Tuesday, October 4, 2016

News & Things

I'm happy to share a little news about the book I've been illustrating for Deeds Publishing. Thunder & a Lightning Bug Named Lou by Rosalind Bunn launches December 3. Here's the cover:


And I can't not say anything about the wonderful RMC-SCBWI Conference I attended last month. It was wonderful! Here are some highlights:

  • I got to meet and learn from kind, thoughtful, and inspiring editors (and since my focus is currently picture books, they are the ones I remember - though there were other publishing houses for other genres) from Little, Brown (Andrea Spooner), Schwartz & Wade (Stephanie Pitts), and Paula Wiseman (Sylvie Frank), along with agents (like Minju Chang from Bookstop Literary), and the SCBWI founders (Steven Mooser and Lin Oliver) - who are as genuine and giving as I ever would have hoped for. 
  • The panel of the above (and other) professionals was encouraging, thought-provoking, and most helpful. I felt like they all were glad to be there (I haven't always felt this way) to share their knowledge so we, in turn, can perfect our craft to make books that make a difference in the world.
  • I won the illustration calendar contest! All who chose to participate submitted a piece that was displayed for all conference attendees to vote on. The top twelve are compiled into a calendar sent to all conference faculty, and the top winner gets next year's conference paid for and their artwork displayed on the RMC chapter's webpage. I wasn't expecting to win, but thanks to my wonderful critique group partner, Sadee, for helping choose which illustration I displayed, I won grand prize. 
  • I had amazing critiques by Andrea Spooner and Minju Chang. Minju provided really good insight and direction into a picture book I've written and illustrated. Andrea was thorough, perceptive, and encouraging as she critiqued my portfolio. Of course it helped that she felt it was one of the top portfolios at the conference. She pointed out that I could show more color versatility and humor - which, now that it's been pointed out, kind of sticks out like something sore.
  • For the first time at this conference, we had a juried portfolio review. And from what the RMC Illustrator Coordinator, Karen Windness, said, they all were very thoughtful (that was a theme!) and thorough as they looked through every portfolio. I didn't win, but from things editors and others said after the review, my artwork was looked upon favorably.

My last bit of news is that I've agreed to illustrate a Bible study curriculum for Shine Curriculum this winter. Which means that my career is starting to move along, I guess. Which further means that it's high time for me to roll up my sleeves and get back to the long list of things to do-besides-this-blog-post!

Friday, September 9, 2016

Cramming it all in


Wow it's been a while. Summer always adds to the trickiness of routine, with my two boys home from school. But they have since returned to school and I've been hard at work on picture book illustrations due mid-October (see previous post) and preparing for next week's RMC-SCBWI Conference (the long wait is almost over!). This has involved perfecting a book dummy (the illustration you see is a spread from the proposed book), finalizing my portfolio, making postcards, reworking my website, etc. 

On top of that, a couple weeks ago I heard that the Sustainable Arts Foundation was holding a competition. Since I'm a parent with artistic dreams (its two main qualifications), I made ready everything needed to enter last week. Chances are slim that I'll win (they tend to favor more contemporary, abstract art), but it's always worth a try. Since the application requested a mini biography that I spent a little time on, I thought I'd post it here for anyone interested to know my journey (so far) to becoming a children's author/illustrator. So for those of you with a little time on your hands and a wee bit of interest about the road I've traveled, here ya go:

While trying to decide my career path years ago, I found a picture book about a red umbrella. It wove a simple story, yet those words seared a fiery desire within me to create children’s books that likewise inspired others. I shared the epiphany with a friend, and she uprooted the dream with a reminder to “be realistic” about my future. So I dutifully boxed up the idea to delve into other career options.

I still struggled with my career once I graduated from college with a degree in English. Fate or no, after marriage and moving to a new town I stumbled across The Writer’s Digest. The forgotten passion overwhelmed me as I scoured its pages, and my journey as a children’s author began. Within months, my first story was accepted by Spider Magazine, followed by additional stories, articles, and activities in various magazine publications.

