Little Elliot's Neighborhood, Mikesville

Little Elliot Blog Tour Recap

LittleElliot-blogtour-banner3

In case you missed the Little Elliot Blog Tour, here are links to all the sites I visited!

Librarian in Cute Shoes 
Find out why I chose the city as the backdrop for Elliot’s world.

Teach Mentor Texts
Read about all the historical research that went into the making of the book.

Read. Write. Reflect. 
Check out what my studio looks like!

Kit Lit Frenzy
I talk a little bit about what inspired the story of Little Elliot, Big City.

Daddy Mojo
Find out who that cute little girl is who sees Elliot in the crowd.

The Trifecta:
Sharp Reads – Mr. Sharp shares 5 reasons why he’s reading  Little Elliot, Big City to his class.
Watch. Connect. Read. –  I finish Mr. Schu’s famous sentence starters (find out where Elliot lives!).
Nerdy Book Club – I talk about my reading journey, with all of its highs and lows.

Miss Print
Find out what my favorite illustration from the book is!


 

Also, these fine folks weren’t part of the official tour, but are some of my favorite interviews and reviews:

Let’s Get Busy Podcast
Matthew Winner and I talk about the book and my road to publication.

7 Impossible Things Before Breakfast
What don’t we talk about in this interview???

Librarian’s Quest
Ms. Meyers gives the sweetest review, and talks about how she relates to Elliot.

Celebridot
I was invited to create my own dot!

 

Standard
Little Elliot's Neighborhood

Little Elliot, BIG TOUR!!!

Now that Little Elliot has finally made it to the shelf (YAY!), I’ll be hopping around the country to promote the book! I’ll be doing school visits and in-store events, as well as a few independent bookseller conferences. I’ll be reading Little Elliot, Big City, doing a drawing demo, and talking a little about my process. There might even be some Elliot swag at the in-store events ;) Hope to see you there!

click to enlarge

Here’s a list of public events and conferences:

9/19 Norfolk, VA
SIBA (Southern Independent Booksellers Association):
Meet Louise, Elliott, Pout Pout & The Stick Panel

9/21 Arlington, VA
NAIBA (New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association):
Discover New Authors Moveable Feast

9/23 Bellingham, WA
Village Books  at 11AM

9/26 Petaluma, CA
Copperfield’s Books at 4PM

9/27 Portland, OR
Powell’s Books
11AM at Powell’s City of Books on Burnside
12:30PM at Cedar Hill’s Crossing

9/27 Tacoma, WA
PNBA (Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association):
Sweet & Greet

9/29 Washington, MO
Washington Public Library at 6PM

9/30 Naperville, IL
Anderson’s Bookshop at 7PM

10/4 Southern Pines, NC
Country Bookshop at 12PM

 

Standard
Illustration Station, Little Elliot's Neighborhood, Mikesville

Today, I Have a Book

Today is the day that I have everything I’ve ever wanted. Who knew it was possible? There was a time I didn’t think it was.

I’m back in Seattle this week, celebrating my book release at Elliot Bay Books, going to my friends’ wedding, and spending some much needed time with old friends who I haven’t seen in a long while. I was having dinner with one friend, who is amidst a life-changing project. She relayed to me how tumultuous it’s been since she made the decision to really commit to her dream, how one minute she experiences euphoric highs, and the next she’s weeping in the pits of doubt. Her story sounded very familiar to me.

It wasn’t long ago that I had a full time job in graphic design, a career I was proud of that paid the bills and also served as a creative outlet. But it wasn’t my dream. I was telling other people’s stories through branding, but not my own. It didn’t fill me up the way creating a drawing did. What was I making that spoke my own truth? What would I leave behind? How on earth could I get a deal making a picture book, the one thing that gleamed like a beacon in my daydreams, when the odds seamed so slim.

blizzardI was a failure. I would try to make a painting, and it didn’t come out how I wanted it to. Or I would start and never finish. Or I would write down ideas and never start. Or I wouldn’t do anything but sit and stare into space and think about how it was all totally impossible. I prepared myself to accept that it probably would never happen for me. That being a grown up meant facing realities. That it was vain to put faith in one’s talent. That it was folly to think you could live up to your heroes. How arrogant. How stupid.

But amidst it all, there was Elliot, a friendly face that I would doodle in my sketch book. He was so kind and forgiving. He did not judge these hostile feelings. His heart was so pure that he glowed in my darkness. He was the innocent part of myself that I managed to protect, the vulnerable child that didn’t quite fit in. He was so little, but pressed on. Into Elliot, I poured my empathy, love and hope. I couldn’t deny him these things. When I finally started to create finished drawings of him, I felt as though I was fighting for my life. He was the key to keeping my dreams alive. I would give him my hands and eyes and heart. I would make something just for me, something that made me happy.

