New Resource Library

I'm teaching children's book illustration this semester, so made a point to bring home all my picture books from Hollins U this summer. I had a feeling they would fill up a library pretty quickly, and boy did they! I've been reassigning spaces in the "Illustration Corridor" in my building, and this new library sits right next to my office.
It's mostly picture books, but there are also graphic novels, assigned course readings, magazine subscriptions and archives, and I'll be pulling in some mid-grade and young adult novels too (currently in my office).
I found a great collection of illustration contest, event, and organization posters in The Treehouse and was holding onto them, knowing they'd find a good home. They now decorate the walls.

There are several cozy reading spots and several students have already claimed the space as theirs, which I love!
Of course, they're hanging out with my friends...
The library has given me a great spot to feature macquettes students have made, that are difficult to store otherwise.
And I have an entire shelf dedicated to seasonal titles. (When it comes to Halloween, it's hard to fit them all!)
I know some of the books might grow legs, but this sign next to the light switch will hopefully give someone pause.
I told my students, I love them more than my books, so I keep the door open for them. So far, they seem to really love it and have already talked about putting stars on the ceiling or getting one of those playroom rugs for the floor. I might also invest in some cumfy beanbag chairs. All said, creating and providing this space for my students has made me silly happy!!!

Storyland Interview - Shanghai, China!

I'm excited to share that I was recently interviewed by Storyland in Shanghai, China about my novel A Bird on Water Street, which has been translated into Chinese and Thai. I was interviewed by Ella Chen, the Podcast host, who said, "Besides, the interview has also been translated and published on our platform, Link Here. Also, in our interior book sharing session, I recomended A Bird on Waterstreet to our colleagues, and they all showed their interest in this book." How nice!! Here's my post header on the English page - lovely...
and even cooler, the heading on the Chinese translation page!
Hope you'll have a listen!

Cover Reveal! Rebekah Lowell's CATCHING FLIGHT

In preparation for National Wildlife Day on September 4th, I have the great pleasure to share a sneak peek of the cover of former Hollins University student, Rebekah Lowell's picture book, Catching Flight: Soaring on the Wings of Birds.
It will come out next March from Doubleday, and I'll have Rebekah back for a full feature. Meanwhile, here are some details:
Catch the current
of a bird's wing.
Dance with hope
into open skies.


Intricately detailed birds seemingly fly off the pages of this beautiful message of resilience, from avid birder and acclaimed wildlife illustrator Rebekah Lowell.
     Readers will find inspiration in a Yellow Warbler rejoicing in the sunlight, a flock of Canada Geese supporting each other in their V-shaped migration, and a plucky Norther Saw-Whet Owl braving a chilly night.
     This stunning gift book is both an encouraging parable and a glorious celebration of the outdoors. Nature lovers, bird-watchers, and all readers seeking motivation will be swept away by its poetic and positive message.
I can't wait to see the inside!

My All-time FAVE Picture Books from 2019-2021

As I mentioned, I read over 600 books this summer—three-years-worth of submissions for the Margaret Wise Brown Prize the week before I start teaching at Hollins University. Here were my absolute faves out of all of them. Happily, two of these were our 2022 Margaret Wise Brown Prize winners as well: Wishes and The Longest Letsgoboy!
     What made these books special? Some were beautifully illustrated. All were superbly clever. Some handled difficult subjects with grace and care. And some made me laugh so hard, while I actually learned something too! Kudos to these creators for creating works that, I feel, are the best of what picture books can be!
     Click on the covers to purchase them through your local independent bookseller (via Bookshop.org).

Winthrop University - And We're Back!

Convocation ceremonies always get me excited about the coming academic year. The speeches are inspirational. Everyone looks amazing in their regalia. The students are eager with wide eyes - their enthusiasm is contagious!
     This year I get to teach an amazing line-up of classes: Figure Drawing, Illustrating Children's Books, and Animation 1! Yes, Animation! I've been working with Toon Boom Harmony to get licenses for my students, and purchasing all sorts of awesome equipment with the Course Hero Grant Funds I received. This year, I set up a VR Lab, beefed up our new Cintiq Lab, opened a Reading Room/Library, and created a Print Lab - all in The Treehouse (our classrooms on the 3rd floor - up in the trees) for our budding illustrators to use! I've got such great students - a hard-working bunch - I'm thrilled to be working with them again. Here's to a great semester!

A Rock Hill Sunrise

Despite what the name might imply, Rock Hill is very flat, which means that we have a lot of SKY. I wake up early when a semester is about to begin - remembering last minute items. As such, this was the view from our flat on Main Street the other day - looking across the sculptures and Oak Trees to an amazing sunrise. (If you can believe it, I didn't touch up this photo at all!)

