Guess what? I have a new website. Visit www.melissaconroy.com and you can see my illustrations as well as other artwork I've made both before and after I began creating woOberry dolls. The woOberry dolls are there too. Let me know what you think!
Spring is here and the Elephants have left the Philadelphia Zoo. I hope they've gone to a place with vast amounts of space to roam and be happy. they were pretty cramped at our Zoo. But, I miss visiting them.
Here she is! The latest woOberry custom doll, Princess Bride. She was created from this wonderful drawing by four year old Lauren in Burbank, CA. Isn't she gorgeous?
woOberry custom dolls were fortunate enough to be mentioned in the Cool Mom Picks holiday gift guide. There's still time to have one made by Christmas, although you'd need to put your order in very soon.
Winter has arrived and I am busy knitting scarves for Christmas presents. Handmade gifts are the best kind. Which is why in honor of Christmas, we are offering a discount on custom Wooberry dolls. Click on the "Custom Dolls" icon above to learn more. And, if you decide not to go the way of a handmade custom doll, there are many other people out there who make beautiful affordable things by hand. Go out and find them. Etsy.com is a good place to start.
GRANDMA IS AN AUTHOR is a PULPWOOD QUEENS BOOK CLUB PICK
Kathy Patrick, the original Pulpwood Queen herself, has chosen GRANDMA IS AN AUTHOR for the month of January, 2013.
By the way, are you looking for a good introduction to kindergarten book? May I suggest IS YOUR BUFFALO READY FOR KINDERGARTEN? by Audrey Vernick. It's perfect for the occassion.
A Girl Can Dream...
According to Rosie, Addax are creatures with long curly horns and an orangey-brown hairdo that they like to part in the middle. Mostly, they lie around all day. Probably, because it's so hot in the Sahara desert where they live. Addax live together in herds with the alpha addax being the oldest female. Unfortunately, there aren't many addax left in the Sahara desert. They're too popular with hunters because of their beautiful horns.
WORLD TURTLE DAY!
Turtles are amazing creatures, but too many turtles are endangered. Sea turtles in particular have many hurdles to cross before they make it to adulthood. There's predators, but there's also problems like street lights that confuse the babies. Turtle's lay their eggs and bury them on the beach. When the baby turtles are born, they are hardwired to crawl towards the light of the moon and the ocean.
Up and down the southeast coast, people volunteer every year to help the baby sea turtles crawl to the ocean. If you are vacationing on the east coast this summer, look up the turtle patrol at your beach. Perhaps you can help too.
Creatures Both Real and Imagined
Do you ever feel like the characters in a story are sitting right there in the room with you? These creatures are anxious to hear Georgia read their story, including Mr. Flabbergast (the green one on the right). Mr. Flabbergast adores words. Seriously. It borders on obsession. The more syllables the better. But, his favorite word is flaccid. He doesn't care that flaccid means "softly drooping so as to look and feel unpleasant". Flaccid sounds beautiful and it's so much fun to say. It is also one of the first words in the "Dictionary of Creatures Both Real and Imagined" used to describe Mr. Flabbergast and he chooses to embrace it.
South Carolina Book Festival
I'm happy to announce that I will be at the South Carolina Book Festival in Columbia, SC. Starting on Friday, May 18th, I will be one of three authors chosen for Children's Field Trip Day. Then, on the 19th I will speak with children's book authors Kwame Alexander and Dinah Johnson. Drop by if you're in the area.
I spent many happy childhood days on my grandparents' farm outside of Newbern, Tennesee. Now, I have another reason to think fondly of west Tennssee, the Le Bonheur Children's Medical Center in Memphis. Outside of my own home, Le Bonheur has the largest collection of woOberry dolls and prints. The O.R. corridors are lined with prints and custom designed ceiling tiles and the entrance has several dolls on display including Jonathan and Dr. Emma Dee at left. Linda Hill, the hospital's Art Director (see Linda below) plans to put more dolls on display in the coming months. The hospital is filled with art. It gives me a warm, healthy feeling to know my work is part of their collection. Particularly because all of the art is there to promote healing.