In hindsight, it’s all quite clear. When faced with the prospect of real happiness, our inner demons are unleashed. The saboteur whispers in your ear, “no, you can’t.” But what it’s really saying is: “No, you can’t try to be happy because what if you fail? We will never recover.” But those are convenient lies. I did try, and I did fail, but it didn’t break me. I tried and tried and tried and tried, because what’s the use in giving up? Eventually, I tried and I won. I’m not even talking about my book deal. I’m talking about the magical day that I finished a drawing of Elliot and I was proud. I felt transported to a time when I was little, just making drawings to give to my Mom. It felt easy, and made me smile. I loved Elliot so much. He felt alive, and that meant my dreams were alive. And yes, I decided then that I would muster the audacity of pursuing my dream, because if I didn’t, then why was I even here?

Today, I have a book. It’s about my friend Elliot, whose little spots and big heart saved my life. He means so much to me, and I hope that you all take very good care of him.

xoxo
Mike

LittleElliot_cover

Standard
Little Elliot's Neighborhood

Little Elliot, BIG WINDOW

 

BOW_windowYesterday was the culmination of many weeks of preparing. I installed a window display at Books of Wonder, a fantasy-land of children’s literature located in Manhattan on 18th between 5th & 6th Avenues. I was asked to create a display for my impending book release (August 26th!), book release party (September 5th!), and author panel (September 7th!). It was such an honor to be asked to create a window display at such a well known and beloved store. I was kind of freaking out about what to do, especially after seeing some pretty amazing displays. Then I had a little idea that turned into a big project: What if I recreated Elliot’s apartment/world in the window? In 3-D? With cupcakes??? Here is the original sketch.

2014-07-24 13.27.26

Once I confirmed that everyone was OK with that idea, I started to recruit people who actually knew what they were doing. I hadn’t made anything out of paper mache since grade school. My friend Les St. Leon worked on various sets for Universal Studios, Disney, and zoos in multiple cities, so I thought he might be a good person to check in with. Les helped me build the foundation for Little Elliot, which is what terrified me the most. Here’s how he started out!

DSC_0002

We used an old lamp to create a weighted base. The torso is made of foamcore circles wrapped in chicken wire. Then we covered everything in masking tape.

DSC_0003

Les in the zone

The legs are also made out of chicken wire. The trunk is chicken wire and crumpled paper. The arms are crumpled paper. The head is a styrofoam ball. The ears are bristol and crumpled paper. Everything is covered in masking tape. Then, the next day my lovely illustration friends came over to finish taping and to start the paper mache madness.

DSC_0006

Misa and Ruth mix the goop.

 

DSC_0007

Isabel infuses Elliot with happy thoughts.

DSC_0010

Elliot’s Angels: (left to right) Misa Saburi, Ruth Chan, & Isabel Roxas

I don’t know what I would have done without Misa Saburi, Ruth Chan, & Isabel Roxas. We got tons of work done in a few hours, instead of me sitting there covered in gunk for days. Check out their sites. You will be enchanted.

This one is just to prove that I actually did some work aside from taking photos.

This one is just to prove that I actually did some work aside from taking photos.

 

DSC_0002 2

Naturally, my favorite aspect of the paper mache process was that my studio smelled like baked goods from all the flour and water. Meanwhile, I had to make my own “baked goods” out of Model Magic. I balled up some newsprint and taped it tight, then attached the cupcake tops (there’s a Seinfeld joke in there somewhere), and placed each in a baking cup. I also made Mouse the same way.

tail

I needed to find a way to make a blue poofy tail for Elliot. I found these creepy dolls at a 99 cent store, who generously donated their hair for the cause.

window_mockup

To get a sense for being in the big city, I drew some windows for Elliot’s apartment with a New York skyline. Conveniently, a neon sign with the name of the book was located right across the street. After I finished this, it went off to the printer. I also went fabric shopping for something that could pose as wallpaper for the backdrop.

 

DSC_0004sand – gesso – sand -add a mouth and eyes with Model Magic – hot glue the scary cracks that form in the jaw the next day – sand – gesso – sand

DSC_0012

Add paint and polka dots: one cute elephant and mouse friend to order! Elliot had come to life in our home! Three guesses what he made a beeline to…

DSC_0005

“OK, Mouse, now help me get it down!”

DSC_0007

“Let’s start with this strawberry one!”

Elliot likes petting Kimbo. "Good puppy!"

Elliot likes petting Kimbo. “Good puppy!”

