My eye was drawn to these leaves because of the contrast with the grass. I love the lines created by the prominent veins. The speckles are great, too. A couple of autumns ago I fell in love with all the falling leaves. My husband thought I was a little nuts. It was as if I hadn’t ever seen the leaves change color before. I kept stopping to pick them up. Look at this one. Look at this one. I brought them home. I painted them with watercolors. I played around with quilt patterns of leaves. Then, the obsession passed — with the changing season. Guess what? It’s back.
As the second in a week of posts with photographs of my Sunday morning walk, I offer a Gulf Fritillary feasting on Lantana flowers. Three of these were fluttering around the same group of bushes. What a fantastic color they are! I love the orange tip on the antennae. It looks like the head of a pin.
Several things prompted me to take my camera on my morning walk. First, I kept seeing a remarkable mushroom. It was pushing its rounded head up through flat, packed soil. I’m used to seeing spiky sprouts push through soil, but this round headed fungus was displacing packed mud. We’ve had lots of days of rain put together and the mushrooms were sprouting up all over.
Each day this week I will be posting images from my walk. The second reason I took the D700 out is because it is new and I have to get used to it. I didn’t do much tinkering with exposure; I haven’t read the manual and I haven’t learned the controls. I will, though. I set the camera to aperature priority and took several shots in a burst. I was not using a tri-pod and, by and large, I did fine without it. The mushroom below seemed remarkable for its different textures. The gills were so pronounced and the stem so strong-looking. I like the shadow effect.
Today I interview Elizabeth Dulemba. She is on a blog book tour to launch her new book: Soap, Soap, Soap ~ Jabon, Jabon, Jabon. Elizabeth and I know each other because we are both members of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators in the Southern Breeze region (Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi).
When we finish visiting here, you’ll want to visit her website to view the book’s trailer and check out the fun coloring pages and interior images.
Your first book as an author/illustrator also happens to be a bilingual book in English and Spanish. How did that affect your writing process? Was anything different about the illustration process?
SOAP, SOAP, SOAP is based on a classic Appalachian Jack Tale, but I wanted to make it modern and relevant to today’s audience, and make the embedded Spanish easy to understand throughout the context of the story. It’s a bit like a puzzle, like any writing, just with different rules. For instance, you don’t want the Spanish term and its English translation to be too far apart. Like in the opening line: “…his mamá…handed him some money. ‘Here’s some dinero…’” That sort of thing. If the words are too far apart, the connection is lost. But I love puzzles, so it’s a fun way to write.
As far as illustrating SOAP. The story came first on this one, so it was almost like any other project, although I had the freedom to tweak and rearrange the text as needed without offending anybody!
I know you learned some Spanish for your book Paco and the Giant Chile Pepper. Were you able to translate your own book?
I took two years of very intense Spanish lessons at the Latin American Association in Atlanta (and highly recommend them). I’m not fluent, but I did learn enough to be able to do the initial bilingual text myself. Of course, it had to be vetted by a professional translation company to make sure it was accurate. There are many things we say in English or ways we say them that simply don’t translate – and visa versa. I was close, but we had to make a few changes.
I know from reading your blog that you embrace technology. What kinds of high tech skills are you working on now?
Funny you should ask. I’m having lunch with an iPhone App creator tomorrow. I want to experiment with turning one of my book dummies into an iPhone story app – hopefully in time for Halloween since it has a witchy theme. Cross your fingers!
I am interested in the moment of creation. Do you remember? Did it come from your writing place or your drawing place? Are those distinct places?
My publisher for Paco and the Giant Chile Plant was so pleased with my work (I was the illustrator only) on that book, they asked me for more. I adore folklore, and Paco was a retelling of “Jack and the Beanstalk,” so the seeds were already planted to do another Jack Tale. I did research and read tons (which I’d done at other times in my life since my exit show in college was about the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, Tennessee, where I heard Jack Tales from the master himself, Ray Hicks). And I didn’t have to go far for that research. The original SOAP story was in my own library in a volume of Jack Tales collected by Richard Chase and dedicated to me by my grandparents in 1975. Truly, I have an interesting history with these tales, they keep turning up in my life. Of course, the original is politically incorrect and completely unsuitable for modern times – that’s where the work came in – and while it is recognizable to those familiar with the story, it really ended up being something completely unique. Interesting factoid: the protagonist, Hugo, is named for my little cousin “Hugh” – a.k.a. the “Hughlito” in the dedication.
What do you have coming up next?
I’m currently illustrating “The 12 Days of Christmas in Georgia” written by my friend Susan R. Spain for Sterling Publishing (Holiday 2010). I’m also writing a new novel, have a picture book proposal with my agent, and am speaking at four book festivals this Fall. I stay pretty darned busy.
What do you do to feed your creativity?
I either go for a walk or take a shower. Sounds silly, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been stuck on an idea or illustration, only to stop, shower/walk and have it all come clear! As far as refilling the deeper coffers – that requires a sandy beach and ocean waves…
What do you do when you are not creating children’s books?
Um. What? When I’m not creating picture books? Ha! Truly, this is my passion. I’ve wanted to create children’s books my entire life. This career demands a lot of tangents, like public speaking, volunteering as Illustrator Coordinator with Southern Breeze region of SCBWI and being on the Board for the Georgia Center for the Book, marketing, etc. but it all ties in with my children’s books in some way. I’m living my dream.
But for completely unrelated activities, does going out to a nice dinner with my hubbie (where I talk about books), or digging in my garden count?
