A simple first at the Library

Yesterday I went to the library with my two-year-old son, Oscar. He picked out a book for me to read to him.

Mid-way through he said: "I don't like this book."

Me: "I don't either, do you want to pick out another one?"

O: "No. Let's finish it."
[I proceed to read more]

Two pages from the end, O: "I don't like this book."

Me: "Should I stop reading it? Do you want another one?"

O: "Hmm. yes. Here, I'll put that back on the shelf." [puts book on top of the shelf, turns back to me.] "Do they have any books with buses?"

Me: "Probably, maybe we should ask."

O: "O-tay. I'll do it all by myself." [he walks up to the counter, careful to make sure I wasn't following him too closely -- "No Mommy, I'm doing it all by myself!"]

At the counter, Bethany (Children's librarian extraordinaire): "Hi, Oscar, what's up?"

O: "Do you have any books with buses?"

Bethany: "Let me check the computer to see what's in. [checks] Yes we do! A school bus book just came in. Should I get it for you from the back?"

O: "O-tay."
[Bethany goes to the back and gets a book, comes back with a Donald Crews Book about school buses -- this woman knows her books.]

O: [smiles big at the school bus book]

Bethany: "Will this one work?"

Still with a big smile on his face, O: "I'll take it!"
[Gives Bethany the library card that I gave him while she was retrieving the book, Bethany checks out the book. O turns back to me hugging his book.]

O: "I did it all by myself!" [Big toothy grin on both his face and Bethany's. ]

Life does not get better than this.

I finished reading every Caldecott book!

Hip Hip Hooray! I met a long-outstanding goal of mine today. As of today I have read every book that has ever won the Caldecott medal.

I've slowly plodded along with this goal over the last decade or so, checking out an old book here and another old book there (The newer books -- say from the last 30 years or so -- I had all read long ago or as they were released and/or won). A few weeks ago I realized I only had 3 winners left that I hadn't read. So I got a card to Western Washington University's library (my library didn't have them all) and checked out the last ones.

I've learned a lot from studying the old illustrations. Especially by studying the way illustrators in the past used negative space and limited color when printing still required illustrations to be color-separated.

Even though it's likely many of the older stories would probably not be published in the same form today (many of the old books are loooooooong for picture books), they often have charmed me in surprising ways. There's a lot of gold in them there hills of old books (and not just the shiny round sticker kind of gold).

Like the one I just read today,

Many Moons

-- the story was long and there were a lot of lists that characters read which felt cumbersome to read, but I LOVED the innovative and creative way the lists were illustrated. I also like the child-friendly resolution to the story.

It's also been interesting to note years when a now relatively obscure book won the medal while a now beloved classic took an honor.

I feel like reading the old books is like studying art history. It's understanding one's roots. It's good for a tree's roots to reach deep so its branches can reach higher into the sky. Is that too cheesy to say?

Oh and did I mention it's been really fun?

Someday I'd love to finish all the honor books too. I honestly don't have many left -- a few dozen I think. The main problem is that they are kind of hard to get a hold of. Maybe I'll make a push for it in the next month. I could read picture books at bedtime instead of novels (my son does). Ya... I like this idea. After all,

I'm loosing regular access to my beloved library soon


Wish me luck.


I found this quote yesterday on a Quote of the day website I check out every now and then. It felt like it fit into my goal setting for next year. Thought I'd share it:
"One Thing is Clear to me. You can't know everything you'd like to know. You can't do everything you'd like to do. You can't read everything you'd like to read. You must hold onto some things and let go of others. Learning to make that choice is one of the biggest lessons of this life." -- RealLivePreacher.com

(The Photo is of my son from last summer)

Making a list and checking it twice

"No trumpets sound when the important decisions of our life are made. Destiny is made known silently." - Agnes De Mille

It's the end of the year. A natural time for review. It's around this time of year that I start checking my goal lists from last year. And I make new lists for the coming year.
A couple of nights ago I looked through my goals from last year. Last year my goals weren't as quantifiable as I usually make them. I guess they were more about attitude and approach. But they were big, brave and bold for me at the time. And I'm proud to say I think I met them. Every one of them! That was a surprise. So yay for me.
I have only 5 main goals for the coming year. They are simple, straight-forward and quantifiable. I like this. I'm trying to de-clutter my to-do list in the coming year so that the things closest to my heart can find focus.

