Friday, July 31, 2009

POETRY FRIDAY: Dog Music by Paul Zimmer

I never had a dog as a pet when I was growing up. My daughter got a yellow lab last year. Her dog Jack is truly a character—and a rascal. My husband and I enjoy visiting with him—and dog-sitting. Now I know how much fun--and how entertaining--dogs can be!

I went looking for a dog poem to post today—and found Dog Music by Paul Zimmer. Zimmer has written several of my favorite poems. I found this one really touching.

Dog Music
by Paul Zimmer

Amongst dogs are listeners and singers.
My big dog sang with me so purely,
puckering her ruffled lips into an O,
beginning with small, swallowing sounds
like Coltrane musing, then rising to power
and resonance, gulping air to continue—
her passion and sense of flawless form—
singing not with me, but for the art of dogs.
We joined in many fine songs—"Stardust,"
"Naima," "The Trout," "My Rosary," "Perdido."
She was a great master and died young,
leaving me with unrelieved grief,
her talents known to only a few.

You can read the rest of the poem here.


I made a special "doggy" video for Poetry Friday that I've posted at Wild Rose Reader. The video includes pictures that I took of my daughter’s dog Jack and two original poems—Dirty Dog, a triolet, and Dog, a mask poem. Here’s a link to my post at Wild Rose ReaderA Poetry Friday Video: Two Poems for Jack.

At Political Verses, I have another Sarah Palin post. It includes a link to William Shatner performing an excerpt from Palin’s farewell speech as poetry on the Conan O’Brien Show. Here’s the link to that post— Sarah Palin: A Farewell Speech and Poem.

Sylvia Vardell is doing the Poetry Friday Roundup this week at Poetry for Children.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

my book on kindle

My cousin recently got an Amazon kindle and "I'm going to read your new book on it!" he said excitedly. My reaction? Not as excited.

I'm trying hard not to be a book snob, but I know how much consideration and thought that the designer and I put in every aspect of my book. From the choosing of typefaces to the color of the page numbers to the direction I painted the swirls, we tried to make every aspect of Where the Mountain Meets the Moon as beautiful as we could. I couldn't imagine that being translated through a kindle.

And, to my eyes, it wasn't:

But still, it was not as bad as I thought it would be. I guess what it comes down to is that at least, even through a kindle, my story was being read. It still resembled my intentions, and I would rather have my book read through a kindle than not at all.

But the book is better.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

More Desmond

The Disappearing Desmond dummy is close to done. Stay tuned for art in progress posts soon!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Lying covers, and the importance of diversity

If you haven't heard yet, there's quite the controversy going on regarding the U.S. cover image of Justine Larbalestier's new YA book Liar, coming out in October. Basically, Justine's protagonist is described in the book as being black with short hair. The girl on the cover is fairly obviously white with long hair that covers her mouth. Publisher's Weekly has an excellent article about the debate here, and read Justine's very thoughtful response here.

In a past post about book design, I talked about how difficult a task it is to design novel covers. There are SO MANY people to try to make happy. Working for a publisher, I know how a cover can change and morph and get watered down and/or far away from the original vision. And I know that the author rarely gets approval, let alone official consultation. So, on the surface, I can understand how the Liar cover could come to be--and on it's own, I find it to be a striking cover. I would pick up a book with that cover.

However, I do think it's disappointing and disheartening that the cover girl does not match the descriptions of the heroine in the interior, especially because of what's been said about the reasoning behind it. And on a surface level, too--as a kid, it always drove me batty when the cover didn't match the interior. Then, it generally had to do with hair color, not race, but as a reader, I think the cover should match the interior. And it saddens me what this particular discrepancy potentially says about the book market.

I can't comment on what happened behind the closed doors of the publishing house. I don't want to point fingers. And I have no idea either what the ethnicity of all of the key players involved was, but I feel confident in saying that something like this would have never happened at our publishing house, because we have such a commitment to the diversity both of our staff, and the books that we publish. I can't imagine someone even suggesting to me that to we put a white person on the cover of a book with an Asian protagonist. However, I can see NOT putting a face on the cover at all.

