Reclaim your inner artist!

In her PiBoldMo blog post, Mira Reisberg talks about “accessing that child-like place of curiosity, wonder, and joy” in our work as children’s book creatives. While joy, wonder, and curiosity are three attributes I posses, I am sometimes held back by my inner shadow.

Inspired a new by her post, I pushed doubt aside and dove into a project that I’d been longing to tackle for a while. My version of Matisse’s Cut-Outs, as seen at the Tate Modern exhibit in July, 2014.

I thought it best to start with some colored craft paper so that I could test out a variety of ideas without worrying too much about making mistakes. I cut away, and this is what emerged:


Once I got the hang of things, it was time to switch to the brightly colored paper I’d painted a few weeks before.


And then in true Matisse style, I stuck them all over the house :-)

I thoroughly enjoyed this project, and can totally see why Matisse said that he “found such balance . . . in creating these paper cut-outs.”

I felt a huge sense of achievement at the end of this short project, and would highly recommend picking up a pair of scissors and some colored paper and playing around.



Photo Illustration: Kristin Kurzawa

KRISTI VALIANT: Start an ongoing list of things you adore or loathe or laughed out loud at or evoked some kind of emotion that stuck with you.

My take away from PiBoldMo Day blog post #1:

“Don’t be afraid to change the way something happened. Writing fiction is lying in a good way. Sometimes we get so stuck on basing our manuscript on a real-life experience or a sweet person or animal we love, that we’re preventing our manuscript from becoming a fully realized, great book.” Kristi Valiant


I’m taking part in PiBoIdMo 2014, aka Picture Book Idea Month! This is the first time I have taken part, and I’m really excited about it.

The challenge is to create 30 picture book concepts in 30 days, and while you don’t have to write a manuscript, you can if it feels right.

I’ll share the daily posts here, so look out for them :-)

Playing with color - Matissa #1

Inspired by my trip to the Henri Matisse Cut-Outs exhibition at Tate Modern over the summer, I have decided to make a piece inspired by his work.

Step one is creating my color pallet. Would love to add a vibrant purple to these and some deep pinks, but need to work a bit harder on my mixing. It seems that purple doesn’t come that easy  . . . .

Purple attempts

Collective powerI just discovered a great fundraising blog, 101Fundraising: Crowdblog on Fundraising.

With that discovery, I just read an interesting article about the changing landscape of fundraising – Wake up to the new rules of fundraising.

Which led me to google new rules of fundraising, and I found this.

In short, the internet has changed the state of play, and we must all jump on board.

Three major changes to take note of:

  1. How folks make purchasing decisions has changed. We are buying based on trusted sources – recommendations from friends or by reading reviews of past customers we haven’t even met.
  2. Everyone is now a channel. Let them be your messenger!
  3. Donors have more social capital with their donors than you do. Use it wisely!

Read another picture book is a phrase I’ve taken away from Ann Whitford Paul’s book, Writing Picture Books. For the past 3 months I’ve been reading, analayzing, and taking notes on four children’s picture books a week. Boy do you learn a lot!!

For all budding new picture book writers,I highly recommend doing this. It really gives you a sense of what is out there and what you like and don’t like.

It’s also oodles of fun! I’ve not only chuckled, cried, and cringed, but also be inspired.

2014-02-08 15.35.15

These are the areas I’ve been focusing on:

  • Character
  • Favorite Character (If it’s not the protagonist, why do I like them?  Usually in picture books, the protagonist is the person your rooting for)
  • Story
  • Themes
  • Artwork
  • Other (This might include something about the language or the way a character has been represented. Other times is might just be me exclaiming how much I enjoyed it.)

While I made up my own criteria for analyzing these books, I also came across this helpful Children’s Book Review Guide on ReadWriteThink. 

No matter what you choose to look closely at when reading picture books, the very fact that you’re mindfully reading them is what counts. Always ask why?



Really like these story shape visualizations by Kurt Vonnegut. Going to see if I can apply them to books that I’ve read recently.

If you’d like to know more about them, check out Vonnegut speaking about them here.


I don’t spend enough time using my hands to make things, but I LOVE it when I do.

2013-12-19 07.36.01

Moleskin Fun!

I made these at my friends studio before Christmas so that I could give gifts that I had put real time and effort into. I took the image of the Lupins popping up over a fence down at Muir Beach. So happy that the details came out when the screen was made. Thank you, Jon, for facilitating my creativity and letting me use your studio! (He was the brains behind the green bit!).

Next u2013-12-19 08.53.22p . . . hand stamped linen bags for all of my many cousins. Bought the wooden stamp from India, and used silk screen ink as per the suggestion of the man at Flax. Stuffed them with Tcho chocolates. Happy faces all round :-)



We’ve all heard the phrase, quality not quantity, and in general I tend to agree. However, I recently read an article that suggested otherwise.

Herbert Lui’s blog post, Why Quantity Should Be Your Priority, makes complete sense to me – the more you do something, the better you become.

So with that in mind, I’ve set myself a challenge:

Every morning for the next four months, before I even brush my teeth, I will write a short story from a given prompt.

I’ve created a separate tab on the blog to share them, so please check in on my progress.

Give Up

Just read a great post about Lyrical Learning and Why We Learn Habits Wrong.

As a singer and music teacher the comparison is spot on! I will be mindful of this when I am both learning a piece myself and teaching others – namely the kids at Little Opera. But more importantly, I will be sure to apply this process to every day life.


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