Posts Tagged ‘Ellen Potter’

DHSpotlightI was first introduced to David Heatley’s work when I saw the book trailer for Otis Dooda by Ellen Potter. When I found out that David had also created the catchy tune I knew I had to introduce this talented musician/illustrator to our readers.
David Heatley is an artist and musician living in Queens, NY with his wife and two children. His drawings have appeared in numerous books and publications and on websites throughout the world, including: NIckelodeon MagazineThe New YorkerThe New York TimesBest American Comics andMcSweeney’s. Otis Dooda is his first book for children. When he’s done drawing for the night, he can be found playing and recording music around New York City. He is the co-founder of Dream Puppy, a record label that will release the soundtrack to Otis Dooda: Strange But True at the end of June.

Illustrator Spotlight:

WOTS: Are you working on any new projects that you can tell us about?

DH: I’m always working on 20 different things at any given time—TV show ideas, new songs, music videos, etc. Most are not at the stage where I can mention anything. But I can certainly tell you about drawing Otis Dooda 2: Downright Dangerous. I’m having a blast! I’m also planning a video for Potted Plant Guy which I hope will be done by some time in July.


WOTS: What artists do you look up to, and how have they inspired your work?

DH: In the kids’ book world, my heroes are Shel Silverstein, Dr. Seuss, Richard Scarry, Margaret Wise Brown, Eric Carle, Roger Hargreaves, Clement Hurd. Charles Schulz’s Peanuts is also a big inspiration. He’s someone who did so much with so little space. These scratchy little doodles, which were as natural for him to draw as his own handwriting, added up to a whole world of personalities and emotions and became a truly great work of art. Towering above them all for me is Jim Henson. He left a massive impact on the world and as far as I can tell is universally loved. I think what they all have in common is that they gave so much more than whatever was asked for on each project they did. You can tell if an artist is just “phoning it in” and doing a job or if they’re a little bit crazy—irrationally pouring everything they’ve got into a book or a TV show out of some personal need. I like the crazy ones.


WOTS: Describe your studio or usual work space for us.

DH: I can walk to my studio from my home in Queens. The pre-war buildings and tree-lined streets gradually giving way to dingy auto repair shops and a stretch of industrial buildings. Inside one is an immaculate and ornate hindu temple. Another is a poultry slaughter house. The business that we’re directly above does “Hood and Duct Cleaning.” I love the weirdness of it all. An enterprising neighborhood artist friend of mine organized the space so a dozen of us could have reasonably-priced studios that weren’t in danger of being converted into luxury lofts any minute. We’re in a converted office space, so there’s AC and heat (something the last two studios of mine were sorely lacking). It’s quiet. I’m the only one there some days. My studio mate Helen is there about the half the time that I am. She does prop styling for magazine and silkscreen prints of her drawings. We chat a little and catch up and then listen to NPR and work quietly. I have a nook that I built myself with a curved wall partially covered by soundproofing foam. There’s a drafting table across from a long wooden computer desk which I built for myself. In this cozy little space, I can draw, scan, print, create animations, videos, websites and record music. I can hardly believe what I’m able to make happen there sometimes. In the shared space, we have some rolling industrial tables for spreading out and doing larger projects (Helen once filled the whole space with spray-painted pumpkins for a magazine shoot). In the far corner is my band saw and other woodworking tools. As someone who literally worked in the closet of our apartment when my children were first born, this space feels like a dream come true!


WOTS: What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

DH: Hmm… That’s tricky since I’ve spent my whole life trying to listen to my heart and have it guide me to the kind of work I most wanted to do. I’m not sure I’d be satisfied with anything that doesn’t involve drawing, singing and playing most of the day. That said, I’d love to teach some more. My ideal scenario would be to teach kids for a few hours every month. I love kids, but can only handle small groups of them or large groups very infrequently.


WOTS: What’s one thing that most people don’t know about you?

DH: I like to rap and breakdance.


WOTS: Which do you prefer more, your musical work or art?

