Wednesday, December 2, 2009

"I have an idea!"

I just counted my PiBoIdMo ideas. I thought I had about 35 ideas. I don't normally pay much attention to numbers or math unless I have to or unless I need to calculate something out of the ordinary like parsecs or parallax...but that's another story, I digress. My idea count now stands at 76.
Wow, I've surprised myself.

More PiBoIdMo

While the writers were busy trying to write a bazillion words in the month of November National Novel Writing Month aka NaNoWriMoauthor/illustrators of picture books were trying to come up with 30 + ideas for PiBoIdMo: Picture Book Idea Month.

I did it. I already had a substantial list of ideas (always do) but added to my list...substantially. So I signed a pledge to 'parlay' one or some of them into books...which I have found is the hardest part of an idea...making it real. 
I do solemnly swear 
that I have faithfully executed
the PiBoIdMo challenge, 

and will to the best of my ability,
parlay my ideas into picture books 

from the list of 30 I have created.

Get on my mark, get set....go for it!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

(Courage, the Presidentially Pardoned Turkey)
From Kate, Tom (not a turkey) and both my children
where ever they are today.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A Fish Bowl maybe...

My daughter gave me a big bowl. Should it be a terrarium or a fish bowl?
Happy Thanksgiving from Puget Sound!

Monday, November 23, 2009

CedarMoon - My Studio!

The Western Washington SCBWI newletter update blog 'Chinook' requested that we illustrators (and authors) share a glimpse of our studios.

So I took a picture that demonstrates at least a portion of where my brain lives when it is not in the real world. CedarMoon Studio (click on picture to see a larger view) is the greatest gift my husband ever gave me besides a wedding ring and our two children (Tyra-29 and Whit-26).

It is my sanctuary, a place where 'I have an idea!' and a place where messes don't count. Ideas ooze from the walls to the point where it's hard for me to choose which realm I want to visit each day. Here I keep snippets and shavings and sprinklings of inspiration all around me – my own personal cabinet of curiosities.

Welcome to my world, take a peek around. Magic is where you make it happen.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Creative Minds (go back to work)

Wow!  I just found: Skellewag: 110+ Resources for Creative Minds: ""
Just following the links contained within each tip will keep you busy...too busy. Unfortunately it doesn't tell you to stop and go back to your work. Tom Edison said “I have more respect for the fellow with a single idea who gets there than for the fellow with a thousand ideas who does nothing.” Messing around on the internet = nothing much accomplished.

Can you imagine where we'd be if there was a resource like the internet during the industrial revolution? Instant information and instant opinions and instant frustration, fear and no work done. Hummm, it's a lesson worth thinking about. There might just be a story there. Back to work.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Hippo Pool and Ideas

I love this National Geo link: Hippo Pool. There is always a story – now I have to figure out what the story is.

I keep a note book (several actually) where I quickly scribble down thoughts and sketches and ideas that jump out at me at the strangest times. I learned long ago that the fleeting ideas don't always seek a permanent residence in my brain so my "I have an idea" notebooks abound.

Get non-spiral notebooks with spines you can write on otherwise you spend time going through pages and pages of good ideas that you are not looking for. Label with the date and a few keywords and try to leave a page near the front to list some of the ideas entered. I'm not suggesting an index, that is far too left brain for me but a tantalizing hint of what's inside is usually just enough to find what I'm looking for...usually.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Mouse Update and PiBoIdMo

It’s National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). A month where hundreds of authors are trying to finish a 50,000-word manuscript in 30 days. Just trying will get many out of their ruts and off their butts with the intensive self-imposed push to finish or start the novel. However, when you write and illustrate picture books PiBoldMo (PIcture BOok IDea Month) is the way to go. For me it’s trying to get submissions out, working on relevant illustrations I’ve put off and basically get ‘out there’ and it’s working.

Thanks to talented illustrator Ryan Hipp, PiBoIdMo participants now have a badge to proudly display on their blogs. (see on the right) I found this on Tara Lazar’s Blog – She has a great day-by-day blog for Picture book writers.

Mouse Update: The mice are gone. There were seven mice not three. Tiny little guys with big ears, big eyes and long tails. I caught them with a live trap called a “Tom Cat” a very easy, very effective way to trap studio mice in case anyone needs one. Now I am finding little bits of evidence all around my studio. They seem to have a very refined palate, it seems they like watercolor papers, handmade fiber papers, satin ribbons, tissue paper and postage stamps. I have found some very beautiful, colorful sleeping quarters in some unusual places; the bottom of my brush holder vase, under the file folders in my roll top desk and even behind my “How to Draw Animals” books…good choice. Next time I bring a box in from storage in the garage, I’m checking the contents for stow-aways before it comes in the studio.

