Picture Book Month is coming...

Are you ready yet? CLICK HERE to visit the official site!

Happy Halloween!!!!

Don't forget, I have tons of Halloween-themed Coloring Pages. Maybe you could hand out some coloring pages instead of candy? Please keep my banner and copyright info with my images if you do! (Restrictions apply for businesses.)
 Also, enjoy this video on the best pumpkin carving on YouTube (click to watch on Youtube):

Friday Linky List - 30 October 2015

From BookRiot: Incredible Literary Jack O'Lanterns!!!

From Barrington Stoke (via SCBWI Southeast Scotland): Where I Draw: Illustrator Catherine Rayner's beautiful studio

From NPR: Children Want Factual Stories, Versus Fantasy, More Often Than Adults

At GS Society: Master Profile: Bobby Chiu

At Ask the Agent: My Stern Lecture to a Client

From Fuse #8 at School Library Journal: Hands Off, Hussy! Hot Men of Children's Literature Under (Too Little?) Fire - wow. I'd love to know what YOU think!

At The Scotsman: Edinburgh Zoo Draws on Top Illustrator's Experience

From DIGG: Watch the Very First Episode of Bob Ross's 'The Joy of Painting'

At The Kraken Studio: What it feels like to write a picture book by Viviane Schwarz

A worthy Go Fund Me project raising money for books for a women's shelter: https://www.gofundme.com/op-every-child At 7 Impossible Things Before Breakfast: “I have seen this … perhaps thirty times and am still not anywhere near the bottom of it …” Description: "In the spirit of Halloween this week, I’m sharing a conversation I started via email about a month ago with bloggers Betsy Bird, Travis Jonker, and Minh Lê about picture books that we find either delightfully unsettling or hard to nail down in some way or those that flat-out scare us."

At 100 Scope Notes - Gallery: The New York Times Best Illustrated Books of 2015 - worth a study!

Lisa Maggiore's AVA THE MONSTER SLAYER - Guest Post

Path to Publishing
by Lisa Maggiore

      I wrote Ava the Monster Slayer: A Warrior Who Wears Glasses while I was working as a social worker. Unable to “leap off” my career because our oldest was in college and our family needed two incomes, I decided that while I could not pursue a writing career full-time, I would investigate what to do with this well-crafted and cute story.
      I took a picture book class, offered by a wonderful coach, author, and teacher, Esther Hershenhorn. After the class I asked if Esther knew of any critique groups I could join. She referred me to The Writer’s Cramp, who I met with for over a year. That’s also where I realized that my well-crafted story was not so well-crafted. But it was cute, so I held onto that!
      The Writer’s Cramp shaped my story, and a private coaching session with Esther broadened my creativity. Both helped the draft become a manuscript with publishing potential. But, I had remembered during Esther’s class that writers and illustrators do not typically collaborate on picture books. I knew how I wanted my picture book to look and I was very saddened that I would not be able to make that happen—traditionally. When I shared these feelings with Esther, she suggested self-publishing.
      I did my research on self-publishing but the amount of time and money required scared me. I was, after all, in a very stressful position as a social worker and I did not see being able to spend the time needed to market. I attended the SCBWI Prairie Writers Day Conference and spoke with an editor who said my protagonist, Ava, would have to lose the glasses in order for the book to be sold. I felt so low when I heard that. My story was based on my own daughter’s eye disorder: she’d worn glasses since she was two. I left with my spirit withered but I did have, in my hand, the names of editors to whom I could send my manuscript. I decided to go for it and sent out six. One editor really enjoyed the story but had too many monster books on her list. The rest declined respectfully.
      I continued contemplating what I should do with the manuscript. Shortly after, at a family wedding, Ross Felten, cousin by marriage, walked up and said he had heard I’d written a children’s picture book and wanted to illustrate it. My eyes widened and I took a step back. (It didn’t help that it was the end of the night, I was in heels that were killing my feet, and I had really enjoyed myself at the bar!) I said many things like “How do you know you’ll like the manuscript?”, “Do you have energy to self-publish because I’m not sure I do?” etc. But Ross kept saying “We can do this!” He then invited me to his art show two weeks later. I could decide then.
      I went to the art show and I knew after looking, with a critical eye, he was the guy for the job. Ross and I met at my home to collaborate on a few illustrations. Ross then finished the rest. He amazed me. So many illustrations felt like they had a life of their own, and I loved it!
      We had many eyes on the book. Friends, some copy editors and one graphic designer gave us feedback and we made changes based on their expertise. We were about to launch a Kickstarter campaign to raise money for publishing when an agent fell into our laps, literally.
      I was out to dinner with some gals I work out with and after learning about each of our careers, one gal said her sister-in-law, Loretta, worked in books and marketing. It just so happened that I was taking marketing classes so I asked the gal to reach out to Loretta and ask if I could network with her. A few days later, I was given Loretta’s e-mail. But before I made contact, I googled her name. My breathing hitched and my heart skipped beats when I learned that Loretta was not a marketing guru but a picture book agent—who was looking for picture books! I sent Loretta an e-mail and she asked to see the book. A day after I sent the book, she asked to meet.
      We met at a breakfast place that’s only a few blocks from where I grew up in Chicago. Loretta, also a Chicago native, grew up only ten minutes from my childhood home. Small world! Loretta loved the book and was thrilled with the illustrations. She asked to represent Ross and I. After careful consideration, Ross and I decided to sign with Loretta. Three weeks later, we had an offer with Sky Pony Press. And now the publishing adventure begins!
Here's Lisa's fave writing spot. Learn more about Lisa Maggiore here and Ross Felten here.

