Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Crafty Happenings

Today I, er...the Easter Bunny...stuffed the plastic eggs for the Friday Hunt. The bunny put in some toys and then had an idea. Wink stickers! I had bought some printable sticker paper at Staples a while ago and never used it. So I made a sheet and printed and cut them out. Voila! Stickers! So I gave them to the bunny and bunny tucked them away. Will the kids be excited as I am? Doubtful. Then again ... stickers!

It's been nearly two years since I picked up the chicken fabric at a tag sale, but I have FINALLY made my own apron!

I haven't even worn it yet. It looks so nice on the dummy, I just have it standing in the dining room this way.

The pattern is from Lotta Jandotter's Simple Sewing, and it's reversible. Not that I'll go that way. It's all about the chickens for me.

In other news:
FINALLY it has stopped raining. Man - it's like Noah's country around here. There's been a ton of flooding in the state - fortunately our mighty sump pump kept our basement dry. Go $300 sump pump!

I continue to glue Wink 2 down. I use a spray adhesive so that I get a strong even coat w/o puckering. But the stuff is nasty toxic. It's important to have good ventilation so I glue on the sunporch and open the screen door - even if it's raining. But yesterday I went one step beyond and made myself a little cloth surgical mask. Helpful? Who knows. Funny looking? Most definitely.

My 500th post is fast approaching. (I think this is #492) and I have a contest planned. Stay tuned.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Easter Eggs

While shopping at Whole Foods, I came across a carton of Eco-Eggs. Since Magoo can't chomp down on a big chocolate bunny, I try to promote the non-edible holiday traditions and coloring Easter Eggs is always fun. Usually I use food coloring, but I figured we're all so healthy and granola now - why not go the natural way?

When you open the carton, kids get to search through the "grass" for the colorful capsules and two soy crayons.

If you get this carton, I just want to give you a heads up that there's a lot of waiting involved. The capsules that take minutes to dissolve in hot water, the eggs should soak in white vinegar for five. Then Magoo drew some designs on the shells (although he didn't press hard enough because they didn't come through) and we plopped the eggs in.

Look at those vibrant colors!!!

Yeah well, enjoy them in the bowls, folks, because even though the eggs sat in color baths for close to 3 hours, they emerged in softer hues.

They're still pretty - but truth be told I enjoy a bright springy Easter egg. Still - I'm glad I went with the naturals because Magoo decided to try to eat a hard boiled egg this year. He didn't like the yoke, but he did like the white. (He even asked for an egg for breakfast this morning!!!) I feel better knowing he's eating something that wasn't soaked in chemicals.

So all in all - SUCCESS!

In other news:
I'm basically finished with the interiors of Wink 2. I did the cover and back cover illustrations. I can't show you but I can say this: cherry blossoms. I'm waiting on notes/changes from the art director and to find out if/what we're doing for illos for the dedication page, title page and end papers. In the meantime, I have started gluing the collages down. There will be a trip to New York in the near future.

The secret project has been shopping around - I think it's had eight rejections now. Some folks just aren't into it. A couple liked it a lot but just didn't think it was right for their house. There are still about ten places who are looking at it. All I need is one yes. Oh man - I hope I get it!!!

I'm working on two other picture book stories that I hope to show to my agent/editor soon. I have to line up my next project.

Happy Monday, everyone. It's super dreary here. I hope you're getting some sun.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Spring WAS in the Air

The weather has been gorgeous. GOR-geous. Sure, it's yucky today and it's not going to be a great week - but over the weekend it was in the 70's and it was fabulous.

I got some much-needed yard work done, I'm almost finished with Wink 2, AND I wore my new girly-twirly wrap skirt.

I made this about a month ago. The pattern is from Weekend Sewing by Heather Ross and the fabric is Amy Butler's Tree Peony (Ivory.) This isn't a difficult skirt to make - but it does require quite a bit of fabric and it asks that you hem it with a hand stitch - so that takes a little time. It's very swishy and fun to wear and I'm pleased with how it turned out. Truth be told - I like to wear things on my hip as opposed to my waist - so I might try to make a modified version with an elastic wait to wear lower. Still - it was the perfect thing to wear to celebrate the pocket of Spring that came our way.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Magoo Says: STYLE!

Yesterday evening, I walked by the bathroom to find Magoo acting dodgy. He had something behind his back.

"What are you doing?" I asked.


"You look like you're being sneaky," I said.

"I was just cutting my hair," he replied.

"Were you really?" I said, a little shocked. And sure enough he had scissors in his hands. "Honey, you shouldn't do that."

He gave me the scissors. "I just wanted to have good style."


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

SCBWI Salon at the Eric Carle Museum

Saturday, I drove up the dreary wet highway to the Eric Carle Museum in Amherst, MA to attend a Society of Children Books Writers and Illustrators one-day salon on overcoming professional and artistic challenges.

A little about the museum - if you're anywhere around here - this is a lovely place to visit. The kids always get a kick out of the Hungry Caterpillar VW parked out front. How fun would it be to drive this car around?! It's a small museum with two large galleries and a small one. But it has a lovely gift/book shop and an art studio where you can make art with the kids. So do a little looking around and do a little making art. Good stuff.

