Been working at some new art samples in between summer adventures. Here’s my latest. Enjoy!
Four years ago from last Saturday I made a stupid mistake riding my bike, went over the handlebars going fast downhill, and crashed face-first into the gritty pavement. Over the following months I struggled with the after effects: a concussion, a mangled chin, a mangled hand, severe flashbacks, and severe headaches, to name a few. It’s not easy to get up after a crash. But people do.
Fast forward to last Saturday and most of last week, where I spent the four-year anniversary of my crash at one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever been to, teaching my son how to ride his own bike, surrounded by joyful families soaking up the view, writing a piece I’ve been scared to write (but need to write) about riding bikes, and mostly, celebrating being alive by living life to its fullest, taking in all the beautiful things.
If you’ve ever had a crash, small or large, I hope you can get back up and ride again too. And if you are in the middle of doing just that, I send you all the encouragement and love I can send.
Long time no blog! Realized I’ve been posting bloggish things lately on Instagram while forgetting that I could add similar things on my happy little blog here. I’d like to be better about giving both attention so I thought I’d add some highlights from my last few months to catch up a bit. That and I have about a million works-in-progress I’m excited about. I can’t keep up with my own ideas which is a good problem I guess. Here are some sneak peeks from one of my favorite pieces I’ve been working on.
What I said about this project on Instagram is still true: sometimes overly well-behaved little kids grow up to write books full of all the mischief they never allowed themselves to partake in when they were busy being young painful perfectionists.
Hope you’ve been up to happy mischief too!
Brainstorm, brainstorm, brainstorm! Play, play, play! Ideas, ideas, ideas!
These three core creative values pretty much sum up the heart of my creative process. They also sum up Picture Book Author Tara Lazar’s annual Storystorm Challenge, which I’ve participated in for many years.
The Storystorm challenge (used to be called PIBOIDMO—picture book idea month) is a challenge on Tara’s blog where participants agree to come up with a new picture book idea every day for 30 days in a month. 30 ideas! In a month! Seems crazy at first. But no. It’s great.
Because where do I get my best ideas? Out of a pile of terrible ideas. It’s true. Basically I get my best ideas by coming up with lots and lots of ideas, putting every idea into the pile, and then later worrying about whether they are any good or not. And that same basic concept has now extended into so many aspects of my creative process that I feel it somehow captures the entire spirit of writing and art for me.
So in the spirit of fearless ideas, here I am this past week wearing my Bureau Of Fearless Ideas shirt next to my Field Guide To Fearless Ideas poster, (purchased here, more info in the caption). And why am I wearing my BFI* shirt? Because STORYSTORM = FEARLESS IDEAS! And it’s that time of year. I’ve just finished up 2019’s challenge and I’m celebrating all the ways ideas, brainstorming, and play make my art better.
This past year I signed a contract for my first PB after working at it a looooong time. And THE ELEPHANT HIDE-AND-SEEK HANDBOOK (scheduled for release from Sourcebooks Jabberwocky in 2020) was definitely born from this process.
So cheers to fearless ideas and fearless brainstorming! And a big shout-out and thank you to Tara for all she’s done for the writing and illustrating community over many years!
THANK YOU TARA!
*BFI = Bureau of Fearless Ideas, a real place. It’s a tutoring center for kids. But they also have cool shirts and posters. And in Seattle they have a Space Travel Supply Company. So that’s awesome.
The first time I read a Mary Oliver Poem, I was visiting my mom at her college, while I was also in college. Even if I missed our house, the one mom had sold and left for her new career adventure in middle age, we’d moved so many times when I was young, I’d done this before, I could do it again. Home probably could be wherever there were people I loved. But. It was my last semester at school and it had been a difficult few months—I was struggling to let go of a very unhealthy relationship, perfectionism and anxiety raged. I didn’t know how to give myself permission to do the things I knew were calling my name. I didn’t know where I belonged. Still, visiting mom felt like soup on a sick day. I could breathe again. I felt a little more well. And there in the “kitchen” of my mom’s cramped student-housing apartment, I think under a magnet on the waist-high mini-fridge, was a poem. Wild Geese by Mary Oliver.
As far as I was aware it was the first time in my then 23 years that I’d read anything by Mary Oliver. When mom wasn’t looking, I copied the poem to take with me. I love my mom to pieces but it’s hard to talk about hard things. I didn’t want to talk about how that poem made me feel—the same feeling of exhale I felt by visiting mom, actually. It was permission to not be perfect or have the answers and still love life anyway, all in a poem, and in a visit to my beloved mother.
My life is better because of the words Mary Oliver shared with the world and now has left behind—not just that one poem, but so many I’ve fallen in love with since.
Thanks for your words and life Mary. I’m so grateful you were here among us sharing them for so long.
Squeezing in a quick New Year's collage in the midst of family visits, kid chaos, and all the fun this time of year can bring. My past year brimmed with adventures, delights, and people for whom I am grateful. Most notably after many years of working at it, this year I can finally say I'M GOING TO BE AN AUTHOR! How awesome is that? VERY! It's a dream come true. So grateful for all who helped me along the way.