How do you keep track of your goals? Do you make lists? Make notecards?
Please tell me you have a dream journal. I love hearing about people's dream journals (I mean the kind where you plan and dream big -- not the kind where you record your sleep musings, although those are interesting too).
"Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you'll land among the stars." - Brian Littrell

Bison Bookbinding and Letterpress

My sister got married this past weekend! Yay Kelli!
In honor of her wedding, I thought I'd put up a few pictures from the place that printed her wedding invitations: Bison Bookbinding and Letterpress, located in my current hometown, Bellingham Washington. They were nice enough to let me come watch them printing Kelli's invites late last summer.
Bison Bookbinding and Letterpress is a real operating old fashioned letterpress. They combine old printing techniques with new tech ways of making plates.
They use a lot of newer environmentally friendly inks and whatnot too.

Anyway, I'm a big fan. I had designed Kelli's invites, and it was fun to see how my design translated.
Congratulations Kelli and Chris!

I heart Village Books

I've been stocking up on books to take with me to Malaysia. Apparently there are no libraries where I'm going.
So I've been hanging out a lot at my local indie book store, possibly the best local indie book store north of Powells in Portland:
Village Books.
Village Books has been named the best book store in Western Washington and for good reason. Three stories of awesome independent book store glory. Fantastic literature live events. Great service. And a sweet reader rewards club. Also there's a cafe on the top story with a cozy fireplace and sweeping views of Bellingham Bay. Life does not get much better than hanging out at Village Books.
These photos are from the walls just outside VB's front doors. So there's my plug. If you want to see VB for yourself, you'll have to come to Bellingham. And VB would be worth the trip alone.

I heart you, Village Books

Views from my studio

(This is a view from my computer's IPhoto collection. I often use photos in my collages -- so I collect oodles of "texture" pictures like this one -- everywhere I go. It's fun to look at the world through such a lens)

(Reams and reams and reams of it. Drawers of it. Piles of it. Confetti all over the floor.)

(Run with them.)


Recently I filled up the gratitude journal I'd been using for 11 years!
I had filled it sporadically. Some years I'd put 10 entries in. Some years I'd put 50 entries in. Usually an entry consisted of a short list of 5-10 things I felt grateful for that particular day.

A few months ago I started adding an entry every day.
You notice things when you are looking for them. If you look for them daily, you notice them daily. I started looking for blessings daily. So I started noticing them daily. It's kinda life changing to consciously notice your blessings on a daily basis.

So now I write in my gratitude journal every morning after I do 15 minutes of yoga. Combined, the two practices bring me to my center, they put things in perspective, and they help me start my day off right -- with a grateful attitude. It's hard to whine or procrastinate if you are feeling grateful (It's still possible -- just harder).

I LOVE LOVE LOVE this habit.

When I filled my old beloved book up (it filled up fast when I began writing in it everyday!) I stayed up late one night and made myself a new one.
I used some beautiful marbled papers I bought in Italy years ago and was saving for something special.
It's like a little shrine or church -- with a labyrinth ribbon.
How do you count your blessings?
Do you have any habits that keep your heart feeling grateful and your mind focused?
I'd love to hear about them.
"The unthankful heart...discovers no mercies; but let the thankful heart sweep through the day and, as the magnet finds the iron, so it will find, in every hour, some heavenly blessings." -- Henry Ward Beecher
Happy Thanksgiving!


I found this forecast in the paper this morning.
So I thought I'd share a little shiny yellow with the world.
My favorite color: Golden Aspen leaves under just the right light
"We are each gifted in a unique and important way. It is our privilege and our adventure to discover our own special light" -- Mary Dunbar
"I would rather be ashes than dust! I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet." -- Jack London
I took these pictures this past fall in Southern Utah and the quotes are from my quote journals.
Which are you going to do today -- find a little light to bask in or be a little light and glow?


My studio is my sanctuary.
I'd rather be there than almost anywhere else.
So it's difficult to wrap my head around the fact that I'll be leaving it soon.

I guess I need to make the formal announcement. Here goes: I'm moving -- my family, my studio, my life -- to Malaysia for two years. My husband has taken a two-year assignment for work there.

As you can imagine, my little world flutters in a whirlwind right now.
This week I had to start packing.

I never in my wildest dreams ever imagined I'd be hauling my studio across the ocean!

