Friday, November 30, 2007

Robert's Snow auction #2- last day to bid!

Just a reminder that the second round of Robert's Snow auctions ends in a mere few hours at 5 pm EST! There are a surprisingly large number of really reasonably priced 'flakes up right now (many under $200)... children's book artists don't often sell their original art, so this is a really great chance to snag a beautiful piece of kid's book art for a great cause!

Click here to see the snowflakes and bid.

starting a new blog

Some of you may know that my personal blog is Fireside Chat. Lately not much has been said on "the chat." This is because I've been pretty sick off and on. Perhaps some of you will have trouble believing that statement. As my aunt said "You look really good." Yeah. So what? I suppose if I feel sick on the inside I should be covered in green boils or something equally gross on the outside. Sadly, that isn't the way it goes.

Anyhow, my new blog is going to be all about what I’ve been dealing with, perhaps in graphic detail, with some fun photos thrown in... which I think I'm going to do anonymously. Why is this? Because I need to deal with what has been going on with me but I still don't want everyone to know everything and furthermore, why would anyone care to read about it? No one wants to read the sad details. But for me I need this. I'm considering it therapeutic. This way I can keep the fireside chat and this blog illness free. No more talk about it! Right now being sick is a very big part of my life but I think it will be fun to separate it. Besides, my website blog is supposed to be funny, not awful. I'm cutting out the awful. I'd also like strangers to read my new and anonymous blog in the hopes that it will help them, if they're dealing with something similar. And believe me, those people are out there. I found a blog called something like MS or Lyme? I have a lot of the same symptoms so reading it is comforting for me.

My other worries--on the topic of making books I'm worried. What will happen if I don't have the creative energy to do it anymore? A lot of people who have the type of neuropathy that I do go on disability. I REFUSE to do that so I drag my sorry self into B&N even when I'm really sick--dizzy, ready to vomit, in severe pain.... But the problem with making books is that it's harder to do than to drag oneself into a mindless job. Creativity takes mental clarity. I think it also takes a certain POSITIVE mindset, at least when making kids' books. I'm not in the mindset right now. And what will happen? I only earn 150 or so per week at B&N. I can't live off of that! Being freelance is a scary thing and an endeavor that I sometimes regret entering.

But let's forget about all of that. On to more cheerful things! My blogs will be my split life/personality from now on. No more depressing talk.


Poetry Friday: A Hanukkah Poem

I don’t miss many Poetry Friday posts—but I was really spent last week after all my preparations for Thanksgiving dinner for a dozen people at my house. I am sure my overindulgence in rich foods and the sampling of too many calorie-laden desserts helped to bring on my overall feeling of lethargy last Friday—so I took a poetry vacation.

Since Hanukkah falls in early December this year, I thought I’d post a poem for the holiday that was written by one of my favorite children’s poets—Aileen Fisher

Light the Festive Candles
by Aileen Fisher
(For Hanukkah)

Light the first of eight tonight—
the farthest candle to the right.

Light the first and second, too,
when tomorrow's day is through.

Then light three, and then light four—
every dusk one candle more

Till all eight burn bright and high,
honoring a day gone by

Click here to read the rest of the poem.

Note: I found Fisher’s poem thanks to Lunchbox Poems, an online journal feature at the website of the Poetry Foundation. The article was written by two fabulous kidit bloggers—Julie Danielson and Eisha Prather of 7-Imp. I suggest all you poetry lovers head on over to the website and read their piece.

Quoting from Julie and Eisha: "Poetry can be a great way to connect with children. Why not, as Kenn Nesbitt suggests, slip some verses into your children’s lunchboxes to share a giggle or remind them that you’re thinking of them? To get you started, we’ve paired a few poems with momentous days of the school year."

In their article, Jules and Eisha include links to more than twenty poems that would be great for a parent to print and pack in a child’s lunchbox or bag. The poems would also be fine for sharing in an elementary classroom.

I have reviews of two Hanukkah books for children at Wild Rose Reader today: Hanukkah Lights: Holiday Poetry and I Have a Little Dreidel.

