Sunday, October 31, 2010

from the BRG archives: That thing with feathers

Black Beauty grows old (and Ginger dies!); Mattie never is nice to Wanda Petronski, and joins the other girls in egging her on about her “hundred dresses”; Lyra causes her best friend’s death; Anne Frank goes off to a concentration camp …. but all these books still left me with a feeling of hope -- about people and possibilities. Great books do this not with platitudes or PC messages or Walt Disney happy endings, but because of the way their (very real and believable) heroes and heroines react:
“In spite of everything, I still believe that people are good at heart,”

“Yes, she must have [really liked us],” said Mattie, and she blinked away the tears that came every time she thought of Wanda standing alone in the sunny spot in that sunny spot in the schoolyard, looking stolidly over at the group of laughing girls, after she had said, ‘Sure, a hundred of them – all lined up…”

“The first ghost to leave the world of the dead was Roger. He took a step forward, and turned to look back at Lyra, and laughed in surprise as he found himself turning into the night, the starlight, the air, and then he was gone, leaving behind such a vivid little burst of happiness that Will was reminded of the bubbles in a glass of champagne.”

Maybe it has nothing to do with the way the characters react, maybe it’s just something the best writers show us or induce in us about the gallant human spirit. Anyway, I feel bigger-hearted and more hopeful after reading them.

“Hope is the thing with feathers –
that perches in the soul.” – Emily Dickinson

And how about that word “perches”? Pretty perfect. That some people write that well – and that some girls now still read and love her poetry – gives me hope, too.

Originally posted on Aug. 30 2006

Giles Corey: An Iron Man Who Was a Victim of the Salem Witch Trials

My first guest blogger post for Jonathan Turley's law blog is up.
Giles Corey: An Iron Man Who Was a Victim of the Salem Witch Hysteria

Friday, October 29, 2010


I thought I'd try to answer a few of the questions that people had asked below. So here is one:

"Something my crit group and I were talking about last night was the fine line between a picturebook with spare text vs one that gets labeled as "slight". I love books like "Shark vs. Train" published by Little Brown or "Show Dog" by Megan McCarthy. What is y'all's take on the fine line of spare vs. slight when it comes to picturebooks? How do you indicate action that occurs in wordless panels in a manuscript? Should you indicate it or just show it in the dummy? 

First, thanks for liking Show Dog! The importance of a book like that is pacing. A lot happens in that book even though there aren't a lot of words. Ed trains for a dog show, enters the show, ruins the show (there's your story arch), but behind the scenes you can watch Princess and how unhappy she is and that's sort of the secondary plot. At the end she gets to go home with Ed and his family and Mr. Pitt continues to be unhappy. Will he learn his lesson that there's more to happiness than being perfect on the outside? I actually used the Ramsey girl as my model (as sick and twisted as that may be). What if she could have been adopted by another family instead of having to put on a happy smile all the time?

So there's a lot going on in that story even though there aren't many words. A slight story is one where there aren't many words and there isn't much story/stuff going on to boot. It's the kind of story that makes you feel empty... wanting more... or kind of that huh? feeling. And believe me, there are plenty of them out there. And just imagine how many unpublished stories there are! There's a fine art to making text work well and have a good chunky story but yet not contain many words. I still do this with my nonfiction works. I'm often very frustrated by the amount of nonfiction books that win awards. Their lengths are soooo long that the books clearly are for adults and not kids. I'm writing for kids and will continue to do so.

As far as indicating action in a wordless dummy: yes, draw it out in the dummy if you're an artist or write in parentheses what action will take place if you are the writer.

Here's another question:

"One thing that I am very interested in is how to fund research, and I don't mean just for nonfiction writers. Almost every work requires research. Sometimes, it can all be done in a library or online, but what about when it can't?

I've read blogs about authors who discuss their research process - visiting places, people, etc. Who pays for this? Does the writer pay for it him/herself and then hope to get it back out of book sales, or do publishers help front some of it? This aspect of publishing has always stumped me and because I have some ideas that would require more research than others, I'm curious.

Authors are always responsible for paying for research. This goes for trips, gas, books purchased, etc. Sad but true. You can write it off at the end of the year. Hey, nonfiction has its costs!

film version

This wonderful video of my book was made to promote the book as a Georgia Children's Book Award nominee by Library Media Specialist James Campbell. I think it's great! It's very cool to see your book turned into such a wonderful film... complete with the actual broadcast! Wonderful.

