Saturday, March 28, 2009

My First Wink Event

This morning I read my book, Wink! The Ninja Who Wanted To Be Noticed, at the West Hartford Public Library.  I'd say it was a pretty good turnout filled with friends and Magoo's classmates, present and past. (And a handful of people I didn't know.)
I read the book, then I talked about how the story progressed from an idea to a finished book.  I brought in sketches, research, dummy books, and color proofs.

There was definitely two layers to the presentation.  One for the kids.  One for the adults.  I could always tell when I was speaking to the adults for too long.  :)

As soon as that was over, I went next door to Barnes and Noble where they had a nice table set up for me.

This little boy (below) was so cute.  He came up all by himself and asked me to sign his book.  I wanted to eat him up!

The bookstore ordered forty books and they sold thirty-seven.  Woo-hoo!  It was so much fun to get to talk to people I hadn't seen in awhile.  And I truly appreciate everyone who came out and bought a book or just showed some support.

Don't you love the little boy in this one?  He's soooooo not impressed!

Unfortunately, Magoo and his dad could not make it.  Magoo didn't keep his breakfast down this morning, so nooooo library.  But all of his friends sent him warm wishes for feeling better soon.

It was such a great time, and now that my ego is properly inflated, I can scrub off my extra make-up, comb out my hair, and hunker down with my guys.

Thanks again to Wink buyers near and far.  And special thanks to Sara and Pam for taking photos. 

Friday, March 27, 2009

Pillows: In Sickness and in Health

Yesterday, I made some pillows.

The pillows on the couch had become grungy and I had some time yesterday, so I did some patchwork pillows with the fabric Martha sent me.

Magoo asked if I could make him a pillow too.  I was going to put this project off for a few days, but since he was a big sickie today - how could I say no?  So I went downstairs to my fabric stash to see what would look good for a little boy pillow.

I had bought a fuzzy purple top from the Salvation Army a while ago - just for the fabric.  I figured it was perfect for a puppet or something like that.  Today when I saw it, I knew I had to make a monster pillow.

I got started on the body and found some stuff for horns.  But the face just wasn't coming together for me.  

Yesterday I saw a post of a woman who made stuffed monsters based on kids' art, so I thought I'd let Magoo design the face.

I drew the body out.  He did the eyes and mouth.

So that's what I did.

I didn't have enough orange felt to do a mouth as big as the one he drew - but I figured this was close enough.

So now he's resting with his new pillow and I hope it scares all the oogy sickness away.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Gifties for Girls

Having a son, I don't always get to make fun, frilly things that girls would like.  But I recently had occasion to get down with my girlie bad craftin' self and get my ya-ya's out.

One little-lady friend of Magoo's is having a birthday very soon.  Since it's also almost Easter time, I decided to make a bunny.  

This free pattern is available at Purlbee.  (If you do plan to make it, you may want to enlarge the pattern a touch.  Turning out those long thin arms and leg was a challenge!!!)  They also have patterns for clothes for the bunny - but I just whipped this little dress up with some leftover fabric.  

I also have a new little niece, Zoe.  So I made her a little baby kimono.

I've seen these little kimono patterns all over the place.  This one is from a new book I got called Weekend Sewing.  It's super easy to make - a couple hours if you have everything.  I knew that Zoe's parents are not into pink and girlie so I aimed for the colorful yellow fabric.  I know with baby clothes - easy is best.  So I don't know what the reality of regular use will be, but it was still fun to make.

And finally, not really a gift, but I made some pendants to go with the earring beads I made a couple weeks ago.

I think I made about five of them.  So now I have to string them all up.  Then I might have enough stuff to get a decent Etsy shop going.  (I know I've said that before so we'll see.  I just might do a blog sale like I did before.  ?  I'll let you know.)

Monday, March 23, 2009

Bubbles, Kites, and Books

It wasn't the warmest weekend, but it was sunny.  And I think we are all determined to pretend its Spring, even if it doesn't quite feel that way yet.  So Saturday, Magoo went out and made some bubbles.

