Posted on November 2, 2020
I received these great questions about my book THE BREAKING NEWS from 3rd graders at Orchard Grove Elementary, so I thought I’d share the answers with everyone here. I talk about my writing and drawing process, share some behind-the-scenes images, and more!
Due to many requests from teachers, I also posted a read-aloud of the book for kids who might not have access to bookstores or libraries in these difficult times:
The handout mentioned at the end of the video can be found here:
Thanks for checking this out and please share with anyone who might find these resources useful!
Posted on October 29, 2020
My second book with Sterling came out in March, and to celebrate I made this behind-the-scenes making-of video.
To create the illustrations for NERP!, I built a tiny dining room set out of cardboard, took photographs and drew the characters and props on the photos through my computer.
The book was super fun to write as well, since the book is made up entirely of silly nonsense words that I invented. The elaborately gross/delicious dishes served by the monster parents to the baby in the book were inspired by fancy 1950’s recipes, so that was another fun rabbit hole to explore.
Here are some of the behind-the-scenes photos – hope you enjoy!
Also, if you’d like to design your own NERP! dish, check out the download here:
Posted on November 16, 2018
My name is …
I am… an author/illustrator with three books that debuted this year: THE BREAKING NEWS, ALLIE ALL ALONG & PET THE PETS.
I’m also a maker of tiny things, a person who draws on photos, a 2D animator, a mom (to two kids), a kid (to my mom!), a friend, an explorer, a connector of worlds.
As a kid, I was… super interested in animals, reading, singing and making stuff.
Writing is… a way to process my world; a place to consider, wonder and imagine… “what if…?”
Reading is… a way for me to gain perspective; to learn, explore, think and feel.
Books are… the best way to hold a world in your hands. They’re a place to escape, a comfort to hold, a way to connect; a practice zone for meeting the dragons of fear, doubt, loss and disappointment.
Did you know… sometimes the biggest problems can be solved by focusing on one small thing at a time?
I’m also planning to do more school visits in the upcoming year, so I hope you’ll be able to find me presenting at your local school in the near future!
Posted on August 24, 2018
Recently, my book PET THE PETS (my third book … and very first novelty/lift –the-flap book) was released into the world!
The concept began as sketches for a digital painting class that I took while completing my MFA degree in 2D Animation a few years ago. I wanted to create a series of 2-page flipbooks that could be united by similar characters and limited color palettes.
Thanks to Simon & Schuster/Little Simon editor Jeffrey Salane, art director Laura Roode and my agent Emily Mitchell, it’s now a sturdy little lift-the-flap novelty book that invites readers to help out sad animals through petting, giving food or offering encouragement.
I find that this concept also applies to my process of making the books themselves.
Sometimes, on rare, magical days, everything seems to falls into place: great, sweeping changes can be easily made by taking giant, seven-league steps of progress.
But mostly, I find, my work progresses in tiny baby steps, a series of small decisions, chosen one at a time, like when my optometrist flips through different lens options: Which one is better – one, or two? A or B? This one, or that one? There’s no need to labor over every decision; each small choice adds up to an overall pattern that gets you where you need to go.
The choices that you make when creating a book, including what colors you use. . .
. . .who the characters should be . . .
. . . how each character’s features & expressions should look . . .
. . .what should be on the cover. . .
. . .each element evolves from a series of small decisions that ultimately defines what your book will be.
What small things do you do to help make things better in your own world?
Posted on August 13, 2018
My second picture book, ALLIE ALL ALONG, is now available wherever books are sold! Many thanks to my agent, Emily Mitchell, editor Eliza Berkowitz & art director Irene Vandervoort for helping to make this book the best it could be.
On the surface, the story is about toddler temper tantrums . . . but underneath, it’s about frustration over not having control over things that happen in your life . . . as well as finding ways to regain some control over challenges that seem beyond your abilities. It was inspired by the relationship between my two girls, and all the ways that we work together to shake off the worst of our angry layers when our feelings get too big.
Just like for my first book, THE BREAKING NEWS, there were tons of different iterations of the title and the cover before the final versions went to print.
Here are some early cover sketches . . .
. . .and some mocked up cover options that I sent to my editor & art director at Sterling Publishing – Eliza Berkowitz & Irene Vandervoort (after we decided to change the title from original THE ANGRY LAYERS to the final ALLIE ALL ALONG) . . .
. . .and here’s a small sampling of the other titles we had considered along the way:
UNDER THE ANGRY, IN THERE ALL ALONG, THE CRAYON LAYERS, UNDER ALL THE LAYERS, HOW TO SHED THE LAYERS, DEEP DOWN BELOW, HOW TO GET ALLIE OUT, ALLIE AT THE CORE, ALLIE UNDERNEATH, THE CRAYON CRISIS, THE CRAYON INCIDENT, THE BROKEN CRAYON, WHEN THE BLUE CRAYON BROKE . . . plus so, so many more.
Together, Eliza, Irene & I decided that we wanted to focus on the big feelings and the relationship between the siblings. It was difficult to find a balance for the cover illustration that didn’t give away too much about who Allie really is, but eventually Irene mocked up the following image using parts of illustrations from the interior:
I redrew the characters for the cover, and then we went through a series of changes to adjust the Allie’s expression:
We even considered a few different treatments for the book’s spine. . .
And I was super pleased with the final version – especially since we were able to have separate illustrations for the dust jacket & the cover!