Thanks so much for hosting me Sarah!
For several years, Elizabeth has been the Illustrator Coordinator for Southern Breeze. The gallery exhibit of original art by Southern Breeze illustrators was her brainchild. After its inaugural showing at the Little Shop of Stories in Decatur, Ga. in May 2008, it was picked up by the Southern Arts Federation as a touring exhibit called Storybook Look. It made its touring debut at the Saenger Theater in Hattiesburg during the 2009 Fay B. Kaigler Children’s Book Festival.
It’s my birthday and my 250th blog post so I decided I needed some pretty pictures to brighten a dreary day. My yard is very, very green because of all the rain. When I got back from walking the dog I noticed dozens of mushrooms across the front lawn. I don’t know the names of any of them. I will have to learn how to identify mushrooms. If you look very closely, you can see one has a spider crawling across it. I was shooting with our brand-spanking-new Nikon D700, but I was too lazy to put on the macro lens.
It’s not as if I need an excuse to take photographs of flowers, but I spent a very nice hour or so yesterday reading and enjoying The Metamorphosis of Flowers by Marie Perennou and Claude Nuridsany. It was inspiring. My parents lent me the book. (Aside from being glad to have them in town, it is fabulous to have their library in town as well.) Perennou and Nuridsany are the authors of Microcosmos, the book that inspired the movie. Lovely, lovely photographs and beautiful writing.
My two younger sons’ visual art assignment this week is to draw a scene from a football game. We went to the Chastain vs. Peeples game and I took some photographs for reference. I’ll ask one of the boys (or both) to let me scan their work for a comparison.
Remember the caterpillars that were eating my parsley? One came back last night in the form of a chrysalis – my friend Julie had been caring for it. It emerged today sometime between 11:20 a.m. and 12:45 p.m. I had been doing my chores in the bedroom with the chrysalis all morning, but I left it unattended during lunch and it emerged. Ah, well. I sat with it for another hour or so while it let its wings dry. When it started moving I took it outside to release it. It stayed for a few moments on my crown of thorns. Then it flew away.
Last spring, I worked with second graders at Davis Magnet School to document their school neighborhood through digital photography. The students’ photographs were compiled into a photo book, using Blurb.com. It is beautiful. You can preview Davis on the Map and buy a copy if you’d like.
Here are some photographs of the students taking pictures. You can look at their photographs on the gallery page of my website, too. Next week, I’ll be meeting with teams from two more Jackson schools to begin planning two more photography arts integration projects. This work is funded by the Ask for More Arts Collaborative, which is led by Parents for Public Schools of Greater Jackson.
I wrote several posts about the Davis on the Map project. I am looking forward to working with new classes of students. Taking photographs with digital cameras is so much fun!
We and the book had a busy Labor Day weekend. We walked a few blocks down the main street to take photographs of a wonderful patch of sunflowers. The gardner was home and offered us some cut sunflowers and gave us a tour of his organic vegetable garden in back. It was wonderful to see what fits into a city yard. We have a lovely bouquet of sunflowers on the kitchen table.
With final edits on Growing Patterns: Fibonacci Numbers in Nature in the final stages, I was waiting to hear back from my expert. I didn’t get the book back to him when I thought I would and then managed to hit him just when he went overseas to see family. He was back this weekend and gave the book the OK. Phew!
My editor asked if I would try to get a blurb for the book’s jacket from a well known, often-published mathematician; he gave me three to try. I had misgivings. I knew we were pushing deadline and would need to ask not only for the favor of someone’s time to look at the book, but also the favor of doing it right away. I knew also that I was going to be asking several people, but the likelihood was that only one (or possibly, two) could be used. So, I was asking a favor, for right now, and we might not use it anyway. But I gave myself a pep talk. Nothing venture, nothing gained. And, I asked. My editor was right.
One graciously declined; he has a policy not to do blurbs even for close friends — or it would take up all of his time. But, another agreed to take a look. And, gave me a fantastic blurb. It will go on the jacket. The other blurbs — from a much decorated elementary school teacher and a different mathematics professor — will go in the catalogue and on publicity material. I am not always comfortable with the selling part of this business, but I know it is important. I wish I had remembered to think about the blurb part earlier on in the process. I would still have had to wait until the book was in final form, but I could have given my targets more notice.
It was nice to get the news about the blurb from the famous mathematician on Tuesday because Monday’s Labor Day barbeque left me with burns on my face, neck, forearms, knees, and hands. Only tiny spots are second degree burns; most are first degree and time is all they need to heal. Meanwhile, I’ll type one-handed, read my son’s kindle, and watch a few movies. I’m glad the book has gone to the print house.
Today marks my most varied (and abundant) harvest from the garden: a cantaloupe, an eggplant, an okra, a cucumber, and two kinds of tomatoes. Yum! The okra, eggplant, and tomatoes went into a side dish for lunch. How far we’ve come from the first seedlings .
Today’s other news is that Growing Patterns: Fibonacci Numbers in Nature is very nearly finished. I never think I’ll ever get to this point with a book, but I almost can’t bear to look at it one more time. (My editor reported dashing across to the other building on the Boyds Mills campus to write final changes into a final proof.) I know this feeling will pass. It is beautiful and I’m grateful for everyone who has helped it get to this point. Now, it’s time for it to be a book. Already. The seed for this book started germinating in February 2008 at an SCBWI/Southern Breeze conference.