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Fun Times at LA Times Festival of Books 2017

I attended the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. Here are photos from that event.

Always a good way to start an event…

I got to meet Karen Lechelt, debut picture book author/illustrator of WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOU? Bonus fact: she has a French Bulldog, so you know she’s cool.

John Rocco introduced me to graphic novelist and picture book illustrator Matt Phelan.

Then John hopped up on stage and worked his magic.

I wandered around the booths, and found the dynamic duo of Jon Klassen and Mac Barnett signing books.

In the audience of the Children’s Stage, I bumped into friend Salina Yoon, author/illustrator of PENGUIN AND PINECONE, and met Jean Reagan, author of HOW TO BABYSIT A GRANDPA.

On stage, we were regaled by a duck hat-wearing David Shannon, author/illustrator of NO, DAVID!

Lee Wind moderated a graphic novel panel with Faith Erin Hicks, Matt Phelan, and Cecil Castellucci.

I wandered some more, and found James Burks, author/illustrator of BIRD & SQUIRREL, Amy Sarig King, author of ME AND MARVIN GARDENS, and Jarrett Krosoczka, author/illustrator of LUNCH LADY at the Once Upon a Storytime booth.

Author/illustrator Jon Klassen and author Mac Barnett read their picture books EXTRA YARN and TRIANGLE to us. Best part: a kid in the audience said “I have THE DAY THE CRAYONS QUIT”, leading Mac to talk about how Drew Daywalt planted the kid in the audience to promote book sales.

Here is the exuberant Megan McDonald, author of the JUDY MOODY series.

This is a life-sized Olivia.

Lastly, we were entertained by the lively Adam Rubin, author of DRAGONS LOVE TACOS, ably assisted by a dragon.


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Good Times at WonderCon 2017

My sons and I had a great time attending WonderCon yesterday.


We had beautiful SoCal weather.


Comic conventions always boast entertaining food trucks.


A well-designed Gen. Grievous costume from Star Wars.


With author/illustrator Will Terry at his booth.


With NY Times bestseller and Caldecott honoree, John Rocco.


I moderated a rock star KidLit author/illustrator panel with Joe Cepeda, Stacia Deutsch, Eliza Wheeler, John Rocco and Marla Frazee.


Signing books after the panel, next to Caldecott honorees John Rocco and Marla Frazee (looking like the cat that ate the canary)


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Interview with picture book author/illustrator Terry Fan

Terry Fan received his formal art training at Ontario College of Art and Design in Toronto, Canada. His work is a blend of traditional and contemporary techniques, using ink or graphite mixed with digital. He spends his days (and nights) creating magical paintings, portraits, and prints. Born in Illinois, he now lives in Toronto.

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For what age audience do you write?

Our books are listed for “young readers”, but I’d like to think that any age group could enjoy our books.

Henry: Please note: when Terry uses first-person plural, he is not employing the “royal we”. He collaborates with his brother Eric.

Tell us about your latest book.

Our latest book is entitled THE DARKEST DARK, in collaboration with Canadian Astronaut Chris Hadfield and co-writer Kate Fillion. It’s a very cool story inspired by real-life events that happened during his childhood. In picture book form, it recounts what how he overcomes his childhood fear of the dark and goes on to become an astronaut.

Henry: Teaching kids to reach for the stars. Literally and literarily. Well played, sir.

What do you hope readers will get from reading that book?

That everyone started from somewhere, and that it took conquering his fears to accomplish all the incredible things that he has. Hopefully it will inspire children to face their own fears, knowing that even future astronauts can be afraid of the dark. I’ll quote a lovely passage (written by Chris Hadfield for the epilogue of the book) that encapsulates what the whole book is about: “The dark is for dreams —- and morning is for making them come true.”

Henry: Speaking of quotes about the dark, I always liked “Character is who you are in the dark.” Bonus points for anyone who can name the movie in which that was uttered.

What aspect of writing do you find most challenging?

To be honest I find all of it challenging, it’s difficult to pick one aspect. However when it comes specifically to picture books, there often has to be a strict economy of words because it’s such a compressed format, so that’s definitely challenging. Our books often have spare dialogue, which some might think would make things easier, but it’s really the opposite. A lot has to be said with very little text and it has to marry with the illustrations seamlessly.

Henry: It IS all hard to write picture books! I agree the tight word count is a big challenge. As a non-illustrating author, I think another challenge (that you talented author-illustrators don’t face) is ensuring every aspect of a spread is conveyed without resorting to copious art notes. 

What is a powerful lesson you’ve learned from being a writer?

