Friday, July 11

Getting Ready for LA..


So I'm delighted that I get to go to SCBWI's Summer conference in LA this year. Yippee! Yahoo! Excited because I get to see some of my dear dear writer and illustrator friends, and because I get to drink from the firehose of inspiration, motivation, reorginazation. Hopefully I will make some new friends and connections. So I'm super busy polishing up my manuscripts and trying to illustrate as much as possible, while taking care of my dizzyingly active toddlers. (I don't need to sleep for a few weeks right?)

Tuesday, May 13

Marching Band


I always wanted to be part of band. But let's face it, I'm not sure if I'm not coordinated enough to paint and talk on the phone at the same time. So I don't think I'd be able to play an instrument and walk in step with everyone else without seriously maiming somebody. It's possible that I could do a good kazoo though. Anyway, here's to all you super coordinated band people.  :)

Friday, May 9

Blog Hop: My Writing Process

I got tagged by my good friend Mary Uhles to write about my writing process. (Check out her post here.)

So for the curious, here we go:


What am I working on now?

This is always the big battle for me. I have a notebook of at least 50 picture book and middle grade ideas right now. I feel very passionate about maybe 30 of them. But I'm trying to resist the temptation to start 30 projects, so right now I'm focusing on two picture book manuscripts with their dummies. Interestingly both these picture books have a historical context. I'm a sucker for history and anthropology, and I love odd-looking clothing from different eras. I super enjoy research, but I get caught up in the details and it makes the process a little slow. Fun, but slow. I think it's also very telling that these books are about children and adults behaving very badly. What can I say? I'm the mommy of two barbaric toddlers.


How does my work differ from others in it's genre?

I like to embrace absurdity and I love subversive humor. (Monsters with toupees and penguins in space? Yes, please.) I think that kids are much more clever and much more strange than we give them credit. I think we should write to them as our peers, which they are. Just smaller.



Why do I write what I do?

Me and books were always chums. Thick as thieves. When I was a kid I loved visiting those faraway places and reading about awkward kids like me triumphing over bullies, thugs, and know-it-alls. I love giggling and sniffling with books. I still get addicted to a good book or series and ignore all sorts of importing things like eating, sleeping, and the less necessary customs of hygiene in order to see what happens next. (No deodorant for me thanks, we're wasting valuable time here!!)

Basically I write because I want to share all the stories that are crammed in my skull. And because if I don't it will explode, which would be messy. But also I hope that my stories and pictures can be something that children can connect to and identify with.


How does my writing process work?



 Usually what happens is I hear or see something wacky, strange, or interesting and I jot it down. My kids are a great source for the absurd. (Hooray for posterity!) So in a specific notebook I like to list all my story ideas or potential titles. I can also get ideas from the sketches I do. Maybe I sketch a person or animal that I would like to know more about. Let's just say I have a lot of notebooks.


So after I've chosen the manuscript I want to write, I research. Yay! I try to understand the themes of my story, the historical period, the tone that I'm trying to achieve, and I try to find any book or movie that's related to that. (Did I mention that I love research? :)

After I feel like I understand the context well enough, I go through many drafts of the story. I try to allow myself to write the garbage along with the good stuff. I'm always editing, and I have a fantastic group of friends and talented peers that critique my work and I feel like as long as I have a good thick skin for articulate critiques and a healthy sense of where I want my story to go, that my manuscript can reach it's full potential.

Wash, rinse, repeat.


I'd like to introduce you to a talented friend that I'm tagging for the next blog hop. Check out Debbie Emory's post to see her writing process:


Debbie Emory writes middle grade fantasy, and funny women's fiction. In her spare time, she ventures into the wild (okay, parks or recreational areas) to photograph landscapes (more often, her dog). As a certified dog trainer, she trains young people how to work with dogs using positive reinforcement (treats!). She also serves on the Executive Council of Elephant Aid International (www.elephantaid.org) which is currently changing the culture of elephant care in Asia from chains to chain-free corrals. Visit her blog at www.debbieemory.com

Thursday, March 27

Book Look: The Hat by Tomi Ungerer

So this week I wanted to share one of my favorite childhood books, THE HAT, written and illustrated by the fabulous Tomi Ungerer.

The main protagonist is the hat that you see on the cover. Didn't think it would be that straightforward did you? How can an inanimate object be the protagonist of a story let alone a children's story? Well, basically if your name is Tomi Ungerer, you can do anything.

