Coloring Page Tuesday - Happy New Year!

     Happy New Year! Have you made your resolutions? I hope 2014 is filled with good health, much success, and extreme happiness for you and your loved ones!

     CLICK HERE for more Christmas coloring pages to share with your loved ones tomorrow! 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 - I love scribbly kids art too!)
     Sign up to receive alerts when a new coloring page is posted each week and... Please check out my books! Especially...

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 photos are in!

Here's a new me for the new year! And for that 8-year-old at a recent school visit who didn't think I looked like the person on my jacketflap since my hair has, *ahem*, changed color... the photo shoot was a success!
     My bud, Vicky Alvear Shecter showed up and kept me in smiles during that incredibly awkward event of having my picture taken. Gads, I hate having my picture taken!
     But Vania Stoyanova of VLC Productions made it easy. She took over a hundred photos of me - about 18 of which were completely usable, which was a surprise. Usually photos of me are mid-wacky-expression. (I get quite animated when I'm 'on.') It can take an entire roll to get one photo I can share. Goes to prove how good Vania is.
     I narrowed my choices down to three photos to give folks options to use for my speaking engagements. The humble shot (my fave), the 'I know what I'm talking about' shot, the 'no really, I know what I'm talking about - and I'm friendly too' shot. And here they are! One is perfect for jacketflaps, and the others will work for conferences, festivals, and teaching gigs. I'm so pleased. Vania made me look like a real writer! Don't cha think?
     If you live in the Atlanta area and are also in need of author photos - I can't recommend Vania enough! And she also does book trailers, social media strategy, and helps market new books! She's a good person to know!

Hellzapoppin' (1941) - Extreme Swing

I LOVE swing - even took lessons years back and performed on an actual stage once. But I have NEVER seen swing like this by the Whiteys Lindy Hoppers! Will this get you in the mood to go out Tuesday night?

Click the image to go to the blog post if the actual video doesn't come through your RSS feed.
Thanks to The Kid Should See This for the heads up.

HANK HAS AN EGG by Rebecca Dudley - GIVEAWAY!

Some of my favorite books when I was a child had 3-dimensional, photographed artwork. You don't see that many these days, mostly (I think) because they are so much work! HANK FINDS AN EGG by Rebecca Dudley is no exception. And this sweet story, so sculpturally done, is taking the kidlit world by storm. Rebecca stopped by to talk about her new book.

Q. Rebecca, How did you get into building three dimensional stories? (And is there a more technically appropriate term for what you do?)
A. Ha! I would love to find a term that describes what I do! I am a model maker, doll artist, sculptor, photographer and story-maker.

Q. What was your path to publication?
A. My husband and I lived in Seattle for six years and we loved the Maurice Sendak version of The Nutcracker performed by the Pacific Northwest Ballet. Our first Christmas back in Chicago John was really missing Seattle so I staged The Nutcracker for him with my stuffed animals. I guess that was the beginning of my adult work with miniature scenery.
      But I am an architect and I have always loved making models. In 2003 I started building and photographing dioramas to make calendars for my friends and family. I built the scenes on my dining room table. In 2004 I let the scenery take over my architecture studio and by 2007 I had a story, made a mock up of a book and I had a great meeting with an editor at a big publishing house. For about three years I tried to edit the story to please that editor but we didn't seem to have the same vision for my work. After those three years I had so much pent up energy for making new stories I felt like I was going to burst. I started my blog, made two self-published books and found my current publisher.

Q. How did this sweet story come to you? (Hank especially.)
A. I was given the book 'The Wild Swans' by Kihachiro Kawamoto and Tadasu Lizawa when I was very little and I really studied the figures they made for their scenes. All the dolls’ faces were made from a fine knitted fabric. I am sure that was where I got the idea for Hank's face.
      Hank is one part early 20th century cartoons and one part my father. Hank and my dad share an unselfconscious curiosity about the world.
      I build stories based on a single image I have in my mind. In the case of ‘Hank Finds an Egg’ the story began as soon as I made Hank and I knew I wanted to give him something small to care for. I imagined him holding an egg. The story grew around this single image. I have found that one strong image, inspired by a character, is all I need to begin a story.

