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dillydally4gtg2

Sometimes I write the books I illustrate. I was recently asked what I write about when I develop a picture book.

What do I concentrate on? What are my ‘themes’?

I hadn’t really thought of it that way. I usually have dozens of small ideas I am working on and I spend most of my efforts in finding out if the ideas work at the appropriate scale and tone for a picture book. But I do have issues that resonate within my work. They are there whether or not I put them there.

Obviously when I write and draw a picture book I have more control over how it all fits together. I most often do a dummy that I submit with my manuscript so the text has already been fit with illustrations so editors can see how well they hang together, or don’t. Revisions ensue.

But what do I like to write about? My picture books all have a strong outdoor component. With my book, The Great Thanksgiving Escape, it’s easy to forget that it’s really about kids who are taken with imaginative play – and they want to play outside. That want to get to that swing set. They don’t want planned ‘play time’ with artificial boundaries. For me the last page of The Great Thanksgiving Escape sums up so much of my childhood. It is about the love of being outdoors, no matter the weather. When my daughter was small we were at the park everyday. And living in Oregon that means we played through plenty of rain and she never minded as long as she got to play!

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The final page form The Great Thanksgiving Escape

And Dilly Dally Daisy (my new picture book, due out in July)  has a similar POV. The outdoors again make an appearance at the end of Dilly Dally Daisy. As a child I spent 90% of my time outside. We had horses, cows, pigs, chickens, 20 some acres of pasture, forest, creeks and the St. Croix river just down the road. So outdoor themes are built into my childhood. Even if they are only tangential to the plot of many of my stories.

The new picture books I have written (more about them when a release gets closer) also hold reverence for the out of doors, though it’s not the main point of the stories.

I try and focus on what I remember from being a kid, but I also pay close attention to how my daughter and her friends are experiencing and expressing their childhood. That’s important for a children’s book author. Don’t just reflect on your own childhood. Try to understand what kids are like today. There are similarities and some very big differences. A large part of the ‘childhood experience’ is universal. I try to find universal themes and express them in modern terms – but the stories are still particular to my personal interests/experiences.

This is way too long an answer!

Barnes & Noble

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Not sure why I used this quick sketch for this post, but here it is…

I will be at the Barnes & Noble store at Bridgeport in Tigard on Saturday, May 30th. I think I’ll be there at noon or 12:30. This is in support of an eduction al event. I am going to do some drawing and talk about how words and pictures can work together to create a dynamic story.

Talk to any author or illustrator and they will tell you that bookstore visits can be scary things. You honestly don’t know what will happen, if there will even be anyone there. The employees at this Barnes & Noble always make me feel welcome and I’ve always had a great time visiting the store. So if you are out-n-about on the 30th, and want one of those giant Snickerdoodle cookies from the Barnes & Noble cafe OR want to get a book, stop on by!

Dilly Dally Daisy

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An advanced copy of my new book arrived! Dilly Dally Daisy is a new picture book I wrote and illustrated. Having an advance copy arrive will make for a much better week.

The end papers have Daisy in many different hats. As a kid I loved hats for some reason. I was just talking to my daughter about all the hats I used to get at rummage sales and secondhand stores. I don’t think I have any left. I wish i had kept a few.

The color in the book looks really great, I think it’s one of the best reproductions of my work I’ve seen in a long while. It will be out in July. Make sure everyone you know buys a copy. Or two. ; >

I’ll get some better photos of the book shortly. These are the “I’m so excited, it’s here!” pictures.

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Some more quick sketches drawn on my iPad. These are based on people I see, BUT I then improvise with them. I push them into characters. Often a face, a pose or a gesture is enough to set off a character idea for me. lift ‘Lift!’ ucsm ‘Have I got a deal for you!’ I often see people who seem to fit a part so perfectly that I create a role of them. Everyday superpowers seemed to fit this guy who seemed the perfect salesmen in an old-timey slightly not trustworthy way. I think I would have loved being a casting agent actually.

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I’ll be a guest along with Kurt Cyrus at Third Street Books in support of the 16th Annual McMenamins UFO Fest in McMinnville, Oregon.

So start up your hyperdrives and warp engines and get yourself out to McMinnville. It looks like our perfect sphere of hot plasma with convective motion has a nice day in store for us on Saturday the 16th.

For more info click here, and there will be bus service so you can park outside the downtown and take a bus in. Great idea!

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And read up on my favorite aliens at my Alien Trading Card site!

I’m pretty sure that legally – I have to make Chocolate Chip Cookies tomorrow. Now I did spend about 6 years as a baker earlier in my life so maybe that’s why I feel so emotional about National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day. Or maybe I just like cookies.

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The most specialist day of the year awaits! (I better make sure we have enough butter…and milk for dippin’)

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I’ll be signing books and drawing plenty of aliens at Third Street Books in McMinnville on Saturday the 16th. It’s part of the McMenamins UFO fest which takes over McMinnville for a few days each of the last 16 years.

Author/Illustrator Kurt Cyrus will also be there, if he can escape his alien overlord masters and we will talk books. And drawing. And then more about books. And I will be happy to share my 3 encounters with visitors from other worlds too!

See you then. And if you need more UFO fun, check out my Alien Trading Cards! 

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