Thursday, April 19, 2007


I'm writing the sequel to Ellie McDoodle.

Ellie's in a new school in a new city and has all new friends and rivals.

The manuscript is due May 1.

I'm making good progress, but have had an increasingly agonizing feeling that something needed help. Something wasn't working.

For days I've been wringing my hands, staring into space, wrestling with my conscience about whether it was right to watch tv or read email or do *anything* other than slave over the book and its elusive but vital plot elements.

Finally today the right idea came. The answer is: The Lunchroom Debacle. What's the question? Well, that's the rest of the story, which now has a climax, some fun twists, and a reason for existing.

It'll still be an enormous challenge to get it done by May 1.

But at least it's no longer impossible. :)

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Joe Kulka's Art

As part of his blog book tour, Joe Kulka has graciously agreed to let me post some of the gorgeous art from his brand new book, WOLF'S COMING!
All of this art is copyright
Joe Kulka, used with his permission; please don't copy it.

In this spread I especially like how the little boy's being yanked out of the scene.

Here my favorite part is the dynamic angle and the bright color against night sky.

This one reminds me of some of the old-timey cartoons, the early ones from the 1930s and 40s, when craft really mattered.

And don't you just love that lucious color? Yep, me too.
Joe's one of those rare artists who can do both cartooning and also color.
Go on -- go check out his
book! It's got all good reviews on

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Joe Kulka's Blog Tour!

Enough about me. I'd like to talk about Joe.
Today I am pleased to act as Station #2 on the Blog Book Tour for
Joe Kulka, author and illustrator of a new picturebook, WOLF'S COMING! (Carolrhoda Picture Books)

This is the first book that Joe both wrote and illustrated, and to celebrate he's touring the blogs for interviews by a few of my author/illustrator friends in the kid lit world:
Check out yesterday's interview, by
Elizabeth Dulemba
See tomorrow's, by
Alan Gratz,
the next by
Dotti Enderle,

and the last by Barbara Johansen Newman.

You don't have to read the interviews in order, but I hope you'll check them all out because

1) they're fun and insightful
2) you'll learn a lot about Joe Kulka, and
3) he's one heck of a great illustrator and
WOLF'S COMING! deserves the buzz it's getting.

RMB: So, Joe, what's your favorite part of "Wolf's Coming!"?

JK: My favorite spread is the one where Wolf is creeping towards the tree with his tongue hanging out.
I like the way Wolf turned out in that one, I think he's got a good gesture to him and shows some
personality. I also think composition wise it was a nice spread with the simplicity of the dark tree trunk making for a good background for the text.
Plus it's probably the most scary/creepy looking illustration in the book so that always makes me happy.

RMB: Do you have a favorite routine or lucky clothes or a special muse that got you through the deadlines for this book?

JK: No, not really. Mostly seeing the mortgage bill arrive every month was all I needed to keep going and get it done.

RMB: How many times have you read this story to your kids?

JK: So far only twice.
The very first time they were distracted by SpongeBob on TV so I concede that battle.
The next time was when they were both tucked in for bed and it just magical.
They are 3 and 6 and especially watching my youngest's son face - he was all into it. And, at least I think so, not just because I wrote it. He was really listening to the story. I can't begin to describe how wonderful a moment that was. I'm just very grateful I got a book published while they were still young enough to enjoy it.

RMB: What kind of kid were you when you were growing up?

JK: A nerd. Glasses since second grade, constantly sniffling from allergies.
I was a very good student in school, usually straight A's.
Spent a lot of time in the library. Loved to draw. Liked playing basketball but pretty much was lousy at it.
So I spent even more time drawing. I started taking lessons on Saturdays from a local illustrator, Robin Heller, when I was 11. That pretty much set up my next 30 years for me. I would get an assignment and have a week to do it. Even at age 12 I remember staying up until 3 in the morning so I could finish my drawing.

RMB: What's up next, now that WOLF'S COMING! is out?

JK: Working on my next book as author and illustrator "The Rope" to be published by Pelican. After that I start on "Gingerbread Man Superhero" written by
Dotti Enderle. That should a lot of fun.

