Tuesday, October 31, 2006


In keeping with my "What's Hidden in the Illustrations" posts, I have a few new things to share. Here's the first--

I hope you all know about Mercer Mayer's One Monster After Another. It's a GREAT book and one of my all-time favorites. I LOVED looking at all the detailed illustrations, and, of course, the story is fabulous.

Flash-forward to me leafing to books in The Strand. There I found this really cool book called The Man with the Can by Jan Sanders, published in 1978 (a year after I was born!). There's lots of dirty stuff in it... lots of sex... lots of crazy, busy cartoons. And then I saw this--

Look familiar? Yes? No?

How about now?

So, what came first here? The chicken or the egg?

Mayer's book was published in 1974 BUT the Jan Sanders book is a compilation. Sanders's most likely came first. So here's my question-- was Mayer consciously or unconsciously borrowing from this image? In college I'd known students who
would literally copy an illustration and then claim it was their own (little did they know I have a large art collection!). Here's another thought--was Mayer doing this as a private joke? Was he paying homage to this other artist? When my Strong Man book comes out, you will see I have given a wink to Norman Rockwell. You must know lots of Rockewell work to recognize it but I hope all of you will figure it out!

But back on topic here--If he was, what kind of joke was it? Jan Sanders's art is kind of dirty. A giant nude hag mermaid is being pulled out of the sea!

So is this plagiarism? Is it a joke? Do other artists do the same thing? Do they hide dirty little jokes in
their kids' books? I'll let you all ponder over this one. Stay tuned for part two. You won't want to miss it! You might be shocked... annoyed... enlightened... who knows!

Until then,

Question of the week is:What do you wear while you are working?

Our newest question of the week is: What do you wear while you are working?

If you'd like to send us a question of the week to answer, feel free to put it in the comments section below, or email us at bluerosegirls at gmail dot

ALVINA: Well, unlike the other Blue Rose Girls, I work in an office, so I'm required to wear "business casual" (although I interpret this loosely). Sometimes I wear business-like skirts with heels and button up shirts, sometimes more casual flowy skirts and tidy T-shirts. In the summer I love my sundresses, colorful skirts, tank tops. In the colder weather I love my velvet blazers--one black, one maroon. And jeans on casual Fridays. I like the variety--sometimes I like dressing up and feeling grown-up and professional, and sometimes I like being casual and laid-back.

GRACE: Hmm, on "home days"-- days where I am painting, drawing and writing at home, I have a bad habit of wearing my pajamas. I try not to do that anymore because it's really embarassing to get packages from the UPS man in my fuzzy flannels. But I do have an occasional pajama day slip in here and there...

For school visits, I try to look a bit nicer (as I say in my "why looks matter" post). Last year, when I was putting up my school visit photo gallery, I realized that I was wearing the same outfit to every visit. It was pretty funny but made for a thin gallery viewing! I've since then gone shopping.

ANNA: I make a point of not wearing my pajamas all day, although I could, its just too tempting to curl up and take a nap in the middle of the day. Though the outfits I change into are not much better... usually jeans, t-shirts and a sweatshirt. I will try to look grown-up and adult for school visits and the like, but the second I get home those clothes are off and I'm back in my t-shirt and jeans. Sometimes I feel I should look more sophisticated, but then I get all caught up in putting together my clothes and it distracts from working. Maybe I'm just too easily distracted.

MEGHAN: I laughed as soon as I read this! Here's a rundown of my days when I'm not working at B&N and when I don't have to go to PT. I get up. I make a hot drink (used to be coffee but trying to avoid the caffeine). I watch the morning shows such as The View (even though Rosie is taking over the show). Then I do the email thing. Then I might start painting although lots of times I leave that to the night shift. I don't get dressed until 3 or 4, which is when I get ready to go running in Central Park (although I'm not supposed to be running because I'm injured). This means I wear my pajamas while working. "Pajamas" mostly consist of my workout pants and a tee-shirt. When I get dressed it's the typical jeans and a snap shirt. Yeah, love the western shirts. I see NO need to get dressed except if I'm not dressed I won't answer the door to get packages, which is a problem.

LIBBY:I love the way all the BRGs dress so I was very curious about the answer to this question. It's true that when I've seen Meghan, she has been wearing jeans and a great looking snap shirt.

I wish I could pull of that look! When I'm doing a school visits I spend a lot of time getting ready -- I wear what *I* think would be fun, but do things like iron the clothes and blow dry my hair and REALLY THINK about the whole effect. I keep trying on until I am satisfied.

On writing days, which are most days, alas just pajamas (as you know from my other post I see no need to change out of these for a bike ride) or jeans & a REALLY WARM top -- I live in an insulated beach cottage. Under everything thin silk. But what I would like to wear instead of these layers is a padded silk jacket, navy/midnight blue outside and bright pink inside, maybe with a small bright green or gold dragon embroidered on a wrist -- & matching trousers: the jacket loose and swingy with great lines and the trousers baggy and everything snuggley. In real life, on really cold days I wear an LL Bean Kids bright pink ski overall .... the padded silk outfit would be better. Maybe I will get one -- or give one to a deserving character.

MEGHAN: P.S - my real secret is that I write each and every children's book in the nude. This tactic really saves me valuable time on the laundry chores and that way i can get more work done!


My friend Alexis has the cutest Halloween costume ever. She dressed up as a cupcake! So, seeing as cupcakes are one of the themes of this blog, I thought I'd post the picture and remind everyone that voting for our Cupcake Contest ends Sunday, so vote today!

Keene State Lit fest

This weekend's festival was fabulous! As Elaine already mentioned, the speakers were PJ Lynch, Paul Zelinsky, Kevin Hawkes, Tracey Campbell Pearson, and Patricia McLachlan. Each and every one was fantastic, and they had to be, after all the 400 plus attendees sat for 5 hours listening to one speaker after another... it is a tribute to the speakers that we sat mezmerized and entertained for the length of the presentations, hanging on every word.

PZ did drawings in Photoshop and showed animations of characters from his new book. PJL showed clips of his art process, and the way he uses models in his work (often posing himself). Everyone who spoke mentioned their dogs and cats and children, and how they show up in their books. As a group, we illustrators/writers seem to be obsessed with our pets in particular!

I'd say the most encouraging thing for me, as an author/illustrator, was to get a sense for what the span of a lengthy career in this business can look like. How, after decades in publishing, an artist continues to develop their work, nurture their creativity, and draw from all aspects of their lives to nourish their books. I've been doing this for about 7 years, and while I feel like I have something of a feeling for the direction I am going in, and what my work is about, it really puts things in perspective to hear from people who have been doing it for 15, 20 and 30 years!

The authors for next year look just as exciting, I highly recommend checking it out (you will see many of us BRG's attending!). Compared to many kid lit festivals, this one is very affordable, and draws an interesting crowd from all over the country. Plus you get to poke around the Keene State campus, where they have a fabulous gallery of original children's book art by artists like Tomie dePaola, Arnold Lobel and Trina Shart Hyman.