Here I am with Robert LeLeux and around 30 kids at the ASAP afterschool program in Panama City, FL. We talked about writing and illustrating and gave the students an opportunity to invent their own characters. Before we knew it, the room was buzzing with drawings of hound dogs, strong men and small bugs to name a few. Each one of those characters were poised to take on a life of their own in story. Tony Simmons of the News Herald was there. He took this picture and wrote about Robert and me in his column for the paper.
Next Up! That Bookstore in Blytheville
I'm looking forward to visiting west Tennessee, where my Grandma lives on a farm near Dyersburg. If you look on a map, you'll see that Blytheville, Arkansas is just across the Mississippi river from Dyersburg. This geographical coincidence has given me the opportunity to do something I've wanted to do for a long time, visit That Bookstore in Blytheville. I'll be there to sign books on March 14th. If you're in the area, please come by. It will be a bittersweet event because it is one of the last events Mary Gay Shipley has scheduled before she sells or closes the store. Let's hope she's able to pass her landmark store over to new owners. She's been running it for more than 30 years and in that time she has helped countless authors find their audience.
The Year of the Dragon
The year of the dragon in upon us. Happy Chinese New Year to all! In honor of the year of the dragon, I'm thinking about reading Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin again. It's a wonderful book with a dragon as one of the main characters.
I am preparing for a trip to Panama City, Florida where I have the opportunity to speak at the Books Alive book festival in early February. If you are in the area, please come see me.
Happy New Year!
Penelope stayed up late to watch the fireworks and now she is full of plans for the new year. There's something about those exploding, colorful sparks of light that help to get her creative juices flowing. Her first project will be to invent a floating machine. That idea came to her last week while she was sick in bed. It's not fun being sick, except for that funny feeling you get like you're floating. It's kind of like being in an elevator when it dips down a little bit. So, her goal for the new year is to invent something that she can climb onto and float above her neighborhood. She'll get to see all the houses and people and pets from the point of view a firefly. I hope she figures it out. What are your goals for 2012?
(Fireworks and lightbulb in this picture to the left courtesy of my daughter Lila, age 9)
Visit to Georgia
For those of you in the Atlanta area, come see me at Little Shop of Stories in downtown Decatur on December 22nd. I'll be there to read GRANDMA IS AN AUTHOR. Little Shop of Stories is one of my favorite bookstores. I think you'll love it too.
This excited monster to the left is the work of a first grader at Houston Elementary School in Spartanburg, SC. He's a talkative Writer's Block monster with sharp teeth and lots of arms that serve the dual purpose of grabbing ideas out of the air and pushing writer's block away. All the first graders at Houston drew monsters after listening to GRANDMA IS AN AUTHOR. Every monster was different.I'd visit Spartanburg any day. The kids and teachers were wonderful. I also had the opportunity to visit Chapman, Mary H. Wright and Pine Street elementary schools.
Next Stop on the Blog Tour
My next stop on the Blog Tour will be Tara Lazar's Writing for Kids (While Raising Them). November is Picture Book Idea Month at Tara's site and I will be the guest blogger this Sunday, the 13th. If you'd like to read some of my thoughts on finding ideas, click on Tara's icon at left.
Hurray! It's November 8th, release day for GRANDMA IS AN AUTHOR. To celebrate, I will bake some chocolate poundcake and plant some bulbs in the front yard. They will be my "Margot and Rusty" flowers. I hope they bloom.
Light Up the Library Auction
Today I visit Author Jean Reidy's blog for an interview. Jean Reidy recently published LIGHT UP THE NIGHT, a book that makes the perfect bedtime story. She has a special relationship with the Musana Children's Home in Iganga, Uganda and is celebrating the release of LIGHT UP THE NIGHT with an auction to benefit Musana. Aptly titled, LIGHT UP THE LIBRARY, all proceeds will benefit the library at Musana Children's Home. The auction will continue through November 18th. If you are a fan of children's books or an aspiring children's book author, you will find some tantalizing items on her list. Take a look by clicking on the cover of her book below:
Next week is a big one on my calendar. "Grandma is an Author" will be released on Tuesday, November 8th. I have been graciously invited to contribute to several children's book blogs to coincide with the release.