DH: Another tough one. Art is soothing and solitary, but borders on loneliness. I can’t do it for very long without going nuts. The ideal is to be drawing while surrounded by people who know to leave you alone. 🙂 Music is social and collaborative and definitely more fun. But I’m an introvert and take in people’s personalities pretty deeply, so I can only take so much of that, too. I like having both to run to when I’m had my fill of one or the other.


WOTS: We here at Writing on the Sidewalk tend to procrastinate, where do you fit in Procrastinator or Proactive?

DH: I’m super proactive and have no problem being self-directed and getting stuff done—sometimes a little behind schedule, but usually not by much. That said, I do believe that creativity flowers when you feel free enough to waste some of your time doing frivolous things. So there’s plenty of Facebooking, watching Netflix, playing with Legos and drawing with sidewalk chalk at the park. I’ve notice that right now there’s all these studies being heralded in the business world saying that “play” is the key to true innovation. I could’ve told them that… I’ve known it for years!

WOTS: Thanks for stopping by to visit.

If you’d like to learn more about David and his art or Otis Dooda please check out the links below.

Happy drawing,

Suzanne Santillan

Writing on the Sidewalk

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9781250011763Thank you to all the enthusiastic participants for our Character Spotlight and Book Giveaway for Otis Dooda! According to random.org generator… Congratulations go out to Marcie Wessels.

HappyotisMarcie will be receiving her very own signed copy of Otis Dooda.

For those of you who didn’t win, there is still time to enter to win a signed copy of SYLO by DJ MacHale.

Happy Reading,

Suzanne Santillan

Writing on the Sidewalk

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9781250011763There is still time to enter to win a signed copy of Otis Dooda by Ellen Potter illustrated by David Heatley. Simply click this link and leave a comment. Winner will be picked at random on Thursday, June 13,2013.

Good Luck.

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9781250011763This week marks the release of a great new book Otis Dooda written by Ellen Potter and illustrated by David Heatley. This is a fun book filled with great humor especially for boys. On this extra- special Friday bonus post I thought I’d give our readers a chance to meet a few of the characters behind the story.

Title: Otis Dooda (Feiwel & Friends 2013)
Author: Ellen Potter
Illustrator: David Heatley

Book Description:


Meet Otis Dooda. Yes, that’s his name. Go on and have a good laugh. He’s heard it all before. He’s been called things like Otis Poopy Stink and Otis Toilet Twinkie. That’s right, yuck it up and get it out of your system. We’ll wait.

All right then. This is the story of Otis and the Dooda family (including their rat named Smoochie) moving to New York City, and the incredibly strange, but true, things that happened to them. It all started with Otis getting cursed by a guy in a potted plant in their apartment building lobby, and then meeting a bunch of their neighbors, including a farting pony named Peaches who was disguised as a dog. And that was just the first day.

Character Spotlight

Character name: Otis DoodaHappyotis

Brief physical description:

Not to be rude, but his body is shaped like a Twizzler. Super skinny, very bendy. His toenails haven’t been clipped in a while so let’s not talk about that. Once, this girl said that he looked like the kid from the Home Alone movie. Then she asked him if he thought she looked like Selena Gomez. He said no, and she said, “Fine, then you don’t look like the Home Alone kid.”

He has very good teeth.


He is a Lego-genius. I mean it, this guy can solve any problem with some Lego bricks and a rubber band.


He’s got this phobia about subway zombies. Don’t ask. Plus he’s pretty terrified of Potted Plant Guy.



Character name: Potted Plant Guy PottedPlanGuy


Brief Physical Description:

Well, it’s going to be VERY brief, because no one has ever actually seen his face. He hides in a potted plant in the lobby of the Tidwell Towers apartment building. You can see his eyes though, and they are pure evil.


He has the ability to put curses on people who walk into the building. The curses always come true, too, though not in the way that you think they will.


We’re still trying to find out what they are.


