STORYSTORM 2019! Brainstorm, Play, and Ideas

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.

My Bureau of Fearless Ideas shirt and my Field Guide To Fearless Ideas poster, both purchased at the  Greenwood Space Travel Supply Company  in Seattle, a storefront for the  Bureau of Fearless Ideas , a non-profit writing and tutoring center for kids.

My Bureau of Fearless Ideas shirt and my Field Guide To Fearless Ideas poster, both purchased at the Greenwood Space Travel Supply Company in Seattle, a storefront for the Bureau of Fearless Ideas, a non-profit writing and tutoring center for kids.

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!


The bumper sticker on my car. Bought it at  Wild Play  zipline course on Vancouver Island, BC. Pertains to art and writing too.

The bumper sticker on my car. Bought it at Wild Play zipline course on Vancouver Island, BC. Pertains to art and writing too.

*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.

A wonderfully messy thing to do

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.


More art with kids: Class Collaboration Collages

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.

Making art with kids

I've said it before on my blog: sometimes when you are busy with the very things that are interesting to blog about, you are too busy to bother blogging. So I've had a full last few months! I have a few posts I'd like to put up soon but how about I start with sharing this collage I made with kids because it's close to my heart.

The last couple years I've been teaching art to the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd graders at a local Montessori school here in Bellingham, once a week for a few months a year. A few days ago I finished glueing together this paper quilt made from collage squares all the kids made. I've been a bit of an accidental art teacher but honestly it's become one of my favorite and most rewarding things that I do. I'm so grateful that I get to make art regularly with kids (at least during the months I'm teaching). This piece is for the school's fund-raising auction. I'm pretty psyched at how it turned out. But mostly I like that each square makes me think of each kid who made it and that makes me smile.

Sharing Play at Dumas Bay SCBWI Illustrators retreat

This past weekend, illustrators from around Washington and Oregon gathered to retreat, play, and learn on the water in Dumas Bay, Washington, and I was among them. We were honored and thrilled to have illustrators Christian Robinson and Catia Chien guide us in our play. What a line up!

Indulge me a minute while I express how giddy I personally was to sign up for this retreat. I am a huge, huge, dinosaur-sized, Christian Robinson Fan. When I pour over his collages I feel the same joy and wonder as I did when I was a child pouring over THE SNOWY DAY and other books by Ezra Jack Keats, my childhood favorite author. And at the same time Christian's work is fresh and modern in a way that offers me joy in the here and now too. Plus it doesn't hurt that LAST STOP ON MARKET STREET (illustrated by Christian and written by Matt de la Peña) is probably my son Lars's favorite book.

Lars, who is 3-years-old, takes the bus in the morning several times a week with Daddy. He is especially excited when his favorite bus, the purple one, is the one that picks him up at the curb. You should see the light in his eyes. But even when it's just the regular bus he loves to climb on and sit by the window and talk about all the noises and people and moments on the bus. LAST STOP ON MARKET STREET is called THE Bus Book in our house even though we have several other bus books. Lars likes to close his little eyes the same time the main character, CJ, does. He closes his eyes and listens to the music, wherever the music is in his heart.

So this past weekend I got to go to Dumas Bay and connect with the music in my own heart. And I got to share that experience with many other illustrators. And I also got to learn from Catia Chien, whose work I was less familiar with ahead of the retreat with but now am excited to love.

I gained insights about my own work and practices as I always do at SCBWI events but the thing that probably will stick with me most was just the realization that no matter what happens externally in the world or my own life, I am an artist and I will always make art. That is the music in my own heart. I don't mean to make it sound like a new commitment, rather a quiet acknowledgement of the obvious and what is already there at a time when so many things in the greater world feel uncertain.

We children's book creators will continue to do this thing because it's what we do. And we will do it with heart and passion and even when we take years to get published, or never are published at all, or are banned, or make mistakes, or whatever, we collectively will keep working to make the world brighter and better through books.

