must live in the US or Canada to win.) Enter below!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Little Pickle Press Shopping Deal!

The publisher of my forthcoming novel, A BIRD ON WATER STREET, is offering the biggest promotion in the history of the company this Saturday - Small Business Saturday - from midnight to midnight. All Award-winning Little Pickle books will be 35% off with free ground shipping! Click the image to check out their lovely books!

Friday Linky List

GREAT Tumblr post about Cynicism in children's literature by Stacy Whitman, editor at Tu Books (Lee & Low) - EVERYBODY should read this!!!

There's a new magazine featuring only mid-grade books! It's called Middle Shelf by Shelf Unbound (red the first issue here) and a subscription is FREE!

SLJ Best Books 2013 Fiction, from School Library Journal

SLJ Best Books 2013 Picture Books, also from School Library Journal. Go FLORA!

Best Illustrated Books of 2013 as chosen by The New York Times.

"I am very real" - a letter from Kurt Vonnegut to the head of the school board in Drake High School, North Dakota after he demanded Vonnegut's books be banned and burned in the school's furnace.

John Green Gets Personal On Bullying And Gives Us All Hope at Huff Post Teen.

Photographer awarded $1.2 million from media companies that lifted images off Twitter, at PBS Newshour. As somebody whose work is stolen all the time, I find this very interesting!!!

The Holiday Children's Book Art Auction has begun on ebay. Sponsored by the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, proceeds benefit the Kids' Right to Read Project and Banned Books Week. (Over 70 pieces of art for sale!)

Flavorwire (via PW Children's Bookshelf) brings us The Greatest Monsters in Children's Literature!

From Brain Pickings (via PW Children's Bookshelf): How Hans Christian Andersen Revolutionized Storytelling.

At Bookriot: Common Core State Standards Initiative - Notice the description for the Reading Literature standards for English Language Arts RL 3.2 "Recount stories, including fables, folktales, and myths from diverse cultures;..." Might this mean the return of fairy and folk tales in children's publishing?


I have the great honor to be on faculty at Hollins University with the talented Ashley Wolff, author and illustrator of such favorites as Miss Bindergarten, I LOVE MY DADDY/MOMMY BECAUSE, and of course, her newest additions, BABY BEAR SEES BLUE and BABY BEAR COUNTS ONE. I'm constantly amazed by Ashley's overflowing creativity, but especially by how she created these latest books. And I can't think of a better way to celebrate Thanksgiving than with her work which is so decidedly - thankful and appreciative of our natural surroundings. Ashley dropped by to tell me about them...

Q. BABY BEAR SEES BLUE was a Caldecott favorite in many circles - how did that feel? And did the success of it lead to BABY BEAR COUNTS ONE?
A. Honestly? It was so funny-- like I was becoming an “overnight” success after nearly 30 years of writing and illustrating my books. There were people saying “Ashley Wolff has written AND illustrated a book.” Of course, I wrote and illustrated my first book, way back in 1984. So, gazing in the rearview, it was exciting but ultimately disappointing since nothing came of it.
      BABY BEAR COUNTS ONE was already in the creative pipeline by the time BABY BEAR SEES BLUE was published. I had the 2 ideas very close together and Beach Lane was willing to take a chance on a sequel without worrying about how the first book would sell.

Q. I happen to know you are a nature lover. But why bears? (Photo of beaver dam by Ashley Wolff)
A.   This is a long and winding answer, but bears, bear cubs in particular, were going to be characters in a totally different book. Those publishers wanted animal characters so my first dummy was “peopled” entirely by Prairie Dogs, doing human activities. When Prairie Dogs were rejected as being too lowly, bears were given the roles. Bears had a flurry of possibility, during which I drew many many sketches of bear cubs and pinned them to my wall. Finally, bears were rejected in favor of actual humans, but the pages of drawings were still pinned to the wall. One day I had an idea...

Q. In BABY BEAR SEES BLUE the reader can follow the passage of time through the colors in the sky as they turn the pages - I love that. What fun tricks did you use in BABY BEAR COUNTS ONE?
A. Both Baby Bear books are true “Cycle” books in several ways. They both begin and end in the same place with a journey of discovery in between, and they both begin in the morning and end at bedtime. So sun position and weather play an important part in the time progress of both books. The children reading these books are, like Baby Bear, still new to the concepts of colors, seasons, numbers, and weather and they like their endings reassuring and predictable. In BABY BEAR COUNTS ONE counting up from one to ten became the natural page-turner, and only once did I need to compress two numbers onto one spread!

