Friday, October 31, 2008

I'd choose supernatural

I'm surprised at how many people picked dead, when I questioned whether or not they'd pick to be supernatural, or dead. Of course the rules did kind of suck. The one I added at the last minute was the lack of free will. I think some supernatural creatures would have free will, or thwart those that try to control them, or are the ones that are controlling others. It's just probably more common that they don't. Most people have to answer to someone, right?

I think I'd still pick supernatural. Of course that might be a huge mistake, but at least I'd get to try it and see. Who knows, maybe my rules are totally bogus and it's a complete free-for-all. Besides, I could always go find a vampire/zombie/ghost hunter to help end my misery if it was really horrible. Did I forget to mention the hunters? Probably makes you happier you said dead.

I guess I'd just be willing to take the leap and see what happened, instead of going to a certain death. Like I said, that could be a HUGE mistake, or not.

I'm still working on my (Sheila the zombie cheerleader) story for the contest and crossing my fingers that it will be done in time to post it.

Happy Halloween everyone! I hope you all get your favorite treats today. :)

Thursday, October 30, 2008

supernatural dead, or just plain dead?

I was writing my short story for the merry fates contest (deadline tomorrow! anyone else entering?), when I started to wonder what it would be like to be supernatural, and whether or not I would choose to be, if I had the choice. Sure, powers are cool and all that, but how likely would it be that you would be able to control the dark side of it, or that you would stay the same, personality-wise? And would you really want to be eating brains or sucking blood?

So, here are my philosophical type questions for you today, because I’m curious, and because tomorrow is Halloween:

1. If you had to choose between being dead, or being turned into a supernatural being, which would you choose? (see rules below)

2. If you chose to be supernatural, you would be able to achieve something you've always wished for, like being a successful published author, or a rock star. Would that change your answer to question #1?

* For this blog post, supernatural creatures are not nice or safe, like Casper the Friendly Ghost, Sheila the Zombie Cheerleader, or Edward Cullen and Jacob Black. If you became supernatural, you would likely have to kill people to eat, or at least drain some blood once in a while.

* If you choose to be supernatural, you may not have free will. There might be a leader or a puppet master deciding what you do.

* For those wondering about the afterlife (whatever after life you believe in, or don't), choosing to be supernatural would not affect your afterlife, except if you decided to kill/maim/hurt people just for the fun of it after you changed (as opposed to needing to eat for sustenance, or being ordered or forced to do it when you were trying not to).

So, what do you think? My character for tomorrow has already made her choice, what’s yours?

What would I choose? I posted my choice here.

What did my character choose? Go here to find out.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

road trips, monsterous birds and blogapalooza

Today is blogapalooza! (Or Pumpkin Fest, as I’m calling it, because of the pumpkins at the top of our posts). Angela Nickerson set up this wonderful blog tour and her story today is really frightening! Theme: What a Strange Trip It's Been. All the participating blogs have strange or scary travel stories today (links to all the participating blogs are on the right hand side of Angela’s blog).

Prizes! If you comment on Angela’s blog today, you might win a prize!

Here’s my scary-strange travel story:

I’m originally from Minnesota, where there’s lots of wildlife, like deer, moose, bears, squirrels, raccoons, wolves, and cows, lots and lots of cows. I’ve seen all of them except a moose or a wolf, but I’ve seen bison crossing the road in Yellowstone, which is basically the same thing (not really, but bison are BIG). So I’ve seen large animals before …

In college, a friend and I drove to New Mexico for job interviews. We went, we interviewed, we swam in the hotel pool in our clothes (because we forgot our swimsuits), and then we drove back home, which is when things got weird.

On the way back, we took turns driving. My friend was sleeping and I was driving, somewhere in New Mexico or West Texas, where there are long stretches of highway and no other cars. A large shadow passed over the car. I thought it was the shadow of a plane or a cloud passing over the sun or something, but no. A second later, a huge, and I mean HUGE bird dropped from the sky and landed on the highway right in front of the car. I slammed on the brakes, and stopped just short of the bird, and screamed or cursed (probably both) which woke my friend up.

We both stared at this monstrosity as it spread it’s mega wide wings (much wider than the car). I thought I was hallucinating, but it was in the middle of the day, and my friend saw it too. Maybe we were both hallucinating. This thing looked positively prehistoric, but with feathers. I knew that it wanted to eat us for lunch, from the way it tried to hypnotize us with all its wing flapping, and stared at us to see how fat we were. Eventually it decided not to try to eat us, or it realized we weren’t going to get out of the car, or decided it couldn’t eat the car and it flew away. I didn’t know they made birds that big, neither did my friend.

I vowed to never tell anyone, because they wouldn’t believe me, but that vow didn’t last long. The first person I told was completely un-phased and said, “oh, that was probably just a vulture.”

What do you mean it was “probably just a vulture??” You didn’t see how HUGE that thing was. Are you sure that’s what vultures look like?? It totally didn’t look like the pictures I’ve seen, or the cartoons, plus I thought they were smaller! This thing was like a pterodactyl!

