Saturday, November 5, 2011

PiBoIdMo Day 5...

Rain, rain, go away . . .
And I have four more ideas and titles:

Idea #2 "Weather or Not" What can you do when it's raining and pouring or snowing and blowing?

Idea #3 "Little Brother; Pest and Pal"  The pros and cons of little brothers as seen from the little brother's POV And the big sister's POV.

Idea #4 "If I Had a Tiger"  What Eli would do with a tiger for a pet. Revenge? Intimidation? Run for president? NOT clean his room?

Idea #5"Come and Get It!" Lucy's family works and plays and dances and creates. When they home for dinner to share their day with interesting results.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Picture Book Idea Month 2011

I figured this was a good way to get back to my blog and back to my art after a fairly long hiatus doing all the things life throws at you.

You know...stuff. Stuff that has to be done so you can eat.
So to start off my PiBoIdMo this year.

IDEA #1:
"Where Are They Going?"
An expose' on where geese, ants, bees, turtles and squirrels are going when they head out on migration. Or just in search of nuts.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Creative Mind and Magic…

I firmly believe magic exists. Take for example the case of the magic wand. The wand amplifies and directs desires and intentions you focus your mind on. It is creativity manifest.

Hand a plain stick with a star on it to a child or even an adult and tell them it is magic. They will take it in their hand and possibly point it at a friend (or an enemy) and wave it around a bit, fully intending on turning them in a toad, or a duck or a tree.

In that instant they believe it might, just maybe, possibly… actually happen. Most people will agree that it won’t happen…but for the briefest moment in their minds they believed. And magic lived.

If you handed a billion people a wand and they also believed for only a second that their will could manifest itself into a toad (or a duck or a tree) then for a billion seconds magic would exist.

One billion divided by 31,536000 = 31 years, 259 days, 1 hour, 46 minutes and 40 seconds = 31,709.79 years. And there are about 6 billion people on this planet. That’s about 193 years of magic. 

So I firmly believe magic exists...even if for just a moment.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

What I did on my summer vacation...

After a summer filled with new grand baby and vacation I’m eager to start blogging again and thanks to Janet Reid, literary agent I have a great reentry in the blog-o-sphere.

Janet ran a word challenge contest, she actually does this often but this time she forgot to name the winners. She does not forget often. The challenge was to write a story in 100 or fewer words.  Post the story in the comments section of her blog ( and use the following words in the story: lyrical, angst, conspiracy, reluctant, swoop.

I wrote this: 
"The old sideboard was painted with stories. Minutely detailed life marched up drawers and across shelves. A tiny war folded around the doors, a carefully wrought conspiracy hid in the corners and a love affair gone wrong erupted over the intricately carved headpiece. Rendered mostly in browns and greens, a fragile swoop of red would brightly proclaim a birth…or a death.

This furniture was too precious to sell, too detailed to interpret, too disturbing to keep as is. I dipped my brush in generic beige and reluctantly began to extinguish 87 years of lyrical angst.

I checked her blog today (I had promised myself no internet while on vacation) and I won her latest word contest posted on Sunday, July 31. What a surprise to come home after 12 days in the mountains of Idaho to find my name after the word “winner”!

Winning is a great motivator to keep writing…humm…let’s see…I have this idea….

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

I've been kind of busy...

... interviewing my new model for future illustrations. Introducing my first grandchild; Elynn (E-lynn), 9lbs 5ozs. My daughter is tired but happy and doing fine.
I am already teaching Elynn to stick out her tongue and she actually does it. Brilliant and talented child...just like her grandma!
It's amazing what someone who has only been breathing air for a few days can do.
I'll be back to blogging soon as I put her down...oh, what's that mommy? want her back?
Being Nana Kate is going to be great!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

SCBWI-WWA: I want to do it again!

The 2011 SCBWI-WWA was held this last weekend in Redmond (near Seattle). Two exhausting days that went by too fast. Too many things to learn but I tried. Too many new ideas generated in my little brain.

