Monday, March 31, 2014

Rhyming Picture Book Month starts TODAY!

Join Angie Karcher all through April as she brings in 35 guest authors to divulge their secrets on what makes great rhyme and how to write it.

Sign up here.
It's easy and fast.
Then read Angie's blog all month.
Soak in the wisdom of such rhymers as -- well, name someone in the industry.
They're probably on the list.

Read the posts, follow the lessons, comment occasionally so you are eligible for prizes, and -- did I mention this part? IT'S ALL FREE.
Join us. (My day is April 23)
By the end of April you'll be on your way to becoming an expert in writing rhyme for picturebooks.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

I'm part of Sketchables!

I always thought blog collectives were pretty cool. I belong to a few of them and rarely take part.
The incongruence of those two beliefs made me hesitate when The Sketchables asked me to join their rebooted effort of blogging sketches.
My worry was that I wouldn't keep up.
I tend to get very busy with deadlines and school visits and new projects.

This spread from my sketchbook was drawn
at the NY Public Library's fantastic exhibit,
The ABC of It: Why Children's Books Matter.

But I knew it'd be good to get into the habit of posting my art online regularly. I have probably 500 full sketchbooks at my house. Some of that work is worth sharing.
So I said yes.

Here's my latest Sketchables post. It shows a page of first draft art for my next Ellie McDoodle book.

Check out the Sketchables blog. See cool, fun sketches by
Priscilla Burris,
Heather Powers,
Nina Crittenden,
Joy Steuerwald,
Steve Bjorkman,
and me.

And, if you're inspired, get sketching!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

MRA Poster by Matt Faulkner and me

Michigan Reading Association held its 2014 conference this past weekend, and I got to do some presentations at it. At the huge general session on Sunday they unveiled the poster for next year's conference and -- ta-daaa! -- I helped create it.

Fellow Michigan author-illustrator and dear friend Matt Faulkner drew the MRA lettering scene and that gorgeous, intricate calligraphy of the words Honesty, Diversity, Unity, and Equality.

I did the Michigan readers pen/watercolor art and the layout.

These posters were distributed to teachers and librarians and will hang in schools around the state.
I've already seen a few in schools, actually.
This is a busy season for author visits-- I'll watch for more in my travels to schools around the state.
Pretty heady stuff!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Take your journal everywhere!

I take my sketchbook/journal everywhere with me.
To school visits.
To field trips.
To family vacations.
To any place where I think I'll have to stand in line for a while.
To my kid's (and grandkids') sports events and concerts and award ceremonies.
To weddings, births, funerals, parties.
Even to church.
I used to be squeamish about that. I'd get my priest to bless each new journal, figuring that was his tacit permission to sketch during Mass.
I'm not squeamish about it anymore. One of the priests brings his journal to Mass! And the children in our church's school are encouraged to bring theirs.
Often a kid in church will recognize me (from a school visit, or because I donate art to the religious education program). I try not to be conspicuous -- I don't want parents to think I'm a bad role model.
Writing and drawing during Mass helps me to remember the important things (and some trivial stuff too).

Thursday, March 6, 2014

March is Reading Month -- and Author Visit Month

Aside from whenever the tight book deadlines fall, March is my busy time. In Michigan, March is Reading Month.
That means in March lots of schools like to bring authors in to talk with their students about writing and reading.
Ohio's big month for school visits is in May, so we'll be busy then, too.

Charlie and I do a great workshop presentation.
It's interactive and educational and -- bonus! -- kids always, always, always exit our sessions excited about writing. That's because we create an illustrated story right there with them, with their help.
We also leave all the papers with the school so the students can revise the story or create something new, and they have all the tools and knowledge they'll need.

Last year we were at a new school pretty much every day in March (sometimes more than one school in a day).
This year we encouraged teachers to schedule our visits in the other months, Sept through February and also in April and May, so we'd be less busy in March. It's rewarding to connect with kids all through the year -- I'm sure it helps me understand my kid characters better.
And we love the work!
Kids respond well -- we change our presentation to fit any level, age 3 up through high school, always with fabulous results. Teachers give fantastic testimonials.
Charlie and I have the best job I could imagine.

Here's a sketchbook page from our visit to Frankenmuth, Michigan, at the end of February/beginning of March. Our hotel lost water and internet service for part of a day so Charlie and I bundled up and explored the town.

One completely unexpected, amazingly great thing happened in Frankenmuth Thursday night: I thought of a brilliant new picture book idea. It's one of those stories that comes complete with a title already thought up, and the characters almost fully developed. It'll take a while to be ready to share with the world, but I'm excited, and I'll always remember this book had its roots in my school visits.