The moral is, if you’ve never seen it before and it’s huge and menacing, anything can be scary, even a cow.

When there are news reports of people freaking out over a cow that got loose in the city, I can totally see how they’d be frightened if they’d never seen a cow before (but I still think it’s funny that they’re scared of a cow). I’d take a cow over a vulture any day, but that’s just me. Vultures are freaking scary! And nothing should have a wingspan that wide, unless it’s a pterodactyl.

p.s. My friend got the job and I didn’t, which I have always been grateful for. That bird looked like a stalker.

p.p.s. I looked up some info today, and from the pictures, it could have been a condor or a black vulture. I can’t remember the face well enough to be sure.

p.p.p.s. Even Sheila is afraid of vultures, especially zombie vultures. Can you imagine?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

new art features starting Monday

Starting next Monday, I'll be starting something new on my blog. Mondays will be art days! There are four different kinds of art days (so far):

Art Spotlight: Where I talk about an artist or a museum show or some other fun art that I've found.

Notes and Quotes: Notes and quotes from artists, art directors and/or editors about children's book art.

Arts and Crafts: Fun projects that you can do by yourself or with your family. No art training required.

Illustrator Interviews: Where I interview children's book illustrators about their books.*

*If you are an illustrator that wants to be considered for an interview in the future, please email me - - with Art Day in the subject line. Please include your most recent book title, or forth coming title (along with the release date), the name of the author (if it's not you) and your website URL (if you have a site). I'm looking for children's book artists that do covers, black and white interior art, graphic novels, picture books, etc. If you do art for children's books and have a book out, or coming out, I'd like to interview you.

Sheila wants me to make Friday "zombie day" so she can have her own day to play. However, she hasn't promised to stay on Friday and not visit all the other days as well. Do you think she should have her own day? This Friday we'll find out how Sheila became a zombie cheerleader.

The Art Day Schedule for November is:
11/3 - Illustrator Interview: Sherry Rogers
11/10 - Illustrator Interview: Diane Dawson Hearn
11/17 - Illustrator Interview: Deborah Freedman
11/24 - Art Spotlight: Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Balloons

Friday, October 24, 2008

contest, postcards, pickled skunks

Halloween short story contest over on the merry fates blog! Go here, enter, get cool prizes! (Or don’t enter, and I will win with my silly story of how Sheila became a zombie cheerleader.)

If you entered my NaNo title contest, don’t forget to email me your address and which Sheila image and cheer you want on your postcard. Sheila wants to cheer you on!

Sheila’s team at Zombie High is getting a new name and mascot (suggested by Sheila, the head cheerleader, of course). The new team name for Zombie High is: The Pickled Skunks!
Sheila’s favorite thing about the new name is that they get new uniforms. It’s best if you don’t think about pickled skunks, or what they are, just bask in the delicious absurdity of the name. You really don’t have to think about actual pickled skunks … you’re thinking about pickled skunks now, aren’t you? Fine. Sheila wants me to show you a picture. Do you like the pickled skunk?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

and the winners are …

EVERYONE! No seriously, everyone gets postcards! The entries were all wonderful and I spent a LOT of time last night trying to decide. After I made my final decision, DH came home and we debated the titles again. I ended up with my original decision :) So, everyone that suggested a title before the deadline, plus the volunteer cheerleader, gets a postcard. Please email me [stephanie (at) sruble (dot) com] with your name, address, and which Sheila image and cheer you want. Go here if you want to see your choices again. Thanks for all the excellent suggestions!!!!!

Now for the title winners!

… drum roll …

* the runner up is: Barb (boreal_owl), for CLOAKED. She wins a magnet or button of her choice from my cafepress store, along with a postcard. (Let me know which design you want Barb.) Why this title rocks: It sounds cool, fits the story, and when I looked it up on, one of the definitions made me like it even more: "leaf-clothed trees.” The idea of cloaked trees is really interesting.

**And now for the winner … there are 2 Winners!**
I couldn’t choose between them, so I picked both and combined them to get my new title :)

* the first winner is: Adrienne, for A BEE-LINE TO GRANNY’S HOUSE. She wins a journal of her choice from my cafepress store, along with a postcard. (Let me know which design you want Adrienne.) Why this title rocks: While the title is a bit young, it was the only title to mention Grandma, one of the major characters in the book. Plus Granny could be changed to Grandma to make it older, and Bee-Line indicates that the MC is following a path to Granny’s house.

*the second winner is: Brenda, for THE STINGING PATH. She wins a journal of her choice from my cafepress store, along with a postcard. (Let me know which design you want Brenda.) Why this title rocks: This title has 2 of the main elements to the book, the bees, and the path through the woods. Both of these things shape the story and impact what happens in it.


My new NaNoWriMo title is PATH OF BEES. Thank you everyone for all the great titles and for helping me name my novel!

