Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Snow in July

At long last, Robert's Snow returns! For those of you who don't remember, Robert's Snow is a fundraising auction for the Dana Farber Cancer Institute, begun by Grace in 2004. Hundreds of children's book illustrators have donated hand painted snowflakes to be auctioned off for the project.

Last year the project was on hiatus, but this year it is back, this time organized by Dana Farber (and not us). All of us BRG's who are illustrators will be donating however- and the deadline to finish the flakes is tomorrow. I'm headed over to DF today to drop off my flake (you can click on the image below to see a larger version).

Stay posted for more updates on the project as the date for the auction draws closer. There will be opportunities to view all the snowflakes, and of course own your own piece of children's book art!

Read more about the project here.

Monday, July 30, 2007

On editing

I loved all of the comments from my post last Monday, and thanks to everyone who linked to the post. If you haven't commented yet, please do! It was fascinating to read the different reactions you have to editorial letters, but overall, I feel safe in feeling that authors want *good* input from editors.

A few people forwarded this Salon.com article to me on editing that I found interesting--it's about magazine editing, but I think still applicable to books. An excerpt:
To people not in the business, editing is a mysterious thing...Many times over the past 20 years, people have asked me, "What exactly does an editor do?"

It's not an easy question to answer. Editors are craftsmen, ghosts, psychiatrists, bullies, sparring partners, experts, enablers, ignoramuses, translators, writers, goalies, friends, foremen, wimps, ditch diggers, mind readers, coaches, bomb throwers, muses and spittoons -- sometimes all while working on the same piece.

Read the whole article here.

When I'm asked what I do at parties or elsewhere, I answer "I'm a children's book editor," and the conversation oftentimes ends with the other person saying, "Wow, that's cool!" or "Oh, interesting," and then not knowing what more to say. But occasionally it starts a whole conversation about what being an editor entails, usually starting when the person says, "Oh, I could never do that, I'm horrible at grammar" to which I say, "Yeah, I am, too." For some reason, many people assume that when I say I'm a children's book editor, I actually write (or want to write) children's book. "No, I don't write, I'm an editor."

It is truly a mysterious thing for those not in the business. I assume that most (if not all) of the readers of this blog are in the business is some way, so I won't go into more detail regarding what a children's book editor actually does, but if anyone would like me to go through my duties in a future post, I'd be happy to oblige. But briefly, as I described it once on a panel discussion, I'm basically a project manager, and I will say that I completely agree with "the editor should be invisible" and the "asking questions" model.

Here's a wrap-up of some of my other posts on editing:
How I edit
Young 'uns
Writing versus Editing
How do I know I'm a good editor?
Friendship in work
Give credit where credit is due?
Editing styles and Comic Con
And what makes me so qualified to edit children's books?

And a wonderfully informative post from our guest blogger of what an editor at a packager does:
What's with these packaged books?

In other news, I finally finished Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows this weekend. Thanks to Anna for her patience in letting me silently tear through the last 100 pages or so while she was cooking us dinner. And for cheerfully asking me how it ended and letting me "spoil" it for her, because of course I was dying to talk about it. We wondered this weekend if anything like the publication of this last HP book would ever happen again, if ever the publication of one book would be so widely heralded and eagerly awaited, crossing gender and age lines. Hard to imagine it happening again, but I hope it does.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Poetry Friday: Baseball

Many Bostonians...and lots of people who live in the suburbs of the "Athens of America"...are rabid Red Sox fans--including my daughter. Some folks around these parts think baseball is life...at least from April through October. Yes, Boston is definitely a baseball city. Although I have to admit that Beantown has gone a bit football crazy in recent years due to the success of the New England Patriots. Me? I prefer poetry...so here's a baseball poem for this Poetry Friday.

by Gail Mazur
(for John Limon)

The game of baseball is not a metaphor
and I know it’s not really life.
The chalky green diamond, the lovely
dusty brown lanes I see from airplanes
multiplying around the cities
are only neat playing fields.
Their structure is not the frame
of history carved out of forest,
that is not what I see on my ascent.

And down in the stadium,
the veteran catcher guiding the young
pitcher through the innings, the line
of concentration between them,
that delicate filament is not
like the way you are helping me,
only it reminds me when I strain
for analogies, the way a rookie strains
for perfection, and the veteran,
in his wisdom, seems to promise it,
it glows from his upheld glove...

You can read the rest of the poem here at the website of the Poetry Foundation.

At Wild Rose Reader today, I have a fairy tale poem entitled Immortality.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Oy. The life of an author.

