Wednesday, December 23, 2009

And another year whooshes by...

Wishing everyone a wonderful holiday season, whatever you may celebrate.

2010, here we come!

Monday, December 14, 2009

I *Heart* Books With Maps

Hello there, blog, it's been a while! Remember that Cool New Map Project I started working on back in June? As I was catching up on blog reading this weekend, I happened across Macmillan's Spring 2010 Librarian Preview over at Fuse #8, where I scrolled down to see this stunning cover:

Yay! It's the new Kimberly Willis Holt novel, due out in May of 2010.

And here's the map I did for the endpapers:

(Click to see a larger version.)

I can't wait to see the actual book.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Got Arc?

Darcy Pattison has posted two great pieces about story arc for short picture books, here and here. (Her Fiction Notes blog is one of my writing favorites.)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Dept. of Miscellaneous (Good) Stuff

Hmmm... haven't been posting much art lately. There's just not enough time in each day to do everything, and I've been working on making progress with a new picture book idea. Slow going, this one, with lots of bits and pieces to puzzle out, but it's coming along.

Also still forging ahead with NaNoWriMo and PiBoIdMo. They've become part of my beloved early-morning-with-coffee routine. I'm up to 11,571 words for NaNo-- way behind the count needed to hit 50,000 words by the end of the month-- but still possibly more than I've ever written on one project in my life, so I'm feeling pretty good about it. More on that another time.

And in the Department of Good News: Can't say too much yet, but I've been commissioned to illustrate the cover and B/W interior of a new middle grade novel! Happy dance time!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

New Map! The Iditarod Trail

Here's a new piece for the November/December issue of ForbesLife Magazine.

(Sheesh, how did it get to be November already?)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


November is:

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo)


Picture Book Idea Month! (PiBoIdMo. Read more about it here.)

I'm doing both. (Or trying to, at least.)

Why not? I like deadlines. I need deadlines. I especially need deadlines when it comes to writing. We'll see if I can keep it up for the whole month. But even if not, writing something is better than writing nothing. And though I never write nothing, I can always write more. Right?

(Of course, once I committed to giving these two worthwhile activities a shot, a Department of Freelance truism kicked in... lots of good things are sprouting around here. Busy, busy, busy. Just the way I like it!)

Friday, October 30, 2009

Spooky Bridge

While stuck in traffic driving home from Rabbit Hill last week, I glanced up through the torrential rain and saw this bridge. Can you see the spider-and-web design? Oooo... spooky! Perfect timing for Halloween.

(The filter effect was inspired by my son, who has just discovered Photoshop and is trying to scare the bejeesus out of me with creepy effects. As if driving on the Merritt Race... uh, Parkway isn't scary enough...)

Here's a closeup of the ironwork, and more photos of this historic bridge:

Elizabeth is hosting a collection of Halloween posts today over at her place. Check it out for more spooky fun...

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Oldies But Goodies

I'm on another semi-futile kick to clean out my files and came across a whole stack of old tearsheets, so I thought I'd post some oldie-but-goodie work.

This was from, whoa, 12 or so years ago, I think. Again, such fun to work on the detailed borders.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Friday Fun: On Being an Illustrator

With the release of the Where the Wild Things Are movie, this video has been all over the internet. It reminded me of last year's Rabbit Hill Festival of Literature because one of my favorite illustrators, Barbara McClintock, told a wonderful story about being a young artist living in North Dakota and just beginning her career. She picked up the phone and called Maurice Sendak all the way in New York City. She wanted to ask his advice about becoming a children's book illustrator. Apparently he was very nice and gave her some good tips. Wow!

By the way, the 2009 Rabbit Hill Festival takes place all this weekend if you're in the area.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

New Map. Old Cat.

Here's a map I did recently for AAA Traveler magazine. It's fun to research these kids of pieces, but I have to be careful not to waste all day reading about fascinating places.

On a sad note, Athena, our ancient outdoor cat, passed away peacefully last night. We'd had her for over 21 years, since before my husband and I were married. She was a sweet old lady. She lived in our barn and spent her days catching mice and assorted other critters, though the past few years she mostly enjoyed lolling around the house on a sunny patch of ground.