And too many notes to transcribe before I forget what I wrote. My fast-mode long hand is a bit scribbly but I wanted every writing/illustrated gem of wisdom down on paper. Can anyone tell me what a word that looks like ‘rebraration’ means…or maybe that was ‘nedarfacted’? Thankfully there were many live blogs and synopses of almost ever breakout session so I can get a good brain jolt from them and relive those wonderful sessions.

One of the creators of the original Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, Lin Oliver, called it the ‘Mercedes’ of local SCBWI conferences. In the end we wanted to be called the ‘DeLorean’ of conferences because it was fun, fast and not like at all like your mother’s ride. And sometimes it even comes with a Flux Capacitor!

Now back to the future to revise my stories and refine my illustrations…

Saturday, April 9, 2011

What’s in an SCBWI Author/Illustrator’s portfolio?

Sorry I haven't blogged for a month but as they say "Life gets in the way when you are making other plans".

I've been busy getting my portfolio ready for the portfolio showcase at the 2011 SCBWI-WWA (Western Washington) Spring Conference in Seattle next week.
However author/illustrators are a strange creature consisting of a talented (hopefully) mix of words and pictures. What do they put in their portfolios? Pictures or words? Or both?

Good author/illustrator are highly sought after because it means the agent, editor or publishing house only have to work with one person, one ego and one royalty. Finding advice and mentorship for an author/illustrator is hard work but after searching and researching I came up with a plan for my author/Illustrators portfolio.

This is my author/illustrator portfolio plan:
  1. My portfolio pages will have a text from one of my own stories and the illustration that goes with it, hopefully highlighting my aptitude for both. I will use only those illustrations that show character, diversity and a unique interpretation of my words.
  2. I will divide the portfolio into two parts: black and white and color. Divide the color and black & white sections into picture book and chapter book illustrations.
  3. Aim for 10 to fifteen pages with content only on the right hand page. The left hand page will be left black.
  4. Choose the illustrations and words the propel the reader to turn the page or wonder what will happen next.
  5. I will use only two or possibly three of styles of illustration. Style is equivalent to the illustrative ‘voice’ agents and editors are looking for.
  6. Composition, emotion and lighting will be as important in my illustrations as spelling, voice and continuity are in my writing.
  7.  I’ll show off my skill depicting people, especially children and my skill with portraying common animals like bunnies and aardvarks.
  8. I will include a couple of completed spreads from my own dummy books complete with illustrations and text to show layout and use space.
  9. I will then lay all my choices out on the floor and put them in order from best to worst. I will ruthlessly toss out the worst regardless of how much I personally love them. Only my best will do even it’s only 8 or 10 pieces.
  10. I’ll print out my final portfolio cover and composed pages (including my name and contact info on each page) and have it all bound at a local print shop. I will make it look as professional as possible.
  11. I will also print out post cards for the interested agents and editors to take with them so they won’t forget me or my talent.
And I will update my website and my blog frequently!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Right Side of the Brain Exercise #12...

OK, back to creativity, nonsense and purple lemons…

I used to teach creative problem solving to grade school kids, prisoners, continuing education paralegals, moms, family and some private gathering. I did it through drawing and imagery and challenging what is real, normal or the correct, conventional way of seeing, doing and thinking. It never failed to get some interesting results. I think I learned more than they did! So I thought I’d share:

Creativity exercise # 12:

Have you seen a purple lemon? A lemon can be purple if you use your imagination you can see a purple lemon. Now imagine biting into a purple lemon, what do you taste? Now grab a #2 pencil and a piece of paper and draw a purple lemon.

What’s that you say? You can’t draw a purple lemon with a black pencil? You can’t??? Why not? There are a number of ways to draw a purple lemon. Here are two:
Draw on purple paper (note I didn't say the paper was white did I?). Or draw with your eyes closed in a very dark room so you can’t see the color. No one else can see it either so it can be purple if you say it is. You can also paint a lemon purple and just draw what you see.

Which brings us to Kate’s Creative Rule #1:
“Just because it hasn’t happened doesn’t mean it’s not going to.”

 I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells.  Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living, it's a way of looking at life through the wrong
end of a telescope.  Which is what I do, and that enables you
to laugh at life's realities.
  ~Theodore Geisel

Monday, February 28, 2011

Picture Book Marathon 2011 complete...