Q. I have to know - did you cut out every single leaf for that forest floor? How much time did it take to set up these scenes?
A. Building the scenery is the most time consuming part. It takes a few weeks. It takes less time now than it used to because I keep all my scenery; Once I make a tree, I never have to build that tree again. I move branches around, but the hard part is done and I can use it over and over again. I have a huge miniature tree collection. Setting the scene up goes pretty quickly and can be done in a few days.

Q. Can you share a little more about your method?
A. For me it is all about working with a character I am excited to spend time with. The great thing about working with a character that actually exists, physically, is that you can literally spend time with them, happily oblivious to what may evolve into a story. You can get to know them just by being around them. I was so pleased with the way Hank turned out that I had him accompany me around my house. I saw the way light affected him. Hank, on a sunny day looked so different from how he looked on a cloudy day. When it rained I noticed he is not a run-outside-in-the-rain kind of character, rather he is a lets-look-at-the-rain-through-the-window kind of character.

Q. Is this your first trade picture book?
A. Yes. I made two self-published books previously, just to prove that my work could be a book. The gutter always poses a problem in photographic books. Do you let the image bleed to the gutter? Can you have a facing image that also bleeds to the gutter? When does this create visual confusion? I made the self-published books to prove that the “gutter problem” was not an insurmountable obstacle.

Q. Did I read that you will be teaching folks how to build dioramas?
A. I do craft events at libraries. I love helping children make their own scenes. I thought it would be great to show pictures of the kids making dioramas on a blog. But it is hard to get everyone to agree to have their pictures, or even their dioramas, shown on the web. I understand the need for privacy but I still take pictures so kids can see the finished result is not always a beautiful diorama; Sometimes the final result is a beautiful picture. You can almost always find a beautiful moment in a diorama that a child has given up on. They get really excited to see how their vision can be realized with light and photography.

Q. How else are you celebrating the release of HANK FINDS AN EGG?
A. I had a big party for all the people who helped me with the book last summer. I feel so lucky to have great friends who help me with compositions and graphics and story structure. And making book #2 is a celebration as well. I learned so much while making book #1 and it is great to put these lessons to use book #2. I cannot think of a better way to celebrate than to make another book!

I can't wait to see it! Thanks so much for stopping by, Rebecca!!

Rebecca has kindly agreed to give one free, signed copy of HANK FINDS AN EGG to one of my lucky commenters. (Must live in the US or Canada to win.) Enter below!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Happy Kwanzaa!!

Kwanzaa begins today and runs through Wednesday, January 1st. And my friend, R. Gregory Christie has a special reason to celebrate it this year. He created a Kwanzaa stamp for the US Post Office!!! Isn't it gorgeous!
     Go visit Greg at and see all his award-winning books (Coretta Scott King award-winners) and the cool things he's doing for the community!

Merry Christmas!

I wish you and your family the very best this Christmas. If the kiddies get bored, rush to my Coloring Pages and download some holiday cheer!

Coloring Page Tuesday - Decorating the Christmas Tree

A special edition of Coloring Page Tuesdays and e's news went out today with my Christmas wish for you. CLICK HERE to go see.
     'Twas the night before Christmas and all through the woods, critters scurried about trimming trees and lighting the stars...
     Dear Readers, Thank you for your kind support, comments, and emails in 2013 - I love hearing from you! And I'm working hard to bring you new and interesting coloring pages, giveaways, and BOOKS in 2014. I hope my work continues to be something you value - just as I value you!
     CLICK HERE for more Christmas coloring pages to share with your loved ones tomorrow! 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 - I love scribbly 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.

Good tidings...

I love the holiday season and this year some happenings have made it extra special. Yesterday my cousins (and children to my cousins) gathered for our annual cookie decorating party - mostly a slimy, sugar fest. Although the kids are starting to get older and a little more careful with where the frosting flies.

