Thursday, March 20, 2014

Reading at the 2014 Book'em Read Me Day

Last month I was invited to read Beyond The Grave during Book'em's Read Me Day at Cockrill Elementary, in conjunction with the Nashville Rotary Club. Book'em is an organization that promotes literacy through big and small efforts such as giving books to kids, schools and libraries as well as organizing readers to visit lower income schools to share their love of reading.

It was the first time I've ever been part of an event like that and, wow, was it a fancy affair. I had a great time. It was Book'em's 25th anniversary and the Rotary Club's 100th Anniversary so there were over 70 different readers on hand to spend the morning sharing books with Cockrill's 500 students. Plus I actually got to meet a REAL ballerina, the ONLY female marine in the state of Tennessee and even the mayor! (though note, when I told the Fry and Sprout about this they were only impressed with the fact that there was also birthday cake.)

Before we got down to the nitty gritty of reading there was a big assembly in the gym. I managed to snag a seat almost directly behind the podium and thus had a terrific view of the kid's responses to all the speakers. One of the things I love about kids, and one of the reasons I create books for them, is that they are so often not impressed with grown-ups that they are supposed to be impressed by. So it was quite amusing to watch the front row scrabble over a paper Cat in the Hat hat instead of applaud admiringly at The First Lady of Tennessee's speech. As a whole though, the kids at Cockrill Elementary were a very well behaved audience and my particular classroom was politely riveted as I read some scary parts of Beyond The Grave and explained how it was illustrated.

Here's a few pictures from my day:

After I read Beyond the Grave, I showed the kids how I did the illustrations.
They thought it was funny how each piece can be upside down or sideways
on my paper depending on how I put it on the scanner.

My fantastic audience, Ms. Wheeler's second grade class.
They made us penguin themed thank you cards!

I was very happy to see my good friend Jessica Young's
picture book, My Blue Is Happy, as one of the chosen ones!

The real ballerina from the Nashville Ballet.
Notice the famous birthday cake in the background;)

Oh just chillin' with Mayor Dean
waiting for the program to start. 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

This week over on Once Upon A Sketch

I've posted the first of my two part interview with Susan Eaddy, clay illustrator and the Illustration Coordinator for the SCBWI Midsouth region. Susan is always generous with her time and advice. Her videos are just fun to watch and make me want to have a go at iMovie. Go check it out.

Also from my continued reading assignment for 2014 here's my fave picture books from the past month:

Sometimes I Forget You're A Robot by Sam Brown - very sweet story about getting what you want. I especially loved the plaintive "beep beeps" of the Robot as he tries to show the main character what he CAN do.

The Twins' Blanket by Hyewon Yum - A great story about learning to share. I especially love how Hyewon Yum manages to capture the different personalities of each twin in very little text.

The Block Mess Monster by Betsy Howie, illustrated by C.B. Decker - the illustrations really knock this story out of the park as Becker shows extravagant expression on the part of the child, the mom, and the blocks who don't want to be put away.

Friday, March 14, 2014

SCBWI Midsouth Sweeps the Bologna Illustration Gallery

I'm ecstatic to announce that one of my illustrations (and the header of my blog no less;) is a finalist for the 2014 SCBWI Illustration Gallery at the Bologna Book Fair in Bologna, Italy at the end of this month.

Here's the piece, it was created for the illustrator's intensive class at the 2013 Midsouth Conference. When I went to Kinkos to get a print made for the regional PAL showcase the guy behind the counter made an off-hand comment that it reminded him of Where the Wild Things Are.

WHAT! did that guy just compare my work to Maurice Sendak?!?

Alright let's settle down and keep things in perspective here….

At the Book Fair, a winner and four runners-up will be chosen. To be honest, that'd be great but to me the real value is being nominated as a finalist at all. My work will be displayed at one of the most prestigious event in the world for children's books.

Making this whole announcement even better is the fact that FOUR other Midsouth illustrators, and good friends of mine, are also finalists! Tennessee and Kentucky are growin' a mighty fine crop o' illustrators down here in the Midsouth! I share congratulations with Susan Eaddy, Kris Sexton, and Cheryl Mendenhall. Here's a look at the finalist round-up, click through to see all their fabulous artwork.

