Happy Holidays (Contest)

The Holidays are upon us. And that means another contest! I’m a huge fan of Susanna Hill’s contests – they’re free, the prizes are excellent, and it’s a fun and supportive place to practice your writing technique. Rules in a nutshell: Write a story for children using any version of this first line: “Rocking around the Christmas tree at the Christmas party hop,” in 350 words or less. For more details and to read the entries go to Susanna’s site.

Here’s my entry (343 words), enjoy!


Holiday Heist

Sneaking past the iron gate at City Central Zoo was not that hard. Sheila checked her watch, then bee lined to the camels pen. She shook the smallest camel awake. Her pockets were full of treats so the camel happily followed her.

But over at the petting zoo, the sheep wanted all of the treats for themselves. Their baa baa BAAAA set the donkey off. His loud bray startled the cows.  They mooed even louder. Only the camel was quiet. It was busy nipping at Sheila’s pockets. Sheila passed out treats as fast as she could, swatted at the camel, and shushed the sheep.

Somehow Sheila made it back to the gate with the animals. Climbing over would be impossible this time. So Sheila unlatched the gate and carefully nudged it open. C-R-E-E-E-A-K. Sheila jumped but the guard was fast asleep and snoring loudly. When the gate slammed shut behind the last sheep, the guard yawned. But he didn’t wake up. He just cozied further down into his chair and snored louder.

The strange procession made its way along the frozen sidewalks. Sheila checked her watch again. She didn’t have much time. She tried going faster but the littlest sheep couldn’t keep up. He was too big to carry. Sheila took her scarf off and used it to tie the sheep onto the donkey’s back. The donkey wasn’t thrilled, but Sheila bribed him with a double helping of snacks. Now the procession was noisier, but faster.

Finally they arrived at Sheila’s front yard. She divided the last of the treats and gave each animal a small pile to keep them busy. Then she snuck inside. A few minutes later she came back with a toy cradle, fleece blankets, and her baby brother, Ted. Sheila tucked Ted into the cradle. Then she knelt down beside him. A thief had stolen their last nativity scene but this one was way better and she just knew her parents would love it. And they would be up any minute now. Sheila couldn’t wait to see their reaction.


 

 

The holidays are a busy, bustling time, so I didn’t have time to illustrate my story. Which is driving me crazy. So instead I’m posting this painting: Freddy at Night. Perhaps the little procession passed right by? 

15 ML 2015Freddy at Night  copy

Screen Printing Fine Detail

As I mentioned in my last post, I was commissioned to make a tank themed lampshade. I  used Liquitex gel medium to adhere photocopies of my sketches to the lampshade.

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But…

I love these tanks! I really really really wanted to do these on a tank top. Get it? A  tank top – pun intended. Cheesy – I know. I have some iron-on transfer paper kicking around so I made an iron-on transfer tank for myself.

tanktop.jpg copy

But my other half insisted that screen printing would be much better & we do have a marketing plan. So I picked up a screen printing kit (a bit of an investment as I typically prefer DIY). 

Screen printing fine detail has a learning curve & it’s recommended that beginners start with easier (no fine detail) designs. But who has time for that?

I got it right on the 4th try. Not bad considering.

I photoshopped my sketch to increase the line size. To do this click on Filter – Other – Minimum. I set the minimum line thickness to 2 pixels, 3 pixels may have been even better. I printed this image onto tracing paper.
tanks3

I used Diazo photo emulsion  &  exposed it in the morning sun. I don’t recommend using the sun – yes it works & is super quick. But it is hard to get the exposure just right.tanks2

I tend to learn best by trial & error. So it did take a while, but this morning finally – Screen Printing Success!

tanks

Now I’m anxiously waiting for the laundry to finish so I can print these onto an actual tank top!

Discovery

It’s finally summer and I’m dreaming of hot sunny days at the beach.

Can you tell?

DiscoverySLHcontest.jpeg

I took a break from a commission that has me drawing lots of army tanks to do this piece for Susanna Leonard Hill’s 2nd annual pretty much world famous illustration contest. The theme is DISCOVERY. (You have until the end of the week to enter!) The prizes are great! First place wins Mark Mitchell’s Illustration course – which I did last year. His lessons & critiques really helped move my learning along.

Don’t forget to check out the other entries over at Susanna’s site!

Peer Critiques

This past week at the school, as part of our special project, I talked about critiquing. The students really enjoyed reading each others stories. I gave them this form as a guide for giving feedback, emphasizing the need for kindness and helpfulness.

Guided Critique 

I had them critique one of my stories first. Afterwards, we discussed the experience of giving and receiving feedback. A few weren’t thrilled with their feedback, even though it was kind. This was a great reminder on why being kind is important. I told them it was up to them to decide if they wanted to make any changes. It was great to see that a few did. 

My favourite comment: “I wish I was in your story.” 

On Tuesday we start the art & illustration part of the project. 

March Madness

Well, March break is done & it’s back our regular routine. It didn’t exactly get off to a smooth start though. I slept through my alarm & the youngest was not happy about going back to daycare. Monday’s are rough even when you’re wee.

I’m participating in the March Madness Poetry competition and submitted my entry for Round 1 this afternoon. If you’d like to see how I managed to use megalomaniacal in a poem for kids hop on over there sometime between 8 pm CDT Tuesday March 8 and noon Thursday. Don’t forget to vote for your favourite.

Here’s the latest in my sketchbook:





Revision Prompts & Think Kid Think

52. fireworks IIYesterday, I gave the grade 5 class I’m working with the task of revising their first drafts.