I am a meticulous note taker... here are a few inspirational quotes from Patricia McLachlan's talk:

"We revise our lives in our books so we don't have to make the same mistakes again."

"Writers are spies, users and stealers."

"Read a story and find out who you are." (actually her dad said that)

PS A special thanks to Elaine for inviting me to dine with the staff and speakers, it was a great time!! And, for the record, she had no broccoli in her teeth.


We can’t let this day pass without posting a Halloween poem at Blue Rose Girls!

So here is a mask poem written by one of America’s greatest writers, Carl Sandburg:


I spot the hills
With yellow balls in autumn.
I light prairie cornfields
Orange and tawny gold clusters
And I am called pumpkins.
On the last of October
When dusk is fallen
Children join hands
And circle round me
Singing ghost songs
And love to the harvest moon;
I am a jack-o’-lantern
With terrible teeth
And the children know
I am fooling.

Happy Halloween!!!
See you again on Poetry Friday.

Happy Halloween!

More pics over on my blog.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Original Art Show

I tried posting this over the weekend and ran in to problems, and then decided to just make this my Monday post.

Here are a few pics from the Original Art Show at the Society of Illustrators last Thursday night. Two of the books I edited made it into the show, which was really exciting: Hippo! No, Rhino and Chowder. And both Jeff Newman and Peter Brown made it out--Jeff all the way from Milwaukee:
And Peter all the way from Brooklyn:
It was a great event, although, as Meghan said, it was really crowded. And hot. When I've gone in the past, I've usually left early to escape the crowds, but this time I stayed for almost the whole thing--funny, I never knew there were actually awards and speeches given at the event.

It was great to see a lot of familiar faces, including many I haven't seen a while--faces from the LA SCBWI, former colleagues, editors, artists, agents, even Margaret Tice from the NYPL. And I even got to finally meet Ms. Cheryl Klein for the first time!

And here's Meghan's piece. She refused to pose in front of it:(Meghan, when you get that piece back, I think you should pose with someone else in a gallery, holding that painting, and wearing masks.)

One of my most favorite moments at work is when final art comes in for an upcoming picture book. No matter how perfect the printing of the book is, it's still not the same as seeing the original art in person. I love seeing the different styles and techniques and media up close. This is what's great about the Original Art Show, too--so many wonderful artists' work all in one place, from Jon Muth, to Jerry Pinkney, to Mo Willems, to Jeanette Winter. So, if you're in the NY area, the exhibit will be up until November 24, so go check it out, and say hi to Hippo and Chowder for me. You can find exhibit hours (and not much else--I hate how hard it is to navigate the SOI website, does anyone else have this problem?) here. It's free!


The Keene State College Children’s Literature Festival Owl Project

WHOOO? WHOOO? WHOOO are you calling?


The Enticement
You! I am calling all you talented artists who have published a children’s book. Imagine having a painting, drawing, or collage of an owl that you created displayed in a gallery of picture book art alongside the works of such esteemed artists as Eric Carle, Tomie dePaola, David McPhail, Brian and Jerry Pinkney, Wendell Minor, Diane Goode, and Mark Teague. Picture your own unique owl hanging in the gallery in the company of other wise birds created by award-winning artists like Denise Fleming, Mordicai Gerstein, David Shannon, Trina Schart Hyman, Betsy and Ted Lewin, Mary Azarian, David Diaz, and Paul O. Zelinsky.

This gallery I speak of is on the campus of Keene State College in New Hampshire. It is visited by thousands of people every year. Many of the visitors are people like me—individuals who have a passion for children’s books. We are teachers, librarians, students, professors, children’s authors and illustrators. And during the Keene State College Children’s Literature Festival, held in late October every year, the gallery is mobbed with hundreds of Festival attendees trying to catch a peek of the “new” owls that weren’t on display the previous year.


The Invitation
I am inviting you on behalf of Dr. David White, the director of the Children's Literature Festival, to be a contributor to the college’s Festival Owl Project. The college will celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2009. It is the goal of the Festival to have 100 owls for that special occasion. (They now need about 30 more owls.) The Blue Rose Girls have already informed David of their intent to participate in the “owl” campaign.

Come join the Blue Rose Girls in helping Keene State College to reach its goal in time for their big celebration in 2009!

For contact information and further reading, visit the Festival Owl Project page at the Keene State College Children’s Literature Festival website.

NOTE: If you decide to be a participating artist, please tell David that the Blue Rose Girls sent you.

Sunday, October 29, 2006


why looks matter

Today I took an hour to get dressed. I labored over what sweater to wear, my hair and make-up. Was it for a lovely evening out with my husband? No.It was all for a school visit, in a wooded suburb of Upstate NY with a group of third graders.

And why so much care? Because the mother who arranged my event, the one who cut through all the bureaucratic red tape and offered to pay my fee from her own pocket, told me why she wanted me to come to her school so badly.

"Every year," she told me, "My daughter gets teased about being Chinese. She's the only one here and it's hard."

With those words, I wanted to be beautiful. I wanted all those third graders to see an Asian as gorgeously different and enviable, not alien and undesirable. Suddenly attractiveness became less about vanity and more about representation.

And that is why looks matter. Fair or not fair, they do. When I was a child, I wanted my princesses pretty and my witches ugly...and I wanted to be the princess. Blame Disney, blame the media, but the reality is kids want to be with the pretty people.

I think as authors we have an opportunity to show kids that people involved with books and literature are pretty people. I'm not saying we have to need to plastic Barbies or be size zeros; but we could show kids that bookworms and smarties are not nerds relegated to the corner but are real people that are bright and attractive. Because if we do, they just might look to us as role models instead of Paris Hilton.

And that's worth an hour of prep time.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Last night's show and some random thoughts...

Last night's show at the Society was CROWDED... as usual. I wanted to take a picture of the crowd but I'd checked my bag with my camera in it. In usual Meghan fashion, I didn't eat anything all day (all I had in my stomach all day was a cup of tea because my whole day was spent running around like a headless chicken!) and had a few wines while on 3 medications that have orange warning labels all over them that say no alcoholic consumption. Needless to say, I felt kind of sick an hour after. Also in typical fashion I managed to lose my new book contract that my agent had JUST given to me and my keys..., which meant I had to run 2 miles to go home to get my car keys in the cold, dark sketchiness and then run back to the car to drive it home. I, of course, am not supposed to be running. I tend to, without fail, lose things and screw up a lot when I'm under pressure. In fact, the last time I lost my keys a book deadline was also looming. Those keys, I believe, were sadly forgotten on a subway platform. My brain gets so flustered and confused and worked up that it causes me to be forgetful and careless and dare I say stupid. My blood pressure yesterday was 170/105. Yikes! So, if I die of a heart attack soon blame it on the books.

Wait, I DID have a point. I'm a little crazed. I saw Jeanette Winter's illustrations for MAMA at the show. I am particularly interested in Winter's work because she does nonfiction AND she's doing a book on the same topic as me!

