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slatts July 13 2014, 11:38

13 JULY 2014

THE BIG ZERO PARTY took place yesterday. Two had celebrated birthdays with zeros in them earlier this year. And two have those big-zero birthdays coming up. But the four of us and our friends had one big pool-side picnic party—and it was one crazy, laughing, singing, splashing, eating, drinking, being silly...BIG ZERO PARTY!!!

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sevenimpossible July 13 2014, 06:22

7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #390: Featuring E. H. Shepard



Good morning, all. The illustrator to be featured in today’s post (E. H. Shepard is just filling in) needed a bit more time to get her work and thoughts together, and I said, hey, I’m a busy lady myself these days, so take your time. And so the post is delayed, but I can tell you that when I do post the art of this talented illustrator, you’re in for a treat.

I’m not without content, though, because as I’ve already mentioned a couple times here at 7-Imp, over at a new site (called Wild Things!), my co-author and I are sharing stories that were cut from our upcoming book, Wild Things! Acts of Mischief in Children’s Literature — stories, that is, that didn’t make it to publication, on account of length.

And I have to say: It’s been a lot of fun to share the stories. Yesterday (here), we had some stories related to The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, and today we have some stories related to the Winnie-the-Pooh books. The story, in fact, about the real Christopher Robin, a.k.a. Billy Moon, always breaks my heart, especially the ending and his ability to come to terms with his fame. (“[T]o my surprise and pleasure, I found myself standing beside them in the sunshine able to look them both in the eye.” Oof. Gets me every time.)

So, I’m so sorry I don’t have art for you today (other than a bit of E.H. Shepard), but I can certainly point you to that post over at Wild Things!

* * * * * * *

Note for any new readers: 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks is a weekly meeting ground for taking some time to reflect on Seven(ish) Exceptionally Fabulous, Beautiful, Interesting, Hilarious, or Otherwise Positive Noteworthy Things from the past week, whether book-related or not, that happened to you. New kickers are always welcome.

* * * Jules’ Kicks * * *

1) The abiding generosity of Jama (and Mr. Jama).

2) I get to meet Jama in person (for the first time ever) in a few weeks! I’m inordinately excited about this.

3) This profile of Dahlov Ipcar was neat to read.

4) I’ve been prepping for this presentation, which I enjoy doing every July in Knoxville.

5) As a ginormous SNL fan, words cannot possibly express how happy this made me to see this week:

6) I already said this, but it’s been really fun to share cut stories from our book at the new site.

7) Showing Planet of the Apes (the original film, that is) to the girls. (I’m a big fan — of those original movies and my girls.)

What are YOUR kicks this week?

jjk_synd July 12 2014, 14:20

TED@NYC recap


Earlier this week I had the great privilege of speaking at TED@NYC. (More than a thousand people applied, but only a little over twenty people were invited to speak.) All of the speakers were so incredibly inspiring, and I feel so fortunate to have met them. Some of the talks may go on to TED.com, other talks will land the speakers an invite to the big TED conference. It would be amazing if my talk on School Lunch Hero Day made it to TED.com so more people could hear my talk on gratitude. For the time being, I have no idea what the future will hold! But for now, you can read a recap of the evening on the TED blog here: http://blog.ted.com/2014/07/09/ted_at_nyc_2014/ 

Interesting fact: at TED@NYC each speaker was given a time cap for their talk that was, on average, five minutes. If you're wondering if that was a challenge, the answer would be yes. But it really helped me focus my message! 

You can find some great photos here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/tedconference/sets/72157645630440234/!

Photo from TED@NYC Talent Search, July 8, 2014, Joe's Pub, New York, NY. Photo: Ryan Lash/TED https://www.flickr.com/photos/tedconference/14649792763/in/set-72157645630440234/
Photo from TED@NYC Talent Search, July 8, 2014, Joe's Pub, New York, NY. Photo: Ryan Lash/TED https://www.flickr.com/photos/tedconference/14443260818/in/set-72157645630440234/

slatts July 12 2014, 12:33

12 JULY 2014

As I have pointed out previously, the DAYS of 2008 are the same as those of 2014, so...
ON SATURDAY JULY 12th 2008, I had just got back from my Maine vacation. I posted these four "vacation diary" images (from previous vacations) and not a single word. The comments came from about ten of Live-Journal friends who "knew" exactly what these images meant.

I guess the adage is true about the picture and the thousand words.

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kellyrfineman July 11 2014, 15:51

An update on Revision Camp

Yesterday afternoon, I finished the draft of the picture book I was talking about in yesterday's post about the revision process and how long it takes. I was completely happy about it, and celebrated with a drink at dinner and everything.

Of course, today I am wondering whether I want to leave it the way it is, in a first-person telling, or switch it to third person and assign character names. But that is the way these things go. And I will probably try it and see how I like it either way.