I didn't have time to post again today. This is how today went. This is how EVERY day goes.

I got up at 11 (went to bed at 4am because I was painting!).
11:30 - printed sketches of Seabiscuit for S&S
12:00 - bought coffee down the street (because I have lead poisoning and I'm afraid of the water!) and came back to finish the sketches
12:25 Ran out the door.
1245: Stuck in the stupid subway!
1:15 Late to physical therapy.
1:40: finishing up PT
2:00 running to S&S
2:10 waiting in line at security to get up stairs... waiting for some lady in front of me to stop fumbling with her wallet.
2:15: met my editor... talked about book... talked about City Hawk and the website I'm working on for it...talked about other stuff... said hello to many pub. folk (publishing people tend to leave their doors open and people pop in and out - I'm not really sure how they get any work done that way but it happens at every pub. I've been to! I also wonder what happens if someone wants to shut his or her door--will it look odd and suspicious?)
4:00: left s&S and headed home
5:00 at home. Bought water because... well.. you know... I"m poisoned and all....
5:15 Trying to eat something quickly and watching news... and answering daily emails.
5:30 stretching... still watching news...getting ready to go running and the gym because I NEED to blow off some steam and de-stress! I also need to keep my muscles active because of my systemic nerve damage (yeah, good times)

So that's what's up until now. What I will do is run (and listen to NPR on the way) for a half hour and then lift weights for an hour. Then I will go home and paint... and listen to an audio book... until I start to zone out (zone out time means I'm really tired). I hope to make it until at least 3 am.

I mostly do doctor crap during the day and answer e-mails... that sort of thing. At night is when I get the artwork done. That's when there are much less distractions!

Speaking of painting... the S&S designer today said she's always curious about people's studios. Soon I hope to update my website "look inside the studio" section. For a long time I tried to keep my dining room a dining room... but I've given up. Now it's a real studio. Well, sort of. I still paint on a retro kitchen table.

Question: what are your studios like?

Okay, so that's it for today. Perhaps my post is dreadfully boring but that's what my days are like! Blah. Busy. Blah.


Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Speaking of editorial letters...

My former colleague Amy Lin (formerly Amy Hsu) has launched editomato, " a small, online business offering developmental editorial services to children's book writers aiming to be published in the trade market." Amy is an incredibly fantastic and well-respected editor with superb taste, and when we worked together, I relied on her heavily for editorial advice and support. She left the company to move away to where her husband lives. How dare she.

Amy was responsible for getting Patrick McDonnell on our list, and edited his NY Times Bestselling The Gift of Nothing. She has edited such beautiful books as What Are You So Grumpy About? by Tom Lichtenheld, Ninjas, Piranhas, and Galileo by Greg Leitich Smith, The Geography of Girlhood by Kirsten Smith, and after her departure freelance edited Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life by Wendy Mass and Exploratopia by the Exploratorium.

So, if you want a great editorial letter, check out her site! It's adorable and nicely designed, to boot. Plus, she's a great friend!

Monday, July 23, 2007

How do authors feel about receiving editorial letters?

Last week, there was a very interesting but short-lived blog post over at Fuse #8 that some of you may have read. It involved how an author felt to receive editorial comments. I believe he/she (from now on I'll just assume the author is a man, although I really have no reason to assume this) said something to the effect that it made him feel as if he was "disintegrating like a kicked mushroom." Then there was a parody of an editorial letter, as if written for Goldilocks and the Three Bears. It including points such as, "I'm not sure how realistic the scene with the porridge is. Why would mama bear's porridge be 'too cold' while papa bear's porridge was 'too hot'? Describe more the physics of the shape of the bowls that could explain this further" and "You mention the color of the heroine's hair at the beginning of the book, but then not much later on. What is the significance of this? Maybe include more examples throughout?" etc. etc. It was actually very well done and entertaining (I'm not doing it justice), but my reaction was also to say "ouch" because it was a little too accurate, and also one of an editor's greatest fears that authors feel this way when they receive our letters.

Well, the post was taken down, because Fuse said that the author feared that his editor would recognize herself in the letter, which I thought was a bit amusing, because every editor I spoke to recognized herself in the letter, including me. I think most editors have similar styles, in part because of Dear Genius, in part because as I've mentioned before, becoming an editor is an apprenticeship, and we all learn from those who have come before us.

I'm disappointed that the post was taken down, because I think it brings up a good topic of conversation. When I read the post, there were four or five comments, all reflecting a similar opinion that the letter was entertaining but a bit unfair, and a few authors commented that they welcome editorial letters.

