Sunday, October 30, 2011

Cool Things I've Seen in the Last Two Weeks

1. This bulletin board was hanging in the children's section of a local library.

I don't know how well you can see it, but written across the top are the words "The best book I read this summer was . . ." Look at all that writing! I love it!

While I was there, a little boy added
THE SON OF NEPTUNE. It was adorable to watch!

2. My husband and I were at the grocery store selecting a movie, and we spotted ON STRIKE FOR CHRISTMAS!

This was exciting because it's a
movie based on a book by my writing mentor of six years, Sheila Roberts! It was made into a movie last year for the Lifetime Movie Network, but I didn't expect to see it on the shelf at Safeway. Go, Sheila!

3. I received an e-mail from Janet Johnson telling me I won a copy of THE LIAR SOCIETY by Lisa and Laura Roecker! Yay! Thank you, Janet! :)

4. I walked downstairs and found the world's longest dog!

Okay, now I'm messing around. I just wanted to have more than three cool things on my list. That's Thistle's head and Pepper's . . . um . . . hindquarters. They're demonstrating one of the many ways they share their new blanket.

What cool things have you seen lately, bloggy friends? Tell me, tell me, tell me!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Interview: Author George Shannon

Ever since I met George Shannon, I've enjoyed his playful spirit, admired his work, and respected him as a human being. Before long he shifted from someone up on a pedestal to a good friend who celebrates my tiny victories with me, the great guy who got me a silly hat on a past birthday. But holy cow. Today I've been rereading his books and his blog entries while thinking about his career so I could brainstorm questions for his interview, and . . . I'm blown away by his wisdom and experience. I'm humbled.

And I'm honored to share my interview with George.

Books and libraries have always been George's second home. He loved pretending in grade school, but it wasn't till the seventh grade that he knew he wanted to make books. His first submission to a publisher and the resulting rejection letter was at age sixteen. Eleven more years of school, college, writing, reading, working as a librarian, writing, and more writing brought his first book contract for LIZARD'S SONG. Since then he has written many, many stories and thirty of them have been published as picture books. He has also written books for adults that explore folktales and writing. George's favorite book is always the one he's currently writing because the process is always more fun than looking back at books already done. When he's not working on his own stories, George helps students with their own writing both here and abroad. George's books include DANCE AWAY, STORIES TO SOLVE, TOMORROW'S ALPHABET, TIPPY-TOE CHICK GO, WHITE IS FOR BLUEBERRY, THE SECRET CHICKEN CLUB, and RABBIT'S GIFT that received both the Washington State Book Award and the Worzalla/Burr Award. In 2008 George received the "Lifetime Achievement Award" from the Pacific Northwest Writers Association.

Dawn: What authors have most influenced you?

There seem to be two stages of influence on most writers' lives. Many years ago I prepared a presentation on fictional children who love to write in children's novels. One of the common elements was that these fictional young writers were all inspired by adults in their lives who loved words and loved sharing stories and poems aloud. That is certainly the case for me. However, once I began to focus on writing and children's books, I was influenced, or at least encouraged by several authors. Who?

*Arnold Lobel for his gentle humor regarding human foibles.

*M.B. Goffstein for her echoing distillation.

*Eudora Welty for her essays about writing.

*Anonymous: the hundreds of thousand of storytellers in the oral tradition throughout the world.

After that, it is not so much who inspired me, but rather what particular books made me eager to equal their quality.

What drew you to picture books?

I have no pithy answer to this. I simply love the blend of word and image. I love the distillation. I love that they are read aloud which means a sharing between adult and child.

Illustrated by Laura Dronzek. Greenwillow/HarperCollins, 2005.

Picture books require an author to write a fully developed story in very few words. Also, a picture book author has to leave room for an illustrator. It sounds like a super tricky puzzle! Will you tell us about your process?

It is a very slippery puzzle. Since I write but do not illustrate, I need to write half of something that actually feels complete. But it has become a puzzle I love. Over the years it has become a type of second language. I believe one of the most important things a picture book writer can do to help both his manuscript and mental health is to let go of thinking he knows what the pictures should be. Let go. If we writers truly knew, we'd already be drawing them. How to let go? Most importantly, focus on what you do with words, sounds, rhythm and pace. A well written picture book text IS the story's soundtrack and that will inform the illustrator.

I've heard you emphasize rhythm in writing for children. Will you elaborate on why you feel it's important to pay attention to rhythm while crafting a picture book?

I believe attending to pace, sound and rhythm is vital to all writing. But it is especially important in picture books because picture books are read aloud. Picture books are sound and inflection. Children may read novels, but they HEAR picture books. It only makes sense that we, as writers, do our best to not only make our manuscripts alive with sound, but also write in a way that guides the adult reading to a child.

TIPPY-TOE CHICK, GO! by George Shannon
Illustrated by Laura Dronzek. Greenwillow/HarperCollins, 2003.

Since adults often read picture books aloud to children, do you ever consider your adult audience?

I would actually say that picture books are almost always read by adults to a listening child or group of children. I don't really consider the adult reader in terms of keeping them entertained. But if I've done a good job of keeping the child engaged, it's likely the adult will be equally involved. This might well be one of the reasons I dislike namby-pamby cavity-inducing picture books. Such books may temporarily catch the child's attention, but they don't really give any substance to the child or adult reader.

Why do you encourage writers to read folktales?

Folktales are one of the common denominators of all peoples, all cultures. As humans, we need to shape and tell stories over and over again. When something is innate, it seems foolish to ignore it. Folktales began long before print and book reviewers. However, there were certainly critics--everyone in the audience. If the teller didn't keep them engaged they could and would walk away. If you truly only write for yourself then why bother with publishing? If you write to connect with others, then most certainly keep those "others" in mind.

WISE ACRES by George Shannon
Illustrated by Deborah Zemke. Handprint Books, 2004.

What do you like best about being an author?

Writing. The puzzle of writing. The challenge and occasional success of bringing a story to life.

Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

Write. Read. Write. Read any and everything. Write. Read at least thirty picture books for every one you start to write. Write. Read your writing aloud. Revise. Honor your writing, but do NOT protect it. Do all you can to make sure your writing can stand on its own.

RABBIT'S GIFT by George Shannon
Illustrated by Laura Dronzek. Harcourt, 2007.

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If you would like to check out a video of George working with kids and being interviewed about writing and kids, click

Thanks again to
George Shannon for appearing, courtesy of Provato Marketing. For other stops on the tour, please check out

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Do You Do This?

While my main character lives in a house I dreamed up, her boyfriend's house is my brother Jeff's. Well, kind of. I modified it for my story. For example, the house in my book has a pool that looks a heck of a lot like the backyard swimming pool I had as a kid.

I visited family on Maui last week, and I stayed at Jeff's house. It was fun walking in and comparing it to what I'd put on the page.

Here I am with Jeff at his house. He's the one on the left. Tee-hee!

A few of the other real-life places where my characters have lived are the house I grew up in, two high school friends' houses, and my grandparents' apartment.

I assume most writers do this. Do you? Where do your characters live?

I would like to note that my amazing and beautiful friend
Molly Hall is moving to the East Coast this month.

Molly and I at the Heart and Soul Celebration, 2010 SCBWI Summer Conference

So many of us here in Western Washington will miss her, but we have phones, e-mail, and conferences to bring us together! I'm actually very excited for her!

If you see this, Molly, know I'm thinking of you and sending you my love. Our Third Excellent Adventure is less than a year away! Can't wait! xo

Saturday, October 1, 2011

What's Hot at Eagle Harbor Book Company

Some of you may remember my post about Eagle Harbor Book Company, one of my favorite independent bookstores. Here is their website. They are located on Bainbridge Island, a beautiful spot that's a short ferry hop from Seattle.

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Interested in hearing which children's books were selling well here in Western Washington, I spoke with a bookseller from Eagle Harbor Book Company. (Hi, Victoria!) She was super helpful, and she provided me with the list of children's books they sold the most of last week. Guess what! Two Friends-o-the-Blog made the list!


EVERY THING ON IT by Shel Silverstein

MOCKINGJAY (Hunger Games #3) by Suzanne Collins

GOLIATH by Scott Westerfeld
(Ooh! See my last post!)

BIG NATE ON A ROLL by Lincoln Peirce

POWER OF SIX (Lorien Legacies #2) by Pittacus Lore

BUMBLE-ARDY by Mauice Sendak


GOOD NIGHT, GOOD KNIGHT by Shelley Moore Thomas (Yay, Shelley!)

RABBIT'S GIFT by George Shannon
(Yay, George!)

INFINITY (Chronicles of Nick #1) by Sherrilyn Kenyon


Eagle Harbor Book Company sells all sorts of books--not just children's--though the children's sections are my faves. They also host super cool readings. Two upcoming West Sound Reads events:

Maggie Stiefvater will be reading from THE SCORPIO RACES on Monday, October 10, at 7:00 p.m. The event will be held at the North Kitsap Community Auditorium in Poulsbo, Washington.

Christopher Paolini will be at the Commons at Bainbridge High School on Monday, November 28, at 7:00 p.m. He'll be reading from INHERITANCE.

In the comments, feel free to plug an independent bookstore you love! Also, what are you reading now? I'm finally reading THE HELP by Kathryn Stockett.

Note: I won't be posting next weekend, but I will the following weekend.