All Time Favorite Christmas Book

Hands down.

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever

By Barbara Robinson
(HarperCollins, Hardcover, 96pp.)

Description: When the Herdmans storm Sunday school and take over the annual Christmas pageant, everyone braces for the worst. But no one is prepared for what really happens when the rottenest kids in the world take over the greatest story ever told. It’s a pageant full of surprises for everyone–including the Herdmans themselves.
I love it so much, we’re taking our kids to see the play. (I also love A CHRISTMAS CAROL.)
And this just makes me all kinds of happy:
What is your favorite holiday read?

Librarians, avert your eyes.

If you’re doing Christmas on a shoe-string budget (like me) and are or know book lovers (like me), you must check out Living with Lindsay‘s fabulous tutorial on making your own book wreath. (That’s her wreath above.)
It’s raining here, and I’m working blissfully on a super secret project. My kids are away for a few hours, and the coffee is warm.
O, happy, happy Monday!

Friday Five (and a half)

1. My soon to be 8 year old had an apple pie baking contest at school. We lost.

2. However, he now has mad pie-crimping skills. 🙂
3. Check out The Mercy House in Kenya when you have a chance.
4. If you need a good caper type read for your middle schooler, may I suggest Edison’s Gold by Geoff Watson? Mr. Watson’s a screenwriter, as this fast, fun read shows. It was pitched as National Treasure meet Goonies. Love.
5. Is Thanksgiving really next week?
I’m baking my grandmother’s cornbread dressing and thankful to God for family and health and 1,000 other gifts like Greek yogurt.
5.5 Oh, and my 4 year old insists his construction paper Pilgrim’s hat is a pirate one. Wouldn’t that have been interesting? Just think, we could have had Talk Like an Englishman Day.
What are you thankful for?

Am giddy.

I ordered this book so I’d have some *light* reading over the holidays. All I need now is a cupcake.*

*Red velvet with cream cheese frosting, please.

Picture Book Process

I first heard of illustrator Lynne Chapman via the Picture Book Junkies.
My ears perked up immediately because she works in pastels.
I do too.
Er, did.
Once the kids began scribbling on enhancing my pictures and using the pigmented chalk to paint the floor, I packed up my supplies and began to write.
It’s a heckuva lot easier to click SAVE than wash/rinse/put away wet paint from little fingers.
Notice I didn’t say the writing itself was any easier.
But pastels are fragile. Even with fixative. Shipping finished work was always an adventure. (I only had one casualty.)
If you’re a picture book writer or illustrator, you’ll enjoy her video series. She talks about her process, starting with the commission. Her accent is fun, too.

How to illustrate a book – Part 1 from Open College of the Arts on Vimeo.

NYT Best Illustrated Children’s Books 2010

The New York Times announced its list of 10 Best Illustrated Children’s Books of 2010. Click here for the slideshow.


By Jonah Winter.
Illustrated by Red Nose Studio.
Schwartz & Wade Books.


Written and illustrated by Peter Brown.
Little, Brown & Company.


Written and illustrated by Blexbolex.
Enchanted Lion Books.


By Suzy Lee.
Chronicle Books.
By Richard Michelson.
Illustrated by R. G. Roth.
Alfred A. Knopf.


By Rukhsana Khan.
Illustrated by Sophie Blackall.


Written and illustrated by Peter McCarty.
Balzer & Bray/HarperCollins Publishers.


By Philip C. Stead.
Illustrated by Erin E. Stead.
A Neal Porter Book/Roaring Brook Press.


Written and illustrated by Christoph Niemann.
Greenwillow Books/HarperCollins Publishers.


By Kate DiCamillo and Alison McGhee.
Illustrated by Tony Fucile.
Candlewick Press.
Congratulations to those listed!

Happy November

Now that my candy cache is re-stocked…
(Thanks to these guys.)


Bring on the rewrites. (Or new pages for you NaNoWriMo-ers.)

And if you write picture books, don’t miss this, Picture Book Idea Month.
It will be fan-flipping-tastic.
That’s not just the candy talking.

IF – Racing

My first IF post, a quick sketch a week behind. Or just in time for the new topic tomorrow. 🙂

I still need to clean this little witch up and paint her. Notice I drew the broom through the bottom of the dress! Oh well.
Let’s hope she wins the race in spite of my oversight. There’s bound to be lots of candy at the finish!

I’ll try to post a pic when she’s done.

The False Start

I’m waffling between two different openings for my middle grade. I have been for some time. Of course my choice influences the rest of the pages…

Then I saw a link cautioning Beware the False Beginning.

Brian, a YA author, says, “Always be a little suspicious of your beginning. Not necessarily the first line or two which might be perfect, but the first ten pages where your story is trying to get started. You want to jump into your real story as quickly as you can. You want to start your story as close to the heart of the story as possible.”
I have to run warm up laps. I have to spend some time with my characters to understand their wants and goals. That’s the backstory, and it’s usually in the first ten to twenty pages of the first draft.
I’ve heard it said that once Richard Peck reaches the end of his draft, he throws out the first chapter without even reading it. Then he writes a new one. The first chapter is the last in disguise, or something like that. It’s a promise to the reader.
So what’s the heart of the story? I need to start there, at the moment before everything changes. Then weave the backstory throughout.
Easier said than done.