An Original Poem, My Sessions at NCTE, and Guest Blogging at the Turley Blawg

I wrote the following poem earlier this year for my blog Political Verses. First, I’ll provide you with the news story that inspired the poem:

Study Says Women With Mates Get Heavier
By Nicholas Bakalar
New York Times (January 4, 2010)

It is widely known that women tend to gain weight after giving birth, but now a large study has found evidence that even among childless women, those who live with a mate put on more pounds than those who live without one.

The differences, the scientists found, were stark.

After adjusting for other variables, the 10-year weight gain for an average 140-pound woman was 20 pounds if she had a baby and a partner, 15 if she had a partner but no baby, and only 11 pounds if she was childless with no partner. The number of women with a baby but no partner was too small to draw statistically significant conclusions.

There is no reason to believe that having a partner causes metabolic changes, so the weight gain among childless women with partners was almost surely caused by altered behavior. Moreover, there was a steady weight gain among all women over the 10 years of the study.


Look at the Man: A Poem Explaining Why Women with Mates Gain Weight

Once upon a time he was a prince.
Now every time I look at him I wince.
That dashing fellow who once caught my fancy
Now sports big boobies like my old Aunt Nancy.
As I dream of wedded bliss…a life diviner--
He croaks out to me from his worn recliner,
“Honey, do me a favor—be a dear—
Would you go and fetch me another ice cold beer?
And while you’re at it, get a bag of chips!”
Those are the loving words that pass through his wan lips.
He never buys me flowers, takes me dancing.
My mate’s not into sweet talk and romancing.
He’s always in a couch potato mode—
That prince I married turned into a toad.

NCTE Annual Convention News
I’ll be presenting at two sessions at the NCTE Annual Convention in Orlando in November.

Session Title: Poets and Bloggers Unite: Using Technology to Connect Kids, Teachers, and Poetry
Date: November 19th
Session/Time: A.09—9:30 am to 10:45 am
Format: Panel

Other children’s literature bloggers who’ll be participating in the session along with me are Sylvia Vardell of Poetry for Children and Tricia Stohr-Hunt of The Miss Rumphius Effect. The poet members of our panel will be Lee Bennett Hopkins, Jame Richards, and Marilyn Singer.

NOTE: I'll be featuring Lee Bennett Hopkins on Wild Rose Reader next week.

Session Title: Poetry for Children and Teachers at Its Best: The 2009 Notable Poetry Titles
Date: November 19th
Session/Time: C.20—12:30 pm to 1:45 pm
Format: Panel
Panel Members: The NCTE Excellence in Poetry Committee

FYI: I've been asked to be a guest blogger on Jonathan Turley's law blog next week. Professor Jonathan Turley is a legal scholar and a contributor at MSNBC. He has appeared on The Rachel Maddow Show and Countdown.

In his post, Introducing Our New Guest Bloggers, today, Professor Turley wrote the following:

I am happy to report we will be implementing another one of your suggestions for improving the blog. Various people suggested a year ago that we have guest blogging to allow regulars a chance to make entries on the blog. With my upcoming speech in France, I thought it would be a great time to try this out for a week from October 31st to November 6th. I have selected three of our best known and most respected regulars: David Drumm (aka Nal), Elaine Magliaro (aka Elaine M) and Mark Esposito (aka Mespo).

You can read the rest of Professor Turley's post here.


At Wild Rose Reader, I have an original fairy tale poem--an urgent FAX message written by the seven dwarfs to Snow white. I also have links to other Wild Rose Reader posts with witch poems and recommendations for poetry and picture books perfect for Halloween reading.

Toby Speed has the Poetry Friday Roundup at the Writer’s Chair.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

what should we talk about?

So as you can see (and as Alvina said) we've freshened up here at the Blue Rose Girl blog. As we head into the next decade and our 5th(!) year, we thought we could use a little enlivening. Thank you so much, our faithful readers that have made this blog what it is and helped us keep our conversations going.

One of the reasons we started this blog was to talk to each other, but we want to talk to you too! So one of the new features we are planning are our Blue Rose Girl Conversations. Once a month, we'll tackle and talk about kidlit topics that are causing our brains to work in overdrive--kind of like "Hot Topics" on the View!

But we need your help! What do YOU want us to talk about?

We're open to any and all suggestions! You can go deeper than the usual "how do you promote your books" (though we're happy to talk about that, too)-- you can also suggest the real nitty gritty like "what are the ethics of authors reviewing other books?" to "have you ever thought of leaving the industry?" Everything will be considered! Combined, we have over ten years of struggles, triumphs, failures and successes to talk about, as well as the issues we face everyday. So, what do you want to hear about?