This Monday November 7th, I will visit Audrey Vernick's blog, Literary Friendships for an interview. If you haven't seen Audrey's picture books, you are missing out. "Is Your Buffalo Ready for Kindergarten?" is a big favorite in our household. Audrey recently published her first novel, "Water Balloon". I'm a fan, which makes me extra excited to be featured on Literary Friendships. Click on the cover of her book to visit Literary Friendships.
PiBoIdMo (that stands for Picture Book Idea Month)
Tara Lazar, the picture book author of THE MONSTORE and I THOUGHT THIS WAS A BEAR BOOK has issued a challenge. Come up with 30 picture book ideas in 30 days, starting today. Time to get started! If you decide to go the official route, sign up on her blog. Tara will feature a guest blogger for each day of November to help catalyze those ideas. Today's blogger is Carol Hampton Rasco of the organization, Reading is Fundamental. I am scheduled to be her guest on the 13th.
Big Blue Marble Bookstore in Philadelphia hosted a monster making activity yesterday in honor of "Grandma is an Author". It took two weeks to collect enough recyclables for a dozen kids in pre-k through 4th grade to make writers block monsters. Let's hope they keep writer's block away. There's still one week and one day until "Grandma is an Author" is released. Look for it on November 8th.
Which monster will be most useful to Grandma?
While writing "Grandma is an Author", I dove into my recycling bin many times over to see what sort of monster Rusty would make for his grandma. I decided on the one with the most confidence. Sometimes I need a little confidence to get past writer's block. What would your monster look like?
This Sunday I will be at Big Blue Marble Bookstore in Mt. Airy, Philadelphia. I'll read "Grandma is an Author" and bring some odds and ends from my recycling bin to make monsters. An appropriate activity for the day before Halloween.
- Lila B. (3rd Grade)
Lila decided Junabee was a more fitting name than Carrie. She's still a big fan of seaweed snacks. It's like eating the newspaper with salt added. But, that makes her thirsty...
What does Rusty do when his Grandma who always knows what to write gets writer's block? Here's a hint: it involves a monster named Gus.
Drumroll please... My second children's book will be released on November 8th! Grandma is an Author features Rusty and Margot. Elliot Kreloff illustrated this one and it comes with a little journal in the back because it's all about writing.
Events for Grandma:
Book Launch and reading in Spartanburg, SC: Saturday, September 10th, 2:00 p.m. at Hub City Bookshop, 186 W. Main St., Spartanburg, SC
Reading and activities in Philadelphia, PA: Sunday, October 30th, 3:00 p.m. at Big Blue Marble Bookstore. Calling all young writers! Come listen to the story, make a monster and write your own story with the help of Grandma Margot and Rusty (her industrious grandson).
Interested in a petite print? I've put a sample of the prints I created for Le Bonheur Children's Hospital up for sale in my Etsy shop. Choose one and it will arrive signed and can even be personalized. A percentage of the retail price will be donated to Le Bonheur. To browse, follow this link:
wooberry Etsy Shop
It's 90 degrees outside. What would be better than some cold watermelon and a good book? Dr. Pepper would hit the spot too, and maybe some sausage gumbo and wedding cake! This past weekend, we had a book party in honor of Keeper by Kathi Appelt. If you haven't read it yet, I would highly recommend it. Keeper was the first book chosen for a new book club I started with my 8 year old daughter. We managed to interest 14 kids and their parents to join and the list seems to be growing. I learned this weekend that there is nothing better to celebrate than a good book.
Our next book will be Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin which was one of the books recommended by Kathi Appelt. What book would you choose?
