Blue Ridge Observer!

Can I tell you how strange it is to have articles come out about you when you don't even know about it? Love to my friends for sharing with me!

Gals READ!

I recently received a request from Carin Barwick at Jefferson Elementary School in Kansas to use my "Far Out Reads" image from my Coloring Page Tuesday collection for their "Gals Read" club t-shirt.
     I love to help libraries however I can, so said, "Of course!" All I asked in return was for Carin to check out my books to see if any might be a good fit for her students, and perhaps send a photo of the girls wearing their shirts.
      Well! Carin and the entire Gals Read club came through with flying colors! Get a load of this stylish bunch!

And one lovely model gave us a close-up:

      This makes me so happy! Thanks for sharing guys! And HAPPY READING!!!!

Coloring Page Tuesday - Mother and Child

     Years ago, I did some stamp designs for a company. But they're no longer available, so I thought I'd share them with you. This one is a bit early for Mother's Day since next week I'll be celebrating the release of A BIRD ON WATER STREET (woohooo!), so you have an extra week to create a card for your mom.
     CLICK HERE for more coloring pages! And be sure to share your creations in my gallery so I can put them in my upcoming newsletters! (Cards, kids art, and crafts are welcome!)
     Sign up to receive alerts when a new coloring page is posted each week and... Please check out my books! Especially...

my debut novel, A BIRD ON WATER STREET, coming out next week! Click the cover to learn more!
     When the birds return to Water Street, will anyone be left to hear them sing? A miner's strike allows green and growing things to return to the Red Hills, but that same strike may force residents to seek new homes and livelihoods elsewhere. Follow the story of Jack Hicks as he struggles to hold onto everything he loves most.
**A SIBA OKRA Pick!**
**A GOLD Mom's Choice Award Winner!**
**The 2014 National Book Festival Featured Title for Georgia!**

Alabama Library Association Convention

Wednesday, Laurel Snyder and I headed to Huntsville, Alabama for the Alabama Library Association's annual convention. Librarian Marnie Utz invited ten local authors to do "speed dating rounds" with school and public librarians. We got four minutes with each group. I've never talked about A BIRD ON WATER STREET so fast! What an adrenalin-inducing whirlwind! (It was actually a ton of fun.)
      But we all needed some calm down time after it was over! So the gang of authors headed to Commerce Kitchen for a lovely lunch and to catch up with our buds. In the top photo we have Heather Montgomery, Sharon Cameron, Kristin Tubb, Courtney Stevens, Rae Ann Parker, and Beck McDowell.

In the bottom photo (and looking the other way down the table) we have Beck McDowell again, me, Donna Driver, Laurel Snyder, and Irene Latham. What a crew!

     And I'll see several of them again when I speak at the Southern Festival of Books in Nashville, Tennessee next fall. (I just found out - yay!)
      Y'know, it was great to be in adorable Huntsville again. Last time I was there was for a school field trip to the U.S. Space & Rocket Center... I think I was twelve-years-old. You know you're in Huntsville when you come up over the hill and there's a rocket in front of you! We ate space ice-cream and they showed us video kiosks with phones and said, "Someday this will be so small you'll be able to carry it around with you." That got a good laugh.
     I want to go back and visit the Space Center again!
     Not to mention, the Huntsville Embassy Suites Hotel was one of the nicest hotels I've ever been in! (And I've been in a lot with this crazy career.) Laurel and I took full advantage of the salt water pool and hot-tub, great bar and actor/omelet-maker the next morning. If I ever need a writer's retreat, it's where I'm going!
      Truly, it was awesome to connect with writing friends, some great librarians, and to share our latest books. When the timer dinged, one librarian looked at me pleadingly and said, "Please keep going!" Gotta luv that! I hope I get to see them again soon - maybe at their school or library!

This makes me happy too! Wall mural...

Kaisa Ruth recently emailed me... she used some of my coloring pages to create a mural in her children's bedroom.
As she said: "It started out with the girl fairy sitting on the books, but when my son moved in to his sister's room I decided to look for a boy fairy. So I googled and found the boy who looked like a brother to the girl - your drawing! So I painted him on a pile of books too. Then we decided to have that room as the children's playing room - all the toys there and LOTS of colours etc. So when our third daughter came I asked you if you could draw a flying baby girl fairy. And so you did! And I am so happy with the result! And the kids LOVE it!"
Is this not the cutest thing!? OMG. Thank you for sharing Kaisa Ruth!
Click the image to see it larger in a new window.

THE DEEP CUT by Susan Rosson Spain, Guest Post and Giveaway!

My dear friend Susan Rosson Spain, author of THE 12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS IN GEORGIA (which I illustrated), is celebrating the paperback release of her historical fiction THE DEEP CUT. This is a wonderful and touching novel, in which you can experience the Civil War through a very different perspective - the eyes of a mentally challenged young man. I recommend it. Susan is also an extremely active volunteer with Habitat for Humanity (hence, the photo with her building a house, which she does just about every weekend). I'm thrilled to have Susan here today... take it away Susan!

