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mark teague: writer, illustrator, knows where the bathroom is

Another day, another author signing at the Reading Reptile. The beautiful, amazing, children’s bookstore.

Did I mention I live two blocks away?

Why yes, I DO live a charmed life.

This time, the author in question is also an illustrator. Mark Teague! Scholastic has sent him on a junket! Yes, they still do that for the chosen few. Mark has a new book, LaRue Across America: Postcards From the Vacation.

This time, the book signing was held at 5PM, and the crowd was mostly kids and their moms. It made for a different kind of signing than I’m used to. If you’re going to be a picture book author, you’ve gotta tolerate low-level chaos.

Mark related a real-life scenario that helped inspire his new book:

And the kids (and adults) enjoyed recognizing it in the finished product:

And of course we all LOVE to watch an artist create. Do you find that when artists are drawing or painting, they usually have to stop talking?

Listen to these questions. Mostly, Mark tells the kids the same things he’d tell adults.

If you couldn’t hear that last part, Mark said illustrator Don Wood told him artists usually draw characters that look like themselves. And he said it while Mark was drawing a picture of Ike the dog!

Having an audience of mostly rugrats didn’t faze Mark:

In fact, I don’t think there’s much that fazes Mark:

Because he’s kind of a Renaissance guy. He writes. He illustrates. He’s written a middle grade, too. He’s broken a lot of rules:

And what makes him smile? Yup. Same thing that makes every writer smile.

Ye Gods, Freckles McYoungest is going to murderlize me. Let the record show she is SEVENTEEN.

And the Mark Teague book she is emotionally attached to?


‘Nuff said.


fortune cookies book launch party

I know you’re beginning to think we don’t do anything around here but launch books.


Case in point: Fortune Cookies, by A Bitterman (Pete Cowdin), Illustrated by Chris Raschka.

How many authors do you know run the register at their own book party?

So I run into Judy Hyde, Fearless Leader of Wednesday Morning Critique Group who I would Follow Anywhere–which you can see I do right here–and Anola Pickett. Who has a book coming out soon.

Chris Raschka, as I’m sure you know, is a Caldecott winner. He and Pete gave an illustrated reading of Fortune Cookies. Here’s a little taste:

Then it was time to sign books. So we lined up uncooperatively with Laura Manivong and drove Mrs. Bitterman (Debbie) insane.

FINALLY it was my turn, and I got the true scoop on how illustrator and author got together.

What was interesting about this book bash was the participants. Most book launches are attended by a small circle of writers, but Pete’s crowd was overwhelmingly composed of Reading Reptile customers.

EVERYTHING’S different when Pete Cowdin’s involved.

the secret–writing the perfect picture book

Technical difficulties, my little doves, kept me from posting on ye olde blogge yesterday. And today, for that matter. I will make this short and oh-so sweet.

I found Flip Footage from our last KSCBWI workshop, in March. Sandy Asher did a humdinger of a job speaking on picture books. Sandy is a jack-of-all trades, as you will find out in this brief clip. (Also, you will see she is soft-spoken. Press thine ear unto your speakers.)

First she tells us the secret of success in the publishing business:

Now, Sandy has chosen to eschew this advice. (Bless you. Handkerchief?) But I think I’m going to more or less employ it.

I went to this picture book workshop not because I write picture books–(A-HAHAHAHAHA!)–oh! my side–but because I want to be a better critiquer for my group. I took copious notes and really tried to wrap my head around what makes a great picture book. And then…


Sandy dropped the words that made the heavens open.

She shared the advice that Sue Alexander had shared with her, when Sandy was just starting out.

Picture books have to appeal to the littlest listeners,

older kids and the adults who have to read the damn

things over and over and over again.

There it is, in one sentence. The litmus test to know whether or not you have produced a great picture book.

napibowriwee gone wrong

Depending on your perspective, I was either duped, shamed, or lured under false pretenses into participating in the NaPiBoWriWee. Write seven picture books in seven days.  It’s a great idea started by a fab gal, and I have absolutely no business participating.

Because this is what you get, when a YA writer turns her talents on the picture book genre:



Ants march along the top of my window sill,

Following the trail of sweet crystals I laid for them this morning.

I lower my eye to their level

Watch them feel the granules

Choose the right ones for their babies

Then march off on their tiny feet

Imagine I can hear them stomp, stomp, stomp down the wall,

Along the oaken baseboard

Under the shaggy carpet

Around the blaring t.v. while my dumb brother watches

Mud wrestling.

What industrious ant parents!

They trudge, trudge, trudge down the porch steps,

Across the grass

Into the hole under the old oak tree

And feed their adorable baby ants

Sweet crystals from my window sill.

Also known as arsenic.

Don’t worry, parents.  As soon as this week is over, it’s back to the dark land of YA I shall go.  Hanging out in picture book country makes my teeth hurt.  And I am vastly underqualified, because picture book writing is definitely THE MOST DIFFICULT GENRE OF ALL CHILDREN’S LITERATURE.

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