Thursday, November 29, 2007

So Many, Many Books

Every nook and cranny of my house is piled with books. (Actually, I'm kind of suspicious of a house without any.) I usually read three at a time (sometimes more)-- a fiction book for pleasure; non-fiction for story research (right now I'm hooked on the Middle Ages); a book in Spanish or French to keep up my language skills; and then there's the perpetual stack of picture books from the library. (Let's not even get started on magazines...) It's not that I get bored easily-- I think it's rather that there is so much I want to read and not enough time. (Yes, I'm impatient... so many books... so many possibilities...) Obviously this is not exactly the fastest way to read. In fact, I've been wondering lately whether it is normal or even healthy! I'd love to hear what other people's reading habits are, if you'd like to share.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

A Map, From Start to Finish

When I'm not working on children's books my "day job" is creating illustrated maps. Here is a step-by-step of one I did for Westchester Magazine.

First is the scrap that the client sent-- rough map info and a few reference photos of some of the buildings. The yellow box lists all of the places that need to be included. ("Yikes!" I say to myself. "How am I gonna make that look pretty?")

Here is a very-cleaned-up version of the sketch after the client approved it, with corrections indicated:

And, voilĂ , the finish!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Forgetting How to Draw

In a recent interview with author and illustrator Brian Lies at Greetings From Nowhere (part of Robert's Snow- Blogging for the Cure) one of the tips Brian shared was to draw as much as you can. He said:

My ability to draw waxes and wanes. When I'm in the writing stage of a book and don't draw for several weeks, my drawing becomes terrible. It's only after drawing daily for a week or so that my skills return, and the mental muscles get back into shape. But it's important to build those mental muscles first--and the only way to do it is by spending time practicing.

I totally relate to this! I actually think most of life is about practice-- whatever skill you are trying to master. And it reminds me to keep a sketchbook with me wherever I go. Even for the smallest of scribbles.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Tough Decisions...

... apple, pumpkin or pecan pie? Why not some of each?
Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Books with Maps

This is a map that I did for the frontispiece of a book called Revolution Is Not a Dinner Party by Ying Chang Compestine, which was just released this fall from Henry Holt. It's a fascinating story about a girl growing up in China during the Cultural Revolution. This map was particularly fun because I got a chance to read the manuscript beforehand. I loved the story then, and am happy to see that it's getting great reviews.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Sunday Event!

I love my local library. And my local children's librarian. She includes me in so many special events.

On Sunday, November 18th I will be signing books from 1 to 3 pm with three other really well known children's book authors and illustrators– Nancy Tafuri, Leonard Everett Fisher, and Paul Meisel. I am totally honored, humbled, and intimidated all at the same time!

This event is part of the C.H. Booth Library's 75th anniversary celebration. There will also be Author Friendship Quilts on display– sewn together by local volunteers from individual squares signed and decorated by different children's book authors and illustrators. It should be a lot of fun. If you're in the area come on over and say "hi!"

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Reading and Feeding

This morning I had the pleasure of reading to Mrs. Attanasio's 4rth grade class at the Hawley Elementary school as part of their celebration of Children's Book Week. This year, the school combined their celebration of books with participating in Heifer International's Read to Feed program, to help alleviate world hunger. The students are trying to raise enough money to purchase an entire "ark" of animals– goats, rabbits, chickens, and more– in order to benefit a community in need. I think it's great that the kids are combining literacy with social awareness.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


I started doing Illustration Friday a while back. It's a great exercise for your creative brain, even if, like me, you don't get the artwork done by each week's deadline in time to post it to the site! (Hmmm... note to self... early New Year's resolution??)

Monday, November 12, 2007

Snow's A Coming

Last week it was cold enough for us to light the wood stove for the first time this season. Of course, it was the annual "smoke ourselves out of the house" event that happens every year when we first fire it up. (It's a good-hearted but temperamental old stove.) But once we reaquainted ourselves with its quirks it cranked out heat beautifully.

Lighting the stove always makes me wish for snow. And this year it's going to snow early-- because Robert's Snow is taking place! I am very excited to be participating in this unique and creative fundraising event for cancer research to benefit the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Over 200 children's book illustrators were each asked to decorate a wooden snowflake to be auctioned off online during three weeks in November and December. The first round of bidding will begin on November 19th. Check out the snowflakes here. There are some amazing artists participating this year! And of course, it's for a great cause.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

The Water's Fine

It's only been about forever that I've thought about starting a blog. It's just that other things kept getting in the way. For one thing-- I'm terrified of my computer. Also, I'm one who usually has to think something to death before I do it. But recently I've felt as if time is passing too quickly... it's time to just leap! So, thanks to encouragement from friends (thanks Julie!) here it is-- a peek into my world of writing and illustrating children's books, plus some of the other things that I find make life interesting. Whew! That wasn't so hard now, was it?