The story starts off with a hat that "lived happily on a rich man's head. One day, speeding on an open carriage, the hat blew off." So the hat floated along until it landed on a homeless, jobless, and footless veteran, Benito Badoglio. Badoglio soon finds out this hat is magical and that it is also a good deed doer! Double surprise! With the help of the hat, Badoglio saves a man from being clobbered by a falling flowerpot and finds an exotic bird and brings her back to the zoo. (I wish my hats were so magnanimous.) So with the rewards he receives he buys some fancy gentleman's clothes and replaces his peg leg with a shiny silver wheel! (I know, I love it.) So now that he's dapper and speedy he's filled to the brim with confidence and continues saving practically everyone in this entire village. He saves a band of cutthroats and policemen from each other, he saves a baby that is inside a runaway stroller that's on fire, and finally he saves a Contessa riding a carriage with a runaway horse. He was decorated by the Archduke and named the 'Minister of National Emergencies." He fell in love with the Contessa and at the end of the story they ride off on their honeymoon with the hat flying off his head blowing the hat "hither and thither… Heaven knows only where." Such a perfect ending for a fantastically bizarre story.

This book has stayed in my sweet spot since childhood because of how endearing these characters are. I mean, who wouldn't love to read a story about a magical and benevolent hat with his trusty side-kick an earnest, one-wheeled veteran?

You can actually get a used copy on Amazon or hopefully at your local used bookstore, which is what I need to do. Either that or I will steal this copy from my mom's library. (She wouldn't notice, right?)

Anyway, I would love to know what your childhood favorites are. What types of stories did you gravitate towards? Are they the same types of books that you read now. (I definitely love any books that are sprinkled with strange and unusual elements, as you probably could have guessed.)


 

Tuesday, March 18

Into Veilwood

Hello fellow friends, nerds, and children's lit fans. I thought I'd share a cover of a middle grade urban fantasy that I'm working on that will be based inside Central Park. And there you have it. Hopefully you are on a tropical island somewhere or drinking the largest marshmallow filled cup of hot chocolate. 

Friday, March 14

Book Look: I Didn't Do My Homework Because… by Davide Cali and illustrated by Benjamin Chaud





So my hubby recently took me on a date. Being that he is wonderful and knows what makes me happy, instead of buying me chocolate covered crickets, or a dozen venus fly traps, he bought me this book: I Didn't Do My Homework Because… written by Davide Cali and illustrated by Benjamin Chaud (published this year by Chronicle Books).

I love this cheeky book. It starts off with a kid weaving tall tales to convince his teacher why he wasn't able to finish his homework. From dueling uncles to a robot on a rampage, the boy has a slew of fantastically absurd excuses that get wackier by the page. But in the end, our irreverent little storyteller finds out that his teacher has read the same excuses from the same book! (Curses!) Accompanied by beautifully detailed and off the wall illustrations, I could see how it could suck any reluctant reader into reading this story all the way to the end.

I fully recommended for anyone who loves a wonderfully silly book or maybe even for someone looking for an entertaining distraction from their homework.




Friday, February 14

Book Look: Zombie in Love by Kelly DiPucchio and illustrated by Scott Campbell


So growing up I was your typical skinned-knee tree climber. I loved video games, playing football with my guy friends, and digging up fossils (or just really big holes in the back yard). I was not, however, a fan of mushy stuff like love or romance. And I do actually love my kids and husband. Lots. But not in a sappy, eye watering sort of way. More in the punch your friend in the shoulder kind of way. Let's just say that me and Valentine's were never friends. Unless it came wrapped in chocolate that is.


So, since Valentine's and I are not on good terms, you would think that it'd be hard for me to find a children's book that I would even be willing to read, right? Wrong. Fortunately I did. (Albeit a few years ago.) This book, Zombie in Love, written by the wonderfully versatile Kelly DiPucchio, and illustrated by one of my favorite illustrators Scott Campbell is delightful. It was released in the Fall of 2011 by Atheneum, and I hope it stays in print forever.

It's a cute quirky story starring a mopey zombie named Mortimer who is looking for true love. Mortimer tries all his best romantic moves on the ladies, gifting them with a maggoty box of chocolates, a shiny red (still beating?) heart, even a diamond ring (unfortunately, with decomposing finger still attached) all to no avail. But let's be honest here, it's pretty difficult to find the gal of your dreams when you come off as such a stiff. (Yuk yuk.) So Mortimer puts out a personal add: "If you like taking walks in the graveyard/and falling down in the rain. If you're not into cooking,/if you have half a brain./If you like waking up at midnight,/horror films, and voodoo,/then I'm the guy who you've looked for/and I'm dying to meet you!" 

Zombie in Love is so wonderfully wacky. Kelly's story is so strange and charming and the illustrations by Scott that are hilariously deadpan with marvelous little details (Such as Mortimer's sidekicks being little worms in hats that follow him around and his cute little zombie dog). I adore this book. And conversely, I adore anyone who would adore this book. And... it is always good when books can bring me out of my curmudgeonly shell to celebrate the beloved chocolate festival that is Valentine's Day.

