Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Foiled by Technology

Blackberry is hosting a series of projects with writers and musicians. The one that closed this past Monday featured the one and only Neil Gaiman. I love his writing. People tweeted story ideas for each month of the year, he chose twelve and wrote a short story for each one. Then artists had the opportunity to submit their illustrations for one or more of the stories.

October's struck a chord with me. The notion of enough is something we talk about frequently in my home. I am enough, I have enough, my life is good as it is. This doesn't mean there are no dreams or goals, but that there is a conscious appreciation of the bounty and richness that is daily life. A hot cup of coffee, sun on an upturned face, a good laugh, fresh brownies for sharing.

Technology is fickle and when I tried to upload my entry I received nothing but error messages. And then the deadline passed. And that's OK because things happen that cannot be controlled. I will share my image here. This is the story.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Jedi Strength

Meet Renn, a young Jedi who is in the hospital for a couple of days this week as doctors try to understand his amazing and complex brain. You can read about Renn's journey at The Brain of a Jedi and learn more about epilepsy at the Purple Day site.
Now, it's not easy for a Jedi to be cooped up in a hospital room when there is training to be done, so I found a few sites that may help to pass the time and keep skills honed.

Lego offers Star Wars games, movies and a comic builder for a young Jedi to enjoy (or even a not so young Jedi).

Word Search puzzles keep the mind sharp and this one has hidden Star Wars aliens. The main site has some fun non-Star Wars related word search. I know, I know, how can it be fun if it's not Star Wars?

Hello Kids is overflowing with Star Wars coloring pages and puzzles.

Don't forget the Clone Wars on Cartoon Network with episodes and games available for Jedi training. (This one may be for slightly older kiddos, but as every kid has different sensitivities I recommend a parent having a look to make sure the show will be OK for their child.)

For more Star Wars fun visit Susanna Leonard Hill's site - home of the best hare-brained schemes on the web today.

Our thoughts are with you and your family, Renn. May the force be with you!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Wednesday Sketch

Winter decided to share a season's worth of snow over the past three weeks here in Maine. The last storm left behind a thick layer that coated every last branch and it was gorgeous.
As I looked out at the woods, I imagined a Snow Queen stepping out from between the laden branches to survey her domain. The image in my head changed quite a bit while I was drawing it this morning. She was originally more angular with an elaborate, wide skirted dress, but when I sketched that form on the paper it wasn't right at all. I'm happy with the ice crystal headpieces and I guess she's more of an Ice/Frost Queen.
This image is from the morning after the storm. Everything sparkling in the sunlight and before the snow started falling off of the branches.
It's snowing again as I write this post with another 8-12 inches in the forecast. Whew! Spring will be especially glorious this year after all of this winter weather.

It's all about writing contests and resources this week!

Marcie Colleen is hosting a Food Fight writing contest on her blog. Sign ups start now and the winner will receive a free registration for the Picture Book Academy's self-paced e-course "Writing Wonderful Character-Driven Picture Books." I enrolled in the Craft and Business of Writing Children's Picture Books and it was a great experience. I imagine this course will be just as wonderful!

The next Craft and Business of Writing Children's Picture Books e-course starts March 11th and you may be able to find a spot if you're interested. Mira is a treasure trove of information so take advantage of the knowledge she's sharing.

Speaking of courses, Susanna Leonard Hill may still have an opening or two for her March session of Making Picture Book Magic. The comments from people taking the first session of this course have been very positive and this one is on my list for this year. I'll enroll the fall when I have the space to focus on the information. You don't have to wait, though!

I've said it before and I'll say it again, Susanna needs to share her secret for time management. In addition to her picture book writing course and her own writing work, she's hosting a Spring writing contest. The winner here will have the opportunity to send a picture book manuscript to Laura Galvin, editor at kidsbooks.

So pick up those notebooks, laptops or random scraps of envelopes and start writing!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Wednesday Work

In the midst of my projects, I am trying to remember to keep up with my sketching. This is the place where larger ideas are born and it's nice to play with images in a loose, light way. I have books on the mind this week. Probably because we're picking up a couple of bookcases today.
I often jot notes to myself on the corners of the pages. This one says "dog spit on my sketchbook." Apparently this was a problem as I was drawing.
Lots of fun links this week!

Julie Hedlund's A Troop is a Group of Monkeys App is finally available in the iTunes store! We picked up our copy and it's a fun addition to our iPad selection. Joanna Marple reviews it on her blog. Congratulations on your first published book, Julie!

Carrie Finison at Storypatch has been working her way through Ann Whitford Paul's Writing Picture Books: A HAnds-On Guide from Story Creation to Publication. Carrie's companion posts to each chapter have been a very helpful to me as I work my way through the book.

Polly Dunbar writes about the delicate balance between words and images in picture books.

If you've ever read any of the Gossie and Friends books, you must read this interview with Oliver Dunrea. 