Happy PiBoldMo!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Sometimes life imitates art...

Sometimes it is life that imitates art. I wrote and illustrated a picture book about a mouse that loved to draw and who conveniently lived in an artist studio. Now I have three mice.

They apparently smuggled aboard by hiding in a Halloween storage box filled with past ghosts and bats and rats. A plastic pumpkin was filled with nicely torn and shredded mummy shroud with a small cavity padded with witch hair. I thought the absence of small bodies meant they had abandoned this bewitching abode but they were hiding…perhaps in the papier-mache’ skull or tucked away in a raven’s wing.

No matter how they came, they are here, thumping and scratching and quickly doing the pause…run…pause…run across my studio floor. I hear a scratch and briefly glimpse a tiny grey tail. I look up and that piece of popcorn, carefully placed to sneak-a-peek at my roommates, is gone.

Yesterday I opened a pencil drawer and one minuscule mousey stood on her hind legs and looked at me, “Well, now what are you going to do about it?” she seemed to ask and then spun and disappeared over the back of the drawer. I was so stunned to actually see her I had no idea of what to do.

I am now trying to find mouse sized Have-A-Heart traps so I can let them go back outside. My quandary is that I must keep them alive long enough to catch them alive. So I leave a bit of food and some water on the floor. Tomorrow it will be gone, hopefully by the end of the week my mouseys will be evicted, until then I am living my story.

I wonder if they can draw?

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Something Wicked This Way Comes...

My little kids are grown and gone and I miss the annual spooky stuff at Halloween. However this year I get to use my almost dried up trick-or-treat creative juices. My friend and I are planning a bonfire (almost directly over the grave of her sweet, old dead horse) in a field next to a creepy forest. I'm definitely planning on glowing eyes in this forest. We are also going to require costumes and stories from the grown-up guests. And I am writing one of the scary stories... I think it will include a dead horse.

I'm also helping my favorite independent bookstore – Liberty Bay Books in Poulsbo, Washington, create a graveyard outside the store. Neil Gaiman’s “The Graveyard Book” will inspire the decorations. The book is about Bod, just a normal boy, well, he would be completely normal if he didn't live in a sprawling graveyard, being raised and educated by ghosts. It is a story for anyone who enjoys a good twisty scary story. ( The great thing is; if we do a good job, Mr. Gaiman may come visit this store. It's kind of a contest but such fun to imagine and create that it won’t feel like a contest.

Along with three other creative women, I am decorating a Garden Club lunch break in October. Each month the lovely ladies bring finger foods and decorate the table with beautiful bouquets of flowers. I’m planning something a bit darker this October. A long, somber table with cobwebs, bats and flickering candles and Dracula flavored vampire fare! This will not be your typical store-bought decor either, the theater set designer in me will 'play' it up right. Turtleneck sweaters are advised! Maybe I'll supply garlic necklaces for the squeamish!

All this may not fulfill my desire for the scary and weird at Halloween but it will help. My next blog will include some exclusive decorating ideas from my candy corn coated brain. Stay tuned!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Knowing When to Stop...

The one rule in illustration which is unbreakable is “to know when to stop”. Many times, like today, I have created an illustration and gone one step too far and ruined it.

How do you know when to stop? When I write on my computer, I can hit ‘delete’ or change the location of a word or a phrase. When I draw or paint, I just don’t have a 'delete' brush or a 'change case' pencil available.

How do I know if the last swash is the last swash? I do know it must come from experience, confidence and skill. And those do not come without messing up occasionally.

So however tempting it is to add one last detail, I vow to let my picture rest for a day before declaring it done. I will make scans of the piece along the way and make Photoshop layers with all sketch additions. It may take a little longer to complete each piece but I will have an archive available for reference and "do-overs".

Friday, August 28, 2009

Children's writers of a certain age...

I just did a statistic gathering survey and found out that most writers of children's books are women between 30 and 39 years old. This puts them smack in the middle of having school age children at home.

The kids are at school from 3 to 6 hours give or take bus time or carpooling. That gives moms time to do all their chores and write for maybe 2 hours a day. Maybe. And they have loads and loads of research material at home the rest of the time. My hat is off to those women. Good luck.