That it always takes so much more care, thought and time than most people realize, even for something as seemingly straightforward as a picture book. Countless revisions are pretty much par for the course, at least in my experience.

What has been a memorable experience that you never would have had if you had not been a writer/illustrator?

I never would have met our wonderful agent Kirsten Hall, published a picture book, met all the fantastic people associated with the books I’ve worked on, flown in a plane with Chris Hadfield… the list goes on and on.

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

Just never give up. I didn’t start making a living off art until my mid-forties. Since joining her agency (Catbird Agency, based in NYC) I’ve finished two picture books with Eric and we have four more projects in the pipeline. That should give some hope to all those late-bloomers out there.

Henry: I was also a late-blooming kidlit author. It’s not when you start; you just have to start!

Do you have any favorite quotes?

I have a bunch of them, but here are a couple of my favorites:

“What is life? It is the flash of a firefly in the night. It is the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime. It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset.” ~ Crowfoot

“The tree wants to be still, but the wind keeps blowing” ~ old Chinese proverb.

Henry: Nice. My wife uses a variant of the latter. “You want to lie on the couch, but I need you to take out the trash.”

Do you have any strange rituals that you observe when you write/illustrate?

I have similar rituals for both. Nothing too strange, usually just drinking wine, listening to music and sometimes chomping on a Nicorette. Creating art can be a lonely business, so a few distractions are often helpful.

If you could have one superpower, what would it be?

Super healing powers, because life is too fragile.

If you could have three authors over for dinner, who would it be?

Mark Twain, Charles M. Schulz and Maurice Sendak. They’ve all had a huge influence on me, and I’ve always felt a certain kinship with the way they approached things. Charles and Maurice might be a bit glum from what I’ve heard, but Mark would no doubt get them laughing. I’d also have to add Sir Arthur Conan Doyle because I’m a huge Holmes fan. Maybe there would even be a séance after dinner.

Henry: I can see Sendak’s influence in your art for THE NIGHT GARDENER. I have a relevant Twain quote: “Go to Heaven for the climate, Hell for the company.”

What is your favorite creature that exists only in literature?

That’s a tough one! I’d have to say Gollum, from THE HOBBIT. He’s just such an awesome, well-realized character with a fascinating back-story.

Henry: Great choice. He’s a classic example of “there but for the grace of God, go I.” Many readers don’t notice that without Gollum, the One Ring would never have been destroyed.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing/illustrating?

It feels like I’m always writing/illustrating, but I confess when not working I’m usually not up to much. I try to spend as much time as I can with family. Other than that, watching Netflix on my iPad or trying to catch up on my reading is about all I can manage. Although I do try to get out at least once a day. I live near a beach and there’s a boardwalk that runs along it, so when I get the chance, I go for brisk walks. I also enjoy cooking a lot and by extension, eating a lot.

What would you like it to say on your tombstone?

That Crowfoot quote.

Henry: We are all fireflies in the night.

Where can readers find your work?

Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indigo Books, most independent book stores.

Henry: Thanks for spending time with us, Terry. You can see more of his beautiful artwork at http://www.krop.com/terryfan/


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Fun at the 2016 Orange County SCBWI Agents Day

I had a great time at the 2016 Orange County Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Agents Day. There were a number of terrific presentations by agents, authors, and an editor. Sorry for the poor photo quality…

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Introductory remarks from author Francesca Rusackas, illustrator Priscilla Burris, and author Q.L. Pearce.

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Rachel Orr (agent with The Prospect Agency) presenting Voices Carry – Developing your Picture Book Voice

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Jessica Sinsheimer (agent with Sara Jane Freymann Literary) presenting how to use Twitter to research, network and become a priority for literary agents

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Annie Berger (editor with Sourcebooks Fire / Jabberwocky) presenting Writing Believable Relationships in YA and Middle Grade

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I missed the presentation by author Marily Cram Donahue because I was pitching picture books to editor Annie Berger.

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Marlene Perez (author) presenting I’m Not Normal and Maybe You Aren’t Either

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Q. L. Pearce (author) presenting on scary (but not too scary) picture books

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Kelly Sonnack (agent Andrea Brown Literary) presenting Query Letters

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Stephanie Fretwell-Hill (agent with Red Fox Literary) presenting straight from the Heart: Knowing Your Emotional Core in the Craft and Business of Writing


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Photo diary from the 2016 Los Angeles National SCBWI Conference

I had a great time attending the annual Los Angeles convention of the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (#LA16SCBWI). Met writing friends, made new friends, heard inspiring speakers, and learned a lot about writing (and that I need a better phone camera). Here’s a photo journal of some of the many KidLit folks in attendance.