So, let me pose the question here. How do you authors/illustrators feel about receiving editorial comments? Please, be honest and as candid as you'd like. Editors want to know the truth!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

In response...

There's a lovely discussion about nonfiction down below. Someone wrote this
"I’d like to respectfully but completely disagree. If your sources are incorrect, then your information is incorrect."

If my sources are incorrect then how would you prove this? Would you bring your own 5 sources to dispute my 5 sources? Maybe you have a relative who was THERE and you will bring him or her instead of your 5 sources.

Here's my question:
If your grandma said the man was wearing purple shoes but every newspaper said green am I supposed to go with your grandma or the 5 newspapers?

I think some of you may have missed the point of my post. As I'd said before, everyone perceives things differently. Just look at police line-ups. Of course there are mistakes. People could swear that the lady wearing the blue hat was the one in the bank with the gun... but in fact it was a MAN wearing a blue hat. Do newspapers make mistakes? YES! As I'd said, take a look at my bibliography. Many newspapers said Atas died at 79 but one said 80. For that reason I did not list Atlas's age in my book. But if every newspaper and book says something and your grandma disagrees, again, who am I supposed to go with? An adult nonfiction book might be a appropriate platform to go against the grain and shine a new light on "the facts" but NOT a picture book for children. That is my opinion and I'm sticking with it.


Saturday, July 21, 2007

AFTER: report on the party

Adam had written down all the games, in order -- including who would be the captain ("capton") of each team. We did everything he listed, which was everything I listed in my last post except the apple bobbing.....plus:

-water gun fight

-tug of war

-three legged race

Before the party, Adam and I filled 30 balloons with water: Adam's laughing and squeals of excitement over this were my favorite parts of the party. We saved all the balloons for the party, and playing dodgeball with them was the one thing everyone did: they threw all 30 balloons at once until they smashed, which took a surprisingly long time, even though people threw hard.

ALMOST everyone joined in the water fight (here is someone refilling his gun)
and played on the Slip and Slide: a flat rubber slide attached to a hose with a cushion at the end of it. When the hose is on, one side is like a sprinkler and the slide gets very slippery; you run up to it, dive on, then slip and slide to the big puddle that collects at the cushioned end. Everyone but one child played this.

This child didn't join in any games; he spent most of the party wandering around happily by himself, sometimes petting the dog for extended periods. Once I heard him calling: "Here, Henry! Come to Uncle Issac!"

Competition over every event was intense: even going on the Slip and Slide was rated (by how high your splashes went). I heard one boy say :
"Don't get onto the porch with the steps! Steps are for wimps." The approved way was to climb up the trellis.

I was surprised that people cried -- quite often -- and so was Adam's mother. When one boy cried, the others just went on with whatever they were doing. Tears were occasioned by:
* a dispute over an out in baseball
* someone getting hit in the ear (hard) with a water balloon, someone else getting slammed by a body on the Slip & Slide
* someone dropping the paper bag he'd put his pinyata candies in -- the candies spilled all over and the other kids grabbed them. He was heartbroken! This was distressing. I didn't see it happen, but did run around asking the other kids to give him some candy, or trade it for Tootsie Rolls (he didn't like Tootsie Rolls); three people did.

The cake had baseball players on it (Adam had told me about these and his wishes regarding them last week). The boys all reached for them when the cake appeared; Adam argued fiercely and successfully that it was HIS birthday and HIS cake, and no one was taking the players home. He removed them from the cake for safe-keeping. He got the first piece and requested the word "Happy." One younger boy, who worships Adam, said he wanted the word "Adam" on his piece....they all knew exactly which part of the cake they wanted: the corner that said Boston Red Sox, a ball, a base, the grass...

One child said, smiling, that "any piece" would be fine. Adam's mother seemed grateful. Only one child said "Please" -- but he said it throughout the party whenever he asked for anything -- he was the youngest child at the party (six) and Korean, adopted from an orphanage there when he was one. When people were leaving, most - prompted by their parents - thanked Adam's mother.

After the party, I asked Adam about it, and he said he liked it a lot but wished it had gone on longer:
"Sam's party lasted from one to six -- FIVE HOURS!"

I wish I had pictures to show you! My batteries ran out before I got any good ones. But everyone moved so continually and so fast that my camera was way too slow anyway.

Friday, July 20, 2007

REAL CHILDREN: BEFORE (the after part will come Saturday night)

Adam, who turned 7 on Tuesday, is having his birthday party tomorrow. He told me HIS plans for the party around a week ago, and I thought it would be fun to post the plans now, and then later post how things actually turned out -- with pictures. I'll know because I will be the grown-up helping his parents.

