Snooping in Cece Bell land

Last night I was over at Cece’s studio and spied one of her works in progress.

It was just written out, there was another sheet with some thumbnails on it.

But the thing is — It rocked! i mean it really boomed and bashed through the story. It’s exciting and funny and has a perfect ending.

Cece said it was about the 17th rewrite of the story and it’s something she’s been talking about for ages and ages. I’d seen a version of it once before, but it was nothing compared to this.

From this stage it’s going to betwo or three years before it ever comes out .. but when it does – look out!

Meanwhile, we should see Bee-Wigged, a dog book and HOPEFULLY another Sock Monkey title!


Poetry Friday – Librarians Get NASTY

Cece and I just had a great joint presentation at a VEMA conference, which is the Virginia Educational Media Association, which I think  was a convention of librarians.
From somewhere came the title “Making Books Fun” or something like that. So Cece and I showed the librarians what we do when we visit schools.
Cece had those librarians wearing animal ears and acting out “Sock Monkey Goes to Hollywood.” The key is casting Sock Monkey well, she always says, and she got a wild one this time!
As for me, I gave the librarians the same challenge I give kids. Can you do what the kids do in my book, The Qwikpick Adventure Society and write poems that create not a word picture, but a word smell? And can you make it even stinkier?
Yes, they could… and some of the could even get the haiku syllables right in just 2 or 3 minutes of writing time. This one came close:
thrown up stinky
chunky bits of Cheerios
mixed with applesauce
And they could be funny:
Candles burning bright
Caught my hair on fire tonight
Crackling hair, stinking so
But one librarian wrote a simply incredible poem. Oddly it was the first I read and was a total surprise. It did not win the popular vote, which went to a poem which was (I think) an inside VEMA joke, but this poem is among the very best ever written for Qwikpick Instant Poetry Contests…
Unpacking winter box
Afghan reveals bones, tissue
Heart races, smell explodes
-Deborah Wood

My worlds collide: A Kidlit column for the newspaper

As a Q&A writer, I have to take the subjects that readers ask me about, so I don’t often get to write about kidlit.
But this week, there was a Babe question:

Q: We were reading “Babe: The Sheep Pig” and were surprised to see that the emergency phone number was 999 not 911. Why the difference? Stewart Hill, Elliston

A: Dick King-Smith’s book about Babe, on which the movie was based, was first published in England and certainly seems to be set in England. That fair country uses the number 999 for its emergency calls. Thus when Babe catches sheep rustlers in the act, Mrs. Hoggett dials 999 to summon the police.

Sometimes books are edited slightly when brought across the Atlantic in either direction and little details like this are “translated” to save readers from this sort of confusion, but some might argue that such details should remain since they add flavor and texture to a book.

I knew about the transatlantic translations (nearly) firsthand, since Cece’s Sock Monkey books have been published in Britain with charming changes to the text, along the lines of:

Sock Monkey rented a tuxedeo >>> Sock Monkey hired a dinner jacket

Sock Monkey’s door and other fine home decor

For door day, here’s Cece Bell’s house — totally Sock Monkeyed up from the front door to the yard to the kitchen cabinets to the bathroom wall where a big buttom mosaic hangs.
And this isn’t just any sock monkey, it’s Sock Monkey star of the Candlewick book and a resident of this very same house.

Meeting Hallowmere author Tiffany Trent….

Good news and bad news.
The bad news is that I didn’t sell many books at the Author’s Night the other night. (In fact, the plural form of book has no business in that sentence at all.)
The good news is that I finally met Tiffany Trent, the really cool, really friendly author of Hallowmere. Cece had already met her and, in fact, it turns out they were briefly in high school together.
Here’s Tiffany and Cece yukking it up at the B&N.

One Night Only: Sock Monkey, Hallowmere & Qwikpick

 &  & me (see photo above)
we’re all on the same bill tonight for an Author’s Night at the B&N in Roanoke, VA’s Valley View Mall starting at 6 p.m.
So, really we have all the bases covered. From infant (Food Friends) to toddler/early reader(Sock Monkey) to mid-grade(Qwikpick) to teen (Hallowmere) to adult (any of the above).

Sam & Cece’s Holiday Funland – Day 22 – 12 Days of Sock Monkey

Cece Bell’s 12 Days of Sock Monkey Christmas Card!

Sam & Cece’s Holiday Funland – Day 21 – Snowflakes in My Heart

Here’s the cover from our Christmas Album: Ye Olde School Xmas.
Folks, this was so long ago that we sent it out on cassette tapes!! So, I’m leaping into the 21st century by making videos from the music and posting them on Youtube.
Yesterday we had my old Heat Miser remix, today it’s Cece’s turn with her Country-Techno Wondermix- Snowflakes in my Heart.
The video includes shots of some of our favorite hat-wearing Christmas buddies, including Sock Monkey himself! Plus lots of Suzy Snowflake goodness!

Sam & Cece’s Holiday Funland – Day 19 – The Making Of…

Here we see Cece’s pencil sketch, an early computer rendering and a close-up of one of the many details she put on the card to give it the appearance of a piece of old-time sheet music.
The result….
It was packed with silly lyrics and other gags inside, too.

Sam & Cece’s Holiday Funland – Day 18 – Sock Monkey writes to Santa


Cece drew this (and a bunch of other portraits of Sock Monkey) directly on the wrapping paper of some presents the other year. I thought this one captured his personality nicely.

Note the line on his right ear. She always puts in that line, even in tiny little sketches because Sock Monkey really does have a white tip on that ear.