Poetry Friday: “Dragon’s Picnic” + Interview with Heather Newman

Detail of Illustration by Heather Newman

Detail of Illustration by Heather Newman

Greetings, Dukes and Damsels!

It’s hot in the castle today, so get your summer armor and gossamer dresses out of storage before reading on.

If you’ve followed this blog since the beginning, you probably know that I love to write from art and have a particular penchant for children’s illustrators. So far on NWR, Dana Carey painted me a newt in boxers, my brother Dave LaTulippe contributed a forlorn pig, Helga Pearson loaned me her girl fleeing with sheep, and a local ceramicist hooked me up with some spooked cats.

A few months ago, I also became smitten with some dragons created by Heather Newman, whom you’ll meet in the interview below. I mean, just look at how sweet this guy is:

"Best Friends" by Heather Newman
“Best Friends” by Heather Newman (click the pic for a bigger view)

And what about this one, planning an adventure with his boy:

"Adventurers" by Heather Newman
“Adventurers” by Heather Newman

Sweet! So Heather sent her dragons over for a visit, and they’ve been snorting in the dungeon ever since, singeing the curtains and waiting for their NWR debut. That is, until one of them escaped to do a little moonlighting for Susanna Hill’s Summer Short & Sweets five-minute writing series. Imagine my surprise when I popped over one day and found this beauty as the writing prompt:

Short & Sweet illustration prompt by Heather Newman
Short & Sweet illustration prompt by Heather Newman (click the pic for a bigger view)

When the errant dragon sheepishly returned to the castle, I said, “Fine, all right, I get it. No need to keep breathing down my neck. You’ll just get me hot under the collar. I’ll write the dragon poem, already!” Then he snorted contentedly and roasted me some marshmallows to seal the deal.

I should mention that all of Heather’s dragons are actually quite friendly. They like their scales scrubbed and enjoy putting the final touches on your crème brûlée or flying you down to Ye Olde Shoppe when you need provisions. So when the dragon in my poem read the first draft of Dragon’s Picnic, he was a little concerned about his reputation. Rest assured that Bubba, as I call him, is indeed a gentlemanly dragon. He just had a little…”oops moment,” shall we say. It happens when you’re a dragon.


Damsel and dragon
ramble about
down by the moat
where the fireweeds
and spread their blanket
with ham on rye
and for dessert
a birthday pie.
“Blow out the candles,
Bubba, dear.”
And Bubba did…
he did, I fear.

For Bubba has
a bulbous snout
from which he
his fire out
and out it goes
a roar, a hiss
that startles sweet
picnicking Miss
who stares alarmed
at her singed hair
‘fore Bubba binges…

Mmmm. Damsel,
medium rare.

Detail of "Best Friends" by Heather Newman

[heading style=”1″]Featured Artist SNICKERVIEW™ with HEATHER NEWMAN[/heading]

What’s Up with Heather

Heather, who are you, where are you, and how long have you been a doodling fool?
I am an artist and writer living in Maine, USA, with my husband, three sons, and a small assortment of pets. My doodling fool days began the moment my stubby toddler fingers could hold a pencil and the walls, books, and furniture were transformed by my earliest doodles. I spent hours upon hours of my childhood drawing my own illustrations for my favorite books. The highlight of the spring NESCBWI conference this year was having one of those well loved, falling-apart books signed by the author: An Invitation to the Butterfly Ball by Jane Yolen.

Let’s see how many times we can say doodle. How did you doodle this dastardly dragon, whom I’ve dubbed Bubba? Did the doodling take a long time, or was this a double-time doodle?
The dastardly dragon at the castle was a commissioned doodle for the Summer Short & Sweets series. Susanna sent me a list of ideas she wanted included in the story prompt, and I had fun putting them all together with a few touches of my own. He took about four days from rough thumbnail sketches to finally finished doodle using Derwent colored pencils on Arches illustration board. I think he might be a bit misunderstood. After all, the boy in charge of scrubbing his scales seems pretty relaxed! (That’s true…but maybe he’s a one-man dragon, kind of like a Siamese cat.)

As a dragon doodler, you can, of course, breathe fire. How has this talent/curse affected your home life? We live in a 200-year-old farmhouse, so having a head cold is potentially disastrous. We keep Kevlar tissues on hand, and my husband flat-out refuses to sleep next to me when I’m sick. Too many instances of waking up with his beard burned off.