Here's her cover for The Tale of Pale Male

If nonfiction doesn't make me nervous enough! Honestly, her title is pretty catchy. Her book also won a prize last night. Mine certainly didn't. She has a name for herself. I'm not sure I do as of yet... unless it's for doing stupid things like losing keys and book contracts and being taller than most people at art openings.

What I was amazed by was the size of Winter’s artwork. It is SO tiny!-- about 2.5 inches or so. My artwork is SO big! What an interesting contrast. The publisher has to blow up her work to print it. What would be absolutely fabulous is if both our books could get into the show next year and if they could hang the pieces side by side. I think that would be fascinating. I can’t wait to read her book because I’m sure she has a very different take on the subject of Pale Male. I know her book is abuot Pale Male's nest removal. I chose not to write about that but will put it in the author's note.

All I can promise is this—My book, I hope, will get to the heart of the story. I’ve watched the PBS movie over and over again and read plenty of articles and Winn's book (My editor read hers several times! She's better than I am!). I know how those birdwatchers felt when they watched the magnificent bird soar above them. I HOPE I can capture the feeling of it all. I HOPE the reader, after reading my book, will want to run right out the door and bird watch for him or herself. That’s my goal.



Written by George Shannon
Illustrated by Sam Williams
Published by Greenwillow Books/HarperCollins (2006)

This is one of the most delightful poetry collections written for very young children that I have read in some time. I would give BUSY IN THE GARDEN as a gift to parents of a newborn baby. And that’s saying something! The poems in this book are about sowing seeds, growing plants, picking berries, playing badminton, and other activities that take place in the green world of a garden or backyard. The winsome watercolor illustrations by Williams are a wonderful complement to Shannon’s lively, cheerful verse. Here, take a peek at these tempting little tidbits from this title (I love to alliterate):


Dig a little.
Dig a lot.
Dig a brand-new garden spot.

Plant a little.
Plant a lot.
Plant the seeds and bulbs you bought.


Plant a seed
and watch it grow.

You know that little ones at home or at school won’t be able to resist memorizing and chanting rhythmic, rhyming charmers with language like that. BUSY IN THE GARDEN would be a perfect book to use in a preschool or kindergarten classroom when children are learning about plants and watching the seeds they’ve sown sprout.

That’s the end
of this review.

See? The little verses from this book ARE infectious! And inspiring.

Especially for Halloween

Written by Lilian Moore
Illustrated by Howard Fine
Published by Henry Holt (2006)

I think that any time a book of poems written by Lilian Moore is published it's an occasion to celebrate. Moore, who passed away in 2004, is one of my favorite children’s poets. Just in time for Halloween 2006, Henry Holt has released BEWARE, TAKE CARE: FUN AND SPOOKY POEMS. Taken from two of her previous books, SPOOKY RHYMES AND RIDDLES and SEE MY LOVELY POISON IVY, the poems in this collection—most with a touch of humor—are sure to delight kids at this time of year. They’re all rhythmic and rhyming and tell tales of monsters, ghosts, dragons, and other things that go bump in kids’ brains. Howard Fine’s charcoal and gouache illustrations help lend just the right touch of “spookiness” to a book geared for younger children. One teeny tiny criticism: The book includes just fifteen poems. I’d like to read a lot more of Moore than that!

My Poetry Friday Wish
I wish some publisher would reissue Moore’s SEE MY LOVELY POISON IVY in its entirety. It’s the greatest little book of 35 poems with black and white illustrations by Diane Dawson. Published by Atheneum in 1975, this terrific collection of poems about witches, ghosts, skeletons, and monsters has stood the test of time. This is not a poetry book to be taken off the shelf just at Halloween time. My second graders LOVED the poetry in this book—and I LOVED to share it with them all through the school year! I was fortunate to find my copy of SEE MY LOVELY POISON IVY at a store that sells used books.

This ghastly gal
must bid adieu.

WAIT! WAIT! I lied. I'm not bidding adieu just yet.

I'd like to leave you with this collaborative class poem my second graders at the Bell School in Marblehead, Massachusetts, wrote in October 1997:

Things to Do If You Are A Witch

Wake up at midnight.

Fly around the moon
on your magic broom.

Zoom around a haunted house.

Swoop out of the dark sky
and scare children.

Have a huge purple wart
on the tip of your long, pointy nose
and skin as green as grass.

Wear a tall black hat
pointed as a thumbtack.

Make yucky snake skin potions
in your kettle.

Cast nasty spells on princes
and turn them into toads.

Eat vulture leg stew, bat wings,
and frog eyes for lunch.

Throw bat noses into the air
and catch them in your mouth.

Go to sleep in a graveyard
before the sun comes up.

Still here--not done yet! I just remembered I had another old moldering poem about a witch that's appropriate to post on the Friday before Halloween.

A Poem by Elaine Magliaro
(Written sometime during the Jurassic Period)

There was a witch who liked to race
Her supersonic broom through space.
At six o’clock last Friday night
She blasted off at speed of light.
She whizzed past Mercury and Mars…
Then headed off toward distant stars.
Across the galaxy she sped,
A black peaked helmet on her head.
An interstellar traveler, she
Explored the Milky Way with glee.
She chased swift comets here and there.
She watched bright supernovae flare.
She zipped through clouds of cosmic dust…
A witch bewitched by wanderlust.
There was a witch, I’m sad to say,
Flew near a big black hole one day.
It sucked her in just like a bean.
You won’t see HER on Halloween!

Anna Alter and I are heading up to New Hampshire later today. We'll be attending the Keene State College Children's Literature Festival on Saturday. This will be my first year serving as a member of the festival advisory board. One of the rewards of serving on the board is being invited to break bread and hobnob with the speakers. Here's the list of the talented festival speakers: Jean Craighead George, Paul O. Zelinsky, Kevin Hawkes, Tracey Campbell Pearson, and P. J. Lynch.

Dr. David White, the person who runs this wonderful--and affordable--festival, told each board member she/he could bring a guest to the dinner on Saturday and to the get-together later that evening. Anna is my guest. Actually, in my case, I had to promise to come with a guest/chaperone. Anna is demure and reserved. I thought she might be able to keep me in line--and tell me if I've got little bits of broccoli stuck between my teeth.

Don't forget the CUPCAKE CONTEST!

Go nominate your favorite children's poetry book of 2006 for a Cybil Award.

Thursday, October 26, 2006


Nancy at Journey Woman wrote me about a great contest she's running over at her blog. After you enter our First-ever Blue Rose Girls Cupcake Contest...you should head on over to Journey Woman and enter her Best Passages in Children's Books Contest. She's got some good prizes.



Win some cupcakes,
Win some sweets,
Win some Blue Rose
Tasty treats.
There ain’t no quiz,
There ain’t no test—
Just pick the post
You think is best!

(It’s written in small print at the bottom of the post.)