It’s All in the Blueprint

     Like most people, and, I’ve found, most writers in particular, I’ve worn many hats in my personal and professional life. Mother. Optician. Maid. Chauffer. Gardener. But the hat with which I am able to draw the most writing parallels is my hardhat.
     Yeah, that’s right. My hardhat.
     I confess to you, fellow writers, that I am a Habitat for Humanity addict. I love the process of building a house, from the first day when volunteers arrive in heavy boots and work gloves, excitement flashing in their eyes, chainsaw or axe in hand, ready to clear all but the best trees and clear a “footprint” for a family’s new home, to that day at the end, the last work day, when the new wood floors gleam, and windows sparkle, and the house numbers are perfectly aligned on the mailbox post. I love the smell and feel of newly turned topsoil, and fresh lumber, and even caulk, roofing shingles, and paint. Sometimes the process is sensual overload. For me, writing a novel is much the same as building a house.
     Whether you think you do or not, every writer—yes, every writer-- starts with a blueprint. You begin with some sort of plan, whether you actually are an outliner, or you let things evolve on their own. You always have some initial idea onto which you begin to build.
     It might be a character who won’t leave you alone, like some funky little cottage you saw on a trip one time and can’t forget. Curly-q’s in the gables… purple downspouts. Or it might be a etting, a neighborhood that seems magical to you—something out of a crazy dream, where only the most amazing things, like time travel through your mother’s pantry, could happen. Or it could be a theme—some belief or commitment to which you simply must speak—and here, the Big Book that pops into my head is Charlotte’s Web.
     All of these beginnings are blueprints of a sort. Once you begin to explore these blueprints, they will become the framework of your fiction. You are laying a foundation, you are setting studs, you are shaping the walls of your rooms and establishing paths through your amazing new home. When you connect these paths with essential doorways, you begin to have Story. Your house becomes lived-in. Your inhabitants laugh, and cry, and they love, and grieve, and hopefully they become entangled. Or maybe they even go their separate ways in the end. But they live there, for a time, in this structure you’ve built.
     The sensual overload I experience in house-building can and perhaps should be present as well, when you build your story. Don’t ignore that dark place in the attic where the old secrets hide. Don’t bypass the basement and the fears that live there. And whatever you do, don’t avoid the middle of that house, the place where your characters react to one another through their lives, and where ultimately, they live, and grow, and change.
     But most of all, perhaps: don’t forget that you are the architect of this house. You, and only you, and your vision for the house’s inhabitants, can open and close its doors. Give them reasons to do so. Let them breathe, let them live. Let them BE.

     Susan Rosson Spain is the critically acclaimed author of THE DEEP CUT (Booklist, starred review), a young adult historical novel set against the backdrop of the Civil War. Her second book, 12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS IN GEORGIA, is a picture-book-cum-travel-guide for children 6 and up (2010). Susan is a popular speaker at schools and writing conferences around the South and also serves as the President of her local Habitat for Humanity affilitate.

Susan has kindly agreed to give a free, signed and dedicated paperback copy of THE DEEP CUT to one of my lucky commenters. Must live in the US/Canada to win. Enter below.

Friday Linky List - April 25, 2014

It's ARBOR DAY!!! Go plant a tree!

From the BBC News: Artists 'have structurally different brains' - I could have told you that!

From Muddy Colors - Great resource to find new PHotoshop brushes at:

Via SwissMiss:
From Brain Pickings: Anton Chekhov on the 8 Qualities of Cultured People. Lovely idea and I especially like the quote, "And empty barrel echoes more loudly than a full one."

If you have to attend a lot of meetings, you may find this helpful... From 99U - Run Your Meeting Like a Boss: Lessons from Mayer, Musk, and Jobs.

Punctuation Tips! Who doesn't need that!?

At Inc. Steve Job's 13 Most Inspiring Quotes

Via Cynsations:
At Writer UnBoxed: A 'Logic Model' for Author Success

At the Blog: What FROZEN Teaches Us About Storytelling & Publishing

Via PW:
30 Writers' Invaluable Advice to Graduates, from Flavorwire

I've been enjoying the new show THE 100. If you have too, you'll enjoy "An Interview with 'The 100' Author Kass Morgan" at The Daily Quirk

At FastDesign - I often talk about chasing one's passion and how lucky some of us are to even know what that is. For those who don't, there's this..."Find Your Passion With These 8 Thought-Provoking Questions."

Did you see this article by Mary Kole on her blog about the emotional arc characters should go through? I Hate Nice. It's brilliant, truly!

WOW! Nathan Bransford put together an incredible list of helpful links on writing: WRITING ADVICE DATABASE. Bookmark this one!

HERE COMES DESTRUCTOSAURUS! written by Aaron Reynolds, illustrated by Jeremy Tankard - GIVEAWAY!

Aaron Reynolds and Jeremy Tankard have come up with a story many parents will relate to: HERE COMES DESTRUCTO-SAURUS! How many little ones can destroy a clean room in a matter of minutes - much like an enormous monster can destroy a city? Destructo-saurus tears down buildings, throws trains, ROARS and creates general mayhem. I'm thrilled to have BOTH Aaron and Jeremy here today to talk about the book's creation...

