Cover Reveal of my first book! Pre-orders too! Happy day!

LOOK! It’s going to be a real book!

Elephantcover.jpg

Happy happy day! Excited to share the cover of my first picture book, THE ELEPHANTS' GUIDE TO HIDE-AND-SEEK! Isn't it gorgeous?! And yellow just happens to be my favorite color. Yay for Gladys's beautiful art—thank you Gladys and thank you Sourcebooks Kids, I LOVE IT!

And look at this! Even though it comes out April 1, 2020, you can already pre-order it!

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Thanks to everyone who already has ordered a copy! Hope you enjoy it!

2016 SCBWI MOST PROMISING PICTURE BOOK AWARD!

It's an all caps kind of day here in Kjersten's studio —HIP HIP HOORAY!

Why?

Because my manuscript HOW TO BUILD A ROCKETSHIP IN 10 EASY STEPS is the official winner of the 2016 Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators Most Promising Picture Book Award! HAPPY DANCE! HAPPY DANCE! Maybe just this once I can even get away with TOO MANY EXCLAMATION POINTS!!!!!

Attending SCBWI events over the many years I've been a member has been like unofficial graduate-level training, only with friends and sometimes cookies.

Thank you to the editor who nominated me and to all who were involved in choosing this piece for recognition. I'm honored and excited to receive this award and I can't wait to get going on the dummy for this piece. This boost means the world to me. Thank you for everything SCBWI!

Here's a screen shot from SCBWI's announcement:

Saving the screen shot for posterity.  Also so whenever I feel discouraged I can look back and take this as a nudge to keep going.

Saving the screen shot for posterity.  Also so whenever I feel discouraged I can look back and take this as a nudge to keep going.

My art at the convention center

On Saturday I finally got a chance to see Western Washington SCBWI's illustrator show at the Washington State Convention Center in Seattle. Here are a few pictures for show and tell.

I loved seeing my Alligator Brothers piece there.

Saturday was the day we gathered for the family Draw-Along, inviting the community to bring their kids and come make art with the illustrators.

I brought a cut-paper exercise that I've with my art students at the Montessori school where I've been teaching art. 

Here's a picture of the mess we made at my table. Fun day!

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.

Back on the bike!

I posted this on facebook but thought I'd post here too.

Starry Starry Ride...

This week I'm celebrating the magic of getting back in the saddle after a setback. I cut this collage out before

my bike crash

last summer. Needless to say, I had no desire to finish it after my crash.

But this past week I decided to follow through. I glued it to mark the week I finally got the courage to get back on my bike (a little over a week ago now).

Cheers to getting up and trying again after a crash.

Starry Night

New Piece (after revision)

I've been trying out my new technique with some old pieces I liked in the past as an exercise in revision. Here's an example. Above is the new piece. Below is the old version (a poster I agreed to make for a Christmas event quite a few years ago).  When I get to compare two pieces like this, it makes me want to pat myself on the back and believe in progress. This is probably a sign that I need a humbling critique to put me back in my place. (Only kidding. Sometimes it's nice to check one's critic at the door and just appreciate progress even if there's always more progress to be had.) Onward!

Old piece (before revision)

Whew! A whirlwind month of new work

A couple months ago I set an ambitious goal to try to nearly remake my entire portfolio for the Society of Children's Book Writer's and Illustrator's conference here in Washington State.  (Which was last weekend; it was FANTASTIC as usual!)


The last few weeks I have been working all kinds of crazy hours to meet my personal goal (which is why I haven't posted in awhile).


And I'm proud to say...

I did it!

I'll try to post some fun process pictures in the upcoming few weeks.

Meanwhile you can check out my updated portfolio here on my website.

This week I'm taking a deep breath and catching up with regular life. But I'm looking forward to sorting out what my next big goal will be too.


Cheers to working hard and making fun new art!




Kjersten's photo on the NYT website

A few weeks ago I submitted a few photos from my time in Kuala Lumpur to the New York times for a project they are working on about living in high-rises. Last week I got a nice note back from an editor saying my pictures were exactly what they were looking for. Cool!

Check out the submissions page. One of my pictures is an example! (You can't see it from a mobile device). Can you tell which one is mine?

(For anyone who doesn't know me personally, it's the one with the mom and her kid with the sun streaming in behind them).

Pat on the Back for me


Picture Book Idea Month (an idea a day for a month) really feeds my muse. Last year by the end of November I was rolling with a new mid-grade fiction novel and had ideas swarming me that led to some of my favorite work I did last year. My muse went nuts with the freedom to brainstorm.

