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I haven’t been posting much but it’s not for lack of stuff to post about. More to do with being tired and on allergy meds. And lazy.

I recently finished up two new projects for the kids market that will go to various editors soon. I often get asked what I ‘send out’. Well, what my agent sends out. Here’s how I do it. For picture books I have a manuscript and a very rough book dummy in PDF format. If the project is a young reader novel, it’s just a manuscript usually as a PDF. With a graphic novel or hybrid project it’s a manuscript and a few pages of rough sample art, perhaps one finish in PDF format.

These projects have kept me busy in-between the 2 books I illustrated so far this year (Dilly-Dally Daisy and Tommy Can’t Stop) and the picture book I am starting to illustrate. I am just about finished with the rough drawings and page layout. Another few weeks and I will have a dummy for the editor to review.

I’ve also been working on a series of three animated shorts I’m creating (writing, designing and directing). This is pretty exciting and I will share more when I have something to show and of course when and where you can see them. The animated shorts are about a minute and a half long. So the scripts are short (though not by picture book standards!) but still take a lot of time.  They are kid friendly and focus on the world of books. More precisely book reports by my cast of characters. Wackiness ensues.

But when I have a ton of deadlines to hit that occupy a similar creative space I need a ‘something else’ to keep me creatively awake. So I wrote the first draft of a very odd detective story, not especially kid friendly and I am almost done illustrating two short stories I wrote (that are kid friendly)  that I think I will release on Halloween this year on the iBooks store. They are both sort of funky and edgy and not what any mainstream publisher would want. But doing these projects ‘on the side’ so to speak help me stay excited and challenged. The creative process is never domesticated completely. It can be tamed. And if you throw yourself at it you can keep it moving forward and performing – for short periods of time. But it’s just as important to let it run wild and see where it takes you.

 

The issues facing schools and teachers are near-and-dear to me. I work with a local high school and review art department candidates, I visit schools and libraries around the country and I have a 7 year old who reminds me about what happens ‘on the ground’ every day. I was recently talking with a friend who is a university professor about the issues facing teachers at every level. And in my presentations I often talk about how the teachers I was lucky enough to have made a huge difference in my life.

This is a very good article in the New York Times by David L. Kirp called: Teaching Is Not a Business. it examines what’s at the core of a good school experience and looks at various reform fads. What makes a great school experience? It’s not free-market mumbo-jumbo. It’s not vouchers. It’s not computers. It’s good teachers with the time and materials to spend time with students. 

I don’t mean to belittle the issues facing education these days. They seem ominous and complex. But I think a rational discussion starts with admitting the high value of teachers and the importance of the time a teacher gets to spend with students. It seems that we should examine the education system issues by agreeing on this bedrock principle.

gtg2

I am thrilled to be a guest at the 15th Annual Celebration of Minnesota Children’s Authors and Illustrators! It’s at the Anderson Center in Red Wing, Minnesota on Saturday, September 20th. So if you are in Minnesota and want to party with the cool-kids stop by. Even if you are in Wisconsin, drive over. It’s not that far. And from Iowa – not a bad drive either. It’s a longer drive from South Dakota, but worth it!

I’m also visiting some elementary schools in Minnesota while I’m there – including the elementary school I attended – which should be great fun. BTW  in The Book That Eats People there is a school library stamp on the inside back cover that shows the bad book once spent time at my elementary school.

The event is host to a ton of great authors and illustrators and I think it will be the first chance that my new book, The Great Thanksgiving Escape will be available. So if you buy one, I can sign it, draw a picture in it, sign someone else’s name in it. Whatever.

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And of course I will be happy to sign copies of How Martha Saved Her Parents from Green Beans with David LaRochelle who will also be there! I will be giving a 30 minute talk about picture books and showing some early art from Martha and The Great Thanksgiving Escape.

I’ll post more about this as the time approaches. I’ve been looking forward to this for months! Oh-Yah? OH-YAH!!!

I was a very early fan of Amazon.com, but now Amazon is deciding what to sell based not on what customers want, but on how much they can undercut pricing and harm the publishers. I have come to believe that Amazon is a psychopathic institution. Here in America there is a great movement to imbue corporations with rights. To treat them as real people/individuals. That means a few are going to be sociopaths and psychopaths. Amazon now qualifies.

I am slowly replacing all the ‘buy online’ links on my website to link to other book buying sites like Barnes & Noble or Powells or Indiebound. Not that this will make a big difference to Amazon as I’m sure my links only deliver a handful of sales a year if that.

But after their latest conflagration with Hachette shows, they would rather destroy an industry than spilt a penny. Their offer to keep selling books released from Hachette only if the authors take all of the profit and cut out the publisher is so ugly in spirit I found it hard to believe. But here it is.

I have nothing against indy-publising. I’ve done it most of my life. I sold photocopied comic books for years. I ‘self published’ an iPad read-along comic book App. three years ago.

I will probably release some short, illustrated horror stories this Halloween for the iPad on the iBook Store. Putting work out there when you want can be a good thing for your creative spirit even if the work falls short for a broad majority of readers. But for Amazon to treat publishers and editors as if they add nothing to the work I do as an author and illustrator is beyond arrogance. My earnings are about as far from Stephen King’s earning as an author can be, but I have never once regretted working with a publisher and editor. They have done nothing but raise the quality of my work and help sell the books. Unlike Amazon that more or less throws up 10 billion things and hopes someone will find what they like. It’s road-kill-buffet style capitalism.

I would shop at Amazon for the convince alone even if they weren’t selling books at losses and strong-arming publishers. But they have made a choice. Domination or bust. Arrogance is such an unpleasant shortcoming for anyone or any corporation.

beanbean2How Martha Saved Her Parents from Green Beans was recently picked by Parade Magazine as a top food-themed picture book! I illustrated David LaRochelle’s wonderful yarn and am thrilled to see that the book continues to gather new readers.

Check out the list from the page linked here. It’s a slide like list of the top books including Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs and some book about Green Eggs and Ham.

Charly

When a good dog dies there is no memorial parade. There’s just a lot of little things that aren’t quite right anymore. A quiet in the house at dinner time that seems unfamiliar. Tears fall every time you get lost in a careless moment of recollection.

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When a rescue dog comes into your life, you don’t know what they have been through. But they often have a look in their eyes that tells you more than you might want to know. Sometimes they come with scars you can see. Did they get time to be a bouncing puppy with their mother nearby? Did they romp and play with their siblings?  Have they learned not to trust the domineering animals on two legs? Did they get to sleep on the sofa –  because they can now, no need to look guilty.

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And you hope their past wasn’t that bad and you hope they will forget it if it was and you love them. And in time the look mellows. And they shine.

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And when they are gone you wonder how you lived your life before they joined it.

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hp2 hp1I just ran across these covers from (I think) the book’s release in the UK. Now, please don’t hold this against me, but I am not the ‘most biggest’ Harry Poter fan in the world so I don’t know all the details of editions release, colors used, day of the week when a new one came out. Anyway, what interests me is how these covers just feel wrong. And I’m not an expert cover artist, but these feel like what the covers should have looked like – if the books weren’t very good. That’s an odd thing to say, but that’s what they feel like and no slight against the artist or designers. It’s not JUST the art or JUST the design. They seem to latch onto the wrong tone. They feel too lite, too bright and a bit too reduced. They feel like an after school special announcement instead of belonging to one of the most read books of fantasy ever released.

I’ll need to think about this some more to understand what I’m reacting to.

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