Now I do not fit into that age range. My babies are grown and since they do not as yet have kids of their own I am in that transitory pause between – I can reflect on my children, appreciate other’s children and grandchildren and observe them all from a 'bird’s eye' view.

I can see the parent’s point of view and the children’s point of view because I don’t have to pick sides. It is a golden time to write for children and about children, children of any age from 0 to 18. I’ve been there and now I can see the essence of who children are, what they want, what we they think they want and what really is: from the shining heart to the black hole.

Surprisingly this essence is not what I would have guessed it to be when I was in that 30-39 range. I plan to take advantage of that perspective and I advise all those women writers to enjoy and pay attention because this is time, the moment of the best research they will ever do. Enjoy it.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Left Brain/ Right Brain

Scattered Brain!

* Too many ideas. Enthusiasm.

* Long lists of to do's.

* Stories to I want to write. Pictures I want to draw.

* Reading many books on how to get my creative life organized when I should be doing it.

* Sidetracked by beauty, opportunity,'what ifs' and of course the chores of everyday life.

* 6 muses sitting on my laptop, grinning at me.

* A studio full of potential.

And only so much time and coffee.
Welcome to my world...

Sunday, August 9, 2009

A RoadKill query

Well, I sent out a query today. To an agent who I am sure is too busy. But I did it. My granddad said, "You can't catch a trout unless you put your fly in the water.” The fly is there; I hope I get a nibble. Nothing is as scary as putting yourself out there to be critiqued and/or rejected. But I’ve been telling myself I’m going to treat this like a business. It’s business, not personal.

The story is a long shot story about road kill. Road Kill… you know dead critters in the middle of the highway. Yep, it's a picture book about dead animals. EEeeewwww but "way cool" says a four year old I know. Oh well, their mom’s may not approve of a dead animal story but I’ll bet their granddads will buy it for them. Who needs another dancing pig or Dracula rabbit?

Now I can go to bed on dream of being rich and famous. Or maybe just famous. Or maybe just published. Keep your fingers crossed.

Monday, August 3, 2009

No more 'crinkle and shake' – bye bye newspaper!

Since my hubby and I have canceled the Seattle Times, turned off our Netflix (until the dark days of winter) and cut back...way back on more "extended" cable programming – just the bare bones TV news and PBS, we have been filling our spare time with other things after work. We watch ships go by, read, invite friends over, create lots and fight a little. I’m finding that a lot of the stuff on TV is available on the internet…if you really want to see it.

Hey, did you know the most newspapers are free on the internet. I don’t understand why anyone, anymore is actually paying for a newspaper. Hard core, curmudgeonly journalists will argue with me (I am married to one) that the world is not the same without the newspaper.

No, there is no nostalgic 'crinkle and shake' as you turn the page but it's all there; science, local and world news, weather, lifestyle and opinions...lots and lots of opinions. And you don’t have to recycle all those ads…just ignore them.

Wading through all this content however, is an exercise in discretion, adventure and discovery. It’s not like it was before and that is not a bad thing. After all "change" is truly the only constant. I kind of like it. The only thing you have to get used to is limiting your daily time on the net. One: the laptop get warm and two: you can lose yourself in ether. Remember how when you were little you could look-up something in the dictionary or encyclopedia and get lost in the next page and the next page and the next...? Well, this is far worse and more compelling and can lead to losing the whole day or losing job, so beware.

I'm also "connected" through blogs and critique groups to a bunch of people I believe have a great perspective on life, living and our reason for being here. They are artists, illustrators and writers of books for children. Thinking like a kid and creating like a kid – they are constantly seeing the world like the sun just came up and no one has yet walked around on the day leaving messy, dirty footprints. Who needs newspapers?

So have a nice day and don't leave any messy footprints!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Six months is not too long, is it?

Six months later Kate finally blogs.
For someone who has a deep desire to be a writer you would think she’d do it more often.
Ah, writing about myself in third person…weird. Weird is “weird” what happened to ‘i’ before ‘e’?

I wanted to continue this blog about becoming a children’s book illustrator and author, however I found much more interesting blog sites to read. And my hands like to build and draw, as much as write so blogging seemed rather two dimensional and time consuming to blog on a regular basis. I may change my mind.

I read in some blogs that editors and agents like to read the blogs of authors to see if they have a ‘following’ that can be massaged into a ‘promotion vehicle’ for the book the editors and agents might want to sell. I would just prefer to spend my writing on writing my stories rather then attract a following. If someone wants to blog as much as write, I think that’s fine. If someone wants to follow my blog – cool, but it’s not why I do it.