Pick out a story for bedtime, Elliot.

Pick out a story for bedtime, Elliot.

"Hey! That's me!"

“Hey! That’s me!”

Brush your teeth, Elliot! Sugar causes cavities.

Brush your teeth, Elliot! Sugar causes cavities.

Elliot and I tried to get to sleep, but we were too excited for the next day.

DSC_0003 2

Mom and Dad drove down to help me schlep Elliot, Mouse, and furniture (from some very kind friends with good taste) to the store. Isabel returned to offer a hand. Finally, Elliot was in his natural habitat: a bookstore.

Elliot feels right at home.

Elliot feels right at home.

Mouse gets the best view in the house!

Mouse gets the best view in the house!

Well, that’s all for now! The window display will be up until at least September 7th. Little Elliot, Big City goes on sale in 8 days. Head over to Books of Wonder, or your local bookstore and get your copy on August 26th!

countdown_8

Standard
Uncategorized

Announcing the Little Elliot Blog Tour!

Happy Friendship Day! 

Even though every day is friendship day for Elliot, it’s good to have a special day to tell your friends how much you like them. My new friend Terry Shay invited me to make a Celebridot on his awesome blog, so here’s what I made in honor of Friendship Day!

Celebridot_Curato

Meanwhile, Elliot and I have been lucky enough to make a bunch of new friends who are super excited about Little Elliot, Big City. Some of them happen to be some pretty awesome bloggers who are each going to have a special Elliot post the week of the book release, August 26th! Not only will you learn some cool stuff about Elliot’s journey to your bookshelf, you might even win a free give-away! Be sure to check out the blogs on the dates below to find out how you can get a free copy of Little Elliot, Big City, a limited edition tote bag, and stickers! I’ll also be announcing my official Little Elliot Book Tour soon, so stay tuned!

Little Elliot Giveaway

LITTLE ELLIOT BLOG TOUR

Tuesday, August 26           Librarian in Cute Shoes | @utalaniz

Wednesday, August 27     Teach Mentor Texts | @mentortexts

Thursday, August 28         Read. Write. Reflect. | @katsok

Friday, August 29               Kit Lit Frenzy | @alybee930

Saturday, August 30          Daddy Mojo | @daddymojo

Sunday, August 31             The Trifecta:

Sharp Reads | @colbysharp

Watch. Connect. Read. | @mrschureads

Nerdy Book Club | @nerdybookclub

Monday, September 1      Miss Print | @miss_print

Also, be sure to tune into the Let’s Get Busy podcast on August 26th for a full hour-long interview!!

Check out www.LittleElliotBigCity.com to see where you can preorder your copy of Little Elliot, Big City, available August 26th!

countdown_23

 

Standard
Little Elliot's Neighborhood, Uncategorized

The Countdown!!!

We are now just a MONTH away from Little Elliot, Big City’s release, and it is consuming my every waking moment. “August 26, 2014″ has been flashing in my head like a Las Vegas casino sign for months. This is just a brief little post to air out some of the excitement that has been percolating. It has been 2 YEARS since I signed with Henry Holt Books for Young Readers, and over a year since I finished the artwork for Big City. I’ve had moments where it has felt like the book will never actually be published, that it will always be in this limbo of being done but unseen. And now, finally, the big day is just weeks away. In an effort to keep my sanity, I have started a countdown via social media to get me through each slow-as-molasses day. Every image features a little sneak peek of art from the book! Here is today’s:

countdown_29

Man, I could really use that red velvet cupcake about now too. The good news is that there will be cupcakes at both of my release parties! Come celebrate with me on August 28th at Elliott Bay Bookstore in Seattle, or on September 5th at Books of Wonder in New York City!

Also, if you’re not following me on social media yet, please like my Facebook page and follow me on Twitter so that you can countdown with me! I will be doing a blog tour in August that you won’t want to miss, and that will be a great way to keep up!

Most importantly, check out www.LittleElliotBigCity.com for info on how to pre-order the book.