But I am.
I have a two-year art retreat waiting for me.
You'll still be able to buy stuff from my etsy shop -- a friend said she'd take care of shipping stuff for me while I'm gone (Thanks Marcy!). But I won't be making new journals and photo albums while I'm gone (get them now, folks! I can't very well do craft shows from Malaysia!).

Instead this will be the first time in my life that I'll be dedicating 100% of my work time to children's book illustration and writing.

Watch out world.
Because even though change whirls around me and my to-do list is longer than my leg and I'm bidding adieu to beloved people and places and responsibilities
my center dances in the eye of the storm.
Sitting down at my drawing table to work on the children's book dummy I'm working on makes me feel giddy like an ant at a picnic. And the way I've been getting through this transition is to make sure I keep working on that story that holds my heart.
Every single work day. Every. One.

The rest of the to-do list can wait at least a few hours every day.

Do you ever find yourself whining? Dragging? Wondering how to get through?
Count your blessings.
Get out a journal and write a few down.
Because that's your eye of the storm.
And you can thrive there.

Welcome To Tabitha's Readers

My online friend and fellow writer, Tabitha Bird, keeps a great blog about writing, reading, and enjoying a creative life. She puts cool posts up about being a mom too. I first found her blog because of a post she put up about how how she "created an addict" -- a reading addict -- out of her son (a woman after my own heart). Check out her blog here.

Today, Tabitha has put up a guest post featuring me and my handmade journals! Thanks, Tabitha. You are super nice. And here's a big HI to any of Tabitha's readers who are stopping by my blog. I hope you are all having a lovely day.

The Wizard Of Oz, Kjersten-Style, From Sketch to Final Art: Dorothy meets the Cowardly Lion

This past summer I took part in the Nevada SCBWI mentor program. My assignment for the program was to illustrate three scenes from The Wizard Of Oz, interpreting the story however I wished. The program finished with a fantastic retreat in Virginia City where I had the opportunity to share my final original art with my mentor and fellow mentees (I loved that I got to see my peers' work after they had gone through the same process -- so fun and interesting!). The following is an abbreviated walk-through of parts of my process as I presented it to them. 


The Text:
From Chapter VI of the Wizard of Oz: The Cowardly Lion :
"Don't you dare to bite Toto! You ought to be ashamed of yourself, a big beast like you, to bite a poor little dog!"
"I didn't bite him," said the Lion, as he rubbed his nose where Dorothy had hit it.
"No, but you tried to," she retorted. "You are
nothing but a big coward."
This is a revised thumbnail I based the final drawing on:

The First Drawing:
To prevent my drawings from stiffening too much along the journey from drawing to cut-out collage I piece together my drawings in photoshop.
This allows me to use the freshest sketches I can as templates when I cut my final art. It allows me to size the characters and other elements of the drawing right without redrawing or tracing them a lot.
Often I'll draw the characters first, scan them into photoshop and re-size them so they are proportional to one another. Then I draw the background separately and piece it together in photoshop.
  • I changed the Scarecrow and tin-man's poses. While I liked their poses in my first draft, they kind of looked like they were watching a play or resting, rather than being scared of the lion or crumpled on the ground. Plus my third scene had them crumpled on the ground and I wanted variety. I decided to try more active poses. Here's a sketch of the scarecrow in a more active pose that I didn't use for the final drawing:
  • In the end I changed the poses but kept the focus of the action on the relationship between the lion and Dorothy. I thought if I got too dramatic with the tin-man and scarecrow, it would take focus away from the main characters in the scene.
The Final Drawing:
Making the Final Art:

On Risks and Revision in the final stages of work:
Notice how the greenery changes in the last couple of frames of this photo sequence. Occasionally when I "finish" a piece I decide something I did with the background (that's already glued down) needs to be changed. It can be tricky to peel up one paper in favor of a change --and scary --what if it doesn't work?

Defense one:
I've worked with paper enough making my handmade books over the course of the last decade that I generally can tell when I can get away with it or not. So knowing my medium is defense one.

And if it indeed hadn't worked?
Defense two:
Problem solving and brain-storming.
Being creative does not only mean drawing pretty pictures. It also means creatively solving problems.

It's exciting (and terrifying) to take a risk when a piece is almost finished. But my job is to make my illustrations the best that they can be. Sometimes to make things the best you have to take scary risks. You have to know your medium well enough (through lots of practice) to have a good idea of when those risks are worth it. Then you have to know your medium well enough to be able to problem-solve and brainstorm when a risk goes awry and new challenges presents themselves.

