MerBaby's Lullaby, illustrated by ME!

I haven't really given you the full walk-through of my latest picturebook, MERBABY'S LULLABY, written by Jane Yolen - so today's featured title is my own! (Published by Little Simon, and imprint of Simon & Schuster) Thank you for indulging me as I invite myself to be my own guest this week!
The project began in an unorthodox way... During my MFA in Illustration at the University of Edinburgh, I created a 'Style Bible' per Julia Patton's inspiration (read about that here). I took it with me when my husband and I went to visit Jane Yolen in St Andrews. (Read more about that here.) She flipped through my Style Bible saying, "There's a story here, and here, and here..." Stan and I went to walk around St Andrews and by the time we returned to Jane's home, she had written them all! (As she does!) My favorite was a story about a little mermaid. So I decided to take it on as one of my MFA projects and began working on it.

It looked great at my graduation show, but it was just a mock-up at that point.
Jane sent it to her agent and between her agent and my agent, they sold it to Simon and Schuster shortly after graduation. Woohoo!
     In that time, it went from being a picture book to a board book. Color proofs came in while I was teaching at Hollins last summer.

And the finished product came out this summer - woohoo!
     So, now I'll answer a few of the questions I ask my visiting authors and illustrators...
1) My media was pencil, digital, and watercolor. I drew very small, then scanned my sketches at a very high resolution to create the compositions in Photoshop.
I like the chunkiness and texture that happens to a line when it gets blown up - although scanning it at a high resolution is key, because I don't want the line to degrade, just show its texture.

2) My favorite part of being an illustrator is having the chance to stretch myself, experiment, and play with new approaches. Not everything needs to end up as a book.

3) Heart Art to me is any image that makes your breath catch, your heart flutter, your eyes stare in wonder as you try to enter the magic the image creates. If I can't stop looking at it, it's probably heart art to me!

4) These days, I don't advertise myself. Jane keeps me busy! And with my teaching jobs, I have as much as I can handle. So, I'm pretty pleased with my picture book work load right now.

5) The most challenging part of being a creator is keeping up with my (and Jane's) ideas. There's so much work I need to create! I need at least five more lifetimes or clones of myself!

6) I didn't hide any easter eggs in MerBaby, although I do sometimes do that. And I do have extra art for MerBaby that didn't make it into the book. What I like about it, though, is that the baby could be a boy or a girl - it's up to the reader.

7) I'm actually in-between books at the moment. Oh, except for the novel I'm writing for my PhD. But another book with Cornell seems to be looming, and I'm hoping MerBaby will turn into a series, and there's a grant project that, if accepted, could lead to four non-fiction picture books. I also have several works-in-progress and books with my agent. So... yeah.

8) A dream project to me would be any work I create that measures up to the standards of the books that made me want to become a picture book creator in the first place. Although, I'm not sure I will ever have the objectivity to see if I've reached that point!
    Thank you for joining me on this creative journey!

Coloring Page Tuesday - Reading Bear

     This little bear is reading a story that is somewhat disturbing. But there's a silver lining - this is the first coloring page I've created on an iPad Pro in Procreate - LOVE IT!!! You can even watch a time-lapse video of how I created it. Click the image to watch on Youtube.
CLICK HERE for more coloring pages.
If you use my coloring pages often, please...

Just love this one image? Consider a one-time donation...

CLICK HERE to sign up to receive alerts when a new coloring page is posted each week.

     I create my coloring pages to draw your attention to my books! For instance...
my latest picture book, Crow Not Crow - written by New York Times Best-selling author Jane Yolen and Adam Stemple.
     Kirkus calls it "a solid choice for introducing the hobby [birdwatching] to younger readers."
      Also, A Bird on Water Street is now available in Chinese!
     I create my coloring pages for teachers, librarians, booksellers, and parents to enjoy for free with their children, but you can also purchase rights to an image for commercial use, please contact me. If you have questions about usage, please visit my Angel Policy page.

Lady Liberty Love

What can I do as an artist to show that I embrace ALL PEOPLE and value the contributions immigrants make to our country? Make art, that's what.
     So, I wanted to remind you that I created an image of the Statue of Liberty embracing an immigrant child to show that America stands for open arms and open opportunities for people who need or want them, and has for over two hundred years. Please share with your friends. Part of my profits will go to the ACLU to help fight battles to honor humanity in all its nuances. The image is available on t-shirts and other items in my Zazzle Store (click the image). You can also download the image for posters FOR FREE - CLICK HERE.

You can also download my Lady Liberty - I'm With Her image - CLICK HERE.
This image is also available on t-shirts through my Zazzle Store.

Let kids color the image too - also FOR FREE!
And please feel free to share these two images on the internet FOR FREE. This is how I help. Please be my voice and spread the word!

Ben Hatke at Hollins

We have some amazing speakers at Hollins U this summer. The most recent one was picture book and graphic novelist, Ben Hatke. Ashley made lawn art from his Little Robot book. (You know you've made it when Ashley makes a figure of one of your books.) You may know Ben from his picture book Nobody Likes a Goblin.
Or maybe you know him from his graphic novel series Zita the Space Girl, or Mighty Jack, series that will both come together in his next book - can't wait!
MJ Begin and Ben had shows alongside each other, so I had to get this picture with them.
Alongside the gallery show hosted at our Wetherall Gallery, Ben worked with our students on graphic novels of his own. When he was first going over the project, his gymnast background showed through.
He shared all the most important books about graphic novels, like Will Eisner's Graphic Storytelling and Visual Narrative, and everything by Scott McCloud.
He also went over their projects in detail at the end of three days. They produced so much work in such a short time!
He also gave a talk Friday evening that was very well attended. We all appreciated that he included the inspirational quote from Ira Glass about working hard (click the image to see it larger to read).
And everyone loved when he shared Goblin in voices!
Ben was a wonderful speaker, inspiring work-shop leader, and he really knows his stuff. Be looking for Mighty Jack and Zita the Spacegirl this fall. In the meantime, enjoy his adorable comics on his Instagram Page.