     At the pool, I swim with a baritone singer who adores the acoustics in the pool room. And we adore hearing him sing Christmas carols as we come up for air. Makes me smile.
     For Christmas Eve we'll be celebrating the Feast of the Seven Fishes with our friends and neighbors. This is a fairly new tradition (as of last year) and we are enjoying it thoroughly! A bit of Italian tradition thrown in with our own!
     And Christmas Day will be a gathering of family and gifts galore for the youngest ones (and the fuzzies). Not a bad holiday! I hope you and yours have a lovely one to!!

Most Popular Book from Each State Map

This is so cool! It's a map of the US showing the most popular book from each state at Business Insider. Georgia claims GONE WITH THE WIND of course. How about your state - did they get it right?
Click on the image to get a better look.
Thanks to Nathan Bransford for the heads up!

Awesome last minute Christmas Gifts for the Writer in your life

Here's the PERFECT gift for the writer in your life... AquaNotes!

Put away the china marker or lipstick you've been using to write on your shower walls. AquaNotes has you covered - and they're not that expensive!
Thanks to Tara Lazar for the heads up!

Fingerless Alpaca gloves from The Animal Rescue Site. For all those days when you have to keep typing, but your office is COLD. This particular mitt is currently out of stock, but these are the ideal to shoot for if you search elsewhere for fingerless gloves.

Sound blocking headphones. If you're workspace is like mine (in my home), you probably hate the sound of weed eaters. Arghhhhh! How is a writer supposed to concentrate with all that high-pitched whirring going on??? Many companies make earphones like this, and there's now a new earbud style, but Bose is your starting point...

Alpaca Socks (these are from Alpaca Mall). These are much softer than bunny slippers. Have you discovered the joy of writing in Alpaca socks yet? Ahhhhhh!!!

A coffee/tea/hot chocolate cup warmer. This one plugs right into your USB port! (The regular plug-in kind is cheap and you can buy them anywhere.) Because no writer wants to interrupt their creative flow by having to go heat up their cup o' Joe!

A fuzzy throw blanket. Joy doesn't come cheaper than this. Fuzzy throws are great for curling up with while writing or reading a good book. These fuzzies from Target are an easy gift! (Fun solid colors are available HERE.)

So, if you have a writer in your life in need of a last-minute gift, I hope these give you some ideas!

Friday Linky List

Virtual 3D Sculpting App - obviously the technology has a long way to go - but what a start!!! Thanks to SwissMiss for the heads up.

Document: The Symbolism Survey (via PW Children's Bookshelf). "In 1963, a sixteen-year-old San Diego high school student named Bruce McAllister sent a four-question mimeographed survey to 150 well-known authors of literary, commercial, and science fiction...Sixty-five of those responses survive..."

The Magic of Metaphor: What Children's Minds Teach Us About the Evolution of the Imagination at Brain Pickings.

Literary Feuds of 2013 by Page-Turner of The New Yorker

Behind the Books: 10 Ways Authors Can Help Educators from Melissa Stewart at Celebrate Science

"If you want your hopes and dreams to be more than just hopes and dreams, than you need to do a lot more than just hoping and dreaming." - Cale Atkinson

The Muddy Puddles Project - Inspired by Ty Campbell who passed away from pediatric cancer at age 5.

Okay, this has nothing to do with writing, but I don't know a woman alive who isn't interested: "6 Foods That Fight Off Belly Bloat" - especially important at this time of year! :)

Head over to Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast to read the best rejection letter evah! received by Jon Agee back in 1981.

Some History of YA Novels at writerjenn. Fascinating!!

How To Write Your First Book at BuzzFeed - Twenty-one successful authors — including Junot Díaz, Charlaine Harris, Dean Koontz, and George Saunders — tell how they overcame writer’s block, completed, and sold their debut titles.
(The last two links are from Nathan Bransford's blog - do you follow him?)

THE SMALLEST GIFT OF CHRISTMAS by Peter Reynolds - Giveaway!

I have a treat for you today, lucky readers!!! The wonderful creator of such books as THE DOT and ISH, Peter Reynolds is here to talk about his newest creation THE SMALLEST GIFT OF CHRISTMAS!

Q. Peter, you have become the master of simplicity and defining ambiguous ideas. Is that just the way you think?
A. Yes. I could expound, but less is more.