A few years ago we got this thing called a bubble wand.  You can see it in the pic.  It starts out like a sword, then you dip it in the bubble solution, then you press a button and it opens up and makes nice big bubbles.   Who doesn't love nice, bug bubbles, right?!  Ours broke after years of use - so this is Magoo breakin' in the new one.

No batteries and 30-60 minutes of fun.

Can't beat it.  EXCEPT - maybe with a kite!

Magoo's Aunt Pat got him a sweet little kite for Xmas.  Since it was a nice breezy Sunday, we decided to take it out to the school.  After a couple lessons from Dad on how to work with the wind, Magoo got the hang of it.

He had a ton of fun and I think felt quite proud of himself.

Great gift, thanks Pat.

Now onto the book part:

Planet Esme just did a lovely review of Wink. Thanks, Esme.

And Cynthea Liu, who runs the Authors Now page, said she saw Wink on the wall of her Barnes & Noble and sent me a pic.

There he is all happy and stuff.  Thanks Cynthea!

I have yet to make it back to my B&N to see if Wink is on the wall, but the signing is Saturday so I might just wait until then.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Fear the Lemon

My son has a glass of milk filled with vitamins and minerals that he has to drink every morning.  We call it Power Milk.  It's not the tastiest thing in the world, but he drinks it up.  Every single morning.  

However, some mornings he needs a little motivation.  Sometimes I'll count to ten and see how far he gets.  He also likes having a smaller cup so he can pour it off and drink it in increments. But if he's really, really distracted and just not drinking - I bring out the lemon. 

It started a few months ago.  I was trying to think up a new way to motivate him so I grabbed a lemon and had it race him.  The lemon had to run across the table before Magoo finished his Power Milk in order to win.  Well, my son is very competitive so he swigged that drink.  But he also really didn't like racing the lemon.  I mean, he really didn't like it.

So now, if he's sitting at the table dawdling all we have to say is, "Should we get the lemon?" And he'll say, "No, no." and start drinking.  

Today I went ahead and propped a lemon up to stare at him.  Sometimes I'll use my lemon voice and say, "Hey, kid.  Wanna race?"  Magoo thinks it's funny but at the same time he doesn't want that lemon coming out.  Then I decided to give it some googly eyes.  

So now we have a lemon staring at us while we eat.  I think he's kinda cute.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Today is the Day

Wink! The Ninja Who Wanted to Be Noticed should be available today in bookstores.  Will it be available in your local bookstore?  I don't know.  If it's a big bookstore like a Barnes & Noble, it might.  It might not.  It depends on the store's buyer.  But Mike and I plan to go out after dinner and see if it's at our local bookstore.  (Also, it depends on when the people in the store room unload the boxes.) 

One of the things I've been looking at is Wink's rating on Amazon.  How fun and devastating at the same time!  A few days ago, it was at #13 in Fiction-children's-sports-martial arts.  Then it dropped to #29!  Twenty-freakin'-nine!  UG.  A bunch of Kung-fu Panda books were ahead of it and even one called Julie Black Belt.  Betrayed by my own name!!!

But now look - it's at #7!  In your face, Po!

And maybe I'm crazy, but 47,554 in general doesn't seem that bad to me.

Now here's the really funny part.  I went on Amazon this morning to find that you could already get 3 copies used.  Used?  It just came out today!  I wonder if some people get advanced copies and then give/sell them to bookstores.  I dunno.  But I did notice that one store was selling new ones for $7.99 - that's a good price!

But now look down to the bottom...
One place is selling a new Wink for $77.53.  Am I dead?  Did I die?  $77.53?!?!?  Is this the special gold encrusted Wink?!  What the...huh?

Well, good luck to that seller if they can get it.

Anyway - it's available today and I hope my mother's copies come soon because the woman is DYING to get her hands on them.

UPDATE - I'm up to Number 3 in my category and 16,725 in overall sales rank!  Thanks so much to all who bought a copy (or two or three) of Wink!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Planting Seeds

One of the many outside activities that we did on Sunday was plant our seeds.

Every year I plant some seeds.  Most years nothing much comes of them.  But there's something about the act of planting that makes it feel more like spring.