This year, again, I feel pumped and energetic after the months' exercise. In fact this year I feel like the entire process has completely busted up a block I had building in my work over the past few months (sadly neglecting follow-through on some of my favorite projects from last year even). What is it about the concept of coming up with an idea every day that frees my muse so much?

I think it's the idea of brainstorming. Not letting the inner critic shut down my muse before she gets going. Or more to the point, shutting up the perfectionist within.

That pesky perfectionist always wants to please everybody when it comes to follow-through time. And that can be downright counter-productive. But the problem is figuring out how to balance the free-flow of ideas with the careful editor within. And so the dance goes on.

Anyway, cheers to anyone else who took on the PiBoIdMo challenge (or nanowrimo for that matter). I wish you all kinds of good energy in your efforts of following-through on all your fantastic new ideas.

Wish Granted: Working like a maniac to meet a deadline

Just as my studio started to resemble a happy working space last week (finally!) I got my wish for a crazy deadline. HOORAY! The deadline is for the illustrator intensive I'm participating in for the L.A. SCBWI conference. I somehow missed the memo about the assignment when I signed up. I think the website said something like, "details to be announced later," in my defense.
Anyway, I'm working on a new thumbnail dummy for a story of mine about a goose.
In just one week (last Friday to this one), I have filled up nearly two sketchbooks with drawings, drawings, drawings.
And I'm loving every crazy minute of it.
I made a goal a couple of years ago to work toward being able to draw faster. I'd say that goal is met.

And if I seriously get a rough dummy finished in less than ten days (as I'm on track to) I so am going to jump up and down. Especially because, even though the dummy isn't perfect, I LIKE IT! It's a good start! YAY!

Anyway, I love a good challenge to rise to. BRING IT ON! THANK YOU FOR LISTENING UNIVERSE!

On a side note I was telling a friend this story yesterday and she laughed and said in a teasing way, "Yay! I'm stressed!" I got a tickle out of that one. The thing is, I know it sounds totally cheesy, but I don't feel stressed. I feel determined. I can do this. I WANTED a crazy deadline, and I got one. Be careful what you wish for! You might just get it!

Cheers to anyone else out there who is taking some butt-in-chair time to get lots done. Don't forget to walk up and down the stairs every hour or so. Or get a walk in at some point during the day. Butt-in-chair may be good for getting lots done, but it's not so good for one's actual butt. But I digress... Gotta go get back to work.

Wish granted: the story of a small curve-ball deadline and a custom order

Regular readers of my blog may remember a wish I asked of the universe a few weeks ago on my blog: "Someone throw a curve-ball deadline at me, will you?"
Well, one of my husband and I's longest-time friends from Bellingham answered that call...
At least in a small way.
This is that story.
*Cue dramatic music.* 
It was to be a weekend away from home without our kid (Thanks Mom!).
My husband and I headed over the mountains to Mazama, WA, where one of our best friends from Bellingham was getting married. I had never ridden the entire way over the pass on highway 20, through the North Cascades Park (I usually head that way in the winter, when the pass is closed). The drive was beautiful. I was in awe of my own home state and feeling very in love with being home.
The wedding was set on a ranch near where my husband and I like to go cross country skiing in the winter. I loved the rustic homey feel of our friends' wedding site. I loved the relaxed feel of everything. I loved the views!

As the sun went down on Friday before the wedding I took in a deep breath and felt happy to be outside without anything to do but breathe and talk with nice people and eat s'mores (lots of people at home have been complaining about our June-uary cold weather, but after living in Malaysia I'm still not over the fact that I can be outside and not break into a sweat when the sun is out, or for that matter when it's not out too).
Over the camp fire that night, the groom said something to me about how he wished he had gotten me to make their guest book, but they hadn't wanted to bug me as I was unpacking and settling back into being home. I asked if they had a guest book. He said no, they never got around to getting one...

Hmmm...

Curveball deadline (albeit small) wish granted?

I offered to make something the next morning.

"Really?" He said.

Why the heck not?
So the next morning my retreat to Mazama became: SURVIVOR CRAFT CHALLENGE! MAKE A BOOK IN 5 (ish)  HOURS OR LESS WITH ZERO SUPPLIES!
I loved all the ways my friends decorated for their wedding; isn't this sign great?
And I was all over it.
I felt like someone had gifted me with a surprise treasure hunt or something.