Just think—if you miss this chance to win some of Grace’s moist and delectable miniature cakes, you may live to rue the day. Your sweet tooth may, too! In a paraphrasing of the words of Robert Frost, don’t let this be The Opportunity Not Taken. We don’t want to hear all you people out there in the kidlitosphere wailing for years to come: I coulda been a contendah!

So enter the contest now. Voting closes at midnight EST on 11/5/06.

Know any teenagers who love to read?

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers is re-launching their Hip Scout program!

Know a teen who loves to read? They might make a perfect Hip Scout: we send Hip Scouts a selection of free advance galleys of our upcoming YA novels, and they send us a short review about the book. This way not only do teens get to read books months before they’re available in stores or libraries, but we get advance feedback from real readers!

So if you know any teenagers at least 13 years old or over—-your kids, your friends’ kids, your kids’ friends, anyone-—who would like to be a Hip Scout, just send an email to the address below to get all the information to how to sign them up.



Wednesday, October 25, 2006

don't forget to


society of illustrators original art


Tomorrow is the opening night. Perhaps I'll see some of you there!


Looks & books (continuing from Meghan & Alvina)

The editor's age doesn't matter to me -- though I do NOTICE it. I remember being absolutely amazed when I read Alvina's comments on my ms. -- and wondering how someone so young could be so wise.

I don't think the author's age and appearance matter either (except maybe in YA??) and that's why it irritates me so much that the marketing dept. – and people determining the size of advances – think they do! Maybe I'm wrong about this, but I think the author’s attractiveness matters to them a lot, and The Guardian
(thanks, Pooja, for pointing out this article) agrees.

When do looks matter? On a book’s cover – not the author’s picture, but the front cover. Fuse8 has had a few articles recently about good books with bad covers, and librarians confirmed the cover’s importance. One said “We didn’t buy this, because of the cover.”

I also think how you look matters to kids when you go on school visits – but children and adults have pretty different ideas of what's attractive. VERY few adults, okay, none --would call me well-dressed; but sometimes children I don’t know come up to me on the street and compliment me on my clothes or accessories. When I do school visits, the kids usually say things like,
"I like your outfit"
or, sounding impressed,
“Are those TATOOS?” (they weren’t)
"Cool jacket" -- the same jacket of which a boyfriend had said: "If you're wearing that, I'm not going." Sort of like the scene in ABOUT A BOY when the kid is thinking, "At least Mom looked really cool" and Hugh Grant is thinking "She was wearing some kind of weird yetti outfit ...." The word yetti may not be what he said, just what it sounded like to me; I have no idea what it means, but it was no compliment.

One more reason to be glad Blow Out the Moon is positioned as a kid’s book, even though it’s really just as much for grown-ups.
--Libby (and the pattern is from a scan of a kid-approved sock)

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Looking back

Next week I am attending my first paid speaking event outside of the Boston area... I'll be doing several presentations at the West Virginia Book Fair in Martinsburg (www.wvbooks.org). Its been an interesting just getting ready for it- I am in awe of people that hit the road on book tour for weeks and months at a time, how do they stay on top of everything? Just re-organizing my presentation has taken hours on hours. Mainly because I am converting the slide show I usually give over to digital format (similar to Grace's very high tech set-up posted here). I stuck it out for a long time with my good old fashioned slide projector! I have to say though, going digital is much much easier, and I am less worried about technical glitches.

Anyways, preparing for this conference has also involved looking through all my old work from college and childhood, sorting and deciding what is important to show to kids, what to adults, and in what order. What best tells the story of how I became and illustrator and author? What steps led to breakthroughs and changes in my course? Putting together a progression of images for a presentation is a lot like putting together a book dummy, you are essentially trying to tell the story of your own development as an artist. Looking back over all the work, all the failures, what helped me move forward?

Its a very hard thing to define. I can show experimentation with media that helped me find the materials I use now. I can pinpoint places where I got control of the media and got really comfortable with it. And I can see, looking back, little snippets of an approach developing, a storytelling style of sorts. But it is still not so easy to explain that moment, when all those things sort of go out the window, and you just leap into that next phase artistically and creatively.

For this I am glad. It adds some mystery to the process and makes me excited to push forward. In a sense my 60 minute presentation on how I became an author/illustrator is as much an invention as anything I write in my books. Looking back one step didn't really lead into another. I took one step, a miracle happened, then I started stepping somewhere else.

Monday, October 23, 2006

QUESTION OF THE WEEK: Has a childhood experience made it into one of your books?

This week's question is:
Has a childhood experience made it into one of your books? How is the story different from or the same as the actual experience?

If you'd like to send us a question of the week to answer, feel free to put it in the comments section below, or email us at bluerosegirls at gmail dot com.

Well, I haven't written any books, but I can say that a bunch of childhood experiences have made it into Grace's middle grade novel, Year of the Dog, since it's based on her childhood, and I was a part of that. My mother's healthy cooking, what my bedroom looked like, eating vitamins instead of candy, the lunch lady confusing Grace with me, going to Taiwanese summer camp, etc. The differences between the book and what happened in real life is mainly in the timing--Grace and I knew each other from 5th grade till 7th grade, and even though she doesn't really specify what grade we were in, I think it's pretty obvious that we're younger in the book. The lunch lady experience actually happened in 7th grade when we were already friends. Oh, and one major difference is that I never dressed up as laundry for Halloween, although in 8th grade after I moved to California, I did dress up as a pillow.

GRACE: Yes, I guess you could say almost EVERYTHING I write about is based on a childhood experience--from the vegetable garden in The Ugly Vegetables (see more about that HERE) to the book contest in Year of the Dog (more about that HERE). I do switch things around (Alvina and I actually won the Science Fair), so much so that sometimes I forget what actually happened and what I've made up. I've been caught so many times by my sisters that they are considering sending me to a psychologist to help me tell the difference between reality and fiction.

Yes! All of my books have some childhood memories thrown in. STEAL BACK THE MONA LISA is based on my childhood fantasy of being a spy. SHOW DOG is the childhood I wished I'd had (never got that dog!) GEORGE has a little A.D.D and likes to hang upside down--I did both. And, of course, the #1 book based on my experiences is THE ADVENTURES OF PATTY AND THE BIG RED BUS. I wrote all about it here--


My dad owned a VW bus and it was the most embarrassing thing ever! The door blew off several times on the highway. It serves as a playhouse when I was younger so, for that reason, the bus will always have a place in my heart. Fond memories. Fuzzy feelings. Dew drops on a spring morning. I shed tears every time I think if its demise. Sob. I'm going for the tissues right now....

I'm going to answer with something that has haunted me for a long time: Beth's death in LITTLE WOMEN and in real life. In the book, she got scarlet fever because she went to nurse the Hummels while Jo stayed home reading. In real life, it was her mother who gave her the fever -- or as Abba put it "brought back the fever that sucked up her sweet young life" (CREEPY! Like Abba -- Marmee in the book-- herself, in my opinion). The doctor said she died because of "inadequate nursing after scarlett fever."