I have no idea if books with non-white characters on the cover have lower sales than covers with white characters. I don't doubt it, but I'm sure there is a huge array of reasons why it would or would not be the case. But if it is the case, then it's something that we should all work towards changing. Author Sarah Ockler had a great blog post earlier this year about looking at how diverse your bookshelf is. It's something we should all think about. Do you buy books featuring characters of a race other than your own? A lot or a little? Why or why not?

I have been successful in acquiring books by authors of many different backgrounds, featuring characters of the same. Some of the covers feature the faces of the characters, others do not. For example, Justina Chen Headley's first novel, Nothing But the Truth (and a few white lies) features a hapa (half Asian, half white) protagonist in the book and on the cover. Her second book, Girl Overboard, features an Asian protagonist but the cover image shows the back of a snowboarder (a beautiful stock photo). Her third book, North of Beautiful features a blond heroine in the interior and on the cover. It's her third book that has "broken out. " And although I can also argue that it's the best book she's written so far, and we've been able to build on the success of her first two novels, who knows. Things to ponder.

My favorite picture book as a child was The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats. I always use that as evidence that race doesn't matter, that if a little Asian girl could have a favorite book with a black boy on the cover, then it is possible that gender and race barriers in book choices could not exist. A friend once commented, however, that because I, too, am a "person of color," I am possibly more open to reading books about other people of color. I suppose that could be right, although I have to think that plenty of little white children called the book their favorite, too, right?

I believe in the importance of diversity. This post about bias from a while ago talks about a study that I feel proves that the more people see TV shows and movies and read books with positive depictions of people not like themselves, the more accepting we will be of all types of people. I laugh when someone says "but I have black friends" or "gay friends" or "Asian friends" to prove that they aren't racist or biased. That is no proof at all. But you know, at least it's a start. Because the more contact we have with people of other races, the less biased we'll all eventually become (I hope!).

Regardless of how all of this works out, I have to think that this is a "teachable moment"--just as President Obama referred to the incident where Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates was arrested in his own home. This article in the NYTimes was eye-opening as well. Let's learn from this, and all try to make sure that this type of thing doesn't happen in the future.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

A 40th Wedding Anniversary Slide Show

In my POETRY FRIDAY: Otherwise by Jane Kenyon post, I mentioned that I've received a lot of sad news in recent months about friends and a close family member. I so appreciate all of the thoughtful comments blog readers have left for me.

Last night, I thought I'd do something to brighten my own spirits--so I sat down and made a little slide show in remembrance of my 40th wedding anniversary. I met my husband Mike when I was in high school. We started dating when we were fifteen. We were married on July 19, 1969. We'll be holding our 45th high school reunion on August 23rd. We met many of our best friends in high school--and have remained close for nearly fifty years.

I had to create the slide show with pictures that were in my computer--so you won't see any of me and Mike in our ugly brown Bishop Fenwick uniforms. Still, it includes slides of our yearbook picture pages and the three friends I talked about in Friday's poetry post--as well as some of our beautiful daughter Sara, a few girlfriends that I've known since first grade, and the Blue Rose Girls.

Mike and I have indeed been fortunate to share our lives with wonderful family and exceptional friends.

Friday, July 24, 2009

POETRY FRIDAY: Otherwise by Jane Kenyon

It has been a year of bad news for me. Two close friends with cancer that had seemed to be doing so well are experiencing setbacks… a young relative has been diagnosed with the dread disease… a dear old friend is now having serious heart problems. I have to admit that it has been difficult to focus on my writing and blogging in recent months.

With thoughts of my friends and my relative who are bravely battling health problems, I’m posting Otherwise, a favorite poem by Jane Kenyon, one of my favorite poets.

From Otherwise
by Jane Kenyon

I got out of bedon two strong legs.

It might have been

otherwise. I ate

cereal, sweet

milk, ripe, flawless

peach. It might

have been otherwise.