First, there will be a baseball game, with Adam and his father doing the pitching; MAYBE one of the other kids there will be "good enough to pitch," but Adam doesn't think anyone will be. While this is going on, the kids who don't like to play baseball will be on the slidey slide. I'm not sure what this is, but I'll find out.

Next, no one will be allowed to take his action figures home.
"I don't mind if they touch them, but last year they took them home, and I didn't like that."
He frowned at this unpleasant memory.

I asked if there would be any girls.
"No," Adam said, very decidedly. "No girls."

Those were his plans for the party. His mother told me yesterday that the baseball game will last for ONE inning, since not everyone likes to play, and will be followed by: apple bobbing (Adam's idea, like all the substitute activities), dodge ball with a water balloons as a ball, a wheelbarrow race, a sack race, pizza and cake, and, for a finale, a pinyata. The party, at his request, will be at their house.

My next book is a very little mystery involving baseball, and Adam is the hero....so this party will be fascinating for that reason. But even if it weren't for that, I'd be excited: I love children's parties! Perhaps if I had children of my own I wouldn't be so enthusiastic--Adam's mother said none of the 11 other mothers wanted to stay and help:
"And then I thought -- LIBBY!"
I can't wait! I'm posting now because I'm going over first thing in the morning to help get ready (or, more likely, play with Adam while his mother gets ready).

A Poem for My Husband

Yesterday, July 19th, was the date of my 38th wedding anniversary. Unfortunately, my husband was away on business...as he often is. Fortunately, not being able to celebrate such a special occasion on the exact date doesn't bother either of us. What we do care about is still being able to celebrate our married life together.

My husband is my high school sweetheart. We met when we were sophomores. We've been together now for forty-five years. I was indeed lucky to find my soulmate and best friend...the person who has always been my biggest supporter...the man who never suggested that I consider spending less money on poetry and children's books...an indivual who appreciates and understands my passions in life--when I was just fifteen. He's a terrific husband and the world's greatest dad.

My poem today is for my husband!

To My Dear and Loving Husband
by Anne Bradstreet

If ever two were one, then surely we.
If ever man were loved by wife, then thee;
If ever wife was happy in a man,
Compare with me ye women if you can.
I prize thy love more than whole mines of gold,
Or all the riches that the East doth hold.
My love is such that rivers cannot quench,
Nor ought but love from thee give recompense.
Thy love is such I can no way repay;
The heavens reward thee manifold, I pray.
Then while we live, in love let's so persever,
That when we live no more we may live ever

At Wild Rose Reader, I have reviews of two books: Kurt Cyrus's Oddhopper Opera: A Bug's Garden of Verses and Jennifer Ward's Over in the Garden, a counting book in verse.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

More info on Strong Man

I'm FINALLY working on a section on my website for Strong Man. For those of you who were yearning for a bibliography, it's on there. I'm not finished with it but it'll do for now.


For those of you who are interested in nonfiction and the fiction in nonfiction, look closely at my bibliography. You will notice that two newspapers announced that Atlas died at the age of 79 but one said he was 80. Atlas Ltd. also claims he was 80, I believe.

Confusing? You betcha! That's why I didn't say how old he was when he died in my book.


the making of a nonfiction picture book

Fuse #8 and her husband recommended a great book for me to read. It's called Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud. This book gives you a lot to chew on. I'm going to talk about it tomorrow... and also how comics influence what I do.

Today, however, I want to talk about nonfiction. First, let me share with you the cover of my latest nonfiction book, which will be published next year.

Now I want to share with you all a story. A week or two ago I did a little talk to a group of illustrators and writers. Of course I talked about my nonfiction work and let everyone look at all of my books in print. Afterward a man came up to me holding Strong Man.

He said something like "I didn't want to mention this to the group…but…this isn't published yet, is it?"

I said that it was. I then braced myself for what was coming.

"Well, I hope your publisher knows what it's doing."


"You don't know what I do for a living, do you?"

I shook my head.

He then explained that he worked in the fitness industry and knows the guys who knew Atlas, or something to that effect. He then went on to say that yes, Atlas is a good guy, but that his image was all about marketing and that my book is basically Atlas's marking campaign summed up in picture book form. He said that Atlas DID use weights even though he claimed not to... that he came up with Dynamic Tension because the other guys already successfully marketed weight lifting routines...and some other stuff.

Here's the deal.

