Artist-Author LISA DESIMINI & THE FLEATASTICS + book for you!

LISA DESIMINI & THE FLEATASTICS

Today I am thrilled to interview my favorite picture book
artist who is also a dear pal.
Lisa Desimini is a frequent illustrator – interpreter of poems
for children, in beloved titles such as

DOODLE DANDIES, Poems that Take Shape
GOOD MOUSEKEEPING And Other Animal Poems
LOVE LETTERS
TOUCH THE POEM

The poets Lisa appears with, between covers, are
among my many favorites, including –
Naomi Shihab Nye, J. Patrick Lewis, Arnold Adoff.  
 
Lisa is also the author of her own delightful picture books.
They include DOT THE FIREDOG and also a story my
Book Bear puppet & I schlep along to reading time at
school each October, TRICK-OR-TREAT, SMELL MY FEET!

c. Peggy Gifford/ Lisa Desimini

FAMOUS Naomi Shihab Nye/Lisa Desimini


Until recently, Lisa’s newest lovely books are
THE GREAT BIG GREEN, which she illustrated for poet Peggy Gifford, and
FAMOUS, illustrated for poet Naomi Shihab Nye.

This spring Lisa’s newest, THE FLEATASTICS, which she
wrote and illustrated, jumped into the welcoming world.
These reviews scratch the surface:

 “Desimini’s frolicking microscopic world of fleas is a realm within a realm…
Amid the plot about perseverance, (she) sprinkles in the flea family’s running
commentaries.
The engaging, brightly colored scenes filled with comical asides
should be a great story time read for high-energy kids.”
– Booklist
 
“Desimini’s…universe of fleas delights with boundless imagination
and pockets of hilarious flea dialogue, vivaciously depicted.”
– Kirkus Reviews
 
 Let’s give a bouncy Poetry Friday welcome to LISA DESIMINI as she shares about
THE FLEATASTICS.

LISA: Hi Jan, I’m thrilled to be a part of your book blog!
Thanks for having me!

THE FLEATASTICS Artist-Author LISA DESIMINI, c. 2017 Lisa Desimini


Q. 
It’s a joy to be with you, Lisa.
You jumped from one coast to the other. When we visited years ago
in New Orleans, your base was the NYC area. These days the West Coast
is your muse. Is the children’s book vibe different in California and as
author and artist in children’s literature, what resources do you
connect with there?

LISA: SCBWI has a summer conference here and I’ve attended twice.
I saw friends from NY and met some new ones here on the west coast.
I received tons of valuable information and inspiration.
Even though I’ve done many books, I find there is always more to learn.

Q.
I remember your sharing (and I kept it under wraps) about this lively
idea that you couldn’t shake off – a flea circus!  It made me giggle.
And now that I have met tiny main character Sarafleana, I have a seat
on the front row of the tent. What were the high points of your creating
Sarafleana, her family, and her journey?

LISA: It was a long circuitous journey. I tried out several main characters with different motivations.
I had Farley Fillmore–he was too small to be a part of the circus.
I thought about a traveling sporting event with a tiny flea that was never allowed to play.
When I came up with the first line, “Sarafleana was a born jumper.”
I knew I was on the right track.
Another joy was coming up with flea-inspired ideas, names and terms like the grand fleanale.
The classic name Sarafeana was perfect, I just had to add the “l” to transform it to Sarafleana.


Q.
One of the delights of this book is finding the sly puns and terms, especially
on re-reading THE FLEATASTICS for hidden treasures.
Here is the chicken or egg question. Art and image first, or words and story?

LISA: Well, the first thing I came up with was a quick sketch of a Dachshund.
His tail was on page one, then there were 13 spreads of his body,
(just a line through the middle of the page) the final spread was his head.
I thought maybe there could be different scenarios going on behind the dog.
The seasons could change or the weather.