Here's the panel of authors:
Lita Judge (author/illustrator of One Thousand Tracings, Pennies for Elephants), Sara Pennypacker (author of Sparrow Girl, the Clemetine series), Grace Lin (author illustrator of The Ugly Vegetables, Where the Mountain Meets the Moon), and Elise Broach (author of When Dinosaurs Came with Everything, Shakespeare's Secret.)

I'm going to go through some of the highlights of the conference and things that struck a chord with me. This is a post for those of you into writing. It might be a bit boring for the family/friends side of the readership.

The first topic was: professional/career challenges. Most of the women spoke about how they choose their next project.

LITA: Be careful of reader input. Write for your body of work and not to let your reader's down.

SARA: When choosing projects, make sure to pick something that is worth your time and energy. Pick projects that say something that is true and universal.
Expand your body of work; don't be redundant.

She cared a lot about using her books to find some sort of justice for issues that mattered to her.

Your characters must be motivated to act.

GRACE: Look inside yourself and write about something important to you.

ELISE: Elise spoke about working with other professionals: agents, editors. She quoted an editor as saying, "When I'm taking on a new project - I'm not adding a book to my list. I'm adding a person to my life."

Elise talked about finding an agent that is a good fit for your author style and she mentioned a list of great agents (Mine, Scott Treimel, being among them. I was very proud!)

She also spoke about author/illustrators taking any speaking gigs they could get early in their career and that the best way to market your book is to write another great book.

Then the panel spoke about how a good agent can help shape your career and that authors/illustrators should have an overall career plan and thoughts as to how to build their list. (Do I have one? Not really. :0)

The moderator asked them for advice on balancing their creating time with their marketing time - but none of the ladies had too much to add here. This seemed like a on-going challenge for all of them. I know it's one for me!

The best advice Elise had on school visits was this: get school to consolidate your time. You don't want to be scheduled for a group presentation at 9:00am and then have to hang around with nothing to do until your next talk at 1:00pm. That's only happened to me once - but it did feel like a massive waste of time.

The afternoon session was about artistic challenges:

LITA: Make sure your writing and your illustrations don't overlap. The illustrations should add something new to the story.

Trust the reader - don't overwrite. You don't have to give them every little detail.

SARA: Try not to protect your MC (main character.) Give them many mistakes; let them trip, struggle, and suffer from them.

Try to be truthful.

If there is a message, have the MC figure it out and say it. Don't have anyone else come in and give them the answers.

Write for children, write their stories b/c they can't write them for themselves.

And, be wary of strong-handed messages, but if there is a message, aim it at the adults.

GRACE: Trust yourself and that what you are doing is unique and important to you.

ELISE: Characters shouldn't act to please the readers - they should only be concerned with pleasing themselves and their journeys.

Make sure your plot and character fuse together. The plot should be unique to the character. If it's a mystery, make sure it's a mystery only your MC can solve b/c of his/her unique knowledge and characteristics. Then the plot will help to develop the character.

If you get stuck, write scenes like a patchwork quilt; out of order. Then you can link things up later.

Sometimes the "why" part of the story is unimportant. In When Dinosaurs Came with Everything, Elise doesn't write about why there are dinosaurs. The story just deals with the reality as it is. In Wink, The Ninja Who Wanted To Be Noticed, I didn't write why Wink wanted to go to ninja school - although one of the houses that rejected it did ask that question.

Of course, all the ladies had a lot to say, but those were the nuggets of wisdom that hit me.
Hopefully some will bonk you on the head, too.

(I bought When Dinosaurs Came with Everything for Magoo. It's a great book and it's illustrated by the fabulous David Small.)

Monday, March 15, 2010

Wall Collage

My friend, Heather, has had a blank wall in her living room for as long as she's lived in her house. She decided she wanted to mat and frame a piece of funky fabric - but because there's a lot of wall, I suggested she compliment it with a couple collages.

I saw this craft on the design show Trading Spaces. You go to Home Depot, Lowe's, etc. and get yourself a ton of cardboard paint samples. (Heather brought the fabric so we could match our palettes with the colors in it.) Bring them home, trim all the words off, and make a bunch of different sized rectangles. We got large pieces of leftover mat board and a big tub o' matte mod podge. We spent a decent amount of time laying things out before we glued - it takes awhile to get a good composition - then we put them together. If you try this at home, you'll want to make sure the mod-podge is good and dry before you proceed.

We framed them yesterday. I think they look super funky. I can't wait to see them on Heather's walls.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Worst Bedtime Story Ever

I love animated short films. For one thing - the animation is usually fantastic. For another - I am amazed by the richness of story that can be told in six minutes.

Granny O'Grimm's Sleeping Beauty was up for an Oscar this year. It didn't win, but I saw it online yesterday and nearly peed my pants. It's too good not to pass on.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Honest Abe - Oh Baby

Last night at the dinner table, I told Magoo to "look over there" and then pretended to steal some of his fries. He thought this was hilarious and started to try to con Mike and me to look different places - not that we had anything to steal, he just liked getting us to look at different things. At one point Magoo said, "Look Dad - there's a sexy girl tattoo on your back." I feigned jealous outrage. To pacify me, Magoo said, "Mom, you have a sexy man tattoo." Delighted, I said, "I do?" Magoo said, "It's Abraham Lincoln!" We laughed. "Is he wearing his hat?" I asked. Mike chimed in, "Not on his head."