A Bird on Water Street through the eyes of readers

My novel has been slowly making its way into the hands of readers here on the European side of the pond and I have been so flattered by the response. One of the best warm fuzzies just arrived recently. Marta and her son read together and 8-years-old Pedro loved A Bird on Water Street. So much so, he drew some images from the book, which he gave me permission to share...
Do you see the slag dump and the company? I love the clothesline especially. Thank you for sharing, Pedro! I'm so glad ABOWS meant so much to you.
     I'm also starting to hear from readers (and teachers of readers) who are reading A Bird on Water Street as part of the Georgia Children's Book Awards program. 20 books were chosen for middle schoolers to read and vote on. 18 were mid-grade and 2 were slightly older. ABOWS is one of the two older books. It means that LOTS of kids are reading my book right now. So it's a win whether or not it actually 'wins'! CLICK HERE to read more about that.
     I'll be doing some Skype visits with some of these readers soon and I'm so looking forward to it!

Coloring Page Tuesday - Real Ghosties!

     That lovely day of ghosts and ghoulies is this coming Saturday! I'll miss the trick-or-treating, but you can be sure I'll be carving a pumpkin. This little guy was so excited about his ghostie costume until he met some real ones! Happy Halloween!!
     CLICK HERE for more Halloween-themed coloring pages!
     CLICK HERE to 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 - winner of six literary awards. 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.
     I create my coloring pages for teachers, librarians, booksellers, and parents to enjoy for free with their children, but you can also purchase rights to an image for commercial use, please contact me. If you have questions about usage, please visit my Angel Policy page.

