All posts by Dylan

2019 Picture Book Previews Part Four

I think each list gets better and better! Enjoy part four!

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Reflections after Reading Alison McGhee’s Dear Sister

I posted this on Facebook last night and decided it was worth putting on the blog, too.

Last night before I went to bed, I read an advanced copy of Alison McGhee’s Dear Sister (out in October). I was struck by how many parallels there were in my relationship with my sister (like a 7 year age difference) to the brother and sister in the book. Also, the fact that the brother read to the sister over…and over…. And over again…. Of course, it eventually moved me to weep, and to ponder. And I’ve been thinking about what I would say if I were to write a letter to my sister in heaven, Taylor, today…

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Dear Sister,
I’m writing you mostly as a means to take a break from my PhD homework. I’m taking two classes at the same time for the first time, and I regret it. They both have 2 assignments due at the end of every 2 weeks. The next due date lands on this Sunday, and I’ll be in NOLA for the ALA Conference. I started on the PhD after you died. I told Lacy that when I finish it, she must call me Dr. Dylan. Do you know what she did? She laughed in my face and said that wasn’t going to happen. I imagine you would refuse to do so as well, just because you are so much like her.

It was 1,286 days ago that you left the earth and moved on to heaven. Your passing left a big, dark, cold void in my life, and in many others’. I know a lot of us have made progress in moving forward with our lives, but you sure made your impact here, and left a mark, which has made it so difficult for some of us to get beyond our grieving.

There are still moments that knock the wind out of me momentarily- from hearing a song on the radio, to playing a chord progression on the organ on a prelude on a comforting hymn, to seeing a certain box of cereal, to getting a notification from Facebook about a memory we shared. Facebook does that now- they will pull up your memories from all of the years past reminding you what you were up to on that day in time so many years ago. Some days I’m afraid to click the notification in fear of what will show up. So much has changed in the last five…seven… ten years…. And yet, there are some things that have remained the same.

I won’t fill you in on what’s going on in the world. Frankly, I don’t know if your tender and fragile heart could stand some of the atrocities happening in our country and around the world. As time goes on, things get fuzzier and grayer and more confusing. There is so much hurt and bitterness and anger in the world…. I’m glad you don’t have to endure it. That was the one thing that so many people have told me, and the rest of our family over the years- was that your heart was always so loving and so compassionate- and very, very fragile.

You know, I went to college and was employed for two years before you graduated high school, and I know I missed out on a lot of your life during that time. And I wasn’t always the best at communicating, because we didn’t have all that much in common during those years. You were a moody teenager chasing boys (then again, maybe they were chasing you), and I was trying to figure out what it meant to be an adult and how on earth I would function on my own in the real world.

And then it was time for you to move on to college. You were going to put that heart of yours to work and become a counselor. When I last saw you, I was visiting home for a week in the summer and we had the house to ourselves because Mom and Dad were on vacation. Do you remember that wretched stench in the house? You blamed me, and we both couldn’t find it. We called Grandma Jean when we couldn’t stand it, and she found the culprit- a bag of rotten tomatoes behind a barstool in the kitchen. When you both opened the bag, one exploded, and I still remember Grandma hollering “Grab a trash bag before another one explodes!” – You and I laughed and laughed for hours that night, once we could breathe after the tomatoes were brought outside and you fumigated the entire house with a single can of Febreeze.

How was I supposed to know that would be the last time I saw you alive and well and not hooked up to life support? I left early the next morning for IL. You left the next month for college at Iowa State. We kept in touch, sure, but I remember saying “I’ll see you probably next at Christmas” and you said “Yeah…. Probably.” I don’t think either of us knew what would transpire in the months following.

I know you would not want this for me, but I must tell you, I still lay down each night with the deep regret of not returning your call in mid-November. It was 11:30 on a Tuesday night and if I hadn’t had Pneumonia, I would have answered. When I texted you the next morning you said you missed me and just wanted to catch up, and I told you I’d call you back. And I failed on my promise. If only I had known that would have been my last chance to talk to you, I would have picked it up in a heartbeat. I would have made for darn sure that I followed up on my promise.

And then I got the call 2 weeks later that I needed to come home. I came, and my body froze and my heart broke into a million tiny pieces when I saw you there in the hospital. The nurses said you might be able to hear us, and so I’d talk to you and I asked you if you remembered the night the tomatoes exploded. I’m not positive, but I could have sworn the corner of your mouth moved up to smile a bit. After a week, I headed back to IL, not knowing that the following Friday Dad would make the hardest call of his life to let me know “She didn’t make it, Bud.”

