15 December 2017

Friday Links List - 15 December 2017

From Brightly: Is That You, Santa Claus? 12 Picture Books with Fresh Takes on Saint Nick

From PW: Holiday Sales Season Starts for Children's Booksellers

From PW: (renowned African-American novelist, playwright, essayist, critic, and civil rights activist) James Baldwin's Sole Children's Book Comes Back into Print

From SLJ - Betsy Bird's Fuse #8: 31 Days, 31 Lists - Day Seven - 2017 Funny Picture Books (followed by links to all the lists so far)

From HuffPost: Best Picture Books of 2017

From the Center for the Study of Multicultural Children's Literature (via Cynsations): Best Multicultural Children's Books of 2017

From Jezebel: How We Eclipse Women's Literary Brilliance With 'Scandal'

SURVEY: Sexual Harassment in Children's Book Publishing

From Hannah Holt (via Cynsations): How to Make a Living as a Children's Book Author

From Wired: What Happens When an Algorithm Helps Write Science Fiction

Pantone's Color of the year is PURPLE!!! Read about it at Houzz

From Cynsations: Guest Post: Janni Lee Simner on Setbacks & The Writing Journey

From The Federation of Children's Book Groups: Who are KNIGHTS OF? (A new publishing house doing things inclusively)

From USA Today: Merriam-Webster's Word of the Year is "Feminism"

From Brightly: The Best Children's Books of 2017, According to Kids (GREAT list!)

From Terri Windling's Myth & Moor: On Becoming a Writer

14 December 2017

Matt Tavaris' RED & LULU

You may know Matt Tavaris for his myriad of baseball books. As such, RED & LULU is a marvelous addition to his canon of beloved books. Happily, he dropped by Dulemba.com to talk about it...
e: What is your creative process and medium, can you walk us through it?
For the illustrations in Red & Lulu, I used watercolor and gouache on Arches 300 pound hot press paper. It’s mostly watercolor, with gouache here and there for details and highlights. I do all my preliminary sketches digitally, because working on the computer allows me to place the text right where I want it to see how the words and pictures work together, and it also allows me more flexibility as I’m brainstorming and planning each page. For example, if I’m drawing Red flying around the Empire State Building, I need to decide where exactly he is going to be on the page, and how big. To do this on paper, I would need to keep drawing and re-drawing the character. But on the computer, I can move him around, make him bigger, make him smaller, and keep adjusting until it’s just right. But then once I move on to my final art, I work the old fashioned way, with real pencils, paint and paper.
e: What do you think makes an illustration magical, what I call "Heart Art” - the sort that makes a reader want to come back to look again and again?
I think that if an illustrator pours his or her heart onto a book, it shows. And hopefully that translates to the reader. A book is always going to mean something different to the reader than it does to its creator, just like any work of art. But it has to mean something to the illustrator. The illustrator has to care about all the little details, so the reader can trust that it’s worth their time to pore over them again and again, hopefully discovering something new each time. There is a note taped to my drawing table that says “Everything matters.” I put it there to remind me to pay attention to every tiny detail in every illustration. Because all of it is important.
e: Is there a unique or funny story behind the creation of Red and Lulu?
One late December day in 2015, I was in New York City doing research for Red & Lulu, walking through Central Park with my family. There is a nature sanctuary near the south end of Central Park, and that’s where I imagined Red and Lulu would live toward the end of the story. As we walked toward the nature sanctuary, I pointed out the spot to my kids, to show them where I was thinking Red and Lulu would live, in this woodsy area where you can see the buildings through the trees. Just then, a bright red cardinal landed on a branch, right in the spot where I was thinking Red and Lulu would make their nest. It was pretty amazing. And it was great for my research, because then I knew that it was perfectly possible that they would live in that spot at that time of year. There were a few strange things like this that happened while I was working on this book. Seems like a cardinal would always show up just at the right time. I like to think they were letting me know I was on the right track.
e: What was your path to publication as an illustrator and for this book?
Red and Lulu is the 19th book I’ve illustrated, and the 9th that I’ve written. So my initial path to publication happened a while ago. I wrote and illustrated a picture book as my senior thesis at Bates College in 1997. From there, I met my agent, Rosemary Stimola, through a serendipitous series of connections. Rosemary shopped my story around a bit, got a few rejections, and then found Candlewick Press, who liked it! I did the whole thing over again, and eventually, it became my first published book, Zachary’s Ball, which came out in 2000.
      Red & Lulu’s path to publication was a long and winding road that started back in 2011. It actually began as a non-fiction picture book about the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree. I submitted a version of that to Candlewick, and they told me they liked it but felt that it needed more heart, and suggested I add characters to help tell the story. First I tried focusing on human characters, but that didn’t quite work. Then I came up with the idea of focusing on animals who live in the tree, which led me to the pair of cardinals. I wrote a version of Red & Lulu that was about 1000 words long. My editor liked it, but asked it I would consider trying to tell the story as a wordless picture book. I loved that idea, so I spent several months working on telling the story with no words. But I felt like that version didn’t quite work either. So we took both versions, added back words where they seemed necessary, and ended up with the final version of the book, which I think has about 450 words. It was a long process that spanned 5 or 6 years, but that allowed me to really live with the story and make it my own. This is my first book where the characters aren’t human, but in a lot of ways I feel like this is my most personal book. This is truly “heart art” for me.
e: What is your favorite or most challenging part of being a creator?
I love that I get to spend my days being creative, sitting here at my drawing table and painting and drawing and writing stories, doing what I love to do. There are lots of exciting things about being an author and an illustrator, but actually doing the work is my favorite part.
      The most challenging part is the business side of it. I wish I could just make the books and not worry about all that other stuff.

