Friday, February 29, 2008
The Powwow at the End of the World
after an Indian woman puts her shoulder to the Grand Coulee Dam
and topples it. I am told by many of you that I must forgive
and so I shall after the floodwaters burst each successive dam
downriver from the Grand Coulee. I am told by many of you
that I must forgive and so I shall after the floodwaters find
their way to the mouth of the Columbia River as it enters the Pacific
and causes all of it to rise. I am told by many of you that I must
and so I shall after the first drop of floodwater is swallowed by that
waiting in the Pacific. I am told by many of you that I must forgive
after that salmon swims upstream, through the mouth of the
and then past the flooded cities, broken dams and abandoned
Kelly Fineman has the Poetry Friday Roundup.
Thursday, February 28, 2008
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
And maybe that is because touring other people's studios is much more interesting. Rebecca's most certainly was. It was large, bright and airy--complete with a small lounge area and a gallery wall for her beautiful, small bunny paintings. I definitely began to feel twinges of studio envy. It made me want to go home and start hanging little paintings on the wall and rearrange the furniture.
Something tells me the studio tour on my website will need another three years.
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
Then more lounging, some drinking, and talking about books...
Then at some point we realized that without planning it, we were all wearing stripes (didn't mean to steal your thunder Longstockings, we are just THAT fashionable).
A more formal portrait:
And lastly, there was roller skating. Lots and lots of roller skating. Could there be a better weekend? Stay tuned for pics from Meghan and Alvina who took their cameras onto the roller rink floor... there are sure to be many extremely embarising pictures of us doing the hokey pokey on skates and trying to avoid tiny kamikaze child roller skaters darting in our paths...
Monday, February 25, 2008
Anyway, another short post today before I go to work. I think most of you know that I generally attend the wonderful retreat Kindling Words (although I missed this year for the first time in four or five years due to the China trip). Well, author Amy Timberlake has just compiled the blogs of Kindling Words attendees using Google Reader, and has shared the link here. Pretty cool. And yes, the Blue Rose Girls blog is on there--we've all attended KW at least once, with the exception of Meghan and Elaine.
And then I'd like to leave with a question to those of us who are in publishing, or published. If you could have done anything differently, what would it have been? One common example that I took from this weekend was that many of us wished they had known how important doing school visits are.
For me it's different, because as publishing is an apprenticeship, I learned most everything I needed to know on the job. However, sometimes I wish that I had been an English major or at least an English minor, because I think that would have prepared me more for the critical reading/editing aspects of the job (I was a mass communications major--but perhaps that made me more well-rounded).
If you could do it over, what would you do differently? What do you wish you knew then?
Saturday, February 23, 2008
Here's my editor in her office with her creation. You may notice that the painting in the background looks familiar...
Here is the alien and the bird together. Aw.
Friday, February 22, 2008
by Wislawa Symboraska
I prefer movies.
I prefer cats.
I prefer the oaks along the Warta.
I prefer Dickens to Dostoyevsky.
I prefer myself liking people
to myself loving mankind.
I prefer keeping a needle and thread on hand, just in case.
I prefer the color green.
I prefer not to maintain
that reason is to blame for everything.
I prefer exceptions.I prefer to leave early.
I prefer talking to doctors about something else.
I prefer the old fine-lined illustrations.
I prefer the absurdity of writing poems
to the absurdity of not writing poems.
I prefer, where love's concerned, nonspecific anniversaries
that can be celebrated every day.
I prefer moralists
who promise me nothing.
You can read the rest of Szymborska’s poem here.
What are your preferences? Maybe some of you might like to try writing a list poem like Szymborska’s Possibilities???
For Wild Rose Reader, I composed a cento using the titles of children’s books written by African American authors or about the African American experience in honor of Black History Month.
Kelly has the Poetry Friday Roundup at Big A, little a.
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
I'm trying to make it a point to do an egg every time I am asked, and to do a good job with it--at least attempting to make it an art piece of value. The egg auction is in honor of beloved children's illustrator Trina Schart Hyman (she founded the event). Trina participated in the first Robert's Snow, shortly before her death--ironically from cancer. Her snowflake was probably one of the last pieces of art she created. The least I could do was to at least try to paint an egg of quality for her namesake auction.
So with my recent trip to China as inspiration, I decided to paint a lantern scene--glowing red lanterns floating in the dark sky with crowds of people walking and gazing below--it was going to be detailed, intricate, beautiful...
until I broke the egg.
Luckily, the smart people of the Open Fields sent two eggs just for these type of calamities. But now I was running out of time. I had spent too long with the broken egg, now there was no way I could do the in depth lantern scene in the time I had. So, I had to quickly come up with a simpler design:
Which is an illustration of part of a poem by the Chinese poet Li Po:
The birds have vanished down the sky.
