Squirrels. Love 'em or hate 'em?

Funny how squirrels can raise such feelings in folks. For my part they don't do so much harm. And yet they can raise the heckles of the calmest people when they raid your bird feeders, or live in the loft. Well, ok, living in the loft can be troublesome. They've been helping themselves to the suet this week. I can't help but love watching them, so quick and lithe and humorous.

But what was more troublesome was the big brown rat sitting on top of the bird station eyeballing me through the kitchen window yesterday. Hmm. Am rethinking this whole feeding birds thing.

So, Thanksgiving has come and gone. To all my American friends I hope you stuffed your self silly, and are thankful it's over. To my Brit friends, I hope you had a nice Thursday.

We spent it with friends in the next town who very kindly did most of the cooking and washing up, so I was thankful for that!

On a less trite note, Thanksgiving not being something that is ingrained in my genetic make up, I am still getting used to this holiday after 12 years. It is nice it is not commercial. Reminds me of Boxing Day in many ways. I like Boxing Day. When you eat everything that's left. Of course, Black Friday marks the buying frenzy in the run up to Christmas. I am thankful for online shopping.

Other Things I am Thankful for:
I am not living in a camper anymore (whilst we were building the house.)
I am not horribly ill.
I have some good friends.
I have some lovely people who are supporting me in my quest to become a childrens' author and illustrator.
I live in a peaceful and beautiful part of the world.
I have enough to eat and the means to support myself.
I am not skinny.

There, I feel humble. (Now, what do you think soft or hard centre?)

What did y'all get up to for thanksgiving?

Snow fell the other night. Beautiful sunrise in the morning ...

I continue to work on the layout about the Girl and her Horse. This is revision number three. Next week I am sending it to Cheryl Klein for my free critique. Gulp.

Here's one of the sketches:

Back to sending out samples also ... this time a little booklet of 5 pieces. Thought it made a change. I am sure all you Art Directors are tired of postcards?

OK, back to the drawing board ...

aka the Wacky Brit.

On the bedside table:
No changes since last week.

On Inspiration

Sometimes, like buses in England, everything seems to happen at once. Perhaps it is just because I haven't blogged for 2 weeks (due to gadding off to Hollywood) and there is a lot to tell. But I will do my best. First, here is one of the most inspiring speakers I have ever seen:

Mr Ashley Bryan, the closing keynote speaker at the Los Angeles Summer Conference (SCBWI). His poetry renditions were just AMAZING. I don't think there was a dry eye in the house. I came home with his tones ringing in my ears, inspiring me to do more! Thank  you Ashley. And I am definitely going to take you up on the offer of a visit to your studio in Maine! I was lucky enough to sit next to him and chat during one of the sessions and eat dinner with him at the Heart and Soul Ball. But I do so wish that I had a photograph of him wearing my nodding heart headpiece, but we can't have everything in life!

The conference was just fantastic.Packed programme, a beautiful hotel, fun and interesting people, great weather. I do love this world of 'children's content creators!' For once in my life I am in the right place at the right time. Other speakers I was inspired by at the conference: Loren Long ... what a funny and lovely person (have you read Otis??). I got to sit next to him in one of the sessions too. I know there is a lot of name dropping, but it is so inspiring to be able to communicate directly with those who have done the hard work and are out there inspiring children! EB Lewis .. no words, because he is a smooth as silk and talent incorporated. Stood next to him at dinner also! (He declined to try on the silly heart headpiece ... you can't have everything.) Dancing with Gail Carson Levine (Ella Enchanted writer), crazy lady! M.T. Anderson (what a singer!), Rachel Vail, Jon Scieska (Stinky Cheese Man) - funny, funny man, Stephanie Owens Lurie (Disney Hyperion Editor - great information on thinking like a publisher), Marion Dane Bauer had me in tears with her poignancy, Rubin Pfeffer (Agent) - great words. And so many others.

But the best part - consolidating friendships and making new ones. They say this is what it is all about, and they are right (these 'they' people.) Because when you are back in your studio or office or workshop, all alone, plodding away at the good work and the not so good, it is comforting that all over the country (and world) are those you are connected to by the thread of INSPIRATION.

We (me and my buddy Sheri and I am happy to say our friendship has survived a week in the same room) arrived a day early and we went to the J P Getty Museum. It was wonderful and fed our souls. What a beautiful building and gardens. Like a medieval castle rearing up from the hillside. All white granite and smooth surfaces. A labyrinth of rooms filled with exquisite work. Saw the Gerome exhibition ... what a talent and so prolific.

And here I am, back home in Maine. 'Im indoors held the fort while I was away and kept the menagerie (including himself, fed and watered.)

Right then, lastly, 3 exciting pieces of news from the world of the Wacky Brit!

1. The LAD (Lovely Art Director) and I have almost finished negotiating on the illustrations on the book on Autism. YIPPEE! Lot's of celebrating ... my first 'real' contract. I will begin the illustrations (it's a 42 pager) first week September, finals for Thanksgiving, so it is a tight schedule. They are all b&w and I will be doing the text by hand too. So stay tuned for more details as and when.

2. Just before I left the conference I received an email from a publisher in the North East! (YOU SHOULD HAVE HEARD ME HOLLER IN THE LOBBY!) Not too many details yet but they are starting up a new company and interested in my style ... oooohhh. So I am excited about this too, as they have done great books in the past. I will know more next week.

3. BUT MOST EXCITING! I have been accepted to be part of the Nevada SCBWI Mentoring Programme that begins in October 2010 until April 2011. You can read about it here. I will be working with PRISCILLA BURRIS, National co-ordinator of illustrators for the SCBWI and a prolifically published illustrator herself. So that means I get to go to Virginia City, NV in October for a meet up and the Nevada Conference. So you KNOW I am jazzed! I think this is just what I need at this stage in my career. Thank you, Priscilla, for choosing to work with me as one of your mentees!

Whew. OK, I am all out of news, and you are all out of reading. I am looking forward to my Brit friends coming to stay next week. We have many fun things planned and it will be good to have some BRIT TALK.

OH ... I have notes from the conference available ... if anyone would like a copy of the whole PDF, please leave me a comment or send an email. Here are a few snippets ....

Hopefully next week I will have some incriminating photos to post.

Right, that's it for now. A very excited Wacky Brit signing off and thanking you for reading along.


PS No new books on the shelf ... exhausted.
PPS No prizes for me in the Portfolio Showcase, but completely overawed by the talent, and congrats to the winners!