Saturday, May 29, 2010

Golden Hills Elementary

I have mentioned in the past how much I love the fact that being a published author/illustrator opens up doors for me to work with kids in classrooms. Kids are wonderful teachers and almost every time I go into a class they teach me something.

I went to Golden Hills Elementary in El Dorado Hills this week and had one of those surprising moments I love so much. 

I brought in a drawing I did of the Steelhead Trout for the kids to color with dots (per request of their teacher.) The steelhead trout in California are in trouble and these kids had the opportunity to raise them in the classroom to release them into the wild. Their teacher is a passionate and driven woman and those kids are lucky to have a teacher so inspired helping nature.

But, that wasn't my surprise.

It was what the kids did with those drawings that inspired me. They used markers to stipple their dots. The colors and the detail were beautiful. And there was no mess to clean up afterwards. It offers me a solution for kids that are in classrooms that can't have paint. The hardest thing for the kids to do is to give distance between or white space around their dots. But, once I ask them to be open to the technique they take off!

If you want to try dot painting (using acrylics and dipping the handle of the paint brush to make the dots,) or try it with markers, download a couple of my templates from my book at It is really fun! 

Monday, May 24, 2010

Friday was Endangered Species Day

Although I didn't post, I did celebrate Endangered Species Day on May 21st. I went into a kindergarten class and read my book.

Twenty-nine pairs of eyes stared at me for 45 minutes, thinking only of endangered species. Okay, so maybe the kindergartners didn't actually think about what I was talking about for that long, but I did, so that kind of counts.

What the kids will remember from my talk was how huge a Mekong giant cat fish is and how far a snow leopard can leap. Those two items, I am pretty sure, will stick with them for a while.

My heart goes out every day to the species suffering from over-hunting, loss of habitat, non-indigenous species competition, disease, and the inability to find a safe place for their young.

As I share with children repeatedly, every creature has a purpose and a job to do on this earth. When a species isn't around to do their job, a hole is created and everything around that hole eventually falls in. Not an easy message to pass on, but a necessary one. Children have inherited a rather messy planet.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Teaser Tuesday - a little late

I am going to give the Teaser Tuesday a try. This is from my contemporary/fantasy Young Adult novel - "The Lion Inside."

Renna Healy got on her hands and knees to reach the animal huddled under a bush. “Oh my gosh, it’s a lion cub,” she said picking it up and cradling it. “It doesn’t look very good. We need to find its mother.”

“You want us to search for a pride of lions?” asked Sean Taylor, Renna’s best friend.

“Yep. I bet they’re close. The cub’s too small to have wandered far. If we can’t find the lions, I promise we’ll go to the village and ask for help,” Renna said scanning the treeless savannah. Their Kenyan village looked hazy in the distance.

“That makes me feel so much better,” Sean rolled his eyes.

The dehydrated cub gazed at her and meowed. Renna held it closer to her body. “You’ll be okay,” she murmured to the baby.

“Fine, we’ll look, but if I’m eaten by a lion it’s entirely your fault,” Sean said pointing his finger at her, his English accent thickening with anger.

Renna smiled, shading her eyes as she squinted at his handsome face. She was two months away from fifteen, old enough to be crazy about a boy, but smart enough to hide it. Sean was a year older and she thought he was the greatest person she’d ever met. She didn’t want to ruin things by liking him. Plus, Renna had no idea how long it would be until she and her dad moved again, so she tried not to get too attached – although that wasn’t working very well.

“I can’t believe that after a year you’re still putting up with my crazy adventures,” Renna said. “You know, of all the countries I’ve lived in, Kenya is the most exciting.” She kept talking, trying to keep Sean’s mind off the fact that they were looking for, not running from, a pride of lions. “There are so many amazing things here. I’ve got a million images to paint. I think my dad even likes it. He was just saying--”

“Shhh. Did you hear that?” Sean turned towards an area of high golden grass and thorny bushes.

“Maybe the cub’s mother found us,” Renna said.

“This isn’t cool. We should be back at my Mum’s house starting history, not traipsing about the bush looking for something dangerous.” Sean said. Sweat dripped down his forehead as the noon sun beat down on them.

“Do you want to go back and tell her I’ll be late for our next subject? I don’t want you to get in trouble again because of me,” she said.