Now to revise and revise:
Picture Book # 27: “Bird Fish, Fish Bird” If a bird was a fish and a fish was a bird.

Picture Book # 28: “Pasgetti; Once upon a thyme” A budding chef creates a her version of spaghetti sauce with interesting results.

Picture Book # 29: “Squirrel Co-op” A child’s speculation on how squirrels really get at the bird seed when no one is looking.

Picture Book # 30: “Whose Shoes” A toddlers view of the world of grown-ups.

Well, I may not have done an illustration for all of them but I got a rough draft for each. So these plus my middle-grade WIP should keep me busy for the next year.

My personal assistant (my daughter) will nag me until I submit at least 2 stories and 10 agents and/or publishers by March 15th (2011!).
I guess I just need deadlines to get anything done. My on-going excuse is; "But life gets in the way!"
Alas, life will always get in the way...but only if I let it.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Catching Up with Picture Books...

I took my days off  and caught up by dreaming my newest PBs...really:

Picture Book # 18: “One Lost Tooth, One Lost Tooth Fairy”: a little girl wakes up to find the tooth fairy sitting on her bed crying because her missing tooth list is… missing!

Picture Book # 20: “Whose Shoes” A toddler's view of the world of grown-ups.

Picture Book # 21: “Pardon Me but Your Tail's in My Way!” A peacocks attempt to view a barnyard concert.

Picture Book # 22: “Achhooooo!” Why we sneeze.

Picture Book # 23: “Storm Boat” A modern day Puget Sound Noah-esque animal rescue story.
Picture Book # 24: “Pigs go to Market” A shopping trip to the Pike Place Market by Rachel the Pig.

Picture Book # 25: “Old is New” Eight children recycle reuse and make do with their old toys.

Picture Book # 26: “Nanny Cat” A first grader and her cat take care of each other.


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Picture book Marathon PB# 14, 15 and 16...

I kind of got on a roll today. The weather blew in with a nasty La Nina storm from the ocean so I came up with these stories for the latest picture books waiting for the power to go out. Keeping up with the illustrations is harder. I will need to focus more to get anything done, I keep getting sidetracked with life!

14) Night Bugs: Introductions to those bugs that inhabit the night.
15) Babies Smell Funny: Two pet cats opinion of the new baby.
16) I Will Dress Myself!:  A little girls idea of what is haute couture.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Picture book Marathon PB# 10, 11, 12 and 13...

PBM week 2 round-up:

10) ‘Quigley and Goldie’: best friends however one is a fish and the other a cat…where will they play?

11) ‘Catch a Star & Keep It as a Pet’: Need I say more?

12)‘Under My Blanket’: A four year old escapes the world of grown-ups.

13) 'Captain Caboodle': a seagull that takes the Washington State ferry as a daily commute to his ‘job’ at Ivar’s fish house…eating tossed French Fries.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Picture Books # 6,7,8 and 9

I didn't have much time this week for illustrations so I wrote before I went to bed instead. The stories definitely gave me some interesting dreams!
My PB books are:
"Spilt Milk" about a boy's creative way to clean up spilt milk.
"Asking Directions" about two Fairy Godsisters getting lost.
"Mole-hill Mountain" about a colony of moles who have a mountain building contest.
"Dunderbeck, I Told You, You’d be Sorry" illustrations to an old song great-grandpa taught us.
In progress: "Giggle first, Laugh Last" about funny words.
Please respect my copyright ©KAH2011

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

It Was a Dark & Stormy Night Entry...

My Blogfest entry to Brenda Drake Blogfest:
Title: Emerald Boots
Genre: MG fantasy

"Jade felt the balloon basket swing violently and scrunched far back into the dark corner hoping desperately to become invisible – stowing away on The Great OZ’s balloon really wasn’t one of her best ideas."

Sunday, February 6, 2011

PBM: Picture book 5...

'Periodic Table of Elephants'

Meet Neon, Argon, Florine and Helium - four elephants who are a real gas! Neon and Argon have a glowing personality. Fluorine can be a bit corrosive but she has a rare sense of humor. And Helium is very light on his feet (for an elephant). They performed for the Mid-West Electric Side Show in 1937.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

PBM: Picture Book 4...

