Thursday, May 29, 2008

Off to BEA!

I'll soon be heading down to Los Angeles for Book Expo America. This is my first trip to BEA, so I'm pretty excited. I'll be signing Blackberry Banquet at the Sylvan Dell booth on Friday from 3:00-4:00, and Saturday from 10:00-11:00 (West Hall, Exhibit Hall A, Booth #5154). If you're at the convention, please stop by and say hi!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Recipe: Fox’s Berry Good Red, White and Blue Sundae

Greetings fellow berry-lovers! So nice of you to stop by. You’ll be glad you did as today I’m sharing my favorite summer dessert—a delicious ice cream sundae layered with fresh berries. And of course, topped with the best berries of all—blackberries! I can eat blackberries ‘til my muzzle is stained deep purple and I’m donning a berry juice bib. Just thinking about them perks my ears and sets my mouth to watering—much more so than it was with that silly Gingerbread Boy. Mmm-mm-mm!

This is the perfect dessert for a summer evening with friends and family. Followed by a bit of dancing; dare I suggest, the Fox Trot?

Enjoy, my fellow berry-lovers!

Fox’s Berry Good Red, White and Blue Sundae
(Makes one sundae)
What to Acquire and Bring Back to Your Den:
Vanilla ice cream (I prefer that all-natural kind)
¼ cup fresh blueberries
¼ cup fresh raspberries
¼ cup fresh blackberries

How to create the masterpiece:
Place the blueberries in the bottom of an ice cream dish.
Top with one scoop of ice cream.
Place the raspberries over the ice cream.
Put another scoop of ice cream over the raspberries.
Top it off with the blackberries.

Grab a spoon and dig in!

Monday, May 26, 2008

Must Read Blog Post: Orphan Work Act

Please-please-please--go to Tina Nichols Coury's blog and read the interview with illustrator Carol Heyer where she discusses the Orphan Work Act. Carol does an excellent job of explaining the OWA and why it is detrimental to artists and illustrators, and possibly authors in the future (it's not long and has an easy-peasy link for contacting your congressional leaders).

Sunday, May 25, 2008


Pint-sized interviews that leave you smiling.

Ms. Viola is an internationally acclaimed personal coach and consultant for introvert celebrities, politicians, and famous authors/illustrators. In 2007, she received her PhD in Jungian Type Analysis from Vassar University. (But don’t bother trying to verify this due to the unfortunate eensy explosion they had in the Admissions Office.) Ms. Viola writes a syndicated column for Innie Mag and is the Coach in Residence for Shrinking Violet Promotions.

Other than developing a website/blog (in today’s cyber world, that’s a given,) what do you say is the most important marketing strategy for an introverted writer/illustrator?
Well, since I do represent the Shrinking Violets, you know how Mary and Robin love to spin ad nauseum about how important it is to write the best book you can. There’s that, of course. And they are forever sporting that Comfort Level Inventory. But, really, Terry, I think professional brow grooming is completely underrated. I’m conducting a field study right now on the correlation between high book sales at signings and good eyebrow care. Liz Gilbert has sold over one million books. Look at her brows! They are pitch perfect. Need I say more?

What bit of survival advice would you give to an introverted writer/illustrator who knows that they should attend conferences, workshops, etc., but knows it will be uncomfortable, deplete him or her of energy for days after, and would instead opt for a root canal?
Oh, just get the rotten little tooth pulled and get a shiny new dental implant. Wha-a-tt? Oh, conferences? Let me give you a little sports analogy, darlings. If you want to play in the Super Bowl, you’ve got to go to Spring Training. I know many of you don’t want to hear that, but publishing is, after all, a world of relationships and connections. You deserve every advantage you can give yourself.

This rule does not apply to you if you are JK Rowling, of course, but you’re not. (You should have seen her before I got hold of those eyebrows—you could have hidden a Weasley twin in each one.) And after a long day at conference, really, there is always room service and nice fat book to spoon with.

What is your favorite children’s joke?
Honestly, Terry, I just don’t think it is kind to make fun of children. I may need to do some coaching with you. Call me, dear.

Thank you, Ms. Viola! (I think...)

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Recipe: Squirrel’s Nutty Pawprint Cookies

Hi there! It’s finally MY turn to share. What’s this week’s treat? My delightful oh-so-nutty pawprint cookies. Mmm-mm! These sweet treats will have you running in circles and flying from one tree branch to another! Okay, maybe for the kiddies one cookie would be enough—but me, I eat them by the dozens! Yummy! Imagine—tasty cookie dough rolled in chopped nuts and topped off with blackberry jam. Mmm-mm! A berry-itable feast! It’s a forest treat I can climb into. Here’s how you can whirl up a batch.