Q. Aaron, I don't know that you'll remember, but we met briefly at the Decatur Book Festival last year when you were touring for CARNIVORES. (Hi!) You so obviously have a strong grasp of what makes a good picture book. Did the idea for this one come to you from your own childhood or do you have your own Destructo-saurus?
Hi there, Elizabeth! Honestly, the idea came from a love of monster movies first and foremost. I was playing with the idea of Godzilla wrecking things in typical Godzilla fashion, but instead of people running, he was being scolded for it. As it developed, I realized he was acting a lot like some toddlers I've met!
      I hate to say it, but the idea was also inspired by watching us adults during our less stellar moments when relating to kids. Parents, teachers, baby-sitters...we're all guilty of really NOT LISTENING when a kid is upset and just chalking it up to terrible behavior, when, in truth, the kid isn't terrible, they're just sad or mad about something completely legitimate!
      These two ideas kind of collided, and the story began to take shape around this toddler-esque monster.
     Click the image to see a larger version in a new window.
Q. Aaron, after the great reaction to CREEPY CARROTS and so many others, you are really on a roll! Does it feel like things have taken off for you?
I feel incredibly thankful that my recent books have received such a great response from kids and grown-ups alike. Sometimes the perfect storm of great story, great illustrator, and great editor all comes together, and I feel so lucky that such a storm has hit on my last several books. It also feels like perhaps my craft and voice as a writer has really hit its groove...I hope that's true anyway. All I can do is continue to do my very best to make the kind of books that I would love to read as a kid and hope that the response continues to be strong!

  Q. Aaron, do you have a philosophy behind plotting out picture books or how to approach them in general? I'm sure my readers would love a peek into your magic touch!
You'd like to think I'm that well thought-out, wouldn't you? Unfortunately, the reality is much messier than that.
      I feel like I have no shortage of ideas, so I'm lucky that way. I have more ideas pop into my head than I'll ever be able to write in five lifetimes. Sometimes, they actually get a bit noisy and pesky up there in my brain, which is annoying. So, to help quiet things down, I have something called an Idea Rock. It's just a large rock that I keep in my office. Whenever I get an idea for a story, I'll write it down on a napkin, or a post-it, or a scrap of paper, and I put it firmly under the Idea Rock. This rock has hundreds of ideas under it. It's my way of telling myself “The idea has been captured, it's not going anywhere, so you don't have to think about it anymore.” And most of the time this works. I forget about the idea, knowing that I can always go grab it from under the rock if I want to write it or develop it further.
      But occasionally, an idea won't get out of my brain, even after putting it under the Idea Rock. It sits there, simmering in my brain, slowly taking shape, sometimes over the course of a couple years, until it's begging to be written down. Those are the stories that I go on to write into books. Much of the plotting and structure of the story takes place in my mind before I ever put pen to paper.
      CREEPY CARROTS sat in my brain for 2 years as just a nugget of an idea. I was intrigued to write a picture book horror story, something that shouldn't have worked, in theory. That nugget of an idea sat there and simmered, slowly taking shape for a long time before I ever sat down and wrote it.

  Q. Aaron, I heard an author once say she wrote "illustrator candy" text, which is why she'd worked with so many great illustrators. How do you approach the image side of your work? (Because you've truly worked with some greats!)
I HAVE gotten to work with some great illustrators. And I love that idea of “illustrator candy”. But the truth is, I try not to think too much about the illustrations, I try not to get too specific of a visual idea in my head, because I know in the end that I won't have a lot of control over that end of things. I know some authors that really get tied up in knots over the fact that they don't have a ton of say over the illustrations, but I've really come to peace with that and let it go.
      My feeling on the subject is this: 1) Write the best, funniest, quirkiest, goofiest story I can. 2) Work with an editor that I really trust – somebody that I know gets me and has a vision for my books.
      When I do that, the illustrations usually wind up in the hands of somebody wonderful, somebody who does things with my story far beyond what I could imagine. So far, it seems to be working.

  Q. Aaron, I know you're friends with Peter Brown and Dan Santat now (illustrators of CREEPY CARROTS and CARNIVORES) - have you created a boy's club of cool creators?
I wish I could say we hung out all the time in a special clubhouse just for cool guy illustrators, but we rarely get to spend any time together. Dan lives in Los Angeles, Peter lives in New York, Jeremy lives in Canada, I live in Chicago. So any dreams of secret handshakes and “no girls allowed” signs would be logistically challenging. However, it's always a blast when we bump into each other at a conference or on tour and do get to kick back a margarita or two.
      Besides, let's be honest...there's a ton of cool chick creators to hang out with too.
      And thank goodness for that. 'Cause girls smell a lot better than we do.
     [[e: Thank you for that, Aaron!]]

