Showing posts from June, 2008

The Caldecott and Newbery Awards Banquet, 2008

Last night I had the opportunity to attend the Caldecott and Newbery Awards banquet in Anaheim, California. It was an experience I’ll never forget. As you certainly know, this is the “Oscars” for children’s book writers. The participants were first wined and dined in a great ballroom and then the awards were officially presented.

Brian Selznik received the Caldecott Medal for his book, The Invention of Hugo Cabret. He explained that his intent was to use cinematic elements in a chapter book where pictures helped tell the story. He said that one of his inspirations was author Remy Charlip, whose book Fortunately, Unfortunately uses the power of page-turns as a tool to build suspense. Brian initially wanted to create one picture per chapter, but ended up with 300 pictures in a 500-page book. It's a unique work, and I can remember months ago that some people were questioning whether it really could be classified as a picture book at all. In the end, his ingenuity won over the Caldecot…

Lovin' California

Today I’m writing from inside the Desert Palms hotel in Anaheim, California. I’m sitting right now in the lobby, looking out from a sunny window at Katella Avenue by Disneyland. My family was with me earlier in the week, where we spent two days at the big “D” and California Adventure, and stayed overnight in the Staybridge Suites. We had an incredible time. Disneyland is immaculate, beautiful, and continues to upgrade its rides and entertainment while still holding on to the classics we all love. I’m a nutty Disney fan. Have you ever seen those commercials where the parents are there with their kids and suddenly they turn into kids, too? Yep, that’s me.

Anyway, we went on a ga-zillion rides, especially our favorites like Indiana Jones, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Space and Splash Mountains. We loved trying out the “Hollywood Tower of Terror” and “Soaring over California” from California Adventure. But the highlight of our trip was the fulfillment of one of my childhood dreams. We ate…

My First Bound Copy of Bedtime at the Swamp!

Yesterday I got my first bound copy of BEDTIME AT THE SWAMP in the mail! My publisher sent it--what a nice surprise. I think Macky did an amazing job on the illustrations. Last night, I got to read the story to a group of my nieces and nephews. My littlest red-headed niece kept saying, "Monster Bim Bam Boo! Monster Bim Bam Boo!" It was so cute. She also had memorized parts of COOL DADDY RAT, and she could predict when it was time to say, "ZOW" and "POW" and even tried a little scatting. There's nothing more fun than seeing a two-year-old scat. It was such a great time. That's the beauty of picture books--when they are read together, you can share an intense moment of bonding. You're in close proximity, sometimes as close as a snuggle or hug, pointing at observations, and sharing an experience together.

By the way, if you've purchased a copy of one of my books and would like it signed, contact me via email at

Skip to My Lou, My Editor

Lost my editor, what do I do?
Lost my editor, what do I do?
Lost my editor, what do I do?
Skip to my lou my darling!

I'll get another one, prettier too.

I'll get another one, prettier too.
I'll get another one, prettier too.
Skip to my lou my darling!

(Wait...shouldn't that song be "Skip to the loo, my darling?" As in, skip to the bathroom? I mean, who is "Lou" anyway?)

I’m teasing. But editors have lives just like everybody else—and sometimes they jump to a new publishing house, become the unfortunate victims of downsizing or mergers, decide to stay at home and parent kids, take up copper mining, or whatever. So occasionally authors who have worked with a particular editor for months or years get the news that he/she is no longer the contact on the book anymore. This can be very disheartening, and even a little scary. Sometimes editors take a book along with them to their new house so it suddenly has a new publisher, which has happened to some authors I kno…

Happy Fathers Day to Cool Dads Everywhere!

Happy Fathers Day to all you jazzy, fun-loving, scattin', tappin', snappin' Dads who'll dance in the city with your kids. Be sure to take them out to the places you work and play--and let them see you doing what you do best. Remember, you only stay "cool" for so long.