One day I looked at that simple sketch and saw the dog’s body as a stage.
That’s when I came up with the idea of a flea circus performing.
I developed the story before I did any serious sketching.
It took many rounds of sketches before I came up with the look of the fleas.
I wanted them to look cute and silly not scary and mean.

Q.
You aced that!
Switching to another species, I know about the serendipitous arrival of the kitty,
Crash, into your life. (How is Crash these days?) But you LOVE dogs, too.
Right here on the shelf, I’ve pulled out DOT THE FIRE DOG, the sweet visit
with a dedicated dalmation that you wrote and illustrated. What is it
about dogs that makes them ideal characters for picture books?

LISA:I think dogs are loyal, silly and present.
They are our pals.
I’ve only had and been around good-natured dogs that want to be a part of everything.
And they can be so wise.
I am now a kitty lover since we got our, Crash.

Beloved Crash devotedly assists in all aspects of office work.
c. Lisa Desimini


If things go well with THE FLEATASTICS I would love to do a sequel with cats.
Cats have their own silly quirky habits.
I think grooming their entire body, hairballs and catnip might be a part of that story.

Q.
As an upright who has lived with spunky kitty Ginger
for 16 years, that sequel sounds so mewvelous.

For visual artists and for writers who glom onto art-process
details, please share a peek into your studio.
At home or off site?
Corner of a room or an entire four walls?
Natural light or electric?  
Digital-creation or hand-drawn?
And, just how do you corral all the supplies that a dedicated
collage artist such as yourself, wrangles?

LISA: Good question! I counted… my studio is about eighty-eight steps from our house.
It was the garage turned into an apartment by a previous owner.
So it has a bathroom, bedroom and kitchen, but I removed the stove and put two sets of flat files in there. They contain all my collage papers and many paintings from kids books and book jackets.
I have a futon bed for guests or in case I work late.
I have acrylics, oils and my computer.

c. Lisa Desimini

For THE FLEATASTICS, I made paper collages, I sealed them with a clear gel and painted shadows and highlights and added texture.
Then I scanned them into the computer and added backgrounds and other details.
I made the fleas in the computer because they were too tiny.
I keep a folder of scanned papers, objects, fabric, photos and painting textures in my computer so I can do my collages digitally, if I have to.

Q.
Appreciations for a groovy peek into your process and the inspiring studio.

We are not giving away any story spoilers today about performers
in THE FLEATASTICS circus, to savor the surprises in reading it.
But before we leave the famous act, is there any encore information
you’d like to share?

LISA: This book was very different for me, it was challenging but
SO much fun!


I loved working with thought/dream bubbles, the background
flea dialogue, and subplots.
I want to explore that format even more so I’m working on a
graphic novel idea about a magician.

 
Q.
A Lisa Desimini graphic novel – that sounds magical.
Thank you again for this visit about fun but also educational,
THE FLEATASTICS.
(I didn’t know anything about flea hatching!)
Please tell high-jumping Sarafleana, Brava!
And we wish THE FLEATASTICS family many tents of happy
performances ’round the world.
Also a scratch of the heads, to sweet
Sparky and sleepy Snoozer.

LISA:
Thanks, Jan! I loved your Q’s!

Q:
Applause back at you, Lisa!

This is a joyful book that unfolds in
an easy- to- follow surprise story line, yet with many fascinating asides.
I love seeing each little flea’s “look” and how the visitors
to the dog park have personalities, such as the one dog always
thinking of the yellow ball.
Also, I love seeing the woman wonder about a cat park.
Every time I read it, I find discoveries. You will too.

THE FLEATASTICS Show Continues

Now, ladies and gentlemen, girls and boys, cats and dogs,
fleas and fleamasters,
Lisa’s Desimini’s flea circus offers an encore right here on
Bookseedstudio’s stage with our giveaways, via generous
publisher Boyds Mills Press.
Please comment below and your name will identify you.
If I don’t know you let me say, Hello!
Be sure to share your real name & contact info (website link, email)
if that info can’t be easily found online. If you don’t want to be considered
for the give-away – and we do have multiple copies – you can still comment & say so.
After Monday July 24, more comments are welcome, but they won’t be entered,
so be sure to comment before Tuesday July 25.
Thank you.