Now for the numbers (since I know some of you like number-y things).
14 people entered the contest (some came back for a second round)
1 person offered to be a zombie mom cheerleader
58 titles were suggested
8 finalists were selected after much pondering on my part, then I got stuck
1 runner up
2 winners combined for 1 new title
2x - Some titles were suggested twice: Red, Hood in the Wood and A Hood in the Woods, Forest Buzz and The Forest of Buzz

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

blogapalooza, Rutgers, illustrator interviews, and title contest

I found out from Adrienne that Angela Nickerson of Just Go! is having a Blogapalooza on October 29th. Anyone can join, and there are goodie bags! Go Here to find out more.

Tara Lazar was one of the lucky people to attend the Rutgers One-on-One conference this year, and lucky for us, she’s sharing her notes. All the notes are great, but The Five Rules for Picture Books post is really helpful!

The illustrator interviews will be starting in a couple of weeks! There are lots of great illustrators lined up for this year and a few for next year already. I’ll be putting out a call for illustrators to interview next year soon.

The NaNo novel naming contest is almost over. Deadline for entries is 5pm EST. There are already so many amazing title suggestions that I’m not sure what I’m going to choose. Thanks! You guys are way better at titles than I am!

Only 10 more days until Halloween! Do you have your costume yet? Are you already eating the trick-or-treat candy, you know, to make sure it's safe for the children? ;)

Monday, October 20, 2008

time management tips from the procrastination exterminator

When I registered for the SCBWI LA conference this year, I listed my occupation as “procrastination exterminator,” in addition to writer and illustrator. At the time, it was wishful thinking, and as evidenced by my behavior last week, I tend to go off on tangents with projects that aren’t necessarily the ones I should be working on. I don’t think I can ever completely curb my tendency for tangential projects, and I wouldn’t want to (Sheila the zombie cheerleader is another example). However, I need to be a little more focused in getting the things I need to do done, so I can go off and play afterwards.

Everyone has their own time management system. Here’s what’s worked for me in the past and what’s new. Use the tips that might work for you, and share your tips in the comments if you want.

15 minutes of fame: Each person reportedly gets (at least) fifteen minutes of fame, the same should be true for your procrastination projects. Set the timer for 15 minutes and dig into that task you don’t want to do (even if it’s your WIP and you really do want to write or draw that scene, but just don’t know how). When the timer rings, hopefully you will be so engrossed in your project that you won’t hear it, but if you’re not, you can always try again later. Set the timer again the next time you work on it. Repeat until you’re done or you don’t need the timer anymore. Works for chores as well as creative endeavors ... thanks mom.

Get a cheerleader:
Your cheerleader can be anyone that helps cheer you on and supports you with your goal. I have Sheila the zombie cheerleader. If I do what she says, she won’t eat my brain. She’s new to the cheering team. My husband, parents, and writer/illustrator friends are part of the team too. Luckily they don’t want to eat my brain, they just want me to use it to be creative and get my work done.

Set goals: Set realistic goals so that you can achieve them. If you’re a big goal setter like I am, write down the big goals, then break them up into smaller steps and use those steps as goals along the way to achieving something bigger. It’s a lot easier to get things done when you know it’s possible, instead of having something hanging over your head that’s hard to finish in a day or a week or a month.

Make a to do list: Write down what you can realistically accomplish each day. Some days you might not finish it all, and some days you might get done early. If you have lots of things to do, make a big, huge list, then take a few of those items and put them on a to do list, for today. Tomorrow you can take more things off the big, huge, master list. Just like setting goals, your to do list should be manageable, so you can feel a sense of accomplishment each day. Plus, it’s really fun to cross things off the list.

Play: Sometimes you need to chuck the timer, the goals and the lists, and completely ignore the cheerleader, who will be confused as to why you have gone off on a tangent. Playing and following your bliss is important. You have to do that once in a while to connect with your creative side, and maybe you’ll even come up with a brilliant new idea or character. Just make sure to get back to your timers, goals, and lists when you’re done, otherwise you may never get anything done. Besides, if you don’t get back on track, Sheila will find you and eat your brain.

How do you manage to manage your time and control your tangential projects?

Note: THANK YOU to everyone that’s entered my WIP title contest so far!!!! There are so many excellent titles to choose from; I don’t know how I’m going to decide. If you still want to enter, there’s time. The contest ends tomorrow at 5pm EST. Winners announced on Wednesday.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

apples and more info + new prizes for my title contest

We’re back from apple picking! There weren’t as many apples this year, so we had to hunt back in the secret part of the orchard that not too many people know about ;) We’ve been going to the orchard for years, so we know where all the good apples are. :)

Thanks for all the really great titles suggested so far!!! I’m more awake than when I first posted the contest, so I can give you a little bit more info about the book, to help with title ideas:

About the book:
Wishes for the New Title: Dark and scary, or funny with an edge, or anything that will keep me inspired for 50,000 words in 30 days. It’s a YA novel.

* The MC is Bee, short for Ruby (I posted the b/w painting of her a few days ago). She got her nickname because she’s able to communicate with bees; if Ruby is around, the bees are usually close by.