In real life, Beth was dieing for a long time, she knew she was dieing, and she made little presents for everyone in her family and hid them under her bed (they found them after she died). The whole family was with her when she died -- Beth looked around, said "All here," and I think gave the kind of look and little sigh LMA describes in the book (when only Jo and Marmee were there) -- and then died.

Most things in my novel, Blow Out the Moon, really happened.... including the scene of trying to rinse the butter down the sink after the midnight feast (though many of the OTHER details in that scene were made up). I'm writing a new book now -- one that is completely made-up, I almost said. But it has ovetones of me and my own childhood, too: nothing directly autobiographical but I'm realizing that some of the characters I thought were completely made up have bits and pieces -- whiffs and echoes -- I can't think of the right word, of real people. Or they started with a glimpse of a real person (a girl dressed all in bright red silk I saw jumping on a huge bug with a SHRIEK of triumph, for example) and then got made up from there. Or one character started with her name: she just demanded it. But right now I'm IN this book, everything reminds me of it, so thinking about my own real childhood or botm feels like trying to remember something that happened on another planet, to someone else.

Since I don't write I have to be more stealthy about putting my own experiences into my books. The interiors and landscapses (minus the sea) in The Water Gift and the Pig of the Pig are the house and farm I grew up on in Maine. When Isabel sits on the rock and talks to the wind, that's me in an activity I did frequently in my pre-teens; it was coincidence Jacqueline Briggs Martin wrote it into the story. The flooded piazza scene in One Grain of Sand is something I witnessed in San Marco in Venice and made a huge impression on me. The cottage the king and queen move into in What Could Be Better Than This? is the Carriage House of Edgerton Park in New Haven, my favorite place in the world. And of course my dog Sammy makes it into most all my books.

ANNA: I too like to sneak particulars into my books from when I was a kid... Francine's Day has the little yellow rocking chair I had when I was little, also since the book is dedicated to my mother, I have the mother character drinking coffee out of the mug my mom used to keep her paint brushes in. More broadly though I often base the relationships in my books on relationships I have with family members. Estelle and Lucy is all about trying to get along with my little sister. What changes, I think, when I retell the stories, or try to describe my characters, is that they become a symbol for how I felt when I was younger. Instead of a chronicle of actual experiences, I re-make the world that was in my head. Its like piecing together little bits and pieces of memories into the my imaginary childhood experience. Like Libby said, sometimes it feels like another planet.



Look what Grace whipped up for me the other day—my very own logo to use when I write book reviews. I LOVE it! So does my daughter. Abby and Suzie, my cats, have not expressed an opinion yet. They’re impatiently awaiting their breakfast.

And I was too impatient to wait until the end of the week to see how my logo looked when it was posted. So I decided to write some reviews of children’s poetry books for today. I know, I know. It’s NOT Poetry Friday. I don’t care…because I believe that…


So…go out and start reading children’s poetry books. NOW! I mean it!

Here are the titles of some children’s poetry books I suggest for your reading pleasure. All of the following books were published in 2006.

Written by Bobbi Katz
Illustrated by LeUyen Pham
Published by Harcourt

In this book, poetry and art meld nicely to take us through the year. This collection includes twelve poems—one for each month. Pham’s bright, colorful illustrations with changing perspectives really complement and enhance Katz’s seasonal text. Pham portrays city kids of different races sledding in January at the park, picking daffodils in May, catching fireflies in July, and trick-or-treating in October. This is definitely a poetry book elementary teachers would love to have as a classroom resource. I believe most of the poems were written especially for this collection—except for September, which was included in SUNFLAKES: POEMS FOR CHILDREN, an anthology that was published by Clarion in 1992. I used to share that poem with my students on the first day of school.

From September

September is
when yellow pencils
in brand-new eraser hats
bravely wait on perfect points—
ready to march across miles of lines
in empty notebooks—

From May

May is
when the sky unties
a secret song bag
early every morning,

and birds fly out—

Isn't that a lovely way to begin a poem about May?

Suggestion: The poems in this book are great for sharing with students at the beginning of each month and would serve as fine models for a poetry writing activity. A teacher could brainstorm with her students about the different weather, sights, smells, activities, foods, and holidays they associate with a particular month. Then the teacher could lead the children in writing a collaborative class poem. The class poem could be printed on large chart paper or poster board and displayed all month long.

Written and illustrated by Douglas Florian
Published by Greenwillow Books

HANDSPRINGS completes Florian’s series of four poetry books about the seasons. First came WINTER EYES in 1999—then came SUMMERSAULTS in 2002 and AUTUMNBLINGS in 2003. The poems here follow in the same vein as those in the previous titles. They are sprightly, light-hearted rhyming verses with plenty of playful language. This book will not disappoint Florian fans. If you liked the first three collections about winter, summer, and fall, you’re sure to enjoy HANDSPRINGS.

From Mud Flood

The spring rains came
And made a flood
So now there’s mud
and mud
and mud.

From May

In May you may run.
In May you may hike.
In May you may skateboard
Or ride on a bike.

Suggestion: See the suggested activity for ONCE AROUND THE SUN. It would be perfect for HANDSPRINGS—just substitute the season of spring for a month of the year.

Written by Julie Larios
Illustrated by Julie Paschkis
Published by Harcourt

This is a collection of poems about colorful animals—from a red donkey and a green frog to a turquoise lizard and a gold finch. Some of the short poems are rich with imagery, some rhyme and are of a lighter nature. Artist Julie Paschkis has created vibrant, striking gouache illustrations for this book that truly stand out. (I would LOVE to own an original!) This is one of the finest pairings of poetry and art that I have seen in an illustrated poetry book for children. YELLOW ELEPHANT is a recipient of a Boston Globe/Horn Book Honor Award. I think this is one of the most beautifully illustrated children's books of the year.

From Gold Finch

Clinging to a prickly thistle,
the gold finch flutters, whistles,
then flies away.

From Gray Goose

Gray mama goose
in a tizzy,
honk-honk-honking herself all dizzy…

Suggestion: A classroom teacher and/or an art teacher could use the poems and illustrations in this book as a springboard for a cross-curricular poetry writing/art activity. Kids could write original poems about different colored animals and then draw or paint pictures to illustrate their poems.

Mrs. Magliaro’s Poetry Page
When I worked as an elementary school librarian from 2001 to 2004, I spent endless hours developing a library website that teachers, students, and parents could use as a resource. Mrs. Magliaro’s Poetry Page was one of the pages on my site. It has not been updated in over two years. Still, I think you may find it’s worth a visit. There are lists of suggested poetry books to use across the curriculum, a list of poetry resources for teachers, and a list of children’s poets that includes the names of recipients of the National Council of Teachers of English Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children. (Try to say the name of that award one time fast!) You will also find poems written by children I taught in a second grade classroom and by students I taught in my library classes.

Go nominate your favorite children’s poetry book for a Cybil Award today!