I'd been saving my egg cartons and Magoo and I picked out some seeds.  He wanted sunflowers.  I wanted basil.  And last year's morning glory (that he brought home from school on Mother's Day) left us with some seeds, so we planted those too.

I think these are the basil seeds.  Last year my basil plants were tiny and weak.  My friend Sara's were luscious and strong.  What gives?

Watering is the biggest challenge for Magoo.  He tends to go overboard.  But he showed good control.  

He was a proud, proud boy helping his Mama.

I think we'll both be very excited when we see some sprouts!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

New Earrings

Deep into my hobby of 2009 - bead and jewelry making - I wondered if I could make beads that sorta looks like the collages I did for my bathroom.

I wanted fun colors - something bright for spring and summer.  But I thought I'd start easy and just do rectangles because I'm not entirely sure how to go about the drops and dots.  

So last week - on a day when I wasn't too busy - I sat down with my clay and pieced a bunch of things together.  Sometimes they looked good.  Sometimes not so much.  But here are the keepers.

These were from the earliest batch.  The lines are still pretty straight.  As I proceeded with the building of layers and chopping off excess, I'd build new pieces to play with.  That's where the ones below came from.

I liked the simpler color scheme here too.  

After awhile though - the clay got pretty messy.  Too many colors.  Too little design.  Then I knew it was time to stop.

I have one more pair of beads to make into earrings.  And I made some pendants too - but I didn't hear the timer go off so they burned.  Boo!

Oh well - these were fun to make and each time I try something I learn a new trick.  Maybe I'll try the pendants again, but this time with dots?!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Presenting: The Skateboard

A couple years ago - or maybe it was only last summer - I purchased a $5.00 skateboard at a tag sale.  Magoo was too little for it at the time, but I figured better to get one now and have it, then want one later and not be able to find one on the cheap.  (That's the way I roll - on the cheap.)  

It's been sitting on the tippy-top shelf in the garage for awhile now.

Saturday was gorgeous.  We were outside and some friends were over.  Magoo asked me to help him get something out of the garage and I knew exactly what it would be.  The skateboard.

I dug out some elbow pads and his helmet and let the kid have at it.

It took a few tries to get the footing right.  Here's Magoo on the front of the board with his buddy studying his technique.

Then N (the buddy) had a go.  Not bad.  Not bad at all.

After a few tries on both sides, they were getting the gist of it and it was time for a race!
Not really, though.

Any weekend when the sun is out and friends are over is a good weekend.  But it's always fun to watch Magoo try something new.   Sometimes it doesn't work out so well.  He can get easily frustrated.  But sometimes it's as simple and right as a boy bonding with his skateboard. 

Friday, March 13, 2009

Me on the Town

Some friends had told me that the Barnes & Noble in town (where I'll be doing a signing on March 28th) had a nice sign of me and my book right out in front.  Last night we had some errands to run so we went and checked it out.  That is a nice sign.

Then we went to REI to take Magoo's bike in for a brake adjustment.  Magoo promptly told the man who worked there that his bike was broken and then wanted to know if the man wanted to look at his Pokemon cards.  (I wonder if he'll have any adult takers for that request?  To him there must be nothing better than looking at Pokemon cards and how could any person, in their right mind, not want to view his collection?!)

Then Magoo and I went upstairs so he could climb on the fake rock while I looked at clearance shoes that were not my size.  When I turned around, he wasn't climbing on the rock anymore.  He was over by the shoe wall checking out his upside-down butt.

I really don't know why I don't see more people doing this.  Doesn't everyone want to know how they look this way?

The other day, the local Monthly paper came out with a very nice article about me called, The Whimsical World of J.C. Phillipps.  My world is whimsical!  Who knew?

There were a few funny statements like, "The picture book, for ages three and up, features Wink, who was born in ninja school."

He was not born in a ninja school.  :)  He lives with his Grandmother.  I'm not sure how that concept got in the reporter's mind, but I think it's pretty funny.  It makes me imagine Wink's mother, swollen and in labor, "I can't make it to the hospital.  Stop there - at that ninja school!"

