Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Evolution of a sketch

In one of the scenes in Disappearing Desmond the new kid at school (Gloria) keeps noticing Desmond, despite his efforts to keep out of sight. Here is the evolution of that sketch.

At first my idea was to have Desmond hiding in a bush, fruitlessly shielding himself with a branch, and Gloria turning to notice him:

Then I thought it might be better visually for them to be on different planes, with Desmond up in a tree and Gloria down on the ground, to underscore their different frames of mind (Gloria being extroverted, and Desmond being introverted):

But something still didn't feel right... so I flipped the image of Desmond so that Gloria notices him as she passes. I thought this better showed how effortlessly Gloria sees him (she doesn't turn and is not looking right at him), which tells us about who she is and tells us more about him, that his efforts at hiding are in vain:

Monday, June 29, 2009

Beyond the Book: Confetti Girl by Diana Lόpez

Beyond the Book: Confetti Girl by Diana LopezConfetti Girl was submitted to me by agent Stefanie von Borstel of Full Circle Literary after we had met at a conference. I had mentioned that I was looking for more multicultural projects, both projects that had very much to do with cultural identity, and other projects that featured main characters of color, but of which their ethnicity was not the main focus in terms of the story and plot. I had given her a copy of The Year of the Dog as an example of the latter, and she told me she had the perfect novel to send me.

Stefanie pitched Diana Lopez as the "Latina Judy Blume"--not a bad comparison! Here's the summary of Confetti Girl:
Apolonia "Lina" Flores is a sock enthusiast, a volleyball player, a science lover, and a girl who's just looking for answers. Even though her house is crammed full of books (her dad's a bibliophile), she's having trouble figuring out some very big questions, like why her dad seems to care about books more than her, why her best friend's divorced mom is obsessed with making cascarones (hollowed eggshells filled with colorful confetti), and, most of all, why her mom died last year. Like colors in a cascarone, Lina's life is a rainbow of people, interests, and unexpected changes.

As I often mention, I need to make sure I love a book enough to want to "marry" it before I acquire it. After all, if we take on a project, we have to read it over and over at many different stages, to be wed to it for its lifetime. And so we have to make sure that we’re willing to commit completely, heart and soul, to a project.

As soon as I finished reading the first draft of Confetti Girl, I knew I wanted to marry it. Sure, I wanted to work with the author to make the novel even better, but the great thing about marrying a novel as opposed to a person is that you truly can make changes (a person might not be as open to changing!).

However, I also knew that it wasn't quite ready for our acquisitions meeting. My main issue was that it was stuck between the Middle Grade and Young Adult age groups, and I thought it should be younger, solidly middle grade. Thankfully, Diana and Stefanie agreed to revise the novel before a contract, and I sent over an editorial letter. She actually ended up revising the novel twice before I brought it to the acquisitions meeting, as the first revision was still not quite there, but close.

And throughout every stage of the process, I was always delighted with how much I loved this book in all of its manifestations. Diana’s voice is so lovely and sweet, and as clichéd as it sounds, this book truly made me laugh and cry.

Thankfully, my acquisitions committee loved the novel, too, and a year and two months after the first draft was submitted to me, I was able to offer Diana a contract. I'm so thrilled that it is finally out in the world (it pubbed at the beginning of this month).

A note on the cover: this is the first novel designed by our fantastic senior art director Patti Ann Harris, who specializes in picture book and novelty books. And I think she's done an absolutely fantastic job and perfectly captured the joy and flavor of the book. We hesitated a bit to put socks on the cover, as there have been a few similar designs on books recently, but in the end, it was just so perfect for the novel (Lina is a "sockiophile" after all!) that we went with it. Patti Ann did a photoshoot in the office, and the feet on the cover belong to one of my editor colleagues! We sent the socks to Diana when we were done:
Diana is a Texan native and taught middle school there for nine years, and she has perfectly captured that setting and age group. Her characters are quirky and real, and every time I read her book, I marvel at how simply charming and engaging her writing is.