Do you doodle other stuff, or are you strictly a dragon doodler? And do you have a favorite medium (for your doodling, I mean, not to tell your future, although if you have one of those, feel free to share)?
I tried using tea leaves to tell the future, but I kept finding The Grim and gave it up as a bad job. Dragons are a small, yet fierce, portion of my doodles. I love to draw just about anything; children, animals, faeries, monsters, tiny paintings, and large murals. Working on a variety of projects keeps me from getting stale or bored with my art. I recently completed a family portrait with the family depicted as toys on a shelf, their interests and hobbies surrounding them. It was so much fun and different from anything else I have worked on over the past several years. My non-future telling mediums include graphite, watercolor, colored pencils, and acrylics. At the moment, graphite and colored pencils are my favorites. I haven’t really used colored pencils since college, eons and eons ago, so I’ve enjoyed exploring that medium again.

A little wizard told me that you’ve had quite a few doodles published AND that you write stories, too? You must be the busiest doodler in the kingdom!
The chapter book Cody Greene and the Rainbow Mystery by Linda Fields is my first published book. It’s about a boy who is trying to solve the mystery of the disappearing artwork from his parent’s gallery in New Mexico. Fellow homeschooling mom Lisa Cottrell-Bentley runs the independent publishing company Do Life Right, Inc. She put a call out on Facebook looking for several different illustrators for this project; I sent in some samples, and she hired me to do the boy on the cover and the black and white art at the beginning of each chapter. The Howling Vowels by Leslie Schultz was my second book for Do Life Right. This one is a middle grade novel about a girl who moves from New York City to a small town in Minnesota, telling the story of her first year living in a new home. My most recent project, just released last month, is French Toast for Maleek by Amy Carpenter Leugs and published by the United Church Outreach Ministry’s Open Door Press. This was created for the UCOM food pantry and follows a day in the life of Maleek, a young boy whose close-knit family is among the working poor of the United States. The book presents a view of hunger from Maleek’s perspective.

My own writing is a fairly new endeavor, and words do not flow as easily as the images do for me. I still have a lot to learn about the art of writing for children! My critique group is fantastic and I’m in the process of polishing up two manuscripts to be worked into book dummies over the next few months. One is about a fashionista sheep and the other features a lonely banshee. (Sheep and banshees? Two of my favorite things!)

How do you fritter away your time when you’re not doodling damsel-eating dragons?
My time away from doodling is spent with my family. My sons don’t go to school, and our days are full of pursuing various interests and passions. A few of the interests my sons are immersed in at the moment include computer programming, Trading Card Game design, writing short stories and novels, the human body, the solar system, plant reproduction, and outdoor survival skills. This means I’m learning more about these amazing things as well. It rounds out my life and keeps me from becoming myopic about children’s art and literature! I also love to read (no surprise there), and I make sure to leave space to spend time with my books every day. Even if it’s just a dozen pages before falling asleep.

Quick! Can you doodle a damsel with singed hair?

Singed Damsel by Heather Newman
Singed Damsel by Heather Newman

My goodness…I guess you can!

Finally, can we come visit you at Doodle Headquarters and see other neat stuff you’ve done? (No, not at your castle. We hear the heat is a killer!)
The Newman Castle is a place where the dragons roam wild and free. It’s not for the faint of heart! My internet haunts are as follows:

Website: http://www.heathernewman.net/
Blog: http://hnewmanart.blogspot.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HeatherNewmanIllustrations
Etsy shop: http://www.etsy.com/shop/HeatherNewmanArt

Thanks for stopping by, Heather, and for doodling the delightful Bubba the Dragon! Hope this interview didn’t dragon and on…
Thanks for inviting me over to visit No Water River, Renée!

"Hide and Seek" by Heather Newman
“Hide and Seek” by Heather Newman

[heading style=”1″]Extension Activities: “Dragon’s Picnic”[/heading]

[heading style=”1″]NEXT WEEK: Carrie Finison just doesn’t know![/heading]

Detail of "Hide and Seek" by Heather Newman


Video Location: Enchanted Forest in the Kingdom of Bubba, Italy.

See more poems in my poetry video library.
“Dragon’s Picnic” Copyright © 2012 Renée M. LaTulippe. All rights reserved.  
Illustrations Copyright © 2012 Heather Newman. All rights reserved. Used with permission.  

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  1. Deliciously sinister poem, Renee! Your reading is spectacular ( you look gorgeous, btw) The ending line is perfect!!
    Heather you are quite the doodler. Beautiful! and I LOVE the singed damsel in distress!

  2. Princess Renee! I just love the sense of place you have created here. Thank you! Your poem is such fun…and yes, I will sit at the tail of a dragon! Another great interview too – wonderful to hear about Heather’s art and artful life. a.