Many thanks to my local SCBWI chapter volunteers, especially Tina Hoggatt, for all the work you did putting this retreat together. And many thanks to Catia and Christian for sharing your light with the world and with us this past weekend.

From a walk I took in the garden at Dumas Bay

From a walk I took in the garden at Dumas Bay

Meet the illustrators and come to our Family Draw-Along

If you are in Seattle this Saturday stop by the Washington State Convention Center anytime from 12:00 - 2:00 pm for a family Draw-Along with children's illustrators from Washington State. Bring the kids! (although you don't have to). Materials will be provided. It's the perfect time to check out the SCBWI Illustrator art show in the same space, up through Sept 29th (the poster says the 30th but that's wrong. It ends the 29th). I hope I see you there!

Pictures from The Last Bookstore in LA

I had a FABULOUS time at the recent SCBWI conference in L.A. I loved the new location, I took away great thoughts for my work, I got to see muppets in action (!) and I was nominated for the Sue Alexander award.

I've been busy busy busy fixing some work. Sometimes I need a break from the Internet when I'm hard at work/play (am I the only one that feels like the Internet can be an echo chamber?). But I felt like it was long past time I at least posted these pics

Isn't this bookstore amazing? Their art section was my favorite. Although they had a stellar comics section too.

Cheers to a playful and promising summer's last few weeks.

Meditative drawing

I posted this on Facebook but thought it might be nice to post here too


A combination of too much chai yesterday afternoon paired with anxiety from reading way too much about the Paris attacks before bedtime left me wide awake in the middle of the night last night. 

Usually if this happens I get up and write in my journal or read a book or do some yoga and I can manage to go to sleep again. 

I don't often draw when I wake in the night because my inner critic rages at the midnight hour (unless I've stayed up in a manic obsession over a specific project). But I've been teaching art this fall and I showed the kids I teach how to draw Indian Rangolis a few weeks ago. Turns out Indian Rangolis are pretty therapeutic to draw when my brain is in overdrive. 

It felt like a quiet rebellion to use my anxiety as an excuse to focus on beauty for beauty's sake while I cozied up to the stove in my studio. Here are my prayers for Paris and the world, drawn mostly in the anxious hours of the early morning, myself like so many: striving in the face of fear to turn toward the light. 


l add that I've had a lot of requests for coloring sheets.

Good idea. The

se aren't great pictures because they are just s

napped with the scanner app on my phone but I'll put some up so

on for anyone i


Trying collage in a new way

 I've been experimenting with new ways to approach my collage for quite some time. The problem with the old way was that I was frustrated that some of the looseness and expression in my drawings would get lost in the final pieces. 
So with these I collaged directly onto the computer instead of using glue. I've been loving making them and I've been happy with the results.
More to come...

If drawing is the balm, I’ll take it

A partial pile of drawings from the last couple weeks.
Practicing Ahimsa (A yoga term for non-violence that basically means I’m honoring my edge) towards self while healing is not easy for me (or my family). Five weeks after the bike crash I’ve been given the clear for the splint to come off my left hand… but only when no children are around and I’m doing something restful. Also (and this one I’m in denial over but really have to admit) if I’m out and about doing too much I get dizzy-concussion symptoms still. So yes, the next few weeks still hold a bunch of laying-off-it for me.

Can I just say…Ugh. I don’t like laying-off it.

But then again, there’s another side to this silly attitude of angst. When I’m normally doing all that other stuff that I’m currently laying off of, I normally wish I were being better about honoring my drawing time. And drawing requires a lot of butt-in-chair. Which means…

Yay bike crash! You gave me an excuse to blow-off everything other than drawing.

 (Just as an aside this is also one of the many reasons I love deadlines. I love love love telling the to-do list to go to heck over a drawing deadline! Give me a deadline and I’ll love love love you!).

So ya, anyway drawing is what I normally wish I were doing but often set aside more than I wish to because well mommy and glacial speed of my industry, and well. Excuses pile up. I hope I remember this time as the time I crashed my bike so bad I could do little other than what I most wanted to do anyway.