Hop over to these links, too.

Mr. Schu Reads
Watch a book trailer for THE FLEATASTICS

I previously reported on THE GREAT BIG GREEN

SCBWI-FL 2015 MIDYEAR CONFERENCE SCRIBBLES

Bulletin, week of July 13 addition –
This is a gre8t week to use regular registration for Summer School created by two SCBWI members. (Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators. (pre-reg ended, but not to worry!)

Just after I returned from the SCBWI conference in June, I came across a cute writer chickie handling an impressive eyepiece.
She was pecking around in my mail online.
Chipping about something called the Nerdy Chicks Rule KIDLIT SUMMER SCHOOL.
Here is all about it!

artwork c. JOYCE WAN, all rights reserved, used with permission

artwork c. JOYCE WAN, all rights reserved, used with permission


FRESH from the 2015 SCBWI-FL MIDYEAR HOOPLA

These are impressions that can’t have been unique to me.
The dedicated artists & writers shared laughs,
love of books & stories & lively discussions
through the weekend.
Perhaps being in magic Florida, helped!

My poetry crit partner Christine & I sat rapt all
Saturday. I was also lucky to soak up picture book
lessons on Friday. Worth. Every. Penny.
The thrills + wisdom shared offset motoring 9 hours round-trip.

(With thanks to my dear hubby who made the trip too & our
generous longtime pals we stayed with who just moved into a big new house,
Brad + Sandy. The neighborhood elementary school is
Spanish-speaking & Sandy is a volunteer reader/tutor with
school stories to share, a bonus for me.)

Still applauding conference volunteers – including
Linda Bernfeld, Gaby Triana, Linda Shute & Curtis Sponsler &
my longtime SCBWI pal, Gloria Rothstein. They conducted
two auctions – live & silent, matched critique givers to
the artists & writers, arranged meals, transportation for
faculty, meeting rooms, onsite bookstore & much more.

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INSIDER, INSIDER, INSIDER NEWS
FORTHCOMING TITLES!

You-Heard-It-Here-Today/ Picture Books –
Lee Bennett Hopkin’s JUMPING OFF LIBRARY SHELVES (illus. Jane Manning)
Alexandra Penfold’s EAT, SLEEP, POOP (illus., Jane Massey)
Rob Sanders’ RUBY ROSE ON HER TOES (illus Debbi Ohi)
Tim Miller’s MOO IN A TUTU (he is illus)
Douglas Florian’s HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON (he is illus)
Irene Latham’s FRESH DELICIOUS, Poems from the Farmer’s Market &
also her WHEN THE SUN SHINES ON ANARTICA
Mika Song’s TEA WITH OLIVER (he is illus)
Bonus – how about that last author-illustrator’s name?

MORE FORTHCOMING
For a sneak peek at an Advance Reader Copy of a yet-to-be
released Middle Grade novel by the talented author of
Nory Ryan’s Song & about 90 other books, I invite you HERE.
Thrilled to have a 1st look.

INFO bits on the detailed PROCESS to PUBLISHING

>An editor rejected books that another house published. When she
saw them between covers, she wished she discerned, in manuscript form
what the other house perceived in manuscript form – the books turned
out quite good & she wished she had pubbed them.
This is to help us understand how our manuscripts can be wonderful,
just not right at that moment for the editor/publisher we’ve sent it to.

>This same editor shared that when she was at a house where the sales
force wielded manuscript rejection power, one of her championed children’s
books was rejected. She eventually had it published by that house. How?
“There is a lot of turnover.”
She sent to back to the writer to keep working on it. Later the editor
resubmitted it when the naysayer had moved on to another house.

