182 Books Donated to TAP on Hollins Day!

At Hollins U, we host the Margaret Wise Brown Prize in Children's Literature and have since 2016. Publishers send us their best books for review. A copy is sent to each of the judges and to Hollins, where the books have far reaching ripple effects. I host our annual Picture Book Trends workshop (Click here for info!) for which we curate and observe how themes in children's books shift from year to year. I write wrap-up articles about identifiable trends that have been published in Publishers Weekly and the SCBWI Insight. And then, some of the books get added to our department library for students to study, while the rest get donated to needy organizations. This year, we donated 182 gorgeous picture books to TAP, Total Action for Progress, and TAP Head Start, a preschool program for three to four-year-olds.

Click the image to read the full press release!!!

     I was thrilled to be a part of the publicity team. Here I am with Hollins University SGA President Israella Freidline ’24, TAP President and CEO Annette Lewis, and Hollins President Mary Dana Hinton with children’s books donated by the university to TAP Head Start.

Dog Sitting

Some stories have to be told after the fact, because they're not funny until after the fact. Such was the case with a recent episode of dog sitting I did.
     My upstairs neighbors had to go out of town suddenly and needed someone to watch their doggie, Ramona. They used to have two doggies living with them, Ramona and Corazon - a 100lbs. Great Pyrenees puppy. I tried to watch them for one weekend and it didn't go well. There was no letting them in my apartment as a brief experiment proved. Corazon was in his teething stage which meant that everything went in his mouth. Also, one swipe of his massive paw and he could do major damage; so I coudn't even run to the bathroom, lest I not have my eye on him. (Corazon is now living with his grandparents with a big yard and several other big doggies.)
     So, here came the emergency and it was just Ramona. Surely I could handle the smaller of the two doggies for a few days? I mean, she's just so cute!
What I didn't know is that Ramona is also at the tail end (HA!) of her puppy stage. So, after a few laps of my apartment and digging of nails on the couch, out came the beach towels and sheets and anything else I could cover my furniture with! This was right before the couch was covered and we were starting to have a dubious time together.
But Ramona is a sweet doggie, and she was very used to being in bed with her parents. This proved to be a challenge, but we managed.

Things actually seemed to be going pretty well. She was getting used to my apartment, and we were getting used to each other. So, I went to run an errand...
     Are you yelling, "No, don't do it!"??? (You should be.)
     This is what I returned home to.
     So, Ramona is back with her parents who came home at the end of the weekend; and I still give her treats whenever she stops by my apartment. (I have become the "treat lady" to all the dogs on my street.) But as for future sleep-overs? Hm. It may be a while.

Terri Windling's FBC Talk

Terri Windling recently shared a recording of the talk she gave at our student-run Francelia Butler Conference in 2020 during Covid on her Patreon page. (It's only $1/month and it's easy to unsubscribe - not that you'll want to!) She talked about the Dark Forest, both physical and actual, "on the subject of "Wild children" in myth, folklore, and fantasy." CLICK HERE (or click the image) to subscribe and have a listen.
     And if you're into myth and folklore, you'll also want to check out her blog at Myth & Moor - it's one of my faves!


Last Thursday, I had the great pleasure of attending the grand-opening of the film HOPE OF ESCAPE, written, directed, and produced by our very own Hollins University Film Professor Amy Gerber at the beautiful and historic Grandin Theater.
The inside of the theater reminds me of a mini-Fox Theater in Atlanta.
     An enslaved mother and daughter must escape before they are sold and separated forever. Their only hope is to connect with their free relatives in the North and convince the most powerful abolitionists of their time to help them.
      Experience this timely historical drama based on a true story about the heroics of an American family.
     The movie took Amy over two years to create. The story was based on her own, real family history and brought up issues of divided families, the lightness of one's skin, and the real struggles families went through to free their enslaved relatives.
     A Q&A followed the movie. Here I am with two of our Museum leaders, Janet and Jenine.
It just felt so good to be a part of the celebration for this massive accomplishment and important documentation of historical heroes. BRAVO Amy!
     CLICK HERE or the poster above to read more about it and view the trailer.