Being Sick Overseas

I don't have eye-candy today, but I do have lots of interesting insights into the UK health system...
     If you follow me on Facebook, you know I've been under the weather the last few days. I caught the virus that has been making the rounds: dry cough, swollen sinuses, etc. It really wasn't a surprise that I caught it — a fellow student on the far side of the studio had it a few weeks ago, and then another the next week, and then another and another. It was just my turn, dangit! And so began the adventure of being sick in unfamiliar surroundings.
     The first little hiccup is that we don't own a car. 95% of the time that is exactly how we want it here. We use public transportation (which works great) and we walk (which works off all of the wonderful food we eat). But oh, how I missed being able to slide into a quiet car to go home when I felt rotten!
     The second hiccup is buying over-the-counter medicines. Not only do the products have different names, even the names of the key ingredients are different. For instance, acetaminophen (Tylenol) is called paracetamol. Femotidine (Pepcid) is not an over-the-counter medicine over here, but you can get Ranitidine (in a much lower dose). Niquil doesn't exist here, but there is Night Nurse, which is similar and tastes a little better. But while these products help, I must admit, most of them don't work quite as well as their US counterparts. Except for one: Sudafed. Here, it has the same name and it's the real stuff - the stuff they used to sell in the US before folks started making Meth with it and turned it into a hard to get substance. Thank god for Sudafed!
     But what if you don't know what you need? They have this wonderful service here called NHS24 (National Health Service helpline, available 24 hours a day). Just dial 111 on your phone and you will get a helpful person who can talk through your symptoms and advise you on what to buy. I don't know about you, but I never know if I need a decongestant or an antihistamine. This service can answer that. It's awesome!
     But maybe the over-the-counter stuff isn't enough for you? It wasn't for me. I was just getting sicker.
     My doctor's office opens at 8:00am on Monday through Friday and is a 12-minute walk away. I called first thing this morning and they fit me in for a 9:20am appointment. It's a bit like Minute Clinics in the US, but with your actual doctor and an actual appointment. Again - awesome! (I'm not sure what would have happened if I needed the doc on the weekend - will have to research that one.)
     No, I didn't enjoy the walk, despite the lovely, sunny day. And the waiting room was full. This virus is knocking a lot of people down down right now and the docs are busy trying to keep up. Even so, I waited for less time than I used to in the states, and it was my doc, not a nurse, who came to the waiting room to fetch me (which totally threw me off). There was no 'strip down to a gown' thing. From my experiences so far, they tend to prefer to talk to you here and look for key physical signs. For instance, my doc listened to my chest and looked at my throat - she knew exactly what I had. (Heck, she had it too!) There seems to be a lot of common sense diagnosing going on here, rather than test, test, test. She got me all set up with something to help me actually sleep and handed me two prescriptions, printed out to be legible and signed by her. And then I left.
     Let me say that again... I left.
     I still can't believe that part. I went to the counter to ask and make sure. "You don't need anything else from me? Insurance information? I don't owe you any money?"
     "No, you're fine. Feel better."
     So, I walked to Apple Pharmacy, which is on my way home. It's a little one, so they're not open after 2:00 on Saturdays or on Sundays, but they were open today. (And there are pharmacies in the grocery stores open every day.) I waited for my prescription to be filled (about ten minutes) and they handed me a baggie. "There you go."
     And again, I left. No checking my insurance, no money owed - nothing. It still boggles my mind.
     So I'm on the couch, drinking more hot tea and honey, trying to finally rest. With any luck, I'll be back to my normal self soon. But in the meantime, it was lovely to have such an easy experience with the UK healthcare system. Because truly, who needs to add more stress when you already feel bad?

Shah Rukh Khan

I am so proud of the University of Edinburgh. They recently awarded an honorary degree to Bollywood heartthrob Shah Rukh Khan for:
     "The actor - who has appeared in more than 80 films - was presented with the degree in recognition of his outstanding record of philanthropy, altruism and humanitarianism and his global reach as an actor.
      Khan’s charitable work has included bringing solar power to rural villages in India, creating a children’s ward at a Mumbai hospital and supporting relief funds to assist areas devastated by tsunamis."
Click the image to hear his lovely comments and watch his moment of pride.

Illustration Challenge #22

Pick a favorite illustrator and try to create a small illustration in their style. Feel free to add a link to the finished piece in my comments!

The Scottish Museum of Modern Art

The other day I shared our walk along the Water of Leith. The reason we did it was to get to the Scottish Museum of Modern Art. The path led us to the top of a hill where we entered the museum from the back, via a lovely cafe where we stopped for a small snack.
Once we were refortified, we leisurely explored this amazing museum. It's four floors of an amazing collection including:
Duane Hanson's "Tourists"

Paul Klee


Edward Munch etchings.

A Warhol I'd never seen before.


And more Picassos than you should shake a stick at - in nearly every stage of his development. This one was a screen print.

He also graced the wall behind this lovely sculpture by Marino Marini
The visiting exhibit was an especially exciting one to me - Roy Lichtenstein. Dare I call him the father of pop art?

