Hoppily Hopping on the Children’s Blog Hop

WHAT A FUN IDEA! I love the way the kidlit community supports one another… and this is just another way.

The Children’s Author Blog Hop.

Kidlit authors answering four questions and then inviting three other kidlit friends to join in.

My sweet friend and gifted writer, Amy Dixon, “tagged” me. I want to print her post and hang it on my wall because I LOVE EVERY WORD. And not just because she gave me a shout-out, but because she gave my dear friends shout-outs too. I LOVE WRITERS! Okay, I know I’m yelling a lot. So let me step aside and introduce you to Amy. I met Amy at an SCBWI event in Fresno, CA. She was looking for a critique group and I had an awesome one. So I invited her to join. What luck that was for us. Her generous spirit, gifted writing ability, and commitment to the success of her stories and ours makes her an incredible asset to our group and our lives. Just goes to show…  🙂

I’m honored to introduce you to my dear friend, Amy Dixon.

Amy Dixon author photo AMY DIXON grew up as one of seven siblings, so the only peace and quiet she ever got was inside a book. Once she had her own kids, she rediscovered her love for picture books at the public library. It was the one place she knew all four of her kids would be happy . . . and quiet. She writes from her home in Clovis, where she lives with her four little inspirations and her marathon-running husband, Rob. MARATHON MOUSE is her first picture book. Her second picture book, SOPHIE’S ANIMAL PARADE, will be out from Sky Pony Press in Fall 2014. Find Amy online at http://www.amydixonbooks.com/. (Do you have any idea how much fun it is to see books published that you’ve helped critique? Thanks for letting me in on that journey with you, Amy!)

Alright, here are my answers! 🙂

WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON RIGHT NOW?

I  have about five picture books in the mix… two of which I’ve been working on for a couple years (like, 25 or more revisions) and one is newer but has been re-written a number of times already. I also have a narrative non-fiction novel in revision from NaNoWriMo last year… and plan on writing a YA novel this November. (This is way out of my comfort zone… I’m a picture book writer… yet this idea has been plaguing me for awhile. We’ll see where it goes). A couple of these are submission ready (as ready as they’ll ever be, right?) so off my “babies” go! Wish them well!

HOW DOES IT (DO THEY) DIFFER FROM OTHER BOOKS IN THE GENRE?

One is a character-driven fractured legend… I’ve never seen it done and it’s super clever (thanks PiBoIdMo for the idea!) All it needs is a publisher and a fantastic illustrator. It even has Mira Reisberg’s stamp of approval which excites me- it’s always nice to have professional affirmation. Another PiBoIdMo idea has transformed into a story way beyond what I expected (this is the new one I’ve already re-written). The characters had a different story to tell than I first imagined and now I’m just following them along. I already have a fabulous illustrator friend who’d love to work with it. It’s also a character-driven story that takes a unique twist on name-calling and finding friends in unlikely places. Another one takes a look at a child’s imagination- entirely from his point of view. The illustration will show what’s really going on while the text is purely his world as he sees it. It’s a lot of fun and a unique look at imagination.

WHY DO YOU WRITE WHAT YOU DO?

Why do I breathe? Why do I eat or sleep? I have to. Here are two great quotes that sums up my life:

I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.

-Flanner O’Conner

There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.

-Maya Angelou

Now, why children’s books? Like most writers, I’ve always been a writer.  I’ve been writing for children since I was a child. However when it came down to what I’d write professionally… I began with kidlit because of a dear friend, Dorina Gilmore, who mentored me in. I wouldn’t be here without her; it’s true. My goal- whether for children or for adults- is to offer hope, whether through inspiration, through laughter, or through a memorable character who struggles and is better for it.

WHAT IS THE HARDEST PART ABOUT WRITING?

Oh man. The first draft is sometimes pure agony. Hemmingway said it well:

There is nothing to writing. All you have to do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.

That blank screen just screams, “You’ll never get this out of your head onto paper and make it good. And no one will want what you do write.” As Anne Lamott says, one has to grab those crazy, screaming monkeys and lock them in a jar. The other hardest part is all of the silent rejections once you do love what you have and start subbing it. ‘Nough said.