Spotted at Hollins

I love wandering around campus, taking walks, going downtown for the Saturday farmer's markets here in Roanoke. Hollins University is located in one of the most breathtaking spots in the Appalachian Mountain chain, and it just does my heart good to be here. So, I'll share some more random images of joy. Like the chapel at sunset...
or one of the many vultures we see here - they really are so incredibly huge...
Or the display of one book by each of our summer faculty at the library...
including Crow Not Crow...
or the old VW Bus we saw downtown during the farmer's market...
or my newest discovery oa a chocolate, peanut-butter swirl coconut ice-cream available at the local Kroger (John calls is 'Kruger') - which is a very bad discovery indeed!
All said, Hollins is my happy place. I'll share more soon!

Kerry Madden Lunsford's ERNESTINE'S MILKY WAY

My friend Kerry Madden Lunsford has a new picture book out, illustrated by Emily Sutton, called ERNESTINE'S MILKY WAY. Once again, Kerry pulls us into the beauty and charm of the Appalachians, where my heart resides too. Both Kerry and Emily stopped by to talk about it...
e: What is your creative process/medium, can you walk us through it?
This is probably more of a question for Emily, but I have to say I loved hearing her talk to the students about using thick and thin brushes, toothbrushes, sponges etc - and showing them the early sketches, the smaller paintings, the sketchbook, and the way the Hundred Acre Wood inspired Ernestine's own journey through the Smoky Mountains. Earlier in this month in Southern California, we set up mini-galleries on our school visits so the students could see her work, and they loved it. She told them she's been drawing since she was old enough to hold a pencil, and this was very inspiring to them. My process/medium - long walks, listening, story-catching, interviewing, staring at landscapes, meditation.

e: What was your path to publication?
I wrote journalism and then plays, and then I began to write an autobiographical novel, OFFSIDES, about growing up a coach's daughter. After it was published, I wrote an American Girl book on catching stories and poems called WRITING SMARTS. I then wrote the Smoky Mountain Trilogy - GENTLE'S HOLLER, LOUISIANA'S SONG, JESSIE'S MOUNTAIN, and those books led me to meet Ernestine Edwards Upchurch and to return to the mountains again and again. (Note: CLICK HERE to see Kerry Madden featured for her other books on Those books also led me to write UP CLOSE HARPER, which is how I came to live in Alabama and California. While interviewing storyteller, Kathryn Tucker Windham for the Harper Lee biography, I was inspired to write NOTHING FANCY ABOUT KATHRYN & CHARLIE, which my daughter, Lucy, illustrated. Then I decided to write the story of Ernestine delivering milk to her neighbors and after about 100 drafts, I began to find the threads.

e: Is there a unique or funny story behind the creation of this story?
Ernestine said to me the first year I met her, "If you're going to write about our mountains your California family needs to learn to spare you! And I have a cabin you can use to write." So I took Norah to that cabin up on Johnson Gap in Maggie Valley and I wrote and I took pictures of Norah as a six-year-old in the mountains.
I also remembered how my daughter, Lucy, as a child, responded to me when I told her, "Be careful Lucy walking on that tall curb. You could fall and hurt yourself." She turned around and yelled, "Hey! Am I two or am I four? I'm a big girl!" And she kept right on going.
e: What do you think makes an illustration magical, what I call "Heart Art” - the sort that makes a reader want to come back to look again and again?
What a great question! Every page of Emily's gorgeous work contains "Heart Art." A little boy in Maggie Valley looked at Emily's painting of the Smoky Mountains right before Ernestine goes on her journey in the early morning, and he got so excited and said, "Hey! Those are our mountains. I know those mountains. They're our mountains!"
e: How do you advertise yourself?
I keep an active Facebook Page and Instagram page. My daughter, Lucy, created a new website for me and said, "Mom, you've to get out of 2005." I set up my tour with indie bookstores because I know they will hand-sell my book if it's right for them. I find self-promotion difficult, so I balance by trying to my promote and celebrate my author/illustrator friends too. I did make a trailer for Ernestine of kids making butter, and it was done with love from students and from Norah too.
e: What is your favorite or most challenging part of being a creator?
I struggle with my time and the many demands made on it. Some of my family members are facing serious illnesses, and I can sometimes allow worry eat up my energy. I also kind of have two lives - one in California and one in Alabama, so there is that juggle too. But when I just breathe and walk and do my own work first, no matter where I am, everything always falls into place.

e: Is there something in particular about this story you hope readers will take away with them, perhaps something that isn’t immediately obvious?
One editor said, "Ernestine is five and doing this job for her mother? I'm very nervous about that. Could she be older?" And I thought, but that's not the story. She really was five-years-old. And so I hope this story is one that celebrates kids exploring and finding their own journeys and discoveries without adults hovering (and I certainly did my fair share of hovering regarding my own kids).

e: What are you working on next or what would be your dream project?
I would love to write a book about my dog, Olive,
and have Emily illustrate it and perhaps write a sequel to ERNESTINE'S MILKY WAY and have Emily illustrate that too.

I hope we get to do more books together. I'm going to start playing with those picture book ideas this summer. I am also finishing the edits on an adult novel now, HOP THE POND, and two children's novels: MILLIE G & VULCAN and WEREWOLF HAMLET. One picture book is making the rounds and racking up rejections called GEORGIA IVY AND THE OLD PUMP ORGAN, a tall tale.
e: You know I can't wait to see them - I'm a fan!