Thursday, December 26, 2013

Gifts of art, gifts from the heart

I'm an artist and author. My books haven't cracked the NYTimes best sellers list yet. My husband worked retail for 25 years. We've lived well and we've lived tight. Right now we're in a modest income bracket. I'm also on deadline for the next Ellie McDoodle book.
That's typical this time of year.
And so, most years I make as many of my Christmas gifts as I can, at the last minute.
Most years my aspirations are much higher than my actual reach.
That's why it's been about a decade (or two) since I mailed out a Christmas card.
(I feel terrible about this.)
One of these years I'll have the perfect confluence of time and means. Watch out!
In the meantime, homemade gifts.
This was for my mom and her siblings, and any cousins who wanted them.

This is my dear Grandma Ruth and Grandpa George Codd, getting married:

 They loved to travel.

 This is the swimsuit fashion of the late 20s and early 30s, when I like to think they packed up and played at the beach of Saugatuck or Grand Haven:

 They took the entire family (their 10 kids and all their families) to Bob-Lo Island Amusement Park every year on Labor Day. Some of my best childhood memories are Grandma Ruth and Grandpa's parties.

Grandma Ruth was a golfer. 
I did not inherit that love. 
I've never tried golf and I'm terrible at miniature golf.
My grandson's favorite part of Grandparent University at
Michigan State University was the miniature golfing.

Grandpa and Grandma had a big Irish Catholic 
(part French and Swiss too) family.
That little one with the teddy bear is my mom.
I know Aunt Marj's arm is too long. This is just the
rough art scanned into Photoshop.

Are weddings predestined? 
Is it prearranged by the lovers before they are born?

Destiny or not, I am lucky to have been born into the Codd family.
My Grandpa Codd became my best friend in the years before he died; after he'd lost Grandma Ruth to dementia my cartoony notes to him became more important to him and also to me. I've started a blog elsewhere about them. I'll share it widely eventually.
I miss my grandparents.
My love for them makes me try harder to be a good grandma to my own grandkids.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Ellie McDoodle Diaries: Ellie for President

This book comes out in September, 2014.

Here's the first page in the first draft:

Here's the first page a few drafts later:

Astute readers will notice Ellie's relatives from book 1 are in the crowd scene on page 1 in book 6.
I figured it was time to bring them back for a visit. 

Monday, September 30, 2013

Ellie McDoodle, Book 6: Four *more* first draft pages

Here are four more first draft pages from my Ellie sketchbook for book 6.
There are 170 pages in one Ellie McDoodle book.

^^ Pages 12 and 13 comprise one two-page spread.

^^ Pages 14 and 15 comprise one two-page spread.

Only 155 more pages to go!
It'll be worth it. :)

Monday, September 23, 2013

Ellie McDoodle, Book 6: Four more first draft pages

More pages from my Ellie McDoodle book 6 sketchbook.
I like constraining my sketches to a journal/book format in the planning stages. It adds a layer of challenge.

 ^^ Pages 8 and 9 face each other on one 2-page, open-book spread.

^^ Pages 10 and 11 face each other on one spread.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Ellie McDoodle: Book 6, more first draft pages

Four pages from book 6's first draft sketchbook:

Pages 4 and 5 are one spread.
Pages 6 and 7 are the next spread.

Ellie's grandpa (who, um, doesn't quite have a name yet) is a big supporter of her art. 
My Grandpa George was a big proponent of my work. I'd send him my hand-scrawled cartoons and he'd put them on his fridge and make his visitors read them. I know this because they'd tell me at family parties. I know they didn't mind. 
It felt great (still does!) to know he loved my work, especially since I don't always feel confident about it myself.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Ellie McDoodle: book 6 draft 1

When I talk with kids in schools, they seem to think authors write their books from beginning to end, perfectly, no revisions, and then the books are published.
It's not that simple.
After that perfect writing there's a revisions process that for some authors can take years.
I love revising because a) I know my early drafts are not very good, and b) I know the finished manuscript will be *much* better after lots of careful revisions.

I'm in the revisions process right now for Ellie McDoodle, book 6.
Here are some of the first draft scribbles.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

When Life Hands You Lemons, Draw Them

It was almost exactly 38 years ago that my high school art teacher took me out in the hallway and gave me a little blank book to draw and write in. It was hardbound, maybe 200 pages, and I'd never seen a book like that before in my life. 
I'd used diaries (hated, HATED the lines and confining dates in them) and I'd used sketchbooks (loved the textured paper, disliked the spiral binding that always let go of the pages) and I'd used scribble pads (loved the smooth paper and low price, disliked the poor binding that fell apart; I never filled them). I'd never seen a blank book that I could fill however I wanted.
Today these things are everywhere. My favorite brand is Moleskine, but I'll use anything in a pinch, and often make my own.

Though I was immensely grateful, it took me a long time to get up the guts to ruin that book by writing and drawing in it. It helped that she wasn't going to grade or approve my work. I'd had a spotty record of turning in work in art class, just a couple short years earlier.
These days I talk about this wonderful teacher -- and awesome teachers who go beyond what's expected to help the most wretched kids, like me -- in almost every single author presentation I do. 
That's many hundreds, so far. Maybe thousands.

This teacher gave me a way out of the scary, ugly stuff in my head and in my life. She gave me a safe way to vent. She gave me a way to remember the good things for my whole life. And she gave me, ultimately, a career. Ellie McDoodle is my character who records her life in a sketchjournal. 

I still keep a sketchjournal with me almost all of the time. I'm not big on constricting, useless rules, so I don't make myself draw in it every day, and I don't keep it with me in the shower, and I sometimes make mistakes or leave blank pages or write or draw something that isn't my best. Eh, it doesn't matter. The perfectionist in me is muted now that I am over 50. And maybe my collection of about 450 imperfect sketchjournals from over the years will be useful to others someday.