Life has never been the same. It’s been hard, yes. But I have had so many chances to see the good— the BEST— in so many people and in so many circumstances. I have learned. I have grown. I have lived and loved like I never did before. There have been so many moments where I whispered to myself, “I wish Taylor were here to see this.” Most notably, at the birth of your nieces- Peyton Taylor and Paislee Marie. They took your names for their middle names. In a quiet moment when I was at Lacy’s house alone with them this past weekend, I looked into their eyes and I saw a reflection of your kindness and goodness and love in the innocence of what was looking back at me. I know they’ll grow up to make their mom and dad proud, and me proud… and you proud, of course. Many of us have committed to living your legacy of kindness and compassion and care, and sharing our hearts with the world- It’s the least we can do. And I know those girls will join the ranks.

It’s about time I get back to my homework, sis. I just wanted to let you know that you are not and will never be forgotten. And I will see you again some day.

Love, Dylan

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Nanny Paws! Interview with Wendy Wahman

Hello, Wendy! Thank you for joining me here!

Hey Dylan! Thanks for having me.

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Tell us a little bit about your 2018 book, Nanny Paws!

Nanny Paws was inspired by my little white standard poodle LaRoo, and the children next door. For a while, LaRoo and I got the kids up and off to school in the morning. They started calling her, “Nanny LaRoo,” and the story took off from there. However, LaRoo’s polite and rather serious demeanor is the opposite of Nanny Paws’ dog-centric joie de vivre. LaRoo does share Nanny Paws’ love of children though, and I’m looking forward to taking her with me to story times. I even had a Nanny Paws collar with I.D. tag made for her.

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Have you always been into writing and illustrating?

I’ve always made up stories, especially while I’m drawing. In jr. high, I had a great mentor in my creative writing and journalism teacher, Joel Tankenson. I was going through a rough time in my life, and Mr. Tankenson was my rock. He didn’t know it, but his class was my refuge and consolation. We recently connected on Facebook, and I was able to tell him that – and he got to tell me I was one of his favorite students! Music to my ears, to mean something to someone who meant so much to me. I have such great respect for teachers: hand over heart, I salute you all.

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Drawing: Yes, always. Every day since I can remember.

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What inspires your creativity?

Any time I drive or walk somewhere new, or look up through tree branches, or get down on the ground with the ants, I feel a charge. Charge of what, I couldn’t say, (and wouldn’t want to limit with a name or definition) but there’s a sprig of hope attached to it. And hope leans on next, and next becomes now, and being in the present is to be aware of being alive and being alive, even in decline, is a creative process, so, let’s keep hoping.

A more concrete answer is, looking through books, stretching & yoga, talking to creative friends. The Thesaurus is handy for sparking ideas. Sometimes I make an Insight Book*, or doodle. Museums and plays, of course. I just got a metropolis of inspiration: “The Book of Symbols, Reflections on Archetypal Images,” published by Taschen.

*Insight Books: https://www.wendywahman.com/insight-books

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What is one thing that readers don’t know about you, that only you could tell us?

I have a post-it next to my computer that reads, “Not now.” To shush my foul mouthed inner critic, so I can get my work done.

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If you weren’t writing and illustrating books, what do you think you’d be doing?

I always think my last book will be my last! Practically speaking, I’d market my map making, info-graphic & graphic’s skills. Artistically, I’d do something with my ‘Wendoodles,’ and teach more Insight Book classes.

If I could magically transform into someone capable of doing something other than art, I’d raise miniature goats and teach yoga on the side.

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What can readers expect from you in the future?

I’d like to do sequels for Nanny Paws and Pony in the City. Right now I’m working on a new picture book about time. I’m also writing about my year in the seventh grade (see above comment about a rough time in jr. high). It might take shape as a graphic novel, magazine length piece, or maybe it’s just something I need to do for myself.

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Anything else you’d like to share with readers of this blog?

Friends in California, I’d love to to celebrate the release of “Nanny Paws” with you and yours, the last week in June. My calendar is here.