So. Sorry husband! I still can’t change diapers. Sorry dirty dishes! My second hand is still too inflexible. Sorry millions of mommy tasks and house tasks and life tasks everyone is annoyed I’m neglecting! For most every purpose the next few weeks, I still only have one hand.

And meanwhile, if drawing is the balm, I’ll take it.

(But next time I think I’ll just blow off the other stuff on the to-do list if I want to get a drawing project finished and save myself a lot of trouble.)


I love November. And not just because of Thanksgiving (which is my favorite holiday). The last few years I've participated in Picture Book Idea Month over on Tara Lazar's blog. If you haven't heard of it before, the idea is that you write a picture book idea down for every day in November. I love the brainstorming. I love the discipline and deadline. I love the play that comes out with my later ideas. I love it all.

And best of all...
This year I've already written two new picture books as a result of PiBoIdMo. Woo hoo!

Cheers to anyone else who took the challenge.

A day of fun at the Eric Carle Exhibit, Tacoma Art Museum

Pardon the lack of posts the last few months. I've been busy getting ready for baby #2 (could be any day now!) as well as catching up on some personal projects after I put in such a push with my illustration work over the spring. 

But I thought I'd check in and post some pictures from a fun day I spent down at the Tacoma Art Museum a few weeks ago. I went to see their latest Eric Carle exhibit and also partake in a fun afternoon of collage with other Eric Carle fans.
 We made our own paste papers in an upper work room of the museum.

 It was a jolly fun time of paint and messes. I felt like I was my son's age again! Fun!
 Here's the two collages I made. The paper we glued on wasn't taped down or stretched so the collages desperately warped (I suspected they would while making them), but it was still a fun exercise in play.
I hope you are getting some play in this summer too.
Happy Summer!

Making it my own

Here's the old sketch of a memory I took to that Nikki McClure paper-cutting memories workshop I blogged about a few weeks ago:
Here's what I made at the workshop:

And after experimenting with paper-cutting in new ways for a few weeks I decided to take what I had been practicing and finish off my workshop piece in my own way.
I'll share more new stuff soon. I haven't had a chance to scan everything yet.

I should mention that if you happen to be in Bellingham, WA (where I live), on March 23rd, Nikki McClure will be at Village Books speaking about her new picture book How To Be A Cat. I won't be able to be there but I thought I'd share in case others were interested. I can't wait to check out the book!

Happy Heart Day!

Happy Valentine's Day!

 I love heart photos. The above picture I took in Chang Mai, Thailand. The below picture I took here in Bellingham, Washington when I was home visiting while living abroad.

 And the below screen shot is from a link my hubby sent me this morning to his Strava page where he tracks his bike routes via GPS watch. This was the unconventional route he took to work and sent to me.

Isn't he sweet?

 How about, while I'm anyway posting a valentine's mash-up, I also post some pictures of my other (littler) valentine making cards for his class.

 Oscar wanted to make a rocket-ship valentine this year "with hearts coming out of the bottom instead of flames."

I drew the rocket for him. He cut out the hearts. I sewed the hearts. He made the heart stickers and put them on the front. 

I wonder which one of us had more fun?

I heart crafty projects with my son.

One more Heart note. If you are unfamiliar with the site

Boy Sees Hearts

, maybe today's the day you should check it out. Eric Telchin posts lots of pictures of Hearts he finds EVERYWHERE. I've heard he has a

cool photo book

out too. Hmm... I feel a valentine's day trip to the bookstore coming on.

Have a great day!

She's Nurturing A Dream

I made this collage using some of the paper-cutting techniques I've been experimenting with since attending the Nikki McClure workshop a few weeks ago.
She's Nurturing a Dream
I made it as a celebration as well. Big news: I'm expecting another baby! I'm due in July. If you look closely at the picture of me in the last post (the one at the end where I'm standing next to Nikki and holding up the picture I've made) you'll (maybe) see my blossoming bump.