29 DAYS!!!!

Standard
Kidlit County, Little Elliot's Neighborhood

BEA 2014: A TOTElly Amazing Experience

Last week I attended my first Book Expo America, and it was the most exciting thing that’s happened to me in a long while. The main purpose was to meet booksellers, librarians, and reviewers to promote Little Elliot, BIG CITY at any chance I could get. Buckle up, this is a long ride…

2014-05-30 14.28.40

BEA 2014, The Jacob Javitz Center, NYC

It all started Wednesday with a studio tour put together by the American Booksellers Association. Two groups of booksellers came to our humble abode to meet me and see how I work. I was flattered that they braved traffic and came all the way to Brooklyn! I showed them some original drawings, and they got a special sneak peek at the second book in my series, Little Elliot, BIG FAMILY (Fall 2015). It was a great way to get to know each other! I got to meet representatives from Secret Garden Books (Seattle, WA), Anderson’s Bookshops (Naperville, IL), Oblong Books and Music (Millerton & Rhinebeck, NY), Octavia Books (New Orleans, LA), Redbery Books (Cable, WI), and Bethany Beach Books (Bethany Beach, DE). Yay new friends!

left to right: Suzanne Perry, Secret Garden Books; me; Katie Anderson, Anderson's Bookshops, Dick Hermans Oblong Books and Music

left to right: Suzanne Perry, Secret Garden Books; me; Katie Anderson, Anderson’s Bookshops; Dick Hermans, Oblong Books and Music

Naturally, a Little Elliot party wouldn't be complete without a beautiful arrangement of cupcakes,

Naturally, a Little Elliot party wouldn’t be complete without a beautiful arrangement of cupcakes.

Later that night Dan and I attended the 20th Annual Children’s Book Art Auction, sponsored by the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression (ABFFE) and the ABC Children’s Group at the American Booksellers Association. Proceeds benefited the Kids’ Right to Read Project and Banned Books Week. I submitted a print of one of my favorite pages from Little Elliot, BIG CITY, and was happy to see that it raised quite a few bucks. Other highlights included an author/illustrator talent show and a mashed potato martini bar (yes, that’s a thing). Then there was a big author/illustrator get-together at a nearby pub. Drinks were had. Shenanigans ensued. Blackmail-worthy photos were taken. SO, it was a good night! Also, I made friends with Joyce Wan and Molly-freaking-Idle. Boom.

Katie Anderson, (Anderson’s Bookshops), me, & Judith Lafitte (Octavia Books) at the Children’s Book Art Auction

Katie Anderson, (Anderson’s Bookshops), me, & Judith Lafitte (Octavia Books) at the Children’s Book Art Auction

Thursday started with a signing at the MacMillan booth. We were giving away hardcover copies of Little Elliot, BIG CITY, and Little Elliot tote bags (especially made for BEA). It was a surreal experience. Sitting, smiling, signing. And the people kept coming until we ran out of everything! Rosemary Stimola actually waited in line for my book! I must mention that these bags caused something of a sensation. Even Jane Yolen and Heidi Stemple came to get a bag (but they were smart and came early!). I was asked at every turn where one could get an Elliot tote during THE ENTIRE CONFERENCE. It was…weird. But good weird. Boz_7M8IYAAABvh After the signing, I headed over to see my friends at Merry Makers Inc. Their president, Clair Frederick, was the person who ended up winning my print at the auction! I’ve been keeping a BIG secret for a few months, and Clair gave me the thumbs up to finally announce: there’s going to be a Little Elliot plush doll!!! I immediately sent word to the Twitterverse. I’m really impressed with the care that Merry Makers has taken to get it right. The next prototype is being created right now, and I can’t wait to meet him! I don’t have a specific release date, but he will probably hit the shelves next Spring. Here’s a pic of the first prototype: LittleElliot_plush After that, I was whisked away to a MacMillan lunch where I had the pleasure of meeting more book sellers and a few more authors/illustrators, including Jack Gantos. I was seated at the same table as Sophie Blackall, which I think made me more nervous than meeting the booksellers!! I got a peek at her upcoming book, And Two Boys Booed, written by Judith Viorst. I don’t need to tell you how lovely it is, because you obviously already know (on sale 9/2). 9780374303020_p0_v4_s260x420

view from above: this is about 1/3 of the main floor

view from above: this is about 1/3 of the main floor

On Friday, I loaded up my Little Elliot tote with a LOT of books from home. I was determined to get some autographs! I got my copy of Blackout signed by John Rocco, Stinky Cheese Man and It’s a Book signed by Lane Smith, George Washington’s Birthday: A Mostly True Tale signed by Margaret McNamara, Edwin Speaks Up and Missed Connections by Sophie Blackall, and Flora and the Flamingo and Camp Rex signed by my new friend Molly-freaking-Idle. I had yet another signing, but this time in the main autographing area, which is WAY more overwhelming than the in-booth session. But it was still super fun, and I had my posse with me for moral support: Laura Godwin (my editor), Brenda Bowen (my agent), and Ksenia Winnicki (my publicist).