Q. The method you used to illustrate these two books simply blows my mind - can you explain it?
A. Just as in my very first book from 1984, I used linoleum block prints, hand colored with watercolor. Back then it did not seem so very unusual, but now it appears incredibly old fashioned, doesn’t it? I draw on tracing paper and then transfer that drawing in reverse onto a piece of linoleum. I carve away everything that I don’t want to print. In other words, I carve away the whites.

Ashley shared some of her process images...

Q. You're a fabulous photographer too. How many reference photos do you take and how do you use them while you work?
A. Stacks! I am working on a book set in the Grand Canyon right now and I have hundreds of photos I took while hiking there last May. Everything from tiny details to grand vistas.
      I use a lot of reference photos in order to be as accurate in my details as possible. I have a huge, photo clipping file I started collecting when I was in my early 20s. My bear folder alone is probably an inch thick!

Q. How much time does all that take?
A. Books are just another kind of journey. The destination is chosen and an arrival date is agreed on, but then many possible paths open up.
      A team is assembled, there is a great deal of practice, some false starts, a few reversals and changes of course, an all-nighter, or six, and finally, an arrival. It can take months or years. 3 years, from initial idea to publication, is not uncommon for me.

Q. You illustrated so many adorable critters in BABY BEAR SEES BLUE and BABY BEAR COUNTS ONE. Do you have any favorites?
A. Is there an animal I DON’T like? No.
      I found room for some old favorites like frogs, Canada Geese and honey bees and drew some creatures for the first time in Baby Bear Counts One.
      The handsome Pileated Woodpecker and the glossy Wild Turkeys were new for me. Once I’ve drawn something, the memory stays put and I bet these new characters will be back. But not in the Grand Canyon book! That will have very specific animals and plants found in the Canyon.

Q. Can you describe your path to publication?
A. Once upon a time I took a large, leather portfolio to New York City and went all around town, unzipping it to show my work on paper to art directors and editors in over a dozen separate publishing houses.
      Stop laughing--it’s true!
      Sometimes they asked me to leave it overnight--I shivered because these were my ORIGINALS!
      I got a lot of nice comments, but one editor at Dodd Mead took the time to get to know me a little. She asked me who the little girl in this piece was. When I said it was me as a child, she suggested expanding that idea into a book. I wrote and illustrated my first book: A Year of Birds in 1984.
      I have never looked back!

Q. Are you doing anything fun to celebrate the release of BABY BEAR COUNTS ONE?
A. Yes, I spent hours walking in the woods near my cabin in Vermont, setting up still life’s with the MerryMakers Baby Bear plush doll. He posed with red and yellow autumn leaves, mushrooms, acorns, and fall wildflowers like goldenrod and asters.
Q. Thanks so much for stopping by!!!
Ashley has kindly agreed to send a signed/dedicated copy of BABY BEAR COUNTS ONE to one of my lucky commenters! Register below. (Must live in the US or Canada to win.)
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Happy Hanukkah!!

Happy Hanukkah!
     I'll have a new Hanukkah coloring page next Tuesday. Meanwhile, CLICK HERE for some I've done in the past.

25 More Great American Indie Bookstores!

Obviously, the post "45 Great American Indie Bookstores" was a hit. So Flavorwire has created another list with "25 More Great American Indie Bookstores to Support This Holiday Season." Like Atlanta's own Charis Books and More.

They'll have to do another list though, because still not represented is my local independent children's bookstore, Little Shop of Stories!
Thanks to Shelf Awareness for the heads up once more!

Coloring Page Tuesday - Apple Pie for YOU!

     I'm sharing an apple pie with you in thanks for being such loyal followers of Coloring Page Tuesday and all my other good news. I'm so honored to have teachers, librarians, parents, and cardmakers among the folks sharing my images with the chldren of the world. THANK YOU!
     What are you thankful for this holiday?
     CLICK HERE for more coloring pages including more seasonal images! And be sure to share your creations in my gallery so I can put them in my upcoming newsletters! (I NEED MORE!!!!) (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 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 has a version for each state.

