Posts Tagged ‘writing fiction’

It’s the anxiety, stupid.





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I’m going to spend one day at Comic Con this year. One day should be enough. I haven’t been back to The Con for 2 or 3 years now. I don’t expect it to be any different but for being more crowded than I remember.

Dilly Dally Daisy comes out in a few weeks. It’s a picture book, and perfect for any family or kid that seems to find everything to do but what they are expected to do.


Kind of like blogging is for me during summer. It feels too much like homework when the sun is shining and the front yard needs work.

I just finished illustrating a new picture book. I’m guessing it’s done, but maybe there will be one or two small revisions yet. I’m very proud of it and I think it will find an abundant audience. It’s called Superhero Instruction Manual, written by Kristy Dempsey. And oddly enough it is not about Superheroes!

That’s not true. It IS about Superheroes. I won’t talk or write or show any art form it until it’s almost ready for sale. But it’s a funny and cute (in a good way) manuscript and I had great fun illustrating it.

I’m also in the middle of painting a LOT of chickens for another picture book. More at that as the feathers clear. Looking to send that off to the publisher by the end of August. Or I will try to do that – unless I’m dilly-dallying too much.

And it’s the time of year when I usually decide on a few manuscripts to submit to my agent. I’m afraid my middle grade novel will not make the cut. It’s not ready and I’ve run out of time this summer to work on it. I think it needs to stand a bit, age, ripen, cure…whatever it does when I’m not looking at the words on its pages.

But a few new picture books have bounced around enough and I think they may be read for my agent to take a look at. Or not…

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It’s summer so my blogging is paying the price and that’s alright. But these days one is supposed to never miss an opportunity to ‘engage’ your ‘readers’ or ‘fans’ or just people walking down the sidewalk that you can corner. (Such a Minnesota style snark.)

And this brings us to the topic of self promotion as it applies to kids book authors and illustrators. We all know a few stories on this subject that make our toes curl. This industry is certainly not as bad compared to the world of TV and music. But it seems some people are pushing us there.

And while I understand this is an insane, media saturated world – I’m not convinced that adding to that cacophony is a meaningful goal even while admitting that personal ego gratification is a ‘good high’.

Every published author or illustrator knows that publishers love you to stay busy in the social media. And while I certainly do promote myself on this blog, I had no such expectation that was the point of it when I started it many years ago.

The blog gives me a place to meander. And talk to myself. And yes, occasionally talk about what I am doing and experiencing. But I still feel no desire to be involved 24 hours a day. And I am loathe to publish too much about my life. But I feel guilty feeling this way. Thanks modern world!

I think I’m too old to enjoy telling everyone about my birthday or even announce a new book contract. I think the time to talk about books is when they are coming out, though I know this is not acceptable to many publishers as they want to build knowledge of your work as it progresses. But as my work progresses I’m actually pretty busy with the work. Which is, I think, the way it should be.

Well, summer is here in all it’s vampire killing glory. I thought I moved away from So Cal. We’re hotter here in Oregon than Pasadena for a week!

Happy summer!

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I love writing and drawing. I feel very lucky to be doing it. I spent many years of my life in offices and cubicles. I didn’t dislike them and I very much enjoyed the people I worked with, many of whom became good friends, but the jobs didn’t engage me to the degree my job does now.

But most days I still have to pull myself into my office because I want to spend all day outside working on my yard, working in the garden. I just walked out to the front porch and immediately ran back inside because I knew if I spent one more moment out there I would start a project. I’d get my ‘outside’ boots on and find plenty of things to do on this beautifully day.

I think it best if I stay in pajamas and slippers thus making outdoor activities less socially hospitable in the neighborhood.

I am talking myself into sitting down and working. Keep the computer on. The cup of tea nearby. I learned a long time ago that in the commercial arts one can’t wait for INSPIRATION. Or a long wait you might have. Work gets done by sitting and doing it. And doing it agin.

So here I sit, willing myself to work.

I have 2 or 3 projects on my desk that need my time. Some new illustrations I’m very excited to start. Book revisions that need attention and no doubt – further revisions.

Maybe if I open my blinds and the window I will feel a better balance between my inside work that needs doing and my desire to be outside. Or will I let the computer sleep and reach for my outside shoes?

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 Happy Blue Creature & S. Beckett

I am often asked about my favorite books and inspirations. I’m uncomfortable with that question in regards to kids lit as I don’t separate genres and styles well. I like what I like and it all plays a part in my work.

I understand from a business perspective why we have genres and demographics, but I have a difficult time relating to the world according to marketing categories as I think most of us do.

Starting in high school I fell in love with the writing of Franz Kafka. (I even illustrated a take on one of his short stories)  The ultimate young adult existential gateway books. And yes – that lead to Camus and Sartre and Borges. Many of the books introduced to me in an excellent high school literature class taught by Mr. Bernauer. (Thanks again for World Lit!)

And that experience propelled me to becoming a Comparative Literature major in college. And while I loved it, I had good reasons for moving on to 2 or 3 additional majors before I graduated with my BFA.

But all the books I love wash together. Some of Stephen King’s short story collections, Lord of the Rings, the picture poems of Kenneth Patchen, The Unamable (by Beckett), Jim the Boy, The Book of Illusions – the list goes on and on – and these run hand-n-hand with Bannock Beans and Black Tea, The Peanuts comic strip collections, The Little Prince, comics by Lewis Trondheim and picture books by Mo Willems. Low art, high art…it doesn’t matter. I enjoy them all and love when a book mixes in a bit of all those disparate human point of views. But to effectively sell a book, you best be one thing. But of course, the best books never are just one thing.

My literary enjoyments remind me of a Joseph Campbell quote: “People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. I think that what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances with our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive.”.

He was addressing mythology, but I find this is an apt description of what drives my desires in reading too.


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I talk about the power of pencil and paper when I speak at schools and libraries.

Tools that every kid knows how to use and yet, when combined with an active imagination, they are the best starting points for any type of idea: A film, a book, a video game. The humble pencil and paper is far more dynamic tool than my Wacom tablet or Photoshop or my iPad.

I have been working digitally for close to 16 years now but my sketchbooks carry my history is such a satisfying way. The biggest technology change to my pencil and sketchbook in that time is that I use automatic pencils now instead of having 4 or 5 sharpened pencils (well, they started out as sharpened) in my backpack. But keeping enough pencil leads in the pencil is easier than keeping a battery charged.



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