Now the last cloud drains away.
We sit together, the mountain and me
until only the mountain remains.
It is one of my favorite poems, so for the time I had left, I was satisfied with the egg. But I think the lantern one would've been better. Oh well, maybe next time.
As promised, here are some highlights from Saturday's second and final launch party for Priscilla and the Hollyhocks. We threw the party in my neighborhood of Jamaica Plain at a local bookstore, Jamaicaway Books. As most book folks know, it can be super hard to pull people out to a bookstore on a sunny Saturday afternoon. So I was extra delighted when the store filled with enthusiastic friends, kids, and teachers. As we began our talk the seats in front of us filled, by the time we finished it was standing room only.
As with last week's launch, we each spoke about our process; the research and creative decisions that helped create this book:
I showed everyone the photo research I did for Priscilla's character:
Compared the printed book to the actual art (see painting behind me):
And talked about the process of creating the book dummy:
Heres a pic of me, the editor of the book Yolanda, and Anne:
And a rather adorable attendee who came in a cat costume. Why didn't I think of that?
Monday, February 18, 2008
What do George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Martin Luther King Jr. all have in common?
They were all born on holidays.
Anyway, I've been enjoying my three-day weekend and so once again was caught unprepared for my day to post, so I'll leave you with this fascinating article that is the cover story in New York Magazine. (I originally saw it via Educating Alice.) It's all about why kids lie, when they first start lying, and what it all means. One tidbit I found fascinating is that kids actually have to be pretty smart to lie: "A child who is going to lie must recognize the truth, intellectually conceive of an alternate reality, and be able to convincingly sell that new reality to someone else." These more advanced kids start lying at age 2 or 3. So...if you catch your kid lying at that young of an age, take consolation in the fact that he or she is really smart.
The article asks if kids are copying adults when they lie--they observe adults telling white lies all the time, and they're also probably confused when adults coach them to lie--for example, when they're told to say they like a gift they don't really like. And, of course, they lie to escape punishment.
I also loved the description of the "Peeking Game" experiment.
Anyway, just read the article, I'm not doing it justice. But a warning--the photographs that accompany the article are pretty creepy.
And Congratulations to the winners of the 2007 Cybils!
Saturday, February 16, 2008
I am no photographer and it was also hard to get my whole face in the picture or for that matter, even SEE the picture since the view finder is in back. I solved that problem by holding the camera with the view finder facing a mirror. But, still, none of the pictures were really right....in fact, they all looked really bad.
So I drove up to Boston and Anna took this.
We (anna, grace, and I) examined it carefully, left lots of background in so they could crop it however they wanted, and sent it off.
But it too was rejected. Finally, after asking one of my sisters who looks a lot like me if she had a picture of herself I could use ("NO, that's crazy" was the answer) I took one more myself -- and,without consulting the BRGs (I figured I'd wasted enough of everyone's time! Almost all day Monday was spent emailing about this and other matters -- it was a week of drama for many of us, not just me). The publisher liked this picture "much better."
Or rather, the editor liked it. She and I have been allies on this and other things all along -- and by the way, the editor here is not Alvina. The designer (who by this time had become THEY to both of us) sent that back, too, and I sent one more (this time covering my hair in case that was the problem -- and now that I look at this picture I really wish I hadn't sent it but I wanted to get this DONE),
asking if they could make do with one or the other. And saying I was sorry that this was taking so much of her time. The editor emailed me that she had sent both "and now I'm going to forget about it."
Let's hope THEY let her! I hope this doesn't sound like I'm complaining; I'm not -- just reporting on this strange business. And resolving to spend the money and time getting an acceptable author photo before the next book in this series goes to press -- and make some improvements to my appearance, too.
Friday, February 15, 2008
I know what the caged bird feels, alas!
When the sun is bright on the upland slopes;
When the wind stirs soft through the springing grass,
And the river flows like a stream of glass;
When the first bird sings and the first bud opes,
And the faint perfume from its chalice steals—
I know what the caged bird feels!
You can read the rest of the poem here.
We wear the mask that grins and lies,
It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,—
This debt we pay to human guile;
With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,
And mouth with myriad subtleties.
Why should the world be overwise,
In counting all our tears and sighs?
Nay, let them only see us, while
We wear the mask.
You can read the rest of the poem here.
And there is pause, a breath-space in the strife;
A spirit brave has passed beyond the mists
And vapors that obscure the sun of life.
And Ethiopia, with bosom torn,
Laments the passing of her noblest born.
She loved him with a mother's deepest love.
He was her champion thro' direful years,
And held her weal all other ends above.
