Tuesday, December 22, 2015


"Take a deep breath, and slow down." 

"My first piece of advice is always to slow down."

-Steven Malk 




I'm thrilled to announce that I am now represented by Steven Malk
literary agent at Writers House!




A little back story—  


It started with a book.  A gift from a friend, not long after my daughter was born.  The book was All In A Day, by Cynthia Rylant and Nikki McClure.  My whole family loved it— we loved the art, we loved the words.  And I was struck by how well they worked together.  And then I began to wonder how Nikki (whose calendars had hung in our home for years) came to work with such an extraordinary writer on her first picture book.  

A little research led to this interview with literary agent Steven Malk.  A little more research and I realized he represented not two, not five— but more than twenty of my favorite writers and illustrators.  He represented the people who made the books that I LOVED.  Books like The Very Persistent Gappers of Frip, Mrs. Crump's Cat, All the World, and Extra Yarn.  Books that became part of the language of my family, books that changed my life.

And so, impressed by the interview, I rushed to query him a few days later, with an alphabet story I'd written and illustrated.  And he declined to represent me.  But, he was encouraging.  And I had a sense of something bigger now, a vision of the kinds of books I'd like to make.  Not books that I could make yet, but the books that I wanted to make.  So I kept drawing, I kept writing.  Since then I've heard Steve speak at three SCBWI conferences.  And each time he's said the same thing— be intentional, take the long view, slow down.

Steve has a philosophy that, with patience, passion and effort— people can make beautiful things.   

That book, that first query—was four years ago.  And it's been fifteen years, since I knew this was the work I wanted to do.  And now— seven SCBWI conferences (regional and national) and eight book dummies later, I am thrilled to be working with Steve.  

Persistence can be hard to maintain.  Practicing patience, for me, is even harder.  But it helps when I think of it as a dance— in slow motion.  For even the slowest of dances has rhythm and flow.

All of which brings to mind these words by Ira Glass, words that have been such good company on this journey—

“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, and I really wish somebody had told this to me. 
All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years that you're making stuff, what you're making isn't so good. It’s trying to be good, it has ambition to be good, but it’s not that good. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit.  

And the thing that I would say to you, with all of my heart, is this— 

most everybody I know who does interesting, creative work went through a phase— they went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this.  And if you are just starting out or if you are still in this phase, you've got to  know it's normalAnd the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work.  It is only by going through a volume of work that you will catch up and close that gap.  And the work you're making will be as good as your ambitions. 

I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It takes a while It’s gonna take you awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. And you've just got to fight your way through that okay?” 


Monday, December 21, 2015

longest night

A few stars here... in celebration of the longest night of the year.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

a way in

"Ugly-messy-beautiful.  That brings to mind the Japanese idea of wabi-sabi. 
Which I feel is in a kindred spirit with the artwork I do... I like to SEE the process in the finished work. The best thing I ever saw (well, one of) was Michelangelo’s unfinished sculptures...
 There one could see, frozen in time, the raw act of chipping these figures from the rock. 
How much more interesting that is than a polished image with no “way in” for the viewer!"

And a few new pieces from the past few weeks...

Monday, November 9, 2015

not afraid of falling

"Left to their own devices, most people don't want to fail.  
But Andrew Stanton [is] ...known around Pixar for... the phrase 'be wrong as fast as you can.' 
He thinks of failure like learning to ride a bike; 
it isn't conceivable that you would learn to do this without making mistakes— 
without toppling over a few times.  'Get a bike that's as low to the ground as you can find, 
put on elbow and knee pads so you're not afraid of falling, and go,' he says. 

Even though people in our offices have heard Andrew say this repeatedly many still miss the point.
They think it means accept failure with dignity and move on. 
The better, more subtle interpretation is that failure is a manifestation of learning 
and exploration. If you aren’t experiencing failure, then you are making a far worse mistake: 
You are being driven by the desire to avoid it."

-Pixar Cofounder Ed Catmull from the book Creativity, Inc.    

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

still singing

When I Met My Muse

I glanced at her and took my glasses
off--they were still singing. They buzzed
like a locust on the coffee table and then
ceased. Her voice belled forth, and the
sunlight bent. I felt the ceiling arch, and
knew that nails up there took a new grip
on whatever they touched. "I am your own
way of looking at things," she said. "When
you allow me to live with you, every
glance at the world around you will be
a sort of salvation." And I took her hand.


A few new sketches here, from last week—

Also, this wonderful thing happened this week... 

And here are some images from my heart, my heart— the project that received the SCBWI  Don Freeman Work In Progress Grant:

my heart is a fence

Saturday, August 29, 2015

balloons are wishes

"Balloons are wishes.  
The winds made them."

-Carl Sandburg
 Rootabaga Stories

I've been drawing lots of balloons lately.  Here's something new from last week...

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

all I ever

"All I hope to say in books, all I ever hope to say, is that I love the world."

-E.B. White

Another SCBWI summer conference has come and gone, and once again I feel so grateful to be part of this community of writers and artists that care so much about making books for children.  As Lin Oliver said so beautifully,  

"There is no friend like a friend in ideas."  

As someone who lives in a small town, far from the cities where so many book makers live, SCBWI has been my avenue for connecting with this community.

So it is with a heart full of gratitude that I say Thank You to SCBWI for the honor of being chosen for one of the Portfolio Showcase Awards.  And a very big Congratulations to the other Portfolio Showcase Award Winners:

As well as the artists who were chosen for this year's Mentorship Program:

I really look forward to seeing everyone's work continue to grow. 
sketchbook, SCBWI LA 2015

"The advice I like to give young artists, or really anybody who'll listen to me, is not to wait around for inspiration.  Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work.  If you wait around for the clouds to part and a bolt of lightning to strike you in the brain, you are not going to make an awful lot of work.  All the best ideas come out of the process; they come out of the work itself.  Things occur to you.  If you're sitting around trying to dream up a great art idea, you can sit there a long time before anything happens.  But if you just get to work, something will occur to you and something else will occur to you and something else that you reject will push you in another direction.  Inspiration is absolutely unnecessary and somehow deceptive.  You feel like you need this great idea before you can get down to work, and I find that's almost never the case." 

-Chuck Close

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

to be played

"Every book is a question I don't know the answer to.   
I don't want my books to be read, I want them to be played. 
What I want is after they've read the book to say, 'I've got an idea!'"

-Mo Willems in this interview on NPR

My 5 year old reads books this way.  After we read Float, within minutes she was making paper boats and floating them in a little pool.  After reading Mrs. Maple's Seeds, she was Miss Maple, dressed in an apron, scattering seeds across the living room.  We read Hogwash and she was quickly drawing her own mud/paint/shower machines complete with magnets, faucets, and piggies hanging up on a clothesline to dry. After almost every story that she loves, she says 'Mama, I want to BE that. How can I BE in Hogwash?  How can I BE in Miss Rumphius, how can I BE in Virginia Wolf?  (Lots of paintbrushes and a big bow in her hair seem to be a good starting place for the latter.) It's a question that I've learned not to answer, as whatever she comes up with is always more surprising, more interesting, more wonderful than anything I could have suggested. 

Of course when we draw together, she is also full of ideas.  Sometimes we trade our drawings back and forth, sometimes we swap them right before adding color. We draw a lot of girls in flying machines and long fancy dresses.  But today I was drawing a creature in a scarf which she thought looked like a bandage.  Which seemed like a fun idea, which led to these—


Saturday, July 18, 2015

a fly, a dress and a haircut

A lady and a fly.

I love beginning a drawing without any idea of how it will end. Usually, I start with a face, and from there the drawing takes on a life of its own.

Here are a few such drawings from the past few weeks...

Two ladies, one dress.

And a haircut.

Monday, July 6, 2015

knobby bits

"I like strange stories, shaggy stories, stories with knobby bits and gristle and surprises... 
All my favorite books have quirks." 

I've been working on a few illustrations lately that have their share of knobby bits and gristle.  I've also been thinking about the ways in which stories can surprise and leave questions unanswered even as they end.  Most of my favorite books from childhood have quirks, and many of my favorite illustrators have a rough, loose, or odd quality to their work.

As I work on a story of my own, I've been visiting my local library and bringing home some tall stacks of books.  Here are some shaggy stories that I've really enjoyed lately:

Would You Rather by Jon Burningham
John Patrick Norman McHennessy: The Boy Who Was Always Late also by Jon Burningham
Hogwash by Arthur Geisert
Oink also by Arthur Geisert
Take Away the A: An Alphabeast of a Book! by Michael Escoffier and Kris Di Giacomo
The Treehorn Trilogy by Florence Parry Heide and Edward Gorey
Outstanding in the Rain by Frank Viva
Rude Cakes by Rowboat Watkins
The Monsters' Monster by Patrick McDonnell
The Skunk by Mac Barnett and Patrick McDonnell
 It's Only Stanley by Jon Agee
Circus Mirandus by Cassie Bealey
The Terrible Two by Jory John and Mac Barnett
Return to Augie Hobble by Lane Smith
The Rain Door by Russell Hoban and Quentin Blake
Pomelo Explores Color by Ramona Badescu and Benjamin Chaud

Also,  Carter Higgins, creator of the wonderful blog Design of The Picture Book, shares her thoughts on the dingiest rattiest books, stories that matter, and honesty that makes you squirm (as well as a great list of of books to check out) here.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

along for the ride

Lots of wagons and carts this week.  And a few monsters along for the ride...

Going for a Ride, detail

Almost ready

Almost Ready, detail

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

not just written

Read, read, read.

Write something every day.

Never take no for an answer.

Don't believe your reviews--either good or bad.

Heart on the page.

Know that books are not just written, but rewritten.

-Jane Yolen's advice to young writers 
from Debbie Ridpath Ohi's Inky Girl blog.


Friday, April 24, 2015

a felt sense of it

"[W]hen I was a dancer, we were always encouraged to fall in rehearsal, so that you could know what the tipping point of any given movement was. That way, when you did it on the stage, you could be sure you were taking it to the edge without falling on your face. It sounds like a cliché, but really it's just physics— if you don't touch the fulcrum, you'll never gain a felt sense of it, and your movement will be impoverished for it.”  


Last weekend I had the honor of having my portfolio chosen as the 2015 Art Portfolio Show Grand Prize Winner at the SCBWI WWA spring conference.  There was so much beautiful work on display, and I'm thrilled and grateful to be part of this incredibly talented and supportive community. Thank you SCBWI!

And thank you as well to Kyo Maclear (author of the extraordinary book Virginia Wolf, illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault) for the above quote.  She has a lovely collection of quotes and images here which I recommend checking out.