* I’m hoping that the novel will be dark, with some humorous bits to help ease the tension. I’m not sure I can pull it off, but I’m going to try.

* Going through the woods can be a good, bad, or magical experience. In my book, Bee experiences all three. Examples: The song/poem, “Over the River and Through the Woods,” (good). The play, “Into The Woods,” (bad). The fairy tale, “Little Red Riding Hood,” (magical/supernatural).

* Bee is going through the woods to visit her grandmother.

* Bee’s best friend IG goes through the woods with her. IG is short for Isadora Greenling, a.k.a. Injury Girl.

* There’s a possible romance between the MC and a woodsman, but Bee’s not sure if she can trust him.

New Prizes!
Everyone: 10 Sheila the Zombie Cheerleader postcards, picked randomly from all the entries (she’s not in the book, but will be cheering me on). The postcard will have the B/W image or the original painting (shown below), your choice, and one of Sheila’s cheers, also your choice:
Cheer #1: B-U-T-T I-N CHAIR! Butt in Chair! Butt In Chair! Yay!
Cheer #2: Be Creative! B-E CREATIVE! Or Else!

Winner: A Sheila the zombie cheerleader postcard AND a journal of your choice (for writing or drawing) from my cafepress store.

How to enter: reply in the comments on either LJ or Blogger, to the original contest thread (or this one).
New Deadline: Tuesday October 21, at 5pm EST. (Deadline extended because of new info and DH said I should give people more that 1 day.) Void where prohibited and all that legal stuff. This contest is for fun only. The winner will be picked by me and is totally subjective, as it needs to inspire me to keep my BIC and write ;) I’ll announce the winner on Wednesday.

Friday, October 17, 2008

working title contest (for my NaNoWriMo novel)

Contest Update, click here.

I was inspired by a post that Courtney had about a working title for her novel. I decided that I need a much more inspiring title for my NaNoWriMo novel, so I’m having a contest.

Working Title Contest


About the book: loosely based on Red Riding Hood, with a bit of supernatural and much weirdness

What I want: something better than my current title. Dark and scary would be cool, or a title that makes me laugh, but mostly one that will keep me inspired for 50,000 words in 30 days.

Titles I don’t want: anything too cute or too young (YA, not PB)

How to enter: reply to the contest thread in the comments on either LJ or Blogger. Deadline: Monday October 20, at 5pm EST. Void where prohibited and all that legal stuff. This contest is for fun only. The winner will be picked by me and is totally subjective, as it needs to inspire me to keep my BIC and write ;) I’ll announce the winner on Tuesday.

Prizes! I’m not sure what, but something involving Sheila the Zombie Cheerleader (she’s not in the book, but will be cheering me on). It will probably be a postcard with the image below (or the original painting, your choice) and one of Sheila’s cheers (also your choice):

Cheer #1: B-U-T-T I-N- CHAIR! Butt in Chair! Butt In Chair! Yay!

Cheer #2: Be Creative! B-E CREATIVE! Or Else!

Sheila is a motivator.

I’m off to the apple orchard to go apple picking now. See you all on Monday! p.s. I hope this contest makes sense. I didn’t get much sleep last night. Sheila was cheering the zombie football team in their all night game.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

painting of Bee (Ruby) part 1

I started the painting of Bee (short for Ruby), the MC in my NaNoWriMo novel. This is a different process from the one I used for Sheila, the zombie cheerleader. This time I did a pencil sketch, then used black paint to re-sketch over the pencil lines, changing things that didn’t work and adding in the trees in the background.

I don’t usually paint people like this, they’re either kids and parents in picture books, or they are abstract figures. All-in-all, I’m liking the way it looks so far. Bee seems a little younger than YA, but at least she doesn’t look like she’s five. What do you think?

The next step is color. I’m going to use thin washes / glazes of acrylic to start, then who knows what will happen. ;)

Happy Tuesday everyone!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Sheila, the zombie cheerleader

I’ve finished my zombie cheerleader painting; my husband named her Sheila. I’m not completely happy with Sheila, but I learned a few things about what I like and don’t like about the process I was experimenting with. As requested, here are a few pictures of Sheila, the zombie cheerleader, with notes under each picture.

The original sketch: I did this sketch in pencil, then finished it with crayon. I like the cartoony, child-like quality of Sheila here, but she doesn’t look very zombie-ish.

The finished painting: Sheila looks much more like a zombie now, and I moved her leg over with the other one so it wouldn’t be hidden under the pompom. There are several things I would change about this painting, and if it hadn’t been an experiment in process, I probably would have scrapped the first image mid-way and re-painted to fix some issues. The one thing I do like, that doesn’t show up so well here, is the black lines in the background. There are 6 cheerleaders behind Sheila, along with swirls in the sky and lines and bugs in the grass.

