Get your head in the game.

It is the Wednesday after vacation, and I’m having a hard time getting my head in the game. I haven’t written in a while due to work I’ve been doing for Creative Bookings but each day I don’t write feels like a tiny puzzle piece of me gets shoved under the couch by mistake– lost until someone discovers it in a mound of dust bunnies, dog toys, and lone sweaty boy socks.  Luckily, NESCBWI is coming up. I know I can count on the conference for 1 part inspiration, 2 parts love and support, and 1 part alone time.



The change in weather has been especially difficult. Driving home on the east coast I went from summer and palm trees in Florida, to beautiful wild flowers in South Carolina, to dogwood trees in Virginia, to redbud trees in Maryland, to new leaves and flowering fruit trees in New York City…


Look at how beautiful Central Park was!

to forsythia in Connecticut, to um… tree limbs that barely have buds in Maine. It’s been cold and crappy here. Anyway. As my father says. Buck up, Sport!



Everybody wants something in New York City. This squirrel was totally hamming it up for us. I missed the picture when s/he stood up on her/his hind legs, but you get the eagerness here, right?



Oh, Lego engineers. You are full of awesome. By the way, Liberty Island is closed until July 4th and Ellis Island is closed indefinitely due to Hurricane Sandy.

NY12SCBWI Roundup. Yee-Haw!

If for some reason you missed the tumblg,tagging and tweeting from the SCBWI Winter Conference in New York City, pull on your riding boots for the conference round up.

In this corral over here we’ve got we’ve got the VIP cocktail party Friday night. Agents, editors, and art directors schmoozed and enjoyed “Artisian Cheese Displays,” after their hard day at work. I spoke to some of those but also rubbed elbow with the assistants who told me that things had been pretty quiet. That must mean that they’ve recovered after the December lull, and it is prime time to start subbing again. 

Over here, we’ve lassoed some industry professionals. This group: Jean Feiwel, Barbara Marcus, Nancy Paulsen, and Rubin Pfeffer, is chock full of historical knowledge about the publishing industry having built Scholastic to what it is today. Now they are at MacMillan, Penguin, and East West Literary. They discussed their impressions on the present and future children’s book industry and brought us some new vocabulary. “E-tailers” are purveyors of e-books, “Discoverability” is the chance the consumer had to find your book in the millions that are out there. This used to happen through indie bookstores when the awesome retailer hand sold your book. This panel mentioned that with the demise of Borders, indies have actually had their best season in years and that the support of all of us is really helping. (Shop local.) “Transmedia” is the addition or transportability of your content into other media formats. 

Throughout the weekend, speakers agreed that publishers are moving towards more commercial, hard-cover best sellers, and that these best sellers allow them to publish the midlist. High concept is definitely on their mind. This idea was repeated by the agent panel on Sunday with the caveat that you have to have a “hook.” This doesn’t mean that you need a paranormal YA to get published. Agents Regina Brooks, of Seredipity, and Ken Wright, of Writer’s House, explained that publishers are always thinking: “Where is this book going to go? How are we going to get it there? How is the author going to get it there?” Certainly this is marketing and Regina Brooks has even added a Social Media strategist to help her authors develop their online presence. Ginger Knowlton spoke about the many web related links that she checks in on each day so that she can be in the loop about publishing developments. Note: you do not have to read all of these and if you do- you will never write/draw again. Here they are:

PW Marketplace
PW Lunch

Media Bistro

Read Roger

The Passive Voice

The Shatzkin Files


When we weren’t in the Ballroom, we were moseying into the breakout sessions. My favorite was the revision workshop with Cheryl Klein. If you went to that session, she posted the links that she mentioned at her own roundup. Yee-Haw!

At the Saturday night hoedown aka the Gala Dinner, the tables were arranged by region and I was thrilled to meet some of the Northern New Englanders who showed up. We ambled away from our tables to join the larger group from Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut. It was great to see everyone and we hope you’ll come to our New England spring conference April 20-22nd in Springfield, Mass. If you think you want to come, do it quickly. Joyce Johnson (one of the co-directors) kept us up-to-date all weekend with the registration numbers. (300, 350, 400, 450) A speedy sell out seems inevitable. 

The big news from the conference is a new grant for midlist authors, funded by New England’s own Jane Yolen. The rules for the grant are not on quite yet, but if you are interested, keep checking the grant tab at I’ll announce when it is up as well and post a link on my twitter feed @annawritedraw. The money, as much as $2,000, is award to a nominee who had published at least two PAL books but has not been published in a year or more. You must be nominated and the money is intended to help you reinvent and reinvigorate your career. 

Here’s a few personal pictures from the trip. 