My oldest son was born in the middle of this. Despite our rough first year of much crying (his), sleeplessness (mine), and (his) acid reflux issues, I found small pockets of time to write. I also felt a tug to pull out pencils and paper, and to acquire watercolors and paintbrushes to give a go at illustrating – certainly a Mount Everest hurdle in both climb and vistas.

Two moves and a second baby later, I was still improving my craft and enjoying small successes until overuse led to debilitating tendonitis in my elbows. I despaired I’d never again be able to do what I loved. Over what felt like forever, my elbows fortunately healed enough for me to write and illustrate in small time slots.

But my younger son – then a delightful, but needy toddler – and a handful of moves around the country added to the trickiness of finding time to craft. I created what I could with two kids and myriad moving boxes in tow, then ultimately decided these years were mostly meant to enjoy my children (with the side-benefit of stockpiling my brain’s hard drive with unforgettable memories).

The day came three-ish years ago when both kids entered school full-time. I eagerly lassoed the inspiration gleaned from my children and dusted off old supplies to start afresh and full-time. I joined SCBWI, connected with a wonderful critique group, and have continued to hone my writing and illustration skills through online classes.

And I’ve seen success. Within the last two years, several articles and illustrations have been published in The Bulletin (SCBWI), and this summer I signed a contract to illustrate a picture book.

I am committed to parenting and my career. Luckily, my husband supports both. Although there were moments as a stay-at-home-parent that I wished for more career time, I have never regretted the decision to put my children first. My kids have endowed me with a beautiful life, and I hope the pages I can now freely create will reflect this in a way that inspires and uplifts.


Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Book Project


I'm thick in the middle of a picture book for Deeds Publishing. The rough sketches/dummy came surprisingly quickly to me and I'm about halfway done with the final sketches. Here's one of my favorites so far. By the end of this project, I should be really good at drawing trees since there are a ton of them!

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Fun at the Library



This is Albert. He's a boy who walks to his own tune. I have big plans for him.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Random sketchiness

Just some doodles from last week - perhaps for an upcoming project. Bugs + big eyes = fun!


Friday, May 27, 2016

Getting Dummier





SCBWI members have the opportunity to query Zonderkidz all May. This is nice since Zonderkidz is usually closed to unsolicited manuscripts. At first I hadn't planned on submitting anything, but after noticing that they have a number of leveled readers, I thought about The Missing Smile. It was fresh in mind since I'd already been turning three pages into black and white samples for my portfolio (you can visit my website to see them if you want). I thought it would be a good project to give myself the month to redo the dummy and sample images (yes, this meant painting the same spreads I'd just done into color; it helped that all my values had been worked out). 

If any of these look familiar, about three years ago I worked on this dummy and created finished pieces for my then portfolio (you can see how they differ from today's here and here.) The Missing Smile was actually published in Clubhouse Jr magazine in 2007 when my youngest was a baby. Once he was in school and I had a lot more time to work on my career, I thought that this story was a good start for a leveled reader. So I did some tweaking of words and worked on the dummy (which was hard and satisfying work). It was my 3rd dummy, but I still felt very much like a beginner. 

This time around, I felt very confident in putting everything together. SVS has been integral in teaching me better ways of doing this, as has learning about Marla Frazee's process. It's kind of amazing what good instruction and a lot of practice can do!

And now, I'm on to my next dummy!



Thursday, May 19, 2016

3rd Thursday and Website

Whew! I've been busy refining my website and refinishing a personal book dummy (which I hope to submit by the end of the month). But earlier this week I realized that 3rd Thursday was fast approaching and, since I really enjoy participating, I carved out a day to put together the submission above. The prompt to was to illustrate a saying from a fortune cookie. My "fortune" (if you can call it that) was: Look to the future but don't forget to enjoy today. This is something I have to tell myself all the time, so the scenario I chose came rather quickly to mind! I opted to do it in black and white since I'm looking to add to the bw section on my website.

And speaking of my website, you might enjoy taking a fresh look here since it's new and (hopefully) improved. Thanks to a suggestion from my wonderful critique group friend, Sadee Schilling (check out her amazing work here), I added a section to showcase some of my sketches. I love sketching kids, so here's one I chose to include of my youngest jumping into the pool (thanks to my husband for snapping the shot).