For now, for me, they're a daily reminder of what that first book from Mrs. Elizabeth McCarthy taught me: 
- when life hands you lemons, draw them.
- keep track of both good and bad; someday you'll be glad you did.
- it's okay to make mistakes. Most mistakes are funny, years later.
- keep a sketchjournal. And then take good care of it when it's full.

Here's a sketch from that first sketchjournal, from 1975, in my 16 year old hand. 
I'm pushing my younger brother on the tire swing at a picnic.

Here's a page from one of my recent trips to the Upper Peninsula. That's my husband and me on a Lake Superior beach in Marquette. It's surprising to me that my art is so similar, almost 40 years later.

I tell kids to keep a journal. I think it's the single most important thing they can do to figure out their lives. And who doesn't need that?

I'll share more on great teachers in a future post -- I certainly have been lucky to know very many.
I'll share more from my sketchjournals in future posts, too. But maybe you'd like to see what others do with their Moleskine notebooks. Click here:

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Book spine fun

My local indie bookstore's most recent Shelf Awareness issue features Nina Katchadourian's new SORTED BOOKS, an insightful and fun introduction to the idea of rearranging books to form dialogues, jokes, fragments, questions and poetry.
Buy Nina's book at your favorite indie bookstore, or from Schulers, where I sip tea and write books.

Travis Jonker at 100 Scope Notes (now part of the School Library Journal blog family) has been displaying book spine poetry for years, too. And he's put out a call for entries.

Every other time he called for entries I told myself I was too busy and couldn't participate.
Well, I am still busy.
(This is March Is Reading Month! Charlie and I trekked through rain, sleet, and snow to speak to zillions of schoolkids about how to become better writers. And I am on deadline for the 6th Ellie McDoodle book.)

But this time I heed Travis's call.

My book spine poem is about Ellie McDoodle and her love for taking a notepad into nature and documenting what she sees -- and the line at the end exhorts us all to follow her.
Click on the image to see it larger.

The book titles, top to bottom:

Picture This                                       (by Molly Bang)
The Call of the Wild                          (by Jack London)
In the Nick of Time                           (Ed: Anne Van Wagner Childs)
Someone Like You                            (by Sarah Dessen)
Ellie McDoodle                                 (by Ruth McNally Barshaw)
Alive                                                   (by Piers Paul Read)
Awake to Wildlife                              (by Tim Nowicki)
Go Girl!                                              (by Hannah Storm)
Loving the Earth                                (by Frederic Lehrman)
Thinking Visually                               (by Mark Wigan)
Pencil Sketching                                (by Thomas C. Wang)
Pictures of Hollis Woods                   (by Patricia Reilly Giff)
Great Expectations                            (by Charles Dickens)
The World of Incredible Outdoor Adventures by Field & Stream
Star in the Forest                               (by Laura Resau)
Now We Can Go                                (by Ann Jonas)

Try your own Book Spine Poetry! Tell Travis about it.
Take a notebook out into the woods. Tell me about it.
Now we can go!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Ellie McDoodle is in China! And More News...

The sale of Ellie McDoodle simplified Chinese rights for the first four books was announced this week. This brings a whole new (huge!) audience for the Ellie McDoodle Diaries. Welcome, readers in China!
You join the readers in North America, Italy, France, Turkey, and South Korea.

Ellie McDoodle gets a makeover this May,
with a new cover for every book:

Did you notice the new name, too? The Ellie McDoodle Diaries are coming to a bookstore or library near you!
Ellie herself remains the same, though. She's a strong, smart kid who always has a journal with her to capture her adventures in. Ellie was made in Michigan but she's destined to travel the whole world.

Book 5 comes out on May 28. In it, Ellie and her friends put on a play: The Wizard of Oz. Their version is based on both The Wizard of Oz book (published in 1900) and The Wizard of Oz film (1939). The Wizard of Oz is one of the best known and most beloved books of all time. The film has been my favorite since the Wicked Witch of the West scared the bejeebers out of me when I was 4. My book, The Ellie McDoodle Diaries: The Show Must Go On, is my tribute to the creative minds who put together the original book and film. I added a few things that aren't in the originals -- like Evil Toto:
(Don't worry! Dorothy and Ellie are in no danger. And you might be glad to know that no cairn terriers nor flying monkeys were injured in the writing and illustrating of this book)

What else is new: My website!!! 
Go check it out:
Kids especially like the character pages:
and the peek at some of my other work: .

March is Reading Month! Charlie (my husband and helper) and I are winding up a very, very busy month of school, book festival, and teacher conference appearances. More on some of that, later. For now, let me just say that I am pretty sure I get the BEST fan mail of any author or illustrator, anywhere. Ellie McDoodle fans often send doodles and illustrated notes. I will share some with you as soon as I get my book deadlines handled.
Which reminds me...

Book 6 is on the way! It's about elections and confidence and believing in yourself and ... well, I am not sure yet what else it's about. I'm still writing the outline. But I do know this: The book comes out next year, so I need to stay on top of the deadlines. 
When things settle down here, I will share some first draft art and writing with you. (Well, after I've written and drawn it. I haven't gotten to that stage, yet. Maybe I will share some first draft writing and art from book 5 -- that one's done.)
Warning: You might not recognize any of it. My first draft writing and art is very different from my final book writing and art. I make a lot of mistakes and I need lots of revisions before my work is ready to put in a book. Luckily, I have a wise editor and a critique group of smart writers to help me.

That's it for now. I'll post more news soon. Thanks for stopping by!