And that's the kind of good clean conversation we have at home. :)

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

T-Shirts and A New Car

I know what you thought. You thought the opossum ate me, didn't you? No. I've just been busy. We had to buy a second car, (I'll go into that later,) and every other moment I've been working on Wink 2 - but I did make time to craft a birthday gift for my niece who's turning 1 on Thursday.

Freezer Paper T-shirts!

Every time I make one of these I want to make more. I love the way they turn out. My brother and his wife try to steer people away from pink for my niece, so I went green and red. Really, I went with the two plain front t-shirts I could find at the store. It's very difficult to find plain t's at a store. When I'm good and ahead of the game, I order them. But I wasn't too far ahead of the game this time around.

Here are some close-up shots:

Gold + fish = goldfish. Get it? :)
I was originally going to put a bird on the front of the green shirt, but when I saw the purple paint I knew it had to be an octopus! How fun is that? I want one!

So those are off in the mail. I hope she likes them.

Back to the car saga: Buying a car is a chore. Unless you're rich. Then it's probably fun. But we're not rich, so it's a friggin' chore. This is how I spent the last week and a half:

Finding cars.
Researching cars.
Researching what to look for in a used car.
Family trip to see a '98 Honda.
Go through checklist in the dark.
Spending 3 hours on Friday picking up Honda, driving to mechanic, waiting for inspection, finding out the car stinks, taking car back.
Start from the beginning - well kinda.
My mechanic, Jack, is awesome. He gave me the number for a mechanic/dealer in East Hartford that he said was very honest. So I researched said honest car dealer, Dan, (it's like finding a unicorn!) and found some cars. Then I called him and he said he'd come in on Saturday so the whole family went out to test drive a couple cars. Mike found one he liked so that's done. Dan, the dealer, will take care of plates and registration for us so we're just waiting to hear from him as to when we can pick up the car.
Geesh - what a hassle!

I am nearing completion of the innards of Wink 2 - Yeah. I think I'll put a check-list up tomorrow.

I'll be a better poster this week - I promise.

Monday, March 1, 2010


Just so you know - this very ugly creature is heading under my porch. That's where it is right now. Under my porch. Plotting it's evil little plan.

Here's how it went down.

I was having a pleasant morning. My dear friend, Staci, from Chicago is coming for dinner tonight. I had dropped Magoo off at school and stopped to get some warm, fresh bread for dinner. Then, my friend Sara called. She was telling me that the library at her son's school informed her that Wink is up for a Maryland Black-Eyed Susan Award. Yeah! - right? What a wonderful day.

Then the phone beeped. I don't get a ton of calls; it might be the school or my agent - so I clicked over. It was my neighbor. She was calling to explain the reason her dogs were barking off the hook was that there was an opossum under my window. Just as she's telling me this - I see that one of her dogs has jumped her fence and is running around in my backyard. "Nilla's out!" I scream as though the dog's a dangerous convict. "I'm coming!" my neighbor says and I click back to the line with Sara. "There's an opossum and the dog's out - I gotta go!"

If you've been reading this blog for awhile and can remember the post about the squirrel - you know I get a little overly hyped up about wild animals.

So I throw on my boots and meet my neighbor out back - she already has her dog and puts it in the house. Then she shows me where the bugger is hiding. It's nestled between a small garden I made from concrete blocks (sounds pretty, right?) and the back of my house. She tells me it hissed and showed it's nasty fangs to the dog. Then the dog comes through the house, out the back, and FLIES over her fence, going for the opossum again. So we're trying to get the dog away without getting too close to the animal. We figure since it's nocturnal that it might be sick or injured or something so I'm picturing a smaller version of Cujo jumping for my throat. My neighbor locks the dogs up and I tell her I will call Animal Control - I get a message machine giving me other numbers. So then I think, Maybe I should check on it again so I have a better sense of what I'm going to say, but the thing is on the move - to my porch!

I run and grab my camera - because blog - and take a couple of pics. I even try to slam on the window to deter it. It looks up at me as if to say " F- you, lady," and creeps through the wooden cross-hatch.

The cops at Animal Control weren't super supportive.

Me: Hi - I'm calling to report an opossum situation at my house.
AC: What's the situation?
Me: Well, an opossum has just crawled under my porch and I thought I should call someone.
AC: Was it ill or injured?
Me: It moved slow and it's not suppose to be out in the daytime, so it might be sick.
AC: They sometimes come out in the daytime for food.
Me: Oh. Well, it wasn't bleeding or anything but since this is the first time I've seen an opossum with my own eyes I couldn't detect any other injury. It wasn't foaming at the mouth or anything.

It basically ended with the dispatcher telling me that they would come out if the animal was ill or injured a couple more times, and me saying I guess I'd just keep an eye on the situation.

So that's where I'm at. I'm hoping it will scurry off. In the meantime, I'm keeping my cat inside.