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This week was the release of my new book, HOGG, HOGG, & HOG. Creating those three pigs and working on this book was so much fun. I’m very thankful to my editor David Gale, at Simon and Schuster, for giving me the opportunity to illustrate one of my own manuscripts.

Of course, like every story, there is always a backstory of how it all came to be.  (If you want some giggles on the ‘hows’, just take a look at my ‘Inspirations’ for some of my other books.) As I mentioned in my previous post, these Big City Swine actually started out as ducks. OINK was QUACK. However, while my editor loved the story and loved the art, he asked if I could change the ducks to another animal. (Oh, duck.) Yeah. It happens. But, you know what they say … sometimes, change is good.  The thing was … nothing sounded quite as funny as QUACK, which I felt was essential to the book’s read-aloud humor. I tried ‘humanizing’ a couple of chickens, then cats, dogs, but none really worked as well as those bald duck heads. (I really loved those ducks.) Then my husband said …OINK! Yup. Pigs were definitely it! (And, I do have a history with pigs too.) Here are some of the original duck sketches: (The ducks on the ends, were great inspiration to Duck who appears in HHH.)

While each of the ducks had a specific ‘look,’ the pigs really allowed me to develop more distinct and individual personalities for the three characters. This was especially true of ‘Hog’, who gobbles his way through the book eating one fast food goodie after another, and also wearing it on his chinny-chin-chin.

The ducks’ office digs of grays, blues and bright yellows changed to the pig palette of  purples and browns.  (Mud, maybe?) I thank my art director, Lucy Cummins for suggesting I try a darker palette. I did loads of color sketches with the pigs being pink, but unfortunately, that did not work AT ALL!  What-to-do-what-to-do? … Didn’t know. I did know the pigs were the right substitute for the ducks, but how to get them to work as well visually? I had no clue! Then, my good friend — the fabulously talented and clever, Diane Goode, suggested – why not treat the pigs just as I had been doing with the ducks: Keep them white and define them with a variety of pinks, which was totally the answer. The pigs ‘popped’ on their new palette, in fact, they popped right out of the page. Super advice. A huge thanks to Diane for sharing her insight with a pic book illustration novice.

Interested in a bit more ‘backstory’ on these pigs and the concept? Here’s an interview I did discussing the beginnings of HOGG, HOGG, & HOG.

LOVE THOSE PIGS

OINK!

Oink. Oink oink.  Oink oink oink. Oink … Oink?

Yes.  That’s right.  You ‘heard’ it here first.  Everyone is talking OINK!

Why? … Uh … well … uh … Why not?  It’s the thing to do? … Isn’t it?

My new book, HOGG HOGG & HOG, celebrates the absurd, the silly, and the absurd silly celebrity of celebrity, and poses that exact particular question to the reader. It’s a modern fable about Right and Wrong.  It’s a smidge of Animal Farm, a tad Theater of the Absurd, and it’s all wrapped around today’s fame-and-fortune-obsessed culture.  If that sounds like it may be “too sophisticated” for a three year old picture book reader … you could be right. (Although to my mind, the concept of right and wrong is never too early to introduce.)  But, agree, HOGG HOGG & HOG cannot be described as your ‘cuddly’ trio.  (Although, ‘Hog’ does have his own individual style and charm: Six and seven year old fans at a recent school visit got the giggles discovering his cookie pocketwatch disappear as the story unfolded.)  But yes, these three big pigs and this story were created to provide opportunity for laughs, winks, but also thoughtful discussion for children in elementary grades and older.  (Maybe some college grad business majors as well.)

This is a story about character … and doing the right thing.

Inspired by my own long affection for the great Frank Capra movies of the 1930’s and 40’s like, Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, Meet John Doe, You Can’t Take It With You, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, and It’s a Wonderful Life, this is a story where the ‘little guy’ comes out ahead.  And while this doesn’t have the slapstick comedy or wordplay found in many of my other books like BAD BOYS, I have previously ‘visited’ themes of teamwork, fair play, and character in books such as LOUSY ROTTEN STINKIN’ GRAPES, the more sentimental THREE FRENCH HENS, and the parody of fame and fortune in DING DONG DING DONG.