1) My book is about inspiration, about overcoming odds, about determination... and so on. It is NOT supposed to be an exposé on man who died 40 years ago. I was not out to get the insider scoop... the dirt on the man... or anything else. How would that make a book for children better? Why would children care?

2) A nonfiction author CANNOT base a book on gossip, he-said-she-said, or anything else that isn't DOCUMMENTED. My rule of thumb is 3 sources. If I can't find the same fact in at least three sources then I won't generally use it... UNLESS it absolutely came from a credible source such as first hand information such as an autobiography.

3) A nonfiction author must be VERY careful. Doing a book on a person whose relatives are still alive is tricky. If Atlas for his entire life publicly insisted that he didn't use weights, for example, then that's what I have to say. Unless there's a photo of the man lifting weights then I can't say that he did. Furthermore, who cares if he did? That's not the point of my book. God forbid I got something wrong and Atlas's son came out of the woodwork to reprimand me.

Nonfiction is not like writing fiction. It takes SO much more work, time, sweat, and tears. I'm good at writing PBs. I can write a fiction one pretty quickly. But not nonfiction. To come up with a few sentences I might have had to read 3 books to do so. Publishers do fact check but not as thoroughly as one might think. It’s the author's responsibility to make sure the facts are correct. There are a lot of know-it-all's out there. They will jump at the chance to make you aware of something done wrong. So, as an author, you have to make sure that doesn't happen. If someone says something is wrong, I am always ready with my file of research on the subject. I can defend myself and back up my facts. That's IMPORTANT.

Here is the LARGEST problem with nonfiction, especially historical projects: Nonfiction IS in many ways fiction. Of course it's based on facts, but facts are compiled and recorded by PEOPLE and people make mistakes…and each person will perceive the same thing differently. Ask 10 people to watch a show or event and then have them describe it. Guaranteed you'll get 10 different responses. What a good nonfiction author will do is take those 10 responses and find the most balanced, middle ground and base his or her book on that. Of course every nonfiction author is also a person with a perspective/opinion. If an author doesn't have one then a guarantee his or her book won't be that exciting. Therefore there WILL be another perspective added to the mix. I will readily admit that I have a strong opinion on the subject matter for every book I do. My opinion/take on the subject may not be readily apparent ...but it's there... hidden... waiting for someone to unbury it.

So that's my take on nonfiction. Questions? Comments? Bring 'em on!


Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Work in progress finale

Last Tuesday I posted the beginnings of a painting for my new book What Can You Do with an Old Red Shoe? here.

As promised here is the second half of the progression of this painting.

Last week we left off here:

Next I built up her bathing suit colors:

Then I worked up the ocean gradations, and layered some brown/pink shades on her fur and the sand:

I came back in with my brown pen and darkened up the outlines, painted the shell, started layering the bucket color:

More work on the bucket, and I went in to clean up and darken the oval border:

Finishing touches added and I greyed out the border a bit:

The painting is at that "mostly done" state where I can't think of anything else to change, but I know I may come back to it later and make some adjustments. So for now I put it aside and start on the next one...

Sunday, July 15, 2007

How do I know I'm a good editor?

A while ago, Sara posted this question in the comments section of this post, and I've been meaning to answer it:

And I have another, different question I've been wanting to ask you (and asking myself for some time now.) How do YOU know when you are a good editor? I mean the actual craft of editing a manuscript. Do you already know that you are a good editor, and what makes you think that? Or are you still becoming a good editor, and what will it take for you to decide that you are? I'm not questioning your talents, because I know you are fabulous! And I don't mean the question to cut off the possibility (probability/sure thing) of you getting lots better as time goes on. But I want to know when/how/what you have decided about that for yourself.

Tough question! And the short answer is: I don't know.

I don't know if I actually think that I'm a good editor. I hope that I am, of course, and most of the time I'm fairly confident of my abilities--I know when I'm reading a manuscript that I can make it better, or "take it to the next level" as I like to say. But how do I know?

This kind of ties in with what's been going on right now at work--it's annual performance review time, and so I've been evaluating my own performance (and also that of my assistant's) over the past year. We have a formal written form, and one of the sections asks us to outline our key accomplishments, and part of how I've been doing that is by looking at the books I've acquired/edited and how they have performed, both in terms of reviews and other acclaim, and sales. So I'm able to say, "Look, these books all received at least one starred review, this one was taken by Scholastic, this one won this award, these books were chosen for these end-of-year lists, this one has sold really well, etc. etc. That's one way I've become more confident in my abilities--the books I edit tend to get starred reviews and good acclaim, which I think is a good sign. The books I edit also tend to exceed the sales expectations placed on them, also a good sign.