The Poetry Friday Roundup is at Two Writing Teachers today.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007


So, I received the official hardcover of the Year of the Rat! With my second novel and a third one on its way, I feel like a I can honestly call myself an author/illustrator, instead of "just" an illustrator. This is much like Fabio in the movie Zoolander:

"Yes! Yes! With this 'slash' award, it means that you consider me the best actor/model, and not the other way around. "

Monday, November 26, 2007


It was very synchronistic that Alvina posted about her Sony reader yesterday as I was listening to this really interesting show on npr last week when the Kindle was released, which got me thinking about reading and technology.

I remember when I was going to art school one of my parent's friends asked me how I felt about the fact that I was going off to study a dying art form (book illustration). I said that even though technology changes the context of art, that doesn't mean it has to die. Photography changed the nature of representational painting (when we could take photographs, painting suddenly evolved to serve a different purpose than capturing reality), but this didn't cause people to stop painting.

I wonder how much that metaphor can be applied though, now that technology like ebook readers are getting closer and closer to the experience of reading a book. So my question is, what is it that is special about reading a printed book?

I can quickly list the tactile things that I love about reading paper books: the weight in my hands, the smell of the ink and the old browned paper. The anticipation that builds as you turn a page, the sound of that page turning, like the flap of a bird's wing.

I can also quickly bring to mind the things I hate about reading on a screen: the haze that comes over your eyes from long stretches of staring at something bright, the lack of design (most web sites use the same, universal type faces for the text). The confusing mish mosh of information and advertisements that, when poorly designed, can be overwhelming.

But apart from these tactile differences, which technology promises to overcome at some point (as the show above points out, it was only 50 years ago that a single computer filled a room), what about reading a printed book would be lost if all goes digital? Ultimately when you are really lost in a story, does it matter in what form you read it? Is there an inherent difference when it comes to children's books in particular?

Because picture books are so much about the art, it seems that the readers out right now are a far cry from catching up to duplicating the experience of a printed page of artwork... so perhaps printed picture books will live a longer life than printed novels. But it does beg the question, what do we value about reading with children, and how will the essence of this change or stay the same as we move away from printed books, if this is the trend?

One of the guests on the show points out that these new devices help us connect with authors more, since we have access to more information about them... blogs for instance open up the writer/reader relationship in a whole new way... more and more it seems necessary that writers actively interact with their audience for their books to be successful. Do ebooks provide ways to further this connection?

If reading a book must increasingly be an interactive, participatory event for the reader, so that they can feel part of the story and the author's world... and if technology makes this easier, does that take some responsibility away from the author/illustrator to accomplish this with the skill of their craft alone?

I love my Sony Reader

I'm still on vacation in CA and am recovering from Thanksgiving, but wanted to give a quick shout-out to the Sony Reader. Right before I left for vacation, my company passed out 50 Sony Readers throughout different departments, and I was one of the lucky volunteers selected for the trial. We're testing the usability of the Readers, and also to see how they helps in terms of saving paper and money when it comes to reading manuscripts.

Well, I love it so far. Most agents nowadays prefer sending submissions electronically, and while I generally tell them, when given the choice, that my preference is still receiving a hard copy, it certainly saves time and shipping costs to email. In the past, when I've received an emailed submission, I've forwarded it on to our receptionist to print out and log in. Apparently, each 400-page novel that we print out costs the company $7, not including the environmental impact. And this is such a waste, especially considering that the entire manuscript might not get read (for the record, I tend to give a novel at least 30 pages to pull me in, but if it doesn't do it for me by then, I stop reading). Every time we bring a manuscript to our acquisitions meeting, we copy and distribute approximately 20 copies. That's $140, and 8,000 sheets of paper (is my math correct?). That's crazy.

We're trying to go Green. Or, at least greener. And I think this is a great first step. I loaded up my reader with a bunch of novels in anticipation of my vacation--it takes Word documents, in Rich Text Format. No longer am I lugging heavy, bulky manuscripts across the country in my suitcase. All I have is a very portable, attractive gadget. The screen is great, you can read it in sunlight, I've read one and a half manuscripts so far, and it hasn't bothered my eyes one bit. In fact, I often bring my hand to the top corner of the machine, forgetting that I need to push a button to turn the page.

I'm in love.