Calendar: https://www.wendywahman.com/where-next

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Links & urls:

Website:  www.wendywahman.com

Blog: https://www.wendywahman.com/blog

Calendar: https://www.wendywahman.com/where-next

Insight Books: https://www.wendywahman.com/insight-books

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/WahmanBookPage

The Whatsits on FB: https://www.facebook.com/5Whatsits/

My books on INDIE BOUND: https://www.indiebound.org/search/book?keys=author%3AWahman%2C%20Wendy

 

BOOK TRAILERS:

Don’t Lick the Dog

A Cat Like That

Snowboy 1,2,3

Pony in the City

Rabbit Stew

Nanny Paws

 

Bio

Former Seattle P-I newspaper artist, Wendy Wahman now writes and illustrates children’s books. Her debut picture book, “Don’t Lick the Dog,” was selected as a 2010 Bank Street Best Children’s Book of the Year, starred for Outstanding Merit and accepted to the Society of Illustrators Original Art show. Other books include “A Cat Like That,” “Snowboy 1,2,3,” “Rabbit Stew,” “Pony in the City,” and “Nanny Paws.” Wendy’s editorial illustrations have appeared in major publications including Harper’s Magazine, The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times and the Harvard Business Journal. She lives in Tacoma with her husband, writer Joe Wahman and their two kids – who surprisingly, look and act just like standard poodles. Website: http://www.wendywahman.com

 

Wendy also teaches art and bookmaking to children and adults, and is available for children’s book storytimes, and school presentations.

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more odds and ends:

Wendy Wahman has had a number of jobs, including veterinary technician, dog trainer, security guard with her partner, a big red doberman named Willy, graphic designer, toy designer & technical illustrator. She was a staff artist for the Seattle P.I. until it closed it’s doors in 2009.End.jpg

People Don’t Bite People: Interview with Lisa Wheeler and Molly Idle

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Here today to talk about their new book, I have both Lisa Wheeler (author) and Molly Idle (illustrator) with me!

Thank you for taking the time to join me here at Mile High Reading!

Molly: Thanks for hosting us Dylan!

Tell us a little bit about People Don’t Bite People from your perspective.

Molly: Oh my goodness, I LOVE the text in this book. Lisa’s writing is short and sweet and FUNNY! From the moment I first read it I was completely smitten (bitten?). I couldn’t wait to start drawing!

Lisa: Every person has either bitten someone, been bitten, or knows someone that has been bitten.   Bites happen, people!  I see this book as a funny and mildly subversive chant that amuses both parent and child and  explains what biting is for–Food!

Molly, can you tell us a little bit about your illustration process?

Sure thing!

First, I scribble tiny sketches and notes on the manuscript, as I read, and reread, and reread it… figuring out pacing… and page turns… and how I’d like to break up the text throughout the book.

Then, I’ll move to my sketchbook and start making rough compositional sketches- still keeping them very small- less than half the size they’ll be in the finished book. I’ll share those sketches with my editor and art director, (for PDBP that’s the fabulous duo of Emma Ledbetter and Ann Bobco), and we’ll revise and rework them as needed.

Once all of the sketches are approved, I’ll scan them and scale them up to about 120% of the size they’ll be in the book. Then, I print out those enlarged sketches, and transfer them, by hand, onto the paper I’ll use to create the finished pieces of art. My medium of choice is Prismacolor pencil, so at that point I get out my pencils and start coloring! It takes me a few months (and more than a few pencils) to color all the pieces for a book.

Lisa, can you tell us a little bit about your writing process?

Lisa: My process can vary with each book. I get a lot of ideas and some never come to fruition. But once I get an idea, I generally do not go straight to paper. I mull it over in my mind. I do lots of  editing in my brain before I ever sit down in front of the computer. I often scratch words down on envelopes, backs of receipts, grocery lists, etc. When I think that this idea could be viable, I go to the computer. I jot down all my scratchings and see how it might come together. It’s like a fun little puzzle.

I get obsessed. I walk around talking to myself, repeating lines over and over. I answer questions from others with nonsense because I’m generally still inside my head writing. This is actually   my favorite part of the whole process. Sparking life into that idea is what really gets me excited.

Have you always been into writing / illustrating?

Molly: Before I became and author and illustrator, I was an animator.  In fact, my first job out of school was working for DreamWorks Feature Animation. I grew up watching Saturday morning cartoons, and studying every old Disney film (long or short) that I could get my hands on. Some of my favorites were the Jiminy Cricket, “I’m No Fool” shorts from the 1960s, which were a mix of education and entertainment. That same mix is very much in line with Lisa’s text for PEOPLE DON’T BITE PEOPLE, and so I tried to bring a bit of the same retro-edutainment vibe into my illustrations too. This book  really brings together my love of both classic animation and illustration.