I think most agents and authors and illustrators say good things about me and refer people to me, another good sign. I've had agents call my editorial letters "brilliant" and authors praise my comments. Then again, I'm never sure if they're being honest or just polite.

I do think I'm good at my job overall, in part because I'm just so in love with it, and am constantly trying to improve. I think the fact that I've been at the same company and able to advance is a sign that my supervisors think I'm doing a good job--I tend to get glowing performance reviews, too--more evidence. But the truth is, just as authors have doubts, despair that they are horrible writers, will never write another great book, I have those same doubts about my professional abilities. Sometimes I feel like a fraud, like I don't deserve to be in the position I'm in. I know I'm still learning, I'm still honing my skills. With every manuscript I edit, every conference I attend, every review I read, every book I read, I'm learning and getting better.

I don't know if I'll EVER feel like I'm a fantastic editor. But as long as I am given the opportunity to do the job that I love, I'll take it.

For you other editors out there, how would you answer this question? And for you authors and illustrators, librarians, teachers, parents, etc., how do you know that you're doing a good job?

Friday, July 13, 2007

What's your daemon?

In the Golden Compass, everyone has a daemon -- a soul that is OUTSIDE you, in the form of an animal. When you're a child, its shape constantly changes; though whether it's moth, seagull, or lion, it can talk to you and it must stay close to you. When it goes too far away neither one of you can stand the separation.

When you enter puberty, your daemon becomes one animal. It can't change anymore ever....children in the book wonder a lot about what form their daemons will take.

Now the movie's Web site has a test people can take to see what their daemon is -- and friends can comment on its accuracy.....I took it for myself, and then how I thought MOST BRGs would respond, and it came out a Tiger, which is not too surprising considering that many of us -- including me -- are tigers in Chinese astrology. When some of us would have answered one way and some another (eg, never leave the house without making sure I look good, love meeting new people etc. I left it neutral or answered as I thought MOST of us would have). But it will make it more fun if everyone takes the test.

This is one of my very, very favorite books and I'm not sure if I'm going to see the movie or not. It's always risky to see movies of loved books; sometimes the movie's image of a character supplants mine and I don't like that.

POETRY FRIDAY: The Summer I Was Sixteen

The summer I was sixteen occurred in the year 1963. My good friends and I hung out at a beach in Marblehead, Massachusetts, every sunny day we could. We swam, sunbathed, played kitty whist, and listened to rock and roll music on our transistor radios. Bikinis weren't quite the fashion yet. Most of us wore one-piece bathing suits. That was a l-o-o-o-n-n-n-g time ago. I still remember those carefree days fondly...when we girls had mostly boys on our minds. I still hang out with many of those same friends today. In fact, I married my high school sweetheart!

Here's a poem for a summer day...and memories of youth.

The Summer I Was Sixteen
by Geraldine Connolly

The turquoise pool rose up to meet us,
its slide a silver afterthought down which
we plunged, screaming, into a mirage of bubbles.
We did not exist beyond the gaze of a boy.

Shaking water off our limbs, we lifted
up from ladder rungs across the fern-cool
lip of rim. Afternoon. Oiled and sated,
we sunbathed, rose and paraded the concrete,

danced to the low beat of "Duke of Earl".

You can read the rest of the poem here at Poetry 180.


At Wild Rose Reader, I have two poems entitled Bed in Summer--one written by Robert Louis Stevenson and an original poem I wrote many years ago.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Work in progress: What Can You Do with an Old Red Shoe?

After months and years of sketching, research, and revising, I am at last beginning the paintings for my craft/recycling/poetry book titled What Can You Do with an Old Red Shoe? This is always an exciting step, pulling out the first piece of paper and laying down the first brush strokes in what is going to be months of painting!

Here is a peek at the first painting in progress, I'll post the latter half of the process next week...

The sketch:

Sketch transferred to paper:

Laying down the first washes:

Building up color:

Begin to layer pen and ink outlines:

Building more color:

Monday, July 09, 2007

on vacation...

Hi all, no substantial post today, I've been on vacation since the 4th. Am now in San Diego on a family reunion (my mom's side of the family). But I'll be observing lots of real kids--many of my cousins have kids now, ages ranging from 4 months to almost 6 years. Kids everywhere! And I'm determined to make readers of them all.

A PS to my last post

Since no one else has posted today, and I have a lot to say about the comments on my last post, I'm adding a PS to it.