Sean’s mom, Georgia Taylor, was their home-school teacher. Renna had felt the wraith of Mrs. Taylor before and wanted to keep it from happening again. Every time Renna suggested they go exploring over their lunch hour, Mrs. Taylor would remind Renna that her boy was built for the city, not the country side. Renna on the other hand could make it work anywhere she lived.

“I’m not going to leave you alone, stupid,” he tugged her long, brown pony tail. “What am I going to do with you?” He peeked at the lion cub snuggled against her chest, and sighed.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Eric Hoffer Award!!

News Release:
Windward Publishing Title Named Honorable Mention
for The Eric Hoffer Award

May 11, 2010

For immediate release

Lakeville, MN – Through Endangered Eyes, A Poetic Journey into the Wild by Rachel Allen Dillon, was recently named a 2010 Honorable Mention in the Children’s Book category for The Eric Hoffer Award.

The Eric Hoffer Award proclaims “this book will inform you about several threatened or endangered species through the use of playful poetry. Each poem is paired with an abstract illustration of the individual animal created from an assortment of colorful dots, which make the creatures come alive on the page. After becoming connected to each living thing through illustration and poetry, you are invited to read more factual information about each animal. There are activities for home and classroom, a list of ways individuals can help endangered animals and a compendium of conservation organizations including their descriptions.”

Author and Illustrator Rachel Dillon was born and raised in Madison, Wisconsin. She earned her bachelor’s degree in art and graphic design from the University of Wisconsin–Madison and currently lives and works as an artist in Folsom, California, near Sacramento. Beyond design and fine art, Rachel holds a special interest in ecology, evolution, and extinction. Her passion for animals and endangered species has led her to write about them in hopes that educating others will lead to more conscientious treatment of these animals and their habitats. To learn more, visit

Through Endangered Eyes is published by Windward Publishing, an imprint of Finney Company, and can be ordered by calling Finney Company at (800) 846-7027 or visiting It is also available at national and local bookstores.

This title is one of only five award winners in the Children’s category of The Eric Hoffer Award. The award, known as the Writers’ Notes Award prior to 2007, was established at the start of the 21st century as a means of opening doors to writing of significant merit. It honors the memory of the American philosopher Eric Hoffer by highlighting salient writing in short prose and independent books. The winning stories and essays are awarded prizes and published annually in the anthology, Best New Writing, along with the results of the book awards.

Finney Company was established in 1947 currently has more than 400 proprietary publications and distributes more than 6,000 quality products, enhancing the company’s mission to help improve the quality of lifelong learning worldwide. For additional information about Finney Company, visit or call (952) 469-6699.

Monday, May 3, 2010

April 24th SCBWI Conference

SCBWI held a writer's conference in Rocklin, a couple of weeks ago. Me and the young adult critique group I belong to went.

It was a lot of fun. Last year, I went to a SCBWI conference in Oakland and knew a couple of people. This one I was shocked to know or recognize about twenty people. A lot of wonderful things have happened with writing this past year for me.

I got a chance to practice pitching my ya novel idea to a couple of editors. Whew that was tough. The most challenging part was summarizing my 230 page book into 1.5 minutes. It was a great exercise.

The most inspiring session was held by Jeanne DuPrau, author of "The City of Ember." She spoke about revisions and her process of writing. I have re-written my novel several times because of the input I've received from paid critiques and local critique groups. My story is more interesting, tense and focused because of the people that have helped me. What DuPrau really hit me with was the fact that I have to really polish my novel before I submit it to anyone. I have to LOVE it before sharing it - I'm not quite there yet.

Since that conference, I have completely changed the first few pages of my novel, including a new working title, "The Lion Within." I am changing the age of my protagonist too. She will be 14-16 years old in the novel, not 12-16 years old. This shakes up some things with relationships in the beginning, they will become more "edgy" to use an industry catch phrase.

I am going to take a writer's workshop in the summer to hone my craft more. In the meantime, I am almost done with my sketches for my next endangered species book. I will be sending those off for my publisher to review in the next couple of weeks. Oh, and I still completely suck using commas. I am actually looking into buying a book called, "Grammer for Dummies." I know, pretty low, huh?