RMB: Thanks, Joe!
See a sampling of Joe's books on,
and check out his entertaining website at

And then check out the rest of the blog book tour:

- Elizabeth Dulemba
- Alan Gratz
- Dotti Enderle
- Barbara Johansen Newman.

Thank you, Kirkus xoxo

From Kirkus, my book's first review:
"Forced to go camping in northern Michigan with her three cousins and younger brother, 11-year-old Ellie keeps a copiously illustrated record of the experience, documenting her dislike for the family situation, as well as her growing enjoyment by the end of the week. Part journal, part graphic novel, all fun (with echoes of Harriet the Spy), this is a clever account of a growing-up experience that will be familiar to middle-grade readers. When Ellie’s journal is discovered and read by her cousin “Er-ICK” and her Aunt “Ug” (Eric and Mug), she learns something about her aunt and discovers common ground with her cousin.
When the four older children get lost in the woods at night, they find ways to work together to rescue themselves. Hand-lettered text supplements black-and-white cartoon-like drawings.
Full of wilderness-survival tips and instructions for counting out rhymes and group games, as well as for making an automatic spitball machine, this will be an agreeable summer read." --Kirkus Reviews, April 1, 2007

A brilliant child

I have the best critique group ever.
- They helped me through a tough revisions process
- They're unfailingly supportive of me and my work
- They're very smart writers, themselves
- They snap candid photos of their kids reading my book.

This is Claudia, age 3. She's too young to read but I hear she enjoyed the pictures.
(That's my ARC in her hands, the uncorrected advance proof)

Friday, April 13, 2007

Buy this book!

Yesterday two of my kids and I took a road trip to Grand Rapids to see my book on sale in Pooh's Corner bookstore. Three things hit me.
1) Pooh's Corner is an adorable store, with giant trees climbing up the center posts and original art adorning the walls. I bet kids love it.
2) The staff is very knowledgeable about kids' books. If you need a gift for an 11 year old boy who's a reluctant reader who loves -- well, you name it -- they know the book to buy.
3) The pride I feel in first seeing MY BOOK there on the shelves -- and selling -- is unforgettable. It's not quite the same as seeing your kindergartener perform in the school pageant. Maybe it's a close second.

Peeking in the front door of the store, this is what I saw:

That's my book!
It's displayed with sketchbooks and doodle pads and pens. (smart!)
And it's also on the wall with the new books.
I was going to test one of the staff members, and ask for a suggestion for a 10-year-old girl, and see if she recommended my book. But she recognized me from a recent SCBWI conference and said hello instead.

While I was there, a librarian bought my book!
I was asked to sign it.
My very first real book signing. (Oakview Library? Oakville? I'm sorry; I was so busy being amazed, my brain cells flew out the door)

I bought 6 books, including a copy of my book for me.
Yes, I already have a box of books at home. But buying my own book in a real bookstore is too big a thrill to pass up.

Box o' books

Look what has arrived!
When the first book came, I raced it to school to show whichever teachers were still there. (It was the Friday before Spring Break)
I cried on the way.
When the box of author copies arrived, I was ecstatic. Still am.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Teacher Guide is up!

Check out the new Ellie McDoodle Teacher Guide, created by the wonderful Tracie Vaughn Zimmer, teacher, reading specialist and children's author. Tracie's new book, REACHING FOR SUN, came out this month with Bloomsbury. If you need a Teacher Guide, Tracie's the person to ask.

The book debuts

This is from the newsletter sent to booksellers by my publisher:

One girl + one sketchbook + one week trapped on a camping trip with annoying relatives = fun for middle-grade readers.
ELLIE MCDOODLE:HAVE PEN, WILL TRAVEL by Ruth McNally Barshaw is the ideal book for a reader heading off to summer camp or on a family road trip, and a perfect addition to any summer reading display.
Visit for a teacher's guide, sketch blog, downloadable activities and more!

"Part journal, part graphic novel, all fun (with echoes of Harriet the Spy), this is a clever account of a growing-up experience that will be familiar to middle-grade readers." --Kirkus Reviews

Coming in May
ISBN 1-58234-745-X (Bloomsbury) $11.95; Ages 8 to 12