All The Wonders!

Where have I been for the last 3 months? Working really, really hard to bring you this. Drum roll please....

All The Wonders is a website co-founded by librarian/podcaster, Matthew Winner, and me. It is a home for readers to discover new books and to experience the stories they love in wondrous ways. It is an entertainment channel, a variety show, and a modern library all wrapped up into one digital home.

Matthew and I have been building this project in secret for several months, and we've already gathered an amazing team to help tend the ship. So please take moment to check out allthewonders.com and continue to follow me there. I've had a good little run here at Starships and Celery, but this site will no longer be active.

Here's a little taste of what I'm doing at All The Wonders: a video interview with my new pal, Author/Illustrator, Steve Light.

I built Starships and Celery to chronicle my first steps into children's literature, but this particular dinghy was always pointed toward wonder. Now, she is home.

Thank you for taking the journey with me.

Sincerely,

Blake Hamilton

Princess of the Mud

A year ago today, heavy rain rendered our backyard into a swamp. So I did what any civilized parent would do - I took my daughter outside to stomp in it.

The following video was a Father's Day gift to myself:

Here's to the moments, big and small, in dresses or in mud, that make our children smile. And Happy Father's Day to my Dad and all the other wonderful Dads out there!

Coming Home

I drove home from Princeton yesterday with a smile on my face. I felt like a child again – a dreamer. I was a sea capain, his ship, and its wide-eyed figurehead all in one, returning with bountiful treasure. Yes, the weekend was that wonderful. Yes, the people I met were that kind. 

I have found my tribe. And it only took 36 years. 

Authors, Marcie Colleen and Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen teaching picture book revision.

Authors, Marcie Colleen and Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen teaching picture book revision.

I'm talking, of course, about the 2015 NJ SCBWI Conference. Over the course of the weekend, I attended workshops on picture book writing, chapter book writing, finding an agent, working with an editor, and so much more. My work was critiqued by no less than nine different people, including peers and industry professionals, and yet I left the conference feeling more confident. Not because I was told my writing was brilliant and required no revisions - that most certainly did not happen. What did happen was that people were honest with me. There was no condescension or passive aggression or false praise. There was truth. There was camaraderie. I learned so much from my peers - from their critiques and workshops. And I'm pretty sure I made friends that will last a lifetime. 

A Blake sandwich with authors, Ame Dyckman and Adam Lerhaupt.

A Blake sandwich with authors, Ame Dyckman and Adam Lerhaupt.

Writing, even when it involves creating friendly monsters or talking animals, is a lonely pursuit. Your day to day tends not to be populated by likeminded individuals. After all, we are the reclusive ones, the glorious oddballs. So when we find each other, it can feel like a deep space rescue.

"Don't try to be normal, because what you do is extraordinary."

John M. Cusick (Agent, Author, & NJSCBWI closing keynote speaker)

So if, like me, you know that writing books for children is your reason for being, then run, don't walk, to the next SCBWI conference. I have heard that New Jersey's chapter is particularly special, and while I have nothing to compare it to, I can't imagine better. People came in from all over the country to learn and share and hug, and maybe, just maybe, to have the occasional sword fight.

And...We're Off!

Has it really been months since my last post? I guess that writing, making a living, and producing a human child have kept me busier than I thought. That's right, Julie and I are expecting our second small Hamilton, and we couldn't be happier!

I decided that it was high time to stop ignoring my bloggerly duties because today is a very important day in my creative life. In just a couple of hours I will be heading to my first SCBWI Conference! For those of you who don't know, SCBWI stands for the Society of Children's Book Writer's and Illustrators. Joining is pretty much the first thing you need to do when you decide to write books for kids. 

In addition to attending some amazing workshops, my picture book manuscript WINDLEHORN will be critiqued by an editor at Putnam's Sons/Penguin. I will also be pitching a project to an agent from Pippin Properties (that's a lot of P's), and having a page of my work read aloud to an agent from Prospect Agency and an editor from Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

So yeah, I'm kinda nervous.

But mostly I'm excited, nay, VERY EXCITED, to be surrounded by grownups whose primary passion is writing books for children.

My guess? It'll be like coming home.

Thief in the Night

The hardest part about being both a father and an aspiring children's author is not what you might expect. Finding the time to hone my craft is difficult, sure, as is maintaining a private workspace. But neither of those things compare to the difficulty of figuring out where to display the family's best picture books. I must admit that I keep a close eye on certain volumes in my daughter's library, and when I think they've fallen out of her favor I pilfer them away to my home office. I am not proud of it.

Photo on 2-23-15 at 12.18 PM-2.jpg

Thee weeks ago, my munchkin turned four. Tomorrow I'll be thirty-six. As my birthday approaches, I feel simultaneously ancient and preadolescent. One might choose to interpret the pairing of those adjectives as implying both wisdom and imagination. Others might see them as allusions to decrepitude and immaturity. Somewhere in the middle lies the truth. And you know what? It's not such a bad place to be. 

In fact I quite like it. 

I'm old enough now to understand how misguided ambition can be (and, apparently, to throw around words like "decrepitude"), but young enough to believe my journey as an artist is just beginning. I'm wise enough to be a decent dad, and vigorous enough to chase my daughter to the ends of the earth: to "sail off,"  as it were, "through night and day, and in and out of weeks, and almost over a year, to where the wild things are".

So, to all other young(ish) parents out there making a go at creating art for kids, I raise a glass and toast:

Here's to premature grays and childish ways, in equal measure.

And now, something old made new again...







Kryptonite

After the last post, I decided to take a month-long hiatus from this website in order to regroup. It was the next best thing to snap-kicking cancer in the nuts, which, alas, is impossible. Instead, I'll  have to settle for watching the following infinite loop while imagining that cancer (yes, with a small "c") is a hippie on a beach and I am Superman.

Okay, now that I've left that here for eternity (or at least until I stop paying my web host), I want to proclaim that I am back, focused, and trying to enjoy every minute of my time on this hurtling heap of beauty and balderdash. Life, for this lucky boy at least, goes on.

On a side note, I found this small piece of personal history today. It was wedged between the pages of an old drawing book. It's funny, the things that survive. Clearly I didn't care enough to sign this form or give it to my parents, and yet here it is, decades later.

 
 

Lo! A book for $2.50? Am I really that old?  

 

PiBoIdMo

At this very moment, thousands of bleary-eyed  authors are attempting t0 write an entire 50,000 word novel in 30 days while also coming to terms with the looming specters of polar vortexes and Thanksgiving reunions. This is because of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), a noble but well nigh impossible, 30-day marathon for the Schwarzeneggers of the literary world.

Ah-Nuld

  "But what about those of us who write books with pictures," you ask, "and, you know, not so many words? What are we supposed to do with our Novembers?"

Well, thanks to a gracious author named Tara Lazar, we children's authors have our answer!

* high-five *

Tara's solution is called PiBoIdMo (Picture Book Idea Month), and the task is very simple: create 30 picture book concepts in 30 days. That’s it. There are no other rules. You don’t need to submit anything at the end of the month, and your ideas can be as terrible or unrefined as you’ll allow them to be.

Sounds fun, right? But wait there's more! On Tara's site you get to read amazing daily blog posts by fellow authors and illustrators, as well as comment to win potential prizes. Click here to find out more.

So, now that it’s mid-November, what has PiBoIdMo done for me so far?

Well, I have generated about a dozen decent ideas, I find I am smiling more, and last night I rolled over in a hypnogogic state (thanks google) because I just had to write the following name down in the dark:

Let us see what becomes of him.