Lee & Low Buys Shen's Books!

New York children's book publisher Lee & Low Books has acquired Shen's Books. Per Publishers Lunch:
Originally based in California, Shen's started publishing children's books in 1997, concentrating on titles that "emphasize cultural diversity and tolerance, with a focus on introducing children to the cultures of Asia." President and publisher of Shen's Books Renee Ting says in the announcement, "There is no better publisher I can think of to carry on the values and spirit of Shen’s Books and advance the cause of diversity in children's publishing."
     They also concentrated on Cinderella stories, since every culture in the world has a Cinderella story. In fact, the first picture book I ever illustrated was an adaptation of the Cinderella story for Shen's Books: The Prince's Diary. The publisher, Renee Ting was the author. So, I couldn't be more thrilled that this wonderful house has found such an appropriate home to continue its good works!
     Learn about The Prince's Diary, click the cover.

Rollin' Safari - What if Animals Were Round?

Here's a Sunday funny for you... a group of ads for the Trickfilm Festival in Stuttgart.

Thanks to Laura Menardi Jacobsen for the heads up!

Book Signing at Barnes & Noble

Friday night I had the pleasure of sharing LULA'S BREW and sang (yes, sang) THE TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS IN GEORGIA with a fun audience at Barnes & Noble in Cumming, Georgia. Although not obvious from this photo, I had a really nice crowd that grew and grew as the laughter got louder. (Love that!)
     Author Janice Hardy recommended me to the event planner as this is her B&N and they've been great supporters of hers for years. Janice was there to promote her "Healing Wars" trilogy - which I highly recommend!

     As much as people say all big box stores are the same - they're not. It's all about the people who work there and their dedication to the local reading and writing community. This is a good one. As are the B&Ns all over the country who hosted local authors in their areas. (My bud Vicky Alvear Shecter was at the Norcross B&N, did you see her there?)

     I signed some books, hung out with writer friends (hi Donna!) and got to laugh with some kids. All in all a great night.

ANUBIS SPEAKS by Vicky Alvear Shecter - GIVEAWAY!

My favorite thing about blogging is when I can use my platform to celebrate my friend's successes and big news. Such is the case today. Vicky Alvear Shecter has just released another tome to take us into ancient Egypt/Greece/Rome with ANUBIS SPEAKS! (Boyds Mills Press, illustrated by Antoine Revoir, mid-grade, ages 9-12.)
     Ever wonder about that jackal-headed god and his role in Egyptian mythology? Follow his snarky self into the underworld after the sun goes down...
     Vicky stopped by to talk about her latest book...

Q. Of all the Egyptian gods, why did you choose to feature Anubis?
A. Anubis seemed the perfect god to talk about death practices in ancient Egypt. After all, he was the god of embalming. I’ve always been fascinated by the jackal-headed god of the dead so I really couldn’t picture anyone else talking about the Egyptians. He just seemed to have a lot of personality to me, so he seemed perfect.

Q. You gave him such a fun, snarky voice, which young readers will adore. Is that hard to channel?
A. When I write middle-grade, “fun and snarky” seems to be my default voice. It’s very different from my “young adult” voice, which is much more serious. I call this my “internal 11-year-old-boy” voice—the one that loves to laugh and is delighted by gross and wacky details.

Q. Do you think your heart will weigh less than a feather when it's your turn? (And can you explain what that means?)
A. Ohhhhh, good question! In the book, Anubis explains the weighing of the heart test – a ceremony the ancient Egyptians believed happened to everyone after death. Your heart was weighed against ma’at, the Feather of Truth, which represented order and goodness. Anubis weighed the heart on a scale and if you lived by ma’at and were good, the heart would weigh less than the Feather of Truth. If your heart was heavy with evil-doing, it would weigh more than ma’at, which was bad news. In that case, Anubis tossed your evil, black heart to a crocodile-headed monster who ate it up, forever banishing you from eternal life.
     As for me, I hope my heart would be light enough to pass the test! But only Anubis could say, right? ;-)

Q. You're a docent at the Carlos Museum in Atlanta, so you're passionate about all things Egyptian, Roman, and Greek. How did this passion begin?
A. I have always loved everything about the ancient world. As a kid, I dreamed of being an archaeologist. There was always such a strong pull for me toward ancient civilizations—their sense of “otherness” yet “sameness” was endlessly intriguing. I guess we love what we love!