I think she had some sort of an agreement with the wildlife around here, because despite the raccoons and coyotes (and speeding cars!) she never got into trouble. We fed her a few times a day, and one night, a raccoon mother and her babies scuffled outside the front door gobbling up her dinner. Athena just watched patiently from a few yards away, letting them take their fill. She knew there would be more for her.

The inside cats loved having staring contests with her through the screen.
RIP, Athena.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

One-on-One Plus Conference

This past Saturday I woke up earlier than I thought was physically possible, drank too much coffee, and drove to New Jersey for the Rutgers One-on-One Plus Conference, sponsored by the Rutgers University Council on Children's Literature. This was my first time going. I was excited, nervous, and curious at the same time.

Each attendee at the conference was paired with someone in the children's book field-- an editor, art director, agent, author or illustrator-- for a 45 minute one-on-one mentoring session. Later, groups of five mentors and mentees met to discuss questions anyone might have. There was lunch and a panel of speakers. Throughout the day mentees were encouraged to seek out people who might be interested in their work and introduce themselves. It was intense. (Especially for an introvert!) But it wasn't as intimidating as I'd thought it might be. Everyone was friendly and approachable.

The morning of the conference we found out who our mentors were. I almost fell off my chair when I learned that I'd been paired with Alvina Ling, Senior Editor at Little, Brown. I knew who she was from the Blue Rose Girls blog and from some of the fabulous books she's worked on. I was thrilled!

Alvina offered helpful insight and suggestions about some of the stories I've been working on. You know that "a-ha!" feeling when somebody says just the right words and suddenly a door to a new solution opens? That's how I felt. We also talked about my portfolio. The conversation was very, very encouraging!

The panel speakers were full of good tips, such as-- figure out how old you are inside when creating a story and find the best way to leverage that. Go for the "psychological verisimilitude," the truth, at the core of your story and strengthen it. And no matter how much technology changes the way we read books in the future, it will always be story that matters.

Judy Freeman did a wonderful book talk (with music) including a hilarious segment on-- groan-- celebrity children's books. (I thought she was kidding about this. Sadly, not.)

All in all it was an inspiring day. Isn't that usually how it is when people who love children's books get together?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Book Map!

This is a map I worked on last year for a book that's finally coming out in December! The book is called Hands of the Rain Forest: The Emberá People of Panama, by Rachel Crandell. It was great fun to research colors and patterns for the border on this one.

I'm a big fan of books with maps. As a reader I find it helpful to have a picture in my head of the story's location, whether it's for a non-fiction book like this one, or a novel with an invented setting. (Just my two pence!)

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Random Quotes

It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.
– Ursula K. Le Guin

Monday, October 5, 2009

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

More Work-In-Progress (& Whiny-Baby Backs)

I'm finishing this sketch as a nice big spanking-new portfolio piece for the upcoming Rutger's conference in October.

I've been working at my standing desk, since the ol' spine is being a whiny-baby again. Got the desk rigged up with a tilting board on top so my neck doesn't join the pity party. I actually like standing and working, as sitting gets tiring after a while. Plus I stay warm!

Here's the sketch transferred onto watercolor paper, with the first round of pencil applied. (Photo quality is "meh," I know.)

Everyone's a critic.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Banned Books Week

I was fortunate to have parents who allowed me to read anything and everything when I was growing up. My kids are allowed the same freedom. If there's something objectionable in a book (or a movie, or a TV show, for that matter), we talk about it. And look at it critically. And learn from it. I'd never dream of taking that opportunity away from other parents and their children. I guess I just don't understand why some folks think that's okay.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Friday Fun: Talk About Multitasking!

This video has been making the rounds-- hilarious. (I'm not sure I could even handle this, though I'm itching for one.)

Check out James Gurney's blog, Gurney Journey. The man is brilliant.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Reading, Writing, Learning

The only way I'll ever keep track of all the links I want to read is to post them here, in my virtual to-read pile. Which reminds me, I should do a post on all the real piles around here. (And lists, and scraps of papers with notes-to-self... ah well. Call it "organic organizing.")

- Some interesting articles on writing craft, here.