I had already noticed the sort of details and style of the wedding. Rustic. Lots of burlap. Some splashes of color.
And the wedding invitation had had a tandem bike on it.
Yep, this was the alter. So pretty!
I gave myself two hours the next morning to gather whatever I could find in the nearby small (very small) towns of Winthrop and Twisp.
One touristy tea-towel souvenir (with some bikes on it) later, and I had my idea. 
The bride said a lot of these ideas for decoration were from Pinterest. I heart Pinterest.
Using a sketchbook and razor I bought at the only kind-of art supply store around, twine from the general store, and a couple of pretties from the farmer's market (a hand-blown glass bead and a little paper flowerette), I cut, dissected, taped, sewed and put together this last minute guest book:
Here's the guest book I made!
Voila! Crafty challenge met! So fun! Thanks universe (and Stacy) for granting my wish for a curve-ball art deadline, even if it was small. Plus it was fun because I've been out of practice in making guestbooks since letting go of craft shows when my son was born.

Anyway universe, I'll take more challenges like that please. Small or large, whichever.
Because that was super FUN!
Plus it was a super fun wedding. I got to wear pink cowboy boots.
And see a snake eat a mouse (okay, that was kind of gross and I assure you it was not part of the planned activities).
Sigh. Weddings always make me happy.
And
there was a hoe-down in the barn with a real band and a full moon! Can't beat that.
Of course the drive home wasn't bad either.

My hubby enjoyed it in his way.
And I enjoyed it my way.
(If you've never turned the volume up full blast with one of your favorite bands — in my case this time it was The Wailin' Jennys — when driving through a beautiful mountain pass all by yourself and singing along no matter how much your voice sucks, well then, you should).

Yay for crafty retreats, weddings and the Pacific northwest! It's good to be home.

The Year of The Dragon (Oh, and... I finished writing a novel, hooray!)

These are apples some Chinese friends gave us for the New Year.
 Chinese New Year is one of my favorite times of year in Malaysia.
 Celebrations take place for 14 days here.
And this year, for the beginning of the year of the dragon, malls really went all-out decorating.
 I especially love seeing the lion dances that take place all over KL.



 After the above lion dance, my husband and I decided to go to our favorite Shanghai Dumpling place, Dragon-I, in honor of the beginning of the year of the dragon.
I'd post picture of my food, but they were terrible pictures. Let's just say if you've never tried soup dumplings, I suggest seeking them out. They are yummy!
 My son likes the drums that go along with lion dances. And he likes how the lions hand kids oranges through their mouths (even though he won't eat the oranges, —ya he's that picky)
So all of this has put me in the perfect mood for doing some dragon drawing in my own studio..
 I'm working on some illustrations for the book I've been writing.
Here are a few early sketches of the dragon fruit dragon that's in the book.
Have you heard of dragon fruit? 
The strange looking fruits behind the oranges are dragon fruits:

And this is what they look like on the inside, although sometimes their flesh is purple-pink, not white:
And here's a picture of the tree they grow on:
Also...
Lion dance drum roll please...

Yesterday I typed the words "The End" on my first ever attempt at writing a novel.
I WROTE A NOVEL!
I wrote it through to the end. YAY!
I can't believe how fun it has been to write mid-grade fiction.
I mean really fun. Like, I-want-to-try-again fun.
I also can't believe how fast the whole thing went.
It took me just under three months (and that includes lots of travel and the holidays).
I am not accustomed to working so fast. But it felt good to work so fast and with such focus. 
Really good.

Although now I'm nervous to begin the critique and revision stages.
Perhaps that will not be so fast...

Never mind, at least for a small moment, I'm relishing the wonderful feeling of having completed it:
I WROTE A NOVEL! WHOO HOO!

I hope your year of the dragon is prosperous. 
Cheers!

Redefining a year

Last January, when I wrote in my journal about my year to come, 2011, I envisioned it as a year of “persistence.” That was the word I used to frame my goals and dreams for 2011.

And here’s what I think about that now, having just lived through and experienced 2011 for real:

Wow, lame. That vision for my year was about as shortsighted as I’ve ever gotten in the history of my dreaming life. It’s kind of pathetic just how shortsighted that was, actually.

Does a year that looked kind of like the photo below, seem to you like a year well-defined by the word "persistence?"
Christmas in Ha Long Bay, Vietnam

Okay, I live an ocean away from home. This has had many challenges associated with it that I suppose are what narrowly led me to think last year on the word “persistence.” After all, persistence isn’t a bad thing. It’s a good thing. Right?

And when I look back on the last year, I’d probably be glossing over stuff if I didn’t acknowledge aspects of my year that were at least somewhat suited towards a goal of “persistence,” even if any of my hardships abroad were roses and daisies in comparison to real heart-break or tragedy in life.