Squirrel’s Nutty Pawprint Cookies
(makes about 24 cookies)
What you need to gather and bring back to your tree hole:
¾ cup softened butter or margarine
½ cup firmly packed brown sugar (I like ‘em sweet, but if you don’t maybe use a little less sugar)
1 egg, separated
½ teaspoon vanilla
1 1/3 cups flour
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup finely chopped nuts (I love every kind of nut on earth—can you imagine the world without nuts?—but this time I used walnuts)
Blackberry jam or jelly

Here’s what you do:
Preheat the oven to 375.
1. Cream together the butter and sugar.
2. Beat in the vanilla and egg yolk (but save the white part).
3. Stir in the flour and salt. Mix it up really good.
4. With washed paws, roll the dough into balls (about one teaspoon of dough per ball).
5. Beat the egg white and dip the dough balls into it then roll each ball into the nuts (ah-ah-ah! No snitching the nuts!)
6. Set them one inch apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.
7. Press your paw (oh wait—your paws are a lot bigger than mine—use your thumb instead) into each cookie, making a deep hole.
8. Bake in the oven for as long as it takes to read a story or two, like Blackberry Banquet, about 8-10 minutes.
9. Place baked cookies on a rack to cool.
10. Fill centers with about ½ teaspoon of blackberry jam/jelly (if the centers rise too much during baking, you can press them back down again—I use the back end of an ice cream scoop but you can use whatever tool is handy).


Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Bear Necessities

Blackberry Banquet now has a plush bear available on the Sylvan Dell website! Check it out here. Can't you imagine him lumbering up the blackberry bush and disrupting the forest animals' feast? Hmm...maybe not--he's just too cute!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Children's Book Council and Squidoo

Today I found out that Blackberry Banquet is being featured on the Children’s Book Council website’s “Hot Off the Press: A Sneak Peek at Publishers' Newest and Hottest Titles” (their monthly feature of anticipated bestselling titles). Okay, I’m stoked! Doesn't that just make you want to run out and buy a copy? ;-) And check out the other titles on the list--these are some fabulous books!

On a different note, this past weekend, I Squidooed—did you? Squidoo is a website that features “lenses” (single-page websites) that feature all kinds of interesting things, written by folks with a particular area of expertise. I wrote about Ten Things to Do with a Book to give parents and teachers some possible ideas to extend the reading experience with their children or students. Want to learn about Fibonacci Poetry? Check out Greg Pincus’s lens. There are all kinds of subjects (my husband found a interesting lens on green architecture that he’s planning to share with his students). I imagine there is everything from how to change the oil in your car to how to make a banana split. Check it out!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008


It's official! Blackberry Banquet is being shipped out today. Go to the Sylvan Dell website link (in the right-hand column) for ordering info. You can also find on their site FREE teaching activities (28 pages!) to accompany the book.
Happy reading!

Recipe: Bird’s Berry Good Oat Bran Muffins

Well it seems that since Mouse was able to feature a recipe on my blog, now the entire cast of characters from Blackberry Banquet want to get in on the action. You wouldn’t believe how much commotion can come from just five animals! Bird, in particular, really got her feathers ruffled. So, for the next five weeks each animal will share a favorite recipe. This week, it’s Bird’s turn.

Tweet-tweet-tweet! Ruffled feathers, indeed! It’s simply a matter of fairness! And I know you’ll love making my favorite recipe because it’s so much fun to make with your little nestlings. And it tastes so berry, berry good too! And remember, baking is a great way for little ones to practice measuring, math and hand-coordination skills (okay, I’m just a bird and know nothing of those things—Terry told me to say that!)

Bird’s Berry Good Oat Bran Muffins
Collect and take to your nest:
1 box of oat bran muffin mix (find it on the baking aisle—it’s the kind you only have to add water to)
Popsicle sticks or other stirring tool
Blackberries (enough for 2 berries per Dixie cup)
5 oz. Dixie cups (one for each person)
Electric skillet (yes, you’ll need an extra long cord for it to reach your nest!)

Here’s what the grown-up does:
Lay a sheet of aluminum foil in the bottom of the electric skillet. In a safe location, preheat an electric skillet to 400 degrees.

Here’s what each child can do:
1. Measure 3 tablespoons of muffin mix into their paper cup.
2. Add 1 tablespoon of water.
3. Mix well.
4. Drop 2-3 blackberries into the cup and stir gently.
5. Carefully place the cup inside of the electric skillet (a grown-up may need to do this for younger children).