Sunday, October 22, 2006

lots of work!

I've been super busy... in a stressful, crazed way.

1) I got the f&gs for my book a few weeks back. Yes, they're already here! Here are some opening spreads--

endpapers - I was going to paint pictures for these but I kind of like the dots. What do you think?

title page -

page one - atlas gets off the boat (see early post about progression) -

page two - atlas gets beat up. aw.

page three - atlas gets picked on some more. double aw.

So that's the F&G. Of course it's not finished yet! As usual, the backmatter is sorely lacking. I must get to work on that!

The second project on the plate is a book about Pale Male. Here's page one for that. Lot's of work to go!

And finally... I'm hard at work on ---


Soon you will be able to download the companion to aliens on audio. I've been recording various noises.... and collecting fun 50s type songs to give the reading a campy feel. I will also be making the audio version available on disk, complete with my own fancy design. Okay... I'll admit... this is just too much fun for me. I'm like a 5yr old in the candy isle. I need to stop and get back to working on the book!


little kitchen on the condo

In my youth, I would hide from my mother behind the sofa so that I could read Little House on the Prairie, by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Back then, the incongruity of a t-shirt wearing, Asian-American girl dreaming about being Laura Ingalls was lost on me. I longed for calico dresses and my mouth watered for such exotic foods like fried potatoes with salt pork, mashed turnips and hulled corn.

But, now, no more! I’ve been captivated by my recent purchase of The Little House Cookbook. It’s been in existence for over 20 years, but I’ve just discovered it. My inner child rejoices! Finally, I can actually taste the foods I’ve read about for so long.

And so far I have made Almanzo Wilder’s favorite dish: apples n’onions. It’s a pretty easy dish (fry apples and onions) but the gastronomical joy is great. Highly recommended. Even my husband, who looked at it curiously upon being served, admitted, “This stuff is pretty good.”

This tasty achievement, of course, leads me to fantasizing about a cookbook made from my own books. My mind explodes with possibilities. It could be a cookbook filled with Asian cuisine recipes, just like the dishes my mother cooked for me. Who knows, perhaps kids reading my books are suddenly developing a craving for bowls of white rice, sweet pork buns and stir-fried noodles. It could be a smash hit.

But reality sinks in. I realize that my book is called The Year of the Dog and that is just not an appetizing title for a cookbook.

Which is not the first time my titles have thwarted me. Just be glad that the cupcakes I’m making for our Cupcake Contest (that YOU can win) are not from a cookbook called, The Year of the Rat.

Who is the biggest pig of all?

I just read this over at one of the two non-kid's lit related blogs that I read (that isn't by a friend or family member).

I thought the post and the comments were hilarious. Although I hope the crack about "some things should not be printed" was sarcastic.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Young 'uns

Going along somewhat with Meghan's post on appearance and Libby's comment about "young and hot," I'd like to expand on Fuse#8's post about youth.

It's true, there are many young editors in the business, and it's also true as The Analytical Knife mentioned that many female editors leave publishing houses to become agents or freelance when they decide to have families. And it's true, almost every editor at my publishing house is under 40. But I know older editors at other houses, and as I mentioned in my comment on Fuse, I think a lot of the perception is that the younger editors are more actively looking for new authors and projects, and are also more active about attending conferences and publishing functions, and hence are more visible in the industry.

Do I think youth is an issue in editing? To an extent, yes. I know I'm a better editor now than I was 3 years ago, even 1 year ago. But I think there are pros and cons of being a young editor. (And let me just add that there are exceptions to the following, to be sure. This is just my opinion)

-passion and enthusiasm, excitement for the job (not burnt out)
-eager to find new talent, actively looking to acquire
-time for and interest in working with an author on revision before contract if the submission isn't quite ready
-closer to the ultimate demographic of readers

-not as established in the company, not as common to have a "lead" book from a more junior editor
-not as knowledgable about ins and outs of publishing and the company, including sales, marketing, and publicity concerns
-not as experienced in the art of editing
-not as many contacts
-not as wise

Although talent and intelligence does not come with age, wisdom does. I've certainly continually learned from my mistakes--and make them I do! And although yes, I'm still young, I also know that I'm not looking for new talent as much as I was 5 years ago. To be sure, I'm always keeping my eyes open, but I also have a group of authors and illustrators that I love and want to continue to work with, and don't want to crowd any of them out. And I don't have as much time to work with a promising author on revisions before acquisition as much as I used to.

When I first started meeting authors, especially older and established authors, I was very self-conscious about my age and whether they would respect me, whether they would feel weird to have someone half their age or more edit their work. Kinda like having a doctor who is younger than you--that's starting to happen to me now (and they're not Doogie). But now that I've paid my dues, been in publishing over 7 years, am solidly in my 30s, and have the title "Editor," I don't think about it as much anymore. Although I still have my moments--while in Oregon for the SCBWI retreat, I did have to correct an author when he asked how a twenty-something ended up with the name "Alvina." I was also carded while having beer with Gretchen in Oregon. That hasn't happened in a while. And the two times in the past year that it has happened, I had two different bouncers stare at my ID and actually say things like, "You're THAT old?!" and laugh. It reminded me of the time, years ago, when I was sitting in the emergency exit row of the airplane, and one of the flight attendants actually asked me if I was over 14!!! I was at least 25 at the time. That was a little depressing. But I know it's a blessing. My parents look a good 10 years younger, and I have that to look forward to when I get older.

Do any of you have a preference on the age of your editor? Any positive or negative experiences either way?

Speaking of being young: as I was writing this I mentioned to a friend that I was writing about "young 'uns" and he said, "You should write about Funyuns."

I love Funyuns. Just the name makes me laugh. They remind me of childhood. And you know another childhood food that I love? Cupcakes! Yes, cupcakes. Don't forget to vote in our Cupcake Contest.

Nice transition, eh?


From COMOCL: My First Week on the Job

I’m hopeless! When Grace told me this week that the Blue Rose Girls would like me to be a contributor to their blog, I said, “Sure!” She asked me if I’d like to post on Fridays because I’m a poetry geek. I said, “Sure!” Grace then led me through the process of how to post on the blog and asked, “Do you get it?” I said, “Sure!”

That evening I put myself to the task of deciding which poetry books to review. Eureka! I had an idea. I would write about the works of a very talented up-and-coming children’s poet. I sat down at my computer. I worked feverishly for more than two days! I wrote and wrote and wrote. I revised and revised and revised. I was nearly finished. “Yes! Yes! I CAN do this,” I said to myself.

Then, Thursday morning, I emerged from the depths of my basement office to have a cup of java—and maybe read the paper to find out what’s happening in the world. (I should have known better.) While I was reading editorials in The Boston Globe, thoughts about the piece I had written for the blog began seeping into my medulla oblongata—that’s the part of MY brain that really knows what’s going on in MY world. “So,” my medulla says to me, “that blog piece really stinks. It’s B-O-R-I-N-G! It’s way too serious. That ain’t the real you, kid!” It got me to thinking in the higher-level reaches of my gray matter, my cerebrum. Then my cerebrum says to me, “Well, actually—and I do hate to admit this—but medulla is absolutely correct this time. Just don’t tell him I said so. As medulla would inelegantly put it: ‘Go wit ya gut, kid’.”