e: Is there something in particular about Red and Lulu you hope readers will take away with them, perhaps something that isn’t immediately obvious?
One interesting thing I’ve already noticed with this book is that different people really seem to connect with it in different ways. I think the fact that the main characters are birds makes it easier for people to connect the story to something in their own lives, as opposed to a story about a specific person. The birds are blank canvases, to some extent.
      I guess one thing I could point out that people might not notice is the role that the evergreen tree plays in the story. This is a story about dealing with change. Red and Lulu live in a big, beautiful evergreen. Their tree is the center of their world. I feel like this is the perfect symbol to use in this story, because even its name, “evergreen”, implies permanence. But of course, it is a living thing, subject to the unpredictability of time, weather, and nature. And one of Red and Lulu’s favorite things is to listen to people sing about their tree, “O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree, thy leaves are so unchanging…”. These lyrics are repeated a few times throughout the story, reinforcing the idea that Red and Lulu see their tree as the permanent foundation of their lives, making it all the more unthinkable when suddenly, it is chopped down and taken away.
     Click the image below to see it larger in a new window.
e: What are you working on next or what would be your dream project?
I just signed up for four new picture books with Candlewick, two as illustrator and two as author-illustrator. One is fiction, and the other three are nonfiction. My dream project right now is to write and illustrate a graphic novel. I’ve got some ideas…
e: We look forward to seeing them all! Thanks, Matt!

12 December 2017

Coloring Page Tuesday - Two-fer! Santa and Happy Hanukkah!

     I never tire of drawing that jolly old elf! Ho-Ho-Ho! CLICK HERE for more Christmas-themed coloring pages!
     Oil lamps are lovely and tricky things to draw. I hope to share more. CLICK HERE for more Hanukkah-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... THE 12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS IN GEORGIA! Click the cover to learn about this state-themed picture book! Makes a GREAT teacher gift!
     Don't live in Georgia? Check with your local bookseller - Sterling has a version for each state.
     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.

11 December 2017

Quantitative and Qualitative Methods...

Never did I think these words would be a part of my lexicon, but here they are. I took a week-long intensive on Research Design at the University of Glasgow last week. It meant getting up at 5:30am every day to commute from Edinburgh via bus (less than half the cost of the train). (But also meant I had a great view of the Super Moon on the bus ride home one evening.) I wasn't sure how the course would help me - I'm not a Social Scientist. But it turned out to be extremely helpful. It gave me structure for my thoughts and ideas on how to tackle them in a clear and well-defended way in my thesis. Who knew?
     I'll also be auditing Dr. Evelyn Arizpe's upcoming course on Children's Literature and Literacies Critical Enquiry. The reading list includes such awesome books as The City of the Beasts by Isabel Allende and Evil Star by Anthony Horowitz. How awesome is that? I've never enjoyed homework so much!
     All that said, I didn't play much this week. This must be remedied. Stay tuned for some holiday fun!

10 December 2017

VIDEO: Scott Fischer Inking Process

This is a great video of Scott Fischer doing the inking stage of a piece of artwork at Muddy Colors. Click the image to watch at 'Turn Down' Throwing Down Some Ink.

07 December 2017

Ruth Sanderson's FOUR FUR FEET

I'm thrilled to have my good friend, mentor, and boss at Hollins University here today. Please welcome Ruth Sanderson as she shares her newest illustrated book written by Margaret Wise Brown, for a special new project...