Place lid on skillet.
Read Blackberry Banquet while the muffins bake—about 15 mins. or so.
Remove muffins from skillet and let cool a bit.

Peel away the paper cup and enjoy your berry good treat!

Thursday, May 8, 2008


Pint-sized interviews that leave you smiling.

HAROLD UNDERDOWN is a freelance editorial consultant. He has worked at Macmillan, Orchard, and Charlesbridge, and has experience in trade and educational publishing. Among the books he has edited are Evelyn Coleman's and Daniel Minter's The Footwarmer and the Crow, Yumi Heo's One Afternoon, Larry Pringle's and Bob Marstall's An Extraordinary Life, Lisa Rowe Fraustino's Ash, Grace Lin's The Ugly Vegetables, and Sneed Collard's and Michael Rothman's The Forest in the Clouds. He is also the editor for the Young Patriots Series, published by Patria Press.

Harold enjoys teaching, and in that role wrote The Complete Idiot's Guide to Children's Book Publishing, now in its third edition. He founded and runs “The Purple Crayon,” a respected web site with information about the children’s publishing world at He speaks and gives workshops at conferences, including the SCBWI's national conferences in LA and NY, and smaller conferences all over the country.

I'm so honored that Harold agreed to do an interview. And in the spirit of his never-ending generosity, he not only answered the standard three Mini-View questions, but he gave us an additional answer too.

How do you think the rising cost of fuel will affect the children's book industry?
I don't think it will have much of an impact. A family that struggles with an extra $20/week in gas costs is not a family that had a lot of money available to buy children's books before the price of gas went up. The families that buy significant numbers of children's books are relatively well off and not likely to be affected.

How is today’s economy affecting the children’s publishing business and what are the prospects for its future?
It's not clear yet how much the current economic situation is going to affect our business. People who lose jobs or are struggling with a mortgage won't be buying children's books, of course, but the real impact won't be felt until we see how state and local tax revenues are affected. If school and library spending is cut, that will have big impact on the business, in the short term.

In the long term, I'm not too worried about the children's book business. Over the past several years, we've had to adjust to reduced spending by schools on books, as they had to shift their resources to testing materials. Under a new administration, I'm hopeful that more money will be available at the federal level AND that the testing required by NCLB will be at least scaled back, meaning schools will have more money available for real books.

What is your prediction of the picture book market?
That there will continue to be one! There's been a lot of talk about the picture book market being weak compared to the demand for novels, but it never disappeared, and some companies are already talking about doing more picture books. Demographics have an impact on what's being published, but not a huge one.

What is your favorite children's joke?
Q. Why did the chicken cross the road?

A. To get to the other side.

Q. Why did the rabbit cross the road?

A. Because it was stapled to the chicken!

(I picked that because it's an example of the kind of joke I've heard my daughter tell--the kind of joke that makes kids laugh uproariously, but generates only puzzled expressions on adult faces...)

Thank you, Harold!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Recipe: Mouse’s Blackberry Cream Cheese Pizza

We all know how much mice love cheese, and the little mouse in Blackberry Banquet loves blackberries too. So I asked myself, if Mouse had opposable thumbs and could make himself a dessert, what would he have? Here’s what he told me:

Ooo! I love cheese, I really do! And berries are my favorite summer food to forage, so my most delicious dessert would be berry cream cheese pizza! I could nibble the entire thing in minutes, but I usually invite my forest friends to come into my burrow at the base of the tree and feast with me. But I don’t invite Bear—he eats too much and besides, he couldn’t possibly fit through the hole. If you want to squeak with delight, try this recipe!

Mouse’s Blackberry Cream Cheese Pizza
(makes one 7” x 11” pizza)
Here’s what you need to gather:
1 can of reduced fat crescent roll dough
1 package of reduced fat cream cheese (softened to room temp)
1/3 cup sugar
4 cups of fresh berries or *1 bag of frozen blackberries (thawed and drained)
½ cup of vanilla chips
½ teaspoon of canola oil

Here’s what you do with it:
1. Turn the oven on to 350 degrees.

2. Spread the dough over a cookie sheet, pressing the seams together with your paws to form the crust.

3. Bake this for 10-15 minutes until it’s the color of my fur, a light golden brown.

4. Use oven mitts to protect your paws and remove the cookie sheet. Let it cool completely.

5. Mix together the cream cheese and sugar. Spread this all over the cooled crust.

6. Now gently place the berries onto the cream cheese. No nibbling!

7. One minute at a time, melt the vanilla chips and oil in the microwave, blending after each minute (this is hard work for a little mouse). Lightly drizzle over the pizza.

Chill and enjoy~ it’s so berry, berry good, it’s a mouse-ter-piece!