P.S. If you read Keeper, you'll see where the idea for this watermelon picture by Lila comes from.
Can you find Spiderman, Rockman or Antboy? These were all drawn by Wester, age 4. Which one will make the best doll?
Art at Le Bonheur Children's Hospital in Memphis
In the Winter of 2010, I visited Le Bonheur Children's Hospital with a dozen dolls (my favorite characters and three Doctor dolls for Le Bonheur) for children to play with. I held a loose creative writing workshop with people flowing in and out of the room. Mounds of crayons and markers were available for drawing. Afterwards, we went to Michelle East's photography studio with a stack of drawings and poems on hand from the workshop. We sifted through the poems and found lines to use as inspiration for images of the dolls. As the trees bent over from ice and the city shut down around us, we propped dolls on miniature furniture while Michelle found the right angle to photograph them.
Upon returning to Philly, I took the photographs of the dolls and drew environments for them.
Later, I created a second group of prints that put the dolls into neighborhood scenes. Click on "Illustrations" above to take a look at both series.
Meet the first woOberry custom Mama doll carrying twins.We wish her the best of luck with this great new adventure she has ahead of her!
The Pulpwood Queens Girlfriend Weekend!
Penelope has her outfit picked out for the 11th Annual Pulpwood Queens Girlfriend Weekend. She will hand over her title of the Pulpwood Queen's Children's Book of the Year. There is an impressive list of authors including her Poppy. To see the whole list, visit http://www.girlfriendweekend.blogspot.com/
To order a Pulpwood Queen Penelope doll cick on the sHop icon above.
Reading and signing at the Mt. Vernon Club in Baltimore, MD on Martin Luther King Day!
I will read Poppy's Pants at 11:00 a.m. and sign copies afterward.
Rudolph loves snow
Now that he has rested after a busy Christmas Eve he can enjoy romping in the snow. We're going to play in the snow too.
It's been a long time since I've done a craft sale. Sometimes I feel guilty looking into that storage bin with dolls waiting for homes. So, I've decided to sell them this Friday, the 17th at my favorite cafe, the High Point. If you are in the Phildelphia area, it will be your opportunity to buy a woOberry doll for $40 or even less. Call 215.248.1900 for more information.
I love this drawing by 8 year old Ella. What a pleasant conversation the fish is having with the plant. Ella's younger sister drew the lovable people below.
Welcome to the Neighborhood
The new Le Bonheur Children's Hospital will open soon in Memphis, TN. Dr. Dave, Dr. Dennis and Dr. Emma Dee will adorn the walls in several places to greet children.
Halloween is Cool
Make sure you wear a warm costume and don't get a bellyache. Happy Halloween to everyone out there. This drawing is by Ella, age 8 from North Carolina.
Penelope and Georgia in Tibet
Well, it looks like Penelope, Georgia and Maurice (their monster) are in Tibet. What a beautiful place. They've just visited Lhasa and are now hiking in the mountains. Georgia is thinking about Buddhism.
Can you think of another great place for them to visit? Go to the wooberry page on facebook to suggest the next stop on their world tour and you may see an illustration of that place soon.
Georgia and Penelope make a companion. They use boxes, cardboard, cupcake holders, yogurt containers, and crayons. Cupcake holders make excellent super-human ears. Cut up yogurt containers make ultra sonic rays that help him snatch ideas and feelings out of the air. That's useful for a guy with an empty box for a head. With crayons, they can draw a face. It's easier to talk to your monster when you can look him in the eye. They are going to take him for a trip around the world. Where should they go first?
This wonderful drawing was made by Ivan, age 6 from Jasper, Alabama. The custom doll will be his Christmas present. It's never too early.
The Southern Festival of Books
If you are in the Nashville area, come see me at the Southern Festival of Books. I will be on two panels. The first will be with the Pulpwood Queens panel, on Friday, October 8th from 3:00 to 4:30 with a signing to follow. If you haven't heard of the Pulpwood Queens, they are a book club with over 300 chapters around the nation. They picked 'Poppy's Pants' as Children's book of the year.