Q. How did you start writing about it all? (I know the story, but my readers don't!)
A. Years ago, when Oliver Stone was making a movie on Alexander the Great (called “Alexander”—don’t bother to watch it, it’s terrible), my brother got a contract to write a funny, bawdy book about Alexander as a gay icon. I ended up doing a great deal of the factual research for the book and helped my brother write it. But during the research process, I started sharing stories with my kids about some of the wild and fascinating things Alexander did while conquering the world. They enjoyed the adventure stories, so I decided to write a kid’s book about them!

Q. You cover age ranges with Chapter Books to Young Adult - from light-hearted accountings to epic adventures. (CLEOPATRA'S MOON was Vicky's first YA novel.) How do those genres challenge you?
A. I guess the better question is how do they NOT challenge me. For the mid-grade audience, the challenge is to relay factual, historical information in a way that captures and sustains the younger reader’s attention. For YA, the challenge is keeping the story emotionally relevant to the modern teen reader.
     On my YA manuscript, occasionally, I got little notes from my editor that would say, “this section on what gladiators ate, (for example) while fascinating, is slowing down the action, so I recommend we cut it.” It’s very easy to get caught up in the minutiae of fascinating historical detail, but you have to be ruthless in cutting it out if it’s distracting from the story itself. Thank the gods editors are there to help us along with these things!

Q. I know you have a new YA coming out soon too - can you share a little about it?
A. Curses and Smoke: A Novel of Pompeii tells the story of two teens who fall in love—Tag, a medical slave in a gladiatorial school, and Lucia, the daughter of the school’s owner. It’s the story of their struggles to fight the limitations society placed on them during the weeks leading up to the explosion of Mt. Vesuvius. Then it becomes the story of their desperate struggle to escape in the hours before the mountain destroys the city. It comes out in June and is published by Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic and was edited by Cheryl Klein.

Q. Any last words of advice for budding writers? Maybe from Anubis himself?
A. Forget about writing what you know—write about what you love! Channel your passion into your writing. As far as advice from Anubis goes, I imagine he would just have one piece of advice for writers….
      JUST DO IT!
      After all, you wouldn’t want your heart to get too heavy with regret and recriminations. Also, keep in mind that it is never too late. My first mid-grade book got published when I was forty-five and my first novel came out when I was fifty! So Anubis says, “keep going for it!”

Q. Thanks Vicky!!!

Vicky has kindly agreed to send a free, signed/dedicated copy of ANUBIS SPEAKS to one of my lucky commenters. (Must live in the continental US to win.) Enter below.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday Linky List

PiBoIDMo Day 14: Zachariah OHora (of NO FITS, NILSON!) Pimps His Characters - hilarious!

Matt de la Peña: Sometimes The 'Tough Tenn' Is Quietly Writing Stories. You MUST read this article - chill bumps! "Even in the harshest and ugliest of circumstances, there's still hope."

NaNoWriMo: Punctuation Tips from SwissMiss.

Charlotte Zolotow, Whose Books Tackled Children's Real-life Issues, Dies at 98 - The New Yorker. She is also the namesake of one of the most highly respected awards for children's book writing in the industry.

Junie B. Jones Creator Barbara Park Dies at 66 - from PW

Grandma, what a long history you have! The origins of "Little Red Red Riding Hood" at Salon - "New research suggests the famous children's story can be traced back to the 11th century.

Connecticut Students Sign ALA's Declaration for Rights to Libraries - from School Library Journal.

Cynthia Kadohata won the National Book Award for her book The Thing About Luck from Publisher's Weekly.

Author/illustrator Robert J. Blake won the Keystone to Reading Book Award for his picture book Painter and Ugly. He couldn't be on location to accept the prize, so made a video from his new home in Paris, France and walks the viewer through his process for the winning book. It's worth a watch! (Click through to my blog if you can't see it below.)

THE EIGHTH MENORAH by Lauren L Wohl and illustrated Laura Hughes - GIVEAWAY!

