Lunch Break

Don’t you hate it when you’re talking to a nun, and a good, stiff wind just carries her away? This week’s box is an ode to Sister Bertrille, the The Flying Nun. It’s a late 1960’s box, chock full o’ weird charm. There is Sally Field, happily flying over her Puerto Rican convent, probably up to good-natured mischief of some kind.
Oh, Mother- that’s Superior comedy!
This deserves a ranking in a special category of shows with the oddest premises- it’s right up there with I Dream of Jeannie, and Hogan’s Heroes. The art is from the celebrated MAD magazine school of realistic-but-enhanced caricature.
Too bad they don’t make ’em like this any more- the shows OR the lunchboxes!

Whispering Pines 2007

Whispering Pines is a fabulous 3600-acre property in W. Greenwich, RI- and every year there is a NESCBWI Writer’s Retreat on the site. This is the first year I have been able to go. I was also the illustrator mentor, which meant that I had to talk about my illustrating and stuff. What a weekend! Scroll down for pictures and impressions of a wonderful event, the kind that truly leaves you ready to create upon your re-entry to civilization.
Here is the entry to the main lodge. The setting is stunning- seemingly untouched wilderness right here in RI, but for a smallish group of rustic conference rooms clustered in one area, connected by paths. view1.jpg
This is the view from the main lodge.
We had a first pages panel with writer Laurie Halse Anderson and editors Lisa Cheng (McElderry Books, Simon and Schuster) and Liz Waniewski (Dial books, Penguin Group). It was fun to hear off-the-cuff comments on everyone’s first pages- the panel did amazingly well under the pressure! The caliber of the writing was good, too, so that made it all the more interesting.
The FOOD at Whispering Pines is top-notch. I have never seen so many good choices at a conference- unusual New England stuff, too- johnny cakes, clam cakes, lobster bisque, prime rib…sigh. Easy to get used to, hard to leave!
Here are Liz Waniewski and Lisa Cheng, the two delightful editor mentors. I personally have full confidence in their abilities to choose good things- because they are both big fans of The Office (a.k.a. the best show on TV now)! But seriously- they are both very good at what they do, and it was cool to hear each of their presentations on how they work, and how publishers work in general.
Here is Laurie Halse Anderson worrying about her latest book release, and signing a book for me. I admit it, I don’t read a lot of YA, and I hadn’t ever read any of her books before coming to the retreat. But Laurie is one of the best speakers I have ever heard, I mean- like EVER. I think she really set the tone for artistic openess during the weekend. Beyond her speech, she is enthusiastic, outspoken and DAMN good at getting each person to face their own artistic demons and/or angels. She’s like an author/therapist…in a good way. Her new book due out soon is called Twisted.

Following is an attractive montage of people, places and things from the retreat. You can see what my room looked like, and also Barb playing with one of her cowgirl alter egos. Don’t worry, the dolls had a good time, too!
After a very late night of scintillating discussions and little sleep, I had to give my talk the next morning.
Everyone says it went well, but it was nerve-wracking- I forgot a whole bunch of things I was going to talk about! It was the first time for me to speak to adults- and they were a great bunch to speak to.
I won a Mystery Box in the raffle- score!
You can see what was inside- I am going to need a bigger YA shelf.
All in all an amazing weekend- I loved meeting everyone there, and would go again to this in a heartbeat!
Thanks Lynda and Jan and everyone for a truly memorable experience!

Lunch Break


Was there ever a funner time than the Great Depression? Not according to the Waltons. Sure, times were hard, but they lived on love and had some to spare. This was a favorite show of mine, since two of my Top Favorite decades are the 30’s and 70’s. The show is the perfect combo of both. Anyhow, this gem of a lunchbox is from 1973, and depicts the entire Walton clan with their cow, apparently at the magical moment of birth. Inspiring, and a life lesson, too!

A note about the art: I love the stuff from this era that is, oh, about 15% more cartoony than real life. Each of these actors’ likenesses have been captured; they are all recognizable, but they are also bumped up a couple of notches in caricature. I guess if they were 20% more cartoony, they could go into MAD magazine. But they’re juuuust shy of that! Skill, baby, skill. I wonder who painted these?? Probably a MAD artist!

NY SCBWI Winter Conference


Another winter, another SCBWI conference! I have only just now started collecting my thoughts and photos from this excellent event, and the time I got to spend following it. I am NOT a city girl at all, but it’s impossible to NOT be caught up in the excitement of the city, the fast pace, and the caliber of the speakers there. Well, at least for a little while. Then I need to go home and take a 24-hour nap!


We arrived in the city in time to hit the Kid’s Lit Drink Nite at Bar 9, set up by Betsy Bird (Fuse #8), who is surely one of the funnest librarians ever! It was neat, and somewhat surreal, shouting at all of the people from the kids lit blog world and beyond (yep- very loud in there!).


Here I am with Ruth McNally Barshaw, who is somehow able to continuously keep drawing in her sketchbook amidst noise, cab rides, lines, anywhere! It amazed me. Also here is the fabulous Barbara Johansen Newman. Follow that link and you can check out her post on the conference, too!

Now on to the speakers…wow!!


Very inspiring to hear these people talk. I think it’s the best part of the conference- hearing people you have heard about and whose books you’ve read. Articles and jacket flaps don’t do them justice- nothing can take the place of hearing authors and illustrators in their own voices.

