Friday, August 21, 2009

Friday, August 14, 2009


Let's celebrate being different!


Congratulations to the following people who won a copy of Piper Reed the Great Gypsy! If your name is listed below, please email your snail mail address to

Melissa Kaye


Linda(whose first job was pulling weeds in the soybean fields)


Debbie Archer

If you haven't won yet and have already entered, you are still entered for next week's prize. If you would like to enter, it's not too late. Just post a comment below about your first job. If you are an educator, please include the name of your school and you will also be entered in the drawing for the classroom set of Piper Reed the Great Gypsy.>

Next week's prize is a signed copy of Piper Reed Gets a Job.

Monday, August 10, 2009


This weekend I made lamb tandoori. After I pulled the chops from the marinade, I asked Jerry how to heat up the grill. His voice rose a couple of octaves. "Oh, you need the grill?"

"Yes," I told him. "I was going to use my George Foreman but I thought why not use the real thing."

I did not know that my husband was so possessive about the grill until I tried to place the chops over the grids.

"I'll do that," he said, attempting to grab the pan from me.

I pulled the pan from his reach. "I'll do it," I said. I'd gone through a lot of trouble. First I was going to make the sauce from scratch. After checking a cookbook out of the library and trying to find an uncomplicated recipe, I soon realized the reason for Indian restaurants. Then lucky me, I found a tandoori seasoning mix in my local grocery store. After that it was easy, but I'd paid a price to get to this cooking step. Like it or not, I was going to barbecue.

Jerry hovered, watching me as if I'd cut off his oxygen. I sighed, turned the heat up to high and handed him the tongs. "Let them cook two minutes on each side to seal in the juices. Then turn it down to the lowest setting."

"Okay," he said cheerfully. Then the barbecue maniac took over.

Clearly twenty-four years had slipped by without my knowing the barbecue grill was his territory.

I guess I can't blame him. I have my own places acquired by squatter rights.
There is the daybed on the screen porch where I take an occasional nap, and the apple green chair in the family room where I watch television. The third bedroom was converted into my office almost fifteen years ago. And I admit I have an uneasy feeling when I discover Jerry sitting in the bedroom chair where I write. When I do see him plopped there with his feet on my ottoman, I feel a bit like lazy Mazie in Horton Hatches the Egg who claims, "But it's mine!"

Now that I think about it, giving Jerry sole rights to the barbecue grill is a small trade-off for the places I claim--the places that help me create stories or, at the very least, nurture my writer's soul.

Do you have something or some place in your home that belongs only to you?

Friday, August 7, 2009


Let's make shadow puppets!


Here are this week's winners. Each will receive a signed copy of Piper Reed Navy Brat.
If your name is below, please email me at and send me your snail mail address.


Paul W Hankins

J. Miskec

Carol (



If you entered last week and didn't win, your name will be entered for a chance to win next week's prize

If you haven't entered, it's not too late.

Just post a comment below mentioning your first job..

Next week's prize is a signed hardback copy of Piper Reed the Great Gypsy. There will be five winners. If you are an educator, include the name of your school and get a chance at winning a classroom set of Piper Reed the Great Gypsy.

So now, what was your first job?

Thursday, August 6, 2009


Where do you work best at home?

I live in a very tiny cottage along Lake Michigan so my "studio" is just a corner of the living room. It's fine for now but when the weather is nice my favorite place to write and sketch is by the lake. It's very peaceful and I just love hearing the waves. When it's time to paint though, I have to head to my corner in the cottage. I have lots of little trinkets on my desk that make me smile. I also have to set up an extra table so I have room to spread out a bit while I paint. I love the cottage (where I'm sacrificing space for location) but do look forward to having a bit bigger house at some point with a great studio.

What time of day would we find you there?

I don't have any set hours when I write or sketch, but I do spend good chunks of time each day working. When I'm in the illustration process though, you'll find me at my desk from early morning till late into the evening for about 3 months. I'm really trying hard to do an overhaul on my working style though. I tend to work on one story at a time for months until it's written, with a deadline set about a year away. Then I work on the dummy for a few weeks. By the time I get to the finished illustrations I usually have about 3 months or less to finish them before my deadline so it's always a race to the finish and everything else in my life falls to the wayside. It's an exhausting way to work and I usually feel pretty burned out for awhile afterward. So NOW, after just finishing another book, my goal (REALLY!) is to get several things written so I can illustrate them at a more leisurely pace and try to have more balance in my life. I always figured most author/illustrators worked the same way but I've met enough of them now to know that most of them have quite "balanced" lives -- raising kids, working, having a social life and all the while making as many (or more) books as I do. It's very inspiring to me!

What is your favorite comfort food while you work?

M&M's (plain or peanut). Since they melt in your mouth, NOT in your hands, they are the perfect food for an illustrator because I've found that publishers don't like your illustrations to be stained with food.

What's on your nightstand? (you may include books as well as other items.)

