Saturday, November 30, 2013

A Lot to be Thankful For

I have a lot to be thankful for this weekend and much has happened since my last post! Most importantly my family is growing with the joining of a new daughter-in-law the end of December and my first grandchild will arrive in February! I am also thankful for the example of my sweet mom who passed away in October. Life is always changing with the coming and going of loved ones. The kids are on Thanksgiving break and we are able to enjoy dinners, games, decorating the tree, movies and all the stuff that goes with the holidays. With the wedding in one month, life is full of small decisions and busier than usual.

On the professional side I am having a blast. Last June I finished illustrating my 10th book and when I said I was finally finished, my husband laughed at me and of course he was right. I was actually disappointed that the work appeared to be done. The process of creating a children's book series had consumed all my spare time for almost 7 months. As Valerie Harmon and I went through the process, we tried to have the animals overcome problems that children can relate to. I think we accomplished that and I am very excited about the last five books we will be publishing next year.

About a month and a half after I was "finished" I discovered a way for me to turn our books into interactive apps. To animate each page and search for ways to make children laugh has been a joy and the exceptional voice talents of Valerie bring the stories to life. We are still working on the sound effects (it was pretty funny to record Valerie snoring like a bear) but our first five stories will soon be available to everyone who has an Ipad! It has been a rewarding year for me in every way and I hope the same goes for you. Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The moral to the story is...

Since the books Valerie and I have published have an unusual ending we have had a variety of reactions in the form of reviews. Most of them are overwhelmingly positive but we appreciate everyone's opinion and are excited that such a simple concept can generate such diverse conversations. Before we published our first book we had our family and friends review and offer suggestions which were greatly appreciated. After making many changes, we had a story we could feel good about.

When I first had the thought that the stories I told my son would be fun in a children's book format, I did not realize that every book has a moral. My aunt who taught children's literature at a university informed me that the best books present a moral without hitting the reader over the head with it with a 2 x 4 (metaphorically speaking). Our early readers helped us to accomplish that and for those that are confused with what message we want to covey, I hope to clarify that. As I stated before, my first thought in illustrating this series was to recreate the experience I had with my son as we imagined what a snake would have to do that horses do so he could become one in the end. It was a silly and imaginative game that we played. Each night as he chose another two animals I had to stretch my imagination to come up with a different bedtime story. Animals are amazing subjects and their many characteristics made for unlimited storylines.

Illustrating them is just as wonderful as telling stories about them because they are so unique and each species is designed perfectly. Unique to humans is our ability to imagine and a sense of humor to go along with it. Part of the human experience is to confront a problem and if we can't find a solution to it, there are others we can go to who can help us. Some readers are unsettled by the stories because the animals change. The physical change is just for fun and is not meant to be critical of God's creations or suggest that humans or animals can change themselves in the way it happens in our books. Rather I hope that our stories foster discussions about how with perseverance and reliance on those who have been there for help and advice, we can accomplish more than we can imagine.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Spring Vacation

It seems like Spring Vacation comes more frequently as I get older. There was a time when I had five children at home during the break but now I am just down to one. I find it interesting that for me this time of year means twice the work. I am not complaining, just amused that "vacations" are never that for parents. For the first time I don't have to worry about keeping my youngest occupied. He has a purchasing goal in mind so he is looking for every way possible to earn a buck.

It has been a great week so far. Or latest book The Alligator Who Wanted to Be a Dog was a #1 Bestseller in it's category yesterday! Tomorrow we are going to Washington to celebrate my Mother-in-Law's 85th birthday. It was supposed to be a surprise visit but apparently the word is out. The trip will be memorable as always with six in a van, bags of Doritos and road games to play. My husband is usually the only one awake after we pass through Salt Lake City. I guess these spring breaks come quickly because we usually end up doing the same thing; visiting family and friends. We do it year after year because the relationships we have are the spice of life. And there sure is a variety of spices in the cabinet!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Sharpening the Mind

They say if you don't exercise your mind it will become flabby just like an unused muscle. My mind has been getting a workout lately and it's a bit out of shape! Through my work I have access to online training and lately I have been sharpening my Photoshop skills. Pictured below are some of my visual projects where I have distorted my children's faces. After filling my mind with all of these tips and techniques, the real test is if I'll remember what I learned tomorrow. I guess all I really need to know is that something can be done and to remember the source of knowledge so I can refer to it again.

I have enjoyed the creative workout I have been getting from the WantsToBe Series of children's books. I just finished illustrating my 5th book, The Chipmunk Who Wanted to Be a Bear. The sense of accomplishment is short-lived because almost before I save my last file, my mind is visualizing how I will illustrate the next one!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Alternative Endings and Eating Humble Pie

Sometimes there is a difference of opinion on what the transformation character in our WantsToBe books should look like. In our recently published book, The Elephant Who Wanted to Be a Bee, we had that dilemma. By the time everyone put in their 2 cents worth, I had created several versions. Here are the ones that didn't make the cut.

I have learned it is always best to show your work before you make it public. Without going into details, I don't always portray what I am trying to and another pair of eyes has saved me many times. One of Valerie's young sons pointed out that I had made the alligator in our next book the wrong color (coming soon-The Alligator Who Wanted to Be a Dog). After looking up the difference between an alligator and crocodile on Wikipedia, I discovered he was right.