The bathroom in my hotel room (for Cindy Lord)

Times Square

Anna and Casey (the NESCBWI Illustrator Coordinator) at Mary Poppins

92nd Street and The Jewish Museum, 
Anna at the Jewish Museum to see the Ezra Jack Keats Exhibit

Joyce in the rain through the orchids. 

New York City dogs wearing rain coats (Maine doggies just wear their own fur coats)

If you’d like to see more pictures or post your own, visit the NY12SCBWI tumblr.

As always: Any opinions expressed here are entirely my own and not the views of the SCBWI. FMI

Earl’s Diner is Closing

Earl’s Diner inhabits a small portion of the space owned by Earl. The country/bluegrass amphitheater and the oversized barn that houses his collection of John Deere tractors and farm machinery take up the rest of the lot. My husband grew up, up the road from Earl’s and it was the place his family went for breakfast. “Down to Earl’s.” I’ll remember a lot about Earl’s: the Bell jar fruit glasses, the table legs that were jeans and cowboy boots, and the way my oldest son (who was only a toddler then) used to watch the ladies make the cinnamon swirl buns that were as large as a dinner plate. He’d press his little hands and nose against the large window that gave people a view of the mouth watering treats.  I remember the huge tubs of butter and lard. That’s what made it so good. YUM . My hubby will, I’m sure, remember much more. A farming community held together by country fairs, school events, and weekends that started with breakfast at Earl’s. God speed Earl. Check out the NYTimes article here.

New York follow up

Let’s jump into the time machine and with a whir and a wiggle, jump and jiggle back to last Thursday. There I am in the fifth row of the Minkoff Theatre watching the Lion King. A show I’ve wanted to see for its puppetry and stage design. After the show, our group of SCBWI Regional Advisors got to go back stage and talk to the cast. An amazing experience.

Friday brought the illustrators’ intensive. The highlights of the day were hearing Jerry Pinkney talk about his lovely realistic watercolors and seeing the New Yorker cartoons and children’s work of Harry Bliss. Also, the marketing and publicity role play by the Scholastic team was informative and engaging. As a conference planner myself, I have to mention that the schedule was less than comfortable. We sat in the same room listening to others talk at us all day with no scheduled break. Lunch was on our own which is okay, but the portfolio drop off was at the same time so we had about a half hour to find something to eat. I went with the longest line at a street vendor and picked correctly. Great gyros!

Saturday and Sunday were filled with people and speakers. Lin Oliver kept it lite even through a minor emergency. There was a fire in the laundry chute which we didn’t really know until later in the day. When the warnings started I was on the top, 44th floor of the hotel and walked down quickly, That’s a lot of stairs! We were not required to evacuate but I wasn’t going to be up there if there was a real problem. Nikki Grimes’s  work blows my socks off and I was thrilled to hear her give voice to her rhythmic poetry. David Wiesner, multi-Caldecott winner, was relaxed as he showed us his early kid work and professional process. Wow. Just wow.

Coming home was not in the luxury of a time machine but on the Amtrak and then driving my van to pick up children and drive the long road home from Providence, RI to Maine. Monday after my trip was a wash, Tuesday I wrote twelve thank you letters and tried to help with the last edits on the SCBWI-NE conference brochure, Wednesday my children were home for a snow day and the dining room table was Valentine production central, today I’m trying to catch up on my colored pencil class homework and laundry. Tonight, after class, I pack up my children and myself and we are on a plane to Memphis tomorrow early to visit my hubby who is working with the navy for two months. ACK!  This chaos is why I’ve not posted about the end my lovely New York journey. Stay tuned for Memphis memories next week. Back to the time machine!

View Images from Anna’s New York Trip On Flickr

The agent and the ballet

I have had an amazing couple of days in the big apple. Hold on to your hats, ladies and gentlemen there are bound to be lots of smiles and maybe a squee or two.

On Tuesday, I was pleased to interview Cameron Dieck, and up and coming 19 year old from Mount Cisco, New York who has been dancing since the age of 3. He entered the School of American Ballet his fifth grade year and has had his eye set on the New York City Ballet ever since. He was the recipient of the 2007 Mae L. Wien award for outstanding promise. Cameron is  on the far right with the other young people.

Below is an excerpt from my notes of the experience:
“The teachers break room at the School of American Ballet (SAB) is furnished with modern furniture: strong lines, steel and chrome are joined with grey and black cube inspired furniture. The young man seated across from me is the opposite of his surroundings. Tall, a little over six feet, Cameron Dieck sits folded into a couch in a cozy maroon Harvard sweatshirt and jeans that accent his lean long legs. He has an infectious grin and sparkling eyes that light up when he talks about ballet and cloud over when he discusses the bullying he had to endure in middle school because of his love for dance. Our interview was more of a conversation and lasted for about an hour. These are the best interviews of all. Cameron is intelligent, well spoken and kind. I keep wondering if he is this way with all reporters or if we’ve so quickly become friends.”

Yesterday, I spent the day at SAB. Amy Bordy, the public relations person at SAB has been welcoming, friendly, and supportive and really opened the whole school to me. I know this is a treat and an honor and I am thankful beyond words. Amy took me on a tour of the school taking particular pride in the newly built additional studios which are suspended above two original studios that once had 30 (?) foot ceilings.
They each have deep, sprung floors and are surrounded by glass walls to take advantage of the huge windows in the original studio below. I also got to learn more about the residential program for students. Security is number one priority for the students who are sometimes as young as 12 in the summertime. Programing provided by the Residential Director helps build community, and integrates these talented young people into New York City safely. Many of their students are selected from a national audition tour so they have young people from all over who may be new to city living. After the tour, I was honored to observe the partnering class for advanced students taught by retired NYC dancer Jock Soto who is famous for his partnering techniques. More here. I will never watch ballet the same way again. His instruction was precise, demanding, and filled with examples from the everyday. Teaching 14 and 15 year olds is never easy. Teaching them to  create characters that understand the intricacies of relationships (including intimacy and sensuality) is near impossible but he did it all with a lovely sense of humor. The next class I saw was the 12 and 13 year olds. I was struck by their strength, centering and ability to remember the combinations. My kid can’t even remember the lunch box on the counter. The instructor John Stafford, principal dancer for the NYC ballet, was kind and gentle even when they lost focus. According to Balanchine, all music at SAB is live. The baby grand pianos are staffed by experienced accompanists who are able to pluck the perfect bit of music out of the air to go with the combinations that the instructors develop on the spot. If you are a boy interested in ballet SAB is the place to be.

I was a little star struck at meeting veteran ballerina and school administrator Kay Mazzo. I’m afraid I said little but “thank you so much,” over and over again. The thank you’s continued when Amy produced two press tickets to the NYC ballet for last night’s performance. My sister-in-law Sarah and I sat 10 rows back from the stage at dead center of the State Theatre at Lincoln Center. More here. We watched “Double Feature,” a homage to the black and white silent movies of the 20’s choreographed by broadway choreographer Susan Stroman. (The Producers, Young Frankenstein) One ballet was a melodrama the other a Buster Keaton type comedy and both were infused with humor and of course incredible dancing technique. While the choreography was not difficult for the dancers it must have been fun. The storyline required a bit of over acting which was fun to watch. Sets and costumes were all shades of black, white and grey and the occasional subtitles on the back screen completed the cinema feel.

I feel that I’ve gone on too long, but let me just say my meeting with Secret Agent Man (Don’t you love that song?) was so uplifting that I ended up on the 86th floor of the Empire State Building with the city wind in my hair. Everything looks rosy from up there.

On Sunday, I’ll go home, see my children and get to work feeling validated as an author/illustrator. Someone with good work to add to the world. But first, the conference…

Country Mouse goes to the big city

Day three in New York City and uptown, downtown and crosstown are starting to become part of my vocabulary. I’m also adapting to the Euro scheduling. In Maine, I go to bed at 9:30 and wake at 5:00 am. Here, nothing even opens until ten. I won’t bore you with the details but just give you a few highlights.

Yesterday, I met with the Creative Director of Clarion books. She was very kind to give me her time and her critque of my work was helpful and hopeful. The funny thing about critiques is that I don’t believe others tell us anything we don’t already know in our hearts. She wanted to see more energy and emotion in my work. This doesn’t surprise me as I’ve been working on capturing the energy of my sketches  in my final images. I was surprised to hear her say that I needed to work on the narrative quality of the images because that is something I think I’ve finally got. But the two are closely related so I think that as I master the emotional the story will also be more apparent. Most important, she said she’d like to see revisions and new work and that is the most any writer or illustrator can ask for in this business. Next I went to F,S, G and met with two lovely Assistant Editors. They currently work in the triangular Flatiron building and the security was interesting. I had to speak into a digital camera and say who I was and where I was going. When I got to their floor I had to call from outside their door to be let in. The editors were much more effusive about my work and would like to see more.

I was able to meet up with my childhood friend Michael Learmonth yesterday at the Books of Wonder children’s bookstore on 18th Street. Mike is great but the bookstore was even better. (smile) The collection of rare, and classic books was educational and fun to browse. I am a huge Crockett Johnson fan and I often wonder if his minimalist illustrations would get passed over in today’s technicolor market. Sometimes simplicity is more effective with children then the over-stimulation of many images that are published today. The bookstore also had wonderful original art and prints from illustrators. My favorites? A David McPhail watercolor and Mark Teagues paintings. I did take some pictures of the shop and will try to post them if my sister-in-law has a cable.

I’ll post about interviews and observations at School of American Ballet this Thursday!