Stan in NYC - Chapter 5

There was one story about my trip to New York that I didn't share yet - it deserves its own post. You may recall that I had my late husband's ashes turned into Parting Stones. I received a whole box full of them and my goal is to spread him around the world in beautiful and significant places, and that's exactly what I've been doing. This now includes New York.
     MJ and I had a break before her train, so we walked down (up?) to Central Park. I had an idea... It's no coincidence that MJ was there for the first of Stan's Parting Stones that I threw out into the world, and the second one, that turned into a funny story. Here she was with me for a third time...
There is a lovely pond on the south side of Central Park that has is simply breathtaking.
We headed for the bridge that straddles it.
And navigated around the piano on the bridge... as you do.
MJ said some nice words.
And off he went!
Chucked into the pond in Central Park!
I think Stan will like it there.
Turns out the pond was quite shallow though. Stan's stones turned out white, so I could actually see him there.
I'm sure he'll sink into the silt quickly, but for now, what a view he has!
     I miss my man; but we are all finite, and I am so grateful for the time I had with him and the adventures we made. I have no regrets. We should all be so lucky.

Follow along!
     I'm in New York City - Chapter 1!
     I'm in New York City - Chapter 2!
     SCBWI New York City - Chapter 3!
     SCBWI New York - Chapter 4!
     Stan in NYC - Chapter 5

SCBWI New York - Chapter 4!

With our good looking table set up, it's no surprise that we received a ton of interest at the New York SCBWI conference! So much so, I really didn't get many photos of the actual day. Although, the organizers came up with a brilliant plan this year and had one of the Illustrator Coordinators (IC), Andrew Lozano, take Polaroids of the event. How fun! The polaroids were laid out towards the end of the conference for everyone to enjoy and label.
He got several photos of MJ and me!

He also got some of the other ICs with friends TeMika, Jerry, and Elizabeth.
And of Sophie Blackall (who I met and briefly fan-gushed over) and Vashti Harrison, the newest Caldecott winner, who I did not get to meet but with I had!
     Next to the polaroids was another brilliant idea... illustrator postcards were set out for interested folks to grab.
One of our alums, Julie Coyle had one there.
And so did Ashley Belote, who I can't believe I didn't get a photo with considering we are buds!!!
At any rate, I did get a lovely photo of three of the lovely geniuses who made the whole conference happen, Bonnie Bader, Kim Turrisi, and Tammy Brown.
And I caught the well-earned standing ovation for illustrator James Ransome, who will be our Illustrator-in-Residence at Hollins this summer.
Saturday evening they threw a massive party for all the various SCBWI regions - each had a table to gather around in one of three rooms. I hope the hotel hosts ballroom dancing in this one!
I also had a lovely meeting at a local cafe that looked straight out of a Paris train station - this is a photo from a book they shared about it.
     After MJ caught the train home on Sunday, I did a little wandering on my own... I went to the MOMA Design store, one of my faves on the planet. I didn't get photos, but I did get this funny little thing for my bookshelves. It's called a "Hoptimist" and it jiggles when you tap it like it's laughing, which makes me smile!
And while this has nothing to do with the conference at all, I did grab a moment to wander into the Haute Couture clothing store at the front of the hotel. (There was a time in my life when I thought I'd become a fashion designer.) How fun were these!?

But best of all, I got to have dinner with my dear friend Mikki Knudsen (author of The Library Lion). We went to a cute little Thai restaurant called Topaz.
Best calamari EVAH!
     Leaving New York is always bittersweet to me. It's a town I always wanted to live in, and probably won't. (Although Ellen says to come stay with them, enjoy the good stuff, and not the bad.) But I sincerely love New York! Even LaGuardia airport makes you nostalgic with a lovely water feature that plays "New York, New York" as you're walking through.
I have one more story to share about New York in my next post if you care to read... it's about Stan and how his adventures continue...

Follow along!
     I'm in New York City - Chapter 1!
     I'm in New York City - Chapter 2!
     SCBWI New York City - Chapter 3!
     SCBWI New York - Chapter 4!
     Stan in NYC - Chapter 5

SCBWI New York City - Chapter 3!