Brenda Bowen (Literary Agent, Greenburger), me, Laura Godwin (VP & Publisher, Henry Holt Books for Young Readers)

Brenda Bowen (Literary Agent, Greenburger), me, Laura Godwin (VP & Publisher, Henry Holt Books for Young Readers)

the autographing area, AKA "the corral"

the autographing area, AKA “the corral”

Aaaand we ran out of books...even though MacMillan brought double the recommended amount.

Aaaand we ran out of books…even though MacMillan brought double the recommended amount.

After that Ksenia and I made our way to a “Speed Dating Lunch” hosted by ABC/CBC. We got there a little early so that we could eat lunch and ended up bonding over our common love of Xena, Warrior Princess. Channeling Xena, I shined my chakram and howled my battle cry…or rather, I gripped my book and practiced my spiel. The setting: 18 authors with new books coming out and 17 tables with several booksellers at each. The mission: each author had four minutes to pitch their book and dazzle each bookseller. Minus a few brain farts here and there, I think I did well. That concluded all of my BEA responsibilities, so I totally earned my “I’m a new author and I survived my first BEA blitz” tee shirt. Also at speed dating was my friend Kelly Light, whose beautiful book Louise Loves Art comes out Sept 9, and Scott Campbell, whose cuuute book Hug Machine comes out Aug 26. They have both illustrated other authors’ books, but these will be their debut books as authors as well, and I’m so happy for them!

me holding the IT bag of the season (photo credit: Tim Federle)

me holding the IT bag of the season (photo credit: Tim Federle)

On Saturday, I returned for Book Con. The plan was to meet up with my friends Ruth Chan and Misa Saburi (two illustrators that you should look out for in the future!) to attend a panel entitled “The World Agrees: #WeNeedDiverseBooks”. Unfortunately, the space was too small, and we couldn’t get in (you can read about this panel here). Meanwhile, there was a second panel at the same time called “Where are the people of color in children’s books?”, which mostly focused on African Americans in children’s literature. It was in a section of the conference that was apparently NOT open to the rest of Book Con, and it was really frustrating that this panel was not accessible to everyone attending that day. It was encouraging though to see that industry professionals filled most of the seats. The panel included Patrik Henry Bass, author & book editor for Essence Magazine; author Tonya Bolden; Regina Brooks, author and literary agent at Serendipity Literary Agency; Bernette Ford, author and CEO of Color-Bridge Books; Wade Hudson, President of Just Us Books; Harlyn Pacheco, CEO of QloviVanesse Lloyd-Sgambati from The African American Children’s Book Project; and moderated by Troy Johnson, Founder of The African American Literature Book Club

2014-05-31 10.06.32

left to right: Wade Hudson, Bernette Ford, Tonya Bolden, Regina Brooks, Vanesse Lloyd-Sgambati, Patrik Henry Bass, Harlyn Pacheco

I think Tanya Bolden put it best when she said “All the children need all the books!” In other words, not only do children of color need to see themselves reflected in books, white children also need to see different kinds of children in books as well. By the lack of children of color represented in books, we are telling our children that people of color are not important enough to be in books and that white people are, reinforcing the culture of racism in our country. Some children give up on reading altogether because they don’t see themselves represented in books. Ms. Bolden also referenced an article by Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop entitled “Mirrors, Windows, and Sliding Glass Doors“, published in 1990. While its message is still relevant today, I find it unfortunate that we have not come much further in over 20 years. EVERYONE can do their part to solve this. Publishers can showcase more multi-ethnic books and hire more diverse authors; writers and illustrators can create more diverse characters; parents and educators can select diverse books for their children, no matter what their ethnic origins are. Perhaps most importantly, consumers must demand these books from booksellers, because the reality of our capitalist system is that money talks. If the consumer demands it, the seller will provide it.

Afterwards, I waited in line to meet Bob Staake and get a signed print promoting his new book, My Pet Book. The print features many characters in the city, all different colors: a green girl, a pink cat, a blue grown up. Coming from the diversity panel, it made me smile a little wider.

2014-05-29 08.45.04

I wrapped up the day in the most apropos way. When I swung by the MacMillan booth to say goodbye, a woman came by with her son to ask for book recommendations for kids his age. We all started talking about Elliot, and suddenly I was sitting on the carpet, holding the book open for him to read. It was perfect.

Well, that’s the end of my BEA adventure, but my Little Elliot adventure continues! I’m officially in the depths of promoting this little book, so be prepared to hear about it ALL THE TIME. In case I haven’t mentioned it enough, Little Elliot, BIG CITY comes out August 26th, and is available for preorder on several sites. Visit the book’s landing page for buying options. I will also be going on tour in September, and will post my itinerary as soon as I know where I’m going! Heeeeere we goooo!!!…

Standard