By Ruth Sanderson

      I was thrilled to be asked to illustrate Four Fur Feet by Margaret Wise Brown, a sweet rhyming story, to launch The Early Literacy Project at Hollins University, where I co-direct the MFA in Writing and illustrating for children. Two professors came up with the concept to create a series of books that incorporated hints to parents and caregivers when reading with a very young child. This has never been done to my knowledge. Hollins owns the copyright to many Margaret Wise Brown’s manuscripts, which were left to Hollins, her Alma Mater, so this story was chosen from the manuscripts available. Future books in the series will be written and illustrated by our MFA students, who will compete to win a significant tuition stipend equivalent to an industry book advance.
It was a challenge to figure out the look and placement of the little logo I designed of a ladybug adult reading to a child. I placed the logo along with caregiver hints on the bottom right of each page for continuity, much smaller than the story text so not to be confusing. I had to design the pages carefully as we wanted the art to be full bleed and had to leave plain areas for the text to fit. Another challenge in fitting everything and making it readable was the fact that the final board books were to be less than six inches square! I settled on 7pt type for the caretaker notes, small, but still readable.

      Turn the Page is a non-profit organization in Roanoke, Virginia whose mission is “to provide every child in the Roanoke Valley with his or her own library of books during the crucial early years of life.” Turn the Page’s goal in part is to give books to every mom who delivers a baby at Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital (CRMH). This fall, in partnership with Hollins, the nonprofit organization gave the hospital 5,000 free copies of Four Fur Feet! The Early Literacy Project at Hollins plans to do a study on a number of the children and families who receive these books, and whether/how the caregiver hints positively affect the children/families involved.

      The book itself is not currently available in bookstores online. I believe it will be eventually sold through the Hollins Store and at local venues in Roanoke. I am offering signed copies along with a print on my website www.ruthsanderson.com. ( The print of the fox and boats is shown here.)
Visit The Early Literacy Project Home Page to hear the book set to song!

05 December 2017

Coloring Page Tuesday - Star Mouse

     Catch a star... and take a nap, like this wee mousie. Zzzzz. CLICK HERE for more 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... THE 12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS IN GEORGIA! Click the cover to learn about this state-themed picture book! Makes a GREAT teacher gift!
     Don't live in Georgia? Check with your local bookseller - Sterling has a version for each state.
     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.

03 December 2017

Cold Ice and Warm Friends

One of my writing buddies and her hubby are in town - Janice and Tom Hardy. I've hosted Janice on my blog many times. She's the author of The Healing Wars Trilogy and some great books on writing at Fiction University. She's also been one of my first readers for some of my works-in-progress. (I'm one of her's too!) So, to have her in town to play is an absolute TREAT!
That said, I have been buried in work and studying, so I really needed a play-date. Friday, we met for lunch at Dishoon, overlooking the ice-skating-rink at St Andrew Square, then headed down George Street to see the Blue Dome...
And the ICE-SCULPTURES!!! The building is kept at a frigid -10° to keep the art safe. And I am so glad because they were GORGEOUS!!! The first sculpture you see as you walk in is the national animal of Scotland - the Unicorn. (Seriously.)
You follow a winding path that leads you past a Celtic Cross with fairies...
Wojtek the real ice bear...
Amazing deer...
A gorgeous sheep about to be a wolf's lunch (notice the ice-thistles)...
And being Scotland, of course there were the Kelpies...
And Mary Queen of Scots about to have her head cut off, because nothing says Christmas like... yeah, it was a little strange...
There were photo-ops too, like Janice as an Ice Hairy Coo...
And thrones at the end that were - ahem - COLD!!! OMG!!!!
All said, the whole thing was very cool...Bwahahaha! Yeah, you can smack me for that one. Hehe.

02 December 2017

Being International at the UoG

One of the things I love about being at an international university is the various people, cultures, and countries I'm exposed to. For instance, this week the University of Glasgow hosted author Ahlam Bsharat who was in the UK to accept an award for her mid-grade Code Name: Butterfly about a young girl living in occupied Palestine. Ahlam herself is Palestinian and doesn't speak much English, so classmate Suzanne translated her Arabic for us... "Us" being about 20 students from every corner of the globe. I'm pretty sure at least 20 countries were represented in the audience alone.
     And that's what makes opportunities like these so important. It reminds us of the harsh conditions some people have to deal with, and makes them human and their situations real to us. It's hard to hate a country when you have friends there. And indeed, I now have friends all over the world. This is how PEACE grows.

30 November 2017


My friend and Hollins University colleague, Hillary Homzie, is here today to talk about her latest release from Sky Pony Press, Pumpkins Spice Secrets...

