Blog Process Tour

I was invited by a few friends to do this process tour, but one finally twisted my arm into doing it (actually, he just had the best timing! Thanks, Marty!).

They had excellent posts, equal to their talent as author/illustrators - be sure to check them out: Marty Kelley, Tina Kugler, Courtney Pippin Mathur

What am I working on now?

I just finished illustrations for a wonderful children's toy and stationery company. And I'm trying not to think about a few books in various stages of submission. But right now I'm in the early stages of a new picture book dummy. The story is fairly tight, but the character designs and thumbnails are very loose. You can see more polished sketches with kittens here - they helped me to find the real direction of the story, actually.

A mish-mash of rough character sketches and thumbnails of page layouts.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Right now I'm really happy with my work. It's something that has revealed itself over time, in layers of work and play. I've been focusing on drawing and writing only what I really am excited about and that has made a huge difference (thanks to my agent, Teresa Kietlinski for that wisdom!). No one else can do what is really, authentically "me", right?

Why do I write what I do?

I try my best to write the biggest of childhood emotions filtered through my strange way of seeing the world. I write what only I can write because it evokes the images that I want to illustrate. I definitely mine my own childhood. The bits that I get most excited about are the ones that feel like they speak directly to the spirit of a child: be it humorous or sad or empowering. Those are the bits I strive for.

How does your writing process work?

I keep all my idea kernels: in notebooks, on my phone, in sketchbooks. I look through them often and see if I can connect dots between kernels to see if they can make something that, well, pops! There is a lot of downtime where I just think and let ideas percolate. I watch my own small children and steal kernels from them.

Then I force myself to knit it all together, on screen or paper. This is a horrific stage! Does this story even make sense? Is it unique enough? Is it exciting enough? Revision after revision happens, usually in one long file until I feel like I know the right direction for the story.

Next, I revise until the language is crisp and brief with extraneous bits removed. I share with my family. I share with a few trusted peers. So then, I sketch (and sketch and sketch). With any luck, the words stand up and the pictures can take over. I share with more trusted peers and take the time to really consider their advice before revising or changing anything. I try to put my ego aside (yes, we ALL have one) and do what I must to make the best book possible. It's a super-competitive industry, so only the best will make it through. And frankly, I'd be disappointed in myself if I didn't push through to make it the best just for myself.

Incredibly small and rough page layouts - they might read as a mess to you, but they make sense to me!

Up next on the blog tour: Laura Zarrin! (FYI, Laura is a trusted friend and peer who gives me the straight scoop on my work.

Illustrator of four­teen children’s books, Laura Zarrin, is branch­ing out into writing them too. Laura’s warm and whim­si­cal col­lage paint­ings have graced many prod­ucts from stick­ers to bul­letin boards to books. Her paint­ings are cre­ated in lay­ers tra­di­tion­ally, then scanned, assem­bled, and enhanced in Photoshop and Manga Studio, so that the art can be refor­mat­ted for a vari­ety of prod­ucts and apps.

Laura’s Bachelor’s degree in Graphic Design and Illustration paired with her years of expe­ri­ence work­ing as a designer and art direc­tor have given her many great oppor­tu­ni­ties to work with other design­ers, edi­tors, sales peo­ple, and mar­ket­ing in col­lab­o­ra­tion on many projects, from incep­tion to com­ple­tion. Fluent in the Adobe Creative Suite.

She lives and works in San Jose, Ca with her hus­band and two end­lessly cre­ative sons.


PB&J, Back and better than ever!


Have you heard the news? Picture Book Junkies are back! We've got a new and fabulous member, a fresh website, and are the sammich to follow on Twitter.

I'm so excited for our renewal. These ladies are so talented and supportive, I think we all knew it was only a matter of time before we relaunched. This week will be a bit of a reintroduction. Come check us out!

Time to make my lists


After reading so many great 2009 recaps and 2010 resolutions I've decided to draft my own - several days late, of course.

Last year I knew enough to not make resolutions. With a baby on the way, I just wanted to be prepared for a crazy year as a new mom. Deep down, I did think I'd have time to keep up the momentum of my illustration career.

But the best laid plans are nothing in the face of a baby and I spent a lot of time grieving over expectations. I bit off more than I could chew at times and felt really conflicted about my roles as mother and artist. I survived the year, and looking back I actually feel pretty good about what I did accomplish in 2009:

  • Finishing a book job for a new client, see above, just weeks shy of giving birth. It was a struggle to paint 10"x20" at a drafting table while enormously pregnant. I finally made the leap into eyeballs with pupils on my humans, woo hoo!
  • Displaying my work at the New Hampshire Children's Museum along with the very talented Laura Rankin and Nate Walker.
  • Completing another piece for New Moon magazine, mostly visualized while rocking a newborn.
  • Preparing 2 rounds of endless designs for a big licensing client. I didn't land the contract but I like the program I put together and can resubmit elsewhere.
  • Giving my first presentation as an illustrator at a library. I was so nervous, but in the end I think it was a success and a milestone.
  • Writing a solid picture book manuscript for a story that I've had in mind for years.
  • Keeping a great client for book design work. It may not be illustration, but it's great work when I get it.

I find it easy to turn resolutions into more of a wish list rather than an short list of attainable goals. I feel like I'm already reaching here, but there needs to be a little stretching for the stars, right?

  • Complete my picture book dummy and submit (potentially during the NESCBWI spring conference)
  • Send out a postcard mailing by March
  • Redo my website, integrating my blog to my main site.
  • Pursue art representation
  • Cleaning my office would be nice too!

Thank you to all of my readers for sticking with me throughout my extended blogging vacations. I plan on doing a little giveaway soon as a thank you. I also want to point you to a new blog launching tomorrow: Smells Like Crayons. My critique group is kicking it up a notch and joining the blog-o-sphere, go check us out! They are so talented and the best support an illustrator could ask for.