Don't worry, besides our thanks, we are giving away a big thank-you gift! To a commenter (chosen at random) we'll send you a collection of our books (one from each BRG) and some delicious, homemade cookies (made by moi!)

(these aren't the actual cookies I will send you, I promise they will be fresh and extremely yummy)

All YOU have to do is leave a comment that tells us:

1. what you want us to talk about
2. your occupation/why you read our blog (teacher, author, etc)

Comment & make as many suggestions as you want.
Winner announced on Wednesday, November 10th--so get going!

Many thanks for being a Blue Rose Girl Reader, from all of us!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Books for babies

As I look down the home stretch of pregnancy (one month to go!), I realize there is one baby accessory that strangely has not made it onto my radar. BABY BOOKS. I don't know if its because I have a library of children's books already (though they are in storage at the moment since we're away from home), or that I've just been preoccupied with making sure we have the basics like diapers and pjs. But I haven't bought one baby book!

What are some of your favorite baby board books? I've always loved Good Night Gorilla, Pat the Bunny, and of course the Eric Carle board books. If any parents or board book aficionados out there have any recommendations please leave them in the comments! I'd love to support some new authors.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Ch- ch- changes!

Notice anything different? Our blog has a brand new outfit, thanks to the wonderful design and illustration work of Anna Alter. Some of the changes:

-A beautiful new logo: we thought it made sense to include a book, as we're all about books
-A new tagline: we wanted to make the purpose of the blog clearer
-A new background: blue roses, of course!
-New headers: we wanted to make it clear who was writing which post, so going forward we'll be using these new headers (if you click on them, they'll take you to our personal blogs or websites). Note: for our older posts, the author of the each post will be listed at the bottom.
-New photos: now you know exactly what we all look like!
-"Reactions" buttons at the end of each post. Don't want to post a full comment? Just click a button! We're hoping this will also help us with feedback regarding what kinds of posts you'd like to see more of.
-Buttons for posting on Facebook, Twitter, and more.

With the new redesign also comes some new features to the blog. Stay tuned for information about a contest--Grace will have the details on Wednesday. We'll also be introducing some guest bloggers, a "from the BRG archives" feature, and regular discussion posts, including video, audio, and print.

We're all incredibly proud that we've kept this blog going strong for over four years, and we love the  community we have here. But we want to make sure we keep growing and adapting, and that the conversation stays fresh and interesting. Any and all feedback is welcome. Thank you to both our new and veteran readers, thanks to everyone for reading and participating!


Also, if you're in the New York area, I'll be speaking on a panel at the NYPL tomorrow evening starting at 6:30 pm at the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, South Court Auditorium. The panel is titled "Reflections on YA". Here is the description:

As Teen Read Week comes around again, join The New York Public Library for a refreshing and in-depth conversation about the state of YA publishing today. Hear from dynamic and engaging people from the literary world as they discuss the triumphs of the genre, as well as the areas for improvement. From paranormal to economic challenges and from the increasingly diverse population of Ya readers to the dominance of paranormal, find out what's happening in the world of reading.

Featured panelists:

Amy Bowllan, Director of Diversity and Educational Technology at The Hewitt School in NYC

Alvina Ling, Senior Editor at Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Cailtlyn Dlouhy, Executive Editor, Atheneum Books for Young Readers

Megan Honig, Teen Collections Specialist, The New York Public Library

Stacey Barney, Editor, Penguin Book Group

Info here. Come join in the discussion! It should be a lively one.

Saturday, October 23, 2010


In Greece and Ireland and other places in Europe, stories and epic poems weren't written, but performed - improvised, somewhat differently each time -- by traveling bards. Then, sometime in ancient history (around 800 BC, in Greece, some scholars think), people started writing them down, on skins and, later, papyrus......Of course in China they'd had paper for centuries, but paper came late to Europe.

When Greek epics were first written down and read, some people were outraged -- we know because there are comments in written Greek histories and plays. What was happening, they said, this was going to ruin poetry if, instead of being performed by bards, artists, anyone -- even people too lazy to memorize -- could just read it. Anytime they wanted to.

Then, some hundreds of years later, illuminated manuscripts became an artform -- handmade dyes, monks lovingly copying and painting and embellishing......until Gutenberg invented the printing press. Again, there was outrage.

You can see where I'm going with this. Something was lost each time -- all those bards and performances, all those beautiful paintings and gold letters. But something was gained, too.

Maybe it doesn't matter if our stories are memorized or written on skins or papyrus, or inked and painted by hand on parchment or printed on paper-- or passed on in some other form I can't even imagine (implanted in people's brains by electronic transmission? telepathic communication?).....I'm not sure I really believe this (I love books!) but there's at least part of me that thinks what REALLY matters is that some people go on loving language and using it to make up the best stories they can -- and that other people go on reading (or maybe I should say "Getting") them.

Friday, October 22, 2010

society of illustrators event

I had a great time at the Society of Illustrators show last night. Lots of hobnobbing. I didn't get a good shot of anyone because my camera was in my jacket pocket, which was upstairs and pretty much unavailable. Grrr. So everyone took group shots and I missed out. I have one of me which I like because it's totally washed out. Yeah!

My picture is above and I'm blocking Kevin Henkes painting.


An Unpoetry Poetry Friday

I apologize for not posting on Poetry Friday last week. I've been having computer problems. My computer is back with the "geek squad" again--for the second time in a week. I have to borrow my husband's MacBook when he isn't using it--which can be very frustrating. I can't get any writing done. I'm going crazy!!!

I'm going to send you to Wild Rose Reader if you need a "Poetry Friday" fix this week. I posted an original poem for Halloween titled Licorice. I wrote Licorice for a poetry collection about candy--which is still unpublished.


BTW, I'm thinking of getting myself a MacBook Air. To those of you who own a MacBook Air: Do you like it? Would you recommend I get one for myself?


The Poetry Friday Roundup is at A Wrung Sponge this week.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Taking Tree

I recently posted a picture of a bench that reminded me of The Giving Tree. Several people commented on the tree's terrible fate and that the book should be called The Taking Boy. Looks like someone else had the same idea...

my long-winded rant on why I will continue to write about shy Asian characters

Even though it takes me a while to answer, I do like to read the reader letters I receive as soon as I get them. Most of the time they are encouraging, which is always very appreciated when I am struggling with projects (authors have very fragile egos, recently I had a nightmare that the publisher published the advanced copies of my book using my horrible first draft). So, I admit I was a bit taken aback when I received a letter that was more concerned than complimentary about my book "Lissy's Friends."

Here is part of the letter:
Although the children love the book, I am writing you out of concern for how the character Lissy was portrayed. I recently read the article Not for Sale by Tracy Lai where the author write how racism is perpetuated on Asian American women through having them described as "being desirable" (in the work place) because they are cute (as in doll like), quiet rather than militant and unassuming rather than assertive...I read your press about being a multicultural book author, and in the end there is a paragraph that states you write about the Asian American experience, and that you believe books erase bias. In reading your book to children, I feel that I may unjustly perpetuating a stereotype that has been used to subjugate Asian American women; no matter how innocently it was portrayed. I do wonder if this book was written about a shy white boy or girl, if I would feel as strongly.

I admit, the grumpy part of me felt just like throwing the letter away (now that I think of it, this whole blog post is more on the grumpy side, which I apologize in advance for) and chalking it up to another learning experience. The truth is being a "multicultural" author/illustrator is always a slippery slope. Authors are human. We create books and characters with the hope that our words express our true intentions. Sometimes we succeed. Sometimes we make mistakes. I'm willing to admit to certain books of mine have even failed; I just have to live with it and try harder the next time around.

But the more I thought about the letter, I began to feel that, in this instance, I wasn't sure if I agreed that the character of Lissy was a failure on my part.

In the book, Lissy is very shy and creates friends out of her imagination with origami. When her origami blows away and is discovered by other children, she is able to make real friends. The character of Lissy is actually based on my niece, who used to be extremely shy among strangers, often hiding when addressed by one. In fact, most of the characters in my books are based on myself and I was definitely more shy than outgoing as a child (and still am). And one of the books I have swimming in my mind for the future features a shy, Asian protagonist. Should I change her because of the fear of perpetuating a stereotype?

And my answer is no. Because before I am a multicultural author/illustrator, I am an author/illustrator without the adjective. I am aware of the adjective, I am sensitive to it, but I also know that I need to write a story that is authentic to myself first. I'm not saying I won't write about a boisterous Asian character, but I do have to write the voice of the character that is true to me. To me, it seems unfair (and not to say stifling!) to think that I have to be limited to what kind of characters I wish to write about because of my/their race.

And it also seems to be asking a lot of any author for the character in their book to be indicative of an entire race. As I mentioned in my booktalk of Little Pear, No one book is supposed to be representative of a culture.

So this was my response:

To address your concerns about perpetuating stereotypes--personally, I only feel that the book perpetuates the stereotype if it is the only book with an Asian character in your library. Just as there are shy white children, there are shy Asian children (I was one of them). One book should not and cannot define an entire race. My suggestion is to include other books with Asian characters in your children's reading--which would then show Asians with a range of personalities. Just like how it is in real life.

I didn't have the time, but if I did I would've included a list of books with unshy Asian characters, like Jenny in Uncle Peter's Amazing Chinese Wedding, and books with non-Asian shy characters, like Disappearing Desmond. That is a great book, by the way. If "Lissy Friends" offends you, please go get that one instead. Unless shy cats offend you too.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Disappearing Desmond Activity kit

Some of you may remember that this summer I was working on a Master of Disguise Activity page for Disappearing Desmond. The activity kit is now complete! You can download it for free here.

Curious City Doings did a fabulous job of putting together fun, inclusive activities for use at schools, libraries, and at home. Shy and outgoing kids alike will get to know eachother and play with disguises like these:

If you use any of the activities I'd love to see pictures!

Monday, October 18, 2010

the sad state of affairs in the land of picture books

This NYT article claims that parents don't want to buy their 5 year old picture books anymore because they are going for The Phantom Toll Booth or some other novel. It's seriously depressing. Picture books are needed in so many ways for that age groups. Parents need to let kids be kids and stop PUSHING!!!

Social Networking

The audience at Rutgers

This past Saturday I was a mentor at the Rutgers One-on-One conference. It's a wonderful conference to attend, both as a mentor and mentee (at least, so I've been told re: the mentee part), and I've participated for four or five years. In addition to being matched with an author, I was also on a panel discussing Social Networking: "Get a Grip: Using Social Media Tools Effectively." My fellow panelists were author/illustrator Katie Davis, Deborah Sloan, Founder of marketing and promotion firm Deborah Sloan and Company, and the moderator was Bloomsbury Associate Editor Caroline Abbey.

The wikipedia definition of social networking (and as Caroline said, wikipedia is itself a kind of social network) is:
A social network service is an online service, platform, or site that focuses on building and reflecting of social networks or social relations among people, e.g., who share interests and/or activities.

In our two conference calls before Saturday, it became apparent that us three panelists were most enamored with Twitter out of all of the available social media outlets out there. I've made no secret of my love of Twitter (remember my Ode to Twitter?), and both Deborah and Katie love it, too--as a resource, as a community, as a marketing tool.

We'll be doing a Twitter Chat this afternoon from 12:30-1:30 EST, using the hashtag #rcclbuzz. Please stop in, whether to ask or answer questions, or just be a fly on the wall. And if you haven't tried Twitter yet, well, no time like the present! Author Gregory Pincus has a great website that helped me when I was first trying it out:

And here's a great explanation about how to participate in Twitter chats:

(I'm sorry if I'm sounding like an advertisement for Twitter--it's just that I do believe in it's value. However, I will say that some people do get addicted, especially if you own a Smart Phone, and I'd suggest setting limits for yourself.)

At the start of the panel, we did a quick rundown of which social media we were all using, so I thought I'd outline my answers, and how I'm using each.

-Twitter (@planetalvina. During workdays, I try to limit myself to checking once first thing in the morning, again at lunch, and again after 5 pm, for no longer than 20 minutes each time. Of course, I don't always abide by these rules! I use Twitter for both personal and professional reasons. I follow publishing people, entertainment people, and news people.)

-Facebook (I only accept friend request from people I remember meeting. If we've met and I don't accept your request, feel free to send me a note reminding where we met. If I still don't accept, please don't follow up a second time. I generally link my Twitter updates to Facebook, and go back and forth between the two. Because Facebook is more of a closed community, I use it for more personal reasons, to keep up with friends and relatives.)

-Linked In (I will only accept requests from people I know personally and/or have done business with. I don't use it actively, but I am on there for professional reasons.)

-Goodreads (I no longer rate books, but do add books that I've read as a record for myself. However, I have a bookshelf of "books I've edited and love" and do rate all of those books as 5-stars--of course!)

-Blogger: you're reading this post on the Blue Rose Girls group blog! I also have a personal blog at

-YouTube: my channel is here. Both personal and kidlit-related videos.

-Google Buzz: friends only

-Flickr (personal use only)

What are your social networking sites of choice?

Friday, October 15, 2010

composition - analysis of my art... or my best attempt

Dan got me thinking about how I work. My art is a lot simpler. I've done some pieces that have foregrounds and backgrounds but a lot of times my characters are all in the foreground. What I work a lot with is shapes. I know this sounds weird but in my head there are invisible shapes that i uses to help move your eye from point A to point B.

Take my cover of POP! for example. I deliberately use certain colors to move your eye around the page. Here I use maroon. I had a triangle in mind -- The boy's bowtie at the bottom, the other bowtie, and the stripe on the right. The triangle "lifts" the bubble. When you look at the cover I want your eye to bounce from the two characters in the middle -- their eyes, then using the "triangle" bounce back and fourth, and then go to the bubble. Well, that's sort of the theory anyway. The other maroon colors and dark blues and bright whites of the eyes and the pink bubbles are spread throughout to balance the picture to sort of "hold" the bubble in place. Your eye will bounce back and forth but keep going to the center. I use this technique to turn something seemingly chaotic into something even, smooth, and ultimately what I hope is a good composition! I also use the light blue around the big pink bubble to give your eye a place to rest. There's so much going on that an area of negative space is always important.

Here's another example:

Here I use the triangle effect again. There are 4 people in this image but the first person I want you to look at is Walter. You do because he is making an opposite triangle with his arms. There is also a triangle followed by his eyes connected to the other dancers' eyes. His eyes are the biggest so you look at him first. His also in the foreground and you can follow the perspective line as it goes back...

What Dan says is true. I'm not sitting around thinking about these things all the time. Sometimes I do. I usually think about it when something isn't working. I remember repainting the above page a lot. The dancers' arms were moved around a lot, the perspective was changed, and Walter's arms were pointed up. You know when something doesn't work but you don't always know why it does until you sit down and think about it. All of this is practice, practice, practice!

Here are some simpler examples:

Here I want your eye to move from left to right, to move your eye to go to the next page turn. This is simple! Just follow the big round white eyes and leave plenty of negative space above and below. You will also notice that the white coats mirror the white door. This further pulls your eye further. You want to follow those figures into the mysterious door.

And here's this one. I left plenty of negative space behind each figure to give the piece tension. Each big eye is connected... and each hand is as well. You know they are about to hand each other something, but it hasn't happened yet, so the negative space adds more tension. Each part is equal and balanced, which helps balance the composition and helps make it pleasing to look at.

You may also notice that negative space is also very important to me. What you don't put in a picture is as important as what you do. This is why I really appreciate the designers I work with. They don't go overboard with the type and help leave those negative spaces negative and don't fill them up with big, bold colored type. I look at some books and cringe. I just can't believe how beautiful art can be ruined. It's all about balance! Your eye needs to a place to REST.

So that's more over analysis of my art. I hope you've enjoyed it.


a great post on art and composition

Dan Santat wrote a great post on how he composes a picture. I highly recommend checking it out here:

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

RISD sale

Being an author/illustrator, I don't get out of the house much. So, it's been a personal tradition of mine to have a booth once a year at my alma mater RISD's Alumni Sale. There are three sales--Fall, Winter and Spring. This year, for a change of pace I decided to do the Fall sale.

There were a couple changes this year. The Sasquatch, after dumpster diving, made me a display board that I thought showed off my wares quite well. And whether this was due to the wonderful fall weather or my new display, business was very brisk. Usually there are slow patches that allow me to browse at the other tables (and spend more money than I make) but this time I was so busy I stayed put the whole time. It was great fun, meeting readers and signing books--the main reason why I do it! But that also meant I missed the great tables of friends Liz Dubois, Karen Bessette, and Jeanne & Ian Wells. Boo! I guess that is what online shopping is for.

I did get this sweet little potted plant from Clam Alley Pottery:

but only because they were right across from me and I could run over at the end before they packed up. I was staring at those pots all day, I was so happy I got one!

But now it's back to the sequestered indoors! "Dumpling Days" is in its painful revision stage and demands attention. Sigh. It was nice seeing people for the day, at least!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Giving Tree

I passed by this tree stump bench the other day and couldn't help but think of The Giving Tree...

Monday, October 11, 2010

What I'm working on now

I'm deep into the frantic juggling phase of my Fall/Winter 2011 list. Final drafts of novels are due into copyediting next week, picture books are supposed to be in the mechanical stage now and aren't, etc. etc. For a few months now I've been, juggling juggling juggling. As I said on Twitter, "Edit, revise, repeat. Edit, revise, repeat."

So, here's a sneak peak of what I'm working on now. Three of the books are still untitled, which tells you how much of a sneak peak this is...

Picture books:
The House Baba Built: an artist's childhood in Shanghai by Ed Young
This is an illustrated memoir of Ed's childhood growing up in Shanghai during WWII. His father decided to build a house to keep his family safe, and over the years they took in additional families to help keep them safe, too. This book is a beautiful testament to how times of great hardship and difficulty can also be times of great creativity, and how a child can remain happy during those times. Ed and I have been working with my brilliant fellow BRG, Libby Koponen to help shape the text. It's been a very, very long process, but a rewarding one, and it's going to pay off--it's a beautiful, fascinating look into wartime China from a child's point of view. It's a deeply personal book for Ed.

Untitled picture book by Peter Brown
Peter is working on a follow-up to Children Make Terrible Pets, featuring Lucy the Bear. It isn't exactly a sequel, but more a companion. In this book, Lucy decides that she wants to find a best friend, goes about it the wrong way, and hilarity ensues, of course.

Middle Grade:
Dumpling Days by Grace Lin
Grace is hard at work at the revision right now! This is a follow-up to Year of the Dog and Year of the Rat. Pacy and her family go to Taiwan on vacation for a month in the summer to celebrate Pacy's grandmother's 60th birthday. And yes, there are plenty of mouth-watering descriptions of food.

Young Adult:
Boy 21 by Matthew Quick
This is Matthew's sophomore YA effort, and although it's much different from his first, Sorta Like a Rock Star, it's just as beautifully written, and yes, it made me cry. This is a novel about a boy named Finley, the only white player on his high school basketball team. His coach asks him to take a new kid under his wing, Russ, whose parents have been tragically murdered. The problem is, because of his trauma, Russ calls himself Boy 21 and claims to be from outer space...

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
A Romeo-and-Juliet-esque story in which an angel and a devil (of sorts) fall in love. That oversimplifies the book, though--it's so much more rich and layered, unique, unforgettable, and absolutely gorgeous. The novel opens in Prague (very cool) and we meet a lovely and mysterious art student named Karou who has bright blue hair (which just may grow out of her roots that color), a strange (to say the least) family, and the ability to wish things into reality. We signed Laini up to three books (this book, a sequel, and another stand alone) in a huge auction, and I couldn't be more thrilled and honored to be working with her. Plus, she loves revising!
Untitled DJ book by Love Maia
We're still brainstorming titles, but I think we're close to pinning one down. This is a debut novel about a sixteen-year-old named Marley who dreams of being a professional DJ. I've called this novel Save the Last Dance with DJing, because it has that kind of feel--there's drama, characters you root for, a DJ contest, a sweet romance, tragedy, and gorgeous descriptions of the power of music. I'm so excited to introduce this new author and voice to the world.

Untitled book formerly known as Summerton by Karen Healey
This is Karen's second novel, a follow-up (not a sequel) to Guardian of the Dead. Also set in New Zealand (not--as we sometimes slip up and say--Australia), this book involved an idyllic vacation town, suicide, a possible serial killer, and dark magic. So different from Guardian, but equally fresh, intriguing, compelling, and creepy. I love how Karen features a diverse cast of characters and themes, too. We have a Japanese exchange student love interest, main characters who are Maori and Samoan, a Chinese-New Zealander ex-boyfriend, and themes of sexuality, ethnic identity, religion, friendship, grief, and more. 

And there you go. I hope this gives you an enticing taste of what's to come...stay tuned! Coming to a bookstore near you between September 2011 and March 2012.

And for another sneak peak, check out this uber-cool trailer for You Killed Wesley Payne by Sean Beaudoin, coming out in February 2011.

Friday, October 08, 2010

POETRY FRIDAY: Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout

I have another Shel Silverstein poem video for you this week. I selected Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout because it was always a favorite with my elementary students. It’s fun to hear Silverstein perfom the poem himself.


At Wild Rose Reader, I have a review of Rita Gray’s One Big Rain: Poems for Rainy Days and a bunch of my original poems about rain--including the following one that I wrote for Grace's "Small Graces" painting seen below.

Standing on the sidewalk
Listening to raindrops patter
On my polka-dotted umbrella.
The falling sky tap dances above me
in silvery shoes.
I hear the steady beat…
feel the rhythm of the rain.
My yellow-booted feet
Want to waltz me down the street!

The Poetry Friday Roundup is at Carol’s Corner this week.

Thursday, October 07, 2010


Here's a female artist I like:

Elizabeth McGrath

Here are a few more:
Pia Guerra
Marilyn Minter
Camille Rose Garcia

Yup, no kids' book art here! I guess what you'd call all but the bottom artist is "pop surrealism" or some people call it "lowbrow art," though others don't like that term. I guess if I wasn't doing children's books I'd love to be doing something in that movement. I'm hoping that my graphic novel idea is a little more edgy, but we'll see. I know the topic sure is!