Like, I did miss my friends, family, community and support networks back home; I missed them a lot. Or, I've hated filling out customs or visa paperwork that asks for my “occupation,” and for logistical reasons I sometimes feel I can’t write “artist,” as I wish to, but instead write “housewife,” which makes me kind of cringe — and more to the point, this action kind of sums up insecurities that I can be prone towards when I'm not at my best, that I've definitely persisted through at times this year. Also I suppose there's more petty things, like the tireless traffic here, the sweltering heat here, the barely-usable sidewalks here and other various whiny issues that sometimes make me sigh. Or there's also always rejections. Those suck. So, yes, I can acknowledge these sorts of things and note that I did “persist” through them. 
Hmm, next time I whine about traffic in KL, remind me about Ha Noi, Vietnam...
And, yes. I can and probably should acknowledge the more positive side of my original goals of “persistence” too, the parts that I wrote and dreamed about at the beginning of the year. In other words, I can and probably should acknowledge that I met goals and kept promises to myself that I made for last year:

I persisted with my biggest dream of writing and illustrating for children. I overcame some submission and perfectionism issues (or at least faced them and handled them admirably, I think). I kept up habits and practices that generally make my life happy and good (yoga, gratitude, blogging, drawing and writing regularly). I persisted with my art even when I felt worlds away from home and community and assurances of success.

All well and good, yes, and I’m happy to reflect that I did do all of those things. I met some specific benchmarks, exceeded others and I did “persist.”

BUT… WHAT THE HECK?

Kayaking in Ha Long Bay, Vietnam with my son, Oscar.
 What about all the crazy huge momentous fantastic adventures I took this past year?
Both in travel and in my work? 
And what about the huge potential for all the amazing wow that I started the year with? Did I just not see it? Was I only focusing on what I could improve, and not how I could thrive? 

 Amid reviewing whether I met my goals or not this past year, those adventures sat like the elephant (the friendly one that you’ve always wanted to ride who is just waiting for you to hop on) in the room. How could I have barely touched upon dreaming of the wow that real life would deliver when I visioned for myself a year of simple persistence last year?
Riding an elephant in Chang Mai, Thailand.
This past year I went to Sri Lanka, Bangkok, The Perhentian Islands, Melacca, Krabi, Penang, Sarawak, Los Angeles, Western Australia, Chang Mai, Cameron Highlands, Cambodia, Hong Kong and Vietnam. And I went to all of these places with a super adventurous fun husband and kid in tow. And I LOVED LOVED LOVED the experiences we had. I also explored favorite places all around KL and ate tons of interesting and delicious food here and saw amazing things within my own city and fell in love with so many aspects of Malaysia.

I played with my child and showed him the world from a unique viewpoint. I fostered his learning and growing and own budding wanderlust. I listened to my husband and took many dates with him and explored lots of interesting topics of conversation that several years ago I would have never imagined I would have time to discuss (or read about) with a kid around the house.

Enjoying the view in Hong Kong
 And, huge pat-on-the-back-for me, I read 101 books in 2011! (And no, that does not include picture books).

And, on the art front: I submitted my art the amount of times I had hoped to, I made many, many, new art samples I’m very proud of, I kicked butt with some collage challenges I decided to face, I explored new ideas and methods for drawing, I explored new ideas in writing, I wrote several new picture books that definitely broke me out of a previous mould I had been working in, and perhaps, most stunningly to myself… I began and nearly finished writing an entire mid-grade fiction novel in the course of the last two months of the year… (hey, that’s the first I’ve admitted that here! Ta-da! Still working on finishing it ­– hopefully before I move home two months from now, wish me luck!)

Does the word “persist” describe a year of prolific and fantastic adventures? Does the word “persist” describe a year traveling the world with my family? Does the word “persist" describe a year of dancing with my muse and creating some of my favorite art I’ve ever made? Does the word “persist” describe the exciting and thrilling risks I took with my own work, especially with writing, this past year?

My husband, "flying" in Nha Trang, Vietnam
 Hardly.

“Persist,” is a small part of last year, sure. But I think it might be useful to come up with a better, more-encompassing word (or words). A new name for my last year.

2011 was not the year of persistence for me, even if I did persist. It’s been a year of wow with my family and my muse. I want to acknowledge and have gratitude for this fantastic unforgettable, incredibly wonderful year by finding a good new name for it. So how about two words:

HUMONGOUS EXPLORE.
Christmas, Ha Long Bay, Vietnam
 2011 was the year of HUMONGOUS EXPLORE.

Amen.

Happy New Year! Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam


So what about 2012?
What kind of vision do you have for the coming year?
Maybe you can make room, at least a little, for some humongous explore? I dare you.

Or maybe fate has something else in mind, just perfect for you, waiting behind a spot where you too, are selling yourself short.

Anyway, here’s what I’m aiming for this coming year:
I’m thinking and hoping that 2012 will be the year of 
BRINGING IT ALL ON HOME!

From a descent into Vancouver International Airport, near my home in Bellingham, Washington.
Cheers to manifesting!
Cheers to the possibilities!