I agree with Alvina and Meghan that sometimes "I think I can" is a good thing to tell yourself.....

I loved Meghan's "of course" -- of course there are times when you can't do it -- but that isn't at all obvious to some of us: people like me who are over-optimistic and ever-hopeful, and kids, too. When adults in charge of children say believing you can do it and persistence are all that's needed and they AREN'T, the kids struggling feel even worse -- not only are they dumb but lazy (or whatever). Books with simplistic messages do make it easy for adults to apply the message even when it isn't helpful.

This may be way too much to be putting on one little book! What I probably should do is write a post on my personal blog about what's been going on in yoga class and the difference between letting go and giving up. But everyone's comments really made me think and I wanted to talk about it.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Jump the tracks!

I've never liked this book and on the way home from yoga this morning I decided that it actually sends a really BAD message....one is the image of life as an uphill struggle with only one track and two choices.

Sure, sometimes persistence is a good thing, but at other times, it's just plain dumb.

I think fairy tales actually have emotional messages that are lot closer to the psychological truth: persistence and hard work, courage, kindness, presence of mind -- they're all necessary. But they're not enough all by themselves -- most happy endings in fairy tales come about as a result of these PLUS help and dumb luck.

In The Uses of Enchantment Bettleheim writes about this a lot more eloquently; he tells about a child who reminded herself of THE LITTLE ENGINE THAT COULD when she was trying to do something....she kept trying and trying, but she never did succeed at whatever it was and thinking of the book actually made her feel worse.

So, I say, write books that are realistically hopeful...and I wish someone would do a rewrite of this with the little engine jumping the rails or turning itself into a flying machine.

Thursday, July 05, 2007


I love discovering a new voice in poetry—the voice of a writer whose books I’ll want to read and savor…and recommend to my one friend who shares my passion for poetry.

Finding a “new poet” whose work you love is like opening a wonderful surprise present—one that dazzles you with its beauty or fits you like a glove or opens you to new worlds. Here is a poem by Linda Pastan that expresses my feelings about this subject better than I could ever do.

From A New Poet
by Linda Pastan

Finding a new poet
is like finding a new wildflower
out in the woods. You don't see

its name in the flower books, and

nobody you tell believes
in its odd color or the way

its leaves grow in splayed rows

down the whole length of the page. In fact
the very page smells of spilled

red wine and the mustiness of the sea

on a foggy day-- the odor of truth
and of lying.

You can read the rest of the poem here at Poetry 180.

Over at Wild Rose Reader today I have some thoughts about the Cybils and the children’s poetry books I’ve reviewed this year to date at Blue Rose Girls and at my solo blog.

when the crap of life gets in the way

Lately I must admit that I haven't had much time to post... to update my website... to write on my personal blog... and worst of all, to work on my books.

First I had a "friend" who ended up being a conman who was stealing people's SS#s and taking out loans in their names.. my FRIENDS names.... maybe my name! I freaked out about that. Then I got diagnosed with an untreatable nerve condition. Basically for the rest of my life (unless a dr. finds the cause) my nerves will continue to be damaged by either a virus, a poison, or autoimmune... which means my entire body will feel pain from the nerves misfiring... and numbness... and pins and needles... and weakness... and god knows what else. As long as I don't progress further, I'll be okay. If my symptoms progress, I don't know what will happen to me. It could be bad. Of course I freaked out about that. I'm still freaking out. It's consuming me. My parents were supposed to go on a bike trip across Colorado last week... my father went in for a routine dr. check-up a few days before leaving... and just like that the trip had to be cancelled and my father had to emergency quadruple bypass surgery. The Dr. said he wouldn't have made it. I freaked out about that. There's always the possibility of something happening (obviously). I went to RI to see him in the ICU. Thankfully, my dad is okay although it's been rough.

So there you have it. Lately there's always something IN THE WAY of creativity. To be creative your mind has to be free of clutter. Mine hasn't been.

My parents decided to move and sadly sold their house (my childhood home) a week before my father found out he'd have to have surgery. Yes, more drama. While in RI I took some photos... for the memories. These places mean a lot to me. This is where I grew up. This is where I played. This is where I used my imagination.

Yes, there's a deer in this picture! Look closely.

And now I will end by sharing one of my almost finished pieces for my astronaut book. This is for the title page. FINALLY I think I'm back on track!

Behind the Book

Since the blog has been so slow lately (we all must be way too busy basking on the beach all day... uh-huh) thought I'd share this great web site I just discovered. Its called Behind the Book, and its just the sweetest web site, and company, ever. They pair up author/illustrator visits with low-income schools to promote literacy. Hurray! If any of you author/illustrators out there living in New York want to volunteer a visit, this seems like a fine organization to work with.