'EYES!'      ©KAH 2011
‘EYES!’: A story about a boy, his faithful flashlight and his overnight stay in the wilds of his own backyard.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Picture Book Marathon Books 2 and 3...

If I don’t devote at least half a day to this PBM commitment to myself I won’t get it done. When I write and illustrate a picture book the words and pictures bounce back and forth in my head. The pictures inspire the words and the words inspire the pictures. Which comes first; The picture or the words?

Picture book #2; ‘Hoop Games’ How the games that children play today are basically the same as the games children played since 500 BC. A picture book that’s all pictures, no words.

Picture Book #3; “Do You Want Fried Squid with That?" A story about what Pirates do when they lose their Pirate jobs.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Picture Book Marathon Idea #1

I am impressed that others in the Picture Book Marathoners are also doing a story AND an illustration each day. I’m trying to do the same but I will probably lag by a day or so. A dachshund playing a Didgeridoo is a little harder to create than I expected – actually the story was much easier.

How did I get this idea? I saw a dachshund next door. I wondered what animals did for entertainment besides eat, sleep, lick themselves and...ah...eliminate. Humm...maybe music?

So here is my pitch line for my completed PB story and one rough sketch for picture book #1 (still to come):
Picture Book #1;
'Bandimals'; is about a strange assortment of musical instruments played by a band of even stranger animal musicians who gather for a spontaneous concert in the midnight.
© KAH2011
Please respect my copyright

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Where Ideas Come From…

Aurora by Kjetil Skogli (Norway)
Starting the 2011 Picture Book Marathon, I realized that I needed some new ideas. For me that has never been a problem but for some it is more terrifying then writing.

One of the questions that most writers or artists are asked is where their ideas come from. Some might give a list of ways to find ideas, some may say they come from their experiences and their childhood. However many say, “How can you not have ideas?” But that doesn’t help the panic of not having a good idea when you need it, does it?

Inspiration comes from a Late Latin word that means “to breathe or blow into”. Anyone who has had a great idea knows that feeling. It’s like a wind blowing into your brain, clearing cobwebs and revealing something that was there all along. 

So relax and let a muse blow away those cobwebs and reveal those ideas. They are there and they are yours. Focus on something besides the need to have a great idea. Look at the sky, smell the earth (or snow if you live in the mid west or eastern US), pet your cat, stare at the fire and let the ideas blow in.
That said; I dreamt my picture book idea for day one of the 2011 Picture Book Marathon. One down....

Friday, January 28, 2011

Another Reason to Write and Draw...

The Third Annual Picture Book Marathon starts February 1, 2011, during which children's writers compose one picture book each day until they have written 26 picture books (with a couple of rest days thrown in). Maybe I am a sucker for punishment or maybe I am just passionate about stories but I am about to embark this new writing adventure.
Picture Book Marathon logo by
author/illustrator Nathan Hale

I did manage to 'win' my NaNoWriMo 50,000 word badge this last November for a Middle Grade book, but picture books can be much harder to write because you have to make every word count. That about 10,400 perfect words (26 x 400 words). And I have to come up with 26 ideas to write about. And I plan to blog about it.

AND my prize is 26 new picture books to illustrate ... in my spare time.
Wish me luck!

Check out the website and blog at:  and

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

It’s a NOTEbook...

I love my notebooks, my plain, paper notebooks with or without lines. It might be a Moleskin like the great writers used or a black and white composition book or a fancy little notebook I received as a gift (or a prize). It might be one I’ve had for years or one I made myself. I can’t plug them in, recharge them or listen to music on them. It’s a NOTEbook! (Thank you, Lane Smith for your insight! )

A little notebook is good – you can stick it in your pocket or purse or backpack or under your pillow for those middle-of the night lists or ideas. A big notebook is good too – you can illustrate your ideas or combine lists or doodle your name or make a paper airplane. Big notebooks are also much harder to lose. Notebooks take you into the future and back to the past at the same time.