When the reporter came to my studio, she was quite taken with my little gingerbread man puppets.  I told her that I made them to perform for my son's class.  She wrote, "...which she performs at local schools when asked."  Now I wonder if schools are going to call me up and expect me to have some big puppet production?!  I doubt it.  But if they do, I'll bring my book along and make it a puppet/author visit.  I should make some Wink puppets, no?  You know what would be cool?  Wink shadow puppets!!!  

All in all, it was a very, very nice article.

And if you're not sick of reading about me, the lovely blog, Frolicking Through Cyberspace, did an interview.  My favorite questions was, "If you could live in any picture book, what would it be?"  Isn't that fun?  (I'll make you click over to the interview to find the answer, but I will tell you that it's close to the end and there's a graphic. )

So let me ask you, dear readers, if you could live in the world of a picture book, which would it be? 

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Field Trip to the Farm

Yesterday I chaperoned Magoo's class field trip to the farm.  It was a cold, rainy day and I was really hoping this trip would be postponed.  But we're in New England, folks.  We're hearty.  We're tough.  And we were going to brave the elements.  Indeed, we did.

Fortunately, some parts were indoors.  Our first visit was with a chicken.  The kids (Magoo pictured) got to feel the comb and waddles.

Then we went over to the pig pen where a 10-week old baby had just been weened off his Mama.  Magoo said it looked like Babe.  

"Babe" was super freaked out by all the loud children so we all sat really still and were really, really quiet, and the little piggie was allowed to come out and explore.  I have to say, the children were excellent!  I think they were very caring of the little pig and didn't want to upset it at all.

Of course, after that show of affection, the tour group leader pulled out a big wooden cutout of the pig and showed us areas of the pig were used to make sausage, hot dogs and spare ribs.  Mmmmmm, children.

Then we went over to visit some new baby lambs.

The top lamb is three-weeks old and the bottom one, that Magoo is petting, is just one-week old!  So sweet!  There were plenty of Mama and Daddy sheep there too and the kids were allowed to feed them yummy treats from their hands.

For me, and I think for the kids, the animals were a highlight.

Then it was time to learn about making maple syrup.  Guess where we had to go for that part?  Outside.

Here are the children huddled in the cold, with rain drizzling down on top of them, watching the tour guide tap a tree.  Don't they look overjoyed!?

It was cold.  And we were up a hill so we had to be careful not to slip and slide on the mud.  Fortunately, no one fell.

Then we headed back to the bus.  Here's Magoo holding his umbrella over his friend's head.  *Gush*  I love that boy of mine.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

More Freezer Paper Stencils

I was so pleased with how the freezer paper stencils on the baby shirts came out, I've been itching to make a couple shirts for Magoo - and, selfishly, for myself!  Two things occurred that finally made the plan come together: there was a sale on kids t-shirts at Michael's - 2 for $5.00.  Snapped up a couple of those for Magoo.  And, I found a peacock blue t-shirt, half-off, at Salvation Army for me.  Snap.

Now that I had my plain front T's, I had to go through my book of animals and pick my patterns.

Magoo wanted an elephant and a sting ray.  (Stingray not pictured.)

I wanted a bird.  I was going to use a larger version of the bird I used for the baby shirts, but then this raven called out to me.

I couldn't deny the raven.  I just couldn't.  It's been a little cool to model my funky new T (that I love) but soon - so soon - I'll be out and about in it.  I think I need to make myself a ninja shirt.  Magoo would probably like one too.  I guess I'd better get my butt back to Salvation Army.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Spring Weekend

I'm calling it - Spring is here.  Oh sure, it's early Spring.  It's wet season.  Things are still pretty brown and mushy.  But the weather was sunny and warm this weekend and the neighborhood came alive with boys.

We have three new boys in the neighborhood.  But since they moved in at the beginning of winter, we haven't seen too much of them.  Magoo was so anxious to meet them.  My kid ain't shy.  But I think the younger two of the new boys are a little shy - so it may take a few warm weekends before everyone feels comfortable with each other.

I often wonder what's the age when instead of barreling through a puddle, a child will go around it.  For this one, the answer is four.

Here's a group of boys with their helmets on, ready for action - standing around looking at Pokemon cards.

Magoo and his buddies jump for joy.  "It's Spring!  It's Spring!"