The stage right before the finished painting: I actually like this better than the finished painting, even though I’m a big fan of the black outline. I think there’s a way to get this more painterly look, and still have some sort of outline. FYI, the first two images were scanned into my computer, but this one was a picture taken with my cell phone because it was still taped to the board so I could continue painting. The colors are the same as the final.

Next up: I’m painting a picture of the MC in the novel I’m going to write for NaNoWriMo. I’ll be using a slightly different painting process, starting with black outline over the sketch, then thin layers of acrylic wash (think varnishes or glazes), and finally deciding if I want to finish with a technique similar to the zombie painting, or if I want to keep it more layered and transparent.

p.s. It’s October 13, Only 18 more days until Halloween, when the zombies appear!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Flickr photos and food sniffs

Flickr Photos
Good Morning America did a segment today about online photos and how your photos on Flickr and other photo sharing sites could be used without your knowledge or permission, even if you’ve said the images are not to be shared. To read the story or watch the video, click here.
(note: the full article is posted; it continues below the video.)

Food Sniffs
Someone was baking chocolate chip cookies today. They smelled soooooo good! But since I couldn’t tell where the sniffs were coming from, I didn’t go beg for cookies. A while after that, my neighbors cooked their regular “smells-like-feet” dish, and I didn’t want the cookies (or anything else to eat) anymore.

Happy Weekend everyone – I hope you all get to have fresh baked cookies. :)

Thursday, October 9, 2008

looking for illustrators to interview

I’m looking for children’s book illustrators of all kinds (cover art, graphic novels, interior b/w art, picture book illustrations, easy reader art, etc.) to interview for my blog in November and December. I’d like to focus on illustrators and author/illustrators that had a book project published in 2007 or 2008.

In the interview, I’ll email questions about your style, medium and process, as well as your path to illustrating children’s books, and what current projects you are working on.

For examples of previous illustrator interviews, check out the ones I did last year for Robert’s Snow:

Susie Lee Jin

Karen Lee

Elizabeth Dulemba

If you’re an illustrator that wants to be interviewed, or know someone that might like to be interviewed, please email me: stephanie (at) sruble (dot) com, with Illustrator Interview in the subject line. (If your books don’t fit into this time frame, I’m hoping to do more interviews in the future.

Thanks! I look forward to featuring some great illustrators here soon!

Cross posted to the Blue Board and SCBWI.

process and progress in art and writing

Do your writing and/or art processes help you make progress, or slow it down?

ART: it’s all about the process

When I went to art school, process was just as important as what the picture looked like when you were done. Every few years or so, my art progresses through changes in process because I like to play with techniques, styles, mediums and subjects. Right now I’m in the midst of a jump in my art. It started sometime last year and I’ve been working on it ever since. The last time I made a big leap in my art, I spent every day for a year drawing and painting cows, followed by a year of dogs. I did two solid years of art before I was satisfied that I was on my new path.

My progress this time has been a bit disjointed because I’ve been recovering from an injury, which means I can’t work as fast or as long as I used to. And I’ve been making art for the art licensing business I started this year and the picture book request I have. Those are all good things, but they’ve slowed the growth on my new processes. I also work in both digital and traditional mediums, so I’m working on a new direction for both.

I like my new digital style. I need to do a few more pictures to make sure, but it seems like a good style that showcases my strengths as an artist. As most artists know, you don’t want to go too far with a style you can’t duplicate or don’t want to work in on a regular basis, which is why I need more practice.

I’m still trying to nail down my other style. Right now I’m painting a zombie cheerleader because it’s close to Halloween and I like zombies. When I get the zombie cheerleader done, I’ll decide if I want to continue with the style (and maybe post a picture). If yes, then I’ll pick another subject and try again, then repeat until I know I have the style down. Maybe I’ll even do a whole series of zombie cheerleaders ;)

WRITING: process can lead to progress … or not

I’ve been blathering on my blog for the last few years about various books I’ve worked on. My novels always seem to get side-tracked for a picture book request from a portfolio review, but no more (after the current PB request). Insert much eye rolling here. My art licensing business will still need to co-exist with my writing.

My problem lately is “lots of process, not much progress.”

So, I’ve decided to scrap my current WIP for a new, just-for-me-novel for NaNoWriMo. No, this isn’t crazy, it takes the pressure off of the writing process to do something just for fun. Besides, the MC in my current WIP will be the best friend in the just-for-me-novel. It’s not a prequel or a sequel, it’s just a novel set in the same world, with another character taking the lead. I think it might shake things up and allow me to make progress in my writing.

This decision is all about a new, much more productive process for both writing and art. I’ve done NaNoWriMo twice (finished once, sidetracked by a PB request the other time). The year I finished, I got a lot done outside of my NaNo project so it’s worth another shot.

I need to get back to making progress in my writing, art, and life. NaNoWriMo and art exploration seem like good things to get me going again. At the same time, I’m heading back to the gym to get in shape (I haven’t completely recovered from my injury, but it’s time to get moving again). I’m also going to keep making zombie cheerleader paintings and other just-for-me-art, so I can make progress on the PB request and my art licensing projects.