And while I didn't love the look, it was fascinating to see his pieces screen printed on stainless steel.
While making our way through the museum, we had a lovely view of the art installation landscape in the front.
And outside, I was treated to yet another Henry Moore, and a Martin Creed statement over the front door, which read "Everything Is Going To Be Alright."
I soaked this place up like a sponge. Truly, most museums leave me thinking, "I could never do that." This museum left me inspired and wanting to create. It left me seeing art everywhere, and isn't that what it's all about?

PS - It was not lost on me that most of these artists were dead white guys. So, you can be sure I will be going back to see the Modern Scottish Women | Painters and Sculptors 1885-1965 exhibit in November!

Friday Linky List - 23 October 2015

From The CUT (via 100 Scope Notes): The Children's-Book Guy: An Ideal Crush Object - le sigh. I can't compete.

Prep for NaNoWriMo:
From Writers Helping Writers (via Cynsations): Planning a Novel: Character Arc In A Nutshell

At PubCrawl (via SCBWI Belgium): Doing Your Research: The Query Trenches Part III

From The New York Times (via my hubby): The Comics Artist Challenge

From Notes from the Slushpile (via SCBWI British Isles): The Many Faces of Diversity

From Scientific American (via the Hubby): Rediscovering the Forgotten Benefits of Drawing - BRAVO!!!!

From 100 Scope Notes at School Library Journal: When Caldecott Medals Are Born - interesting!

At PW: Obituary for Vera B. Williams. What a lovely lady she was.

At The Telegraph - An interesting article on the history of Daylight Savings Time

At Architectural Digest (from Tina Hanlon): The Homes of Ten Literary Greats

50 States - Virginia!

I lived in Georgia and Tennessee for most of my adult life, so why did I ask to feature Virginia for this latest anthology of fun maps and facts, THE 50 STATES, written and researched by Gabrielle Balkan and illustrated by Sol Linero (Quarto Publishing Group)? Because, I spent most of my childhood, the early years, in Virginia. At 6 months old, we moved to Manassas, Virginia - where my sister was born. And although we moved to Atlanta on my 5th birthday, I traveled to Lexington most summers to stay with my grandparents.
     So, when I got the job to teach Picture Book Design in the MFA in Writing and Illustrating Picture Books program at Hollins University in Roanoke, Virginia, it was like my life had come full circle. How strange to remember the smell of the boxwoods, and how there are bunnies everywhere! Virginia has become our US base, and what a beautiful base it is!
     Therefore, I'm proud to be the blog representative for Virginia. Click on the map to see a larger version in a new window.
Check out some of these cool factoids pulled from the book:
WELCOME TO OLD DOMINION One of the most historic of all the states, Virginia gained its nickname in the 17th century because King Charles I of England counted it as one of his dominions, calling the Virginians “the best of his distant children.” The state is also referred to as the birthplace of America, because the first permanent English colony in the New World was set up on Virginia’s shores in 1607. Another of Virginia’s nicknames is the “Mother of Presidents” because four out of the first five presidents were Virginians. Indeed, Virginia has always been in the thick of things, playing a lead role in the American Revolution and the Civil War. In fact, more Civil War battles were fought on Virginia’s soil than in any other state. And its beautiful landscape is just as interesting as its history. With its rolling green hills, white sandy beaches, and soaring mountains, visitors to Virginia won’t want to leave!
• •
Virginia was home to POCAHONTAS c.1596–1617 This legendary Native American helped the colonists of the Jamestown settlement.
And Ella Fitzgerald, born in Newport News, wins the first two of her 13 Grammy Awards. Called “The First Lady of Song,” she sold more than 40 million albums.
Other famous Virginia babies are Patsy Cine, Katie Couric, and Pharrell Williams.
• •
In children's news, Virginia is home to CECE BELL. The award-winning creator of El Deafo grew up in Salem and writes about her life with a Phonic Ear hearing aid. It's also home to the CHILDREN'S MUSEUM OF VIRGINIA, where you can make enormous human-sized bubbles and discover some 2,000 toys and trains in this Portsmouth museum.
• •
Geographically speaking, Virginia is home to the Chincoteague Wildlife Refuge, home to 150 wild ponies; Colonial Williamsburgh, a living history museum; and Cumberland Gap, originally a shortcut for Native American Indians.
Virginia is also home to Thomas Jefferson's Monticello and The Natural Bridge.
• •
Of course, the main thing people remember is that...