Final Collage:
I listened to the audio versions of The Hunger Games, and Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins while I made this illustration. I can't look at that forest without thinking of those books. Do you ever listen to books on tape that influence your art?

P.S. I made two other Wizard of Oz illustration samples as part of the mentor program. Here are links to posts about the process for those scenes:
Scene I
Scene III


Another idea from the schmooze:* Goal Buddies.
  1. Pick a goal buddy. Preferably somebody with a spine or someone willing to be stern. Stiffen your own spine and be ready to be stern in response.
  2. Trade 1 to 3 goals each month.
  3. When picking goals -- it's fine to stay simple. Like "I'll make 1 hour for marketing each week" or "I'll keep my internet surfing to the lunch hour" or "I'll make it to one networking event this month." It's also fine to be sweeping and bold: "I'll finish an entire draft of my dummy next month." But do choose goals that align with your biggest priorities, career-wise.
  4. Hold one another accountable.
  5. Devise some reward/penalty system that's playful and fun.
In the interest of full disclosure, while I did find a friend who is willing to be my goal buddy. We have not yet followed through with our goal-buddy assignment of holding one another accountable. I still think it's a good idea worth sharing. Hope it works for you!

*About this series:
There’s the researcher hat, the networking hat, the business hat, the editor hat and the art-spectator or the reader hat – whew! With so much other “work” to do, it can be difficult to find the time to actually write or do your artwork. This series talks about priorities and goal setting. How do you juggle all the aspects of your writing and/or art career? Inspired by a SCBWI WWA Bellingham Network Schmooze that took place in Sept, 2009.

The Wizard Of Oz, Kjersten-Style, From Sketch to Final Art: Glinda and Dorothy

This past summer I took part in the Nevada SCBWI mentor program. My assignment for the program was to illustrate three scenes from The Wizard Of Oz, interpreting the story however I wished. The program finished with a fantastic retreat in Virginia City where I had the opportunity to share my final original art with my mentor and fellow mentees (I loved that I got to see my peers' work after they had gone through the same process -- so fun and interesting!). The following is an abbreviated walk-through of parts of my process as I presented it to them.


The Text:
From Chapter II of the Wizard of Oz: The Council With The Munchkins (edited slightly to be more picture-book friendly, or in other words, more concise)
Dorothy began to sob, at this, for she felt lonely among all these strange people. So Glinda took off her cap and balanced the point on the tip of her nose. She counted "one, two, three!" And the cap changed to a slate on which was written:
I drew many pages of thumbnails to get an idea of my composition. None of the thumbnails pictured here were ones I ended up using, but they show the process.
Detailed Roughs:
After drawing lots of thumbnails I chose two I liked best.
Both had Dorothy and Glinda in prominent places. Since they are the main characters in the scene I drew them more cleanly, scanned them into photoshop and made rough drawings based on the two thumbnails I liked to help me choose which composition I liked more.
I ended up choosing the second composition because I liked how it showed the promise of Oz in the background. I thought it captured the spirit of the moment better.

Scenes from my sketchbook:

First Full Drawing:Revisions:
  • Changed the munchkins to have more variety in their expressions. Even though the original text suggested the munchkins were all sad for Dorothy, they would react to what Glinda was doing, and I needed to show that.
  • Changed the background so it had more depth -- a foreshadowing of the journey Dorothy is about to embark on.
Final Drawing:
Notes of interest: I was at liberty to interpret the Wizard of Oz how I chose. In the book, L. Frank Baum never refers to the Witch of the North as "Glinda." But we all know her as Glinda from the movie, so I edited the text to include her name.

Making the Final Art:

Final Collage:
P.S. I made two other Wizard of Oz illustration samples as part of the mentor program. Here are links to posts about the process for those scenes:
Scene II
Scene III

Good News in the mail!

The very last piece of mail in the giant stack of mail that was delivered to my house after being gone for a week was an official looking envelope from Writer's Digest.

The letter inside informed me that my story, Patchwork By The River (submitted under the title Patchwork Goodness) got an Honorable Mention in the Children's/Young Adult Fiction category of the 78th Annual Writer's Digest Writing Competition! Sweet!

It feels pretty awesome to get a happy letter in the mail, even if it's only an honorable mention. Honorable mention is nice. And for my writing, not even my art (plus I never enter contests -- this one was a fluke, I swear). Kinda makes having the flu more tolerable.