>An editor said a picture book that she originally didn’t like, even
sort of derided to close associates, still had this kernel of emotion that
stuck to her.
She could never shake it from her mind. She went back. Looked at it.
Six years later she is publishing it, pleased with the results.

<Listening to an editor share how short p.b. manuscripts can make her
heart beat fast – I feel I got it. Revising. Short.

A successful YA author said her years of taking picture book classes
to learn to write 500 word manuscripts helped her write succinctly
(I will add successfully) in verse for the high school reader.

First lines that are direct & simple make all the difference in picture books.
Examples an editor shared that she loves –
“Hattie was a big black hen.” Mem Fox
“The mice made a teeter-totter.” Ellen Stoll Walsh

Look up the SCBWI Edited By list to help find editors whose books you like.

MEET & GREET
Agents, editors, artists & writers! Even spouses, partners & children.
Too many to name, but here is one moment of many from the conference
that are treasures. He is poet, editor & poetry anthologist Lee Bennett Hopkins, known
as The Pied Piper of Children’s Poetry.

Lee Bennett Hopkins & Jan

Every faculty member was accessible, warm & funny. If I garbled my words
getting them out, or didn’t get any words out to those I intended to, it was my
own cold feet. Next time, Jan!

I feel good that at lunch I linked a writer I didn’t know before that much appreciated meal,into a nice conversation with an agent at our large table, because the writer had shared with me info about her work I knew the agent would like to know. Put on the spot, I am usually more advanced at promoting others than myself.

BEST MOMENT
At a workshop an editor said spiffy remarks after
I read aloud from my fresh-scribbled words. They were three pieces
of brief writing in response to the unexpected writing prompt. I
blushed, floated. Haven’t quite landed, yet.

BOOKSTORE
Orlando’s newish indy shop, Bookmark It, received a warm welcome.
http://bookmarkitorlando.com/
I turned out to be their first conference book buyer (not just looking)
customer. One of the best sellers of the SCBWI weekend is the book
cradled in my hand, in the photo,
LULLABY & KISSES SWEET.
I am so stoked that writer pals, especially Robyn Hood Black,
are represented in this huggable chubby board book, alongside Jane Yolen, X.J. Kennedy, Lee Bennett Hopkins, Kristine O’Connell George, Amy Ludwig VanDerwater, Alice Schertle & other children’s author luminaries. I am happy it winged away, inscribed, to the dear baby in our family in Rhode Island, who celebrates his 1st birthday this very month.

Here are lines from that book’s SWEET by Peggy Janousky
Next time when I eat this fruit
I think I’ll wear a bathing suit

Since many of us are fortunate to be dripping with watermelon
this time of year, Peggy’s poem is particulary refreshing here
at our house.

ORLANDO is BEAUTIFUL
We arrived in Orlando not long after visiting our family in CT & MASS during
days of a big ol’ eyetalyen wedding, so it was fun to reflect on very different cities.
We saw a chipmunk in Boston and an otter in Orlando. We saw the pencil
sculpture in Orlando in a downtown art park.
And it strikes me as something Boston would be proud to own.

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Consider the SCBWI-FL MidyearConference in 2016. Information on
it will be posted at the Florida site. SCBWI = Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators.
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IMPACT
While I was in Orlando, several title eyedears & other creative writing
thoughts came to mind. My conference-inspired scribbles continue.
I’ve re-read & re-read notes from the two conference
critiques, have thought, made scribbles of phrases, lines, more.

One final summer presentation as a children’s author is on my
calendar. (Since the conference I visited a well-off private school one week
& then drove over to a needy community center program the next &
I appreciated having those contrasts.) The next event is at our lovely library.
Following that I expect to slack off non-manuscript writing
(including here) in these precious summer weeks,
in expectations of manuscript progress & to begin new project eyedears
that bubbled up as a result of this nourishing SCBWI-FL weekend.