On Sunday the 10th, I will present my work from 2:00 to 3:00 p.m with a signing to follow. For more information, click here.
Poppy the Storyteller
Here is a sneak peak at one of the prints I created for Le Bonheur Children's Hospital in Memphis. I like to call this one, 'Poppy as Cinderella'. See how he channels the Princess's relationship to the animals of the countryside?
Here's a great idea for an activity with 'Poppy's Pants'
I just returned from BookMarks book festival in Winston Salem, NC where I was approached by several women including Doris Davis who run Smart Start (a reading readiness program). They created a fun sewing activity for Poppy's Pants, pictured at left. It's the hole in Poppy's pants! How would you sew it up? I saw many different solutions from the kids in Winston Salem. Thank you Smart Start!
While in Winston Salem I had the opportunity to visit Brenner's Children's Hospital where I did a bookmaking workshop. Here is an example by 8 year old Alazae. Can you see where she stitched the binding?
Isn't she pretty? She lives in Memphis, TN where she has been working hard with her good friend Dee Dee (Scroll down to see the Dee Dee doll) to collect art for Le Bonheur Children's hospital. She makes an excellent batch of spiced pecans.
More artwork for Le Bonheur coming soon
Linda and Dee Dee have commissioned me to do a new series of illustrated photographs for Le Bonheur featuring the woOberry dolls. Penelope and Poppy will be featured as well as many more characters. The country house image above will be one of them.
Art for Le Bonheur Children's Hospital
Le Bonheur Children's Hospital will open a new facility in June and adorning the walls of the O.R. corridor will be a dozen plus prints featuring woOberry dolls. I ran a workshop at the hospital in January and have included a bit of the text and imagery from the workshop in some of the prints. Photography credit goes to Michelle East. Click on the thumbnails below to see the other images.
Meet Dee Dee
She really knows how to throw a birthday party and wait till you try her fabulous peanut brickle. She's been hard at work compiling an art collection for Le Bonheur Children's Hospital in Memphis, TN. Her hard work is about to pay off. The opening will be June 15th.
Meet Zaza the Cat
She's done well. She enjoys a good strip of sunshine. The sound of the can opener is music to her ears. Her life began as a street cat. Now, at age 17 she lives with a loving family.
You can now become a woOberry fan on Facebook. Here is the link: http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/woOberry/330401181499?ref=ts
Coming Soon, The Mt. Airy Kid's Literary Festival at Big Blue Marble Bookstore in Philadelphia, PA
Come down to the Big Blue Marble Bookstore in Mt. Airy, Philadelphia, April 9th-11th. Melissa will present Poppy's Pants on April 10th at 11:00 a.m. Call Big Blue Marble at 215-844-1870 for more information.
Photo: Steve Leimberg Photo/UnSeenImages
The Amelia Island Book Festival hosted a "Night with Poppy" and what a night it was. One of the attendees, Anne Entriken wrote a short essay about her family's experience watching Dad and I. She has graciously allowed me to post it below. Enjoy!
ODE TO ‘A NIGHT WITH POPPY’
What is it about those Conroy’s?
Little did I know, when the opportunity came my way to do some biography research on the thirty-eight authors coming to the Amelia Island Book Festival, that there would be a stand-out for my three young granddaughters, ages nine, six and two. Of course, the precious link for them is ‘Poppy’s Pants’ by Melissa Conroy.
Thinking they might be amused by the light banter in the new, colorful book filled with characters they may like—a gift from ‘Grandma’ – I had no idea this would turn out to be a lifetime experience for them. Christmas gifts of the book, ‘Poppy’s Pants,’ and the handmade character doll of Penelope, their favorite, came to be more than the average book and doll.
Turns out that ‘Poppy’s Pants,’ in all its simplicity, explodes with heart. Like the characters in the book, where closeness of family is an absolute dominant factor, and the heroine was able to accomplish her daunting task, the two older girls were very excited and primed to attend ‘A Night With Poppy.’ All of the girls have grown to love and appreciate books and their reading time and have become quite voracious readers.