Monday, July 02, 2007

The highlights of ALA


I was working on a very detailed wrap-up of ALA, but it seemed so daunting and exhausting to attempt. So here's an abbreviated version of some of the highlights. Pictures to come!

1) Congratulations for Justina Chen Headley for winning the Asian/Pacific American Librarian Association Youth (APALA) Literature Award for Nothing But the Truth (and a few white lies), and to BRG Grace Lin for winning the honor for The Year of the Dog. Justina and I attended the awards breakfast on Sunday morning at ALA. I accepted on Grace's behalf. Grace, you were missed. Then Justina accepted her award and called me out as the editor for both her book and Grace's, and afterwards everyone congratulated me on my "sweep".

Congratulations Justina, Grace, and all the winners!

Justina and me, holding the newly "stickered" books

2) Saturday night was our fiction dinner, featuring authors Sara Zarr (Story of a Girl), Sherman Alexie (Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian), and Jerry Spinelli (Eggs). This type of dinner was new to me, and I thought the format was great. Basically, there were three tables filled with librarians. Our publisher Megan Tingley made a little introduction, and then our amazing, tireless (as long as she has her Diet Coke or Tab) library marketing manager Victoria Stapleton explained how the dinner would work. Each table featured one author. First Sara Zarr read 3-5 minutes from her book, then everyone sat down for salad. Then the authors rotated to sit at a different table, and Sherman Alexie read from his book. Then we ate our entrees. Then the authors switched tables again, and Jerry Spinelli read from his book, and then we enjoyed our dessert. Afterwards, the authors signed copies for everyone there. So, a bit like our librarian previews. Overall, it was a fabulous evening: I was delighted to meet both Sara and Sherman for the first time, the conversation flowed, and the food was delicious, too (salmon).

Jerry reading from Eggs with Sherman Alexie looking and listening on

3) Sunday afternoon was our picture book lunch, featuring author/illustrators Peter Brown (The Fabulous Bouncing Chowder), Patrick McDonnell (Hug Time), and Jerry Pinkney (Little Red Riding Hood). We featured original art from all of the books, and then the format was similar to that of the fiction lunch, except instead of reading from their books, the illustrators all talked for a few minutes about their books and illustrations. And I'll add that once again, the food was delicious (I had the vegetarian pasta option that was great, because the meat entree was chicken with a mango salsa, and I'm allergic to mango), as was the company. I listened in on a fascinating conversation between two Texan librarians who explained to me to process of challenging a book in their library system.

Art on display from The Fabulous Bouncing Chowder

4) I attended the Newbery/Caldecott dinner on Sunday night for the first time. Peter Brown and Jerry Pinkney joined us, as well as Jerry's agent Sheldon Fogelman and author Cecil Castellicci who, along with Holly Black, is working on an exciting short story collection for us (but I'll talk about that more in the future). I had a FANTASTIC time. I sat next to librarian Nina Lindsay aka Martha (I'll add an amazing picture of her in her outfit, homage to James Marshall, soon.) David Wiesner's speech was solid--funny, touching, thought-provoking, and I thought Susan Patron's speech was absolutely amazing. An editor friend of mine warned me beforehand, "Did you see the CDs? The Newbery speech is 25 minutes long!!" and we were afraid it would drag. We also took bets on whether "scrotum" would be mentioned. Thankfully, the speech didn't drag at all. It was hilarious (she collected foam shoulder pads and planned to sew them together into a quilt), touching (she told of how she met her husband), fascinating (it was great hearing about the whole scrotum controversy from her point of view), and inspiring. And she mentioned Fuse#8 in her speech! (Betsy looked dashing in her red dress, by the way.)

Nina Lindsay dressed as Martha (as in George and Martha)

And that's my wrap-up for now. I had a post last week on my personal blog about the books on my Spring 09 list, so check it out here.

And on a personal note, I'm celebrating my fifth-year anniversary of moving to NY. Oh, NYC, how I still love thee, even five years later. May our relationship last longer still.

More pics:

Senior Editor Jennifer Hunt and Sherman Alexie after his book signing on Saturday

At the Kidlit Drinks Night, our host MotherReader on the left
(and can someone identify the blogger on the right?)

the dessert at the fiction dinner--a very light citrusy thing

with Jerry Spinelli after his signing Sunday morning

Lisa triumphant with her amazing spiral of ARCs for Betwixt.