Inspiration for your story

I noticed that my 7-year-old son was reading books for middle-graders. It wasn’t because he was an advanced reader either. He said he just liked those books better than most of the ones for his age group. Come to find out, a lot of his friends were reading those same middle-grade books too. Curious, I also read them. I could see the attraction. They were wry and subversive, and they made me laugh out loud on more than one occasion. The only problem was, they were dealing with middle-grade issues—crushes on girls, being popular, and other things that six- and seven-year old boys could give a hoot about. So I thought, what if a writer kept that tone but wrote about things that a seven-year-old did care about? Like Legos and ninjas and zombie tag.

Background for the story

While I was developing the character of Otis, I kept imagining him to be like Holden Caulfield from Catcher in the Rye . . .  if Holden were in the third grade. He’d be highly observant, dry, sometimes snarky, He’d also probably be obsessed with Legos, like every other third-grade boy I knew. The other thing I kept thinking about was Seinfeld. What if I created a series set in an apartment building? What if there were a core group of characters with big, quirky personalities? They bickered, yes, but they also had each other’s backs when things got hairy. And things would get hairy all the time.

Researching this book was a cinch. All I had to do was listen. I listened to the stories my son told me about the kids in school. I listened to the things that made him and his buddies laugh. I listened to backseat conversations and lunchroom arguments. And of course I listened to fart jokes. Lots and lots of fart jokes.

So What About the Giveaway?

We will be giving away a signed copy of Otis Dooda to one of our lucky readers. Simply post a comment below and we will be picking a winner at random on Thursday June 13, 2013 . Entries must be posted by midnight on Wednesday to be entered into the contest.

Good Luck and Happy Reading,

Suzanne Santillan

Writing on the Sidewalk

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As a blogger, I enjoy reading the comments we received from our followers. It is a great way to stay in touch with people across the country and exchange thoughts and ideas. One of the interesting trends I have noticed in our comment section is how students use our blog to attempt to contact authors we feature in our spotlights or book reviews to help them write book reports.

Here is a sampling of some of the comments we have received in regards to the book Slob by Ellen Potter:

  • Hey thanks for writing this great book! I’m 13 year old boy and I just now finished the book and I was looking for somewhere I could leave a comment. Loved the ending, weird twist. Great book overall, any idea what the theme would be?
  • Whats the resolution to this book?
  • hey ellen wat is the theme and symbolism of this book

I remember clearly when both of my sons had to do book reports for school and we struggled to help them figure out the theme or symbolism for their book. We certainly didn’t have email to contact the author or access to blogs to read reviews of the book. This new availability is contributing to what I call “The changing landscape of publishing.”

This new access also gives people the opportunity for information exchanges. Here is a little exchange we had in the comment section for the book Trash by Andy Mulligan: 

  • what is the mood?
  • i know the mood will u tell me the theam if u know it and i will tell you the theam

So here is my question for you, do you think the access to technology helps or hurt a students learning? I’d love to hear what you have to say.

Suzanne Santillan

Writing on the Sidewalk

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I have talked about some of the elements of book promotion: social media, book signings, school visits, and blogs. These are all effective ways to get the word out about your book. Another thing to consider is a separate website for your book.

Authors Anne Mazer and Ellen Potter have a great site that coordinates with their book “Spilling Ink” (Flashpoint, 2010). This site is filled with all of the things a successful book site needs:

  • About the author’s section
  • Teacher’s kit
  • Creativity blog
  • links and tips
  • Writer’s Club for young writers
  • Information about contests
  • Contact information
  • Reviews
  • Free stuff

Fellow author and friend Andrea Zimmerman created a great site for her new book “Eliza’s Cherry Trees” (Pelican, 2011). This site is filled with information about Eliza Scidmore the driving force behind the cherry trees in Washington D.C. and just in time to help celebrate the centennial anniversary in 2012.

Andrea was just recently interviewed for “Here and Now” on NPR about her book and the life of Eliza Scidmore, they were able to locate her from the book website. Click here if you would like to hear a little of Andrea’s interview. Andrea shared that her book website has been a great asset in the promotion of her book and her regret was that she wished she had released it sooner.

So does your book need a website? Yes, if you have some great information are willing to put it all together a website I think would be a great asset to your book.