Lisa: As a child, I liked to make up little songs and chants. I was obsessed with jingles, jump-rope rhymes and hand-clap games on the school playground. I also have a knack for remembering words to silly songs–not good songs, just wacky ones. My brother, Dan and I made up a song which we called “The Garbage Truck Song” and we still remember it today even though it was basically one line. “Ho-ho-ho! Hee-hee-hee! My Dad-Dee works on a garbage truck!”

 In 4th grade I won a Halloween poetry contest  and it was the first time anyone said that I was a good at writing. I continued to write–mostly poems–throughout my life, but I was 32 before I ever sent my work to publishers.

What’s the most exciting part of your job?

Molly: Ooooo, that’s a tough one. I like a lot of things about my job. But the most exciting part? I’d have to say that, as an illustrator, it’s the first reading of a new manuscript on my desk. That first reading brings with it all sorts of new visual storytelling possibilities, and that- to me at least- is just about the most exciting thing there is in the whole world!

Lisa: The most exciting part is the idea process as described earlier. That is when I am one fire. The revision process can also be as exciting when an editor makes me rethink things and I get in this headspace where I am turning the manuscript upside down.

It is also very exciting to see the art. I think about the picture book process this way; When I  sell the manuscript, it’s like finding out I am going to have a baby. But when I see early sketches, it is like getting a 3-D ultrasound! That’s when I know what the baby is going to look like and my excitement of the arrival grows exponentially.

Then, the finished book arrives–our baby is delivered!

What inspires your creativity?

Lisa: I do a lot of reading. I tell kids that you have to keep your brain fertilized with words if you want to be a writer. I take my own advice and try to stay on top of what new books are being  written, taking stacks home from the library each week.

But I am also inspired by many other things; nature, conversations, dreams, television, music. . .I am a kinesthetic learner and when I am writing, you will often see me taking long walks, riding a bike, driving or swimming laps. Don’t be fooled! My brain synapses are firing like crazy when I   am in motion.

I also get a lot of ideas from insomnia. When I am lying in bed, trying to get back to sleep at 3am, I have often come up with new ideas. I even dreamed one book.

What is one thing that readers don’t know about you, that only you could tell us?

Molly: My favorite color- because it changes all the time! Today, it’s AQUA.

Lisa: I have always felt the need to create something. I’ve gone through many “phases” in my creative life. As a child, I learned to crochet and I adored art class. I got into drawing and painting in high school, crafts and sewing when my kids were young, and of course, writing was always thrown into the mix. I worried that my writing would be a phase, like everything else. But I’ve come to realize that it is a part of who I am, not a phase. I still like to create and got   into a rock painting phase a few years ago that lasted an entire summer. Some things never change!

If you weren’t writing/illustrating books, what do you think you’d be doing?

Molly: Hmm… maybe arranging flowers… or making furniture… something that would let me continue to make things by hand.

Lisa: Before I was an author, I worked for six years in a children’s book department. I loved that job! Not only did I get to be surrounded by kid’s books, but I got paid to read them. It also fed  my desire to organize everything. I think that if I had not been working there, I never would have got the nerve to start submitting my work. So, if I couldn’t write for kids, I would look for a job in a children’s books store or a school library. I am really very passionate about children’s books and what I do!

What can readers expect from you in the future?

Molly: Let’s see… My next book is one that I’ve both written and Illustrated. It’s about a mermaid named PEARL, and it’ll be out in the world this fall. (October 9, 2018, Little Brown Books for Young Readers)

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and…Lisa and I are working on another project together- a companion book to PDBP!

Lisa: I am most excited that People Don’t Bite People is entering the world on April 3rd, 2018. Molly and I already have a follow-up book in the works called People Share With People. It is such an honor to have my words illustrated by such a talented artist!

Next September is the latest installment in my popular Dinosaur series. this one is Dino-  Christmas, illustrated by Barry Gott. My editor at CarolRhoda and I decided to have the sport- loving dinosaurs explore a few holidays. Then, I have a book coming out in December with Abram’s Appleseed called A Hug is for Holding Me, illustrated by Lisk Feng, in which I explore things in nature that can be compared to a hug.

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Anything else you’d like to share with readers of this blog?

Molly: It’s funny you should mention sharing because book that Lisa and I are working on now is titled:

PEOPLE SHARE WITH PEOPLE!