The Water of Leith

This past weekend I was too tired to go to the studio, but I still wanted to work in some way. So we decided to go to the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art. It's on the northwest side of town and the best way to get there is to walk along the extremely lovely Water of Leith. The head of the path is marked by the St. Bernard's Well statue. When you see this lovely lady, you know you're in for a nice day.
The path winds through woods by the gently coursing stream.
All along the way, people have stacked stones in the creek - I don't know why, but there are quite a few of them. Might they be cairns? Does anybody know?
The path winds past falls,
under a reasonably-sized bridge,
and under a bridge which towers above you.
It runs through Dean Village, which is the source of many of the most charming photos you find online for Edinburgh. See why?

We even saw a new bird (to us). It's called a Dipper. He had a funny little song which was difficult to hear over the running water. Can you see it?
Despite all these wonderful sights, the path isn't terribly long, just over a mile or so. Towards our destination it opens up on a large garden with benches to soak up the sunshine beside yet another falls...
And at the end of the path, you find this:
Yes, there are some steep stairs up to the museum. But at the top they make it all worth while by presenting you with a Henry Moore (who happens to be my favorite sculptor).
And that's just how you get to the museum. The next post will be about actually going inside.

Coloring Page Tuesday - Pumpkin Head

     So Friday was the first day I felt a serious chill in the air (which I didn't dress warmly enough for). Leaves are changing and littering the sidewalks with their crisp brushing sounds as I walk. What a wonderful sensation to be experiencing Fall in such an incredible new (to me) city!
     Here's a funny, pumpkiny dude for you this week. Funny or scary? You decide!
     CLICK HERE for more Halloween-themed coloring pages!
     CLICK HERE to 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 - winner of six literary awards. 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.
     I create my coloring pages for teachers, librarians, booksellers, and parents to enjoy for free with their children, but you can also purchase rights to an image for commercial use, please contact me. If you have questions about usage, please visit my Angel Policy page.

David Campbell - On Storytelling

I have a treat for you today! Master storyteller, David Campbell talks about the art of storytelling... (Click the image to watch on Vimeo.)

Illustrator Challenge #21

Draw a face you see in a cloud, a fold of fabric, an arrangement of leaves - wherever! (I see these all the time but rarely actually draw them. How about you?)

General Edinburgh Weirdness

I've been collecting weird things I've seen around town to share with you. This is probably the best one. Down on Cowgate is a building with half a cow heading into one side (with UDDERS!) and the other half of the cow coming out the other side. Because, you know, why not? It is Cowgate after all.
Just down from the cow is a neon sign - not so weird, but I love that somebody went to the trouble all the same.
I showed you this one before, found it in Newhaven. It's a Gargoyle face made out of shells.
This one is on George Street. There's a chain restaurant in Edinburgh with the weirdest name I've ever seen.
I can't bring myself to eat there. I mean, it's nickname is...
      In the Botanic Gardens there's a series of sculptures that basically look like mashed up aluminum foil. I think I made one of these when I was 6. I just didn't have the budget to make it BIG. I would've if I could've!
So, off of South Bridge are some very formal-looking buildings. One has an inset with a giant Urn.
Named, of course by somebody with a sharpie...
Then up to High Street, also known as the Royal Mile, is a complete conundrum. There is a statue of this guy, Hume. He was some sort of economic genius or something.
But here's the thing. If you read the plaque about him, a little hiccup emerges. I'll give you a minute...
Did you catch it? Notice the years he was alive - in the 1700s. Now look again at what he's wearing. The poor dude probably never wore a toga in his life, maybe even was quite conservative in his breeches and jackets. And here he is immortalized in a TOGA with his chest to bare. Hmmmm.
     I love it here.