The Wheelchair Project -- Writing for Charity with Shannon Hale

I'm very excited to be involved in a terrific event this July, initiated by the one and only Shannon Hale, and involving some other amazing children's book authors. The following text is quoted from her blog:

This summer have unfettered access to professional children’s authors, all in the name of charity! Saturday, July 19, several local authors will host a Writing for Charity event in Salt Lake City, with all profits going to The Wheelchair Project. Come hear writers talk about their process, how to write for a young audience, storytelling tips, and the ins and outs of the publishing business. In addition, have your picture book text or first page of your novel (the most important page!) workshopped by professionals.

When: Saturday, July 19, 9 am to 1 pm
Where: Salt Lake Main Library, 200 East 400 South, Salt Lake City, Utah
Cost: $45 (should be tax deductible!)

Event breakdown: 9:00 am -- Registration
9:15 - 10:15 am -- Panel discussion in the auditorium
10:30 - 11:15 -- Break ou…

Lights, Camera, Action: Why Picture Book Writers Should Think Like Screenwriters

I have this theory that picture book writers would probably make good screenwriters, and vice-versa. That’s because both the picture book writer and the screenwriter have to think in visual scenes. A screenwriter must always consider what the audience will see: who appears in the scene, what they're doing, what the setting is like, and how the camera is angled. On a smaller scale, the picture book writer must do the same, because the picture book is also a visual experience.

I received a manuscript to critique several years ago that comes to mind now. The writer had created an entire story with a grandfather lecturing his grandson as they sat in a living room. Hmmm. So… let’s think like a screenwriter for a moment and imagine that an audience is going to pay for a ticket and watch this manuscript portrayed as a film on the big screen. Would it be entertaining? An entire movie filmed with two people sitting on a couch?

To be fair, I suppose some fantastic director could possibly pull…


There’s an old Twilight Zone episode where this guy runs around and realizes to his horror that he’s all alone in a town. He runs into the movie theater, stores, and although there are signs of life, he can’t find a real human being anywhere. Frantically, he keeps searching. Yet all along, he’s actually hallucinating. He’s really strapped to probes in a pseudo-spaceship, being tested to see how long he can stand having no contact with people before he loses his mind.

This has been a weird weekend, and I can relate to this guy. I'm in a strange zone where nobody is returning my calls or emails, and I've even got two manuscripts being looked at seriously, but not a word yet from anyone. It's silent. So silent. Too silent. Tick, tick, tick. WHERE IS EVERYBODY?

Good for Chuckles

So I got an email alert for COOL DADDY RAT... from a certain book website... and it had all the particulars right (publisher, price, author, illustrator, ISBN #) and then gave this description of the book:

"Completely revised and updated, the Second Edition of this comprehensive text details the basic, in-office diagnostic and therapeutic procedures commonly performed in treating dogs, cats, and rabbits. Step-by-step instructions on restraint, anesthesia, surgical technique, and medical management are provided and include the whether to in addition to the why to and how to. The book discusses purposes of the procedures, indications, precautions, possible complications, equipment needed, and preparations. Superb line drawings of procedures explicitly demonstrate operational motions as well as pertinent anatomic relationships."

Hey! I didn't know I'd written a surgical manual for pets! I'd hate to see the surgical technique performed on some poor animal whose vet is …

Listening to Chimes

I’ve actually got a moment right now where the house is still and quiet. I can't hear children--only the noise of the aquarium humming (I didn’t realize it made that sound) and chimes playing outside in the blowing wind. This is a rare occasion—one that must be taken in with a deep, nourishing breath. There are times when the noise level is so great in my house, and the word “Mom” is repeated so many times in a five minute period that I’d like to run screaming down the street. For example, this morning we were getting ready for church and I could hardly think straight. One kid needed me to find him a belt, another couldn’t find his shoes, one daughter needed her hair fixed and two daughters needed a referee for their squabble because one said the other was—gasp--“staring” at her. One son needed insulin and another needed me to magically dry his just-washed undershirt in thirty seconds. Meanwhile, my husband was frustrated because he needed to create a typed sign-up list and the pr…