You recharge a notebook with ideas. You don’t have to worry about dropping them, unless you live near an ocean; salt water has an amazing affect on purple ink. In a notebook you can write with anything that makes a mark; pencils, crayons, burnt sticks, eyeliner pencils. And in desperate circumstances, you can even make impressions on the paper with a fingernail or just a nail. Anything to record that elusive thought, that perfect sentence, that unique tree, that great idea…that phone number of the bank.

One can never have too many notebooks (despite what my daughter says). To me a brand new notebook is like a blank piece of paper and a new, 67 count box of Crayons; the potential is intoxicating! I do love my notebooks!

What was the last great thing you wrote in a notebook?

Sunday, January 16, 2011

When Creativity Needs a Spark of Inspiration…

Try looking up. Look up when others are looking at the sidewalk. Look at the rain clouds instead of looking at the puddles.

Or look at the reflection of ‘up’ in the puddle. Look at the top of the skyscraper or church steeple or oak tree. Do you see anyone up there looking down? Who or what could they be? Look at the tops of old building and the stone lion’s heads or gargoyles you never knew were there.

Look at the birds on that wire and wonder where they’ve been. Look up at the heron flying over the stalled traffic jam while others are looking down and texting that they’ll be late…again.

Look up at the jet and wonder where the passengers are going or coming from. Look up at your eaves and notice the tiny fern growing in the corner…no, don’t notice that you need to clean the gutters.

Most of all look up on a clear night and think about all you can see. You can see back in time, you can see billions of stars and possibly billions of billions of living things. You can see objects that hold more magic than the most fantastic science fiction story or fairy tale ever told.

Below to the right is a picture of a globular cluster. Ever seen one? You can if you look up at night into the summer constellation of Hercules. Binoculars help.

A globular cluster is a snowball of tightly packed stars that orbit a galactic core like our Milky Way. Like the moon orbits the earth, these clusters orbit our galaxy and no one really knows why or how they came to be there. And other galaxies have them too.

Now there’s a spark for some creativity if I ever heard of one. What do you think?

Friday, January 14, 2011

How to Create a Myth...

Stories, legends and myths have always fascinated me. Where did they come from? Were they plucked from pure imagination or was there some seed of truth? A seed that grew with the telling or grew in the imagination?

I believe all myths stem from some bit of history or truth. An normal day is upset by an abnormal circumstance or visitor, an expectation is exceeded or a dream fulfilled at the most opportune moment, a surprise from mother nature or a nightmare realized – these are the things that become the seeds of myth.

Of course there is one other essential component of the creation of the myth; the myth-maker. The myth-maker is that person who tells the story and adds an adjective or a supposition. He or she is someone who compares the truth with a dream or another coincidental event. The story, the myth, grows like an apple tree sprouting branches and fruit. Soon those apples drop on heads and at the feet of more myth-makers and more story tellers. The mythical apples are stuck in a pocket and shared with a friend or two or twelve. A myth is born.

Do you want to be a myth-maker? Take a story, any story, happy or not and find the interesting truth: A news story about lost boy. Then add a dose of extended reality: he finds an animal den to sleep in. Then add the miraculous: boy is missing for several weeks but is found alive and well.  Ask the question why?

All you need to do now is find a plausible answer and set the story free (tell a friend or two or twelve). The lost boy was tended by a pack of coyotes who assumed he was some kind of human cub. They fed him and kept him warm and taught him to howl. Now for some reason he is able to understand the language of dogs. It becomes a myth about a Dog Boy. Retold and embellished it becomes more interesting and strange as it grows. The apple seed becomes the tree. And as they say, “We can count the number of seeds in an apple but we cannot count the number of apples in a seed.” A myth is born.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Objective Observation and POV...

Objective observation is the key to creating a setting in writing or the aspect of an illustration but everyone’s point of view is different. One person may call the solid hunk of earth in front of them a stone while the other might call it a rock. One person may be taller or color blind and miss the tiny yellow flower popping up between the cracks of the sidewalk. Someone’s perspective may be tainted by tragedy and another might not see the horror of an accident but another notices that all victims survived unhurt.