01JohnParra

Pura Belpre honor and Golden Kite winning author/illustrator John Parra. Check out the fancy lobby of the Biltmore Hotel.

02MarthaBrockenbough

Martha Brockenbrough, author of THE GAME OF LOVE AND DEATH. Anyone who can write Young Adult and Picture Books is hogging all the talent!

03ChristaDesir

BLEED LIKE ME Young Adult author Christa Desir, one of the first authors I ever interviewed on my KidLit blog.

04JustinChanda

The kind and charming Simon & Schuster publisher, Justin Chanda.

05DonTate

Ezra Jack Keats Award-winning author/illustrator of HOPE’S GIFT, Don Tate. You will note that his hairline is the inverse of mine. You complete me, Don.

06BarneySaltzberg

The multitalented author/illustrator/musician and creator of the TOUCH AND FEEEL KISSES series, with over a million copies in print! He’s not this blurry in real life.

07LisaYee

The shy and retiring SUPER HERO GIRLS author, Lisa Yee. Flat Dan Santat wasn’t in attendance, but the real one showed up eventually.

08MaryAnnFraser

The anything but abominable NO YETI YET picture book author/illustrator, Mary Ann Fraser.

09NealShusterman

New York Times bestselling novelist Neal Shusterman and SCBWI co-founder Lin Oliver.

10PaulZelinsky

Last in the alphabet, but not in our hearts, the dapper Caldecott Medalist illustrator of RAPUNZEL, Paul Zelinsky.

11BruceCoville

The animated Bruce Coville, master author of DIARY OF A MAD BROWNIE, gave an immensely useful presentation on writing.

12TimMcCanna

The ebullient picture book author of BITTY BOT, Tim McCanna.

13AntoinettePortis

My literary agency sister, the kind and funny New York Times bestselling picture book author/illustrator, my frint, Antoinette Portis.

14balconies

These look great. I’m thinking of adding some balconies to my living room.

15PatCummings

The sweet but mischievous “ghost gossiper” author/illustrator Pat Cummings.

16EditorPanel

Editor panel with (l to r): Stacey Barney (G.P. Putnam’s Sons), Kat Brzozowski (Feiwel & Friends), Alvina Ling (Little, Brown), Melissa Manlove (Chronicle), Neal Porter, Matt Ringler (Scholastic), Sara Sargent (HarperCollins), Reka Simonsen (Atheneum) and Kate Sullivan (Delacorte).

17JonKlassen

The good-natured Caldecott-winning author/illustrator of THIS IS NOT MY HAT, Jon Klassen.

18VerlaKay

Founder of SCBWI Blueboard, Verla Kay, and effervescent literary agency sister, GOLDIE LOCKS HAS CHICKENPOX author, Erin Dealey.

19desserts

Jon Klassen recommended the place, so a friend and I had a nutritious lunch at Bottega Louis.

20MarieLu

Packing way too much writing talent and charisma in a small package was New York Times bestselling LEGEND series author, Marie Lu.

21VincentKirsch

After a few years of Facebook interaction, it was a thrill to finally meet the author/illustrator of FREDDIE & GINGERSNAP, Vincent Kirsch, even though his dog Ogbert was not present.

22AuthorPanel

Author panel with (l to r): Jessixa Bagley, John Parra, Susan Rich (editor), Barney Saltzberg & Don Tate, moderated by Laurent Linn (not shown).

23PeterBrown

Why, yes, that is CREEPY CARROTS Caldecott Honoree author/illustrator Peter Brown. Smooth pate? Check. Beard? Check. Write and draw like a boss? Still working on it.

24AgentPanel

Agent panel with (l to r): Victoria Wells Arms, Ginger Clark (Curtis Brown), Kirsten Hall (Catbird), Brooks Sherman (The Bent Agency), Erica Rand Silverman (Stimola Literary) and Tina Wexler (ICM Partners).

25SophieBlackall

Caldecott Medalist, New York Times bestseller, funny, and unjustifiably humble picture book author/illustrator, Sophie Blackall.

26AllynJohnston

Beach Lane Books publisher Allyn Johnston dishes about what she likes and dislikes in the picture book market. She’s NOT a big fan of art notes from authors.

27AshlynAnstee

My favorite photo of the conference because #TeamYeti. From l to r: Mary Ann Fraser, author/illustrator of NO YETI YET, me (hopefully future author of NEVER FEED A YETI SPAGHETTI), and adorably alliterative Ashlyn Anstee, author/illustrator of ARE WE THERE. YETI?