Q. You do it again in THE SMALLEST GIFT OF CHRISTMAS by dealing with size, how our value of things can change depending on how we look at them. How long does it take you to noodle out such a lofty idea?
A. The initial idea strikes like lightning and it is almost an emergency situation to find pen to put to paper some fragment of that idea to preserve it. It may be months or years before I return to begin the "taffy pull." That is the process of stretching the concept out into a timeline — making room for a setting, characters and, most important, the "knot" to be untied.
Photo credit: Gretje Ferguson.

Q. And how do the ideas come to you? Are you a seeker of the ambiguous and amorphous?
A. I have "story radar" built into my brain. The alert sounds during conversations or times of reflection. I may also misread or mishear something and end up liking the idea. I most enjoy looking for universal ideas worth sharing in new ways. What inspires me is being the voice for those who might not have found theirs yet. I want my readers to hear me saying, "Ignore the labels and the experts (unless it brings you joy and seems to be working), and bravely make your voice heard and envision your own path." The Dot, Ish, Sky Color, and The North Star were inspired by that mission.

Q. I think every child wishes for THE BIGGEST present. Did you when you were young?
A. I'm guessing it was a Christmas morning in 1968, when I raced to the tree to find my gifts and saw an enormous gift beside the tree. My heart leapt with joy. Then I read the tag. It was not for me! It was for... gasp... my little sister, Renie. Wanting that big gift threw me for a loop on what should have been a magical morning for a wee lad. By the way, turned out to be a 3-dollar sled my dad had bought. That is the sort of thing dads do trying to be helpful, not realizing the art and science of gift distribution to a gaggle of kids. I ended up quite happy with my own gift — a set of 24 Scottish jams in tiny jars that actually became one of my most treasured gifts ever. It took a year before I finished up the last little jar of gooseberry jam.

Q. We never find out what's in the box - any hints?
A. It's a pair of Christmas socks. The kind with red and green lights and a music box built in. Painful to walk on, but very festive.
      I'm kidding. Isn't it better to leave to your imagination? I do have a thought, but I will wait until 2023 for the 10th anniversary of The Smallest Gift of Christmas.  

Q. I love the way the story ends—its a satisfying reminder of what's important in life. How do you work out a story arc?
A. I'm glad you liked it. It actually ends quietly, without a lot of fanfare. I wanted to make a point that after a rocket-fueled adventure, the simplicity of just being with your family is actually more powerful. My method of arc building is to "film" the story in my head. My imagination fuses with logic to create a satisfying story that makes sense. 

Q. This book looks like a different illustration method for you, yes? How did you do it?
A. I love my crow quill, ink, and watercolor on paper, but I am not locked into one set of tools. It is refreshing to try new ways of expressing myself. My other hat in life is being co-founder of FableVision, — a transmedia studio. We do quite a bit of animation using digital tools. I used Adobe Flash to create this book because it’s an environment I feel very comfy creating in.  I am working on developing this into an animated holiday special tentatively renamed as "ROLAND & THE CHRISTMAS ROCKET."

Q. Can you share your path to publication?
A. Karen Lotz at Candlewick actually dreamed up the title "The Smallest Gift of Christmas," initially imagining a very small trim size. They asked me if I would consider creating a Christmas book with this title. After mulling for a month, I was ready to say “no.” I felt that there were plenty of Christmas books out there — and owning a bookshop myself (, I had seen some mighty fine ones — but also many that started looking the same. I did not want to add to that pile. When I told my wife it was a “no go,” she was upset that I was missing an opportunity to give the season my take and twist. I was upset that she was upset. And that frustration was the inspiration. Here I was: a lucky soul who makes children's books, feeling all out of sorts — like a small child with "great expectations" on Christmas morning, dashed with the "smallest gift" under the tree!   

Q. Any words of wisdom for those hoping to create their own DOTs and ISHs in life?
A. Dream. Listen. Play. Write. Draw. Share. Repeat. 

Thanks so much for stopping by!
Thanks, Elizabeth for inviting me over for a cup of cocoa and a great chat. By the way, nice Christmas socks you're wearing! [e: How did you know!?]
      Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and a Happy New Year to you and your readers. 

Candlewick has kindly agreed to send one free copy of THE SMALLEST GIFT OF CHRISTMAS to one of my lucky commenters. (Must live in the US or Canada to win.) Enter below!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Photo Shoot Time!

So yesterday I had a photo shoot with Vania of VLC Productions down around the lake in Avondale Estates. It was time. At one of my last school visits, we got to the bio page and a sweet, darling, precious little boy said, "Is that supposed to be you? It doesn't look like you!" Grrrr.
     Okay, fine. So my hair wasn't as gray back then. Pah! I think it looked like me! But of course, in my head I haven't aged. And my publisher needs a photo for the print version of A BIRD ON WATER STREET (May release). They would have been okay with an older photo, but I'm not the sort of author who wants to stay 30 on my jacketflap through the end of time, so - photo shoot time.
     Enter Vania. She's becoming THE PR kit person in the south for PB, MG, and YA creators. She made the photo shoot easy, even though I hate having my picture taken. It's so awkward. But it happens a lot in this biz, so you learn a few tricks. You know... Butt away from the camera, head forward, the lower you are in front of the lense - the less chin. (People often ask, "Why are you leaning forward" when I pose with them in photos. I'm like, 'trust me.')
     And my bud Vicky Alvear Shecter dropped by to tell jokes while I was striking a pose. So the smiles are real.
     I think we might have gotten some decent ones. I'll share when I can.

Coloring Page Tuesday - Reindeer!

     The reindeer are well-rested and have been practicing their flying. They're nearly ready to carry Santa's sleigh! How about you - are you ready for Santa?
     CLICK HERE for more Christmas coloring pages! 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.

A writer's dream-week!

This week I enjoyed two writing treats... Jerry Pinkney dropped by the Central Library in downtown Atlanta and our SCBWI chapter (Southern Breeze - Alabama, Georgia, and the Florida panhandle) threw him a small reception afterwards. Busloads of kids came in to hear him talk about his childhood and creative influences. What a gracious and charming man!
     Then Saturday night, my husband and I attended a book launch party for Jessica Handler's BRAVING THE FIRE: A GUIDE TO WRITING ABOUT GRIEF AND LOSS. Jess's first book, INVISIBLE SISTERS was a tough one to write. It was about the loss of her sisters, each to rare, completely unrelated diseases. It was an anomaly to have one such disease in a family, but to have two stumped doctors completely. Jess and I had many lunches while she worked through the anxiety of sharing her story with the world. After it was released to critical acclaim, she was asked to speak at numerous writers groups on the topic which became this, her second book, which will help many people share their own personal stories of loss in beautiful and eloquent ways.
     Add to that, the launch party was a who's who of local authors. We had such fun mingling with Joshilyn Jackson (author); Joe Davich (Georgia Center for the Book); Terra Elan McVoy (author); James Taylor (Atlanta libraries) and his wife Lynn; Daren Wang (Decatur Book Festival/author); Philip Rafshoon (DBF) and his partner; Kate Sweeney (WABE/author); and of course, Jessica and her husband, Mickey. (And I'm certain I'm forgetting others.) What a wonderful gathering of literary-minded folk there to celebrate our friend's latest success. It reminded me why I love to live where I do so much.

The Power of Empathy, Animated

Dr. Brene Brown reminds us that we can only create a genuine empathic connection if we are brave enough to really get in touch with our own fragilities.
Thanks to SwissMiss for the heads up.

Friday Linky List

StoryToolz - resources for authors. It's a text analyzer checking readability, word count, clichés, passive verbs, etc. Pretty cool.

A new book by Uri Shulevitz! reviewed by Julie Danielson at Kirkus: WHEN "NATURE'S LIGHTS GO OUT" - DUSK

Fabulous First Lines as gathered by Elizabeth Bluemle, owner of the Flying Pig bookstore in Vermont.

Mentally Strong People: The 13 Things They Avoid at Forbes via SwissMiss

The Gingerbread Man's Top 5 Writing Tips by Darcy Pattison via Cynsations. Great writing advice for the holiday season!

On Being a Real _______ by Cheryl Klein at Chavelaque via Susan Rosson Spain on FB.