Happily, the book has only received glowing reviews thus far:

"The story is saturated with Spanish traditions, such as the making of "cascarones" (confetti-filled eggs), and the chapters begin with "dichos," truisms that help Lina feel connected to her mother. Employing lovely metaphors and realistic dialogue, adult author López (Sofia's Saints) delicately displays the power of optimism and innovation during difficult times."
--Publisher’s Weekly

"An appealing coming-of-age novel."

I absolutely knew from the start that this was both an author and novel that was extremely special, and I hope you all agree!

Read more about Diana and Confetti Girl on her website and this great interview over at Cynsations.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

POP! is done

Finally, finally, finally, I finished the art for my bubble gum book. I turned it in last week. I was in SO much agony trying to finish it! I'm not talking mental agony but physical. Lots and lots of pain, so I'm glad it's over. I would post some photos but I don't have the art so I can't. I do plan on making a nice video teaser for it... I HOPE!

Anyway, for this video of mine I'm hoping for some photos (or even better videos!) of people and kids blowing bubbles. So please, send them to me! You'll end up in the video.

Now it's cleaning time. I always need to do a serious cleaning after a book gets done because it's pure madness!

This has nothing to do with my books but I saw this the other day:

Take the Dare--show you care!

I just donated a 5-page critique to author Cynthea Liu's auction to benefit a Title 1 school in Oklahoma. You can bid on my critique here, and check out the other fabulous items/services to bid on here!

POETRY FRIDAY: If Women Get the Vote

I'm heading to Maine today for a wedding--so here's my Poetry Friday submission a day early. The poem is entitled If Women Get the Vote. It was written by a poet friend of mine who asked if I'd post the poem--anonymously--at Political Verses.

If Women Get the Vote
19th Amendment
Ratified August 18, 1920

There’s no use to pretend,
The world’s about to end,
If women get the vote.

The Catholics'll get in,
The blacks and Jews'll win,
If women get the vote.

Who wants to take the chance
That they'll be wearing pants,
If women get the vote?

You can read the rest of the poem here: If Women Get the Vote


Kelly Herold is doing the Poetry Friday Roundup this week at Crossover.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

my blog tour!

My lovely publicist at L,B set up a blog tour for me and it starts TODAY. I guess that means Where the Mountain Meets the Moon is going to finally be out (please come to the online launch on July 1st)!

The first stop is at Little Willow and goes onto July 3rd:

Wednesday, June 24th: Bildungsroman
Thursday, June 25th: Shelf Elf
Friday, June 26th: Paper Tigers
Saturday, June 27th: MotherReader
Sunday, June 28th: Charlotte's Library
Monday, June 29th: Write for a Reader
Tuesday, June 30th: The Mommy Files
Wednesday, July 1st: Thrifty Minnesota Mama
Thursday, July 2nd: Creative Madness
Friday, July 3rd: Abby the Librarian

And as a bonus, I just saw (because I love her blog so) Jama Rattigan wrote a wonderful post about The Ugly Vegetables too!

goofy author indulgences

So, I have to admit I have begun to love doing author photos. I've discovered my inner Cindy Sherman;I'm enamored with the idea of transforming myself for that one photo and making the author photo as much a part of the art of the book as the illustrations are.

If you remember, I first started doing this with the author photo for Where the Mountain Meets the Moon (which will launch on July 1st!) where a glamour studio in Taiwan took me from this:To this: which has ended up:
For some reason, that just made me feel quite jolly and I decided that from then on I was always going to try to have a themed author picture.

Now, my book coming coming out in Spring '10 is "Ling and Ting." It a fun, sweet and silly early reader (grades K-3) featuring Chinese-American Twins in polka-dot dresses and cupcake cameos.

So, my author photo shoot for it includes photos like this:

Which one do you think I should use?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Highlights from a crazy month

Please forgive my lack of posting, the past few weeks have been mad! Since I lasted posted I have moved from Boston to Northampton, finished the book dummy for Disappearing Desmond, and been scrambling to finish planning my wedding which is now in LESS THAN THREE WEEKS. *gulp* Since I am still knee deep in boxes and seating charts, I will offer some highlights in pictures...

When we first arrived, my studio looked like this:

I needed to set it up right away to meet a deadline, I'd say its about 75% there now... still need to put up my bulletin boards do a little rearranging. Definitely the biggest work space I've had so far!

