With a relaxing and friend-filled holiday break over, I began my re-entry to school circles by visiting King Middle School last week, for their annual World Language Expedition Kick-Off. King always provides thoughtful beginnings and culminations to their learning trips; inviting local artists to speak to students before they begin an art project is one way to spark the mind.

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I brought my books, blank paper, and pencils. It’s fun to see what gets left behind. One artist, Gabi, drew a very fine polar bear.

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From there, I headed to Maine College of Art, where I spied a wondrous display of rope in the current show, From the Inside, works by MECA staff in the June Fitzpatrick Gallery. This is by Nik Bsullak.

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It reminded me fondly of a scene in my book, Seven Days of Daisy, coincidentally hatched back in 2002 in the Picture Book Intensive, a Continuing Studies course taught by Judy Labrasca, who I was visiting.

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Kindred spirits who find magic washed ashore….

I like revisiting Judy’s class whenever it runs. It was a pivotal place for me back then, trying to get a start with my children’s book journey. I bring my wee dummy book from 2002 and all the books I’ve been part of since.

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Take the class! I always meet the best students there, fellow book makers with myriad stories unfolding. It’s infinitely inspiring to hear everyone’s tales, like this one about an adorable bat. The power of those little dummy books can’t be underestimated.

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The following day, I joined the New England Critique Group with No Name at Islandport Press. The publisher’s vintage car deserves a story, don’t you think?

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I did this illustration decades ago for Texas Monthly. I don’t remember the story now, so let’s make one up.

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Eight of us shared our current projects, book ideas, and struggles. Even when you are published, the lessons abide. A gathering of illustrators is always wild and woolly, and a welcome respite from the tundra of freelancing.

All this activity was a perfect warm-up to return to the hive at Maine College of Art. Yesterday I met with 14 senior illustration majors embarking on their final semester. They’re an ambitious and talented group, with thesis projects ranging from comics to silkscreen printing to book engineering. What an honor to share the classroom with them!

Emma McCabe’s folded fable is evidence of what is to come.

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MECA Dean Ian Anderson sent this photo, of him reading Seven Days of Daisy, complete with toy pigs. What goes around comes around!

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Off we go, learning in circles and curves with colors bright!

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