I took the dog uphill

to the birch wood.

All morning I did

the work I love.

You can read the rest of the poem here.


At Wild Rose Reader, I have reviews of two children’s books with poems about life in the city: City I Love and Sky Scrape/City Scape.

At Political Verses, I have Ramblin’ Prose, a song parody about Sarah Palin’s resignation speech.

The Poetry Friday Roundup is at A Year of Reading.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

A week left!

Hey, you've got about a week left to enter my contest for this month's drawing!

Remember the contest? The one from my online launch party? Where if you post a photo of yourself with my new book HERE you enter a drawing for a $25.00 gift certificate for my store? There are three monthly drawings (July, August Sept) AND an Oct. 1st GRAND PRIZE-- your name or likeness in my next book!

If you enter the drawing now, your name is in the hat for all three drawings PLUS the grand prize. So if you enter now, you have more chances to win! Post away!

Mazza Museum

This past weekend I had the great honor of speaking at the Mazza Museum's Summer Institute. And I really mean it when I say honor, because it truly was. I had always heard great things about the Mazza Museum but have never been there before. It is quite a haven for children's book illustrators and anyone who loves children's book art. I had a lovely time, my only gripe being that I had to speak after the eloquent, entertaining and super talented Brian Pinkney:
who also played the drums! Not fair!

But I was able to soothe my nerves by getting immersed in the incredible art in the museum. I was just astounded by the collection, and the museum could only show a tiny fraction of it.

They let me see their high tech storage area and the art just goes on and on. It's amazing.
Because the art they have is quite priceless. For example, original art by HR Rey:

and originals from Madeleine:
As I was walking through the museum, I was filled with such gratitude that a place like this exists. A place that preserves and treasures children's book art for the art it is.

My other favorite part of the museum is the hallway. I know that seems weird, but they are making the hallway into a tile wall with tiles by children's illustrators such as:
Ed Emberley,

my favorite illustrator Elisa Kleven
and good friend (and great artist!) Mary Newell DePalma.

I think art schools that teach children's book illustration should have field trips here! I regret not seeing all of this when I was in school. However, at least now I have my next trip to the Mazza Museum to look forward to.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Returning from wedding-land

So while I do have actual book projects to post about, I am still flying high after our wedding so please indulge me another post or two... we just got the pictures from our photographer (Kelly Lorenz) and we are THRILLED. She did such an amazing job of capturing the day, how we felt, and all the beauty around us. Looking at the pictures is like walking through the whole experience again (only this time without the nerves). Here is a little sampling.

Wondering what these were for?

The wedding provided me with ample opportunity to make lists, one of my favorite pastimes.

The dress, in hiding.

One of my childhood friends has the most adorable little boy. He ran up to me about ten times during the wedding to tell me there were PRESENTS inside. I think he was very confused about why I didn't run in to open them right away.

We made a sign-in book out of a Kolo photo album, complete with a Polaroid Pogo printer so guests could print out a picture of themselves and stick it in the book (think old Polaroid instant camera meets digital camera meets stickers). We ended up with the most goofy and adorable pictures of our friends and family.

Yes, we read The Rabbit's Wedding by Garth Williams. Its my favorite.

Bruno's ring was, er, a little tight.

But I managed to get it on anyways.

My mom enlisted the help of our guests to make dozens of little paper cranes to hang all around. I loved being surrounded by little pieces of art made by our friends.

There was this really cool house made of trees next to the ceremony site that we took pictures in for awhile.

Then we took a walk in the woods to contemplate our married-ness (and take some more pictures).

On a side note, if you leave a comment on our photographer's blog post about us we can win free prints... will you do that for us, pretty please? Just comment here. Thanks friends!

Monday, July 20, 2009

selling art part 2

Okay, so I've decided to make a webpage for the art so that if you want a piece you can just paypall it or whatever I decide is the best method. Perhaps I will also sell some small prints, too. The bad news for me is that I've been working all week and weekend and I won't get a break until wed, so I don't have time to make a webpage. I'll keep you all posted.