I have an old chair from a flea market that poses as a nightstand and on it is a clock and a tiny metal lamp (and a bit of dust). Under it are always a few books I work my way through for about 20 minutes each night. Right now I have The Adoration of Jenna Fox, The Not So Big House (ha, go figure!), The Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules and, no kidding, Keeper of the Night by Ms. Kimberly Willis Holt.

How does home feed into your writing?

Ever since moving back to Michigan into this little cottage in the woods, I'm very inspired by nature. It was back in Michigan that I came up with the idea for Do Unto Otters, starring a rabbit and 3 otters. I have several other ideas for stories that I'm playing around with that all star either various woodland animals and bugs or inanimate objects like leaves, acorns and sticks, etc. There's a window by my desk and just outside it I sprinkle lots of critter food so I enjoy watching the deer, turkeys, one rabbit, birds, chipmunks and squirrels that come by every day. I love watching the interaction between them and have gotten to where I recognize certain "regulars" in the yard. They've gotten quite accustomed to seeing me around, too, and don't seem that frightened of me....or my cat. She'll dart at squirrels and they've gotten so used to her that they barely move when she ambushes them. Then she'll just sort of stand there looking around like, "oh, lovely weather we're having, isn't it?"

Laurie Keller is the author/illustrator of 7 books including The Scrambled States of America, Do Unto Otters: A Book About Manners, Arnie the Doughnut and Birdy's Smile Book (Fall, 2010). She also illustrated the upcoming book, Me and My Animal Friends (September/2009) by Ralph Covert of Ralph's World. Laurie worked as an illustrator at Hallmark Cards in Kansas City, MO and as a freelance illustrator in New York City but now lives back in her home state, Michigan, with her boyfriend Scott and cat, Jules. In her spare time, Laurie enjoys traveling, doing yoga, camping, hiking, biking, playing the banjo and spending time with her 4 year old niece.

Want to know more?

Visit Laurie Keller's Website

and read a wonderful interview about her at Seven Impossible Things before Breakfast.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009


If I could be Laurie Keller for just one day...I'd start the morning at my local doughnut shop and wait for a glazed with pink sprinkles to talk to me.
I'd walk down the street and listen to the lampposts bend over and tell me what they witnessed during the night. Maybe I wouldn't walk at all. Maybe the sidewalk would move and take me to the grocery store where mangoes and kiwis danced the cha-cha. My head would buzz with funny opportunities all day long.

But alas...I can't even be Laurie Keller for one day. I don't have her zany sense of humor or her brilliant talent for making objects come alive. I will have to be satisfied reading Laurie's books. But that can be a very fun place to be, too.

Tomorrow, we'll fly to a cottage perched on the bank of a lake and visit Laurie Keller as she becomes our next Artist at Home profile.


I just learned that one of my favorite bookstores is closing. Maple Street Children's Book Shop in New Orleans has meant a lot to me over the years. Many people think that when a writer sells a book, the publisher sends them on a world-wide tour, but usually there is no tour for the first time author. Thank goodness I knew this and I created my own tour.

There are so many people who were wonderful to me on that 16 day journey from Shreveport to New Orleans. One of them was Cindy Dike, owner of Maple Street Children's Book Shop. My old friend Laurie was living in New Orleans at the time and she suggested I contact their store when my book came out. In March of 1998 I called Cindy to ask if I could do a book signing in her store. Wise Cindy knew people don't usually show up for an unknown writer's signing, but she said, "I'll order some of your books and if you want to do a stock signing you can drop by my store."

She also gave me the name of a school she thought might be interested in an author visit. They were. And as a result of that contact, the local SCBWI group asked me to dinner. A year or so later I returned to Maple Street Book Shop and did a signing. Cindy always welcomed me back. This was a bookstore owner that offered more than books. Cindy opened a door for me in New Orleans. And that's the kind of thing an independent book store does well. They go the extra-mile. They thrive on that old-fashioned way of doing business, creating friendships and playing a huge part in building a writer's career.

If you want to read more about this special bookstore and their future plans, Susan Larson wrote a lovely article about them in the Times Picayune. You can read it here.

Saturday, August 1, 2009


Join the celebration by entering The Piper Reed Giveaways!

Week One: Five Winners will receive a signed hardback copy of Piper Reed Navy Brat

Week Two: Five Winners will receive a signed hardback copy of Piper Reed the Great Gypsy

Week Three: Five Winners will receive a signed hardback copy of Piper Reed Gets a Job

Week Four: Five Winners will receive a Cd of Piper Reed Gets a Job

Educators(only sorry) are also eligible to enter the drawing for a classroom set of Piper Reed the Great Gypsy. (If also entering this contest, please mention your school name, too)

How do you enter?

Answer the question: What was your first job?

Post your answer as a comment below. Enter once and be eligible for each weekly giveaway.

Weekly winners will be chosen randomly and announced Friday.

So what was your first job?

For more information on PIPER REED GETS A JOB.