Why do I do it? Because I’m trying to treat children’s book writing as a business and a ‘web presence’ is essential. I started my other web presence (my professional site) but it got detoured. My husband, a technical editor, needed his site done and I needed to learn CS3 Dreamweaver. So I did. A perfect mesh of need and…need. His site is “” if you are interested. Not bad for my first attempt.

My site however sits in Dreamweaver waiting patiently for me to do the things that need to done to “go live”. My grandpa said “You’ll never catch a fish until you get your bait in the water”. My fish are hopefully waiting too. Until then, I have my forum here. Will it be six more months? No, I don’t think so. Stay tuned.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

A New Year's mouse

Keeping my New Year's resolution to draw and write each day, even if just a little, I began creating a character for a new children’s book I’ve written called "Dru Drew". I kept changing my mind on the size of her ears, her age and height/weight ratio so I decided to call on an old trick: create a model and draw from that.

I make my models out of aluminum foil over a wire armature then cover the whole thing with florist's stem tape. Stem tape is flexible and slightly sticky so it sticks to itself. It is also slightly stretchy so it conforms to the shape and comes in brown, green and white. Sometimes if I need great detail I will cover the taped-over piece with non-hardening clay. Today she only has sewing pins for eyes and nose. Her head arms, legs and tail (which is also removable) are fairly flexible allowing me to pose her.
Dru Mouse KAH 2009
I will now draw her in several positions and from several angles. I will also probably draw her in strong light to get a handle on the shadows that follow her.

Drawing Dru over and over gives me the opportunity to get to know her. And it keeps my characters consistent. I highly recommend this technique. You make a new friend…literally.

Next step will be writing a biography, a family tree and a personality profile. Too much you think for just a mouse? Well, if she has a personality that is well established, her written character will have more depth and be more believable. Even for a mouse.

Thought for the day: No one is perfect, even a mouse. Isn’t that a great concept!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Reading, drawing and judging a book by its cover

I knew I had to prepare for this picture book journey. I needed direction to start this path to a childrens book written and drawn by me. I knew I needed to read and draw and write and read some more. Most of all, I needed to focus. For someone who is known for her phrase “I have an idea”, focus was going to be the most important aspect of negotiating this multicolored road.

So I took an intensive certification class at the University of Washington – "Art for the Childrens Market". I learned much but was inspired even more. I sat on the ferries for hours observing and drawing kids and some adults until I'm sure the parents were beginning to think I was some sort of pervert...that is until I showed them the drawings. It was hard to tell them they weren't for sale.

Drawing ‘ferry folk’ made me think a lucrative business could be of drawing people on the ferry and selling them their candid portraits, but I'd tell myself this was research. Focus Kate.
Billy's cricket KAH 2009

Just reading, reading and reading kid’s books was probably the most important part of this early education. Sitting on the floor of the childrens section in the local library and bookstores, I would carefully list all the books that children immediately snatched off the shelves. “Can I have this one?” they’d beg. I knew then that the cover mattered as much as the content. Hummm, interesting marketing lesson.

What made a great cover? Color, subject and what could be seen clearly and brightly by the child, all added to the attractive mix. Most of the covers chosen were not the ones I thought would be the most compelling.

Lesson one: Don’t make assumptions about what children like. Observe.

Remember this, although what Grandma or Mom chose was very different then what little Jenny chose, the first book the child wanted was usually included in the purchase. Covers are as important as the insides. Who knew? So much for the adage “Never judge a book by its cover”.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The multicolored path

This blog is for anyone who would like to follow me on the picture book path.
I know this path has twists and turns and trips. It has hills and dips and signs that read, "Watch for falling rocks". But it also has great vistas, wondrous bridges and fascinating side roads.

I may meet wicked witches, gorgons, dragons and ghosts. I may also meet a red queen, mermaids, flying pigs and a man with magic beans.
Orville Pig realizes that balloons
are not a very comfortable idea!

I hope to discover muses and mentors. I am compelled to seek out the end of this multicolored brick road. How scary. How exciting!

I do have a map. A worn and magic map that changes it directions and blurs it borders.
Hey look, there a big X! That must be the spot.
Now all I have to do is find my way.

You are welcome to join with me on this expedition. If you want to.
But please be patient, I fear it may be a long trip.