- And here is how one editor defines good writing.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Fun With Pens

It's been a writing week and so I haven't had art to post. But this morning I played around with a brush pen. I haven't used one much before (kind of obvious, huh?) but really like the feel of it. Plus it gets me away from my natural inclination to cross-hatch everything. Good to try something new every now and then.

The leaves are starting to turn around here. Beautiful, really. It's overcast and damp today, however, and I can't help thinking the air smells kind of like... dog poop. Must be the humidity.

Monday, September 21, 2009

It's That Time of Year Again!

Time to sign up for the Rabbit Hill Festival of Literature. This year's event will take place on October 22-24, 2009.

The Rabbit Hill Festival is named to honor Robert Lawson, the only author/illustrator to win both the Caldecott and Newbery Medals for excellence in children's illustration and literature. He created his work in his Westport home and studio, which was called "Rabbit Hill." Except for the dinner and lunch, the festival is free and open to the public.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

And Voilà, the Finished Piece

And here's the finish! I've scanned in the art and made some adjustments to the color to bring it as close to the original as possible. This can be tricky, since the image prints differently than it appears on my monitor. Ah well, technology isn't perfect.

I think my little bug has the right idea.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Work-In-Progress... continued

Here's the continuation of this piece. (Please excuse the dingy photos. I was aggravated with my scanner and put it in a time out. But you'll get the idea.)

After I transfer the sketch to watercolor paper, I darken up the pencil lines a bit more. I've tried laying in color before the pencil work, but somehow it never seems to come out right. This is probably the most relaxing part for me. I love pencils.

Then I start laying in light washes of color.

And a bit stronger here. I like building the colors up slowly. Maybe it's because it gives me the illusion of control over the watercolor, I don't know. (Working in watercolor is sort of like trying to control a cat... it only lets you think you're in charge!) But I've found this way leaves me more room to correct problems.

I go back and forth between color and building up the pencil lines and texture. Almost done.

Stay tuned for the finished piece!

Friday, September 11, 2009

TomAYto, TomAHto

A few people asked for the Tomato-Cheese Pie recipe yesterday. Silly me... I should have thought to post it. Here it is:

Tomato-Cheese Pie
(Note: Proportions given are for the cookie sheet sized tray shown. The beauty of this recipe is that you can guesstimate the amounts for whatever size you like. It's almost impossible to mess it up.)

- 2 boxes Jiffy pie crust mix
(I could have used a third box for this size, but didn't feel like running out to the store again for the fourth time this week. So I made the crust thinner.)

- 1-2 hunks of any semi-soft cheese, sliced to a bit less than 1/4" thick.
(I usually use Fontina. Gouda, Gruyere or a soft Provolone work well too. My grandmother used to get those little wedges of cheese that came individually wrapped in foil that never came off in one piece and stuck to everything.... what a pain!)

- Sliced tomatoes

- Grated Parmesan cheese

- About 1/2 stick butter, melted

- Oregano & Black Pepper

Prepare the pie crust mix according to box directions. Bake crust until golden-brown. Remove from oven and let cool slightly. Layer cheese over crust. Layer tomatoes over cheese. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese over all. Sprinkle Oregano and Pepper to taste. Drizzle with melted butter. (I didn't say this was a low-cal dish!) Bake at 375° for 25 minutes. Let sit for a few minutes before serving. Enjoy!

Any questions?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Work-In-Progress & Random Pie

Sometimes I wonder if it's maybe not such a good idea to post rough sketches or imperfect pieces-in-progress. Except that I love it when other artists do. So I will.

Here I've penciled this piece onto watercolor paper, and played around very briefly with a color scheme. (To be continued...)

Oh, and here's what I made for dinner the other night from all those tomatoes:

Tomato-cheese pie. Yum!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Random Quote

The voyage of discovery lies not in finding new landscapes, but in having new eyes.
–Marcel Proust

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Creative Tools

Here are some great ideas for coming up with new ideas.

(I really need to keep better track of where I find these links. If it was you, then, thank you, you!)

Monday, August 31, 2009


Despite the rain, clouds, root rot, tomato blight and slug herds that descended upon the garden this year, we've managed to get a bit to eat.