And just in case you missed last week's Poetry Friday at No Water River, here is your chance to see the abridged abridged version of Romeo and Juliet. The beautiful artwork of Julie Rowan-Zoch is featured as well.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Working Out a Book Dummy

This week I have been working on a book dummy for one of my own projects. In order to break down the manuscript, I cut it up and staple it together to see how it flows with page turns. Then I pick out the staples, cut, tape, re-staple and repeat several more times until it works.
After the manuscript is set, I sketch out a series of thumbnails to see how the images work together. This time I cut out the thumbnails and taped them together into a tiny book. It's easier for me to see what I want to change if I'm looking at it in the final format. The next step is to start working on full scale roughs, make any needed adjustments and then on to the final images.
Since I can't share what I'm working on right now, I'll share a geek sketch from this week. We love Dr. Who around here and I had a bit of fun drawing the eleventh doctor as a seven year old kiddo. 
A few good posts around the internet this week:

Will Terry shares his thoughts in a video titled New Ways to Market Your Illustration. It's well worth the time to watch, as are his other videos.

If you're feeling clever, visit David L. Harrison's blog to Caption That Cartoon.

Barbara Franc has created these beautiful birds from recycled metal pieces.

Steven Salerno has a new book BOOM! which will be out this year and he has a great post detailing his artistic process.

Kathy Teaman is offering a few excellent opportunities for authors and illustrators on her blog.

Have a great Wednesday!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Punxsutawney Phyllis Rides Again

Is there anything better on Groundhog Day than a visit from Punxsutawney Phyllis? Probably not and after our wonderful experience with her last May, we were happy to join in the February fun along with several other weather and groundhog loving friends. A complete list can be found on Susanna Leonard Hill's blog.

Ethan and I started the day by printing up and coloring the fabulous Phyllis action figure. Ethan decided to forgo the accessories that came with Phyllis, giving her a pair of blue glasses just like his instead. We then tucked in by the wood stove to read Punxsutawney Phyllis. Inspired by Phyllis's discoveries of signs of spring, Ethan and I bundled up to see if we could find any ourselves.

It was a sunny and brisk 16 degrees here yesterday morning. Yes, you heard that right. Sunny. A perfect winter day in Maine, but not so great for anyone hoping for groundhogs to predict an early spring.
Eep! Here there be shadows!
There are several small streams that wind their way through our property and we decided to see what they had to say about spring. Smile for the camera, Phyllis and Ethan! On our walk we noticed that there was no wind, the air was cold and did not smell like spring, and several doves were startled out of their hiding places as we passed by.
Looking for signs of spring.
But what did we hear as we approached the stream? The sweet burble of running water! Icy cold, but running freely. David and Ethan have made a plan to grab the water filter and go back to the stream to get water for "spring" tea today. (It's regular black tea, but we're calling it spring tea in honor of the unfrozen stream)
Running water is music to their ears!
As we arrived back at the house, we were greeted by a flock of Black-capped Chickadees singing and fluttering around our porch feeder. It was starting to feel like we had walked right into Phyllis's story!
Feathered friends sharing a song.

Well, according to the book Punxsutawney Phyllis we found two of the signs of spring Phyllis pointed out to her uncle (the brook and the birds), but were lacking the other two important signs (the Spring Zephyr and the earthy smell of warmer weather). We won't even mention the bold, dark shadows stretching across the snow.

Ethan and I decided that winter is still upon us and we embraced the cold with a crystal snowflake project. You just need borax, boiling water, a wide mouthed jar, pipe cleaners (it recommends using white, but we were all out), string and a pencil. Watching the crystals form as the water cooled was pretty amazing. We'll break out the magnifying glasses today to get a closer look.
The finished snowflake.
And how do you end a day as fun as this one? By snuggling on the couch and reading Can't Sleep Without Sheep, another excellent book by Susanna. Happy Groundhog Day and enjoy the weather, even if spring turns out not to be right around the corner.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013


This girl was in my head the other night and David said it's good that I got her out because she's scary. Imagine meeting her in a dim hallway. *shudder, shudder* I like her, though.
A couple of character sketches, working out details and facial expressions. It's a challenge for me to draw the same person in different ways. So, I practice...
and practice.

This week the American Library Association announced the 2013 youth media award winners. This is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen has been awarded the Caldecott Medal. We love his book I Want My Hat Back and I think we need to add This is Not My Hat to our collection. 

Susanna Leonard Hill has officially launched her Making Picture Book Magic course and the February and March groups are already full. Congratulations on a great start, Susanna! 

In other Susanna news, Groundhog Day is coming and Punxsutawney Phyllis is ready for an adventure at your house! Check out this post for information on how you can join in the fun this Saturday. We were lucky enough to have Phyllis visit our home last spring and I'm looking forward to a second round of fun this weekend.  

Tax season is upon us and Ash Krafton has advice on whether or not you should file as a writer. Is your writing considered a hobby or a business? This post is not to be considered legal information.
Do your homework when filing your taxes.

I hope you all are having a great week!