28MelissaManlove

Chronicle editor Melissa Manlove talks about effective narrative non-fiction.

29DeborahHalverson

Freelance editor Deborah Halverson briefs us on the state of the KidLit marketplace.

30RichardPeck

A photo of what Newbery-winning author Richard Peck looks like from outer space. This is a terrible photo of the least terrible author I’ve had the pleasure of meeting. He is a maestro!

31MarlaFrazee

And yes, that is MR. TIGER GOES WILD author/illustrator Peter Brown photobombing fellow Caldecott honoree and THE BOSS BABY author/illustrator Marla Frazee.

32ElizaWheeler

How star-studded was the attendee list? New York Times author/illustrator of MISS MAPLE SEEDS, Eliza Wheeler, was there.

34RedCarpet

San Diego SCBWI chapter attended in force. These glamorous gals won the costume contest wearing red carpet dresses. The chapter also won the Chronicle scavenger hunt, and our Susie Ghahremani was selected as one of the illustrator mentees. Not manatees. Not Mentos.

33signings

As Ferris Bueller said, “You’re still here? It’s over. Go home. Go.” It was also great seeing San Diego Chapter members and my other talented friends who I failed to photograph: Drew Daywalt, David Diaz, Bruce Hale, Jenni Holm, Dan Santat, Kelly Sonnack, and Harold Underdown.


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Fun at the 2016 LA Times Festival of Books

Pelican Publishing asked me to sign my books at their booth at this year’s Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. Below are some fun photos of my day.

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I did not expect to encounter an inappropriately named food truck…

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What this truck lacked in rhyme, it made up for in better nutrition.

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The USC Trojan marching band was in attendance.

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The charming picture book author/illustrator Eliza Wheeler

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She was on a panel with Caldecott-winning author/illustrator Dan Santat, among others.

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I was in the audience with the Dan Santat cheering section. His and Leah’s boys aren’t cute at all…

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Jonathan and Drew Scott – The Property Brothers from HGTV.

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With children’s musician, Emily Arrow. I carried her ukulele as she helpfully introduced me to…

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Caldecott Honor-winning author/illustrator, Lauren Castillo. Not pictured here, I also got to briefly say hi to the talented Jon Klassen and Jenni Holm earlier in the day.

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Signing at the Mysterious Galaxy Books booth with fellow San Diegan, middle-grade author Margaret Dilloway.

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Authors should walk softly, but carry a big pencil…

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Now, here is a food truck with nutrition for the mind!


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Fun at WonderCon 2016

My sons and I made our annual pilgrimage to WonderCon to enjoy great art, revel in geekiness, and meet lots of interesting people. Here’s a samplingWC2016-05

Josh & Harrison outside the LA Convention Center

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The BACONNATION food truck. It’s porktastic!

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Not to be outdone is the Godzilla-themed MeSoHungry food truck.

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Why, yes, I WAS wondering what a Star Trek-cat mashup would look like. Scotty is a Scottish Fold! Chekhov should’ve been a Siberian.

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Captain Mexico and Mexican Punisher and a Trump pinata saying “Por ser un pendejo”. Well played, guys.

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Harrison as a dwarf barrel-rider from The Hobbit at The OneRing.net booth. He’s got the long hair – just needs a beard and some scale mail.

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My sons in front of our books at the Mysterious Galaxy booth.

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Josh with a Type-2 Energy Weapon, more commonly known as the Gravity Hammer – a powerful, two-handed melee weapon used by the Jiralhanae in the Covenant Empire. Or so I’m told.

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A quick photo prior to our panel. From right to left, authors: Barney Saltzberg, Josh Herz, Harrison Herz, Dan Santat, Bruce Hale, and Lisa Yee. Lisa was not part of our panel, but she is legally required to be present when Dan is in public. 🙂

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I secretly brought a furry trapper hat to make a THIS IS NOT MY HAT joke. Little did I suspect that all other four male panelists would be sporting hats. From right to left: Jon Klassen (including priceless expression), Antoinette Portis, Bruce Hale, Dan Santat, Barney Saltzberg, and Henry Herz.

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Me looking all moderatory while Bruce Hale answers a question from the audience.

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Me looking like the cat that ate the canary because I’m signing books with Jon Klassen, Antoinette Portis, Barney Saltzberg, Dan Santat, and Bruce Hale.

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This is Jon Klassen, but THIS IS NOT MY HAT. I’m wearing Bruce Hale’s famous fedora!