Here is George sleeping in the mess, with his head resting on a wooden shelf. Oh George.

Once the studio was in order I finished off the Desmond sketches I've been working on. I have to say I am very excited about this book.

When not drawing or unpacking, I've been attempting to continue with wedding craft projects. My mother and I are sewing cloth napkins out of this amazing fabric I found on fabric.com:

This is what they look like. Each place setting will have a different napkin, and guests will get a set as gifts.

Can't forget about the legal stuff! Yesterday we headed down to City Hall for our marriage license:

Here we are out front, bleary-eyed but happy. Its been a little crazy having everything happen at once, but when we took the oath and got our little slip of paper we couldn't help but feel that everything is happening just as it should.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Picture books, the two year old's view

If there was a time when I loved picture books, I was so young that I don't remember it -- so it's been fascinating to see their effect on the two and a half-year-old I babysit for now.

I would have thought that if ever a book needed no explanation or analysis, that book was GOOD NIGHT MOON. Maybe that just proves that I don't really get picture books. When we read it, he commented on "Good-night, nobody." He thought it meant that there was no one there, so I turned the pages back to show him all the people in the room, and he was more puzzled.

I said I thought the boy/rabbit was making a joke, and he laughed in that fake way some kids do when they know YOU think it's funny, but they don't really get it. I tried again to explain.

Later, when he woke up from his nap, he smiled at me in a way that showed he was VERY pleased with himself and said,
"Good-night, nobody."
He said it a few more times, I laughed, and he again commented that there had been no one there. So I explained again -- and he wanted to get the book and read it again. He also said,
"Let's talk about it." (This MUST be a phrase his mother uses!)

So we read it again: I could see that he was really impatient to get to that page. When we did, I again turned back the pages to show all the people who were in the room. I read the page itself, then went on (pointing to all the people).

"He was just making a little joke," he said -- but I don't know if he really knew what that meant; that was the exact phrase I'd used, after all. But he was REALLY TRYING to understand (one thing I like a lot about him) and maybe did. If he didn't, I can be sure he'll bring it up again.

The point of this post, though, is what reading with him showed me about GOOD NIGHT MOON. The last child I read it with delighted in finding the little mouse; Jake didn't even notice him (he's more of a word person, like me). He loved the sounds of the words, especially the rhymes....the only picture he commented on was one that showed the moon and the balloon. He liked the fact that they were both circles.

When I (or anyone) tries to talk about a book this simple, and this brilliant, I always sound like an idiot.....because the book's beauty is its simplicity; it says so much in so few words (and readers respond on so many levels and in so many ways). But I'm going to try and talk about this anyway, because I want to understand it more consciously myself.

In case you don't remember, the page on which the little rabbit says "good-night, nobody" is blank -- all the other pages show the objects being addressed or named or the room. That blankness and that joke not only add a little mystery (and it WAS a mystery to Jake) and humor (to an older child). It makes the permanence of the other objects and the order and repetition more noticeable -- and more reassuring (though Jakes's question made me wonder how clear it was to him that it was the same room in all the pictures).

There's an age, a specific point in development, at which babies grasp the permanence of objects -- it's early, before one, I think. Especially when you're as close to the concept being new as a two year old is, the idea that a comb and a brush and a bowl of mush remain what they are -- that they're still going to be the same thing, even if you go away or go to sleep or look away from them, IS a reassuring one. It's reassuring that the world is such a stable, orderly place.

I think it's almost impossible to read that book without feeling calm at the end - not just because of what I've mentioned here, but lots of other things there isn't room for....and the beauty of the book and its simplicity is that no matter how much I said, I'd still be missing things. There is so much there -- the soothing green, the way the room gets darker.....good-night, readers!

POETRY FRIDAY: Sunflakes by Frank Asch

This has been the rainiest June that I can remember. I’m longing for a bit of sunshine. Thus, here is my choice for Poetry Friday this week. It’s a children’s poem by Frank Asch.

by Frank Asch

If sunlight fell like snowflakes,
gleaming yellow and so bright,
we could build a sunman,
we could have a sunball fight,
we could watch the sunflakes
drifting in the sky.

