Sunday, November 23, 2008

Just popping in

Seems the whole astronaut urine-to-water machine would make for an interesting gross-out picture book for boys. I mean, my son loved Walter The Farting Dog, so I know a book about astronauts and urine and . . . well, them drinking it, would make him laugh so hard he wouldn't be able to put the book down. Ya know.

I suppose I'll get back to writing soon. I have many ideas and many more half-worked manuscripts on my computer. And besides, my agent has asked that I get back to that memoir-ish novel I'd been touting.

It's just that I've been in a writing funk. Excuse me while I whine, but writers do this sometime, especially writers who are really illustrators, who haven't sold a written work in, like, 9 months. Sigh.

Yesterday, I taught a class on Adobe Illustrator to a group of about 25 young SND creatives at the University of Texas' College of Communication. Teaching the class was a blast! I enjoyed it so much, I'm going to search out other teaching opportunities. Maybe even finish my BA so that I could get a real teaching gig, if this newspaper thing doesn't work out for me.

Last month while at a Texas Book Festival party, I met author Phil Bildner and told him about my newest book, Ron's Big Mission. The book is a fictionalized account of a childhood experience of the late astronaut Ron McNair. So when Phil returned to New York, he took some photos of the Dr. Ron McNair Park in Brooklyn New York and tagged me with them in his photo album. Very cool guy.

And if that wasn't cool enough, I got a nice little mention over at one of my favorite blogs, A Fuse #8 Production, over at School Library Journal. Thanks, Elizabeth!

Also, thanks to Cynthia Leitich Smith who has been heavily promoting the Take a Chance on Art project on her Cynsations blog.

Thinking about all the nice and generous people in this field has pulled me out of my funk. For a little while.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Saturday, November 15, 2008

A recap of the past week

Took a few days to recover from the Cub Scout camp out at Buescher State Park. Temperatures overnight had reached a low of 40-degrees inside our tent. But we were toasty warm, cocooned inside our sleeping bags, wearing several layers of clothes. Okay, to be honest, it was miserable. But we didn't complain too much because the Scouts who'd camped the night before earned their Polar Bear patches, given to those who've camped on nights when the temperatures were near or below freezing. That's one badge I can live without.

On Thursday, I attended a Celebration of Books at BookPeople, Austin's independent bookstore. I participated in a panel discussion about picture books, moderated by author Brian Anderson. Panelists included authors Phillip Yates, Greg Leitich Smith, Emma Virgan, and me!

There were panels featuring middle grade and YA authors, too, however because so many people hung around to ask questions, I didn't get a chance to see the others.

Highlights for the evening included an opportunity to meet upcoming author/illustrator Clint Young. His portfolio is out of this world! This guy's gonna be big, ya'll.

I also got a sneak peek of Chris Barton's The Day-Glow Brothers, which publishes next summer.

Last night, the wife made me attend a high school football game. A friend of hers has a daughter who is a cheerleader, so we went to support her. Again, I was miserable. I'm not a football game person. I didn't even do high school football games when I was in high school. I just don't see the fun in sitting in a freezing cold stadium, watching people throw a ball back and forth across a field. But to each is own.

Things should settle down after this week, and I'll return to working Effa full-time!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

A Celebration of Books

You Are Invited To

A Celebration of Books for Children and Young Adults

Austin Style!

Today, November 13, 2008

At BookPeople – 6th & Lamar

6:30 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.

Readings * Panel Discussions * Door Prizes * Refreshments * Book Signing

Presented by

The Austin Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators

Your number one resource for published authors and illustrators of youth literature



"2005 Publishers Weekly Bookseller of the Year"

6:30 Social Time – Second Floor

Visit and enjoy refreshments

7:00 A Holiday Reading - Amphitheater

Join us in the amphitheater as author Philip Yates (in full pirate costume) reads from his latest book, A Pirates Night Before Christmas (Sterling, 2008)

7:15 Picture Book Panel Discussion – Amphitheater

Featuring: Greg Leitich Smith, Philip Yates, Don Tate, & Emma Virgan

Moderated by Brian Anderson

Middle Grade/Young Adult Panel Discussion – Second Floor by the Stairs

Featuring: Lila Guzman, Shana Burg, P.J. Hoover, Helen Hemphill, and Jo Whittemore

Moderated by Tim Crow

8:15 Young Adult Panel – Third Floor

Featuring: Jennifer Ziegler, Cynthia Leitich Smith, April Lurie, Brian Yansky, &

Varian Johnson. Moderated by Julie Lake

Authors and Illustrators Scheduled to Appear

Book Signing opportunities will occur during the social time and after each panel