More bad news: someone broke into my car AGAIN. Is this a surprise? Probably not. Also, my urine is the color of whisky. Is that gross?

Chautauqua, Part Two

As I mentioned last week, I've been at the Highlights Foundation Writer's Workshop at Chautauqua.

Chautauqua. Ah, Chautauqua. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

1) The Athenaeum Hotel, my home for a week. This was the first hotel in the world to have electric lights, thanks mainly to the fact that Thomas Edison's father co-founded the Chautauqua Institution.

2) My lovely hotel room and lake view. The sun rose over the lake in the morning, bringing a lovely light to the room.

3) Great outings, like the chicken cookout where Jerry and Eileen Spinelli interviewed each other (this is where I found out the interesting tidbits about Jerry that I mentioned last week. Another interesting fact: his favorite movie is Anne of Green Gables!).

4) Speaking of outings, one evening we took a fascinating visit to the Roger Tory Peterson Institute, the highlight of which was seeing a drawer of bird specimens, including extinct birds, such as the passenger pigeon and the ivory-billed woodpecker, aka the "Lord God Bird" (the latter perhaps not extinct after all...).

5) Inspiring and informational speakers throughout (myself included, I hope!). The morning keynote sessions were held in the Hall of Christ Sanctuary. Peter Jacobi (let your words take flight and soar), Patricia Lee Gauch (who urged writers to "Be a little crazy! Be a LOT crazy!"), Stephen Roxburgh (who talked about technology and called books and e-Books "word buckets," saying that "Readers are readers. They seek words that mean something."), and more.

6) The art and culture infused all throughout Chautauqua. Walking around, you couldn't help but run into a concert, a lecture, or perhaps the circus...

7) The last night surprise tribute to Highlights Foundation co-founder Kent Brown, who is the visionary behind the Writers Workshop, which celebrated its 25th Anniversary this past weekend. Several of the faculty, including Peter Jacobi and Larry Pringle, had been there at the very first conference. They, along with others like Jerry Spinelli:

and Patty Lee Gauch:

gave heartfelt and funny tributes to Kent. It was like a roast without the insults.

8) The auction Thursday night that funded a brand-new scholarship in Patricia Lee Gauch's honor (she retired from Philomel a few weeks ago). One of my favorite auction items was this cuddly bear from the Spinelli's, complete with inspiring poem:

9) Lovely gifts from authors (aside from their writing, of course!) Here's a bouquet of flower pens that one author made for me! And given to me on my birthday, too. It was one of two birthday gifts I received from authors at the conference. Not a bad way to spend my birthday.

10) The people. The faculty, the writers, and especially the staff and volunteers, all combined to make it a warm, supportive, friendly, and inspiring week.

As you can tell, I'm a Chautauqua convert. I thought the schedule and set-up was the perfect balance of practical information and inspiration. Being in such a magical setting was inspiration in itself. Who knows, maybe someday I'll be able to buy a summer home there...we all need to dream, right?

Friday, July 17, 2009

art for sale!

Hello all,

I am in dire need of money right now. Things are very ugly. Although I've had offers to purchase my art I never intended to sell any of it. But now I think I must.

So... art for sale. If any of you have any interest in any illustrations from my book then please let me know. I may also be selling smaller B&W pieces and sketches. I haven't decided what the price range will be yet but I'll decide soon.

More info to come...

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

can I be called professor?

I just finished teaching my section of the Solstice low-residency MFA program in YA/Children's lit and I can't say enough good things about it. I wish I had gone to a program like this before publishing, it's such a smart group of people--students and staff (including the very sharp and funny co-teacher Laban Hill), all passionate about writing.

They were especially kind to green-horned teachers, such as myself. I caught myself telling stories like an old grandfather ("I remember when I learned there was no such thing as a brontosaurus...") and their eyes did not glaze over once--true signs of real writers, who know that they can find something interesting in the most mundane of incidents.

If you are at all serious about writing for children, get thee to a program such as this!