Q. Aaron, can you share your path to publication into the publishing industry?
My path to publishing success is paved with rejection. Lots of rejection. Long before I ever had my first book published (CHICKS AND SALSA, published by Bloomsbury Children's Books), I spent five long years pursuing the goal of publication. During that time, I wrote many stories that will never see the light of day, and collected many rejection letters from publishers. 390 rejection letters, to be exact.
      I know, because I kept every one. I keep them in an overflowing bin marked “Rejections”, because they are a wonderful reminder to me that the path to success is paved with a willingness to fail, and then get up from that failure and keep trying. But they make me thankful for every success that happens in my publishing journey, because they remind me of a time in the journey when there were no successes. I'm a great example of Einstein's law that says “Success is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration.”
      I love telling kids that story when I do author visits at schools, because they are shocked. They think that success just happens. That if you're not good at something immediately, you give up. Nope. It doesn't work that way. Just sticking with it...just picking yourself up, dusting off, and doing better next time...that's everything.

  Thanks Aaron! Now switching gears to Jeremy...

Q. Jeremy, what images came to mind when you first read the text for HERE COMES DESTRUCTO-SAURUS? Did they come easily?
What came to mind immediately was Godzilla destroying Tokyo. I immediately saw a very cinematic-looking book, which is quite different than I normally approach drawing. I also saw an opportunity to put my rusty perspective drawing skills to use. The trick was to come up with a suitable monster who didn’t really look like Godzilla but still respected the obvious comparison with the classic movie. Hence drawing lots of influence from T-Rex in my monster design. Mine is sort of T-Rex meets toddler, which is sort of a realistic take on toddlers if you think about it. Hmm…
Click the image to see a larger version in a new window.
  Q. Jeremy, I love your bold shapes and colors. What influences do you attribute that to?
I spent a lot of time looking at the SELECTIONS FROM THE MANGA: THE SKETCHBOOKS OF HOKUSAI (not sure if I’m remembering the title correctly). Hokusai’s deceptively simple drawings of people were a HUGE influence when I first discovered them in university. I found the process of simplification got easier when I used a thicker line that allowed for less detailed rendering. The heavy lines pose some big challenges and force me to stay focused on the most important details, like gesture, body-language and expression. It’s just a very different way of thinking about your subject and it has taught me to look at the big picture more often.
      As for colours: I LOVE colouring my art. It is easily my favourite part of the art-making process. I used to work with very muted and earthy colours but realized that I only did that because I was afraid of using colour. So I began using paint “straight from the tube” (whether acrylics or digital it didn’t matter). I figured I’d overcome the fear then take a step back and work with a more rounded palette. Instead I discovered that I LIKED the bright colours and have never looked back.  
     Click the image to see a larger version in a new window.
Q. Jeremy, being a digital artist myself, I couldn't help but notice some very sly techniques going on in your work. What is your method and how do you come up with those wonderful, beefy lines?
Sly techniques? I like that! I started learning Photoshop almost 20 years ago when I discovered the amazing Sandman covers of Dave McKean. Initially I enjoyed trying to mimic his photo collage style but began to get disillusioned with how digital my art looked. It was easy to see which filters I had used and which “tricks” I was trying. Basically the first thing anyone thought when looking at those drawings was “which filters did he use on this?” (to be fair the only people who were looking at them were my friends who were also trying to learn these techniques). That didn’t sit well with me — I wanted people to look first at the image and THEN wonder “how did he do that?” So I stripped down my Photoshop techniques to only the most basic and stopped using filters. Little has changed in the intervening years: I still don’t use any fancy tricks or techniques. I also still do most of my drawing on paper then scan into the computer to colour, collage and finish. In DESTRUCTOSAURUS I drew all of the background imagery with Corel Painter and all the characters on paper using a Pentel Pocket Brush.

  Q. Jeremy, how did you break into the publishing world?
It’s a complete fairytale actually. I submitted my illustration portfolio to a number of publishers (I had no interest in writing back then). A number of them got back to me about working together but two said they would look at anything I did so long as I wrote it myself. Basically they said I could bypass all their submissions procedures and pitch directly to an editor. And so I began writing. After a number of pitches I wrote GRUMPY BIRD and the rest is history.

  Q. Jeremy, can we see your studio and what is a regular day for you?
I don’t really have a regular day as my childcare schedule can be erratic. Generally I try to do a bit of drawing every day — always some drawing just for myself before I settle in to the next illustration job. I always draw in a sketchbook when I’m getting started, never on the computer (for no good reason, just easier I guess — fewer distractions). But usually my days look sort of like this: I take my son to daycare; come home and make tea; check email; look at some books; then I look at what needs to be done today; do some warm-up drawings; get started on the art or writing for the day; lunch break; continue with work; fetch son; make dinner; family time; bed.
      And yes, here is a photo of my drawing board. It’s not the whole studio, but is the most important part.
Jeremy's studio...
Q. Both, how can people help you celebrate the release of HERE COMES DESTRUCTO-SAURUS!? Do you have any special events planned?
BUY THE BOOK! And whenever possible, buy it from an Indie Bookstore, 'cause let's face it, they are on the endangered species list and that must be stopped. [[Here, here!]]
      Also, if you like our books, tell your friends about them on Facebook and Twitter posts, complete with book cover pictures. This really helps!
      And come see us if you find out we'll be at an event near you. I'll be at the TLA conference in San Antonio, the LA Times Festival of Books in Los Angeles, and the Printer's Row Book Fair in Chicago in the next couple of months. Come see us!


Chronicle Books has kindly agreed to give a free copy of HERE COMES DESTRUCTOSAURUS! to one of my lucky commenters. Must live in the US or Canada to win - enter below.

Using Postcard Mailings at Sub It Club - I'm interviewed!

Today, I'm also at Sub It Club - a blog about breaking into the Kidlit Biz. Dana Carey (France's SCBWI Illustrator Coordinator) asked me about sending promotional postcards to get children's book illustration work. (She also gave a lovely shout-out to A BIRD ON WATER STREET.) If you're looking to break into children's book illustration, she asked some pretty in-depth questions, which I think you'll find helpful. So, I hope you'll GO READ!!! (CLICK HERE or the image above.)

A BIRD ON WATER STREET Teacher's Guide is HERE! (And a new reader...)

The Teacher's Guide with Talking Points for A BIRD ON WATER STREET is now available (CLICK HERE), and it made me cry when I read it. I know that sounds silly, but imagine if you will... A person who I've never met, Meredith Moran of Little Pickle Press, read my book and not only picked up on the subtle points I thought nobody would catch, she brought up points even I didn't catch! Some of the symbolism she featured wowed my socks off... I did THAT??? Really!? Wow! The way she explains, yup, I did indeed do that, and I'm so impressed with myself!
     When you're in the thick of writing a story, while you try to be pithy and profound (of course!), you don't always realize what you're doing. She made me sound brilliant! And she made me feel like I'd done exactly what I was hoping for... like what I saw in Pharrell Williams' video with Oprah when she said, "You've created something greater than yourself."
     And that's why I cried. I wasn't on Oprah, but I might as well have been. Have you ever known a Teacher's Guide could make an author cry? I think I'm the luckiest writer on the planet!
     Add to that, I received this...
     Carol Crawford, who invited me to speak at the Blue Ridge Writers Conference, shared this awesome photo with me recently... This is Peg Clow, a Copperhill native (where my story takes place), with her brand new copy of A BIRD ON WATER STREET given to her on her birthday. More crying! This just makes me so happy! Thank you for sharing, Carol!

Coloring Page Tuesday - Earth Tree

     HAPPY EARTH DAY and HAPPY ARBOR DAY on Friday too!! I combined the symbols for the two holidays to give you an Earth Tree... Do you see the globe in the leaves?
     This Earth Day means so much to me because it nearly coincides with the release of my novel, A BIRD ON WATER STREET. With it's environmental message, I feel like I'm finally giving something back that might actually make a difference... if enough kids read it. It's time to change some attitudes about how we treat our planet, and our kids are our hope for the future.
     CLICK HERE for more Earth Day coloring pages! (Please use recycled paper when you print them out!) And be sure to share your creations in my gallery so I can put them in my upcoming newsletters! (Cards, kids art, and crafts are welcome!)
     Sign up to receive alerts when a new coloring page is posted each week and... Please check out my books! Especially...

my debut historical fiction mid-grade, A BIRD ON WATER STREET, available NOW in eversions! Click the cover to learn more!
     When the birds return to Water Street, will anyone be left to hear them sing? A miner's strike allows green and growing things to return to the Red Hills, but that same strike may force residents to seek new homes and livelihoods elsewhere. Follow the story of Jack Hicks as he struggles to hold onto everything he loves most.
     **A SIBA OKRA Pick!**
     **A GOLD Mom's Choice Award Winner!**

Fulda Library Coloring Contest

I recently received an email from the Fulda Library, part of the Plum Creek Library System in Minnesota... they asked permission to use one of my coloring pages for their "Friends of the Library Coloring Contest."
     "Of course!" I said. My images are especially for libraries and librarians to use without worry. And look at the happy results!
Click the images to see them larger in a new window.
Here are some of the colored pictures:

(They used my 2009 Talk Like a Pirate image.)
     And here are the lucky winners!

This makes me HAPPY!!!!

This is MY definition of success - HAPPY

Happy Makes Pharrell Cry | OWN
I love the song "Happy" by Pharrell Williams, but to know how it has affected people around the world, how it has truly created change if even for a moment of pure joy. Wow. THAT is what success looks like to me. I can only dream that A BIRD ON WATER STREET could ever have such an impact. Just WOW.

Click the image below if the embedded video gives you any trouble.

CLICK HERE to see the official video.
People from all over the world started making their own videos of the Happy song. I think the Dakar version is my fave.
Wait - have you seen the Pharrel Williams and Detroit Academy version on the Ellen Show? OMG!
In the song's honor, I'm starting a new label for my blog: "Happy." Which is exactly what it sounds like - stuff that makes me so happy, I just have to share!
Thanks to SwissMiss for the heads up.

PLANNING YOUR NOVEL: IDEAS AND STRUCTURE by Janice Hardy - Guest Post and Giveaway!

I'm one of Janice Hardy's Beta readers and I have to tell you how excited I am about her latest book: Planning Your Novel: Ideas and Structure. So many of the things people tell you about writing are lovely, but leave you with questions of, "How"? Janice answers that. She is not only an amazingly talented writer (author of the Healing Wars trilogy), but she is a gifted teacher. She breaks down complicated ideas into easy-to-understand concepts you can adapt with your own writing. Now that the book is out - I will be shouting about it to everybody I know and using it in my classrooms. I'm honored Janice dropped by to talk:

What Kind of Writer Are You? Finding Your Writing Process
By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

     If you put ten writers in a room and ask them how they write, odds are you'll get ten different answers. There's bound to be some crossover, but everyone approaches the writing process differently. The creative process takes many forms and there's nothing wrong if your process differs from another writer's.
     But it's sad how often new writers (and some old ones), don't realize this. I’ve met too many writers who felt they had to write in a certain way to be successful, and that style was contrary to their own natural process. So say it with me...
     There is no right way to write.
     Trying to force yourself to write in a way that feels unnatural to you is only going to cause frustration. For example:
• The outliner who tries to wing it with no writing plan and feels lost, writing a book that’s a huge, unfocused mess.
• The pantser who tries to force her creativity into an outline and feels stymied, making her story go where it doesn’t want to go just because a list of events told her to take it there.
• The freestyler who forces himself to write chronologically and feels his creativity drain out of him when the scenes he’s most excited about fade away in his head.
     If a process makes you miserable and hurts your creativity, there’s a good chance it’s not the right process for you. Don’t be afraid to dump it and try something else.
     However, don’t reject a process idea if you’ve never tried it just because you don’t think it suits you. I’ve had techniques I thought would never work be exactly what I needed to take my writing to the next level.
     If you’re just starting your first novel, you might not yet know what your process is, and that’s okay. Most writers try multiple techniques before they find the ones that work best for them. Experiment with different styles (or adopt pieces from many) until you find the one that feels the most natural to you.
     Let’s look at a few process types and see if any fit your style:

The Pantser
      These writers write by the "seat of their pants" and enjoy sitting down at a blank screen with a general idea and letting the words take them. They don’t want to know what happens before it does happen, and seeing how the novel ends is half the fun of writing it. If you have no trouble finding the words when you sit down to write, but stare at the screen with a terrified look on your face when you try to plot or outline, this could be the process for you.

The Outliner
      Writing without a plan leaves these writers with a mess of scenes and no coherent storyline. They find comfort in knowing how a novel will unfold before they type a single word. They like to list how each scene starts, how it ends, and what happens in between.
     If you need to know exactly where your novel is going and how it’s going to get there before you write it, this could be your process.

The Loose Outliner
      These writers like structure, but they don’t want to know every detail before they write. They prefer to build the foundation of the novel, creating a framework in which to write that lets them control the plot without the plot controlling them.
     If you like knowing enough about your novel to guide your writing without losing the mystery of the story, this might be a good process for you to try.

The Character Writer
      Characters come to these writers first, and by the time they’re ready to write they know them inside and out. These writers don’t always know what those characters are going to do, however, and they enjoy letting the characters chase after their dreams and see where they take them.
     If you’re the type who knows what the characters want and need, but aren’t sure of the plot events to get them there, you might enjoy this process.

The Plot Driver
      These writers see the plot unfold long before they see the faces of the characters. They love the mechanics of plotting and figuring out how the pieces all fit together, and once that’s solid, then they figure out who the story is about.
     If structure and plot is what excites you, this could be the process for you.

The Scene Sewer
      Novels come to these writers in bits and pieces in random order. Scene sewers prefer jumping around when the mood strikes and sewing up the plot later. They’d rather see it in their mind, get it on paper, and worry about how the puzzle pieces fit later.
      If you like to let inspiration strike and then write—no matter where that scene might be in the book—you could be this type of writer.
      And if you fit more than one process? Take the parts that work for you and create your own style.

Finding Your Own Writing Process
1. Which type of writer do you most identify with? How does that fit with your own writing style?
2. What style would you want to try? What about it appeals to you? Why?
3. What style don’t you like? Why not?
4. Is your process working for you, or do you feel like it’s holding you back?
5. If it’s holding you back, why? What about the process do you find frustrating?
6. Can those frustrations be eliminated by trying or incorporating any of the above styles?
     Even if you know your process, it's never a bad idea to dust it off once in a while and re-evaluate what you're doing and why. You might discover you've grown as a writer, and making a few tweaks to your process could make you more productive overall.

What kind of writer are you?
      Looking for advice on planning or revising your novel? Check out my newest book Planning Your Novel: Ideas and Structure, a series of self-guided workshops that help you turn your idea into a novel.
     Planning Your Novel: Ideas and Structure takes you step-by-step through finding and developing ideas, brainstorming stories, and crafting a solid plan for your novel—including a one-sentence pitch, summary hook blurb, and working synopsis. 
     Over 100 different exercises lead you through the novel-planning process, with ten workshops that build upon each other to flesh out your idea as much or as little as you need to do to start writing.
     Find Exercises On:
- Creating Characters

- Choosing Point of View

- Determining the Conflict

- Finding Your Process

- Developing Your Plot

- And So Much More!
     Planning Your Novel: Ideas and Structure is an easy-to-follow guide to planning your novel, as well as a handy tool for revising a first draft, or fixing a novel that isn’t quite working.

     Janice Hardy is the author of the teen fantasy trilogy The Healing Wars, where she tapped into her own dark side to create a world where healing was dangerous, and those with the best intentions often made the worst choices. Her novels include The Shifter, Blue Fire, and Darkfall from Balzer+Bray/Harper Collins. The first book in her Foundations of Fiction series, Planning Your Novel: Ideas and Structure is out now. She lives in Georgia with her husband, one yard zombie, three cats, and a very nervous freshwater eel. Find out more about writing at her site, Fiction University, or find her on Twitter @Janice_Hardy.
Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indie Bound

     Janice has kindly agreed to give away one free, signed and dedicated copy of Planning Your Novel: Ideas and Structure to one of my lucky visitors. Must live in the US or Canada to win. Enter below.

Friday Linky List - April 18, 2014

Sorry for the paltry list of links last week. I was out of town more than not and wasn't able to keep up. But I make up for it this week!

From Kate Messner - "Owning Our Words: Gatekeepers and Gender in Children's Books"

From The Washington Post - Serious reading takes a hit from online scanning and skimming, researchers say

At Nerdy Book Club: The Top 10 Reasons Why I Can't Stop Reading Children's & Young Adult Literature by Emily Meixner

From Mashable via PW: 9 Children's Book Morals for Adulthood

From PW - Josie Leavitt on "To Host or Not to Host?" (... book signings when a book is published through Amazon's CreateSpace.) Be sure to read the comments too.

From The Atlantic via PW: Why Teaching Poetry Is So Important

VERY cool book trailer for THE RING & THE CROWN at YouTube

VERY cool app from the Picture Book Artists Association at iTunes (free)

From School Library Journal: SLJ's Average Book Prices in 2014 - interesting

At Flavorwire - Beautiful Vintage Photos of Bygone Bookstores

I think the Stoics were really on to something. At 99U - The Stoic: 9 Principles to Help You Keep Calm in Chaos

At Nathan Bransford's blog, an amazing article everybody should read: Steven Salmon on writing with cerebral palsy


Not only have Sarah Dillard and I been roomies at the Kindling Words Conference in Vermont several times, I'm also a huge fan of her work. She read a portion of her latest creation at the last conference, EXTRAORDINARY WARREN and there wasn't a dry eye in the room from laughing so hard!
     A chicken who wants to be special is convinced by a hungry rat that he is no ordinary chicken, but Chicken Supreme!!!! The humor is off the charts hilarious for all readers, even though the intended audience is the youngest chapter book reader. This one hits ALL the buttons. I'm thrilled to have Sarah here today to talk about EXTRAORDINARY WARREN.

Q. Sarah, this is one 'out there' idea! How did it come to you?
Thanks so much. This was such a fun book to do. It started when I did a doodle of a chicken looking at an egg and wondered what that chicken was thinking about. It seemed that he had some pretty big life questions about who he was and where he came from and where he was going. Warren evolved from that. He really is kind of a philosopher I think. I knew I needed a villain and a rat seemed like the obvious choice. I've always loved Templeton from Charlotte's Web. I loved the idea that Warren befriends an egg but I also knew that at some point that egg was going to have to hatch. Somehow it all came together.

Q. Was it tricky to pull off the subtlety all the way through the story?
I think sometimes I am too subtle! But I will say that I wrote and rewrote this story many many times. I was lucky to have had wonderful input along the way from my fabulous agent Lori Nowicki at Painted Words and also my incredible critique group. And I was lucky to have an extraordinary editor in Karen Nagel.

Q. I know you as a more quiet soul - where did this comic genius streak come from!?
I am a quiet person but quiet doesn't necessarily mean serious. I have always had a pretty strong funny side as well.

Q. I love the simple shapes and limited color palette in EXTRAORDINARY WARREN - different from some of your other works. What was your approach?
Before I started writing, I think that my art was more lovely and rich. I thought I would probably write like that too, but everything seems to come out funny. I had to make adjustments to my work. At first that was kind of scary, but then it felt very liberating. Instead of approaching the book thinking I will give this book my look, I turned it around and thought what look does this book need me to give it.
      Warren definitely dictated the art for this book. I tried a lot of approaches but a nice simple line with flat color was what worked best. The limited palette was at the suggestion of my art director. At first it seemed horrifying and impossible. But I started looking at a lot of illustrations are from the 1920's and '30s, which I have always loved, especially the work of L. Leslie Brooke, Maud and Miska Petersham, Maginel Wright Enright and her wonderful illustrations in the My Bookhouse series, and Winsor Mcay's Little Nemo's Adventures in Slumberland. One thing that really strikes me about all of those illustrations is the beautiful line and flat colors. Due to printing processes then, many of those illustrations were just one or two colors and black. I realized that black could be used not just as line but also as a color, which led to a nice bold graphic look that really works for Warren.
      I started the book thinking that I would work in my usual water color and gouache, but it became clear that the best way to achieve the look that I wanted would be to work digitally, which was a big change for me. It does seem sort of ironic that looking at old illustrations led me to work this way!

Click the image above to see it larger in a new window.

Q. I'd love to hear about your path into the publishing biz, and especially about the path for EXTRAORDINARY WARREN to publication. Have you publishers been over the top about it since day one? (I should think so!)
Amazingly, not everyone fell in love with Warren immediately. He was rejected many times, but with each rejection there were useful comments that helped me to make Warren stronger. If I were to give any advice to people trying to get published, it would be don't give up and learn to accept criticism and use it to your advantage. And again, don't give up. Really, persistence is the most important piece of the puzzle.

Q. What will you do to celebrate the release of EXTRAORDINARY WARREN?
I've been visiting blogs and have some book signings coming up but mostly I've been hard at work on Extraordinary Warren Saves the Day, which will be out in October. I don't want to give too much away about that one, but I will tell you that Warren and Egg are going to cross the road.

Q. Thanks so much for stopping by Sarah! I can't wait to see what you come up with next!
Thank You!

Sarah is kindly offering a free, signed and dedicated copy of EXTRAORDINARY WARREN to one of my lucky followers. Must live in the US or Canada to win. Enter by leaving a comment below.

We Have a Winner!
It's Rosi! Congratulations!

Fay B. Kaigler Children's Book Festival Wrap-up

Last week I finally got to experience the Fay B. Kaigler Children's Book Festival in Hattiesburg, Mississippi - slightly outside of my typical roaming area. I was especially excited to meet Ellen Ruffin of the de Grummond Children's Literature Collection, where some of my work is archived. She headed up the event and boy can she throw a party!
      My mission was two-fold. I was there to represent the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators as we (Southern Breeze region members) transition representation to the newly formed Louisiana/Mississippi region and host a get-together one night. (Mississippi used to be part of our region.)
     For those interested in volunteering - it's not just about SCBWI, events like these are also a great opportunity to showcase your own work. I was able to proudly feature A BIRD ON WATER STREET as well as the MFA in Writing and Illustrating program at Hollins University where I teach each summer.

     Heather, Jo, and Laurel Snyder gave a talk on "The Book in You." I also gave a talk on "Saving the Earth, One Book at a Time." I'm still new to talking about ABOWS so I was a wee bit nervous. But I got great comments from everybody. (That was followed by a book signing which was prepared so nicely!)

      I also got to meet the fantastic Regional Advisors in charge of Louisiana/Mississippi. Here's our gang: Heather Montgomery (our ARA), Pat Hefler, Cheryl Mathis, Jo Kittinger (our RAE), and me. (And Virginia Howard - not shown.)

     The keynotes were folks I've rarely if ever had the chance to hear: Christopher Paul Curtis (such a nice guy), Kathy Appelt (so gracious), and M.T. (Tobin) Anderson. I had to get a book signed by him! (And of course, I forgot to bring all the books I already own by all these wonderful people - gads.) I had to leave Friday morning so sadly missed Leda Schubert (love her!) and David Small and Sarah Stewart. (We're trying to get David and his wife to come speak to our region - cross your fingers it works out!)
     Sarah Frances Hardy (below, left) and Katie Anderson (below, right) are dear friends who I've gotten to see rise up in the biz with fantastic book deals of their own. I couldn't be a bigger cheerleader for them both and was thrilled to attend their talk, "From Brain to Book: The Publishing Process in Ten Easy Steps." They did such a great job and we hope to have them speak at our WIK conference soon!

     Of course, that meant I had to miss Sarah C. Campbell's talk on "Finding Fractals/Making Fractals" - she was just on my blog too. But Heather and I tried to divide and conquer since they were speaking at the same time. Pah!
      It was also amazing to be able to help celebrate the winners and honor winners of the Ezra Jack Keats New Writer and Illustrator Awards. (I've been invited for years but finally got to attend the official party!) I got to congratulate fellow EMLA author (we're represented by the same agency - the Erin Murphy Literary Agency) Pat Zietlow Miller in person for SOPHIE'S SQUASH (Honor Winner) - I featured her on my blog recently. What a well-deserving book!
I also got to meet the awesome Linda Davich (I LOVE YOU, NOSE, I LOVE YOU, TOES!), Amy Dyckman (TEA PARTY RULES), and Christian Robinson (RAIN!) - who was way younger than I expected for his amazing and mature artwork. (I featured his book, JOSEPHINE, recently and I think he's going to be around for a while!) Here I am with Pat, Linda, one of the committee heads (sorry!), and Christian at their awards banquet in the lovely train depot downtown.

     I hate that I didn't get a photo with Ellen. But all said, it was an excellent affair, and I was surrounded by friends (which is really why I love to go to conferences and festivals above all else). Ellen and all the organizers did a bang-up job - truly. THANK YOU's to all! If you ever get the chance to go, I can highly recommend the Fay B. Kaigler Children's Book Festival!