Here’s the prompts they were given:

1. Add a sound to your story (Onomatopoeia – anyone know when they actually learn that term?)

Some of the students already had lots of sounds in their stories, so they were encouraged to consider adding more or to move on to the next prompt:

2. Add an emotion to your story but Show don’t Tell.

We talked a bit about how emotions are evident – how your body physically reacts to the emotion or how you can tell someones emotions by their body language and actions.

I plan to save my other prompt ideas for a final revision:

3. Grammar checklist.

4. Add a sensation or describe how something feels.

5. Add a taste if appropriate to your story.

Some of them were keen to revise and improve their stories. But some of them were reluctant. One even refused (in a very sweet manner).

What prompts do you use for revising?

In other writing news…

I made the selection for the Think Kid Think March Madness Poetry Competition.

I have visions of this being like the time my softball team made it to the provincials. The other teams were filled with incredibly tall slim girls decked out in crisp white ball uniforms. We felt a bit drab in our sweatpants and t-shirts. I still wonder what they fed those girls.

I have a nice selection of kidlit poetry to browse through for prep.

A Special Project

I am very excited to be working on a special project with a class of grade 5 students at a local elementary school. The project is funded by a Fredericton Arts Alliance Grant that brings local artists into schools. I am guiding the students through the writing and illustrating process.  We’ve decided to work on the theme: Tales from the Playground.

The students are very enthusiastic. Last week I introduced myself and had them start thinking about their stories. This week we talked about planning and worked on character development. Their imaginations are very inspiring. I can’t wait to read the final stories.

Happy Holidays!

Christmas celebrations are already well under way in this house. The advent calendars are out, the Christmas music is on, and we have a stack of Christmas (and Hanukkah) stories in our library bag. Nothing like a good story to help set the holiday mood right?

I had so much fun participating in Susanna Hill‘s Halloweensie contest that I decided to enter her Holiday Contest too. The challenge: write a children’s story in which wild weather impacts the holidays. In 350 words or less.  Here is my entry:

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Stranded

Stranded Santa

“Sugar!” muttered Dad. Sam looked up from his book.

“What’s wrong?”

“We’re stuck.” Sam looked out the car window. He couldn’t see anything but white. Every once in a while a large snowflake hit the window.

Dad called Ace Towing on his cell phone. “I see. Ok. Merry Christmas to you too.” But Dad didn’t sound very merry. “Sam,” he groaned, “we’re stranded.”

Stranded? But he still had to decorate the gingerbread house. And wrap Dad’s gift. “But what about Christmas?” Sam whispered.

Dad flipped on the radio. “…A wall of snow coming in off the lake has overwhelmed snowplows, leaving dozens of motorists stranded on Highway…” Dad turned off the radio.

Sam zipped up his coat and put his hat and mittens back on. He thought about their Christmas tree and sparkling decorations. He thought about the stockings that still needed to be hung for Santa. “But how will Santa find me?” Sam asked.

“Santa will leave presents at the house,” sighed Dad. But Sam knew all about Santa. Santa only came if you were sleeping. If you were visiting Grandma for Christmas, Santa would find you there. But Sam wasn’t visiting Grandma. Sam was stranded on Highway 1. Sam needed to tell Santa where he was. But how?

Sam watched the snow. If he weren’t stranded he’d be sipping hot cocoa and checking NORAD’s Santa tracker.

That’s it! He could call the Santa Tracker hotline and ask them to send Santa a message!

After some explaining Sam was on Dad’s phone with Sergeant Bleak at NORAD. Sergeant Bleak said he’d do his best to get Sam’s message to Santa.

Five hours later Sam woke up to a tap, tap, tap on the window. “Santa!” Sam cheered. Dad rolled down the car window. Santa passed them hot chocolate, warm cookies, and two warm blankets wrapped in ribbon.

“Hang tight,” said Santa, “the roads will be clear soon.” Sam waved as Santa disappeared into the falling snow. Then Sam and his Dad snuggled under the blankets, sang Christmas carols, sipped hot cocoa, and nibbled scrumptious cookies until the snowplows arrived.

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I hope you’re feeling warm, cozy, and Christmasy now. (Did you notice the writing on my Santa picture? No that’s not my signature. I jotted down “Carnivores, by Aaron Reynolds” to remind my self to order it on interlibrary loan. I think the littles will love it.)

Don’t forget to stop by Susanna’s blog to check out the other stories!

What’s the Difference?

library.pngWhat’s the difference between an aspiring kidlit author/illustrator and all the other parents at the library?

An aspiring author/illustrator quietly studies new and classic picture books when one kid falls asleep while the other is enjoying Lego Club. (I was trying to keep my stack to sign out somewhat reasonable so the kids could choose a few too.)

I plopped the napping child in the middle of the floor, pretended I didn’t know her, and enjoyed watching the reaction of the other patrons to the random abandoned sleeping child.

Happy Halloweensie!

My 99 word story for Susanna Leonard Hill’s Halloweensie Contest (100 words or less using creak, pumpkin, & broomstick).

At Grandma’s House Last Halloween

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Just in case you didn’t catch the story on the above slideshow:

In her house so old it creaks,
my Grandma has a door that squeaks.
Just past that door and down the hall,
a broomstick hangs up on the wall.
When I stayed the night last Halloween,
branches tapped on the window screen.
I heard a groan and moan from the creaky floor
and a wheeze and sigh from the squeaky door.
I saw a pumpkin moon and a witch on a broom
who waved to me in my cold dark room.
When I ran to find Grandma that spooky night,
I found an empty bed in the glowing light.