You can read the rest of the poem here.

At Wild Rose Reader, I have a review of Incredible Inventions, another great poetry anthology compiled by Lee Bennett Hopkins.

The Poetry Friday Roundup is at Carol’s Corner today.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

forgot to mention

My small graces painting is on auction NOW and ends on Friday!

URL: http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=220434979010

dear readers...

I'm sorry I didn't post again this week! I'm bad. I had a lot to deal with today. I woke up, ate, got nauseous, crashed on the couch and waited to feel better basically ALL DAY. I also had to get out of jury duty and spent the rest of the day (not that there was much left) tracking down where my medical excuse letter was existing (one of 3 dr offices) Then I ran to the courthouse in the rain, illegally parked, only to be sent away at the door. Well, first I got to the back door (still with time to spare) only to be told that I couldn't go in that door and had to go around, which was like 3 blocks away. by the time I ran there in the rain I was sent home and told to "come back tomorrow." Of course I can't because I was supposed to get out of jury duty BEFORE jury duty was to begin. So now I don't know what will happen to me. I might go to jail. Is that a tad dramatic? Well, I'd like to see them put me in jail. Go ahead! Do it! I'd be no less miserable there than laying on the couch all day feeling sick.

The good news is that the artwork for the bubblegum book is FINALLY done. Of course I still have the author's note to go and until I finish that I will have to continue living on rice and pasta only. No kidding that's all I've been eating. That's all I can afford! I'm broke, broke, broke, broke, broke, broke.

Yes, this blog post is a rant and I apologize for that. It's just that being a freelancer isn't easy. It sucks. Sucks, sucks, sucks. Sometimes, when things go right, it's great. Really great. I can wake up when I want to. Go to bed when I want to. I get big checks in the mail (not lately - believe me!), I get free lunches, I get to be creative, I get to see my visions come to life... and so on. Lots of great things. But you have to take the good with the bad and right now I'm in bad-zone- land. Perhaps if I felt I had my health back I wouldn't be so cranky. Perhaps if jury duty didn't keep knocking on my door when I repeatedly told them I had an autoimmune disease and WOULD NOT be getting better I'd be happier. Who knows. Now I must figure out what to do about the fact that my stupid printer is out of ink (magenta mind you) and I can't print out the doctor's letter of excusal (I took my computer with me today instead of paper). Why can't it print a B&W letter! I don't care about magenta! AAAARrrrrg.

thank you for listening to my frustration. I hope things will be better soon... for your sakes.


Tuesday, June 16, 2009

the wheels never stop turning

Recently, I was so touched by the story of Bridget Zinn, a young author battling cancer that I felt I HAD to win something during a recent auction for her benefit. And I did! What did I win?

I won a consultation with author and virtual marketing wiz Mitali Perkins! Not only is she a superb writer, I am in awe of her ability to bend the internet to her promotional will. (Here is a little secret--I am only two steps above a luddite. I have mastered blogger and that is it. If it were not for my sister my web presence would be only this blog.) Mitali is the perfect person to help make my online book launch match my ambitions!

So, we met last week and I feel as if my head is still spinning! With her guidance, I now have:

-a facebook fan page: this will be one of the locations for the online book party as well as the best way for fans to get in touch with me (please join!)

-have an alternative location for my online booklaunch (for those who are not on facebook) at: www.wherethemountainmeetsthemoon.com

-a twitter account: Yes, I've signed up! I'm going to try tweeting for the summer and see if I like it. Please follow me!

Monday, June 15, 2009

a wedding reading

This weekend I was away at a beautiful wedding. I was honored to be included in the ceremony, as the bride and groom asked me to do a reading. They told me to pick whatever I wanted to, but as we all work together creating children's books, that a children's book might be appropriate.

Well, imagine the pressure! I enlisted the help of some friends to come up with ideas. I went into the library and got a list of books about love from Betsy Bird, I went into B&N and enlisted the help of my friend (and Meghan's) Julia Sarcone Roach while she was working in the children's section, and she in turn put the challenge to some of her coworkers and came up with a list of possibilities. I also chose some song lyrics and poems and came up with a short list of eight possibilities that I decided to run by the couple, but they wouldn't even open the document, saying that they preferred to be surprised on the day of. I hadn't decided what to read as of last weekend at Grace's book launch, and had Libby and Grace weigh in on their favorites.

