Kidlit County, Little Elliot's Neighborhood

What’s In a Name?

I suppose it’s time I made it official: Elly’s name is changing to Elliot. The main reason is that there are other elephant characters in print out there who have similar names. My publisher and I do not want Elly to be mistaken for any other elephant, as he’s obviously a unique little creature. At least Elliot sounds like Elly with an extra “ot” at the end, so I may occasionally use “Elly” as a nickname in conversation. I just want to clarify now so people don’t look at me funny when I call him Elliot.

This also brings up an interesting point. When I have told people about the new name, a common reaction has been, “GASP! I thought Elly was a girl! Why did you decide to change the sex?” In actuality, Elly has always been, in my mind, a boy. However, I have never “corrected” anyone who referred to him as a she. I like that Elly has been a bit androgynous. I think that whether this character is male or female is irrelevant. It is a polka-dotted elephant. Obviously, we are in the land of fantasy right now. There are no bits that need covering, and I do not have plans for Elliot to reproduce in the series. I think it’s safe to say that Elliot’s gender is a non-issue.

I originally tried writing the story with non-gender specific pronouns. I liked that Elly naturally became a boy or a girl in different people’s minds. However, this proved too difficult. The story is not about how the character is androgynous, and playing the pronoun game called too much attention to itself. To clarify, I think a gender neutral main character would be awesome, but maybe not for this project; it would have to be the focal point of the story. That said, Elliot may have a little friend who you will meet in the first book who finds it a bit easier to be gender-neutral!

To all of you who have called Elly/Elliot a girl, please, do not apologize. You can keep on thinking about her as a she, because he doesn’t mind. Elliot has much more important things to worry about, like how he’s going to get his next cupcake!!!

Elliot is an equal-opportunity cupcake eater.

Elliot is an equal-opportunity cupcake eater.


Meet My New Foster Child, Nyika

With the advent of Elly’s recent success, I thought it only appropriate that he and I give thanks by paying it forward to his brethren. Last night I read an article on MSNBC: “Elephant population dwindles as ivory demand grows; how to foster a baby elephant.” It did not take much time before I was pulling out my credit card. Meet Nyika.

Nyika is a baby bull who was orphaned because of the illegal ivory trade in Africa. The elephant population in Africa is in peril, as long as the ivory trade continues. Here is a startling excerpt from the article:

“Today there are around 450,000 elephants in Africa, down from 1.3 million in 1979. It is estimated by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature)  that up to 38,000 elephants are killed annually for their tusks. Left unchecked this could see the population of African Elephants wiped out in under 20 years.”

Nyika was found wandering in the wilderness of Kenya, exhausted, desperate for water, and worst of all, completely alone. Several females has recently been found killed in the area, perhaps one of these was his mother.

Nyika now lives at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in Nairobi, Kenya. He has lots of new friends there who have similar sad stories, but who now have each other, as well as a loving, dedicated staff to see that they are loved and nourished. He is doing very well, and has found a new family and home.

You too can foster an elephant in need. It’s only $50 a year to help save a species with whom we share many of the same emotions. Elephants also have the best memories, so they will never forget your kindness! Elly, Nyika and I thank you for anything you can do to help.

Illustration Station, Kidlit County, Little Elliot's Neighborhood


I have officially accepted an offer from Henry Holt Books for Young Readers (a subsidiary of Macmillan) for a 3 book deal starring our favorite polka-dotted elephant, Elly!!! The first book is slated for release in Fall 2014.

These have been some of the most surreal days of my life. I really don’t know what to say. A big thanks to Brenda Bowen for being the most amazing agent ever. In such a short period of time, I feel we have grown very close, and I have learned so much from her. Thank you to my Mom for putting me in art class when I was 4 years old, and to Dad for supporting me through college. Thanks to Dan for all of the love, support, and patience over this long journey. Thanks to all of the art teachers I’ve ever had, most notably Laura Nicholls, Charlene Margiotta, Tonya Mulligan, John ThompsonYvonne Buchanan, and Roger DeMuth. Thanks to my art friends for always being with me in my studio in spirit, cheering me on: Julia Cocuzza, Mike Lewis, Cathy Robustelli, Merve Ozal Atasagun, Beth Page, Chiara Bajiardi, Emilie Combs, Erick LedesmaDave Cole, Vanessa LauriaSarah Jane Lapp and Mark Kaufman. Thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone who has supported me along the way.

Also, a huge thanks to Laura Godwin, Rebecca Hahn, and everyone else at Holt, who believe in Elly and who are committed to sharing his stories with the world. I cannot wait to start working together!

To read the official press release, click here and scroll all the way to the bottom.

You may wonder how I am feeling. You can combine any of these descriptors, and you’d be correct: giddy, humbled, ecstatic, speechless, nauseous, invincible, dumbfounded, grateful, celebratory, nervous, shaky, high, flabbergasted. Add your own feelings to the list!!!


Illustration Station, Kidlit County, Little Elliot's Neighborhood, Mikesville


I have much to be grateful for today. Top of the list is that my dear friend Geraldine (AKA The Everywhereist) just found out that she does not have cancer. I have been hella anxious since she told Dan and me on Saturday that she has a brain tumor (which she named Steve). She had a biopsy this morning, and the doctors are confident that it is benign.

Dan, Mike, Geraldine & Rand pose for our awkward prom photo

Now that the verdict is in, and we can all tell Steve to go to hell, I feel I can fully celebrate some amazing news I received yesterday. As I said in my last post, Brenda was pitching my book dummy at a conference. She was gone for a long weekend, and it felt like an eternity. She just got back yesterday, and let me know that there are several interested publishers!!! She’s been booking meetings for the end of July, so looks like Elly and I are NY bound! This is totally surreal news. It’s something that I’ve wanted for so long, so it doesn’t feel completely believable, but here we are.

…and there was much rejoicing…

Last, but not least, Dan and I finally got to celebrate our 4-year “manniversary.” I was a very bad boyfriend, and was attending the ICON conference in Providence on our actual anniversary. However, today is poignant because I am officially his longest running gig. I’ll spare you the cheesy, vomit-inducing laundry list of reasons why I love Dan. I’ll just say that he’s pretty much my favorite human.



Illustration Station, Kidlit County, Little Elliot's Neighborhood

Anxiety She Wrote

So, I wasn’t going to share this, so that I could spare myself any public humiliation in the event that it goes nowhere, but Brenda is pitching my book at the American Library Association conference this weekend. Since January’s events, I’ve been working on Elly’s story. I think I finally have something, but I guess we’ll see what the publishers say. I’m trying not to have high hopes or be defeatist (but instead I just jump between the two). I’ve decided I need others to be nervous with me, so please hold my cyber-hand and remind me to breathe!

Elly is also taking a moment to breathe via aromatherapy.