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.