One artist played my "pick 15 artists" game. This is Brian Bigg's list:
Edward Gorey
Jacques Tardi
Chris Ware
Seymour Chwast
Arnold Lobel
Richard Scarry
Walt Disney
Saul Steinberg
B. Kliban
George Tooker
Ben Shahn
Jorge Colombo
Robert Crumb
Bill Watterson
Maurice Sendak

I think he put a few on there that I left out. Those frog and toad books... man... I loved those as a kid! I'm now going through his list and looking up all the artists I don't know. I love discovering new people!

I have to run off to get my art piece that I got framed for the society of illustrators and turn it in before it's too late! Eeek! When I get home hopefully I'll have time to post some studio photos. Thanks Grace for posting yours!


Wednesday, October 06, 2010

my studio

posted by Grace Lin

Like Meghan, I love seeing people's studios. Recently I checked out (virtually, not in person) Jenny B Harris's and Liz Dubois's studios, as well as where Laura Resau works. I have some serious workplace envy! So even though (or maybe because) I have a lot of work to do, I cleaned my own studio to be viewed!

My studio, which used to look like this has had to change since the arrival of my Sasquatch. Making my mess of a studio into more of an oasis has been a work in process. But at least now it is a clean one!

Because after a good 24 hours of organizing, decluttering, dusting and vacuuming, the studio looks like this:
You can see the floors! You can see the tables!

It does still look a little cluttered though:
(but you should have seen it before)

My favorite studio revision is that I now have a little reading corner:

with our wedding cranes hanging overhead:

One of which is watching over my Newbery award!

So my clean studio will probably last...a week? maybe two? I guess it depends on how much more work I have to procrastinate do.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Library of the Early Mind

For those of you in the Boston area, on October 19 at Harvard University there will be a premier screening of Library of the Early Mind, a documentary exploring children’s literature, directed by Edward J. Delaney and produced by Steven Withrow. Grace and BRG friend JJK are in it among others (there are too many to mention, but you can see a list of the cast here)!

The event is free and open to the public and will include book sale, reception with book signing, and Q&A with a panel from the film, including Lois Lowry, Lesléa Newman, Jerry Pinkney, Roger Sutton, and Padma Venkatraman. If I was in the area, I would definitely go check it out! Trailer and details below...

I love how Francoise Mouly says that young kids aren't looking for escape and fantasy so much as organization, so true. There is a lot of food for thought just in the trailer!

5:30 p.m.
Askwith Auditorium
Longfellow Hall, Appian Way
Harvard Graduate School of Education
Cambridge, MA 02138

Monday, October 04, 2010


On facebook I posted some of my favorite artists "...who have influenced you and will always stick with you." That's a tough job! I invited others to do the same.

This was my list:

Gary Baseman
Monte Beauchamp
Benjamin Gudel
Maurice Sendak
Tom Friedman
Gary Panter
Chuck Close
Grant Wood
Wayne Thiebaud
Charles Adams
Roy Lichtenstein
Mark Ryden
Eric White
Clayton Brothers
Jules Feiffer
Mercer Mayor
Edward Hopper
Norman Rockwell
Henri Roussaeau
Philip Guston

Then my friend posted this:

"Jeebus. Are these all men??!! Seriously? C'mon, lady!" Oops! How could I do this? Don't I LOVE any female artists? Apparently not many. I came up with ONE to add: Marjane Satrapi - Now mind you I'm not adding photographers and all of that, when I say "artists" I'm just doing illustrators and painters and that sort of thing. I can't get into photography and all of that or the list will be a mile long. The "rule" was supposed to be "Fifteen" and I already broke that.

anyway, my question to you all is this: Do I just like the type of art that is done primarily by men or are the trendsetters mostly men? Are the edgy/comic-booky type people mostly men? What is the deal here? I did add some old classic folk like Hopper, Guston, and Wood... but still, all men. I don't WANT all of my favorites to be all men! I don't WANT to be sexist! But I guess I like who I like. I've heard people mention before that the Caldecot winners are rarely women. Does this hold true here too? Do women just suck? Ooh, yeah, I said it!!!

... but I didn't mean it.


Sunday, October 03, 2010


I want to know what your studio looks like. Please show me! And can I please collect it and put it on my website? Every time I flip through an artist book or magazine I stop at the studio part and get mesmerized by it. I figure, why not collect a whole bunch to look at all of the time? Maybe other people are like me and will want to look at my collection. So please help me to make this work!


Friday, October 01, 2010

The Crocodile's Toothache by Shel Silverstein

For your viewing pleasure today, I have a video of The Crocodile's Toothache--performed by its author Shel Silverstein.

At Wild Rose Reader, I have an original poem titled Cotton Candy.

The Poetry Friday Roundup is over at Bibliophile this week.