Happy Heart Day everybody!






Thursday, January 30

Book Look - Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo and illustrated by KG Campbell


So on Monday Kate DiCamillo won her second Newbery for Flora & Ulysses. She has written so many books that I absolutely ADORE.  Some the books that really delight me are: The Tale of Despereaux,(her first Newbery), Bink and Gollie,and The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane.(Between you and me and the blogosphere my husband weeps like a baby whenever he reads Edward Tulane.)

                

Basically DiCamillo is one of my favorite children's authors. Period. But if you were to ask me if I'd like to read a Middle Grade story of a disgruntled girl with a pet squirrel that was part superhero, part poet, I would say,"Yes Please."



 This is a wacky story, with the most bizarre cast of characters. At times this book was laugh out loud funny, and the scenarios were so outlandish. Flying squirrels, lonely squid portraits... It was so wonderfully strange. But Despite all the oddness, this book really had depth that was a bit unexpected, but so very refreshing.

It was a delight to read this book. I totally zipped through it. I wholeheartedly endorse this book. But you needn't listen to me. Listen to the Newbery ;)








Friday, January 17

Book Look: "We Shall Overcome: The Story of a Song" by Debbie Levy and illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton


85 years ago Martin Luther King, Jr. was born on January 15th, and next month is black history month, so what better time to talk about children's books that address the Civil Rights Movement than now? 
 I have been reading Douglas Blackmon's "Slavery by Another Name" which is a thoroughly depressing, yet compelling account (using primary sources) of the history of slaves and their descendants, and the "lease" (or sale) of black convicts, post emancipation, to commercial interests. When I was a child I had always assumed that slavery had ended with the Civil War, which was sadly not the case at all. The more I read about the subject, the more I feel that it is really important that we do our part in educating ourselves and our children about the social injustices and the atrocities that have been committed.



I have a 4 year old and a 3 year old, and I've been wondering how I can talk on their level of understanding, about this sordid part of our American History... and still do it justice. We Shall Overcome: The Story of a Song was written by Debbie Levy and illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton (just released last December), and it is a wonderful book. When I sat down and read the book with my daughter for the first time I totally choked up and had a hard time finishing it.
 
The book talks about the song We Shall Overcome (that you may identify with the 60's Civil Rights Movement) all the way from it's origins in the time of slavery up to modern day, and how the Civil Rights Movement has evolved. 


This song has become a symbol of the fight for equality, and it is a perfect vehicle to help children understand the slow evolution of the rights that the black communities had to fight for. And Debbie Levy writes in such lyrical way that compliments the poetry of the song and Vanessa Brantley-Newton's whimsical, collage style is absolutely beautiful and lively. The writing and illustration compliment each other wonderfully and are so inspired. I am so glad I have this book in our own personal library. This is definitely the type of book for libraries, school teachers, and it's wonderful book to help parents to sit down and talk about civil rights to their children.

Are there any books that you'd recommend for Black History Month? How do you talk to your children about  civil rights and other heavy subjects? 








Monday, January 13

New Years Resolution: Be Awesome to Each Other.

Or something like that.


So it's the New Year (ish) and I'm trying to realign, readjust, and re inspire myself to accomplish the things that I want/need to accomplish. It must be said that it's been tricky being that we've moved 3 times in the last 3 years. Blech. At least we're unpacked. 

So I decided to create my own OGSM. A whatzit you say? An Objective, Goals, Strategies, and Measures list. How in the world does any freelancing mommy get anything done without one, I would like to ask?

With much chagrin I must admit that I've never really had a mission statement before now. I didn't realize that I had been lacking one. So I think I've pinpointed what I really want to do with my freelancing career, that is I want to "Write, illustrate, and publish inspiring, quirky, and heart warming stories with memorable characters that resonate with children and adults. 

I know, I know, tall order, but it must be said that one of the main reasons that I want to be a teeny tiny fish in the massive ocean of Children's Book Publishing is that some of my fondest memories from my childhood come from the books and movies that I've read and seen as a child and the vicarious adventures and friendships I've had because of them. If I see a beautifully crafted children's movie or read inspired children's literature I get all weepy. Hopefully I can write and illustrate stories like the ones that I clung to as a child. Lofty goal yes, but sort of exhilarating too.

If you are a freelancer, what is your mission statement? If you are a lover of children's literature and cinema, what really got you excited as a child?

Regardless, I hope your holidays were filled to the gills with deliciousness and that your New Years is filled to the brim with sit ups ;)