Kidlit County, Mikesville

Unwelcomed Love

I’m on tour this week promoting my new book, Little Elliot, Big Fun. I love school visits. I love seeing kids’ pictures of Elliot lining school hallways. I love the excitement the students have about this little character that means so much to me. I enjoy meeting educators around the world who are passionate about books and about inspiring their students. It’s a very special feeling to be so welcomed by complete strangers wherever I go.

This morning, however, I did not feel welcome. I arrived at a school where the principal’s main concern was that I not talk about one of my books. They were referring to Worm Loves Worm, written by the talented JJ Austrian, and published by Balzer + Bray.

Worm cover 2

Worm Loves Worm is a book about inclusion. Worm and worm want to be married, but all of their friends have some input about what a real wedding (and a real married couple) should be like. They try to go about things the traditional way, but in the end, they have to do things a little differently, because what really matters is that worm loves worm.

The book is obviously about same-sex marriage. Though I am one of the people who made this book, I can safely say without arrogance that this is an important book. It’s important for children of same-sex couples to see their family represented in books. It is equally important for children who are not in such a family (especially for children that have zero exposure to LGBT people) to be able to see people (albeit in worm form) who are different from their family.

How come? Why should it matter that these kids learn about a family that they don’t interact with? If someone doesn’t believe in same-sex marriage, why should they be forced to read this? Why should an educator or parent Continue reading

Standard
Illustration Station, Little Elliot's Neighborhood, Mikesville

2014 Society of Illustrators Founder’s Award

photo credit: Society of Illustrators

photo credit: Society of Illustrators

Last night I was deeply honored to receive the 2014 Original Art Show Founder’s Award at the Society of Illustrators. It was a wonderful evening. It’s amazing to be counted among so many talented people working in children’s books today. Benjamin Chaud won the gold medal for Bear Song, while 2 silver medals went to Carson Ellis  for Wildwood Imperium and Gary Kelly for Harlem Hellfighters. Lane Smith won a Lifetime Achievement award, as well as Arnold Lobel (posthumously). My heart swelled when the award was given to Lobel’s daughter. He has been an illustrator and storyteller who I have looked up to for many years.

Frog_and_toad_cover

Frog and Toad has been one of my most cherished books, and it’s been loved by countless others.

I’m still feeling overwhelmed by all of the beautiful pieces that Elliot is (literally) hanging out with. I need to get back to the show to see everything up close and personal, without hundreds of people crammed into the gallery. I’m proud to call some of these artists my friends. You can click here to see a full list of all of the artists who were accepted into the show. Also, the Original Art Show will be traveling the country for the next year, making stops in Memphis College of Art, Peninsula Fine Arts Center, and more to be announced.

Kelly Light and me at a show that our books got into, holding a Publisher's Weekly article about our books. #Metaland

Kelly Light and me at a show that our books got into, holding a Publisher’s Weekly article about our books. #Metaland

10629683_10152291731826792_5949224567074485302_n

Celebrations ended with cake bigger than Ruth Chan’s head…and maybe a few other treats.

 

Standard
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
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 seemed 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
Mikesville

Seattle: What I Learned

Today, after ten years of living in Seattle, I am moving to New York City.

Part of my preparation for the move has been to spend time with the people who have made my years here so worth-while. Recently I was at dinner with friends, and one of them asked me “So, what did you learn from living in Seattle?” It was a good question. I did not have an immediate answer, but I promised them that I would think on it.

After a few weeks of stewing, here’s what I have to share.

I LEARNED…

Friendshipcupcake

merrier Continue reading

Standard
Mikesville

In Search for a New Home

So, the date is BOOKED! Dan and I are leaving Seattle on November 12 on a one-way flight to NYC. If any of you dear readers are currently living in New York, or know someone who is, please let me know if you hear about any great apartment deals! We are aiming for Brooklyn, but also open to Astoria and parts of Manhattan.

I’m super excited to begin a new adventure!

Standard