Plus I still have full book dummies to do for this picture book and the other one I mentioned, which is about a kitten. (Want to know how to make one? I highly recommend Tara Lazar's post on the topic.

An author's work is rarely done. So those plateau moments when one major thing has been accomplished and it's not time to start the next step are truly worth celebrating. Because really, life needs more celebrations.

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sevenimpossible July 11 2014, 15:42

What I’m Doing at Kirkus This Week,Plus What I Did Last Week, Featuring Amrita Das



“A child’s life is hard, especially if you’re cursed to be poor. It’s gone even before you start on it. … If you dream for a moment,
you’re asked why you’re twiddling your thumbs.”

(Click to enlarge and read full text)


This morning over at Kirkus, because I’m preparing for a presentation about the best picture books of the year thus far, I thought I’d weigh in my with tippy-top favorites.

Thank link is here.

* * *

Last week, since I wrote (here) about Amrita Das’ Hope is a Girl Selling Fruit, an April release from India’s Tara Books, I’m following up with some art today.



“At the workshop, I was asked to think of a story to draw. I didn’t know where to start. I wanted to draw women, but what story would these women be part of?
I thought of my own childhood. … and started to paint two girls under a tree.
Here they are: they’re dancing, happy to be jumping on the leaves. Everything’s green, the leaves rustle pleasantly, the birds chirp. It’s an idyllic scene.
But was my childhood really like that? Was this the truth?”

(Click to enlarge)


“It all started when I met that girl’s eyes: poor, inncocent eyes that said so much, even while she was so silent. …”
(Click to enlarge and read full text)


“The first night on the train, well past midnight, I woke up and looked for her.
She was not there! I panicked. …”

(Click to enlarge and read full text)


“This other girl was poor too, and her clothes were torn. She had lost a leg, but she managed to push her cart around confidently. … She’s her own creature, I thought, she’s walking around, she’s earning and supporting her family.”
(Click to enlarge and read full text)


“… We’re all in this together, I remember thinking, lost, but not quite. We have to take what we have, go our own ways, and try to make the most of it. …”
(Click to enlarge and read full text)



* * * * * * *


HOPE IS A GIRL SELLING FRUIT. Copyright © 2013 by Tara Books. Illustrations reproduced by permission of the publisher.

slatts July 11 2014, 12:28

11 JULY 2014

FPO (FOR POSITION ONLY) That's what that boxed green illustration is and was intended to be when I placed it there at my "work/lunch" this week.

I didn't have this illustration available at the time. And not that it would matter—it's only correct in its concept.

Yes, I wanted an image of "Peter, Paul and Mary," where Paul was A Hard Day's Night Paul in his beard disguise (I forgot that he wasn't wearing glasses—that's those silly RUBBER SOUL session pictures).

But once I decided the image was only to be the width of the headline box above, it then required complete recomposition.

And here it is...

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metteharrison July 10 2014, 16:00

The Rules of Fantasy

Writers spend a lot of time writing rules of fantasy, and then even more time figuring out a way around those same rules.

Is this just perversity?

I don’t think so. I think that we all know instinctively that this is the way that mastery of any discipline works. First, you learn all the rules. Then you go about systematically figuring out how to break them.

It’s one of the reasons that it can be confusing to writers who are being taught “the rules” to see so many more advanced writers breaking all those rules.

The “rules” are invented to explain certain forms and processes on a simplistic level. Once you understand that level, you see how you can manipulate those forms and processes on another level entirely. That’s why they say that once you understand the rules, you don’t need to follow them anymore. Although that makes it sound like the rules aren’t really true.

And they aren’t. But they are. At the same time.

Rules are useful ways of describing things in thumbnail form.

But if you’re a pianist and you always follow the rules, you are likely to be boring. If you are a composer and you follow the rules, you may sound a little derivative. Not inventive. Not mind-blowing.

And yet, when you know the rules, you instinctively see the difference between people who break the rules because they have no idea they exist and people who break the rules because they’re messing with your head and your expectations. And how you appreciate the latter!

Wreck the rules! Destroy them! Build them up again!

kellyrfineman July 10 2014, 15:22

A report from Revision Camp

Hello, pretties! *waves madly at people in the internet*

I am still enjoying my revision camp, although I have to confess that (a) "enjoying" is sometimes not the right word ("frustrated by" is often more apt) and (b) things are not progressing speedily.

What picture book revision involves

What I picked out to work on this week: five picture book manuscripts in various stages of completion, plus my Shakespeare poems. You see, I binge wrote picture books for a week back in early June, forcing myself to work on a new idea each day for five days in order to get past a sort of block where I wasn't writing because I couldn't get my drafts right on the first try. Not that anyone can actually do that, except for rare occasions where something falls in your lap, but still . . . I'd been twiddling my thumbs for too long and decided to follow the Nike ad's advice and "just do it".

This week, I expected to quickly knock things out. After all, I've been working on these manuscripts off and on since they were written, and I figured it wouldn't take GOBS of work to get them all whipped into shape. (Cue the maniacal laughter of the writing/revision gods.)