A few wishes: that there was a backlight so I could read in the dark, that the pages loaded a tiny bit faster (although it's not bad at all), that the page turn buttons were a little bigger, that I could actually edit the file on screen--then I could use the Reader not just for reading submissions, but for actual editing as well. Maybe in the future...

I'm curious--has anyone else used an ebook reader? Any other publishing folks starting to use them? There's been some recent buzz about Amazon's Kindle as well. My assistant and I had lunch with an agent recently who told us that all of the agents in her company use ebook readers now. She loves it, too. I don't know if the Reader will replace actual books for me, at least not for a while, but as for manuscript submissions? I'm ready to get rid of them immediately. The hard copies, I mean. ;)

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Happy Belated Thanksgiving!

I hope everyone gave thanks, and ate to their stomach's content...or perhaps discontent.

Just curious--did anyone win a snowflake? I was bidding on a bunch, and hoped to win at least one, but I totally forgot about the time difference now that I'm on the West Coast and wasn't able to bid again before the auctions ended! Bummer. Can't wait till next week...I MUST win another snowflake!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

my owl

So, I finally finished my owl for Keene State. Just a little late...

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Painting in progress continued

Last week I showed the first steps in making a painting for the book I'm working on, What Can You Do with an Old Red Shoe? You can view last week's post here.

I left off establishing the color relationships and patterns:

Next I started layering some texture onto the bunny's fur, laying grey highlights over a black foundation:

This is the finished painting. I tightened up the edges, finished off the textures, and filled in the remaining colors:

Here is the poem that goes with this illustration:

Jack’s blanket was stained,
it was damp,
it was done,
A mere ghost of a blanket,
made pale from the sun.
The fabric had worn,
a soft gauze to the touch.
Jack gave it a squeeze
for he loved it so much.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Snowflakes and NCTE

There was a chance of rain mixed with wet snow flurries on Saturday night and also today, and although I don't think there's any snow outside (I'll know in a few minutes when I walk to work), it's certainly snowing in a different way now! This morning at 9 am EST is the start of auction #1 for the Robert's Snow for Cancer's Cure fundraiser. Thank you everyone who has help spread the word for this wonderful event, now is the time to BID! So, go here and bid now. Let's make this year's fundraiser the biggest ever!


The National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) Annual Conference went on this past weekend here in NYC, and the ALAN workshop is continuing now. I spent most of Saturday at the conference, having to be at the ALAN breakfast at the ungodly hour of 6:45 am. The breakfast started at 7. I felt really sorry for all of the West coast teachers for whom it felt even earlier. But the event was well worth it. Jerry Spinelli was the keynote speaker, and his speech was hilarious and inspirational. One moment in particular that I loved was a question Jerry said that a kid once asked him: "Did being a kid prepare you for being an author?" His answer was "hell yes." (Okay, he didn't actually say "hell yes")

Jerry signed copies of Eggs, Maniac Magee, and Space Station Seventh Grade at our booth in the afternoon. It was great to hear how many schools had made Maniac required reading.

Wendy Mass also signed in the afternoon--we had all four of the books she's published with us available: A Mango-Shaped Space, Leap Day, Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life, and Heaven Looks a Lot Like the Mall. A Mango-Shaped Space was by far the book that most people were familiar with. One woman hadn't been familiar with it, but was extremely ecstatic when she heard that the book was about synesthesia--she said she had a student who had synesthete, but when she tried to tell her students about it, they thought she was making it up.

Wendy and I walked the floor quickly after her signing (we only had a half hour until the floor closed), and got books signed by Peter Sis at the Harper booth, and then Pale Male by Meghan McCarthy, and said hi to authors Holly Black and Sarah Beth Durst.

Last night I attended the ALAN cocktail party--it was packed with publishing folk--agents, editors, a ton of authors, teachers, marketing folk, etc. I won't name drop like crazy this time, but will mention two things. Thank you to Betsy Bird for introducing me to Susan Beth Pfeffer. I loved her books as a kid, especially Kid Power. Another highlight was giving Sara Zarr a hug for her National Book Award nomination for Story of a Girl. Sara and Sherman Alexie had been in the office here and there last week for the various festivities, but I hadn't had the chance to actually say hello.

And on that note, Congratulations Sara and Sherman for your National Book Award nominations, and congratulations Sherman for the Medal for The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. I absolutely love both of their books, so if you haven't had a chance to read them yet, I highly recommend them--they are both absolutely amazing.

And now go bid for your favorite snowflake and help fight cancer!

Friday, November 16, 2007

POETRY FRIDAY: Poems for Thankgiving

I have selected two poems I thought would be appropriate for sharing at Thanksgiving time. The first poem, which I found at Poetry 180, is by Mac Hammond. My second selection is a poem translated from a traditional Iroquois prayer.

by Mac Hammond

The man who stands above the bird, his knife
Sharp as a Turkish scimitar, first removes
A thigh and leg, half the support
On which the turkey used to stand. This
Leg and thigh he sets on an extra
Plate. All his weight now on
One leg, he lunges for the wing, the wing
On the same side of the bird from which
He has just removed the leg and thigh.

Click here to read the rest of the poem.

The Thanksgivings
by Harriet Maxwell Converse
Translated from a traditional Iroquois prayer

We who are here present thank the Great Spirit that we are here
to praise Him.
We thank Him that He has created men and women, and ordered
that these beings shall always be living to multiply the earth.
We thank Him for making the earth and giving these beings its products
to live on.
We thank Him for the water that comes out of the earth and runs
for our lands.
We thank Him for all the animals on the earth.
We thank Him for certain timbers that grow and have fluids coming
from them for us all.
We thank Him for the branches of the trees that grow shadows
for our shelter.
We thank Him for the beings that come from the west, the thunder
and lightning that water the earth.

Click here to read the rest of the poem.

At Wild Rose Reader, I have a review of a collection of Thanksgiving poetry for young children and three Thanksgiving poems.

Kelly has the Poetry Friday Roundup at Big A, little a this week.

Finally... my Texas trip!

I went to Texas a few weeks ago. Let me tell you, Texas librarians are SO friendly! They made my first potentially scary author trip wonderful. And it was hard because I'd just had a car accident and was getting dizzy/balance-problem spells.

Oh, the waiting....

There was a rain storm and I sat in the plane for 3 hours on the tarmac!

When I got off the plane I was greeted by a friendly Texan who took me to my hotel, which was wonderful and spacious!

Then a librarian picked me up and brought me to dinner. We at by the water at a crazy place that was half amusement park and half eatery. This is a picture of a scary but beautiful looking wooden rollercoaster.

Then the next day I did my big talk. I think it went well. Unfortunately I forgot my camera! What I want most is the photo of the giant construction paper George Upside Down that was in the lobby of the school---very cool indeed!

After the talk several librarians took me to NASA since I said I was doing an astronaut book. I had a lot of fun. This is a photo of one of the Texan librarians pointing to a wall with all of the US astronauts on it.

There are lots more photos to come. Lots of cool rocket photos! Stay tuned. I'm also going to write more about the trip on my personal blog--the good ol "fireside chat."

Until then...

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

the best thing about being an author and visiting NYC

Another "Red Shoe" painting in progress

Its been awhile since I've posted any works in progress, so I thought the blog was due for another "process" post. As I've mentioned in the past, I am working on illustrations for my upcoming book What Can You Do with an Old Red Shoe?, a cross genre poetry/craft/recycling book. Below are the steps I went through to paint Jack the bunny, who is very attached to his blanket.

This is the sketch originally shown to my editor:

Next I transfer the sketch to my painting surface using tracing paper:

Once the sketch is transferred, I tighten up the sketch once more:

Next I start laying in washes of color:

Working up the color more, adding a pattern to the blanket and a border:

To be continued next week!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Horn Book podcast and other unique marketing tools

Grace and I were interviewed by the Horn Book's Lolly Robinson last Spring for the new Horn Book podcast, and the interview is up now. Listen to it here. Thanks to Lolly and Kitty for the invitation to be interviewed!

Podcasts seem to be a growing new way for authors and illustrators (and editors!) to promote their work, and last night I witnessed another exciting marketing tool.

Powell's Books in Portland, Oregon has launched a documentary film series Out of the Book. These are half-hour (approximately) films about notable authors. The first in the series featured Ian McEwan, and the second film which debuted last night at the Two Boots Pioneer Theater featured the late (and great) David Halberstam's The Coldest Winter: America and the Korean War.

It was was a beautifully directed and produced film, featuring interviews with David's wife Jean Halberstam and such notable authors as Joan Didion, Anna Quindlen, Bob Woodward, and more. They read aloud passages of the book, and talked about David's life and writing, reporting, and about the Korean War in general. There was also archival footage of the war throughout.

The movie was preceded by a dramatic reading of a passage from the book, and followed by a panel discussion featuring a Korean War veteran who had been interviewed in the book, an author friend of David Halberstam (I apologize for not recalling their names)
, and producer Dave Weich, who also called on the film's director James Lester to comment. Overall, it was such an interesting, different event, and even though I'm not a huge history reader and wouldn't normally pick up a 700+-page book on the Korean War, it made me want to read the book, and others by Halberstam.

I was invited to the event by a friend who is good friends with the producer Dave Weich, who was also the brain child behind the series. But otherwise, I would have never heard of Out of the Book, which is a shame. Dave said that in the past, most book marketing had been text-based, and text is so cerebral and a solitary experience, and he wanted to find a different way to engage readers with the books and authors. The way it works is that the publisher of the featured book/author pays the budget for the film, and the film is shown around the country in partnership with book stores, not unlike an author tour. It seems perfect for authors who don't want to or can't (as in Halberstam's case) tour.

As with podcasts and book trailers, I'm excited that there seem to be novel ways (pun intended) to market books being developed. I'm looking forward to the next installment of Out of the Book (perhaps one day a children's author will be highlighted), and to see what new marketing techniques are developed.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Blogging for a Cure: The Final Week

Grace Lin & Alissa Imre Geis
admiring the 2007 snowflakes
in Newburyport, Massachusetts

Note: My husband and I took the rest of the photographs posted here at the Reception for Robert's Snow Artists, which was held on November 4th at the Danforth Museum of Art in Framingham, Massachusetts. The 2007 snowflakes will remain on exhibit through December 2nd.

Back row: Leo Landry & Grace

Time certainly has flown. Think about this: The final week of Blogging for a Cure will begin tomorrow! Where did the time go?

Once again, I would like to thank Jules and Eisha, the fine ladies of 7-Imp for spearheading this effort to promote Robert’s Snow: for Cancer’s Cure, a series of online auctions that will raise money for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and cancer research. Please visit the Robert’s Snow website to learn more about this unique fundraiser, which was co-founded by Grace Lin and her late husband Robert Mercer.

Jules coordinated the efforts of dozens of bloggers who have been posting features about the picture book illustrators who created snowflakes for Robert’s Snow 2007. She also organized the master schedule for our postings. In addition, I would like to thank Tricia Stohr-Hunt of The Miss Rumphius Effect and Jen Robinson of Jen Robinson’s Book Page for providing participating bloggers with weekly schedules to post at our blogs.

NOTE: I have linked to the blogs that will be posting features about the Robert’s Snow artists this week—not to the specific posts. Jules and Eisha of 7-Imp have created a special page that includes a list with links to all the Blogging for a Cure posts. Their list is updated every day.
Robin Brickman with an original illustration
from her book
One Night in the Coral Sea

Rebecca Doughty standing near her snowflake

Amiko Hirao and Alissa Imre Geis

Monday, November 12
John Nez at ChatRabbit
Liza Woodruff at Check It Out
Jane Dippold at Just Like the Nut
Mike Wohnoutka at laurasalas

Tuesday, November 13
Cynthia Decker at The Silver Lining
Cecily Lang at Kate's Book Blog
Jane Dyer at Whimsy Books
Akemi Gutierrez at AmoXcalli and Cuentecitos
Lee White at Please Come Flying

Wednesday, November 14
Philomena O'Neill at Jo's Journal
Maggie Swanson at Chicken Spaghetti
Timothy Bush at Here in the Bonny Glen
Peter Emmerich at Loree Griffin Burns: A Life in Books

Thursday, November 15
Yangsook Choi at What Adrienne Thinks About That
Laura Jacques at cynthialord's Journal
Mary Newell Depalma at Wild Rose Reader
Leanne Franson at Just Like the Nut