I’m not trying to kill myself, I’m just trying to get back a bit of my old life, the one where I made progress through process. IF I’m still alive at the end of November, I’m hoping I will also be back on track.

Wish me luck, I’m going to need buckets of it!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

cheeky banana stickers, made by monkeys

I think the monkeys have taken over the banana sticker production, at least at Chiquita. There’s a sticker on one of our bananas that says, “Place Sticker on Forehead. Smile.”

I’ve always loved banana stickers, but this is a new kind of banana sticker craziness that makes me love them even more. Who knew that the monkeys on typewriters were really writing funny sayings for their favorite fruit?

Go Chiquita Banana Sicker Monkeys Go!

Only 23 more days until Hallo-Mwahahahaha!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Falling Into Adventure: portals to another world

Poetry, then pondering on portals.
*disclaimer: I am not a poet, but I like to write haiku once in a while ;)

Falling Into Adventure by Stephanie Ruble

, leaves, rain drops
Falling, falling, falling down
An adventure starts

Corn mazes by day
Apple orchard hide-n-seek
Hayrides by moonlight

Roasted pumpkin seeds
Marshmallow hot chocolate
Caramel apples

As I was writing this poem, I thought it might be a fun writing prompt, especially the first verse. I’ve always wondered what it would be like to be Alice when she fell down the rabbit hole and into an adventure. (That must have been a big rabbit hole!) I’ve toyed with a few stories with characters that experience new worlds (or at least worlds new to them). I don’t know if they’ll ever be anything other than writing exercises, but it’s fun to imagine strange and different lands.

Alice is basically a portal story; there are tons of portal stories. The Narnia series has a wardrobe as its link to another world. Dorothy goes to Oz in her house and gets back by clicking her heels. You could even say that the holiday doors in The Nightmare Before Christmas are portals (only 24 more days until Halloween!!!).

What’s your favorite portal story and what is the object or path that leads to the other world?

Have you ever written a portal story (agents say they see a lot of them, so someone has to be writing these stories).

Does anyone know what the first portal story was? I don’t, but I’d like to think it was Alice.

** Today is the last day to donate to the Editorial A** raffle for cancer. (EA is helping a friend that has cancer and no insurance. Find out more here.)

Book Pick: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland – adaptation by Robert Sabuda
Alice’s adventures are captured in pop-up form! Mr. Sabuda has created a stunning puzzle of paper engineering, including a full deck of cards that pops up on the last page. This is not just a few pages of pop-up images from the story. The story is cleverly told through several mini books on each page, which add up to a hefty amount of text (just the right amount to tell us all about Alice’s fun). As a bonus, the mini books contain pop-ups too. This book is for fans of Alice, or fans of paper engineering, or anyone looking for an excuse to leap into another world for a while.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Coneheads + Traveling Pants = inspiration!

Character and story ideas come from the strangest places, especially for me. Here’s how I got the inspiration of who a character in my current WIP novel was.

Early this summer I was at the bookstore thinking about the Coneheads and laughing to myself (doesn’t everyone still think about the Coneheads?), when I saw the book, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares. Before I could help myself, my mind threw them together and I said to my husband,

“I come from Pants!”

At which point I started cracking up, he couldn’t figure out what I was laughing about, and the rest of the people in the store were looking at me like I was a lunatic. Ever since then, I can’t stop saying, “I come from Pants!” It totally kills me every time. Not only that, but it’s a phrase that works for almost any occasion. Try it, you’ll see.

Then a month or so ago, we were walking by a flower store and I said, “I come from Plants!” and started laughing. Even DH was laughing, but mostly because he couldn’t believe I was still on the Coneheads thing. Whenever I see France, Pants, or Plants now, I totally lose it. Poor hubby.

So what does this all have to do with writing and my WIP novel? (Yes, there is a point, promise.)

* Story ideas and characters are all around us. You never know what’s going to spark your imagination or how far that spark will take you. If something makes you laugh or cry or scream, take notice. If you can put together two things that don’t belong and get something new, even better. Someday that might be the seed of an idea that helps you write a story.

* An important character in my novel didn’t have a past, which made it hard to figure out who he was in the story. From thinking about a phrase that I first heard in 1977 and seeing a book I want to read, I figured out that my character has strong connection to plants. Not only that, but the plants are important to the plot. My character likes to say to me, “I come from France, wearing my Plot Pants!” (No, that’s not in my story. Yes, do I know I’m strange. I prefer to think of myself as creative.)

Here’s a recap of how a character in my novel became complex, three-dimensional, and important to the plot:

France -> Pants -> Plants -> Plot and Past -> Pizzazz!
(Sorry, I couldn’t resist pizzazz; I wanted to use another P word.)

Remember this phrase when you’re trying to figure out who your characters are: “I come from Pants!” Or just say it at random times because it’s funny.