So…here I am…again…trying to decide what to write for my very first post as the designated Cool Old Matron of Children’s Literature. Huh? What’s that, medulla? Did you have something you wanted to ask me? Yes, I’m posting on Poetry Friday. So you think I should post a poem? You know, it’s not that easy to just sit down and write a poem. You need inspiration. I’m under the gun here. I want to make a good first impression. I can’t let the Old Folk down. What would AARP say? Oh, you think I should dig out one of my old moldering poems that I wrote years and years ago? Isn’t that a cop-out? Wouldn’t I be charged with dereliction of duty by the Hot Women of Children’s Literature?

Drat! Oh dear! My chest is tightening. My right hand is beginning to cramp. My neck is aching. And my head is throbbing. What should I do? What should I do? (That’s a rhetorical question. Or should they be considered TWO rhetorical questions?) Cerebrum, HELP!!! Cerebrum states emphatically: “You’re on your own. I am done with this matter. I’ve said all I’m going to say. You will just have to figure it out for yourself.” Thanks a lot, cerebrum. Where’s the best part of my brain when I really need it?

Sounds you cannot hear:

  1. weeping
  2. the gnashing of teeth
  3. the banging of a cranium against a plaster wall

The Resolution of My Vexing Dilemma: A Poem from 1990


Oh, T. Rex was a greedy beast.
Each and every day he’d feast
On steamy stegosaurus stew,
Toasted pterodactyl, two
Tons of brontosaurus steak…
And slurp up nearly half a lake
With all its prehistoric fishes,
Which he considered most delicious.

No vegetarian dinosaur,
He’d eat his mother—and what’s more
Heinous, had no moral code.
With bulging belly, T. Rex strode.
He searched the forest, thunder-toed,
For allosaurus a la mode
With heaps of whipped triceratopping,
Which he gobbled up. Then flopping
Down beneath a tree to rest,
Rubbed his tummy—beat his chest,
Shouting, “I am T. Rex…KING!”
And then he burped like anything.
The whole world shook as T. Rex blinked.
The tree collapsed. He was extinct.

(Whew! That's done. What a relief. Maybe, I can go catch a rerun of The Gilmore Girls.)

This poem is now dedicated to my medulla oblongata.
I'll be back again next Friday with a review or two. I think. I’ll have to check with you-know-who! Or should that be you-know-whom? Boy, those nuns were sure tough on grammar!

Go nominate your favorite children's poetry book of 2006 for a Cybil Award today!


Thursday, October 19, 2006


Last weekend I heard the Violent Femmes play in good old Brooklyn. Who are the Violent Femmes, you ask? Well, I’d hope you would all know but for those who don’t—Does BLISTER IN THE SUN… ring a bell? How about GONE DADDY GONE? Anyway, I first knew about them when I was a young grunge/alternative fan --back when alternative meant something… now it’s like “indie,” which is also losing its meaning. Boo-hoo. Yes, I digress.

Here are the Femmes yesterday—

And today.

The show was great. Lots of energy. An enthusiastic, screaming crowd. Great fun. But as I was leaving, a friend of mine said what I was thinking. She said “They’re old, huh? Kind of depressing.” Yes! It was! “No one was under 25. We’re getting old.” This is particularly relevant since it’s my birthday in several weeks. I am already depressed. I am already becoming a Violent Femme. As their song says--Gone daddy gone, the love is gone.

Yes, dear reader, I DO have a point. I like to trick you into thinking that I’m going to ramble on about nothing, which admittedly, I sometimes do.


Do children’s book authors age like fine wine or do they prune up and give their past beloved fans the bad taste of their own mortality?


Example: Ever noticed how certain children’s authors use THE SAME PHOTO on the back of their jacket FOR YEARS? I always think “Hey, who are you fooling? That hat is straight out of the 80s. Update it! Proudly display your aged face!” But then I think—“Huh. That could be me. Would I want to do that?” Now, I must admit that I’ve expressed a strong refusal to put any photo on the back of any of my books. The reason? I don’t take good pictures and I’m vain. If I can't look like American's Next Top Super Model then I don't want to look like anything. There you have it. But perhaps I should before I get too old!

And now, dear readers, I will delve deeper. Does an author’s appearance matter to the publisher? Will they give more marketing and encourage the author to appear more in public if they’re ATTRACTIVE? Does the poor slob with warts all over his or her face get stuffed into a closet? Will that young mom gravitate to the hot guy who just penned his first book? DOES THE READER CARE? Perhaps he or she does. Perhaps after seeing this wart-infested author who frighteningly resembles the witch portrayed in their very picture book, the young child will run screaming in horror. After all, Disney has already set the stage for children everywhere to believe that attractive people are GOOD and the unattractive are BAD.

Think about it.

Announcing our First-ever Blue Rose Girls Cupcake Contest!!!

Did we say "Cupcake Contest"?! Why, yes indeed. Okay, it's not really a cupcake contest, but in an effort to gain some valuable feedback and spread the joy of cupcakes, we would like you readers (yes, you) to vote for your favorite Blue Rose Girls post from between (and including) 7/31/06 and 9/31/06.* Voting will close at midnight EST on 11/5/06 (NYC marathon day!).

You may vote only once. And we promise that our feelings won't be hurt if you don't vote for one of us. We're holding this contest so that we can better know which posts you find most helpful or entertaining, to better understand our readership. How should you judge what your favorite post is? The same way you'd judge a book. Did you enjoy reading it? Did it make you laugh? Make you cry? Make you think?

Vote by posting a comment here, or sending an email to bluerosegirls at gmail dot com. You may vote anonymously (we're using the honor system, people! BRGs, no voting for yourself...), but then you won't be eligible for the prize, and you don't want to miss out. And if your comment is snarky, we reserve the right to smush a cupcake in your face and delete your comment.

Speaking of prize, the winner will be selected from those who voted at random, and the prize will be.... (drum roll)

1/2 dozen cupcakes!!!!
Baked and decorated by our own BRG and resident cupcake maker, Grace Lin (who is hinting at coconut cupcakes, but will give you a choice of two flavors). And to make things interesting, and to also give us BRGs incentive to write great posts in the future, the author of the winning post will also get 6 cupcakes! How fun is that?

Question of the week posts are not eligible.

Any questions? Post in the comment field.

Thanks. Have fun exploring and rediscovering our archives, and please help us spread the word. In order for this to be effective, we need a lot of votes!

*After conferring, the judges have decided to amend this rule so as to make things easier for our readers. Just vote for your favorite post, regardless of when it was posted. If anyone would like to change their vote in light of this amendment, you're welcome to. The goal is to get feedback, not to give homework!

