Had lZebra Looking Right #2ots of fun playing shadow puppetry today!

Meet Stripes – the zebra in my life right now. (Although he does not have many stripes in these images.)

Have spent the day getting to grips with his character through body language – ears, hair on neck, position of head.

Without the use of eyes and mouth to help, what does a happy zebra look like, an anxious one, a miserable one?

Page of Zebra Outlines


Owl Baby

I’ve decided to study the illustrations of those that inspire me, and over the next year I’ll be sketching what I like most.

Today it’s one of Patrick Benson’s Owl Babies. 

the-creative-process-div-paul-arden-divPat Zietlow Miller talks about her process, or lack there of! Take away – everyone’s process is different. If writing in the morning isn’t working out for you, try writing in the evening.  If being super organized is squashing your creative spirit, be a little more hap-hazard. Go with what works for you 🙂

Just Write SnoopyI tried and liked her exercise about what to do with your ideas.  Enjoy!

Kelly Bingham’s blog post talks about carving out time to write, protecting that time, and how to bring ideas to life.

Kelly’s post really inspired me to just get on and write.  No more excuses!!

I also tried and liked her exercise about what to do with your ideas.


  1. Take your exciting snippet of an idea (a girl encounters a magic zebra, for instance) OR your character (a pink polar bear who feels he does not fit in). Write it down.
  2. What happens next?Now list at least three ideas for what happens next. Nothing is too silly. Nothing is too dumb. Pull crazy solutions out of thin air.(The polar bear meets a purple penguin who invites him to Rainbow Island.) Write it down. You will create a list of possibilities—some of them a bit unexciting, some of them wonderful, and some in-between.
  3. When you run dry on “what happens next,” then choose one of your strung-together storylines. Ask yourself, “What is the mostexpected way to finish this off?” (The bear discovers that it’s okay to be pink, and lives happily on Rainbow Island with all the other multi-colored animals.) Go ahead, write that down. Then ask, “What is something surprising that could happen here?” (The bear eats the penguin and turns purple, which he decides is even worse than pink.) Write that down.
  4. Look at what you have.   You have one predictable path that you have thoughtfully laid out for yourself toavoid. No one is looking for predictable endings, after all. But you’ve also paved the way for more creative, surprising, and interesting developments for your story and character.

Have fun playing around with your ideas!

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?