As for the coming year I know this for sure: in addition to more adventures, delights, and good times with good people, my new year will be full of ART. How do I know this? Because it's what's calling my name and because it's what I choose. To make more art, share more art, and carve more time for creative play. MORE ART! More collage!
For 2019, may your compass also point you in the way your heart calls. May your year be full of people and projects that make you come alive. May the wind fill your sails. Happy New Year!
I hope your holiday season was filled with many sweet memories! Merry Christmas!
Now and then I’ve started typing notes to my younger creative self. Here’s one from last week.
Happy election day!
A little mashup of one-second videos taken while making a collage in my studio today:
Making collages is so fun!
At long last I can announce it. I’m going to be a children’s book author! My silly picture book manuscript THE ELEPHANTS’ HIDE-AND-SEEK HANDBOOK—a guidebook for elephants who want to overcome their size disadvantage in the game of hide-and-seek—is going to be a real, actual, buy-it-at-the-bookstore picture book for kids! Published by the proudly independent Sourcebooks through their imprint Jabberwocky. HOORAY! HOORAY! HOORAY! I hope you will celebrate with me!
Anyone reading the whole Publisher’s Weekly release (screen-grab pictured above) might see that I won’t be illustrating this one. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that was hard for me at first (I’m still an artist after all) but I’ve had time since signing the contract to come to peace with it. AND it’s also happily true that I LOVE the work of the illustrator who was chosen, Gladys Jose-Fabii, and I think you will too. I especially love the hilarious expressions of her characters and I can completely see how the humor in her work matches the humor in my writing. I can’t wait to see how she adds to the book and I’ll be proud to have her name next to mine on the cover. So, many thanks to my editor Annie Berger for not only believing in my book—thank you Annie—but also for choosing Gladys as an illustrator. For my own part, I’m also psyched to embrace my voice as a writer more, even while reclaiming my voice as an illustrator with other works-in-progress. It’s a fantastic feeling to be able to have my writing stand on its own.
Since I already started thanking people, thanks also to Laura McGee Kvasnosky for mentoring me with this book when I first wrote it and to my critique group/partners for all the support over so many years’ worth of effort to become better at my craft. And many additional thanks to my wonderful agent Clelia Gore of Martin Literary Management, for believing in me, for helping me land my first book deal, and for helping me to bring out the best in my work and in myself. (And thanks also to Clelia for doing much of this work while technically being on maternity leave with a newborn at home. Seriously, Clelia you are a superhero.) Thank you all!
CHEERS PEOPLE! TO DREAMS COMING TRUE!
My friend stopped by to pick something up and caught a picture of me in my studio in messy collage focus mode this morning. Working on some art revisions for a WIP. I love stepping back and noticing the clutter and chaos around both me and my tunnel vision. Maybe lots of creative play looks like clutter and chaos. That’s my happy thought for the morning.
My Aunt Jackie and Uncle Gary asked if they could put my art on their camper. If you happen to be camping in the upper mid-west look out for Auntie and Uncle Moose. I'm totally going to be campground famous.
It’s been a happy discovery of the last few years to learn that I have a quiet super power in helping kids love and make art. What a happy super power! For this today I am grateful.
These two collages are class collaborative projects I made with kids. The first collage is made from radial designs created by the 1st-3rd graders who I regularly taught art to this past fall (I went back last month to make this piece with them for their school’s auction). The second collage is made from geometric designs created by 4th-6th graders at the same school (I team taught with their regular art teacher for this project).
I love how each kid’s personality comes out a bit in their individual contribution and how all the pieces come together into a colorful and lively finished whole. I love how pulling the pieces together felt a little like pulling the kids together into creative play. But most of all I just love making art with kids.
Sometimes I go to the bookstore having already spent my book budget for the month. I do this because I cannot resist bookstores. Whenever this happens I find myself wondering, why oh why am I doing this to myself? I know I'm going to buy a book—probably more than one. And perhaps even one of those books will NOT even be a picture book. And then not only am I being bad with my budget I'm also going to want to read that long non-picture-book book RIGHT NOW! Only inevitably I will already have a stack as big as my leg (or possibly larger) of non-picture-book books I want to read RIGHT NOW. Also, didn't I just do this, like last week? Yes, I have a problem. I can't help it. I LOVE BOOKS!
So what, you may be asking, does this have to do with the title of this post—Storystorm? Storystorm is this thing in picture book land where picture book writers gather (virtually) over on Tara Lazar's blog and support one another as we each come up with a picture book idea for every day during an entire month. I have no idea how many years I've participated in Storystorm (used to be called PIBOIDMO). I will not go back and look because that will make me feel like I am getting old too fast. Let's just say it's many. And the practice has not only helped me come up with many fun ideas during the month it takes place, it also has taught me to cultivate ideas all year long. And it has to do with my enormously large pile of to-read books because just like books, I have WAY TOO MANY IDEAS!
But joking aside, I actually like having too many books and too many ideas. The abundance of these things matters. I've heard it said that you only need one good idea. Sure. And I suppose I'm supposed to feel satisfied with one book too?
