Hollins Graduation!

I helped celebrate another graduation - this time for three of our Certificate in Illustration students at Hollins University. They are Jamie Barnes, Jennifer Luevanos, and Rebekah Lowell. The three of them put in enormous hours and effort to achieve this accomplishment and we are so proud of them. BRAVO guys!
The ceremony took place right next to the art exhibit this year...
and was overseen by Ruth Sanderson, Co-Director of the program.
Rebekah got a great photo with all of the faculty. We are... Mark Braught, Mary Jane Begin, Amanda Cockrell, Ruth Sanderson, Rebekah, Me, and Ashley Wolff.
Mary Jane Begin gave a lovely commencement speech, then the crowns (a tradition) and certificates (hand printed and painted by Ashley Wolff) are awarded.
Kassy Keppol made sure we were all in full regalia with sparkly designs. Here is Karen Coats sporting a lovely mermaid.
It was a lovely relaxing atmosphere this year as everybody had a chance to munch and mingle and celebrate these three graduates in fabulous Hollins style! (I'll share more photos as I get them.)

Laurent Linn at Hollins!

Laurent Linn, Art Director at Simon and Schuster was our visiting Art Director this year at Hollins University - what a treat! Laurent and I go way back, so it was lovely to see my friend again. And as usual, he was absolutely wonderful with our students! He gave one-on-one portfolio critiques to the 'seniors' in our Certificate in Children's Book Illustration program and our MFA in Children's Book Writing and Illustrating program. I sat in on the critiques as the scribe and took notes for our students so they wouldn't have to be distracted with that. It was so nice to see the slick portfolios and hear Laurent's valuable feedback.
     In the middle of all that, he gave a behind-the-scenes talk...
for his new book, Draw the Line.
Lots of people bought a copy, including me. I'll be carrying mine on the plane back to Edinburgh. Can't wait to dive into it!
One of our students has been getting signatures of all our visiting dignitaries, so Laurent had to add his John Hancock to it! (I pushed a button on my camera and now I'm getting panoramic photos - not on purpose, but kinda cool!)
Another student has everybody sign an apron. Here is Ruth Sanderson, me, and Laurent.
I also had the great pleasure of showing Laurent around adorable Roanoke - we had a lovely time! I wish I could hang out with my dear friend more often. For now, I'll relish the time we had!
BONUS MOMENT! At Amanda's last hurrah party (also known as the 'clean out your fridge' party), Tony pulled out his collection of Punch and Judy puppets for Laurent - how AWESOME was that!? We got silly.

VIDEO: A Wrinkle In Time Trailer!

It's official - check out the trailer for the newest adaptation of Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time for the silver screen! Click the image to watch on YouTube.

Jennifer's Studio

Jennifer D. (Anderson) Printz is one of the full-time fine-arts professors at Hollins University. Recently, she invited our program faculty to her studio to get a behind-the-scenes peek at how she works. What a treat!
Jennifer's studio is on the top floor of a church. It's a small denomination, so to help out with costs, the entire upstairs is rented out to artists. Fabulous!
One of the rooms has an installation piece by Ralph Eaton made up of chairs arranged in the most amazing fashion - wow. It's called "Chairway to Heaven." Indeed.
Jennifer's studio is enormous and she's custom built much of the furniture in the space, like the central table that has built-in storage,
to the fold down drawing tables made of doors.
Much like us children's book creators, she pulls together inspiration...
then noodles out what she wants to do before she dives in.

Jennifer works in graphite on both small compositions...
and large.

She shared some cool pieces she's been creating on old ledger paper,
and other wonderful creations.

Other items are arranged neatly as they wait their turn to become art in Jennifer's hands.
It was so lovely to peek inside the creative space of this fascinating artist (and teacher). I'm so glad to be teaching alongside her at Hollins, even if it is only for six weeks in the summers.