How Much Money Do Self-Published Authors Make? from Forbes via PW

Mongolian Author Rides Camel to Bring Children Closer to Books at The Indian Express. Another cute photo on twitter here.

A CHILD'S CHRISTMAS IN WALES, illustrated by Chris Raschka - GIVEAWAY!

Some writers give us words that taste like candy when we read them aloud. Such is the case with A CHILD'S CHRISTMAS IN WALES by Dylan Thomas, originally recorded for radio in 1952, and newly released this year as a picture book with glorious illustrations by Chris Raschka.
     Every writer needs to read this book to elevate their expectations of the written word. And every child needs this book read to them (even if they don't understand all the imagery). In fact, my hope is that reading A CHILD'S CHRISTMAS IN WALES will become an annual tradition, preferably by a fire with a hot cup of cocoa, while wearing flannel pajamas.
     The story hearkens back to a time of gas lanterns and Christmas puddings, when snow blanketed everything turning a grimy world to white. While they may not have been the most perfect times--when socks were worn as mittens, and bullying was as common as breathing--the memory of those times certainly can be perfect.
     But you must read this book slowly so you can soak in the illustrations by Chris Raschka--wonderfully complicated in a Grandma Moses sort of way that makes you want to stare and stare and stare...
     I'm thrilled to have Chris here today to answer some questions about his latest book...

Chris, welcome, welcome! I remember when we were on a panel together at one of the first Decatur Book Festivals and I've been a fan ever since. So glad to have you here!

Q. A CHILD'S CHRISTMAS IN WALES by Dylan Thomas has been around for a long time. What made you decide to take it on?
A. The idea came from Elizabeth Bicknell the editor at Candlewick. We had just completed our first book together, A Poke in the I, and perhaps she was looking for another project we could work on together. A Child's Christmas In Wales was approaching its fiftieth anniversary, so she thought the time was ripe, even though there are a large number of illustrated editions. I knew the recording, not as well as Liz, but enough for me to be eager about doing it.

Q. You're known for your wonderfully simple (looking) watercolor illustrations like in A BALL FOR DAISY (2012 Caldecott winner), but the images in A CHILD'S CHRISTMAS IN WALES are delightfully complicated with so much to look at. How did you approach the artwork for this book?
A. Well, it seemed to me that the imagery and story telling of the piece were like bright fleeting fragments of thought and memory. So in making the art I tried to approximate this as well. Here's what I would do. I would read the text straight through and then simply paint in heavy ink brush strokes whatever came to mind afterwards, whatever I could remember of the text, onto a great variety of kinds of paper I had lying on my large table. I tried to do it all in a continuous swoosh of art-making until the afternoon was over. Then the next day I repeated the process—reading the whole text and painting whatever I could remember of it. After I had a stack of loose brush paintings on my table, I studied them one by one, sometimes not even being able to tell what I had been trying to illustrate. But with some I could tell, and these I developed further with watercolor and finally with touches of body color—gouache in white or pale yellow. Some of the papers I used were very absorbent making the black ink run and blur. Others weren't absorbent at all and the ink skipped over the surface. Either way I tried to make sense out of the black with added color. Once I had a stack of these paintings I began tearing them up. Finally, I placed the shreds next to text where I thought they might work.

Q. You captured the feeling and mood of the time so well. Did you do a lot of research?
A. My first thought was that this project was begging me to make a trip to Wales, and perhaps it was. However, my son was small at the time, and in school, and I didn't want to go without my family, so it was not to be. Instead, I spent a good bit of time browsing in the picture collection at the New York Public Library. However, this too, I eventually gave up. I decided instead to for the most part try to find comparable memories from my own life to be the basis of the pictures that came out.

Q. I know that even your simple-looking images often take you a very long time to get just the way you want. Did the illustrations for A CHILD'S CHRISTMAS IN WALES present unique challenges?
A. See above. But also, I made many more pictures than ever appeared in the book. This was a challenge but a happy one.

Q. The poem was also illustrated in a picture book by Trina Schart Hyman in 1985. Did that influence your approach at all?
A. I was aware of Trina Schart Hyman's book and others, but for the most part I tried to actively be unaware of them in order to go my own way.