Perspective, attitude, context, frame of reference, objectivity and relativity all play a part. Do you really see what is there or do you filter it, assuming you know the reality? For example; the snow on a mountain on a sunny day is white, right? Yes, but what color are the deep shadows? Most people will say the shadows will be darker and probably gray. Nope. The dark shadows on snow are the same color as the sky. Objective observation. (to read a more detailed explanation by James Gurney : http//

Amazingly children manage to master language. My son once asked me to “turn off the dark”, which in his mind was just as logical as “turning on the light”. Children also understand objective observation. A young child’s drawing of a face often looks like the example on the right: two eyes right next to the nose and the nose with two holes. Some think it is just because they don’t know any better but they may know more than you do. Get down on your knees (child height) and look up at a friends face. What do you observe? Two eyes right next to the nose and the nose with two holes. Objective observation.

Next time you look at something, think about what you are seeing and question your filters and the reality presented. You might be very surprised at what you see.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Rain, Rain and no excuse...

 ... Not to Work!
Although most people think it rains 365 days a year in the Seattle area. It doesn’t. The weather forecasters have a multitude of words to describe rain. I know because when we moved here seven years ago I wrote them down.

For example did you know there is a difference between: a drizzle and a sprinkle, mist and serious mist, fog and spitting fog, a deluge, a downpour, a shower or a spate of rain? It could be 'pouring wet stuff' or 'puddling up' in the morning with a chance of ‘sun breaks’ in the afternoon. A ‘sun break’ is when it forgets to rain for a few minutes and a big ball of burning gas lights up the sky for about as long as it takes you to drink your double short, nonfat, not too hot, macchiato with whip.

But it doesn’t rain 365 days out of the year. Tonight it’s going to snow…just plain ol' snow.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Exploring your strengths, ignoring dust bunnies…

Every once in a while it is good to list your own strengths. A new year is a good time to do that but in order to stay focused it is not a good time to explore your weaknesses. Why? Because exploring weaknesses puts the emphasis on the negative. So for the month of January I will concentrate on doing what I do well, I will not dwell on what I can’t do or do very well and do the best I can.

Is this wise? Shouldn’t I try and undo a bad habit or change errant ways or watch every morsel I put in my mouth? No. Focusing on the negative never did get me anywhere but deeper into the hole I was digging. When I concentrate on my strengths I get more done and the weaknesses can crawl into a corner like dust bunnies and be ignored. Did I just admit to ignoring dust bunnies?

I give myself permission to draw more because I’m good at it. I’ll play with color combinations because I’m good at it. I'll solve visual problems and try new designs because I’m good at it.

What are you going to give yourself permission to do this New Year?

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

An Alternative to Resolutions…sort of

Welcome 2011, I took a break from blogging while I cooked, cleaned, created gifts and enjoyed my relatives and friends over the holidays. I hope you all had a wonderful winter holiday! My grandmother said whatever condition your house is in at the beginning of the year indicates what condition it will be in the rest of the year. Replace the word house with studio, office, car, relationship, book revision…you get the idea.

So I am trying very hard to start with a clean and organized whatever. It is easier than a resolution because it’s visual and material and not quite so esoteric. Did I say easier? Projects cover my work desk, fancy cookies are calling my name from decorative tins sitting on the coffee table and my cats have commandeered the crunched tissue paper left over from gifts, it is their current favorite toy –  crackle, stalk, leap, attack, hide, start over. My studio looked as if Christmas threw up on it.

Life gets in the way of good intentions but taking the time now to make a well organized space will help me start those thank-you notes, sketch out three new picture book ideas, find my 2011 Writer’s Digest and revised my 50,000 word NaNoWriMo middle-grade novel.

I even have a brand new notebook to record my ideas in, thanks to Holly Schindler’s Flash Fiction Prompt contest. My idea and Holly’s subsequent story; “Fear of Clouds” was voted the best. Holly sent me a lovely gift of a fancy pen and notebook for future ideas as a 'prize'. It already has 6 ideas in it and several sketches. Thank you Holly for using my prompt! And my thanks to everyone who voted.  Be sure and check out Holly's blog; Holly Schindler Novel Anecdotes and read her wonderful book “A Blue so Dark” A story that explores a teen's struggle with art, her mother and the powerful dichotomy of creativity and mental illness.