Debbi Michiko Florence's JASMINE TOGUCHI

On Creating Jasmine Toguchi
by Debbi Michiko Florence

      My path to publication was a meandering and bumpy road and for a long while, I felt like I’d never get here. I went to college for a B.S. in zoology with a minor in English and then got my K-8 teaching credentials. I taught 5th grade in L.A. for a semester, and then became the Associate Curator of Education for the Detroit Zoo, a dream job. And yet, all along, I had a secret dream. I wanted to be a writer. It wasn’t until I left my job and moved to Mexico City with my new husband for his job that I seriously considered pursuing a writing career.
      In 2001, when I started writing for teens and kids with an eye toward publication, I dove into research with glee. I read books on craft and the publishing business. I became a member of SCBWI and attended conferences. I joined critique groups. And I wrote, revised, and submitted many novels.
I kept writing, revising, querying, and submitting. I received some encouraging rejections, but they were still rejections. After seven years of that, in 2008, my heart had had enough. I decided to quit. This was after I had two nonfiction children’s books published. I was proud of those books, but that wasn’t the dream. The dream has always been fiction for me. I decided it wasn’t going to happen and it was time to move on. My heart broke as I bawled in my living room. I put on a movie to distract myself and within the first ten minutes, I came up with a story idea. I ran upstairs to get a legal pad and handwrote several pages of a story. My will to quit writing lasted all of a few hours. I realized and accepted that I was never going to stop writing. It was as much a part of me as breathing.
In 2010, I came across a newspaper article about a Japanese American family that got together every New Year’s to make mochi (a Japanese rice treat) in the traditional way, by pounding steamed sweet rice into a sticky mass and then rolling them into balls. Traditionally, men pounded the rice with a big wooden hammer into a mortar, and women hand-rolled the mochi. I wondered what would happen if a little girl wanted to do the boy’s job and how that would affect a family that respected and valued tradition. From that idea, Jasmine Toguchi, Mochi Queen was born. I wrote a draft, revised many times, and submitted. And it was rejected, though with a few positive and encouraging responses. I didn’t give up. I continued revising and submitting until finally, in the spring of 2015, Grace Kendall of FSG emailed me to say she wanted to acquire my chapter book manuscript! Not only that, but she asked if I’d be willing to write three more books for a series about Jasmine! Yes, yes, and yes!
I love working with Grace. She is an amazing editor and she really gets Jasmine, and she gets me. Around the same time, I signed with my dream agent, Tricia Lawrence of the Erin Murphy Literary Agency. Add to that the perfect illustrator, Elizabet Vukovic. Serious bliss all around!
      On July 11, 2017, sixteen years after I stepped onto the path toward publication, I will have not one, but two books released in the Jasmine Toguchi chapter book series.
      I could not have made it here without the support of an entire community. My husband, Bob, has never once wavered in his belief in me. My daughter, Caitlin, watched me work hard and struggle for her entire childhood. Her joy when I told her about the sale equaled mine. My parents and my sister have always believed I could do this, even when I didn’t think it was possible. And this community of writers has kept me afloat all along. I hope you’ll indulge me since I don’t get an acknowledgements section in my books, as I single out a few key people who have made this journey a bit easier: Jo Knowles, Cindy Faughnan, Jennifer Groff, Cindy Lord, and Daphne Benedis-Grab have been with me for over a decade, reading and critiquing my manuscripts, and cheering me on. This is not a full list of the friends and writers who have kept me going all these years, but to list everyone would far exceed my word count. You know who you are (including Elizabeth) - thank you, each and every one of you!
      This has been a long, and sometimes difficult, journey, but I wouldn’t change a thing. I’m glad I stayed on this path.

Coloring Page Tuesday - Mud Pie!

     This piggie makes the absolute best mud pies of all! CLICK HERE for more patriotic-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 over a dozen literary awards, including Georgia Author of the Year. 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.

Francelia Butler Conference

Saturday was the annual Francelia Butler Conference - run completely by graduate students at Hollins University. No dementors allowed.
The Francelia Butler Conference (FBC for short) is a long-standing tradition and opportunity for students to present their academic papers, creative works-in-progress, and illustrative process. That part is new this year and a welcome addition to the art show.

The conference has become the official venue to announce the winner of the Margaret Wise Brown Prize in Children's Literature. This year's winner was Adam Rex for School's First Day of School, which I featured HERE.
We got to catch up later at the banquet and after parties, although I don't have photos of those!
     The students really go all out for the conference. They make awesome decorations.

And inspired treats.
All semester we contribute books and hand-made items to the auction that helps fund the conference every year. Here's student Shawn Walton showing this year's offerings.
Some of the items are quite impressive, like a signed print by David Wiesner, and an original painting by Brian Lies! Here is Co-Director of the program Ruth Sanderson, with students Marilyn Mallue and Lucy Rowe. The students have a competition for the t-shirt designs.
And this year, there was a sketch-off. Ashley and I participated. The theme was "the Cheshire Cat tap dancing." I couldn't figure out why everybody was laughing until they called time. Ashley and I had drawn the exact same thing, and apparently in almost perfect syncronicity - the smile and shoes and nothing else. Because, y'know, it was the Cheshire Cat.
I love the conference. Each year I enjoy the talks, while drawing personalized notes for students and all the folks I'm so grateful to have in my life here at Hollins. Good job guys - it was another awesome conference!

Ethan and Vita Murrow - THE WHALE presentation

Ethan and Vita Murrow visited for two days at Hollins University to celebrate the opening of their very first show of original graphite drawings from THE WHALE at The Eleanor D. Wilson Museum. It was wonderful to hear about the path of these fine artists and the process behind the making of the book. Vita's background is in film, Ethan's in fine art. Their skills have come together in dramatic representations Ethan portrays in graphite - life size!
Or with sharpie pen - larger than life size!
They shared how they developed the story behind THE WHALE.
They hired actors to pose.
Ethan uses woodless graphite pencils from Koh-i-noor in soft leads from 6 to 9B on 100 lbs. Lenox paper. He says it lays flat after being rolled and holds up well to the pencil. I was fascinated by the marks he made.
You can get an idea of the size of the original drawings from the book next to the original drawing.
They created their compositions much like I do - pulling the elements together in Phosothop.
Then taking that to pencil.
The results are stunning.

Seeing the originals was a serious treat.

What an honor to host the Murrows here at Hollins!