Katherine Paterson has had an amazing life, and has worked differet aspects of that life into her books. She spoke about overcoming the fear of being “naked” in public- of allowing yourself to write from those parts that aren’t so easy to show. She also mentioned a prime fear of hers is of being mediocre- something that you can’t allow yourself to succumb to. Only YOU can write your stories. BTW, she approves of the movie version of Bridge to Terabithia, although not neccessarily the trailer!

Anne Brashares claims to not know what she’s doing…but oh, methinks she does! She says love your characters, don’t make it easy for them, but let them be sympathetic. In thinking about her characters, she tries to think of them not only as 15, but also as the 5-year-old they were, and the 45-year-old they will be.

Susan Cooper was just amazing to hear. “Subconscious haunting” is a theme that crops up in her work repeatedly, and where she writes from. As a child of war, she grew up with a very strong sense of good and evil, light and dark- but she also realized from an early age that just who was who is a blury picture! Writing relates to gardening in many ways for her (me, too!)- the idea of coming up with good stuff from your (mental) compost heap, of germinating ideas…and tending to growing ones!


By the way, poor Susan had to sign about a bazillion books that night, and I was just about LAST in that line. Look, she’s still smiling somehow! Susan was signing during the Art Display, which featured about 150 pieces of art (mine, too). A strong showing this year, in number and in quality!

Brian Selznick was a great speaker- and it was nice to hear from an illustrator who also writes. Turns out Brian went to RISD at the same time as me, but of course, neither of us were studying illustration too strongly at the time- so I don’t remember him being there (in college, I spent most of my time buried deep within the film building, working on animation projects). It was fascinating hearing about his process- he’s very interested in the forward motion created by the turn of the page- of one thing leading to the next, almost like a movie. Check out his latest: The Invention of Hugo Cabret, which is freakin’ amazing, and the perfect “illustration” of how page-turning can bring you into and through a book!


Here I am with Brian, and his book, The Doll People. This book, and it’s follow-up, The Meanest Doll in the World, are current favorites of the dollhouse-owning Dubois twins!


Here’s a little idea of about how many people were at the conference- I heard there were about 1000, and I believe it!


Here is Tomie DePaola with Steve Mooser and Lin Oliver (the King and Queen of SCBWI!) at the moment of Tomie’s “retirement” from the board. Tomie was instrumental in getting illustrators to be part of the group and has since been a driving force within the organization. Even though he’s stepping down, he retains the right to party with the group- and was given a silver drink mixer as a Lovely Parting Gift!

There were plenty of other good speakers and sessions, but, well…I guess you’ll just have to come to NYC next year to get the full effect- it’s worth the trip!

For the first time I was able to stay in NYC after the conference and do some publisher visits. I joined up with Janee Trasler, a swell illustrator from Texas with similar artistic taste (meaning, we both like and make art for the very young- we have the same rep, too). It was great fun meeting up with the publishers we work with, and getting to put some faces to the names we have heard. Also fun seeing just what it looks like inside the publishing houses!


Here’s me, attempting to borrow some of Janee’s hair!


Our Excellent Adventure took us to Scholastic, where I snapped this picture of me and Harry Potter. Don’t even get me started about Book 7- speculation is rampant at Maison Dubois! While there we ran into Wilson Swain, who was one of the winners of the SCBWI Art Display. Very nice guy, and WOW- amazing art- check it out!

I REALLY need to get some work done…I also need to get ready for next weekend’s Whipering Pines Conference. This time, I’ll be doing the speaking- yikes!

I mean, no problem!

Six Weird Things…

I have been tagged by Barb to proclaim six weird/obscure things about myself. Here goes:

1. My first job was as a “chambermaid,” which is a quaint term for someone who must do all the crappy work in a hotel. Highlights included 9-hour days in the hotel basement doing hotel laundry, and cleaning the public bathrooms. The public are slobs, trust me!

2. In junior high I was Romeo in the “Romeo and Juliet” play we did. And I was good- I got one of the only “A’s” that year.

3. In keeping with my fabulous theatrical career that was cut mercilessly short- I was called back twice to audition as the Polynesian daughter of Emile DeBeque in the stage version of “South Pacific.” Sadly, at 8 years old, I wasn’t able to project my voice properly. I still can’t!

4. I am addicted to maple sugar candy- you know, the kind that’s shaped like maple leaves and pilgrims. Oh, sweet heaven!

5. I studied Tae Kwon Do for 4 years in high school and tested through to 2nd-degree blue belt.

6. I collect foil. Not just the boring silver kind, no! The kind that comes off chocolate rabbits and Santas, and things of that nature. There are some at the top of this post. Purty, aren’t they? I have hundreds of them, and some of them are over 30 years old!

So, there you have it- a tiny fraction of the weird things about me. But that’s plenty. I am now tagging the chicks and guy of the Outside of a Dog group- you’re up!

Lunch Break

Here’s a new Box o’ the Week- the elusive 1970 Dr. Seuss!

I appreciate the limited palette used here, especially since at the time, this box was probably on the shelf with any number of technicolor offerings. I am not sure if The Good Doctor did this art himself, but it looks like the real deal to me.

This box came out at around the same time as the delightful Chuck Jones animated versions of Cat in the Hat, Horton Hears a Who, and of course, The Grinch. GREAT books, and GREAT little films that I could watch a thousand times and never get sick of (I think I have)!

Have you ever been to the Dr. Seuss National Memorial at the museum quadrangle in Springfield, Mass? If you like all things Seuss, you need to check it out- think giant bronze Thidwicks! The Eric Carle Museum isn’t far from it, either- a whole museum devoted to children’s book art. Hmmm, makes me want to go back out that way again soon!