So thanks to my boys who patiently respond to my endless times asking them, "What do you think?" And when they really tell me, I have learned to quiet the thoughts that I'm the professional here and know what I am doing. Eating humble pie makes for a better story.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Empty Nester for an evening

I am home alone because the rest of the family is working at my husband's business. I think I am getting a taste of what it is like to be an empty nester and I don't think I like it much. For those of you who don't know me, I had my first 4 kids within 4 years and those were pretty crazy times. I thought I would never have the chance to be alone again. When my youngest was born there was a 10 year gap between him and his brother. He was quite a surprise and I am so grateful that we will have him around when the others have all left. Now my youngest is almost 12 years old and I feel that time is passing too quickly! We just finished our last science fair which is an activity I'm not going to miss. He still likes me to read a good story to him. We are in the middle of the first Fablehaven book and are wondering what will happen on Midsummer Eve (the next chapter). Luckily my daughter got married last summer so there is the promise of little ones being in my life again.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Awesome News and Thank You

Last week The Snake Who Wanted to be a Horse made it to #1 in it's category on Amazon Kindle! I want to thank everyone who has taken an interest in the book and given it some great reviews. We are almost ready to make our next book available for purchase. It is called The Elephant Who Wanted to be a Bee. However, I need some help with the cover. Originally I had a pink title strip but someone suggested that with that color, parents might think it was a book just for girls. Here are the two options I was thinking of. Let me know what color you think would be best.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

I am feeling grateful for technology. Even when I am having a day like today when I have been suffering from illustrator's block, I can find out in a few hours that a design is not working instead of a few days. When I was in college I developed the style that I am currently using for the WantsToBe series. When I finally got a design on tracing paper the way I wanted it I had to then transfer it to the art board. Each shape had to be cut out with a sharp blade to make a stencil. I would then spray the stencil with glue and position it on the board. Finally I could spray on the color with an air compressor that forced air through the tip of a colored marker. The best part for me was to take off the stencil and see the final result. Changing the color with the click of a mouse was definitely not an option. Here are some of the first illustrations I did using a marker airbrush.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Third Grade Discussion

Last week I invited a teacher to show the 2 books we have finished to her 3rd grade class and I thought their comments were cute. The teacher first read our upcoming book The Elephant Who Wanted to Be a Bee. This is how the discussion went:

Student Responses to The Elephant Who Wanted to Be a Bee

Teacher: Can an Elephant become a Bee?
Students: No!

Teacher: Where do you think the story is going?
I think the bee is going to do some tricking.
You can't predict a story.
Bee won't help the Elephant.

Teacher: What is the motivation?
The flowers.
Bees only last a few hours.

Teacher: What do you think will happen?
She will go in there and all the bees will come outside.
Her head will get stuck.
She will get in and the Bees will come out and sting her.
I think Lizzy's prediction is right. The Bee is tricking the elephant.
Bees don't have a long life so they can't learn a lot.
The Bee is helping the elephant.

Teacher: How are you feeling about the Elephant?
Not good.
That she should just be herself.
She is the best the way she is.
She will give up and go to sleep and get some rest
I feel bad for the elephant.

(They liked the "Ka-Poof " and had me show it over and over again!)

Teacher: What lesson does this teach?
If you want something really bad, keep trying.
Really put your effort into something that you want.
All of her trying transformed her.
This has a relationship to The Engine that Could.
Chasing your dreams.

Teacher: How do you feel about this book?
Good to teach children to try your best!
Keep trying till you get it right!
Good book to read to someone who has tried but haven't achieved a goal.
Could be a "Beefant" instead of an "Elabee."

Now that the students knew how the the books played out, the teacher was curious to see their reaction to the next book.

Student Responses to The Snake Who Wanted to Be a Horse

Teacher: What do you think will happen?
The Snake will turn into a Horse.
The tail will be the back of the Snake.
It will be hard to fit 4 legs out of the bottom of the Snake.

Teacher: What is his motivation?
Wants legs.
Doesn't like the ground.
Wants to become a Horse.

Student's comments at the end of the book:
A Snorse can start a new species!!!
The scales look grouse on the horse.
He didn't lose totally who he was.
It was great!
I like the patterns the illustrator used on the snake!
They should write more of these books!!!
They should write one that goes the other way around; a Bee turning into an Elephant.
They should make a Turtle wanting to be a Cheetah
A Rabbit wanting to become a Human!
The Turtle wants to become a Cheetah so he can be fast.
Rabbit wanting to be a Kangaroo.
A Snorse who wants to be an Elabee!!!

Monday, February 11, 2013

     Last week my daughter came over to show me how to set up a blog. She quickly navigated through all the choices and in less than an hour I had my own blog. It took that long because I couldn't decide which background to have. After looking through the variety of backgrounds from high-tech to nature, I came across this picture of an ancient desktop computer. Instantly I was transported back to my first job as a graphic designer and my first experience using a computer. Learning to use that top-of-the-line word processing machine was frustrating and fun at the same time--I was a fish out of water. The image of this old computer represents the start of a journey which I am still in middle of.
     Creating this blog and sharing my thoughts with the world is another one of those fish-out-of-water experiences. However since the "world" will probably be just a few family members and friends, I probably shouldn't panic. Since trying something you've never done before is a theme in my children's picture book series (, I'm getting to know the feeling first hand. I have started many things and I can honestly say that whatever I was determined to finish enriched my life.
     When I first got the idea for this series of books, I just wanted to duplicate the good times I had telling these stories to my youngest son. But as I read the reviews it became apparent that whether I liked it or not, every story has a message and what our readers were finding was that it was not the one they were expecting. This in itself starts some interesting conversations and sparks the imagination of both children and parents. Having a talented writer like Valerie has brought these tales to life and I hope you enjoy our first book The Snake Who Wanted to Be a Horse