Happy Writing!

p.s. It’s October 6, only 25 more days until Halloween!!!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

12 things for Fall

Meme Times 12: tagged me. The rules are: Once you have been tagged, you have to write a bl with 12 weird random things, facts, or habits about yourself. At the end, you choose 5 people to be tagged. (I decided to make my 12 things Fall themed.)

1. Halloween is my favorite holiday (only 26 days left until trick-or-treat time).
2. I love roasted pumpkin seeds. We buy lots of pumpkins each year just to get the seeds.
3. We go apple picking every year, usually in October. Some years we go twice.
4. We don’t make yummy baked goods with our apples because of the baked-apple-mush disaster. However, we might try again this year thanks to a recipe from Brenda, which she assures me is easy to make.
5. I think it’s interesting that Fall leaves showcase beautiful warm colors while the air is getting cooler.
6. In H.S. I made a carrot costume to go trick-or-treating in. (I should probably not be allowed near a sewing machine.) My mom liked it so much she wore it to a party the next year. (Don’t need no stinkin’ patterns!)
7. Vampire fangs and a tiara might be part of my costume this year.
8. I miss back-to-school supplies and clothes. There’s something magical about having new stuff and waiting until school starts before you can enjoy it.
9. We go see the Thanksgiving Parade balloons being blown up each year.

10 I don’t like turkey. We have roast beef for Thanksgiving, which I am thankful for.
11. A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving is my favorite Peanuts special.
12. My birthday is 25 hours long this year, which has never happened before (turning the clock back for daylight savings has always been in October).

I tag: m_stiefvater, dlanthomas, Brenda, Courtney, and Carrie.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Thank you!!

I wanted to say THANK YOU, to everyone that reads my blog, for their help with the Orphan Works Bill (and for putting up with all the posts about it). The Orphan Works Bill did NOT get passed yesterday (YAY!) so we can all breathe a little easier for a while.

Will this issue come up again? Probably. I hope not, but probably. I'll post about it if we need to take action.

Thanks again for all your help and have a great weekend!!!


Friday, October 3, 2008

With the House rules suspended, as few as 2 people can vote on the Orphan Works bill & it will pass.

The House judicial committee want to pull the House version and substitute it with the Senate bill that passed via a controversial method called hotlining by Unanimous Consent. This was done last Friday night:

With the House rules suspended, due to the Wall Street Fiscal Crisis, if the bill gets out on the floor, as few as 2 people can vote on the bill and it will pass. Then since it's the same bill as the Senate, it can go right to the president's desk for signature bypassing a joint House/Senate committee to make it into one bill.




Phone, fax, email these Congressman immediately

DELAHUNT Phone (202) 225 3111 Fax (202) 225-5658
Phone: (617) 770-3700 Fax: (617) 770-2984

CONYERS Phone: (202) 225-5126 Fax: (202) 225-0072
Phone: (313) 961-5670 Fax: (313) 226-2085

NADLER Phone: (202) 225-5635 Fax: (202) 225-6923
Phone: (212) 367-7350 Fax: (212) 367-7356

BERMAN Phone: (202) 225-4695 Fax: (202) 225-3196
Phone: (818) 994-7200 Fax: (818) 994-1050


We've been getting assurances all day that the bill was "dead for this year."




- Brad Holland and Cynthia Turner, for the Board of the Illustrators' Partnership

Please post or forward this message immediately to any interested party.

For news and information:
Illustrators' Partnership Orphan Works Blog:

Over 75 organizations oppose this bill, representing over half a million creators. Illustrators, photographers, fine artists, songwriters, musicians, and countless licensing firms all believe this bill will harm their small businesses.

U.S. Creators and the image-making public can email Congress through the Capwiz site: 2 minutes is all it takes to tell the U.S. Congress to uphold copyright protection for the world's artists.

INTERNATIONAL ARTISTS please fax these 4 U.S. State Agencies and appeal to your home representatives for intervention.

CALL CONGRESS: 1-800-828-0498. Tell the U.S. Capitol Switchboard Operator "I would like to leave a message for Congressperson __________ that I oppose the Orphan Works Act." The switchboard operator will patch you through to the lawmaker's office and often take a message which also gets passed on to the lawmaker. Once you're put through tell your Representative the message again.

If you received our mail as a forwarded message, and wish to be added to our mailing list, email us at: Place "Add Name" in the subject line, and provide your name and the email address you want used in the message area.


Thursday, October 2, 2008

what makes a good book?

Over on Cindy Pon’s blog, she asked what makes a good book. This was my answer:

“I think what makes a book good is that it is exactly what a reader needs at that time. Sometimes the best book for me is a light and speedy read that I won't remember that much about later, and sometimes I need something with more depth, that really makes me think, even days later. Other times I need laughter, or darkness, or both. I can be captured by a character in a not so good story and an amazing story with only so-so characters. 

For me, they are all good books. It's just which one is right for me at the time. Other people might define good books differently.”

In the comments, other people did define good books differently. So, what do you all think? What makes a good book?