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Welcome our COMOCL!

Our esteemed friend, Elaine M. has joined our blog on a more permanent basis! Elaine, devoted poetry enthusiast, will post Friday mornings in honor of Poetry Friday with contributions of book reviews and other things of interest to a Cool Old Matron of Children's Literature. By the way, she chose her title. We don't think she's an old matron at all.

Wilbur, Olivia, Mercy Watson, Porky, Pigling Bland? Naming Characters

When people are given lists of names and photographs of faces, they can (supposedly) match them pretty accurately. And I know that when I read, the right name can bring a character into focus. But how similar are different people's reactions to the same names?

Let's try our own test: match up the names and faces below. You can right-click the image to see the real name (it's the file name). But do please tell your guesses! Your GUESSES are the fun part of this -- it will be really interesting to see if people make similar name-face associations.

The name choices for the faces below are:
Caroline, Hunter, Jaylin, Quinten, Mia, Aimee, Anthony, Jermaine, Kelly -- yes, one extra name. The comments explain why.

NOTE: THese kids are all aspiring models and actors and their pictures and first names were on the Web already.


Some quotes that keep me working, or help me to look at my work in a new way:

"When you write don't think, listen." -Madeleine L'Engle

"Nobody ever gets what they want and that is beautiful. Everyone dies frustrated and sad and that is beautiful." -They Might Be Giants
(This one I stole from Linda, she sent it to me several years ago and it hangs on the bulletin board next to my desk)

"I was tracking something very slippery, very elusive, and had to use every sense I had to stay on the trail - other people were distracting. Later, I discovered what I was hunting was my own spirit." - Ana Forrest

What are some of yours?

Monday, October 16, 2006

Question of the week it: What author/illustrator do you most admire?

Our question of the week it: What author/illustrator do you most admire?

If you'd like to send us a question of the week to answer, feel free to put it in the comments section below, or email us at bluerosegirls at gmail dot com.

I admire so many author & illustrators, including my fellow brgs that it's hard to pick one. Off the top of my head, I'd say Beverly Cleary, Tasha Tudor and Barbara Cooney because they are(were) all in their 90's and have kept writing and painting books that are as beautiful as they were when they first began their careers. I'm really into longevity! Beverly Cleary has a special place to me because I read this early on in my career when I got a bad review and it gave me immense comfort. I realized how arbitrary people's judgments can be and that even authors whose books have touched a generation are not ironclad from criticsm or stings. But that is another story...

ALVINA: Yes, aside from my fellow BRGs (and I'll also exclude any of the authors and illustrators I work with), I'd have to say for novels: Sharon Creech, Han Nolan, and Joan Bauer; and illustrators: Lane Smith, Peter Sis, and Jon Muth. I love almost everything these six publish. Hmmm. I just realized that all of the authors are women, and all of the illustrators are men. I don't think there's a deeper meaning to that, so I won't comment for now.

LIBBY: There are so many that I'm limiting this to the ones I admire most as people as well as writers, and will comment here only on the people part. Agatha Christie--after her first husband left she decided that she had to change from being a dog person ("A dog will only go for a walk if someone takes it") to a cat person ("A cat will go for a walk by itself"). So she bought a ticket on the Orient Express....her adventures would take too long to tell about. I also admire how cheerful and inventive she was: she was very modest about her writing ability, saying that she was a puzzle-maker, not a writer, but her plots are better than almost anyone's and in her best books she always has one or two cozy scenes that make me laugh out loud.
Jane Austen--for her genius; being such a loving member of a big happy family --not just to her brothers and sisters, whom she adored, but her nephews and nieces: "She seemed to love you and you loved her in return," one wrote; and Jane's own letters are full of the things she did for all of them. I also admire her for having what I can only call moral good taste. The sense of right and wrong in her books was something I never noticed when I was young but now I do and I admire that, too.
Beatrix Potter-- also for her writing genius, cheerfulness, and independence (all 3 of these women had those traits)....and for moving to Sawry with her husband, foreseeing what would happen to all the beautiful land around there, and buying up as many farms as she could, letting the farmers stay in them, and leaving it all to the National Trust with strict instructions so it has all stayed beautiful -- and the farmers have been able to stay. Thank you, Agatha, Jane, and Beatrix for all the joy you have given me and millions of other readers!

ANNA: Another tough question to answer! One of my favorite all time author/illustrators is the classic Beatrix Potter. I loved her books as a kid... though as an adult acquired a new appreciation for her work when I learned that she was an anomaly for her time- a successful woman in publishing who supported herself without a husband for many years. Another layer of her work that I admire is the way she researched her subjects with the eye of a scientist, her etchings and studies of rabbits and other animals are breathtaking (they had a show of her studies recently at the Eric Carle Museum out in Amherst: http://www.picturebookart.org). Other more contemporary artists/authors that I admire (excluding the ladies on this list of course): Peter McCarty, Holly Hobbie, Van Allsburg, Jon J Muth, Marjorie Priceman among others...

MEGHAN: I’m going to dodge the question completely by saying that I admire Ursula Nordstrom, editor to so many famous author/illustrators like Maurice Sendak, E.B. White, Margaret Wise Brown, and so on (all of whom I love). Without great editors there would be no great authors. Authors and illustrators are a temperate bunch. We need coddling and praise coupled with a firm but gentle push. I highly recommend getting Dear Genius and you’ll see why I admire this amazing editor.

There are so many illustrators I love. I always have to give props first and foremost to Trina Schart Hyman, who I credit to being the one, with her gorgeous Cricket Magazine work, who made me want to be an illustrator at 4 years old. Every folk tale I read still appears in my mind as illustrated by Trina. The other illustrators with the most books in my collection are also folk tale oriented artsits: Lisbeth Zwerger, Mary Grand Pre, S. Saelig Gallagher, and, oh! Gennady Spirin! Who not only paints the most beautiful, and most intense illustrations ever seen in children's books, but his output is unbelievable. Does this man ever sleep?

rate of consumption

Recently, at a school visit, a young student rushed up to me and said, “I read The Year of the Dog in 2 hours!”
“That’s wonderful,” I said to her, but inside I felt a strange sense of shock. Gosh, that book took me over 4 years to write, but now takes only two hours to read. The rate of consumption is a lot faster than production!

I suppose the surprise was greater because I am knee-deep in my revisions for novel #2. I’m on my 5th revision, which actually doesn’t sound that bad. But it’s the 5th “official” one, which means it’s the 5th time I’ve gone through it with my editor…the times that I’ve gone through it with myself is about, oh, I don’t know, 133?

The hardest part about working on something for 133 times is that when I get to around revision 131, I start thinking, “Oh, this will be fine. As long as it makes sense, no one will care…just get it done.” But there’s always that other part, the side that wants to get every word is right, that makes me stay up until 5 in the morning and haunts me when I try to concentrate on other things, that pushes me to revision 132.

And I think all authors are like that. Because we want those two hours of reading to be the best we can possibly make them.