Gratitude, Loss and Joy this Holiday Season
Hillary Homzie

      Last month two things happened to me simultaneously. My new middle grade, Pumpkins Spice Secrets, released and California Wine Country where I live caught on fire. To call it anything less than a horror, would be an understatement. Forty-three lives were claimed, 3 billion dollars worth of property damage. 245,00 acres burned. 90,000 people were displaced. Hundreds and hundreds of houses were burned. Entire neighborhoods went up in smoke.
      My family was lucky. We were mandatorily evacuated for a week and then returned to a yard full of ash but our house still stood and suffered no significant damage other than some mildly smoke-y walls. Other friends weren’t so lucky. They lost not just their houses, but their wedding albums, their artwork, and their family heirlooms.
      It was during this period that I had a lovely new middle grade book to celebrate. A book that had received positive reviews, including one in School Library Journal.
      However, I didn't feel like celebrating.
      I, along with all of the other residents in Napa and Sonoma County, were in a deep sense of shock and grief. In so many neighborhoods, it looked as if a bomb had gone off. How could I celebrate anything when so many had lost so much?
      At first, I considered canceling my October launch party at Copperfield’s Books on October 21. While the fires had mostly been put out, the air was still smoke filled and school wouldn’t start--after a two weeks hiatus--until that Monday.
      Would having a party to celebrate the release of a light-hearted but realistic look at middle grade friendships and crushes be disrespectful? A book where the worst problem is that seventh grader Maddie Campbell is having trouble confessing to her more socially successful best friend Jana Patel that they like the same boy, as well as dealing with her fear of public speaking. Wouldn’t anyone come to my launch?
      I guess I worried that I hadn’t written an important book. A big book about the issues of the day or the tragedies. There were no morally ambiguous politicians, no hurricanes, floods or fires.
      I had written a realistic snapshot of middle school.
      That was all.
      To my surprise and astonishment, folks did come to my launch. Quite a few. Everyone who came had been affected by the fires. They were folks who had been displaced, and they came with their masks in tow. Others had lost their houses. And they came. To my launch.
      I was awestruck. And humbled.
      And I learned something.
      Once people are safe, once they having all the necessary things like clean air to breath, food, a place to sleep, food and clothing, they want to celebrate life. They want to be in a place of joy. They long to laugh.
      And that celebrating fun books that encourage kids to read, especially the less avid readers, is not something to put off. Or feel any shame in.
      At the reading, so many of my friends were all smiles. While they had lost their possessions, they were safe. And most everyone said “it was just stuff.” Furthermore, they felt a deep sense of gratitude to the community for all the support they had received, and wanted to get out and connect with others and bond over books. Some even confessed that the fires had given them a second chance, an opportunity to refresh and start anew.
      Ultimately, although the fires were tragic, with will and determination, there will be a happy ending for most of the people of wine country.
      And in books for young people, while it’s imperative to have narratives that show some of the darker and unwelcome sides, it’s also a service to have books that offer pure pleasure, books that kids read when they’re feeling down and want to be lifted up. Books that are like pure comfort food or in the case of Pumpkin Spice Secrets, a sip of your favorite steaming hot beverage.
      To find out more about the book, go to the Sky Pony Press website.
      Happy holidays everyone!

28 November 2017

Coloring Page Tuesday - Cookie Raiders

     The holidays are all about treating yourself and your loved ones. I wish you lots of treats! CLICK HERE for more 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... THE 12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS IN GEORGIA! Click the cover to learn about this state-themed picture book! Makes a GREAT teacher gift!
     Don't live in Georgia? Check with your local bookseller - Sterling has a version for each state.
     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.

27 November 2017

Thanksgiving Edinburgh Salon

This was our 3rd year to host the Edinburgh Salon Thanksgiving Feast. We - hah! It was Stan and Connie and they were flying!
I love hosting the salon because folks pay to have Connie (and Stan) cook for them. So everybody shows up, and on time, and the rule is everybody leaves before the witching hour that would disturb the neighbors. It's a perfect party really. And best of all, there's a regular crowd of us that attend these and we've all become good friends. Many have hosted salons themselves, like Allen and Terri, here with Deborah and Penelope.
Some folks only come every once in a while and it's lovely to catch up. Here are Jane, Chris, and been too long Mel and Antony.
And there are always some new folks in tow. Here are Rob (new), Suzanne, Dan (new), and Alex. Did I get their names right?
The feast was a right and proper Southern-style Thanksgiving dinner with shrimp and salmon mousse appetizers, turkey, ham, nut-loaf, sweet potato casserole with both marshmallows (a must for our UK friends) and pecan crumble, lemon green beans, potatoes in duck fat (okay, that is the UK addition), gravy, home-made cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie and pumpkin cheese-cake. WOWSA!
Stan and Connie really outdid themselves. EVERY dish was sublime and everybody dug in with gusto!

Of course, the best thing about the salons is cathing up with friends.

Towards the end we asked what everybody was thankful for. "Connie" was the number one answer as we have all so enjoyed this marvelous gathering of friends and good food that she makes possible for us every month. Thank you, Connie!


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