Are you curious about what I chose in the end? Here is the reading I did at the wedding (I had asked a friend to take pictures of me, but had forgotten my camera was on the video setting, so I have the whole thing on tape!)

My reading was an abridged version of The Little Yellow Leaf by Carin Berger, which was the top choice of the B&N crew. Thank you for your help, Julia!

And thank you, Tracy and Kirk, for the honor of being a part of your special day. I know you'll have a beautiful life together.

Friday, June 12, 2009

To a Frustrated Poet: A Poem by J. Patrick Lewis

Today, I have a poem written by my friend J. Patrick Lewis, a popular children’s poet. As an aspiring poet myself--and as someone who has received her share of rejection letters--I certainly got a chuckle out of Pat’s poem—To a Frustrated Poet.

In addition to being an author of children’s books, Pat also writes clever light verse for adults. Many of his humorous poems have appeared in Light Quarterly. Here are links to some of those poems:

- Click here to read some of J. Patrick Lewis’s Animal Epitaphs included in the Autumn 2006 issue.

- You can read several more of Pat’s clever light verses in the Summer 2000 issue.

Thanks, Pat, for granting me permission to post your poem here!

To a Frustrated Poet
by J. Patrick Lewis

Every June I take out of the filing cabinet the folder
of rejections, groaning under the weight of noooooooooooo,
and admire them.

Black Hole shows a woodcut of a masked executioner
about to cleave a slush pile that, ignobly, they tell me,
I have helped to erect.

Unemployed Muse says with uncommon clarity,
We do not publish poems in a foreign language—GIBBERISH.
And how thoughtful of Dear God! Review to return
my manuscript with the stamps unused. Lordie, they say,
you obviously need the postage more than we do.

Violent Doilies is succinct: Are You Kidding Me?
In 72-point type.

Sorry, states Hurt Me Broadsides, re a ms.
I sent in sometime during the Tet Offensive,
We read only on the third Friday after the Vernal Equinox.
During lunch.

Frustrated, I can’t help but wonder if my poems
will ever find shelter in the likes of Ipecac, 666 squared,
True Crhymes or—if only!—B=L=A=T=H=E=R.
But when my wife yells up, Pizza’s here, my mood
brightens inexplicably—and I stuff another envelope


At Wild Rose Reader, I have a review of Sky Magic, a wonderful new poetry anthology compiled by Lee Bennett Hopkins.

The Poetry Friday Roundup is at Critique de Mr. Chompchomp.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


So the flowers were made, the bags were filled and the sugee cookies were plated.Now all I needed were people! Would it be a disastrous empty room filled with goody bags and echos?

At least I knew my blue rose girls would show. But would anyone else?

YES! Yippee, a full house!

Now, my little speech about some of the background of the book. Just hoping I am coherent:

Then, reading an excerpt (some kids read silently along, so cute!):
Followed by a mad dash for cupcakes to see who won the coins:

While I signed books:

The sugee cookies were eaten (though it took a little encouraging):

And even the paper flowers found new places to bloom:
A lovely, lovely launch.

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon could not have had a warmer welcome. Thank you all SO much for coming!

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

getting ready to launch

Preparing for a book launch is no small task. At least not for me, because I admit sometimes I get a bit carried away with my party ambitions. Luckily, I have some amazing friends that are willing to help me with my grandiose schemes. My super-cool friends worked late, late into the night before my book launch just to make sure everything got done.

Ranida stamped bags:
Luke and Alvina made the boxes and prepped the goodies for the bags:
And Baby Maia did the heavy lifting:

All this while I frosted the cupcakes with the apropos Chinese characters:
See, I'm smiling because I realized that with all this help I'm actually going to get everything done!

Then, Maia chose which cupcakes would be the prize winning cupcakes, with special coins underneath them:

Which were mixed randomly with the others, boxed and bagged:
and finally ready to be picked for the next day: