This is a little unusual.  I invited Bob Shea to take part in the #mywritingprocess blog tour and he couldn't do it by himself, even though he's all grown up.  So I helped him, because that's what good friends do.  They help.  

Remember, this is going to be Bob talking.  If you don't like it, you might want to think about whether he's the one at fault.  If you do like it, you might want to consider whether you're actually responding to my awesome blogging.

BOB SHEA: Hello.

Melissa was kind enough to invite me to join this blog tour. Then she was like, “You have a blog, right?” and I was like, “Pffft, what kind of idiot do you take me for?”

I don’t have a blog.

I used to have a blog. Now I just mumble in Starbucks. I’ve increased my reach significantly.

Anyway, I tricked Melissa into thinking a bulb was out on my blog and maybe could she post my thing to hers. She fell for it. I doubt she’ll read this before she does, so keep your mouth shut one-person-that’s-reading-this.

So here we go. Just to warn you, it’s 3 a.m. as I write this. Maybe you could wait until then to read it. It’s probably better. And take off your glasses. And have a small window in the corner of your screen streaming Netflix.

What am I currently working on?

I just recently tricked someone into thinking I have a blog. It took most of the week. Tricking people is hard. Sometimes they are listening and not just nodding.


I am also working on an early reader series called BALLET CAT. It’s about a Cat who, get this — loves ballet. It’s all she thinks about. Ballet, ballet, ballet. It’s my first attempt at an early reader so I am pretty excited about it. That should pass though.

Also, I am finishing up a book written by a very funny author named Jory John. It’s very bold and graphic. The excitement for that one is not going away anytime soon.

There’s always a bunch of other things going on which sound great but are just things. A lot of my time is spent working on pitches or treatments or dummies which never go anywhere. It sounds impressive though and I always have something to say when my Dad calls.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Depends. Are you talking about the people I rip off? My work looks like they did it, but they had the flu really bad.

Other people, not sure.
 
My artwork is pretty graphic and bold. I try anyway. My writing is usually pretty absurd because that’s the type of thing I like.
 
 
Why do I write what I write?
 
Mostly to keep myself amused. That helps me judge if a story is working or not. I have a pretty strong sense of what’s funny and what’s forced in my own writing.
 
How does my individual writing/illustrating process work?
 
I get up pretty early, not usually this early, but early, and work on something new. That’s always fun. I’ll sit and work out an idea in my head and write notes on not very special paper with a not very special pen.
 
Then I put that away and work on current projects during the day, always thinking about the other shiny, new thing I am excited about.
 
Then I get coffee and wonder why my studio is a mess.
 
I’ll usually overwrite. Too many jokes or long bits. I cull it down as I sketch the layouts. I used to write television promos. Those thirty second commercials that promote shows on a network. It really taught me to make points concisely.
 
Then I put it all together and make my next runaway smash hit book.
 
Thanks Melissa (as if she read this far) this was fun.
 

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Many thanks to author-illustrator Joyce Wan for inviting me to be part of this cool project!  

Joyce and I met at a kidlit hangout in Brooklyn last year.  She shared stickers from her adorable picture book YOU ARE MY CUPCAKE and Holly and I became instant fans of her sweet, yummy style.  If you can think of it, Joyce has designed it -- wooden cards, stationery, apps, refrigerator magnets, even plushies.  So talented!

 

Now on to the questions...

What am I currently working on?

I'm finishing a private commission this week.  It's an unusual project that involved drawing things I don't usually draw.  Things no one usually draws, in fact.  It has been really fun.

After this, I'm diving into a picture book about a baby hedgehog for Philomel.  A dangerously cute baby hedgehog.  That's all I can really share about it right now.

I'm also in the early stages of writing a biography of Nobel Prize-winning scientist Rita Levy Montalcini, which I plan to illustrate and then sell to some wonderful editor who really loves science...and women...and hair!

And I recently told my agent I'm interested in illustrating someone else's manuscript for a change, so I'm waiting for the offers to start pouring in.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I've been told my work has a certain balance of gentleness and fun.  It also has my name on it.

Why do I write what I write?

That depends on the project.  I wrote BABY PENGUINS EVERYWHERE and BABY PENGUINS LOVE THEIR MAMA to capture my experiences as a new mom before they got away from me.  I also love drawing baby penguins and the books gave me someplace to put them.

My hedgehog book is an attempt to get my sense of humor into a picture book, something I haven't succeeded at so far.  My sense of humor mostly comes out when I'm defacing Skymall catalogues.

How does my individual writing/illustrating process work?

I go through the same steps as other picture book author-illustrators.  I write a story.  I make rough thumbnails.  I develop my characters visually in my sketchbook, where no one can laugh at me, and work on my color palette at the same time, sticking big blotches of color on the studio wall.  It sounds very active and methodical, but the truth is I spend a lot of time at the beginning just thinking.  It's like the log flume ride at Six Flags Great Adventure.  Once I go into the chute, things happen quickly, but it takes me a really long time to get into the chute.

That's me!

Next up on the blog tour...

Jen Corace lives much too far away from me, in Rhode Island.  She has illustrated lots of beautiful picture books including my niece's favorite, LITTLE PEA.  Jen's next project is TELEPHONE, by Mac Barnett. It comes out in September and I'm really excited to see it!

Bob Shea has no trouble making his books funny.  He wrote a book Holly loves called UNICORN THINKS HE'S PRETTY GREAT.  His next book is a collaboration with Lane Smith called KID SHERIFF AND THE TERRIBLE TOADS.  I'm super excited to see that, too.

If you want to see other stops on the tour so far, check out process posts by Mike Curato, Samantha Berger, Carin Berger, Elizabeth Rose StantonBen Clanton, and Jennifer K. Mann, or search for the #mywritingprocess hashtag on Twitter.

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Today was my last school visit of the 2013-14 school year, and it got me thinking.
 
Nobody tells you that once you're an author, school visits will be the second best thing about your job (after getting paid to make stuff up.)
 
OK, not everyone feels this way, but I do.  Presenting my work is fun.  Talking to kids is really fun.
 
I visited a lot of great schools this year, but maybe my favorite was St. Joseph School in Mission San Jose, CA.  An elementary teacher named Sheila Flanagan made it happen.  (Last year, Sheila sent me a sheaf of stories her students wrote based on BABY PENGUINS EVERYWHERE, and it remains one of the nicest pieces of mail I’ve ever received.)
 
Student story based on BABY PENGUINS EVERYWHERE
 
Sheila got the kids excited and ready to show off their talents when I came to visit St. Joseph.  I was greeted with banners and a penguin song-and-dance number led by the president of the school.  
 
 
Every student from pre-K to 5th grade was involved, and some of them spent their whole recess aftewards talking and drawing with me.  
 
 
St. Joseph couldn't afford an honorarium, but they gave me thoughtful thank-you presents, including a gift certificate to one of my favorite restaurants back in Brooklyn.  Talk about doing your homework!  I felt appreciated.  More importantly, I felt useful.
 
It is true, I occasionally get to a school and no one seems to know I was coming.  Incredibly, some of those schools have paid me to come.  I'll find myself talking to a roomful of blank faces and leave feeling like an uneaten lunch.  
 
Thankfully, most visits are arranged by enthusiastic teachers and librarians who prepare their kids to learn and have fun.  Those are the best!
 
If your school would like a visit from The Penguion next year, email me!  And share my school visit flyer with a teacher or librarian.
 
xo
 

 

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WORLD PENGUION DAY 2014

Excited about spring?  Well hold on to your crocuses, people.  It's about to get better!

The most exciting day of the year is just around the corner, on April 25th!  

No, not Easter.  

WORLD PENGUION DAY!  

Some people call it World Penguin Day.  Same thing.

To be quickly followed by two other great holidays: Mother's Day (hint, hint) and Children's Book Week!  

To celebrate, I'm going to give so much stuff away on Twitter | Facebook, it's crazy.  Literally crazy, you can't run a career this way, it's not feasible.  

But don't feel guilty -- get in on it!  All you have to do is follow/like me on social media.  Just if you're into fun stuff.  Up to you!

xo Melissa

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I'd like you to meet my colleague Pricilla, who has been heavily involved in the launch of BABY PENGUINS LOVE THEIR MAMA!

Pricilla the Goat

Pricilla is Famous SpokesGoat for Happy Goat Soaps. They make the amazing mama/baby penguin soaps I've been giving away at my readings. It has been a pleasure for a city-dweller like me to meet Pricilla and her owner, Patty, and I thought I'd invite Pricilla to talk about herself and life on the farm.
 
