building my website

In Black and White

Tuscon in Black and White

Tuscon in Black and White

This may be the last of the Tuscon photographs. Richard converted it to black and white. We have been updating and upgrading around here. You may notice some new things on the blog. To the left I have added more links to the blogs of fellow Southern Breezers. If I have left someone out, please comment to let me know. I am still building my list. Richard converted the Tuscon sunrise photograph to a wallpaper file. It is very nice!

I now work with a webcam attached to my monitor. It’s a little disconcerting to have this eyeball like thing staring back at me. I am practicing using Skype (which I hope to use to do virtual school visits soon) by calling Richard’s parents in England. Unfortunately, right now the news from there involves major surgery and lots of anxiety about its outcome. But it is nice to be able to see Silvana and Tony while we talk. They enjoy seeing their grandsons.

We got some nice quiet rain today and we have been having a nice day in our basement lair. Two of the boys are helping blog/website maintenance. Richard and D are playing ping-pong. It is a good start to a much-needed week off.

Monarch Tagging

monarch tagging-1323Richard and I went to the Clinton Community Nature Center on Saturday morning to learn about tagging monarch butterflies. Dr. Bill Stark, a professor at Mississippi College, led the demonstration. After a brief slide show, the assembled group tagged seven monarch butterflies that Stark had raised with his college students. They had rescued eggs from the recent laying period. Here are some photographs Richard and I took during the process. I captured six shots in rapid succession so Richard and G helped create a flash movie. See monarch movie on my website.

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This is it

eye logo 3-3
We think the tinkering is done. This logo will make its debut on the website sometime soon. Thanks for all the feedback. We’re happier with this version. One reason I’m working hard on the branding and marketing stuff is that the Mississippi Arts Commission deadline for mini grants is looming. As a roster artist I am eligible to apply for funding to help me advance my career; one of the things I can apply for is money to pay for marketing materials like bookmarks, postcards, and posters.
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Here’s another nice leaf we saw on a recent neighborhood walk. I am starting a new arts integration school project with McLeod Elementary School. I am talking with a fifth grader teacher and a support team about doing a project that will integrate the teaching of science objectives with digital photography and bookmaking. I can’t wait to get outside again with kids and cameras. You can read about last year’s project by clicking one of two categories on the right: Davis on the Map or Arts Integration – Photography.

New Material for Website

amaryllis close up variegated-4054My website was created using Joomla!, which has a very blog-like user interface. I find it easy to update my site because Joomla! stores content in ways that make sense to me. Rather than creating individual pages that remain static and must be changed individually, Joomla! creates pages on the fly by pulling the blocks of information you tell it to. A block of information could be an article, a document for download, a menu, a photograph, etc.

The other great thing about Joomla! is that it is free. Richard did the set-up but, by and large, I keep it maintained. Since Joomla! is an open source program, there are a lot of add-ons available. This means we can choose from several types of photo galleries, search functions, etc.

I spent several hours yesterday and today updating my website. I didn’t do any major overhauls, but I added new pictures to the galleries, updated the information on my appearances page, and added some new teaching materials in the photography section. Please let me know what you think. Also, if there is content you’d like to see that’s missing, please let me know.

Richard took this close-up of an amaryllis. I love the detail.

Managing My Online Presences

first day of school-0654Well, it finally arrived. The first day of school. They might say it arrived too soon, but not me. G was excited because he doesn’t have to wear a uniform anymore. N and D piled into Richard’s car and G and I settled in to wait for the bus. When it didn’t get here by 8, I drove him to school. The bus did show up, finally, so I feel good about him being able to catch it tomorrow.

After basking in the quietness, having a glass of iced roobios tea, and reading a 5,000-word article online without interruptions, I started in on some work. Marketing work. In addition to maintaining a website (and maybe a blog), authors need to manage their online presence in other ways, too. For example, about a week ago, I was checking around on and found that Amazon had set up an author’s page for me. There was no content on the page — just an anonymous silhouette in the place of a photo and no biographical material. In order to add content, I had to create a user name and password. I was able to upload my photo and my bio, but before it went live, Amazon had to check with my publisher to make sure I was who I said I was. I was notified today that I could proceed with updating the page.

I linked my blog to my Amazon author page and I was able to correct a problem Amazon has had with the Wolfsnail: A Backyard Predator page since the book was published. They listed Richard’s name wrong (I won’t repeat the error here) and they had him listed as the illustrator. I fixed both problems. Besides having an Amazon author page, I have a page on Jacketflap, Facebook (this one is a personal page, but I am considering developing a professional page on FB), Authors Round the South, SCBWI/Southern Breeze, and I have content on

Wolfsnail had been listed on for at least a year before I realized that I could create tags for my book. Tags are essentially search words that people might use when looking for a book. I added all the ones I thought were relevant to my book. I’m not web savvy enough to know how much of a difference this type of online refining makes, but I operate on the theory that every little bit helps. Does anyone else know some similar things authors can do online to make themselves easier for readers to find?

Marketing While Waiting

Chicago tripIt sometimes feels like it’s all hurry up and wait. Hurry up and wait. Hurry up and wait. Growing Patterns: Fibonacci Numbers in Nature is on the art director’s desk. We’re hoping to see a layout by the end of the week. In order to make the anticipation a little more bearable, we’re turning our attention to some of the other stuff we need to do — like new publicity photos. I figure that since we’re photographers we shouldn’t allow our publicity photos to get too out of date. My goal is to update at least once a year — especially in the years we have a book coming out.

Richard portraitWe took these on the screened porch. The day was overcast so the light wasn’t too bright. I decided to wear my glasses this time. Last time I was worried about glare, but we managed to avoid it in this shot. As you can see Richard decided to go with a silly an expressive face.

We’ll be ready with the new portraits when the Boyds Mills Press marketing folks get ready to put together the spring catalog.

Graeme portraitG came out to see what we were up to so we put him on the hot seat, too. I have made faces at my mother’s camera over the years and she always said “you’ll be sorry.” As will he. Of course, he owes the blog a review so maybe he’ll want to negotiate. I could always post it to my facebook page. Hmmm.

Geisel Ceremony

_SCC0376I thoroughly enjoyed the Geisel Ceremony. Mo Willems made a truly funny speech. My boys particularly appreciated the line: “Screw you!” He suggested it as his preferred comeback to the dog in ‘Go Dog, Go” who keeps saying “I do not like that hat.”

Chicago trip-3Richard and I received nice plaques with our certificates mounted on them. My friend Hester Bass (author of the forthcoming title The Secret World of Walter Anderson) led the “whoops” section. By happenstance, we ended up sitting not in the section reserved for honorees but among the various selection committee members. This made it easy for me to thank the Geisel committee members for noticing Wolfsnail: A Backyard Predator.

It was fun to hear Kadir Nelson talk about his first meeting with Hank Aaron, who would write the forward for his multiple-award-winning book, We Are the Ship. Nelson was accepting the Siebert Medal.

We went back to the exhibit floor to sign books for an hour. The boys, meanwhile, worked on restaurant selection. We ate a late lunch at Giordano’s and then Richard and the boys took off for the suburbs. I went back to sign for another hour.

Visitors to the booth continued to express interest in Growing Patterns. I gave out a bunch of business cards to librarians who expressed an interest in my website‘s supplemental material for Wolfsnail — especially the teachers’ guide and slideshow.

Mail from Maine

A lovely package came in the mail from Great Salt Bay Community School. The students in first and second grades we met during our school visit wrote us letters, drew pictures, made cards, and made flip books. It made us so happy to get them. This drawing is by Ellie and she wrote: “Thank you for reading Wolf Snail. What made you want to be an author?” Well, Ellie, the first answer is that  I love, love, love to read and sometimes when I am reading, I think ‘Wow! I want to be able to do that.” The second answer is that I like to write. I do all kinds of writing — letters, like the one you wrote to me; newspaper articles; and journals. The third answer is because I love to make things. Writing and illustrating books gives me the chance to make a wonderful thing that people can read.

The flip books are wonderfully colorful! Here’s one page, made by JoJo. As you can see, it asks “What protects a wolfsnail? Flip up the flap and you’ll see: “Its shell.” The questions in these books ran the gamut — including “Where do wolfsnails live? what do wolfsnails eat? What part of the wolfsnail comes out first? How do wolfsnails walk? How many feet does the wolfsnail have? Does it eat worms? How does a wolfsnail find its food?”
I love seeing what teachers and students do with Wolfsnail — to extend the learning process. Please keep sending us letters, cards and books. We love them!

My new website went live yesterday. Let me know what you think.

Gardening Update
We harvested our spinach yesterday and made a delicious salad. Overnight, the central stems had shot up and were looking like they were going to flower. I thought I had waited too long and that the spinach would be bitter. Not at all!

After consulting our friendly nursery manager, we pulled the broccoli and cabbage. Though they grew like gangbusters, she said they likely wouldn’t produce nice heads. We got them in too late. I salvaged four small bunches of cabbage and two tiny buds of broccoli. Richard put them in a minestrone soup. I can’t wait to eat it.

Book Bites for Kids — Blog Talk Radio

On Monday, I was a guest on  Book Bites for Kids, a talk radio show hosted by Suzanne Lieurance, director of the National Writing for Children Center. During the half-hour interview, we talked about how I wrote Wolfsnail: A Backyard Predator and how Richard and I took the photographs that illustrate it. You can hear the entire interview here. As soon as the new, improved website is ready to “go live,” I’ll post a link to the interview there. We had less than a minute to talk about Growing Patterns (the Fibonacci book); the half hour flew by.

fibonacci-14Speaking of Growing Patterns, I checked in last week with my editor. We talked about a few small changes and then he sent the text on to copy editing. The art department has all the photographs. As soon as the copy editor finishes, the art director will design and layout the book. I can’t wait to see it! This flower is called a Spiderwort. I love the color of the petals and how it contrasts with the color of the stamens. This is my photo Tuesday offering; it’s from the new book.

Gardening, Working on the Website

Notice the new look? Richard and I are in the process of making a new website. We are using a new type of software that should make updating the website almost as easy as updating the blog. We’re both enjoying learning this new way of working. We’ve added a few new bells and whistles — like rotating images in the header at the top. I spent time this morning in the garden. (Do you remember what this cabbage looked like a few months ago?) I tied two trellises and started weaving our tomatoes, beans, melons and peas into the netting. I pulled some broccoli plants that we think we got in too late to make room for more peppers and eggplant. The broccoli had gotten so tall, it was blocking sunlight to some of our pepper transplants. I kept two broccoli plants and several cabbages. The cabbages look like they’re heading up. The heat may get them before they’re really big, but I plan on eating baby cabbage anyway. Does anyone out there know if you can eat broccoli leaves? How would you prepare them?



snow pea

snow pea

summer squash

summer squash



square foot gardening

square foot gardening