Some of the things that shaped my answer to this question are:

I like to read many different kinds of books. As long as there’s something that draws me in, voice, character, story, or writing, then I’ll probably like the book. It may not be the best book I’ve ever read, but it could still be a good book.

An article about light, happy books, instead of dark and serious books. The author confronted why she writes one and why they are both valid. It was an amazing article and I am so bummed that I can’t find it. I think it was in the NY Times Magazine, maybe last year.

Being a part of the children’s book writing community.
I have writer friends that write all different types of books, from stuff that I’ve always liked, to things I didn’t know I liked until I read their work.

While reading the slush pile, I saw that there truly was a book for every type of reader. Just because it wasn’t something the publisher I worked for wanted to publish, or wasn’t my personal taste didn’t mean it wasn’t a good book.

The books I read as a kid helped shape who I am today. Would the books I loved so long ago strike me as good books today? I don’t know. I’m generally not a re-reader (too many books, too little time). But it doesn’t matter what I would think of those books now. What matters, is that they were exactly what I needed to read at that time. Even books I didn’t like, that scared me, or bored me, count. They helped me to be a more discerning reader and more wise about my reading choices.

I have re-read a few of my picture book favorites, because I can’t help myself and I love looking at the art. Even if there are slight flaws, my memories of the book and how it affected me make it a good book, even if it wouldn’t win awards or capture another person’s imagination.

** What do you think makes a good book? Would your childhood favorites stand the test of time? **

Book Pick: Susie Mariar by Lois Lenski
I loved this book as a child. The first lines read, “Susie Mariar Fell in the fire. The fire was so hot she jumped in the pot. The pot was so little, she jumped in the kittle.” I think kittle would have been kettle, if it didn’t have to rhyme, but that’s ok. As a kid, the rhyming helped me to figure out what the next words would be, and the amazing illustrations helped back that up, while showing Susie’s expression as she jumped from one disaster to the next. I still love this book.

* It’s October 2, only 29 more days until Halloween!!!

* The House of Representatives is back in session Thursday. To find out what you can do to stop the House from passing the Orphan Works Bill/H.R. 5889, click here. Thanks!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

pants on fire (literally)

How’s life at the Inferno Apartment Complex on Incendiary Lane? Glad you asked. Earlier today, I smelled smoke. I tried to find the cause of said smoke, but couldn’t. A few minutes later, a thick heavy smoke smell filled the room (and I couldn’t breathe, which was very disconcerting). It also seemed a little hazy. I did the smoke check again and discovered that there was smoke wafting in from the hallway (I did NOT open the door, as I am not addle-brained).

While throwing on jeans (no need to go outside in my Halloween themed PJ pants I wear sometimes while being creative), I made a mental list of things I needed to do if there was a fire: encourage kitty to get into his carrier without too much of a fight (ha ha), put on shoes, grab the Remus kitty, car keys, laptop, ID, money … FLEE! (Note: If there were flames or more smoke, I would have grabbed the cat and bolted.)

Before enacting my fire-fleeing list, I called downstairs to see if they could elaborate on the disaster that was surely happening, or not. The doorman said that someone’s clothes caught on fire in the dryer!

Our apartment is nowhere near the first floor, where the laundry room is; the smoke came up through the elevator shafts and the vents in our apartment. Our apartment is not smoky anymore because the windows are open and the vents and bottom of the door are blocked off, but the hallways, elevators, lobby, and laundry room are evil smelling. I feel bad for the people with burned clothes.

The fact that someone’s clothing started a fire in the dryer didn’t surprise me. A few months ago, I noticed that clothing coming out of the dryer was so hot, that you would get burned if you touched it (fabric, not just metal zippers). We’ve been drying our clothes on medium or low since then. Dryer fires are scary and charred clothing is not fashionable.

-------------- Other Stuff Going On ----------------

* It’s Banned Books Week. Find out more here.

* Moonrat (a.k.a. EditorialAss) is raffling off editorial services to help a friend with cancer. Good prizes, good cause. Find out more here.

* JoNoWriMo – My new goals are to make steady progress on my YA Novel: IG, my PB Dummy Request: Moose, Art Collections for my licensing business, and my Portfolio for a Nov. Review.

* It’s October 1, only 30 more days until Halloween!!!

* It’s not too late to stop the House from passing the Orphan Works Bill/H.R. 5889. For more information on what you can do, go here.

-------------- Book Picks ---------------

Lessons From A Dead Girl by Jo Knowles: Laine and Leah, friends since they were little. Leah was always the dominant one, making Leah do things and keep secrets. In high school, Laine tried to distance herself and find new friends, but Leah spun everything out of control. When I read this book, the emotional intensity reminded me of the novel Freaky Green Eyes (see below). Both books feature strong heroines in horrible situations that fight to survive and make sense of who they are.

Freaky Green Eyes by Joyce Carol Oates: Franky Pierson knows deep down that something is not right, that there’s a connection to her father’s behavior and personality and why her mother has suddenly disappeared. This book was chilling, mostly because the father reminded me of the football player that was acquitted of killing his wife and her friend.