Happy Writing,

Suzanne Santillan

Writing on the Sidewalk

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I was recently asked by Anne Mazer and Ellen Potter to do a guest blog post on their Spilling Ink Blog, boy was I honored. Not only do I really respect Anne and Ellen, they have asked some truly talented people to be guests on their blog, so with some trepidation I accepted.

The topic was to write about creativity a topic that is near and dear to my heart. With two highly creative children and a creative husband, my house is always filled with parts of broken machines, bits of wood, metal and material. I thought it would be a piece of cake…it wasn’t. My mind suddenly went blank, my fingers lay still on the keyboard, no ideas would come forward. I decided to fall back on my list of things that I do when my creativity starts to falter and that’s when it hit me, I would share my creativity list.

So if you get a chance stop by Spilling Ink and check out how I use watermelon bubble bath and a dog leash to spark my creativity.

Thanks again Anne and Ellen for a chance to visit with your readers.

Suzanne Santillan

Writing on the Sidewalk

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This year the American Library Association has chosen San Diego for it’s midwinter meeting. From January 7-11th nearly 10,000 leaders in the library and information media industry will gather for meetings, events and exhibits. My blog buddy Sarah and I are planning to check out the exhibits some time this weekend (I’ll be the one with the comfy shoes).

One of the special features of the midwinter meeting is the announcement of the Youth Media Awards. Each year the ALA honors books, videos and other outstanding materials for children and teens. The 2011 award winners will be announced at 7:45 a.m. PST, Monday, Jan. 10, at the San Diego Convention Center. A live Webcast of the award announcements will be available on a first-come, first-served basis. Award press release will be posted online by 10 a.m. PST at www.ala.org.

I was happy to note that “The Kneebone Boy” by Ellen Potter was on the nominee list for Notable Books. Ellen has done an author spotlight feature and we have reviewed several of her books as well. Yay Ellen! I was also happy to see “The Strange Case of the Origami Yoda” by Tom Angelberger there as well. We will be featuring Tom on our next author spotlight this Friday.

I wish them both well and look forward to hearing the results on Monday.

Suzanne Santillan

Writing on the Sidewalk

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I was fortunate to receive an advanced copy of the The Kneebone Boy (Feiwel & Friends, 2010) from author Ellen Potter a few weeks back. I had only read the first two pages when I closed the cover and decided to read the book later. I like to classify books like food; some are light snacks or junk food (not very filling but highly addicting), some are meals that you get through and aren’t very memorable (think Hamburger Helper), and some are like fine meals that must be savored. I knew from the first two pages that this was a book to be savored and in the middle of the hustle and bustle of summer vacation I wouldn’t be able to give the book its proper respect. I am glad I waited.

Here is the synopsis:

Life in a small town can be pretty boring when everyone avoids you like the plague. But after their father unwittingly sends them to stay with an aunt who’s away on holiday, the Hardscrabble children take off on an adventure that begins in the seedy streets of London and ends in a peculiar seaside village where legend has it a monstrous creature lives who is half boy and half animal…

Here are my thoughts:

  • I really enjoy Ellen’s writing style. Her word usage and language are both intriguing and beautiful especially while dealing with dark and gritty topics, this is what makes the book a something to be savored.
  • I was charmed by her characters. We get a sense of the overwhelmed single father, the quirky aunt, and the Viking-like taxidermist Saint George in addition to the other characters.  The Hardscrabble children themselves are outcasts but they don’t lose their heart or charm even when they bicker among themselves.
  • I was intrigued by the plot. Where was their mother? Who was the author of the story? What was the secret that Aunt Haddie was keeping? Why does Otto always wear the black scarf? Was there truly a Kneebone boy?  I must say that I was tempted to peek at the back of the book to find out but I was glad that I waited for the answers.

I am happy to say that The Kneebone Boy received a starred review, I think it was well deserved.

This story is not for everyone. If you are looking for puppies, flowers and Unicorns I would suggest you look elsewhere. If you are looking for a dark and compelling novel in the style of Dahl or Snicket The Kneebone Boy is just right for you.

Suzanne Santillan

Writing on the Sidewalk

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I’m thrilled to announce our Author Spotlight this week is the super-talented Ellen Potter.

Here is a brief bio:
Ellen Potter is the author of several middle-grade novels, including the award-winning Olivia Kidney series, Pish Posh, SLOB, and The Kneebone Boy. Her non-fiction book, Spilling Ink; a Young Writer’s Handbook, was co-authored by Anne Mazer.

Olivia Kidney was awarded Child magazine’s “Best Children’s Book Award” and was selected as one of the “Books of the Year” by Parenting magazine. Additionally, it was one of the finalists for the Ottakar’s Children’s Book Prize in the United Kingdom.

SLOB was selected for the Junior Library Guild Spring 2009 List and the 2010 Texas Lone Star Reading List.

Her middle-grade novel The Kneebone Boy will be published by Feiwel & Friends on September 14, 2010.

What was your road to publication?

It was a seasonal access road; bumpy at best and sometimes impassable. It took years of writing while doing odd-jobs (dog grooming, waitressing, etc.) before I was actually published. Still, I’m glad I had those experiences. During those years I met drifters, Tibetan refugees, actors. It was a great education for a young writer. And the tips weren’t bad either.
Can you tell me a bit about your writing process? Do you plot or not?

I don’t plot out my books. I’ve tried, but it never works for me, and I generally wind up with an ugly case of writer’s block. Whenever I have a preplanned storyline, I eventually have to force my characters to do things that they wouldn’t really do, just to make the story move according to plan. That’s when my characters rebel. They stiffen up and refuse to move. Instead, I prefer to stay more fluid and to follow my characters’ lead. I trail behind them and see what they will do next. Sometimes I know what will happen in the following scene, but that’s about it. It’s a little scary to write this way, and I often go down dead-end streets and have to backtrack. Still I find that the story tends to flow more naturally this way, and since I’m surprised at the things that happen, I know my readers will be too.
Describe your studio or usual work space for us.

I’m not fussy. I’ll write in bed, in a café, in a park. It’s like having a floating office. Hmm, there’s an idea! Writing on a raft would be interesting . . .
What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

A baker. Whenever I watch Ace of Cakes I have an uncontrollable urge to make a fondant replica of the Millennium Falcon.
What’s one thing that most people don’t know about you?

I have never, ever in my entire life worn flip flops.
How do you balance your writing and family life?

Now THAT is the million-dollar question! It’s tough, no kidding. For the first five years of my son’s life I woke up at 4:30 am to write. I conducted important business calls while changing poopy diapers. There are all sorts of strategies for successfully juggling work and family—writing lists, delegating chores. But I think the most important thing you can do is make friends with sleep deprivation.
Is there a reason that Pish Posh, Slob and the Olivia Kidney series are all set in New York City?

I write about NYC in part because I grew up there. But also it’s a great setting for children’s’ books because kids are very mobile in the city. They don’t necessarily need their parents to drive them places. They can walk or take public transportation, so there is great potential for independent adventure.
Are you working on any new projects that you can tell us about?

I’m working on a new middle-grade novel now, which should be out in 2011. I’m also very excited about my newest book The Kneebone Boy. I loved writing about the quirky Hardscrabble siblings and their adventures.
We here at Writing on the Sidewalk tend to procrastinate with our writing, where do you fit in Procrastinator or Proactive?

I’m a hyperactive procrastinator. I procrastinated for the first half of my life and now I am hyperactively trying to make up for lost time.
Ellen is a truly talented author and I have enjoyed reading many of her other books including SLOB and Spilling Ink which I have quoted on this site more than once. I was fortunate to receive an ARC of Ellen’s new book “The Kneebone Boy” and will post my book thoughts next week. For more information on Ellen please check out: ellenpotter.com or for more writing tips check out spillinginkthebook.com.
Thanks Ellen.
Suzanne Santillan
Writing on the Sidewalk

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