I make my best work when I throw my perfectionism out the window and aim for quantity over quality. Yes, I want quality—but I find that it comes only from vigorous practice. And that vigorous practice only comes from a spirit of quantity. Quantity helps me achieve quality.
This is true especially with ideas. The more ideas I come up with, the more I find the ideas to be interesting. It never fails.
So here's my annual cheers to another month of brainstorming ideas with Storystorm! And while I'm at it I'll raise my glass to brainstorming of all kinds—where quantity cultivates quality. And also I'll raise my glass to the giant mountains of books that are waiting to be read, in my house, in my library, and in my local bookstore. Is there anything better?
Cheers to abundant possibility!
I don't know about you, but one of my favorite parts of this time of year is snuggling in on a cold day (here in the Northwest that usually means a rainy day) with a good book.
Recently, while I was reading my usual gigantic stack of picture books that I had checked out from the library, I was feeling grateful for librarians, writers, and reviewers who take the time to make the recommended-reading lists I often seek out when I'm figuring which picture books to check out.
I love all the best-of-year book lists that take place this time of year, and I always love the mock Caldecott lists, and of course I love various book review lists. But I also love when bloggers and reviewers make to-read lists that are more specific and quirky. Like the to-read lists I look for more as a parent: favorite train books, books about the ocean, books for kids who love purple. These are examples of just a few of the searches I've done myself. Because often when I'm looking for the perfect book for a particular kid of picture book age, I'm also thinking about what they like and what draws them in from a pure hook standpoint. And sometimes best-of to-read lists don't quite hit that mark.
It's a small drop in the sea but I decided that perhaps I might like to cultivate some of my own picture book to-read lists for others who are seeking suggestions too. The more specific kinds of to-read lists like I enjoy finding.
So in the coming year, roughly every month, as part of my reading practice anyway, I'm going to curate a fresh picture book to-read list (of books I've already read) with some kind of quirky focus I think might be helpful for anyone out there who is seeking such a thing. I've decided to do so on Pinterest boards because I like the way I can add to the boards whenever I find a new title and I like the idea of the boards being easy to change if I think of something new. Because how many times has a friend asked me for a suggestion for a book for their kid and even while I gave them a decent to-read list, later I thought of other books that would have been perfect additions.
I don't promise these to-read lists will be perfect or complete, just some favorites for whoever out there looks for these kinds of lists like I do. And as a start I've recently made two new boards with favorites of two kinds of picture books I can't ever seem to get enough of:
Happy reading and happy holidays everyone!
If you are in Seattle in the next couple months I invite you to stop by the DRAWN TO BOOKS exhibit at Seattle City Hall! It's an exhibit of 45 illustrators' works from the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, including a piece I made called CATCHING A LEAF. The show runs between Oct 31, 2017 and January 3, 2018, and there is an opening on Nov. 2 from 4-6 pm. Enjoy!
God it's been a hard week in the U.S. What happened in Charlottesville last weekend is so wrong on so many levels it hurts. It's not okay.
Maybe it's too personal but I can't help but keep thinking of my grandfathers who fought in WWII and what they fought for. I especially think of my Grandpa Archie who left behind a journal/photo album with his war experiences. My own dad died when I was three and Grandpa Archie was in many ways the closest thing I had to a dad for most of my childhood.
He was an amateur photographer and carried a camera during the war and his photos from the war are haunting. The stories he left behind are haunting too, although sometimes it's telling how little he says (he was not one to be really emotive). He landed on Omaha Beach in Normandy on D-day. He helped liberate a concentration camp (the photos of that are...the worst).
He was a farmer so he knew how to drive without headlights. He often got pulled from his tank to drive around "brass" in the dark. At one point in the war when he was off driving around brass, his tank was bombed and all his buddies died. His parents back home both died while he was gone.
My Grandpa took me to France and Germany when I was 10 to see where he fought. I won't ever forget the feeling of standing on the beach with him, listening to his stories, feeling full of wonder that such a beautiful place had once been full of so much bloodshed. Anyway the trip and the stories made quite an impression on 10-year-old me. My grandpa went through Hell. So did the world.
And this past weekend when I saw the photos and videos of men imitating the visuals of lynch mobs, carrying nazi flags, and chanting Nazi slogans—I was horrified. I couldn't help but think of my grandfather and how he fought against Nazis and everything they stood for.
God help us all.
Even though I've posted it before, I thought I'd post this illustration again.
I've been thinking about the best ways I can live into the words in this art.
"Yes we can!" — What can I do?
"Love thy neighbor." — How can I best love?
These are questions that don't go away and that I don't have perfect answers for. But I feel like they are questions I need to keep living into, with everything I do right now.
How can I promote diversity more? How can I help foster understanding? How can I stand up to hate more? How can I stand up to racism more? How can I own my own room for growth more? Where can I be a better listener, learner, teacher? Where in my life, every day, can I ensure that my grandfather would be proud?
So these are the questions I ask myself this week and going forward.
You do not have to wear a uniform to fight for what's right.
Some process photos from a collage I recently made for a local non-profit group:
It's called the WE CAN DO IT WRENCH!
I'll have prints and cards of this one up in my Etsy shop soon.