THE EIGHTH MENORAH written by Lauren L. Wohl and illustrated by Laura Hughes is a perfect book to read this Hanukkah...
"Hanukkah is a few weeks away, and Sam can't wait to celebrate with his family, especially his grandma. At Sunday school, everyone in his class is busy making clay menorahs to give as Hanukkah gifts! Sam likes how his menorah is turning out, but he’s worried—his family already has seven menorahs! Will they want another one?" (Ages 4-7)
     Just like for Sam, Hanukkah is just a week away, coinciding with Thanksgiving for the first time in almost 100 years! Happily, both Lauren and Laura stopped by to talk about that and their latest book.

Q. Lauren, Do you have a collection of menorahs in your family like Sam's family does? Is that how you got the idea for the story?
A. We didn’t have a collection of menorahs; we used the same one each year. I loved the familiarity of it when my mother took it out a few days before the holiday, polished it, and set it on the table waiting for the first night.
      When I met my husband, I saw that his family had a few menorahs, one that looked old. I knew it had a story. When his grandmother told me that story, I was hooked. Menorahs were important in every family. It’s that realization that was the seed for THE EIGHTH MENORAH.

Q. Lauren, I love that Sam is worried his family won't need his menorah - so sweet! Do you have a menorah that means more to you than others?
A. We have three menorahs. One is the remnants of the clay menorah our son made in Hebrew School. It’s dried out over the years and is in two big pieces. We don’t use it, but we’ll always keep it. Another is the menorah my husband and I bought when we first got married. And the third – the one we use – is one we bought when we moved to our home in Miami.

Q. Laura, you have such a fun, energetic illustration style. What is your medium?
A. Thank you! I use lots of different things depending on the project but for the 8th Menorah it's a mixture of paint, pencil and a little collage work with the textures.

Q. You've both been around children's books for a long time now. What were your paths to publication?
Lauren: I’ve been on one side of the children’s book publishing industry or another for all of my working life – mostly in marketing. You’d think this would make it easy to get a book published. But it really doesn’t work that way. I follow the advice I give to everyone who wants to get published: I have a terrific literary agent, and he submits the work, follows up, and makes things happen.
Laura:I studied Illustration at university and when I graduated I worked freelance on my own for a little while - mainly creating artwork for magazines. I was picked up by my agents (The Bright Agency) about 4 years ago now, and they got me my first publishing job with Oxford University Press, a UK publisher.

Q. Do the two of you feel there are enough Jewish-themed books available for children?
Lauren: I think there’s room for more and new titles – to keep the variety fresh.
Laura: The UK really lacks a decent offering of Jewish-themed books, both religious and those featuring Jewish characters. It would be great to see that addressed here. I think publishers in the US have a great deal more to offer in that respect.

Q. What do you think of Hanukkah falling around Thanksgiving this year? Will there be much feasting at your houses?
Lauren: We will celebrate with close friends. Two weeks later, we will be visiting our son and his family for our grandson’s fourth birthday. And we will celebrate all over again! Our grandson was born during Hanukkah, so the holiday that has always felt close to us is even more personal now.

Q. Lauren and Laura, do you have any words of wisdom for my readers who want to tell their own stories and get published someday?
Lauren: I’ll share the words a friend of mine – an much-award children’s novelist – told me Writers write. That’s my advice, too. Don’t talk away your stories: write them! Then re-write them.
Laura: Keep at it! The best way to break into the market is to become really good at what you do so make sure you practice as much as possible. I always try and draw something everyday no matter how quick.

Thanks so much for dropping by Lauren and Laura! And HAPPY HANNUKKAH!
Lauren: Thank you! Happy Hanukkah to you!


Albert Whitman has kindly agreed to send an autographed copy of THE EIGHTH MENORAH to one of my lucky commenters. Must live in the US or Canada to win. Enter below.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Book Signing at B&N Cumming, Georgia this Friday!!

Calling all Book Lovers! Barnes & Noble at The Collections in Forsyth is having a Mega-Author Affair on 11/22 from 6:30 to 8:30pm. Panels, costume and trivia contests, all kinds of fun things. Yours truly will be there, along with Alex Hughes (cool sci fi procedurals), Delilah S Dawson (wicked steampunk romances), James R Tuck (action-packed urban fantasy), and Janice Hardy (awesome fantasy).

I've been tagged - 9 things you didn't know about me...