Lisa: Just that I feel so fortunate to be allowed to do what I do. I LOVE my job! I am grateful to all    my readers for their wonderful support. Thank you, Dylan, for affording me this opportunity to        share a little bit about myself with them.

Interview with Corinna Luyken!

Next up on the series of interviews on my blog is the talented Corinna Luyken! Enjoy!

Hello, Corinna! Thank you for joining me here!

It’s my pleasure Dylan, thank you for having me!

Tell us a little bit about your 2018 book, Adrian Simcox Does NOT Have A Horse!

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Adrian Simcox Does NOT Have A Horse, (written by debut author Marcy Campbell and illustrated by me) is essentially a story about compassion, kindness, and learning to see the world a little differently.

The publisher’s description is here:

Adrian Simcox tells anyone who will listen that he has a horse–the best and most beautiful horse anywhere.

But Chloe does NOT believe him. Adrian Simcox lives in a tiny house. Where would he keep a horse? He has holes in his shoes. How would he pay for a horse?

 

 

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The more Adrian talks about his horse, the angrier Chloe gets. But when she calls him out at school and even complains about him to her mom, Chloe doesn’t get the vindication she craves. She gets something far more important.

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Written with tenderness and poignancy and gorgeously illustrated, this book will show readers that kindness is always rewarding, understanding is sweeter than judgment, and friendship is the best gift one can give.

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Have you always been into writing and illustrating?

Yes!  I’ve always loved to write and draw.  I’ve been fortunate to have a mom who loves poetry and art, and who encouraged me when she saw that I loved to write and draw.  Even so, it took seventeen years for my dream of writing and illustrating books for children to come true!

What inspires your creativity?

I’m inspired by the general messiness and uncertainty of life.  By nature, the human form, my family.  But in terms of finding the inspiration for a particular project, I rarely have an idea that appears in my head like a light bulb.  More often, my ideas come from the process itself.  I sit down to write or draw and from the blank page and the process of interacting with it, ideas start to emerge.

There is a Chuck Close quote, which I find to be absolutely true:

“The advice I like to give young artists, or really anybody who’ll listen to me, is not to wait around for inspiration. Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work. If you wait around for the clouds to part and a bolt of lightning to strike you in the brain, you are not going to make an awful lot of work. All the best ideas come out of the process; they come out of the work itself. Things occur to you. If you’re sitting around trying to dream up a great art idea, you can sit there a long time before anything happens. But if you just get to work, something will occur to you and something else will occur to you and something else that you reject will push you in another direction. Inspiration is absolutely unnecessary and somehow deceptive. You feel like you need this great idea before you can get down to work, and I find that’s almost never the case.” 

 

What is one thing that readers don’t know about you, that only you could tell us?

I almost left college to become a Buddhist nun. (In the tradition of the Vietnamese monk, poet and peace activist, Thich Nhat Hanh.) Fortunately my stepmother intervened, and insisted that I finish college first.  After that, she said, I could do whatever I wanted.  She knew from personal experience how difficult it was to find meaningful work in today’s world, especially as a woman, without a college degree. I was furious at the time, but I’m very grateful now.

If you weren’t writing and illustrating books, what do you think you’d be doing?

I’d be trying to figure out what I needed to do so that I could write and illustrate books!

In all seriousness, I feel like I’m finally doing the work I’m meant to do.  And it’s been a long journey. But if for some reason I couldn’t do this, I’d probably want to be a school librarian.

What can readers expect from you in the future?

After Adrian Simcox Does NOT Have A Horse (written by Marcy Campbell, which will be out August 14, 2018 from DIial), I will be illustrating Weird Little Robots, a middle grade novel written by Carolyn Crimi, which should be out in spring 2019 from Candlewick.

I’m also working on my next book as author/illustrator with Dial.  It’s called my heart, my heart and is a meditation on/celebration of the heart— how it can open, close, and open again.  It’s a project I started many years ago— I took a rough dummy of it to my first national SCBWI conference, in LA, in 2013.  It also went on receive the SCBWI Don Freeman Work in Progress Grant in 2016.  The book has changed a bit since then (with all new art) and we are still tinkering with the text.  It’s a poem, and it has rhyme and a meter, which makes it tricky.  The artwork, which started out in watercolor, is now all monotype printmaking— so when this book finally makes it out into the world, it will look quite different from my other books.

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Anything else you’d like to share with readers of this blog?

To see more of my work you can head over to:

IG: @corinnaluyken:

twitter: @corinnaluyken

http://www.corinnaluyken.com