Friday, February 21, 2014

So if you want to draw a 1969 Dodge Charger...

… there's a kid at College Grove Elementary that's right there with you.

Last week I was quite honored to be invited to speak at College Grove Elementary about illustrating and books. It was during the school's Read-a-thon and my SCBWI friend, Kristin Tubb, explained it would just a few minutes in the morning in front of the entire school.

ulp, the entire school?

Actually it went wonderfully well and 250 kids turned out to not be as intimidating as I'd imagined. Fortunately another SCBWI friend Stephen Shashkan advised me to prep the teachers that the kids could ask questions, that way they'd have time to think up some good ones. And it worked! The kids all asked incredibly great questions including my favorite from a kid who wanted to know if I could explain to him how to make his picture of a 1969 Dodge Charger look shiny. When I responded that I could tell he'd really been putting effort into his picture he said "yes ma'am if you need to know how to draw a 1969 Dodge Charger I can tell you all about it." So there if you have it, 1969 Dodge Charger fans - your reference guru is in the 4th grade at College Grove Elementary.

Here I am talking about the illustrations in Beyond The Grave

Thursday, January 23, 2014

My Favorite Books This Week Plus What I Blogged at Word Disco

True to my New year's Resolution in this post, I've been reading 5 books a week, rating them, and researching the agents who represent. Here are some of my favs so far:

The Santa Trap - Jonathan Emmet and Poly Bernatene, really funny with a satisfying ending

Tornado Slim and The Magic Cowboy Hat - Bryan Langdo, great illustrations

Crankenstein - Samantha Berger and Dan Santat, really funny illustrations that go with snappy story

Carnivores - Aaron Reynolds and Dan Santat, this book is funniest book I've read in a while. Great story and great illustrations.

Also over on Word Disco this week I discuss what happens when a sketch for a good idea leads to an existential crisis. It's all part of the job. Read that post here.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

My New Year's Resolution post has been hijacked by the cold

uh lessee… what can we say about 2014 so far…. IT'S COLD!

Apparently right at the moment the entire North American continent right down to Miami is suffering from a polar vortex that causes terror not unlike this:

It causes weather apps to look like this:

All that being said, instead of my traditional blog about a New Year's Resolution I've been paging through beach house listings… palm trees…. baked oysters… ooooo aaaaaahhhh - Ouch my fingers just froze to the keyboard!

(fingers gripping coffee for warmth) Back to resolutions….a few months ago I read how a particular agent I admire reads five picture books a day no matter what. That struck me as a particularly good goal to have. But five a day is pretty tall order. I know that sounds crazy since I have two small children and we read books all the time but I pretty sure that agent didn't mean she reads the SAME 5 picture books every day. And I'm pretty sure they are not all about princesses and airplanes. So to make this resolution workable I'm reading 5 new picture books a week, preferably published in the last 3 years. For at least 15 years I've been flipping open the cover of every book I see to read who published it. Because of that I have a built in knowledge of which publishers I'd love to work with but connecting projects to agents takes a little more research. So on top of five new books every week, I've decided to create a rating system - ones I love, ones maybe I can learn from, and ones that -ah- don't fall into the first two categories. With the help of this system and Publishers Marketplace I can track which agents work on projects that I admire.

Five books a week, seems pretty easy. Kind of like resolving to listen to more music. But one thing I learned from my 2011 resolution to draw every day is that in order to fit one's dreams into a schedule full of kid work, school work, client work, house work, family time, and taking the occasional shower the dreams need to be bite-sized. Five books a day is definitely chewable.

And I'll start it right after I wrap up in five sleeping bags, de-ice the door, chisel out the car and skate the minivan to the library.

Monday, January 6, 2014

The NEW Once Upon A Sketch is Officially Open

I'm happy to begin 2014 writing on the renewed Once Upon A Sketch blog with my fellow contributors:
Donald Wu
Chris Jones
Norm Grock
Jennifer Zivoin
Jannie Ho.

Each of us bring a different perspective on creating art, especially for children. Check out our first collaborative post, What We Wish We Knew.