There's this thing going on around Facebook - friends are tagging each other to share little known life facts. Lynn Cullen (Mrs. Poe) tagged me, and it took some time to write out 9 things. So I figured I'd share them here too:

1. I want to live in Europe someday soon—France preferably. I'm a total francophile and was an exchange student in Paris. I want to go back - for a loooonnnnnggggg time.

2. I'm a workaholic. Okay, that's probably no secret. I usually have a ton of projects going on at any given time, both paid and spec. I could actually use a vacation.

3. I live most of my days in yoga pants and slippers. Going out means getting 'dressed' which is annoying. So I buy tons of black turtle necks, just like Steve Jobs, so that I can throw on clothes easily and not have to think about it too much.

4. I love brussels sprouts.

5. The more I write, the more I feel I might someday put my illustrating aside. That writing muse is one demanding goddess! And the more I get into writing novels (I've sold one, have one in a drawer, and am currently revising a third), the more tempting the writing gets.

6. I am not afraid of dying, but I do feel my finiteness. It's why I work so hard - I want to completely use up this time I have on earth. And when I do finally go, I want to go with a smile on my face and bugs in my teeth.

7. Lately, I've been walking five miles a day, which is a miracle considering I spent two years in a boot with a cane, barely able to walk at all. (Severe, chronic plantar fasciitis which I had surgery for.)

8. My friends are my lifeline - they keep me sane. And with FB and social media, I feel love from all over the world. How awesome is that!? I hope I do a good job of spreading the fuzzies right back.

9. My dog Bernie is in most of my books because they started selling when I included him. He's my baby. My cat, however, is only in one book because she likes to walk all over us at all hours of the night. *Pthwffftttt* She's sweet, but she drives me crazy.

John C. Campbell Folk School - openings for "Creating Picture Books"

There are some last-minute openings available in my "Creating Picture Books" class at John C. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown, North Carolina, December 4th - 7th: CLICK HERE FOR DETAILS. This will be an INTENSE nuts and bolts of creating picture books. You will learn TONS. Wanna come?
You can read about past classes here:
2012 class
2011 class
2009 class
2008 class
The view from our writing studio:

Coloring Page Tuesday - Reading Raccoons!

     Do you love a good mystery? I'm thinking that 'Who dunnits' are a favorite genre of raccoons (the masked marauders of the night). Do you agree?
     CLICK HERE for more coloring pages including more seasonal images! And be sure to share your creations in my gallery so I can put them in my upcoming newsletters! (I NEED MORE!!!!) (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 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.

119. JOHN GREEN: Make gifts for people by Gavin Aung Than

Gavin Aung Than of Zen Pencils is taking profound quotes from famous authors and turning them into lovely graphics like this one from John Green. You've got to go see the whole thing! Click the image above or: 119. JOHN GREEN: Make gifts for people

The Bear and the Hare

Holy mackerel!! The making of this UK department store ad will blow you away. Especially if you're an art student of any sort. This one production employs almost every form of animation you can imagine - combined. Really amazing.

John Lewis 'The Bear & The Hare' - The Making Of from Blink.
Click the image below to see the video on vimeo.

Here's the ad (grab a tissue):

Thanks to Colossal for the heads up.

45 Great American Indie Bookstores!

Wondering where to do your holiday shopping? Check out this great listing of 45 Great American Indie Bookstores! at flavorwire. Not only is it a great start for shopping, it makes a great map for a book tour! (Yes, please!) And it includes Atlanta's A Cappella Books!
Thanks to Shelf Awareness for the heads up!

Friday Linky List

Picture Book Month: "Ask the Education Consultant" Blog Hop - great idea!!!

PW has announced the Best Children's Books of 2013.

The First Lie... (Seth Godin) "is that you're going to need far more talent than you were born with."

Interview with Arnol Lobel at Jon Klassen's Burst of Beaden.

Promoting 'The Book Thief' with Help from Little Free Library: "The partnership marks the first time that Little Free Library, which has more than 12,000 “take a book, return a book” mini neighborhood libraries in 54 countries, has partnered with a major motion picture company."

Beethoven's Ninth on a Toolbox Glockenspiel built by Tom Kaufmann. At The Kid Should See This. Surprisingly lovely.

15 Kids' Books That Are Better Than the Movie. I would agree with this.

Book here! 14 beautiful hotels inspired by literature. From CNN Travel.