What is different about this book, is that I also had the opportunity to illustrate one of my own manuscripts. (About a dozen years ago, I illustrated my own GOOD AS GOLDIE and GOLDIE IS MAD, but other than ‘channeling’ Zoey’s art in GEEK CHIC and Trudie’s doodled notebook in the LAB COAT GIRL series, the opportunity did not present itself again, until this story.)  I’ve been an artist my whole life, and had a career of almost two decades as a designer and art director before my first book, PIGGIE PIE! was published and I began to concentrate more on writing. I loved that HHH gave me the chance to work again in the mixed media medium that I ‘grew up’ with.  I learned at the ‘knee’ and developed my own style through the influences of the innovative advertising and graphic designers of the mid-twentieth century as I devoured and luxuriated over as many Graphis Annuals I could get my hands on. Starting in high school and through college, I spent many hours in the darkroom posterizing my photo images, peeling Letratone, slicing Pantone color paper and film (as well as the occasional finger), while creating mixed media collage in combination with brush line art. What was most refreshing for me to discover during this project, was how technology (Photoshop) had caught up to my ‘technique’ (totally and thankfully eliminating the possibility of missing digits, splattered sweaters, and very gooey gluey fingers). Carpal tunnel syndrome not withstanding.

In my future posts I’ll be sharing the twists and turns of the many layered (digital) backstory of HOGG HOGG & HOG and sharing some images that didn’t make it to the final page.  For right now, I’ll end with saying that those three big pigs didn’t start off by saying OINK at all. However, they did do a whole lot of QUACKING.

QUACKING?

QUACKING.

NEW NEWS …

Hi Everyone.

Long time no write!  I know.  (Actually, I have been busy writing – although not keeping up w/my blog, I have been working on several novels – and doing lots of author visits, so updating the blog sort of fell through those, you know, ‘cracks’.)

I am so pleased to just learn that LOUSY ROTTEN STINKIN’ GRAPES is an Indiana YOUNG HOOSIER BOOK AWARD NOMINEE for 2011-2012. As I mentioned in an earlier post, the book has also been nominated for Vermont’s RED CLOVER AWARD, Maine’s CHICKADEE AWARD, Kansas’ BILL MARTIN PICTURE BOOK AWARD, and it’s on the Master List for the KENTUCKY BLUEGRASS AWARD.

Thanks mucho to Indiana, Vermont, Maine, Kansas and Kentucky readers!

‘GRAPES’ is also one of the books on the discussion list for the ALSC Notable Children’s Recordings List for 2011.

Just recently I visited a school in Wayne, NJ and was treated to a reader’s theater performance of the book. The students at Randall Carter Elementary did a fabulouso job! Bravo! I love reader’s theater – and if you do too, check out the many available scripts of my books that are downloadable right on my website.

My newest book – GOLDIE AND THE THREE HARES, illustrated by the wonderful Jack E. Davis just came out last week!  (I know –  that you know –  he illustrated both BEDHEAD and SWEET TOOTH, and that he is truly wonderful, but I always like to have the opportunity to say again just how wonderful he is – ‘cause he is!)

I was delighted to find out that Publishers Weekly gave it a rousing review too!

(That kind of thing always makes authors and illustrators smile.)

We’ve been snowed in – and snowed in – and snowed in again – here in the Northeast, (It was the snowiest January since 1925 would you believe!), but I’ve been spared travel woes by having the chance to do some fun Skype visits! (Nothing like wearing your slippers when talking to kids in their classroom or library!)

Do you Skype?

Well, back to work …

I am looking forward to the release of HOGG, HOGG, & HOG in March – hope you are too.

Get ready to get your OINK on!


Wow!

I was looking at Bedhead the other day and realized that it was 10 years ago when my story of the ultimate bad hair day first hit the bookshelves. That’s 70 in dog years! It’s hard to believe that so much time has passed but it sure has. And although more than 520 weeks have passed I can’t help but laugh every time I look at Jack E. Davis’ wonderful illustrations. He did such a great job of capturing Oliver’s fear and frustration in taming his mane. All that wild and curly hair really fills the pages with red and orange mayhem. Thanks Jack!

Looking at the pages of Bedhead also got me thinking about my inspiration for the book. Namely my son Jamie. He’s got the classic bedhead syndrome. Yep, he’s a ‘sweathead’. Sweats through his head when he sleeps. It’s the perfect scenario for daily bedheads in all shapes and sizes. One day it was a bunch of scrunchy knots. Next day, a spiky rain forest. Another time, a swirly brown tornado. Another day another bedhead. Literary inspiration was always just a morning away. Full disclosure: I get my share of bedheads too! Mine are of the ‘bird’s nest with wild crooked spikes’ variety. So, I guess you could say the condition is hereditary. Sorry, Jamie!