Q. You've been a household name for so long, but I'd love to hear how you first broke into children's books.
A. That's kind of you to say. It was like this. I was making little book dummies for a couple of years. These included Charlie Parker Played Be Bop, Yo! Yes? and Arlene Sardine. A friend of mine in an illustrators group I used to meet with once a month on the Upper West Side of Manhattan said to me, "You know, you should really send your books to Richard Jackson. He likes weird books." She did not know Richard Jackson, but did know of his book taste. I knew neither, but found Dick's address somehow, and mailed off my hand drawn dummy of Charlie P P B B to him in California. I learned later that Dick's assistant at the time fished it out of the proverbial slush pile and placed it on his desk. He wrote to me a few days later a short letter that included the lines, "I quite like your little book. Could we meet?"

Q. How long does it usually take you to do a book on average?
A. The average time is three years. Often longer though for one reason or another.

Q. Do you have any advice for those wanting to follow in your footsteps?
A. My advice is this. First and foremost, produce work, whatever that is, and keep producing new work. Secondly, gather with other like minded people. These can most easily be found through the good work of the SCBWI. Gathering them will fill in for you the information that you lack, whatever it might be. Finally, for want of a better word, you have to have faith that the work you produce will find its way and move you forward in the work you do and want to do more of.

Thanks so much for stopping by!

Candlewick has kindly agreed to give one free copy of A CHRISTMAS IN WALES to one of my lucky commenters. (Must live in the US or Canada to win.) Enter below...
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Hackschooling makes me happy: Logan LaPlante at Tedx

This kid has a better handle on life than most adults I know. He's worth your time:

(Click the image if you can't see the video in your feed.)

Coloring Page Tuesday - Round Santa!

     Christmas is coming and I love creating fun Christmas images for you to use! Here's a very round Santa! Ho-ho-ho!
     CLICK HERE for more Christmas coloring pages! 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.

My Love For You Is The Sun - Kickstarter and giveaway!

Two of my writerly friends, Julie Hedlund and Susan Eaddy (illustrator) have teamed up for a grand experiment. Their next book, MY LOVE FOR YOU IS THE SUN, is being funded through Kickstarter. In today's changing world of publishing, it's always interesting to follow ventures like these to see how they do. Julie and Susan stopped by to chat about their daring adventure.

Q: Hi Guys! So why did you decide to forego the traditional publishing process and try Kickstarter for MY LOVE FOR YOU IS THE SUN?
Susan: That would be Julie. She had the vision for this hybrid form of publishing and I was lucky enough that she invited me to come along.
Julie: I was lucky Susan agreed! Her work is perfect for this book. I didn’t forego the traditional process so much as tweak it in order to get a book that might not otherwise have been published come to fruition. If your readers want more detail then they ever thought they’d want to know, I did a five-part “Why I Am Crowdfunding My Next Picture Book” series on my blog.

Q: How did the two of you come together on this project?
Susan: We met at the 2012 Bologna Book Fair. The SCBWI booth is the hub of activity and meet -ups for members from all over the world. Sarah Towle, from Paris, was giving consultations in the booth, and I believe she met Julie that way. Sarah saw my showcase in the booth, and said,"You two need to know each other!" We shared coffee and later dinner, and a year and a half later... here we are!
Julie: Yes, we met in Bologna but then ran into each other again at the LA-SCBWI conference in 2012. It was there that I saw Susan’s book, PAPA FISH’S LULLABY. I didn’t realize it at the time, but it was that book (and how much my kids adored the illustrations) that got the gears turning in my mind about asking Susan to illustrate MY LOVE FOR YOU IS THE SUN.

