Sunday, August 31, 2014

Naw, not mine. Just a divine encounter along the way to the Coastal Trail.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

walking north  7:11 p.m.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014


 The sun dropped at 7:47 p.m.

Monday, August 25, 2014

At the End of the Day

The beach is empty. Blue sky, low tide. 6:09 p.m.

7:02 p.m.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Ocean Beach   6:51 p.m.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Go See It.

I don't get it. How could anyone not love this movie? It's wonderful. Except for the last 8 seconds.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

a hole in the sky   6:39 p.m.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Tag. I'm It!

Lisa Horstman, my friend and former co-worker who always used to get me in trouble during conference meetings, is at it again. She just tagged me to take part in a game of Blog Tag for writers and illustrators, where we're asked three questions about our work. Lisa herself has a new book coming out this fall called Sabrina, about the misadventures of a flying squirrel. She builds puppets for her books, and you can read all about them here, in her own Blog Tag post. As for me:

What am I working on now?

I was visiting this school, doing a workshop with kindergarteners and first graders. As each kid wandered into the room, I walked up and introduced myself. Ninety percent of the children didn't have any idea how to respond. Some would shake my hand and look down at my shoes. Some would look up at the ceiling or over their shoulder. One kid spit out his gum, stomped on it, and then grabbed my hand and wouldn't let go.

This experience struck me as funny, sweet, and a little disturbing. I thought, "I'll write a book about how to say HELLO!"

The book will be published next spring by Beach Lane Books/Simon & Schuster, and I'm just beginning the illustrations for it. Here's one of my favorite sketches. It shows how you might say HELLO to a cat.

Remember Hidden Pictures? Sharon Streger at Sequel Creative assigned 20 to me at the beginning of the year, and I'm just starting on #19. Sharon is the most organized person I've ever worked with––and when I feel organized, I feel happy. Here are some examples of my work for her. There are 12 objects hidden in each illustration.


And WOW! Everybody knows Cynthia Rylant, right? Allyn Johnston, my editor, is publishing a book of hers and I'm in the process of doing sketches for it. Here's the sample piece we sent to Cynthia for her approval.

I'm also working on 3 new stories:

1. THIS FISH HAS LEGS is about a fish with legs. The egg he hatches from was sabotaged for 375 million years and so he's a little late coming into the world. From the sewer grate he flops out onto the sidewalk and strolls straight into a coffee shop.

2. KACHUNK, a story about the clumsiest day of the year.

3. FWADDAPP! A 2nd grade poetry slam where things get so out of control that one little poet ends up in the emergency room.

Why do I write the things I do?

Multiple choice:

A. Because I want to teach kids a lesson they won't forget.

B. Because the stakes are high for the nation's children and the Common Core State Standards could be the turning point for education reform in the United States.

C. Because it's fun.

The answer is C. See the photo below? I'm lucky to have landed among a group of people who ooze the qualities I'm after in my stories: a mean wit infused with a big splash of tenderness.

Allyn Johnston, Lauren Rille, me, Andrea Welch, Rubin Pfeffer

FYI, my editor just sent me a chocolate bilby. It melted in the mail, but still. Has your editor ever sent you a chocolate bilby?

What is my creative process?

I wonder. I worry. I go to sleep. I wake up.

I keep a notebook and pen beside me in bed. During the night, I scribble down great ideas. Here's one from last night. See what I mean? Brilliant!

I write for a little while when I first wake up. Before breakfast, before reading my email, before reading the newspaper, before work. Before coffee even.


This post makes it sound as if my work is one never-ending joyride. Have you noticed how everyone else's work always sounds much more satisfying than your own? My nephew just got a job checking gas meters. When I heard about it I was so envious. I thought, "He has the perfect job. He gets to walk around outside by himself all day."

Full disclosure: I love what I do, and I'm terrified. I worry about my work being disappointing, I'm mortified of misinterpreting others, I worry about paying bills. My projects abound with uncertainty and false starts.

Here's a quote I keep by my desk that makes me feel less alone: The ability to begin, and then sustain, any kind of creative work means being able to tolerate ambiguity and uncertainty. Confusion and questioning are part of the creative process for all writers.
–Kim Addonizio

Tomie dePaola nailed it last week when Lin Oliver asked him what advice he had for writers and illustrators. He said, "Be brave," and mentioned a book by Rollo May called THE COURAGE TO CREATE. It took me all of 12 seconds to download that book.


Next up in our game of writer/illustrator tag is Keika Yamaguchi. I met this incredibly talented woman two weeks ago at the SCBWI Conference in Los Angeles. Her adorably illustrated Puddle Pug was released four months ago.

Keika graduated from the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena and is a former Walt Disney Imagineering intern. Other books she's illustrated: Sick of Being Sick written by Justin Sullivan, the big golden book for Wreck it Ralph, and The Tale of the Gingerbread Man.

Here's Keika's blog. Keep your eyes peeled for her creative process post, coming soon!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

We hit the movie theater (BOYHOOD!) after a gray afternoon on the beach.

Ocean Beach   1:42 p.m.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Looking down from Sutro Park   6:45 p.m.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Ocean Beach    6:55 p.m.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Looking East, Looking West

Ocean Beach, looking east    6:18 p.m.
Ocean Beach. looking west    7:08 p.m.    Spooky!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

BABY'S COFFEE! Thank you, Barbara & Walter.

Friday, August 08, 2014

Top of the Mark Revisited

Top of the Mark is where Norma came for special occasions when she lived in San Francisco for three years during World War II. She would sit with her friends in the NW corner, and that's where we sat.

Mya, our niece and Norma's great granddaughter, was a blast to talk with. She'll be a sophomore in high school this year.

Here we are again. Wish you'd been here, Marshall, but thanks for picking up the tab!

Thursday, August 07, 2014


Do you believe this? It's Norma, Tom's crazy-beautiful 90-something-year-old stepmom. We're at the de Young Museum. Norma, with her background in merchandizing, is explaining to me how the displays in the gift shop work. We discuss how to come up with a color palette for my next book.

A walk in Golden Gate Park with Norma. We do our best to keep up with her.

After our jaunt, we hit The Ice Cream Bar in Cole Valley.

Looking out the window at dinner

Tom, Lin, Mya, Norma, Diane, and me at the Cliff House. Thank you Norma!

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

SCBWI Days and SCBWI Nights

This was my second SCBWI conference in L.A. I cannot begin to tell you how wonderful this organization is. Thank you, Lin Oliver.

Taking a few photos, trying to get centered on my way to lunch with my editors and art director. It didn't work; it only made me late.

The dreamiest editorial team in the world: Allyn Johnston, publisher at Beach Lane Books; Lauren Rille, Designer Extraordinaire; me; Andrea Welch, Editor Supreme; and Rubin Pfeffer, Special Agent.

Rubin took his authors and illustrators to dinner Sunday night. This occasion turned out to be the most intimate dinner of 20 I've ever attended. We laughed and cried and bared our souls.