The Society of Children's Book Wrtiers and Illustrators (SCBWI) recently opened the door to sponsorships during their conferences. Considering the International New York conference had 700 attendees who all wanted to learn about getting published as children's book authors and illustrators, our exact student demographic at Hollins University, we jumped at the opportunity! So, Mary Jane Begin and I headed to the Hilton Midtown in NYC to set up our fantastic-looking table in the heart of the conference.
We were popular! I wish I had more photos to share, but we were busy! I nearly lost my voice the first day there because we never stopped talking with folks - seriously!
     Many, many thanks to Sharon and Linda who made sure we had all the collateral we needed and that our website was linking to everything correctly! We had brochures, bookmarks, totes, business cards, pens, big banners, flyers, and table-toppers advertising our:
     1) New $1,000 scholarship competition for an SCBWI member to receive funding towards tuition. The entrance requirements are pretty simple and the deadline is March 15, 2024. CLICK HERE to learn more!
     2)The four fabulous workshops we're hosting this summer.
     3) Our new year-round MFA in Children's Book Writing and Illustrating option! (We still offer our popular summer-sessions-only programming too!)
     Yup, we looked GOOD! Which was a good thing considering we had a lot of interested people to talk to!
     Friday was a soft-launch day for the conference. Attendees signed up for one-on-one portfolio reviews, manuscript critiques, and marketing tips that took place all day Friday, so it was more of a steady stream of folks compared to the rush that was coming. It still looked plenty busy at the registration desk!
     Last year was the first time the conference ran in person since Covid, and folks were still a little shy back then; so, this year's conference felt like the real homecoming. Happily, we were invited to attend the private publisher's portfolio party Friday evening. Industry professionals from all the big New York publishing houses come to this party to mingle and look at the portfolios at their leisure. (There was also Free food and Free booze!) I got to hug so many people I hadn't seen in ages, but who I've know for probably 20 years at this point. The happy thing is, they remembered me too! I felt loved. So, it really was like returning home to the organization that I had missed while away for Covid and my studies abroad. And as sponsors, we had some lovely signage to help explain our new goals!
     Indeed, it was fun being there with a different purpose this time. I wasn't trying to sell a book; heck, I didn't even have a portfolio on display. I was there to represent Hollins and just get the word out about our graduate programs.
     The publishers seemed genuinely grateful for our program too, teaching creators to take themselves and their craft seriously, and to submit the best works possible. We heard that during one of the panels, a publisher said something along the lines of, "Heck, you've got an MFA program right outside that door, there to help you become a stronger creator. Go do that!" As a result, we had a sudden rush of attendees come to our table to ask about our programs. Teacher mode kicked in and we asked them to stand in a circle so that we could share with everyone at the same time!
     During the party, I got to connect with so many wonderful people. I only got pictures of a few and will share as more come in. Here I am with SCBWI founder, and dear, dear soul, Lin Oliver, and the head of Klutz, Netta Rabin.
Here I am with Dan Yaccarino and James Ransome (who will be our Illustrator in Residence at Hollins this summer, joined by his wife, author Lesa Cline-Ransome).
And I got to spend time with one of my favorite people in the industry, Paul O. Zelinsky, who I attribute as being one of the illustrators who made me want to become an illustrator! You probably remember his Caldecott-winner, Rapunzel.

     What a special day that was, and that was only the beginning!

Follow along!
     I'm in New York City - Chapter 1!
     I'm in New York City - Chapter 2!
     SCBWI New York City - Chapter 3!
     SCBWI New York - Chapter 4!
     Stan in NYC - Chapter 5

I'm in New York City - Chapter 2!

Ellen tried to teach me how to use the submway as she, Delia, and I headed to the Hilton Midtown the next day, where the SCBWI Conference is taking place.
I checked into the hotel and we picked up Mary Jane Begin, our Illustration Chair, who took the train in from Providence to help with the conference. Together, we headed to Soba-ya in the East Village.
They had these tiny, intricate figurines (I assume they were antique ivory) at the entrance.
The food was delicious - so sorry I didn't get a photo! Afterwards, we wandered around the East Village - a neighborhood I could definitely see myself living in—it's such an eclectic mix!

We stopped at Tokyo Taiyaki for desert.
They make these amazing pancake-like pastries stuffed with red bean paste (or other options).
They were so yummy, but very filling!
     Ellen and Delia caught the subway home and MJ and I decided to walk around Time Square.

We got a bit turned around, so it ended up being some exercise, but gads, we had fun talking like crazy and soaking up the energy of the city that never sleeps!
We earned a good night's sleep, ready to hit the ground running the next morning!

Follow along!
     I'm in New York City - Chapter 1!
     I'm in New York City - Chapter 2!
     SCBWI New York City - Chapter 3!
     SCBWI New York - Chapter 4!
     Stan in NYC - Chapter 5