New Gator McBumpypants Picture Book Now Available!

Gator McBumpypants in Shelley Comes Out Of Her Shell is a sweet story about the challenges of making new friends. It also covers themes such as empathy and knowing when to ask for help.

Last year, I designed and made a little box turtle. I had an online contest to name the turtle and the winning name, contributed by Amy Chesler–Thank you again, Amy–was Shelley. Shelley first appears at the very end of Gator McBumpypants Doesn’t Say Goodbye. If you haven’t read it yet, it is a story about Dee Dee the duck flying south for the winter and having to part with her friends.

In this new book, Shelley gets her own story. She is finally convinced to go on an adventure with Gator McBumpypants and Herman, but she gets a sliver and then is stuck in her shell! Shelley was very fun to work with. Her fabric has a little shimmer when the light is just right. I also designed her so that she tucks into her shell.

For those of you who have been following along with my writer’s journey here at Experience Writing (and Maria Berg’s Writing Life before that), you may recall that Gator McBumpypants was inspired by a photography assignment. I needed models and didn’t have anyone readily available. I grabbed a couple of my stuffed animals and took them outside. While I posed them and photographed them, the story of how they met and became friends came to me. That was the birth of Gator McBumpypants Hears A Scary Noise.

Since publishing that first picture book, I have designed and made two new characters, Dee Dee the duck and Shelley the box turtle. Creating the characters and stories is fun and challenging, but I also continue to use these books as photography projects.

Each year I focus on a specific technique. Last year I tried out colored filters, a wide angle/fish-eye lens and a difficult setting. Though the images using the colored filters and fish-eye lens did not make it into last year’s book, the techniques may be incorporated in the future. The setting was too beautiful to distort and the fall colors did not need a bit of enhancement.

This year, I learned bokeh shape photography. The word bokeh comes from Japanese and literally translates as “blur”. Using a hand-cut filter, I am able to create shapes with every point of light in the unfocused area of my photograph. I incorporated some of the bokeh images into the book and I think it brings another dimension of magical fantasy to the already fun mix of photography and play.

As the characters and stories progress and grow through the series, I, as a photographer, grow as well. Each year is a new adventure. I hope you will think about bringing the joy and play of Gator McBumpypants books to your family this year.

Happy Gator McBumpypants Day!

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Name this turtle and get your name in the next Gator McBumpypants book!

A one of a kind stuffed box turtle made by Maria L. Berg

What should my name be? Enter the contest

Creation makes its own calendar

I thought I was way ahead of the game. I had big plans and was gonna do it right this year. I mean, I have experience. I have my online presence set up.  I filled in my Google calendar. I had a marketing plan. Everything I had done would make this book easy, right?

WRONG

At times it felt like the earth itself was against me. Record high heat and illness when I had signed up for the SCBWI  critique and record rains when I had planned my photo shoot. At other times it felt like a complete waste of time to create a book about a child  coping with the loss of a friend moving away, when everyone was in a state of constant hyperbole.

And then, the one person who I could count on to take Gator McBumpypants very seriously, who would police my commas and make sure that I wrote the best I could, died. I still haven’t dealt with it. One third of my critique group is gone. She was amazing and beautiful and knowing her gave me hope for humans.

So, that Google calendar reminds me what I haven’t done and I ignore it. My marketing plan was based on things I have been told to do, that honestly, haven’t given me returns so far.

Yesterday and today, as I worked on the turtle that I have imagined for so long, but was not  ready to make until now, I thought about the joy of creation. I remembered how much I enjoy the process of forming an idea and letting it grow, then using my bits of fabric and stuffing to create a three dimensional sculpture that will have thoughts and feelings and adventures for readers to live in.

It is alchemy of the best kind. I am in love with this turtle.  I love it because at times it felt impossible but I had to make it, and because I made it as close to my model as I could (a very angry looking turtle), but still made it adorable which was my goal.

Please join in the creation of Gator McBumpypants Doesn’t Say Goodbye. Name this turtle on the Gator McBumpypants and Friends facebook page and you will not only name a new friend but get a special thank you in the book.

Thank you for being part of my writing life and letting me be part of yours.

Update: The turtle’s name is Shelley. Congratulations to Amy Chesler who won the contest.