And then when I tried to think about how my mind works (there’s a scary thought) coming up with all my stories and characters I thought I’d use math to explain it (an even scarier thought). Result: Inspiration Equation! You can see the one for Bedhead at margiepalatini.com.

And for taming those bedheads don’t for get Bedhead hair products. (Shameless advertising plug for Oliver’s consumer doppelganger!) I’ve tried it and it works great. (Shameless testimonial!)

I’ve also had lots of laughs seeing how fans of Bedhead like to take bad hair days to the extreme. So many schools have had “Bedhead Days” when I’ve come to visit that I’ve just about lost count of all the original ways kids have found to create crazy coiffures (love that alliteration!).

So I said to myself, “Margie.”

I say that to myself often.

I said, “Margie you should do something special for Bedhead’s 10th birthday.”

So who am I to argue with myself! A great idea is a great idea!

That’s why I’m having a contest in honor of Oliver and all the artistic, literary lovin’ bedheads everywhere, just go to my fan page at http://tinyurl.com/289hfsu for all the details. Grand prize includes a Skype Video School Visit!

Let the drawing (and lots more bedheads) begin!

PIGGIE PIE is 15!

I can’t believe I haven’t posted since whenever I last posted! (Uh, okay.  Yes I do.) Well, you know … what can I say? Summer. Things to do. Having fun. Playing golf – which is sort of having fun. Working on new projects, etc. etc. blah blah blah.  But, now it’s back to the blog – (which I’m so not good at), but did want to share and celebrate the 15th birthday (cannot even believe it has been fifteen years!!) of my very first picture book, PIGGIE PIE! Yup.  This is the year.  This is the month.  Most gratefully, Gritch is still going strong – thanks to all the fans of those clever piggies.

Some of you may know the ‘story behind the story’ of Piggie Pie, since I’ve told it at several conferences and such, but for those who don’t, the true story is that Piggie Pie baked in an attic for fifteen years before it was published.  (Hmm,  so, actually, Piggie Pie! is really thirty years old – which, you’re right — can’t be possible since I’m only 35 myself.)

I hear chuckles.  (Don’t you know it’s not nice to laugh at an old lady?)

Okay.  I’m not 35, but the manuscript did sit boxed away in my attic for fifteen years, mainly due to the fact the rejection letters said it was “… not funny…”  “… kids won’t get it …”   “… it’s way too sophisticated …”  “… you shouldn’t write picture books …”

(Gee.  Sounds like what I just heard two weeks ago.)

Due to my serious lack of organizational skills, (i.e. never knowing where I put anything), I never did find whatever it was I was looking for in the attic those many years ago, but I did find the manuscript for Piggie Pie.

Was it fate?  Was it destiny?  Was it just dumb luck?  (Oops. Sorry. Those are lines from Moosetache.)

I went downstairs and read Piggie Pie to my then three year old, who thought it was pretty darn funny. You know, when you’ve gone through childbirth, nothing can really intimidate you anymore — not even the prospect of an editor’s rejection — so I decided to try again and see if there was a publisher that had a taste for Piggie Pie.

Illustrator Howard Fine was a friend, and I asked him if he wanted to collaborate on a picture book. (At the time we didn’t have a clue that was a ‘no-no’.)  Like innocents Judy and Mickey putting on a play, we said, “Let’s make a dummy!”  Howard had the opportunity of an interview with the art director at Clarion, who saw it, loved it, shared it with Editorial, and that’s how it all started.  We were flabbergasted and verklempt when it got such great starred reviews and won so many awards.

Here are some of Howard’s original black and white sketches from the dummy.  Many of the original sketches remained unchanged in finished art, but as so often happens in the process of a book becoming a book, there were several spreads where the illustrations and text changed totally.  Gritch originally wore glasses, Old MacDonald was not disguised piggies, and Howard had not yet imagined Wolf’s ‘Gritchburger’.  It was our editor’s brilliant idea for the non-text spread where the piggies disguise themselves in the barn, one of my favorites.

Mi Mi MOOOOO

Hilda Mae Heifer and friends made their musical stage debut in the “Books Alive” production of BOO HOO MOO.  The spring ‘tour’ brought the presentation to Houston area schools.  How fun to have one of my books come to life on the stage!

My friends, Kate Feiffer and Diane Goode have their own theatrical debut of MY MOM IS TRYING TO RUIN MY LIFE with the Vineyard Players.  If you’re in Martha’s Vineyard (lucky you), catch the performances which are running through June 19.  I hear it’s great fun! 

GOOD STUFF

My friend, Katie Davis always has some great content to chew — and burp.

Check out her Brain Burps!