THINK - Is it True, is it Helpful, is it Inspiring, is it Necessary, is it Kind. At SwissMiss.

Judge Chin Finds Google's Book Scanning Is Fair Use at Publishers Lunch.

Kelley Milner Halls, Kelley's Curiosities: Cat's Got Your Town.

How Gardening Enables Interdisciplinary Learning. What an incredible kid!

Third Annual Picture Book Month is in Full Swing - School Library Journal

Best Audiobooks: 20 Must-Have Titles for Tweens and Teens from School Library Journal


My friend Loreen Leedy has created the perfect picture book to read before Thanksgiving. Based around the well-known story of "Jack and the Beanstalk," in this story, the Giant doesn't want to eat Jack, but eat with Jack. And he doesn't want to eat just anything, he wants a healthy meal.
     In today's fast food environment where many kids can't even identify a range of fruits and vegetables, this is an important book imparting proper nutrition in a fun format. I'm lucky to have Loreen here today to talk about JACK & THE HUNGRY GIANT.

Q. Loreen, as a nutrition fan myself, I am so excited about this book! How did the idea come to you?
A. I originally had the idea to do a picture book about the USDA Food Guide Pyramid in the early 1990s when the colorful graphic was appearing on the packaging of so many foods in the grocery store. The Edible Pyramid: Healthy Eating Every Day came out in 1994 and has been a consistent seller ever since. So, the day the MyPlate program was announced, my editor emailed to ask if I wanted to do a new book about it. Since MyPlate was replacing the Pyramid, it took me about 5 seconds to decide!

Q. I wonder if you're familiar with Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution? It's shocking how much our childrens' diets have changed over the years, turning into yellow, unidentifiable, fried things. Is this a soapbox for you?
A. Don't get me started...our entire food production system has been drastically altered in only two or three generations. Instead of eating locally grown whole foods, people consume highly processed factory products. There is so much conflicting information about what is actually healthy to eat that it can be daunting to figure it all out. One approach is to eat fresh foods cooked from scratch and avoid the boxes of stuff with long lists of often-questionable ingredients.

Q. The story must have required a good bit of research, yes?
A. My aim with Jack & the Hungry Giant was to present the basics of the MyPlate program, so the research was primarily on the http://www.choosemyplate.gov/ site. Plus doing Google image searches for photo reference!

Q. I love the simple/collage illustration style you used for this book. How did you do it?
A. Visually, I wanted the images of the vegetables, fruits, and other foods to be as large as possible on the page. So, the main character needed to be small in comparison. That was the inspiration for using the story of Jack and the Beanstalk then turning the giant into a chef. The somewhat-rough-edged line work was drawn in Painter, then the digital painting was done in Photoshop using the "bristle" brushes. There are some photographic textures here and there, also.

Q. As important as this topic is, it seems to be a new one to the children's book scene. (And one that I'm helping with myself in a line of books for Children's Healthcare of Atlanta about nutrition.) Are you once again at the front of a trend, do you think?
A. I certainly hope that parents and teachers will make food education a priority, as the Jamie Oliver site advocates. Over 2,000 people have downloaded the activity that goes with my book, so that's encouraging!

Q. How are you celebrating the release of JACK & THE HUNGRY GIANT and how can teachers use the book in their classrooms?
A. So far, the book has been in two giveaways which had over 1,000 entries.

• My "Eating MyPlate" board on Pinterest has over 250 pins of fun healthy foods for kids (not sugary stuff) and other resources. It has over 1,500 followers so that's been a fun way to spread the word.

• I wrote this blog post about how to use the book to meet Common Core State Standards.

Here is the link to the FREE printable that goes with the book: I Can Fill Up My Plate!

Q. Finally, what are you going to eat for Thanksgiving this year?
A. We'll have our extended family over at our house as usual for roast turkey and all the trimmings, including my husband Andy's famous cranberry sauce. Here is the recipe.

Thanks so much for stopping by!!!!
Thank you for interviewing me and I wish your readers a very Happy Thanksgiving Day!

The kind folks at Holiday House have agreed to send a free copy of JACK & THE HUNGRY GIANT to one of my lucky commenters. (Must live in the US/Canada to win.) Sign up below.
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