Pricilla, I have so many questions. First, how old are you?
 
A ladygoat does not maaa things like this! But I can pass on that I am nearing 18 years on this Earth.
 
 
Do you have any kids?
 
I have had several kids in my day. AbbyGoat is my kid but she doesn't listen to me any longer. Isn't THAT the way of it?
 
 
How long have you lived with Patty? Do you get along? 
 
I LOVE my publicist! She brings me apples and she scratches my tail. I have lived with her for almost 7 years now.
 
 
Where is your farm?
 
My farm is in a magical part of Montana. It is called Superior. And it is.
 
 
Are there other animals on your farm? Are any of them famous, like you?
 
AbbyGoat likes to THINK she is famous but she is not. I am training little Bernadette the goat to take over when I retire. The four Farm cats - Stinky, Pumpkin, Sherpa and Harry - are developing quite a following. Especially Sherpa. He is a crazy cat!
 
 
How many years were you active as a dairy goat?
 
I have kept my past secret from my publicist. My first farm was not a happy farm. They took my horns. I miss my horns. My second farm was very nice. I was there for three years and gave them lots of rich milk. Then I came to the Happy Goats Farm where I helped the publicist start my soap shop. I gave her milk for two years and then retired. She was just learning and she realized that I should have been retired earlier. The people who had me before didn't know that and didn't tell her either. We are all lucky that I survived my last pregnancy. Now I get to graze and bask my days away and maaaa about being a Happy Goat!
 
 
What’s your favorite food?
 
Apples, apples, apples, apples, apples, apples, apples, apples, apples, apples, apples, grain, apples apples, apples, corn, apples apples, apples, strawberries, apples, apples, apples, apples, apples, watermelon, apples, apples, apples, carrot tops, apples, apples, apples, apples, apples, beet greens, apples, apples, apples, APPLES!
 
 
What’s your favorite soap scent?
 
I really don't work with the scents. That is the publicist's job. If I had to pick I would maaaa Apple! The publicist has several favorites including Afternoon Tea, Lemongrass and Fresh Pineapple.
 
 
Was your milk used for things other than soap?
 
Oh yes! The publicist makes cheeses and ice cream and caramel and fudge and hot fudge sauce and yogurt.
 
 
Do you ever take baths? 
 
NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! No water. I hate water except to drink. If I need to feel clean I take a dust bath. It feels soooo good to roll around in the dust.
 
 
What’s retirement like?
 
It's the best! I eat my grain. I eat my hay. I graze, I munch, I nibble, I bask. It's the goat life!
 
 
Any questions for me?
 
When are you going to write a book about a goat?
 
 
Funny you should ask, Pricilla. A good friend of mine just wrote a book about a goat. You'd enjoy it!
 
I want to thank Pricilla and her owner publicist Patty for all they've done. They've even donated three wonderful soaps for a giveaway! Enter whydoncha!
 
 

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Kids! I'm blog touring for the next two weeks! What's blog touring? I lay in bed eating popcorn and drawing hedgehogs, while you lay in bed eating popcorn and visiting sites to learn about my work and maybe even get free stuff. It's a win-win! Here's the schedule:

Monday, Jan 13: Susan Heim on Parenting
Tuesday, Jan 14: The Children's Book Review
Wednesday, Jan 15: Once Upon a Story
Thursday, Jan 16: Kidlit Frenzy
Friday, Jan 17: Momma Drama
Saturday, Jan 18: Booking Mama
Monday, Jan 20: 5 Minutes for Books
Tuesday, Jan 21: Just A Little Creativity
Wednesday, Jan 22: Satisfaction For Insatiable Readers
Thursday, Jan 23: Geo Librarian
Friday, Jan 24: As They Grow Up
Saturday, Jan 25: Obsessive Mommy

I recently visited two great blogs that aren't on the official tour  -- check those out, too! The Little Crooked Cottage (where Mama Penguin speaks publicly about her experience for the first time) and Annie's Doodlebugz!

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People, BABY PENGUINS LOVE THEIR MAMA has arrived! Please consider getting a copy, because we have...a lot of them.

And The Penguion is going on tour. If I'm in your area, won't you come down? I promise big fun!!

Jan 5 WORD Brooklyn
Jan 11 Greenlight Brooklyn
Jan 12 powerHouse on 8th Brooklyn
  Books Of Wonder NYC
Jan 18 The Red Balloon Baltimore, MD
Jan 25 The Blue Bunny Dedham, MA
Feb 1 [words] Maplewood, NJ
  Town Book Store Westfield, NJ
Feb 8 Boulevard Books & Cafe Brooklyn
Feb 13 Clinton Book Shop Clinton, NJ
Feb 22 The Children's Bookstore Baltimore, MD
Feb 28 Hooray For Books Alexandria, VA
Mar 1 Winchester Book Gallery Winchester, VA
Mar 8 Bernards Township Library Basking Ridge, NJ
Mar 15-29 California! TBD
Apr 26 Farley's Bookshop New Hope, PA
May 8 RJ Julia Booksellers Madison, CT

I'm always adding to the calendar, so check back if your area isn't listed. You can even propose an event on Togather!

If you're still reading, maybe you want to check out my first-ever podcast interview with lovely Matthew Winner, too. Someone actually talked to me for an hour.

Wishing you a very happy 2014!

x, Melissa

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Nelson Mandela and I shared a birthday, so I always felt a special, superstitious connection to him.  (I also share a birthday with Vin Diesel but I have no superstition about that.)

While I hold Mandela in my heart, and am sad about his death yesterday, I don't want to let today go by without observing that it was exactly one year ago that BABY PENGUINS EVERYWHERE! came out, and I became a published author/illustrator. Such an incredible year!

So with respect to my birthday brother: Happy Author-versary to me. And to celebrate, here's a video from the painting of my new book. Share it with the little artists in your life!

x, M.

 

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This Saturday afternoon, I'll be talking about making picture books at the incomparable Books of Wonder.  An SCBWI-sponsored event.

I won't bring candy.  Don't you bring any, either!  Blech.

4-6pm, 18 West 18th Street, NYC

Books of Wonder Inside Story Event

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I'm happy to debut a new blog feature today: guest posts by real, live kids!  I've wanted to do this for a long time and I'm super excited.  Let's get to it!

Meet Ava.  Ava with an A as in awesome.  We met at the library after Ava posted my favorite review of BABY PENGUINS EVERYWHERE! ever on her blog.  She included a photo of the book on a white carpet next to a penguin stuffy.  Did any other reviewers think of doing that?  Nope.

 

Hi Ava, and thanks for doing this.  How old are you?  

I am ten years old and I am in fifth grade.

 

What's your favorite picture book?  You don't have to say mine.
 
DOG LOVES DRAWING by Louise Yates.  My mom checked the book out from the library for my brother but thought I would like it and I did.

The reason I like this book is because I love to draw.  In the story, the dog draws an owl.  I love owls.

Ava's Owl
 
That's a great owl!  Do you have a favorite author?  You still don't have to say me.
 
I don’t have a favorite but I really liked reading THE SECRET ZOO by Bryan Chick.  I can’t wait to read the next books in the series.  Right now I am reading WHAT WE FOUND IN THE SOFA AND HOW IT SAVED THE WORLD by Henry Clark.

 

How long have you had your own blog, and why did you decide to start?
 
I started Reading Rascals Review in September of 2012.  When I was in second grade, my mom started a book club for me and a few of my friends.  When we were going into 4th grade, I started blogging to keep track of the books we were reading and what we thought about them.  I named the blog after our club, The Reading Rascals.

 

Is there something else you'd like to share about yourself or your family?
 
I have a sister named Eliana, a brother named Aaron, a mom named Kimberly, and a dad named Carl, and me, Ava.

I have always loved art class.  I do lots of arts and crafts in my basement craft room with my family.  I also do sports such as Lacrosse and Swimming.

 

I love swimming, it's my favorite thing about summer.  Did you do anything special this summer?
 
This summer I went on an RV trip to Williamsburg Virginia, Virginia Beach, and Jamestown.  While we were there we went to Busch Gardens, an amusement park and water park.

When we go on vacations we like to stop and eat at restaurants that have been on the show "Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives."  Most of the food is very tasty.  I really like it.

 

There you have it, folks: the next generation of reading, blogging, RV-ing rascals.  Thanks for visiting me today, Ava!  I really like you.

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