NOW, on to the really cool people. These three lovely ladies are part of my European critique group and they are amazing. We are made up of writers and illustrators, published and not, all bringing such unique and important perspectives to our art.

 
 

MARIA BOGADE

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Maria Bogade is an illustrator and author with an animation background. After graduating 2007 from the University of Media in Stuttgart in Audiovisual Media, she started working as a freelance animation artist. Maria worked on award-winning projects such as “The Gruffalo.”

In 2011 she went after her dream of drawing all day. Shortly after leaping into her illustration career she authored her first book, “Schlafplatz Gesucht,” which was published beginning of 2012 by Bohern Press AG. Maria loves creating illustrations with a strong narrative, colourful and beautifully composed to entertain children and adults alike and let their imagination take them places, they might not have been before. Maria is a member of SCBWI and lives with her three children and spouse in a tiny town in Southern Germany. [She is currently the Regional Advisor of the Germany/Austria region of SCBWI!]

Clients include: Big Cat HarperCollins, Picture Kelpies an imprint of Floris Books, Kerle Verlag, Herder Verlag, HABA, Connect Marketing, Bohern Press, Magination Press, American Greetings, Aladdin / Simon & Schuster, Clavis Books, Oxford University Press, Roth GmbH,

Awards: Nautilus Silver Award 2013 for “Ben’s Flying Flowers.”

You can find her here: http://www.mariabogade.com/index.html 


GABRIELLE SMITH-DULHA

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Gabrielle Smith-Dluha has a Master’s Degree in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages and has been teaching English in countries all over the world for the past 20 years. Currently, she lives in Olomouc where she teaches English to both children and adults. In addition to teaching, she also writes textbooks, puzzle and game books, and children’s books. During the summer months, she teaches English at Stanford University in California. She is originally from California, but 20 years ago she fell in love with a handsome Czech university student and it changed her life forever…


MAGGIE SHEN F. J.

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Maggie Shen F. J. has been creating artwork for as long as she can remember, and art has always been a part of her life. She has worked with soft sculpture, installations, painting, and printing. She is also an art therapist. Most importantly, she loves to draw for children and to share life through art with them. Maggie Shen is a picture book author and illustrator based in Lausanne, Switzerland. You can find her at http://maggieshenfj.wordpress.com/
 
  
  
  
  
 

SCBWI Euro Con Scrawl Crawl through the French Revolution

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Sarah Towle (Founder of Time Traveler Tours and author of Beware Madame La Guillotine!) and I

I’m still reeling over all of the incredible information that was given to us at SCBWI’s first-ever European Conference in Paris. I’ve had the opportunity to share about some of the actual conference… but the pre-conference Scrawl Crawl deserves a post of its own.

So here we are!

I arrived in Paris with just enough time to find my hotel, drop my stuff, and Metro over to the Scrawl Crawl meeting place at the Palais Royal. (Yes, I just used “metro” as a verb). 🙂

But first, just what is a Scrawl Crawl? SCBWI provides a great description: 

An event where individuals create something speedily drawn or written [scrawl] that is inspired by their creativity and observational powers as they go from place to place [crawl].

This event is designed to get you and your fellow children’s book writers & illustrators out of the house/studio/office for a day and spend time being creative together.

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photo by Kirsten Carlson

In the garden of the Palais Royal I reunited with writer/illustrator friends I’d met last September. I looked forward to spending time with them again.

As if that perk wasn’t enough, I was privileged to meet other excited writers and illustrators, adding to my “collection” of new friends in the writing world of Europe.

Then an unexpected highlight… two students from my Creative Writing class showed up! They were home on Spring Break and joined the Scrawl Crawl, taking the opportunities to write and sketch seriously, to my delight. I loved spending the day with them.

Back to the Scrawl Crawl. We were fortunate and honored to have Sarah Towle guide us through the French Revolution through the eyes of Charlotte Corday. Sarah is the author of Beware Madame La Guillotine! – both in iBook and an app. The tour was so BMLG title screen on iphone - webmuch fun… it totally opened my eyes to a piece of Paris I had never seen or known before. Her app, as she describes it, is a “historical story-based mobile tourism app of Paris for teens, tweens, the young at heart: The World’s 1st StoryApp iTinerary.”