Q. Julie, since entering the children's book industry, you have wowed my socks off with your marketing skills. How did that come into play on this decision?
Wow, Elizabeth! I’m blushing. Thank you so much for the compliment. I come from a business background (electronic payments and banking, believe it or not), so marketing does come a bit more naturally to me than perhaps it does for other authors and illustrators. But I think the reason I’ve had as much success as I have with it is because I am truly passionate about this business AND helping other writers in their journeys. That’s way easier to promote than a business case for a new Internet banking product!!
      Certainly the existence of my network through 12 x 12 and other children’s writing communities, SCBWI included, influenced my decision (and my publisher and agent) to pursue this particular path to publishing. Even though hitting the button on that campaign was one of the most terrifying things I’ve ever done, I was confident we’d get the funding. I just never imagined it would happen so soon!
      This is why I am such a strong proponent of writers building their networks and platforms. They are not only useful for marketing published books but can also open up all kinds of opportunities that might not otherwise be possible.

Q. Susan, you've done one sample spread for the book so far to give an idea of the finish. How did you decide which spread to mock up and tell us about your medium! (How long does it take you to create one of these fabulous pieces?)
I LOVE the verses in this book, and am so excited about them ALL. There were no bad choices here!
      It took me a few weeks to create the thumbnails for the book, and Julie and Stacey and I each weighed in about which spread would be a good start. We decided to go with the river spread, because the idea of FUZZY baby ducks being guided down the river was just too irresistible. And I knew I would have lots of fun with the Mom's wing patterns. Then it was another couple of weeks to work out a tight sketch. Lots of research during that time, what kind of ducks, what setting, time of day etc.
      Then the clay... about 5 days to lay the clay (and lots of re- doing in that process), then I photograph it, put it into Photoshop, and prepare the files. It takes about 10 days to 2 weeks for the whole process, after the sketch.
Susan's Studio:

Q: You've now met your goal for Kickstarter funding, so what's next?
Susan: Any extra funding that comes in will be used for publicity. We all know that getting a book published is just the FIRST part of the process. Getting it into the hands of readers is ongoing.
Julie: Susan is right! In addition, I’ve pledged to do one free school visit (in underfunded schools) for each $500 we raise over our target. So far, we’ve got one, but I’d love to do more!

Q: Do you both have other projects going on. Julie, tell us about 12x12 and your Italy writer's retreat. Susan, what's your latest?
Susan: My first authored Picture Book, Poppy’s Best Paper comes out in 2015 with Charlesbridge. This was not a good fit for the clay and is being illustrated by the delightful French illustrator, Rosalinde Bonnett.
      Beyond that I have many other manuscripts that I continue to polish until they are ready to be sent out into the world.
Julie: My 12 x 12 is a picture book writing challenge where authors and illustrators try to write one picture book draft per month through the year. There are lots of extras like giveaways from featured authors, the opportunity to submit to agents at the top level, and an amazing community of supportive writers. 2014 will be my third year running the challenge, and registration opens in January.
      This is my second year running the Writer’s Renaissance retreat in Florence, Italy, and it promises to be just as amazing as the first year! The retreat is less about writing volumes of material and more about filling the creative well (with all-star faculty to support that process). I only have one space left though, so if anyone’s interested they should act quickly.
      I’m also in the midst of promoting A TROOP IS A GROUP OF MONKEYS, which was recently released in print after coming out first as an app (with its companion A SHIVER OF SHARKS). I know you know all about that process Elizabeth, having hosted you when LULA’S BREW was released in print.
      Beyond that, I am absolutely itching to WRITE. My writing took a backseat this year to my myriad other activities. I don’t regret that decision because it’s been an amazing year! I just need to find a better balance between my writing and my business endeavors in 2014.

Q: How do you plan to launch MY LOVE FOR YOU IS THE SUN to the world?
Julie: That’s a great question Elizabeth! We’re not entirely sure yet, but one thing I’ve learned from running the Kickstarter campaign is how much of a difference it makes to think strategically BEFORE launching. I know that probably sounds obvious, but I did a great deal more specific planning for the campaign than I did for marketing the other books. I want to take that wisdom and apply it to planning the launch for MY LOVE FOR YOU IS THE SUN, along with Little Bahalia of course, months before the book comes out. So watch this space!

Thanks for stopping by!!

Julie and Susan have kindly agreed to offer one free copy of MY LOVE FOR YOU IS THE SUN (when it comes out) to one of my lucky commenters. Must live in the US to win. Enter below...
a Rafflecopter giveaway