Friday, November 16
Mary Haverfield
at Your Neighborhood Librarian
Lisa Kopelke at Lisa's Little Corner of the Internet
Salley Mavor at ChatRabbit
Greg Newbold at The Longstockings
Elizabeth Sayles at AmoXcalli and Cuentecitos

Saturday, November 17
Paul Brewer at A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy
Aaron Zenz at Jo's Journal
Wendy Edelson at What Adrienne Thinks About That
Joan Waites at Chicken Spaghetti

Sunday, November 18
Giles Laroche at Book, Book, Book
Annie Patterson at Check It Out
Teri Sloat at The Miss Rumphius Effect
Annette Heiberg at Lisa's Little Corner of the Internet
Wade Zahares at Wild Rose Reader

Grace, Anna, & I decided to have a picture taken
next to the beautiful angel created by Linda Wingerter.

These are the Robert’s Snow artists who will be/have been featured at Wild Rose Reader.

October 16: Scott Bakal
October 29:
Alissa Imre Geis
November 3:
Wendell Minor
November 9:
Susan Kathleen Hartung

November 15: Mary Newell DePalma
November 18: Wade Zahares

Friday, November 09, 2007

POETRY FRIDAY: Robert's Snowflakes and Poems

When I read this post by Jules at 7-Imp the other day, it gave me an idea for my Poetry Friday post at Blue Rose Girls this week. Last week at Wild Rose Reader, I wrote about poetry inspired by famous paintings and other works of art. Since we are in the midst of Blogging for a Cure, I thought it would be fitting to post three haiku poems and images of the 2004 snowflakes that inspired their authors. The poems and snowflakes are all included in Robert's Snowflakes: Artists' Snowflakes for Cancer's Cure.

NOTE: Robert's Snowflakes: Artists' Snowflakes for Cancer's Cure is a beautiful collector’s item. It is a compilation of the 2004 snowflakes and haiku written specially for the book by Jane Yolen, Janet Wong, Heidi Stemple, Jennifer Holm, Carole Lexa Schaefer, April Halprin Wayland, Charlotte Zolotow and her daughter Crescent Dragonwagon, and me. Please consider purchasing a copy of the book because 100% of the royalties will go to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

Snowflake Art & Poetry

The first haiku I’ve posted here was written by Charlotte Zolotow and Crescent Dragonwagon. What you may not know is that Charlotte and Crescent actually wrote a poem with three stanzas for Robert’s Snowflakes. The poem was too long to fit on the blank snowflake template—so only the last stanza, which you see below, was included in the book.

This is the two-page spread in which their poem appears:

The Snowflake Artists
(left page from left to right)
Phoebe Stone, Loren Long, Scott Bakal
(right page from left to right)
Kinuko Y. Craft, Grace Lin, Gary A. Lippincott

Busy small white stars
making the cold dark earth white.
Inside, we are warm.

Click here to read the first two stanzas of this lovely poem.

Here is another lovely haiku written by Janet Wong…along with the snowflakes that inspired it.
The Snowflake Artists
(top to bottom & left to right)
Amy Young, Melissa Iwai
Linda Wingerter
Susan Swan
Theresa Smythe, Kathy Jakobsen

Skater and scarf wrap
themselves around each other,
ice-dancing as one.

Finally, here is the haiku I wrote for Robert's Snowflakes: Artists' Snowflakes for Cancer's Cure and an image of the book’s two-page spread in which my poem appears.

A snowman shadow
paints himself in blue upon
a cold white canvas.

The Snowflake Artists
(left page from left to right)
Janie Bynum, John Hassett, Jarrett J. Krosoczka
(right page from left to right)
Leo Landry, Jaime Zollars, Fred Lynch

The first auction of Robert’s Snow 2007 begins on November 19th!

NOTE: The poems posted here are the copyrighted property of their respective authors. All rights reserved.

Cloudscome has the Poetry Friday Roundup at A Wrung Sponge this week.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

panel talk

The Blue Rose Girls gave a panel discussion at the North Shore Reading Council Meeting last night. Great fun, special thanks to organizer Elaine and our gracious audience!