(Clockwise from upper left: beets, parsley, cherry tomatoes, red & yellow tomatoes, edamame beans, spaghetti squash, chinese eggplant, italian broad & yellow wax beans, cucumbers, butternut squash. Not shown: cubanelle peppers, basil, brussel sprouts, garlic. Earlier this season: sugar snap peas, radishes, kohlrabi. Disasters: broccoli, cauliflower, bell peppers, watermelon, muskmelon and zucchini-- amazingly enough-- since it's usually a no-brainer. Also not shown: weeds like you can't believe.)

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Freelance Mystery #119

Why do deadlines always happen on the most beautiful day of the year when you'd rather be playing hooky?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Monday, August 24, 2009

Goodbyes & Hellos

I've been missing this little blog, my place to gather random bits of art and life. My break was longer than expected.

It's been a different kind of summer around here. Full of good and bad things. We lost a beloved family member to cancer in July. She was a young mother. She was a courageous woman. She and her inner circle of caregivers taught us so much about holding on to hope and dignity in the face of the unthinkable.

This summer has been a time of readjusting to the new way-life-is. Much time for quiet reflection.

Now school is around the corner and the future is coming back into focus. New beginnings. This is good.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

More Time, Please

Sometimes life overwhelms creative time.

Don't feel badly-- read this and remain inspired. (The article is geared toward painters, but the principles work for writers and illustrators as well.)

Friday, July 10, 2009

Friday Fun: Elisa Kleven

Here's the last video in this series. Something new to learn from everyone... I love that.

Tomorrow is one of my favorite days of the year: my library's annual book sale. It's huge! And heavenly.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Summer Schedule

This little guy showed up on our driveway last week. He's some sort of a homing pigeon, I think, because of the tag on his right leg. He wasn't hurt, but seemed to have lost his way. He appeared a bit dazed. Eventually he fluttered off.

It looks as if my fantasies of empty summer hours will be an illusion around here-- between kids, vacation, work, and summer writing & illustrating goals. (And trying to keep up with the weeds!) So blog posts may be a bit sporadic. Hope the sun is shining wherever you are!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

5 O'Clock in the Morning*

Even my mother wouldn't say "Oh how nice dear" to these sketches. But 5 o'clock in the morning is the time to get down and dirty with ideas. With summer here, the kids home, and plenty of reasons to be distracted from work, quiet time is at a premium. I don't want to lose momentum.

*Note to self: Okay it is early but remember to write legibly enough so you can decipher your brilliant scribbles later.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Love That Library

This past Sunday my awesome town library held a reception for local authors and children's book illustrators. Our library houses a permanent collection of books by people from the area-- there are over 90 of us both past and present-- and they do a bang-up job supporting the arts.

I overcame my inner social-dork long enough to chat with people whose work I greatly admire-- illustrators Paul Meisel and Ross MacDonald, and poet Patricia Hubbell, among others. It was fun to talk shop for a bit, and I must say that I don't think I've ever met a not-nice person in this field. Maybe it's a prerequisite.

So here's the deal: wherever you live, support your local library! It's a rich resource that's available to everyone.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Rain, Rain... Get Outta Here!

The forecast predicts sun for the next few days. (I almost forgot how to pronounce that word!)

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Stuck Again?

Keep your hand moving. That's what Lynda Barry advocates in her book, What It Is.

If you're writing and don't know what to say next, write out the alphabet. Keep your hand moving. Eventually the words will flow.

This works for drawing, as well.

I like to get up around 5:00am when the morning is silent, with a cup of coffee in hand. I read, or write, or draw. It's usually a creative time.

This morning my mind was blank.

But hey-- here's a ball point pen! And a scrap of paper! And look, there's a salt shaker!

And a pepper grinder!

I started drawing.

Boring sketches? Yeah! But who cared what they looked like? My hand was moving.

After a short break to shower and get the kids off to school I went back to writing. It turned out to be a productive brainstorming morning.

(And by the way, I highly recommend Lynda's book. It's a wild combination of graphic novel, memoir, and writing/creativity instruction-- very inspiring!)

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Yeah, I Know. More Flowers...

... but winter is long so I'm reveling in spring, rainy though it may be. This picture doesn't do justice to the roses. They bloom for such a short while. This was during a rare moment of sun yesterday afternoon:

And this lady was in the backyard three mornings in a row last week laying her eggs, before she wandered back into the pond: