Wednesday, November 24, 2010

2010 goals met

In March I finished a nonfiction picture book that I wrote and illustrated. My agent began to shop it around after a few rounds of revisions. You know the routine, rejection, rejection, rejection. Very nice, complimentary, rejections, but rejections none the less. It would have sold quicker in a better book-buying economy.

On the flip-side, several editors have shown interest, and it's currently in the hands of a fantastic editor. I’ve made a round of revisions with her, and it’s under consideration by the publisher. I'm confident an offer will follow soon. Fingers crossed.

In April, a month following shoulder surgery, I began sketching Duke Ellington's Nutcracker Suite, a picture book written by Anna Harwell Celenza. It’s slated to publish with Charlesbridge late next year. Recovery from surgery went much slower than my doctor predicted. He figured, guy like me — in shape, works out several times per week — would heal quickly. He was wrong. Three months after the surgery, I was still in intense pain, I could not raise my hand above my shoulders, and then my shoulder froze. I began two months of physical therapy.

Because of the time invested in physical therapy, and then the challenges of summer — family reunions, vacations, my grandpa's 90th birthday — I didn't finish the sketches until fall. So I'm a bit behind. But the book has turned out well, and I'm looking forward to painting it soon, this time, in watercolor and ink (I normally paint in oil or acrylic).

In October, She Loved Baseball: The Effa Manley Story, written by Audrey Vernick, published with HarperCollins. Reviews have been favorable, and we even received a star from School Library Journal. Top it off, Audrey commissioned a wonderful book trailer that, to date, has received more than 500 hits -- it's gone viral!

Yesterday on Facebook, I announced my next book project: THE CART, written by the beloved and legendary Eve Bunting. It’s a brilliant story, unexpected, clever, creative, and it ends with a new twist. But that’s all I can say at this time. The book is going to require a bit of research, so I'm looking forward to making a little one-day trip to the east coast in the spring. I’ll visit museums and historic sites, and I’ll meet with a few author/illustrator friends in the area.

Recently I finished a first draft of another nonfiction picture book. The topic is a sports figure. Can you believe, me? writing about sports? Writing a nonfiction picture book about a subject not published before is nerve wrecking. I'm afraid at any day someone else will publish the story, and I'll have wasted my time, money and energy. That has happened to me before. I'd done some preliminary research, ordered and read some books on the subject, began a first draft. And soon afterwards another author came out with the same book -- same title and everything! Ug. Right now my sports book is out to a few critique buddies (I’m so lucky to have such friends) and I’m hoping to do another revision shortly after the new year.

I have only one regret this year. My first authored book didn't publish this year as planned. It was supposed to publish last spring, 2009. Then it was set for the fall. Then again this past spring, 2010. Then again this fall. Then spring 2011. And now it's off for the spring, and , well, no one really knows when, it's all up in the air. Sigh. I’m told this happens sometimes. I'm confident it will indeed publish, someday. I keep telling myself, It will publish when it is supposed to publish, and not a second sooner. That's a good thing.

It's been a great year, I can’t complain.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Book signings and festivals

Over the past few days, I had the pleasure of participating in two very special book events — a signing at Menchaca Elementary School's Scholastic Book Fair and the Savannah Children's Book festival. I had an absolutely fantastic time at both events, though each one had it's own way of feeding or starving my ego.

Last Thursday evening, I signed books at Menchaca. The librarians there are SO good. They really excited the kids about my book Ron's Big Mission, so much so that it became the hottest seller at the fair. It sold 99 copies and I was honored to be there to sign most of them. Check out the nice display behind the table. I can't thank the librarians enough.

Following that event, I flew to Georgia where I was a featured author-ilustrator in the the 7th annual Savannah Children's Book Festival. This is a top-notch festival, to say the least. More than 30,000 people attended the festival last year, and this year was even bigger. The lineup included included Judy Schachner, “Skippyjon Jones”; Anna Dewdney, “Llama Llama Red Pajama”, in addition to Alan Katz, Brian Jordan, Pat Mora, Vicky Alvear Schecter, Charles R. Smith, others. I was especially excited to meet two very young authors, 9- and 11-year-old Miles and William Rabun, who wrote the book "My Grandma's Backyard." Behind Judy and Anna, they were clearly the most popular authors at the festival.

My book signing (above) was a bit, um, humbling. But that happens sometimes, and I found much humor in the situation.

When I returned, I received this wonderful letter from the mother of an attendee. This made my day and I thank her for sending this along.

Hello Don,
I am the mother of Julia, the little girl with twists you drew at the Savannah Book Festival. She was so honored! This was the first time she wore her hair in twists and you commented on them. She was so shocked! She has told everyone about you and your wonderful illustrations. Her favorite was the illustration with the spoons from The Hidden Feast because of the movement in the swirls. This of course came from your comment about creating movement in a still illustration in the Black All Around book. She is very proud of being a black girl and hearing that story along with the comment on her twists was a high-five to her confidence! Upon returning home she immediately colored your drawing as you had instructed her to do. Her father, as per her request, framed it along with the SBF article of you and it now hangs in her bedroom. So don't worry about the book signing. You signed a little girl's heart that day.
Also from the festival, see me writing on the walls of the Bull Street Library.