I'm jumping internally.

Friday, March 6, 2009

And the Winner is...

First off, thanks to everyone for entering.  I appreciate you taking interest in the book and I wish I had a BIG BOX of extras to spread around.  But I don't.  Sorry.

So here's what I did.  I copied all the names on little pieces of paper.  I put them in a bowl.  I swished them.  I turned them.  I scooped them about.  Then I closed my eyes and pulled one out.  (Magoo usually does this part, but he's in school.)

Congratulations to Janee!

Janee - if I can track you down, I'll send you an email.  Otherwise, please send me your mailing address and anything special you want me to write in your book and I'll try to get that right in the mail to you.  (Send me an email at

Thanks again, everyone!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Enough About You, Let's Talk About Me

Hey - if you haven't had enough of me promoting my book - Wink!  The Ninja Who Wanted to Be Noticed - then check out my interview on Cynthea Liu's Writing for Children and Teens site.

PS - I'm getting kinda tired of writing that whole title out again and again.  My next book is going to be called IT.  OK.  That's not a good idea because Stephen King wrote that super scary book IT. How about ID?  I could write a book called ID.  That's the ticket!

PPS - Don't forget to enter my contest for a free signed copy of Wink!  Just fill out a comment on the following post and make sure to let me know you want in.  I choose a winner tomorrow at noon.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

A Big Box of Wink

When I got home from dropping Magoo off at school, I found a big box at my door.  When I saw it was from Penguin Group - I knew exactly what it was.  My copies!  My copies!  A big box of copies. (Well, 20.  I don't want you to think I have 100 copies or anything.)

So now I have to make my list of those who get a free copy.  (Shirley - this includes you since you're the official Japanese expert.  The boy next door gets one for inspiring the story.  You get the idea.)

But I do think I should have a give-away to celebrate it's arrival.  So, if you'd like a signed advanced copy of my picture book, Wink! The Ninja Who Wanted to be Noticed, leave a comment on this post.  Some people have told me they have a hard time with leaving comments, in which case email me and I'll enter your name.

For those of you who don't know the book: it is the story of a boy named Wink who is SUPER EXCITED to attend the Summer Moon School for Young Ninjas.  He can kick, tumble, and punch but he can't seem to be quiet or stay hidden.  Wink doesn't get the whole stealth aspect of it.  Needless to say, he gets in a lot of trouble. He is expelled after a particularly "showy" day at the zoo.  Then Wink discovers a family of circus performers and finds a place he can truly shine.  

I'll draw a name at noon on Friday.  Then the winner can tell me what they want the book to say and I'll get it out in the mail to you.

And, if you're in town and you haven't already heard, I'm going to be at the Noah Webster Library in West Hartford, CT on Saturday, March 28th at 10:00.  I'll read the book, bring in sketches and early dummy books, and talk about the process of making Wink.  Then I'll take a little hop next door to the Barnes and Noble in Blue Back Square and sign books for anyone who wants one.  That will probably start closer to 11:oo.

I'm very excited!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Red Cape

Once upon a time, I was a big, fat bridesmaid.

That's me, on the left.  I was seven months pregnant.  I could be the tomato in the Fruit of the Loom bunch.  I wanted to keep the blushing bride, one of my best friends, Staci, in the shot so you can see how large I am in comparison.  I wouldn't have been a big, fat bridesmaid for just anyone, you know.

Well, it turns out they don't make maternity bridesmaids dresses, so I had to order a size 14 and take it in myself.  As I worked on my big, fat bridesmaid dress, I thought, 'Someday, I'm going to make this into a cape for my son.'  Cause really, what else are you going to do with a size 14 maternity bridesmaid dress?

Friday, it happened.  Magoo wanted a cape.  

I had just gotten a package with some thin foam in it and I had some leftover silver robot material, so I made him a chest plate and arm bands too. He was so excited when he got home from school and saw his new superhero costume.  He wore it for the rest of the day.

Seeing a face like this makes the whole big, fat bridesmaid thing worth it.  And isn't it great when you spend time on something for your child and they really, really love it.  It's the best.

On Friday, we were both superheroes!