  3. You had me at the ham on rye, and then . . . wow! I got singed! 😀

    So much fun, and another delightful Snickerview with Heather. I bow to you, Princess Renee. Another triumph!

    1. These dragons came creeping down out of the White Mountains, but now that they’ve heard of the Casco Bay serpent they may head East to see if she wants to come out to play!

  4. Oh, Renee, you are wicked…and I mean that in the best possible way, of course. I loved your poem and that dark turn it took at the end, and it’s nice to read about Heather’s doodly doings. Heather, maybe we’ll meet up at the NESCBWI conference this coming spring – it’s on my list.

    Renee, I’m just hoping you won’t expect a drawing out of me next week. I’m looking forward to it!

  5. That was great, Renée. I laughed. Out loud. Really!
    Heather, I love your illustrations. Colored pencils aren’t an easy medium and you handle them with finesse. Bravo!

  6. Yipes! Here I was, enjoying the nice peaceful birthday picnic when all of a sudden the meal wasn’t ham on rye anymore! Fun (and scary) poem, Renee!

    I so enjoyed the interview with Heather. I’m currently allowing myself to fantasize about some day Heather being the artist chosen to create the illustrations for the dragon picture book I’m working on. Wouldn’t it be great if that dream came true?

  7. Thank you for inviting the dragons out to play, Renee! Bubba is slightly embarrassed about the damsel mishap, but he’s so glad you’re an understanding sort of person.

  8. That’s just about the sweetest looking dragon I have yet to encounter ( on the page, that is!). And the poem was so much fun to listen to, Renee!

  9. Thanks Renee, for all that you do for your posts-wow! You don’t often write for your posts, but I always find your poems so funny and clever, and this one certainly is too. What gifts you and Heather both have. I’ve done loads of dragon stuff through the years with my students, always so popular with them. Nice to hear about more dragons! And I liked hearing about that picture book, French Toast for Maleek. It seems a treasure!

    1. Thank you, Linda. It’s true – one of my goals after my break was to feature more of my own writing on the blog…but then I get distracted because there are so many other poets I want to include! And I just can’t swing more than one post a week, because they do take some time.

      I can imagine that dragons are a popular topic – how could they not be, especially Heather’s sweet but fiery guys!

  10. Hi, Renee. This post was so much fun. I love dragons and dragon related books. I’m going to share this with my friend, one of the authors of the Dragon Codex series.

    That singed damsel is priceless, but at least she’s not “medium rare.”

  11. Being that I am married to Bubba (yes, for real), and that I sleep with him every night…you and Heather have me wondering if I am possibly the next damsel in distress due to a bulbous-snouted Bubba who likes a medium rare midnight snack! I feel a little bit better knowing about the Kevlar tissues.

    Love the poem and the reading! As usual interview was entertaining and informative. What a delightful way to get to know your guests, Renee.

    Heather-your art is very inspirational. I hopped on over to your website to enjoy more. Wow! Incredible talent!

    I’m looking forward to next time with Carrie!

    1. You might need a Kevlar blanket, Penny! And a fire extinquisher alongside the bed. Thank you for your kind words about my art! I always hope people enjoy looking at it as much as I enjoy creating it 🙂

  12. This is one HOT post! Thank you, Renee, for the ever delightful reading of one of your poetic treasures. I love dragons – my first book was a Rookie Reader about a boy and an imaginary dragon, so I have a couple of these fine beasts keeping watch in my office/studio (and a really fun stuffed dragon, too).

    Heather, so nice to meet you! I’m in with scaly-claws-up for the Singed Damsel as well. Your family portrait is original, too! Off to your Etsy shop. I just started that adventure and am enjoying finding fellow shop owners to haunt/explore.

    1. Thank you, Robyn! I’m a huge fantasy reader and I have a soft spot in my heart for dragons, too. Etsy has some pretty amazing shops listed. If you wanted to share a link, I would love to see your shop!

  13. LOVE this post, LOVE Heather’s art, LOVE dragons… but I guess I don’t have to tell either of you that – you know what a big Heather and Renee fan I am 🙂 Thanks for a very entertaining interview 🙂

  14. BETTER LATE THAN NEVER!!!!! What an amazing post. Two of my most favorite people! Please pardon my late entrance to this party. LOVE the dragon, eh hem…Bubba. And “Dragon’s Picnic” ? What a killer ending. =) I love any interview that Heather does because I get to learn more about her beautiful family and her artsiness. (How do people draw so well?????!!!!) And I love any interview that Renee hosts because they always make me laugh and begin with, “what’s up with so-and-so?”

    Great post ladies!!!

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