What a brilliant idea!

So we began at the Palais Royal, the birthplace of the French Revolution. We envisioned life in this bustling center of 1793 Paris… where passion was fueled by other like-minded world-changers. We followed Charlotte into the shadows… to the shop where she purchased the kitchen knife she would use to kill Jean Paul Marat… her hope unshakeable, that his death would end the violence tearing apart her nation and people. We paused in the shade of the trees and arcade (not from the sun but from the freezing cold and intermittent rain) to sketch inspired images or write whatever ideas came to mind. I did a combination of writing (until my ink began to run in the rain) and photo-journaling.

Sarah Towle guiding us through the French Revolution... with the Conciergerie in the background (former royal palace and prison)
Sarah Towle guiding us through the French Revolution… with the Conciergerie in the background (former royal palace and prison)

We followed Charlotte on her hunt for Jean Paul… passed the Starbucks for hot chocolate :)… then ultimately to the bridge that overlooks the Conciergerie… where Charlotte was held in prison for Jean Paul’s murder… and eventually beheaded. Again, at this beautiful site on the bridge… with the Eiffel Tower in the background and the setting sun coloring our world in hues of yellow and orange, we stopped and scrawled our ideas.

The Eiffel Tower in the background, with the sun setting on the Seine River.
The Eiffel Tower in the background, with the sun setting on the Seine River.

Amazing.

What a great idea for a Scrawl Crawl. Or any ‘ol day in Paris. I’m not sure which I enjoyed more… hanging out with Sarah, following Charlotte around 17th century Paris, spending the day with my students, rubbing shoulders with talented illustrators and writers, or the waves of disbelief that would find and smack me with “I can’t believe I live four hours from Paris!”

I’m going to end with a special “treat.” I rarely (okay, just about never) share things I’ve written (other than the blog-writing itself). BUT, below you’ll find something I quickly scrawled as we walked around the Palais Royal Gardens… just having learned of Charlotte and her life-giving search for freedom. Clearly, I never would have written this without the journey with Beware Madame La Guillotine! A Revolutionary Tour of Paris. Enjoy!

Dying for the cause that saves

One life for many

To return to nobility and dignity and righteousness

and end terror’s reign on humanity

And old tune, a new voice sings it

A cry for justice…

justice bridled to peace and mercy

But peace is violent

in attaining its reward

Sacrificial blood

Heart pumping for change

A change that will end another heartbeat

Willingly

Gladly

Here the river splits

One heart silent…

the other silences death, beats eternal.

© Marcy Pusey, 2013

The Scrawl Crawl group in front of the Louvre.
The Scrawl Crawl group in front of the Louvre.

My Facebook Cover Photo Project for Illustrators

I love following other writers, illustrators, agents, editors… anyone related to the kidlit writing world 🙂

One such of these friends is Harold Underdown– children’s book editor, author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Publishing Children’s Books, and the owner of The Purple Crayon. And, he had the brilliant idea of using his Timeline photo as a way to have a cool image AND promote the work of talented artists.

And I loved it. Even wondered why I don’t do the same.

So here we are 🙂 I’ve borrowed some of his “system” in this post… and hope I have a good response! From what I understand, he’s SIX MONTHS OUT on booked weeks of his cover photo.

Here’s how it works (borrowed from Harold):

“You’re a children’s book illustrator with a sample (published or unpublished) that will work in that W-I-D-E format (315 x 850 pixels). You send it to me attached to a FB message, as a JPG, already cropped. Do not send me to your website to choose something. You need to do that.

The image can’t have text (such as a title or interior text on it)–so if you have an interior spread you want to use, please remove that before sending.

If I like it, and I won’t like everything, I’ll post it as my Cover Page for a week, and post about it on my Wall. You’ll get a little exposure, I’ll get a nice image.”

Let’s do it!

To see this week’s Cover Photo, find me on Facebook here.