What I grabbed first: a picture book that needed, like, three more couplets (yeah, it rhymes) to be a finished draft, plus it needed smoothing and polishing. Friends, it is still not finished, and I've been working on it most of the day every day since Monday. The three additional couplets are done. The polishing and smoothing up of the rest is done. I made a thumbnail dummy (not sure that's what anyone else calls it - I draw a bunch of pages on a single piece of paper and write a word for what happens on each spread.) It works, and could make for great illustrations.

But when I woke from a nap on Tuesday, I realized that one of the couplets up in the middle doesn't actually match the premise, so it has to be hauled out and replaced. I am still struggling to get it fixed.

The total word count on that picture book is around 200 words. Experienced picture book writers know how much every single word matters, and how it takes time to get them "just right", but it's nevertheless easy to think "well, how long can it actually take to fix things when the book is that short?" I'm here to tell you that I've put at least 18-20 hours of work into the poem this week, and it's still not there. And that doesn't count the time spent drafting the initial poem, plus earlier revision passes on the stuff that was written. As of now, before I start work today, I probably have close to 40 hours of time into this manuscript, and it still needs more work once I get the new stanza written and put it in place. (It will have to rest, then I have to revise it again, then it has to go to first readers, etc., ...) At any rate, I thought it might be helpful to some folks to know how long a manuscript can take. Some go faster. Some, I might add, go far more slowly.

It hasn't all been obsessive work on a single manuscript. Yesterday, in order to retain my sanity, I pulled out a different manuscript, also in rhyme. It was a complete mess on the written page, so I typed it up and tweaked it and . . . whaddya know, it's not too bad. I have to consider whether it is "done" or needs another entire stanza (which is significantly longer than a couplet), and whether the ending words stay or need to be replaced. But it's so much closer than I thought it was, so YAY!

On today's schedule: Continued work on the first picture book I mentioned to replace the troublesome stanza, plus make a dummy of some sort (actual or thumbnail) for the second one. There are three more picture book manuscripts plus a poetry collection still sitting there on the sidelines with their arms crossed, scowling at me, but they will have to stay there until I can get to them.

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slatts July 10 2014, 14:02

10 JULY 2014

ONCE UPON A TIME my THURSDAY posts opened with the line, "Last Night at BAND CAMP..." I'd report on what my band—no matter what band it was—was doing at rehearsal on Wednesday night.

I recently posted about the band, SLIPPERY MOON. After this hard-working cover band—that taught me everything I know about being a "bar band"—split up, I joined an all-original band in Northampton. That band went through many iterations and eventually became known as SWEET MILITIA. We tried to balance the originals with enough covers to get us gigs and keep us busy with a little (very little) money in our pockets.

But eventually that band split up, too.

It was then I decided that I decided "I needed to be the boss" and start MY OWN band.

That process took some work. First of which was to step up to the microphone and start singing. I hadn't done much of that in my previous bands—I was just the bass player.

Anyhow, "my bands" saw their share of players come and go but two players have been with me for the long haul.

Jim Reilly and Sonia Barrera.

Both have brought their multi-instrument and their lead- and harmony-vocal skills to the sound. And their eclectic choice of songs and the musical styles in which to perform them. But most importantly, the friendship and partnership and the stick-to-it-ness that is so important to a band's success.

So, my "Last Night at BAND CAMP..." blog today reads: A good session last night with our newest "Mitty," Rick King, our drummer, Tony Fyden and his guest, Joe, and long-time members, Jim and Sonia!

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cynthialord July 10 2014, 11:23

Painting and Writing

We are painting a room in our house this week, which is always a bit stressful because nothing is where it should be. So I'm going to stare at this photo my husband shot in Rangeley, Maine last week and say ahhhh.

And yesterday I was one of the guest authors at Teachers Write for the Question and Answer Wednesday, along with Donna Gephart and Lynda Mullaly Hunt. If you'd like to see our conversations and ideas, they are here. I wondered if we'd have many questions, so I was glad we had so many!
sevenimpossible July 10 2014, 06:02

Catching up with Author-Illustrator Matt Phelan



I’m never consciously thinking ‘wispy’ when I draw, but my line (and especially my pen line) does have an intentional sketchy quality. I like the term ‘lost and found line’ as a description.”

* * *

Over at Kirkus today, I talk to author-illustrator Matt Phelan, pictured here, about his 2014 projects, Burleigh Mutén’s Miss Emily, released back in March, and his own picture book, Druthers, coming in September. Both books are from Candlewick.

Matt’s response to the what’s-next question may or may not have made me squeal. (I think the Snow White project sounds pretty great.)

That Q&A is here.

Next week, I’ll have some art from each book, as well as some sketches and such from Matt.

Until tomorrow …

* * * * * * *

Photo of Matt Phelan used with his permission.

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