They were definitely the youngest in the assembly at the historic First Baptist Church that night, but they took away something that will live with them forever. We relived the experience many times the next day. By chance, they even had a brief face-to-face encounter with Pat Conroy himself outside of the church, and they quickly recognized him knowing the featured entourage was arriving to a sequestered place readying for their own presentations. (Penelope was hanging out of the six-year-old’s backpack.)
The six and nine-year-olds will share this with their classmates at home in North Carolina and will always remember this as one of those moments in life for the love of books and being able to see and hear such accomplished artists. Our two-year-old is such a fan that I actually had to purchase another book for Melissa to sign. Seems our little one had read her Christmas gift book so often that several pages needed to be repaired with tape. Both copies will be very precious to her in years to come, and Penelope is one of her best friends.
We look forward to Melissa’s future books, and my granddaughters are looking forward to more of her precious doll characters with that wonderful Conroy caricature, wit and total personality.
Photo: Michelle East
Do you remember dAve? The guy who wore those great pants with the black and white damask print? The one who enjoys gardening and has a particular affection for sunflowers? Well, you can call him Dr. Dave now, because that is what he is. Dave went to medical school to fulfill his dream of becoming a Pediatrician and is currently a Resident at Le Bonheur Children's Hospital in Memphis, TN. Dave is one of several dolls I made for Le Bonheur when they asked for a troop of woOberry models to photograph and adorn the walls of the new hospital. The grand opening is slated for June. I plan to post sneak peaks of the photos in the coming months.
The Pulpwood Queen Shares pOppy's Pants
Kathy L. Patrick, founder of the Pulpwood Queens Book Club, Author, beauty salon/bookstore owner and proud owner of Poppy and Penelope dolls recently read pOppy's Pants at Cypress Assisted Living in her her home town, Jefferson, TX. In addition to pOppy's Pants, she read from South of Broad, and her own book,The Pulpwood Queen's Tiara Wearing, BookSharing Guide to Life. Click here to see what she had to say about her visit.
Amelia Island Book Festival - February 12th-13th
The Amelia Island book festival is coming soon, and I will be there to participate in several events. See the list below:
Friday February 12th:
9:00-11:30 Visit to the Amelia Island Montessori School
2:15-3:00 The ABC's of Writing and Publishing for Children and Young Adults, A panel discussion with three other children's book authors.
Saturday February 13th:
3:00 Booksigning in the courtyard with my friend Janis Owens and stepmom, Cassandra King
7:00 p.m. A Night With Poppy- at the Old First Baptist Church
I will be with my dad who is the inspiration for pOppy of pOppy's Pants, and the larger than life author of many novels, my favorite being The Great Santini.
Le Bonheur Children's Hospital
I just returned from Memphis, TN where a very rare ice storm foiled several of my planned events. My grandmother braved the weather and drove one and a half hours to my booksigning at Davis-Kidd Booksellers on Thursday, the 28th. On the 29th, in the thick of the storm, I was honored to be invited by Le Bonheur Children's Hospital to do a writing and drawing workshop. With a large cast of woOberry dolls in tow, the kids, and some parents picked out dolls they identified with, played with them and wrote memory poems. The dolls were later photographed. I will incorporate their writing and drawings in the final images to be installed on the hospital walls.
A Television Appearance
If you were in the Memphis area on the morning of January 30th, you might have seen me on on Live @ 9 on Channel 3. The two very gracious hosts, Marybeth and Alex gave me an opportunity to tell the woOberry doll story with the Poppy doll and an original Mama doll as audio visual aids. This was while the city was becoming covered in ice. I met a lot of great people in Memphis and had a wonderful time even while most of the city was vacant and the trees bent over from the weight of ice.
A Special thank you to Dianne Papasan for making all the plans necessary to bring me down to Memphis. Read about the visit on Le Bonheur's Child Life Services blog .