Saturday, December 31, 2016

Children's Book Academy Class

Before this year draws to a close, I wanted to sneak in one more blog post for 2016.  (I've only meant to blog about this for months, but better late than never!)

During the fall, I was fortunate to attend an online illustration course offered through the Children's Book Academy called, "The Craft and Business of Illustrating Picture Books."  It was truly the highlight of my year.  Taught by industry professionals Mira Reisberg and Julia Maguire, the intensive online course went over all aspects of the children's book illustration process.  The format included daily lessons with interviews, demonstrations, and videos; weekly illustration assignments; and live group critique sessions with Mira and Julia.  There was also an amazing private Facebook group for all the students where we could share work and help each other out.  (A group that is still going strong and full of people I am honored to now call friends!)

Since I didn't go to art school, I've always felt like the lack of a formal education has been a bit of a black mark against me.  (During conference critiques, I've had some industry professionals disregard that fact as totally unimportant, while others have admonished me for it--sometimes before even opening my portfolio.  I wish I was exaggerating, but that's sadly the truth.)  Whether or not a formal education is important is obviously subjective, but the negative reactions have certainly left their mark on me and my confidence over the years.  So instead of letting that bring me down, I really wanted to do something to increase my knowledge and help fill in some gaps that I know I missed by not attending art school.  The Children's Book Academy was the PERFECT choice for helping me achieve just that.  (And so much more!)

The course  focused on a building-block approach to creating picture books--from thumbnail sketches and character design all the way to ready-to-submit dummies and color samples.  As an extra bonus, the online materials are available for students for many months after the course is over.  The friendliness of both the instructors and other students also made me feel completely comfortable asking my many "stupid" questions.  (I'm one of those people who would rather say something and look like a cotton headed ninny muggins than keep my confusion to myself and/or do something incorrectly.)  Most importantly, the course gave me the confidence to work on BLINK, my picture book idea about a little bat looking for a friend, that had been sitting in my mind for a very long time.

Rough Thumbnail Sketches
Character Design Sketches

Cleaner Thumbnail Sketches

Color/Portfolio Sample

There was also an opportunity at the end of the course to submit "Golden Ticket" work for industry professionals to see.  I wasn't picked by any of the professionals, but I'm happy the opportunity encouraged me to work hard and finish some new illustrations for my portfolio. 

Now that the course is over, I know I still have a lot to learn.  BUT, I feel much more knowledgeable and confident, and I'm very pleased with the progress I've made.  I'm so thankful to Mira for putting together such an amazing course, and I hope to take another class with her again in the future.  (Do check out the website at  There are loads of courses offered, and I highly encourage any of my blog readers interested in writing or illustrating children's lit to take one.) 

My little bat character, Blink, will also always be grateful that this course made me finally put him on paper.  I know everything I've learned through the Children's Book Academy will help me take him to the next level.  :) 

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Merry Christmas 2016!

Merry Christmas!  Per usual, this season has zipped by faster than a flying reindeer.  But amidst the 4:00 a.m. baking sprees and last-minute shopping, I put aside a smidgeon of time to illustrate a festive card.

I don't know what it is with me and mice, but I adore those critters!  (My 2016 sketchbook is brimming with them!)  This little lady has found herself a dashing dance partner.  But what happened to the poor gingerbread fellow's leg?  The back of the card tells that story. ;)

Have a very Merry Christmas and a wonderful New Year!  I hope your season is full of family, friends, fond memories, and feasting!

Friday, December 23, 2016

Interview on "First Looks/First Books"

I am oh-so pleased to announce that I've been interviewed on a lovely blog series, "First Looks/First Books."  The Endpapers blog is run by Carrie Karnes-Fannin.  She's an illustrator, writer, photographer, and all-around fan of reading.  (She's also an all-around awesome person!)

"First Looks/First Books" is a recurring series on Carrie's blog that features pre-published authors and illustrators.  She discusses their goals and dreams, and what they have learned so far working toward publication.  It's a wonderful resource for kid lit folk and full of inspiration, too.  I'm truly honored that Carrie invited me to participate!

You can read the full interview here:   

It's equal parts fun and informative, with a few bonus pics of yours truly as a wee baby reader.  :) 

A big thank you to Carrie for featuring me!  I can't wait to learn about new writers and illustrators in her future interviews!

Saturday, December 3, 2016

COSCBWI Meeting November 2016

The November SCBWI meeting in Columbus featured an end-of-the-year PARTY!  Our members have worked hard all year long, so we decided it was time to kick back, snack, and have fun!

Holiday goodies were brought in by the Board and oh-so talented cookie baker, Holly Ruppel.  We were also pleased to present the official 2016 Notecard Contest sets, which were available for purchase.   

How gorgeous are Holly's cookies?!

The Board gave a little summary of the year, and boy was it a busy one!  With six workshops, meetings every month, multiple illustration projects, and an indy book festival, the year was practically bursting with children's lit awesomeness!

A sampling of the Board: Jody Casella, Kristy Boyce, Kathryn Powers (me), and Jodie Brohard.

While munching on holiday treats, we played "Tic Tac Know"--a getting-to-know-you game where members wrote down tidbits about themselves and searched for other writers and illustrators they have things in common with.  It was all sorts of silly and very fun!  (I also learned that many SCBWI members dislike tomatoes as much as I do!)

In addition to the party, the meeting was the last chance for members to see the gallery display at the Upper Arlington Library featuring art from the 2016 Notecard Contest.  The UA Library said our gallery was a big hit with their patrons, and we're already brainstorming another collaboration for 2017!

While November marked the last COSCBWI meeting for 2016, monthly meetings will begin again in January 2017.  The Board is busy planning another great year of events, so be sure to visit for updates.

I can't wait to see old friends and new faces at the meetings in 2017!  Have a wonderful holiday season!

Note: Photos taken by Kristy Boyce and Kathryn Powers.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Happy Halloween 2016

Oh yeah, it's Time to Cram Your Doggy in a Silly Costume Day!

Each Halloween, I have way too much fun dressing up my pup for the big night.  This year, say hello to...


Penny says, "Why yes, I am adorable!"

Penny has quite an Ewok look to her even without the costume.  (Especially when she's due for a grooming!)  So I decided it was time for her to embrace her Star Wars counterpart.

Penny says, "Don't bother me!  I see kids!"
Penny doesn't mind wearing a costume each year; she's too excited about seeing all the Trick-or-Treaters!  Her tail kept wagging our rose bushes all night, and she gave out kisses to go with our bowl of candy.  (Although, the fuzzy-eared hood was not her favorite clothing item.  She earned extra treats for keeping it on her head.  ;) )  I'm not sure all of the neighborhood kids knew what she was dressed as, but we did meet one Stormtrooper who was pretty jealous that we own a pet Ewok.  

Happy Halloween! 

I hope your day is full of sugary treats, festive drinks, and the cutest pets and kiddos in the galaxy!

Friday, October 28, 2016

COSCBWI Meeting October 2016

The October SCBWI meeting in Columbus featured a library tour and discussion with Tracie Steele.  Tracie is a Youth Services Librarian at the Upper Arlington Public Library.  She gave a librarian's insight on writing for children and today's publishing market.

The SCBWI folk in Columbus know the Upper Arlington Public Library quite well--it's where we gather for our monthly meetings!  But many of us were unfamiliar with the children's and teen section, so Tracie began the night with a group tour.  The collection of books housed in the library is impressive, with sections for the littlest bookworms to mature YA readers.  There are even resources for dyslexic children and foreign-language readers. 

Tracie gave some insight into how the books in their collection are chosen and displayed.  The library has selectors who are in charge of picking which books are acquired, and those choices are influenced by reviews, requests, and trends in the community.  The librarians pick the "face-out" and display books for various reasons.  Sometimes they feature books due to popular trends or seasonal topics.  Other times, they showcase books that are new.  And often they just like to shine the spotlight on books that they found to be particularly wonderful.

Tracie made us a great display of popular books and trends!

After the tour, Tracie discussed some trends their library has noticed.  These include an increase in:

-Books with diverse characters
-Gender identity books
-Graphic novels 
-Books that feature characters who are usually under-empowered
-Narrative nonfiction
-Strong themes of empathy
-Historical fiction with magical elements
-Books with unique formats (like emails, ship logs, journals, etc.)
-For older readers, books that tackle deep, gritty issues
-Series, series, series!

Tracie also noted that the popularity of book genres often matches what is popular in movies and TV.  So if there's a big TV show about superheroes/time travel/detectives/whatever, you can bet books about those subjects will be flying off the shelves!

Lastly, Tracie had a very touching reminder for all of us.  She praised the importance of stories in bringing people together and assured us that writers and illustrators make a difference in the world.

A big thank you to Tracie for sharing her time and wisdom with us!  You can discover more about the Upper Arlington Public Library system at

If you want to learn more about COSCBWI, be sure to visit the group website at  I hope to see you at the next meeting!

Monday, October 3, 2016

COSCBWI Meeting September 2016

The September SCBWI meeting in Columbus featured Michaela Schuett.  Michaela has illustrated and author-illustrated several books, including Let's Count Fish!, The Prince and the White Tiger, and the forthcoming I am a Unicorn!  (The Columbus SCBWI members actually got to hear a draft of I am a Unicorn! at a group critique meeting, and everyone was thrilled to learn that it will be printed in 2017!)  Michaela shared her publication journey with us, as well as tips on how to find work in the competitive field of children's publishing.
Michaela started her career in graphic design.  She spent several years in the newspaper and magazine industry before taking the leap into freelance work in 2013.  Her first steps as a freelancer included joining many social media networks and mailing out promotional materials.  In 2014, a doodle she posted on Twitter piqued the interest of an author, which led to her first job illustrating a picture book with Omnibus Publishing.  While working on projects for Omnibus, she was contacted by people who saw her work on Instagram and the national SCBWI website, earning her even more illustration jobs.  During that time, Michaela also submitted her work the traditional way, mailing postcards and submitting her manuscripts to publishers.  As a result, she got an illustration published in Highlights magazine and scored a book contract for I am a Unicorn!  
Michaela credits her success to perseverance and sharing her art in as many ways as possible.  If she had only submitted her work one way (such as traditional postcards), she would have missed out on the opportunities she gained through social media networks--and vice versa.  But by taking advantage of the many avenues available to modern illustrators, she was able to connect with a wider audience.  Michaela also highly recommends taking the time to put together professional-looking promotional materials and a strong website.  You want to make sure you present yourself in the best way possible.  Lastly, she encouraged aspiring artists to be brave and consider every opportunity that knocks on your door--you may be hesitant to answer, but you never know where that opportunity may lead. 

A big thanks to Michaela for sharing her journey and publication tips!  You can find out more about Michaela and her books (as well as her graphic design work) at

If you want to learn more about COSCBWI, be sure to visit the website at  I hope to see you at the next meeting!

Note: Cover image is from