Detail of Illustration by Heather Newman

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

Etsy shop:

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.