Next Big Thing Global Blog Tour: Now I'm it!

Libby tagged me for this blog tour on BRG, a chain-letter blog tour of sorts about your latest book. Here is a little bit about what I've been working on:

1. What is the working title of your next book(s)?

I am currently revising a draft of my first chapter book, tentatively titled The House on Oak Street. This title will change, it's more of a place holder right now until the right title sparks.

2. Where did the book idea come from for the book?

I've always loved animal stories and stories about friendship; this book is both. Once the characters formed in my head, the story sort of flowed out of their relationships with each other as I wrote about them. I am not usually the writer that says "the story wrote itself!" (I can't imagine that happening *and* my work being any good) but this might have been similar in that the ideas came when I needed them.

3. What genre does your book fall into? 

It is a young chapter book.

4. What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?

Five friends live in an apartment building together teach eachother about friendship.

5. Who is publishing your book?

Alfred A. Knopf Books

6. How long did it take you to write the first draft?

Before I conceived of the idea for the book, I wrote one of the chapters as a picture book, maybe 3 or 4 years ago. When I came back to it in 2011, shortly after my daughter was born, I realized it was part of a larger story, and began writing other chapters around it. In total that first draft took about a year to complete, but I was also part-time at home with my daughter.

7. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

I would love if it were compared to The Wind in the Willows or Winnie-the-Pooh, thought it is a very different book from both. Still, I took inspiration from the cozy worlds of both books, and the way the characters learn deeper truths about themselves through everyday events.

8. What else about the book might pique the reader's interest?  

It is going to be heavily illustrated, with illustrations on nearly every page, and a lot of fun for young readers! It will be in bookstores spring of 2015.

Made by hand: produce bags

Longtime readers of this blog will remember that each holiday season I like to do a little craft, and send it out to those I've worked with that year. Since this year marked the release of What Can You Do with an Old Red Shoe?, I thought it fitting to make something environmentally friendly.

So this year's project was to make reusable canvas produce bags, to replace the plastic ones we all use at the supermarket. Just think of all the plastic produce bags you might use in a year! I got the idea from browsing, where I've purchased many non-leaching water bottles and travel mugs. Here are the bags they sell.

I decided to make some roughly at those sizes, but with more interesting fabric, which I found plenty of at Ikea. Below are instructions should you like to make your own. I just made this pattern up so feel free to improvise- and I'd love to hear how you change things up!

First, lay out your fabric. If there is a cat sitting on top, remove him.

Next, cut out a rectangle shape with the fabric doubled up (I cut at the folded edge of the fabric, so that the bottom edge of the bag did not need to be stitched). I made bags either 8 x 10" or 13 x 17" roughly, but you could do any size.

Sew a zig-zag stitch along the top two edges of your bag individually, to prevent fraying. Then, on one side of the bag, sew a seam about half an inch in from the edge. Go over those edges with a zig-zag stitch as well.

On the opposite side of the bag, cut into the fabric about half an inch, and three inches down from the top. Fold over the edges in this little section and stitch them down. Then sew along the rest of the side edge, about a half inch in, and straight down from the folded over section. Go over the edges with a zig-zag stitch as you did on the other side.

Fold over the top edge of the bag roughly an inch and a three quarters, and stitch it down.

Turn your bag right side out.

Get some rope or string (I used simple cotton cord from the hardware store).

Once again, remove cat (sheesh):

Cut a length of cord and knot one end. There are a couple ways to thread the cord through the top of the bag- you can run the end with the knot through, nudging it along with your fingers on the outside of the bag, or just attach a safety pin to one end and nudge it through that way. I think the pin is easier. When its all the way through, knot the other end of the cord.

Here is what a finished bag looks like, filled with apples.

I packaged them up by first printing out a simple label...

then tying it around the bag with some twine.

Voila! Finito!

Snowflakes on parade

Lately I've felt the need to tackle the little things that always fall to the end of my to-do list. Maybe its because the year is drawing to a close or maybe its post-deadline mania, but I've been taking great pleasure organizing, mending, and rearranging our apartment... hemming pants that have been sitting in the corner of the bedroom for months, cleaning out the flat files, and purging everything I can stand to part with. It feels soooo goooood.

For the longest time I've been meaning to frame my Robert's Snowflakes properly. I was lucky enough to win hand painted snowflakes by Alissa Imre Geis and Giselle Potter a few years back, two of my most prized possessions. Since then I am embarrassed to say they have been sitting in sloppy frames that didn't fit. No more!

I found these two little 3D frames at Ikea and got out my snowflakes...

and of course my trusty YES Glue, that stuff glues everything.

Then I cut some little rectangles out of foam core, two for each snowflake.

And glued them down, one on top of another, to some archival acid-free mat board.

Then I very carefully put a little dab of glue on the stack of foam core and placed a snowflake on top. I was weary at first of putting glue anywhere near these little paintings, but in the end I think they will be better preserved this way (and there was not much on the back of them, unlike some snowflakes).

Once they were dry I put the mat board in the back of the frames and voila- floating snowflakes!

Now on to going through my fabric stores and organizing my paper drawer. I just looove an organized paper drawer.