Posts Tagged ‘picture book’

It’s out. My new book Dilly Dally Daisy is out and ready to run around Ten years in the making, millions of hours of work, tens of thousands of extras – wait. None of that is true.

But the dilly-dallying has ended. Go buy 10 copies. It’s best that way.



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While my new book is inspired by my daughter and her friend, I too have a tendency to dilly dally. This blog is a fine example. “Hey, I could be revising a manuscript or finishing my illustrations … how ’bout I write something for the blog instead!”


Other things that are prime dilly dally material – gardening (buying plants ETC), cleaning, organizing my studio, looking at books online – BUYING books online, going to coffee shops, going to bookstores – BUYING books at bookstores, grocery store visits and plenty more. I have a theory that 70% of the American Economy now runs because of dilly-dallying.

But I think dilly-dallying isn’t all bad. As a person with a somewhat imaginative mind, dilly-dallying is what makes my world work. Keeping a balance is the tough part. Things still have to get done. But enjoying the ramble through the forest is just a important as getting to the cabin.


How do you dilly dally? What favorite pastimes do you allow yourself to jump into when you have something else that may NEED to be done? What things do you take extra time with even when you don’t need to do them in order to get your projects done?  I’ll share some of my dilly-dallying in the next few weeks. Drawing these will be a great excuse to dilly dally!

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Sometimes I write the books I illustrate. I was recently asked what I write about when I develop a picture book.

What do I concentrate on? What are my ‘themes’?

I hadn’t really thought of it that way. I usually have dozens of small ideas I am working on and I spend most of my efforts in finding out if the ideas work at the appropriate scale and tone for a picture book. But I do have issues that resonate within my work. They are there whether or not I put them there.

Obviously when I write and draw a picture book I have more control over how it all fits together. I most often do a dummy that I submit with my manuscript so the text has already been fit with illustrations so editors can see how well they hang together, or don’t. Revisions ensue.

But what do I like to write about? My picture books all have a strong outdoor component. With my book, The Great Thanksgiving Escape, it’s easy to forget that it’s really about kids who are taken with imaginative play – and they want to play outside. That want to get to that swing set. They don’t want planned ‘play time’ with artificial boundaries. For me the last page of The Great Thanksgiving Escape sums up so much of my childhood. It is about the love of being outdoors, no matter the weather. When my daughter was small we were at the park everyday. And living in Oregon that means we played through plenty of rain and she never minded as long as she got to play!


The final page form The Great Thanksgiving Escape

And Dilly Dally Daisy (my new picture book, due out in July)  has a similar POV. The outdoors again make an appearance at the end of Dilly Dally Daisy. As a child I spent 90% of my time outside. We had horses, cows, pigs, chickens, 20 some acres of pasture, forest, creeks and the St. Croix river just down the road. So outdoor themes are built into my childhood. Even if they are only tangential to the plot of many of my stories.

The new picture books I have written (more about them when a release gets closer) also hold reverence for the out of doors, though it’s not the main point of the stories.

I try and focus on what I remember from being a kid, but I also pay close attention to how my daughter and her friends are experiencing and expressing their childhood. That’s important for a children’s book author. Don’t just reflect on your own childhood. Try to understand what kids are like today. There are similarities and some very big differences. A large part of the ‘childhood experience’ is universal. I try to find universal themes and express them in modern terms – but the stories are still particular to my personal interests/experiences.

This is way too long an answer!

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An advanced copy of my new book arrived! Dilly Dally Daisy is a new picture book I wrote and illustrated. Having an advance copy arrive will make for a much better week.

The end papers have Daisy in many different hats. As a kid I loved hats for some reason. I was just talking to my daughter about all the hats I used to get at rummage sales and secondhand stores. I don’t think I have any left. I wish i had kept a few.

The color in the book looks really great, I think it’s one of the best reproductions of my work I’ve seen in a long while. It will be out in July. Make sure everyone you know buys a copy. Or two. ; >

I’ll get some better photos of the book shortly. These are the “I’m so excited, it’s here!” pictures.


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I updated my website with info about my next book, The Great Thanksgiving Escape, which escapes in September from dank, dark warehouses.

It’s a Thanksgiving story. I hope the title didn’t give that away.

The first review ran for it in Kirkus, and they said very nice things and I could breathe again – so I guess I can start my publicity push…which mainly focuses on me walking around town with a copy of the book under my arm and when people look at me I say – “I noticed you seem interested in my NEW book!” and I read it to them. Out loud. After all, picture books are meant to be read aloud. This does lead to some delays and frequent calls to the police, especially when I do this while I’m in line at the grocery check-out at around 5:30.

OK. That’s not true. That’s not ALL my promotional ideas. I also super glue several copies of the book to the outside of my car and I update my website and blog.

OK. Sadly enough, my main publicity idea is updating my blog and website.

And the radio ads I’m taking out for it.


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A few more rescue scans of stuff headed to the recycle bins.

I often really like a small, quick sketches on a page of a sketch book. Sometimes it wasn’t even the focus of what I was doing on that page.



I like ‘rough’ art. The mistakes, the signs of struggle. The coincidence. I’ve always like the improvisational aspects of work in a sketchbook.




Below are rough page layouts and character designs for a counting book I did. This never sold, but I created a dummy from it that I showed in my portfolio until I had published work.


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One of the most common questions an author, cartoonist or illustrator receives is, ‘Where do you get your ideas?’

This is somewhat straightforward to answer when you are contracted to illustrate a manuscript. I literally was handed a story to illustrate. Granted all the visuals must be created, so you are definitely generating visual ideas that must come from somewhere, but you have the architecture plans in hand – the manuscript.

John Cleese has lots of great quotes about creativity and ideas.

“We get our ideas from what I’m going to call for a moment our unconscious — the part of our mind that goes on working, for example, when we’re asleep. So what I’m saying is that if you get into the right mood, then your mode of thinking will become much more creative. But if you’re racing around all day, ticking things off a list, looking at your watch, making phone calls and generally just keeping all the balls in the air, you are not going to have any creative ideas.” ~ John Cleese

I recite an answer to the question of where I get my ideas when I give talks, which sounds much like every other author’s answers I’ve ever heard. And I think I began to believe it. It makes it sound likes it’s a discipline. Like you can take Idea Generation 101 at a university where you practice and develop and study and craft creating ideas. NO. You craft and refine and revise a manuscript or a sketch – which is based on an idea that comes from…????

When looking back on things it’s easy to think we see dots connecting to create an outcome. I think we mostly create those dots to fulfill a preconceived notion of ourselves. For those very same ‘dots’ could produce an infinite number of different outcomes. That they resulted in any particular event is simply a product of odds. So the looking back and pretending to know where an idea generated from is a comforting fiction we tell ourselves so that the world continues to unfold in an orderly action-reaction state.

A few weeks back I was sitting in the waiting room of a local athletic club. I was tired, a little bored, thinking about what I was going to make for dinner while I waited for my daughter to get done with swim team practice. And I was writing/doodling in my sketchbook, which I do all the time. And a story simply developed from a few sentences and a quick sketch.

I have NO idea where it came from. And of course no idea if it’s any good. But if I continue to revise it and if it is submitted to editors one day, I will follow up on this post.

But the fact is – I see no logical reason for that story to have appeared in my head at that moment. I hadn’t been working on it. It doesn’t have to do with swimming… it was totally random.

So much for knowing where ideas come from.

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