Sunday, June 29, 2014

COSCBWI Meeting June 2014: Flexing Those Writing Muscles

This month's COSCBWI Writer Meeting consisted of something oh-so important to writers: writing exercises!  Just as athletes need to train and strengthen their muscles on a regular basis, writers need to keep practicing their craft.  Every writer can benefit from exercises, from newbies to award-winning authors.  Even if a writer is two hundred pages deep into drafting their new novel, small exercises can help keep the creative juices flowing.  (And generate ideas for that next novel!)

Assistant Regional Advisor, Andrea Hall, shared her favorite book of writing exercises with the group called Writing Magic by Gail Carson Levine.  Here are a few prompts we all tried out:

1)  Turn someone you don't like into an animal.  (I may have turned someone I know into a kangaroo...)

2)  Come up with twelve story ideas in five minutes.  (This is perfect for generating ideas for writing marathons like NANOWRIMO!)

3)  A girl without a care in the world is on her way to camp.  List twelve possible disasters that will derail her perfect life.  (Little does she know, the camp counselor is actually a VAMPIRE!  Mwa ha ha!)

4)  Create names for a list of colorful characters--such as a a parrot that speaks seven languages, or a fiddle-playing sprite who lives in a swamp.  (I have a feeling Sir Winston Crackers and Pippy Flipperschnipp would not get along.  Maybe they can find their way into that poor girl's camp-disaster story!  Hmmmmm....)

In addition to being a lot of fun, these types of exercises really flex your creativity.  They are also great sources of inspiration whenever that dreaded "writer's block" rears its ugly head.  There are many books and online resources where you can find prompts that inspire you, so get out there and exercise those creative muscles!

If you want to learn more about COSCBWI, please visit the new website at or "like" the group on Facebook.  I hope to see you at the July meetings!

Monday, June 23, 2014

June 2014: COSCBWI Illustrator Meeting

This month's COSCBWI Illustrator Meeting was a continuation of the mini-illustration project.  You may recall in my last COSCBWI blog post that illustrators are currently doing a fun project involving fairy tales, nursery rhymes, and folk tales.  The goal is for members to create an illustration based on their unique interpretation of a well-known story (like Little Red Riding Hood).  In addition to creating a new portfolio piece, this is an excellent opportunity for artists to practice their craft before jumping into their 2nd Annual Member Exhibition illustrations!

To start the meeting, Illustrator Coordinator, Stella Hickman, critiqued everyone's project sketches.  It was so wonderful to see how everyone's ideas are coming along!  After offering constructive feedback, she began a painting technique demonstration that anyone can try.  All you need is a bit of glue, water, acrylic paints, and lots of xeroxes!

1) Print some photocopies of your drawing. 

2) Glue a photocopy of your drawing to a white poster board.

3) Squirt Elmer's glue (the white, liquid kind) all over it.

4) With a big paintbrush and water, smear the glue until all parts of the photocopy are covered.  (Make sure you use a paintbrush that is clean and that you don't mind ruining.)

5) Smooth the wrinkles out of your photocopy.

6)  Let it air-dry.

7)  Once dry, paint as usual.

8)  And voila!  You have a brand-new acrylic illustration!

9)  If you mess up anything, just throw it out and start with a new photocopy.

As Stella explained, this is a fail-proof way to paint with acrylics.  By using photocopies of your drawing, you don't have to worry about ruining anything if you make a mistake.  It's also a great way to practice working with different color schemes and techniques.  The paint goes on smoothly, and a little goes a long way.  The glue/water coating also eliminates absorption, which can be a problem when you paint on canvas.  (But don't worry--the paint air-dries naturally and is permanent once completely dry.)

Members got to try out this technique using a pre-coated example Stella brought.  Everyone took turns painting Stella's adorable illustration with water and acrylics.  While we didn't have time to finish the whole piece, everyone ooh'ed and aah'ed at how smoothly the paint applied.  Here's the group project:

We all definitely had a fun time practicing this new technique!

Stella ended the meeting with the challenge for everyone to complete their fairy tale/nursery rhyme/folk tale piece for the next Illustrator meeting on July 9th.  Members are welcome to try out this painting technique, or finish their illustration in the medium of their choice.  Stella will critique everyone's pieces in an informal group setting.  I can't wait to see how they all turn out!

If you want to learn more about COSCBWI, please visit the new website at or "like" the group on Facebook.  I hope to see you (and your finished illustration) at the July 9th meeting!

Happy painting!

Note: Sketch is (c) Stella Hickman.  Photograph was used with permission from Linda Miller.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

200th Blog Post

When I first logged in to write this, I was shocked to discover that I've reached 200 blog posts.  My immediate reaction was:

Seriously--didn't I just start this blog, like, last month?

I scrolled through my archives, convinced this must be some sort of wonky Blogger tabulating mistake.  But the numbers don't lie.  This officially marks my 200th post since I began this little blog in 2011.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Where does the time go?!  (If someone has an answer to that question, do clue me in so I can stop asking it!)

Upon this bi-blog-tennial discovery, my original plan to write a puny, life-update post didn't seem nearly momentous enough.  So I went in search of a way to celebrate this milestone.  Scrolling through my old blog posts launched me on a trip down memory lane, which ultimately brought me to this:

This sketch is from 2011.  I drew it about a week after starting this blog, and right before I left for my first Highlights Foundation Workshop.  It features myself surrounded by the main characters of my two novels, Ellis and Tentacles.  (I know, I've only heard a teensy bit about them during the prior 199 blog posts, right?)  This was an exciting time for me.  I was in the midst of revisions for The Beast of Bannock, and Pirate Ferret  was only five pages long.  I had just gotten back into drawing after a half-decade hiatus, and I had a shiny, new graphic tablet.  I was going to turn this sketch into my first digital piece.  I COULD NOT WAIT to get to Highlights to write and draw and be surrounded by fellow fantasy lovers.

Then I discovered my laptop crashed every time I tried to use Photoshop, and I moved this sketch to the back-burner to tackle again in the future.  (But I had one heck of an awesome time at Highlights anyway!)

Re-reading my first few months of blog posts reminded me that this drawing was still unfinished, buried somewhere on my hard drive.  So I dug it back up and felt the urge to finally finish what I started.

It's not as grand as I originally intended all those years ago, but I know I'll never have the time or inspiration to finish 2011 Kathryn's dream illustration.  Now, it's a simple tribute to the past and present; an old drawing partnered with my current painting technique, viewed with the understanding that both will improve in the future.  And that'll do, sketch.  That'll do.

Thinking about this drawing, and thinking about this 200th blog post, makes me realize two things: over time, many things have changed; but deep down, everything is still the same.   

Whether you've been here from the beginning or are just tuning in, I hope you've enjoyed reading my blog.  While I may not have the time now to post as frequently as I used to, I still love logging in and seeing all the readers I've reached.  Thank you so very much for your support over the years.  I am truly grateful that you've stuck with me though 200 posts, especially when I write such oddities as #137.  (Yeah, what was I thinking with that one?)  My promise in post #1 was to, " my best to inspire, enlighten and amuse you."  I hope I've achieved just that.

Now, onward to another 200 posts!

Always yours,
Kathryn Powers

Sunday, June 1, 2014

COSCBWI Meeting Summaries: May 2014

While I usually summarize the two monthly COSCBWI meetings in separate posts, this time I'm lumping them together.  The May meetings were a bit different than usual due to some unexpected changes in plans. 

The Illustrator Meeting on May 14th was slated for a presentation by author-illustrator, David Cuccia.  Unfortunately, he fell ill and had to cancel.  (But don't worry--he'll be coming to speak at the meeting on June 25th instead!)  Since only a few members came to the meeting, the substitute activity was put on hold and members instead got to pick the brain of Illustrator Coordinator, Stella Hickman.  There may not have been many of us, but everyone got lots of illustrating and publishing questions answered!

Stella also introduced a new mini-project for illustrators.  Here's the email blast I sent regarding it:

In follow-up to last month's portfolio critique meeting, Stella would like members to create a new portfolio piece based on a well-known nursery rhyme, folk tale, or fairy tale that anyone would recognize.  (i.e., "Little Red Riding Hood" or "Goldilocks and the Three Bears").  The goal is to tell a visual story by putting your own, unique spin on a well-known tale. 

If you would like to take part, please bring a sketch of your 8 1/2" X 11" project idea to the Illustrator Meeting on June 11th for a group critique.  At this meeting, Stella will also be demonstrating an acrylic painting technique which members can try out for their final pieces.  (Members are also welcome to complete their illustrations in the medium of their choice.)  Final pieces will be due for a group critique at the Illustrator Meeting on July 9th.  This is a wonderful opportunity for everyone to practice creating a full illustration before jumping into their 2nd Annual Member Exhibition pieces!

If you have any questions, please email Stella Hickman at  We hope you'll enjoy taking part in this fun activity!

If you're a COSCBWI illustrator, I do hope you'll take part in this little project.  I'm very much looking forward to creating a new piece for my own portfolio!  :)

The Writer Meeting on May 28th was also a little different, featuring the first-ever critique session for the Member Exhibition.  As announced in April, COSCBWI is proud to host the 2nd Annual Member Exhibition set to open in late 2014.  This is a collaborative project between writers and illustrators just like last year's Member Exhibition.  This time, COSCBWI writers will first complete their short picture book text OR jacket copy for one of two prompts, then the illustrators will create an illustration based on those submissions.  The written pieces and illustrations will be displayed together at a showcase later this year.  All members are encouraged to participate, and all submissions will be accepted.  It's a fantastic opportunity to practice your craft and gain exposure for your writing and art!

Since the writer portion of this project is due June 10th, the May 28th meeting was reserved for any member who wanted a critique of their work-in-process exhibition piece.  It was wonderful to see how everyone's pieces are coming along!  There's still time to join in, so don't delay!  Please visit for all the exhibition details.  (The guidelines for the illustrator portion of the exhibition will be posted soon, so stay tuned!) 

I hope everyone is excited about all these great projects!  (I know I am!)  

If you want to learn more about COSCBWI, please visit or "like" the group on Facebook.  I hope to see you at the June meetings!