When Bondage held her bleeding in the dust,
He raised her up and whispered, "Hope and Trust."
At Wild Rose Reader, I have some short metaphor poems that I wrote for Miss Rumphius's Poetry Stretch this week.
HipWriterMama has the Poetry Friday Roundup this week.
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
And one of the things that I've done on this quest was to get my new author photos taken. As another symbolic gesture, I wanted a new look to them. So a friend of friend of mine, who is a professional photographer took them.
Now, this friend of friend, is great photographer. But I was a bit hazy about what I wanted. I just wanted it to be different from what I had before--calm, pleasant photos of me in a Chinese garden. So when I saw a red background available, I jumped on it. Red is the Chinese lucky color. And there was pattern on it, like my paintings. I told him it was an ideal backdrop because it was energetic and joyful.
So with that idea in mind, he began directing me and taking photos. They came out like this:
I was impressed, for little ol'me --and compared to my old pictures--it seemed like a visual transformation. My vanity was highly gratified, as I thought he made me look pretty good...but maybe too good? Somehow it didn't seem right for an author photo. When I told him this, he seemed a little confused (how can one look too good?) but agreed to take some shots less energetic and joyful.
Which got me this:
And made me laugh. Now I was a brooding children's book author. I told him something in between and finally got this:
Which I think I can use. Though I have a feeling I will have to try again. Because it is only now, after looking at all the photos that I think I know what the problem is. The red background which I pictured as Chinese New Year looks more like Victorian brothel. And that's probably not the setting most people expect the creators of their children's books to be in!
What do you think?
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
So last Saturday was the first book launch for Priscilla at the Wellesley Booksmith, a really fabulous little independent book store just outside Boston. The author and I had a jolly old time! Even though I'm very familiar with the story, it was really interesting to hear Anne talk about her research and how she discovered the details of Priscilla's life. It is so difficult to get recorded details from that era about someone who was a slave... even simple things like her age had contradictory records! Totally fascinating.
For my part I mainly spoke about how I researched Priscilla as a character, how I incorporated reference materials and tried to make things like clothing and setting historically accurate- loyal blog readers will remember posts like this and this. (Please pardon the totally nerdy pic!)
I displayed a lot of process work from making the book; different sketch versions of the jacket, photos of kids that inspired me, the different versions of the book dummy.
Here is me and Anne after our talk. This is the first time I've actually met an author I've worked with in person! Usually they are miles away...
If you missed last Saturday, we'll be doing it all again this weekend at Jamaicaway Books, a great multicultural bookstore in my dearly beloved neighborhood of Jamaica Plain. Details below!
February 16th at 3:00 pm
676 Centre Street
Jamaica Plain, MA 02130
Monday, February 11, 2008
Sunday, February 10, 2008
I've also recommended The Tipping Point to my authors who were thinking about ways to market their books, because I love what it says about how little things can make a big difference, that you never know which of your efforts will cause that "tipping point" and help make your book successful. So I was a little upset to read an article last week about network-theory scientist Duncan Watts who has somewhat disproved some of Gladwell's theories, in particular that of the "taste-makers" and connectors who are pivotal in deciding what things will be popular.
Watts decided to put the whole idea to the test by building another Sims-like computer simulation. He programmed a group of 10,000 people, all governed by a few simple interpersonal rules. Each was able to communicate with anyone nearby. With every contact, each had a small probability of "infecting" another. And each person also paid attention to what was happening around him: If lots of other people were adopting a trend, he would be more likely to join, and vice versa. The "people" in the virtual society had varying amounts of sociability--some were more connected than others. Watts designated the top 10% most-connected as Influentials; they could affect four times as many people as the average Joe. In essence, it was a virtual society run--in a very crude fashion--according to the rules laid out by thinkers like Gladwell and Keller.
Watts set the test in motion by randomly picking one person as a trendsetter, then sat back to see if the trend would spread. He did so thousands of times in a row.
The results were deeply counterintuitive. The experiment did produce several hundred societywide infections. But in the large majority of cases, the cascade began with an average Joe (although in cases where an Influential touched off the trend, it spread much further). To stack the deck in favor of Influentials, Watts changed the simulation, making them 10 times more connected. Now they could infect 40 times more people than the average citizen (and again, when they kicked off a cascade, it was substantially larger). But the rank-and-file citizen was still far more likely to start a contagion.
Watts concluded that "a trend's success depends not on the person who starts it, but on how susceptible the society is overall to the trend--not how persuasive the early adopter is, but whether everyone else is easily persuaded."