For those of you in the Boston area, I’ll be reading ALLIE ALL ALONG at the Brookline Booksmith on Sunday, August 26th at 10:30 am – hope to see you there!
Posted on April 10, 2018
Today’s the day my debut picture book, THE BREAKING NEWS, is finally out in the world!
To celebrate, I wrote a new post over at Writer’s Rumpus about the incredible support I’ve received from our wonderful kidlit community.
More info on press coverage, reviews and ordering below.
We’ll also be celebrating with a book launch party at Porter Square Books tonight (April 10th, 2018) at 7pm – hope to see you there !
Praise for THE BREAKING NEWS:
“An absolute-must for most libraries.” – School Library Journal
“…a useful classroom and parental tool in tough times.” – The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books (STARRED review)
“…the heavily outlined images are steady and solid, including the closing spreads of the girl and her family planting flowers, which circle back to a scene at the beginning, affirming the resilience that can result when small acts are focused on community.” – The New York Times
*A Scholastic Teacher’s magazine summer 2018 reading list pick*
More reviews & press for THE BREAKING NEWS:
- Talking to Kids About Bad News: The Inspiration behind THE BREAKING NEWS at The Nerdy Book Club
- Cover reveal and process on Tara Lazar’s StoryStorm blog
- Link to Goodreads reviews
THE BREAKING NEWS is now available to order from:
- your favorite indie bookstore, or . . .
- one of my favorite bookstores – Porter Square Books or Whitelam Books
- or anywhere else you like to buy books – including Amazon, B&N, & more!
Posted on March 1, 2018
Forgot to post when this article went up on the Writers Rumpus blog – hope you enjoy!
When faced with a new project that I’m not sure how to approach, often my first instinct is total avoidance. All of a sudden, the household tasks that I’ve been successfully ignoring – sink full of dishes, laundry waiting to be folded – begin to take on an air of new importance, as if they really need to get done right this very minute. Spoiler alert: they don’t.
I’ve found that when this happens, I need to find a way to trick myself into working. Over the years (and with the help from many SCBWI workshops) I’ve developed some go-to activities/exercises to get past the fear of starting and to get myself into a better mindset.
Here are some things I’ve done recently when trying to get my brain to settle down:
Sometimes the best cure for the fear of the blank page is to fill that page up as quickly as possible. Making lots of lists can keep me from editing before my pencil hits the paper. I’ll tell myself “This stuff doesn’t matter – it’s just warm-up stuff. You can toss if it you want!” But often, new ideas will emerge from this process that I couldn’t have gotten to any other way.
You could try making lists about:
- unique locations for your story
- what is inside your character’s purse or in their medicine cabinet
- problems that a character could have
- solutions to that problem
- potential names for your character’s new rock band
The key is to get it down as fast as you can, no editing your thoughts. If you get a list of 20 things, there may only be one or two that appeal to you – but that’s better than nothing! After all, you can’t edit a blank page.
Looking for more ideas? Check out this book by Jaime Zollars: IlLISTration: Improvisational Lists and Drawing Assists to Spark Creativity.
Sketching lots of variations the same thing:
Drawing lots of variations of the same thing one way I can get myself to stop thinking and to just get my pencil moving. This can also be sort of a visual version of listmaking.
I’ll pick a simple topic, maybe chickens, doors or coat racks, quickly find a bunch of reference material, and draw as many as I can, one right after another. Some resources for reference material include:
- Pinterest or google image search (just don’t fall down an internet rabbit hole!)
- furniture catalogues or magazines
- Books like 642 Things to Draw or 642 Things to Write About can help take away some of that initial “what do I draw?!” decision-making when you first sit down.
Filling the well:
I first learned about this concept from Julia Cameron’s book The Artist’s Way. If I spend too much time with my butt in a chair, I start to feel a bit depleted. I’ve found that I need to find ways of going out into the world, allowing myself to be curious – and only then do I have the mental energy to focus once I’m back at my desk. Here are some things I’ve tried:
- Reading more books in and out of my target market (I create picture books, but recently I’ve read middle grade, adult fiction & nonfiction… as well as lots of picture books, of course). Having trouble finding new books to read? Try looking through Goodreads lists, talking to your local librarians and putting out a request on Facebook to ask your friends about recent books they’ve enjoyed. (For even more ideas, check out this excellent post Don’t Forget to Read! Writer’s Rumpus post by Laura Fineberg Cooper!)
- Getting outside: taking a walk, planning a visit to a museum, show, farm, nature preserve, botanical garden or some other interesting place!
- Flipping through a magazine I’ve never read before. Your local library might have a surprising selection – I know mine did!
- Making plans to spend time with friends, both in & out of the kidlit world. Socializing with family & friends can help you get out of your own head, especially when you’re treading water on a new project.
Do you find you need to trick yourself into getting your pen to hit the paper? What kinds of creative procrastination have you tried?
Posted on August 9, 2017
My debut picture book, THE BREAKING NEWS (Roaring Brook/Macmillan) comes out in April 2018, but you can see the cover for the first time today! Tara Lazar, author of lots of great books and the leader of the Storystorm challenge, graciously offered to reveal the cover on her blog.
Here are some early sketches below – to see the final cover and to learn more about the process and inspiration, check out the cover reveal post here!
Posted on July 21, 2017
I’ve reached day 70 of my second run at #the100dayproject … and I’m taking a breather!
Over at Writers’ Rumpus I wrote a post about the balance of creating everyday and then periodically taking a break. If you’re on break from whatever you were just doing, check out the article here!