Cynthia Leitich Smith, Lila Guzman, Jane Ann Peddicord, Mark Mitchell, Greg Leitich Smith, April Lurie

Shana Burg, Frances Hill, P.J. “Tricia” Hoover, Helen Hemphill, Phyllis Peacock, Jennifer Ziegler, Christy Stallop

Julie Lake, Brian Yansky, Jessica Anderson, Varian Johnson, Philip Yates, Emma Virjan, Brian Anderson, Anne Bustard

Don Tate, Jerry Wermund, Jo Whittemore

For more information about the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, visit our website at or or contact Tim Crow, Regional Advisor, at timcrowscbwira[at]

Sunday, November 09, 2008


One of these days I'll look back on the past 24 hours with deep affection and nostalgia. But today, I'm just too tired...

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Yesterday, today

Yesterday, I didn't believe. Yesterday I wasn't hopeful. Yesterday, I didn't fully trust in America. But yesterday, America elected it's first Black President.

And that's all changed for me.

Today, I believe. Today, I'm feeling hopeful. Today, I am proud of my country.

During the primaries, my then 6-year-old son was a huge Hillary supporter. He was against the idea of having as Black President, and he was very vocal about it. I don't know why.

A few days ago, I asked him again who he wanted to be President, Obama or McCain. I fully expected him to say McCain, or revert back to Clinton. He said, "Dad, it doesn't matter, we need to be happy for whoever wins."

My son is indifferent. He doesn't see the historical significance of this day. He's like, "What's the big deal?" I think this is a good thing. Although, for whatever reason he didn't want a Black man to be President early on, I don't think he ever saw it as impossible . . . as I did.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Blog the Vote

If you haven't already, check out Blog the Vote over at Chasing Ray, where folks from the children's literature community post their thoughts on voting. Wow, some very touching testimonies there.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Fun at the Texas Book Festival

Authors Shana Burg, Varian Johnson, Don Tate, Shelia P. Moses

I had a wonderful day at the Texas Book Festival. This year, I moderated a panel. It was called I'm Not Feeling Like Myself Lately: My Life as a Writer, with YA authors Varian Johnson, Shana Burg, and Shelia P. Moses. It went very well. We touched on so many subjects, some in the audience later reported that they laughed, cried, and swelled with anger at times. That's what I'd hoped for.

I've been featured at the festival a couple of times, but I must admit, I enjoyed serving as a moderator so much more.

One of the funniest lines came from Sheila, when I asked about challenges in writing fiction. She said, "I just lie. That's what writing fiction is all about, lying." She also talked about some of her books being banned because of her use of the word "nigga," and then she encouraged Shana to use the word in her next book if she wanted to increase sales. Too funny.

Varian also had the audience in stitches when he discussed research. Part of his research for My Life as a Rhombus involved purchasing and personally testing out several over-the-counter pregnancy kits. He talked about the psychological challenge he first experienced in . . . um, providing a sample, and his wife's surprise at discovering them hidden away in a bathroom cabinet. Oh, yes, he went there.

He also discussed some of the challenges he faced in tackling the subject of teen pregnancy, and writing on this subject from the point of view of a girl. As always, Varian was funny, articulate, insightful.

Shana discussed her challenges in writing from the POV of an African American teenage girl, although she herself is Caucasian. But she didn't decide to write a story about an African American. She began her journey, simply, by writing a story. It wasn't until later in the process that she realized some of the challenges writing from the point of view of an African American teen.

But one clear point she made is that emotions are universal. Injustice is unjust, discrimination hurts everyone. Shana's story takes place during the civil rights years, and the struggle for civil rights is not an African American issue. It's our history, American history. It's a past we all share.

My day ended with a party at the award-winning, designing home of Eddie Safady. This home is like out of Hollywood, or maybe Bel Air. A true red-carpet experience. I didn't even realize it was someone's home, I thought it was a swank night club.

It was also pretty cool to sit around on the roof of this home, chatting with author Phil Bildner. Phil was warm, humble, funny, generous. Very nice guy.

A few more photos are posted on my Facebook.

Saturday, November 01, 2008


For those who don't know, I have two very different blogs. That last post, which I just deleted, was meant for another blog. Not this one at all. Ug.

I just came back to check comments when I discovered the mistake. Nothing terrible, political stuff. Sorry.