Initially, my main takeaway from reading this article was that it was all more of a crap shoot than I had previously thought. But then I realized that, in a way, it was almost comforting, because we don't have to be overly concerned about whether we're marketing something "right" or not--we just have to do our thing and hope that society is accepting. It's a little disappointing to think that merit plays very little into the results, but it also pretty much confirms what we all know--we all see books succeed that we consider to be, er, let's just say not so good, and wonderful books that fail to attract notice.
All I can say is, keep doing your thing, try to get as many people to know about your book as possible, and hope that all factors are aligned for you.
Friday, February 08, 2008
by Miller Williams
At Wild Rose Reader, I have a review of J. Patrick Lewis’s poetry book Freedom Like Sunlight: Praisesongs for Black Americans, a list of several of my favorite picture book biographies of famous African Americans, and a suggestion for a classroom connection.
The Poetry Friday Roundup is at AmoXcalli this week.
Wednesday, February 06, 2008
It would be an excellent book to read aloud to third and fourth graders—even to older children.
Click here to read reviews of another picture book and a poetry book that are fine for sharing with children during the celebration of the Lunar New Year.
Edited to add: Read Bringing in the New Year with Grace Lin at 7-Imp. Jules has a review of Grace's new picture book--and she's posted images of some of its awesome illustrations.
A few of you have said you will make aliens. Awesome! It will be fun to see how they all turn out. No one has offered to make something else like a bird... or a horse... or a strong man. Other dolls are needed! I suppose aliens are the easiest and more fun, however, so if that's your thinking then carry on! How about a big red bus? That would be funny!
I'm going to add some fun here. You can also appear in the book if you make a giant cardboard bus for kids to play in (or anything else creative and related to one of my books - post your thoughts here). All I require is a photo and instructions for how it's made so that I can share it with the world on my lovely website. I haven't painted any crowd scenes yet so there's still time! Just answer here or pop me an email - firstname.lastname@example.org
this is fun!
Tuesday, February 05, 2008
But strangely, my books have gotten a little attention. It was quite a thrill when my friend Amy(of editomato) sent me this:
And then another friend in Montreal sent me this:
Very cool! Very neat. Very...um, guilt inducing. Suddenly I am full of remorse as I realize both of my books are seasonal/holiday-oriented and that this holiday only comes once a year..and the year of the rat only comes once every twelve. What have I done? I have thrown my books out into the world without even trying to get them a good start in life. Eeks! Okay, I've got a little bit over 24 hours before Chinese New Year strikes--any suggestions?
Please note that I will soon be painting some new spreads with some crowd potential. If you are interested in being depicted in the book ala McCarthy cartoon form, please let me know! Of course, you must do the below said trade.
What do you think? Can you see enough of the image? I had to make it small so as not to take forever to download. Does this give you a good idea about how a painting develops? Sometimes this can be a hard thing to explain with words. I also put the video here on my web site.
You can see a close-up of the finished illustration here.
REMINDER: This Saturday is the first book launch party for Priscilla at The Wellesley Booksmith at 1 pm! Come join the author and I to learn about the making of the book in person. More details here!
Monday, February 04, 2008
Here's an ALL FOOD video from our China trip!
WARNING: viewing this video may make you hungry.
Saturday, February 02, 2008
It was almost like seeing a friend – and getting a happy new year message. I’m always glad when one of the Blue Rose Girl’s books has a success, and being chosen out of all the picture books published for the window IS a success (though I wish they’d put The Year of the Rat, which I love as much as The Year of the Dog, there too). But still, it's one more sign that the year of the rat is going to be a happy new start for us all.
For me, 2008 began with sending out two books: a novel and a picture book. Finishing a novel is always odd: for me, anyway. This time, the first couple of weeks were really fun: I saw a lot of friends, went ski-ing, caught up with my life, made things (more on that next week), and gave myself the gift of idleness without feeling guilty, too. Then – I started checking email and my missed call list a lot.....and feeling restless and all the other things that go with waiting (I’m not going to enumerate them, because those who have felt them them know only too well and those who haven’t will just think they’re illogical and a waste of time and energy).
I’ll just say that for me it is the least fun part of being a writer – far worse than the finances etc. -- and I put an end to it by starting a new novel! I had sworn that I wouldn’t do this until I had sold something; but I woke up the next morning excited and thinking about what I was going to write, instead of wondering if today I would hear. I’ve taken myself off hold!
Friday, February 01, 2008
by Debora Greger
At Wild Rose Reader, I have a review of a Yum! Mmmm! Que Rico!: Americas’ Sproutings, a book of haiku poetry written by Pat Mora and illustrated by Rafael Lopez.
Click the links below if you’re looking for some children’s poetry books especially recommended for use during Black History Month.
Poetry Books for Black History Month
More Poetry Books for Black History Month
Karen Edmisten has the Poetry Friday Roundup this week.