On Sanctuary


     With all the questions raised from when we sold everything we owned to move to Scotland (we call it "The Great Purge"), and the pursuant pandemic (when we were no longer able to rely on the outside world as our extended living space), I've been asking myself the question of "How much is enough?" Or more specifically, "How much is enough for me?" I know I don't need a mansion and cars and shoes galore to be happy. Other than my extreme book buying habit, I'm not a terribly materialistic person. The answer I've come up with is that I need a sanctuary.
     What do I mean by sanctuary exactly?
     For many people, it's their house. A friend of mine recently bought her first house and it has become her refuge from the storms of life. For a city dweller, perhaps it's someplace quiet in nature. For creatives, it's often their studio. Wherever it is, it's a place where one can be completely themselves, content, and calm. It's a place where you can leave your stressors at the threshold and proceed unburdened.
     Sounds like a vacation, doesn't it? And yes, sanctuary can be a vacation. But I'm looking for sanctuary in my daily life. And I think I might be on to something with the studio idea. A studio is a physical place where a creative can go into "the zone" - that creative space where time stops and the outside world disappears. But a garden can do this too. I used to be a Master Gardener. I loved being out in my garden—the whole world came down to pulling that next weed. It was very satisfying.
     But I don't have a garden right now, or a home-studio at the moment. We landed in this lovely flat overlooking Main Street right before the pandemic, and it became our cave. It's not felt right to buy a house yet. (We've dipped our toes in a few times only to swiftly withdraw.) I'm feeling rather transient.
     So, I'm looking for what can work for me as sanctuary right now, until I have that physical space that I can designate as my sanctuary.
     You probably see where this is going... I'm beginning to realize that sanctuary is within me. It's not about where I am so much as my attitude about where I am when I'm there.
     At Hollins University, I like to go brush the horses. (Stay with me, there's a point here.) Horses are BIG, dumb animals. All of my major injuries have been from horses. (Ever notice I have a crooked nose? That's a story for another time!) However, horses are extremely intuitive. You cannot be stressed out around a horse. If you are, they will pick up on it and become agitated. An agitated horse is a dangerous horse. Therefore, to brush a horse, I have to take myself down several notches. I have to come to them already calm, and I have to stay that way while I'm with them. As a result, brushing horses is Zen for me. It's how I calm down. And yet, it's not the horses calming me - it's me calming me.
     If I can do it around horses, I figure I can do it elsewhere too.
     So, my exercise for myself this semester is to find sanctuary. And I might not need to look any further than my own (crooked) nose.

Communicating Sustainability International Conference - Glasgow 2022

I was thrilled to be invited to share my thoughts on Sustainability in Children's Literature for the upcoming Communicating Sustainability International Conference and the Roundtable hosted by Dr. Evelyn Arizpe at the University of Glasgow. When my alma-mater asks, I always say 'yes' - even if it's only virtual. It's my pleasure to still be a part, and I miss everyone so much!
     It was a bit odd putting on a scarf in the July August heat in Virginia to film my feedback; but it will be viewed in Scotland in September - definitely scarf weather by then! I hope attendees find my comments valuable!

Women's March - Fall of Reckoning!! October 7th - 9th


Click the image above to find a march near you!

     To prepare, I've made protest art! Email me to order my "Uterus Dragon" umbrellas! Here it is at work with my friend Karen at a recent protest organized by WREN in Charlotte. (She was also grateful to have it because it rained!)

$15.00 each (does not include sales tax and shipping)

Or order my "Women's Rights are Human Rights" hat on Redbubble (click the image)! (It's also available on tons of other items.)

This is how I do my part - I make art!!