I've had it in my mind for awhile to start making collages that are a bit more journal-like. Or a bit more like my own journals, which are full of torn bits and discarded (and then reclaimed) evidence of regular life.

I should note that this is just a lousy snapshot picture of the collage. I still need to scan the image for best quality. But I wanted to share now.

More in the works! Fun stuff!

Workshop with Nikki McClure

I've followed Nikki McClure's art since the early 2000's when I stumbled upon her paper-cut work on (one of my favorite early indie craft web sites). Paper-cuts always catch my eye, but Nikki's work especially did so because of its intimacy and heart. Her pieces capture the warm lovely feelings of everyday beauty and relationships. She has a nearly spiritual way of elevating the ordinary through her images that appeals to me. Well that, and it is paper art.

Over the years I've sought out and bought a couple of Nikki's annual self-published calendars and I smiled wide when I saw that she had broken into children's illustration a few years back.
So I was thrilled this past fall when I got an email from the Bellevue Art Museum advertising her then forthcoming (and now nearly over! quick rush to Bellevue this weekend!) exhibit. I immediately went to the Bellevue Art Museum's website to see if they had any special events. They did. In early December I attended a great lecture and slide show and then a couple of weeks ago I attended an all-day paper-cutting workshop that Nikki McClure instructed!
Watching another artist at work always helps me gain invaluable insights into new ways I can approach my own work.
Nikki McClure's workshop was certainly no exception.
 The day was just the right mix of instruction and play.
 I cut this fish as a warm-up exercise.
 I've always favored using a scissors to a knife in my own collages, but after using a knife that tightened at the bottom (as opposed to where you grip the knife) I felt liberated.
 Who knew such a thing existed? Um... Can I just say sometimes you don't even know that you should be looking for something?
 We can get stuck in ruts and used to working on things our own way with our own methods. I have so long ago rejected using a knife that it had never occurred to me I maybe had never tried using the right knife. Looking outside our usual perspectives can be so, so, valuable.
 I've had some ideas for my collage (for a LOOOONG time) that involve a paper-cut aspect and this workshop has helped me break through the technical side of my ideas so I can make them reality. Cheers for shaking things up.
 I've been playing over the last week. I'll post pictures soon. Meanwhile, here's the piece I made during the workshop (using a drawing from a memory).
 And here's me with Nikki!
Thanks Nikki McClure, wherever you are, for your fabulous workshop, for the inspiration, and for the lovely art you bring into this world! Cheers everybody! Go check out Nikki's work.

Bookshelves bookshelves bookshelves

Show and tell time.

These are my family's new bookshelves:


I LOVE them. 

Please note all the picture book shelves. And the face-out picture book rack on the wall to the left of the shelves. I am a proud picture book hoarder. I feel that this is a very fine thing. I have a five-year-old afterall (or maybe, yes, that 's just an excuse...).

Also! These awesome bookshelves do not stand alone.

How about some bookshelves just for all our handmade journals and photo albums?

Are two shelves too many? How about three? How about one for the wall? Face out!

Or maybe four?

Aren't these shelves AWESOME?

They are like half-tables stacked on top of one another.


Now, how about some handmade shelves by yours truly (and my crafty sister):

Patchwork bookshelves for the nook at the top of my stairs.

 Because every crafty lady should try DECOUPAGE at some point.

 Here's the shelves right after I hung them, before I filled them up. My son helped me. He loves helping mommy with projects.

 As long as said projects don't involve trips to the craft store.

Is it embarrassing to realize that this little list does not include the bookshelves in my studio? Or my bedroom? or the one downstairs for cookbooks? I mean, is that too many? Too many bookshelves?


In fact, how about I just add pictures of those shelves too. Why not?

Studio shelves, complete with flying pig light

Cookbooks under the T.V. Wouldn't we rather be reading anyway?

This one houses journals I'm still filling.


"I would be most content if my children grew up to be the kind of people who think decorating consists mostly of building enough bookshelves."
-Anna Quindlen (from an article in the NYT)

Alright. Enough already. Go read a book.