THE WILLOW PATTERN STORY by Allan Drummond

Allan Drummond created The Willow Pattern Story twenty years ago - it was his first picture book. It is so beloved it has recently been re-released by North/South Books. I'm thrilled to have him here today to talk about this magical book.
e: Allan – lovely to meet you! What an illustrious career you’ve had! It must be gratifying for your first picture book, The Willow Pattern Story, to be reaching a new audience with this latest reprint, yes?
Allan: It’s lovely that The Willow Pattern Story is still popular. Here in the UK it is a favourite in elementary schools for World Book day and is well know in schools and libraries. That’s very satisfying. And a first book is a milestone for any author/illustrator. I remember all of the writing and art, and the stages that the project went through as if it was just last week. The most satisfying thing is that The Willow Pattern Story was my idea, my project, and my first exploration of the picture book form. I did The Willow Pattern Story my way, and was lucky enough to have North South books and my then editor Marc Cheshire respect my ideas - even allowing my own lettering for the jacket. Since then I have always designed my own jackets with my own lettering, and I am constantly exploring how picture books work.
e: How did your education at the Royal College of Art London and the London College of Printing, and the amazing instructors you worked with (Sir Quentin Blake) impact your style and creative voice?
Allan: Quentin Blake, my tutor at the RCA was very simply a life-giver. By that I mean he urged me to put life and growth and energy into my drawings. He was (and is now more than ever) an enthusiast for the positive impact that illustration can have on the world. My earlier education in graphic design, and my experiences as a trainee journalist and sub editor gave me a passion for the printed page, for words, and for how they work together. I wrote my degree thesis about the Willow Pattern design.
e: Well that makes sense it was your first book then! How do you feel the publishing business has changed over the years and how have you adapted to it?
Allan: The world of children’s books has continued to expand! That’s amazing. And the book as an object that small hands can hold and explore is still treasured despite the digital world! That’s something to celebrate!
      I was lucky to work with Francesca Dow, my editor at Orchard Books in London back in the 1990s and she has transformed the idea of children’s books and what they can be, and what they can do. I did just two books with Francesca and then worked with Frances Foster at Farrar Straus and Giroux. With Frances I was able to explore my interest in American history and with her I encountered the magnificent tradition and the level of excellence that still exists in American children’s publishing. UK and European publishers continue to be risk-takers and are often at the forefront of a lot of breakthroughs be they unlikely new characters, settings or the mechanics of how books work. The USA leads the way in inclusivity and in America libraries and librarians are recognised as a powerful force in children’s education. The Junior Library Guild is an example of this engagement.
e: Can you walk us through your creative process these days?
Allan: Words and pictures come together on my desk as tangible objects. I write words, print them out, cut them up, and stick them down with my early sketches. Words take the lead, then I stop and consider the art. It’s a to-and fro, and the design, layout, rough sketch and writing process takes me a year on and off. I always produce a complete dummy book made of scotch tape and paper!The final art is the fun part, and I need just a few weeks of quiet time to get all the artwork done. I use a light box just as Quentin Blake does. My materials are ink and watercolour. Working on the art is my reward for all the hard work that comes before.
e: Love it! The pandemic made us all evaluate our lives and our craft. Did it change who you are as a creator in any way?
Allan: For my latest Book, Zero Waste (publishing 2023), I intended to travel to Japan, to Kamikatsu where the community tries to recycle everything. Because of the pandemic I was unable to travel and that was not a problem for the artwork or the story because communication is so easy. The pandemic gave me long periods of peaceful studio time, and I enjoyed learning how to use Zoom creatively with collaborators such as editors and art directors. It was positive for me. I have just completed the art and signed off the proofs.
e: That would be an interesting trip! I hope you're still able to go at some point. What project(s) are you most passionate about these days?
Allan: I have just finished Zero Waste, my fifth title in my Green Power series for Farrar Straus and Giroux. That is very exciting because I think Zero Waste is as good as or might be even better that the first book, Energy Island, which has done so well. That for me is rewarding and encourages me to keep going. The books continue to sell well and have been published as school texts in many countries That is very gratifying as the audience I am aiming for is the curious youngster I was last ages 5 to 8 years. I am currently working with my wife, Gaye, on a new series of books about gardening - no publisher as yet. I am deep in the write, cut and stick stage!
e: Can't wait to see Zero Waste - it sounds like an important book. Thanks so much for stopping by!

Women's Rights are Human Rights

I've done it again! I've made more protest art available on Redbubble. It's shown here on a hat, but of course, you can purchase it on t-shirts, bags, masks, stickers, etc. This is how I help!

Hollins U - Good-bye for now...

It's always hard to leave Hollins. Most people drag out their educations as long as possible, just to keep returning to this magical campus, where light seems to kiss the ground rather than simply illuminate it.
I so love the rolling hills and lush greenery...
The blue mountains in the distance...
The creeks and ponds...
The birds...
The deer...

It's truly a magical place and we are so lucky to get to experience it - our beautiful bubble where like minds come together to study topics we're passionate about. How lucky we are! So, until next time, dear Hollins... keep the campfires warm for us!

Hollins U - Certificate Graduation

Every summer at Hollins, we have an end-of-semester celebration for students graduating with a Certificate in Children's Book Illustration. It's a great opportunity for students throughout the program to show their work in the art show, while celebrating their friends' accomplishments. Ashley Wolff's doggie, Rufus, is the Commencement Speaker. (Kidding - it was Mary Jane Begin and Ashley!) Certificates are handed out individually (this is Beverly receiving hers)...
and this is the group of this year's recipients—Meg, Beverly, Claire, Donald, and Anna-Katherine:
The ceremony is a lovely, well-attended, laid back affair. Families come to help celebrate.
Partners come in for the last official night of the semester. Here's MJ with her beau, Andy.
Here's the whole group all together. (Including Greg Christie; Lisa Fraustino, Program Director; Yours Truly; and Rufus!)
I wasn't able to get a photo of everyone with their work, but I got several! Here are Tiffany and Teresa by their work.
Alison by hers...
Alixandra illustrated a lot of dragons this summer...
Anna-Katherine illustrated a lovely tale of mice and swans and rain...
Here is Claire with her work...
Hale was in my Goddess class too.
Here's Jocelyn (I couldn't get all her artwork into the photo)...
Lauren created some amazing images.
As did Melody (with hats!)...
Shivani's artwork will be on t-shirts and bags next summer!
and Susie was also in my Writing class...
I didn't get Meg, Donald, Gina, Molly, Beverly, and... who else am I missing?
     Suffice to say, it was an amazing show, with amazing talent. We're so proud of our graduates!
     CONGRATULATIONS TO ALL!!!